Check out the video we made for the "hook" to our Rainforest module.

Click here.
 
 
What a treat!! Megan was at the airport to greet us as we landed in Chattanooga tonight.  We were SO excited to see her and it was special to have our 5th team member there.  It was not the same without her. 
 
 
We boarded our plane in Charlotte and headed to Chattanooga.  We can't believe this amazing trip has come to an end.  It is something we will never forget!  What a slice!! (Thanks Jeff for the "old" Canadian term.)
 
 
"You're so lucky!!"  We had a star on our plane this afternoon from San Jose, Costa Rica to Charlotte, NC.  Well, at least Beth knew who he was.  :)  It was Terrance Howard from the movie Iron Man. We heard and then saw that he was on the plane but we couldn't see him because he was sitting in first class.  At one point, he did come back to talk to some people that were near the front.  When we got off of the flight, he was right behind us in customs.  Zeig asked if we could get a picture and he said he would but we would have to wait till after we leave customs.  We didn't realize you couldn't take pictures there.  We went through the first part of customs and then saw him taking a picture with an employ so we were about to get in a picture and the security started screaming from across the room that we couldn't take pictures.  Then Terrance shouted "Run!"  It was pretty funny.  He told us he promised to take it after we got out and he thanked us for recognizing him.  Pretty cool experience!
 
 
The land of burgers, Starbucks and CHOCOLATE! Bye bye beans and rice! So long fruit juices with no sugar! Adios tasteless desserts! We are back! (But we will miss the pineapple.)



Loved you, Costa Rica, but we are happy to be coming home! Chattanooga, here we come!





Luck is following us home! Had a pleasant surprise on our way to Charlotte. Stay tuned for details after we land!

 
 
Our last night in Costa Rica is bittersweet. We are excited to see our families soon, but we are sad that we are leaving this tropical paradise.  It's not just the landscapes and wildlife that will be missed, it's the new family we have gained on our tour. The people we have met has made this trip phenomenal. We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to share this wonderful experience with them. We will miss them greatly.
Our last day began by putting our toes in the sand and saying good bye to the pacific beach. Once we left, we had to put our minds back to work and stay focused, for we had one more adventure in store.
We set off on a boat tour for bird watching and crocodile hunting. Before we even got started, a flock of scarlet macaws were posing for us in the treetops. In all, we were able to see 27 macaws on this tour, which is pretty exciting! Once again, our tour guide Ruth said " You guys are so lucky! I've never seen this many macaws on a tour in all of my 3 years."
Other birds we got to check off our list were Pelicans, Egrets, herons, hawks, swallows, kiskadee, and a kingfisher were just a few. But most importantly, we were able to see several large crocodiles sun bathing or swimming along the river banks. The pictures you see will not do them justice.
Some other great things we enjoyed throughout the day were our last lunch and another howler monkey sighting. We also saw a squirrel that was just not the same as the ones back home. He was very cute!
 We got together with several other families in Guanacaste and we decided that we would write a song about Ruth and Marcos to show our gratitude for educating and guiding us through the natural areas of Costa Rica. The entire bus sang this song to them today.  It was to the tune of Grease Lightning.  What a memorable way to end our time on the bus as we were headed to San Jose, our final destination on the tour. 
To say our farewells, Carvan put on a show highlighting some of the popular Latin American dances.  The dancers were impressive and at the end Amanda, Beth, and Heather were chosen to go in front of the group to learn and demonstrate a salsa dance.  Then, we had a yummy dinner.  it was the closest to American Cuisine that we have had this entire trip.  Afterwards, we took a group photo.  What a great way to spend our final evening in Costa Rica. 
 
 
Well today our luck may have run out a bit. We woke up to a cloudy sky covering most of the mountains and forest. We also experienced another technical issue. Our GoPro was acting up this morning. We are going to stay positive and hope once we get to the next hotel, we can find a GoPro "pro" on YouTube who can help us fix the problem.

We ventured on to our next stop, a trek through the forest of la Fortuna. We got off the bus dry and there was no rain, but as soon as we stepped foot in the forest, the rain came. We were prepared, though (well, kind of) with hiking shoes, rain jackets, and ponchos on hand, as we walked through the treetops and over 6 hanging bridges. We did get pretty wet, but that's what we expected coming to the rainforest.
We enjoyed another great lunch at a local restaurant while in route to the next province, Guanacaste.  We were all too hungry from today's activities to take a picture. Before we even thought about a picture, we were already digging in. Sorry Frances and the other foodies following this log. Trust us, it was delicious. It was Amanda and Zeig's favorite.

It is amazing how much the scenery changed as we traveled from province to province.  We went from a forest to small villages to savannas to towns...all of this within a couple of hours. One of the most interesting things we were able to see along the way was a town making preparations for fiesta. There were all kinds of horses and sabaneros, or cowboys,  lining the sides of the roadway.

We did get to make a quick stop at a local Jumbo store for grocery items. It was very interesting trying to convert their colones to our American dollars as we shopped. An interesting fact about their money  is that colones is named after Christopher Columbus because he discovered the country.
Here is the silver lining to the day... an incredible resort!  It feels like a deserving reward after all the work and traveling we have done. Now we get a chance to enjoy the "rich coast" of Costa Rica. That's the meaning of the country's name.
Check out the map that Ruth, our tour guide, gave us to track our journey. We are currently near Tamarindo, Guanacaste on the Pacific Ocean.

Pura Vida!

 
 
The locals say it has been cloudy here at the base of the Arenal Volcano for three days and the craters have not been visible. However, as we left out of our hotel this morning for the day's adventures,  luck followed us and we were able to see the top clearly.
Picture
We have been lucky enough to see an abundance  of Costa Rica's countryside as we travel from province to province. We saw more important products that they export to other countries around the world such as: oranges , teak, and sugar cane.  One of the most amazing things we saw on today's drive was a single tree full of Iguanas.  There were at least 20! Ruth (our tour guide) said they stay in the tree over the river so they can drop down in the water quickly if they feel threatened. Plus, it was near a restaurant so they are well fed.

We had the chance to venture down the Rio Frio to discover more animals of the rainforest, and boy did we hit it BIG!

Right off the bat we spotted another caiman hiding near the river bank. After that, we eyed howler monkeys resting in the treetops. We saw many different birds today.
Heather's favorite was the kingfisher. Amanda really liked seeing the sungrebe carrying her baby on its back through the water.  Beth and Zeig loved seeing the white faced capuchin swinging through the trees and munching on fruit. We were even able to see a mom carrying her baby like a backpack.
On this boat tour we crossed the border into Nicaragua.
Lunch was our favorite today.   This is a good example of not judging a book by it's cover.  It may not look good but it was delicious. Favorite rice so far!
Picture
As we were working on our blog tonight, a friend of Megan's hopped up to see her.

Picture
"Senor, when you awake, please look upon us all with new eyes."
                                              -Lynne Cherry
                                    The Great Kapok Tree


After visiting the rainforest, we can say that we definitely look upon the forest with new eyes.

 
 
...with good times and good news, with good friends we can't loose. This could become a habit!

Today was mainly a travel day. Sadly, it was time to leave Tortuguero. Our local tour guides will be missed. They really took the time to give us great information. We were thankful for Luis' knowledge and Jason's eagle eyes (ability to spot camouflaged animals while driving a boat). We will miss you guys! But as Ruth, our travel guide said, "This place is like a treasure" and there are many more treasures for us to discover. -Off to Fortuna
Along our way, we learned about some plant life. A lesson for the day... How to pick out a tasty pineapple! (If you ask us, we would say come to Costa Rica. Really, not kidding. Their pinas are better than any others we have tasted.)

But if you can't come here, the Costa Ricans say to look for:
1. Big eyes
2. Golden bottom
3. Green leaves
4. Symmetrical

Pineapples seem to be the theme today (or really any day in Costa Rica). For breakfast, we had some yummy pineapple jelly.


Note:  The food shots are for Francis, Jeff's old friend and our new friend.
Another interesting tidbit:
In Costa Rica, they call bananas flowers because they come from the chira. The yellow parts are baby bananas.
Noni   An interesting fruit! It is used in Costa Rica for many medicinal purposes. We were instructed not to eat it, because it is a natural laxative.
Favorites for the day! We all agree! It is this baby three-toed sloth (pere sozo)!
After eating lunch, sisters Laura and Linda, other friends we have met in our travels, came to get us. She had found one of Costa Rica's treasures! Lazily eating from a low branch, this baby sloth was entertaining everyone. He was as close to us as a single-story roof top. This  was totally unexpected and extremely exciting! Thank you, Laura and Linda!
Dinner with our friends. We are so appreciative with their eagerness to share their discoveries.
 
 
We promised a video from our awesome tour guide at Cafe Britt, so now here it is.  Enjoy!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHh1CGGGTAo
 

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    Four first grade teachers traveling to the rainforest

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