Head Royce Dos Costas 2014

Head Royce Dos Costas 2014 Blog #10

Written by Carolyn C. of Head Royce School

Day 10: Tuesday June 24

We woke up that morning slightly earlier than usual (luckily the time had been pushed back a few hours after our pleading the previous night upon hearing the time) to have our luggage ready by around 6. We packed up our things, said good-bye to the rooms we had shared for three nights, and wheeled our bags to the van, where Humberto and Sammy were lashing them to the roof. While they laded our luggage, we gaped at a humongous winged insect perched on the side of the van! It was nearly as big as a fully outstretched hand, which was both awesome and slightly terrifying. Once we ate our last breakfast at the hotel, we set out for our last grand adventure in Costa Rica: surf lessons! Humberto and Sammy played another joke on us: once we had driven a far ways away from the motel, Sammy claimed he had left his phone behind. As we prepared to reluctantly turn around and fetch it, they revealed their deceit. Our trip with them was always sure to contain unexpected surprises!

Once we arrived at the beach, we donned swim shirts and gathered in a circle to listen to their instructions and demonstrations of the surfing positions. The surfing guides showed us the four positions and where on the board we should be on for a successful ride: where and how to lie down and paddle, then push yourself up, then get into a crouching position, and finally stand up. We practiced these four poses on fake boards the surfing guides had artfully drawn for us on the stretch of beach. Once we had practiced enough, we split into two groups and grabbed a board. Then we jumped into the waves. The day was relatively clear (we were used to cloudy days, a precursor of the daily showers of rain) and the dark blue waves were lapping at the edge of the hazy light blue sky. The water was warm, and we floated our boards over the waves while trying to avoid being hit by the breakers themselves. Once we cleared the smaller waves, we met with guides, who helped pull our boards out further as we lay on them, toes curled under our feet ready to jump into action, rocking in anticipation for just the right wave. Soon, our guides instructed us to paddle, and helped swivel our boards around. They held our boards for a few moments, letting the murmurs of water pass under until the precise moment. Then they thrust the board forward. As the wave swelled in preparation to turn into a mass of foam beneath me, I tried to stay balanced as I pushed myself up, crouched into position, and stood shakily onto my feet. It was working for a brief while: I was up, and moving forward as the water pulsed beneath me! Just as quickly as I had found my footing on the board, the ride was over and I fell and skidded into the now shallow water, as the board floated on, stopping when the rope mooring it to my ankle grew taut. Grabbing it up, I headed out against the waves for another attempt, hoping for success.

After a few rides, we swapped our boards with the other group and rehydrated while we watched their first efforts at surfing. We spent a short while watching them stand on their boards and ride toward us, or slipping off the surfboards and splashing into the waves. We cheered them on regardless. The next round of surfing flew by, and although I failed pretty miserably at some parts, the successful runs made it worth it. We spent another hour or so just playing in the waves, enjoying our last few moments in Costa Rican waters splashing around or bodysurfing.

Once we all showered and changed into dry clothes, we began driving back towards our hotel in San Jose. After a few hours on the road making up for lost sleep and admiring the beautiful setting, we arrived at our lunch spot. The first thing you noticed was the view on both sides. The restaurant was perched on a small hillside: on one side were soft, foliage-covered green hills leading up to magnificent blue mountains, cloaked with shreds of white cloud; and on the other side down green slopes was the sea, a soft blue expanse against a ridge of coastline.

With one eye on the Costa Rica match showing that day, we ate our lunch: bruschetta, sweet fruit juice, and whatever choice of main dish you ordered: for me, it was the classic rice, beans, cooked vegetables, and shredded salad I had come to love. While we finished our meal, we marveled at the majestic views, and spotted some more wildlife: a large lizard perched between the restaurant’s red corrugated metal overhangs!

Once we had finished our last lunch in Costa Rica (it was unbelievable how long, yet how short the trip had lasted), we drank in our last glimpses of the gorgeous view and continued our drive on towards San Jose. We ate cookies, napped, and stopped for restrooms, smoothies, and to purchase our last souvenirs. In the late afternoon, it began to rain and water streamed down the sides of the van, turning the countryside into blurs of green. The voyage back gradually became more urban: the road turned from gravel and dirt to asphalt, buildings and even skyscrapers came up, and barely any green or wildlife was to be seen. The only reminder that this whole trip hadn’t been some dream were the blue mountains in the distance, reminding us of all the stunning landscapes and variety of wildlife we had seen.

We arrived at our hotel, glad for the luxuries like hot water, carpeted floors, the absence of insects, and quiet hours, but missing the nature that surrounded us at every turn, the animals and insects that could be spotted unexpectedly in a tree or fluttering through the air, missing the warmth of the people that had surrounded us and shared their food and culture with us, missing all of our experiences, which we would never have again, not in quite the same way.

Even with soft towels and bedspreads and air conditioning, I still missed the turtle outpost, where we slept on thin mattresses among insects and in the humid, hot air, and walked up and down the beach all night looking for a miracle. I missed staying in the hotel, where glimpses of Volcano Arenal were right outside the window. I missed the homestays, where we had the chance to see the lifestyle of locals and be welcomed into their homes. I even missed the motel, where forests of Palm trees stretched out right beneath the common area. Most of all, I missed the memories associated with all of those places: the adventure of protecting and searching for turtles by moon and starlight, surreal boat rides, countless rounds of word games, sitting in hammocks, eating cookies, being surprised, splashing in hot springs, eating bitter and sweet plants, getting soaked in the multiple rainstorms, finding shelter in genuinely kind people, drinking varieties of tropical fruit juice, clambering in bat caves where light was hard to come by, swimming in the warm, salty Pacific Ocean, feeding animals and holding their hands, eating rice and beans, flying through the rain forest, watching soccer, bodysurfing and actual surfing, jokes, homemade food, thunderstorms, double rainbows, baby turtles, and so much more. Those ten days were filled with so many new, terrifying, amazing, beautiful experiences, numerous and unforgettable, and more awesome and serendipitous than words can ever hope to convey. I was so fortunate to have had them. And even more fortunate to have shared them with all the friendly and fun-loving classmates and leaders that had constantly supported each other throughout the trip, whether it was sharing sunscreen, insect spray, food, jokes, advice, or company (or even the remedy for a jellyfish sting).

So in those last few hours in Costa Rica, we explored the rain-soaked facilities, splashed in pools for the last time, and ate our last rice and beans. Before we went off to enjoy the comfortable hotel amenities we no longer took for granted, as we did before the trip, we all met together and sat in a circle in the synthetic grass of a mini-soccer field, and reflected. We passed around our most treasured moments in Costa Rica, the ones we didn’t want to ever forget, and passed around green string with it. Soon, everyone had spoken of their experiences, the breathtaking (the wildlife, the beauty of the world, the baby turtles) and the amusing (Humberto and Sammy’s practical jokes, the rounds of word games) and the heartfelt (bonding with each other, getting to know the host families, the hospitality of everyone we had met). Soon, a web of green string had been woven between us, which we cut into pieces and wore around our wrists and ankles, to carry our memories with us always.

At last, we played our last rounds of word games together before our time in such a varied and beautiful place, with such varied and beautiful people, would come to an end. We fell asleep in the most comfortable beds, where paintings in the hallway detailed houses with red corrugated metal roofs, and our memories of the past several days already began to feel like dreams.

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Channel Islands 2014

Channel Islands 2014 Blog #5

Written by Kalei A. of Scotts Valley High

July 18, 2014

Everyone on the train!

Everyone on the train!

Today we woke up around 7:30 to have breakfast in the dining halls. Luckily, the line for breakfast was not long, but the building was super crowded. The food was very good. There were pancakes, waffles, fruit, eggs, sausage, cereal, and so much more! It was a huge buffet! It was a good way to start the day. After breakfast, we ended the day with our last activity. We went tide pooling at the Santa Barbara beach. We used grids to help us count the species in the tide pools. On a sheet of paper, we wrote down the amount of each species we saw. We then talked about beach ecology. We learned that when something is taken from the environment, it can mess up the ecosystem. After our discussion, we went back to the dorms, packed up, and checked out. Everyone had a fantastic time on this trip. This was a very fun trip and was a huge pleasure to be apart of. It was a very different experience. This trip will always be memorable.

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Head Royce Dos Costas 2014

Head Royce Dos Costas 2014 Blog #9

Written by Carolyn C. of Head Royce School

Day Nine: Monday June 23rd

We woke up that morning weary from yesterday’s adventures but eager to embark on today’s. Once we had eaten our breakfast of eggs, beans, rice, and tortillas, we all packed into the van to drive to the headquarters of a ziplining company, where we would spend the day with their guides whizzing through the rainforest! Once we arrived at the headquarters, we transitioned to another van, which drove us to their “base camp”. After a short walk across a bridge and a gravel path, we arrived at a patio area, where we were outfitted with ziplining gear and would eat lunch later. We learned about how to conduct ourselves during the tour, and then we split into two groups and headed off in their truck towards the start of the canopy tour. We bumped through green rainforest, light rain sprinkling down from above the treetops. While we drove, we even saw a pair of monkeys that jumped across the trees right above our heads! The ride was quite an event, but no comparison to the ziplining itself. We sped through and above deep rainforests covered in all shades of green and different plants. We flew over long drops and watched the plants and flowers turn into colorful blurs beneath us, while the blue, cloud-shrouded mountains in the distance provided a majestic backdrop. It was exhilarating and beautiful all at once, and being able to see the grand landscape from a distance yet be enmeshed in it at the same time was an unforgettable experience. From the mountains to the treetops to the magnificent bright blue butterflies that fluttered among us, the whole tour showed us how facinating and wonderful nature is.

We finally rappelled down to the ground after soaring across multiple ziplines and walked towards the patio for lunch. They served us sweet tea which tasted like candy, and of course, yummy rice, beans, vegetables, and fish. Every bite was delicious, and with full stomachs, we headed off to our next activity: performing another beach survey. We drove to the beach while the sky grew greyer. As we walked along the beach filled with detritus, we took note of what we found (lots of crab holes and litter) and walked barefoot in the soft, wet sand, tracing pictures with sticks and enjoying our day of nature immersion: first the forest, now the ocean.

Once we finished our survey, we drove back to our motel and relaxed or helped organize our data from the two beach surveys into spreadsheets. We also observed a humongous beetle perched on the side of a support beam, which Humberto nonchalantly picked up with his bare hands! After the brief rest, we changed clothes and drove off to dinner. On our way there, Humberto and our driver Sammy pulled up to a shabby Chinese restaurant which we had observed on our way to the ziplining headquarters. They tricked us into thinking that we were going to eat there, and we laughed at their craftiness as we pulled away from the curb and to our true destination. There was a smallish “port” with a huge white resort on the edge of it, rimmed in fairy lights which glowed against the approaching dark of the blue night. We climbed up white steps to the restaurant, which was by far the nicest one we had gone to this trip.

We picked our seats on the deck overlooking the water, and while we waited for our meals to be prepared, we munched on crispy tortilla chips with fresh guacamole and salsa. We chatted and joked and reflected on our day and on our trip while we worked our way through our huge, American-style meals: hamburgers, tuna melts, chef salads, and the like, which actually tasted better than most of the similar fare served in restaurants back home! Once we finished our meals and the brownies and ice cream dessert, we left the restaurant utterly stuffed. Before we left, though, we played games of foosball on their two foosball tables, which were quite action-packed, despite being on such a small scale. There, Sammy demonstrated his foosball prowess by repeatedly besting us, and on the other table, for lack of a ball, we substituted a chapstick, which actually turned out to work well!

As we drove back, more pranks were played. As a police car with its lights flashing drove behind us, we worried about it pulling us over or that it was heading towards some terrible accident. This sensation was heightened we were heard its piercing siren wailing as it drove past us. We were freaking out until the joke was revealed: Humberto and Sammy had played a siren noise on their cell phone and held it up to the van’s microphone. We had been duped again! We applauded their aptitude for impish antics as we drove back to the motel, crammed full of good memories and good food. After another round of word games, I fell asleep, spent from all the fun and awe I had experienced that day, which had already felt like a long, vivid dream.

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Channel Islands 2014

Channel Islands 2014 Blog #4

Written by Kalei A. of Scotts Valley High

July 17, 2014 

Dolphins near our boat!

Dolphins near our boat!

This morning we woke up to a fantastic breakfast of breakfast burritos! As always, we woke up at 7 am to start our day. After breakfast, we were separated into our three groups. Each group went to either snorkel for fish ID, kayak, or do invertebrate ID. My group started out snorkeling. We had to wear wetsuits and they were so difficult to put on! When you got the wetsuits on you felt so stiff that you almost couldn’t walk! When we went into the water, it felt cold but the wet suits kept us warm! The wetsuits loosened up in the water so they were not uncomfortable anymore! We snorkeled around the rocks of the island. We saw so many different species! We saw sea anemone, sea urchins, blacksmith fish, Garibaldi, and so many others! We even saw a bat ray! It was so much fun looking at everything underwater. We were given clipboards that you could use underwater. We used the clipboards to write down what species and how many we saw of them. We certainly saw many.

When we got back to the boat, we discussed what species we saw and how many of that species. We then switched groups and my group went to the invertebrate ID area. We got to see different species of invertebrates. It was very interesting seeing the species close up. One of the coolest things we saw in the invertebrate ID was the crossbred sea urchin. It was a crossbreed of a red urchin and a crowned urchin. It was a bright red color and it was very pretty.

The sea cave in front of our boat!

The sea cave in front of our boat!

We then swapped groups and my group went kayaking. Kayaking was so much fun because we got to kayak into one of the sea caves! The water in the cave was very clear. We learned that the water in the cave is so clear because there is not much phytoplankton in it because of lack of sunlight. The cave was really pretty. The design of the rock was gorgeous. While kayaking in the cave, we saw a sea lion! After kayaking we had a delicious lunch of burgers, macaroni & cheese, potato chips, and watermelon. After lunch, we started heading back to Santa Barbara. On the way back, we saw a big pod of dolphins! The dolphins were jumping around the boat. It was so cool!

More dolphins near our boat!

More dolphins near our boat!

After a few hours, we arrived in Santa Barbara. There, we were driven to the University of Santa Barbara to go to our dorms for the night. The Santa Barbara campus is beautiful and is placed perfectly near the beach. We all checked in and were given our room keys. The dorms we stayed in were on the very top floor. The rooms were a bit small but contained two desks, two beds, and a big closet. After we settled in, we went to have dinner in the dining hall. The dining hall was so crowded! People were everywhere! There was also so much food and there was a huge selection! After dinner, we went back to the dorms and went into the lounge room and ended the day with a game of cards.

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Head Royce Dos Costas 2014

Head Royce Dos Costas 2014 Blog #8

Written by Carolyn C. of Head Royce School

Day Eight: Sunday June 22nd

We awoke refreshed from a full night of sleep, and packed our daypacks for the day’s activities: beachgoing (twice!). First, we scarfed down our breakfast of eggs and tortillas and set off to a scuba gear rental shop, where we picked up flippers and snorkels. Next, we drove to the first beach, at the end of a short path through a forest. Soon, the bark and twigs beneath our feet mingled with sand, and we stepped onto the grey-ish sand and admired the blue water, which wasn’t choked with swimming tourists. The beach was completely to ourselves, except for a romantic couple and a few locals who sat in the shade of the trees.

We split into two groups to conduct research about the beach at the low tide and high tide marks by taking PVC pipe squares and taking note of any plant, animal, or other interesting thing that was in it, or happened to wander through it during the minutes we watched over the square.
The group I was with set out into the warm, salty, water first, and we held the square underwater and tried to make out anything inside the square, which was difficult as the water was murky with sand and no sea creatures or plants seemed to appear in the square. We tried another spot 10 meters away, but to no avail. Even though we spotted nothing, it was simply enough just to float in the water and enjoy the beautiful day and the surroundings.

We trudged back onto the shore in our flippers and peeled off our snorkels, and swapped places with the other group. We dried off on the sand as we watched our squares (more plants, but still no animals), and soon, we finished our survey and headed back to the van. On our way back through the trail, we spotted a few monkeys in the trees above us! Once we returned the snorkeling gear to the shop, we drove to our next stop: a national park, where we would walk to another beach to swim in. After we walked on a wide trail for a while, past multiple other tourists who had come to swim and take pictures of wildlife, we entered a narrower, sand-covered path and stepped onto a beach! The water was blue, warm, and tinged with salt. The water crashed into white foam behind us and rolled beneath us as we floated out further. We spent a few fun-filled hours practicing our body-surfing and just enjoying the chance to cool off and splash around.

Next, after we showered off the sand and saltwater and changed into dry clothes, we headed back to the van and to our lunch spot: a restaurant with an airplane inside, the wings spread wide over the tables. We took our seats in comfy chairs with a view of the seaside. Our lunch was delicious: not the traditional Costa Rican food we usually had, but my grilled fish sandwich and French fries were superb, and the fruit drinks were sweet and thirst-quenching.

Stuffed with our fill of swimming and food, we drove back to the motel, stopping for gas along the way. Once we arrived, we watched the end of the U.S. vs. Portugal game, then played word games and relaxed until dinner, which consisted of delectable rice, beans, shredded salad, and mashed potato. We ended our packed day with more swimming in the motel’s pool, and played more word games until we were weary and drifted off to sleep.

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Channel Islands 2014

Channel Islands 2014 Blog #3

Written by Kalei A. of Scotts Valley High

July 16, 2014 

Torrey Pines Hiking Trail

Torrey Pines Hiking Trail

Today we woke up at 7 am sharp to a fantastic breakfast of blueberry pancakes, eggs, and bacon. It was very delicious! We started the day earlier than usual because we had a pretty big list of things to do. We separated into our groups to do labs. One lab involved the rocky tide pools and the other involved plankton. I was in the group to start at the tide pools. We explored the tide pools and looked at the different species of animals and algae. The exploration was cut short so we had to cancel our tide pool lab and return to the boat. We then changed plans. Instead of doing the tide pool lab the group did fish ID instead where we had to identify the species on the cards. The point of this was for snorkeling later in the day. After that, we swapped groups and started the plankton lab. We chose to collect the plankton horizontally instead of vertically (what the last group did) to see how much plankton was at the water’s surface. After collecting the plankton, we came back to have a delicious lunch of enchiladas, rice, beans, guacamole, salsa, and chips! We were all very hungry after all that work!

Santa Rosa Buckwheat

Santa Rosa Buckwheat

After lunch, we moved to the north part of Santa Rosa Island to go hiking on the Torrey Pines trail. We saw a really cool plant called the Santa Rosa buckwheat which is only native to Santa Rosa. It was quite a lot of work to get to the area of the Torrey pine trees. It was definitely worth it though because they were spectacular. We learned that the Torrey pines were only native to two areas: Santa Rosa and San Diego. We also learned that they receive their water supply from rain and fog. I thought it was very interesting that the Torrey pines received moisture from the fog.

Santa Cruz Island Sea Cave

Santa Cruz Island Sea Cave

After the long hike, we got back onto our boat and sailed to Santa Cruz Island. It was about an hour and a half ride down there so we had some snacks off the veggie tray and played some ukulele. We sailed past certain parts of Santa Cruz Island and it was amazing. It was full of sea caves! There were so many of them and they looked so beautiful! They got bigger and bigger as we moved along the island. We arrived at a sea cave large enough to fit the boat in. We drove the boat into the sea cave and it was so beautiful. It was amazing. The sea caves were wonderful! We found a place to station the boat and we had dinner. The meat eaters got ham and the vegetarians got stuffed bell peppers. Everyone got a side of sweet potatoes, green beans, and salad. We also got warm biscuits! It was so delicious!

After dinner, we got the choice of kayaking or snorkeling. I chose to snorkel with a couple other people. We swam towards the edge of the island, towards a small sea cave. When we looked underwater it was amazing. We saw everything from giant kelp, to sea urchins, to sea anemones. We saw so many fish. We saw the California state fish, the Garibaldi. Another one that we saw is called the señorita fish. It is a very long and skinny yellow fish. After snorkeling for a while, we went back to the boat, showered, and had a delicious dessert of brownies with vanilla ice cream! It was very, very good! We ended the night with cards, of course. Today was quite the adventure. We saw so many new things!!

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Head Royce Dos Costas 2014

Head Royce Dos Costas 2014 Blog #7

Written by Carolyn C. of Head Royce School

Day Seven: Saturday June 21

We awoke to a scrumptious breakfast of eggs, rice, beans, and mango juice. Once we gathered our bags and were dressed, we waited on the porch with our luggage for the van and talked with the host family’s grandmother and her son’s girlfriend. We admired the plants on their porch and the garden around us. Soon, the van came around the corner, and we waved goodbye to our host family and climbed aboard. Inside, we exchanged stories about our experience with the host families, especially about playing with some of the host families’ children or helping prepare the always delicious food.

Soon, everyone had been picked up, so we drove back to the animal sanctuary to help feed the animals. First, we cut up a variety of fruits and vegetables: bananas, watermelon, papaya, cucumber, and more. Next, we set off towards each cage to offer the food to the animals. We left food for Perla, then some volunteers were allowed inside a cage of green parakeets to place fruit on the wooden planks that lined the side. We visited the blue macaw, who got some pieces of fruit, and we were allowed to approach Hercules and Jessica with a piece of banana or some other food and hold it flat on our palm. The peccaries would then reach through the bars and snatch it up.

We continued on to a larger cage of parakeets, the difference being these parakeets could fly. They flapped to and fro and to the wooden planks as we left watermelon and papaya chunks for them. The keel-billed toucans, with their rainbow-colored beaks, also received bits of fruit, as did the rainbow-feathered scarlet macaws. Lastly, we distributed the rest of the food to the collection of monkeys in the farthest cages. We watched, amazed, as they grabbed beans, cucumber, and fruit pieces straight from our outstretched palms. Soon, all of the fruit was gone, and our time at the animal sanctuary was over. We said goodbye to the animals and staff members and clambered back onto the van to the next hotel. We drove for hours, stopping occasionally for lunch, van fuel, snacks, and souvenirs (especially Costa Rica soccer jerseys). We even passed the Continental Divide!

In the early evening rain, we arrived at the hotel at last, and we quickly dove under the nearest awning to shelter ourselves from the storm. Once we got our room assignments, we peeled off towards our rooms, and settled into our bunk beds before dinner. Once it was time to eat, we devoured the rice, beans, avocado, and cooked vegetables, which were, as usual, quite toothsome. Once we were stuffed, we met to go over the next day’s plan (snorkeling!), and sand down shiny plastic boards to create waterproof writing surfaces.

The day had passed so quickly in a haze of dreamy green countryside and glimpses of blue seashore, which worked their way into my dreams and made me anticipate the next day’s seaside venture even more.

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