Monday, December 12, 2011

A little bit of training and a little bit of the holidays

This past weekend saw some intense action here on the Costa Rica Outward Bound base. As the remainder of our semester programs wrap up their time in Panama, a large portion of the staff went through training on a variety of topics ranging from conflict resolution to more advanced strategies for teaching while on course. In addition, the group took a trip to downtown San Jose to expand the group’s combined knowledge of the city and some of the locations that do not get as much attention. Other activities included a group trip down the local waterfall near the base, in order to get additional staff prepared for one of the more popular activities offered here, the waterfall rappel! Finishing up the weekend was a festive staff holiday gift exchange and a delicious staff dinner, capping off what has been another amazing season for Costa Rica Outward Bound. Although a busy weekend for the staff here, everyone is excited and ready to go for the 2012 season, which starts off with groups just 2 days after New Years!

Looking down sometimes does not help

Friday, December 2, 2011

Link Roundup!

Although there is a severe dearth of snow and skiing opportunities in Costa Rica, there is a large amount of bamboo. Perhaps the bamboo ski pole is a way Costa Rica can get into winter sports? Story here.

The Central American surfing games are currently underway in Costa Rica, making the best out of Jaco and Playa Hermosa. As our students certainly can tell you, there’s very good reason why the world comes here to surf and compete! Story here.

Although our rivers prove to be some of the most exhilarating in the world, Washington State looks to gain one more river to raft with the destruction of a 100 year old dam.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Feliz Accion de Gracias!

Life in the Costa Rican Rainforest is a fantastic cultural experience for the expatriate staff at Outward Bound. However at times some of the foreign staff here will bring over their own cultural traditions. And with the larger number of American staff, so comes Thanksgiving along with them! Although only attended by a smaller international group, the official Costa Rica Outward Bound Thanksgiving was by all accounts a massive success here on base, complete with numerous dishes and a hearty display of cooking prowess by the organization’s very own Donna White. A true Thanksgiving by all standards, the evening showed all the tell tale signs of a successful meal as no one was able to move for 1-2 hours after finishing their food.

Donna does her thing!

The final product, and yes, it was delicious!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Resume Boost: 5 Ways to Market Your Outward Bound Experience


So you've taken a Costa Rica Outward Bound course or something similar. Now what? A lot of students wonder how they can market themselves for future jobs and/or colleges after going through an experience that distinguishes them, both personally and professionally. The difficult part is communicating the impact of a course experience and effectively transferring it to a resume or personal statement. When looking for a standout factor, employers and acceptance committees alike want to see how applicants can add value to their organizations -- so let's look at five ways you can boost your resume and market your unique Outward Bound experience.

 1. Teamwork - In terms of overused buzzwords, "teamwork" sits pretty high on the list; however, an Outward Bound course takes the otherwise subjective concept and makes it significantly less biased. Sure, working with a team to complete a project or meet a deadline is valuable, but being able to say that you literally spent 24-hours a day with a group of unknown peers to belay each other down a cascading waterfall or stay motivated to hike across an entire country awards you a lot more points in the teamwork category. Considering that many companies are shifting towards more collaborative work environments, they'll love the assurance that you can truly perform as a team player and furthermore, that you can prove it.



2. International Experience - Costa Rica Outward Bound students are immersed in a foreign culture and spend time learning a foreign language every single day. As organizations stretch their operations across borders more than ever, being able to cite specific examples of cultivating genuine cultural awareness can increase your chances of getting hired or accepted into a higher education program. All of our alumni can highlight personal interactions with Costa Rican families, what it's like to cross international borders, and how they learned enough Spanish to successfully navigate a local market -- they might not be fluent, but they can problem solve and figure out how to communicate, a beneficial skill not every candidate can claim.

Costa Rica Outward Bound

3. Certifications - Many of our courses offer multiple certifications that are internationally recognized. Depending on what type of work you're looking for, being able to list these can potentially be the difference between "We'd like to offer you the job!" and "Unfortunately we're looking for someone with more experience." The Leadership Semester program is designed specifically to avoid the latter response (especially for jobs in the outdoor industry), allowing students to earn up to 7 certifications. The main point is that you should take advantage of the opportunity to beef up the "Additional Experience" section of your resume with items like CPR/AED for the Professional Rescuer or First Aid (America Red Cross)It shows that you're competent in other fields and have unique interests. *By the way, any time an acronym is used, be sure to spell out what it means in order to avoid any confusion.

4. Community Service - A lot of universities are taking a more holistic approach to their admissions criteria these days. While grades and standardized test scores still reign supreme as determining factors, well-rounded students with diverse experiences but less-than-perfect GPAs are beginning to find themselves on university campuses more consistently. All of our courses have a strong service project component that takes students into remote villages to paint local schools, build medical clinics, and install safe drinking water tanks. Be sure to mention what the specific project was, but more importantly, what you gained from it and how it applies to other areas.

Service Challenge and Rainforest River & Reef

5.  Leadership - Alright, this one can be tricky. How can you make it clear that your "strong leadership skills" don't get the same amount of attention as everyone else who has written a resume in the last 300 years, which is to say, very little. Being able to say that you've developed and refined your own personal leadership style during an Outward Bound course carries a lot more weight. Are you a participating leader? Maybe your approach is more democratic or perhaps you prefer to delegate? If you're a Costa Rica Outward Bound alum, think about the leadership wheel -- which direction did you identify with?

While these suggestions will hopefully build a solid foundation for starting your resume or personal statement, the most powerful way to separate yourself from other applicants is to be honest about what your Outward Bound experience meant to you. If you have a course memory that changed who you are or the way you think, don't hesitate to focus on it (requesting a letter of recommendation from instructors can also have a positive impact on your chances of landing a job). So good luck out there, students! Boost those resumes!



Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Link Roundup!

National Geographic recently put up the new 7 wonders of the world. As you can see, Costa Rica did not make the list. Which is a real bummer, but we still think this place is wonder. Story here.

Anyone who follows futbol/soccer might have seen the thrilling game that Costa Rica played against world champion team Spain. Leading the game 2-0 into halftime, Costa Rica was not able to hold onto their lead and finished the game with a tie. Story here.

La Ruta de los Conquistadores finished up last week, with American Todd Wells winning in his first attempt. Well done to Todd, as well as everyone who finished! Story here.

Many have noticed that Google maps are becoming more and more comprehensive when it comes to mapping out Costa Rica. Apparently the same is happening for other countries, including China, which has had some of their weird Alien/Military/who knows what captured by the Google eye in the sky. Story here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Staff Biking Adventures!

For the past two weeks some of the staff at Costa Rica Outward Bound had been planning to head out on a nice, relaxing ride starting in the town of  El Empalme, traveling down to the coastal town of Damas (right near our beach base at Manuel Antonio). After several delays due to rain and washed out roads, the ride was finally able to occur as the dry season started to approach. Following along an approximately 90 km route, the adventure starts in the cold mountainous terrain and drops down into the warmer coastal mountains, then to the hot coastal hills, finishing up on the tropical coastal plains. In all the ride proved an adventurous endeavor; many flat tires, several mechanical issues and even a broken drive-train meant some occasional delays. Unfortunately some riders had to literally be pulled to the finish line, however it was all part of the adventure. Needless to say, we are all ready for the next epic ride!

Take a look!



a Damas from painfullyvanilla on Vimeo.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Link Roundup!

Looks like it was a busy season for wilderness rescues in the Tetons. If any additional WFRs are needed, we can supply a great group out of this semester’s leadership group. Story here.

Sometimes students can struggle with life in a remote region. Imagine spending 520 consecutive days in a sunless environment designed to find out if mankind is psychologically capable of traveling to Mars. No thank you. Story here.

National Geographic’s extreme photo of the week is always a crowd pleaser. This week’s, as well as the ability to see past week’s photos, are a true treat. Story here.

It is unclear how or why these birds are doing what they are doing here, however it is simply amazing. Take a gander.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

WFR Scenario for Fall Leadership 2011

Practice makes perfect, and that is exactly what our fall 2011 leadership students did this past weekend. The leadership class took part in a simulated emergency scenario, where every student had to put their Wilderness First Responder skills to use. The Wilderness First Responder, or WFR, is a serious certification required of nearly every outdoor professional, including our own staff here at Costa Rica Outward Bound.  Walking up the hill as darkness fell on the base campus, the group was confronted with a remote accident scenario involving two cars, four hysterical and injured passengers, numerous distracting bystanders as well as a severely injured and inebriated cyclist. All this was set to test the medical ability and personal nerves of our WFR students. The students were required to immediately set to work, managing a hectic situation that tested everyone’s knowledge of medical scenarios as well as their ability to act under pressure. After assessing the situation, students went to work treating major injuries, deciding which people were the priorities for evacuation, as well as managing a slew of distractions designed to prevent them from accomplishing their tasks.

In our de-brief, many students commented on how even though a simulated emergency, the scope of the accident, the stress of managing so many different injuries and the numerous distractions made it difficult for some to focus. Furthermore, having to evacuate several victims proved to be a difficult task, as multiple trips up and down the hill is enough to make the most athletic person require their own medical attention. In all, the scenario was a great opportunity to practice skills as well as experience a sample of the stress one can feel in the field!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Link Roundup!

Surfing is an activity you can do at nearly any age, a point to which Costa Ricans are aware of. Check out how Costa Rica won a part of the Masters World Championship Surf Competition. Story here!

It’s definitely not a very popular sport here in Costa Rica (YET!) however back in the states, the cyclocross season is heating up. This weekly video blog follows one of North America's most famed cycling personalities as he travels from race to race working towards the World Championships later this winter. Story here!

This video of a cat facing off with a mountain lion certain makes you realize how wild some parts of the world still are. We are not sure what the Costa Rican equivalent of this would be, but let’s hope for our on-base pets sake we don’t have any run ins. Story here!

Sometimes visits to Costa Rica inspire more than a couple good photos. Check out how. Story here!

It’s been a couple weeks, but the results are in! Check out the individual event results as well as the overall results. Story here!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Two Men, Two Beards and Lots of Miles

It feels like only yesterday (it was actually a week or so) that we were sitting here writing about our board member Laura Avila Bolanos and her cycling adventure around South America. No sooner did we press the ‘publish’ button on our blog did we meet two American gentlemen riding their bikes all the way from Canada down to Chile, spanning both North and South America. The two gentlemen, Bret and Ryan, have spent many months on the road, documenting their adventures meticulously.

Meeting some of our traveling staff in Guatemala, Bret and Ryan reunited with Costa Rica Outward Bound in Manuel Antonio and traveled up to our rain forest base in San Ramon de Tres Rios. Spending a couple days exploring the local features around the base as well as enjoying a few days off the bike was certainly a well earned treat for the traveling duo, whose ability to drink coffee and pull off some very serious beards is next to none. The pair of traveling cyclists will now be heading down to Panama, and then onto where ever the road takes them. Good luck Ryan and Bret!

Looking good gentlemen!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How the World Rafting Championship makes students cooler

Ezequiel Becerra / AFP - Getty Images
The 2011 World Rafting Championships were held in Costa Rica this year on the famous Pacuare River. Teams from 32 countries paddled the same rapids many of our students learn to guide rafts themselves. I could end this post right here and its title would already make sense, but let me explain just to make it clear.

The fact that our students get to experience the exciting world of whitewater rafting on a river deemed worthy of hosting the World Rafting Championships is equivalent to learning how to play soccer at Soccer City Stadium in South Africa (that's where the FIFA World Cup took place, just as a reminder). So maybe the sport isn't quite as popular, but needless to say, it does make our students way cooler.

The event consists of four different competition styles: the Head to Head, the Downriver, the Sprint, and most technical of all, the Slalom. All are injected with whitewater adrenaline, but by the time I made it to the river the only one remaining was the Slalom. Never have I seen such a higher density of athletes speaking foreign languages, inflatable rafts, and bulging forearm muscles in one place. The atmosphere was great, especially considering that I was watching directly from the river bank accompanied by the secondary team from Croatia - they explained the history of a sport sliding more and more into the mainstream, its significance to them as raft guides, and how judges score the complex maze of slalom gates. Below, the American team paddles through the middle section of the course (I learned that the man proudly waving the flag is the father of one of the members).


As I watched the representative teams from so many different countries impressively navigate their ways through the course, I couldn't help but be reminded of the time spent on the river with previous Leadership Semester students on the same stunning river. We would joke about how we were waiting for dinosaurs to storm their way to the water's edge because clearly this was Jurassic Park we were paddling through (naturally, anyone who didn't play along would be the first victim).

The Leadership Semester students scout a rapid on the Pacuare River

The Leadership students were on the Pacuare not to learn how to avoid Hollywood reptile encounters, however; they were on the Pacuare to learn to how to apply their Whitewater Rescue Technician (WRT) training and guide the boat through some less-than-taciturn rapids. Upon wishing my countrymen good luck in the upcoming heat, they admitted their jealousy -- the American team admitted that they were jealous of the Costa Rica Outward Bound students for getting to develop their guiding skills on such an amazing river.

If you're interested in following the current Leadership students' adventure here in Costa Rica, including their training on the river, be sure to check out the regularly posted course updates. Also keep in mind that our brand new Tropical Challenge Semester course offers the same guide training on the same river.  

Friday, October 14, 2011

Link Roundup!

It's Friday and we have got some awesome links!

Many people know about La Ruta de Los Conquistadores. Last year’s 2nd place overall finisher Alex Grant of the United States recently updated his blog with his latest races and adventures. Seems like Alex has been keeping up with the good results! Story here!

Many times it feels like the official car of Costa Rica is the Toyota Hilux. This capable 4 door pickup can be seen nearly everywhere, including on the Costa Rica Outward Bound base. Maybe its popularity can be attributed to the sensations felt by the gentleman in this Toyota commercial.




National Geographic is always a winner when it comes to good content; take a peek at these two links. One is about adventure towns, the other about some new styles of adventure sports. Story here and here!

With the extreme terrain of Costa Rica, it’s often fun to imagine what imaginative sports we could create. The epic hills and mountains often inspire thoughts of extreme hill rolling, however the excellent blog Adventure-Journal has done the leg work for us, by presenting downhill tri-cycling. A sport we neither encourage nor think is a particularly good idea. Story here!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

And you thought your last trip was hard…

It’s always interesting to learn about an adventure that makes one quickly realize there is a lot to learn about suffering and adventure. Such was the case for some of the Outward Bound staff as they visited a local art exhibit featuring photos, stories and equipment from a cycling trip that circumnavigated South America. Spanning from May of 2009 all the way to December of 2010, Costa Rica Outward Bound board member LAURA ÁVILA BOLAÑOS and her traveling companion WAGNER CALDERÓN RIZO traveled by bicycle around the continent of South America, encountering enough peoples and locations to fill a lifetime of memories. Capturing these images was done with great skill, and can all be viewed here

Laura and Wagner taking in the sites
Spanning over 13 countries and 17,602,462 kilometers, Laura and Wagner peddled their way through an adventure to remember. Ever since Wagner was a teenager, it had been a dream to accomplish a task like this. This dream to conquer South America combined with the need for a break from the regularities of daily life were the perfect motivations to put the day job on hold and take part in an adventure that would take over a year. As said by Laura and Wagner, life is not only for working, but for living also. And what better way to live than to experience an entire continent by bicycle!

Take a look at their awesome web site!
http://suramericaencleta.com/

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Costa Rica Outward Bound keeping busy!

Even in the off season, our instructors are keeping busy with educational programs and professional training. Recently the base camp at San Ramon de Tres Rios played host to representatives from schools involved in the International Bachelorette (IB) program, helping to teach team building skills and emergency preparation skills to educators from around Costa Rica. Following the model of CAS (creativity, art and service) the Outward Bound staff helped lead activities such as a tree climb, group management training and first aid instruction. All in all it was a fun weekend of learning, with educators getting to experience a taste of what our students take part in every spring, summer and fall! 
On base activities with the IB program
Further training took part in Iztaru, a local Boy/Girl Scout reservation near our base here at Costa Rica Outward Bound. Our staff helped to train the instructors at the reservation on first aid, CPR, technical ropes know-how as well as general climbing wall procedures.

Training with the Tico Scouts!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Link Roundup!

Another great Monday is upon us here at Costa Rica Outward Bound headquarters, and it is time for some our favorite links!

White water rafting is a big part of our activities here in Costa Rica, and it is also the home of the World Rafting Championships. Story here!

Costa Rica is home to numerous volcanos, some of which are more active than others. Story here!

It is really no secret to us, however here is an interesting article about how exercise can strengthen the brain. Story here!

The Ticos are always very creative with their construction methods, and Bamboo is certainly a great medium to work with. Story here!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Scoping Out New Rivers!

As a local organization, we here at Costa Rica Outward Bound are always looking for opportunities to help the communities in which we work. One of our strongest community relationships is with the local Costa Rican scouting association.

Recently the association acquired a new property near the warm river climate of the Sarapiqui River. They want to expand their team building programs for Costa Rican boy scouts and girl guides, as well as offer new programs focused on swimming and building and testing hand-built rafts.

Some of our river staff took a trip out to the association’s property to help scout out (no pun intended) its river access and ensure it was safe for the proposed activities. Costa Rica Outward Bound will also help in river program development to support the association’s efforts to provide opportunities for Costa Rican boys and girls to develop leadership skills and team building through scouting.

The best tool  for scouting rivers, Duckies!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tent Update!

Our second installment of our North Tek Gear review is here! The group just returned from Nicaragua and had a lot of great things to say. Let’s break them out here;

Positives: The tent was very dry, even with the rainy season being in full swing. This is a good result of the rain shell being so robust. The extra rain coverage did not make the tent overly hot, with good ventilation throughout. The set up was breeze, with only two main support poles. The tent was used by two of our instructors as well as a week’s worth of equipment, which still yielded a spacious and comfortable interior. The mesh netting in the tent was great for storing extra gear, and proved a perfect spot for lights and loose articles.

Suggestions: The instructors felt that the tent might be improved with a more durable fabric for the base of the tent.

Overall feedback was resoundingly great, which is great because these tents are going to get put through some very serious tests! Stay tuned for more as our new tents experience life in Costa Rica.

Nicaraguan tent action

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Link Roundup!

It’s Wednesday here and for some reason we have been finding some very interesting stories on the internet. So interesting in fact, that it makes sense for us to share these with as many folks as possible,

It’s always fun to read about surfing, especially when there are traditionally male competitions allowing women to enter. Story here.

Everyone knows that traveling can be a little bit stressful at times, but the fact remains that certain generations had more concerns about mythical monsters than airport check-in lines. Story here.

Although Friday tends to be a great day for just about everyone, make sure you are not the one person in the 1-3,200 chance someone gets hit by a falling satellite. Story here. 

Depending on the type of course here at Costa Rica Outward Bound, there’s a small chance you might be able to spot a dolphin. Based off of this article, you should practice your hybrid human-dolphin language, because chats with dolphins are just around the corner. Story here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Beach Tour 2011!

Sometimes a good old fashioned beach trip is just what the doctor ordered; and this was certainly the case for certain Outward Bound staff this past week. A recent trip saw travels to Montezuma, Manuel Antonio, along with a sweet boat ride and zipline trip thrown in for good measure. Take a look at the documentation below!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Gear for Costa Rica Outward Bound!

Having good equipment is an important part of having a good time in the outdoors. Nobody wants to have a trip ruined by malfunctioning or poorly designed gear. At Costa Rica Outward Bound we are always on the hunt for tools that work well in the often extreme environment of the tropics, while also handling the abuse caused by our rigorous course schedule.

Fortunately for us, we have been afforded the opportunity to field test and use some brand new, shiny tents from North Tek Gear! This start-up outdoor gear company based out of Ohio has generously donated six 3-man Orion tents to Costa Rica Outward Bound. We sent some to Nicaragua with our Tri-Country Semester students and will report back with their feedback.

But, patience isn’t always our strong suit. The base staff couldn’t bear to leave these new additions to the Costa Rica Outward Bound arsenal in their stuff sacks! So, we set one up. Our initial thoughts:

Set-Up

The Orion is a rather unique tent in that it does not have a traditional rainfly. The two main support poles run through the fly (rather than the tent body), with the main tent body suspended within by a system of small bungee cords. The Orion’s clever design allows you to disconnect the main tent body and set up just the rainfly as a kind of canopy-shelter with a floor (similar to a footprint setup that most tents sell separately)– lending tons of ventilation here in the damp but warm climate of Costa Rica. Though, the tent itself has a solid ventilation system at the top and in the corners. The other advantage of this suspension design is the additional space between the fly and the tent, meaning less rain will find its way inside. And, set up and break down is a breeze!

Storage

We love the healthy-sized vestibule for shoes or other gear needing a dry home (outside!). Inside, there is good storage space in corner pockets and mesh netting at the top – useful for placing a headlamp to brighten the interior.

Size/Weight

The single door and 2+ tent pole setup keep the weight low. And, the unit comes with a nice compression sack.

All in all, the staff here is eager to grab a pack and test Orion’s unique design features in one Costa Rica’s more remote locales! Over the coming months, we will be checking in with updates, adding to what will be a long-term review of North Tek’s Orion tent. Stay tuned for more about the Orion!

The Orion 3 man

The gap between the rainfly and tent can be seen here, as well as the great side vents

The good sized vestibule is perfect for stowing gear


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Link Roundup!

Here in the marketing office we always enjoy an interesting story. Whether it’s an article related to our industry of “all things out-of-doors” or simply a funny story about an intoxicated moose, we like to stay informed.

Thus, we would like to take an opportunity to share some of the things we’ve been reading lately, with the hope that you might find them as interesting as we do.

Today’s Links!

Looks like Prime Minister David Cameron enjoyed his time on course with OB England. Maybe we need to check the schedule of Costa Rican President Chinchilla! Link here.

As ideas around healthy and sustainable diets evolve, it is always good to hear the perspective of someone living the dream, for example, this person. Link here.

Some may know about the globe trotter girls. If not, they recently made their way to many of the places we go on course and had some great photos to share! Link here.

Working out in a gym is something we would rather not do. If you agree with this, the following video might help give you some alternatives. Link here.

Speaking of working out, next time you’re on a flight to Costa Rica (or elsewhere), try some of these handy exercises to keep the blood moving. Link here.

Friday, September 9, 2011

We Recycle!

Costa Rica Outward Bound has a lot of awesome equipment that we use throughout the year. These tools of the trade include backpacks, tents, surfboards, rafts, kayaks and much more. You name it, we probably have it! The thing is our various types of gear often have hard lives and eventually find themselves no longer in use. However operations manager Sam Schlesinger and some other OB staff got a little bit tired of our equipment being so lazy and decided to put them back to work.

Surf boards are a great thing, especially in the water. But what to do with them when they no longer serve their water-oriented purposes? Well, turning them into a couple of nice benches seems like a good idea to us!

A comfy seat for all!

Kayaks are also great in the water. But what happens when the whole floating thing doesn’t work out so well? Did somebody say new tables for everyone??

Best work space ever!

Costa Rica has no problem growing an incredible array of flowers and plants, however sometimes a good old flower pot is hard to find. A Kayak flower pot seems like the logical next step!

Que lindo!

Awesome bonus quasi-recycling item! Ryan in the marketing office was exhausted watching two rather dangerous bikes hang out and rust, so he turned them into one rather safe bike!

Base transportation for all!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Additions to Costa Rica Outward Bound!

There is a new intern at Costa Rica Outward Bound! Hailing from Vermont, Nathan Poland is here for a three-month internship and will be splitting his time working in the communications office and in the field. Nate started his time with the organization as a student in the Spring 2011 leadership semester where he had an incredible experience while earning the numerous professional certifications. The leadership semester was the doorway to his internship and Nate is excited to be back. He enjoys rappelling, whitewater rafting, scuba and many other outdoor activities. During Nate’s summer at home he used his technical ropes certification to get a job washing windows.

Careful Nate!

On his days off, Nate spent his time hiking around looking for tall cliffs to scale to keep in practice, of which, he found more than a few! Now that he is back in Costa Rica we are going to see what kind of fun things he can get himself into here. While in the field, Nathan is going to be helping out with both Tri-country and Water and Wave courses. Stay tuned to see where he ends up next!

Nate helping us test some new gear!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Staff trip recap to Piedras Blancas!

Staff trips at Costa Rica Outward Bound are always something we look forward to. Our recent end-of-high-season trip to the Lopez household in Piedras Blancas was certainly a nice treat and followed a route many alumni will remember. Complete with a hike, visit to Rancho Tinamu, stop over at the Grenados household, fishing, river exploration and a good ol' fashioned cook out, a first-rate time was certainly had by all! So take a look at our trip recap and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Costa Rica Outward Bound staffer surfs himself into the news!


At Costa Rica Outward Bound we are lucky to have some of the most talented and motivated staff members around.  This surely applies to surf instructor Alex Cook.  After heading back to his native land of South Carolina, Alex participated in a surf competition before resuming classes at College of Charleston.  Not only did Alex land himself a very comfortable 4th place finish, but he also surfed his way directly onto the front page of the local newspaper.  See how Alex’s style took him out of the water and onto the presses:

Alex makes us proud!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

One More Quinoa Recipe!

The last in our series of quinoa recipes, we figured we would end it with some desert!  Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Quinoa

Ingredients:

   1 cup quinoa
   2-3 tablespoons peanut butter
   2 teaspooons cinnamon
   1 banana
   ¼ cup raisins
   2 cups water

Directions:

1. Boil quinoa in a rice cooker or saucepan with water until all water is absorbed (about 20 minutes).

2. Melt peanut butter and cinnamon together in small saucepan.

3. Mix peanut butter with fresh quinoa and add chopped banana and raisins to taste.  You can also experiment with mangos, strawberries and nuts.

Makes: About 4 servings, Preparation time: 5 minutes, Cooking time: 20 minutes

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Staff on Course: Rafting, Backpacking and Adventure Galore!

Recently, marketing staff member Courtney Black went on course with this summer’s last 15-Day Multi-Element course! One of the perks of working for OB Costa Rica is the opportunity to enjoy some of the adventures that our students get to enjoy as staff! This particular course is renowned as our “adventure sampler pack” and includes everything from rafting and hiking to waterfall rappelling and surfing.

Not exactly a seasoned outdoor enthusiast, Courtney was mildly apprehensive about the hiking portion of the course, but was still eager to break in her backpack for a trek that so many of her colleagues had raved about.

The course began with a trip down the Class III Rio Sarapiquí. Both staff and students were pleased to have gorgeous weather and great whitewater. Students, Olivia and Andrew, manned the front of the raft and steered us effortlessly down the river (with help from Whitewater Coordinator Jody).

The next day, the hiking portion of course began. One of the more challenging hikes of the course, the group left base camp to arrive at Brujo. From there, they hiked an impressive 15 km across streams and up mountains to arrive at the Lopez house in Piedras Blancas for a homestay. They made sugar from homegrown sugar cane, ground corn for tortillas and rappelled down the face of a waterfall. While the hike had its ups and downs (both literally and figuratively) it was well worth the trek.

After two days at the Lopez house, the group migrated to instructor Orlando’s home another 5 km up the hill. A word the group quickly learned was “arriba” or “up.”

Orlando’s house is beautiful and overlooks a beautiful valley in Piedras Blancas. It is here the students had their “solos”, which is a time for students to reflect on their experience away from the group, where they spend their time camping under a tarp, with only pen and paper and their thoughts. For Courtney, this time meant avoiding the rain, as she missed an important lecture in knot tying and tarp securing.

Next stop: Hernand’s home, which overlooks the banks of the Rio Savegre. There we baked homemade bread and learned about “Tico” culture. Interesting fact: The Rio Savegre is one of the top two cleanest rivers in Central America.

Exactly a week in on course, the group hiked Rancho Tinamú (6 km). It was a steep hike, but the view along the way was beyond incredible. Upon arrival, the group took a swim in La Olla de Bruja, or “the witch’s pot” which is a swimming hole underneath a waterfall about 1 km from the lodge.

The afternoon was spent procuring our dinner in the form of a ceremonial chicken kill. This exercise is intended to encourage students to consider where their food comes from. A former vegetarian of ten years, Courtney was less than enthused to wield the machete, but did appreciate the lesson taught (and will now reconsider her omnivore practices).

On the final day, the group hiked 18 km from San Isidro de Dota to Londres de Quepos. It was a doozie, but the group survived and handled it like champs! Promises of ice cream at the destination is always good incentive!

Total miles hiked: 30. Weight of packs: 30-40 lbs. Confidence boosts: Immeasurable.

At this point, Courtney returned to base to go back to the “real world” and her job in the marketing office, but the rest of the group went on to do a service project at Manuel Antonio, surf, and have one more go at rafting, this time on the Rio Pacuare.

Despite some challenges, scrapes, and some tests of will, Courtney had a blast. She reflected on her time stating that, “Coming in to this experience I thought I knew exactly what to expect. I had heard a lot about the courses from instructors and students, I knew about the activities, and felt prepared. In the end, however, I felt like I learned as the students did and left with a sense of awe and accomplishment for having embarked (and completed) such a unique expedition.”

The group takes a moment to give a thumbs up

Frequent breaks are always important

Donna always with a smile!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Geeking Out on Gear

As some might already be aware, Outdoor Retailer recently hosted its 2011 Summer Market event featuring sneak peeks of some of the best outdoor gear in the industry, open air demos and over 1,000 retailers in attendance. There are a couple of us here at Costa Rica Outward Bound that can get rather excited for this type of event, and by a rather excited we mean full on “geeking out” on sweet new gear. It’s more than likely that we won’t be able own this gear, but that doesn’t mean we can’t fawn over some of the coolest and most advanced equipment available. Some of favorite picks from this year’s show include the following:

Head lamps are in many respects one of the most important pieces of equipment when embarking on an outdoor expedition. Their practicality and necessity are immediately realized when you don’t have one, and when you do, the night no longer inhibits your every move. Cooking, eating, packing, playing cards, and doing basically anything that involves two hands without having to carry a flashlight, is made easily possible. Due to the fact that Costa Rica’s sun leaves the sky at about 6:00 pm, there’s still a lot of day left that requires some good light. The reasons are bright and clear – head lamps are good!

One headlamp at this year’s Summer Market which spiked interest was Snow Peak’s Snow Miner, which takes its simple and clean mantra into the head lamp arena. The Snow Miner is a basic lamp that boasts 140 hours of battery life on low and 55 hours on high, and it is water resistant (which is certainly good for wet conditions in Costa Rica). It weighs 87 grams/2.9 ounces, which is light enough so that it won’t be noticed, until you need it!

Once you use head lamps, you know how important they are!

Now with any luck, the folks at Snow Peak read this and send one for us to test!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Recipe!

We recently spoke of some tasty and healthy recipes from our very own health food aficionado, Monica Chen. This installation of recipes for Quinoa will be sure to please, as it certainly does here on the Costa Rica Outward Bound base. Having spent many months in the region of South America where Quinoa comes from, Monica is well versed on this versatile food and is always happy to share a recipe. Here is one recipe that was enjoyed by the folks here at Costa Rica Outward Bound!

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa

Ingredients:

3-5 small yellow potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
1 large red onion, bite sized
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup eggplant
2 parsnips, bite sized
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup balsamic vingear
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup quinoa

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the vegetables onto a baking sheet.

2. Mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, oil, garlic, sugar and pepper in a small bowl and drizzle evenly over the vegetables, coating as many as possible.

3. Cook the vegetables for about 1/2 hour-45 minutes, or until they are a light golden brown and a little crispy on the edges.

4. Meanwhile, bring vegetable stock to a boil. Stir in the quinoa, turn down the heat and cook at a light simmer for 20-25 minutes.

5. Once the vegetables and quinoa are done, gradually fold the vegetables together with the quinoa in a large bowl.

Makes: About 4 servings, Preparation time: 10 minutes, Cooking time: 30-45 minutes

Monica digging out a log in South America, but we all know she's thinking about Quinoa!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Outward Bound intern makes the paper!

Costa Rica Outward Bound has been fortunate to have some great people working for a great cause. Our recent marketing intern Kirsten was certainly part of that fantastic team. Many of the students will remember Kirsten, who worked hard to manage the arrival and departure for most of the summer courses. Kirsten hails from Alaska but currently attends school at the University of Montana pursing her degree in communications. No stranger to the difficult demands of the fast paced working environment at Costa Rica Outward Bound, Kirsten was responsible for numerous press releases written to the local papers of many students this summer. It is fitting that she would thus pop up in her own local paper, take a look! If you are interested in becoming an intern at Costa Rica Outward Bound, take a look at our employment page here. We’re always looking for a hard worker who doesn’t mind the occasional bug bite!



Thursday, July 28, 2011

Nicoya Peninsula Adventures!

One of the great things about living at the Costa Rica Outward Bound base in Tres Rios is being in a central location that is convenient to public transit and conducive to travelling. Recently, some of the marketing staff went to Montezuma to explore the Nicoya Peninsula on a three-day whirlwind weekend. External Relations Manager, Courtney and her friend Kristen took off to embark on what became nothing short of an awesome adventure. After five hours of traveling, the duo landed at Puntarenas, where they caught the ferry to Paquera and headed down to Montezuma.

The next morning, they headed off to the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, which is about a 15-minute drive from downtown Montezuma. There is one major hike there and several smaller loops. The girls opted for the longest of the hikes and took the trail that led to the beach. It was about a five hour hike and a very humid one at that! Jumping over creeks, surveying the wildlife, weaving through palm trees and taking foot bridges, the girls were led through about three miles of dense rainforest. On their way, they saw white-faced monkeys, butterflies, leaf-cutter ants and sleeping bats in a hollowed out tree. Once at the beach, they were stunned by the white sand and clear, blue water. Due to the remote nature of the beach, it was shared with only two other people. Unfortunately, the couple reported jellyfish stings, so instead of swimming, Kristen and Courtney opted for sun tanning and mango eating. Despite not being able to enjoy the ocean, it was well worth the effort. 

One of the many river crossings

Private beaches are always a plus

Fresh mango always makes the day!

That afternoon, while Kristen and Courtney were still hiking, additional Costa Rica Outward Bound Staff Kirsten and Theresa came to join the fun. They wisely took a combination of buses to Montezuma and made excellent time, spending the afternoon exploring the beautiful beaches, walking around the downtown area and taking in the sights. That evening, the group re-connected and went to a nearby restaurant for a family-style candlelit dinner on the beach followed up by an early night with goals of visiting the famous Montezuma waterfalls the next morning.

All in all, a fun, busy, and unforgettable weekend!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hope for the Urban Culture in San Jose: ChepeCletas

Change is always a difficult thing to be a part of, especially when it means a complete alteration of how a city approaches transportation. This change, however, is one that the local San Jose organization ChepeCletas intends to make – it’s also one that we here at Costa Rica Outward Bound are excited about. ChepeCletas, a hodgepodge of local slang terms Chepe (a San Jose native) and Cleta (bike), looks to simultaneously revitalize the urban culture of San Jose while creating initiatives that support low-emission transportation. What started as a small unknown grassroots organization, whose wheels are being turned by a handful of optimistic university students, has evolved into a much-needed movement that is gaining a lot of traction. Not only have they partnered with local restaurants that now offer significant discounts for arriving on bike, but their real bread and butter is a night tour dubbed “Nocturbano”.

The Nocturbano is a pretty simple idea, yet in many ways, foreign to locals. ChepeCletas leaders Ayal, Roberto and Mauricio stroll through parts of the downtown area highlighting interesting historical landmarks as a part of what they jokingly refer to as “wiki-tours” where audience knowledge in encouraged to be shared. Aside from giving two thumbs up to their overall philosophy, Costa Rica Outward Bounders Britten and Ryan were treated to a fun and informative look into the history of downtown San Jose. The objective of the evening is to inform the public of the rich cultural history of San Jose and thus spark an interest in rejuvenating the city by proving how it can be enjoyed safely at night (police chaperons on bicycles definitely help by adding security). Each tour ends at a different nearby café or restaurant as a way to promote conversation as well as local business. This time, Casa 927, a neo-classic house that doubles as an art gallery and café served as a great place to wrap things up.

After experiencing all the activities of the night, a quick look around at the attendees makes one realize that ChepeCletas is clearly turning some heads. This gentleman is Manuel Obregon Fans, the Minister of Culture and Youth here in Costa Rica.


And this woman is none other than Laura Chinchilla, the president of Costa Rica. Yeah, la presidente.


ChepeCletas is doing enormous work to illuminate ways that cities can be improved in positive and sustainable ways, which is always something to be admired. Now we just might have to figure out a way to incorporate them into our course itineraries.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

More Recipes from Costa Rica Outward Bound!

One of the best parts of Costa Rica Outward Bound is learning more about the fantastic people that are a part of our organization. One such member is programming intern, Monica Chen, a passionate runner and health food aficionado. Monica hails from Berkeley, California and brings with her a love for cooking quinoa, a staple of South American Andean diets. Not too long ago, Monica took the time to cook staff a quinoa feast and, needless to say, we are all hooked!

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), originating from Peru, is used as a grain (similar to rice or couscous) because of its cooking characteristics. Cultivated varieties of white, black and red quinoa are protein-packed and excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber. With an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids, quinoa is a favorite staple item for many people, particularly those following vegetarian and gluten-free diets.  

Monica has worked as a kitchen manager for the Berkeley Student Cooperative and regularly cooked quinoa for hundreds of people every week. Thus we are lucky to have her share some of her favorite quinoa recipes with us!

Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:
    3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
    1 1/2 cups water
    1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
    1 carrot, diced
    6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
    1 scallion, chopped
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 small cucumber, sliced
    juice from 1/2 lemon
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
    dash cayenne pepper
    dash cumin
    salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Boil quinoa in a rice cooker or saucepan with water until all water is absorbed (about 20 minutes). Set aside to cool.

2. Combine all chopped veggies and drained beans with lemon juice, oil, vinegar and spices.

3. Toss with quinoa, add salt and pepper, to taste and serve. This salad tastes great with hot sauce!


Makes: About 2 servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bike riding in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country of many adventures that always challenge the body and mind.  A very popular method of challenging oneself in Costa Rica is by taking up mountain biking, one of the most popular sports in the country.  Building off of the popularity from the famed La Ruta de Los Conquistadores, bike races and bike rides have are occurring nearly every weekend.  These long distance and challenging rides force participants to push their bodies to limits most wouldn’t imagine, and require a rock solid mindset many Outward Bound alum know very well!

Not to be left out of this fantastic adventure, base staffers Britten and Ryan hopped on a bus to Monteverde for the 2011 edition of Eco Bike.  This organized ride and race gathers more than 1,000 of Costa Rica’s most passionate mountain bikers for a full day of climbing, descending, beautiful trails and unforgettable memories.  Britten and Ryan both participated in the race, and then finished up their day with the recreational route, which saw more than 1,000 participants riding through the Costa Rican country side.  Although both starting with great position in the race, both riders suffered from untimely flat tires.  Even with a speedy repair for both, many positions were lost and glory slipped away.  Steep climbs, harrowing descents and nothing resembling a flat section of trail pushed everyone to the limits on a beautiful sunny day in Monteverde.  Base staffer Britten said, “After a full day of riding the famous Monteverde hillside, it’s clear why so many people see this as a go to destination”!  Logging more than 45 Km of mountain biking was just what the doctor ordered for these two, and certainly helped them to fall asleep for the 6 hour bus ride back to base.  Next up for the two bikers, is a lovely trip to the Orosi Valley for another fantastic weekend!



Britten and Ryan ready to start their day!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Recipes from Costa Rica Outward Bound!

Here at Costa Rica Outward Bound headquarters lunch is often a time for the staff to share stories of their time on course over a nice group meal. On certain days, that group meal is good enough to really get the group talking, and today was no exception! A recipe for fried chicken by instructor Josh Mason made the day’s lunch extra special and is as simple and delicious in the kitchen as it is at the campsite. Check it out!

Ingredients:
4 Chicken Breasts
4 Eggs
3 Cups of Flour
Garlic Salt
Chili or Cayenne Pepper
Salt
Pepper
Additional Seasoning
Vegetable Oil

To Prepare:
• Wisk eggs and mix with equal parts water in a bowl
• Mix flour and garlic salt, chili/cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and any additional seasoning (use each seasoning to taste) in separate bowl
• Heat vegetable oil in frying pan at high setting (enough oil to submerge chicken strip)
• Cut chicken breasts into 3 inch strips
• Dip chicken strips into egg/water mixture and then coat in flour/seasoning
• Fry in oil until golden brown and cooked fully

Eat and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The sights and sounds of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is certainly home to a very rich environment!  Take a look at a video recently put together showing the sites and sounds around the rich coast, which turn any trip into an adventure!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

"I like big boofs and I cannot lie"


Every once in awhile you learn a word that, despite having no home in the dictionary, seems to wedge its way into your vocabulary where it resides instead. After a week of kayaking with our Water & Wave semester course, my brain's language center has a new onomatopoetic roommate - in this post I'll introduce you to "boofing" and what it's like to paddle Central America's cleanest river as a first-time kayaker.

"Your kayaking experience depends largely on the roll. And I'm not talking about the Tootsie variety," explained the Whitewater Coordinator, Jody Jett. As the group, 7 students and myself, all brand new to the sport of kayaking, awkwardly boarded our polyethylene vessels we pondered not only the cheesiness of the joke but also how on earth we were actually going to manage said roll. Good thing we started in the pool because even in flat water, floating upside down underwater with your legs stuffed into a cramped kayak is a very unnatural feeling.

But then, it happens. I look over and see Jordan stealthily go from being pinned underneath his kayak to sitting upright on the surface with a huge grin on his face, like some kind of happy water ninja.

Everybody cheers, everybody gets even more motivated to do it themselves and it's a great positive learning atmosphere. Then Will gets it, then Kurt gets it, and slowly but surely we're all ready for moving water.

The Savegre River is a pristine river that scampers across the western pacific highlands much like the scaly iguanas that inhabit its banks. Although its water is impeccably clean and fresh, its rushing rapids aren't exactly taciturn - the rocks below the surface churn the water into a loud white mass of coiling water.

We've practiced safely navigating the river, though, and now we're comfortable in our kayaks. We start gliding down the river seeking wave trains to ride, eddies to catch, and yes, even rocks to boof.

Boofing a rock is the football equivalent to a celebratory touchdown dance (it stamps your style points with an exclamation mark). This is how to boof:

How to Boof

- Instead of avoiding the small broad rocks that barely poke above the water, steer your craft directly at them.

- Paddle hard to pick up speed.

- At the point of contact, simultaneously lift your arms and legs (basically, just think light).

- Catch 6-8 inches of air and land safely on the other side.

- Listen for the oh-so satisfying "boof" sound your kayak makes once it hits the water. Now fist pump because you just boofed a rock.


In addition to copious amounts of boofing, we also got the chance to hike up to some amazing waterfalls, stay with a Costa Rican family who served some delicious food, and most importantly, find a new passion for yet another outdoor hobby. If you're reading this as a parent of a student who just started their love affair with kayaking, don't be too surprised if they ask for a small loan to get themselves outfitted for the local river when they get home.

*Side note: Amongst the countless song titles/lyrics we came up with that incorporated boofing ("I like to boof it, boof it", "We all boof in a yellow submarine", "BOOF there it is!") our favorite one should be pretty obvious after reading the name of this post.

What was your first kayaking experience like? Any tips or resources for newcomers to the world of kayaking?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Leadership Profiles: Past and Present

Spring 2011 Leadership Students - Pre-Course Shot


Planting seeds of leadership, watering them with outdoor activities, and cultivating fully grown student leaders is a crop cycle we've been refining ever since our inception. This is especially true of our Leadership Semester Course. In this post, we'll briefly discuss benefits of the course and why it might be an alternative worth looking into. Don't be fooled, however, you'll be bombarded with information and details. Only not from us, but rather from the very people who know best: the past and present Leadership students. Their shared insights should answer questions for anyone considering the Leadership Course in the future.


Roughly a year after they finished their 65-day adventure here in Costa Rica, we thought it would be interesting to catch up with some of last year's students and see what they've been up to.


Sam Duquette's story prior to visiting Costa Rica Outward Bound is analogous to many students'. As a college dropout, he was unsure of what direction to take in life and with little expectations of how the Leadership Semester Course might remedy that, his future compass now points him down a much more defined path. As a teacher's assistant in Washington, D.C., he spends his summers off working in Portland patching up Boy Scouts - his position as the head medic at the national summer camp requires him to use the skills he learned through our Wilderness First Responder training (WFR).
"...getting the job as a medic would not have been possible without the WFR certification. Besides that, when employers look at my resume and see all the certifications I have now, it does seem to sway them in a positive way. I now know that I want to have some type of career in the outdoor field and [the Leadership Course] has made finding that type of job much easier."
Having found the Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Learning (WLEE) program at Brevard College, he plans on working in the outdoors as well as utilizing his Technical Ropes: Rescue Operation Level (TRRO) certification for day trips to the climbing rock.


Choosing to pursue more recreational adventures, Lisa Purul has spent the last year doing some incredible things. After working with us as an intern for awhile, she left for New Zealand to ride in the 400-mile Enduro Cycle Challenge bike ride and hiked throughout the South Island for a month. Most recently, she's been preparing for a trip to Nepal - just your average trek up to the Everest base camp! According to her, the Leadership Course played a significant role in shaping her decisions about what she wants to do in the future and with training in a variety of fields, she most certainly feels comfortable taking care of herself in the outdoors.


Now officially part of our team, Josh and Shelly took the course in the Fall and have since returned to work as selected interns. The newest additions to the organization, they are excited to spend some time on course again, only this time as instructors. Check out what they have to say about their own experience.




After listening to Obama's recent speech about the America's Great Outdoors initiative and posting about its implications, it will be interesting to see how our students emerge, now with more potential job opportunities related to what they learn here in Costa Rica. Hopefully their preparation will give them an advantage not only in their personal lives, but in finding work as well.


With the current Leadership Course under way, we've been posting videos, photos, and updates on our Facebook page. So if you're interested in learning about what they're up to as it's happening, be sure to check it out.