Time to Explore

By: Henry Bost
Wow, I just got back from Monte Verde, and what an amazing weekend that was. Although clearly a haven solely intended for Gringo tourists, sometimes its nice to indulge in such pleasures. We stayed at an absolutely gorgeous hotel in the mountains, full of cool places to walk and pleasant front porch areas to sit on and enjoy the vistas. We went zip-lining on Saturday, and although my fear of heights in such a context providing me with some inhibitions to overcome, once we got going, I let all of those go and was thrilled by the experience. The town we were near was very pleasant with many shops and restaurants to be enjoyed. These weekend trips have really been the highlights of our time here. Although San Jose is amazing to live in and experience, I have most enjoyed the trips to the other parts of Costa Rica, where the worries are less and the relaxation/pleasure oriented activities are more emphasized. Don’t get me wrong, the classes here at ICADS and activities we do in the urban environment have been truly eye opening and inspiring, but my inner hedonist cannot help but jump for joy when we hop on that bus on Fridays to go explore some cool new area in Costa Rica.

Making the Most

By: Anthony Fraden

This week was another week filled with education about the local culture and further continuation of our Spanish classes. During the beginning of our week we took our Society and Culture Midterm test, which was a review of different historical events, figures and customs of Costa Rica. I believe that everyone did well on the test, only missing a few questions here and there. After the test was over everyone heaved a sigh of relief and we all said goodbye to our teacher for the first half of our Society and Culture class, Manuel Monestel. He has been a fantastic teacher over this first half of our journey here, and he has worked hard to teach us in a way that is informative yet not overly-dense or complicated. I’m glad to have had him as a teacher. After the rest of our classes in the week we drove to Monteverde in the northwestern mountainous region of Costa Rica. Here we had the chance to go zip-lining over beautiful scenery and swinging from high-up places. It was amazing yet also quite intimidating in some portions of our canopy tour. I had never been zip-lining before, but I found it to be an exhilarating experience. It felt freeing to be gliding from place to place, especially across some of the larger more open stretches of cables. After we finished our zip-lining tour we got to see this local wild macaw that I ended up befriending and spending time with for a little while. This week has been great, and Costa Rica is continually treating us all well. It’s a little sad that we only have 2 more weeks left here, but I plan on making the most of them!

Time Flies

By: Andrew Novinski

It feels like yesterday we were on the beach in Cahuita, Costa Rica…but it also feels like 3 weeks ago. Each week takes so much out of you, but can sometimes go by fast if you’re not paying attention. Learning different phrases each day, interacting with locals in stores all the time, and delving oneself into a new part of the life in Costa Rica on each weekend excursion takes quite a toll on your body both mentally and physically.

We have visited rain forests and coasts, but this weekend we got to go up in the mountains of Monteverde and tour a cloud forest. Like the name says it is as if you are walking through a forest in the clouds. You will be walking and then all of the sudden its gets really foggy and misty for a couple minutes. The park we were touring was on the continental divide and there was a point where we got to a scenic overlook which in reality was not scenic, but very mesmerizing. It was like looking off the edge of a cliff, but instead of seeing the bottom you could only see about 15 feet down and the rest was just cloudy filling and the winds were strong.

The second part of the day was on my bucket list. We got to do a canopy zip line tour. We did 13 cables (2 superman style), repelled, and did a giant swing. Some of the lines were fast and short and others were much longer and were incredibly high up. I did not think that the way we would stop would be by grabbing the cable and pulling down. Granted we had very thick gloves on, but I was imagining a break mechanism on the pulley. We were zip lining across a valley and we were a hundred feet plus above the ground. We could see cows below and they were pretty small. The first superman style cable we did was a kilometer long and it was scary going head first looking down the valley and at the vegetation.

It was a long tiring weekend and we only have two weekends left together, which is weird to think about. We will all come back in January and be in different places and classes for the first time. The next two weeks are going to be a blast. There are more stories to come!

Pura Vida!!!

Back to Nature

By: Marta Djalleta

It has been a little over two months since our group has been out in the wilderness and been able to really embrace nature like we could on our NOLS course. However, this weekend I finally got the opportunity to do just that.
On our trip to Monteverde, our group had the wonderful opportunity of visiting the National Park in Monteverde, also known as a cloud forest. This place was as cool as it sounds. Costa Rica holds 8% of the world’s biodiversity and I could easily believe that statistic while I was walking through this magical forest. Our tour guide that led our small group was so knowledgeable about everything there was to know about this forest and always included the random fascinating facts about these wild species that lived in this beautiful habitat. Two of my favorite trees that he mentioned were the prehistoric fern tree and the strangler fig tree. The prehistoric fern was awesome solely based on the fact that this species existed during the same time as dinosaurs and still exist today. Also, the foliage of this tree is intricately beautiful! Additionally, we learned about the strangler fig tree, which is a tree that can kill other trees. Not knowing anything like this even existed in the plant world, it was interesting to learn about how this fig tree suffocates its host tree by blocking sunlight on the top of the tree as well as hogging up nutrient soil on the ground. We saw some examples of this morbid nature in some hollow trees that have been killed by a strangler fig. It was really strange but simultaneously awesome! Also while on our tour, after crossing the continental divide, we got to be among the clouds in an open area in the forest. We felt strong mist while staring out into a completely white fog, it was an amazing moment to feel something while seeing hardly nothing. LasIMG_2775tly, we also encountered a quetzal bird which is beautifully colored with red, green, blue, and yellow feathers. It was considered a god during Aztec times and is the national bird and currency in Guatemala. It is a beautiful bird and through a device our tour guide had, we were able to see it close up!

Overall, this weekend was a great time to remember how much we can appreciate the natural world around us and essentially get back to nature.


Pura Vida

By: Elizabeth McDonald

Hay algunas cosas en mi vida que no puedo explicar en palabras propias. Toda mi experiencia en Costa Rica, hasta ahora, podría ser una de estas instancias. Con decir esto, tuve una experiencia el lunes pasado que no olvidaré. Yo no recordada en el momento, pero era el cumpleaños de mi mamá tica. Ella siempre cocinaba entonces por su día especial, su esposo y su hija tenían la responsabilidad de preparar algo para cena. Mi mamá también me dijo que mucho de la familia suya iba a venir a su casa para celebrar. Cuando mi hermana anfitriona me llamó por cena, yo era saludado de muchas personas. No sólo era los hijos de mis padres ticos, pero también sus esposas y sus hijos. Para cena, tuvimos Pizza Hut. Era muy diferente, para mí, tener este tipo de comida para una celebración pero pienso que el pensamiento era que mi mamá no necesitaba cocinar en su cumpleaños. El ambiente era amable y todos nos disfrutamos. Después de cena, con gran sorpresa mía, había una banda de mariachi. іEn nuestra casa! Era un momento que voy a recordar por siempre. Los luces del árbol de navidad estaba parpadeando detrás de los cantores y la música era muy rica. Todo mi familia tica estaba sonriendo y yo lo mismo. En este momento yo no pude creer que tengo la oportunidad de tener estas experiencias. Es difícil poner en palabras pero cuando mi familia tica estaba cantando una canción típica de Costa Rica, yo empezaba a llorar un poquito por la belleza del momento. Cada día aquí, pienso que dichosa estoy para estar en un país como este. No puedo decir otra cosa, aparte de este: Pura Vida.

Translation: There are some things in my life, I cannot explain properly in words. All of my experiences in Costa Rica, thus far, could be categorized as such. With that being said, I had an experience this past Monday that I will never forget. I didn’t remember at the time but it was my host mom’s birthday. She always cooks so for her special day, her husband and daughter had the responsibility to prepare something for dinner. My mom also told me that a lot of her family was coming to our house to celebrate. When my host dinner called me for dinner, I was greeted by many people. Not only was it my host brothers but also their wives and kids. For dinner, we had Pizza Hut. It was very different for me to have this type of food for a celebration but I think the thought was that my host mom didn’t need to cook for her birthday. The environment was amicable and we all enjoyed ourselves. After dinner, much to my surprise, there was a mariachi band. In our house! It was a moment that I will remember forever. The lights on the Christmas tree were twinkling behind the singers and the music was beautiful. All my family was smiling and I the same. In that moment, I could not believe I have the opportunity to have experiences like this. It’s hard to put into words but when my host family started singing a typical Costa Rican song, I began to tear up due to the beauty of the moment. Every day here, I think how lucky I am to be in a country like this. There’s nothing more I can say other than this: Pura Vida.

Break Strongly at the End

By: Krisandra Provencher

“Break strongly at the end,” is the last thing I hear before my body is pushed off the platform and I’m hurtling through the air attached to a thick metal cable. As I zip quickly over the jungle, the wind brushes against my rosy, adrenaline-filled cheeks and my eyes wander over the massive trees alongside me. They rise from the swirl of green below me and stretch their mossy, vine-covered branches up into the clouds above me. I can faintly hear a choir of birds tweeting a pleasant melody and the laughter of my friends as they themselves fly through the cloudy canopy. Before I’m ready for it to be over, I’m pulling down on the cable to break and planting my feet on the next platform.

One of the parks many staff, clad in olive green cargo pants and a black t-shirt, unclips the many metal pieces keeping me suspended in the air and then points out a brightly colored toucan in the branches above us. I watch in fascination as it hops from branch to branch, occasionally letting out a chirp at his companions in other trees. But, then a sharp scream breaks through the previously-calm air causing the bird to take off in fear and me to jump in confusion and alarm.

I search for the cause of the panic and suddenly see an extremely buff man soaring through the misty air below me before quickly rising up towards the tree tops. I process what’s happening as feelings of excitement and fear mix in my stomach forming butterflies. It’s the Tarzan Swing, a giant rope suspended from a metal bar hung across a pocket of open space in the cloud forest canopy. You get attached to the rope at the waist and then swing off of a high platform. It resembles a giant tire swing. I continue to watch in amazement as the grown man continues to shriek like a little girl and make my way to the back of the line.

Over the next twenty minutes I watch as person after person plummets from the platform screaming for their life, swearing terribly or in complete silence. The butterflies in my stomach gradually morph into a cacophony of raptors flapping their wings in rapid succession as I get closer to the front of the line. Soon the person in front of me is being shoved off and a giant guttural sound expels from them as they zoom down and then back up through the air. The staff man turns and motions for me to come closer. It’s my turn. He casually straps me in, giving a tug on my carabiner for good measure. He then looks at me and nods. Without thinking I nod back. He tells me to sit down in the harness and then with a final look at my friends still waiting in line, he gives me a push.

I fall face-first off the platform. All I can see is a blur of green and a weak “woah” escapes from my throat as my stomach drops and the raptors from earlier struggle to explode from my body. With a sudden jerk my body begins to soar upwards and soon I’m looking at the mountains in the distance, their peaks covered with clouds and the sun beginning to set behind them forming new colors in the sky. As I fly higher, I stretch my hand out, certain I can touch the leaves on the trees before my body wooshes back the way that I came. I let out a small giggle which quickly grows into uncontrollable laughter as my body whips through the air. I’m free, suspended in the jungle like a monkey swinging from branch to branch, and all I can do is laugh.

Costa Rican Home Depot

By: Jack Kapes

Tomorrow (November 12th) we have an afternoon of service painting a school just outside of San Jose and Henry and I decided to head to the store with Roxana to buy supplies. Just under a block away from ICADs, past the San Jose Sports Club, Banco Regular and the train station is EPA. EPA is pretty much a Home Depot or a Menards and we were there to buy paint and other supplies for the next day. As we walked into the building we were met with life sized nutcrackers and a store decorated for Christmas. Now I thought that the holiday season began the day after Thanksgiving and I think that it’s too early anyway but here in Costa Rica the holiday season begins around the end of Halloween. The store was decorated thoroughly with Christmas decorations. They had lights, trees, fake snow and other decorations accompanied with the pleasant sound of Christmas music. We stopped by the paint department and organized all the pain that we were to need and headed to grab brushes and other items while the paint was being dyed. I never really knew this before but when you buy pain they actually make it at the store. All the paint buckets are just clear or white paint that is put in a machine and dyed to your liking. A bit off topic but I thought that it was pretty interesting. Anyway, while looking for the paining isle Henry and I stumbled upon a gem, machetes. Every since we visited the banana plantation we’ve had dreams of buying one. I haven’t really had dreams about machetes but you get the idea, they’re cool as heck and can cut through just about anything. We walked up to the plastic display where the machetes hung and took one out. It was about length of my arm and sharp as heck. I expected them to be quite expensive but to my surprise they only ran about 3,000-5,000 colones which is about $6-10 USD. They came with a beautiful leather knife holder that loops along your chest. I was tempted to get one but I told myself that if I wasn’t living in a concrete jungle that I really didn’t need one. We gathered the brushes, grabbed the paint and headed for the checkout counter and then made our way out to Roxana’s car. We hopped in the car and drove back to ICADs, paint and supplies in hand. I’m looking forward to the service tomorrow and hopefully I’ll get home before it starts to rain again.

Editor’s Note: Jack did not actually purchase a machete during his visit to EPA.

The Little Things

By: Marin Williams

  1. Tico Time: When it comes to punctuality, Costa Rican’s are very relaxed. Arriving late to meet friends or go to dinner is very commonplace.
  2. Food: Gallo Pinto is a must for breakfast. For lunch or dinner, Casados are typical served with fried plantains and rice.
  3. Saying Hello: Normally when you greet a Tico, you give them a kiss on the left cheek. Men generally give handshakes.
  4. Manners: Don’t walk barefoot around the house, it is considered unsanitary.
  5. Taxi: When you hail a cab, you stick your hand into the road. There are not really street names, so we use stores and landmarks as directions. Also slamming taxi doors makes the driver very upset-close softly.
  6. Septic System: Costa Rican toilets are not able to process toilet paper. You have to dispose it in the provided receptacle.
  7. Paying: when eating out in a restaurant, you walk up to the counter to pay when you’re finished eating. You have to remember what you ordered otherwise someone would forget to pay for their cup of fruit.
  8. Speaking: Costa Rica is one of the only Spanish speaking countries that doesn’t use second person. They address others formally as he or she.
  9. Shower: Costa Ricans are very clean. It is important to shower everyday or else your host mom will start telling you in discrete side comments (i.e.: Do you prefer cold or warm showers after exercising?).
  10. Pura Vida: Despite having many little differences, Costa Rica is a fantastic place to be and everyday is a reminder that life is good.

Cows, Zip-lining, Jam and Brownie Sundaes: A Weekend In Monteverde

By: Eliza Upton

After a week of registration induced stress, us gappers took on the cloud forest of Monteverde over the weekend. As far as a “weekend getaway” goes, for me, this weekend tops the list, and I have come to the firm conclusion that my college experience has spoiled me. I came to this conclusion when we arrived at our hotel and I could step outside my room and see sprawling green mountains for miles which eventually led to the Gulf of Nicoya.

On Saturday we got to enjoy more views, some within the mountains and some above. In the morning we took a walking tour through the Monteverde Reserve. During our tour we were shown new animal and plant species, including colorful birds, enormous hanging tree roots, and healing mushrooms. And for the second time in Gap we crossed the Continental Divide, which of course brought back tons of NOLS nostalgia.

Saturday afternoon brought on more NOLS nostalgia in the form of adrenaline as Gap took on zip-lining. As with most activities here in Costa Rica, we were not disappointed. Over the course of three hours we took our mountainous views a little higher as we flew through the air during countless zip-lines. We even channeled our inner Tarzans by taking on the tree swing. As someone who is not too fond of heights and the feeling of your stomach dropping, I was on the verge of peeing my pants the entire time, but in the end I loved it all. My favorite parts came when I got to watch my favorite animals in the green hills below. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Cows all trip long, but watching them graze peacefully from a new perspective warmed my cow loving heart.

For me, a good weekend wouldn’t be complete without some good eats and this weekend was full of them. Breakfast introduced me to the possible love of my life, pineapple jam. To be honest I’m not even sure if it was specifically pineapple jam, but I do know that it was the most incredible fruit medley ever, which I dumped onto my toast shamelessly. Sadly the hotel came wouldn’t let me buy a jar, or twenty, to take home, so if anyone knows of any good pineapple jams available for purchase please let me know! Lucky for me the jam was not my only food love this weekend. Coming from a recommendation by the 2014 gappers, we enjoyed brownie sundaes from a local Monteverde restaurant. And as strong as my love for cows, is my love for ice cream. My tastebuds were very happy.

Sadly this weekend also brought news of devastating attacks across the world. My heart broke with each new headline and story of hate that came across my newsfeed, and my thoughts and condolences are with all deeply affected by this worldly unrest. However on our ride home, while my breath was being taken away by views for the umpteenth time this weekend, I was reminded of all the beauty that remains in this world. And though we humans may not always be beautiful, I know I can always find beauty and reassurance in my favorite female role model, mother nature. The cows and mountains showed me that peace is hiding in some places on Earth, we just need to coax it out

When In Rome

By: Nathan Hunnicutt


The area was crisp and calming,

But my body could not stop shaking.

I was under control,

Or was I?

There were seven of us,

Seven souls to brave the fall.

We would charge into eternity one by one.


The red, metal bird cage held us captive,

As we were dragged across the sky.

The sky revealed a valiant blue and white

Waving its colors for all to see.

The drop zone was encircled,

Mist had painted red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo streaks side by side.

We were enclosed, captured,

With no way out but to jump.


Five seconds,

Till four minutes of a life time.

Three others to stand above me.

One memory that will live on in infamy.

I am falling,

I am free.

Bungee Jumping.JPG

A New Friend

By: Lyn Nelson

Every day on my walk to school I pass an old man sitting the steps of the beautiful church that stands in the middle of Curridabat. On most days he has on a pair of tattered light blue jeans, and a faded t-shirt splattered in white paint. His shoulder length grey hair flows out from under his bright orange baseball cap, and in his right hand rests a walking stick.

I have passed him many times on the way to school without having a single interaction. It’s common for men in Costa Rica to cat call at you when you walk by, so I wasn’t exactly sure what this man would do if this random girl from the United States decided to say hello.

Although after about two weeks passed I decided I wanted to hear this man’s story. He seemed like such a peaceful guy, and had never once said anything condescending to me.

The morning I decided to say hello, he responded with “Hello young one. How are you doing on this fine morning? Have a splendid day.” His response made me smile. It seemed so heartfelt, and meaningful.

Now every day on my way to and from school I look forward to saying hello to my new friend. Although I have yet to have a full conversation with him, I hope that I can get to hear his story at some point, because it certainly deserves to be known.