Monday, July 31, 2017
By: Samantha Goodwin
The first four days in Costa Rica have been pretty eventful to say the least. After a long night of bus rides and flights we finally made it to San Jose around 12pm, 2pm Cincinnati time. Our first day/night we stayed in San Jose and went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch. It was definitely a test for us all as we had to read the menus in Spanish. Spanish dictionary on google has definitely been our friend down here!! Some of us took Spanish in high school so it was fun to think back on what we learned and recognize some words.
The next morning we woke up and headed to the rain forest, La Fortuna. The drive was beautiful and it was really our first experience seeing what Costa Rica has to offer. Our first night in La Fortuna the boys played against a third division pro futbol team. The Costa Rican team really gave the boys a good game and helped the coaches get a good idea of the upcoming season and the players potential. The next morning we went white water rafting, which has probably been everyone's favorite activity thus far. Many of the coaches went overboard in their rafts which gave us all a pretty good laugh too.
The Saints woke up early in La Fortuna to spend their last day at the waterfall before heading to Ocotal. The voyage to see the beautiful scenery surrounding the waterfall began with a trek down hundreds of stairs. The stairs might have left our legs shaking, but it was definitely worth every step. To the left of the waterfall, there was a gorgeous swimming hole with an amazing view. Despite the frigid water, strong currents, and slippery rocks, it was an experience of a lifetime. To top it off, the rain started coming down rapidly making it an even more unforgettable final day in the rain forest of Costa Rica.
After leaving the waterfall, we started our three hour journey towards the beach. Upon arriving, the girl's team split up to the villas while the guy's team went to the house. We had a great first night in Ocotal with a group pool party at the house. The coaches grilled out while the teams bonded with card games, pool games, and an intense game of chicken.
The Saints started the day with a morning practice. Despite the intense heat, the coaches agreed that it was one of the best practices of the year for both the men's and women's teams. The field is across the street from the beach, therefore it's the best part about playing soccer here in Costa Rica. It's nice to be able to cool off immediately afterwards in the ocean. It was neat to see the smile on the Costa Rican children's faces when we handed them Thomas More t-shirts.
Following practice, we were able to walk around the town for a while to get lunch and shop. The lunches were delicious including slushies made with condensed milk, marshmallows, caramel, etc. Some people even got real coconuts with coconut juice inside. After lunch, we went to the beach in between the house and the villas. Unlike Florida beaches, the sand here is as black as coal which made the water murky. Unfortunately, one of the men's players stepped on a sea urchin, but luckily, our nursing majors were able to take care of everything. Upon leaving the beach, it started pouring for the majority of the night due to the rainy season. We ended the night at the house with a nice chicken dinner including mac n cheese, salad, and various fruits.
The morning began with a productive beach workout before boarding the boats to go snorkeling. After a twenty minute ride into the ocean, we anchored our boats to put on our gear. The emerald green water made it a great place for our snorkeling adventures. We saw quite a few large pufferfish, brightly colored schools of fish, and even a couple eels. After snorkeling for a couple hours, we docked at a beach nearby. At the beach, there was a trail into the forest where we were able to see a family of three monkeys. After leaving the beach, we walked around town again to get lunch. There is even a local guy from Cincinnati who owns one of the restaurant some of our players went to. The variety of food options on the main strip were unique within the various cultures. The authenticity of Costa Rican food in comparison to American food is refreshing. We ended the night with a fun-packed team dinner.
We are half way through our trip just like that.
These past few days have been filled with fun in the sun during the day and soccer games at night. Tuesday morning we took a day trip to the monkey farm. Although that sounds like we would be seeing lots of monkeys, we actually did not. The monkeys are set free on the farm to allow them to live a safe and happy life within a controlled area. The farm has hopes to become a self-sufficient animal recovery center. We saw goats, pigs, horses, raccoons, chickens, fish, and so much more. We learned all about different natural resources to help these animals recover when harmed, especially the monkeys. For example, organic honey was used recently to heal electric shock burns on a monkey. There were two plants on the farm in particular that really stood out, the Moringa Tree and the Soursop tree. Humans are actually able to live off the Moringa tree alone because it is full of all of the essential nutrients that we need to survive. We were all able to take the leaves off the tree and eat them right there. Additionally, the Soursop tree is known to kill cancer cells. The men's team was able to assist the volunteers at the farm in moving lumber from places outside the farm to where they were needed to help reinforce the horse shelter. A handful of us ended the day trip by riding horses out to the pasture that they feed in. The morning was an opportunity for us to gain knowledge and perspective about a different culture and lifestyle, and we most certainly did! Tuesday night the men's team played Atletico Coco, which is a Division II team. It was a hard fought match. Unfortunately we lost 2-1 on a last second PK, but the game was very evenly contested and the men's team played extremely well. It is amazing to see how much the locals get into soccer and how many people come out to watch the games! Soccer is a way of life down here and we are so blessed to have this opportunity to play in this type of atmosphere.
On Wednesday and Thursday we had much more laid back days by the pool. On Wednesday everyone went swimming at the house before we went into town to eat lunch and shop. Then both teams had time to relax before the games. The girls played Carrillo FC Women and won 5-0. The boys team played Carrillo FC Men and tied 1-1. The boys' teams were able to trade jerseys after the game, which was a very fulfilling and exciting experience. On Thursday the day was very similar. The teams were able to relax by the pool, go to lunch and prepare for another game. The boys and girls teams both played Playa Del Coco. The girls' team had a much more difficult battle than the prior games, but they came out on top with a 5-2 win over the skilled team. After the game the teams joined for pictures and exchanged jerseys. The boys' team had a very tough battle against the team they had previously lost to 2-1. After 90 minutes of play the score was 2-2. The games have taken a toll on each of the teams, but through constant cheering and demanding the best from one another, neither teams are satisfied just yet.
Friday started by waking up early to head to Diamante Eco Adventure Park. This adventure park made you feel like you were stepping into a scene from Jurassic Park. We started the day with five zip lines all looking over the ocean and beautiful scenery. The "superman" was a mile long at 60 mph. Surprisingly, nobody passed out from being over 60 stories high! The park also included a zoo, where we got to see everything from sloths to monkeys to jaguars and more. Next, we went to a buffet lunch that was just perfect for 45 starving people. After lunch, we headed to the beach where we all partook in kayaking, paddle boarding, and lounging in the hammocks watching the waves crash upon the rocky shore. The afternoon at the park could nothave been better. Friday night we all dressed up for a nice dinner out and a relaxing night!
Sunday, August 6, 2017
By: Cal Frank
The last two days of the trip have been relaxing considering all the adventures we've had up to this point. Saturday was our final game day for both the boys and girls, with games under the lights in Filadelfia scheduled for that night. The early morning consisted of a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and fresh fruit followed by a jog and stretch to prepare our bodies and minds for the matches that night. We spent the rest of the morning lounging by the pool and catching some rays before loading up on the bus to have one final lunch in Playa Del Coco.
For lunch we were fortunate enough to have already scheduled a meal with a quaint Italian restaurant that had previously provided us with some delicious spaghetti sauce that we used one night for dinner at the house. The generous owner and head chef of the restaurant pulled out all the stops for us and gave us the entire place for lunch. They even brought tables and chairs from home to accommodate our group! We proceeded to feast on homemade pasta with five different choices for sauce, all of which were delectable and some of the finest we've ever eaten. Once lunch was over we spent the next couple of hours shopping and exploring in Coco for one final time before returning home to change and get ready for the game.
As we rode the bus to our games that night, we started to realize that the weather was quickly shifting from a sunny paradise to something more akin to a horror movie. The sky darkened and bottom finally let out as the boys were warming up, soaking us to the bone and quickly clogging the field with massive puddles and turning the freshly cut and lined pitch into a swamp. The game that proceeded was a battle of wills and stamina while attempting to avoid the most water logged areas of the field. The boys fought valiantly but were clearly not as used to playing in a foot or rain as their Costa Rican counterparts who eventually went up 1-0 in the second half. Fortunately for us, the Saints strung together a piece of brilliant play to bag a goal and bring it back even, treating us to one of the finest goal celebrations I've ever seen along the way. In a moment of inspiration and exasperation with the conditions of the field and constant flopping of the opponents, Sam Lewis sprinted towards the biggest puddle he could find near the bench, took flight, and fish flopped into a good three inches of water. The rest of the team quickly followed his lead -- with some of the coaching staff also getting swept up in the moment -- and ended up creating a 23 man dog pile on the pitch. Unfortunately for the boys the bliss of the goal would be short-lived as Carrillo FC snatched the lead back and held on for the remainder of the game off of an unavoidable slip in the box during a free kick. After assessing the field one final time, both girls teams decided that it would be best not to risk playing and we all headed home for games of euchre (which I still don't understand how to play) and Uno to finish out the night.
Sunday was a very chill day, with both teams convening at the house early in the morning and spending the day bonding at the pool and working on their tans one final time. Lunch was a massive pizza party at the house with the coaches going to grab some pies from our Cincinnati friends at Coconutz restaurant in town. The rest of the day was spent watching movies, walking down to the beach, and getting a head start on packing. Dinner was a big barbecue with burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and fries as we did our best to finish off any food we had left in the house. After more card games, the teams split again for the boys in the Villas to receive one final gift from Ocotal; no power in the rooms. Windows were opened, candles were lit, and phone batteries were drained for flashlights as we roughed it for the final evening, finishing our packing in the early morning light and loading up the bus to head back to San Jose.
As I write this blog post, the vast majority of the team are fast asleep as we make the trek back to San Jose for the final day of the trip. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of adventure and exploration across a beautiful country with amazing people and a fascinating culture. At times the trip has felt like it's blown by in seconds and at others it's felt like we've been living la pura vida our entire lives. From whitewater rafting through the rainforest to zip lining along the coast, every day has been filled with action and once-in-a-lifetime experiences, with enough arroz y frijoles (rice and beans) to fill our stomachs. The memories and bonds forged in the tropical heat and torrential rain of Costa Rica will last a lifetime and we will forever be in the debt of this beautiful country for the myriad gifts it has given us. Tomorrow we will hope on a plane and travel for a full 12 hours to return to our anxiously awaiting friends and families to begin preparing for the upcoming season. Then we will take a week off before excitedly returning to TMC for our pre-season training next week.