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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Truth or Dare: A Challenge by Choice

Marcos cuts a piece of sugar cane off for daring participant Danny.

Have you ever tried a food you’ve never had before or have you ever raced against a friend to see who was the fastest? Have you ever talked to a stranger or asked a random question in class? Have you have felt a bit of nervousness going into something and decided to do it anyway?

If so, then you have been challenged whether it was by yourself or by someone else. Whether or not you have chosen to partake in it and complete it was your choice and these choices are a part of who you are. Continue reading

Travel Tips for the Wallflower

A father and son enjoy shaved ice on the warm Saturday morning in the park.Our recent trip to Costa Rica was, well,… AMAZING to say the least. We laughed, we learned, we explored, but we were also challenged. We were challenged to be vulnerable and to really put ourselves out there.  Now, I wouldn’t necessarily label myself as a “wallflower,” but I’m definitely one who enjoys observing more than participating, and enjoys listening rather than talking.  That being said, when we first arrived in Costa Rica I was immediately faced with my first challenge of the trip.

My first real challenge happened in a park in the center of town. Many locals were sitting on the benches and enjoying their Saturday morning talking to each other, playing board games, people watching etc. It’s definitely not something you see often here in California. It was such a relaxing environment to be around and it felt like no one had any worries. Not only that, but there was a music festival happening as well. A live band came to play in the park where a rather large crowd of people gathered around to listen, dance, and enjoy the music. It was beautiful. I loved watching everything that was happening around me, but that was just it: I loved watching. I loved seeing the vibrant colors everywhere, listening to the music playing with laughter in the background. Continue reading

The First Costa Rica Night Fair

CostaRicanNight_8-5x11_May2015

Outreach is an important part of the Costa Rica Program and one of the ways we share our learning with the campus community is through a collaboration with UCI Dining & Hospitality. This year that collaboration led to our first ever Costa Rica Night Fair and small lunch promotion.

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The Beautiful Game

Participants and locals pose in front of soccer goals.

When I was 6 years old I played in my first soccer game. I will never forget the day I received my “team purple” shirt; the first soccer jersey I ever owned. The purple jersey was a tad large for my little frame, but it was absolutely awesome nonetheless. I remember wearing it the whole day and night before the game and imaging scoring a goal for the first time. To this day I have never been so anxious to get on the field.

Finally, the time came to play and the referee started the game.

The next hour or so ended up culminating in one of the single greatest memories I have of my entire life. I went on to score the winning goal in the last play of the game. Since that cool Saturday morning at my local city park, the beautiful game of soccer has continued to be the most positive influential aspect of my life, presenting me with lasting friendships, teaching me the importance of teamwork, showing me how to win and lose, and also guiding me towards opportunities that I could only dream of as a child.

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A Night in the Jungle

A Bark Scorpion held by hand.

Our second day in Costa Rica we were given the opportunity to hike in the jungle. In order to reach the cabins where we would sleep for our night in the jungle, we had to hike about two hours, led by local guides Deiber and Rigo. Once there the team split up into two groups: one group would embark on a night tour of the jungle, while the second group would stay and have dinner before going into the jungle.

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Flight of The Stranded Anteater

Written by Diana Alatorre

“You Californians are crazy!,” shouted Carlos Jimenez, one of our tour guides at Hacienda Baru, just as Kelly Florimon ran to jump off a platform only to be sustained mid-air by a cable and her harness as she zipped through the middle of a forest.

Christina enjoying one of the many zip lines on "The Flight of The Toucan".

Christina enjoying one of the many zip lines on “The Flight of The Toucan”.

Ziplining is a different kind of adventure-seeking thrill than ordinary roller coaster rides. On a roller coaster, you’re amongst many other people, but while ziplining, it’s just you, a helmet, a harness, a wire, and the environment. Those seconds spent hundreds of feet above ground, secluded from friends and safety, are truly spectacular. One moment you’re terrified about hitting a tree that seems to be approaching you at a speed that is beyond control, and the next minute you’re admiring the beauty of the forest and its numerous sounds.

Before we began the “Flight of the Toucan” ziplining experience, Carlos instructed us on how we would be strapped onto the cable, how we should position our arms, legs, torso, and most importantly, how to hold a camera so we could capture every moment of the experience. Though that probably wasn’t actually the most important part, it appeared to be what we wanted to know the most about. In the midst of all this chaos, Carlos told us what we would have to do in case we became stranded somewhere along the cable line. He said it didn’t happen often and that we shouldn’t worry about it, but that if it did happen, we were to remain calm and use our hands to pull ourselves forward to the end of the cable and onto the landing platform. It sounded easy enough, so I brushed the information aside and got ready to embark on the adventure of lifetime. Little did I know, I would need to use that information some seven cable rides later.

From the start of our time at Hacienda Baru, Carlos was a jokester. He did everything he could to make us laugh, scream, and become absolutely terrified. His jokes didn’t cease when we were hundreds of feet above ground with nothing to save us from a plunge into the forest. As he connected us onto the cable lines, he’d jokingly pushed us, assuring high-pitched screams from our group of girls. He laughed at our reactions, as did the rest of the group that had not just felt like they were about to take a dive into solid earth. It was all in good fun of course, and a bit of a rush. At some point during our flight, he decided I was a good screamer and became a target for his jokes. I knew he wouldn’t actually make me fall, but I was still terrified every time it was my turn to be strapped in. On cable ride number 8, the unforeseeable event happened. And although he had taught us what we should do in case we stopped moving in the middle of a cable, he didn’t mention it could also happen on the last and final cable where we would be taking the Flight of the Toucan backwards. I was already terrified by the fact that the only things (aside from my harness) keeping me from plummeting back-first into shrubs, clay-hard soil, trees, and probably bugs were Carlos’ hands holding onto my hiking boots, so what happened next should have left me petrified.

Diana making her way back to the platform.

Diana making her way back to the platform.

About two-thirds into the line, Costa Rica decided I would no longer be continuing my backwards flight. My speed decreased rapidly but before even coming to a stop, I somehow began to move in the opposite direction—forward. Insert confusion and shrieks as high pitched as imaginable here. Suddenly, I understood what was happening, not how or why, but what I should be doing. I instantly reached for the cable behind me just as Carlos had begun to yell out instructions to me. I began a slow, yet awkward, return to towards the end platform. With cheers, laughter, and weak arms, I made it to the end, un-petrified. Thanks to Carlos and everyone at Hacienda Baru, our entire team was able to make it out of the forest unscathed!