It was the journey of a lifetime for six Miami Springs Senior High students as they participated in an all-expenses-paid five-day trip to the warm and inviting country of Costa Rica.
Sponsored by EF Educational Tours, the trip was offered by Principal Edward Smith to the top students of the junior class at MSSH who were willing to write an essay about why they deserved to go. After narrowing it down to the best essays, an interview process was conducted and Smith and his interview staff then had the difficult task of narrowing it down to the final six.
The minute they arrived in Costa Rica, these six students along with their chaperone, Corina Mills, began to experience “pura vida” or pure life, which is the national greeting of Costa Rica. On their way to the first hotel, student Joshua Mitchell learned to “stop worrying about the potholes in the road and instead enjoy the beauty of pura vida,” which manifested itself in the surrounding brightly colored abodes and mountainous skylines.
The teens experienced and interacted with the biodiversity of the rain forest when they embarked on the INBioparque tour through a park in San José that harbors the nation’s rich ecological diversity. Vivid flowering plants, towering trees, and tiny sensitive leaves that would close up at any physical touch were all inhabitants of this conservatory.
Exotic animals such as sloths and iguanas made their homes within the plant life. The park also contained a small farm where the tour guide let every student hold a white rabbit, a piglet, or even a baby goat. Further down the trail was a butterfly sanctuary where many species of these beautiful winged creatures fed on intensely hued flowering plants. Live frogs, snakes and various insects that are indigenous to the region were on display in glass cages for observation.
Students got to partake in the traditional Costa Rican foods, which were delicious and consisted of rice and beans for literally every meal. In the morning they serve “gallo pinto” (rice and beans mixed together, named after the spotted chickens), but for lunch and dinner they serve it “casado” style where the rice and beans are separate.
The yucca root was another popular side dish, and was served either fried or mashed. The chicken was grilled and the beef was served in a tomato-based stew. Salads and fruits, such as watermelon, papaya, pineapples and plantains were served with every meal as well.
The tour guide also took the students to a local supermarket so they could purchase common Costa Rican snacks, such as plantain chips, pork rinds, and chocolates.
One of the most interesting stops was at the Poás Volcano where students got to smell the sulfuric fumes and witness the active volcano that was constantly releasing wispy white puffs of gases into the air.
The excitement continued when on the third day students were strapped into safety harnesses and with helmets on their heads, they flew through the Costa Rican rainforest on zip lines. Below, the view was spectacular — horses and their foals could be seen walking through the trees and at one point a river could be seen winding its way through rocks down the mountainside.
The adventure that day did not end with zip lining. The next stop consisted of a strenuous hike down a series of 600 uneven steps. At the bottom, the breathtaking La Fortuna Waterfall crashed down the side of the mountain with a deafening noise. Each student got to climb down the rocks and get so close to the waterfall that the spray soaked their backs and water seeped into their shoes.
MSSH junior Zagala Carrasco learned a valuable lesson from this awe-inspiring experience and eloquently stated that when traveling one should “leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, and kill nothing but time.”
For the chocolate lovers in the group, a chocolate tour was offered optionally for $20. The origins of the cocoa bean and the process of making chocolate were explained thoroughly and a taste was offered at each stage that the chocolate went through.
In the city of Sarchí, students got to walk through an ox-cart factory and watched a working water wheel in action. In addition, the group stopped to see the biggest ox-cart in the world which was hand-painted in the traditional style that focuses on symmetry and vibrant colors.
On their last night in Costa Rica, students arrived at a restaurant called Pilsen located high on the mountainside. The whole valley could be seen from the back of the restaurant and Celeste George burst into tears at the overwhelming beauty of the thousands of tiny lights that dotted the dark blanket of the night.
At this restaurant, students experienced some cultural heritage and watched as locals illustrated their traditional form of dancing. The Costa Rican music and elaborate costumes made for quite the entertaining evening.
Five other schools from Dade County made the journey with Miami Springs Senior High, for a total of 36 students and six chaperones. This trip caused both teachers and students alike to reshape their outlook on the world and life in general.
“I have total gratitude for being given this opportunity. Little things such as not having air conditioning or hot water did not bother me because everything comes to life as an experience and as a lesson,” Mills said of the vacation. She went on to say that “what may seem negative is always a blessing in disguise.” She hopes that now the kids who did complain about the cold water will appreciate their hot showers at home.
MSSH student Brittany Argote was thrilled with the whole experience and said, “Overall, being given the opportunity to visit such a culturally-rich country offered a first-hand look at how diverse our world truly is.”
Krista Schubert was among the six MSSH students who took part in the trip to Costa Rica.