We each stumbled out of bed at our own pace, many of us still feeling quite tired. Though we had arrived the previous night the combination of darkness and our sheer exhaustion had prevented us from exploring and appreciating the magic of the place we had spent an entire day traveling to arrive at. Excitement broke through the fog of sleepiness as we set our eyes on the landscape in the light of the slowly rising sun. A wave of energy crashed through us when we heard the sloth mother and baby had been spotted. Enthusiasm continued as brightly colored birds were discovered and a delicious breakfast feast was laid out, including a fresh tropical fruit salad.
We ambled about, looking at the classrooms, the luscious plants, and the various leisure spots- a covered deck overlooking the sloth tree, hanging rope chairs, a hammock. We began to meet the various staff, exchanging names, attempting to relay appreciation that was still forming.
After we had all ceased our wandering long enough to eat some breakfast we piled back into the vans we had gotten out of all to recently, eating empanadas as we rode for a refreshingly short time. We piled out of the vans and spent a few moments wandering around a gift shop full of items made of local stones and woods- jewelry, statues, masks. After a few moments we were joined by Alfonz, who owned the shop and started the river walk project which we were basing our English curriculums on. He guided us to the the start point of the river walk- a sugar cane press.
We took turns turning the press and pushing the sugar cane through and were rewarded with large cups of sweet sugar cane juice. Energized by the rush of sugar we began our walk. Before making it into the forest we walked through farm land. Alfonz showed us the "ornamental plants" grown there, explaining the process of growing the plants for export to Europe, cutting rings of bark around higher sections of the plants and painting them with root hormone in order to produce plants with roots that had never touched the local soil.
As we continued through the land worked by man we asked questions about local agriculture, Costa Rican environmental policy, and issues of environmental pollution in the area and were met with detailed answers. Finally, we made our way into the forest. Looking up we saw a high canopy dropping vines down all around us. Circling us foreign vegetation sprang from the ground- leaves so different from those Vermont, bright flowers in strange shapes, and large seed pods that appeared to be art projects or delicate baskets. The floor was populated with ant colonies of various types, some of them crawling up our ankles to bite us and some carrying leaves up and down their created highways. There were bright and fluorescent frogs so appealing that it was a challenge to remember that they were poisonous and we shouldn't pick them up.
When we reached the first section of river we observed fish and what at first seemed to be some type of insect, but in fact was a group of dark frogs so small that at least a dozen would fit on a single fingernail. Some of us snapped pictures ferociously while others hurled question after question with a curiosity that could not be quenched.
We left Marlboro at about 4:30 AM in a van, and made it to the Airport in Boston by about 7. Our two groups split up, mine was with
Bev, Ben, Louisa, Mason, and Ariel. We got through bag check and security without many problems, and then we sat at the gate in the airport until our plane started boarding at 9:15. The flight wasn't too long, and when we touched down in Atlanta, everyone was glad for a chance to stretch their legs. We took a cool underground shuttle to our gate, and then we stayed there for the next five hours. Some of us spent this time studying Chinese, some played sudou or went on the computer, others read. We all ate at some point. It was an excruciatingly long wait. We finally boarded the plane at about 5:35.
The flight was about four hours, and most of us sat separately. When we got on the ground in San Jose, we were all pretty exhausted, but our travel day wasn't over yet. We got through visitor's immigration and customs fairly quickly, meeting up with the other group after getting our bags. Outside of the airport, we met Roger and our drivers, who helped us all pack our bags into two vans. Then we were on the road. My car was ahead of the other and after about an hour and fifteen minutes of driving, we found ourselves at the top of a mountain in fog too thick to continue driving in. We pulled over and waited for the other van, who was following someone with fog lights. The fog was amazing, but it was nice to be on our way again. It took a little more than an hour to get to Centro Espiral Mana, but I think everyone was very happy to be out of the car when we got here.
Everyone was exhausted, but the other van arrived shortly, and Roger opened up the kitchen for us (it was about 12 Costa Rican time, 2 AM Marlboro time.) We all had rice and beans, and then Emma showed us our rooms, and we all went to sleep very, very quickly; very much looking forward to our first day in Costa Rica.
12 students from Marlboro College came to our school to teach English to local children and young adults. Their project is to teach "Environmental English" so that at the end of the 8 day course the students can take a hike and talk about nature (in English) and do activities on the trail that help them develop their awareness of tropical river ecology. Our town, San Isidro de Peñas Blancas has created the River walk to raise awareness of environmental issues affecting our area.