Monday, December 20, 2010

What we have in common with Christopher Columbus

In the spirit of the holidays and the arrival of the New Year, let's get retrospective. And by retrospective, I'm referring specifically to the year 1492. Yeah, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Remember when, in his unparalleled search for the Indies, he was credited with making the unparalleled discovery of the Americas? Historians would later remark that it was a rather serendipitous finding.

We here at Costa Rica Outward Bound support serendipity, especially when it's followed by adventures. That's why last week Serendipity Adventures was on base training our instructors, providing them with information about current best practices in the field.

In order to understand the significance of their presence, let's take a gander at their credentials, shall we?

+ Rated by National Geographic Adventure magazine as one of The Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.

+ Listed in Outside Magazine as offering one of the 30 Greatest Trips. Ever.

+ Any one of their testimonials.

Needless to say, they've established themselves as a premier private adventure tourism company. Although they offer very different types of travel adventure activities, they have received such high accolades because, quite simply, they do some amazing work - the type of work which we respect and seek to learn from. Being resourceful, as well as having prior employee connections, we brought them here to teach our guides the same survival skills that have fostered such a renowned reputation around their own adventure travel organization.

Our already strong record just did the equivalent of an entire safety workout with the Serendipity Adventures staff as our personal trainers.

If you want to flex your wilderness first aid muscles and learn about outdoor safety, be sure to check out our Leadership Course for next year - you can get all sorts of professional outdoor certifications, including the Technical Rope Rescuer Operator  (TRRO) seen here. But don't wait for too long, they're already almost full.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy Holidays, Version: Tic.O

If you subscribe to our newsletter and caught our recent December issue, you likely read the blurb about Costa Rica's grandiose end-of-the-year celebration, the Festival de la Luz (links to the Costa Rican Municipal page). Although it provided a good basis for understanding the premise of the Fesitval de la Luz, you may have missed out on the event firsthand. Here, however, you will find a gringo's review complete with cultural observations (from the traditional to the outlandish) and why interpreting its meaning was about as easy as opening a baby coconut (without the skilled instructor tutorial, of course).

For those who don't regularly read our exciting newsletters, I'll briefly provide the abridged version of what was covered regarding the festival. Here are the pertinent facts:

- Christmas is a big deal in Costa Rica and consequently celebrated on a large scale. The Festival de la Luz is a huge parade intended to ignite the fire that is the national holiday spirit.
-  Much like an American parade, on display are flamboyant floats, marching bands, and of course, a strong corporate presence. Roughly a million Ticos line the streets to partake in the festivities as they drape San Jose in glimmering tinsel.
- Marking the 15th anniversary, this year's theme was "Toys and Games of Yesteryear," which was moderately followed at best. Maybe you'll see what we mean.

With routes altered to accommodate the redirected flow of traffic, we stepped down from the bus which was brimming with animated Ticos. After finding a steady wireless connection from which to send live tweets (if you follow @CROutwardBound on Twitter, you could have been there with us!), we were greeted by the smell of delicious street foods, the sight of every imaginable variation of blinking light-up toy, and the entrepreneurial Costa Rican selling footstools for a better view. Sometimes they just seem to know exactly how to satisfy demand, because those things were selling like our Girl Scout Courses before high season. Some of the children were a little more resourceful with their arrangements, as they preferred the seemingly cozy rod iron window frame.

Upon settling in amongst the many young and publicly affectionate couples, we readied our cameras and waited for the fiesta to really begin. The first float wasn't really a float at all so much as a glorified Toyota advertisement. Five Yaris's later, a horde of Honda motorcycles rumbled down Avenida Dos, revving the commercial engines of the parade. Eventually, the festival lived up to it's name as big, light-adorned floats crawled along brightly announcing their arrival. Most were accompanied by local marching bands, whose repertoire, we should mention, had no shortage of Lady Gaga renditions. P-p-p-poker faces removed, here are a couple of our favorite floats:

 And true to Costa Rican fashion:

All in all, the Festival de la Luz was a great time, despite its lack of proper theme representation - based on the floats, we thought "Latin Disneyland on Wheels" would have been slightly more accurate. If you happen to be in San Jose this time next year, though, it is definitely worth checking out and a lot of fun.

From Costa Rica, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Allow me to introduce myself

As the new Social Media Coordinator for Costa Rica Outward Bound, I wanted to properly introduce myself since I'll be managing our social networking platforms, including Your Hanashita. Having just graduated from the University of Washington with a marketing degree and an emphasis on international business, I'm excited to bring our followers updates about what's going on here in Costa Rica and to strengthen our interactive online communities.

Although I've already traveled a bit throughout Central America, my journeys were far too short-lived and I definitely plan on exploring as much of Costa Rica as possible. What's great about working here is that visiting other parts of the country is actually encouraged! So while I'm off surfing for the weekend and improving my Spanish, I'll also be constantly trying to create content that is valuable to you as a reader.

As a unique experiential learning organization nestled in the cloud forest, we've got plenty to report and even more to share so if there is anything you would specifically be interested in reading or learning about, please don't hesitate to mention it - I'm here to learn as well, so why not do it together? I hope to be pulling together as many resources as possible in order make this space a worthwhile stop and a regular part of your browsing. 

That being said, muchas gracias for the visit and feel free to contact me anytime with questions at While this blog will be reserved for more in-depth posts, please don't forget to check us out on Twitter (username: @CROutwardBound) and Facebook ( for more regular updates. We're all about making new friends.

My name is Britten. Nice to meet you.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Costa Rican Thanksgiving

Cross cultural exchange is one of the things we value here at Costa Rica Outward Bound: both learning about someone else's culture and sharing our traditions with others.

This week is Thanksgiving, and us gringos here on base are excitedly preparing a Thanksgiving dinner that we can share with our Tico friends. However, it's not always easy to find traditional Thanksgiving ingredients here, so we've been adapting our family recipes using more easily found, local ingredients.

Here's a traditional Thanksgiving favorite from one of our staff,  with a Tico twist:

Platano Casserole with Oatmeal Cookie Topping
The original recipe called for sweet potatoes, but platanos (plantains) are much cheaper and more abundant here in Costa Rica so they have been substituted for this Tico Thanksgiving!

7 large ripe Plantains (platanos maduros)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup sweet orange marmalade
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger-root
2 teaspoons salt

For topping
Fourteen 3-inch crisp oatmeal cookies, broken into pieces (about 3 cups),
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Preheat oven to 450°F. and butter a baking dish, 13 by 9 by 2 inches. Prick potatoes and bake on a foil-lined baking sheet in middle of oven until very soft, about 1 1/2 hours. Scoop flesh into a large bowl and mash with butter, sugar, juice, marmalade, ginger-root, and salt. Spread potato mixture evenly in baking dish. Potato mixture may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring potato mixture to room temperature before proceeding.

Make topping:
In a food processor grind cookies fine. Add butter and pulse motor until mixture resembles soft cookie dough. Wrap topping in wax paper and chill until firm, about 2 hours. Topping may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Crumble topping over potato mixture and bake in middle of oven until topping is browned lightly, about 25 minutes

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How to Treat a Burn Outdoors

Costa Rica Outward Bound Fall 2010 Leadership students act out burn victim scenarios during their Wilderness First Responder training.

Burns are a common injury for outdoor aficionados. Between sun exposure, cooking accidents and campfire burns, knowing how to treat a burn can be invaluable if you plan on spending time outside.

Here are a few simple tips for treating minor burns:

1. Make sure area is safe: Remove the victim from harm's way and make sure that they are away from the burn source. In the case of a sunburn, try to get them out of the sun if possible. 

2. Cool the burn with cool running water: Do this for several minutes. Even if the skin looks fine, it could still blister later, so keep it cool. Try to use potable water, as salt water may dry out the skin.

3. Relieve the Pain: Over the counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be used to help relieve pain, but make sure the victim is not allergic and has eaten prior to giving them medication. 

4. Make sure the victim is hydrated: Burns often cause dehydration and dizziness, so be sure to give the victim water if they are able to drink it. A great natural hydration source if you're in a tropical climate such as Costa Rica is young coconut water, or as it's called in Costa Rica, agua de pipa. 

 Check out this video to learn how to open a young coconut:
Demonstration of How to Open a Young Coconut (Pipa)

Agua de pipa is full of electrolytes, potassium and other minerals such as calcium and magnesium which are great for helping to rehydrate the body and control vomiting, which may be a symptom of burn victims. Additionally, the meat from the inside of the coconut can be used as a salve on the skin to help soothe the pain from minor burns.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Expeditionary Learning: The Outward Bound Philosophy

Ten Expeditionary Learning Principles
Outward Bound was founded by Kurt Hahn, Hahn's educational philosophy was based on respect for adolescents, whom he believed to possess an innate decency and moral sense, but who were, he believed, corrupted by society as they aged. He believed that education could prevent this corruption, if students were given opportunities for personal leadership and to see the results of their own actions. He developed these 10 principles of expeditionary learning, from which the Outward Bound philosophy was born.

1. The primacy of self-discovery
Learning happens best with emotion, challenge and the requisite support. People discover their abilities, values, passions, and responsibilities in situations that offer adventure and the unexpected. In Expeditionary Learning schools, students undertake tasks that require perseverance, fitness, craftsmanship, imagination, self-discipline, and significant achievement. A teacher’s primary task is to help students overcome their fears and discover they can do more than they think they can.
2. The having of wonderful ideas
Teaching in Expeditionary Learning schools fosters curiosity about the world by creating learning situations that provide something important to think about, time to experiment, and time to make sense of what is observed.
3. The responsibility for learning
Learning is both a personal process of discovery and a social activity. Everyone learns both individually and as part of a group. Every aspect of an Expeditionary Learning school encourages both children and adults to become increasingly responsible for directing their own personal and collective learning.
4. Empathy and caring
Learning is fostered best in communities where students’ and teachers’ ideas are respected and where there is mutual trust. Learning groups are small in Expeditionary Learning schools, with a caring adult looking after the progress and acting as an advocate for each child. Older students mentor younger ones, and students feel physically and emotionally safe.
5. Success and failure
All students need to be successful if they are to build the confidence and capacity to take risks and meet increasingly difficult challenges. But it is also important for students to learn from their failures, to persevere when things are hard, and to learn to turn disabilities into opportunities.
6. Collaboration and competition
Individual development and group development are integrated so that the value of friendship, trust, and group action is clear. Students are encouraged to compete not against each other but with their own personal best and with rigorous standards of excellence.
7. Diversity and inclusion
Both diversity inclusion increase the richness of ideas, creative power, problem-solving ability, respect for others. In Expeditionary Learning schools, students investigate value their different histories talents as well as those of other communities cultures. Schools learning groups heterogeneous.
8. The natural world
direct respectful relationship with the natural world refreshes the human spirit teaches the important ideas of recurring cycles and cause and effect. Students learn to become stewards of the earth and of future generations.
9. Solitude and reflection
Students and teachers need time alone to explore their own thoughts, make their own connections, and create their own ideas. They also need time to exchange their reflections with others

10. Service and compassion
We are crew, not passengers. Students and teachers are strengthened by acts of consequential service to others, and one of an Expeditionary Learning school’s primary functions is to prepare students with the attitudes and skills to learn from and be of service to others.

Source (Wikipedia)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wilderness First Responder Training

Executive Director Jim Rowe and Instructor Phil Perez Teach CPR

Our Fall 2010 Leadership students have been here on base at Tres Ríos taking their Wilderness First Responder Training. Wilderness First Responders are individuals who are trained to respond to emergency situations in remote wilderness settings. 

Wilderness First Responder training is an 80-hour course covering topics including basic life support, responding to trauma cases, management of bone or joint related injuries (such as sprains, fractures or breaks), treatment of infectious diseases as well as transport and/or evacuation planning in injury situations. 

The first Wilderness First Responder course was taught by Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities (SOLO) in 1984. SOLO was started in New Hampshire in the 1970's to training skiers, climbers and EMT's in in the White Mountains how to provide emergency care for injured parties in remote locations during what is today referred to as "the Golden Hour". Throughout the next decade SOLO developed and taught Wilderness First Aid courses and Wilderness EMT Programs for organizations such as Outward Bound. In 1984 they collaborated with a new organization called Wilderness Medical Associates to create the Wilderness First Responder program, and offered the first course at an Outward Bound site.

Today, Wilderness First Responder training is offered by many organizations, from the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), to the American Red Cross, to our very own Costa Rica Outward Bound Leadership Semester course. 

The Leadership Semester course provides training for students to become certified Wilderness First Responders, so that they can work as professionals in the outdoor industry. All Costa Rica Outward Bound Instructors are certified Wilderness First Responders (WFR), or as it is often referred to, Woofers.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Getting A Passport

Before you can travel internationally, you need to have a valid passport. There is no minimum age for getting a passport in the U.S., but everyone who travels internationally is required to have one.

Getting a passport in the U.S. is a little complicated and can be time consuming, but there are ways to expedite the process. As one of our Costa Rica Outward Bound staff recently found out, it is actually possible to get a passport same day. Here's How:

1. Make an appointment at a regional passport agency by calling 1-877-487-2778. Regional Passport agencies are present in most major cities across the country, however you will have to be able to physically appear at one if you wish to get your passport completed the same day. You must be have scheduled international travel within two weeks of the appointment, or you must need a visa within 4 weeks to be able to get an appointment at a regional agency (See Proof of Travel below for more information on this). New or replacement passport applications are only accepted in the morning, so try to get an appointment before 10am or you will not be able to get your passport the same day. If there is no appointment available through the automated system, it is worth asking to be transferred to the specific regional office which you wish to visit, as they may be able to squeeze you in even if the automated system says there are no appointments. 
2. Get together your Documents. You have to have everything ready before you get to the passport office. This will not only facilitate the process once you get there, but it will also ensure that you will not have to come back another day. Here are the things you will need:

  • A completed DS-11 form from the State Department website. This form is only for new or replacement passports, if you are renewing your passport you do not need this form.
  •  If you are replacing a lost or stolen passport, you will also need a DS-64 form, reporting your lost or stolen passport
  • Two passport photos - you can get these done at any drug store for about $10
  • Proof of citizenship. Most commonly, this is a birth certificate. You can also submit a previously issued, undamaged passport, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth (for citizens born abroad), a Naturalization Certificate or a Certificate of Citizenship. If you cannot get any of those documents, you can try to get a Secondary Proof of Citizenship, or you can do a File Search (not recommended as it costs an extra $150).
  • Identification Card. A valid Driver's License, Military or Government ID or a previously issued, undamaged passport will be fine for this portion.
  • Proof of Travel. This is the most important part for getting your passport expedited, for two reasons. (A) You cannot make an appointment at a regional passport agency unless you have scheduled travel within two weeks. (B) The passport agencies try to work around your travel schedule, which means the only way to get a passport the same day is if you have to travel the following day. This is risky, since getting your passport the same day is never a guarantee, so if something ends up not working out you might miss your travel. What many passport-expediting companies do is print out a fake travel itinerary for the clients stating that they must travel the day following their appointment. This carries moral dilemmas for some, so it is up to each individual what they chose to do. However, if you are traveling for business, it is also acceptable to submit an official letter from your employer (on letterhead, with contact information) stating your name, title, date of and reason for business travel. Such letters will be accepted in lieu of a confirmed itinerary at the passport agent's discretion. 
  • Payment. Getting an expedited passport costs an extra $60 on top of the normal passport fees. These fees are payable by major credit card, debit/check card, personal or certified check payable to the "Department of State," money order or bank draft, also payable to the "Department of State."

3. Be on time! In fact, being early is better, as they will often start letting people in up to a half an hour before their appointment, however they do not have to let you in if you are more than a half an hour late. If you are approved for a same-day passport, your passport will typically be ready between 1pm and 3pm that day, so if all goes well you could even begin traveling that night!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Río General

 Costa Rica Leadership Students Raft the Rio General

Costa Rica is known for its world-class whitewater rafting. It has many fantastic rivers for all skill levels, on which rafting trips can last anywhere from a few hours to a four or five days.

Our Water & Wave students are currently on a multiple day rafting trip on of Costa Rica's most famous rivers, the Rio General(map? or wiki). Rio General is near San Isidro, in the South West portion of the country.

The Rio General is typically a Class III to Class IV river, as defined by the International Scale of River Difficulty.

Although there are more than 1,000 miles of rapids in this huge river system, Costa Rica Outward Bound courses typically run the portion from San Isidro to El Brujo. (This is also the part that gets the most commercial attention). While this portion of the river is only about 40 miles long, it produces a different kind of whitewater experience from others of Costa Rica's rivers. Kayakers in particular love surfing the Rio General's huge waves and tackling the big holes and rapids not found in Costa Rica's other rivers.
(From Costa Rica Outdoors)

For more information on Costa Rica's other whitewater rivers, click here, and to follow the progress of our Water & Wave students, or any of our other courses, check out updates on our Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween in Costa Rica

This weekend is Halloween! Time for candy and costumes, ghosts and ghouls. While Halloween isn't a traditional Costa Rican holiday, it is quickly gaining prominence, especially among the younger Ticos. Here is a great blog post from "Eye On Costa Rica" about Halloween in CR!

Halloween….in Costa Rica. A Happy Holiday?...: "Well, it’s almost that time of year again, October 31st, when countries like the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, France and many other countries around the world celebrate Halloween. A mostly unfamiliar tradition in Costa Rica..."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Meet The Instructors: Leadership Fall 2010

Meet The Instructors for our Fall 2010 Leadership Course. For more information on our Field Staff and to see their certifications, click here.

Alexandra Cervantes, Hiking Instructor

About: Even though she was born in Nicaragua, she moved to Miami, FL, at age four, then went to Montreat College in North Carolina, where she earned a Bachelor of Environmental Studies and Outdoor Education. Since then, she moved to Nicaragua, Boulder, CO, and then back to Nicaragua where she currently works as a science teacher at the American Nicaraguan School.

Sean Marr, Lead Instructor
Hometown: Doylestown, PA

About: Before joining Costa Rica Outward Bound, Sean spent time studying in Mexico, and then teaching ESL in Pennsylvania. Although he loves traveling, Sean is very close to his family and plans to move to the states when he gets older. 

Read more: Sean's Leadership Series profile and Canopy Chronicle article

Orlando Zamora, Hiking Instructor
Hometown: Piedras Blancas, Costa Rica
About: Orlando is arguably the strongest instructor we have at Costa Rica Outward Bound. He not only built his house for his wife and five kids, but he carried their cast iron stove 15 km to his house on mountainous rainforest terrain.Last December, he carried the large water tank 12 km to the small village during a water supply service project.

Mauren Granados, Hiking Instructor
Hometown: Piedras Blancas, Costa Rica

About: Mauren is one of our toughest female instructors. She knows the rainforests of Costa Rica inside and out, and is always happy to share her knowledge. One of Mauren's surprising passions is for watching free-style motocross. When she's not instructing courses, Mauren enjoys playing soccer with people in her town.

Joe Ewing, River Instructor
Hometown: Castle Rock, CO

When he is not rafting or river kayaking, Joe is a one man show on his banjo. He has a passion for the environment, a seemingly tireless supply of energy and a gift for story-telling.  Joe is always fun to have around and is an undisputed master of the river.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New Four-Legged Additions to the Costa Rica Outward Bound Family

Bienvenidos to the two newest additions to the Costa Rica Outward Bound Family - Zoe and Rocky! They are both American Staffordshire Terriers, like "Petey the Pup" from the movie Little Rascals. Don't be alarmed though - these two dogs are the sweetest things on four legs, and are fast becoming favorites here on base! Zoe, the grey-blue pup is a year and three months, while baby Rocky is only three months. Check them out in action!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Carnaval in the Caribbean

This week is Carnaval in Limón, Costa Rica. Limón, which is a port town on the central Caribbean coast, is famous for having the largest Carnaval celebration in all of Costa Rica. It's a cultural celebration that has also become a major tourist spectacle, attracting thousands of visitors from across Costa Rica and abroad.

The week-long festival which began last Wednesday celebrates La Día de las Culturas, or the Day of Cultures. This makes its setting in Limón fitting, since the Caribbean coast is a melting pot of Spanish-Costa Rican, African and Caribbean Culture.

Leading the festivities are the comparsas, or the traditional dance groups. The term comparsas applies to any traditional dance group in any Latino part of the world, but at the Limón Carnaval the comparsas are truly the spirit of the Caribbean city during the festival celebrations.

Tico Comparsas spend the entire year leading up to Carnaval carefully combining Africa, Caribbean and Costa Rican motifs into their dances, costumes and music. They will be center stage on Saturday, when Limón Carnaval culminates with a street party un-matched anywhere in Costa Rica.

 Check out the video above to watch some comparsas in action!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Five Uses for Sarongs

On top of being a great souvenir gift, we've found that the simple Sarong can be one of the most versatile items to pack when you've got limited space. Whether you're going to the beach, hiking in the woods or heading out to eat, a sarong comes in handy in just about any situation.

1. Mosquito repellent
Tropical paradise isn't quite paradise if you're being eaten alive by minuscule blood-suckers. When you run out of insect repellent (or if you don't have space to pack enough for the whole trip) a cover up can be invaluable in keeping pesky mosquitoes at bay. Or, for those opposed to toxic warfare, protect your skin by soaking your sarong in coconut oil, then throw it over your shoulders and stay mosquito free.                                                           

2. Sunblock
Costa Rica is much closer to the equator than most people realize, and the sun shines much hotter here. Even if you're very diligent about applying and reapplying sunblock, its easy to get burned (especially when you're swimming and sweating all day). Having a light layer over your skin can help protect you from the sun and keep you from getting nicknamed "lobster-legs". Drape a sarong over exposed skin and feel immediate relief from intense rays.

3. Beach towel
Quick-drying, light-weight and easily to de-sand, a sarong is the perfect substitute for a bulky beach towel. Lay it on the sand and catch some rays, or use it to dry off on your way out of the water. Hang it up on a nearby branch or lay it in direct sunlight and your sarong will be dry and ready to pack up even before you are!
                                             Sarongs as Beach Towels

4. Yoga Mat
Yoga is a great way to stretch your muscles out and relax your body after a day of hiking, surfing or paddling. Carrying a yoga mat with you when you're backpacking however, might be a little excessive, even for the most dedicated yogis. Instead, find a flat space on the ground (or sand), lay out your sarong and OM to your heart's content. When you're finished, simply pick up and shake off your sarong, and put it back in your pack.

5. Clothing
A knot here, a tuck there, and you can go from beach to fabulous in no time flat. Sarongs can be cleverly turned into a dress, skirt or top, a fashionable neck-scarf or a head covering. They're great to wear on the way off the beach into a restaurant and transition well from day to night.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Service with SIGA

As a commitment to serve is part of our mission statement at Costa Rica Outward Bound, we are always excited about partnering with new community service organizations here in Central America. Most recently, we have partnered with SIGA Ministries to deliver school supplies to children in underdeveloped regions of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

SIGA, which stands for Servants in Grace Abounding, is a "ministry of encouragement" that aims to improve the quality of life in remote regions of Latin America.

Founded by Ruth Clowater and her husband Carlos Espinoza in 2004, SIGA Ministries, Inc. is a Virginia-based 501(c)3 in the United States with full-time outreach programs in both Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

SIGA Ministries works in remote communities to provide educational materials for children, facilitate community development projects for indigenous peoples, teach adult literacy classes and fund womens empowerment and economic initiatives that aid women entrepreneurs in starting new businesses.

Costa Rica Outward Bound Tri-Country students will be working directly with SIGA Ministries to deliver school supplied to a remote town in Costa Rica along the Sarapiqui River. The Tri-Country group will deliver school supplies to the village of Arbolitos as they paddle up the Sarapiqui on their way to San Juan Del Norte, Nicaragua. Then SIGA will help to deliver the school supplies to over 300 students in about 24 schools in and around Arbolitos.

The children will receive things like pens and pencils (especially decorative ones), glue sticks, erasers, individual pencil sharpeners and composition books (in spanish: cuadernos). There will also be small toys and/or personal items that will be given as Christmas gifts during the holiday season.

To learn more about SIGA Ministries check out

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How to Keep in Touch With Students on Course

As part of Costa Rica Outward Bound program, we remove the distractions of the outside world. This means no MP3 players, computers or cell phones while on course. We do this in order to help students disconnect from the high-tech world they live in so they can enjoy their experience here in Costa Rica.

That does not mean it is impossible to contact with students while they are in Costa Rica. Here are several easy ways to keep in touch with students while they are on course.

Facebook is a great way to stay up-to-date on what students are doing while they are on course. We post regular updates on our Fan Page about the whereabouts and activities of students, as well as upload photos from course. NOTE: While we wish we could post photos more often, our social media staff does not have access to students or their cameras until they return to base. Please be patient - we put up photos as soon as we get them in the office!

Viewing photos and updates is easy once you become a fan of Costa Rica Outward Bound's Facebook Page! Here's how you do it:

Become a Fan:
Step 1: Log into Facebook

Step 2: Copy and paste into your address bar
(This will take you to the Costa Rica Outward Bound Fan Page)

Step 3: Click on the "Like" button at the top

Congratulations, you have officially become a fan of Costa Rica Outward Bound! Now you can post on our wall, make comments on our posts and look at photos of students on course.

NOTE: Students will not have access to the internet while they are on course, so they will not be able to see or respond to your wall posts. If you have a more personal, private or important message to send to your student while he/she is on course, please follow the instructions for how to email students on course.

In case of emergency, Facebook should only be used as a last-resort method of contacting us. Please refer to our Emergency Contact Procedure for more information on how to contact students during an emergency.

The best way to communicate directly with a student is to send an email to Please include the student's name and course in the subject line. Any email received in this manner will be printed out and given to students as soon as it becomes possible. Letters may be delivered on re-supply days, or when the students return to base. Additionally, students on longer courses may have the opportunity to write emails to their friends and family on their transition days, although we cannot guarantee that will be the case for every course.

When they first arrive on base after landing in Costa Rica, all students are required to contact their families to assure they arrived safely. After this point however, students will only have access to the telephone in an emergency situations. If you want to speak to one of the office staff, we are happy to answer any questions or address any concerns you may have.

International Toll Free Numbers:

  • We are reachable between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. MST.
  • If you are calling outside of those hours, please leave us a message and one of our staff members will return your call as soon as we are back in the office.
  • In the case of an emergency that occurs outside of these hours, please refer to our Emergency Contact Procedure.

We do not encourage families or friends to send physical mail to students while they are here for one simple reason: It most likely won't arrive until after the student has left Costa Rica. Mail to and from Costa Rica can often take an excessively long time to be delivered. For example, an Easter package that was sent to one of our staff members in April did not arrive on base until early September.

That being said, If you absolutely must send mail to a student while they are here, it can be sent to the address listed below. Please note that it is a P.O. Box, so packages larger than a deck of cards will be returned to sender.

PO Box 1817-2050
San Pedro, San Jose
Costa Rica 02050

NOTE: Letters and packages sent by courier or certified mail will not be accepted.

Keep in Touch!
Here are some ways to stay up to date on the happenings at Costa Rica Outward Bound (even after your student has left course.)

1. Follow us on Twitter
2. Keep reading our Blog!
3. Sign up for our Newsletter

In the event of an emergency in which you must contact a student on course, please follow these instructions:

1. If you are trying to reach us between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. MST

Call one of our primary office numbers:

    Primary International Number        1-800-676-2018

    Primary Costa Rica Number          +506-2278-6062    (If calling internationally, dial 011-506-2278-6062)

NOTE: Messages left after 5 pm are checked the following weekday morning

2. If you need to reach us between 5 pm - 9 am (MST) on a weekday, or on a weekends

Call one of our Costa Rican lines (in the following order)

    Communication Director Home: +506-2278-6085     (If calling internationally, dial 011-506-2278-6085)
    Communication Director Mobile: +506-8352-1329     (If calling internationally, dial 011-506-8352-1329)

    Program Director Home: +506-2278-6102     (If calling internationally, dial 011-506-2278-6102)
    Program Director Mobile: +506-8323-5037     (If calling internationally, dial 011-506-8323-5037)

    Executive Director Mobile: +506-8883-9838     (If calling internationally, dial 011-506-8883-9838)

3. If none of the above methods worked

Send an email to

Send a fax to one of the following:


NOTE: Always leave return contact numbers and indicate the action you would like CRROBS to take regarding communication.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bringing Your Surfboard: The Ugly Truth

Getting a new surfboard is really exciting. You have the chance to get to know the board, know the feel of it, the thickness and the balance points. You know how to take the drop, how much speed you'll get and how to carve on it. It's easy to get attached. So when its time to take a surf-trip, of course you want to bring along the board you love best.

While once-upon-a-time, all you needed was a passport and a board bag to have an international surf adventure, airlines have started to make it more and more difficult for surfers to travel with their boards. These days, oversized baggage fees, undersized planes and travel embargoes are normal roadblocks for traveling surfers run into.

Because of these things, we at Costa Rica Outward Bound don't always recommend bringing your own board on course. It often is more trouble than its worth. Plus, we have a great selection of boards from 5'4" fish to 10'6" longboards and everything in between), so if you're renting from us, you're bound to find something you'll love shredding on.

If you are set on brining your own board however, here is an excerpt from a great article from, with up-to-date information on taxes and fees for traveling with surfboards, by airline.

Aero Mexico
$65 One-way per board, maximum length 9ft – packed

Air Pacific
Varies Variable Excess Baggage Charge + $22 “Bulky Item” charge.

Air New Zealand
Free As part of your two-bag limit, otherwise $80. Max. length is 6½ ft.

$50/$75 63-80 in/81-115 in. One-way per bag.

American Airlines
$100/$150 Domestic/International. One-way per bag under 70 lbs.

EMBARGO IN EFFECT No surfboards allowed on Continental flights to Latin America from June 4, 2009 through August 20, 2009. Embargo also in force during Christmas and Easter.

800-221-1212 $175
Domestic/$300 International One-way per board.

Hawaiian Air
$100 One-way. Two boards max. per bag, Max height 11ft.

Japan Air
$50/$350 $50 for the first board. $350 a piece for others.

Jet Blue*
$50 One-way per bag. *No excess baggage (including surfboards) allowed on flights to the Santo Domingo or Santiago

Free; Cannot exceed 80 or 99 lb.

$65 One-way per bag, Max 100

$175 One-way per bag. Max 109

Free as part of your two bag limit. Otherwise $53 each way.

South African Airlines
Free As part of your two bag limit, not exceeding 109, otherwise, $125

$50/ $150 international Domestic/International. One-way per bag (2 boards per bag). No size restrictions.

$175/$250 Under 109/Over 109, One-way per bag, 2 boards per bag

Virgin Atlantic
Free, limit one per customer.

Depending on the time of year, some airlines won’t even take your surfboard — for any excess baggage charge. See the list below, and ask any airline, especially if you’re booking during peak travel times.

Excess baggage (including surfboards) is NOT accepted from June 3 through August 31 to the following cities: Guayaquil, Ecuador (GYE), Quito, Ecuador (UIO), San Salvador, El Salvador (SAL), Guadalajara, Mexico (GDL), Leon, Mexico (BJX), Zacatecas, Mexico (ZCL). Also, no bag over 50 lbs or 62 linear inches will be accepted for travel during the period.

Surfboards and Wakeboards will not be accepted during an excess baggage embargo when no excess baggage is allowed (0 pieces). Exception: Surfboards and Wakeboards will be accepted to Costa Rica during an embargo period. Continental does not accept excess baggage in the following YEAR ROUND embargoed markets: Caracas, Venezuela (CCS); Houston, Texas to Bogota, Colombia (BOG) Lima, Peru (LIM) San Salvador, El Salvador (SAL) Santiago, Dominican Republic (STI) Tortola, British Virgin Islands (EIS)

Travel to Costa Rica, Guatemala and El Salvador
The checked baggage policy for travel from (and via) Los Angeles to Costa Rica and Guatemala effective February 18, 2005, is as follows: During the peak summer travel period of May 28-September 6, and the peak winter travel period of December 4, 2005-January 6, 2006, customers are limited to the number and size of their checked baggage. The following guidelines apply to all customers: Maximum linear dimensions: 62 linear inches/157cm (length + width + height) each. No oversize, overweight or extra bags will be accepted. (= NO SURFBOARDS) Only one box is permitted as part of a customer’s free allowance; it must be the original manufacturer’s box containing the original item.

Side note: it's not uncommon for surfers who prefer to surf their own board to purchase one when they arrive in Costa Rica. Its often more economical than paying round-trip airline fees, and frequently they are able to sell the boards before leaving the country, virtually eliminating all any expense. Should you chose this option, Costa Rica Outward Bound's local surf instructors can help you find and purchase a new or used board for your Costa Rica surf adventure.