Yukari Ohtomo, Costa Rica, May 28, 2012

The day started off with our last breakfast together with our home stay families. Nicole, Kelly, Cary, Kaitlyn, and I brought over our presents for our families to the table and had our mom open them. It was a very heartfelt moment because we could see how appreciative she was every time she opened a gift. She even had to walk away because she started crying and saying she wasn’t sure if she was going to see us again. It was such a wonderful experience, and we couldn’t believe it was over already. I remember when we first heard about our home stays, everyone was worried and scared at how the 4 nights would be. Now we all sat around the table wishing we could have one more delicious meal with our Mama.

After our final pictures and goodbyes, it was time to leave Grano de Oro and head for the Pacuare River for our white water rafting day! It was a long bus ride with the smell of sunblock in the air the entire ride because Kelly and Victoria were busy slathering it all over their bodies. When we thought we had finally reached the river, we were told to walk down the very steep mountain path for another 20 minutes. It was so rewarding when we got to the bottom however, because we saw the area packed with people, rafts, life vests, helmets, and oars. The sight made you so anxious! After gearing up, Nicole, Kelly, Victoria and I made a team with our guide Juan Carlos. He told us how this river is a class 4, meaning there are 4 levels (1 being the smallest) of rapids. The day was beautiful and the water level in the river was low, making it an excellent day for white water rafting. Juan Carlos also instructed us on how to paddle forward, backward, and to scrunch down low in the boat for safety. He also used me as a demonstration for the proper way to lift someone back into the boat from the water.

The rapids were the best part of the river, where we often times felt like the boat was going to flip. There was a photographer strategically placed at every intense rapid to capture our just as intense faces. The calmer areas were also nice because it was a break from Juan Carlos always telling us to paddle harder, not that it made a difference because we were laughing so much on the boat we sometimes wouldn’t be able to hear Juan Carlos anyway. After about an hour and a half, we parked our rafts on the side of the river. We hiked up the side to see a clearing and a little wooden hut. Each of the raft guides and the photographer carried their own cooler full of food to the hut and set up our lunch. We got to make our own sandwiches, eat fruit, cookies, and drink different kinds of juices. After our lunch, it was time to head off for another hour and half to the end of the river.

The second half of the ride was just as extreme and just as hard to get reacquainted with paddling in sync as a group. It definitely looks easier than it actually is and I could feel my arms getting sore already. One of my favorite times was when we got to jump out of the raft to swim in between the mountains. Since we had life vests on, I just floated along the river on my back. After another round of rapids, we turned a corner and could see cars and trucks passing on a bridge. Before we knew it, the ride was over.
We lifted our rafts over heads after docking and placed it on the truck at the end of the path. We went straight to the changing area and purchased our DVDs filled with our pictures from the day. We loaded the bus again and headed for our next destination, which was the CATIE campus. CATIE is an institution created for aiding inter-American counties in agricultural issues. We were going to spend a few nights here in the dorm rooms.

The campus was beautiful when we drove in, and the rooms were so amazing because of the fact that we had hot showers and didn’t have to cover our faces for huge wandering bugs at night. We had dinner on their campus cafeteria and it was like we were back in Undergrad again. I can’t wait for what we’ll have planned for tomorrow on this campus!