JOHN DAY - A dream trip to Costa Rica became reality for 16 Grant Union Junior-Senior High School students last month.
Planning for the trip began more than a year ago when Jorge Pulleiro was Grant Union's Spanish teacher. When he took a teaching job in Hailey, Idaho, last fall, he thought he would have to cancel the trip.
However, he noticed his new school and Grant Union had the same spring break week, and he kept plans in place for the March 21-29 trip.
Joining the group were Pulleiro's daughter Ashlie (a former Grant Union student), and chaperones Sonna Smith and Laci Powell.
The group enjoyed the laid-back lifestyle in Costa Rica where "pura vida," meaning "enjoying life" is a common way of greeting someone.
"The people there are amazing, super sweet and welcoming," said junior Cherise Holmstrom.
She said she enjoyed reconnecting with her former teacher and said the trip was a "life-changing experience" for her. She said the group visited a school that was the size of one classroom at Grant Union.
"They had just gotten indoor plumbing - it was all new to them," she said. "We had no idea how ungrateful we were for those kinds of things."
Senior Wade Cates echoed those sentiments.
"Costa Rica was an extraordinary experience that opened my eyes to the culture and the sites, and that many people around the world don't have the luxuries that we do," he said.
The group visited two active volcanoes, the rainforest and the Pacific Ocean, traveling to the capital city of San Jose, as well as Monteverde, La Fortuna and Punta Leona Resort.
Pulleiro said he planned the trip to show his students "what true culture and language really are."
"They did such a great job, trying hard to practice the language," he said. "I know they have come back home with more appreciation for the blessings they do have in the U.S."
"Our GU students were so well-behaved and had an amazing time," Pulleiro said. "I would go to the ends of the world with this group."