To make a long story short, we submitted our essays and project and we waited. The selection process took a long time, in part becasue there were so many high quality applications. I had pretty much given up and assumed that we hadn't gotten picked when I got an email from Morgan Cottle of Conservation International. I opened the message thinking it would say the typical "thank you for applying but you weren't selected". Imagine my surprise when it said Congratulations! Our team was on cloud nine!
Helpful hints for those who come after!
Some tips for those who go to La Selva for the 2014 program on what to bring...
Boots! You've gotta have em! Make sure they are comfortable because you will have to hike for miles in them and you are required to wear them the entire time you are in La Selva. Why? Because the rainforest is home to many very poisonous snakes, and while they are not a guarantee of safety, they can help to thwart at least some strikes from these guys. Another reason you must have boots is that it is called the rainforest for a reason. It poured much of the time!
Raingear! You can either bring an umbrella or a rain jacket. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. The umbrella is good because you don't get hot like you would while wearing a jacket. The downside is that they are easy to misplace, drop, etc., and they are unwieldy to carry. The good thing about a rain jacket or ponch is that you get better protection and it can keep you warm if you get chilled. The downside is that they can be hot and you have to carry them. I used a rain jacket with a hood. I am glad that I had it because I don't like to carry an umbrella and hike at the same time. I kept my rain jacket in my backpack that I carried with me everywhere.
Bug spray and sunscreen! The bugs weren't too bad most of the time, but I always put my 100% deet spray on whenever I left my cabin. It was mostly cloudy, so sunscreen wasn't really necessary most days, even for a fair skinned woman like me. Some people use the lotion type sunscreen and it worked well. Others used the stuff you get at camping stores to treat your clothing. It seemed good, too.
A headlamp! This is a neccessity because much of the time we were walking in the dark. There are no lights on the paths and you need to see where you are going. You can order these online or get them at a sporting goods store.
Socks! They are majorly important! Bring plenty of longer crew socks to wear with your boots to prevent blisters. I often also wore a pair of "no-show" socks over the crew socks to add extra padding because my boots didn't have any. Also, a pair of heel or total-foot gel inserts are good to give extra padding, too. I did not bring enough socks!
Money! Pretty much everyone in Costa Rica takes dollars. Bring lots of singles, rather that large bills, so that you limit the number of Colons you get back when you buy something. You almost always get Colons as change. When we went, one dollar equalled 500 colons. Make a little chart to keep with your money to help you get used to the conversion rates until you get used to it. That way you won't be confused when you look at the price of a Coke and it says 1800 and you are trying to decide if you want to get one. The small store in La Selva sells soft drinks, ice cream, and other junk food that you don't get at meal times, so it is good to have a little cash. They do take credit cards there, too, but I hate to charge everytime I want something that doesn't cost much.
Wicking clothes! These are great to have because they dry quickly! If you don't want to spend the money, though, you can get by without them, but you may be uncomfortable. The yoga pants were great! I prefered the capris over the full length because they tucked into the tops of my boots without being bulky. I also got two pairs of the Colombia convertable wicking pants. They were thin and comfortable. I did not get the ones that had the zip off shorts. Mine were the roll up and button kind, but either would be good. Do not bother with jeans...they are too heavy and won't dry in the dryer easily. Wicking sports bras are the way to go at La Selva!
Backpack! I loved having my backpack so that I could carry everything I needed for the day. Our cabins were a 15 minute hike from the main facility and you often didn't have time to go back for something. It was easier to just carry everything with you
Phones! When you get to Costa Rica, you do not really need your phone. The Adventure Inn that we stayed at in San Jose had free calling back to the states. That was nice! Other than that, plan to use skype, Facebook, or email to communicate with loved ones back home. La Selva is well covered with wi fi, both in the cabins and at the main facility. Sometimes it went out at our cabin, but you could always get it at the dining hall or classroom.
Computers and other devices! I brought a small netbook with me so that I could work on our group project. I am glad I did! I could google anyting I needed to and I could download pictures too! I also brought a wi fi capable ipod, which really came in handy because I couldn't haul my computer to the main facility on most days because there was no safe place to keep it. Others used their smart phones which worked just as well. These devices also function well as cameras, although if you wanted better quality or more zoom, you were better off with a separate device. Peggy and Steve had an awesome camera with a huge zoom lens, so they got some great shots. I would not have wanted to carry something that big around with me, so I stuck with the small stuff!
Baggies! Everything in La Selva has the potential for getting wet. Bring small and large ziplock baggies and lots of them! I put my camera and ipod in baggies even if it wasn't raining because you never knew when a downpour would occur. I kept my clothes in large ziplocks or trash bags in my suitcase any time we travelled. You never knew if it would rain, and our luggage travelled on top of the van on the way to and from La Selva. Some people's stuff got soaked!
A spare towel! Morgan suggested bringing a blanket, but it took too much room in my suitcase, so I opted for an old towel. I was so glad I brought it! Sometimes you needed it if you didn't have time to do laundry and yur cabin towel was wet. I left the towel at La Selva, so I had room for presents in my suitcase when I came home!
On the last night we went to a very nice restaurant for dinner. Many people wore dresses or nice slacks and a top. Don't forget!