To all who it may concern,
It is Tuesday, April 4, 2017. We have reached the end of this mesmerizing trip. We have seen so far a small part of the world for these past 7 days and it has truly been both a blessing and a curse. We have found a new part of ourselves as a group and as individuals and we have learned many things on our journey to Costa Rica. From helping build part of the foundation of this small town school in San Jose, hiking through the different rainforests that this small country has to offer, to ziplining our way through the jungle to forming new friendships we thought would never happen, Costa Rica is a whole new world. I must say, that signing up for this trip has really shown me how little we know of the world and how much we have to learn from it. Through traveling we expand both our knowledge and especially our comfort zone, but through it we are one step closer to creating a bridge that will unite us as a whole.
I want to tell you about my experience going out of the country. This trip made me uncomfortable at times, overall I was excited. When I first walked out of the little plane, I died a little, it was blazing hot and humid. I saw everyone’s curious faces about the new place we landed in. I’ve learned to let go of my worries and to be who I am. I looked at the water when we got to our rooms, I wanted to jump right in. When we got to the community of El Tigre, and saw the faces of all kids I wanted to do as much as I could to help. Starting with digging a giant whole, although it was tiring we got the job done. On the last day of being at the community, I was excited to see everyone and the work we had accomplished. I really miss my dogs and my cat, and my sister…….. kind of 😊! I’m very proud of myself for not getting stressed out and freaking out. I just enjoyed everything around me. The food was really really good (no offense mom)! The conservation center was everyone’s least favorite, I liked it…. Bugs! Lets’ just have you picture that. I guess going on a long hike while it was pouring rain was worth it to see some cool footage of the forest animals. Overall, I’ve grown as a person, inside and out. But my experience is my own and I had an amazing time made new friendships and memories.
Costa Rica has been so much fun. I have learned so much about not only myself but also the people and culture around me. When we were in the community I had a language barrier with my host mom but it was really cool interacting with her and figuring out how to get past that barrier and connect with her. I have been having some struggles with my knee but I’ve been wearing my brace and making sure I am being careful with it. I have learned many things in Costa Rica such as when in doubt, ask Connie; and also I have learned how to connect with people who I know nothing about and can’t talk to. I miss my family and cheese popcorn...I really miss cheese popcorn (jk family I miss you guys more than cheese popcorn). This morning I had one of the best experiences of my life where I got to release baby turtles into the wild. This was an amazing experience because I got to see mother nature in action and see how the turtles acted with their natural instincts. The weather here is very unique; one second it feels like a million degrees and the next its pouring rain. These weather changes have not exactly helped with my lack of organization. Every time I need something from my bag, somehow every single thing from my pack ends up on the floor. This is also where Connie and Annita (the packing queens) help me out. I feel like this whole trip has been a great learning experience for me because I have learned more about culture and the people around me. I cant wait to get home and tell you guys more about my trip 😊
I really don’t know what to say right now because I miss all of you so much and I can’t describe my feelings. It is 8:28 pm and this is the second last night here. Even though we faced so many challenges (trust me, we really had hard times to get through challenges) and we are out of our comfort zone, we worked so hard together to overcome those challenges and we all gained so much from what we experienced. I miss my bed the most and I miss school soooo much. We experienced so many things, and mom, trust me, I took a lot of videos and I will show you when I get home. We went into the community, the rainforest, and the oceanside. We played with the kids, helped with the construction, hiked in the rainforest and released the sea turtles (they were so cute). I will never forget about those experiences in my life. Today when we were talking about the moments that we laughed during this trip, I was not able to think of one but now I finally notice that I was probably laughing every moment no matter how bad things got. We had problems with the ants, the toilet and we walked in the pouring rain yesterday. We overcame all those problems and we laughed over them. I will be home soon. I hope you guys had a nice trip in Hawaii (without me!). I miss you all.
I first wanted to say thank you for letting me venture off on this trip, and trusting me to enjoy my time here as well as learn from it. I want to assure you that I have. From working with the communities, to learning about the science that surrounds this beautiful place, I have realized a love of helping I had yet to experience. Helping this environment and ecosystem, helping the communities and learning how to help myself before I am stable enough to help others. When I stepped off the plane I wasn’t nervous, in fact I haven’t been anxious to come home yet, (sorry mom 😊), but this showed me something about myself. I have learned that I am a person who can live without certain things that other people need, and this allows me to not only help the communities I am used to, but far away communities as well. (I still love and miss you guys though, especially Mateo) But this skill I have realized when paired with my love to help people, will be exciting when I get home. I have also realized how much I should expand my horizons, but not only to other countries for long amounts of time, but also just in my community. I have learned that I don’t need to be as nervous when I talk to people, and even though smaller groups I prefer, I have learned that bigger groups of people are just as easy to talk to. Overall I have learned that I love to help, I am able to help for long amounts of time without getting homesick, and that people are just people, whether they are in a Costa Rica community or in my same dorm, I feel a need to help, talk and enjoy their company.
A naturalist said to me today something I hope a will never forget. ‘The rivers are like veins that lead to the ocean, the ocean is the heart and the forests are the lungs.’ If the rivers are bringing bad water to the ocean then the ocean wouldn’t be able to function correctly. This relates to today because we were studying tiny animals in the river. I had so much fun during this activity and learned so much. We also looked at videos from cameras that we collected. We did this in the pouring rain and were soaking wet. There were puddles in our shoes and we had to ring out our shirts every five minutes. We all said that we had the full rain forest experience. We looked at the footage and saw a puma also known as a mountain lion and it was so amazing. The experiences that I am having are once in a life time. Last night we watched the sunset on the beach eating the coconuts that we had just opened. I have been told by people in our group that I am in my natural environment. I think this is very true and I can see myself working here someday.
Thank you, Mom and Dad. I very much appreciate you sending me on this trip. It has given ideas for my Gold Award. I am very touched by this experience and I hope to further learn and work in this field.
Hugs and Kisses,
Maya (Cracker Jack Naturalist…says Mrs. Hagee)
I want to first thank you for letting me come back to Costa Rica, even though the travel fee is a little bit expensive. Thank you for all your support to me. So far during the trip, I’ve seen changes in the community, especially the building that we worked on last year. It is really amazing to see those changes and for me, those changes are my biggest motivation throughout the trip. This is the 6th day, and we moved from the community (school) to the conservation center. We got up at 5 in the morning, packed up and had a 1 to 2-hour drive on the rough road. It was a tough morning but everyone made it through. After we got to the conservation center, we settled in to our room. Our rooms were nice and clean, just like last year, and my only concern was that it would get really hot to sleep in those mosquito nets. We did two hikes today, one of them was a general overview of the rainforest, and our guide briefly illustrated some general knowledge of it. The other one was a long hike all the way across the rainforest to the beach, and we got to see the sunset, which was beautiful. In the end, I want to thank Mrs. Hagee for taking care of me and for cheering me up, that helps a lot.
First let me start by saying thank you for giving me the opportunity to experience Costa Rica. I wish you were all here to experience it with me. We just left the community, which was awesome, and we are now at the research center. It is more laid back here and there are so many monkeys. While we were at the community, we painted a building and others helped to dig a hole. After all our hard work, there was a celebration. So far, I have seen 2 toucans and I still haven’t seen a sloth. I have so much more to tell you all, but I would rather tell you all in person (: Tell Alexis, Baby Alyna, Sofia, Alex and Ava that I miss them so much and I can’t wait to see them. I’ll see you all soon (:
You don’t understand how much I’ve learned to appreciate all the little things we have. Thank you again mom for allowing me to go on this trip. I know this is hard working and earned money that doesn’t come easy. I am truly blessed. Even though it may be humid and filled with bugs, it has been pretty amazing here in Costa Rica. The views and the wilderness and the wildlife is so foreign to many of us and we have just taken it all in. I’ve been constantly trying to film from the gopro every chance I get. I can’t wait to show all the videos I took. The Crocovado Beach Lodge was great on the first day. We saw a crocodile which was really cool and don’t worry, I have been putting sunscreen constantly. When I say it’s hot, it’s HOT. I don’t think it is even the sun mostly. The humidity is something we all noticed as we stepped off the Nature Air plane into Puerto Jimenez. We then went to a community where we were able to paint and dig for their new school building. It was great to see how much progress we made in such little time. Playing with the kids was so fun, they kept on taking all of our hats and we were chasing them around, it was really funny. We each had host moms that cooked us breakfast and lunch, it is honestly some of the best food and they always fill you up. I came into this thinking I would lose weight with not enough food but I think I’m gaining weight sadly. Now we are at the conservation center with much more wildlife that include monkeys and snak…..I just won’t even type it. I’m just glad that you are home and safe. I miss you and everybody so much. I can’t wait to see you again, show you all the videos I have and to tell you all about it. Love you
Dear Family and Readers,
Warm, Sticky, and Humid are the three words I would use to describe the weather that we had today for the celebration. Today went well, we were digging in a trench and celebrating our visit in the community today. It is nice to see the progress that has happened since last year when we showed up. We learned to play Uno with our host family’s daughter, and it was nice to see that the language barrier didn’t keep us from having fun with the locals. This trip has truly brought out my inner self and I can’t wait to be more open to you guys when I get back. I really miss you guys a lot.
To my family,
Mom: I miss you so much and I am glad you sent me back for another year. You are the best and I am grateful for that every day that I’m down here. I recognized this every day and can’t wait to see your smiling face when I get through customs and I’m able to go home.
Dad: Thanks for helping me get through the tough car ride to the airport. I miss your tough love pep talks every day. P.S thanks for the little gift in my backpack. It has been a real help to write my thoughts down and can’t wait to tell you about it when I get home. Also, say hi to bear for me.
Dear Mom and Dad,
I’m having a lot of fun here in Costa Rica. We’re on our fifth day and so far, it has been a great experience. I’ve had some minor inconveniences, but nothing has stopped the fun I am having. The first day was a bit tiring as it was hard to get some sleep before we started the day off. The second flight took us to the town of San Jimenez where we stayed for a night. It was a beautiful area with the calm ocean right next to us. The water was very shallow so during low tides the water went out hundreds of yards, it really was something amazing to see. The second day we took a bus out to take a chocolate tour, we took a tour of how pure chocolate was grown and we got to taste many different fruits. The fruits were really juicy and delicious. Then, we went to another town with a school that we have been staying at for the last four nights. We got to interact with many of the little kids at the school and helped dig a trench for underground water pipes. It was really hard to do in the heat, but it was fun to help out. I enjoyed playing with the kids, even though I could barely understand the language. Every breakfast and lunch, two other kids and I spent the time with our host families, they served us delicious food but was difficult to talk to them because none of us spoke Spanish and none of them spoke English. The mother had a kid that played around with us. I’m also having a fun time with my friends and it’s nice to experience all of this. I don’t know how most people can live here with the heat, and it makes me grateful for what I have. It feels like noon at 7 in the morning. On Thursday, we got to hike up to a small waterfall and climb around it, I had a lot of fun doing that. Thank you guys so much for giving me the chance to have this experience. I’m excited to get home and share my experiences with you.
I am doing good here. It is hot and humid. Even I put a lot of sunscreen on, the sun still hurt my skin. I met a little girl (I forget her name! I can’t remember Spanish name.), she is so cute. She reminds me of my little sister and I want to take her with me to America. This afternoon, I saw a girl gluing her brother’s shoes, the shoes are old and dirty, I hope I can do more things and help them. We are heading to the rainforest tomorrow. I am looking forward the zip-line that we are doing on the last day. I miss Chuluota and Billy. I will see you soon.
(PS: Please, please, please forgive my grammar or spelling mistakes.)
I’m really enjoying everything here. Everywhere you look there’s green covering the land. A massive offset from Los Angeles though. The people actually laughed when I asked if any of the food was gluten free because in Costa Rica it’s hardly in anything anyways. But, thanks for packing me a box of granola bars, a big bag of pretzels, a bag of pecans, and three boxes of table crackers that you thought were necessary in case I couldn’t eat anything. I came on this trip to help me appreciate everything that I have and see how people a little less fortunate than me live and to help those people out. I can say that I have achieved both of those goals and beyond. But, unfortunately the list of things I have learned and experienced goes beyond words. I can say that the only way to understand is to experience it yourself. I was confident at first but walking out of our house, saying goodbye for the next ten days to dad, and driving to the airport and saying bye to mom my confidence turned to fear of the road ahead and the realization that I had never been away from you all for more than a week. But, after a few days I love it but still miss you and can’t wait to get back and want to stay forever.
I’m going to tell you the story about my fantastic host mom. For starters, I don’t remember her name so I just call her mama. In fall of 2016 my mama used to live by the edge of the river bank, then a terrible hurricane hit and washed away her home. She explained (in Spanish then Estefani translated for me) that she woke up early in the morning to a fish biting her neck. She got out of bed and the water was knee high in just a couple of hours the storm had demolished her entire home and in the distance, she saw her pet chickens drowning. She and her family survived along with some belongings and her two dogs. My host mom and her family didn’t know what do next, and still don’t have enough money to buy a house. They have constantly been moving around living in the back of people’s homes. For this week, they are borrowing a friend’s home so they can host us. She is also a great cook, though she makes sure we eat all the food because she can barely afford food and doesn’t want to see it go to waste but, I don’t’ have a problem with that. She is also great because she’s so fun and entertaining to talk to, and fills Stef and I in all the towns gossip. I love her a lot, and she is one of the most inspirational and moving people I have ever met because hearing her story really hit me hard in the heart. I have learned that no matter what life throws at you, you MUST get back on your feet and keeping moving forward because there is always a solution to the problem. Mom and Dad, I hope you two are having a magnificent time on your week and a half alone. I can’t wait to come back to you all smelly and gross and with plenty of stories, especially the ones my host mom has told me. I love you guys a lot and I’m so thankful you sent me on this trip again words can hardly describe. It truly is a great experience to see how much the town of El Tigre has grown, and that I had an impact on them even though they had more of an impact on me. Thanks again for being great parents and I miss you a ton.
Natalie Valvo 😉
I cannot thank you enough for sending me back to Costa Rica, it truly has been amazing. When we first entered the community of Dos Brazos this year I was in awe to see how much has changed. When looking around in Dos Brazos, we saw new buildings that were built and more tourist sights, but we also saw the same familiar faces. It is incredible to see how hard this community has worked to get to where they are now. A year before dog poop covered the school soccer field and the school buildings looked old and rundown. Now there is a beautiful community center being built, a new classroom, a fresh soccer field and newly painted classrooms. In one year, they could accomplish this and even more. Their resilience and hard work made me realize just how working through things and digging deep can help you in so many ways. I am proud to say that I have helped with the cause of the transformation of this community and it is really cool to see how everyone in the community supports each other and how they all strive for the same goal of making their community a better place.
I hope all you guys are doing well and I just wanted to let you know I am having a blast! I cannot wait to come home and tell you guys all the stories. I hope Kyle and Dad are having fun digging in Manzanar and Mom, I hope you are enjoying your alone time at home. Love you guys.
I am so happy that I have this great opportunity to experience something like this. Costa Rica is like nothing I have ever seen or experienced in my life. From the extreme weather, the unique species of animals and plants, and how welcoming the people are. Costa Rica is unique in that English and Spanish are both heard and seen commonly everywhere, but Spanish is still the dominant language of the country. When we first entered the community, there were tons of trees covering the village from above and lots of homes scattered around the village. There were tons of distinct sounds that came from the animals and there were lots of people with smiling faces. We worked on the school by digging out the ground so that we could place pipes down to create an aqueduct. After working on that for a few hours, we went inside the classrooms and played with the little kids. We played with little kids who were from five to ten, and there were around 35 kids in total in the entire school. It was fun to play with them and everyone someway, somehow found a way to communicate with them. I am very excited to continue to get to know them and the families better, and I also want to see how our hard work is going to look at the end.
Mom, I miss you and hopefully Joshua and dad haven’t driven you crazy yet without me. I hope you can survive another week without and alone with them. Also, tell them that I miss them and that they should try and survive in this heat. Tell Nique Nique that I am ok and that I miss her too. Finally, you should see me with my Spanish, I am actually able to talk to the locals decently.
With much love,