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Austin Preparatory School Costa Rica 2018

February 18-19, 2018

Hola from Cedral!

We have had a very eventful and jam packed couple of days. We arrived at a beautiful hotel in San Jose for the first night and then we would venture off to Cedral. On the way we stopped at the basilica and for lunch. For lunch there was an amazing view of the mountains and the food was interesting, but good. The views on the bus ride were to die for. Everything is so green and beautiful and the people here are so happy. All of us are bonding so well. Everyone in the group is participating and having fun. We didn’t know what to expect but this group of people is meshing really well and creating a second family. On the bus we all listened to oldies off Ava’s speaker and sang along. Everywhere I look I’m surrounded by trees and plants. Once we left the mountains we left to go into the city for ice cream. Then 45 minutes later we would arrive at our homestays to meet our new families for the next 4 days. When we first all gathered in the church we were greeted with local treats and juice. Everyone seemed so happy to see us. We were all so excited to settle down and experience the costa rican culture. There were dogs everywhere and they were all so friendly and cute. Everyone’s family was different some had kids, pets and others were alone. We played card games, laughed, shared stories and more. I love the environment here. The locals are all so friendly and happy with what little they have. Nobody here is materialistic and they appreciated everything. They were so thankful for the simple gifts we gave them and that made me happy. The language barrier is kind of a struggle but we manage to find a way to communicate. Olivia M. and Annie’s family has one little dog who follows us around when we walk to the work sites. The families gave us a delicious dinner. Even though they speak no English, they used words we learned in Spanish class so we do our best to communicate. We enjoy talking with them about their kids, and loved hearing about how proud they were of them. After our long day of traveling, the whole group went to bed early!

February 20, 2018

Aqui en Cedral! We completed our first service day in Cedral.  Our host families provided us with traditional Costa Rican breakfasts such as fruit, eggs, pancakes, rice and beans.  At 8’o clock, we said goodbye to our families and continued on to the coffee cooperative. We gathered together in the cafeteria and discussed the plan for the day. We were separated into two groups working on two different projects. The first group stayed at the coffee cooperative sorted fire wood and gathered stones to create a coffee drying bed. This will benefit the coffee production in the community. The second group hiked to a undefined trail in the woods. When we arrived, we used shovels and pickaxes to carve and clean out a path for tourists. The trail will be about a mile long once it is fully cleared. As a group, we thought we bonded and accomplished a lot during this day.

We were given a tour of the coffee cooperative and shown how the different qualities of coffee was produced and roasted. We got to smell samples of light, medium and dark roast beans.  It was very fascinating to see this different process. After a couple hours, we came back to the cooperative and our host mother had kindly prepared lunch or almuerzo.  Some of the foods they prepared for us were spaghetti, rice, beans, homemade potato chips, plantains and refrescos or fruit juice. After we ate, we headed back to our houses and had some downtime before we played soccer. The mejenga or commonly known as a pick-up soccer game was very eventful. As the game went on more and more locals joined in, they were very good at soccer. This brought the group together more despite the language barrier. Then we walked over to the community center where we learned how to make tortillas with host mothers. First, we flattened out the dough then we put it on the skillet until they were fully cooked.  They put in a variety of fillings such as ham, cheese, eggs, potatoes, and rice.  They were very authentic and delicious.  After that our host families walked us home and had enjoyed a light meal together. Some of us gave the families our gifts and they were very pleased with what they got. We brought games, shirts, hats, and kitchen supplies. We then played and laughed together, later we got ready for bed and said goodnight to our families. Ready to start the next day of service!

February 21, 2018
Today we woke up at the same time (7am) and ate breakfast at 7:30 with our families. We had pineapple, pancakes, cookies, hot chocolate, and cereal. Then we headed back up to the coffee cooperative and met everyone there. We split up into our groups, and one group stayed to do work while the other group went on a hike. The hike was so beautiful. We walked uphill first for about a mile with a bunch of locals; Ken, Luis, and Randall. Then we came to a little bridge that led to the main water filter in the village. The locals filled their water up with it. We then approached a fallen tree used as a bridge across a flowing river. We walked across the tree one by one, as it was an easy walk across because the tree was wide and flat. We then approached the bottom of the waterfall. There were so many rocks leading up to the top, and we got to climbed them. It was so much fun, and as we went up, the view became more and more beautiful. The trees surrounding us had astonishing long vines and incredible looking leaves. That is an image we will never forget. We struggled a tad bit, but with all the positive energy, we made it to the top!!!!!  The locals helped us a lot by putting rocks down in the river so we didn’t get wet, and they held our hands so we didn’t fall.

When we made it back down, the other group had finished as well. They mixed concrete in the old fashioned way with shovels and lots of work. They also continued to move rocks down the hill for the locals. We came up with a fast, effective way to move them. We created a relay in order to move the rocks faster with less work. Someone shoveled the rocks while one person carried them to the bottom of the hill. Then, someone took the rocks from the bottom of the hill to the work site and poured them out. The chain also brought the wheelbarrow back up. After the second group came back from the hike, they helped with the rocks for an hour. We then had a delicious, homemade lunch made by our homestay mothers. It contained food such as rice, beans, potatoes, chips, chicken, etc.

After we finished eating, we cleaned up the area and went back to our homestays to clean up for Church. We showered and put on our Church clothes. Everyone looked amazing. We met at the community center and walked into Church as a group. The mass, or misa, was said in complete Spanish. Most of us picked up most of what was said because it was so similar to Church back home. The community was so involved and excited about Church. The old one had to be knocked down due to infrastructure, so during the Mass, they collected funds to build a new one. They also introduced the new council members of the Church. Everyone was so involved. Even though the Mass was in Spanish, everyone seemed to follow along great. We even said the Our Father in Spanish because we learned it in our Spanish class at school.

After the Mass, we reflected as a group on how we felt about it. We all loved it very much. Then we saw a newly born baby calf. It was born only four hours earlier. It was put in the back of the truck, and the mother followed it. They gave us the honor of naming the calf. We unanimously choose the name Nina. We followed behind the truck and cow back to our homestays. We hung out with our families and ate an amazing dinner with them as well. We ate foods such as rice, beans, chicken, potatoes, and salad. We continued to spend time, play games, and talk to our families for the rest of the night until we eventually went to bed.

February 22, 2018

Hola! This morning as our alarm clocks sounded, we were all ready for another day of hard, impacting work.  Breakfast today was amazing, it consisted of varieties of fruit, eggs, rice, beans and ham.  It was our favorite breakfast and we were able to spend time with our families, speaking Spanish.  After eating and saying hasta luego, we made our journey to the coffee plantation. Once we got there, we all met and discussed our game plan to take the day on.  Half of us were assigned to work on moving the gravel because we had already experienced a beautiful and challenging hike through the mountains of Cedral yesterday.  Although we did the gravel moving before, it was still difficult, hard and time consuming work.  After a while of moving the rocks from the pile we all quickly realized what an impact we had made in such little time.   This little project of moving rocks will keep building onto other little projects to create a big impact on their production of coffee. In this case, a little bit of work can go a long way. They can make more coffee faster so they can make and sell more amounts of coffee. Selling more coffee to tourists will lead to more money for their community to eventually build it up more, which they are already starting to do by building a new church.  Those who were not working with gravel, went on a hike in the morning.  There are no words to describe the hike except for beautiful and fun.  What an experience! Everyone came back tired yet felt rewarded and satisfied because they had just pushed themselves. This hike is now labeled as one of the highlights of our lives. The hike started out with the sun beating down on us and very steep uphill. It was like this for a while but we were motivated by Eric and some of our host brothers to keep going, they promised it would be worth the energy once we got to where we were going. We passed by waterfalls, and came to a pool of water with rocks and a log going across the pool that we would have to cross. We got pictures and had laughs that we couldn’t get anywhere in the US. Once we crossed that log, we had a choice to either go back down to the coffee plantation or we could hike up to the top to see a different, beautiful view of Cedral from above. We chose to say ‘you only live once’ and to keep heading to the top. We were so glad that we did this in the end. A few dogs even followed us to the top.  As we made it back, we joined the other group and made an assembly line to help with the gravel.

Later our host families brought us nothing but delicious lunches packed with love and kindness.  After lunch, we went back to our families’ homes for a couple of hours of downtime before we all went to the school’s field and played  soccer there with the locals in Cedral. It was so great to again see the community come together to enjoy a common interest and the fact that we got to share that with them was really cool. The language barrier didn’t matter with this activity. We were all laughing because we knew that most of the time we were thinking the same thing. Their soccer skill is a prime example of natural talent and you can tell that they come down to the field to play soccer a lot. We were hungry after a long and divertido day of physical activities.  All of our host mothers planned and organized a pasta dinner.  There we learned to make pasta and see how they make sauce and boy was it delicious.  Our host mothers were very thoughtful in making us something that they knew we would enjoy. A few mothers even went into town and got a certain type of cheese for us to eat. We appreciate these little gestures so much. David had our group do a confidence boosting activity where we write something nice about someone on a card and after dinner we got to go to our host homes, spend time with our families with games, and then read that card that was made for us. This was a recipe for only good thoughts while falling asleep for the fourth night.