Tag Archives: Pura Suerte

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!


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Immersion B: Pura Suerte, Manuel Antonio

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

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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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