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Costa Rica Language & Leadership

June 30, 2019
Between Madison’s eccentric attitude and Elysa’s laughs (that sometimes come out as snorts), you wouldn’t be able to tell that just yesterday our flight was delayed 2 hours and Alyeska had to run to the gate to make the flight. However, despite arriving at Hotel Heliconias at 2:30 am yesterday morning and getting about 3 hours of sleep total, today was great!
We visited a farm owned by Crisley. We learned about how Costa Rica has changed its farming techniques over the course of its history. This was really interesting because Crisley told us the story of how his farm and family has dealt with these changes and now run a very successful farm, providing food for his extended family and an income source for more than 15 families. We got to learn about the process of making cheese and even rolled the cheese ourselves! Alyeska particularly liked that part because we got to eat the leftovers and she LOVES cheese. We took a tour of the farm and got to taste some new fruits like star fruit, sweet lemon, and even raw sugar cane. Starfruit had a tangy and sweet, citrus-like taste. While the sweet lemon and sugarcane had a more sweet and mild taste (except the skin on the sweet lemon was a little bitter). The lunch was chicken, rice and mixed vegetables made by the family which tasted great and was enjoyed by the whole group.
Today was more relaxed which was definitely needed because we all got to rest and decompress after such a long day of travel. Tomorrow we are starting our 2-day whitewater rafting trip and although we have to get up very early, everybody is super excited to see what our whitewater rafting experience and the beautiful country of Costa Rica have in store for us!!
Pura vida!
Anna G.
July 1, 2019
For the first time this morning I tried this unique blood orange fruit called papaya. Out here in Costa Rica there are so many new and exciting foods, plants, and music. Even though we didn’t get to go rafting, the waterfall we got to see and swim by was worth walking up and down the 500 stairs to get there. It was super tall (70 meters), with beautiful native forest on all sides, and is clearly a location that people come from all over to see. Later in the day, after lunch, we explored a nearby town, La Fortuna. We got to practice our Spanish by asking questions to the people we met in town, putting ourselves in real life situations.
After the city exploration, we went to a hot springs where we all bonded as a group and had lots of fun. In the hot springs, there were at least 20 different pools that were all different sizes and temperatures. Over some of the pools were these gigantic mushroom-like structures that you could sit under in these bubble massage chairs and just completely relax. The whole day was a great bonding experience where we talked as a group and got to know each other.
Pura vida!
Annie C.
July 2, 2019
Today we all had breakfast and went rafting with a company with many other people. Many of the kids in our group had never gone white water rafting, which I think was a great experience for everyone to have. We got split up onto 3 boats with raft guides who were very friendly. My group was Grace, James, Annie, Flora, and I, with a great Costa Rican guide named Jimmy. During the trip, we got stuck on a few rocks, and we would all have to vigorously jump up and down to get off that rock. After a lot of water in the face and very fresh pineapple (which we ate during a quick break on a beach) we all got out and dried off. The whole rating company took us all to a lovely outdoor lunch buffet with delicious Costa Rican food, including plantains, yuca, pico de gallo, and of course rice and beans.
Our group has grown very close in these three days, and we all had a very good time with each other and the rafting guides. On the bus drive home we all sang songs and put on a little unplanned concert for our new friend, Roman, who was with the company (he was very elated with our singing). We then hung out and swam in the pool before our Spanish lesson tonight by Nohelia. Evan said it was the best Spanish lesson he had ever had because of the fun games and conversations that we had. Overall, it was a very good day full of bonding and new experiences!
By Alyeska S.
July 3, 2019
Today we got to sleep in till 8:00. Breakfast was gallo pinto, which we have ad just about every day since we arrived in Costa Rica. It typically consists of black beans with rice, eggs, and a fried plantain, often with mango juice. Today, for a bit of a change, we also had bacon on the side. After breakfast, we packed up for our 4 day trip to Poco Sol, our biological statin in the cloud forest, a higher elevation rain forest. We had an hour car ride up the mountains. During the ride, we had a fun time taking selfies on Alyeska’s camera. After we arrived we (James, Evan, and I) got to see our new room, which has 6 beds. Afterwards we went on a short hike around the lake, which is the filled up volcano crater. On the hike we got to see the enchanting scene of the fog over the lake obscuring the other side that cleared in a blink. Afterwards we had the opportunity to see a clay-colored thrush, the national bird of Costa Rica. This surprised us because with all of the colorful birds in Costa Rica, it is surprisingly drab. Just after this hike, while eating lunch, we got to see a Coati walk based on the road. Even though we have seen many animals already on this trip, for many of us, this coati was the first mammal we have seen that is not also found in the US. An exciting wildlife day!In the afternoon, we had a Spanish lesson during which we each described and wrote about how the forest is similar to a city. We were all impressed by Eloise’s paragraph, and hopefully you will be too:
“El bosque es como la ciudad porque hay mucha diversidad y vida. Todos se necesitan para sobrevivir como en la ciudad donde las personas se necesitan para trabajar y ir a los paises. Hay siempre ruidoso en el bosque y en la ciudad. En el bosque, los arboles y la vida son como la gente en la ciudad porque ellos se protegen el otro. En el bosque y la ciudad todos se protegen para sobrevivir. Los unos quien son solo siempre morir porque todos necesitan trabajar con juntos.”Buenas noches,
Matt P.
July 4, 2019
With a pretty early wake up at 6:30 am this morning we started our day with the very common, very delicious, gallo pinto. After fueling up for the hard work ahead of us we started our first day of service in the Eternal Children’s Rainforest. There were two different trail maintenance tasks today, and we each did one before lunch and switched to try the other after lunch. My group started by clearing rocks and debris from the river so that it flowed better around the trail bridge then moving those rocks to fill in muddier portions of the trail. The other group started by raking leaves and other debris from the trails. When our group got to raking in the afternoon, Evan clearly stated that “este es mejor” or “this is better,” as it was a significantly less demanding task.After hours of working hard and a delicious lunch of a traditional soup and rice we got to practice our Spanish and celebrate our holiday from home. We shared our traditions with each other and prepared a presentation for the team that works at Poco Sol about our holiday. The Poco Sol team kindly surprised us with hamburgers and hotdogs for the 4th of July. We also were celebrating another special thing today—Elysa’s birthday! The people at Poco Sol made her an amazing cake to celebrate. Elysa said it was her best ever birthday cake and was ecstatic when we sang her “Feliz cumpleanos”. The night ended perfectly with a magical night hike. Though a couple people were scared of the bugs and other creatures of the rainforest, we had Eloise and Evan ecstatic at the sight of every frog and toad. Everyday in Costa Rica has been an adventure and we are looking forward to tomorrow!
-Kaylee E.

July 5, 2019
We started the day with a 6:30 wake up and a 7:00 breakfast of eggs, toast, yogurt, beans and rice, and some delicious juices such as starfruit or pineapple. After, we were off to another day of amazing service. I was placed in a group with Kaylee, Evan, Eloise, Elysa, and James. We hiked to a stream that was full of rocks and our task was to clear the rocks and sand in order for the stream to be more mobile. Another reason we had to clear the materials was to add more soil and rocks to muddy sections of the hiking trail. We did this for almost 4 hours and the stream was transformed. The water was running so much more quickly, and it was astonishing that a group of 6 kids with the help of Chalo and our amazing guide Eric could accomplish this. A lunch with pasta and meat sauce, a nice soup, and steamed vegetables brought me back to home because I always eat pasta and meat sauce at home. It was a very comforting feeling. After lunch, we switched activities with the other group and we raked the trail in order for the trails to be clear for hikers and prevent any accidents for rangers working. We talked with our guide, Luis, an amphibian specialist, about his favorite animals, frogs. Ranas (frogs) are abundant in the cloud forest. There are over 25 different species, and we were lucky enough to see at least 5 different types!

Once we finished our raking session we had a salsa class that was a lot of fun and everyone was smiling and laughing when we came back. We ate dinner which was chicken noodle soup. While eating dinner, I went to the bathroom where I saw a 5-inch-long grasshopper! I ran out of the bathroom back to everyone in the group. We all proceeded to run to the bathroom and Flora and Nohelia took pictures of this crazy new insect. We were all so interested in this new insect, we were in awe. We finished off the night with a meeting and the leader of the day passed the leader bandana to Anna. We went over the schedule for the next day and now a group of us are sitting out on the porch while Matt is holding an amazing green praying mantis. Life is pretty great right now, Pura Vida!
-Grace A.

July 6, 2019

Starting off the day with some Costa Rican coffee was sooooo amazing!!! It was our last day at Poco Sol, and I already could tell that I would miss this unique place a lot. For breakfast, I got gallo pinto (rice and beans) and some delicious eggs. Put them together and you get the perfect combo! I love food!! I sat down with the group and we all got pumped up for the hike ahead.

Today, we took a beautiful hike to a waterfall. The trip took a few hours but it was totally worth it! Along the way, Chalo mentioned how unique Costa Rica’s environments is. After all, Costa Rica holds about 5% of the world’s biodiversity! He talked about how nutrients are quickly absorbed into the trees from the soil. There is huge competition among trees for sunlight and water. I found all of this to be super interesting, and it was cool to be in the forest and see it in action. Shorter trees and plants have larger leaves as they try and get as much sunlight as possible. It is a cool example of natural selection. I could go on and on because this special ecosystem is breathtaking and is so different than where I call home.

On the trail, we saw many butterflies and frogs. They were all so cute! However, after the climb into the clouds and high up into the mountains, we finally reached the stunning waterfall (also known as “la catarata” in Spanish). We stood on a metal porch with a roof. It’s hard to explain what it looks like but a previous Global Works trip helped build it a few years ago. The view was spectacular! We sat all together exchanging stories, eating trail mix, and taking photos! I loved seeing the water at the base of the waterfall glisten in the sun. A huge rainbow sparkled! It was so gorgeous!!! The hike back was mostly uphill and a killer workout that really bonded the group together! We all are so close and get along well. I love our group and it has only been a week! It’s so crazy!

When we got back from lunch, a little coati came out of the forest to say hello! The little animal was adorable and we got so close to it! Maybe he could smell the yummy food? For lunch, I got this amazing tuna pasta and papaya/pineapple juice. I was in heaven! I have to say that the food here in Costa Rica makes me so happy.

Overall, there are tones of positive vibes here. Pura Vida! It means doing great or pure life. This is the motto of Costa Rica and it really shows. The people here are passionate about what they do but super relaxed. I love that about the culture. Connections that we are making matter so much. I am so grateful and love being here. I can’t wait for more memories to come!

-Eloise L.

PS: Miss you family! I saw a sloth the other day during rafting and couldn’t believe it!

July 7, 2019

Today we took off for a long day of travel to Cedral, Costa Rica for our week of homestays. After our usual breakfast of plantain, gallo pinto (rice and beans), and eggs, we said goodbye to the beautiful Hotel Heliconias and hopped on the bus for a long day of travel. We departed the hotel at about 8:15 am, and the trip took about 9 hours in total with stops along the way. Although it was a lot of time on the bus itself, the enchanting views of Costa Rica’s rolling mountains and cloudy blue beaches made the ride more enjoyable. We passed into the Puntarenas Province as Madison and Grace devoured a giant bag of cheese puffs. We drove by the Pacific Coast and could see both mountains and the ocean as we drove by. We rode up steep, winding dirt roads into the mountainous town of Cedral which rests in the foothills of Costa Rica’s tallest mountain, Chiripo.

We walked into a community center with still no clue who our families were. This suspense definitely made the group more anxious, but also more excited about our homestays. Kaylee and I were placed together with a family that is very welcoming and although we had some trouble communicating at times, we still had lots of fun. The family especially loved the ornaments Kaylee gave them, and the jar of peanut butter, too! The two youngest girls taught us a new card game to play and we played “vas pescado” (go fish) too. Despite some awkward tensions at first, I was really proud of Kaylee and I for doing our best to communicate, learn, and have fun with our new family. Tomorrow we will tour the microbeneficio and learn all about the coffee plantation within the community. Costa Rica is a beautiful country, but the kindness and Pura Vida lifestyle of the people is what makes it truly unique.
-Anna G.

July 8, 2019

Today was a quite an interesting day! It started out awesome with some exploration of the beautiful town of Cedral. We got to see all of the homestays our friends are staying at and try some crazy new fruit. We each tried water apples, fresh off the tree, some people finding them a little too sour for their liking, but most people liked them! We also got to pick guavas straight off the tree, and most of us had only had guava in juice form, having no idea what the fruit actually looked or felt like. Turns out it has so many crunchy seeds inside! Maxie also wanted to make sure we sent a happy birthday to her mom! We prepared to spend the rest of our night with our homestay families. Once again, at least for me, the food was amazing, the family was awesome, and I got my butt kicked by the youngest brother in Egyptian Rat Screw.

– Evan S.
July 9, 2019
Today was an awesome day! We spent the morning eating breakfast with our homestay families, and took off to congregate in our usual meeting spot, la cafeteria (the small coffee shop run by the local coffee co-op). Directly after a short group meeting, we got to work. We divided into groups, and each of us did a different type of job. I painted coffee beans with Alyeska. Some people painted walls, and some others carried rockz. Though difficult labor, for us all, especially those who carried rocks, we made some awesome memories working our butts off. After this we went home to eat some delicious lunch with our homestay families, during this time some people also played games with their homestays families, while others took short naps to prepare for the rest of the work we had.
We did a little more work after lunch, and then went to play soccer with kids and teens in the community. Needless to say, I am absolutely horrendous at soccer and embarrassed myself on the field. The blog would not be complete if I did not also pay tribute to Matt, who took a hard hit where the light does not shine. Luckily, everyone was able to laugh off my mistakes (like catching the soccer ball with my hands) and Matt’s pain, and it all helped strengthen the bond between our Global Works group and the community.
We then headed back to the cafeteria to have a tortilla making fiesta put on by all our homestay mothers. We each learned to shape the tortillas, and had many laughs in the process. When the food was ready, it did not stay on the table for long, as the entirety of the group dug in promptly to the plates of tortillas that appeared in front of us, filled with eggs, ham, potatoes, or spaghetti. As the fiesta came to an end, we grabbed our things and headed to our houses for an awesome night of sleep. Let’s all hope the group is ready for whatever tomorrow has to offer!
-Evan S.
PS: Love you Mom and Dad! I’ve got plenty to tell y’all about already and we just hit the halfway mark a day or so ago!

July 10, 2019
The day started with a group meeting which led to me electing Elysa leader of the day, which is awesome. Next, most of the group went on a hike, but I stayed behind and painted a sign with my friend, Alyeska, for the local coffee shop. When the group got back from the hike, we all ate lunch together outside and soaked in our plant-filled surroundings while enjoying each other’s company. Later, we did our community service such as painting, putting gravel on the path, moving big rocks in wheel barrows, and helping to build a cabin. Then, at night there was an optional night hike that most of the group decided to go on. The hike started out by walking through a local house’s backyard to this gorgeous forest path, that unfortunately also included lots of mud and bugs. We saw at least 8 different spiders, 2 toads, 1 frog, and lots of trees. You literally can’t miss the trees though, there are so many different types of trees everywhere you look! There were parts of the path that were so slippery that one of the guides had to help me and my friend Elysa step down from rocks because we were falling so much. At the end of the hike, my shoes were completely covered in mud and so were everyone else’s. Right after we got out of the forest, there was this spider web with a huge white spider with long legs sitting in the middle of it. Grace decided to try and put her hand under the web, but instead stuck her hand inside of it. When she pulled her hand away, it dropped the spider onto her, causing her to run, and entertaining the rest of the group. We still don’t know where the spider is or if it actually fell on her, but that incident made me laugh so hard that my lungs hurt. Costa Rica and this trip have been lots of fun with people I have grown to love!
-Annie C.

July 11, 2019
Today, we had a normal day, which consisted of painting and more painting. Later on in the day, we went to a Zumba class which was a lot of fun. These wonderful days, are beginning to feel normal. The homestays are fantastic! Everyone within the group likes their homestays because the people here are so welcoming. Alyeska and I are staying in a home with a mother, father, three sons, and one daughter. We like to listen to their conversations in Spanish. They are really kind people and like to help us with our Spanish speaking. The food is always amazing, but the portions are so big we can’t eat everything. The best part about the homestays are the funny conversations we have because we don’t understand a lot of what they are saying. Our family likes to learn about american culture and we enjoy teaching them american sayings for example “lol” or “omg” are some of our favorites to teach them. Staying in the homestays is such an amazing experience to really immerse ourselves in the culture!
-Elysa M.

July 12, 2019
Hola familias y amigos!
As usual, we started the day with some work painting, building, and creating hiking trails. After a few hours of work, we returned to la cafeteria empty bellied, and ready for some delicious lunch prepared for us by our homestay families. My roommate, Grace, and I ate chicken, potatoes, and typical Costa Rican rice and beans. Being in a coffee town, we also drank some locally grown coffee and we then headed out to teach English to the children in town.

When we arrived at the classroom, we began to set up our lessons. We divided into groups with Anna, Kaylee, and Grace teaching about food; Elysa, Madison, and Eloise teaching parts of the body; Annie, Matthew, and Alyeska teaching animals; while Maxie, Evan, and I taught the colors. As the children began to gather, it was amazing to see their eyes light up, excited to spend time with us and play some educational games. For example, at the animal station students had to act out an animal on the vocabulary list and the first person to say the animal name in English would then take their place at the front. At my own station, we played a matching game with colors and their English word. To finish off we played a game where we would call out a word in Spanish and the first person to tap the matching English word written on the board was rewarded with candy. The kids were laughing and jumping the whole time and we had just as much fun. Afterwards, we got the chance to play futbol with them and burn off some of the sugar. Although we were sad to stop playing, we were finally able to return home and spend some time with our homestay families.
– Isabella C.

July 13, 2019
Hola! Today was an exciting and educational day in our beautiful homestay community. Bright and early at 8 am, we all had a group meeting. Last night, we’d had the homework assignment of asking our families about the government structure here. When we got together this morning, we each shared what we had learned, compared the Costa Rican system to that in the US, and then Chalo (our leader from Costa Rica) added some more information and context about the different political parties and how the politics are different in different provinces. Then, we began our last day of service work. We split into groups and continued working on the cabana (cabin), raking the trail, and painting. I started off painting flags of the US and Costa Rica with Eloise to decorate the entrance to the coffee cooperative, but then I abandoned her due to the fact that I was getting eaten alive by bugs. Honestly, her painting skills are superior to mine, so I was doing everyone a favor by leaving her to paint by herself (it turned out amazing, btw). We had a quick snack break of coffee and cookies and then continued our tasks until lunch (I was still painting, just in a place with fewer bugs). After lunch, we began new tasks, and this time, I decided to put my young body to good use, raking the trail in the forest. Evan, Maxie, Matt and I helped Chalo and Froilan clean the trails, though all of us also slipped in the mud numerous times. After a couple hours, we hiked down the trail and met up with the rest of the group for the long awaited coffee tour. Javier explained the process and logistics of harvesting the beans, showing us the bushes where the beans were not ripe yet. We learned about the different types of beans they sell, saw the machinery they use to dry the beans and got to smell and taste the differences in many of the types of beans they harvest.

Finally, we met back at the microbeneficio and bought souvenirs (including coffee), drank coffee, chatted with friends, reflected on the day, and talked about how excited we are for the rest of the trip, before heading back to our homestays for the night. There are the sweetest, kindest people here, and I am so sad that tomorrow will be our last day in this beautiful place. I am so excited to see what great memories are to come from the rest of this trip.
– Madison R.
PS: Sorry, Mom, for not calling you!

July 14, 2019
Today was our last full day with our homestay families in the small, charming community of Cedral. To commemorate the relationships built and memories made over the past week, we had pretty much the whole day free to spend with our families. Leaving was on our minds and scary; no one wanted to lose the people that had just started to mean so much to them. The morning started off with a discussion about the education system in Costa Rica, and particularly the specifics of how it works in Cedral. The night prior we had all inquired about this to our families. After another leader of the day transition, we were faced with two options: to go on a final hike, or to stick back with our families. Most opted to hike. I stayed home with my family, and together we relaxed and talked. I soaked up my last few hours with my family before turning my attention and energy to preparing for the fiesta! When we arrived everyone was dressed up-looking so different from how I normally see them. The party was in the cabana we had helped build, and was a great location to celebrate our hard work from the past week. Together with the community we ate, laughed, danced, smiled, and sang; taking in our last few hours with our families. The party had been planned for us already, so as a contribution our entire group decided beforehand to prepare a song to sing at the party that is popular in the United States. By the end of the night, we had everyone singing and dancing to “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus! I played the guitar, while Grace led the choreography. Later that night, I lay in bed with a bundle of emotions, ranging from underlying sadness about leaving the next day, to warm joy and an overall feeling of content. I know I will miss Cedral with all my heart, but I’m excited for the surfing and zip lining to come! See you soon!
-Maxie M.
PS: To Big: I love you more than anything in the world. I miss you so much! (Someone better read this to him.)

July 15, 2019
Today we said goodbye to our families as we departed the beautiful and mountainous town of Cedral. It was a bittersweet goodbye with many mixed feelings. Many of us (especially Alyeska and Maxie) had fallen in love with Cedral’s gorgeous landscape, caring people, and of course, their coffee. The coffee will be sorely missed! The impact of our service work and presence in Cedral had on the community was visible. It is amazing to feel such a connection to a place and its people in such a short timeframe. Although everyone was excited to go surfing and zip lining on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, we would all miss our families and most of all the kids and dogs. I for one, know I will miss my two sisters: Jackie and Yasmine’s smiling faces, positive energy, and mischievous attitudes. The bus ride didn’t take long, and for the first time I witnessed a group of people sing the entire song of “100 bottles of beer on the wall” without stopping. We were able to spend a couple of hours at Playa Uvita and Elysa got to see her first sunset on the beach, which was on her bucket list! The whole group was so positive and although we all clearly missed Cedral, the beach was so perfectly picturesque that it was impossible not to be ecstatic for our final days on the Pacific Coast!
-Anna G.

July 16, 2019
Once upon a time, the Global Works students did not have gallo pinto for breakfast, instead we had eggs and pancakes! This fueled us up for a morning of surfing, which for many of us was a first. Even with a lot of waves to the face, we all had an amazing experience surfing on one of the most “perfectest” beaches we’ve ever been to. The rad surfer dudes encouraged us to escape our comfort zones. Through riding waves and wipe-outs, we all enjoyed our time. After refueling with a delicious lunch, we were off to our next adventure – zip lining! Zip lining was also a first for many people and was enjoyed by all. We had two amazing instructors who were hilarious and Grace was continually the butt of their jokes. The one downside to the zip lining in experiences was the draining of all the moisture in our body in the form of sweat due to the extreme moisture in the air. With all of the heat we experienced zip lining, we were able to dip back into the ocean to cool off. We then had a wonderful surprise pizza dinner and passion fruit cheesecake to celebrate Evan’s birthday! For many, the passion fruit cheese cake was too passionate, but Flora loved it, and ate as much of our scraped off passion fruit as she could. We came back to the hotel for one of our last group meetings, where at least half of us were exhausted, but we still had a great conversation about the pros and cons of not having our phones for the past three weeks and our goals for technology use when we return home. We wished Evan a final happy birthdays and headed off to bed tired and happy!
-Kaylee C. And Alyeska S., your editors-in-chief

July 17, 2019
And so it ends, our last full day of activities in Costa Rica. While writing this, I may sound really discombobulated from two full days of wiping out in the ocean. Let’s just say it took me a while to get the whole “surfing” thing! Anyway, today we spent another few hours in Playa Uvita practicing our newfound surf skills. We then took a break for a delicious lunch of burgers, quesadillas, ceviche, salads, and more! After lunch, we had a two hour break from the sun in which around 6 girls crowded on the beds in my room to watch “keeping up with the kardashians” and various other reality tv in Spanish. Sorry, mom. We then went back to the beach to swim more and enjoy one of our last visits to, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful beaches and places in general that I’ve ever seen. The clouds are so close and beautiful and majestic that when my feet first met the warm water and my eyes soaked in the atmosphere while the ocean embraced me I felt I was in heaven on Earth. After the beach and some much-needed showers, we stumbled through an unexpected little power outage and ate an amazing dinner at the same restaurant as lunch. After dinner was a turning point for this group. With half of us a little under the weather and the other half overly-tired and crazy, we got hit with the full realization of just how much we are going to miss each other after we all go our separate ways. We acted out some of our favorite and most iconic memories, before breaking down in laughter about absolutely everything. This trip has been an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to keep in touch with everyone!
– Maxie M.
PS: Big, I love you and I’ll see you so soon!