Tag Archives: Niyaca

Discovery A — Saludos de Costa Rica

Hola a todos!!

We´re writing this blog from the city of San Isidro, which is about four hours from the capital, San Jose. Today has been a very busy day. We finally reached the site of our service project, the village of Cannán. An isolated farming community, Cannán gives one the opportunity to see a world wildly different from the rapid-fire, consumer driven lifestyle of any city in the US.

The students were very happy to arrive, meet their host families for the first time, and finally see the place where they´ll be spending the majority of their time in Costa Rica. They were especially happy  to arrive as the past four days have been one extremely challenging adventure after another.

After a brief layover in San Salvador, the group finally reached San Jose around 9pm on Thursday where they were greeting by Luke, one of the program directors, and Erin, one of their three guides throughout the trip. Without any regard for the previous day of travel, the hundreds of miles flown over, or the many hours spent in airports and planes, the students were awakened shortly after five the following day to go rafting on the Pacuare River.

What followed was an amazing day. Entertained by one of the river guides, Pepe, the students reached one of the most remote and beautiful rivers in the world. After hiking down to the river, the students spent the day fighting class three and four rapids, slowly drifting through the Costa Rican rain forest, and finding various ways to fall out of their rafts.

The following day, Saturday, we went to Pura Suerte, a stunning ecological farm deep in the rainforest. Despite a range of problems with the bus, and a long hike to the local town, we managed to reach Pura Suerte by the early afternoon and spent the rest of the day becoming acquainted with the unique natural beauty of the locale.

On Sunday we went on one of the more unique of our adventures, a hike down to the waterfall Niyaca. Unfortunately, there was a slight accident when Brianna slipped on one of the rocks. However, she was amazing and didn´t complain a bit about having to miss a wonderful experience.

And now, we´ve made it to Cannán. An unbelievable village up in the clouds where we´re excited to begin our service project.

Hope to write soon!

PURA VIDA

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Discovery A: Salsa, Rafting, Jungles, Farms, Waterfalls and a whole lot in between

So we’re on day 5 of our Discovery Program through Costa Rica but it feels like it has been five weeks. In just four days, we’ve gone from gasping at verdant misty valleys to casually taking them in. The bananas, papayas, and pineapples growing in our neighbors’ yards have become familiar sights (and a nice way to top off breakfast lunch and dinner). Unfamiliar faces have become those of smiling friends, and a country that once seemed a distant dream has become a welcoming and exciting reality.

The plan for the morning of our arrival in San Jose was to sleep in after the red-eye flight. That’s what most groups usually do. Not these guys. All most people could do was think about one thing: exploration. Our hotel, located near a plaza, an old church, and a number of stores, was a great place to start. The highlight of the afternoon was a Latin dance class, where after just a short hour these gringos were shimmying and shaking their hips like the best of them. Dinner was typically Costa Rican – rice, beans, chicken, fresh fruit juice, and great conversation.

The following day (Monday) brought us to the Pacuare River, where we were to venture down class 2, 3, and 4 rapids. Most participants agreed that the tepid water, tropical birds, iguanas, cicadas and the ubiquitous green jungle placed the trip on par with any rafting they had ever braved.

The bus rides between sites, though at times long, windy, and slowed by road repairs, have been a great venue for showing off guitar skills, writing songs in Spanish, and playing my favorite card game (now everyone else’s) called cuarenta, or forty. A Christmastime game from Ecuador, this game is played in two pairs and involves strategy, card-counting and a healthy dose of luck. A heated tournament to crown El Rey y la Reina de Cuarenta is scheduled to take place in a couple of days.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent at a lovely organic farm called Pura Suerte (pure luck), an appropriate name since we had the opportunity to sniff among bright flowers, eat gourmet meals (incorporating local, organically grown foods), wake up to the serenades of bird and howler monkeys, and enjoy views of the Pacific Ocean glistening behind green, old-growth jungles. We hiked down a path covered with fallen mangoes and guavas to arguably the most impressive waterfall in Costa Rica, called Niyaca. We first swam in the lowest pool of water and some of the heartier swimmers fought against the current to sat under the falling water itself. Then, after 45 minutes of solo time for reflection and journaling, we hiked up to a second waterfall for lunch. Upon arrival back to the farm, rather than showering and napping like most groups, we grabbed el toro by the horns and played a full, muddy game of soccer with four local Costa Rican girls.

By far our greatest achievement, however, has been the sense of group unity and support that we have developed. At any given time, whether on a hike, at lunch, or in the bus, everybody can be seen laughing with anyone. And of course, while the memories of Costa Rica and our responsibility as unofficial diplomats are of great importance on this program, the lasting friendships developed here may prove to be of most value.

So in one hour, we are going to jump into the greatest challenge and opportunity of our trip: the host village, Canaán. Everyone seems to feel a healthy mix of excitement and nervousness. It’s time to get dirty, to step out of our comfort zones, and to be rewarded. The next posting will most likely come after this village stay – I’m sure there will be all sorts of stories to tell by then!

But enough from us. Let’s hear from some of the students:


“I’ve noticed on this trip to Costa Rica that each day seems to expand into many. We’ve done so many things that I keep forgetting that it’s only the 4th day. It feels like I’ve been here for weeks… and I love it! We see so many sites each day, it’s hard to imagine we can fit them into so few days.”

–Katie Weintraub

“Tomorrow I go to total immersion. I go to live with a family that lives a mile out of the village; total immersion. I wanted to be brave and do this, but I will have my doubts. What makes me feel good about doing this, however, is how much everyone has supported me. I have no fear about becoming an outsider in the group and I feel I will get the best immersion though (unfortunately) the most exhausting (getting up at 4:30 to jog, working all day, and going to bed around 9:30).”

– Matt Abely

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