Monday, June 29, 2009

From Service to Surfing

June 29, 2009

The Girl Scouts Service Challenge course finally gets a chance to relax. The arrived in Manuel Antonio today - a beautiful beach on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It is here where they will be learning to surf, learning some yoga moves, and enjoying a beautiful pool in the middle of rainforest gardens.

Perfect timing.

The girls just came from a 7-day hike through the southern rainforests of Costa Rica. They're ready to relax. Their days at homestays were filled with hard work: sugar cane production at the Lopez's, carrying loads of wood and wire to build a garden at Orlando's, and banana tree planting. Some of their highlights? Eating lunch on banana leaves. No bad allergies. Learning about banana farming. Playing soccer in the mud with the Piedras Blancas villagers.

On Wednesday they'll be back here at base ready to enjoy their last day touring through the city of San Jose on Thursday.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Busy in Panama

June 26th, 2009

Our Multi Element and Reef & Rainforest courses are living it up in Panama! Not only did they get another stamp on their passports, but they have been:




Que suerte! They still have a few more days to enjoy these activities. It's hard to think they're learning leadership and lifesaving skills in a fun environment like this, no?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Busy On Course - 25 de Junio

Check out what your friends and family are doing!

The Girl Scouts Catching Waves had their first full day in Playa Avellanas today learning to surf. They reported great weather, and their instructor, Dunia, said they are all doing well standing up on their boards!

15-day Multi Element and Reef & Rainforest ran the Pacuare early Tuesday morning, and directly after headed for the Panamanian border. Destination? Solarte. Once there, they spent the day snorkeling.

The Summer Semester and Spanish Emphasis courses hiked from Silencio to Brujo on Tuesday then to Hernan's village where they have been tree climbing, planting banana trees, milking cows, then making cheese. It may be a busy day for them, but they are getting a full experience of remote Costa Rican life.

The Girl Scouts Service Challenge group hiked from La Danta to La Flecha today, arriving at Orlando's house tomorrow where they will FINALLY get a shower! They will also plant banana trees, play some "futbol", drink fresco, and meet the local chickens and pigs.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Felicidades, New Instructors!

Costa Rica Rainforest Outward Bound School would like to officially welcome our four new instructors, all hand-selected from the Spring 2009 Leadership Semester course! Right now they are all working diligently with students on course:

Zach Allen
Age: 18
Hometown: Portsmouth, RI
Current Course: 15-Day Multi Element
Fact: Zach has an incredibly thick Rhode Island accent, resembling that of Peter Griffin from Family Guy.

Olivia Brockmeier
Age: 18
Hometown: Pensacola, FL
Current Course: Girl Scouts Service Challenge
Fact: Olivia is a CRROBS expert! She and her brother both went on different CRROBS courses in 2008.

Shannon Gallant
Age: 22
Hometown: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Current Course: Girl Scouts Service Challenge
Fact: Shannon has a dangerous addiction to chocolate: she LOVES it, but she's allergic to it.

Alex Cook
Age: 18
Hometown: Mt. Pleasant, SC
Current Course: 15-Day Multi Element
Fact: Alex assimilated well to the Tico culture when he allowed Scott, our office intern, to give him a Faux-Hawk.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Course Updates- 23 de Junio

It is high season here at CRROBS and our students are all over the country experiencing the best of what Costa Rica has to offer.

Where are they?

Girl Scouts Service Challenge is hiking in Naranjo Abajo, by the Naranjo river in the San Jose highlands.

Summer Semester and Spanish Emphasis are starting their cross country trek from the Pacific to the Caribbean coast!

Multi Element and Reef & Rainforest left the coast and will be arriving at our San Jose base today. They'll need to get their rest, because they have a full day rafting the Pacuare River tomorrow.

Girl Scouts Catching Waves participants are all arriving today. They'll head over to the Manuel Antonio base camp early tomorrow to get in the water and start their surf lessons.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Course Updates - 22 de Junio

Pay attention, because we have siete courses coming, going, or on their way...

Multi Element and Reef & Rainforest are down at our Manuel Antonio beach base on the southern Pacific coast learning to surf. In between catching waves, they'll get some pics of sloths, monkeys, iguanas, and ctenosaurs due to the nearby, well-preserved National Park.

Girl Scouts Service Challenge spent the weekend rock climbing and working with the local scouts here in Costa Rica, and today they headed to the Rio Picuare for an exciting day of rafting in one of the best rafting locations in the world.

Youth Business Initiative headed to the airport this morning after a busy day in San Jose city yesterday. This group of mature young adults will start the next school year as mentors for younger inner-city teens. Congrats on your accomplishments, YBI.

Summer Semester and Spanish Emphasis arrived yesterday! The first day of their long course began today with CPR training. Tomorrow they start their grueling cross-country trek.

Girl Scouts Catching Waves flies into San Jose tomorrow! They'll head to the beach on Wednesday to begin their surf training and become beach babes!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Grigri? Handog? Gumby? Chock? Huh?

If you don't know what these are, ask a Girl Scout. They're at the climbing wall today learning terms such as these, before helping other Costa Rican Girl Scouts this weekend. After today's long training session, they would tell you:

grigri (n.) - A belay device designed to be easy to use and safer for beginners because it is self-locking under load.
handog (n.) - While lead climbing or on top rope, to hang on the rope or a piece of protection for a rest.
gumby (n.) - An inexperienced (or unsafe) climber.
chock (n.) - A mechanical device, or a wedge, used as anchors in cracks.

I can't take credit for knowing all of these terms, either. Because even while working at CRROBS, it can be difficult learning the technicalities of every outdoor sport we have. If you want to brush up on your terms and win a game of "Are You Smarter Than a Girl Scouter", try Wikipedia.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Celebrities Invade Costa Rica

There has been an invasion of epic proportions (or at least drama-filled proportions) reported in Costa Rica. A troupe of famous personalities arrived in Costa Rica two weeks ago and was transported to the dense jungle in Sarapiqui for Hollywood’s latest reality show, “I’m a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here!” The contestants include a list of “celebrities” who are competing against one another to stay in the jungle till the end without getting voted out by the American audience. The original cast includes Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag (from MTV’s The Hills), the comic duo Frangela, retired basketball player John Salley, Janice Dickinson (from The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency), Lou Diamon Phelps (actor), Patti Blagojevich (wife of the former Illinois governor), retired pro wrestler Torri Wilson, Sanjaya (American Idol finalist) and Stephen Baldwin (actor). After Spencer and Heidi (referred to collectively as “Speidi”) left the show (for the 3rd time), they were replaced by Stephen’s brother, Daniel Baldwin and Heidi’s sister, Holly Montag.

The first things I, as an avid (or not so much) viewer of the show and employee of Costa Rica Outward Bound, noticed was the likeness between the celebrities’ experiences and those of students who come on Costa Rica Outward Bound courses. Apart from the obvious camping-in-the-wilderness factor there are many other similarities that come up. There are challenges and fears that the participants must face and overcome. There’s a “lost chamber” where participants did a solo-like activity. The celebrities’ diet primarily consists of the basic beans and rice that anyone who has been to Costa Rica knows as common fair. Other resemblances between the show and OB courses include the open space time for group discussions (which resulted in tears for several of the celebrities), the interviews (in which the celebrities talk about their “highs and lows”) and their roles (there’s a set “camp leader” or “cacique” and a different individual who is responsible for cooking and cleaning everyday or, in Costa Rica Outward Bound language, “concinero” and “trapo”).

Most striking however are the parallels of interpersonal relationships and leadership. Put ten very different people together in a situation in which they have to live and work together as a team for an extended period of time and you’re bound to have conflicts. On course, said conflict may arise from a student who doesn’t want to be here or doesn’t want to do his/her share of the work. On “I’m a Celeb” the conflict is very similar, most often manifest in the personality of Janice Dickinson, who conveniently falls ill anytime there’s a group activity or work to be done.

Each of the celebrities also represents individual personalities that can be seen on course. Sanjaya is the savage warrior who finds himself in his true element in the jungle. Speidi are the ones who thrive on attention and drama. Lou is the leader who strives to keep peace and positive moral among the others. Patti is the one who has come to separate herself from the problems she’s dealing with at home. The Baldwin brothers are the ones who are here because they had nothing better to do for the summer. John, Torrie and Holly are the ones who are here to get the most out of their experience and refuse to be brought down by the others.

The redemptive factor of the show is that money will be donated in the name of the winning celebrity to the charity of his or her choice.

It will be interesting to see the other developments and resemblances that come forth in the upcoming weeks of the show. And who knows, maybe we can work out a deal with NBC for next season! “Celebrities vs. Students” anyone? Maybe “Celebrities vs. Lopezes”?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dia del Arbol - 15 de Junio

Tree Day, June 15th

Today, on June 15th, the world celebrates Tree Day. On this day, everyone is encouraged to plant a tree to help the environment. It may not be a heavily-publicized day in many parts of the world, but Costa Rica places a lot of value in this day, as they do for all environmental issues and events.

Events included:
-Hipermas (the Costa Rican Wal-mart) promoted a large recycling program, sponsored by Kimberly Clark.
-Numerous schools sent their students to local parks to plant trees.

So do your part, and plant a new tree! Happy Tree Day!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Courses Galore!

June 11, 2009

Base is getting busy!

Today, unfortunately, we say good-bye to our 24-Day Multi-Element course. They will head into San Jose city proper today to see some sites and do some souvenir shopping. Tonight they have their final dinner together before flying home tomorrow. One students said of the experience:

"I learned that testing your fears is important in slowly overcoming them."

On Sunday we have THREE groups flying in, for a total of 20 students! The first group, Youth Business Initiative from D.C. Metro, will be here for nine days with 10 students, led by our very own Ryan Teremy, Felipe Lopez Salazar, Joe Ewing, Zach Allen, and Alex Cook.
YBI helps inner-city, at-risk youth through a mentor system, and they are using their CRROBS' experience to train next year's senior leaders for YBI's Mentor Program.

The second and third fly-ins, of 10 students total, are our Reef & Rainforest and Multi-Element. Led by Carlos Grenados, Kendra Obom, and 3-4 trainees, this group will head to Porton Rojo on Monday to begin a 3-day hike.

Bienvenidos a todos!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New Kid on the Base

Meet Scott Brown.

Age: 22
Height: 5'10"
Eye Color: hazel
Alma Mater: Brevard College
Major: Wilderness Leadership & Experiential Education
Hometown: Charlotte, NC

Scott came to us on Tuesday, May 19th, and has had quite an experience since he got here. We helped acquaint him with the staff here in the office, where he remained for only two days before going on a course. He felt right at home again on the Rio General with 24-Day Multi-Element and Leadership due to his background in kayaking.

Here are 10 interesting facts about our new Scott:

1. Enjoys all outdoor sports especially kayaking, mountain biking, dirt biking, rock climbing, fishing, diving, backpacking, and disc golf
2. Loves to design and build
3. Holds a cranial titanium plate, including five screws keeping it together
4. WFR (Wilderness First Responder) certified*
5. Enjoys introducing friends to new outdoor sports and activities
6. Learning Spanish
7. Earned 1st degree black belt in Taekwodo in 2005
8. Hobby of candid photography
9. Favorite band: Dire Straits
10. Just learned tennis, already styling the sweatband and knee-high socks

*to see more on WFR, look in our May blog archive

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Circle of... Biodiversity

June 8, 2009

News flash:

Costa Rica has oil, but it has banned drilling.

About two months ago, a New York Times author, Thomas Friedman, came down to Costa Rica for an eco-tour, and he brought back with him better understanding of how to operate a country's environmental systems. One of these guidelines includes: no drilling of oil. He wrote about the system, called "payment for environmental services," in which everyone pays for using nature. No action taken involving the country's natural resources goes unexamined. The reason? ONE minister handles every area of nature: water, mines, energy, and environment - something no other country has ever done.

This is an important new "holistic strategy," as Friedman calls it. If all of the responsibility for these environmental factors falls in the hands of one department, the advantage is having a point-of-view monitoring how these systems work together. In doing this, the minister sees the effect that one resource's restrictions/allowances have on other resources. Implementation of this break-through strategy stemmed from the conclusion that all usage of nature must be paid for. He clarifies "So if a chemical factory sells tons of fertilizer but pollutes a river — or a farm sells bananas but destroys a carbon-absorbing and species-preserving forest — this is not honest growth."

CRROBS has adopted this mentality in its organizational processes, too. For example, the staff's food stipend must never be used for beef. Reason being, if we eat beef, we aid the deforestation of Costa Rica since cow pastures need a lot of land. Our relationships with our homestay families also reflects this ambition in the way that we help fund their self-sufficiency. The payments they receive go towards hydro-electric systems, good plumbing, and healthy farms. With these, they do not have to deforest in order to

To read more of the article, go to:

Friday, June 5, 2009

5 de junio: Día Mundial del Ambiente

June 5th: World Environment Day (WED)

Today is an important day for Costa Rica. Because of its world-renowned biodiversity and abundance of natural resources, any special days or events related to the environment get a lot of attention here in la selva. And since WED is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action, Costa Rica leverages it as a day to take stock on its own environmental status. One such example are EARTH University students - here in Costa Rica - who designated today to be their "Day Without Cars". The university teaches its students how to implement agricultural techniques to make profit, but preserve and respect the environment at the same time. It's mission is to promote sustainable development and eco-sensitive agriculture in the developing world.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has a special website where friends of the environment can learn more about keeping the world healthy, clean, and sustainable. This website is helpful for learning how to help the environment in your own way, as well as learning about the current issues around the world. Today's tip is

When you must have a paper copy, make sure you default your printer option to use both sides!

Or, you can also get daily updates by following UNEP on Twitter through the user name: UNEPandYou. Check these updates to do your part in helping to respect the Earth!