Monday morning was a very busy morning. We left our beach hotel around 7:30 to go to the Escuela Quebrada de Venado. This was a very unique experience for our travelers. We visited the elementary school (grades 1-6) during their morning recess time. At first, our kids were reluctant to engage with the students, but after a few minutes, they were playing hand clapping games and sharing their English and Spanish words with each other. For about an hour, we played outside with the students. I made the mistake of telling my little group of female students that I had a large family back home. They knew I probably had photos of them on my phone so they insisted that I show them all my photos. It was cute as they asked questions about snow, ice skating and cold weather. Kids are so curious and it never occurred to me that they would be so inquisitive about life up “north.” I think we all will have memories from this brief encounter at the school. Unfortunately, we were not permitted to take any pictures. I did ask for permission to take a photo of the school map which I hope to use in the classroom during our classroom objects unit in the fall.
We stopped at a fruit stand after the school visit. Here we tried mango ceviche. It was unripened mango marinated in lime juice. Honestly, I was not a fan. I’d rather have super fresh sweet mango! Many of the kids purchased snacks at the fruit stand. I was disappointed that they mostly purchased Coca Cola or gummy snacks. There were so many freshly baked local treats (like coconut fudge and coconut cookies) that I was hoping they might venture away from the recognizable. Oh well. This is when I know that home sickness is settling in with the kids. They just want a little taste of home and I can’t fault them for that. They have been great travelers and have tried so many different foods and activities.
After the fruit stand, we drove to the town of Sarchi to visit the factory where ox carts are created. The ox cart is the national symbol of Costa Rica. In Sarchi, the ox carts are made in a workshop that is powered by water and not electricity. Our group got to make our own painted souvenir to bring back with us. I really enjoyed painting mine! Some of the kids were so meticulous that they didn’t get to finish their crafts. Unfortunately, another group was waiting so we had to stop so that they could begin. We had a delicious lunch at the Sarchi cafeteria.
Finally, we arrived at our last hotel (the same one as our first night) in San Jose. The kids had two hours to get dressed up for our folklore evening at Ram Luna which is a hilltop restaurant with breathtaking views of the Central Valley and San Jose. Our dinner was delicious (no honey covered sweet potatoes this year 😦 ). We were then treated to a lovely folkloric dance performance. It was just the right length as the kids were tired and we had a long ride back to the hotel. I did not get many pictures from the dance, but I’m sure others will post on our Facebook page as they were closer to the dance floor and had their cameras ready
We returned to the hotel at 10pm and immediately sent the kids and chaperones to their rooms! It was a very fun-filled, busy day.
Tuesday, we had the opportunity to sleep in a little bit. Breakfast wasn’t until 8:15am. I did a quick workout in the hotel gym before getting ready for our white water rafting adventure. For many of our travelers, this day is the one that has been the most anticipated. I have to admit that I had NO IDEA last year what this experience would be like. I was terrified for most of the rafting as it was very, very intense. It was the most extreme water activity I had ever done. When we were finished, I was exhilarated! I woke up Tuesday really excited about doing it again. Unfortunately, my constant talking about how intense this activity was for us last year had a few of our adults really freaking out about what we were doing today!
It took us about 2 hours to get to the river bed where we got to do a few fun activities prior to taking off on our rafting adventure. First, we learned about sugar cane. We processed one large piece of sugar cane into cane juice which we all got to try. It was fun to see how much hard work goes into squeezing the juice out of one cane. The adults were also treated to a sample of a liquor that was made from sugar cane. Whew! It was strong! However, for some of us, it was exactly the kind of liquid courage we needed to get on the raft an hour later! Lunch was casado served by the rafting tour company. We had delicious chicken, rice, beans, chayote squash sauté, bananas in sauce (yuck) and maduros (syrup covered plantains). Of course, I loved it because it is such a hearty and balanced healthy lunch. However, the kids are growing weary of beans and rice. I anticipate that most of them will get pizza, pringles and Coke at the airport tomorrow. I have to admit that I am looking forward to a few things as well. Among those are cheese and yogurt! I didn’t realize until today how little dairy is in the typical diet.
Finally, we ate a fruit called mamones. I’ve never had anything like it. It was a small green fruit with a large pit inside. You break open the skin and suck out the juice. The only thing I can compare the texture to is egg white. It’s like pulling the egg white out of an egg shell and it tastes like a sour grape. All of the kids tried it. So cool!
We’ve had pejibaye/pejiballe and granadilla as well. Pejiballe is similar to a potato and granadilla is like a soupy pomegranate. I am amazed at the amazing produce that is available here (and year round!!).
Rafting was definitely a fun adventure, but compared to last year, it wasn’t nearly as challenging. It seemed like the water level was lower than last year. We purchased pictures of each raft that I will share with parents in the coming days. The other chaperones gave me a hard time when they saw me at the end because they didn’t think it was as challenging as I described it. Well…on the bus ride home, we learned from our tour guide Tatiana that Explorica no longer takes student rafting down the same part of the river that we did last year because it is too dangerous. It all makes sense now! No wonder today didn’t seem that bad! I am proud to say that I conquered that harder part of the Sarapiqui River. Secretly, I’m glad that this year and in future years, I will do the more mild rafting adventure!
Our final dinner was held at Roosters, across the street from the Best Western Hotel. It was bittersweet to say good bye to Tatiana. She has been an amazing tour guide. She has handled each day with ease and compassion.
We will be packing our wet and dirty clothes tonight in anticipation of our long travel day tomorrow. We are all looking forward to the comforts of home, but are sad to say goodbye to Costa Rica. Pura vida!