Rain Rain Go Away…

Hola! Yo soy Felipe!

Today was one of the most laid back, do nothing days……….. for the most part.

We woke up and were greeted with the usual beans and rice breakfast and then headed to the bus from Arenal to travel to San Jose for the Student Leadership Summit at the Wyndham Hotel. The morning weather yielded a sunny sky and excellent driving conditions. We settled down in for the three hour drive to our first stop which was a quaint store on the side of a highway. I hadn’t spent any money this whole trip so a ton needed to be spent on gifts for friends and family back home. Everyone was buying coffee and clothes that depicted the Costa Rican adventure. After everyone had their fill of spending, we went next door to a small food shop that had a cafeteria-style buffet and bought a lot of junk food such as Doritos, candy, and soda. After feasting, it was back on the road to go to the most artisan city in the country: Sarchi.

In the city of Sarchi, we encountered a massive latin-american oxbow car that are prominent in many souvenir shops in the forms of small fridge magnets. Across from it was a beautiful white church with huge columns and angels on pedestals watching over the town, protecting it. We then proceeded to lunch where once again, beans with rice were served. Next to it was a souvenir gift shop which we stopped by but did not spend much time at because there was an even bigger one five minutes away. After shopping most of the day away, it was off to to the INBio park.

For all of the days with the exemption of today, my friend and I brought our rain gear with us, always never using it and taking up space in the backpack. So today, we decided not to pack it in the EF backpacks. Well obviously  because of this, the latter half of the day decided to rain. As a result, my friend and I went on the tour of the bio park outside in the pouring rain, trying to seek cover wherever possible. Thankfully, there were some buildings that we ventured into to seek vital refuge. For instance, we went into a research lab and saw numerous insects of all kinds of species documented in cases and glass jars. There was a spider bigger than my hand in a glass jar! Bugs are so gross!

After that, it was off to the torrential downpour in the rain forest exhibit, where fire flies and endangered, nocturnal tree frogs flourished. Thankfully, this only lasted about five minutes until the tour was over. When this happened, my soaked friend and I ran to the bathrooms to dry off. We somewhat accomplished this nearly impossible feat by crouching under the hand dryer for five minutes and taking numerous paper towels.

We ran back to the bus, trying to remain dry out in the open, and took a quick ten minute trip to a local supermarket. There, everybody raced through the isles, grabbing various assortments of junk food quickly off the shelves and then heading back to the bus. Some spent almost sixty dollars worth of food!

In arriving at the Wyndham hotel, we were greeted with various bellhops marble floors, elegant glass chandeliers, and air conditioning! We discovered about three different pools. Two small and one gigantic one right next to a fancy restaurant. We settled into our very nice suites with granite counter tops, cherry cabinets, and Jacuzzi.

Dinner was served buffet style with the as one could guess, rice and beans. At eight o’clock, all of the student journalists came together to meet in person, and were briefed on how to report as much as possible on the student summit.

I cannot wait for the leadership summit tomorrow to begin working with students from Canada, Costa Rica, and the United States to try and solve specific environmental issues!

Thanks for reading!

Hasta Manana!

Philip

Greetings from Maddie!

Hey guys! 

 
We got a later start today,waking up to a delicious 8 am breakfast. They seem to feed us pancakes every breakfast at every hotel, but I am 100% fine with that. All of our trips today are close to the hotel, so not much time on the bus which was nice. Our first trip was actually to a waterfall, la fortuna de san carlos. 
 
When we arrived to the waterfall, we had this beautiful look out to the waterfall. Surrounded by beautiful lush green trees, the waterfall was one of the most scenic views we have seen on this trip so far. We took many group pictures, and even a group video of us slow-smiling (group inside joke!). After looking at the waterfall we were about to swim in the pools of, we had to climb down which seemed like a never ending trail of a million steps. In actuality, it was only 635 steps. But it was all worth it when we arrived at the end and saw the beautiful rushing waterfall. We weren’t allowed to swim in the big pool that the waterfall actually poured into, but we got to swim in the smaller pools that the big pool trickled down into. Groups took pictures on the rocks in front of the big waterfall, while other went immediately to swimming. The lower pools were cold, but at the same time so refreshing. It was almost unreal; swimming in a clear pool, surrounded by fish and thriving green plants, while the sound of the waterfall roared in the background. Indeed, this was a once in a life time experience. After about an hour around the waterfall, we started our trek back up to the top. This time seemed harder, each step seeming steeper and further away each time. When we finally made it, many side adventures were taken and people browsed the gift shop. We piled back onto the bus and headed back to the hotel for lunch.
 
After a tasty lunch, it was back onto the bus for a trip into town. We had an hour and 45 minutes to explore the town. A lot of students dropped by the smoothie shop where the smoothies there were creamy and satisfying. Many went shopping, getting everything from backpacks to rings and anything that would remind them of this town. The town surrounded a park full of flowers and life, a nice place to hang out. Once again, the saying “Pura Vida” was tossed around by the towns people to all their costumers making us all feel welcomed into the town instead of being intruders. The people here are so nice it’s unreal. 
 
We left the town and headed to zip lining, a highlight of the trip. We waited around anxiously at the first platform looking around and wondering what this experience would bring. The guides came with the harnesses and release forms, joking around with us and making us laugh as they strapped us into the harnesses. Senor Christian, that was how we were to refer to him from now on, seemed to know everything and told us that what he said would go. But that mainly just implied that when someone got stuck in the middle of the line, everyone would laugh. because he said they would. We were given the procedures and were quickly sent on our way down the first of nine lines. The first line was the most difficult, trying to get the knees up, ankles crossed and one arm back on the line to help us slow down on the line with our glove. But in between the small talk and jokes among the guides and the group, everyone had a blast. Some even saw monkeys, wild turkeys and many varieties of birds. Some group members even got caught towards the end of the line and had to, as we said, “sloth” to the next landing, having to pull themselves had over hand back to the next landing. The lines varied in length, and each view was just as captivating and breathtaking as the last. Overall, the experience was one for the books. After unbuckling the harnesses, we headed to a hut filled with beautifully painted crafts from the village in that area. Plantains were cooked on an open fire and bananas were passed around in the hut. The shop keepers were dressed in their village clothing, the men wore grass skirts and the women wore grass dresses. We got back onto the bus and headed to the hot springs.
 
The hot springs were pools of mineral water naturally heated in a hotel. The hotel made pools for each hot spring, each pool ranging from a nice relaxing heat temperature to almost boiling. We got changed quickly and had two hours to explore around the hotel hot springs. The hotel did a fantastic job, making each spring have a waterfall and making it look natural with rocks around the pools and a rocky bottom. The water was so nice, with some cold pools in the middle to cool down and swim up bars for virgin pina coladas. in one section there was just hot showers and sauna rooms for cleansing skin. The water was so nice and so cleaning it was almost putting people to sleep. The few who had guts kept jumping hot springs getting hotter and hotter to the hottest spring while others chilled in one pool for a long period of time. By far, this was one of our most adventurous days of the trip. 
 
We got back to the hotel and had a late dinner, everyone exhausted from the long day. We quickly ate dinner and packed up for the move the next morning. Can’t wait to see what the conference will bring!!

Greetings from Maddie

Hey! 

 
Today, April 16th, we started the day off earlier than we have ever started. We woke up to howler monkeys outside our windows around 5 am. Lovely. 6 am breakfast was the meeting time, as we took baggies of a sandwich and an apple with watermelon onto the boat with us. We packed the boat full of our luggage, almost forgetting a bag, and quickly hurried off for our 10 am tour around Earth University. As we left the docking port of our hotel, the friendly hotel staff waved us away with the famous new catch phrase among our group, “Pura Vida”.  On the boat trip back to the mother land, we didn’t have much time for site seeing because of the time crunch, so many students just took fly-by pictures, listened to music or slept.
 
When we finally got to where the bus was picking us up, we were a little earlier back than the bus, so many went into a cute little grocery store at the launch site.  Cookies, last souvenirs from Tortuguero, and drinks were bought to last the remanding one and a half hours on the bus to Earth University. This bus ride consisted of many naps and many snacks, due to all the kids lacking energy from the late night hike on the beach the night before. We drove past many villagers waving with a smile on their faces, which makes this place feel like a home away from home. We got off the bumpy banana plantation road, and we were on the final stretch to Earth University with the anticipation of this eco-friendly university bubbling up inside us.
 
Once arriving on the property, it took about 5 minutes just to drive up to the main building because the property has 8,342 acres of land for about 400 students, which is ridiculously crazy. The property is gorgeous, having long dirt roads leading off of the main road, beautiful dense areas of trees, and large plots of open grass. The building its self was open with almost no walls welcoming in the warming Costa Rican sun and air. We all piled off the bus, got water, and walked through the open hallways towards an air conditioned room to watch a video about how Earth University started and was created. We actually shared this informational video with another EF tour group on the same trip as us that we have been occasionally bumping into. The informational session, led by Fernando, informed us about how the students that attend Earth University are looking to help their communities become more efficient with organic produce and how to change the world for the better. Students for 26 different countries live on campus and go to class at Earth University, and are looking to improve their lives and the others back in their own country. On their 3rd year of college, the students have to make an eco-friendly organic project, go back to their country or another, and promote is trying to see if they can make an income on their project from sponsors. This is so that students can experience the defeat and success of being on their own trying to promote the benefits of organic farming and reusable products they create. 
 
Our group then went back on the bus and headed to Earth University’s very own banana plantation that they were planning on making 100% organic soon. The only reason it’s not organic is because they need to control a tree fungus with a pesticide which untreated can kill the banana herb. Fun fact! We learned that it is not a banana tree, nor plant, but a banana herb. They had a new system compared to the other banana plantations that instead of a man running a line with about 30 bunches of bananas, they have a man on a machine that pulled 100 bunches instead of just 30. We then went and saw the process of the cleaning, mainly being just plain water so it won’t be harmful to humans, and packaging of these bananas. These bananas actually can be found in Whole Foods! (look for the Earth University sticker).
 
We got on the bus once more and headed back to the main buildings where many experiments of growing lettuce were being conducted to see how tight the spacing can be and how easily people around the world can do it. It varied from high boxes with soil and an irrigation system, long row of ‘sausage’ garbage bags with fertile soil, tight growing areas, and bicycle tires and old bottles keeping plants within boundaries and weeds out. We were then able to make our own garden system, using an old cooking oil bottle, plastic bottles, a white tube for watering, plastic bag, soil and baby plants. This was super fun, having groups create these little gardens on the go. The whole experience really opened up a lot of ideas of how to grow plants more environmentally friendly. These ideas we can bring back and use at our own homes and around or community for healthy vegetables. 
 
Lastly, we had the chance to grab lunch at the University, which was delicious (yay for home made tortillas!), and go to the campus gift shop before we headed to our next destination, Arenal. Once again, the bus trip was many lazy, groggy students just looking to get comfortable and sleep the whole 2-3 hours it took us. 
 
When we arrived in Arenal, we saw our new beautiful hotel in front of us. May I add that yes in fact, we have air conditioning. Finally. We spent the rest of the evening eating yet another delicious meal and swimming in the nice refreshing pool. So far it is cooler here than it was in Tortuguero, which is a relief, and it is just as amazing. Tomorrow we have a full day, and everyone is heading to bed early to conjure up the energy for the new adventures. Can’t wait!!

Tortugero day 2

Hola from Costa Rica!

Today was our second day in Tortugero and it was equally as spectacular as the first.
The damp post rain morning started off with loud booming noises made from howler monkeys, which was quite the unusual alarm clock and was just one of the many new and exotic  animal species we would encountered today.  After a phenomenal breakfast we embarked on our canal tour.  Before we got on our boats however we were greeted by poison dart frogs and leopard geckos
The canal tour began with our two boats docking for only a brief moment in the small town of Tortugero where we picked up the tour guide for our second boat. I personally was on the boat that was fearlessly lead by our beloved tour guide Gustavo, so i only heard second hand about the other boats guide named Ray Brown.  What i heard about Ray brown was that he  was funny and very knowledgeable.  He also was born and raised in Tortugero and has an  18 year old son who is following in his fathers footsteps by being a tour guide.
During the canal tour we only covered a small distance in which we encountered a giant array of wildlife.  Thanks to the eagle vision of our boat driver and Gustavo we saw birds reptiles and a lot more that on our won we would never have been able to notice.  We were able to gaze upon some of this habitats greatest wonders.  After a couple of hours on the canal we returned to the town of Tortugero where we dropped off Ray and ventured to a place where we increased our knowledge of sea turtles.  After a educational video, a power point   and some demonstrations we all were ready for our night beach walk where hopefully we would see some turtles nesting.
After we learned up about turtles we returned to our resort where we enjoyed lunch and some must needed down time.  Kids played in the pool, caught some sun and even kicked around the hackey sack.  When every one was feeling more rested and lazy that is when we saw one of the most lazy animals of them all.  It started off as a rumor, just whispers through the jungle when finally it was confirmed.  A sloth had been spotted high up in a tree and after a few days of every one craving a sloth sighting we all happily made our way to dinner, ready to fuel up and search for some sea turtles.
We got off the boat at the  now familiar town of Tortugero all dressed in black and ready for a night walk along the beach in search of some sea turtles.  we met our new guides who were all locals of Tortugero and who split us up and led us single file down the beach.  We marched on into the darkness into the unknown hoping that any moment someone would spot a turtle.   For hours which seemed like days we marched with no luck and so we began our journey back in the other direction of the beach.  The chances of us seeing a turtle were still high at this point so hopes were still high.  As we started noticing that we were getting closer and closer to where we began that flicker of hope slowly began to die and finally we reached the end turtleless and tired.  Even though we did not see a turtle our presence kept poachers and predators away making the beach safer for the turtles and in turn making the walk worth while for all the students.
 photo
We returned home around 10:20 all sweaty and tired but still eager for what lies ahead.
Pura from Ben L’Ecuyer and all the the EF students in Costa Rica.
#EF summit

We Have Arrived!

After a full day of travel featuring a four-hour layover in Miami, we’re here! I’m writing from Tortuguero, several hours from our starting point.

We landed in San Jose, and suprise, Costa Rica is hot. (It’s worth it, though.) Here we met Gustavo, the man to be our fearless leader for the rest of the week. With an infinite narration of his knowledge of his home, he brought us to the Gran Hotel de Costa Rica, right in the center of San Jose. We all crashed immediately.ImageThis morning, we woke up for a 6:30 breakfast. We were served rice and beans, plantains, pancakes, scrambled eggs, and amazing coffee. The view from the dining room wasn’t bad, either!  ImageAfter breakfast, we gathered our belongings and headed on the bus. Destination #2: Tortuguero! Little did we know, it was a three hour bus ride, but Gustavo made it plenty interesting. He pointed out the soccer stadiums, explaining how important the sport is to Costa Ricans. He pointed out sulfur and salt water rivers, causing everyone to dash to the window, camera in hand. ImageWe drove past a banana plantation, were we saw Del Monte workers growing, gathering, and cleaning bananas. ImageOne man was displaying his Rhinoceros Beetle, while Gustavo mentioned that some people even like to own them as pets. ImageWe took a small pitstop to look around, and got back on the bus after a few minutes. We continued down the “Banana Road” for a few more hours, going through the jungle, fields, until finally we got to the river. Image After another few hours of travelling on our boat with Gustavo and our driver, Marvin. He brought us through the Tortuguero River, while we saw all kinds of birds and even a crocodile! ImageAfter that, we scanned the canopies for sloths, but to non avail. Soon we found our boat pulling up to the dock of La Rana Roja Lodge, where we are now! We got our rooms, and were welcomed by a group of white-faced monkeys! ImageWe had a late buffet lunch, and most of us went swimming in the outdoor pool, shaped like a turtle! We also managed to find a toucan in the treetops! After getting changed back into dry clothes, we got back on the boat and went to Tortuguero Villiage, where we saw lots of artisan shops, coconut water stands, and the ocean! While frolicking along the shore, we met a stray dog, who we named Roberto. He gave us a stick, and we all soon became good friends!

ImageAlas, we had to say goodbye to Roberto, but he saw our boat out as we departed. When we got back to the hotel, we had another buffet dinner, and now are getting ready for exploring the rain forest tomorrow!

 

Emily Mitchell

The First Day!

Greetings from Philip!

So today was pretty exciting as one could guess!
After a restless sleep from pure excitement, I got up and carpooled to the airport with a friend. It took a while before everyone else arrived, but when everyone did, the total group of about 28 took a group photo, and then went through customs. After that, there was an ample amount of time that needed to be wasted before the flight because all of us arrived three hours early. This time was spent going through various stores and watching Boeing 757 aircraft come and depart. Once it was time to go aboard, students compared their seating assignments with one another, only to come to the sad conclusion that  no one was near each other. The variations went from a chaperon receiving First Class, to a student having to sit all the way in the rear.  The Bromfield students pretty much delayed the flight because they were taking other people’s seats and arguing with complete strangers in an attempt to stay together!
Also, I asked if we could do a Harlem Shake on the ground in the plane and the flight crew said they would have allowed, had they not have had an elderly women in the back.The reason being is because last time they had a bunch of college students do it and some elder citizen became overwhelmed, thus not allowing it this time around. They stated that under normal circumstances, they’d be all for it! So kudos to American Airlines!
It was about a three hour flight to Miami with basically no leg room at all. I have taken jetblue in the past and became really annoyed with their commercials by them saying how they were the carrier that gives its passengers the most leg space. After this flight, I can now see how they really do give you the most room for your legs! At the end of the flight, I was lucky enough to snag a picture with the captains as well. Once at the airport, we had another three hours to do whatever we felt like, so a friend and I literally walked up and down the concourse for a good half hour, trying to find some place to eat. We eventually did however, and ate with other Bromfielders.
Some two and a half hours later, a chaperon and a group of really energetic kids that needed to break the monotony of sitting around, doing nothing played hacky-sac, with the thing flying everywhere which way. Before things became out of control, we thought it best to stop.
The flight to Costa Rica took about two and a half hours. After we landed, we were introduced to our tour guide, Gustavo, and then got situated in a 1930′s style hotel that was extraordinary, minus the fact that it’s super HOT, there is no absolutely no AC, the rooms are minuscule, the bathroom door doesn’t fully close, nor does it have a lock. Besides that, it is very enjoyable!
Tomorrow we will go to Tortuguero and see a lot of wildlife!
This seems to me the beginning of an amazing trip! I will ask to do a Harlem Shake on the way back to the states.

Thanks for reading!

Philip Kuong

#EF Summit

Why hello, Mr. Gore

It was Monday after a weekend that was far too short, with the spring sports season starting up again and the school quarter coming to a close. The weather was finally beginning to warm up, nearing 70 degrees in our small New England town of Harvard Massachusetts, but that was nothing compared to how I was imagining the weather of Costa Rica, which I would be visiting with a school group going  from The Bromfield School with EF Tours in just a week! Thinking I would be there in just six days made the school day of two quizzes, one test, and one lab much more bearable. However, a mediocre day suddenly changed to be one of ecstasy when I heard the news: Evelyn MacMahon, Aliza Maki and I had won the Glocal Challenge project, and will now be presenting our project to Al Gore.

Upon signing up for the Costa Rica trip with EF Tours, I did not know of the work this entailed. To me, it sounded like a week experiencing the beauty of Costa Rica, followed by the Glocal Student Leaders Summit, where we would make friends from all over, and listen to speeches on the environment and sustainability. This was all something I was interested in, I love experiencing new things, and was a member of the new Bromfield Green Team, our school’s environmental club. However, there was of course the WeShare project, where you and one or two friends team up to identify an environmental issue in your community. You then find a solution to solve your issue, and wrap it all up in a presentation and submitting it online. The incentive to complete this project, as advertised by the EF Tours WeShare project website, was “to win your spot at the table with Al Gore.” Teaming up with Evelyn MacMahon, the creator of the Bromfield Green Team and good friend Aliza Maki, we began working.

After weeks of surveys, team meetings, and technical difficulties with Prezi, our WeShare project was finally complete. We identified the environmental issue of paper waste, and specifically paper waste in our school’s cafeteria. The following link will lead you to our Prezi, learn more about ECO-CAF:

http://prezi.com/9agqgrldqoon/glocal-challenge/?auth_key=0d20b9f33476d64d39a9503ae6745a11c36deb08&kw=view-9agqgrldqoon&rc=ref-33644811

With the news we would not only be meeting former Vice President Al Gore, but presenting our ideas to him, it quickly became apparent our work was not finished. We have to wrap up our entire project into a quick two to three minute presentation, and in the end we are permitted to ask Al Gore one question pertaining to our project and issue. This is both exciting and terrifying, but after all the work we have put into it, we are definitely up to the challenge.

Wish us luck!

Sofia Catalina, Sophomore at the Bromfield School, Harvard, MA