Welcome to the blog for the 2017 Costa Rica 10 Day Service Adventure with Smithsonian Student Adventures!

August 9, 2017
Written by: Kim Bieksha
Smithsonian Student Adventures Student Participant

Since today was our last day, everyone was eager to do as much as possible. We went to the beach again, but this one was in a national park. We walked through the jungle and got to see all of the unique Costa Rican wild life, which included monkeys, sloths, snakes and spiders. After we established a spot on the beach, many people ran for the water just to swim and jump in the waves. Even though JP and Jess warned us about keeping our bags closed and our food safe, some people forgot and had to learn their lesson the hard way. We had to chase off raccoons and white nose coatimundi, but one did manage to successfully sneak off with a sandwich. We swam at two different beaches at the park until we had to leave to head back to the original hotel in San Jose. Everyone was sad because this meant the end of the trip, but we all had a blast. After our last dinner together at a Mexican restaurant, we all gathered to talk about how we appreciated each other throughout the entire trip. To make it official, our leaders handed out certificates for our service in Costa Rica. We all would like to thank our awesome leaders JP and Jess who helped us throughout the entire trip and still allowed us to have a fantastic time traveling in a beautiful country. All of us are extremely grateful for this opportunity of going on this trip and making new friends, while also experiencing new things that will help shape our futures.

August 8, 2017
Written by: Kim Bieksha and Sarah Pilling
Smithsonian Student Adventures Student Participants

For the fiesta de despedida, we all dressed up super nice to have a farewell party for the host families. It was filled with lots of music, dancing, cake and pictures. There was even a piñata where Camille, Reese and Charlie got to swing at it blindfolded.

The next day was very emotional, since we all had to say our goodbyes to our host families. Most of us felt as if they are like our second family so there were tears shed.

We all piled into the bus to get ready for our big beach day as our host families waved goodbye. Our favorite bus driver Ronny drove us to pick up lunch before going to surf. The beach was beautiful, the waves were perfect and the water was warm. Everyone got lessons from awesome surfing instructors so we were all able to stand on our own. We all thoroughly enjoyed it and some of us were able to perform cool tricks. After we were done surfing, some of us got shaved ice and coconut water.

Then, Ronny took us back to the hotel where along the way, we saw the cutest little monkeys playing around in the trees. We had a little downtime at the hotel where some of us swam in the pool, and others enjoyed their first warm shower for the week. For dinner, we made our way to a nice restaurant on top of a hill where we hoped to catch a view of the sunset. Sadly, it had been raining all day so we didn’t see the sun, but we had a nice view of the lightning storm. We had a very interesting dinner conversation where it turned out it was Charlie’s birthday !! So we all got free cake and ice cream! Afterwards, our favorite leaders Jess and JP, took us to get the best ice cream on the planet !! To end the night, we engaged in a group activity before heading to bed.

Now with all of our lovely experiences and all of the good friends we have made throughout the trip, we all have a bittersweet feeling about our last day tomorrow.

August 7, 2017
Written by: Reese Pittard and Cameron Zirk
Smithsonian Student Adventures Student Participant

We woke up bright and early, and were on our way to finish up the service job we started at the work site. Many of us began by taking tree branches to a close by cliff, while Charlie and Cam were using a Machete. We took a break for cheese, chocolate, coffee, and bread from local shops in our host village. After we were all hyped up from the caffeine, we finished up hauling  trees to the cliff. Then, went to the elementary school where the kids introduced themselves in English and we introduced ourselves in Spanish. Afterwards, we played a very intense game of soccer with the kids. At the final minute, the kids won! All of a sudden, a huge rainstorm came in while we were having lunch, so we had to take a break and dance in the rain! Later, we painted the church and cleaned/ prepared where the fiesta de despedida (going away party) was going to be later that night. We all met at the building at 5:30pm with our families close by. We had dinner, cake, broke open a piñata, and a dance party. Cam made a sweet goodbye speech. It was a great way to say goodbye to our host families.

August 6, 2017
Written by: All Student Participants
Smithsonian Student Adventures Student Participants

Favorite memory with host families:

Samantha-  On the first night, getting an amazing big hug and kiss from Doris and getting to get a tour of the huge house Doris and Carlos have.

Camille-  When I was playing soccer with Nicholas in the family room, having so much fun.

Nicole- Talking to and laughing with Doris and Carlos because even with limited Spanish we were all still able to connect and have fun.

Erick- During dinner we would just talk about how the day would go and they just seemed to care so much about what we had to say.

Kevin- Talking with my host parents after having meals together and learning more about their favorite parts of Costa Rica. I liked learning new words in Spanish from their conversations.

Sarah – Getting to know them and their families throughout the week and speaking Spanish with them. Also they had really good bread. <3

Xander – When we gave our gifts and cards to our host family. They received all the gifts with such joy and enjoyed every one of them. They then shared their gratitude with local fruits and a big dinner.

Charlie – When we went fishing together and also just when we talked as a family every night.

Reese- Our many games of Uno with our sisters and brother.

Kim- I loved when we all had the dance party at my host family’s abuelos house and everyone was laughing and goofing around.

Cam- When the whole family was fishing together and meeting all the pets.

Samara- During dinner, when we would have fun conversations and get to know each other.

August 5, 2017
Written by: Camila (Camille) Morales and Carlitos (Charlie) Esson
Smithsonian Student Adventures Student Participants

We began the day with only a half day of work. First, we finished cementing the wall on the driveway to the church, and then, we painted the front of the church in preparation for mass Sunday morning. With everyone tired from the hard day of work, we cooled off and ate lunch, which was prepared by our host families. We then headed to a natural hot springs just out of town and spent the rest of the day there, talking and playing games. The hot springs were very pretty with trees hanging over them. Then, it started raining, which made the hot springs even more beautiful. We then headed off to our host families to have dinner and hang out.

August 4, 2017
Written by: Kevin Hussey and Samantha Kerns
Smithsonian Student Adventures Student Participants

Last night we arrived at our home stays and got to meet our new families. All the residents in this community seem to be all related. Doris and Carlos are the grandparents of basically everybody and have become parents to Nicole, Sarah and Sam. Most of us gave our host families welcoming gifts that represent the state that we come from. The next day (today) was our first morning with our host families. Everyone had their large breakfast with lots of rice and then headed to the worksite bright and early. Here, we learned about the different jobs that needed to be done for our service. Kevin also shared a great travel quote:

“Traveling leaves you speechless, but then turns you into a storyteller.”

We then split off into different groups. During the first part of the service project, Nicole and Sam began painting, Samara, Camille, Erick, and Kevin mixed cement for the stone wall, Sarah and Kim were washing the church down and Xander, Cam and Charlie (Carlitos) went straight to the ditch. After switching jobs, the boys worked very diligently on hulling a HUGE rock out of the ditch to create a drain for a sink. After a morning of work, we were hand delivered our lunch by a young boy, named Kendall and little girl, named Kasey. The lunches were personalized by each of our host families. We wanted to make sure we finished all the food so we shared our food with everyone in the group. After lunch, we decided to all switch jobs. (Sam wants her mom to know that she lifted very heavy rocks and used the shovel to dig a ditch). We finished cementing the wall and digging a hole, as well as refilling it for a new pipe. By cleanup time, the afternoon rain hit and we were done with the work for the day.

Later in the day, we gathered as a group and shared our “roses,” “thorns,” and “buds” of the trip so far. Rose stands for something we loved so far, thorn means something we struggled with, and a bud is something we look forward to. Some roses that were shared were; meeting the host families and exploring the waterfall. Thorns included, bugs and waking up early. The buds consisted of excitement for surfing and continuing to get to know our families. Afterwards, we had a deep discussion about stereotypes while getting to know more about each other’s backgrounds. Then, the rain came pouring down and everyone ran back to their homes for a night of various activities.

August 3, 2017
Written by: Xander Stabile and Nicole Wisz
Smithsonian Student Adventures Student Participants

Buenas días padres. We hope everything is going swell back home. The early birds started the day with a soothing yoga class with our instructor, Señorita Jess. The remaining girls woke up later, while the boys calmly disregarded all the rules and stayed in the warmth of our jungalows, and then rushed last minute to get the morning started. When we all met together para desayuno, later than planned, we devoured gallo pinto and fresh fruit- a splendid start to the day. With our stomachs full, we flopped onto the bus with our heads and hands flying out the windows to arrive at the beginning of our hike for the day. We hiked for roughly 45 minutos before reaching a majestical waterfall. We started at the base, fighting the current and jumping off rocks with impeccable form. A few of us tried to beat the force of nature and attempt to reach a rock at the base of the waterfall, but our attempts were fruitless. We crab-walked our way to the shore, our legs feeling like rubber from the force of the water. We replenished our energy with some sandwiches, a handmade courtesy of the cooks from the plantations as a parting gift. Roy, the owner of Finca de los Sueños de Vida, led us to the second pool of the double waterfall, where we relaxed in the calmer pools before taking a painful, natural shower under the waterfalls. After toweling off and letting our hearts stop racing, we spent a couple minutes reflecting the beauty surrounding us. We then started the strenuous, cross-country hike up the steep hillside back to the bus, led by Roy and his trusty machete. Catching our breath on the bus, we stopped at a pulpería, where our guides treated us to well needed ice cream. We left the pulpería and continued on the road to our host community. We practiced our Spanish skills while learning about our stay in the village, preparing for our new families. We made a quick stop to buy supplies for the service project later en la semana. Now, we are currently driving towards our new homes, the anticipation hyping us up for the adventures ahead! :)

Stay tuned for part two of today!

August 2, 2017
Written by: Samara Haq & Erick Oliveira
Smithsonian Student Adventures Student Participants

We started off bright and early this morning We had the sweetest and ripest mangos as a part of our breakfast. Next, we started on our first journey, which was to a farm in Pura Suerte. It was a long 4-hour car ride that included a lot of stops, but they were all worth it. Along the way, we had our first Costa Rican lunch. It was a buffet and there were new and exotic foods with generous portion sizes. We stopped at a high cliff with an amazing view where we took awesome pictures with the group. Also, the whole group had a nice nap time during the car ride, but had pictures of their slumber taken by other group members that were awake. After that, we arrived at Pura Suerte and settled into our huge cabins divided by gender. Shortly after that, we met the staff at the farm, who gave us an amazing greeting as we started our hike. There were fascinating views such as the variety of plants, flowers, exotic insects and wildlife. It was a unique experience as many of us have never seen such things like that before. During our hike, we stopped to hold chickens, chicks, guinea pigs and ducklings. Many others decided that they wanted to milk the cow. We had homemade empanadas next with with homemade coffee with the friendly and welcoming staff. Before dinner, we had some time to bond with our cabin groups. We bonded more as a group at dinner, where we had a delicious homemade meal of tacos. Overall, this was, in our opinion, the best first day at Costa Rica. Our most memorable moment of the evening was making empanadas with homemade cheese next to a jungle full of howling monkeys.

August 1, 2017
Witten by: Jessica Judd
Smithsonian Student Adventures Program Leader

Hola hola de Costa Rica! The group has made it to Costa Rica! Yesterday was a long day of travel as our group came in from all over the country. We played cards and other fun games in the airport while we waited for the final flight to Costa Rica! Also, it was a great time to meet each other. Right after we came out of the airport, we met the other program leader Juan Pablo. Also, Esteban, met us at the hotel and welcomed us to his home country. After that we all had pizza, got to know each other a little bit more, and had a brief introduction to the program and our itinerary. After that, we all went to bed excited for to visit the coffee farm tomorrow!

​​We can’t wait for the adventure to begin :)

Pura Vida!