Thursday, March 17, 2016

Student Reflections Group 1 (Floria, Oliver, Brianna)

After a long and strenuous journey, we finally arrived in Chilamate. First, we set camp in the bunks and explored the Eco-Lodge and its open-air structures, including the classrooms, patios, sleeping cabins, and a restaurant. Megan and Davis, the owners, constructed everything themselves! From the beginning (like Dorothy) we knew we weren’t home anymore; the tropical plants were mesmerizing and took up the space we looked out upon, truly a fresh and lovely experience. 

The next day after an early wake up and a really yummy (and different) breakfast, we set out to explore a tiny part of the vast Costa Rican rainforest that surrounded us. We separated into two groups, with guides and got to experience the various Costa Rican plants and wildlife, extremely different from the heavy air and concrete streets of New York. Not only did we see two VERY large bullet ants, we also learned about symbiotic plants that grow on trees. We learned how there is a tree that had three hundred different species of symbiotic plants growing on it (crazy but incredibly cool)! After our minds were full of new knowledge and information, we set back to clean our rooms and prepare for our next adventure.            


After packing our luggage in our rooms, our ethnobotanist Jaime took us to a little shaded spot where we tasted and learned about many different fruits and plants. A few of the best ones were a weird sour thing (mimbro) that kind of resembled a pickle except in a lighter shade of green (for some reason, Jaime suggested that we dip them in salt, but not everyone liked that), a leaf that made our mouths feel super numb, lemongrass, and my personal favorite: coconuts. Also, besides the edibles, there were these fuzzy pods that had berries in them. If you popped the pods open, and squished the berries inside, they made a really cool orange paint. There were also ferns that had white ink on one side and we made little tattoos on top of the orange paint on our skin. On our way back to the Eco-Lodge, Jaime gave us these little plastic bags of cold liquid banana-chocolate ice cream, his homemade recipe.       



After an exciting morning of hiking and plant tasting, we finally got to meet our homestay families. Riding down the road to our new homes, there was a buzz of excitement but also nervousness. Most of our families speak only Spanish and we were all a little bit apprehensive about communicating with our families. One by one, we were dropped off to our new homes. Finally, the bus stopped and we pulled up in front of a beautiful, small, pink house with a young boy standing outside: my new younger brother, Manfred. He smiled and waved at Cassandra, Sylvie and me (We are now the Josell sisters for the week). Our mother, Bianca, came out with our adorable baby brother, Dylan, and immediately welcomed us to her home. As soon as we walked inside, I smelled papas fritas y tortillas de maiz. Once we got accustomed, we played two card games, one called Locos Ochos and, of course, the other, UNO. My “hermana para la semana,” Keren was very helpful in introducing me to her family and friends. I have only been at my homestay for 3 hours and I already feel like a part of the family and the amazing Costa Rican community. Pura Vida!