The monkeys in the Manuel Antonio National Park were anything but shy. They were very intelligent, and knew how to get what they wanted– food.
When we walked on the trails, we didn’t see any monkeys (but we did see seven different sloths). After our walk, we went to the beach, and at first we were the only people there. However, after an hour or two, the beach became crowded, and it wasn’t long after that when the monkeys showed up. They would send the first troop of monkeys down the trees into plain sight. After people started noticing, they all rushed to take pictures, leaving their stuff unattended. While the people were snapping pictures, a second troop of monkeys would go look in bags for food. We watched several bags start to be carried off. Some of the owners noticed, but the majority of the owners didn’t.
They had an amazing sense of smell, and could tell without going through a bag if it had food or not in it. For this reason, we were cautioned about having any food in our backpack. However, Heidi forgot she had some pastries in her backpack from a few days earlier. On our way out of the park, a monkey jumped onto her backpack like he was going for a piggy back ride. I wish we could have snapped a picture, but it all happened too quickly, but her reaction was definitely one of the top five moments of the trip.
The two biggest focuses of the JBIP course we took in the spring semester before coming on this trip were biodiversity and ecotourism. Costa Rica is well known for both of those things. Ecotourism is traveling to a natural destination, benefiting the local community, and conserving the environment. Basically, we want to be tourists who have a positive impact on the community, rather than a negative one.
During a visit to a coffee plantation yesterday, we each planted a tree in an effort to offset our carbon footprint we created traveling to Costa Rica.
In addition to our efforts to be ecotourist, we also want to live by Queens’ motto, “Non ministrari, sed ministrare – not to be served, but to serve.” So today we spent our day at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve helping them out in whatever ways they needed us – which turned out to be trail maintenance. My group spent hours removing moss from the paths in an effort to make them less slippery.
Its amazing how something that seems so small and insignificant to you, can have a much larger impact on the community. The staff at the reserve kept thanking us over and over saying that the work hadn’t been done in years. They also spent a good portion of the afternoon taking pictures of our handiwork. More interesting than their reaction however, was the reaction of other tourists visiting. They kept asking if we were in trouble, and just couldn’t understand why we would spend our time in Costa Rica scraping moss from in between bricks. At the end of the day, even our tour guide thanked us for helping benefit his community.
We had the pleasure of visiting another school, but instead of making a craft with the boys and girls and teaching them a bit of English, today we were the students. After watching them preform a few dances, four students ranging in age from eight to twelve taught us all how to do the El Pavo (Turkey) Dance. This a dance where everyone holds hands and moves around in a circle. Then, at a certain part in the music, everyone struggles to find to someone else to dance with, because whoever is left without a partner, will be forced to dance with a broom until the next round. We were pretty good at it though, because we managed to not have anyone from our group become “El Pavo” for the first two rounds. However, our third and final round, someone did become the turkey. Make sure to watch the video until the end to find out who it is!
The El Pavo Dance <— Click here to watch the video
Well sort of– at least our guides had a stick.
The past few days we have been staying with Bribri Indigenous Community in Talamanka. The Bribri are thought to be the first inhabitants of Costa Rica, and they continue to live according to their own culture. They have their own language (called Bribri) and their god is named Sibu. In order to get to their community, we had to travel in dug out canoes going against the current of the Yorkin river. Our guides had only a long stick to push us off rocks and get us to our destination.
After about an hour ride in the canoes we finally reached the village, and we were greeted with open arms. We were given a short tour of the community, which mostly concisted of the school and a meeting place. The Bribri choose to live far away from each other in order to prevent the spread of diseases (since the nearest clinic is quite a long way away) among various other reasons. Since there was no air conditioning or electricity, and the weather was by far the most hot we had experienced thus far in Costa Rica, we dropped off our stuff and headed back to the river for a swim.
Unfortunately, shortly after lunch on our first day with the Bribri, I got sick and missed out on a lot of the activities. I did however, make it to visit the elementary school where we were able to do a craft with the children. As an elementary education major, I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. We made “cootie catchers” and taught the children how to say several colors in English. I worked with a six year old named Carolina, and after she colored each section of the paper, our conversation went a little something like this:
Me – “¿Qué color es esto?”
Carolina – “Azul.”
Me – “En inglés, blue. B-L-U-E, blue.”
Carolina – “Blue”
Me – “Muy bien!”
Overall our experience in the Bribri community taught me a lot. Even Though they choose to live the way they do, I feel very grateful for all that I have. Things that we take for granted like flipping a light switch and a light turning on means a lot more to me after spending a few days without the ability to do that. So, miamia (thank you in Bribri) to Queens for giving me this opportunity to travel to Costa Rica and to the Bribri for opening their community and giving us an eye opening experience.
Night one in Costa Rica and we landed and stayed in the nation’s capital San Jose. We were settled in by 8:30pm and as a group we all decided to eat at the hotel restaurant. The set up of the menu was simple enough, three columns, the first was the name of the dish in Espanol, the second was the cost of the dish and the third was it’s name in English. I’m cruising the list and I’m thinking, “beans – no thanks, salad – perhaps not, rice – give me a break”. Then there it is, bingo, garlic bread; no doubt what I’m trying to get into for dinner. After a cerveza I was feeling ballsy, I was a young blade ridding high, I was in Costa Rica and by god I was going to order in Espanol!
Pan de ajo, it seemed simple enough. I just had to spit out two syllables and the bread was mine. Unfortunately Pan de ajo is four syllables, Paan-deh-ah-ho which is not what I said. I looked the server, who as far as I was concerned had been impressed with my application of the languages’ basic commands, directly in eye and pointed at my menu and casually said “pan-dehho” or “bread, asshole” for those as obviously well-read as myself.
The waitress and my professor both had a laugh at my expense and we called it a night after posing apologetically for a photo together. Can’t win ‘em all.
Yesterday we spent the day whitewater rafting down the Pacuare River. National Geographic named it one of the top five rivers in the entire world! This was the part of the trip I had been most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. The river is made up of class III and class IV rapids. Class V is the highest the scale goes, because anything after that is considered impossible for humans. Not only were the rapids impressive, but the forest surounding the area was breathtaking. Along both sides of the river there were beautiful plants, waterfalls, and we even spotted some wildlife such as tiger herrings and butterflies.
Our raft approaching a waterfall
After about two hours of rafting, we came to a calmer area and our guide told us we could hop out and swim if we wanted. My group didn’t have to be told twice! We jumped out and all held hands and floated down the river for a bit. While we continued to swim, our guides pulled the raft onto shore where the prepared us a wonderful lunch.
After that it was time for more rafting, and this time it was much more intense. Thankfully, there were guides following us along in kayaks and they were able to capture some of the best moments. Enjoy!
When we arrived in Costa Rica last night it was dark outside, so we weren’t able to see very much on the drive into the hotel. When we left bright and early this morning, I was so amazed by all the colors in the scenery. Everything is so green– I don’t think the pictures even do it justice!
On our way up to the Poas Volcano National Park, our tour guide pulled the bus over at a clearing. It was a clear day, and we could see the entire Central Valley Region of Costa Rica.
Our entire JBIP class overlooking the Central Valley Region
Once inside the park, we began our hike to the Poas Volcano. Denis, our tour guide pointed out a particular plant to us. The Gunnera Plant, also known as “the poor man’s umbrella”, is the largest single leaf plant in all of Costa Rica. They gained their nickname, because they are so large, it is said that you can seek refuge from the rain underneath them.
Again, amazed by what I saw when we reached the end of our trail, I can’t really come up with the words to describe how incredible the view was. Hopefully these pictures can give you some insight.
Cory overlooking Poas
Lunch at a Traditional Costa Rican Restaurant
All three of these things seem to be a staple here in Costa Rica. They were all included in both our breakfast and lunch meals today. But hey, I’m not complaining!
I don’t think our traveling experience could’ve gone much more smoothly, and for that I am very relieved!
After checking in and receiving our boarding passes, TSA staff pointed us away from the long security line at our concourse, to the practically non-existent one right next to us. There were no security mishaps to report, and we had plenty of time to relax before boarding our first plane to Atlanta. We boarded on time, and pushed away from our gate. Right when we were about to take off, our pilot informed us that the Vice President was currently using our airspace, so we ended up sitting on the plane for about 45 minutes before we took off. While some people were frustrated about this, I thought it worked out just fine. We were originally suppose to have a four hour layover in Atlanta. However, by the time we got to Atlanta we had just enough time to ride the tram to our gate and enjoy our first sit down meal together. The flight from Atlanta to Costa Rica went by quickly. Though, it wasn’t a full flight, so most of us got to spread out and sleep!
We arrived in Costa Rica around 8pm local time (there is a two hour time difference). However, the sun goes down a lot earlier here than it does at home, so it felt much later. We were greeted by our tour guide for the week, Denis, and then headed to our hotel.
I am surprised by how Americanized Costa Rica seems to be. Though the currency in Costa Rica is colones (500 colones=aprox. $1), everywhere accepts US currency as well. Also, most people seem to know a good amount of English. Despite this, our group is working hard to speak as much Spanish as possible. We learned at dinner just how important pronunciation is, when Cory trying to order garlic bread, accidentally called our waitress a bad name. Thankfully, she just laughed it off. The Ticos really fit the Pura Vida lifestyle, and I’m really enjoying their easy going nature.
While Cory is ready to head off to Costa Rica with just the shirt on his back (and a few other necessities), I am not so brave. An anxious over-packer, I’m already wondering what I have forgotten to pack.
And to make packing for this trip even more difficult, I have just packed up all my belongings and moved them from Wireman to HBO, which is where I will be living for the summer. Trying to remember which box or bag you put which things in turned out to be more confusing than I expected. In fact, I just spent the past twenty minutes looking through an assortment of binders and miscellaneous papers looking for my log in information for this blog.
However, I am packed and resisting the urge to add about twenty more outfits to my suitcase. I will be modeling norts (nike shorts), t-shirts, and my new chaco sandals for the entire trip, and leaving my hair dryer and straightener in Charlotte. I am also taking along an array of bug spray and sunscreens. I’m not going to get burnt or bitten if I can help it!