Sunday, March 3, 2013

Final Thoughts

As we pack up and prepare for an early flight, the Bears have a few final thoughts to complete the blog...

Jake: I like to think I am a pretty experienced traveler, having visited places from Australia to South Africa to even the ever distant Canada, but this trip was one for the books.  While I loved everything about the trip, my favorite parts were zip-lining, playing with all of the adorable monkeys, and bonding with both Ticos and my friends.  Thank you Mr. and Mrs. O for a phenomenal time! Pura Vida!

Fuller: I initially joined the Costa Rica trip solely as an escape from the harsh New England weather. My plans for a vacation, however, were quickly transformed into the struggles of completing seemingly everyday tasks with primitive tools for one of the best causes I have yet to come across. The gratification of completing these struggles, moreover, was a reward in itself--yet we were further rewarded with the unique opportunity to play with native monkeys. The culture, diversity, hard work, friends, sights, and memories I have experienced on this trip will stick with me for the rest of my life.

Wesley: I really enjoyed my time down in Costa Rica. Some of my favorite experiences include: zip-lining hundreds of feet in the air, taking a surfing lesson in the famous Nosara waves, and of course, playing with the monkeys at Sibu. I am looking forward to keeping in touch with Steve and Vicky, and helping to spread Sibu's message to everyone I know.

Connor: I have been to some very interesting countries in my life, however Costa Rica was definitely one of the more exciting trips I have been on. I joined this trip in order to become more aware of the culture of a third world country and to provide my services to Sibu. My favorite experiences on this trip were the surfing lessons, the zip-lining, going to the rodeo, horseback riding, and playing with the monkeys (especially Jerry). One thing I have learned on this trip is that i might be allergic to the Equator and will definitely get sunburned in this area no matter how much sunscreen I put on (sorry Mom). Nevertheless, this was a very enjoyable experience, and I hope the house we helped build at Sibu is used to its full potential. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. O (my favorite teacher) for a very fun trip! Pura Vida!

Allie: I've never experienced what I  have been able to here. By zip-lining I faced my insane fear of heights, and now I feel like I can do anything. I had gone to many places in the world when I was younger, but I have never truly appreciated a place as much I appreciate Nosara. Getting to know kids from school who I wouldn't have talked to in a school setting was amazing. I have become so close with this group and I hope that never changes. Working to help the monkey sanctuary was hard work, but completely worth it. I can't describe what it was like to get to know the people here, and to see how they live life and how passionate they are about life. I can't thank the O'Rourkes more for giving me this experience. It has really changed my life, and I hope to come back really soon and continue helping the sanctuary and keep discovering new things around the world.

Maureen: I didn't know what to expect coming to Costa Rica and, though I knew I would enjoy the country, I didn't think I would love a place so much. Everything about Nosara was beautiful, from the bumpy roads to the sun and sand, from the exotic jungle foods to the mountain tops. I loved every minute of being covered in dirt and being insanely hot, working with Herardo, Romundo and Margarito in SIBU. I am very grateful for the people I have met here and hope to keep in contact with Steve and Vicky at SIBU. I have grown close with everyone on this trip and I hope that I can come back to Nosara in the near future to help out with the howler monkeys more, but to also experience more of the culture. I enjoyed every experience I had on this trip and consider it truly life changing. I can't wait to hear how the projects at SIBU are coming along and to hopefully come back soon. Thanks to Mr. and Mrs. O!!

Kennedy: Pro Vita in Costa Rica has been such an incredible experience. From the downtime surfing and horseback riding, to the many hours of work at SIBU, each moment has left an impact on me. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity. Not only have I immersed myself in the culture and learned about the locals, but I have also learned so much about students from Berkshire I had not known prior to the trip. This experience has brought us so close as a group, and taught us many lessons. We made a change in this community and I am inspired to do further philanthropy work. Hopefully I will find myself in Nosara again. Pura Vida!

Greta: Costa Rica is amazing.  I honestly never want to leave! The people involved with this trip were phenomenal. I plan on returning to Nosara as soon as possible to do a little yoga, surf and of course help out at the SIBU sancturary.  This is a truly special place and I hope to help Jack (Mrs. O'Rrourke's father) finish building his home here in the sanctuary so that more Berkshire students can come and help out Steve and Vicky.  We worked really hard here and were constantly doing something but getting to hold a precious monkey makes it all worth it.  My favorite would have to be Toby (a white faced Capuchin).  This little guy was quite the outgoing individual.  He was sweet, playful and down right silly.  Knowing that the work we did was going to benefit the rehabilitation of animals like Toby made it a breeze.  Toby use to be someone's pet, kept in a tiny birdcage.  If you knew Toby you wouldn't believe this.  He is CONSTANTLY running around and jumping from place to place.  In short, this trip to Costa Rica has changed my life for the better and I can't wait to come back!
P.S. Thanks O'Rourke Mom and Dad! You guys are really really cool (:

Catching Up

Have you ever seen a bear flying 200+ feet above a mountain valley?

How about sitting quietly with a Howler monkey on its shoulders?

Or jogging beside a cow on a dirt road?

Do you know any bears who can spot the Snake Bird, Boat Billed Heron, Green, Black, and Brown Iguanas, Salt Water Crocodile, the poison Castor Bean tree, and much more all in just a two hour boat ride?

Surfing and Rodeos and Dancing Bears - OH MY!

For the Costa Crew, it's all old news by now, not to mention the howling 60mph Guanacaste Winds blowing throughout the night. But let's get you readers caught up...

Friday and Saturday were jam-packed days of work, adventure, play, and learning (Biology, Natural History, Spanish, and Costa Rican Culture 101).

We ventured out bright and early on Friday for a highlight of the trip: zip-lining. Some may picture zipping as hanging on to a pulley in the back yard, or maybe even on one long line from point A to point B, but a canopy tour is a whole new world. We started in Nosara at the Miss Sky office, where Caesar, Jose, Roderigo, David, and Angelo strapped us in to harnesses and helmets. Then it was into their huge converted truck for a ride up and into the mountains above the Rio Nosara. Once we cleared the dust from our eyes, put on our braking gloves, and went through one more safety lesson, it was time to soar. The Miss Sky tour includes 13 different cables, each zipping and zagging across the valley high above the tree canopy, and totaling more than 20 miles of high-flying adrenaline rushes. Alex was the first to experiment with letting go as he leaned back, arms outstretched, looking like and upside-down bird (don't worry, you're strapped onto two wires with two independent lines - no hands required!). By the end of the three-hour adventure, all the Bears had let go, spinning "360's", flying upside down (though only our guides were able to complete a few flips), and having a blast riding both solo and in pairs. Though Allie and Wes both looked unsure of this wild plan at the start, by cable two the were all smiles and ready for more! After cable twleve, the group followed Roderigo and his walking stick down to the river to cool off. After watching the regulars back flip off the jump rope and cliff jump with ease, a few of the Bears got brave and gave it a try. The crowd on the banks enjoyed quite a show with some epic face-plants and belly flops off the rope swing from the likes of Conner, Greta and Maureen, but Alex and Conner redeemed our reputation with well executed cannonballs off the rocky ledge above. Then is was a quick hike back up, with lessons about native trees along the way, and one more cable to call it a day.

Our Siesta had to be quick as the monkeys awaited our attention up the hills at SIBU. It was off to another Beach Dog lunch (the best spot in town, we've all concluded) to fuel up for part two of the day. Once back on site in Santa Marta, we broke out the paint brushes, picked our shovels back up, and got right to work. There was more sifting of sand to be done for the concrete to be clean, and habitat bridges to be covered in a fresh coat of green. Then finally came the moment we were all waiting for: into the enclosures with Ginger, Ben, Jerry, and Toby. Ginger, we learned, is a very shy girl. She mostly sits a little ways off and watches carefully as she coos quietly to herself. Then there are the boys - Ben and Jerry, both around 3 years old, are all that preteen boys should be. They're mischievous and naughty, like to nibble a little too hard and pull your hair with gusto, and might just jump down on your shoulders from a rope or hammock high above. Toby, the lone Capuchian of the sanctuary, is just as wild but at half the size (and half the bite) a little less intimidating. He moves lightening fast, and loves to jump in your arms (whether you're ready or not). He's also a bit of a thief and goes after jewelry, watches, and headbands with abandon. After a short visit, it was once again time to pile in the van and head back to our Costa Rica nCasa (Romantica). After such an early start, Friday night was quiet as the crew worked on their slide show to send back to the Bears back on campus.

It was good to get to bed early on Friday because Saturday turned out to be the longest day of the trip. With an even earlier start (6am) we headed to the Boca Nosara (the mouth of rivers Nosara and Montana) to meet Leroy and Kirstin for a "river safari". Not quite as action-packed as some of our other days, Saturday morning was by far the most educational two hours and a wonderfully tranquillo way to start the day. The various species of birds in the rivers are too many to name, but in addition to those mentioned above there were Ibis, Great Blue Herons, Small Blue Herons, Great White Herons, three varieties of King Fisher, Brown Pelicans, Tiger Herons, various Pipers, Night Herons, and many more. We saw more species of birds in two hours than inhabit the entirety of Germany (the home-land of our tour guides)! We glided alongside a juvenile croc and at least some of us were glad that the "big guy" who inhabits a mud cave at the other end of the river (and measures nearly 10 feet) was not home when we cruised through his neighborhood. Along the banks we saw iguanas and crabs, while there were howler monkeys taking a nap high in the mangrove trees above. Along the way we learned about the three species of Mangrove present in this region of Costa Rica (White, Black, and Red) and how to distinguish among the three. Our lovely guides dropped us back on the banks of Playa Pelada in time to catch breakfast back "home" before moving on to work. Back up at SIBU, the crew split into three to complete the painting, sewing, and trench digging. It felt great to complete a few parts of the larger project in just a short bit of time, and our new friends Raimundo, Heraldo, and Margarito enjoyed another chance to watch the Gringos toil away in the heat. We had one more chance in the enclosures with the "monks" while "Miracle Charlie"  - a howler once healed by SIBU, now released into the wild and the alpha of his own troop - made his dominating presence known to the three new orphans, just transferred in from Nosara Wildlife Reserve. Though Charlie and his troop live freely outside of the enclosures, they still check in to see what's happening around SIBU on the regular.

Can you believe the day didn't end there? After a short stop back in Guiones to rest, watch a local surf competition, and clean up, it was dinner time at Marlin Bill's. The crew, having been thrifty spenders all week, treated themselves to a slightly more luxurious dinner including steaks, local fish, mussels, and brownie sundaes. And then it was off for the culture lesson of the day - a home-town Costa Rican Rodeo in Garza, just a bit south of Nosara. If you're thinking of a Texas Rodeo, take it down a notch, rewind several decades or more, and throw a few lively Ticos into the bull ring. The local rodeos are quite a scene - carnival food, DJ'd dance tent, kids games, and a hand-built set of wooden stands surrounding a tree-branch fenced ring. It is a whole new world. And not to worry Madres and Padres, it's completely safe (as long as you stay out of the ring). Up on the top row of the stands next to the brass band, we watched as the riders hung on to bucking bulls, brave souls jumped the fence to be "clowns" distracting the bull after each rider was thrown, and real-life Tico Cowboys lassoed the bulls by the horns to get them back into the trailers after their short night of work. After watching a few rides, it was time to dance. Enjoying both American and Central American Pop music, the dance floor was flooded with participants of all ages and the crew used what energy they had left to join in the fun. Beating the crowd and the onset of the heavy winds, we loaded back up into our "tourismo" van and made it back just in time to grab our belongings on the balcony before losing them to the viento. Though through the night it sounded to us like a hurricane was blowing through, it was business as usual for those who call the Guanacaste Penninsula home. We woke up this morning to down trees, branches and leaves (not to mention a littering of coconuts) and more wind. It was a good thing that Sunday was already decided on as an "unscheduled" day so all could sleep in, take it easy, and soak in the last 24 hours of the trip. With the winds calming down this afternoon, the travelers are in intermittent states of siesta, swimming, and packing. It's off to hear Steve "The Monkey Man" and his band down the road tonight for a farewell dinner before we hit the long road to Liberia for an early Monday morning flight.

Stay tuned for thoughts from each of the Bears a little later on and thanks for reading!

- Hasta Luego

Friday, March 1, 2013

Some days are just too busy for blogging...

What a 48 hours we've had! d

Since our last installment, we've shoveld rocks, sewn shade clothes, sipped fresh coconut water, gone horseback riding, waited 2 hours for dinner to arrive, woken up early, zipped 200+ feet above the ground, swum in the Rio Nosara, met Toby the Capuchian, and Ben and Jerry the Howlers, painted the enclosures, and had a lovely dinner back her at the hotel. And don't forget all that swimming!

The Costa Crew apologizes for a lapse in the blogging, but after the Thursday we had, there was just no energy left to type. For our third full day in Nosra, we started things off at work. After a breakfast of rice, beans, eggs, and fruit, the Crew piled into the van and pulled out to Santa Marta for a full morning of work. While some of the group shoveled and moved piles of rocks at the Casita build site, others sat in the shade to sew tent pole-channels into the sahde cloth for the Vivero. Still more volunteers hopped in Steve the Monkey Man's truck to gather leaves for the monkeys to eat and river-sand for the concrete foundation, which they then had to sift by hand for a finer quality poduct. After a hard morning of work, interspersed with some chilled coconut water and watermelon slices, it was lunch time in Guiones at the favorite spot of the week, Beach Dogs, for some killer smoothies and yummy local food. With full bellies, it was time for most of the Crew to hop on horseback for a ride through a lcal nature reserve with Nano. Our ponies were full of spunk! Jake and Maureen went flying ahead on the beach at a full gallop with the wind in their hair - if only I could ride and take video footage at the same time! Perhaps the most difficult part of the day came at night when a late dinner turned into a two hour wait while we all learned a little about patience. Finally, Jack (aka El Hefe) took charge of the situation (after a brif nap at the table) and the food arrived. We were a sleepy and slightly grouchy crew, but survive we did and we're here to tell the tale!

Friday took things in another new direction BUT you'll have to stay tuned to read about Allie conquering her fears on the zip line, Connor's attempts on the rope swing, and why a quick trip to the doctor isn't the end of the world - as long as it's a trip to Dr. Alejandro, the qickest, kindest, and perhaps most handsome doctor on the Guanacaste penninsula!

Oh, and did I mention the monkeys? Check back on Saturday afternoon for more on Toby, Ben, Jerry, Ginger, and all of SIBU's free-swinging friends.!

We're all intact and having fun - minor bumps, bruises, rashes, and belly aches not withstanding.

Much love from Nosara!

Pura Vida,
Mrs. O (aka the "other" Octo-Mom)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Working Hard

The day started off with breakfast by the pool
For now, the weather was a little cool (95°).
Once again we were rushed out the door
Little did we know we soon would be sore.
Off to Sibu, the home of monkeys and many a friend
Building homes and sewing, hands to lend.
We met some new people in the absurd heat
Mr. O’Rourke barely stopped working, what a feat!
Connor got burned (Sorry Mrs. K) while working hard
Even after being lectured about sunguard (?).
After our efforts at the land of monkeys
We headed to the hotel and put on our swim trunkies.
After cooling down in the pool that felt soooooo nice
We decided to head out for some lunch and cream of ice.
Following this we headed to the sea for fun
For some wave jumping and the setting of the sun.
Dinner was delicious and quite exciting
All that's left is a whale sighting (not really).
Now hanging out and chilling on the hammock
To all those worried mothers, please don’t panic.

Looking forward to tomorrow.

Much love from Costa Rica,

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The day began early for the bears as Mr. O'Rourke and Alex Fuller went for a run along the beach at sunrise. Following a yummy breakfast at our hotel, Casa Romantica, the group set off for their surf lessons on the famous Nosara waves. After the 90 minute long surf session--which involved more falling with style than actual surfing--we made our way back to the hotel and went out to lunch. Visiting the oldest restaraunt in Nosara, Rancho Tico, most of the group enjoyed the local Casada dish--a mixture of rice, beans, peppers, meat, and whatever else is lying around in the kitchen--which was surprisingly delicious. Next, we made a short yet expensive stop at the local market and picked up some snacks for everyone. Casta Rica has a 100% import tax. If you can believe it, a bag of pretzles cost 12 US dollars. But as the morning came to a close, so did our period of relaxation. Braving the dirt roads in our group's ferocious van, we made our way to a mango plantation. At the plantation we gathered three crates of fresh mangos--one for ourselves--and two for our soon-to-be monkey friends. We then made the short drive to the sanctuary and delivered our mangos to the monkeys. Unfortunately, as we are still in our quarantine period where we aren't allowed to be in direct contact with the monkeys, we were only able to watch from a distance as monkeys leaped back and forth over our heads. We did this, however, as we sipped coconut milk from fresh Costa Rican coconuts. Saying goodbye to our monkey friends, we made our way back to the hotel and then out to dinner where we enjoyed good (and very cheap) food to the sound of live Costa Rican music before finally settling in at our hotel for the night.

Pura vida!

-Fuller and Wesley

Monday, February 25, 2013

We finally arived in Costa Rica after a 4 a.m. wake up in Hartford. After two flights and one very bumpy drive, we arived at Casa Romantica in Nosara, Costa Rica. Before ariving, however, we stopped at a small resteraunt along the road for Pollo y arroz. (Chicken and rice) We practiced some spanish on the waiter and made a new puppy friend who we named Pollo.
Upon ariving at Casa Romantica, we headed straight for the beach, about a minute walk from the hotel. It had been a long, hot day of traveling in cramped quartetrs, so the eight of us headed straight for the water. After diving through the warm waves, Greta, Kennedy,and Maureen came to shore and sat in the sand, starting a wet sand fight and by the end, they were covered. Everyone headed to the pool for a bit then washed up for a delicious dinner, which consisted of rice, again, for most people. Everyone is exausted, lying on their beds keeping cool and getting some rest for the first full day in Costa Rica.
-Maureen, Allie, Greta, Kennedy.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

On Our Way!

It's time to head to Costa Rica!

Eight intrepid travelers and two brave chaperones - O'Rourkes 1 and 2 - are in the final hour of preparing to leave Sheffield for an eight day excursion to Nosara, Costa Rica. This Pro Vita trip will lead students and teachers alike into the jungles of Santa Marta to work with the Nosara Wildlife Refuge and the SIBU Santuary in their quest to heal and protect the arboreal wildlife of the Pacific Coast region. We'll also be zip-lining, surfing, visiting local schools, stopping by a Sea Turtle Refuge, and lots more!

But first, it's off to the Days Inn of Windsor Locks, CT! We'll be wheels up at Bradley International Airport at 6am, connecting through Miami, and landing in Liberia, CR around noon local time on Monday.

Stay tuned for daily updates from Maureen, Greta, Kennedy, Allie, Jake, Connor, Wes, and Alex!