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A band from Hojancha in a need of uniformes
A music school in Hojancha - Guanacaste
is a part of our Music & Art project where our volunteers have a chance to participate, bring their own ideas and also learn many new things. In this group, age is not important, there are children as well as seniors taking part and forming a music group. They get together three times a week - every Thusday, Friday and Saturday for 4 hours to practise and also have fun.
As Elí Salgado Vargas, the music teacher, says the music school was established because of a necessity of some cultural values in the town. Together with a help of municipality which provided the musical instruments, Elí was able to make this school a reality in the year 2009 and it now consists of 36 students and 3 teachers.
"We have been working with a lot of financial limitations since the help of the municipality is just partial." adds Elí. In fact, this is a reason why I decided to visit the group in Hojancha and create this blog post. The most important thing for the group are now uniformes but they cannot afford them so we are looking for somebody who would like to help the group and influence their future. Is it you?
(By David Kolesa - Marketing Intern)
Volunteering for students?!
Just yesterday we came across an amazing article about high school students and volunteering.
Actually it’s an article and a debate about the question: ‘’ Should high school students be required to volunteer in community service projects?’’
Well do they? There are all kinds of projects available, whether you’ll teach children English, or teach kids how to swim or surf, you could also just play with them. This doesn’t only benefit the children but a student that wants to become a teacher will have a great opportunity to apply their course line into practice. This way they will gain experiences and by the end of their education they will have already done something to enrich themselves. Of course the work students do in the communities is connected with what they are learning in school.
We have had several interns in the past that gained experience in their field of study.
There are many things they help with at the center located in Bambu, including teaching English to the families who work there, children and adults from town, translating for the tours, helping to build marketing material, planting flowers and trees, general maintenance, and the planning & fulfilment of cultural activities. Also the Spanish language skills of the students will highly increase during their stay in Costa Rica. Students who want a teaching degree will have an opportunity to apply their course line.
At our Wildlife Rescue Center we provide quality Spanish language classes (optional) at our on-site language school
Well so far the poll is 58 % Yes and 42 % says No. How will this turn out?
LIVING IN PARADISE
Hojancha truly is the most peaceful and friendly town I have ever been to. Within days of arriving I have friends religiously stopping by my house to see what I am up to. In addition to providing me with a great opportunity to practice my Spanish, each person I have met is genuinely kind and sincere. Being such a small town “todo el mundo conoce a todos” or everybody knows everybody in Hojancha. It is difficult to walk down the street without someone shouting your name or giving you the friendly Pura Vida! One of my best friends, Maikol, is a taxi driver, which can really come in handy. The other day I had a TON of laundry to carry back from Ricardo's house (the only guy in town I know with a washing machine). As I was struggling with the awkward and heavy bags, out of nowhere came Maikol, ready and willing to give me a lift to my house. My host family has been unbelievably kind and hospitable. They are always willing to go on a walk, go out for pizza, or watch a movie together. Not only have they been able to immensely help me practice my Spanish, but I have also helped them with their English!
Working with the kids in the day care center has also been a great experience. While they can get a little rowdy at times, they are all fun, great kids. They love listening to me read stories and learning new words in English! The day care Staff has been a blast to work with. They always provide me with something to eat and a delicious “fresco” to drink. In addition to volunteering in the day care center, I have also gone to Monte Alto where I worked alongside another volunteer. While it was a lot of intense labor, I really enjoyed getting to know the friendly and hardworking staff while simultaneously enjoying the breathtaking, beautiful views. Zachary, the other volunteer, and I helped create handrails for a bridge across a river and afterward we were able to carve our names into one of the rocks used as a support! I also spent a few days in Camaronal working on the Sea Turtle Project. The beach at Camaronal was unbelievably clean. The waves were HUGE, and attracted a lot of high skill- level surfers. Getting a taste for the night patrols was really fun! I wish I could have stayed for more time!
While not volunteering I have enjoyed swimming in the river, lifting weights with some of my new friends, eating the most delicious ice cream I have ever tasted, and learning to cook new and interesting things with my host family. On the weekends I have been to a few dances, gone to the beach, and played basketball. Last Saturday my friend Josue invited me to his family reunion party at his grandparents' house. It proved to be an amazing celebration starting with a game of “fútbol.” Afterwards there was loads of food, music, and dancing. They even had a Nintendo Wii set up for the kids to play with. Ok....I played too! For me, living and volunteering in Hojancha has been an amazing experience. I cannot wait to see what the next few weeks will bring.
Jason, intern in Hojancha for Tropical Adventures.
Hojancha Community Christmas Party!
The Hojancha Christmas party took place this week for the kids and community members we work with in the beautiful town of Hojancha in Guanacaste Province in the North-West of Costa Rica. We had 13 volunteers helping us in all, including a group of 12 from Central Michigan University - thanks so much guys!! Thanks to all the wonderful donations we've received and the great help our volunteers gave us in putting up the decorations and organizing games, prizes and food, everyone had a wonderful day.
Thank you so much to all the volunteers from Michigan who donated gift bags for the children from the Daycare & Nutritional Center in Hojancha. These were really special and all the items in the gift bags such as tooth brushes, tooth paste, pencils and stationery items are really important for the learning and healthy development of these kids.
We're today off to Puerto Viejo for the Bambu and Puerto Viejo parties over the weekend and coming week. We're looking forward to meeting all the volunteers and we hope these events will be as successful as the Hojancha party!
A Tropical Adventure For All Our Staff
What a week it has been! Last week the whole Tropical Adventures team (Scott, Isaac, Ricardo, Mauro, Roberto, Susan and Sarah) went on a wonderful trip to visit some of our projects in the North West of Costa Rica. We first took a visit to the Arenal volcano area to meet with some of our trusted tour providers and were lucky enough to get to sample 'canyoneering'. This is a Costa Rican past-time which involves abseiling up to 200 meters down waterfalls and jumping through rock pools in the rainforest – well done to Susan for getting over her fear of heights!! What excitement it was to lie in bed at night looking up at a smoking volcano!
We spent the last three days in Guanacaste region where Ricardo, our project co-coordinator for that area, took us to the sea-turtle conservation project at Camaronal where we got to do as the volunteers do and did a beach patrol in the night where we made sure that turtle eggs were buried above the high-tide mark to maximize their chance of survival and watched out for the many turtle egg poachers 'hueveros' there are (eggs are illegally sold in Costa Rica as a specialty food and to bars as an appetizer drink). We came across an egg poacher and some of his family waiting in the sand dunes for turtles coming in to lay their eggs.
The eggs are sold at a high price and for people in the community who barely earn enough to survive it felt unnerving to have to turn them away. They have probably been taking and selling turtle eggs for many years and may have little understanding of their effect on the population of turtles in this area. However, it so important to protect this endangered species by ensuring the eggs are buried in the right place and left to hatch – we were told by the rangers there that only 1 in 1000 eggs laid actually turn into a turtle that survives into adulthood. This is why the night patrols are key in preventing eggs being washed away or stolen. It was such a wonderful sight to see several turtles laying their eggs. They didn't seem to mind our presence at all and we all watched in awe.
also visited the elementary school and day-care centre in Hojancha where our
volunteers spend time teaching and mentoring students and leading sports, arts
and crafts and other recreational activities. The children love having
the volunteers there to play with and learn from
and this allows the head-teacher to get on with tasks she doesn't often get
time to do. It was great to see so many happy and playful children at the
day-care centre. It's a place where young children from less privileged
areas go to play and learn important life skills such as how to eat healthily
and how to brush their teeth. The centre ensures that every child gets a
good meal – something very important for their development and health. You can see some more photos of the day-care centre on our website here.
We spent a night at both the Monte Alto and Barra Honda National Parks where our volunteers are involved in erosion control, path maintenance, tourist assistance and environmental education. At Barra Honda, our lovely friendly Costa Rican guide, Norman, took us to the underground caves – which was an adventure in itself – an underground world millions of years old where we squeezed, climbed and crawled our way through. The views from the top of the mountain there over the Nicoya valley area were spectacular. We stayed one night with a wonderful couple who were so proud and welcoming to have us at their home and cooked us a huge feast for breakfast – the hospitality and warmth of the Costa Rican people is so humbling. The howler monkeys were also out in force and provided a good wake-up call in the morning.
We were also lucky enough during the week to get a free surfing lesson at the surf school we recommend to volunteers in Tamarindo and try out a canopy tour (by zip-line) – one of Costa Rica's must-dos. Well, I can think of worst jobs.
It was great for the whole team to get a really good understanding of our projects and tours in this region and it was wonderful to spend the week with the rest of the team, getting to know each other better. We are 7 people from different corners of the globe and it is fantastic to all be working together for the same cause. We hope that when our volunteers come, the projects and people they meet will impact them as much as they did with us over the past week.
Check out some videos of the trip on our Facebook group here:
Isaac Garcia - Zip-line canopy tour
Susan Schuetze - Funny faces
Sarah Morris - I don't think she knows the right way
"Come and Experience it Yourself."
My Testimonial Markus Berres
When I was back home looking for something different to do with my upcoming holidays, I knew it would probably involving volunteering at some point. Then I surfed the Internet a lot. Somehow, I can’t remember how I found out about Tropical Adventures, but when I found them – I knew right away that was the program I had been looking for.
It looked like a good mix of travel to places with some tours and adventure and, it had the volunteering component I was looking for. Because all my arrangements had to be kind of last minute, I was a little worried it wouldn’t work out. But after a couple emails and telephone calls, everything seemed to fall into place. Roberto from the office in Costa Rica answered all my questions promptly and clearly.
When I arrived in Costa Rica, I was met by their driver, Manuel, and was immediately taken very good care of. After spending a night in a hostel near the airport in Alajuela, I was escorted once again the next day by Manuel to the bus station to go to the town of Puerto Viejo. Everything was already taken care of, and Manuel helped me find an ATM and take care of any needs I had.
My Spanish is very limited, so I was a little worried what would happen but again, all for nothing. Just when I exited the bus, my coordinator, Mauro, was there to take me to my wonderful host family. The first week I kind of stayed in my own little paradise, teaching English to kids in the Cocles Elementary School, which I went to with the bicycle I rented for the week. First I thought, "Bicycles here? That’s crazy in this heat!" Yes, I sweat like never before, and the road conditions are everything else but bicycle-friendly, but soon I learned to love my bike and the freedom it afforded me.
The kids in the school where fantastic. Since I'm not good with Spanish, and English is not my first language, and I never been a teacher, again I was worried. But not only did the kids learn English from me, I learned lots and lots of Spanish from them. They even recognized me when I passed by the school 8 weeks later – that was a wonderful feeling – and for me it showed that my work meant something to them as well. That’s the experience I was looking for when I planned to volunteer.
I spent the next 2 weeks in Bambu, a little community on the Bribri Indigenous Reservation. There I worked with the kids from the Bratsi School and in the retirement home. It was completely heartwarming just to see how much both the young and the old people enjoyed our company. They got really attached to us in those 2 weeks while we were there.
This time we didn't stay with a host family, but instead we stayed at the Community Center with Danilo (our local host). The place is amazing. It’s really just like a tree house. The whole community there was wonderful, the traditional food, the way of living. Everyone got so attached to the place, I just couldn't believe it. But after the 2 weeks were over, all of us had tears in our eyes when we were leaving.
The tours we did together here are something I will never forget. The 2-day trip over to Panama, just mind-blowing… I thought I’m kind of fit to walk for a couple of hours. We have some pretty strenuous mountains back at home. Here the first part was easy. Hiking for 2 hours on a good path, sometimes in the shade from the trees, sometimes in the hot sun. And let me tell you, it gets hot. I had plenty of water, at least I thought so, for the first four hours. Then the path began more and more to disappear into the jungle, and walking got harder and harder, especially because most of the locals coming through here come on horses. So the path was super muddy from the horses’ tracks and the rain (it was the rainy season, but so far I had not seen too much of it, luckily).
At one point I had to sit down, and Isaac started feeding me with crackers, our guide told me our destination wasn't more than a 15-minutes walk from here. Then for me...luck! A man and his daughter on a horse came by. The girl, maybe 12 years young, must have noticed my condition and offered me her horse for the rest of the way. Usually I would have declined, but not this time. I was happy not to walk the rest of the way (which was 25 minutes on a horse.) The little girl walked the whole way, like it was nothing, practically flying from rock to rock. Later we found out what we just did in more than 4 hours, she does every day to get to school...in less than half an hour!!!How crazy is that? Now I know I have to do more sports, or working out. But all the hard work was absolutely worth what was waiting for us. The pristine, tropical and nearly undiscovered waterfall close to the very small cabin we stayed for the night -- that’s what you never find on your normal “all inclusive holiday.”
The next week I spent at the Camaronal Sea Turtle Project. It was completely far away from civilization, as you might imagine. When we arrived there my first thought was: "Oh my god....noooo!" Now in retrospect, I think I would absolutely want to stay at that place for 1 or even 2 months. Domenica, Julian and German -- the project staff from MINAE (Ministry of the Environment) are the most welcoming people one person could possibly imagine. My Spanish improved a lot in the first couple of weeks, but here I really had to practice it, and it was easy to speak to them after opening myself up to the idea. And it was not only the little small-talk that tourists usually have with the locals; we could speak about anything. But especially everything about the project interested me – and the knowledge they have about all of the projects and the animals and the surrounding area is just astonishing.
My next week of volunteering took me to the Monte Alto Natural Reserve, another great project managed by MINAE, and in serious need of volunteer help. Here we helped build paths, plant trees and flowers, as well as helped in the kitchen. One thing I did here one day that I did not expect to do was helping to fix toilets. No, no. Not the nasty kind. The kind where I could show off all my plumbing skills. (No...I don’t really have any. Back in my real life I’m a chef in a hotel!) And yes, by the way, the toilets work again.
My sixth week in Costa Rica was spent in another national park, Barra Honda. That would be the week where I definitely got my wish for physical labor fulfilled. Besides taking wonderful tours and walks in the area, the number one project for the park was to make it nice and to prepare everything for the big celebration in August (National Parks Day). That meant we had to dig a lot. Since they were expecting lots of rain -- and rainwater in masses destroys the street and especially the sides of the street -- we had to place 70 centimeter cement pipes on the side of the road near the main building to keep the water from eroding the street.
In that week, I must have sweat out my own weight a couple of times. This all sounds probably like too much work. But it wasn't at all. The work hours were usually only in the morning from 9 to 12, and the rest of the day we were free to do whatever we wanted. For example, the town of Nicoya is only a 400 colones bus ride away (less than 50 cents), and it provides all that I wanted and needed. And then there was enough time to spend at the pool from the nearby Barra Honda Hotel and to enjoy a good book.
Monkey Park was originally going to be my last project. It is an animal rescue center. It's a nice place to see animals that live here in Costa Rica which would usually be hard to see in the wild. The stay in the park was nice. They provided a very good home, and the food there is delicious. I got "gordo" (fat)!
Like at all the projects, nearly at all times a project coordinator or Isaac (one of the directors) himself was present, or came on a regular basis, if for nothing else than just to see that we we’re all okay and to bring us some snacks. The women (the number of them seemed to change on a daily basis) who were responsible for the project at Monkey Park really work hard to make the place what it is. And having been part of that is a nice memory.
One of my jobs was to transfer the caterpillars out of the Butterfly Garden every morning so that they could not feed on all the plants faster than the plants could grow in there. So for that purpose there is an assigned place called, “the feeding house.” And then I had to check if there were some larvae hatched and then bring them back as "butterflies" to the "Mariposarium." This is one place where someone like me goes literally photo crazy!
The next 2 weeks I went to travel on my own to Panama. I needed to be in Panama City at a certain time. And that’s where the team of Tropical Adventures really helped more than I could have expected. They helped me with my hotel, and even delivered my bus tickets to me. The many small things they did for me made my trip easy and enjoyable and were just examples of how dedicated these people are to the work they do. It also made me feel really appreciated. I felt like I was in the best hands possible here, so I decided to come back for six days after my Panama-trip to do some more volunteering.
So now as I write this, these last six days here in the La Flor Project are nearly over. I’m super happy about my decision to teach English in a tiny agricultural community. I feel completely welcome and like I'm doing something worthwhile. After a few days here, I get recognized on the street from everyone; I’m not at all a stranger.
I can’t possibly fit all my experiences and feelings in these few words, but to everyone who enjoys traveling, some adventure and meeting endless amounts of friendly people, I say, "come and experience it for yourself!"
In the end, it was all the small things that made my trip with Tropical Adventures so priceless. (Geesh, I hope not to sound too much like the MasterCard commercial!)
Camaronal Sea Turtle Project Testimonial by Cassandra Dawn.
My name is Cassandra Dawn. I am 25 years old from Tucson, Arizona. I arrived to the project in Camaronal approximately two weeks ago. When I came here I brought along many expectations of what the people, the area and the experience would be like. All of those expectations went out the window very quickly but in such a positive, life changing way. I had no idea coming here that would I make so many new friends, people that I could easily call family and that I would have the opportunity to teach English to children and various people in the region.
I have never met such warm people who are beyond eager to learn English. I grew very close to all of the students and very attached to having the honor of teaching them every day. I wasn’t simply their teacher, I was and always will be a friend and I can only hope that they will welcome me back in a few months to teach and spend more and more time with them. Every day I created lessons which incorporated a vast amount of vocabulary and verb usage. Aside from teaching the students, I spent my time assisting in improving the area so that Domenica and Julian (Directors of the Camaronal Project) will have a successful project that will continue to flourish. Furthermore, I assisted in cooking, cleaning, and helping with a large group of students that came to the project during my stay.
What I have learned through this experience is priceless. It has made me a better person, though it may sound cliché, it’s true. I have felt the sheer happiness that spawns from selflessness. I completely submerged myself into the costarican culture, and I now have a new found respect for the people and the country, a place that is held together with peace, tranquility, and love. Here at Camaronal, that is all that there is.
On another note, my Spanish flourished quite rapidly. I learned of new foods and common cultural practices and most importantly, the mission of this project. Which is to educate the community protect the turtles, maintain their population and protect the environment. Domenica and Julian are two of the most inspiring people I have ever met, along with Jacqueline (the cooker) and many others. Upon returning home I will continue to help support this project and provide donation.
Cassandra Dawn. Arizona, USA.
Michael Schell's testimonial. Voluntour, a vacation with a purpose.
We are a family of 3: myself, my wife, Jen, and our 6 year old daughter, Alex. My daughter is off from school for 2 months each summer and this year we wanted to take a trip together for the duration. Given the length of the trip, we were looking for something that would give us a chance to work and learn together instead of a traditional tourist-style vacation. I thought we needed more stimulation than that to entertain a 6 year old for 2 full months. Before we had our daughter, I had enjoyed longer submersion-type vacations and I had been waiting eagerly for an opportunity to take one again. Now that she had reached the age of 6, we felt we were at a stage that she could contribute as much as she could learn and we were anxious to try to make it work. After months of coordinating the time off work and the prepayment of household bills, we set off on a trip that would last the length of our daughter’s summer vacation and would end up exceeding all of our expectations.
We flew into the country and were greeted by one of the Tropical Adventures drivers. This was the beginning of a major transition for our family and Manuel , the driver, provided just the kind of greeting we needed. He was warm, reliable, and sincere and would be our first indication of the careful screening done by Scott and Isaac, the founders of Tropical Adventures. Manuel drove us to our first volunteer activity in La Flor, a small agricultural community in the mountains in-between Paraiso and Cervantes. We were to stay in this town for a full month so I was very nervous about our homestay there. From the moment Manuel drove us by our family’s house the evening we arrived, we knew our concerns were unfounded. We had arrived late but our family had stayed up waiting to greet us and show us to our home. Since there were 3 of us, they had us stay in a detached home just down the street from their own in order to give us more space and privacy. Their son used to live in the home but has since moved on and this environment would prove to be perfect for us. It gave us space when needed but also allowed us all the interaction with our host family we had so been looking forward to.
Our family in La Flor would prove to far exceed our expectations. They were unbelievable. From the meals they cooked to their seemingly endless desire to include us in all of their family’s activities. We couldn’t have hand selected a better family to stay with and we would miss them dearly after we left for our next projects. They were a large family with only a single remaining 18 year daughter left living at home. To make things better, they had several grandchildren living close by with whom Alex would grow very close with over the 4 week period we spent there. Alex played with their children like they were siblings and this made our integration into their family and culture all that much easier. They genuinely enjoyed having us there and we enjoyed being a part of their lives, if even for a short while.
Our volunteer activities in La Flor were mainly focused around teaching English both in a nearby school in El Yaz as well as a late afternoon class to the children in La Flor. For a family of 3 with a 6 year old daughter, this proved to be a wonderful activity for us. Our schedule during the week consisted of waking around 7, making our way over to our family’s home for breakfast around 8 and then the 3 of us began our 20 minute walk down the mountain to El Yaz to teach 2 English classes there. The classes in El Yaz were sometimes a challenge as not all of the children there were anxious to learn English. But this proved to simply be one of the many obstacles we would face and overcome as a family. By the end of our month in La Flor, we had worked with the director of the school to change the class from being compulsory to being voluntary. At that point, the only students who attended the class were ones that were willing and anxious to learn and the classes there would turn out to be ones we looked very forward to each morning.
After our classes in El Yaz we headed back up the mountain to La Flor. This usually proved to be too long of a hike for our 6-yr old daughter and she usually wound up riding on top of my shoulders. But I never minded because at least we were together. At home Id be working and she’d be at school but here we were together, all day, every day.
The children from the classes lived all along the road up to La Flor and many of them would accompany us on our walk back. They were enamored with Alex and her with them. Our daughter has never been very shy and she engaged almost every child we encountered from the day we arrived in La Flor, including the students. From the moment they met, the children played together like old friends even though they didn’t speak a common language. It was incredible to watch. And as the weeks went by, we could see the changes in her comprehension of the language. In the beginning she knew very little more than please and thank you and by the end, she was playing games with the children in Spanish and responding to questions asked by our host families. This is a wonderful foundation for an education in Spanish.
We arrived back into La Flor after the walk back from El Yaz by 1:00 or so and enjoyed a lunch with our host family. We would then often have some afternoon Spanish lessons before beginning our next English class in a building just down the street from where we were staying. This class was comprised of about 20 to 25 children ranging in age from 5 to 13. This class was always a lot of fun for us, as well as our daughter. Here we would often play games in English to help the children learn the sounds and Alex would sing them the alphabet or teach them English songs. She was our biggest asset with this class and when the children saw her speak, they responded to her. Like with many things, children learn most quickly from other children and they just loved having Alex in class. When the children saw Alex speaking English, it suddenly seemed more attainable to them. When the students did exercises on their own, Alex would go around with my wife and check on their progress. We were a team when we taught and everyone had a role.
After our class in La Flor, we usually spent some time playing games outside the building for a while which gave the kids a chance to run and play around. They had a lot of pent-up energy after sitting through the hour and a half English class. This also gave Alex more time to build friendships with the children in town. After only days in La Flor, we couldn’t walk up to the nearby Pulperia without the children recognizing us and running to greet us. It was an incredibly friendly town and we would miss this when we spent time in the larger cities.
Our time in La Flor was invaluable and even allowed us a few weekend getaways and a tour hosted by the Tropical Adventures staff to a nearby volcano. We were very well taken care of by the staff and were checked on frequently. At one point, our daughter had contracted a stomach infection and the Tropical Adventures Staff responded very quickly by coming to pick us up and taking us to a wonderful physician’s office in a nearby town. We were amazed by the care she received and always felt safe and secure, regardless of where we were in the country. We were always given the space we needed to grow from our experience but if we were ever in need, Tropical Adventures was very quick to respond.
After 4 weeks in La Flor, it was time to say goodbye to our host family and friends and transition to a new project. Argentina, the mother of the host family with which we stayed very much enjoyed painting. In the afternoons, she spent many days enjoying her hobby. As it turned out, she had been making a painting for us and gave it to us just before we left. It was an incredible gift and will always remind us of the generosity this family had given us. We had developed strong relationships with our host family in La Flor. With Argentina, our host mother and her Husband, Jose-Annival. With their children and grandchildren as well. Saying goodbye would turn out to be very emotional and although our Spanish had come along well, finding the proper words to adequately express our feelings was difficult. Our experiences with this family will change our lives for a long time to come.
We transitioned from La Flor to Monkey Park in Guanacaste late on a Sunday afternoon. The park was closed on Mondays so we had the day off and we took a quick public bus ride to the coast for a day at the beach. We began work on Tuesday in the park which was a shelter for injured and abandoned animals. Here we worked as a family to plant new gardens, trim trees and work on trails. Compared to the work in La Flor, this work was much more physically demanding and was an enjoyable change from the teaching. Isaac, from Tropical Adventures, checked on us frequently and always brought snacks. The sight of his car pulling in became a beacon to stop work for my daughter and she would always run to his car to greet him. She so much enjoyed his company and waited anxiously for him on days she knew he was to come.
When the physical demands of the work exceeded the abilities (or the attention span) of a 6 year old little girl, she would often roam the park checking on the animals or even retreat to our home there for some afternoon card games. It was a very accommodating environment for a family such as ours and at the end of the week, we really felt like we had accomplished something and were proud of what we had done. This was exactly the feeling we were looking for when we began this trip.
After transitioning out of Monkey Park, we headed south to Hojancha to work in the Monte Alto National Park. Here we had another homestay with a wonderful family just outside the town center. They had a 2 year old daughter and this proved to be yet another fantastic experience for us and Alex. Here we would wake up at 6 each day, eat breakfast and be in the town center by 7 for a ride into the park. In the park, Jen and Alex worked the week in the kitchen with the park cook helping to create the meals for the park guests and staff. They both seemed to really enjoy this time together and felt very useful. Cecilia, the park cook, worked very long days and seemed to genuinely enjoy the help. Jen would help cut up meats and vegetables and Alex would help make the bread and serve the meals. On the other side of the park, I worked on reconstructing and painting benches as well as building a new seating area under a gazebo below the park office. But with all the work, we still had an opportunity to take time for ourselves and tour the park. We hiked all of the park’s trails including the longest of the trails which took us up the side of the mountain to a beautiful lookout in a 4 hour loop. Our work volunteering has always been very well mixed with time enjoying ourselves and experiencing this beautiful country.
Two months ago, before we left for this trip, I had many concerns. I had called references given to me from the staff and the words from these references comforted me enough to commit our entire summer vacation to doing volunteer work for Tropical Adventures. But this was an enormous obligation and I was still taking my family, complete with a young daughter to another country and I couldn’t help but feel responsible for the outcome. Two months later, I’m proud of the outcome. We have been humbled more times than I can count and we have met and befriended more people than I could ever hope to be able correspond with. We are incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity together and the dedication of the Tropical Adventures staff made it possible. This has been a summer we will never forget and the things we have seen and done here will in many ways change the course of our lives.
Michael Schell, Arizona US.
Summer Camp Testimonial by Ryan Kilberg, Canada
The two weeks I spent in Bambu rivaled the best two weeks I have experienced in my life. I understand very little Spanish and speak even less but in spite of that, all of the people in the community were very kind and friendly to me. Nothing had to be said; they just welcomed me into their families and homes.
at the school and a few hours in the retirement home doing crafts and painting pictures with some of the residents there. It was all smiles and laughs as we spent time with the wonderful people there.
In the evening we held English classes for one hour for people of all ages and varying levels of competency of the English language. In the school the children really warmed up to us and were eager to learn English. They were a really fun bunch of kids.
The evening English classes were the most fun of all. We taught the same material that we had introduced at the school during the day and then we would play games afterward. We played tag and hide-and-go-seek with all of the young children there. One night we made Smores for them. All of the kids that came to our evening classes wanted to be best friends with every one of us.
The lodging was like a gigantic tree fort with tents set up to protect us from the bugs. It was a great set up and worked very well. The meals were fantastic. Sometimes I felt like they were cooking something special for us. It was a great chance to enjoy some of the traditional Costa Rican cuisine. I was really sad to leave Bambu. When we were traveling away from Bambu I had already begun to plan my next visit. But at the end of the day I had such a fantastic time and I will have that with me forever. While we were there we went on some fun tours to waterfalls in Panama and on a river fishing tour as well.
Before going to Guanacaste we went on a 3 hour white water rafting tour through class 3-4+ rapids and had a tour of the Arenal Volcano. Both of those tours were so much fun. There are not very many people here in Guanacaste to keep the turtle conservation project going so they really need volunteers. I was happy to help out in doing the daily chores during the day and to patrol the beach at night.
From the beginning of my adventure everything was planned out and worked out exceptionally well. I never once worried about where I was going, who was going to meet me at the airport or where I would be staying. I really look forward to returning to this wonderful country and the wonderful people in the near future.
Ryan Kilberg, Canada.
Click on the pics to enlarge
Summer Camp Testimonial by Charlotte Bernsohn. Chicago, US.
Sitting here on my last day in Costa Rica it’s incredible to think back to the beginning of my trip. After two plane rides and a five-hour bus ride, I found myself in the pitch dark being greeted by four strangers, climbing in an Xterra and taking a half an hour drive down a bumpy, potholed road. Exhausted and nervous I spent the ride thinking about all the reasons why this trip could go terribly wrong. There I was, a seventeen-year-old girl stuffed in a car with four men whose names I had already forgotten, heading towards an indigenous reservation where I would be spending the next two weeks. As I soon found out, my worrying was for nothing. My time spent in Bambu was some of the best I’ve ever had.
The four strange men turned out to be Isaac, one of the cofounders of Tropical Adventures, Mauro our project coordinator, Ryan a 23 year old from Canada, and Markus a 35 year old from Switzerland, all of whom were great and extremely easy to be around. Together, we spent the next two weeks teaching English, working at a retirement home, and being immersed in the beautiful culture of the Bribri people.
We would start out our mornings working at the retirement home, where the residents were sweet, hilarious, and ecstatic to have our company. After spending time with the residents painting, talking and just enjoying each other’s company, we headed over to the elementary school where we were teaching English.
We would spend an hour or more working with the fifth and sixth graders helping them to broaden their understanding of English through writing, reading, talking, and arts & crafts. As with any class, in any country, there were a few students who seemed completely uninterested in what we had to offer, but the majority of the students loved the opportunity to learn.
Our afternoons were spent eating the delicious food Fulbia had prepared, sleeping in hammocks, and playing with the kids from the family. In the evening, the entire community was invited over to learn English. By the end of the two weeks we had a regular group of about ten that would come every night to learn. These lessons went great because they were small and very personal. Also, everyone who was there chose to be there and so they were very receptive and willing to learn.
Along with our work, we spent a great deal of time enjoying the incredible tours Bambu had to offer. The most memorable was a six-hour hike into the mountains where we played in a nearby waterfall, learned about the life of farmers in Costa Rica, and slept in an open air room, staring at a sky filled with stars.
When we weren’t enjoying the incredible scenery, we would spend time with Danilo, the man who built the community center where we slept, as well as with his entire family, who I found to be some of the warmest, most loving people I have ever met. Even with the language barrier (I knew only a handful of Spanish words when I arrived in Costa Rica) we all bonded instantly. Taking long walks with Danilo at night, playing with Fulbia’s son Lucas, and laughing as we struggled to speak each other’s languages, the family made me feel as if I was just another member of their family who had stopped into town for a visit.
As hard as leaving Bambu was, I was excited to explore other parts of Costa Rica. When our two weeks were up I said a very tearful goodbye and headed into Puerto Viejo for a night of relaxation and enjoying the nightlife. We then traveled to La Fortuna, where I spent two more nights relaxing and enjoying the Arenal Volcano. From Bambu we had traveled across the country, through the central valley and then headed over to the Pacific coast for our next project.
On the Pacific coast I spent one week working at the Camaronal sea turtle conservation project. Helping to build paths, tearing down the decrepit nursery, and walking the 3 km of beach in search of garbage, I was able to get a bit of physical labor in. Julian, Domenica, and German, the three rangers who work at the beach, were incredible hosts. Again, I enjoyed struggling to speak Spanish with them and loved the lessons they gave us about turtles as we did our daily beach patrol.
We spent 2 hours everyday during the morning, from 4 a.m. until 6 a.m., or in the evening, walking along the beach in search of turtles that had come up on shore to lay their eggs. On our last night we had the honor of witnessing the entire process of egg laying; it was completely awe inspiring and certainly an event I will never forget. Camaronal was extremely isolated and was exactly what I needed to learn how to relax. Once again, when our time was up I was sad to leave Camaronal and the incredible people who work there.
For my last few nights in Costa Rica, I have been sleeping in the Monte Alto nature reserve, in a cabin placed literally in the middle of the rainforest. The park is gorgeous and the people who work there are extremely dedicated to their jobs. Monte Alto gave me a chance to truly enjoy nature, waking up to howler monkeys in the morning and falling asleep to the tapping of rain against our tin roof, and to once again get some physical labor in, digging up paths and moving stones to line the path we had created.
Overall, my trip has been life changing. The places I have visited and the people I have met along the way will stay with me forever. I’m going home with a greater knowledge of Spanish, incredible pictures, an obsession with travel, the ability to relax and enjoy my own company, and a complete admiration for Costa Rica and the amazing people who live here.