EVERY year, groups of retired teachers from Vancouver, British Colombia, fly south to Costa Rica and settle in for a month at Ana’s Place, a bed and breakfast in Atenas, 42 kilometers west of San José. This year, two groups made the trip, one in February and one in March.
It all began when organizer Ollie Whitcutt came to Costa Rica for a vacation shortly after retiring 13 years ago, loved it and wrote an article on Costa Rica for the retired-teachers quarterly journal. She stressed environmental and cultural assets.
So much interest in Costa Rica generated as a result, that she brought a group of 20 down the first year. Now the program has expanded and on Feb. l6, one group left and another arrived, passing each other in the air. Thirty people have already signed up for next year.
While in Costa Rica, the group visited volcanoes, beaches, Monteverde in the Central Highlands, San José and Sarapiquí in the Northern Zone, went rafting and tried other adventures. Being teachers –even retired – they cannot keep out of the classroom and visited a grade school and a high school.
ONE requirement for the trip is to bring at least five books for school English programs. Enough days remain in the month to spend some time lying in a hammock and reading or studying the area flora, fauna and feathered friends right in the neighborhood.
Atenas is known as having the best climate in the world, for its position just east of the mountain range, making it a perfect place to evade the dreary dampness of Vancouver winters. Ana’s Place has roomy grounds full of bright, tropical flowers and birds, a pool and outdoor dining areas for sunny breakfasts – all the amenities missing in Vancouver at this time of the year –and it is just blocks from the center of Atenas with its preserved historic buildings and market.
“These trips are to learn about Costa Rica, the culture and the people,” Whitcutt explains. “We go to Tico restaurants and use Tico services.”
SHEILA Fonseca, whose travel agency is in Atenas, arranges their trips and visits to schools and libraries. Some, like Whitcutt and her sister, Helen Osburn, who’ve been here before, don’t mind skipping some of the trips to stay “home” and just enjoy the climate before returning to ‘“rain, rain, rain,” Whitcutt said.