Day 5 – “X” Marks the Spot

Our day started off at 12:00 a.m. for the night patrol in which we look for nesting turtles on the beach. About 15 minutes into our walk, we see the tracks of a Lora turtle leading to a possible nest. Bran, the leader of our patrol, uses a walking stick to find a soft spot in the nest. By poking the sand with a stick you can tell where the eggs could be based on how easily the stick goes into the sand. After finding one of the soft spots, Bran begins to dig. Unfortunately, no eggs are found. After several attempts at finding other soft spots and digging, we come the conclusion that the turtle may have been scared off. We ventured off to the north. About 25 minutes later we head back to patrol the south side of the coast. On the way, we stopped to say hi to Cecil, the local crocodile. Heading towards the south side of the beach and through a hiking trail with barely any light, we began to look for more hints of a turtle. Walking through sand with low visibility is a tiring task, but at last we spot tracks. This time finding the soft spot was easy. Removing a small layer of sand revealed the treasure we were looking for. 79 turtle eggs were counted! We collected the eggs in a plastic bag and walked on to finish the patrol. We finally reached the hatchery and made a new home for the eggs until they hatch. Finding those eggs made the waking up early, staying up late, working and walking on unstable sand in the heat and humidity worth it.

The morning started off like the other days, waking up early after a night of patrolling with breakfast at 8 a.m. at Verdiazul. Breakfast consisted of eggs, toast, watermelon and papaya. NO RICE AND BEANS! After breakfast, the children from the local school of Junquillal came to Verdiazul to spend the morning with us. We went to the beach to play futbol (soccer for the Americans out there). Jerlym, Jacy, Ahalee and I were on a team against some of the boys. Let me just say that they have some fancy footwork. Apparently, I had so many red cards thrown at me that I was ejected from the game and put in jail. At the end I don’t even know who won. We were all covered in sand and exhausted. Overall, it was a fun workout while getting to spend time with some of the local children.

The day was long with some rain in between. Now I am ready for bed at 8:00 p.m. for the night patrol at three in the morning. It’s been a very fun and interesting week so far filled with information and great experiences. I got to hold and release a baby sea turtle! I am looking forward to what these next few days have in store for us. Overall, Costa Rica is a beautiful country with amazing people and I am extremely grateful I got to go on this trip.

-Jesus Gonzalez




Today was an early morning after a very late patrol night, and although we were tired we got up to eat and see the water. Around this time is when we really first started being introduced to the other volunteers from around the world- Belgium, London, Maine, Wisconsin, and Costa Rica itself! Breakfast was good- eggs, toast, fruit, and a combination of rice and beans referred to as ‘Gallo Pinto’ (roughly translated to ‘painted rooster’). After our morning started, we went on a short tour around Junquillal to see the hatchery, the reforestation areas, the nursery, and the mangrove. Just in this short time we managed to see iguanas, black hawks, howler monkeys, and a Mot Mot- the national bird of Nicaragua! Following our tour, we ate a lunch of garbanzo beans, rice, and a burger patty. As a few of us did the dishes, the others went to get us all ice cream as a refresher from the heat. One of the Verdiazul volunteers, Ben, presented a short power point over the types of turtles and the many dangers to them before we headed to the beach to learn about finding their nests and removing their eggs on the shores. While the information was extremely interesting and helpful to us all, the heat and exhaustion were diminishing our spirits until we heard the news- the babies had hatched! Nicknamed ‘Lora’ after a type of macaw locals believe to have a similar beak, the Olive Ridley’s were 72 in number. We all took several photographs as we hopped on then bus to return them to their original beach. As they were released, we named them, raced them, and showed them to a young local boy who was excited to play in the sand. After all the excitement, we returned to our cabana and swam in the pool to cool off from the long day. We returned to Verdiazul for dinner, and added a super spicy salsa to our food to try it out! Tonight it is storming pretty hard, so night patrol might have to be put on hold. Overall, Costa Rica is a beautiful country beaming with life in every corner and, even though it’s only the first full day, it has been incredibly rewarding and life changing. 

-Taylor Keeler-

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, its intriguing people and the importance of environmental conservation.

Today, day 3, our main objective was to travel to our ultimate destination, Juquillal.
Road in Costa Rica leading to ocean, surrounded on both sides with tropical foliage.
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.

Service break participants roll suitcases into a Costa Rican resort

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.

Service break participants sit around a large piece of paper during orientation

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.