Students and parents embark on a week-long Costa Rica adventure
Arriving late in the day we pull into our cabinas in Nosara, Costa Rica. Our students are all exhausted from leaving Eureka 24 hours earlier but jazzed to get out to the beach and get into the ocean. Swimming and watching our first sunset in our new home for the next week makes the tires of travel fade away and bring in the excitement of the week to come.
The first morning starts early, and our student’s excitement is visible across their faces as we head down to the beach to meet our surf instructors. We enjoy a nice breakfast of fresh Costa Rican coffee and fresh out of the oven banana bread with bananas harvested from our newly discovered little corner of the world. After a quick bite, we paired up with a surfboard that will be ours for the week and headed to the beach to get broken into groups. When asked who has never surfed before all but three hands are raised. Looking at all the faces of apprehension mixed with excitement tells me we are in for a good week. Our group is mixed in athletic ability, size, age, and comfort with water and we soon find out the that ocean really is a true equalizer. Athletically able students are challenged with learning a foreign skill. Students that had little to no swimming experience pop up and start surfing on their third try. It quickly becomes apparent that this sport is just as mental as it is physical. Our week continues to offer new opportunities to us as we learn more about the area and the culture. We learn that all of the
Our week continues to offer new opportunities to us as we learn more about the area and the culture. We learn that the coastline of Costa Rica is protected for 200 meters from the high tide line through the jungle. It is considered a wildlife corridor with turtle nesting areas. We are taught that six of the eight varieties of sea turtle live in the waters around Costa Rica. Through the years of non-educated eco-management, sections of what is now a protected corridor were logged away. This opens up the inland to more damage from storms coming off the ocean as well as increased erosion of the turtle habitat. We join with an organization to help replant trees in this corridor to help restore the habitat as well as create shade and protection to the people coming to enjoy the Costa Rican beaches.
Later in the week we join in a local school to help them make a Costa Rican government rating for facility and cleanliness. The governmental program is part of a much greater Costa Rican effort to take pride in keeping their country and care for the resources that they have. We purchase paint and brushes, parts to repair swings, and extra garbage bags for cleaning up around their campus. Our students work in cooperation with the local students to repaint the school’s exterior hallway walls, build and paint a new recycling center, repaint the cafeteria, and fix a jungle gym with new swings. In between these building and paint projects, flower beds are getting weeded out, trash is being collected on the grounds and all the leaves and biodegradables are getting hauled to the far end of the campus grounds to a brush pile to be burned and decomposed. After a wonderfully prepared lunch by our host school, we organize a soccer (futbol) game. Every morning our group continues to progress in their surfing. The challenges that they all face mentally and physically are taken in stride and the progress shows. A few students battle with seeing others progress faster or achieve sooner. It really becomes a test to stay present in the moment and focus on yourself and your body, feeling the ocean swell and roll under you and forget that the board you are standing on exists and you become one with the momentum. Our adventures outside of the surf continue with a jungle
Focus on the wave
Every morning our group continues to progress in their surfing. The challenges that they all face mentally and physically are taken in stride and the progress shows. A few students battle with seeing others progress faster or achieve sooner. It really becomes a test to stay present in the moment and focus on yourself and your body, feeling the ocean swell and roll under you and forget that the board you are standing on exists and you become one with the momentum. Our adventures outside of the surf continue with a jungle zipline. Most of us went in thinking we were doing a tree top to tree top canopy tour. We ended up at what claims to be the longest zip line in Central America. The cables do not run from tree to tree but from mountain to mountain far above the trees, rivers, and waterfalls below. We make eleven line runs all together zipping around the jungle, everyone starts out gripping the handle of the zipline but eventually start to let go and trust the equipment to get us from one mountain to the next. By the end students and parents are zipping upside down to get a better view of waterfall or simply laying flat hanging from their harness, enjoying the feeling of flying. I find myself sitting here the night before our last surf lesson both looking forward to seeing the final product of all our struggles to learn and improve on a totally new skill in a surprisingly short period of time and wondering what all the other students are thinking about or preparing for as they look at returning to a regular life schedule of workout, school, life responsibilities. I think for those who struggled the most, surfing is going to be an increased mindfulness of self and a reminder to take a step back not compare to others and to just focus on the wave and beach in front of them.