Monday, July 27, 2009

Panama: Undiscovered Territory

There's more than a canal in Panama?

Spanish Emphasis, Reef & Rainforest, and Summer Semester courses sure are experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Panama, enjoying all the hidden treasures it has to offer.

After a weekend of snorkeling in the island chain of Bocas del Toro (a Panamanian province), they are playing soccer with the local kids living in Solarte as well as doing a city tour of Bocas Town. Even more unique is their tour to a dolphin caye where there are typically three dolphins living and swimming with visitors. If that is not enough excitement, the group is renting bikes to ride to a grotto and where they can walk through some caves in the area.

But as they say, all good things must come to an end. Reef & Rainforest will return to base on Thursday for their last day, including a city tour of San Jose. The other two courses (Summer Semester and Spanish Emphasis) will split from R&R to do a three-day homestay in the beautiful, mountainous town of Volcán. So while they have to say adios to Panama and the memorable activities they did there, the homestays are commonly the students' favorite part of their time with CRROBS.

Panamanian sunning or Costa Rican living? We'll see what the students prefer in the end.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Girl Scouts Make Tamales

Yesterday was the longest these 13-14-year-olds had ever spent cooking, preparing, and waiting for dinner. That's what happens when your meal of choice is the Costa Rican tamale.

We didn't know what time it was (because Outward Bound's policy is that no student wear a watch), but most of the day was devoted to tamale activity:
  • Morning (after breakfast): used machetes and knives to cut big, broad leaves from banana trees
  • Afternoon, hour #1: boiled meat; cut up banana leaves into long strips; used meat broth to make the corn meal paste; boiled rice; prepared fire to boil leaves in large pot
  • Afternoon, hour #2: rolled and tied banana leaves; boiled rolled leaves for one hour
  • Afternoon, hour #3: cleaned and cut potatoes, red peppers, carrots, and cilantro
  • Before dusk: removed banana leaves from pot, untied them, unrolled them, and dried them; rolled corn meal paste into balls
  • Dusk: on criss-crossing banana strips, smushed one ball of corn meal; layed meat, rice, and vegetables on banana leaves; folded leaves corner-to-corner and tied rope around each tamale
  • Evening: boiled tamales for two hours
  • Night: opened tamales to let cool for fifteen minutes; then eat! Buen provecho!

The girls had a great time interacting with our local Tico neighbors who taught them how to do every step of the process (in Spanish). By the way the girls chowed down on the tamales, we'd have to call it a success.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Groups Are Changin'

18 Julio, 2009

Unfortunately, we said "adios" to over 60 students (15-Day Multi Element, Catching Waves #2, Rainforest River & Reef #1, 15-Day Reef & Rainforest, and 15-Day Surf Intensive) last week. Hopefully they'll remember the time they had here and what they learned. The Facebook Fan Page has albums and videos of their courses. (If they're not posted yet, they will be!) They had a lot of great things to say upon departure last week, such as:

"I found that I am capable of more than I even thought possible and I am thankful to know I am able to do it."

"I had the time of my life, and I'll never forget this place."

In the upcoming weeks, we hope our new groups feel the same way:
15-Day Multi Element (June 17): went waterfall rappelling today, leave for hiking tomorrow in Santa Maria de Dota
Instructors: Shannon and Carlos
15-Day Reef & Rainforest (June 17): left our base yesterday to hike La Danta today and La Flecha tomorrow
Instructors: Diego and Pablo
15-Day Surf Intensive (June 17): left for the beach in Playa Avellanas yesterday
Instructors: Carlos and Zach
Girl Scouts Catching Waves #3: leave for Playa Avellanas tomorrow to begin surf lessons
Instructors: Dunia and Amy
Instructors: Mauren, Olivia, Lucia and Yisel

And let's not forget our super students, who have already been in Costa Rica a while with CRROBS! We hear they're having a great time, and they're sad it's coming to an end in the upcoming month:

Summer Semester: already trekked the whole country from Caribbean to Pacific, and now they're in Manuel Antonio to surf; see their update video from when they had a transition day at base last week:
Instructors: Donna and Ormidas
Spanish Emphasis: met up with Summer Semester in Manuel Antonio to surf after four days of white water rafting last week
Instructors: Donna and Ormidas
30-Day Surf Intensive: met up with 15-Day Surf in Playa Avellanas yesterday to begin surfing
Instructors: Carlos and Zach
24-Day Multi Element (A): return from surfing in Manuel Antonio tomorrow
Instructors: Ryan and Santiago
24-Day Multi Element (B): they're busy with local Costa Ricans (aka Ticos) at their homes -possibly milking cows, playing soccer, harvesting sugar cane, cooking and playing in the river; the homestays include: the Lopez's yesterday, Hernan's today and Rancho Tinamu tomorrow
Instructors: Owen and Pablo

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hands-On Spanish

Learning Spanish while zip-lining? Rafting? Surfing? Hiking? Rappelling? Kayaking?

Spanish is getting to be a little more fun to learn.

Costa Rica Outward Bound created a 30-day Spanish Emphasis course after more and more Spanish high school and college classes (and individual Spanish students) signed up for CRROBS courses to be immersed in the language and culture. Tico instructors provide day-to-day conversation and lessons, and students spend quality time with families at the homestays. The next course begins July 23rd, and we are still getting new applicants.

Milandra, a student from last year's Spanish Emphasis course said:

"I felt like a sponge the entire course; soaking up the beauty of the culture and country, learning Spanish and learning about myself. I don't want to go home. I realized how little is required to be happy. Living so simply was eye-opening, and in the end, much more rewarding. It's different from any "camp" you will ever participate in; these are once-in-a-lifetime experiences that will stay with you and contribute to your life."

If you want to read more about the Spanish Emphasis itinerary, costs, and benefits, click here:, but keep in mind the next course starts July 23rd.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Veranito de San Juan

St. John's Little Summer

Typically around June 21st (summer solstice) of every year in the Southern Hemisphere, the Veranito de San Juan reaches Costa Rica. But this year it's late, and we are enjoying a break from rain in the middle of July.

Our rainy season (or winter, as locals call it) lasts from May to November. Mornings are sunny, and rain begins in early afternoon. It's also a little warmer.

During a veranito, however, this rainy season takes a break for about two weeks. The temperature gets a little cooler, and the sun is out. Basically, it's the same weather we experience from December to April during the Costa Rican summer.

Luckily for our nine courses now, they are experiencing a lot less rain than usual. Our instructors reported happy, dryer camping trips. Pura vida!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Breaking News, Mae

To keep you in tune with all things "Costa Rica" (if you are experiencing this place through your child, brother, sister or friend); it's important to teach you this word:

mae (pronounced "my") n.: coloquial term for a friend, such as the American "brother", "man", or "dude". Example: "Que pasa, mae?" means "What's happenin, man?"

Now that we have that cleared up, let's move on to the most recent news.

Kendra, the instructor for our 15-Day Multi Element, just came back with her group from rafting in the Pacuare today! They're busy in their dorm showering and cleaning up right now, and they spend their last day tomorrow doing some touring of the city.

Owen's and Pablo's 24-Day Multi Element group had two students at base today who recounted some of the exciting adventures they've experienced since they arrived June 30th. See this video on our YouTube page:

Kathleen, our Communications Director, just returned from Avellanas beach after spending five days with the Girl Scouts Catching Waves, and she reports a few fun details: the girls loved fishing (and three of the girls caught fish!), they woke up a few days at 4:45am to surf, ALL girls have gone out past the break to surf (a VERY advanced surfing level!), they went running a few times on the beach, and they taught each other to make useful items out of natural beach debris (including tables and lawn chairs). Oh, and Kathleen adds "The girls loved the soccer game against the locals of Santa Cruz. We lost. I won't tell you what the score was." But we finally got it out of her: 8-2. They return to base tomorrow for rafting on Wednesday.

Scott, our Program Assistant, just returned from a few days in Playa Hermosa with the Spanish Emphasis group. He was happy to report PERFECT weather as well as a successful mission to help nest turtle eggs. To further explain this: poachers find them during this time of year and try to sell them, so the purpose of their experience was to rescue these eggs and put them in a secure place where they could mature and hatch safely.

As for the rest of them:

Girl Scouts Rainforest River and Reef #1 (with Shannon) is coming back to base today! They will get to raft tomorrow, then do a city tour on Wednesday. The Girl Scouts Rainforest River and Reef #2 course (with Olivia) are surfing in Manuel Antonio on the southern Pacific coast. Summer Semester is hiking, hiking, and hiking. They went from Valle Escondido on Saturday to Ante Cuesta yesterday to La Cruz today. Lastly, our Surf Intensive courses are surfing in picturesque Tulin right where the River Tulin empties into the ocean. Ryan and Santiago have led our other 24-Day Multi Element to the Lopez's (Santiago's family!) in Piedras Blancas, a remote village that takes at least two hours by foot to reach from the closest town.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Voted the Happiest Place

Recently, The New Economics Foundation (an independent British research team) did a study of 143 nations on this planet (comprising 99% of the world's population) to find just what populations are the most content.

The winner?

HINT: This country won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for trying to help end civil wars in several Central American countries.

HINT: This country has the highest life satisfaction.

HINT: This country has the 2nd highest average life expectancy (behind Candada).

HINT: This country produces 82% of its electricity through hydropower (water-generated).

(drumroll, please...)

Costa Rica.

Most tourists come down here to relax on beautiful beaches, or test their nerves in an outdoor adventure, or take a picture of an exotic animal. For CRROBS students, they come here to do these things as WELL as improve themselves (their minds, leadership, and whole self). But most people do not think: "I'm going to Costa Rica to learn contentment from the local families."

What part of course do students report to have liked most while on course? What's the activity students most want to spend additional time doing? Homestays. Homestays. Homestays.

It is at the homestays where students see how happy a simple life can be. To quote one of our Service Challenge students, Becky Balk:

"I learned that life is so much more than just material things, and how truly insignificant things that I consider necessary are to my life"

To read more about the Happy Planet Index, see:
-CNN's article: "Costa Rica tops list of 'happiest' nations"
-NEF's official study: The Happy Planet Index
-La Nacion's article (San Jose, Costa Rica newspaper): "Costa Rica es el país más feliz del mundo" (Costa Rica is the happiest country in the world"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

CRROBS Students Invading Costa Rica

From Playa Avellanas with Girl Scouts Catching Waves to La Suiza with the Spanish Emphasis and Summer Semester groups; CRROBS has adventurous students surfing, rafting, tree climbing and camping all over Costa Rica.

On the Pacific Coast, where the surf is getting good, we have five groups learning to surf:

1-2) 15-Day Surf Intensive and 30-Day Surf Intensive just arrived at our beautiful Manuel Antonio base (see photo below) today, returning from a coastal island for three days.

3) Girl Scouts Catching Waves is still up on the Pacific coast on Playa Avellanas with Dunia and Amy, who have prepared a lot of fresh and healthy meals for them this week!

4-5) 15-Day Multi Element and Reef & Rainforest are about to also arrive to our Manuel Antonio base (see photo below) after hiking to highly-elevatedRancho Tinamu yesterday and staying with the Lopez's (see photo at bottom of post) in Piedras Blancas on Tuesday.

The other six groups hiked today after keeping busy with outdoor adventures recently:

1)24-Day Multi Element (Santiago y Kendra) just hiked from Puerto Rojo to Domer to La Danta today. Whew.

2) 24-Day Multi Element (Owen y Pablo) were rafting earlier this week, but switched over to hiking yesterday in the small fishing village of San Gerardo de Dota. They continue on to Providencia tomorrow.

3) Spanish Emphasis and Summer Semester have been beefing up their Spanish and their legs across Costa Rica! Yesterday they hiked from Pejibaye to La Suiza today. Tomorrow they'll make their way to Bajo Pacuare.

4) Girl Scouts Rainforest River & Reef (group B) finally headed out to hike today after tree climbing on Tuesday (here in Tres Rios) and rafting on Wednesday in the Rio Orosi. They make their way to Orlando's homestay (see photo below) tomorrow, where they will be planting banana trees, playing soccer, making local food, and/or milking cows.

5) Girl Scouts Rainforest River & Reef (group A) are getting dirtier day-by-day out in the rainforest. They're on day #3 of hiking, after sleeping at Orlando's (see photo above) last night (see #4 above for activities at Orlando's) and hiking to the Lopez's (see photo below) today. The Lopez's, a family of 18 kids, lives in a remote, self-sufficient village in Piedras Blancas. There, the girls will either farm sugar cane, waterfall rappel, milk cows, and/or take a swim in the river.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Busiest Week of the Year… So Far

CRROBS just concluded our busiest week of the year since 2009 began. Not only did we have four groups flying in, two groups flying out, and two groups on course; but this was the same week the City of San Jose decided to tear up our little dirt road leading up to our base in the upper canopy of the rainforest. It made our June 30th fly-in quite complicated, but we managed.

We would like to say we’re relaxing this weekend, but we must wait until August. Today we have some re-supply trips for our groups on course, and 41 Girl Scouts come on Monday! Let the fun continue.

Among eight courses, you can expect that this week someone you know was: surfing, hungry, hiking, swimming, tired, making food, camping, snorkeling, touring San Jose, packing up, learning Spanish, shopping at the market, exhausted, or taking pictures of animals.

Here’s the course break-down:
(For information about each group, click on their course name which will lead you to a detailed summary of their course in our CRROBS Facebook Fan page.)

We welcomed four new courses on Tuesday the 30th:
30-Day Surf Intensive led by Carlos Diablos & Zach
15-Day Surf Intensive led by Carlos Diablos & Zach
24-Day Multi Element led by Ryan & Santiago and Owen & Pablo
15-Day Multi Element led by Carlos Granados & Kendra

Our first two Girl Scout courses flew out on Friday the 3rd after 2-3 eventful weeks here:
Catching Waves led by Dunia & Amy
Service Challenge led by Shannon, Olivia, Angie, and Mauren

Still on course we have
Spanish Emphasis led by Donna & Hormidas (Michael left due to an injury)
Summer Semester led by Donna & Hormidas

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Catching Waves with Girl Scouts

July 1, 2009

Our Marketing Coordinator, Debbie Mayer, just got to spend a week with the Girl Scout Catching Waves Course in Playa Avellanas on the Nicoya Peninsula. The girls are all having a great time camping on the beach and learning to surf. In addition to surfing they are also making jewelry; learning how waves are formed; and getting their fill of papayas, mangoes, and pineapples. After spending the afternoon cleaning up the local schoolyard, the girls were invited to play the local women's soccer team the next day. While our girls lost, they had a great time playing in front of a cheering crowd. They'll be back on base today to get ready for a full day tomorrow of rafting and touring San Jose.

Need to see it with your own eyes? Here's some proof of the great times they're having:

Click here to see the full album of photos on Facebook.