Costa Rica Trip: “All right, you beautiful people” by Cassidy Gray


“All right, you beautiful people.”

The time was 10:30 p.m. and Joliet Catholic Academy’s students had just landed in San Jose’s international airport. Our annual Spanish trip had begun in the beautiful country of Costa Rica, a small, peaceful country located between Nicaragua and Panama, right in the heart of Central America. While many students had doubts about being out of the country without their parents for the first time, Gilbert “Gil,” our tour guide, instantly made us feel safe and welcome with just five words. The trip of a lifetime had begun.


Costa Rica has endless things to teach us with it being the size of West Virginia, so we were able to traverse around the entire northern half of the country in a day, finding out more and more each second. Their flag, proudly displayed almost everywhere you look, consists of one red, two white, and two blue stripes. The red stands for the blood of people in the past. The blue stands for the opportunities and how the sky’s the limit in Costa Rica. The white stands for their lack of army. The country disbanded their army in 1948 to push for peace and love in our world.


While we learned about Costa Rica, our group proved we can learn so much about each other, despite being 2,000 miles away from home. When JCA joined together with kids from Saskatchewan, Canada, South Carolina, and New Jersey, an instant bond formed. Together, we ziplined through a mountain range in Monteverde, tasted diverse fruits at a local stand, climbed the Arenal Volcano, explored coffee’s processing at Britt Coffee Plantation, and made our own chocolate with the help of Chapo, our hilarious tour guide who made everyone have fun, regardless of whether you liked chocolate or not. The laughs were endless and the new experiences were plentiful.


Costa Rica could not have been complete without giving back to the community. An EF tour tradition, we planted trees near Santa Maria High School, which will reforest their land after cattle ranching removed most nutrients from the soil. For our cultural immersion, we had the opportunity to visit Escuela La Guaria, a small elementary school just outside of La Fortuna, a small town where many families from Nicaragua had immigrated to in order to work and make a safer life for their families. Each high schooler was paired up with a buddy who chose them. They taught us how to play their soccer games and took us on tours of their school. My buddy Gracie taught me handshake games, similar to our version of “Concentration,” and let me draw in her sketchbook as she told me what to draw. We also played a game where a jump rope was laid on the ground and everyone would start on the left side. If their teacher shouted, “Mar!” we would all move to the right. If he shouted, “Tierra!” we would jump back to the left. If he shouted “Gelatina!” we all had to dance like a bowl of jelly. The kids loved the game and there was laughter sounded from the group every second of our trip. Each pair of buddies formed a quick friendship with their partner and taught us more about Costa Rica than any tour could have.


Costa Rica undoubtedly has something for everyone. Whether it be Would You Rathers while on night walks, watching your guide slice up a pineapple while white water rafting, or drinking coconut water strolling through Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica is filled with memories and opportunities for new ones. As our fantastic tour guide Gilbert said, “Everyone leaves a part of their heart in Costa Rica.” We are undoubtedly set to return.


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