Saturday, April 23, 2016

Final Day!

We departed the beautiful city of Manuel Antonio to head back to our starting point of San Jose. However,  given the hot and humid tropical climate, we had some excitement before we left, including a giant crab in the bathroom,  a very large iguana running under one of our porches, smaller lizards on the walls and ceilings, and being serenaded each morning by the howling monkeys in the trees outside our rooms.  On the way back, we stopped in Sarchí to visit a local artisan who is a master painter. He taught us the origin and significance of oxcarts and the beautiful designs painted on the wagons and wheels. We then were able to paint our own model wheel to take home with us. Emily and Tina each won a prize for best artwork. We also were able to see the world's largest oxcart in the center of town, also painted by our instructor.

As we continued our journey, we stopped at a local hand crafts area, which had beautiful products made by area artisans.  Back in San Jose, we rested or swam, then watched a dance performance by the El Torito dance group, costumed Costa Rican folklore dancers. After their performance,  they taught us several different dances.   This was followed by a delicious dinner and a special dessert in honor of Kian's birthday. Then off to pack and enjoy some last minute time together before we head back to Watertown Thursday.

-Ms. Tamakian

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Manuel Antonio

On day 6 in Costa Rica we visited Manuel Antonio National Park, a piece of jungle and beach on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. It was a very hot and humid day, and even before noon we were dripping with sweat after only minutes on the forest trail that we took to the beach. On the trail, however, we were rewarded with glimpses of some impressive native animals that are usually only seen on tourist paraphernalia—sloths (three, two of which were a mother-baby pair), a basilisk lizard, raccoons, and a great many white-faced monkeys. Some of the monkeys scurried very close to the trail and we could have almost petted them, but we were cooing too hard, and the posters at the park entrance announced that petting monkeys is forbidden.  At the beach much fun was had by all. Some of us body-surfed, some jumped head-first into the waves, and some just plan swam. After swimming we went to a nearby buffet for a refreshing lunch. Then we returned to the hotel for a much needed rest and to tend to sunburns. After recuperating we rounded off the day with a delicious meal at a restaurant, called Rico Tico, with a live guitar player!

-Jeremy and Evan

La Julieta school visit!

On Monday, we visited the school, La Julieta, in the town of Parrita. The little 3rd graders were SO excited to see us, as were we! Kian wore a Captain America shirt, so a couple of the students immediately attached themselves to him since they're such huge hero fans. One of them even asked him for his autograph! So cute! A little girl took a liking to me as well. Her name was Chari; it's crazy how much she looked like one of my cousins back at home!! We did a few activities with the kids such as a human chain game with a hula hoop and trying to get through an elastic fast enough to pass it on. There were two teams: Los Rapidos, and Los mejores. Every time the teacher said the team name, we had to chant! Los Mejores won twice, but Los Rapidos beat them at tug of war! Towards the end of our time together, we finished things off with a dance number. We followed the choreographer and we danced bachata, samba, merengue, and swing criollo. Everyone had such a great time. Before we said our finals goodbyes, the children sang the first part of the national anthem of Costa Rica to us and we visited their classrooms! And as we were leaving the school, many other classrooms spotted us and said goodbye to us. Monday was such a wonderful experience! I loved visiting the kids and watching their reactions to all of us. It was so great.


Ziplining and Cloud Forest Hike

The students awoke and we're ready by 7am. After breakfast at the hotel dining common, the driver Herman, drove the students, chaperones, and the guide Erica to the cloud forest where they would be ziplining. For an additional $10 the students had the option to do "the Superman" where they would zipline the final 1 Km long line face first. About 5 of the students choose to do it. Those that did loved it and said it was definitely worth the extra money.  Next, they drove to a cooking class back at the Monteverde cloud reserve. They made the traditional arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), corn tortillas, and a deep fried dessert dish.

Next, those that were up to it decided to go on a hike with Erica to the continental divide while the rest went back to the hotel. The view was breathtaking and they even saw one of the rarest birds in Costa Rica. Lastly, they went into town for ice cream and souvenirs. Then they went back to the hotel for dinner, thus concluding day 4.

-Kian Rice

Following our zip lining trip, we headed back to the same place we had gone for our night tour. There, a family was waiting for us. We washed out hands, got aprons, and put on hair nets before making tortillas and cooking a delicious meal of arroz con pollo with prestiños for dessert. After a filling meal, we were given the choice to either go to the continental divide and hike the cloud forest, or go back to the hotel to relax and go to the pool. 11 of us ended up going to the forest. Though we were all tired already, I think we would all agree that the hike was worth it. We saw the different trees and mosses that that inhabited the forest, and our guide, Erika, told us about the role that they played in the ecosystem. In addition, we spotted a quetzal - a rare bird that we heard, and we're lucky to see. When we reached the top, the views were amazing. On one side there was the  Pacific Ocean, and on the other there was Caribbean Sea. We could feel the temperature difference too. One side was hot and humid, while the other was cool and windy. We headed back down, and returned to our hotels to change and relax for a little less than an hour before heading out to town. We got to taste the best ice cream in Costa Rica (according to Erika) and pick up a few souvenirs. By the end of the night we were all tired and headed back to the hotel for a good nights sleep.  

-Claire Gabel 

Also, we will let the ziplining pictures speak for themselves :)

Monday, April 18, 2016


After we arrived at Hotel Establo in Monteverde we drove up the hill in order to reach our rooms, which were situated on a large hill overlooking the Gulf of Nicoya. The group then began to explore some of the facilities in which the hotel had to offer, and most of us spent a relaxing (for some less relaxing) time at the pool. At 5:30 we got back in the bus in order to get to our night hike. There we were split into two groups, and then we ventured into the vast jungle terrain. Supplied with flashlights, the groups, along with the sharp eyes of the guides began to search for any interesting plants or creatures in which we might find. We were taught about the numerous healing properties of many plants, and we spent time in the jungle viewing armadillos, fireflies, and gorgeous birds that camouflaged into the treetops. Some managed to see a few less than desirable (for some) insects such as tarantulas and scorpions. At the end of the hike returned up flashlights, and went back to the hotel to enjoy a delicious buffet dinner.  

-Julien S

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Cooking lesson!

After our experience zip lining for the first time in Costa Rica, and for some of us ever, we went to the ecological center where we met an abuela and her son and daughter and cooked our lunch. Like most traditional Costa Rican meals, we made a simple chicken and rice dish mixed with vegetables like carrots and green beans topped off with prestiños which are a typical fried dough covered in sugar syrup. The rice was easy and quick to make, but the tortilla making was where it got difficult. We were given balls of the dough used to make them, then rolled and shaped them into a standard looking tortilla. Some of us proved to be experts at this, and were awarded with first and second place. But unfortunately for these winners, Jaslyn and Nicky, the prize was to clean the table. After our hard work we finally were rewarded with eating the delicious food we had contributed to. The rice was very delicious and gave us another taste at Costa Rica’s standard dish, and the dessert was amazing as well!

-Arianna Curry

La Fortuna y la llegada en Monteverde

We have not had good internet connection in Monteverde! Will catch up on blog when we can! Everything is fantastico!

Summary of yesterday...(photos to come...internet still not good!)

We woke up in La Fortuna to a beautiful view overlooking the Arenal Volcano. We had a long day of travels ahead of us, our ending point being Monteverde. For lunch, Brie's aunt and uncle were kind enough to host all of us and it was a true Costa Rican experience. We enjoyed delicious traditional food as well as lots of fruits from their garden. As we said goodbye, we headed to our hotel which was a short ride away, and we all chilled at the pool for a few hours. At 5:30, we all got ready for a night walk to see the nocturnal wildlife of Costa Rica. It was a one and a half hour hike where we saw a huge variety of plants and insects. We each were given a flashlight and headed off with our guides into the  pitch black forest. We saw birds,  frogs, walking sticks, leaf cutter ants, and two varieties of tarantulas. We then finished our day with a delicious meal at the restaurant at our hotel which had a wide variety of Costa Rican selections.  

-Catherine P 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Día 3-Arenal, La Fortuna y el camino a Monteverde


Today, after packing up and getting ready for our 4-hour bus ride, we had breakfast at the Arenal Manoa Hotel, buffet style, then left for Monteverde. Along the way, we made a stop to see the howler monkeys in a tree nearby, and later on another to get a look at the volcano. 

Later, we made another stop at a local gift shop in the tropical dry forest. Here we ran into another student group from Sturbridge, MA! Small world! We continued on a dirt road for about 2 hours until arriving at the town of Santa Elena. There we ate good food including pastel de tres leches at Bri’s aunt's place, spent some time with her family and discussed the plans for the evening. We were able to see some wildlife and eat fruit picked from their yard!

We then arrived at Hotel El Establo around 3:00.We are in the rooms at the highest point on the hill so the view is far and wide. When the day is clear you can even see the Gulf of Nicoya.

Later, we will be taking a night tour in the jungle and enjoying another full buffet.

-Edmundo Villa-Perez

Friday, April 15, 2016

Day 2-Poas, La Fortuna, Arenal

Day 2 of our Costa Rican adventure.  We woke up in the morning and had a buffet breakfast at the hotel.  After breakfast we packed up and checked out. In our minds, we were thinking that nothing could’ve been as good as that hotel. How wrong we were. We took our bus to a volcano, where we walked to the crater. However, there was very low visibility, and thus our attempts to view the crater were futile. We did get our first taste of Costa Rican jungle though, so the trip wasn’t all for naught.

 Following the volcano, we drove to Freddo Fresas, where we ate lunch. Disappointed, we were not. The food was pristine, and everyone left satisfied. From lunch, we continued on our journey to our next destination. This voyage took us past plantations, through towns, and next to a waterfall, La catarata de La Paz, the peace waterfall. 

When we arrived at our destination, we were struck by the hotel.  The rooms were first-class. Queen-sized beds for each person, air conditioning, and a large bathroom with a plant growing in it from the ground. What more could you ask for? Apparently hot springs. After relaxing for a bit, we drove down the road to the hot springs, where a volcano heated the water. Unsurprisingly, the hot springs were hot. As we immersed ourselves in the springs, our tensions washed away. The springs eased us after a long day of travel. It wasn’t just relaxation, though. Water slides added fun to the mix. You could choose the high-speed wall-riding person-flipping slide, or the whirly-twirly-turny slide. 

After a couple hours at the springs, we had a late dinner at 8. It was again buffet style, and we were once again satisfied. After dining, we went back to the hotel, and thus the day ended. Our minds happy and our hopes high tomorrow, we retire to our beds. Until tomorrow, pura vida.

-Nick Cordeiro and Kian Rice 

Heading out of San Jose

Off to hike the Poas volcano and then relax in the natural hot springs in Arenal/La Fortuna...

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Day One

After arriving at Logan Airport at three in the morning, our flight took off at five. A quiet three hour plane ride later, we arrived in Miami, Florida, for a two hour layover where everyone ate breakfast and slowly woke up. At nine thirty we boarded our flight to head to Costa Rica! Once we arrived in Costa Rica we got onto our bus which brought us to our lovely hotel. After we settled in, our tour guide took us on a little walk around part of the city of San Jose. We saw the two tallest buildings in all of Costa Rica (28 stories high) and the Central Park where we saw many locals getting their daily exercise and students returning home from school. We learned that crossing the road was impossible without a crosswalk because here, unlike in America, cars will not stop for pedestrians on the road. Finishing our educational tour, the group decided to go out to lunch where we were able to have a taste of the typical daily Costa Rican food and were able to bond as a group. Returning to the hotel, the students had three hours of free time in which most students decided to spend time in the pool and hot tub at our hotel while others met up with family members here in Costa Rica. Soon we will gather in the lobby to discuss the rest of our trip and go to dinner. We hope to spend more time together during the rest of our time here.

-Tina Barsoumian and Brie Fiorentino

Made it to MIA!

1 flight down, 1 to go! It was a smooth trip and we made it to Miami around 8:30. Of course our first priority after reaching MIA was Starbucks! Our flight to Costa Rica starts boarding at 9:30, so in just a few hours we will be there!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

1 more day!!

We leave very early tomorrow morning!! Please be at the airport at 3:00 am.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Travel Smart, Travel Safe!

Meeting Agenda Tuesday 4/5/16

1. Collect outstanding documents
2. Hand out photo consent/eye glass form/hotel info
3. Travel Smart, Travel Safe presentation
4. Blog/Instagram/Memory Card
5. Plan for school supplies
6. Packing check-in
7. Money and CC check in
8. Watch
9. Questions?

Sunday, April 3, 2016

10 days until we leave!! Hotel information is now available as well as flight info (we leave super early...zzz)! Also, make sure to fill out all of the paperwork needed. It's all due Tuesday (4/5) including the packet, form signed by your teachers, and two copies of your passport!

The following meetings are mandatory
Tuesday (4/5) - safety meeting
Tuesday (4/12) - final check in!