After Trip Thoughts

It is easy to read and philosophize about different people and places, but until you are there, you can’t really understand. Before our trip, I doubt we expected to become so well connected. Our team members come from all different part of campus life. I believe most of us didn’t even know each other before. But the trip gave us a chance to meet people we may not otherwise ordinarily even see. Days spent painting the community center lead us to interesting conversation and friendships.

Towards issue of turtle conservation in Ostional, I was caught off guard. I still have difficulty discerning what was truly the right thing to do. What is unique about this community, is that they are the only such community with legal rights to harvest the eggs. I understand the protections of tradition, but this tradition is also very recent. In fact, turtles never came in large numbers until the late fifties. That’s less than a lifetime ago. Surrounding why there are suddenly so many turtles there, no one either knows or really explained. It is essentially impossible that a new population of turtles at sexual maturity could have just appeared. Global numbers have been dropping for a long time now. Perhaps they could have been displaced by beach development, or their sense of direction disoriented by some human cause but we don’t know. Regardless large numbers of turtles now call this beach their nesting ground. The people harvest eggs for three days during the height of a large arrival. They claim it is 1% of the total eggs laid, but I’m doubtful of this number as we couldn’t replicate this calculation.
We were there not for the harvesting but for the conservation work. At night we helped do beach patrols to ward off poachers and we were able to see some of the hatchery work they do. It was obvious the town wants to keep the resource sustainable but this is such a new event for this beach, how do we know what sustainable is? How do we know how many should be arriving? According to all human record they shouldn’t even be there. How can we figure out where they may have came from?

Pura Vida

Pura Vida: it’s kind of like the “aloha” of Costa Rica, it can mean anything from a hello to a goodbye, just a general phrase or literally the pure/ happy life. I think I found a deeper understand and meaning of this phrase with my time on the Shell Shock trip. Without cell phones, mirrors, technology and other obnoxious amounts of materialistic things we found out what it feels like to live the pure and happy life, a simple one and one we all need and should experience, especially at the speed of modernity right now. If people there in Costa Rica can be the happiest in the world without all of this then we can be too. They radiate genuine warmth for you and all those around them and carry actual conversations which reflects into the passion and respect they have for the environment and their work as well. We indeed left kind of as awkward strangers but came back as a laughing, smiling and educated family. If we take a step back from all this mental stimulation just for a moment when can become more conscientious and aware of what we do to the environment or how we can come to love it.

I didn’t really know what was happening to the turtles before this trip. I know the basics of what you hear about their disappearance and under-population but never understood the magnitude or its effects. Not only does the sea turtle affect the ecosystem but the people who live in their nesting communities. Who would have thought that the turtles are so important to the little town of Ostional whether it is for economic or cultural reasons. These little turtles and eggs and their endangerment cycles into a larger circle because each drastic and unnatural change to the turtles changes something else and it all snowballs into one problem. You might not think this little turtle or egg affects and it’s easy to hide in that mindset and philosophy but I think we learned that the world does not work this way.

The turtles were so majestic yet fragile and the people who worked with protecting them daily really seemed to be connected with them and I really respect that. Some worked almost as volunteers or could have retired but didn’t because it was just a love they deep in their inner core. I never really knew that the eggs were so valuable to poachers and how many obstacles as it is that the turtles have to overcome to actually get the water once they are born. If we work to eliminate the need for poaching and other obstacles such as garbage and overheating that we humans unnaturally created, then we could increase their populations to standard amounts. This trip made me realize so many things whether it was social justice related, personal or about Lafayette but it has been one of my best experiences so far and I will always reflect upon it. Pura vida y me encanta las tortugas y mi grupa y Costa Rica!!

A note from Team Shell Shock!

Hi all,

We received word that some parents had called Outward Bound asking for updates about our trip. Everyone is safe and healthy (although maybe a little sunburned after a day at the beach). We landed in San Jose and made our way to base camp about an hour outside of the city. It was near the University of Costa Rica. The following morning we drove to the village, a town known for Olive Ridley turtle nests. Our days have included painting a community center and local church and learning about conservation efforts, including the obstacles turtles face trying to survive. Tonight we had the opportunity to watch turtles being released into the ocean. Tomorrow morning we will head back to base. We will spend our last day in Costa Rica ziplining and exploring the local culture. We have three Outward Bound guides and two faculty members with us at all times.

Everyone is having a fabulous time and we have formed many friendships throughout the week. We miss you and thank you immensely for allowing us to have this experience. Looking forward to seeing you all soon!

Pura Vida,

Team Shell Shock

P.S. We will not have Internet access after tonight

Shell Shock Update

Team Shell Shock has arrived safely at their destination.  I received email confirmation of their arrival from our community partner, and I also spoke with a very tired team leader after their lunch.  She assured me of their safe arrival and was ready to rest after a long day of travel.  I will post additional updates when available.

An Adventure Awaits

As I eagerly await my short hour before I leave for Newark Airport, I can’t help but to think back to the day when my team came together and learned our service assignment. That day, I learned that I would be working on sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica with such amazing people and soon to be friends. I was ecstatic to say the least. Now only hours away from our journey, I’m preparing myself for all of the excitement and hard work of the days to come. Our 10 days in Costa Rica will be filled with services, turtles, bananagrams (a tried and tested crowd pleaser), and lots and lots of sunblock. I’m hoping that my hours spent watching Blue Planet and the Planet Earth documentaries will prove handy but I cannot wait for a trip full of learning, giving back, and fun. For now, I should get a little more packed, pick up a snack for the airport (24-hour Giant is a lifesaver), and get myself moving because an adventure awaits!

Ayudando a las tortugas!

I finally finished packing my bag, after a long day of travelling back to Lafayette from Washington D.C. Within hours away, my wonderful team will be departing to Costa Rica to participate and enhance our knowledge on sea turtle conservation. Being my second ASB trip, I am very thrilled to work along with 13 other members, working together to achieve the same goal.  From my previous trip two years ago, the team definitely made an impact in the community of McAllen, Texas  with the social issue of Immigration Reform.  We returned home  with more knowledge on the social issue, and became active citizens. In regards to this service trip, I am sure we will do the same. This will be my first time traveling to Costa Rica. I have anxiously been waiting all winter break. Being my last semester at Lafayette,  I’m grateful to be part of another awesome service trip!

Shell-Shock: Pre Trip Thoughts!

Even though I’ve travelled outside of the country on multiple occasions, the pre-departure rituals remain the same: I watch t.v., devour the remaining leftovers in my fridge, sleep extensively, and, most importantly, I procrastinate. I should be more responsible at this age, but for some reason I can’t help but be anxious and paranoid to the point of apathy. Don’t get me wrong; I’m excited! Participating in conservation efforts on behalf of sea turtles will be a once in a lifetime opportunity that I’ll never forget, but tonight I’ll barely get any sleep and will only breathe freely when my feet safely touch ground in Costa Rica. For now, I’ll try not to think. Hopefully readers will sympathize and eventually appreciate my well articulated (hopefully) post-trip response(s).

Shell Shock: Adios America

Dear Team Shell Shock Fans,

After almost finally finishing packing, at 11:30 pm, the night before our 4:15 am arrival at the airport, I have time to think about what the next ten days are going to have in store for us 16 lucky Lafayette students and faculty members. To be honest I have no idea what to expect, and I kind of feel like I’m walking in blind. Although these months of hard work and  preparation ensure me that I am not actually blindly winging this process, but as a first time team leader and only newly 20 years old, I cannot help to be a little but nervous. As most ASB trips have been mainly on focused social issues pertaining to societal injustices and even some about environmental conservation, this is the first one that I have heard about that is based on the almost forgotten (or at least frequently overlooked) issue of animal conservation, sea turtles specifically for all of the fans who are just joining us, and I hope that it creates a positive precedent for future trips. All I can hope that this experience will bring everyone awareness, wisdom, curiosity, fun, and something they will never forget and will hopefully want to continue having an active role in.

Adios America,


Pre-Trip Reflections

In 12 hours I will be leaving Lafayette for Costa Rica along with 13 other students and two professors. I am currently sitting in an airport, about to fly back from Florida, where I was on a training trip with the rest of the swim team. The logistics of this service trip are impractical (the three-hour window in the middle of the night tonight at Lafayette during which I will need to pack, the dependence on my flight being on time…) but I knew the moment that I heard about this trip that it was the opportunity of a lifetime. I have always wanted to go on a service trip but had never had an opportunity to do so. And so, when I learned that ASB club was having a trip to help save sea turtles (my favorite animal), I knew it would be a horrible mistake not to apply. And then I was accepted, and had to break the news to my coach that I would be in Costa Rica conserving sea turtle beaches instead of swimming two-a-days in Easton over interim. And to my surprise, he was incredibly supportive, because he understood that this was a cause that meant a lot to me. And now here I am, 12 hours away from an amazing opportunity to help out a community and an endangered animal in a way I will probably never get to do again. In hopes of performing the best service I can, forming new friendships, and making a difference, I am ready.