Day Eight: Travel Back Home

We are currently flying over Florida! A few kids started the day a 5:15 for a quick swim in the ocean before breakfast. We made sandwiches and loaded our gear onto our two travel buses. We had a long drive to Liberia airport but spirits were high (and goofy). We had a brief spending spree in the airport gift shop and then got on our plane.

After spending the week in remote places, seeing Burger King, airplanes, and TV shows on the plane feels a bit weird but I am sure we will all adjust 🙂

You should all be very proud of your children, they are wonderful travelers and are returning from quite a journey! It was my pleasure to accompany them and try to capture their time here.

I am going to create a Flickr page where any families who want copies of trip photos can download a copy for themselves. We have also discussed making a set of photo notecards to sell as a fundraiser for future trips.

–Jess Weitz

Mercer will be adding to this page soon…IMG_1405


Day Five: Mangrove Grove Kayak

IMG_1002Mason (on the right):

“Yesterday I embarked on an exciting journey through a mangrove river, only a short walk away from our beautiful CIRENAS. We navigated through the dangerously stormy beach rocks with our kayaks and placed them in the river.

Fears of crocs and alligators were shared but peace was obtained when our guide, Martin, assured us that there were no reptiles of that sort mixed in with the logs and branches that floated among us.

Rain splashed down with a beautiful sound as a cool breeze rolled in. In a matter of minutes our damp group was in the midst of the beautiful mangrove river.

Birds called around us, small fish were spotted. The warmth of the air and water created a magical scene as we dodged around giant fern like leaves. Some, like me, plowed through the leaves ignoring our fears of ants and spiders, connecting with our inner Tarzan.

The entire experience was thrilling and peaceful. Our kayaks glided through the water silently.”

Rachel looking at a hanging birds nest over river
Black Mangrove trees


Adaylia kayaking next to a very large palm leaf
Kids pulling up their kayaks where the river mouth reaches the ocean.




Adios Costa Rica!



Curious baby monkey saying goodbye


“After our busy morning of surfing and planting Maringa trees, we returned to the main house at CIRENAS for lunch. After lunch we enjoyed a bittersweet last afternoon. For the next four hours we were free to do what we wanted to on the campus, including swimming, reading, writing, watching monkeys and napping.

The sun and waves were warm and the high tide lifted us up and set us back down again, along with a variety of different sized and shaped rocks. After about an hour the number of us in the water dwindled to two kids and two adults. The rest of us were packing.

Olivia and I emerged from the water salty, sunburned and happy. We climbed up the path and to our room to pack. Later some of us strolled under the mango trees and gathered some fallen mangoes.

At 5:30 we gathered in the back yard for our dinner circle. We shared our highs and lows of the day. Everyone seemed sad that our trip was coming to an end but excited to see their families. We expressed gratitude to Carla, Francisco and Annette and ate dinner.

After dinner Francisco gave a presentation to our class about the importance of the tropical range of the planet and deforestation and eco-tourism. We looked at a graph that showed us that the tropics are where most carbon is absorbed from the atmosphere and the connection to global warming.

By the end of Francisco’s presentation we were starting to feel tired and yawn. We sat by a driftwood bonfire for a little while before bed. We told some funny stories and then stumbled to our beds.”

We will miss you Costa Rica!

Palm frond bundles for bonfire
Palm frond bundles for bonfire






Daily Life on our Trip

We are all learning about group living on this trip. Especially at CIRENAS as we are living in tighter quarters, doing clean up chores, and have to be conscious of water use. We are all striving to be respectful and helpful to each other.

Lots of hanging wet towels and clothes


Dishes duty



Doing each other’s hair
Giving love to one of the many Costa Rican dogs
The many moods of the trip
Having some ice cream with friends
Planning for the day
Applying sunscreen
And more sunscreen...
And more sunscreen…







Eating meals together
Eating meals together 






Dinner circle with Francisco
Heading down to the beach from the house
Just hanging out














Day Six: Wildlife Refuge Hike


“Half the group went on a nature hike while the other kids tried horseback riding. It was about a 2 hour hike and our guide Francisco asked us what the difference was between the tropical CIRENAS forest and the Vermont forest. But it seems like everything is different. We hiked up to a high spot where you could see a river and our guide told us that the whole area we were looking at would be under water during the rainy season.”

Hermit crabs of all sizes are on the beach and forest edge.



Peeling palm trunk
Incredible defense system








Francisco talking to us about the dry tropical forest
Termite nest – everywhere on trees


The hiking group


Day Seven: Permaculture Projects



“Today we went to plant trees. When we all arrived we split into groups, one started with planting and the other went on a tour of the campus to be. I went on the tour first. While walking we learned about how to prevent erosion and grow crops in an environmentally friendly way. They had an interesting system of forcing water across the terraced hill into man-made ponds. The ponds could be used for growing rice and keeping fish to eat. They will also use lots of support plants to help with trees and crops they are trying to maintain. I also learned that cashews are poisonous until roasted.”

Maringa tree seedlings
Kids sifting dirt and filling planting bags
Seeding bags of dirt with Sam, the farm manager







“This morning we went to the new campus they are constructing for CIRENAS. When we got there we split into two groups. One group went on a tour of the new campus first while the other group went to help plant trees. Sam, the permaculture expert, told the tree planters about their project to plant trees for erosion, food, wind break, and nitrogen. We then began to sift dirt, fill bags with dirt, and plant a seed in the bags. We filled 700 bags with dirt and seeds!

After about an hour the other group came back and we switched activities. Carla gave us a tour of the new campus. She showed us where all the buildings will be and explained how their goal is to have 80% of their food for program participants come from their own campus. Then we rejoined the other group and had watermelon!”

Carla giving us a tour of the new campus
Erosion control using a native grass
Permaculture techniques being used for water collection
Some of the kids on the campus tour





Day Five: School Visit



“Pondering my trip to the school, I realized it was not what I expected. Growing up in Vermont I have always thought that I knew what a school looked like. The buildings that greeted my eyes looked like a couple houses placed together (to make two classrooms). It had a large field and a room with mental bars across the windows. Though the location and the appearance of the school were different the children were like most 8 – 11 year olds I have met. Although much better at soccer!

During our visit I got to meet a couple of 8 year olds who taught Shadda and I a couple of hand clapping games. Every one of the little girls was adorable as they rattled off in words in Spanish and I nodded my head saying “Como?”

As we drove away from our new found amigas in the pick up truck, I realized that it does not matter what country or what the school looks like, we are not so different after all.”