Costa Rica 2012 Travel Blog

  • Thursday, February 16, 2012 - All 32 students and five adults spent the entire day traveling and arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica.  (We actually arrived at our hotel after midnight.  Costa Rican time is equivalent to Central Standard time and is one hour behind the time in the United States.)  The flight from Newark to San Jose was delayed.  We boarded at 6:00 pm and the plane did not take off until @ 7:30 pm.  All successfully got their luggage and navigated through immigration and customs.  We met our tour guide, Christian, and traveled by charter bus to El Rancho Resort.  Since it was the middle of the night and very dark, it was hard to see the various parts of the hotel.  Everyone settled into the rooms and got a good night's rest.

    Friday, February 17, 2012 - (8:20 am) After waking up, all walked around and became familiar with the surroundings.  There has been some adjustment with being out of the US and in a third world country.  All are adjusting well.  Everyone is looking forward to a good breakfast and the day's activities.  Today's plan is to go to an orphanage to complete a community service project, interact with the Costa Ricans, participate in a pick-up soccer game, and other events.

    (12:50 pm) The group traveled by coach bus to an orphanage this morning.  (The bus rides provide the students with a great opportunity to view homes and lifestyles in Costa Rica.)  After a stop at a local supermarket to purchase water and snacks, the students received a tour of the orphanage facilities and learned about the various aspects of the orphanage.  The students had opportunities to interact with the orphans, both babies and toddlers.  The students did a great job of holding the babies and playing with the toddlers.  The Seneca Falls group left a large amount of items for the orphan children.  The donations were greatly appreciated.  Students took well to the Costa Rican babies and toddlers and had a hard time leaving.  Upon returning to the hotel, students enjoyed lunch, spent time in the pool, and played volleyball.  The group will leave again at 2:30 pm for a pick-up game of soccer against locals.

    (7:00 pm) The Seneca Falls students traveled to a local field and played a friendly soccer game against a local club team.  A few of our girls participated on the local club team.  After two forty-five minute halves, the local team defeated the Seneca Falls students, 4 - 3.  Following the match, both teams gathered for a team picture and selected the players of the match.  Nick Barbay, Andrew Lucchesi, and Tim Trickler were selected by the locals as players of the match for our side.  Following the match, we traveled across the street and visited a local elementary school.  Students attend school in split shifts in Costa Rica because of the number of students.  These students were still in school at 4:45 pm in the afternoon.  There appeared to be @ 30 students in each classroom.  The classrooms were very traditional with five rows of desks and a teacher desk in the front of the room.  The Costa Rican students were thrilled that we visited them.  All waved and gathered at the front gate as we left.  We traveled back to the hotel on the very windy streets of San Jose and enjoyed dinner at our hotel, El Rancho Lodge, at 6:00 pm.  Following dinner, students gathered to play board games and cards.  Up early tomorrow to a National Park, see an active volcano, and enjoy time at Hot Springs Water Park.

    Saturday, February 18, 2012 (9:45 pm) We had a great day.  This morning's breakfast included a serenade of "Feliz Cumpleanos" (Happy Birthday) to Emily Cooley.  Happy 17th Emily.  Following breakfast, everyone boarded the bus for a 3 hour 30 minute ride to Volcano Arenal.  The trip was part highway and part one-lane windy roads.  Upon arrival, we hiked 2 miles to the base of the volcano.  Everyone climbed the volcanic rock and got great pictures of the volcano.  The front of the volcanic mountain was all green, while the back of the mountain was covered with ash.  We had a clear day and were able to see steam coming from the top of the volcano.  After getting great pictures, we hiked two miles back to the bus.  We then headed to Baldi Hot Springs Hotel and Water Park.  We enjoyed a buffet lunch and then enjoyed three hours in the water park.  The pools were very warm, with the warmest pool being very warm, more than 110 degrees.  We also toured the beautiful gardens surrounding the water park.  Following the water park, we enjoyed a buffet dinner.  We then boarded the bus for the 3 hours 30 minute trip back to El Rancho Lodge.  Today was a great day.  We saw things that we will likely never see again.  We are looking forward to tomorrow - zip lining and a chocolate adventure. 

    Sunday, February 19, 2012 (7:15 pm) Another great day in Costa Rica.  The day started with an early breakfast (6:30 am) and a serenade of Feliz Cumpleanos Reilly.  Happy 17th Birthday Reilly Gamache.  Following breakfast, we traveled 2 hours to Sarapiqui for a zip-lining adventure.  The zip-lining course (referred to as Canopy Tours in Costa Rica) was located in the rain forest area.  The weather was great once again.  It was clear and hot.  We had great views on the bus ride through the mountains.  After putting on the harnesses, helmets, and gloves, everyone did a great job of zipping through the 10 trails in the rain forest.  Guides helped all the students at each of the platforms.  While everyone was nervous at the onset, all conquered their fears and were successful.  We have great pictures to prove that all successfully zip-lined.  Following the zip-lining adventure, we enjoyed lunch at the restaurant at the course.  We then traveled 10 minutes to another part of the Rain Forest to experience a History of Chocolate presentation.  The presentation described and demonstrated the process of grinding chocolate beans to make hot chocolate and chocolate candy.  Students were able to participate in the presentation.  The chocolate was delicious and gave everyone an appreciation for the chocolate that is eaten in the US.  We then traveled 2 hours back to El Rancho for a nice dinner and birthday cakes for Emily and Reilly.  Afterwards, students swam in the pool, played volleyball, played cards, checked phones, etc.  All are looking forward to a Waterfalls Park Tour and shopping tomorrow.  We have been told that we will see animals (sloths, jaguar, monkeys) tomorrow.

    Monday, February 20, 2012 (7:15 pm) We had another great day!  Everyone got to sleep in (compared with yesterday) as breakfast was served at 8:00 am.  We then boarded the coach bus for the 2 hours 30 minute ride through the mountains and narrow roads to La Paz Waterfall Park.  The park was amazing.  We saw beautiful gardens with exotic plants and various Costa Rican animals (butterflies, frogs, snakes, sloths, monkeys, ocelots, and a jaguar).  Following a tour of the gardens and animal viewing, we hiked to three beautiful waterfalls.  The views were breathtaking.  Everyone took great pictures of this amazing place.  We saw things today that most will never have an opportunity to see again.  At the completion of the tours, we ate lunch at the park.  This was the first opportunity to experience American delicacies (french fries, pizza) since we arrived.  After lunch, we boarded the bus for our ride back.  Along the way, we stopped at the Costa Rican city of Grazio to see a church and then stopped to see the world's largest Ox Cart.  We then stopped in the city of Sarchi to shop for souvenirs at two places.  We definitely helped the Costa Rican economy.  Everyone experienced the opportunity of shopping with colones (Costa Rican money) and doing the math to know the actual cost of items.  (It was scary to see the cost on the register in the thousands, as one dollar equals 500 colones.)  Following a traditional Costa Rican dinner of rice, refried beans, chips, and salad, the nightly volleyball tournament began.  It is great to see everyone getting along and including each other.  This has occurred throughout the entire trip.  We are looking forward to tomorrow, which includes a 3 hour ride to the beach and ocean.  Breakfast is early and all have been forewarned to bring lots of sunscreen and water.  All have also been instructed to begin thinking about packing for the return trip to the US on Wednesday.  It's hard to believe that tomorrow is our last day here.

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012 (8:15 pm) We had another spectacular day.  After a very early (6:30 am) breakfast, we boarded the coach bus for the 2 hour 30 minute ride to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.  On the way, we stopped to see crocodiles.  We arrived at Manual Antonio National Park and hiked through paths to see sloths, iguanas, and lizards.  We then arrived at the first of two beaches.  The beach was spectacular and the water was very warm.  The students all enjoyed the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean.  After two hours at the first beach, we hiked a short distance to a second beach.  Once again, the views and warm water were spectacular.  Students also enjoyed the waves and body surfed.  All enjoyed the sun and are returning home with healthy color.  Across from the second beach, students also visited a flea market for last minute souvenirs.  Some of the students were able to barter with the vendors.  This was another great way to practice using Spanish.  Following a great afternoon of sun and surf, we boarded the bus for the trip back to El Rancho.  We enjoyed a late dinner of chicken and rice (a Costa Rican staple).  Students are busy packing, enjoying each other's company, and preparing for the trip home.  Teachers are busy preparing passports and customs papers.  The coach bus leaves at 5:30 am for the airport.  Boys leave first at 7:55 am.  Girls leave at 9:00 am.  (Parents can check flight numbers on the "Updated Flight Information" web page and check flight status on the Continental web site.)  Everyone had a great time and will have lots of information and pictures to share.

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - The day started very early, as everyone boarded the coach bus at 5:30 am for the airport.  We thanked Christian, our excellent tour guide, and Ronald, a very skillful coach bus driver.  The boys checked in at the airport terminal first and then proceeded through security and to their gate for the first of three plane rides (7:55 am) back to Rochester.  While the boys missed their second flight from Houston to Cleveland, they were accommodated on a later flight and still made their connection to Rochester.  The girls checked in after the boys and boarded the first of their two plane rides (9:00 am) to Rochester.  Both groups arrived back in Rochester a little later than expected.  However, all were looking forward to seeing family, sleeping in their own beds, and having American food.  Students also thanked the four teachers; Mrs. McKeveny, Mrs. Caster, Mrs. Swenson, and Ms. Wild, for taking time out of their vacation to coordinate, plan, and take the students on this memorable educational trip.  Students also wish to thank their parents for providing them with the opportunity to participate on this once-in-a-lifetime excursion.  The 2012 Mynderse Academy Trip to Costa Rica provided excellent educational and cultural opportunities for all participants.