Self Development Through Cultural Exploration, Service Learning & Environmental Study

Join the Expedition!

Costa Rica 2010 Photos

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Appreciation

Emily Stanley, 16

It hasn't really set in yet that I'm home, and that I have luxuries, and can do things I'd like, and have free time to myself. I wanted these things while we were away, but they haven't set in yet that I've got them back all the same. I'm more cautious and appreciative since coming back, and there were small changes in my mannerisms and lifestyle that I didn't expect. My diet has almost completely changed, and I don't know what exactly improvement is, but I would like to think that I've changed for "the better" since returning. But the one thing this trip really emphasized for me is: what really is better?

I stopped writing for a while, because I realized that coming back, right away anyway, I couldn't write this blog. I couldn't because I didn't know how it really and honestly affected me yet. My main priorities when returning were getting a nice shower, and seeing the people I love. That was just from being away for a while.

Now that we've been back for almost a month, I am finally starting to see exactly how this whole experience has changed me as a person.

I find myself stopping and appreciating things more, and I've realized that I have no desire to live an ostentatious lifestyle, or live off of anything but experiences and the necessities for survival. This trip, and then starting my internship, has definitely given me a lot of perspective.

I go to the Federal District Court everyday and see how they deal with people for anything from trademark disputes to bank robbery. I watch how the government goes about delivering sentences, and changing lives. I went to Costa Rica and watched people have different methods for survival, and have different ideas for what living really is.

Most people either blow up the changes they had on the trip to the most memorable experience of my life, or downsized it to something like, "It was alright, I found it pretty." Well it may not have been the most memorable experience of my life, but I can see the slow but subtle changes happening to me everyday with how I make decisions and look at the world around me.

Before we left for this trip, I was set on the idea that life is based off of hedonism. Pleasure seeking individuals walk the earth, and live for themselves. Even when they help others it's really because they either a.) get something out of it, or b.) take great pleasure in the satisfaction of helping others (but that pleasure is still theirs). But since returning, I am making more positive choices about what I do everyday of my life, and I am starting to slowly but surely change the way I look at the universe, to understand that sometimes going beyond human nature, people can really be selfless. This doesn't necessarily mean that I want to be selfless, but it does mean that I strive more towards making things in life more positive towards others along with myself, not just one or the other. I have changed the relationships I have with people, and changed the way I look at the world in general.

From a spiritual standpoint, I can't yet say how this trip has affected me, but I've realized that it definitely has made some sort of impact in how I imagine creation, and the continuance of life. I am working to be more of a deep thinker, without closing myself off to other ideas and concepts, while still being educated. Like going beyond the rules of society, while still understanding the concepts that run it. Also, like I stated above, about watching the comparisons between the country's rules, I think the thing that has impacted me, much more than I thought it would, is the reasoning behind each nation's laws; what makes one person feel that something is more correct than something else, and what makes one person's ideals better than another person's? So, by this I mean that now everyday of my life I stop and question; what is better anyway, and what makes someone think that they're worthy of deciding that?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hopefully, this end is just the beginning.

Cherie, 17

Well, I guess it’s my turn. I’ve edited this a million times. If I don’t post it now, I don't think it will ever stop changing or getting longer.

I woke up the first morning home with a bitter-sweet feeling. It felt nice to be in my own bed in my own room, but something just didn’t feel right. I missed waking up to the sun shining at 6 AM, with my girls in room 15 (which includes those in our two-night sleepover) around me. I missed eating with everyone, every single day, even though I rarely ate. I missed everything. I still miss everything. It was so hard to actually leave the airport because though I was going home to my loved ones, I felt like I was leaving another family behind. I really needed this return home I suppose, but it just felt a little weird to be back.

This trip was more than I imagined it would be. I heard of how amazing it could be from people who have gone through the journey before, but I never really thought the affect it would have would be this big. I had my doubts about the trip in the way beginning, relating specifically to my main struggle of being able to control my frustration with others and its effects on my mood. I thought, “I can’t spend twelve days with these people. I’m going to be miserable. The trip is going to be pointless if I’m just going to be angry the whole time.” Eventually I changed my mind set, and got excited for the trip. I wanted to make it something worthwhile; something I could remember forever and I decided that the people who annoyed me weren’t going to ruin that. That was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.

I don’t regret going on this trip one bit. The hard work, the annoyances, the struggles; it was all worth it. I learned that you shouldn’t let the little things that bother you and prevent you from participating in something, because you just might miss out on so many amazing experiences. I kept that in mind the whole trip, and I think that really helped make everything, for the most part, so fantastic.

I learned so many things from our visits with so many different groups of people throughout the trip. I can honestly say I never knew how cement was actually made, or even where chocolate came from. However, the most important thing I realized during our stay was that the residents of La Carpio and the indigenous people of Yorkin have it good, despite the fact that they materialistically have less. They have what some people spend their whole life searching for; they have happiness. They taught me that happiness doesn’t stem from having things that provide me with entertainment, like my camera, the internet, or time spent relaxing. Happiness is something that you really have to create for yourself and even further, for your people. It comes from being content with your life and not putting unnecessary worrying on things that other people have and you don’t. It comes from building strong relationships with the important people in your life. It can come from so many things; you just have to know the right way to find it. This was especially shown through the Bribri community in Yorkin. They, as a community, have found what makes them happy and are living their lives accordingly. They’re not concerned about how life in San Jose could be better; instead they care about the important things, like friendship, spending time together with family and improving their community. Before this trip I could honestly say that I didn’t have true happiness. I wasn’t really upset with my life, but I noticed a big difference between my happiness and theirs. It’s hard to explain, but I can now say that I pretty much have a perfect understanding of how to achieve true happiness; now, it’s just a matter of going after it.

Let me tell you something funny--other than a few things, I basically had this written last Friday, the day after we came back from the trip. Larry told me his was done, and I thought that I had better go do mine as well. Thing was, I couldn’t turn it in. I still don’t even really want to do it. I think this kind of shows that I’m still caught up in everything. I feel that once I post this and finish other things related to this trip that it’ll really be over. It’s kind of hard to explain. I guess I just had such a good time, that I’m not ready to give it up even though obviously it’s been over for more than a week. That needs to pass though, because you can’t learn from a past experience when you’re still trying to keep it as the present. I guess all there is left to do is put what I learned into action and keep moving forward.

P.S - Though this goes against what I just said about moving forward, I miss all of you and can't wait to see you on Monday! And I also can't wait until we have our 2015 reunion trip!

Friday, April 23, 2010

More Time for Family and Appreciation

LaShai, 17

Well I've been home for about a week.

When I first got home, I was excited. I had my room back, my phone for texting, my television with over 200 channels in HD, and my laptop with all the wireless internet I want, but I didn't want it.

I had gone so long without these things that they had become a luxury instead of my everyday necessities. Instead of going straight back to my old everyday necessities, I spent my first couple of days back home with my family and friends. I never really cared to spend time with my little brothers before I went to Costa Rica, but after coming back from this trip I realized that they are all I have, that they have always been there for me.

It's only in coming back from a place where everyone is so kind and caring for
each other that you really know what is important to you.



After having a couple days of down time, I went back to work. I thought it was going to be a normal "low key" day. As time went by my mind started to wander. I tried to remember everybody's name that I had met. I was surprised at how many people's names I remembered and what memories came with every person.

For instance, Pepe, he brought Larry, Cherie and Ashley pop and chocolate because we weren't allowed to have any American food. Then there was Evar, he played guitar and sang us songs every night that we were in the rain forest. Then I started to make a list of all the different foods that we ate in Costa Rica, but all I could really think of was 'gallo pinto and casado'. As I was thinking of all the different foods we ate, Larry, who also works with me, started to look for the foods we ate. It was really bizarre because not only did he find some of the foods that I listed, but they all said 'Products of Costa Rica' on their labels. I see several different types of foods at my job, but until now I've never cared about where they were coming from.

Since I've been home, everyone always has questions about how my trip went, and all I say is that I love it there and everything about it. The people there are so beautiful and genuine. They love being where they are and embrace who they are. Then they ask what was my favorite part about this trip, and I always tell them it's the people. Even if I don't ever see the people that I've met in Costa Rica ever again, I will never forget them. We were only with the high school students a small amount of time, but yet it feels like a life time. Then they finally ask what the worst part of the trip was, and I say having to leave. It seemed like every time we were just getting used to being around new people and starting to really like them for who they were, we had to leave them. It was almost like having to leave family behind, because that is how the people in San Jose and Yorkin made me feel--I was part of their family, and I truly miss and appreciate them.

A not so distant past .

Siena, 17

I sense that something in my life is missing. It's around 9:30 pm on a Friday night and no form of entertainment is suiting my craving. I don't want to watch TV. I don't want to read a book, surf the internet, talk on the phone, or have a grand old night on the town. What I desire most is to sit in that dimly lit room and have the young boy of the Bribri tribe sing Spanish lullabies on his guitar and lull my mind to sleep.

I believe I have reached the point of this journey when realization blows out my dream clouded mind and leaves me fully aware that we aren't in Costa Rica anymore. Although our homecoming was just over a week ago, it feels as if our expedition took place somewhere in the distant past; as if months have gone by since we were in that luxurious land. I miss waking up to those sun filled sky's and having fresh fruit juice every morning. I miss the beautiful plants and equally beautiful people.

The memory of this trip give me a nostalgic feeling, like recalling a childhood summer. I am unable to give one distinct quality I am taking from this trip for I feel as if I have gained them all; whether that be appreciation, awareness, open-mindedness, or self discovery. Through this trip I have taken a little of each of these qualities and more.

Simply put, I feel this trip has given me a greater sense of unity in the world. I now can wholeheartedly say that neither gender, language, age, nor race are able to create barriers to extinguish the human bonding experience. I feel blessed to have met the people I did and create stronger bonds with those I already knew. I wish the best for all the friends we left behind and hope that someday in the future our paths may cross once again.

Too Much To Say

Matyas, 16

I don’t think my last post did any justice to how I truly feel about my experiences in Costa Rica. I may not have realized it at the time, but as I settle into my home here in America, I’m reminded of all the stresses and issues that I escaped for those 12 days in Costa Rica. Now I find myself longing to return to Costa Rica and push all my troubles and anxieties away and live the "pura vida," forgetting about the stresses that Western civilization pushes into our daily lives. I WILL be returning. I no longer have my Western desires as much as I used to. It’s not about being successful, it’s about being happy. I’ve always had a hatred for materialism, greed, and sloth, but this trip made me realize how much I actually have of those things, and I want to change that picture of myself.


Now that I’ve been in the states for a few days, I’ve found myself falling back into the routine of sitting around on the computer for endless hours with nothing to do. I do catch myself sometimes and try to do something like cleaning up my room or helping my dad with things to do around the house, like cleaning out the attic or some yard work. But a few days ago, without knowing it, I let myself go and did nothing but watch all my DVR recordings while snacking on candy and gummi worms and played videogames for countless hours. I didn’t realize it until I was laying in my bed around 1:30am still awake from all the sugar and caffeine I had put into my body, and I felt disgusted. I actually did sit there thinking “Man, I wish Matt were here to tell me something to do” hah.


With Earth Day being yesterday all I have been thinking about was all of the trees we planted in Yorkín. How something so small as a seed can be a message of hope for the earth, to repay all the wrongdoings mankind has done to the very planet it calls its own.

Back to the point, I don’t think I described how much I benefitted from the experience in my last post, and I guarantee that after I hit “submit post” I'm going to realize I forgot something. While working in La Carpio I was exposed to poverty that I never had seen before, and the fact that it was so close to San José, the idea seems crazy, like it shouldn’t be so, but it is. And hearing the political advisor, “Chico,” laughing at the matter at first, but later admitting that they aren’t doing enough to help them, perhaps because he saw that none of us felt the same comicalness of the situation, made me feel like it’s going to be a long time before these people get what they need and deserve, which isn’t right. It makes me feel even better about how much we really did help them.

The experiences with the Ticos and the volcano were some of the highlights of the trip. Being able to communicate on a fairly decent level (finishing my 3rd year of Spanish this last trimester) I could speak with Pepe, Sam's and my pen pal, the first day pretty well, and he knew a good amount of English which also helped. What I liked most was how he was trying to communicate the word “Poland” to me, but I wasn’t understanding the Spanish version, so he started to describe it as the first country that the Germans invaded in WWII. I just thought it was cool how we had found a way around the language barrier with words we DID know and the fact that it was history and about WWII. I just really liked it, it was a clever way to get around the barrier.

When we all went to the volcano I got a sense of how powerful the Earth can be, even though this one wasn’t erupting with exploding fireballs and lava everywhere, I still got a feeling…similar to the feeling I got when we were in the airplane above the Earth (it was my 1st time flying), a feeling of how small I am, how small we all are on the Earth, not to mention the Universe. I just felt miniscule but humble at the same time. I’ve wanted a career in Biology, but the experience is making me think of shifting gears a little to maybe wildlife conservation, ecology, or environmental protection. I feel like the Earth should be our top priority and we owe it some respect.

Needless to say, the trip to Yorkín was amazing for me. As I mentioned before, I’ve always had a connection with nature and sympathy for the environment and animals, so I was perfectly fine with getting dirty and being hot, and working with the Bribri people. However, I didn’t enjoy constantly being wet. Other than that, I think everything was enjoyable and rewarding. I have nothing but optimism for the Bribri people; their ability to be happy and reject outside influence is something to be admired. Awesome. Even as I sit here, I wonder what it is they are doing and how our trees are getting planted/growing and how their building developments are progressing. I hope for the Bribri to continue their ways and stay a happy people.

The trip to Puerto Viejo and the Caribbean was mind opening as well. The culture, being more laid back and Rasta, was interesting to see and experience, even if we weren’t there long. However, it has rubbed off on me and I now have an extensive list of Bob Marley that I'm trying to put on my iPod. Not to mention the beach, with the Sea Urchin that Mr. Moreland, Shalyce, Arturo and I managed to get to shore and observe.

All in all, the trip has made me a more independent person. I feel like I can do anything, it just takes a little effort. I feel more grateful for all the little things that I have that I used to take for granted. However, I prefer the life in Costa Rica, even if it’s not so technologically advanced. That’s perfectly fine with me. I feel proud now, and happier about myself. I had experiences that a lot of people won’t ever have in their lifetime. And for all these reasons, I’m proud to now have this “little” reminder, of the Pura Vida that I plan to live, hanging in my room.
Photobucket

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sweet Home Pittsburgh

Samantha, 18

So this looks like it will be my last post on this blog. It's been such a great journey. From the moment I found out I would be going on this trip until now feels like this giant blur filled with vivid memories.
Upon arriving home, I did not feel different. I was worried that I had not experienced Costa Rica the way everyone else had since everyone I spoke with that went felt completely different. It was not until I went to the movies with a friend yesterday that I realized how grateful I was to live where I do. We walked down Carson Street in the South Side and I remember feeling so happy that there were so many people around. I'm not sure if I was excited because there were so few people in the rain forest or if I had gained a sense of awareness of people and enjoying their presence from San Jose being such a family oriented society. Either way I know that I would not have even noticed or even cared about all the people roaming South Side previous to this trip.

I have begun cleaning my room and I've noticed that I buy a lot of things that I don't need or use which is a waste of money and space. The people in Yorkin don't have junk. They make use of everything and I'm not planning on living in the wilderness anytime soon, but a nice change for me would be to stop wasting time and money on things that aren't important.

I finally got around to uploading pictures on to Facebook. After I started really looking at the pictures and reading all the comments from the people who went on the trip with me, I began to miss everything so much. Even our pen-pals (who we have added as "friends" on Facebook) were commenting on photos. Josue was either saying how much he missed Courtney and I while looking at the party night pictures or making fun of me when looking at the picture of me under my mosquito net in the rain forest.


I feel like I really have friends in Costa Rica and I think that was the coolest part of the trip for me. It's just neat to see that the Ticos were so similar to my friends and I. Josue even commented on some pictures I posted saying that he looked bad and requested I take them down just like my friends or I do to each other!

I plan on learning more Spanish so that when we go back (some of us have a 2015 plan in the making) I will be able to communicate better. Josue and I have already started translating to each other back and fourth on Facebook and I feel like I'm already getting better.

It was such an experience and I feel like there is so much to say, yet I can't put everything into words. I had an amazing time and I miss Costa Rica a lot. I can't wait to travel and see everything the world has to offer. I'm just really grateful to have been chosen to go on this trip and I feel like after all of that, college will be a breeze.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It's Not Over, So Grab It

Courtney, 17

Our plane touched down at Pittsburgh international around 11:20 or so on April 15, 2010. Despite the fact that I’m home, things don’t seem to be like they were which I believe is because huge parts of my heart were left behind in various parts of Costa Rica.

Once we reached the airport and said our goodbyes to Matt, who had been with us the entire trip, things finally started to set in. The time had come and the trip was over. At this time I was filled with an indescribable sadness, yet relieved by the fact that I was coming home to open arms. At this point all I could do was try and focus on the positives and remember that I control my future and whether or not I will return to Costa Rica.

A few of the other group members and I have made a pact that we will return in 5 years to pick up where we left off in San Jose, Yorkin, and Puerto Viejo. Though I’m a part of this pact, I created a personal pact to go back to Costa Rica during my undergraduate studies. I hope to stay with a family and learn more about the culture of Costa Rica and how things are run, while I take classes at the university.

It sounds cliché to say that this trip has completely changed me as a person, as well as what I want out of life--but it’s true. When I signed up to be a part of this experience, I had no idea that I was going to take so much from it. Since being back in the states, I haven’t really noticed myself being grateful for what I have. It’s almost as if I’m upset because I have everything that some would call “life’s necessities” mainly because I was happier in Yorkin where I didn’t have a need for them at all.

Upon returning from this trip life has become interesting and scary because of the things I know I will have to face soon. Decisions will have to be made and I will be the one to make them. I’m worried that because of this trip I will be so stuck on all the fun and different experiences I had in Costa Rica, I will forget or ignore all the fun and different experiences I can have here in the states. This is the time when I believe I will have to find a balance between fantasy and reality; otherwise I will be stuck in the Costa Rica 2010 trip forever.

This may not be all that bad, but it could prevent me from having as many amazing stories as I have from Costa Rica. Either way the moral of my journey to Costa Rica is that life is yours for the taking and it’s up to you to either grab it or watch it fly past you.

My only option is to grab it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Can't believe it's already over


Nathan, 18

We are home, and as great of a feeling as it is, I wish we were still in Costa Rica. It doesn't seem right not being woken up by people getting up super early to take a shower, or by teachers knocking on our door to make sure we're up. Now I wake up by myself or by my dogs barking at squirrels in my backyard. This trip has come to an end really quick, and it didn't take too long for me to grasp the truth about it being over. I know that I am not in a country that I have fallen in love with, but I'm back in the country that I call home. Since being back, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on the whole trip, and what Larry stated in his blog, "I can guarantee they're missing everything that we left in Costa Rica", I fully believe that this is an accurate statement. I have talked with a few of my new "family" members since coming back, and it seems that we are all missing something that we left behind.

Over the past 12 days, my perspective on life has completely changed. Before traveling, I knew that I would be experiencing something I have never had a chance to experience before now. I just didn't know how it would effect me in the end. Everyone I have talked to that has gone on past trips said that it changed their life, and now I understand why. This trip is a complete eye-opener to what the world really is. Seeing how other people live in a different country compared to people in the USA is different. One prime example of this is if something needs to get done. While in Yorkin and La Carpio if something needed to be done, people got to it, and didn't complain about it. Here in the USA, if something needs to get done, people will procrastinate, or go and hire someone to do it for them. On another note, there are some similarities between Costa Rica, and the USA but none that are really eye catching like the differences. Another way this trip has really effected me is that I now know that I don't have to rely on the advancements that we have here in the USA. While in Costa Rica we barely used any form of technology, and when we did it was only when we had to blog.

This trip has really been a trip of lifetime, and I miss being in Costa Rica already. I have started to adapt back to how my life was before leaving, and I'm enjoying what I have left for my final break of high school. Thinking on everything that we did down there, and trying to bring that to my life hasn't really been a challenge. While down in Costa Rica I barely used any form of technology (i.e cellphone, computer, video games...etc.), and now I don't feel like I need to use any of those.

Finally, this trip really helped open my eyes to the world, and it makes me want to see even more of it. Maybe while I am in college I will study aboard in Costa Rica, and meet up with some of the people that I have already met. But in the meantime I'll still be thinking COSTA RICA 2015!

Home, or Am I?

Larry, 17
We made it home.

It's kind of weird to wake up to no one in the shower. To wake up to what you want to eat and to eat when you want to eat. It hasn't taken much time for me to realize that it's all over. It's kind of hard to realize that though, because, as much as everyone wanted their beds, families etc., I can guarantee they're missing everything that we left in Costa Rica.

I learned a lot throughout this trip. At first I thought about not going...because I thought that I knew what I would get out of it, what I would encounter. But I was completely wrong. There were many big life things that I learned, as well as just a lot of little things. Some of which are words, to the way I look at things and the way  I approach situations.

It's just been an experience of a lifetime. It truly changed the way I think and it's made me question what I want out of my life and what I want my life to be. I guess before, I knew what I wanted to do with my life, I had it all set up in my head. But this trip kind of shuffled that up and it's forming a new puzzle.

It has made me realize that life is what you make it. You can either sit and think about all the materialistic possessions you have/want and be unhappy because you've been so obsessed with all of that, or you can not be worried about the materialistic things and just be happy with the basics you need to live--like the people in La Carpio as well as in Yorkin at the Stribrawpa Organization, who may not have many things in monetary value but they have plenty of the things that we in America have lost sight of, like family.

In America we're all pressured to have everything, all the luxuries; but in reality, if we have a roof over our heads, a way for food and we have a close knit family........it's all you need. Just ask the people living in La Carpio or Yorkin....who in my opinion have lives worth envying.

I think that I'll be making another visit to Costa Rica in the near future and, who knows...maybe I'll even call it home.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Out of the Forest, to the beach, and home!

Matyas, 16

We're back to civilization after being in the rain forest for 3 days of work. We helped the Bribri people of Yorkin (pronounced Your-keen) build a trail, cut pieces of wood for lodge building, and start making a pathway to their new conference-center-in-progress. It was a lot of work but we got our rewards by swimming in a nearby stream at the end of the days, which was really fun. A couple of the other guys and myself (along with Mr. Moreland) were skipping stones down stream and eventually we got the whole group doing it with us. Then one of the little boys who lived there set up some rocks far away that we were all going to try and hit down. My favorite part was that when our guide, Matt, said it was time to go, he kind of forgot what he said and started to try and hit the rocks as well.

Being that I want to base my future career field in some type of Biology, visiting Costa Rica allowed me to see lots of animals. It gave me opportunities to catch small toads, lizards, and insects, as well as let me observe the beauty that is the Blue Morpho Butterfly.

After the rain forest we didn't come straight back home, we stopped by the Caribbean Sea first! I enjoyed that part the most. The country is just as culturally diverse as it is biologically diverse. The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica has a pinch of "Rasta" culture, which is overall laid-back, but at the same time bouncing with Reggae music. The beach was stunningly beautiful, and I got to observe some marine life there as well. There were a lot of old coral reefs that were on the beach and some that were halfway in the water. On those ones Arturo, Shalyce, Mr. Moreland and I found lots of Sea Urchins. For the sake of observation, I got a stick and flicked one out to the coast, being sure to avoid its spines.

Overall, from the Rainforest to the Caribbean, the whole trip was worth it. I can't describe how beautiful this country is. Nor could I describe the whole experience of this trip on this blog. Its going to have to come out in person, but I still really encourage anyone to come visit Costa Rica and experience the true meaning of "Pura Vida."
Arturo, 17

The past four days were somehow very difficult to me. First of all, the four to five hour drive to Yorkin wasn't the best. Sitting in the bus made me feel really frustrated at times while people made too much noise. However, when arriving closer to Yorkin, the boat ride was definitely one of the most stress relieving things we did. For some reason I felt like the boat ride was one of the most exciting things we did on the trip. It gave me a lot of time to think and feel the freshness of nature. I believe it was one of the best things we did because it was one of the first times that I was able to be alone in a way. By the time of us going to Yorkin, I felt I needed some time to think alone and canoeing to Yorkin made me feel great.

As we did our service work in Yorkin, I definitely thought it was much more challenging than what we did in La Carpio. It was challenging because not only did we have to deal with the work but with knowing that we were in the middle of the forest and other minor things. As for me, one of my challenges is being in places in nature. By this I mean going camping, taking a walk to the park or being anywhere that is outside of the city, makes me feel depressed. However, in Yorkin, I thought I overcame that challenge because I did not feel any awkwardness in me. I tried to interact with some of the students more to keep my mind off thinking too much. We played cards about every day which helped even more and it became a routine.

Otherwise, after all, I felt really proud of myself because I knew I worked hard. We all worked hard and made the Stribrawpa community feel proud of us too by seeing us doing challenging work in the hot sun. Some time in the future I would actually like to go back to this community and see how much it has grown and how their projects are improving.

Thoroughly Impressed

Mr. Moreland, Science Teacher

Thinking back on the experience in both San Jose and Yorkin, I was thoroughly impressed by our students. When asked, they stepped up and worked hard, both in La Carpio and in the rainforest. If I asked for a few students to volunteer, there was always a group of students who would lend a hand. The work was back breaking, especially in Yorkin; however, our students met the challenge, working hard up to our last day in the rainforest.

During our interview with the Bri Bri community, I had many questions to ask our interviewee. However, I let the students decide upon which questions to ask, instead of interrupting and asking my questions. At the end of the interview, all of the deep questions I wanted to ask were asked by the students. The students had similar questions and curiosities about the Yorkin people to me, and they were not afraid to ask them. I don't think they would have done this at the beginning of the trip.

I believe that the experiences and the lessons they have learned about life, family, and the environment will stay with these students for a very long time.

MM

Although We've Come To The End of The Road.

Larry, 17

Well, there were a lot of things in this past couple of days I really enjoyed. We did a lot and it spanned from the rain forest to a high school to a volcano...to the beach. Not many kids can say they've covered so much land in such little time and had SO much fun! It's kind of sad that it's all coming to an end and I really wish that it wasn't ending. I've had the opportunity to learn more Spanish and learn a lot about myself. But the activity that meant the most to me would have to be our 4 day stay in Yorkin. What I really enjoyed about it was the fact that the people there were so welcoming. I was able to hold conversations with the kids and bond with them. I would have to say that my spanish has improved significantly. That was really enjoyable, as well as being able to talk to the high school students at Liceo Vargas of course. I have a lot to write and am running on a little bit of sleep so I split some of the things up below.

Food Late-Update!

I'm not sure if anyone has told you this but on one of our last days in San Jose before we went to the rainforest we had an underground operation called Project Pepe. Pepe was one of the high school students that we met. Since we were all stuck in the hotel together we weren't able to get [junk] food. This was where Pepe came in. With my awesome Spanish skills and Ashlee as well as Cherie we mustered up funds to bring [junk] food to us. We had to sneak it past Oliver, Arenth, Thomas and Moreland!!

Liceo Vargas High School

It was pretty awesome being able to talk to kids from another country and who all speak a different language. A lot of people found themselves struggling to communicate, but I didn't have that problem which was pretty cool. I've improved my Spanish dramatically. I managed to make some pretty awesome friends as well.

Yorkin

The experience was once in a life. We took a boat up to Stibrawpa and we stayed in the rain forest for a couple days and helped make paths. I was able to go with one of the lead builders for their new project of many houses as well as other things and I learned a lot.

I'm always being interrupted....so I'll let Cherie use the computer and finish later.

A handful of new experiences

Melina, 17

Over the past few days, I've learned a lot about appreciating the little things in life. Traveling to Yorkin was a really mind blowing adventure that made me realize just how good I have it. I'm not the type that's used to sleeping in a bed covered with a bug net every night, or that likes big beetles flying at my face during a group meeting, showering while being able to look right out into the rain forest, etc. Going to Yorkin taught me a lot about the way a whole other culture works around day to day issues and still remains happy and welcoming at the end of the day. But thankfully, I was able to manage my way through those few days, through the heat, hard work, food, and other unfamiliar challenges.

After overcoming the fear that the canoe was going to tip quite a few times, we made it back on the road again. We headed for Puerto Viejo, and I must say that being there was probably one of my favorite parts about the whole trip. It was much more lively, had pretty beaches with such warm/clear water, amazing hotel rooms, and a fun night life experience. Working hard in La Carpio and Yorkin really paid off. Being able to have a day or two of fun was much needed after all this time and I really enjoyed it.

Overall this trip has taught me a lot about myself, others, different cultures and ways of living and so much more. I don't regret coming at all and hope to experience more life changing expeditions at some point throughout life. Although I can't wait to reach Pittsburgh again and see my family, it's going to be sad having to leave Costa Rica and all the memories that will remain.

Yorkin: Joys and Struggles

Kiera, 16

The first day when I arrived in Yorkin I really wasn't surprised with what I saw. Our little cabins weren't that bad, even though there was no closing side to the roof, they gave us nets, so that we could protect ourselves from insects. I mentioned in my other blog that I love nature, and trust me, Yorkin is beautiful. I just struggle with bugs, I feel as though they are pointless and annoying. Throughout my time there, I was paranoid about being bit or hurt by bugs--especially when they told us about the scorpions. After I saw a scorpion in the roof of our dining lodge, I was even more paranoid.

I also struggled with the food; not only in Yorkin, but in Costa Rica in general. I struggled in Yorkin more because it was not like they had options, unlike the other restaurants and places we went where I would try to get something that I'm more comfortable eating. In Yorkin, we had to eat what we were given, or we just wouldn't eat. So I had a really difficult time trying the foods because I had never had them before. The only two things I loved were the bananas and the pineapples. They were extra juicy.

But enough about my struggles, I enjoyed so many things in Yorkin. I loved swimming in the river against the currents because I had never been in a river before, especially something like that. I also really loved the people there. They were such great people to be around. Even when some of us were mad, they just brightened up our days.
This guy, I forgot his name, but he was so sweet. He sang for us, whenever we went back to sit with him. They all were adorable, with their cute little smiles.
Also, Sam and I made a new friend, her name is Fevi (Fee-Vee). She was so adorable. She and Sam were having a photoshoot, and I joined them. She loved making cool faces for the photos, she was just so adorable. That's my new Bribri friend.

One other thing I loved about being in Yorkin was that the Bribri were happy to share their culture. We interviewed one person and asked her questions about the culture. Another lady taught us some of the Bribri language ("mia mia" means "thank you"). And we also were told some stories that have been passed down through their culture. Overall, I loved Yorkin, because it really showed me how different a culture can be.