Costa Rica Language and Leadership June 28 – July 22, 2021
June 28, 2021
Most of us began our Global Works journey at Newark Airport waiting for our flight. When we entered the plane, we had to wait for a while to takeoff due to all of the bags. Eventually, we were able to takeoff. Overall the flight ran smoothly despite a little mess of the runway at the end and a little bit of turbulence and a second landing. Eventually we arrived in San Jose and were greeted by a group of Global Works leaders. We got onto a bus and headed to our first guest house. We weren’t sure what to expect but we kind of had low expectations. We were very wrong. The hotel was like a mansion, with different houses and everything. The view was unbelievable at night with the whole city of San Jose lit up behind us. We had delicious snacks and then we went to bed exhausted, but so excited for what’s coming next.
June 29, 2021
We had breakfast at 7 AM this morning which was a lot earlier than we wanted it to be, but we were eager to get going. We played a bunch of icebreaker games that helped us bond together, and we got to know each other. The view was even better than yesterday and we were able to see a ton of San Jose from the pool area. After some games and relaxation, we got back on the bus and drove half an hour to an active volcano, El Volcán Poas! We even had to wear helmets! At first we thought we wouldn’t be able to see the crater but all of a sudden the clouds cleared and we had a perfect view into the sulfuric turquoise water in the crater. When we got back to our guesthouse, we brainstormed our hopes for the trip and then worked together to come up with a group contract to make our trip amazing. When we all agreed on the contract, we signed our contract, which was written on a giant Costa Rican flag. Later on, we had some pool time that maaaay have involved some belly flops. In the evening, we learned how to dance salsa, bachata, merengue, and swing criolla. We worked up a sweat and an appetite, so the chicken was extra delicioso! Muy bien!
-Armaan & Rohan
June 30, 2021
Today we left Casa Cielo Grande and went to El Rancho Mastatal. The bus ride was pretty long, but we enjoyed looking at the beautiful mountains and clouds. We had a delicious dinner of fried rice with vegetables and kimchi. We are excited to begin our work on the farm, make different foods and hike to the waterfall tomorrow. It is so beautiful here at El Rancho and we can’t wait for all of our adventures tomorrow! ¡Adios!
July 1, 2020
Today we woke up at Rancho Mastatal! We had a delicious breakfast of kimchi, fruit and rice and beans. The rice and beans dish called gallo pinto is a staple here. Nick, one of the community members gave us a tour of Rancho Mastatal, which is in the middle of the jungle. We saw many different trees, like banana and star fruit trees. We also got to see where some common spices come from, such as pepper, cinnamon and vanilla! Some of us also saw monkeys. ¡Qué tierno! How cute! After that we hiked to a waterfall, which included wading across a stream, and got to swim under the waterfall. Then we went back to the ranch, had lunch and had a lesson on permaculture and sustainability. We learned how to make kimchi, which was so fun! We peeled papaya, grated it and cut up so many cloves of garlic we couldn’t even count. Some people tried the spicy pepper that went into it. ¡Qué picante! On Sunday we will get to sample our kimchi! We ended with dinner and were split into two groups. One played manzanas con manzanas and did entrevistas en español. The other went on a caminata nocturna with local guide named Jennifer. She pointed out all kinds of cool critters, including spiders, sleeping birds, leaf cutter ants and even a snake! Non poisonous of course. 🙂 They also saw a tarantula! The groups are switching activities tomorrow. Overall today was a really fun day and we can’t wait for 21 more!
July 2, 2021
Día Cinco! Hola! Today was our first day of hands-on community engagement. We learned that calling “community service” “engagement” instead is more appropriate because it limits the chance of having a “savior complex” and the word “engagement” really highlights a partnership. Some of us began the morning with a walk around the community with our group leaders and others of us slept in a little bit. After that, we had a yummy breakfast. The food here has been amazing! We’ve also been really enjoying the coffee here since it’s waaaay better than back in the U.S. It’s become a staple on this trip and we are already looking forward to learning more about the coffee industry here when we get to Cedral later in the trip. After breakfast, we began our first service project here.
At Racho Mastatal, all of the homes are made of bamboo, mud, and adobe; all natural materials. We learned more about “bioconstrucción” from the people living here and had the chance to do some research on some of these natural building techniques. After that, our group helped build a new house by mixing and laying dirt on bamboo slabs to construct walls and a shower. The work was fun and gratifying…and dirty!! At one point, our shoes and socks came off and we stomped out bare feet in a mud mixture. During our work, we had…(get ready for it…) our FIRST MONKEY SIGHTING!!! There was a large tree with at least a dozen monkeys swinging and running around. After our hard work, half of us went on a night-time nature walk to spot animals, and the rest of us spent the evening relaxing, playing Mafia, and doing Spanish activities like Apples to Apples en Español. It was a great day and our first Costa Rican storm. We’re in the rainy season though and Chalo says there are more to come over the next few days.
Your tour guide of the day,
July 3, 2020
Today we woke up so excited about the chocolate tour. We took a stroll through the rolling hills of Mastatal after breakfast to arrive at La Iguana Chocolate. We took a tour of the facility and learned about the chocolate making process. We got to see the whole process straight from the growth of the cacao trees to the actual chocolate that you might see in the store. We also learned about the difference between Artisanal chocolate which is closer to raw and the more processed chocolate like Hershey‘s that we see on the shelves back home. Of course, the tour included plenty of tasting of delicious chocolate. We even got to make our own truffles and we tasted different types of chocolate, some darker and some lighter, some with more milk and some with less, and some with greater amounts of sugar and others with less. There was a little store attached to the chocolate place so many of us bought chocolate to bring home and also some locally made jewelry, boxes, and other little souvenirs. We lucked out in terms of weather for our tour but later in the day the Costa Rican skies opened up, as they tend to do during the rainy season, so we hung out together and played Spanish games. By the time it was lights out we were all exhausted and ready for some sleep.
– Flora and Ava
July 4, 2021
We were so busy today here at Rancho Mastatal that we almost forgot that it was Fourth of July. We started out the morning by volunteering here at the ranch. We collected leaves and wheels compost in the wheelbarrow we were excited to have plenty of hands-on work this morning.
In the afternoon we took a class from the people living here about how to make soap. They make all of their products here themselves from shampoo to dish soap to deodorant. Maybe some of us will come home and even try to replicate what we learned here about making our own natural products to help the environment. Later on our whole group walked over to the local soccer field. Many of us played soccer while others of us played frisbee and hung out. We didn’t celebrate the Fourth of July but we did have a very special arroz con leche for dessert. Perri, one our leaders, was obsessed with it. At night we played some games and got to spend time together as a group. Bella and Abby were our leaders of the day and they helped us understand our plan for the next few days as we prepare to head out of Mastatal and toward…RAFTING!! We are so excited.
– Flora and Ava
July 4, 2021 (con’t)
We started out the morning by volunteering here at the ranch. We collected leaves from a forest trail to be used as compost in their orchard. We also loaded up compost into wheelbarrows go transport it to the new compost shed that they recently built. After lunch we took a class on how to make soap and learned about how many unnecessary chemicals are in the soaps we buy from the store. We all went to the plaza de fútbol for a very competitive game of Copa Mundial, frisbee and hangout time. We didn’t celebrate the 4th of July, but the boys did get dressed up and we all had a special desert, ¡arroz con leche! We all enjoyed our time at Racho Mastatal, and are very excited for tomorrow!
Ruben and Bella
July 5, 2021
We ended week one of our Costa Rica trip taking a scenic bus ride from Rancho Mastatal to La Dehesa. Filled with music, friendship bracelet making, and lots of laughter, we arrived in San Joaquin ready for a big lunch (which was delicious!). The real fun began when we toured the city with Chalo (who grew up here) as our guide. We saw a church made of volcanic rock, the “Los Angeles” park, and one too many McDonalds on a single street. The group stopped for ice cream, getting flavors like galleta, dulce de leche and menta con chocolate. After a quick stop at the store, we arrived back at our hotel and moved into our rooms. We had a quick meeting about tomorrows rafting trip, including the 5:30 leave time. We ended the day with dinner, some fun games, and went to sleep dreaming about rapids.
Ruben and Bella
July 6, 2021
Today we got up SO early (4:30 AM!) to leave La Dehesa and head toward rafting. By 6:00 AM we were on our way to the rafting place where we ate breakfast and then headed out to the river. We rafted through some class III and class IV rapids, paddled our hardest, and made it to our camp in the jungle with bamboo mini houses and tents. By the time we got there, we were happy for some chill time. For dinner, our rafting guides cooked an amazing dinner of rice, beans, chicken, and gravy. We went to bed in our little tents, tired but so excited for another day on the river tomorrow.
July 7, 2021
We made the final stretch of the rafting adventure today. We woke up in our tents to an exciting rainfall. We weren’t sure what the rain would have in store for us but it stopped in time for us to have an amazing day on the river. Our guides made an amazing breakfast with pancakes and eggs. We packed our stuff and we were on our way. The rafting was more challenging today but that made it more fun. After some serious rapids, we arrived back at the rafting home base for lunch and showers. After lunch was a long rainy bus rides back to La Dehesa. It might have included a lot of traffic but it also featured bird rescue by Chalo and our bus driver! When we got back, we had some much-needed pizza for dinner. We ate and then went over the do’s and don’ts about our stays in Cedral, like what to do if you clog the toilet! We found out that even though we won’t be sleeping in the houses with the families because of COVID protocols, each small group of us will still get a host family! We got some of our excitement and jitters out with some more Q&A about Cedral and then went to sleep awaiting the adventure before us tomorrow.
July 8, 2022
Today we started off the day bright and early at 7 AM. After a lovely meal of gallo pinto con huevos, we did a short group activity: piedra, papel, tijeras. Then we headed to the bus! Most of our day today was spent on the bus as we headed toward Cedral. We made two stops: one for lunch and the other at a supermarket. Lunch was at a delicious restaurant that sort of looked like someone’s house with different rooms and lots of delicious food. Our group leaders told us about which families we would be with and we jotted down some helpful phrases in Spanish. Eventually we arrived in Cedral and nervously scurried off the bus. Finally it came time to be introduced to our new Costa Rican families. We socialized and ate some of the food that our new familias made for us. Quick family photos were taken and we were then on our way home. Our families showed us around and started preparing dinner while we introduced ourselves further. After dinner and maybe some quick games, it was time for bed before our first day of work in Cedral tomorrow.
July 9, 2021
After a great nights sleep for the first time in our families houses we all woke up bright and early at 7 AM for a delicious breakfast. My family served us rich and extremely fresh coffee along with plantains, and assortment of fruit, and the classic beans and rice. We all met at El Cooperativo to get to know more of the community, learn more about the work we’d be doing, and tour Cedral. After seeing everyone’s houses and the community service projects, we returned to the cafeteria for homemade lunches by everyone’s host families. After lunch, we then headed to our service projects with our groups and worked on gardening, fixing the sidewalk, and digging trenches. When we returned from work we listened to a presentation about Cedral, its history, and how the co-op here came to be. We then all walked back to our families and shared our day with them, listened to the radio, played games, and had dinner. After a very event full and productive day, we slept our second night in Cedral.
July 10, 2021
The morning started with delicious fruit bowls, rich bananas, papaya, and mango. After that, we walked to the cafeteria and learned where we were working for the day. One group worked to lay a cement sidewalk and another moved rocks to help create an organic farm, while the last group worked to finish up the greenhouse. We all gathered for lunch back in the cafeteria when it started POURING rain. We then went back to our houses to relax and wait out the storm. After 2 hours of cards and snacks, we walked to the salón for a group activity. We all put names on our backs and wrote compliments for each other. Then our Zoomba lesson began! After dancing our hearts out, we walked home for dinner, the fútbol game on TV, and bed.
July 11, 2021
We woke up to the delicious smells of our host mom’s cooking. After breakfast, we loaded up the bus to head to zip lining! It wasn’t a very far ride and we lucked out with the weather and some beautiful views along the way. We zipped through the trees on zip lines. Some of the lines offered incredible views while others were so long and so fast! After zip lining, we had lunch nearby and many of us bought hot sauce and some souvenirs. When we got back to Cedral we had a little free time before…TORTILLA NIGHT! All our families gathered together to make tortillas. Doña Marta, one of the older women in the community, kept us on our toes with her tortilla-making skills until we all were practically professionals. We all hung out and played games with our families and some of the local teenagers, teaching them Pictionary and Uno and working through the language barriers. In summary, yesterday was a fun day with lots of adventure and family bonding.
July 12, 2021
Today was a long day. We woke up after having a bat in our room the night before. Don’t worry, the bat was pretty adorable and Chalo and Perri and Sarah came to the rescue for operation “Get Rid of Bat.” When we started work, we went to Marta’s house and made a flower bed. We planted an apple seed to make a tree, and maybe one day we will come back and see the tree. We also listened to Marta’s favorite song. We love her! The other groups helped lay cement and feed the animals and plant seeds. We ended up having a relaxing afternoon, spending time with each other and our families.
July 13, 2021
This morning we split up into 2 groups. The first group went on a tour of the coffee farm right here in Cedral. On the tour, we learned about the entire process of making coffee and we also got to smell and taste a bunch of different plants. After that, the groups switched and the other group got to do the coffee tour while the first group headed to work. Most of the work today was shoveling and moving dirt, as well as some more planting. We had lunch and then switched up our work rotations, with some of us heading all the way up to Doña Marta’s, where we befriended some sheep. After lunch, some of our host moms made us an incredible drink that was a mix of ice cream, coffee, and chocolate. Next came the scavenger hunt! We were so happy to see that so many community members came out to play with us, including a bunch of the local teens, which gave us a chance to mingle and connect with them. We were split into 5 groups, with Global Works and community members mixed together in each group. We ran all around the entire town, up and down the hills, taking pictures of and with tons of different things, like a community member who does traditional artesanía or with a group member holding a giant hen. My group came in second place! After all that running, we were exhausted and settled into dinner back at our host families’ houses.
July 14, 2021
This morning, we woke up and met at the salón at 8:00 to get on the bus. We drove through the mountains and got some beautiful views before arriving at the hot springs. The Hot Springs were three pools with warm water from nearby Hot Springs in the mountains. We hung out in the water and played games and ate lunch there as well. We were starving since we hadn’t eaten breakfast since 7 o’clock. After we finished lunch we took the bus back to Cedral. We were greeted with a fun surprise: A Global Works Costa Rica fashion show. We hadn’t known about it previously so we had to get ready really quickly and each of us showed up with a ridiculous outfit. We had so much fun at the fashion show but by the time it was over, we were ready for bed.
July 15, 2021
Service in the morning.
We were tired.
We made cake.
We set up.
July 16, 2021
Cedral dia 9! Work, mejenga, pasta!
Hola. I’m very tired so I’ll probably keep this on the shorter side. Today we got in a full day of work — morning and afternoon! We spent hours mooning our cement-mixing skills and laying concrete. We used the concrete to create a ramp that a car can drive in and a wall to prevent eroding dirt. Afternoon work ended on the earlier side and we hit the soccer field for a “mejenga,” or a pick up soccer game. We played on a makeshift field with some of the local teenagers and it was really fun. I was the only girl that played because the other girls were spending time relaxing in hammocks with their books. Once everyone was sufficiently sweaty, the group headed back to the café for an afternoon workshop.
In the workshop we worked with clay to sculpt native animals. We then mounted them to a small piece of wood that could be used as a keychain. Finally we painted our pieces of art and left them out to dry. I made a super cool frog next to a branch with leaves. It’s not great, but it could look worse. Finally, it was time for dinner. We eat as a community once again but this time we had pasta. Now I’m chilling in bed and I’m going to read for a few hours before heading to sleep. Tomorrow is our last day here in Cedral and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.
July 17, 2021
Cedral dia 10! El final dia!
Hola! I’m writing after an insanely fun night. You’ll have to read further to find out what made it so great, but let’s back up to the beginning of the day. We woke up early this morning for a last day of service work. My cabin has been waking up crazy early like 5:30 AM because we are always sleeping before 8:30 PM. We ate an early breakfast and then headed to the café to begin work. Today’s jobs we are similar to yesterday’s where we mixed and laid cement and worked on the coffee drying beds. The work was all manual labor and my back is feeling quite sore but even though I might have to visit the chiropractor when I get home, it was all worth it. During the time when we were laying cement, we got to put our hand prints and names in the wet sidewalk. It was cool to know that we left a permanent mark that will be there for a very long time. Our afternoon hike was canceled because of the rain so we had some free time until the despedida (going away party). I spent a bit of time dancing in the grass, and then dressed up for the fiesta. Some of us even put on dresses and some make up, looking fancier than we had in weeks, but don’t worry… The Chacos ensured a more Costa Rican-style outfit! Our group headed down the mountain to the salon. Upon arrival, we were treated to a semi-traditional Costa Rican meal prepared by the community of Cedral. We stuffed ourselves with beans and rice, and then cleared the tables from the floor so that we could get the party started. After the tables and chairs were pushed to the side, we started up the speakers and the dancing commenced. The Costa Rican teens all got in on the dancing too, with bachata, merengue, and salsa. I had so much fun and this has definitely been my favorite night of the trip so far. Everyone laughed in good spirit at each others moves and swapped dance partners. Eventually some American music came on and even though it wasn’t quite as fun as the Latin dancing, I still had a great time dancing with my friends. Tonight is the first night in like 2 weeks that we’ve been up past 8:30 so I’m exhausted. We are all so sad to be leaving Cedral in the morning but I’m glad we are leaving on such a high note.
Your tour guide,
P.S. I forgot to add that we all have thank you speeches to our host families in Spanish and it was really nice!