Our last day in Costa Rica was bittersweet. The students are excited to go home and start their spring breaks, but they are also sad to be leaving this amazing place and the wonderful people we've met this week.
After breakfast we headed to our Sarapiqí rafting adventure. The river is unusually low so it wasn't quite whitewater, but we had a great time with several races and a break for fresh watermelon and pineapple.
When we returned we had a few final activities as part of the WLS program, ending with a candlelight ceremony where each of the students talked about the one thing they want to take home with them from this experience. They have all learned a lot and have really grown from this experience!
There's really only one way to end our last post from Costa Rica: Pura Vida!!!
Today's post was written by David Smith:
Today was a day of goodbyes, but during those goodbyes we realized how close we’ve grown to the people of this community over the past few days. After breakfast we went to La Lucha, the school we’ve been working with to construct a fence. Rather than work today, we spent time with all the students and staff we’ve come to know, playing games for hours and enjoying their company for as long as we could. Before we left, we gave a speech to the students to thank them for allowing us into their lives, and they thanked us for the memories and our hard work. After departing from that community, we continued on to say goodbye to the homestay families we had grown most close to. We ate a final meal together, exchanged gifts, and played soccer. Few words were said, but it was the few words of friends who know that what we feel is mutual and cannot be expressed in a few broken sentences in a language not native to us. So we played. We sweated together as we have for days, and even the oppressive heat seemed a blessing. Tears were shed as we said goodbye, and I hope we mean as much to them as they have obviously meant to us. Waving goodbye was bittersweet to be sure, and we were all glad to have met our new friends. The second half of our day helped us realize how we have grown internally, as students and peers. We participated in an adventure race that introduced us to different aspects of Costa Rican culture, and tested our skills as Spanish speakers. The teams we split into felt confident and trustworthy, and it was hard to believe that a few days ago we didn’t know each others’ names. From milking cows to baking tortillas to salsa dancing, we enjoyed working together. Having competed together, it is clear that this trip has built bonds that will last beyond this week, and friendships that will continue to grow. Today was a good day, and more is yet to come!
Today's post is brought to you by Grace Griswold:
Today, on March 1st, our 5th day in Costa Rica, we continued to have the opportunity to grow and connect with many different people. After a delicious breakfast, our day of service began. Our new friends from the school greeted us with arms wide open, kind and welcoming. On the first day, I admit that I was nervous and doubtful when we were told that we would be communicating with the native Spanish speakers. Some of the thoughts going through my mind were negative, such as the fact that I was down on myself for not taking Spanish, or being able to carry a basic conversation in a language other than my own native tongue, English. I have always said that I want to learn how to speak many different languages, as well as traveling, and living, internationally. Being at the School, volunteering, and experiencing life with the people that have graciously chosen to open their homes to us, has been a great first step, and reality check to my dreams. When I am older, and have had more of an opportunity to travel, I will always remember my experiences doing mission work in La Lucha, as not only a fun time or a monumental first, but a major stepping stone towards learning and experiencing a cornucopia of cultures. My work at the school has involved anything and everything, between playing and learning from the children I thought I was supposed to be teaching, and growing in my relationships with my friends. We painted, we dug, and we managed to somehow communicate, but what I will remember forever is the loving and happy spirit of the people we were helping. It was as if they were helping us and myself, more than we were helping them. I thoroughly enjoyed our experience with the locals, whether it be the interactions with kids through traditional games, such as London Bridge, tag, and soccer, or showing love through food, as our homestay families love to do. No matter the occasion, one thing that never seems to fade or change, is the wide smiles on faces, or the delight that comes from a successful conversation, which is truly a satisfying win. Our meals were very good, with a consistent theme of rice and beans, and amazing coffee. My group was delighted to learn how to salsa, as well as teaching them the Cupid Shuffle. My friends and I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated our unique opportunity to connect and grow alongside unlikely pairings that will make a lifetime of impact.
Here's another re-cap of Tuesday - By: Caroline Qatsha and Katieanne Peterson
Tuesday was a day-- a day full of fun! The first activity was another trip to Escuela La Lucha, the school we have been working with. Students were split into two big groups; one working on exterior work like the fence, and the other working on interior work (painting and teaching children). The exterior group was split into two sub-groups, one working on pulling out old fence posts while the other cleaned up the area in preparation for the new fence. The interior groups was split into three groups - one group was painting while the other two taught the students. One group taught english and the other group taught music. We have made some progress on the fence along with painting some of the interior walls.
There is a recess time at the school and two girls wanted us to do the limbo with them. We held the ends of the rope and let them go under-- both were super flexible. Then we both went up, and Caroline rolled under the rope, and Katieanne fell while trying to go under. After the limbo, they wanted us to play freeze tag, and Katieanne was "it"-- the entire time. However, it was super fun to interact with the children and try to learn more Spanish.
After a morning of work at the school, we all took a short hike to our homestay families. This part was one of the most exciting parts of the day. We started by eating lunch they had prepared. Our group's meal consisted of rice and beans, chicken, pineapple, vegetables, strawberry tea, and orange juice.
After we ate, our family taught us many traditional games. The first was a fun game where you and a partner both had spoons in your mouth. One spoon is holding a potato. The partners are standing opposite of one another and you walk to your partner and transfer the potato onto their spoon. We had a race between partners and the winners received some fresh strawberries. The next game we played was a rendition of hot potato. If you were caught with the potato, you had to go into the middle of a circle and dance. After hot potato we played a game that could coincide with the American game "Simon Says." It was called "Enano/Gigante." You had to go up and down on command and if you messed up, you were out. The winners received some Costa Rican candy. Lastly, we played musical chairs, except since we didn't have music we just danced around the chairs. It was so much fun to just laugh and be in the moment.
Eating lunch with the host families is a really cool experience because we get to practice our Spanish. Already, we both feel like we have reached a new level of communication. While we may not understand what they are completely saying, we get the gist and can interpret. Overall, the host family experience has been super rewarding.
Tuesday was a fun day full of excitement!
A Flavorful Tuesday
Today we woke up to another wonderful day in Costa Rica. So far the climate (knock on wood) has been very kind to us and we have adjusted to the heat really well. At times, it has even been breezy. You wouldn’t believe it but it seems that even in this climate we are always hungry and so we eat and keep on trying it all.
Food is very important in Costa Rica: it is one of the ways in which people say “I love you”. So this morning, we began with yet another amazing breakfast with “gallo pinto” (rice with black beans, onions and spices), scrambled eggs, little hotcakes, ham, fresh bread and fresh fruit.
Today we continued our work with La Lucha school. It is my second day at the school and I know that it will be a very emotional day for us on our last day there. La Lucha means “The Fight”, and this is also the name of the village. The inhabitants of La Lucha are indeed in a fight, a fight that has lasted 20 years for the village and 17 years for the school (since its foundation). You see, the original owner of many acres of land around their area was European and fled the country many years ago (for reasons not mentioned here). However, this fact left the people of La Lucha in limbo, because they can’t fully have proprietary rights and receive the final deed on their homes. The same goes for the school, which leaves the school vulnerable and in an irregular situation when it comes to receiving subsidies from the government. After knowing this, I feel that it has all the more meaning for our students to work in conjunction with the students of La Lucha.
Today our students made us proud: they primed walls, painted chain links and bars of a kitchen fence, moved very heavy posts to build the exterior fence and cleaned the grounds of the school by picking up trash (leaves, coconuts, etc). During recess we all played with the kids from La Lucha and frankly, it was really moving to see our teenagers play joyfully with the little kids. Despite the language barrier they bonded over soccer, freeze tag and other games and started to share their learning over teaching each other words in both languages.
At noon, we accompanied our students to have lunch with their Costa Rican homestay families. I believe they had a truly meaningful connection with each family. I took this photo below of our kids playing musical chairs in the yard. They truly had a great time.
In the afternoon, there was a short break in the river that was a prelude to visiting Jaime’s home for our ethnobotanist class. I truly loved it and most of the pictures of the post are from the time we spent with Jaime. He had a very fun class for our students full of surprises. Suddenly a seed, a plant or a leaf could be used for makeup, adornment, flavor or medicinal purposes. I truly believe our kids really enjoyed this visit with Jaime. We tasted many different fruits and plants learning to recognize oregano, lemongrass, cinnamon and starfruit amongst many others. Some of these fruits I had not ever seen in my life before!
In the evening, we had our activity lead my Randall on leadership personality types, which was very illuminating for all of us in understanding how we work as a team and what unique qualities each one of us brings to our group. It turns out that I am an idealist which might help explain why my blog is so long!
Hoping that you enjoy these,
Today's blog post is provided by our journalist of the day, Brandon Benn:
Today is our third day at the Chilamate Eco Resort in Costa Rica. Today we started our community project working with the community. We started to build a new fence for a school, who's current fence was old and broken down. Stray dogs and other uninvited guests could just waltz in to the school unnoticed and possibly cause harm. To fix this we tore down the remains of the old fence and started to build a new one. We also played soccer with the kids during their recess. It's nice to know we're changing their lives for the better.
We also went to a farmer's plantation and helped him complete his work. We fed pigs, made compost, picked Costa Rican peppers, and vanilla plants. The farmer, Daniel, fed us with excellent Costa Rican food. Daniel also told us a story about how he fought against companies who were putting false labels on their products. They were saying that their products were fully organic, which was not true. Since he found out Daniel has started his own practice of farming and has pushed to get a license so he can export his own organic products.
During the night, a tour guide took us on a hike through the rainforest. We saw frogs, millipedes, and many types of insects. The guide also explained how certain trees and other types of plants function and adapt in their environment. All of the days have been great, but I would say today was the group's overall favorite day in Costa Rica.
Our first full day in Costa Rica has been a great one! After breakfast we did a jungle hike with our naturalist guides, Jaime and William. We spotted capuchin monkeys high in the forest canopy, several different frogs, and also the dreaded bullet ants. Our guides were outstanding and the students all seemed to enjoy learning about the different animals and plants in the local ecosystem.
We took a short break for a swim in the Sarapiquí river, had some lunch, and then went to a canopy zipline, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed.
After dinner and some activities, our World Leadership School instructors, Randall and Walter, challenged the kids to list their concerns and expectations about this week, and then come up with norms that would help us meet those expectations. The group really embraced this exercise so we wanted to share the results with you.
Spirits are high and everyone is really looking forward to tomorrow. We've added a few pics from today below.