Head Royce Dos Costas 2014

Head Royce Dos Costas 2014 Blog #2

Written by Carolyn C. of Head Royce School

Day Two: Monday June 16th

Today we stumbled out of bed, sleepy from the late turtle patrol shifts some had to work last night. Luckily, the delicious breakfast replenished our energy, and as I ate my bowl of cornflakes with banana slices (grown by their staff!), our tablemates regaled us with stories from their patrols the previous night: one group had found a leatherback turtle, which is taller and heavier than most of us, and another had happened upon turtle eggs and delivered them to the hatchery. After we sprayed on more bug repellent and sunscreen, we walked over to a leatherback turtle model in the field of moss-speckled palm trees to learn about our duties on turtle patrol. One of the staff, Andre, passed around data sheets that we examined as he explained each category. He showed us how to measure a leatherback turtle and collect its eggs, how to store and carry the eggs, where to stand while measuring the turtle, how, when, and where to tag the turtle or inject a microchip into it to track it, and instructions for other procedures that we would have to do if we found a turtle while on patrol. Then he showed us what we would have to do for green turtles and hawksbill turtles, which were both smaller and more easily frightened away. It seemed incredible that we would have the chance to interact with and collect data about the turtles. Soon, the tutorial was over, and we were given free time until lunch.

The air was warm, and the wind refreshing as it stirred through the grove of palm trees and rocked the hammocks that we had lazily swung in. Some of us peeled off towards the beach, where the waves crashed, noisy and white with foam. Some of us stayed behind, just enjoying the breeze and the chance to relax after the previous night’s patrol. Soon, it was time for lunch, which came with another opportunity to try more unfamiliar food. There were delicious rice and beans, which would gradually become more familiar as the trip wore on, and fried yuka, which hardly any of us had tried before. We hesitantly tried the yellowish, potato-like root, which turned out to be quite yummy. After lunch, we sat around the common table and played word games with each other.

Andre came back a couple hours after lunch had been served with a turtle presentation prepared for us. Flipping through huge, laminated images, he explained each one, informing us about the turtle species, the danger they were in, their life cycle, the process of laying eggs, and the development of a baby turtle. We ended the presentation feeling much more knowledgeable about the mission of the Widecast turtle station, as well as the importance of volunteering there to help protect the mother turtles and their eggs from threats posed by animals and people, especially the poachers who would steal turtle eggs from the nest to sell for money or even kill green turtles to turn their shells into ornaments.

After a few hours of rest, we left the turtle station to walk to the hatchery on the beach, where the turtle eggs are placed in a protected environment in preparation for their hatching. As we walked along the path towards the hatchery, we noticed two humongous crickets crawling among the green shoots of a plant! Another surprise awaited us when we arrived at the hatchery: baby turtles had recently hatched, and we had arrived just in time to help measure them! As the baby turtles writhed and climbed in a white Styrofoam sandbox, we carefully picked up a tiny squirming turtle out of the bunch, measured its small black shell and weighed it. The baby turtles felt so fragile, yet full of life, constantly wriggling in our hands as if anxious to get in the water and start paddling away. It was hard to believe that these small creatures would grow to be bigger and heavier than us!

After we had finished fawning over the baby turtles, our hatchery training began. Another staff member told us our duties: if eggs came, we were to dig a hole the same width and depth as the mother’s nest and carefully place the eggs within, making sure the nest was the appropriate shape and that the yolkless turtle eggs were on top. Then, we were supposed to affix a mosquito net-covered wire cage to the top of the sand-covered nest to protect the eggs from insects and crabs. If baby turtles hatched, we were supposed to fill a similar white box with wet sand and place the turtles inside of it. We practiced digging nests, making sure they were the right shape and width and depth.

We took a break from digging to watch the baby turtles being released. Because a mother turtle always comes back to her natal beach to lay her eggs, the turtles had to be released further inland in order to to recognize their birthplace. As the staff scooped out the turtles and placed them onto the sand, the baby turtles finally had the chance to put their paddling and squirming to good use. They pushed the sand with each flipper, gradually progressing towards the waves and creating a trail behind them. As we watched in awe, the turtles drew nearer to the water, finally reaching the low tide mark. We gazed on helplessly as the first turtle was tossed astray by an incoming wave, then regained its footing and continued on, eventually disappearing into the sea. Soon, all but a few turtles had struggled toward the water and had disappeared among the foam. With a mixture of pride for the turtles’ success, and sadness at their leave, the last turtles paddled into the waves, until the only signs they had been there at all were the trails of disturbed sand they had left in their wakes.

We returned to nest digging, scooping out handfuls of sand until our holes were shoulder-deep. Yet another wonder greeted us as we looked up from our holes: a rainbow had formed in the sky. We dug half-heartedly, preferring to watch the arc of colors that swept from the sea to the rainforest, nearly a whole semicircle. Its twin shimmered into sight as the clouds shifted, and we just admired the double rainbow, gaping at the breathtaking sight. Like the turtles, the rainbow eventually faded into the endless blue, and it was time to head back for dinner.

This time, the always yummy rice and beans awaited us, as usual, but now they were accompanied with a shredded vegetable salad mixed with cubes of farmer’s cheese, which we tasted experimentally: tofu-like, but slightly sour. After playing more games at the dinner table, the early shift (8-12) workers hiked towards the beach, and the late shift (12-4) workers walked back to the cabins to attempt to sleep before their shift.

Soon, it was my shift’s turn to patrol, and in the darkness of the night, we met at the common area with the other patrollers. We walked in a line towards the beach, trailing sleepily behind our leader, feet sinking into sand. As I stumbled along behind them, trying to catch up and avoid pieces of driftwood scattered along the beach, the only sounds were our hurried footsteps and the rush of the sea coming towards us and drawing away. Although the water carried no turtles, it was enough to be out there on the beach, walking blindly behind people we could not see. It would be a turtleless night, but it was reward enough to walk here in the wilderness, away from the chirps of smartphones and the orange glow of streetlamps, just listening to the rumble of water against sand, just waiting for the moon to come out behind the clouds and offer us some pale light.

Livermore Pura Vida 2014

Livermore High Pura Vida 2014 Blog #5

Written by Monique L. of Livermore High

Day 10- Goodbyes

After saying goodbye to our dear Walter, our chauffeur, and Roy, our outstanding tour guide for this trip, we have arrived at the Costa Rican airport in San Jose. We are currently at our gate after going through security and waiting in a humongous line for getting boarding passes. Along with that we have just found out that we are not allowed to board the plane with liquids. Meaning no water and no drinks. However, snacks are allowed.

We will miss Roy and Walter dearly. Especially when Roy kept saying he was cute in a high pitched voice or when he started splash fights while white water rafting. We will also miss Walter’s poisonous insect jokes even though we didn’t know what he was saying at first and his sly but hilarious motives to make us laugh.

This trip has been so precious and we learned so much. Like how Kaitlin can sleep anywhere or that Walter has the best poker face, or even that if you try something you think you won’t like, you might actually end up liking it.

This trip will last in our memories for a lifetime. Since this will be my last official blog post, I would like to thank everyone who had a part in making it happen. And a special thanks to Señora Gonsalves, Ms. Edgar-Lee, and Susan Schai for getting us ready for this amazing trip and being there for us along the way.

Thank you everyone! Gracias por todos!

Livermore Pura Vida 2014

Livermore Pura Vida 2014 Blog #4

Written by Monique L. of Livermore High

Day 9

It’s June 25th! Kaitlin’s birthday. We went white water rafting today and had a blast. Roy, our trip guide, was the only one to fall out of the raft into the rapids. We got drenched and it was a lot of fun. The white water rafting took up the majority of today. However, after lunch we celebrated Kaitlin’s birthday with cake and singing.

We are now getting settled in and ready for dinner at the Costa Rica Tennis Club. Tomorrow we leave Costa Rica for the United States. Our first flight leaves in the late morning/early afternoon. Then we have a short layover in Texas. Adios por la noche!

Livermore Pura Vida 2014

Livermore Pura Vida 2014 Blog #3

Written by Monique L. of Livermore High

Day 7

Today was mainly a travel day. We crossed over from Panama to Costa Rica. We crossed over on foot, over the bridge that holds the old railroad tracks. This bridge joins Panama and Costa Rica as it is over the natural border, the river. We are now staying in a beautiful hotel located in the jungle area near Cahuita. It has a beautiful pool and the rooms in the Goddess hotel each hold two sets of wooden bunk beds and either a twin bed or another set of bunk beds.

Today we also visited the town of Puerto Viejo. We looked around, shopped a little bit, and ate a delicious lunch. The town of Puerto Viejo is quaint and a little bit touristy.

Then after a short ride to our hotel, the Goddess Hotel, we swam in their huge, amazing pool and then shortly after it started pouring rain. It poured for more than three hours before dinner.

We spent time at the pool and played card games while listening to music. We had a lovely day!

Day 8

Today we visited the Cahuita National Reserve in Costa Rica! We took a nature hike that ran parallel to the beach. It was beautiful! We were in the jungle yet still on sand. We saw armies of leaf cutter ants and fire ants. We saw a total of eleven sloths and two of those were baby sloths clinging to their mothers. We saw five capuchin monkeys and one jumped out of the tree about a foot from us then hissed at us and climbed back up. We also saw a couple mantled howler monkeys. We saw a couple keel-billed toucans which were pretty, some lizards and chameleons and a lot of different insects. Some of the lizards we saw were the anole lizard and the emerald basilisk, and we saw a couple iguanas in the trees too.

After the nature hike we ate lunch at a great restaurant on the beach and we found a swinging bench suspended from the trees that hung right over the edge of the water. We could not go snorkeling because a storm had come in last night and churned everything up while another one was on its way. There were also too many riptides to even swim at the beach in Cahuita.

So we just settled into our hotel for a night’s rest instead.

Livermore Pura Vida 2014

Livermore Pura Vida 2014 Blog #2

Written by Monique L. of Livermore High

Day 4- On the Road & Zip-lining

Did you know that when Costa Rica plays a game in the World Cup, the whole country is under executive orders from the Costa Rican president to close every store for 2 hours to watch the game?

Today we traveled to the Caribbean side of the country. We left at 7 and arrived around 1. We were all very sad to leave our host families. The drive was long but beautiful and we listened to the game on our bus’ radio. We stopped in the other major district of cities in Costa Rica to buy soccer jerseys. In the middle of the city in the plaza there was a stage with a Jumbotron on it and there were hundreds of people ready to watch the game against Italy. Even though Italy was favored Costa Rica won 1-0. On the way to the Caribbean side, one of our bus’ rear tires blew out. We pulled over at a family’s home and they helped us change the tire. While we were waiting, the little girl of the family who was about 5 years old was talking to us and showing us her pet dog that was really sweet and friendly. The dog’s name was Jackie.

We also went zip-lining in the forest. It was much warmer than it was at the home stays and not as dark and cloudy either. We saw two monkeys, a sloth, a poison dart frog, and a few bullet ants. The land is so green here. It’s a nice change from the Livermore hills, which are already dry and gold. We are at the hotel for the night in Cahuita. Off to dinner!

Day 5- Panama

Today was fun! We got to cross over into Panama on foot, have some down time, and work with a local seashell artist. We had a choice to make either a bracelet, a key chain, or earrings. It was really neat.

When we traveled into Panama it was an older customs area. It was really cool. The border is actually a river. We had to cross the river by foot along a bridge made for the railroad. It was so beautiful. Then we had to take a short ride in our buses to a boat taxi that took us to Bocas Del Toro. It was a 45 minute boat ride to Bocas but we got to see all the little villages along the water. Oh! And the water is so clear you can see all the way to the bottom. We spotted starfish and other creatures really easily.

The water is a bright but clear blue-green color. It’s perfect! We are off to dinner soon so adios por la noche!

Day 6- Snorkeling

Today we spent the day snorkeling. We saw jellyfish and many reef fish. We also learned about coral’s defense mechanism, poisonous bubbles. We also swam through sea grass, a plant that is a necessity for life on the ocean floor, and saw many sea cucumbers. The Caribbean ocean was so warm and clear! I have never seen water so clear.

Some of us got a little sunburned even though we used tons of sunscreen! We were all very tired by the end of the day. And tomorrow we are off to Costa Rica again! We are having so much fun!

Head Royce Dos Costas 2014

Head Royce Dos Costas Blog #1

Written by Carolyn C. of Head Royce School

Day 1 – Arrival in Costa Rica

After an exhausting two flights from San Francisco to Houston, then on to San Jose, we exited the plane bleary-eyed, but excited for the adventure ahead of us! Once we claimed our bags and went through customs, we finally emerged from the airport and were immediately struck by two things: the heat, and the humidity. Both hit us with intensity, and we peeled off our sweatshirts and corralled our luggage. Our van pulled up shortly after. We left our backpacks in the blissfully air-conditioned interior and watched in awe as our baggage was hoisted up and latched onto the top of the van for the voyage.

We headed to a cafe near the airport for lunch. Our first meal in Costa Rica consisted of rice, beans, meat, salad, and sweet tropical fruit juice. While we all tucked into our lunch, one of our guides told us stories of sharks and gave us tips on drinking water and currency. Soon, we’re on the road in our van again, with another guide, Humberto, informing us about Costa Rica: he told us about the provinces and Costa Rican geography, pointing out signs and mountains and even volcanoes (!) in the distance. While we tried to pronounce the province names correctly, the van drove further from the airport and into the surrounding city. This was when the fact that we’re in Costa Rica really started to sink in. We passed numerous houses and buildings: made from corrugated metal and painted wood. They come in all sizes and shapes, decorated with colorful graffiti and various kinds of metal gates and barred windows. These colorful, well-fortified homes are so different from the buildings back home, yet so many things feel familiar: the billboards advertising services and stores, and people chatting behind their gated porch.

While we chatted, slept, read or simply admired the scenery, the van wound its way out of the city and into the countryside. We gaped in awe as the advertisements and paved roads made way for gravel and palm trees. Our guide pointed out a coffee plantation on our right side. Walls of tropical green vegetation on a canvas of bright moss and damp brown earth rose up on both sides of the road. There were all varieties of plants: huge, glossy fronds, wisps of green tendrils, and every size and shape in-between clung to the hillsides. In between gaps in the vivid green walls, we glimpsed sweeping valleys, dramatically shrouded in fog. After a few hours on the road, we pulled aside to a huge superstore to replenish our food supply with Costa Rican sweets and snacks! Once we all made our purchases, we piled back into the van to compare the unfamiliar candies and chips and their chirpy names. Plus, we received Costa Rican currency as change, so we examined the intricate colones coins and bills.

On the road again, and we flashed past palm trees and plantations in disbelief. Only a few hours ago we were in an American airport lounge, replete with food chains and florescent lighting, making this lush green landscape seem like a dream.

After hours of driving, we pulled to a stop at the end of a gravel road, where the path narrows and our van can no longer follow it. Filing out into the heat and humidity once more, we liberally sprayed on insect repellent as we were bitten for the first time. The air was thick with moisture and the murmur of the insects in the rainforest beyond the road. Another classmate beckoned us away from the road to hear the noise better. We picked our way among the moss-covered rocks intertwined with tree roots towards a small field and the trees beyond. Soon, we were enveloped in the sound of life, the vibration and buzz of the chirping and clicking from a thousand insects and animals. Adding to the awe, two boats awaited us to whisk us away to Pacuare beach, where we will work with the staff at the Widecast station in their turtle preservation efforts. Forming a line, we passed down each piece of luggage to the boats. Before we boarded, our guide for the first portion of our journey gave us a speech. He reminded us to cherish each moment here, each ‘up and down’, because sooner than we knew it, we would be back at the airport. Our time here is precious, he told us, and will stay with us throughout our lives.

With his words in mind, we boarded the boats and strapped on life jackets, and our small, bright blue motorboat pulled away from the dock. We zoomed into the waterway and everything around us turned surreally beautiful: the green trees and vegetation bent towards the waterway like a tunnel, their roots half-exposed by the eroded dirt, and their long branches trailed along the surface of the water. The muddy brown water, which failed to betray what lurked beneath its depths, was still, which created a mirror image of the beautiful jungle that surrounded us. The palm leaves and moss-covered tree trunks that speckled the river bank created pretty symmetrical patterns. As our boat churned the reflections into white spray and long ripples, the only sound was the hum of its engine and the noise of the animal life that lurks among the trees and plants. We are speechless with admiration.

Once, our guide stopped the boat to point out two howler monkeys in the trees above us. “They’re usually loud,” she explained, “but now they are quiet.” Their soft, dark silhouettes moved silently in the branches over us, as we drank in the scene with our eyes (and cameras). As the palm trees on the shore increased in number and the waterway widened, we ducked under branches and even a downed tree’s trunk as we floated further. The reflection of the jungle is a whole other world that we skimmed the surface of, and the swells from the wake of the boat distorted the flipped landscape around us, adding to its phantasmagorical beauty. It really felt as if we’d sped away on this bright blue motorboat, away from our cluttered lives of buildings and schedules and waste. It felt as if we were in some photo spread in a nature magazine, the kind people read to escape their everyday lives, but this time we’d managed to switch positions with the subject, no longer just a wistful onlooker.

As the light died behind the overcast sky, the waterway expanded ever further and the shores drew farther away from us, as we neared the mouth of the river and the ocean. Other boats passed us going in the other direction, and we raised our hands in genial greeting towards them as they sped by, and we lurched and dipped in their wake. Birds skirted the water, dove and swirled above us, and grasses and other plants seemed to hover on the surface of the leaf-speckled water. Our guide pointed out the houses and school and coast guard station that make up the community. Soon, the waterway narrowed again and we slipped through the gaps in the grass-choked river. As our guide maneuvered our boat, the sky darkened even more until it was difficult to distinguish the plants from the buildings. Finally, our boat hit sand, and flashlights danced along the shore as the Widecast staff approached us and helped guide us in, splashing in the river in sandals to pull us toward them.

Soon, we stepped off the boat with wobbly steps toward lights coming from their kitchen. They welcomed us, and their dog sniffed at our feet. We were advised to take out our flashlights to avoid accidentally stepping on any venomous creatures, and shortly after, we shined our lights on three toads, which hopped away upon being discovered.

The other boat arrived with our luggage, and as a group we made our way past the green buildings, painted brightly enough to be recognized in the now completely black night. We happened upon the common area, a large slab of concrete with long tables to sit at surrounded by tall palm trees, and then jumped in surprise at the large crab which had scuttled under the red corrugated metal roof. The staff member showed us around, pointing out our cabins and bathroom, and the kitchen, which are all powered by their solar panels and supplied with water drawn from a well.

Once we claimed our luggage and settled into our cabins, wary of bugs that threatened to penetrate our mosquito-net protected bunk beds, we gathered around the common area to sit down for dinner. The rice, beans, shredded cabbage, and savory, crispy plantain was delicious, and we ate with fervor before we embarked on our turtle patrol shifts. It began to rain, and lightning flashed on the horizon over the turbulent ocean while thunder rumbled overhead. I was too tired to follow them on their four-hour-long walks along the beach to check for mother turtles laying their eggs, so instead I tried to sleep in the cabin, as my cabinmates trickled in and out at odd hours in the night and the next morning. Overcome with tiredness and the unfamiliar weather and landscape, we all eventually fell asleep after the shifts, dreaming of more adventures and new experiences to come in the following days.

Livermore Pura Vida 2014

Livermore Pura Vida 2014 Blog #1

Written by Monique L. of Livermore High

Day 1- Airport

Hey everyone!

We are currently at our gate in Houston. Leah has been trying to figure out the new GoPro accessories while some of us played mini ping pong and made new friends. We are all pretty tired but some of us did sleep on the flight here. We will be in Costa Rica soon!

Day 2 and 3- Fundacion Nubotropica & Coffee Tour


Today we went to Nubotropica, a nature reserve, and learned many things. We learned how to plot and measure the circumference of a tree and how to make a scaled drawing of the tree plot. We also learned that 92% of Costa Ricans have never seen a soldier and that 38% is under ecological protection. Their goal is to put 45% of the land under ecological protection.

While we were at Nubotropica, Ari put Tapatio sauce in her sister Chloe’s coffee. When she figured it out, Chloe ran outside to dump the coffee. She ended up accidentally pouring it on the venomous snake Masten saw earlier that day. She screamed and we all ran to take pictures. We are also at our home stay right now and are having a blast speaking Spanish.

Moving on to the food. It is out of this world! Rice and beans are definitely a staple food here. And my roommate Emily and I tried a bright yellow vegetable called chayote. It was surprisingly sweet. At the reserve we had a delicious lunch with a dessert of guava in cinnamon sugar water. It was really sweet.

Everyone has been drinking tap water because that same water is actually being put into bottles nearby.

And on the way back to our home stay, the girls in the back of the bus were giggling really hard, and they started saying “maybe we had too much coffee.” And “I have to deal with her tonight? She’s so hyper!” Then we were back at our home stays.