Epilogue (End Posting): Costa Rica 2013

This "Wordle" was created from tour participants thoughts that were posted on this blog between March 30th and April 6th, 2013 as we spent a week in Costa Rica. The posts from the trip are on this blog below - with the most recent "on top."

This “Wordle” was created from tour participants thoughts that were posted on this blog between March 30th and April 6th, 2013 as we spent a week in Costa Rica. The posts from the trip are on this blog below – with the most recent “on top.”

Our Final Evening in Costa Rica – Reflections….


This is it… the final posting in our blog for Costa Rica 2013. It seems weeks ago we left Montana, not just last Saturday. We have done more in the past week than many thought possible, and the group has had a lot of fun doing it!

Tonight we ate at a very nice restaurant overlooking the central valley – the valley that includes San Jose and many of the nation’s people. It was a beautiful night – we chose from entrees of steak, sea bass, spaghetti, or chicken. We had spectacular views of the urban center sprawling below, and the students really enjoyed their final meal in this Central American Country.

We depart the hotel at 3:30 in the morning, so it is now 9 pm and everyone has turned in for the night. My next post will either be from Denver during our seven hour layover, or maybe not until I am back in Helena. But first:


Earlier today, we discussed our experiences on the trip. 10 years from now, what will you remember about this trip to Costa Rica… and here are those final reflections…

Jason Welnel – Everything went very well; it was smooth and everything went great – Daniel did an excellent job.

Shannon Welnel – First night at the beach baiting Howler Monkeys… and my husband used an escape plan to get into the safety of our room ASAP.

Marcus Welnel – To be determined….

Trevor Welnel – Getting to see all the different wildlife and comparing it to Montana. Squirrel Monkies, the mini-deer (agouti), Iguanas, and animals like that.

Daniel GTA Guide – When Trevor jumped off the catamaran and ‘splatted’ onto the water with his shoulder. And then, later in the trip, he came up from changing, patted himself down, and proclaimed, “Oh my God, I forgot my underwear!” This was especially cool for Daniel because a family member had once done the exact same thing and had an identical reaction!

Miss Pancich – Daniel’s ability to spot everything, know everything, and sound like everything.

Gererdo – The bus driver liked the children’s behavior (and after 25 years of driving, he has had many student groups, Daniel said) and he liked talking with Jason – who was his co-pilot for the whole week. “He talks mucho,” said Gererdo.

Mr. Elder – Trying to get both good photos of our travel party and of the land and animals of Costa Rica. My favorite part was as we all – as one big family – swam in the pools below the waterfall near the Arenal Volcano.

Caelan Cummings – The zip-lining was fun and exciting. I thought it was going to be scary, but it was fast and really a lot of fun.

Christine Trefzger – The night hike and how the pouring rain just unleashed upon us… and all the spiders, snakes, and animals… and the Red-eyed Tree Frog. I also loved watching Jake, Jack and the girls pass the snake from one person to the next… the sharing of the snake!

Jack Trefzger – Early in the week at the family farm when we saw the “Penguin Rooster” – the rooster that waddled instead of walking like you would expect. Daniel said the rooster was about to die, and so the lady at the farm got gasoline and rubbed it on him. And, somehow, the rooster lived… but now walks a little differently!

Bill Ballinger – The rainforest hike at night and how the guides and Costa Ricans didn’t use rain jackets… and so neither did we.

Jake Ballinger – The humidity – lot’s of it, especially at the beach!

Travis Elder – My wife’s astonishment at discovering how to tell the sex of the monkeys. Also amazing was my son’s independence – we never had to check up on him. He was always prepared and where he needed to be. Did you brush your teeth on this trip son? Kellan replied yes!

Kelly Elder – All of the creatures – reptiles and otherwise – that come out at night. The crabs that were everywhere, moving sideways. There was a big toad right outside our door all night, and lizards were everywhere. Shannon got attacked by that huge flying bug (we named it the flying hermit crab). And then there were the two raccoons that came to visit us in the restaurant!

Kellan Elder – The monkeys were funny and how small the roads are.

Jennifer Brundsen – Playing cards in the rainforest at the dining hall… the lady there was packing up, and we wanted to know if we had to leave. The gestures, the communication without our knowing Spanish or her knowing English – well, you can get a lot done with gestures! It was really amazing. Also, ‘wipe out’ is the same in Spanish and in English.

Bridget Powers – I liked visiting the family farm at the beginning, especially when we all ate the termites.

Fiona Powers – During the night hike, when I saw Mr. Elder doing that funny dance behind the group and I didn’t know why (but I do now – Mr. E had to go to the bathroom really bad)!

Thanks again to the crew at Global Travel Alliance (especially Paul in Montana and Daniel here in Costa Rica) for providing a most excellent adventure for our middle-schoolers!

Mr. Elder and Miss Pancich, Tour Leaders – CRA Middle School – Helena, MT USA

La Pregunta del Día – Un Palabra en Español!

Last morning on the beach - group student photo!!

Last morning on the beach – group student photo!!

The question for the day is to ask for a word in Spanish that the students have learned… it is an interesting collection! Costa Rica ’13 – La pregunta del Dia… Que aprendimos en español? The question of the day… what have we learned in Spanish

Jake: Hola! – Hello!

Jack: Chapuline/Tractor – farm equipment/heavy road equipment

Fiona: baño – bathroom.

Bridget: piña – pineapple.

Caelan: En fuego – on fire!

Marcus: Vaca flaca. “Skinny Cow” – a term used in Costa Rica to describe a person who once had money but is currently broke!

Kellan: Salado – salty; slang, someone who has bad luck.

Trevor: Vamanos! – Let’s go!

And now, for our best memory of yesterday – Manuel Antonio National Park and the Beach:

Trevor: Getting towered over by the waves in the ocean.

Fiona: Seeing the slow sloth lounging in the sun.

Jake: Another vote for the Squirrel Monkeys – how small they were.

Kellan: Getting to eat pizza for dinner!

Jack: Seeing the squirrel monkeys – jumping across the trail.

Caelan: Seeing the sloth sunning himself; he was bigger than I thought he’d be.

Bridget: The Squirrel Monkeys were cute.

Marcus: Bad memory… getting lost on the beach and walking clear to the far end. I had to get a snow-cone, man. It was a weird snowcone… with a cream on top, it was weird.

Today: off to the Catamaran for a few hours of swimming/snorkeling before returning to the San Jose area this afternoon… the final day for us in Costa Rica… and what an amazing week it has been!

Thursday, April 4: A Day in the Park and on the Beach!

DSC00303Things didn’t go as planned today. We hit the national park in the morning and saw a couple types of monkeys. I think the group’s favorite was the Squirrel Monkeys, which will be pictured on this post soon. Due to the thunder and wind, we are holding off on the Catamaran until tomorrow morning. Today was spent in the sun — just ask Caelan!

His new nickname is El Fuego, for despite using sunblock, he is “on fire!”

More to follow soon. This is proving to be an incedible adventure, for sure! If you click on ‘Costa Rica’ from my homepage – http://www.kellyelder.net – you can see three of the four albums we have showing pictures of various parts of our trip.  Enjoy!

The Beach – April 4 (Thurs)

Sunset Jumping.jpg Last night we arrived at the Karahe Hotel – our last destination on this week-long whirl-wind tour of Costa Rica! The students loved the beach… enjoying the waves until it was almost dark outside. This morning (April 8), we went for a hike into the Manuel Antonio National Park, which is just about a half-mile down the beach from our hotel. On the hike, we saw a sloth sunning himself in the trees, a number of lizards (including some Iguanas), lots of various crabs, and two of the three types of monkeys that call Costa Rica home. It was an awesome start. We are back at the hotel to eat a quick lunch and then head for the Catamaran for some swimming/snorkeling this afternoon. As you know, the meals have all been Beans and Rice, but Daniel offered to get us pizza tonight — the students (and most of the adults) jumped at the opportunity!! More later… AND… The Picture Link for all our photos is up and running – found at http://www.kellyelder.net on the Costa Rica page!

On the Way to the Beach… the Adults Weigh In About the Adventure!

Costa Rica – Adult Observances… as we rode on the bus for about 5 hours today, the adults shared their observations of Costa Rica.

My question: “What observations have you made that stick in your head thus far in our experience?”

The adults’ thoughts/reactions follow:

Shannon Welnel – Pineapples don’t grow in trees!

Miss Pancich (teacher) – I love how non-judgmental and open our students are to experiences compared to the couple other groups of students we have run into.

Jennifer Brunsden – Watching adolescents in their natural habitat.

Travis Elder – Communicating with the taxi driver – Dixon. I was on fire! I made his day with the tip.

Christine Trefsger – I”ve enjoyed the morning blog and watching the students processing the previous day’s activities. Also, it is amazing how Daniel (guide) can find a small green frog on the green leaf IN THE DARK!?!

Mr. Elder (Teacher) – To see the parents and their children getting along so well. Also cool to see all the students interacting with everyone else – not just their ‘best friends.’

Daniel (tour leader this week) – Yesterday in the waterfall, it was interesting to see the families all mixing together in the water. Also, to see the Cotton-ball Bats under the leaf yesterday. That was very unique. You can only see them here in Costa Rica – nowhere else in the world – that was really cool.

Kelly Elder (Kellan’s Mom) – Colones are confusing for me… they are in thousands… 10,000… that’s really confusing.

Jason Welnel – I thought there would be more wildlife in the rainforest – with all the plants and abundance of stuff, I thought the rainforest would be teaming with (bigger) animals.

Hernando (bus driver explained in Spanish) – To see Jason dying every day because of the heat – funniest part of the day!

Bill – Seeing the young Howler Monkeys hanging off their moms clear up in the tree tops – I’d never seen that before.

From the Rainforest to the Volcano Area

Yesterday, we left the Tirimbina Rainforest Center and drove to the La Fortuna area (northwest). From that, the students were asked for their coolest moment:

Marcus, Kellan, and Jack all immediately were fighting over who got to claim the ‘upside down’ zip-line ride. Therefore, we list it first and don’t count that response!

Caelan: The food at the Las Nenes for lunch in La Fortuna – the fish was tremendous!

Jack: Seeing the Howler Monkey family just lounging around less than 50 feet away in the rainforest canopy while we were on the third zip-line platform, hundreds of feet above the forest floor!

Marcus: The pastries in La Fortuna are really good – chocolate… croissant with chocolate filling and powdered sugar on top! Like a cannoli…

Kellan: Swimming below the waterfalls… jumping off the rock into the deep pool.

Fiona: Seeing the Coati above the falls yesterday. It is a part of the raccoon family… It had a long snout and a big, bushy tail…. really cool!

Jake: Rather than a favorite… it was a least favorite. Hiking up the steps after swimming below the falls. We climbed hundreds of feet – and it was cool to see the white bats sleeping under that huge leaf.

Trevor: Drinking a virgin daiquiri at a La Fortuna cantina.

Bridget: Loved the FASTEST zip-line… the guy told us we could go up to 40 mph if you didn’t brake… so I probably went less than that!

Bus from Tirimbina to the La Fortuna Areae

First, discussed in the bus getting there:

Costa Rica, Day 4

Schools. Students begin with kindergarten when they are 5 years and 9 months old. School goes for 6 years. Then students go to high school for another 5-6 years. After that, students take a college entrance test. Those who score well get into one of the public universities (there are 5). Those who don’t get into a public university may pay to attend a private one – of which there are about 80. Students who graduate from a public university will be preferred for job openings in this country.

The school year starts in February and ends in December (Officially, but Daniel said that most students don’t go into December – they are done by the end of November). Also have a vacation during Easter. And they have two weeks at the mid-point in June.

Students wear uniforms. Historically blue pants and white shirt for school, light blue for high school. Nowadays, though, the students in their final year might wear a different color than the others.

Food-wise… in Costa Rica. Cosada (married). Beans, rice, salad, and everything is all mixed together! Daniel said that Costa Ricans can go a day without rice, and maybe two… but it is a staple of life here. Also, when written in English, “Beans and Rice” is a dish from the caribbean side of the country. It is – duh – beans and rice, but mixed with coconut milk!

Next, I need to share some thoughts on the day’s adventures… Coming soon. Dinner awaits now, though, so my post will come later. Only have internet in hotel lobby, so patience might be key… Check back soon!

A Day of Learning in the Rainforest

From yesterday, the travel participants memories.

Today’s question: what did you learn yesterday? Answers follow:

Kellan: Bullet ants are scary. If they bite, it hurts. If it stings, it feels like a bullet went into you for 24 hours.

Trevor: The Sloths get ‘stoned’ – the plants they eat have THC in them, the active ingredient in marijuana – no wonder they’re so slow!

Jake: If the Hog-Nozed Viper we saw bites you, you have 4 hours to get to a hospital or you die!

Jack: The first Cocoa trees were in Brazil; and the Sloth’s laziness explained.

Caelan: Don’t put a pool in the middle of the rainforest, because it will be a bug pool. We did nothing but try to keep the bugs off us!

Fiona: The Red-Eyed Tree Frog is the ‘official’ frog of Costa Rica.

Bridget: Chocolate from the bean is really gross. When corn starch, nutmeg, black pepper, vanilla, and chile are added – then it’s great!

Marcus: No report… again. His dad said that he now knows the Costa Rican government plays recordings of Howler Monkeys to make us think they exist in the rainforest… for we can’t find them!


Red-Eyed Tree Frog Found on a Night Hike through the Rainforest

Day #3 (with day 1 being our travel day down)… held many surprises. We learned about the rainforest, saw some students’ fear of spiders and snakes first-hand, got to see and participate in the making of chocolate as the indigenous people did when the cacao plant first came up from Brazil, and then saw the rainforest come alive as darkness set in during a night hike.

The night hike provided our first glimpse of a poisonous snake as well as a couple relatively rare species of frogs. The Red-Eyed Frog picture I got below was made possible thanks to luck and the fact that it rained, as hard as standing under a shower at home, for a couple hours right beforehand. The rain brings the frogs down from the higher parts of the trees.

I’m going for a run now, but will ask the students for their thoughts on yesterday here in a bit! For now, this picture is all I’ve got!!