The Missouri State Lady Bears are on a nine-day tour of Costa Rica Aug. 5-13, combining exhibition games, sight-seeing and community service into a memorable team-building experience and springboard into the 2012-13 season.
Junior guard Karly Buer will be providing regular updates, while other members of the travel party will add photos and other details about the trip to this article on a regular basis.
Photo Gallery of the Lady Bears' trip to Costa Rica
Day 8, Sunday evening
Hello Lady Bear fans!
Can anyone say sunscreen? Some of us girls spent the entire day at Jaco Beach which is a local swimming beach located only a 15 minute shuttle away from our resort. We had the day off, free from a schedule to do as we pleased so Hannah, Nicole, Mikala, Aly, Chris, Kenzie, Alex and I hit the beach at 9 in the morning.
When we got there a local boy approached us about taking surf lessons with him for 50 dollars a person. As we were walking away another man came up and said he could offer us 2 hours of lessons and we could keep the boards for the whole day for only $30! Mikala, Alex, Hannah and I jumped on that deal and before we knew it we were catching waves like the pros! Ok, so maybe we weren't that good but Alex did get up and ride a wave on her very first try and the guide told me I was a natural. I loved surfing! Our guide was very good and he told us he was kind of a big deal in the surfing world. His name was Gustavo Castillo and he was the Costa Rican surfing champion for either 5 or 9 years. I can't remember which but it doesn't really matter because both are impressive.
After our lessons were over the 4 of us went to a beachside restaurant and had a quick lunch. I order the Red Snapper fish which was delicious! The fish came out whole with the skin and eyes still intact so naturally I had to take a picture before eating the little guy.
After lunch we went back out in the ocean to surf some more. It was a lot harder without our guide there telling us which waves were good and when to start paddling but it was still a blast. We came across Hillary and Tori on the beach so Hannah tried to teach them how to surf as well. It's probably safe to say it was a failed attempt by Hannah. After we were tired of swallowing ocean water Mikala, Tori, Hillary and I went shopping for a few hours down the strip in the small beach town before catching the shuttle back to our resort.
Tonight we are getting dressed up for our last team dinner at the harbor and then we will take out on the bus back to San Jose at 4:00am to catch our 8:40 flight back to the States. I am kind of sad now that I'm coming to the realization that our trip is ending. I have had the time of my life here with all my teammates and coaches and I don't yet want to leave this once in a lifetime trip! We have been so blessed for this opportunity and I know myself and the entire team are truly grateful for everything we've been able to experience. The Costa Ricans are a wonderful people full of passion and life and although they may not have the riches they do have happiness, which is a lesson all of us can live by.
As the locals say "Pura Vida"!
Day 7, Saturday night
Today was another great day full of surprises and good luck. This morning we were free to do as we pleased at the Villa Blanca resort until we had to load the bus and leave at 10. Some of the girls slept in, some went with our guide Herman early in the morning for a bird watching tour, and I took out with my camera and hiking stick early in the morning to hit the trails which weaved through the jungle.
On my hike I saw a pack of around 20 wild Coatis which are an animal that looks like a cross between a raccoon and a monkey. It was very cool to see them digging in the ground for earthworms and the little babies were so cute that I had to restrain myself from trying to pick one up. I also saw several different species of lizards, frogs, birds, and insects.
After that, we packed up and left the resort in the mountains we headed to the coast. On the way we stopped for lunch at a small village with a market, a restaurant and a butterfly garden. The food in the restaurant was very authentic and I still don’t know what half I ate was but it wasn’t half bad. In the market next door we were able to purchase the highest quality award winning Costa Rican coffee, clothes, and other souvenir trinkets to take back home to our friends and family. Before heading back on the road a few of us went inside the butterfly house where we were able to see tons of gorgeous bright, almost florescent, blue and black butterflies. Unfortunately it was very hard to capture their beauty on camera because when their wings were closed they looked like an average, dull moth.
The surprise of the day was when we pulled over before reaching our hotel to visit a crocodile jungle safari!! All the Lady Bears piled into a pontoon boat and our guide led us down the river in search of crocodiles, monkeys and exotic birds. We saw over 30 different species of animals on our hour and a half trip. Two different species of monkeys, parrots, crabs, iguanas, lizards that run on top of the water and around 30 crocodiles! Our guide Juan risked his life for us by feeding two different wild crocs raw chicken while being closer than an arm’s length away. One of the crocs he fed was 14 feet and 500 pounds!
After the jungle safari we headed to our Los Suenos Ocean and Golf Resort where we had a tasty dinner, swam in the multiple different pools and took a dip in the ocean in the pitch black of night. We still have a lot of exploring left to do on our last full day in the country so check back tomorrow to hear about our adventures at the beach!
Day 6, Friday night
Hello there Lady Bear Nation!
Today marked our second day at the Villa Blanca resort in the Cloud Forest region of Costa Rica. We had the morning off to do as we pleased so some of the girls opted to sleep in, while Whitney, Nicole, Alex, Mikala, and I took off on horseback with a guide to view more of the countryside. Horseback riding was a blast but poor Nicole got stuck riding what the guide called a "lazy" horse, so while the rest of us were galloping across the hilly green fields she was struggling to just make her horse walk forward. Thankfully Nicole is a good sport and was able to laugh with the rest of us about her first horseback riding experience.
We left the resort before noon for a two hour bus ride to the Arenal Volcano. When the volcano came into view our guide Herman was very excited to inform us that we were going to get to experience something special. The top of the volcano was exposed from the clouds and in view which rarely happens since its located in the Cloud Forest region. He told us that some people have visited 6 times and have still never seen the top. The Arenal Volcano is one of Costa Rica's 5 active volcanoes but it is the most visited because of it's perfect cone shape. We were able to see smoke piping out the top which was very neat. In order to get a better view our team hiked in the drizzling rain through the rainforest and over a lava field to an absolutely gorgeous spot where we had a 360 degree view with the huge Volcano on one side and a lake on the other. Our guide Herman brought his binoculars and we were able to spot 5 toucans and several parrots amongst the trees and flying in the sky above. The hike lasted a total of 1hr. 30 mins.
After the hike we made a visit to the Tabacon Hot Springs. The hot springs were unlike any I have ever seen and looked like some place out of a movie. Although there were a few man-made pools the thermal springs are completely natural and with water flowing by gravity throughout the property it forms in-river pools, waterfalls and cascades. You can jump from pool to pool by following the river up or you can walk on the winding trails and over bridges through the forest. The farther you go up stream the hotter the hot spring pools get. Somehow Alex and I managed to get lost trying to find where we placed our towels and my shoes so the two of us got to explore the resort in the dark which was a cool experience in itself. After we were done soaking and relaxing our team had a buffet dinner at the resort which was very good. The dessert and fruit bar was everyone's favorite.
Tomorrow we leave the Villa Blanca resort in the clouds and head for the Los Suenos Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort. Our day is open after we arrive so tomorrow you can read about our fun on the beach!
Day 5, very early Friday morning
Hola Lady Bear fans!
Today was another fun packed day in Costa Rica for our team. The day started with a 2 hour drive up the mountains from our hotel in San Jose to the zip lining canopy tour in Colinas de Poas. The drive was very scenic and our guide Herman informed us of the coffee famers and the greenhouses that lined the countryside. I don't know how he did it but our bus driver spotted a sloth hanging in a tree so we pulled over and took pictures.
At the zip lining place the team suited up with helmets, harness, and gloves in preparation for the tour. It took some convincing for a couple of my teammates that are afraid of heights but I'm proud to say all of us Lady Bears mustered up the courage to fly 50 miles an hour in the air while dangling completely exposed from a small cable. The tour consisted of 12 zip lines which cut through the rainforest. Needless to say the scenery was breathtaking.
After the canopy tour we traveled to a small village and a local Costa Rican family prepared us the best meal of the trip so far. The meal consisted of more rice, beans, and pork but the taste and quality was unmatched. We also had chicken, shredded beef, fried bananas, potatoes, salad, and cake. For drinks the family blended us fresh picked strawberries and ice into a puree. We all left the village very grateful for the kind family who fed us. After lunch we headed higher up the mountains to the luxurious Villa Blanca resort. We are all staying in quaint cabins that fit two. Some of the girls are upset about the lack of TV's in the cabins but I personally would take the fireplace in each room over a TV any day. We got to explore the resort for a few hours before having to drive an hour and a half to the community center gym in San Ramon.
Tonight's game was interesting...The team we played was made up of girls ranging in age from 15-18 and there best player was 4'9" and 40 years of age. We won the game by a score of 84-11. We used this game to work on our fast break and our defense. Although our competition these past three games haven't been Valley standards per se, these games have allowed our team to gel on the court and give our 6 freshmen valuable game experience. I have said it before but we really are grateful for this wonderful experience and we continue to look forward to the many adventures ahead of us this trip. Tomorrow we will be hiking up a volcano and soaking in some hotsprings so be sure to check back tomorrow for details!
Game 3 statistics - Lady Bears 84, San Ramon 11
Hannah Wilkerson: 13 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals
Tyonna Snow: 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals
Christiana Shorter: 11 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals
Whitney Edie: 7 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals
Mikala McGhee: 7 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 assist
NiJay Gaines: 6 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 2 steals
Nicole Smallwood: 5 points, 2 rebounds
Kenzie Williams: 4 points, 2 steals
Karly Buer: 4 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 steals
Alex Hillyer: 4 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Tori Henderson: 4 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals
Bry Snow: 3 points, 1 rebound, 1 block, 1 steal
Desiree Phillips: 2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals
Hillary Chvatal: 2 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals
Coach Milleson discusses the Lady Bears' second game of the trip
Day 4, very early Thursday morning
Pura Vida Lady Bear Fans!
Today marked the fourth day of our Costa Rica tour and it consisted of some poolside relaxation, some shopping, community service, and our second basketball game. Sleeping in this morning felt wonderful and after a late breakfast the majority of the team laid out poolside.
After a few hours of sun, Aly, Kenzie and I decided to walk across the street to check out the huge three-story mall. The mall was very nice and had a lot of fancy designer stores in it but with the three of us being broke college students we settled for window shopping and just enjoyed walking around. So far I have yet to see a local, man or woman, be as tall as Aly is and with her walking boot we naturally attract a lot of attention. In the US if you catch someone staring they will typically look away but here in Costa Rica we have been stared at this whole trip. In the mall today I actually saw a woman staring at Aly and as we passed her she turned around to stare some more. As long as they continue to be friendly and patient with our horrible Spanish skills, then I could care less if they stare at us.
Before playing our game this evening we had the opportunity to put on a small basketball clinic free of charge for the local kids. Thank goodness all the children could speak some English because it would have been very interesting to see us trying to run six stations without being able to communicate. It was a blast being able to interact and joke around with the kids. Some of the little boys had quite the sense of humor and they loved hamming it up in front of all the cameras taking pictures.
Immediately after our clinic was over we started warming up for our game. Tonight's game was held in the same gym as the first one and the majority of the Costa Rican players were also the same from the first game. We won tonight's contest 96-43 in front of maybe 40 supporters. Although the competition is not spectacular, Coach was still able to see improvements made from the first game. Tonight we worked on our full court man, our full court trapping defense, and we also gained some more experience running our offense against a zone. Our competition played zone in the hopes of trying to block up the lane to stop our tall post players from dominating the inside. However, I think most of our points tonight came from layups and fast-break opportunities.
Like the first one, this game was a blast and afterwards the opposing girls gave each of us a bag of an assortment of Costa Rican candy and drink mix. The MSU Men's basketball team played their first game of the tour tonight right after ours so we were able to stay and watch their game until halftime. When we got back to the hotel we had Pizza Hut pizza waiting for us which the entire team inhaled! Some of the more picky eaters on the team have been having a hard time getting full off of the "weird" tropical fruits and rice and beans so you could say they were quite pleased to see a familiar college staple make their plates.
Tomorrow we are going zip-lining in the jungle, playing our third and final game and we are also switching hotels. Be sure to check back tomorrow to stay caught up with all the adventure!
Game 2 statistics - Lady Bears 96, Costa Rica 43
Karly Buer: 17 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assist, 1 steal
Hannah Wilkerson: 12 points, 4 rebounds
Kenzie Williams: 8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 steals
Tyonna Snow: 8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals
Bry Snow: 8 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals
Christiana Shorter: 8 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 6 steals
Tori Henderson: 6 points, 4 rebounds
Whitney Edie: 5 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals
Mikala McGhee: 5 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
Desiree Phillips: 4 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist
Alex Hillyer: 4 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 1 steal
Hillary Chvatal: 4 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
NiJay Gaines: 3 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block, 1 assist, 1 steal
Nicole Smallwood: 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 assist
Day 3, very early Wednesday morning
Hello Lady Bear fans!
Since our time here in Costa Rica, today was my favorite day. We left the hotel at 6:30 this morning to embark on our white water rafting trip on the pristine Pacuare River. A few years ago a poll was published stating the top ten places in the world to white water raft and the Pacuare river in Costa Rica made the list. It was absolutely gorgeous. The Pacuare river cuts through the mountainous jungle providing breathtaking views and also very fast currents. The river hosts class III and IV rapids and was the location for the White Water kayaking and rafting World Championships earlier this year.
As we were rafting NiJay made the comment that the scenery looked like something you would see in a movie and then our guide proceeded to inform us that parts of King Kong and also Jurassic Park were filmed in the same area of the Pacuare that we were rafting. Our team was split up into 4 separate boats and surprisingly only Bry and Coach Louis fell in during the 4 hours of rafting. Not only was rafting a blast, but it also did it's job as a way for us to bond as a team. I had the privilege of having Coach Milleson in my boat with me and I must say that Coach is a beast when it comes to white water.
The White Water trip took up the whole day but this evening we all got dressed up and went to a very nice restaurant on the top of a hill overlooking all of San Jose called Tiquicia. We gained a considerable amount of elevation driving up to the restaurant and once we reached it we were greeted by a breathtaking view of the entire city from above the cloud line. The restaurant had a buffet set up with traditional Costa Rican cuisine which consisted of the staple rice and beans, salad, steamed veggies, a potato dish, a squash dish, marinated chicken, marinated pork dish of some sort, coconut balls, and fried bananas. Although a little different from what I'm used to I found the food to be very very good.
After dinner we where treated to live entertainment which consisted of 6 dancers dancing to the traditional dances of their country. Of course out of the whole entire restaurant and all of my teammates I would be the one picked out of the crowd to two step with one of the male dancers. The dancers tried to dance with some of the other players like Mikala, Nicole, Alex, and Tori but for some reason they always seemed to pick me out for each dance. I ended up dancing like 4 different songs before it dawned on me that the reason I was so popular was because I the only one around there height. Even though I was a little taller than most of them all the other girls were to tall for the guys to turn. Lucky me. Haha.
After getting back from dinner we meet up with our men's team as they were just arriving to the hotel and we all got to relax in the pool and hot tube before calling it a night. All in all I would have to call today a huge success and I can't wait to see what tomorrow holds!
As the locals say "Pura Vida"!
Video update with Coach Milleson Tuesday evening
Day 2, very early Tuesday morning
Today was one very long and productive day packed full of new experiences. For breakfast, our hotel set up a very large spread of pastries, cold cuts, cheese, pancakes, eggs, rice, beans, burritos, and an assortment of the local tropical fruits. The fruit was amazing!! I think my new favorite fruit is mamones even though they look more like a sea critter than a piece of fruit. I stuffed myself full of them and also on fresh passion fruit, guavas, pineapple, mangos, and peaches.
After lunch our team headed out for a tour of San Jose. In downtown San Jose we were able to get off of the bus and walk around, shop, and even feed some pigeons. The tour concluded at a very colorful craft market where we were given time to shop and test out our bartering skills. The craft market was made up of two very long and narrow shack-like structures where vendors crammed as many goods as possible into the tight space. I was literally spinning circles in the dimly lit market, overwhelmed with the variety of colorful jewelry, clothes, and trinkets. We arrived back at the hotel with enough time for a few of us to take a poolside nap before heading to the gym for our first game.
Our game tipped off at 8 pm against the supposedly best Costa Rican National Team we will face while we are here. The game was an absolute blast but just a little different from what we are use to at JQH Arena. For starters, the court was half indoors and half outdoors. Two sides of the gym were regular walls but the other two were just metal bars that let in the bugs and breeze and spectators from outside. The floor was a very nice looking dark stained hardwood that had tons of dead spots and the basketball was an oddly laced colorful ball that reminded all of us of a slick, worn down playground ball. The game was played in 10 minute quarters. There was maybe twenty people in the bleachers cheering on the national team.
Our competition was fairly short with maybe one player measuring 6 foot tall. Even I felt tall this game! However, what they lacked with height they made up in quickness and fundamentals. Like many other international teams, they were very good passers and weren't afraid to be aggressive. During one play Tyonna decided to match one of the players physicality and ended up getting a jump ball call that the Costa Rican player wasn't to happy about. The whole gym heard an earful of Spanish slanders and the player ended up getting ejected from the game. Your Lady Bears ended up winning the contest by a convincing score of 89-46. After the game we mingled for a while with the other team and took a few pictures. They all were very nice after we were done playing.
Be sure to tune in tomorrow to find out how our class III-IV white water rafting trip ends up! It wouldn't hurt to wish us luck and maybe even say a few prayers for a safe trip considering the majority of our team hasn't even swam in a Missouri river before. Some of my teammates and coaches are a tad bit nervous but we are all excited to see what tommorw brings us. Like I always say, "life's for living!"
Game 1 scoring recap - Lady Bears 89, Costa Rica 46
Hannah Wilkerson 17, Karly Buer 12, Whitney Edie 10, Christiana Shorter 10, Tyonna Snow 9, Bry Snow 7, Alex Hillyer 7, Kenzie Williams 6, Hillary Chvatal 5, Mikala McGhee 4.
Day 1, late Sunday/early Monday
Hola Lady Bear fans!
For the next 8 wonderful days you will get to share in the experience of your Lady Bears as we explore what the beautiful country of Costa Rica has to offer. As many of you know, we will be playing 3 games while we are here and the rest of the time will be spent having fun in the mountains, jungle, and beach! We are all extremely thankful for this opportunity to bond and truly grow as a team.
Today marked the beginning of our great journey as we loaded up a bus and headed to the KC airport at 7:30 this morning. From KC we flew to Dallas and from Dallas we had a 4 hour flight to Costa Rica. Our team arrived in San Jose at 8:33pm U.S. time, which is 7:33pm here in Costa Rica since we switched time zones. Needless to say, it was a very long day of travel but thankfully we didn't run into any delays or luggage issues. Upon arriving to our hotel, we had a team dinner at a very tasty pasta restaurant. We have already experienced a little culture shock when we couldn't read the menus which were written entirely in Spanish. I'm not sure if anyone knew what they were ordering but it didn't matter a whole lot because it was all good. However, from now on we will not be ordering the gas water. Out of all of us girls, so far it looks like NiJay may know the most Spanish. This trip could possibly get a little scary if she is working as our translator... So far all of the locals we have come in contact with have been very friendly and patiently try to help us out.
Tomorrow we will be touring the city of San Jose and playing our first game of the international tour. We will hit the court at 9 pm (CT) to take on the Costa Rica National Team #1. I will be blogging after the game to report on the day so be sure to check back in tomorrow.