On Sept. 27, 36 of Crane Country Day School’s eighth-grade students stuffed themselves into a bus and were shipped off to Los Angeles International Airport at 9 p.m. At about 1:30 a.m., our exhausted teachers ushered us into the airplane, and we all fell asleep.
Our flight landed in San Jose, Costa Rica, at 9 a.m. We gathered our baggage and hopped into another bus. We rode two hours north into the middle of the Costa Rican rainforest, to an ecolodge in the village of Chilamate.
The minute we stepped off of our bus, a warm blast of humid air came flying at our faces. It was the hottest place I have ever been to.
After unpacking, we excitedly headed off to the open dining room, where we ate rice, beans, salad, beef and the most delicious pineapple I have ever tasted. For drinks they had iced tea and juice from the exotic fruits that they grow.
Later that day we went on our first adventure, a chocolate tour in the Tirimbina Biological Reserve. We crossed a long, creaky suspension bridge, the kind you would see in a fairy tale. We got to taste each stage of the chocolate, all the way from cocoa beans to finished candy. The next couple of days we explored the wonders of Chilamate, with activities such as bird watching, tasting and learning about plants, learning about snakes (we even watched one eat a mouse!), going on nature hikes, cooking and, my favorite, zip lining.
The fourth day, we had our first trip to Escuela Cristo Rey, an elementary school, a two-mile walk from our ecolodge. When we got there, one of the teachers gave us a tour of the school. We saw all of the classrooms, and when we walked into the first-grade classroom, a quarter of the room was filled with books. I asked my teacher what it was, and I was shocked when she told me it was also the library. I then realized how important it is to read, to learn new words, to explore your mind and learn your interests. Everyone in my class donated one or two Spanish books to the library. I know how much I love to read, and I would be devastated if I ran out of books.
We learned that the school really wanted a big vegetable garden, so the three mornings we spent at the school, a lot of our time was dedicated to digging. We also read to the youngest students, played soccer with the older ones and painted games on the walkways. I was painting most of the time because I have a fractured wrist.
Every night after dinner one of the teachers would do something called an ANCHOR: Appreciations, News, Concerns, Hopes, Obscure Facts, and Readings. One night, my history teacher read The Starfish Thrower, a story that I will remember for the rest of my life. It’s about a boy who goes out to a beach early every morning. He starts throwing starfish back into the ocean because they will die if they don’t have any water when the tide moves out. A man walks up to him one morning and says that the boy can’t possibly save every starfish, that the boy won’t make a difference. So the boy picks up another starfish, throws it and then says, “It made a difference for that one.”
My amazing time in Costa Rica taught me a lot about the world, how we affect it and some things we can do to fix it. One of the things that really changed me was learning how just one small change can make a huge difference.
— Lily Dallow is a student at Crane Country Day School.