Day 7: Our Last Day in Paradise

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As our trip and time in Costa Rica comes to a close, we are taking every opportunity to partake in what the Barceló Playa Langosta Resort and the town of Tamarindo have to offer. We started the morning off with breakfast and from there some of us went to enjoy the spa. Another group elected to do surfing lessons at the Banana Surf Club.

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Due to the tides being extremely high this morning, they decided to come back during the afternoon when the tides would be lower and they would be able to fully enjoy their lesson.  While waiting on a cab back to the hotel, we took in the sights and sounds of the town. There were various shops, restaurant, and bars to enjoy. I also noticed a lot of new housing developments being built around the beach. Once we reached the hotel, we all headed to the pool for a heated match of monkey in the middle and pool volleyball.

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Others headed to the beach to soak up the sun and work on their tans while enjoying the relaxing sounds of the ocean. Costa Rica has been a life changing experience for me and I have learned so much. I will miss the beautiful place and its beautiful people! Little Rock, he we come!

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Day 7: Surfing

The final day of our Costa Rican Adventure was a free day. Some of us decided to spend our free day by taking surfing lessons from a local surf shop in Tamarindo called the “Banana Surf Club”. Before we hit the waves to see what we had, we spent time walking around the local shops which offered a variety of Costa Rican products. After a little bit of shopping and exploring, we started the tour with a walk down the beach to a more secluded location where we met our guides and grabbed our surfboards.

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As we walked down the beach, you could see all sorts of activities going on. There were families playing with their dogs, fisherman anchored out a ways from the shoreline, people parasailing and locals surfing. Before we hit the water to shred some waves, our guides spent some time teaching us a few basics. First, the guides helped us establish which footing we would be using: standard (left foot in front) or goofy (right foot in front). Next, we each grabbed a surf board and laid on top to practice the three steps used to get up on your board. We quickly began to tell realize that some us may be more gifted in the art of surfing than others. After a few minutes of practice, we hit the water to see what we had. We took turns as our two guides helped us catch the perfect waves. The time flew by quickly as we practiced our newly learned skills with the beautiful Costa Rican mountain range as a backdrop.

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After about an hour, we finished the surfing adventure with a walk back down the beach carrying our surfboards. As we headed back, we had one last chance to take in all of the beautiful scenery that Tamarindo had to offer as the sun set one last time. This adventure was a gnarly ending to a weeklong trip full of nonstop adventure, continuous laughter and growing friendships.

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Day 7: Sunset Cruise

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Just another wonderful hot sunny day. Most of the group members plan for surfing this afternoon. I decided to do something on my own, a sailing tour.

I went to the beach and was informed by safety guards to only swim in the peaceful inner bay area due to the high waves outside of this area. The current was a little strong, even in that peaceful part. I soon realized that this bay was the entrance from the river to the ocean.

After a quick lunch, I jumped on the shuttle to go to the sailing tour. A small boat was used to transport people to the sailboat. Its name is Marlin del Rey. It was a twin body half sail, half diesel powered boat. The capacity is 80 people and we had 47 passengers on board. Half were from Chicago, and the rest were from various other areas such as Colorado, New Orleans, Norway, and Ohio. We all congregated on the upper deck. It was a bumpy ride and the movement made me felt light headed. In order to relieve my nausea, I took a nap in the lower room area. Two girls experienced more seasickness than I did.

We anchored in the middle of the sea. A lot of people, including me, jumped in for a swim. Some tried to stand on the board but most failed. We stopped by to watch the sunset and came back. All in all it was a great day at sea.

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Bus Games and a Life Lesson

This morning we left the beautiful Arenal Paraiso Hotel Resort & Spa. Before leaving, we filled our stomachs with fresh frutas, huevos, y arroz con frijolesin preparation of our half day drive to the Pacific Coast. Along the way, we made a pit stop to take one last look at the Arenal Volcano and took a group picture.

As we continued our trek through the curvy mountains, many on the bus decided to partake in some friendly competition. Thumb wars, rock paper scissor, and paper plane making brought a smile to many and took our minds off of the pending motion sickness.

After about an hour of driving, we entered the tropical dry forest. The yellow fields and vegetation were completely different from what we’ve encountered in Costa Rica thus far. We passed by some amazing scenery including gigantic windmills, man-made lakes, and a majestic volcanic range. We learned about the underground irrigation system that is in place because of the lack of water in the area. Lake Arenal’s water is used to help water the farms for those located in the tropical dry forest. Fernando also taught us about the volcanic steam, wind, and water are used to create electricity for the residents

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Of the many stories our tour guide, (the walking Costa Rica Wikipedia) Fernando, has told us, the one that stands out above the rest is about the professor and student who once visited Costa Rica. The professor knew the area, and visited a local village he was familiar with. They both stayed a night at the humble home of a family he knew.

The student quickly learned that the family was sustained by a single cow who supplied the milk and cheese that the family lived and depended on. Without the cow, the family had no source of income.

In the morning, the professor and student begin their trek to the next destination. As they left the home, the professor pulled out his knife, and wordlessly killed the family’s cow, their only source of income. Aghast by the actions of the professor, the student could find no words.

A year later, the professor called the student, wanting to know if he would accompany him once more to Costa Rica. The student obliged, curious to know how the family had turned out.

Upon arriving at the same village they had visited the year before, the student anxiously awaited for the repercussions of the professors actions. Instead, he was shocked to find the farm in better shape than they had left it. Luscious gardens grew where the cow once stood, and the farmhouse was replaced with a bigger, newer home. The farmer and his family welcomed the student and professor in, and gladly recounted the events of the past year.

“After the cow was killed,” said the farmer, “The farm was in trouble. No more milk, no more cheese, no more way of living.” So he planted a garden. And the garden grew, and grew, and gradually replaced the need for milk and cheese. Soon, the family was once more self-sufficient. “And,” The farmer proudly explained, “we expanded. We opened a shop in the market and now sell our produce.” With the profits resulting from the produce, the family was now more than self-sufficient. They were earning an income.

The student was shocked at the development of the story. As they left the following morning, he asked his professor why the chain of events had to occur for the family to finally become more than just self-sufficient. The professor simply stated, “sometimes, you have to kill your cow.”

As a student from America, we become accustomed to the lifestyle. Deviating from that—even something as simple as just losing AC, can send us into a tailspin. But here we are, six days in, and the energy in the air was palpable as we finished lunch and boarded the bus for the final destination here in Costa Rica. The two hour long drive was the same as any road trip. Movies, games, and sloths. It was our last road trip with the best bus driver in Costa Rica, Salvador, and none of us missed the opportunity to wish him adios before his long drive back to San Jose.

Call it the excitement of coming to a five-star resort, or just the relaxation provided by the Hot Springs at the hotel the night before–but we were ready to go. The resort has not disappointed yet. We’ve already had the chance to play volleyball, and we’ve all experienced the live music and food that only a resort in Costa Rica could provide.

To experience something as brilliant as this, sometimes you have to break out of your comfort zone. As Fernando hauntingly put it, “sometimes, you have to kill your cow.”

Sunset(Ben)

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Adventure Tours Excursion

It’s not everyday that you see college students awake and eating breakfast at 7am in Costa Rica during Spring Break. As a matter of fact, it’s not often all those words are in the same sentence. We made a special exception this Thursday morning.

We’ve finally made it to the resort but I’ve got to admit that I think most of us are looking forward to today’s activities. We started the morning with a delicious breakfast. We had several of options, from tasty huevos to crispy hash browns to hot pancakes. Everyone enjoyed a healthy plate before heading out to the bus at 7:30am.

The bus was ready and the AC was running. We all got on board with a smile knowing that the day ahead included tubing through Costa Rica’s rapids, zip lining above the trees, horseback riding through dry forest and soaking up the hot springs powered by the local volcano.  The first stop were the rapids. After arriving to the park operated by Adventure Tours we made a quick transfer to an old school bus and got closer to destination. When we got there you could hear the water moving from afar. We anxiously put on sunscreen, grabbed a water tube and took the stairs down to the water. One by one we jumped in our tubes, with the help from the park employees and started making our way down the Grade 2 rapids.

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The cold water felt great with the hot sun on us. Every turn and fall became adventure of its own as we made our way down the stream. Eventually, to keep everyone together, we all linked up to make a straight line of tubes. It proved to be difficult at times as people became stuck on the rocks or others turned but we always seemed to get the link back in formation. We had a great time as we progressed and laughed at every unexpected turn. We kept an eye out for the photographer who was capturing candid photos of us to have later. We did have a couple of mishaps when two fellow students flipped their tubes over by accident but they were quickly helped by park employees and kept everyone on the move. After a long distance, we each got out of the water and made our way back to the bus.

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Lunch was next and once again Costa Rica didn’t let us down. We ate at a buffet-style restaurant that was on the park property. Again, we had several options. They had a great salad bar with carrot salad dressing and cucumber salad dressing on hand. They also had great white rice, pinto beans, hot beef and potatoes, and fish. We finished our meals quickly and got ready for our next activity.

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If I’ve learned anything about Costa Rica its that there’s an adventure at every corner. In such a short time we’ve traveled and visited four out of seven provinces and learned so much about the people, their businesses and culture. Costa Rica has been very good to us.

After lunch, we continued on our Adventure Tours excursion. Next on our list was Canopy Zip Lining. We all buckled up, shook off our nerves, and then killed the cow. The group also had the opportunity to repel down into a cavern then rock climb back up.  In total, we used seven zip lines all with the brave option of going backwards.

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Next, we went on a peaceful horse/mule ride through the dusty trails. Even though there were some stubborn attitudes from the horses, the group seemed to enjoy the beautiful views.

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Our last adventure of the day was a mud bath and hot springs. We brushed ourselves down in cleansing mud, then cleaned it off in the hot springs. It was the perfect ending to a great adventure.  Pura Vida.

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ONE-APPLE, TWO-APPLE, THREE-APPLE, PINEAPPLE!!!!!🍍🍍🍍🍍🍍🍍

The morning had passed and had led up to one of the most anticipated portions of the trips, the pineapple farm. We already had the luxury of trying fresh and amazing fruits but there was a different excitement from having it picked right in front of you. We arrived at Organic paradise tour and were quickly loaded on to a trailer being pulled by a tractor. It was there we were introduced to our tour guide Michael.

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Michael was quite the guide as it was something he had been doing since the age of 12. He had an intimidating humor about him….maybe it was the the machete he was wielding…..maybe it was the death stare, either way he made us laugh. He explained to us that he was working with the second largest pineapple producer in Costa Rica working on 85 acres which produced 20,000 pineapples a week. The pineapples there are grown all year and employs 28 workers; doesn’t sound like to many workers which turns out you don’t need that many as one trained worker can plant 10,000 pineapples in an 8 hour day. He then made us all feel silly with our lack of pineapple knowledge before prepping (and by this I mean masterfully wielding his machete) us slices of pineapple which he would eventually turn into a pineapple lollipop. By far the BEST pineapple I’ve ever had! We returned to the bus but not before being treated with even more pineapple goodies: fresh pineapple juice, pineapple empanadas, and pineapple marmalade which I ended up purchasing more of. As we loaded the bus to continue on our Costa Rican adventure, I couldn’t help but think that maybe I hadn’t consumed enough pineapple.

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We drove another 2 hours towards Fortuna, our next stop. We arrived and stop by at a local restaurant to have dinner. I think it was safe to say that everyone wanted a break from the traditional beans and rice as I couldn’t help but notice all the pizzas and burgers at the table. I’m myself opted for the cow tongue, a dish pretty common south of the states. After dinner we arrived at our hotel, Arenal Paraiso, It’s named accordingly as it’s near the Arenal Volcano. The main draw was something so close to home we couldn’t resist, hot springs. Which we immediately took advantage of as we were in hot baths a mere 15 minutes after checking in. The night ended with everyone relaxed and eager to continue on this amazing trip from coast to coast in Costa Rica.

Pizza                                                                       Hot Springs

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Farmer Maria Josie

We arrived at the Maria Josie’s Association for a tour and lunch. Her association helps to support local farmers to ensure they have the ability to grow and sell their products. First up was a walk through the garden.  Of course, as was expected at Earth University the smallest of animals (ants) are not so friendly – watch your step. Back to the beautiful garden, as we walked through the path we came across orchids growing off Palm trees.  Next were Pineapple plants, they were so small – much more on Pineapples later. We saw several varieties of plants – lemon grass (smell was great), wild orchids and bananas.

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On the farm, they grow the fruits and vegetable necessary to support themselves on a daily basis – onions, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. They are very self sufficient.  We ended out tour with a fantastic lunch cooked by our hosts.  We had chicken, salad and noodles – all very good. The juice was really tasty.  Best of Luck to Farm Maria Josie!!

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Leaving a little behind at Earth University

This morning we left Earth University after spending a couple of days learning about their facility and overall goals. Yesterday, between watching informational videos and touring the grounds; our group came upon a wall filled with leaves. These leaves were a representation of the donations to the school in order to support scholarships and basic needs of the students and school at large.

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We are proud to say that our group of UALR and SAU students and facility will now be a part of that wall based on the fact that we raised $250 during breakfast – form just our group. (Great job everyone!!)  In addition to our leaf, we also were provided a tree to plant on the grounds noted by a marker showing it was from UALR and SAU. I wonder if we just started a tradition for future groups from UALR / SAU that visit Earth University??

Group Tree pic

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Free Afternoon of Relaxation and Play

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After a hearty carb filled lunch, the group headed back to the “rooms” for a much needed break. After an hour of self-reflection and naps, we headed out to the pool for a refreshing dip. Immediately upon arrival, we initiated a friendly game of ultimate Frisbee (with a slight alteration). Instead of a frisbee we used the resources available to us and scrounged up a miniature basketball. After this heated match, our group parted ways, half staying in the pool while the other half left to play basketball. Our afternoon of activities left our group sweaty and in need of a shower.

Since this afternoon was a bit slower than usual, this would be a good time to brag on our tour guide. Fernando has been so hospitable in welcoming us to his country. It’s really amazing to be in the presence of someone who is so passionate about what he does. Any question he is presented with, Fernando has an answer. Having a true expert on our side while touring Costa Rica has been a real treasure that all of us will appreciate for the rest of our lives.

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Banana Plantation

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During our tour of EARTH University we discussed banana farming. The campus has 5 banana plantations that are commercially farmed. During our tour we learned various facts about bananas and the farming of them. For example, we learned that banana’s literal translation is “finger”.  Also, bananas are not trees, have no roots, and the fruit is an herb. Approximately 70% of these plants are made of water. The plant grows for nine months and produces 1 large group of bananas.

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After the bananas are harvested, the stalk is cut with a machete and another plant will sprout. This process can continue on one plant for up to 25 years with the right fertilizer.  Bananas are prone to fungus and insects that kill the entire plants. Insecticide is sprayed from planes, and the fruit is covered with a blue plastic bag with holes.  These bags serve two purposes. One is to protect the plant against harmful insects, and the other reason is to imitate the effect of a greenhouse by trapping heat in to speed up the growth process. These bags are collected after harvest and recycled.

During the process of farming such a large number of bananas, water runoff from the plantation can become an issue. This water is filtered to ensure protection of the environment from insecticides and fungicides. The bananas are harvested and thoroughly washed during the packing process. This is to ensure the best product for customers. Only the very best are used to export to the United States.

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