Hello from the lush pacific coast of Costa Rica! The past 5 days have been filled with exciting adventures and growing friendships.
On Tuesday morning we left the city life of San Jose and headed towards Finca Pura Suerte to spend 3 days surrounded by the serenity and wildlife of the tropical rain forest. We arrived at the finca in the afternoon, dropped off our bags in the very cool “Jungalows” (friendly geckos included) and headed out on a brief nature hike. After walking around the farm and admiring the exotic plant life, we headed down to the restaurant where Chef Merrick prepared the first of our gourmet jungle fusion dinners. The delicious mix of organic, jungle grown vegetables and American-style cuisine left everyone with a full stomach and a happy face. After dinner we hung out in the Jungalows and played multiple games of Charades and a game called Patterns.
On Wednesday we started the day with an organic breakfast prepared by Chef Merrick. We were also joined by 2 new temporary group members, Mark and Max. Mark is our professional camera man and came along to capture some of our adventures on film. He quickly became an integral part of the group. Max is a volunteer at Finca Pura Suerte that is spending the summer there and studying the snakes and spiders of the rain forest. His knowledge and expertise were greatly appreciated and admired by the group.
Wednesday turned out to be an exhilarating and emotional day for most of the group. We hiked down to the Niyaca waterfall, which is a challenging hike with an absolutely breath-taking destination. When we reached the waterfall, we went swimming and most of the group took on the challenge of the heavy current from the waterfall in order to get behind the wall of water and look out on this gorgeous view of the river. After swimming, we made time for solos. Solos were a quiet time for everyone to find a peaceful place to sit, relax, and reflect on their own. Just before our hike back up started, the rain began to pour down, creating a muddy, slick trail to hike back up. The hike back up was tough, but the group agreed that it was overall a great adventure- once they got back to the dry comfort of the Jungalows that is!
The next day, we went to the farmers market (“la feria”) in San Isidro where Chef Merrick gave a quick tour and some guidance about picking out produce, before having participants shop on their own. We decided to have each student shop around the market and buy an item or two they wanted to see encorporated into dinner. This involved talking to vendors in Spanish, figuring out how much items cost, and looking for the freshest fruits and vegetables. Fortunately, everyone did a great job in their selections and Chef Merrick headed back to the farm to prepare a fabulous gourmet dinner that incorporated everyone’s items (except for the mangos, which we ate for breakfast). That afternoon, Drennan, the owner of Pura Suerte, gave us a tour of the farm and taught us a lot about organic farming, sustainable development, and the rain forest.
Thursday night brought us some unexpected excitement and a deeper appreciation for our new friends Mark and Max. After dinner, a strong storm rolled in and the power went out at the farm. So the girls headed back to their Jungalow and were hanging out discussing their newfound appreciation and oneness with nature and its lovely insects. They had taken in a friendly moth and were playing with it when suddenly Sarah’s flashlight came across a giant, hairy tarantula. The girls kept calm and without any hesitation, several of the girls went out to find our local spider expert, Max. After finding Max searching for snakes in the forest, the group then ran into Mark who had just seen a baby leopard up the path (only one of three leopards that has been spotted by the Drennan, the owner of the farm, in 9 years!). The excitement kept growing and the group made it back to the girls cabin where the fun truly took place. All we can say for now is that Mark caught Max’s heroic spider capture on video and it will soon be available for viewing on youtube. Be sure to ask about it when we get back!
Yesterday, we said goodbye to Pura Suerte, Drennan, Chef Merrick, and the real spiderman, Max. We hit the road early in anticipation of a great weekend at the beach in Manuel Antonio. We arrived at Manuel Antonio midday yesterday and hung out at the beach for the rest of the day, playing in the waves of the Pacific Ocean, getting tan, and shopping around. The Discovery A group, nearing the end of their program, were also staying at our same hotel, so we decided to go to dinner as a big group where we exchanged stories and heard about their experiences in the village. After a quick swim at the hotel swimming pool, and a few games of pool, the group called it a night.
Today was a day full of activity. We started off by having a great buffet breakfast (including pancake and omelet stations) before heading to Manuel Antonio National Park. Manuel Antonio is a beautiful stretch of jungle directly on a white sand beach that is overflowing with wildlife. This morning was a particularly good day for spotting animals, as we saw three sloths (a rare sighting, to be sure!), all sorts of monkeys, iguanas, hermit crabs, birds, raccoons, and all sorts of other cool flora and fauna.
But in the spirit of getting the most out of our time on the beach, the group then headed over to take surf lessons. Over the course of the afternoon, we can proudly say that everyone who tried to surf successfully got up and rode a wave! After thanking Ariel, our instructor and a former Costa Rica National Champion, for a solid afternoon of surfing, we went back to the hotel to regroup and head back over to the national park. But the weather had other plans, and right as we were about to leave the hotel, rain started pouring and we opted to hang out in the pool and lounge playing cards, talking and laughing and cooking dinner.
After a slightly rainy, picnic dinner the group met for a while to discuss each of our individual goals and how they were progressing so far. We had everyone write their goal on a piece of paper, fold it up, and put them in a pile. We then read the goals out load an had to guess who wrote what. Amazingly, after only five days together, the group guessed what goal belonged to who usually on the first try- a great sign of how cohesive and close the group has already become. As we start our homestays tomorrow and enter into the next phase of our program, this group cohesion will be tested, and hopefully strengthened even more. We shall see….
Co-Leader Immersion B