Closer to the Reward: Day 3

We are only three days into this 10 day journey and this CALUE Service Break (CSB) has been an outstanding experience. Everything from our immediate stop in San Jose (Costa Rica’s heart and capitol city) for some American fast food on day 1, to the a second day filled with more Costa Rican history, perspective-expanding, sea turtle interaction anxiousness building, and hip-shaking salsa lessons than you can imagine has successfully deepen this experience. I now feel a connection with not only the potential sea turtles that I may encounter; but this country, it’s intriguing people and the importance of environmental conservation.

Today, day 3, our main objective was to travel to our ultimate destination, Juquillal.
For the second day in a row I was awakened at 6:00 a.m. by the faint sound of various species of birds and the soft glow of the sun peaking around my poorly drawn curtains. It reminded me a lot of the alarm with which my cellphone disturbs my slumber. However, it was a welcomed symphony because this time it was the real birds in the real place – paradise.

After floating though my morning grooming routine, accompanied by the symphony, I headed down to our group’s meeting place to eat breakfast. That was followed by a couple hours of free time for the group before our departure. Most of us sat by the pool and chatted about things like the previous day’s events or the symphony that was, in fact, not just a performance for my personal enjoyment.

During all of the small talk it did cross my mind that we would now be heading to do what we came here for, serve. All of the beauty, intrigue, and exoticism would now be accompanied by uncomfortableness, hard work, and hopefully the reward of seeing a sea turtle. Fortunately, yesterday’s orientation made me feel at ease with whatever was to come – especially the reward.

Following pool time, we ate lunch as a group. We even got to eat with our tour guide, German, and awesome driver, Oldemar. Bellies full with a meal that included chicken, rice and beans (the Costa Rican staple), and yucca (a vegetable that was new to most of us), we hit the road.

After a brief reroute due to road construction, the 6 hour drive to Junquillal went by in a flash. I was able see more of the beautifully lush scenery of the San Jose area. I even had my first (yes first ever) glimpse at the ocean through the still lush, but slightly more spread out, foliage of the areas closer to the coast. During this transition in scenery, we made two pit stops. The first was two hours in at a small place called Cafeteria Mi Finca. We all got smoothies and caught a few snapshots of their most beautiful customers, two Scarlet macaws. The second stop was in Santa Cruz, which is about 45 minutes from our destination so we could pick up a few last minute supplies such as insect repellent, sunscreen, and good socks – all of which we were promised would be vital.


We arrived at Guacamaya lodge (our sleeping quarters) on time at 6:00 p.m., put our bags in our rooms, and then walked down the road to Verdiazul. whilewalking, it quickly sank in that the humidity near San Jose couldn’t hold a candle to the aqueuos substance that we were being forced to breathe in Junquillal. When we reached Verdiazul we were welcomed by 6 of their “long-term” volunteers. These are young adults who have agreed to volunteer with Verdiazul for a time-frame of 6 or more months. Hearing them exchange witty banter in their wildly different accents led me to believe that they had become a pretty tight-knit group at this point. I hoped that something proportionately similar would happen with our group in the short 10 days we will spend together. Things are trending as if it will.
After dinner, which was provided by the Verdiazul staff and volunteers, we were given a brief orientation by Valerie Guthrie. Valerie is a tropical biologist and naturalist guide who has been working as an environmental educator for the Junquillal sea turtle project since 2005. After orientation we were given the details of the the next day’s schedule and then given recommendations about what we should wear on our first night patrol that would start 3 1/2 hours later at 11:30 p.m.  I was glad to know that she was scheduled to lead the first one. We were also told that the sea turtle hatching season had only recently started and there had been activity almost every night. The groups excitement continued to grow. Check back to get updates on this and other Summer 2017 CSB activities!
-Jerylme Robins

Let Costa Rica Orientation Begin: Day 2

Day 2 in paradise! Today was a very busy but informative day. We started the day with a traditional Costa Rican breakfast of eggs, fried plantains, gallo pinto (rice and beans mixed together) and fruit juice. We then had some free time so we explored the hotel. There is a ropes course, two pools and about 6 hot tubs and it is in the middle of a forest on the side of a volcano. We have an amazing view from our room! We then had two separate meetings: one about our expectations of this trip and one about stereotypes.


We then had another break where we talked with Kat and German about  our homes and showed pictures to each other which was fun since we are all from different places. Kat is from Britain, German is from Costa Rica and our group is from Texas and Georgia. We then ate lunch which was chicken, rice, potatoes and juice. Our group also tried beets and heart of palm but none of us were fans. After lunch some of us went back and took a nap during our first rain storm in Costa Rica. After our nap we had another meeting which was my favorite of the day. We discussed Costa Rica and learned a lot of interesting facts about the country. Some of the most interesting were that Costa Rica has not had an army since 1948, 5% of the world’s biodiversity is present in Costa Rica, and 25% of their total land is protected which is the most in the world. We had a 30 minute break but since our group wasn’t brave enough to go out into the pouring rain, we played Uno. Our last meeting was to discuss the Sea Turtle Project and our schedule for the next few days in Junquillal. After dinner, we ended the night with a dance class which was the most fun part of the day! We learned salsa, merengue, and a Costa Rican choreographed dance. We all had a lot of fun and we are already looking forward to finding a salsa night in Lubbock. Today we received a lot of information and had a lot of rain, but it was a nice relaxing day before our busy week with Verdiazul and the sea turtles. I can’t wait to see what else we get to experience this week!

— Ahalee Cathey–

Travel Day: 1st Ever International CALUE Service Break

I am excited to announce that CALUE Service Breaks has began their first International Service Break! We are a group of 5 TTU students (Kennadee, Ahalee, Jesus, Alyssa, Taylor) and 2 CALUE staff members myself (Jacy), and (Jerylme). We couldn’t be any more ready to dive into everything Costa Rica! We started the day off by departing Lubbock around 12:30. We had a slight delay but nothing that affected our connecting flights. We made it to DFW in plenty of time to eat a quick lunch and prepare for our 4.5 hour flight to San Jose, Costa Rica! The flight went smoothly and our group seemed to have a mixture of those who slept, read, or watched the flight movie, “Hidden Figures.” We arrived in the San Jose Airport and I immediatly felt my hair begin to poof, humidity is in full force here in Costa Rica but it is also the perfect temperature in the evening so you won’t hear any complaining from me! It took a minute to figure out how to fill out the paperwork in order to go through customs but we finally passed with flying colors and made our way to the exit. Here we met some of our Costa Rica partners, Mauricio Gaberto (Director of ACI, who will be leading our two day orientation), German Monge (our tour guide for our entire trip), Katherine Kenyon (ACI volunteer), and Oldemar Alvarez (our fabulous driver)! We had quick introductions and made our way to a very large mall to have a quick bite to eat…Mauricio assured us that after this “fast food” meal we would be getting the “real” Costa Rica experience, but since we are Americans we must love fast food! He also said this will be a great topic to discuss later about stereotypes! We got back on our short bus to go to our “orientation camp” location Monte Campana. We are excited to see the city in the day but so far the nighttime is beautiful. From our rooms we have a great view of the lights of San Jose. We will be here for two days before we travel to Junquillal Beach to begin our service work with Sea Turtle Conservation Project. I am excited about this International SB, and I hope that our readers will visit this blog to hear from our students about what they learn and experience! Until tomorrow have a great night! FullSizeRender.jpg

That’s a Wrap! CALUE SB 17′: Grand Canyon 

I am writing this in a car being serenaded by Claudio. My week in the Grand Canyon National Park was nothing short of amazing. I’ve loved getting to know all the wonderful people who came here with me, there wasn’t a dull moment all week. The people we met while at the park taught us so much about not only the National Park Service and the Grand Canyon, but also their history, the behind-the-scenes aspects, and A LOT about parking. A special shout out to Jamie and Pam for making our time in the Canyon so enjoyable and giving us the chance to make a difference in the park by walking around parking lots all day. It’s awesome to see how much work goes into the park to make it what it is- concessions contracts, asset management, volunteer services, parking and bus systems, and so much more we didn’t get the chance to delve into. I couldn’t have given my time to a better cause this spring break and I will remember the memories, people, and most importantly, the candid pictures for the rest of my life. 

CALUE Spring SB 17′: Grand Canyon Day 6

Friday was our last official day of volunteering and it could not have ended any other better way. We started off the morning with a talk about special use permits, commercial use authorizations, what circumstances require one, and the challenges the Commercial Services department faces with these requests. Once it was time, we split into our pairs and went to our designated parking lots. For majority of the day, it was pretty relaxed and not too much traffic. At the end of our work day, we came together and discussed any suggestions, improvements, or advice on how the park can get a better handle on the parking situation. After saying our goodbyes to Pam, we made some quick stops to several gift shops. 

I ended up buying a Swiss Army knife with my name engraved on the side. During the week, I also bought a pin with the Desert View watchtower, South Kaibab Trail sticker, and Grand Canyon postcard. The pin and sticker were for the places we visited and hiked. As for the postcard, I had all my friends, Todd, and Jamie sign it for a keepsake. Once we arrived back to our cabin, Todd arrived and initiated us as Junior Park Rangers with a shield and patch. It was a bit emotional. He also gifted each of us with a photo of ourselves on Monday overlooking the canyon with written messages from all the employees we met through the week. 

The staff at the park are for sure the best people I have ever worked along with. They made my first visit to the Grand Canyon an unforgettable one. The dedication and passion they have for their work is an inspiration, and I can only hope that I will have a career that brings out the best of me as it does for them. If you are ever in need of a place to volunteer your time and enjoy the sights while doing it, I would strongly encourage you to choose the Grand Canyon National Park as your destination. 


CALUE Spring SB 17′: Grand Canyon Day 5

Today, we learned all about the building management here in the park before we started our shifts. Basically, the goal of the park is to preserve the style and materials of the original buildings that currently exist rather than improving them or changing anything to make them more efficient. And of course that makes sense, as the entire point of the National Park is to preserve the environmental and cultural resources in the park as well as providing for the enjoyment of the public for many many generations to come. During my time here, I learned about just how deep this goal goes.

 A lot of people don’t think about that aspect of the park; Grand Canyon is widely considered as just another hot vacation spot. In reality though, so much goes into the maintenance of the park, more than I can talk about here. The park was founded in order to protect this million-mile wide area of our Earth and it has such an intense history behind it. Using the buildings that we learned about today as examples, the Hopi House and the El Tovar Hotel, these were built around one hundred years ago. People just like you and me made those, used them, saw them, all throughout most of the 20th century and today. I honestly hadn’t considered how real that was until this volunteering trip. We toured the Kolb Studio yesterday (a house built just under the rim of the Canyon, it was the home of Emery Kolb who took pictures of visitors who rode on Bright Angel trail on mules) and saw pictures of people over time… soldiers in the 40s, hippies in the 70s, etcetera. We walked through the house where many Presidents had walked through before, where the same furniture still stands. I was so encaptivated by it all.

As for the volunteering service, I’ve never really participated in a volunteering job this serious before. As we met the Park staff every day, they expressed such great gratitude that we came and gave our time to work for the Park. To hear them say that just filled me with pride. This wasn’t some Spring Break vacation, we were helping one of the many National Parks and making their jobs a little bit easier.

All in all, if you’re reading this, go out and volunteer. Learn about others’ perspectives. Explore. Find your value and put it to good use. I’m both glad and extremely thankful that I had the opportunity to come along on such an amazing trip.


CALUE Spring SB 17′: Grand Canyon Day 4

This trip overall had been an inspiring volunteer opportunity. Though braving parking lot duty at a very well known national park may seem difficult for most people, we on this trip are doing fantastic at all our duties! Today was, what we called, our free day. It all started off with our entire group meeting up in a conference room to speak to the man second in charge, right under the superintendent, of Grand Canyon National Park.Brian Drapeaux is the deputy superintendent of the Grand Canyon. He brought together all of this week’s college volunteers from not only Texas Tech, but two other universities as well. He answered many of our questions, along with giving us a very inspirational speech of how we are helping the park and how we are having a bigger impact than we think. He also told us about how we need to realize each of our own values. He said:

“I want to help people realize their value and embrace it.”
He continued to tell us many other interesting stories to get us thinking about the park as a whole along with teaching us a bit about his native heritage. 

After the meeting, we were taken to one of the Grand Canyon’s iconic historic landmarks called Kolb Studio. We took a tour of the studio and the home underneath. Phil Payne, our tour guide, took us back into the world of Elmsworth and Emory, the brothers who made Kolb Studio their home in the early 1900’s. Phil made this tour extra special since he told us that after working at the park for six years, our tour was his last tour since he and his wife are going back on the road to travel. 

After the tour, mentally traveling back into the modern day, we went back to our residence in the park to grab a quick lunch and snacks for our adventurous endeavor. We were going to hike into the canyon!

To get into the canyon we parked and took a bus out to the South Kaibab Trail. As we got to the trail head, many of us looked down, nervous about our idea to hike, but we started off in bravery. The hike itself was difficult, but worth it. The sights were gorgeous. It gave us a different perspective than before. We were so tiny compared to the grandiose rock walls towering above. 

After the hike, we were all mostly exhausted, but we made a point to go watch the sunset near Desert View.

As we got there and watched the sunset, we were all in a calming state. The yellows and oranges reflected on the sandstone walls of the cliffs, and they shimmered in the glowing light. The canyon itself darkened in a deepening melody of shades of purples and blues. As the sun disappeared on the horizon, we headed back to our residence to end what was a fantastic and inspiring day.