Costa Rica La Pura Vida (Session 2)
July 8, 2019
This morning we woke up to a beautiful day in Costa Rica. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and the air was humid. We went down to the restaurant at Heliconias and had a delicious breakfast of gallo pinto (the classic Costa Rican rice and beans), scrambled eggs, and fried plantains. Randall, our trip leader, taught us the word of the day “tuanis,” which means “cool,” and we left for our adventure.
We arrived at the house of Crisley and Patricia and he told us the story of their farm. Around 1975, the government bought a large plot of land used for cattle farming and distributed it to different families like Crisley’s. The family only farmed and made cheese for sustenance until one day a foreigner asked to buy cheese from them. After buying the cheese, he returned a few months later asking for a much larger order, and the family’s cheese making business was born. After telling us this fascinating story, Crisley invited us inside to see the cheese making process.
He explained the process behind their special mozzarella and then said it was our turn. He placed the cheese solids in boiling water, and it turned into something that looked like a giant piece of white taffy. We all got to roll the cheese into balls that were packaged to sell in the city. We also got to try some, and it was the most delicious cheese I think I’ve ever eaten. It was salty and satisfying. It was really interesting to see the way that the family makes money and supports themselves, especially since it’s so different from most American jobs.
After the cheese making, we walked around the family’s farm, or finca, and Crisley gave us samples of many of the native fruits. We ate starfruit and drank fresh coconut water, and it was insanely yummy. It had rained a bit at this point and it was humid, so the fruit was nice and refreshing. He showed us their chickens, ducks, pigs, cows, and horses. Something super interesting that they do on the farm is make their own biogas. They use the waste from the pigs to produce the gas that they use to heat the milk for the cheese they make. Crisley called it closing the circle on the farm because they are reducing not only their waste but also their need for gas. It began raining much harder, so we went back to the house for lunch. We had rice with chicken and beans for lunch along with a little side salad. Again, it was super delicious.
After leaving the farm, we had a very relaxing rest of the day playing soccer, swimming in the pool, playing cards, and hanging out with the group at the hotel. There’s only 7 of us excluding the leaders, so everyone already is really close. Today was the perfect first day in Costa Rica, and I’m so excited to see what’s next.
July 9, 2019
Today we were awoken by the pitter pattering of the Costa Rican rain and the songs of the national bird called Yiguirro. We next packed up our things (or chunches) and ventured off to breakfast. Today we ate pancakes, eggs, and the traditional turkey bacon. Following breakfast we filled our water bottles and said goodbye to Heliconias (our hotel). We hopped in the van and headed towards our next adventure. On our way there, Rrrrandall taught us the word of the day which was “Mae,” meaning buddy or friend. We also ran into a sloth laying on the top of a tree hanging over the road. We got out of the van and captured some amazing shots of the sloth dangling from the tree. Then, after about an hour drive through El Futuro (the town) and the greenery around it, we finally arrived at our zip-lining adventure.
We got out of the van and headed straight into the jungle overlooking volcano Arenal and a big body of water. We next got strapped in by our sky adventure specialists and were pushed out 644 ft in the air. The feeling was almost unimaginable, the sensation of insanely the fresh Costa Rican air hitting your body at 45 mph and then looking down and seeing the unbelievably green forest lying directly under your eyes and then looking left and seeing the once active volcano. We ended the zip line adventure with a delicious ginger lemon tea and a final zip line that was 1⁄2 a mile and took less than a minute to cross. Next, we bought some things from the gift shop and got back in the van and headed to lunch. We stopped at a restaurant and ate some of the best hamburgers, nachos, and shrimp, and drank some of the freshest pineapple and watermelon juice. Next we walked around El Futuro and bought some souvenirs and cereals for our host families.
At last we got back in the van and headed to meet our new moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, brothers, and sisters. Once we arrived we were kindly greeted by our host families and felt quite at home. We were all nervous at first, but after a couple of hours we have all seemed to open up and are learning to feel more comfortable with our new families. Today was another perfect day in Costa Rica and I am looking forward to many more!
July 10, 2019
As we battled through the Costa Rican rainforest attacked by the ferocious mozzies, we took in our breathtaking surroundings. The brightly colored leaves, the petrifying sounds that cut through the damp air, the relentless cloud coverage. We were cutting through the lush vegetation to reach the loud music and the smell of fresh picadillo. Then the alarm sounded, I switched it off and looked over to the other bed, realizing it was the beginning of another adventurous day in Costa Rica. We opened the door and were immediately bombarded with the pure energy of the 5 and 6 year olds in our Homestay. We began our day with a traditional Costa Rican breakfast of rice and beans and commenced our first day of work.
Over the next few days we would be working on a small building with the purpose of educating and cooking for a Catholic Church. We began our work by being separated into two groups. One of the groups moved dirt to the inside of the building to even out the floor while the other built up the edges of the house using cement. The work day started off with loads of energy; we were all itching to make a difference. The work was hard: the sweat dripped down our faces, the blood pumped through our veins as we pushed the shovels deep inside the dirt. The sound of the toucans was pierced by the bang of the heavy blocks of wood that we used to even out the ground. The brown dirt stuck to our gloves. Finn chattered constantly, reminding us who Michael Phelps is. There was unending laughter as sly jokes were made.
After we had finished the work day we returned to our home stay, again we were treated by the children, their positivity was contagious, as though it swept across the household and brought life and significance to the minor but yet important details of daily life. We took showers and felt the cold water clean the dirt and work of the day away preparing for the cultural evening ahead. As we stepped into the jam packed car clean and vibrating with excitement we immediately began to sweat again. We drove up the road feeling every pebble and ditch, the car smelled with the picadillo made with green papaya, awakening an excitement for the feast to come. We arrived at the dark community center, a group of people stood waiting outside. The door was unlocked, the lights were turned on, and the music began to play. The group was invited to help cook the tortillas surrounded by the Costa Rican Mothers’ watchful eyes ensuring that it was done correctly. The dough was sticking to the hands as you pushed it out into a round shape. The cooking fire was roaring and the red embers glowed like individual suns setting over the horizon. An intense football match broke out with cheers as different members of the community joined. We were then called to eat. We all sat down at the table chattering, excited for the meal to come. When we started eating an immediate burst of flavor exploded in my mouth, the different tastes combined to show that years of tradition had led to this breathtaking dish. We ended the day tired to our bones and collapsed in our bed, anticipating another incredible day to come.
July 11, 2019
Wow, what a day! I woke up bright and early to my new alarm clock, the neighbor’s rooster. After some yawns and stretches, I hopped out of bed- ready to face the busy day ahead. My host mother, Elizabeth, and her daughter, Fabiola, prepared for us their oh-so delicious handmade tortillas and cheese. A few kids from our group explored the beautiful community during an early morning run. After our stress relieving, albeit sweaty run, we cleaned up and began our day of work.
In the morning, we continued moving the dwindling pile of dirt that once seemed unmovable. Some friends worked on plastering the walls of the soon-to-be Catholic school with drywall. The Costa Rican sun blessed us with vibrant sun rays that warmed us as we worked, while also giving us plenty of clouds to cool us down. Shovels dug deep into the dirt, moving the orange earth into the school so others could pack it evenly into the ground. Slowly, we began to see all of our hard work come together.
After a refreshing lunch break, we jumped right back into work. Our sweat, sore muscles, and somewhat tired selves were rewarded with ice cream! Randall treated us to a tasty snack before we walked down to visit a lovely local woman named Jenny. She raises Tilapia fish, and in her backyard she had three distinct pools for the fish. When she asked for some volunteers to assist her in catching some of the biggest fish she had, I immediately stepped up, ready to take my shoes off and get my hands dirty. Jenny, her son Philippe, my group mate Finn, and me all gripped a long net tightly and held it to the muddy ground of the pool with our toes. We slowly walked across the small pool, ensuring that the net didn’t get caught on any pipes or sharp edges. Every so often, a fish would splash against the net and hit one of the four of us. It was so exhilarating when we finally cornered a HUGE tilapia! My heart was pounding with joy as we raised the net out of the water. Jenny demonstrated how to kill the fish as quickly and as painlessly as possible. It was gnarly and grotesque in the best way when she successfully decapitated it! I was amazed by how professional she seemed.
While Jenny scaled, gutted, then cooked the gigantic tilapia, all of the kids played fútbol or relaxed with a warm cup of coffee. When we got to try the fish, everyone’s eyes popped at how insanely fresh and wonderful it tasted. Over and over we thanked a Jenny for graciously inviting us into her home and showing us a unique piece of her daily life. By the time our stomachs were full and we were on our way home, the rain started to cascade down in buckets. A few minutes into our walk, we quickly noticed Finn and Alex chasing after us, calling for us to wait up. Alex was wearing an extremely neon yellow shirt, so it was impossible to miss them. Jenny also doubled as their Homestay mother, so we were interested in what they had to say. Immediately Alex revealed his Axe Body Spray that he was hiding behind his back and savagely attacked all of the girls. We ran, screamed, and laughed in the pouring rain, knowing that even the rain can’t completely wash off the smell of Axe. When Leda and I arrived back at our Homestay, we were greeted with love, cookies, and hot chocolate milk. Overall, I couldn’t ask for a better day in Costa Rica!!
July 12, 2019
We woke up to a down pour of heavy rainfall. It had been raining like this since the night before. We rolled out of bed and got some breakfast when we heard news that we would not begin working till one in the afternoon. “Not sure what we were going to do this morning”, but as soon as I thought that Jenny, me and Aleks’ home stay mother, told us to go get some shoes on because we were going to go harvest fresh fruits. When me and Aleks got back from putting our shoes on, Jenny and her two kids Bailey and Nathan were all ready to go. They handed Aleks a large piece of bamboo with a wooden hook. We started to walk. After not long at all, we had reached a fruit tree. She showed us how to use the the hook to pull down the fruit. In a minute we figure it out. We walked all over their farm for the next 30 minutes picking fruit. When we got back we made some delicious drinks excited for the rest of the day.
Right as we got back Jenny got a call ordering 7 kilos of fish. You might remember from yesterday that she has a fish farm on her property. Her nephew Felipe who lives next door came to catch the fish. He asked if we wanted to help. We immediately said yes! Felipe would cast a weighted net and then pull it out. It only took one or two tries before he finally got it. He asked if ether one of us wanted to kill it. I hesitated a moment and then said yes. He showed me just how to do it. I was able to try first. He asked Aleks to kill the next one. Cautiously, he said yes. With a little help he did it. We ate some lunch and then went to do a community service protect.
At about 6 o’clock we loaded up the car with the whole family and drove to the community game night. We started off playing an epic game of bingo then played some more active games such as a 6 legged race where you put one foot in each of two pieces of wood. Each plank had three straps so there could be three people on a team and there were two teams. We played several more games like this one. At the end of the night every one had had a great time.
July 13, 2019
We woke up to the sun shining and the smell of rice, beans, and eggs for breakfast. The excitement for tonight’s community activity filled the room as we talked about what songs we would want to sing for karaoke night. Right before the group was supposed to go to work, it began to pour. We sat down and talked about the differences between our home and our Costa Rican home, along with what our host families might think is strange about our life styles. Once the rain stopped, the group continued to shovel the remainder of the pile of orange dirt into the soon to be catholic school. The ground inside the school is almost completely leveled out now! As we worked, two gorgeous scarlet macaws flew overhead and landed in a near by tree for a snack. Randall got extremely nice pictures of them on his camera as they ate the fruit from the branches.
After the work was done, everyone tried different flavors of boli (milk popsicle) which I personally really enjoyed. When we were done eating, we all went to our host homes to shower and get ready for the fun night ahead of us. My host sister, Fabiola, did my hair in braids along with Hailey’s hair. She also gave us more delicious ice cream with strawberry flavored jello as dessert. All the families walked or drove down to the community center together, full of excitement and joy. The Global Works group started off the night by singing Fireworks by Katy Perry and Tik Tok by Ke$ha. After we were done singing, a host mom named Jenny and my host sister Fabiola both sang solos beautifully in Spanish. I am positive that they all sounded better than us. The young kids danced while listening to the singing, which was adorable. As the night came to a close, everyone was smiling, laughing, and making jokes. Someone even ate all of Randall’s mints and replaced them with rocks, which was pretty funny. All and all, it was yet another perfect day in Costa Rica and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
July 14 2019
Waking up to a late start, around 9:00 in the morning, we smelled some of Mama Carmen’s delicious food. We had another traditional breakfast of grilled cheese with tomatoes and ham inside. It was a great meal to start the day. We spent the morning making bracelets and playing cards on the porch overlooking many chickens and Costa Rican plants. Our mom came and told us to start getting ready for her daughter’s baby shower. We threw on some nice clothes and headed out the door to the car. We took a car ride to La Tigra, where the daughter and her husband live, for lunch before the baby shower. Lunch consisted of tuna salad, rice, and beans. Me, Lily, and Mariam were starving for some of Mama Carmen’s traditional food and were surprised at how different this food was. We told her that we liked her meals better. She replied with, “Forget this, this would never happen at my house.” We all laughed together and made many jokes with our mom.
The baby shower was held at a huge event space and was filled with balloons saying “It’s a boy.” We sat at a table with our family and watched a few different baby games. We had picadillo and some biscuits during the baby shower. We watched the daughter and her husband open all their gifts and take many pictures with all the guests. We played hide and seek and different games with some of the little kids and then we headed to the supermarket where another one of her daughters works. We got some meat and tortilla flour to make dinner. Our mom made us gallo pinto, pork, and onions for dinner. It was very good.
After helping clean up dinner, we sat on the porch with our mom and Melany, her 15 year old daughter. We talked about our families and showed them many pictures. We convinced Mama Carmen to let us make a American breakfast for her the next morning. We made her avocado toast with a fried egg on top. She liked it very much and said she would think of us next time she makes it. All of us enjoyed our free day with our families and will have many different experiences to share from it. We have all gotten so close and we have had a great week in Costa Rica.
July 15, 2019
This morning we woke up after a peaceful nights rest listening to the sound of the downpour on the tin roof of our host family’s home. We wanted to do something nice for our host mom, whom we now call Mama Carmen, so we made her breakfast. She usually wakes up at 5 or 6 in the morning to make tortillas for breakfast, and she was very excited to sleep in a little extra. We made her avocado toast with a fried egg on top and egg in a hole toast for breakfast. She seemed to like it and said she would share it with all her friends.
After breakfast we went to our last day of work. We finished moving almost all of the two dirt piles over the course of the day and did a bunch of drywall. It was honestly gratifying to see all the work we accomplished over the course of one week. During the middle of our work day two guys on horses came up. They were from the church and come into town a few days a week. For lunch Mama Carmen made us fresh french fries and a fried rice type dish. The fried rice had chicken, carrots, and green beans. It started pouring during the last hour of our work, so everyone had a huge mud fight in the rain. It was the perfect goodbye to our week of hard work.
After work we went home, showered, and ate tortas. The torta was hamburger meat inside a tortilla with tomatoes. Everything our host mom has made for us has been so delicious, and I’m really not ready to leave. We walked to our clase de baile, or dance class, for a night of intense dancing where Randall taught us how to dance salsa, bachata, and merengue. It was so much fun.
We went back home and ate a classic dessert of jello, ice cream, and a fresh pineapple topping. We spent the rest of the night cracking jokes with Mama Carmen, listening to music, and writing stories about our adventures in the beautiful country of Costa Rica.
July 16, 2019
Our final full day with our host families was personally my favorite day. We woke up, refreshed and excited to teach the children of the community English. After a fulfilling breakfast, we got on our shoes and walked over to the elementary school that was just a minute’s walk away. We split up into groups and began with the higher-level students. In my class, we reviewed colors, simple phrases, and body parts. I was so surprised by how much English the fifth graders knew! We sang ‘head, shoulders, knees, and toes’ and ran around, playing ‘duck duck goose.’ After a short break filled with ice cream and cantaloupe, we prepared for our second class of the day. Lily, Leda, and I taught the first graders. At first, it was a little challenging, but by the end of the 40 minute class we were laughing and playing ‘hot potato’ with a colored marker. When we had to part with our classes, the little kids hugged our legs and thanked us, asking us if we were coming back the next day. I had so much fun with the little ones! They were so energetic and full of joy.
We went back to our host families for a delicious, homemade lunch. The afternoon was spent relaxing with our host mothers and fathers and running around with our host sisters and brothers. The Global Works group regathered for a terrific dinner of fried chicken. Some local ladies prepared for us a fantastic slideshow featuring many pictures of us throughout our stay. We watched along as photos of us working, making breakfast, and goofing around with the children popped up on a television. My host dad, David, hung up a piñata shaped like the logo of the Costa Rican soccer team, La Liga. Everyone screamed with joy when it finally bursted open and candy poured down on our backs. It was quite a pleasant change in weather from the torrential rains we’ve faced throughout our stay. All of the children scrambled about on the floor to grab as much candy as our hands could hold. Once the candy was tucked away in our bags and pockets, we used the rope that held up the piñata as a jump rope! We hopped and skipped until sweat beaded down our face and our hearts pounded with exhaustion and joy. Finally, everyone packed up and headed back home. Leda and I surprised our host families with notes we wrote for them in Spanish. I was filled with glee when they surprised us back with presents for us! I hugged my mom, dad, and sisters so tightly as tears stung our eyes. Goodbyes are always heart-wrenchingly sad, so we went to bed dreading the farewells that tomorrow would bring.
July 17, 2019
We woke up to our final delicious breakfast with Mama Carmen. She made us fried cheese, chorizo, gallo pinto, and homemade tortillas. The whole family shared our last breakfast together and we were all sad to leave. Mama Carmen gave us all goodbye letters to open when we get home. We all headed to the community center for our final goodbyes. All the moms talked about how much they enjoyed our company and how we could always come visit. Fabiola, Hailey, and Leda were all crying because they were going to miss each other so much. No one wanted to get on the bus but around 9:00 we headed off for our next adventure.
Once we were all settled on the bus, Randall let us play music connected to the speakers. We sang many songs until Randall told us to get off the bus. He showed us huge alligators under a bridge. Some were swimming and others looked squished. We got back on the bus, ate lunch, and made lots of friendship bracelets to pass the time.
Seven and a half hours later, we arrived at our hotel. All the girls share a huge room that has a tv, kitchen, couch, and five beds. We all walked down to the beach to pass time before dinner. None of us were planning on getting in but we saw the ocean and couldn’t resist. We swam in sports bras and shorts and then spotted another Global Works group.
The other group was a much bigger group. They had two guys and ten girls from all different parts of the US. They were very funny and it was fun talking to so many different people. Then we all went to a close restaurant for dinner. We came back and our whole group gathered on the couch for movie night. We decided to watch The Conjuring 2. After getting our fair share of scares, we headed off for bed.
– Kailyn W.
July 18, 2019
We began our day breathing in the humid coastal air. Excited for the first day of surfing we sprang out of bed and got dressed. Our exotically colored bathing suits blended into the brightly colored plants that surrounded us. We walked to the restaurant where we ate breakfast, missing the traditional beans and rice we stuffed on scrambled eggs and toast. Overflowing with excitement we met our surfing instructors at the beach. Beneath the towering palm trees and the drowning noise of the wildlife we received a short lesson on how to surf. We practiced standing up feeling the warm sand stick to our bodies. We were then instructed to pick up our surf boards and start surfing. The beach felt endless as we itched to reach the water.
As the first wave slammed against us and our boards, we felt the salty water sting our eyes. We felt the immense power of the waves as they dragged us across the seemingly endless body of water. The water felt warm against our burning bodies, the smell of salt pierced our nostrils with the white caps of the waves tumbling over us all, taking complete control of us. We each caught our waves, the surf boards seemingly carelessly floating over the top of the wave as we battled to remain balanced. The joy and energy flowed through all of us as we surfed the waves, with the constant shouts of motivation from everyone else as someone attempted to catch the waves. Once we had finished the lesson we thanked the instructor and headed to lunch.
The slices of pizza were served by the pool and we all quenched our hunger with the taste of warm pineapple. After lunch we returned to the hotel and sat outside in the sun reading our books, playing and savoring every minute that we had in Costa Rica. We continued the day at a slow pace doing a variety of different things. We went as a group to the ocean and continued to enjoy the beautiful Costa Rican environment. Before going to sleep we finished off watching a movie that we had started and collapsed in bed.
July 19, 2019
We woke up bright and early at 7am to get ready and eat a delicious pancake breakfast. After we ate, we walked a few minutes to the beautiful surf spot we had gone to the day before. The waves were big and crashed loudly as we walked into the water with our boards. As we surfed, some of us spotted large stingrays swimming and riding the waves with us. A few kids even accidentally touched the stingrays soft and slimy skin as they were getting back onto their surfboards. We surfed for a total of 2 hours with a short snack break in between. After our surfing time was up, the group then decided to swim in the ocean for 30 more minutes before lunch time. We then walked back to the restaurant that was only 2 minutes away from our hotel and ate by the pool. Each of us ordered different meals such as Alfredo pasta, chicken nachos, or a ginormous hamburger. Everything was super tasty and really filling.
Afterwards, we had a lot of free time, so Camille and Randall had us write letters to ourselves about our trip experiences and takeaways. The letter will be mailed to us all in one year. When everyone completing writing the letter, some of us read books for school and some of the girls made pretty friendship bracelets by the pool. Finn also began to make unique bracelets for everyone but only accomplished one that day; his work will be continued the next day. The relaxing time spent together went by fast and soon enough it was already time to eat dinner. During our meal, we all decided to have another movie night. Instead of a scary movie like last time, we watched a comedy. We even convinced Randall and Camille to let us stay out together until 10:30pm instead of just 10pm, so we’d have enough time to finish the movie! When the funny movie was over, we all finished packing up our bags since we were leaving the hotel tomorrow afternoon. I would say that it was another great day in Costa Rica with some really great friends.
July 20, 2019 😭
We woke up this morning at 6:30 for a fabulous early swim with our new best friends. The sun was already shining, but the ocean was gorgeous and we bodysurfed in the waves for the last time together. After our short trip to the beach, we went back to the hotel to gather our “chunches,” or things in Costa Rican slang, and headed off to our final breakfast. We enjoyed a delicious meal of corn flakes, yogurt, granola, and various fruits before we headed on the long bus ride back to the city. At around noon, we stopped at a popular tourist spot for the second time and all ate different types of traditional Costa Rican cuisine. We then got back on the bus and headed to the hotel. Finn made everyone beautiful friendship bracelets as everyone sang along to our favorite songs. After some naps, laughs, and good times, we arrived at the hotel- but not before I locked myself in a gas station bathroom and almost peed my pants. Just kidding! Anyway, I was fine and the afternoon was calm and casual. We all hung out and did some thoughtful closing activities before heading off to dinner.
Overall, I really loved this trip. If anyone is considering participating in a Global Works service trip, then I say GO FOR IT!! The seven of us had so much fun throughout the trip and I couldn’t have asked for a better two weeks.
Hailey (the scribe)