Jefferson High School was met in Guanacaste on a very hot Sunday morning. It was a complete change from the cold Montana weather. The trip from the airport to the start of the day’s adventures was an hour long. On the way the group got to appreciate the characteristically dry Guanacaste countryside and see a beautiful bird typical of the hot lowlands, the Turquoise Browed Motmot, perched on a tree limb.
Hacienda Guachipelin was our destination and we started with a delicious breakfast. The group then piled into a bus and at the trail head divided up. Some people went to do canyoning while others went to do river tubing. It was a perfect day for it since the river’s cool water offset the hot, dry weather. There were big spiders on the rocks next to the river and made for a surprise as we zipped down the river in the inner tubes. We saw lizards basking in the sun and birds chirped in the nearby trees. After tubing for approximately an hour we were driven back to Hacienda’s headquarters where a lunch buffet was waiting. After lunch we got on horses and rode to our next destination. There was a stop mid way and we got a chance to explore and quickly enjoy a waterfall and pool. Then back on the horses to meet the bus that would take us to the main trail head where the group that went tubing in the morning would get a chance to canyon and the group that went canyoning got a chance to do tubing. The sun was not as hot and the water felt a bit cool; although not by Montana standards. It was late in the afternoon that we were on our way to the hotel the group would stay at for the next week. A dinner stop was made and we got to Casas del Toro in Flamingo to settle in the rooms. It had been a very long day and all were tired and happy.
Monday morning found the group eating breakfast early and then it was time for Spanish classes. We drove to the amazing beach campus of CPI and went directly to classes.
Following Spanish classes lunch was in order. However, to eat lunch it had to be prepared by the group! Cooking class ensued consisting of cutting, chopping, peeling, mixing, and finally eating! It was a delicious typical Costa Rican meal of rice and chicken, refried beans, potato chips, and tamarindo juice.
In the afternoon it was free time to explore and enjoy the white sand beach. The tide was in and the waves were high and came one after another. The day was perfect for sunbathing, wandering the beach, or just sitting in the bit of shade provided by the nearby trees.
One of the afternoons the group went to Tamarindo for lunch, followed by surf classes. Again, the afternoon was particularly hot and the sun beating down made us all sweat and lather on the sunscreen. The surf lessons started off with detailed directions from the instructor. Everyone practiced on land before venturing into the water. Then they were off! Into the white capped waves and foam of the Tamarindo pacific ocean. Surfing is no small feat; the pros making it look so much easier than it is. Balance and quick reflexes are key and one spends more time in the water than on the top of the surf board. But slowly and after many tries, the majority of the group was able to stand up and skim the surface of the water a few feet. Tired, waterlogged, and triumphant, the group showered and changed and had more time to wander the tourist town of Tamarindo. Dinner was eaten in town and then it was time to head back to the hotel and do homework and go to bed.
Later in the week the group had the opportunity to visit a local public school. The Guanacaste province is one of the poorest provinces of Costa Rica and Jefferson High School generously donated several computers to the school. This promotes a more technological education and increases the chances of the school children having opportunities for higher learning. The children received us gladly and the teachers in charge gave the group a small tour around the school, talking about the school, the number of kids, and the public education system in Costa Rica, among other things. The school kids had activities planned and got everyone involved. The sixth graders were the ones at the school the afternoon the group visited. After the games they provided a light snack for us of water and fruit. Jefferson High School also had games to share and the local kids quickly got the hang of the games even though the instructions were often given in a mix of English and Spanish. It was heartwarming to watch the interaction of Jefferson High and the local kids.
Because of the hot weather there are many ice cream parlors in Flamingo. One of the evenings the group went to eat delicious Italian gelato. It was a treat no one wanted to miss out on. It was every bit as good as everyone had imagined.
One of the highlights of the week was zip lining. The canopy tour outfit received the group on that hot and dry afternoon and had everyone gear up, get on a truck, and be driven to the starting point. Clear instructions were given on the dos and don’ts on zip lining. The route taken provided beautiful views of the Guanacaste landscape as one and all zipped down the long cables. At the end of the tour fruit and water were provided making that a perfect way to end the experience.
Dance class followed zip lining. It was a definite change of pace. The dance teacher arrived and without further ado got the class underway. Although it was a bit embarrassing at first soon everyone on the dance floor was moving to the beat of cumbia and bachata. Dinner at a nearby restaurant followed dance class. As it turned out, it was open mic night at the restaurant and several of the more courageous members of the group got up to sing.
The Spanish class graduation was the next day and it was a simple but special event. All the students got their diplomas among rounds of applause. Pictures were taken and hugs given all around.
In the afternoon, to end a wonderful week, the group went on a catamaran snorkel cruise in the vicinity of Tamarindo. The sailboat trip was fun, everyone sitting around talking, taking pictures, and sipping on their drinks. It was a relaxing afternoon. After a while the boat dropped anchor at a tranquil bay and anyone who wanted to do snorkel could. Other options included using the stand up paddle boards, or just swimming around the boat and enjoying the Pacific Ocean.
All too soon it was time to say good bye to Jefferson High School. It had been a fantastic week. Saturday morning found the still sleepy group at the airport at a very early hour. We at CPI hope it will not be a good bye but just an ¨Hasta Luego¨ (until later).