Inspiration in Rancho Mastatal

26105980855_3df8a7f455_oGrowing up in a suburban community in Southern California, I had always believed that destroying nature was a consequence of our standard of living.

It was our third day in Costa Rica, by then we had already seen a tremendous amount of biodiversity on the car ride up to Mastatal, learned about different plants that grew well in Costa Rica in Siempre Verde, and even helped out on the farm. Those experiences all inspired me to one day return to Costa Rica to experience the beauty of Costa Rica, but our visit to Rancho Mastatal inspired me to come back to Mastatal not just for tourism but to actually pick up a new way of life.

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Homestay Family

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One of the most rewarding experiences on this trip was staying with my home stay family. They were one of the most humble, caring and patient human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. My initial feelings of nervousness completely fled after meeting Betty, Williams, and their three-year-old son Issa. Through this stay, I was given an everyday cultural experience that many who have visited Costa Rica cannot claim.

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What Have I Cotton Myself Into?

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Do you ever really know something without experiencing it first?

That is the question that continued to appear in my mind as I went through challenging, yet thought-provoking experiences. After flying all night and spending the day driving up and down beautiful mountain ranges on bumpy dirt roads, I still had no idea what was in store for me during my time in Costa Rica. I knew we would be staying on a farm, but what does that mean? Will we be living among the farm animals and fruit trees? Where would we sleep? How will I survive with so little sleep?

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Beyond the Language Barrier

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“And they don’t speak any English”, our tour guides said to us as we were being assigned to homestay families. I was frightened to say the least.

This was going to be the first time during the trip that I would be separated from the rest of the team, and I spoke almost no Spanish. Luckily, I was partnered up with Lupe, one of the student coordinators, who could speak Spanish. But I was still worried about being unable to connect with my homestay family. I didn’t want to bother Lupe by asking him to translate for me every time I wanted to communicate. On the other hand, I didn’t want to just remain silent and lose the opportunity to connect with the locals and immerse myself in Costa Rican culture. Continue reading

A Tico’s Best Friend: The Dogs of Mastatal

img_5508_25503316283_oI’ve always loved dogs, but I saw a deeper love that Ticos expressed not only for dogs, but for all of wildlife and the passion for animal protection and conservation.

Among all the biodiversity and vast wildlife in Costa Rica, there was a type of more domesticated species that caught my attention while in Mastatal.

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Shifting Perspectives: A story about two girls and their detour to Costa Rica

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The back of my throat was on fire as I tried to catch my breath and hold back my tears. My trembling hands held the quickly, scribbled note reading “it’s going to be ok”. The plane had left us and the panic was bubbling up to the surface, I looked at Claire and we both stared at each other in shock. My feelings of guilt, uncertainty, and fear were mirrored in her eyes. Here we were alone in the Mexico City Airport – just two foreigners with mediocre Spanish speaking skills, low funds, and limited knowledge in international travel. Needless to say, things weren’t looking too good for us. Despite the odds, we survived to tell the tale. So if you ever find yourself in this situation, here are some guidelines for survival.

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Futbol: The Heart of a Costa Rican Community

25811314114_cf6f5551e9_kThe whole time I was out on the field, I felt like family, with the girls supporting me and throwing game-play tips at me at every corner.

I could feel the beads of sweat dripping down my face while I overheard one of the soccer players yell out, “who’s ready to play?” Without even thinking about the blanket of humidity covering me and the heat of the sun beating down, I screamed with excitement, ready to run onto the soccer field. I hadn’t played soccer in years and my excitement was taken to a new level when one of the girls on the team ran over with a team jersey, shorts, and cleats to throw on for the game. It was only my second day in Costa Rica, and I already felt like family.

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A Vegan Milks a Cow

 

 

IMG_4970 I told myself that this was a cool opportunity that I should at least try, because when else would I have the chance to milk a cow in the heart of Costa Rica?

I love cows. And from the moment that our group arrived in Costa Rica I was overwhelmed with countless adorable cow sightings. The people sitting around me were probably quite annoyed because I had to point out every single cow that I saw. So you can imagine that when the option to milk a cow was offered, I jumped on the opportunity.

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Down By The River

 

IMG_6662After spending all morning and afternoon in the hot and humid weather of the jungle, it’s safe to say that the team was more than ready to take a dip in the river. We parked near the bridge that overlooked the flowing river below. We walked (some slid) down a steep hill to the riverbed, where we had our first photo opportunity at the river. I, myself was more concerned with getting in the water than taking pictures next to it.

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