Student News

Update from Costa Rica

Communications – August 12, 2013

View more photos from the Deerfield trip to Costa Rica (from science teacher/trip leader Jeff Jewett), and read reflections from Tess Donovan, JC Pardo, Bryce Bolotin, and Keren Alfred on watching a sea turtle lay her eggs, surfing for the first time, cleaning the beach, and why people travel.

From Tess Donovan – After a couple of hours of walking down the deserted beach seeing no sign of turtle tracks, we were all starting to give up hope of ever finding a sea turtle. Morale down, we collapsed on the beach in a flurry of sand and sweat. I lay on my back staring at the stars, completely exhausted and ready to give up, but after much hydration and a couple shooting star sightings, our energy began to return. When given the option to either turn back or keep going, we decided to continue our trek. No more than 20 seconds later, we saw our first tracks. After following them up the beach, excitement growing and hearts pounding in anticipation, we finally saw it. The Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) was just starting to dig her nest. We all jumped around trying to contain our excitement as we realized this was the exact reason we signed up for the trip–to see a sea turtle. Once we were calm enough to approach her, we were able to witness the entire nesting process. While she was entranced, laying her eggs, the process also hypnotized all of us watching. It was so incredible and definitely something I will never forget. 

From JC Pardo – Today, I surfed for the first time in my life. Catching a wave and riding away from the sunset towards the sandy beach just brought me to laughter. From my first trip to Costa Rica to my first time sleeping under a bug net, this trip has contained a lot of firsts for me. Luckily, almost none, if any, have been disappointing. The trip just continues to get better, and I know it will be tough to step on that plane next Wednesday.

From Bryce Bolotin – About 1.5 km of beach and six trash bags later, we found ourselves back on the CIRENAS main campus. We had walked down the beach first and picked up trash as we made our way back. We found everything ranging from plastic bottles to baby dolls. I was put in charge of collecting plastic bottles, specifically. During the walk down, I scanned the beach to get a sense of how much I would be picking up. I kept walking, but continued to see very little trash, so I wasn’t expecting to pick up much on the return.

We broke up into pairs and began to meticulously search the beach, and immediately I realized how much I had missed on the walk down. Under driftwood, and in between the tall beach grass, the beach was secretly littered with trash. Most common were sheets of plastic; washed up by the surf and left to bake in the sun, they were softened to the point where they just shattered when pulled from the sand.

After spending an hour and a half on a fifteen minute walk, we finished our beach cleanup. My bag was then full of plastic bottles, along with five other bags of miscellaneous trash. The 1.5 km may only be a small fraction of the beautiful Playa Ario, but it was a rewarding experience knowing that for every piece of trash we picked up, there is one less threat to the sea turtles.

From Keren Alfred – Modes of thinking, codes of ethics, teleology, deontology and existentialism–this Costa Rica trip was beginning to sound extremely similar to Justice by Michael Sandel. In addition to hiking to waterfalls and patrolling for sea turtles we were learning about policies behind travelling and the standards of ecotourism.

Early in the trip Mr. Miller asked us why we were travelling. Most of us said to go on the nature hikes or to see the turtles. He challenged each of us by saying, “So you think that using all that fuel and flying from your home to Costa Rica is good for the environment? The turtles would have been better off if you stayed home.”

Evaluating our motives for what we do is a central theme for this trip. Questions like: “Should catch-and-release fishing count as ecotourism?” or “Do nature reserves cause animals as much stress as zoos?” or “Do group hikes really count as ‘treading lightly’ on the land?” I can’t say that I know the answers to these questions, but I know that the answers are not simply black or white. I can say that Costa Rica has not just awed me with its beauty but has also challenged me to consider the relevant but often overlooked question of why people travel.