4/2 & 4/3

Hello !

Yesterday we went white water rafting. Although it was raining and the rapids were mellow, we still had a blast.


At the end of the night, we had a closing ceremony to signal the end of the trip. This consisted of the team sitting in a circle and passing a candle around. When each person got the candle, they would share what they learned on the trip.

Today (4/3), we visited the Poas Volcano and several souvenir shops. We’re now staying in San Jose, Costa Rica for a night. We have an early flight tomorrow morning and are expecting to be back at Culver last Tuesday night.


-lauren Lukac ’18



Yesterday the team helped at a local soccer camp. After watching younger kids play, our group played in a soccer game. Our group filled in for the missing players on each team. A majority of our group was on one team, while Calloway and Tyler played on the other team. Here are some photos :


After the soccer camp, we came back to the hotel and did a team building activity. This activity is called “the adventure race”. Our team had to split into 4 different groups. We used our homestay groups for this challenge. Each group consisted of 4-5 people. Our challenge was to go to five different locations and complete the activity at each station. After we completed the activity, each team was given 1-3 rubber bands (based on how well the team performed that specific action). Three rubber bands is the most that any team can earn at one given challenge. Our stations consisted of learning how to salsa dance, water activities, cooking tortillas, milking a cow, and interviewing someone in Spanish. At the end of the activity, the whole team had a meeting to debrief. The team realized that we weren’t competing against each other (in terms of number of rubber bands), but working together to accomplish the task at hand.

After dinner, the whole team went to a local festival. At the festival, we danced and ate different types of food.


-lauren lukac ’18





Today we got up early and went on a hike. We saw a sloth with her child this morning, as well as a Basilisk Lizard. This lizard is famous for running across water. After enjoying the rain forest for a couple hours, we participated in team building activities. This consisted of jumping rope, a blindfolding activity, and crossing a “river” with only certain objects. After this, we enjoyed lunch. Next, we headed to the school to play soccer with the kids as well as to say our goodbyes. We celebrated our accomplishments by break

Chocolate Tour


Yesterday we went on a chocolate tour. We learned about the history of chocolate and how it is made. The owner of the chocolate place said that chocolate comes from the cocoa tree. This tree grows fruit that looks similar to a giant walnut. Inside this walnut is a bunch of cocoa seeds that are covered in a slime like casing. To get to the cocoa seed, they had the team suck on the individual seed to get it off. Next, the cocoa seeds go through a process to become chocolate. After learning about this process, we enjoyed a chocolate snack prepared by two workers right in front of us!

Nikki shares her thoughts about the chocolate factory :

Once upon a time (alsmot 500 years ago) lived a group of meso-American people. These people believed that to open the Heavens they must drink something so flavorful, so rich. This drink is about 90% cocoa, which in case you didn’t know, cocoa is the main ingredient in Chocolate. Yesterday our group had the opportunity to experience first hand what a chocolate plantation looks like and how people actually make chocolate.




Trying to be a true Costa Rican (for two hours)


Hello everyone !

We started out the day by going to the school to help with the gymnasium project. We also got to say goodbye to the kids that we had been working with for the past couple days. Tomorrow we are going to work on this project during the afternoon, so we can see and work with the younger kids. YuTao is going to reflect on his thoughts about the school this morning :

  • Today was our third day working at the school. We arrived around 9, and then we split into 4 different groups according to our Spanish abilities. These groups were also our working groups for the morning. I started digging a hole with Calloway, Jimmy and Lauren; but in five minutes Lauren and I were re-assigned to paint the bathroom wall with cement. At first, I was relieved because I was working in the shade; but it got worse because the work was rigorous. I tried multiple times to fill the cracks and ditches properly, but this job was as exhausting and sweaty as others. After multiple tries and practices, I painted 3/4 of the wall; Lauren achieved pretty much the same thing. Towards the end, Dr. gamel replaced Lauren and joined me. He taught me lots of techniques and I was able to perform my job more efficiently. We had a long break today. As usual, we played soccer with the local kids. However, today was a bit different because it was the last day we would work in the morning. The local kids were going to say good-bye to us today. After the work ended, we went into the kindergarten classroom and sang the culver song; they performed a lovely dance in return. Then we danced for the elementary-school kids and took a picture as a big group. Finally we said good-bye and continued our schedule.



Next, our group had the opportunity to join a family for lunch at their houses. Our team split into four groups. Each group walked to their designated home and enjoyed lunch and games with their hosts. One person from each of the groups is going to share how their lunch went.

Erin :

  • Hola from costa! Today we had the amazing experience to have sit down lunches with families where we spoke solely in Spanish. I loved this because it helped me embrace and develop a deeper understanding for the Costa Rican culture. Each group consisted of four people and were assigned a family. Our family we ate with had a farm with a multitude of animals compromised of cows, guinea pigs, chihuahuas, parakeets, chickens, and ducks. It was very interesting to experience first hand the life of a local Costa Rican family. We learned that the average family lives on a farm, and the food and products produced are used to support the household, through selling the products and consuming them. After the visit my group and I were in awe at how much we learned and how we were able to maneuver through a whole afternoon speaking a different language. All in all it was an amazing time and I am sad it wasn’t longer. Adios for now!

Harry :

  • In my group I had Anna, Nikki, amd Sam. We stayed with los abuelos (the grandparents) of possibly the entire community. For lunch the abuela (grandma) and her daughter made us rice with beans, salad, and pork with beans. We also had a local brand of iced tea that, according to all of us, tasted like a blend of Snapple, Fuze, and Lipton, which was intriguing.Our conversation after lunch was a bit rough in the beginning before my successful attempt to break the ice by talking about the ginormous sea turtles we were fortunate enough to see a couple nights back. Then we moved on to our stay here in Costa Rica, then to her life and family. She is a retired farmer and homemaker with five sons and tree daughter, she also has an eigteen-year-old grandson Alejandro that works at CRER part-time. We then convened with Erin’s group who stayed with Alejandro outside in her yard. There we petted their family dogs, ate watermelons, and chatted for more than an hour.The most incredible thing I saw there was how connected the hosts were with current American cultre despite their rural conditions. We swaped a lot of personal preferences with Alejandro about pop songs, movies, and TV shows. Apperantly Keeping Up With the Kardesians is obscenely popular in Costa Rica…
    Many would argue that one cannot truly acquaint with a society before one emerges into the culture, and one of the best ways to do it is through spending time with its people. This is precisely why everyone really cherished this homestay experience. It opened our eyes to an astonishing community of artless yet sophisticated people.

Izzy :

  • For lunch today, we had the opportunity to eat in the homes of the families who live in the area. Most of us were pretty nervous, because the families could not speak Spanish and we are not very confident with our Spanish-speaking skills. Besides the language barrier, we had no adults with us, not even Walter (our native WLS guide). Because of this, we had the adverse opportunity to exercise the Spanish we know, as well as learning to communicate with people who do not speak our language. In my group, we had a woman named Uvañia. She is married with three children, two older daughters and a younger son. I was scared that I would not like the food, because it may seem rude if I did not eat. However, her cooking is AMAZING! She made us the traditional rice and beans with beef and beet salad. She works as a cook for a local school, so she knows what she’s doing in the kitchen. I was impresses with my group, and even myself, how well we could communicate with Uvañia and her daughters. We were able to hold genuine conversations and ask questions about their lives. We also had the opportunity to tour the little farm Uvañia and her family have. They use cows for milk and cheese, and they also grow mulberries (which is fairly popular in the Midwest), lime, mangos and star fruit. We tried mangos verde (green mango) for the first time as well as jugo de cuya (Cuya is a type of passion fruit that makes an amazing juice). Overall, the home-stay lunch was an incredible opportunity to immerse into the culture without support from our leaders. I learned how instinctive language can be in situations with no real common language. My group members and I have gained so much respect for the culture and language here.

Callaway :

  • My group of Lauren, Donghao, and Jim visited a very nice family with a mom, dad, and a 7 year old boy named Kevin. At first it was very difficult to communicate as the family did not speak any English and Lauren and I were the only ones that knew some (and definitely not enough) Spanish. It then became much easier as we used a lot of body language while Kevin toured us around his farm. Playing soccer was an easy way to spend time with the family while not having to talk too much. We also played uno with Kevin and was very proud of how Jim learned colors in Spanish and though it was funny how Donghao showed no mercy on the 7 year old boy he just met.  Although it was awkward at times it really improved all of our Spanish skills and really gave an eye opening experience inside the lifestyle of a Costa Rican family.

The four groups :



— until tomorrow!

Work and Play

Hi guys !

Today we started the day out by working on our project at the school. We split into six different groups. The groups consisted of painting, mixing cement, digging a hole, pulling out weeds, sanding the walls, and moving rocks. Tyler is going to reflect on his day at the school.

  • Today was our first full day of work at the school, we learned about the impact that a small group can have on a community. Our experience that we had learned many life lessons, which we will hold on to for the rest of our lives. The 1st lesson came from our work at the school. It was teamwork. We experienced this lesson through working in small groups to complete the tasks that were at hand. Through this we learned the true value of team work and what it means to be part of a team. The second lesson that was explored was giving back. Many of us initially thought about the work as something that just came with the trip and were obligated to do. Through our experiences we truly saw how our impact and giving back can change the lives of others. We saw this through giving back through our work that we truly experienced why we were working for this greater cause. We all saw how our work impacted the lives of others and why it is so important that we find the reasons we do the things that impact others in our world. more pictures to come !


Next, we ate lunch and then went zip lining in the canopy of the rain forest. Team members Anna Nicholson and Nikki Maroney reflect on their high flying experience below.

  • Soaring through the canopy, wind our hair, screaming at the top of our lungs; we finally realized the meaning of living in the moment or as the Costa Ricans call it, “Pura Vida!” The thrill of the ride was fantastic; we completed 12 lines of breathtaking rainforest and sky. We hopped from tree to tree by traversing over trails and maneuvering tree top platforms. Our final line, a 300 meter flight took us across a beautiful river with crystal blue waters and raging white rapids.

Overall, the experience of flying through the canopy brought our group closer and made our trip just that much better.

more stories later :)

Costa Rican Community

Hello !

Tuesday (3.29.17) we began helping with a project at a local school and we also visited a sustainable farm.

School –

Across the street from the resort we’re staying, there is a elementary school (kindergarten – 6th grade). The students only attend half days due to lack of teachers and classrooms. The older grades attend in the morning, while the younger grades attend in the afternoon. We started our first of four days of community service on Tuesday at the school. We are currently helping to finish the school’s gymnasium. On Tuesday we helped with painting, mixing concrete, pulling weeds, and moving rocks. This project will continue over the next few days we are here. We also played with the kids at the school during their recess. Kevin shares his thoughts on this experience :

  • Before we started the service, we got to engage in soccer game with local students during their recess. As a soccer player, I was very excited to share my fantastic soccer skills with the kids. The Costa Rican kids were very friendly and cute. They made regret not wanting a little brother or sister. After bonding with the students, we separated into groups to participate in several activities to enhance the school facilities. I moved big, heavy rocks with Callaway, Tyler, and Sylvan to stabilize bathroom drainage. I was sweating hard, but the thought of the student’s appreciating my work kept me going.  I was willing to devote my efforts to those who needed help. There was nothing more satisfying than sharing what I had to better enhance the student’s lives. I hope that the school appreciates our devotion, and the children get to love their school even more. Hopefully, I would be able to come back several years later and be proud of what I did today.



Sustainable Farm –

We visited a sustainable farm yesterday. Daniel, the owner of the farm, created this farm to rebel against his previous farm. Daniel said he used to work at a pineapple plantation, and his job was to destroy the rain forest to clear way for farm land. It is illegal in Costa Rica to destroy the rain forest, so he had to clear it at night. Daniel said that he would clear the rain forest night after night, and sometimes baby animals would come to their nesting area, but the workers would have already cleared the spot. The baby animals would be left homeless and without their mothers. He also mentioned that the farm used many chemicals on the crops. Eventually, these chemicals ran into the streams and killed the fish and hurt the animals. Daniel and a group of 3 others decided to quit the farm and start their own sustainable farms. On Daniel’s farm he raises pigs, chickens, grows pepper seed (which eventually is turned into pepper spices), and grows vanilla. He also uses an organic compost fertilizer made up of chicken, horse, pig, and cow feces processed with worms, supplements of charcoal, calcium, and prosperous. He spreads this on his fields and sells this to other farmers in hopes of making the world a better and safer place for everyone. Daniel gives tours to groups of students and hopes to spread his knowledge about sustainability and how our actions affect the life around us to others.

Caitlin shares her outlook on the sustainable farm :

  • Hi! On day 4, we worked in the community school and went to a sustainable farm. We spent about 2 hours touring different parts of the farm, learning about how our guide, Daniel sustains himself and his family organically. We looked at everything from pigs, to vanilla, to homemade gas! Going from commercial pineapple fields filled with chemicals to all organic vanilla bean plants was amazing! We started off with an all organic, homemade lunch, made by the family on the farm. After that we went and saw all vegetarian pigs. These animals were big sources of both food and income for the family. Found right across from that the hens that are also used for food and income! After walking for a few we came across a shelter where we were given a compost demonstration. This showed everyone a more organic and safe way to grow crops in a place were most of the soil is filled with clay. Next we moved onto the pepper plants. Daniel, our guide grows and processes organic pepper. We saw each pepper vine and helped pick the ripe peppers. We learned they then dry each pepper and process them to make money! Soon after hand picking ripe black pepper we moved to a vanilla bean plant and learned how they grow and what they do. We then saw how he made organic gas through fermentation and methane. To end the tour, we had organic coffee and Costa Rican pancakes! Pura Vida! :)

At the farm, we fed pigs, made organic compost, and


– More later !

Botany Class

Hi everyone !

Yesterday we went to a botanist class. The instructor showed us several plants. One of them looked similar to dragon fruit. The instructor had us break open the dragon fruit looking plant. The seeds inside the fruit are often used for dyes, which we used to paint on ourselves.

He also showed us plants that are commonly used as natural medicines. For example, we were given ginger, mint, and coconut. Each plant had a specific taste and use. The ginger tasted spicy. This is commonly used to cure digestive issues and nausea. The mint tasted fresh and semi-bitter. Mint is used to help calm stomach aches. The class guide also cut coconuts for us to eat and drink. He was explaining to us that coconut water is being studied right now as a treatment to Alzheimer’s.

Sylvan talks about his experiences at the botanist class :

  • I thought the class would be boring, but the guy was actually  very chill. He showed us lots of amazing herbs and fruit. I was interested in them, because it reminds me of traditional Chinese herb medications. We tasted different herbs and learned different uses of them. Then he showed us some different usage of plants that caught my attention. I understood why most leaves shown in class could act like natural bug repellents since they were really hard to swallow despite the fact that they possess a variety of interesting tastes. This made me start thinking about the magnificent relationship between man and nature. After the class, we ate some coconuts and homemade ice cream. They were very sweet and delicious. This class allowed me to gain a better understanding of Costa Rican culture.
  • DSC_0243



– More to come !



PactuTurtle Reserve: 3/24


It is Monday 3/27. Friday we traveled to the Pacuare Sea Turtle Reserve. Our travels consisted of a 5 hour bus ride and a 30  minute boat ride. The reserve was in a very remote location and consisted of only one building with electricity. During our time at the reserve, we worked on building a turtle hatchery and patrolled for turtles at night. The turtle hatchery is being built to house the turtle eggs that need to be removed from their original location. Turtles sometimes lay their eggs in areas with bacteria in the sand and because of this their eggs will not hatch. The helpers then will move the eggs to the hatchery (which has refined and cleaned sand) in hopes that the eggs will hatch and the turtles will survive. Both nights, we split into groups of three and monitored the beach for turtles laying eggs. The first shift was from 8pm-12am. The second shift was from 10pm-3.30am. The third shift was from 11.30pm-4am. In the event that a group spots a turtle laying eggs, the group will record information. This information includes the length and width of the turtle, marking the turtle with tags, marking the nest, and counting the eggs. Below three people share their experiences with turtle patrolling :

Apple (2nd patrol) :

  • The night was completely different from the day. We walked entirely in the dark at night. It allows you to think and reflect on many things. It is also a good opportunity to talk with your teammates. You can also see the stars and it reminds us about how beautiful nature is. It made me feel very happy to see the helpers so willing to help, even though one of the turtles was being difficult. The helpers even stayed out after the shift time was over to help the turtles. Some of the people were not able to see some things in the dark, so we had to help each other. We did this by holding hands to steady one another and to keep each other from falling. It’s very important that we all work together as a team.

Anna (3rd Patrol) :

  • When we were sitting and listening to the directions for the night adventures to come, we did not realize that it would be in the complete dark. The shift that our group had was from 12 AM to 4 AM, which was the next shocker, but we were very excited and pumped with energy. We all meet at 11:50, and ready to start our adventure in a new environment. Walking on the beach in the dark with my friends was a whole new experience. It took a lot of mental effort to keep our feet moving towards the end of the 4 hours, however, when we found a turtle, we were so excited that we forgot how tired we were. Seeing the very large turtle lay her eggs was an amazing act of nature that we were able to experience. Being able to help collect the data about the turtle was a small act that we realized helped out a lot more than we thought. We are very thankful for the opportunity of a life time, and will keep it in our memory banks to share with our friends and family.

Tom (1st night 1st Patrol&2nd night patrol) :

  • We were thrilled to be Culver’s first turtle patrols, and of course, we had high expectations for the night. Our patrol began with an intriguing turtle dance that mimics the stages of the nesting process. However, the dance didn’t bring us any luck as we saw nothing but tracks. We were really disappointed, especially when we were waken up by the next two group, 3 a.m. in the morning, screaming their exciting encounter with a sea turtle. But we didn’t give up. The next night, we decided to patrol the beach again. Before we even started the turtle dance, we spotted a red light signaling that there’s a turtle. We rushed to the site and saw a giant leatherback sea turtle covering up her nest. We even had an opportunity to help the staff through the tedious process of data collection. As we dragged our feet through the soft sand, guided by the dim lights of the twinkling stars and listened to the sound of the waves and breeze, we realized that seeing a turtle was not that important. Workers throughout the world have contributed thousands of hours, not to see the beautiful sea turtles themselves, but to preserve the nature for the future generations to see.

Update : Traveling

Hello !

Before our departure this morning, we had a Bon Voyage ceremony Sunday evening with the other GPS teams. This meeting was for each team to share their team goals and itinerary for their trip. Afterwards, we took a couple of photos..

C for Culver !GPS Bon Voyage Ceremony 1

This morning the Costa Rica team left campus around 6:30 am. We took a bus to Chicago and flew out of O’ Hare Airport to Atlanta, Georgia. Currently, we are waiting (in Atlanta) for our 5:30 pm flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. Below is a couple of photos of the team from this morning !

pic 1pic 2pic 3

Hasta Luego (see you later)!

Lauren Lukac ’18