Costa Rica Language & Leadership
June 28, 2018
Today we woke up to pouring rain yet still humid weather. Our morning was nice and calm, we all met in the restaurant hall for a breakfast that broke us all out of the jet-lag it was so good. Gallo pinto is a traditional Costa Rican dish made of rice and beans. After breakfast we all got in the van and traveled to a nearby local farm. There we toured the grounds learning about all different kinds of Costa Rican fruits, practices and local slang. We also learned how to make a local cheese called queso palmito. We boiled the cheese curds and rolled a mozzarella like cheese into a ball that the owners would go on to sell. Prior to making the cheese we also got the chance to milk a cow. Our challenge was to fill a bucket, but let’s just say we did our best. After a very educational experience at Crisley’s farm we returned to the hotel and relaxed for a couple of hours, playing and chatting by the pool. When we reconvened we went over trip expectations as well as covering day to day activities for the trip to come. We ended our day with a relaxing dinner of grilled chicken, steamed vegetable, and homemade pineapple juice. I think it’s safe to say we could all use a long nights rest after the first day in. We all had a blast, signing off…only Day #2!
June 29, 2018
Today we woke up at 5:30 in the morning to be able to go rafting. We drove for a couple of hours, passing colorful houses and palm trees. But a lot of us slept. We finally got to the rafting camp to grab breakfast before getting back into the bus to keep driving to the river. We drove for a while longer and finally got out to walk down to the river right when it started raining. To get down to the river, the rafting destination, we had to hike for 30 minutes, downhill in the mud and on slippery rocks. While rafting we could see luscious green forest surrounding us on both sides. We got to raft class 1, 2, and 3 rapids which were fun and got us even wetter than the rain had! Towards the end of one of the rapids one of the rafts tipped over, but luckily the guide was on top of the raft to flip it back over in no time. Us in the other rafts got to help rescue some of the others, and no one was hurt! The resort we’re staying at is breathtaking. We got out of the rafts and walked up a slippery rock path to the cabins. There we saw a stunning view of the River Pacuare. Bugs are definitely everywhere but it isn’t stopping anyone from having fun and enjoying the spot. There are sounds of crickets, frogs, and other animal sounds, it’s very soothing. Can’t wait to kick off Day 4!
June 30, 2018
Waking up to the sound of the rapids rushing down at the river and smelling the sweet Costa Rican air was peaceful. For breakfast we had delicious pancakes, eggs and fruit. The fruit here is amazing. We eat lots of fresh pineapple and it is just the best! After breakfast we got back into the rafts. We were excited to see the blue sky and sun peeking out for the first time. Today’s rapids were bigger and stronger- we got to ride rapids class 1-4! As the rapids got bigger it definitely got harder. After a couple of hours we stopped for lunch along the river. Once we all had finished our burritos and more pineapple we got back in the rafts and continued paddling. It was so beautiful as we floated through a couple of canyons. There were even a couple of times we got to jump out and swim along. Although I didn’t really have to swim the current just floated us along with the rafts. After another hour of rafting we finally arrived at the end, where we showered and changed to get back on the bus before our long ride home. We got back to the hotel and were ready to dance, well after we changed!! Learning to dance was difficult, yet so FUN! We even worked up a sweat. The day was finished with a tasty dinner of arroz con pollo! Rice with chicken and even some corn all together with a side of french fries and salad. If I had one word to express my day it would be overwhelming. Overwhelmed by the culture, and the new everything, but it’s the best kind of overwhelming.
July 1, 2018
After a delicious breakfast at Hotel Heliconias the crew rode to a new destination named The Children’s Eternal Rainforest. With 23,000 acres to its name, it is the largest private reserve in Costa Rica, home to a rich diversity of thousands of species of plants and animals. Due to sudden rain, there was a good amount of down time inside of our cabins. Memories of sharing stories and countless games of Uno sum up the bonding experience. After the weather cleared up we hiked up a forest trail filled with leaves attached to trees bigger than my face and beautiful songs sung by different birds. The path consisted of many steep climbs which tired out our bodies but in a good way because the soreness proved our success in achieving the challenge. During the hike we had the luck of spotting a green toad which camouflaged greatly with the dirt, a whole family of white-nosed coati, and a bright yellow-eared toucanet. Countless slips in mud were all worth it when the ethereal waterfall, Belo de Novia, came into view. It is incredibly tall with dark blue water flowing down its enormous brown rocks. The sounds of waves crashing allowed peace to flow within our spirits. Towards the end of the day we ate a tasty dinner containing yuca, rice, and vegetables, skillfully made by the reserve’s chef, Robert. The night ended with a quick activity where we took the time to analyze a packet of Oreo cookies, the goal was to truly process the resources needed to get them into our hands. The group voiced that labor, cows, farms, coco beans, industries, and pollution which all play a key role in the production. Lastly, we agreed which that human history involving the treatment of our planet has not been very successful. Therefore by creating a reserve we are creating an environment safe for organisms and ensuring the diversity of the planet survives. It is extremely important that we are acting now instead of 50 years in the future when there might not be much left to save.
July 2, 2018
Today we woke up in PocoSol biological station, located in El Bosque Eterno de los Niños. According to one of the main coordinators, the rainforest was named after the large number of children around the world who donated money to fund the privately owned reservation we are staying in. We started the day with ricas empanadas fritas made by the wonderful people who work here. For service we split into two groups. One group worked around the lodge and forest trails while the other group worked on clearing the road leading up to the station. We spent a number of hours before and after lunch on our various service projects. We reflected on the work completed today as a group soon after completing the work. The work was difficult but was also fun and rewarding at the end. We ended the day with a night hike around the lake, seeing a total of 8 types of snakes. One of the types we saw was a non-venomous. There are only about 30 types of venomous snakes in Costa Rica. Lights were out around 9:30, which we (mostly) abided by after a long day of work and learning.
July 3, 2018
This morning for breakfast there was the option of cereal, which was really nice for some of us who needed a break from rice and beans! There was also pineapple and generally speaking the fruit here tastes better than in Colorado. After breakfast we split into two groups. One group went to the river, the other group stayed behind and relaxed, cooked, and played more Uno! I went with the group to the river. The walk was very steep, but incredibly pretty. We ate a piece of a leaf of a plant called Gavilana and it was very bitter. It’s a medicinal plant that in Costa Rica is used to treat headaches, upset stomachs, and even kill parasites that might be in the body. On the walk we also passed some cows and other animals. The river was very pretty. The water was crystal blue and there was soft sand to step on. Because the hike getting there was so steep, getting back took much more time. But it was a very peaceful walk back and I enjoyed the wonderful conversations, including chatting with one of our leaders Osvaldo and getting the opportunity to practice my Spanish. Lunch was mashed potatoes, chicken, and more veggies! It was delicious, but the best part was the desert that Samantha and Keyry helped make. It had a graham cracker base with dulce de leche and bananas with a topping of coffee cream! Wow que rico! There was an optional excursion down to rake some leaves off the hiking trails after lunch. However, I stayed behind because I was pretty tired from the hike to the river. I really enjoy the downtime we’ve had because I enjoy talking with people and forming better relationships. Of course, we also played more Uno! During the day the bugs are bearable, but at night they all come out to play and I do not like to play with bugs. I am not used to the amount of bugs in Costa Rica because Colorado does not have many. I am very excited for the rest of the trip and what else I can explore.
July 4, 2018
While the 4th is July festivities were kicking off back home, the group began a rather mellow day with a rare breakfast of pancakes and Frosted Flakes, offering a brief respite from the never ending onslaught of rice and beans. The day proceeded with practicing Spanish, packing, and saying our goodbyes to the wonderful people and scenery at PocoSol. A typical Costa Rican lunch of arroz con pollo y frijoles was served right before our departure. As it had poured the night before, the road up to PocoSol was wet and inaccesible by our front wheel drive vans. The 2,000 foot descent down the mountain to the buses was strenuous but quite beautiful. Gazing upon the the river and the rolling hills was definitely a silver lining to carrying 20+ pounds of luggage down the mountain. After a brief journey back to Heliconias Hotel the group was given some much needed downtime to prepare for the upcoming homestay. The day was capped off with an American themed dinner of burgers and fries to celebrate the Fourth. The group then enjoyed each other’s company before the upcoming split into homestay pairs! Some of the group even enjoyed a night swim before calling it a night.
July 5, 2018
Today we woke up at 7:30 to prepare for a 7+ hour drive to our new home for the next 8 days. We had another tasty breakfast of pancakes and fresh fruit, before heading back to our rooms to finish packing. We were told to prepare ourselves for a long trip, but there was nothing much we could do. We loaded onto the bus and pushed off, everyone hoping we’d stop enough for bathroom breaks and extra snacks. Our first stop, two hours in, was as we were coming out of the mountains, and we all got out at least to stretch our legs and breathe fresh air. Everyone in the back was complaining of feeling a little carsick. Back in the bus we continued out of the mountains and into more towns- I loved taking in the different colors of the houses. After another two hours we stopped for lunch. At the buffet style restaurant we were able to choose from some typical Costa Rican foods, like rice, or our comforting American french fries. The food was great, however everyone enjoyed the milkshakes, smoothies, and other snacks we stocked up on for the rest of the ride. The bus ride continued in this form stopping every couple of hours to use the bathroom, and included our last stop at a grocery store to buy more snacks! Our final push and we finally arrived in Cedral, our home for the next 8 days, around 5pm. We were welcomed by our new host families, their pets, and even homemade bread, cinnamon rolls, and other sweets. After a quick introduction we all set off with our host families into the pitch blackness of the Cedral night. We arrived to their homes where they welcomed us with open arms, fed us another dinner, and we tried out our Spanish. I’m living with Katie, and our host family Marco, Melissa, and 4 year old Bianca. After we got through the initial awkwardness of our new family we played with Bianca and chatted with our parents! It’s going to be a fun 8 days!
July 6, 2018
Hoy was our first full day with our host families. My family includes a 7 year old boy named Angel, a mom named Maricela and my student pair, Zeyta. After a delicious breakfast of eggs, toast, mango, pineapple and even chocolate milk the Global Works students met up to walk around the community. We did a tour of all the houses in the community where we’re staying. We were constantly hiking up, down, left, and right! There’s such a variety of houses here, but all of us are paired up and have our own rooms at least within the pair. Everyone tenían hambre once we finished the tour. Our host moms hand delivered lunch for us, even those who live way down the hill! The World Cup is still going on, so all but three of us went to watch it. Zeyta, Hallie, and I went to go play soccer with Halie’s host brother. Fue muy divertido. Not only did we get to play soccer we also had a pelea de agua, danced some reggae, and had a performance by Adolfo with a recorder playing Despacito. When we all returned we listened to Señor Eduardo’s lesson on how the coffee cooperative in the community was started. Part of our work here is to paint some signs for the coffee tour the cooperative has put together for the tourists that pass through the community. Entonces nosotros empezamos a pintar. (Then, we began to paint.) As the afternoon continued we saw the rain clouds begin to move in so we finished up for the day, and vamos a seguir pintando mañana. (We are going to continue to paint tomorrow.) As we ended the day we got to hang out with our host families and work on our Spanish! Hasta la próxima!
July 7, 2018
Today we started a long work day at the coffee coop’s meeting house at 8:00. We broke up into two groups and half the group went to plant some trees and work on the construction of the cabin. My group worked on finishing signs that would be displayed on the side of the road to try to boost the economy (through rural tourism) and the amount of visitors that could help the income into this community. Zeyta and I were the group leaders and after a quick meeting with our trip leaders we decided to work on our leadership skills and independence. So now the daily leaders have a little more responsibility. We worked in these groups for the whole morning, painting a lot of signs, or working on the cabin construction. The group working on the cabin construction worked on building a solid base for the cabin out of old tires and filled them with a dense dirt. After lunch we split into two different groups to make a work plan for the upcoming English class where we’ll be teaching 6-12 year old kids. Our plan consisted of thinking of the most fun and most effective means of teaching young kids English. I am looking forward to seeing the outcome of our plan and seeing if it truly works and if the kids have fun. In the evening we had a lesson on how to make tortillas and then we ate a tortilla potluck dinner. Delicious! Buenas noches y hasta mañana!
July 8, 2018
Today we took a break from our work and spent our time hanging out and doing fun activities. It was a great day right from the beginning because we got to sleep in an extra hour than the usual, 7am wake-up. After the perfect amount of additional sleep, we all ate nutritious breakfasts with our families, which included fresh fruit and coffee for most of us. Then we all met up to go on a quick hike, accompanied by many of our host families. After completing a treacherous river crossing we stopped and ate lunch on some rocks. Today’s lunch was a bit different, though. We needed to eat on-the-go so our parents utilized a banana leaf as a container to wrap our rice, beans, and tortilla lunch. At around 2 we met up in the local community center to discuss our carbon footprints. We did an activity that helped us become more self-aware about how we affect the environment in our daily lives and what we can do to improve our carbon footprint. When we finished, we played some pick-up soccer. During these games most of our host families’ kids demonstrated their skills and showed us up. At 4, we shifted our focus from fútbol to Zumba, which is an exercise class revolving around dancing. By the time we done dancing each and everyone of us was exhausted. We all went home to our host families to enjoy a home cooked dinner and relax. It was a very nice day filled with beautiful weather and physical education. I’m sure we will all sleep like babies tonight!
July 9, 2018
Today was our fourth day in Cedral, a rural mountain town in the San José province. Paige and I awoke to the smell of empanadas, and shortly after we sat down to eat and talk with our homestay mother, Xenia. We always talk exclusively in Spanish with her, and Paige and I work together if one of us doesn’t know how to say a word or phrase. Today, we talked about our life at boarding school while Xenia gave us an overview of the education system in Costa Rica. After breakfast we hiked along with Frazer and Nino up the hill to our group’s meeting place, the cafetería. There, we split into two groups, and my group left to go on a tour of Cedral’s coffee farm. We learned about the coffee-making process process from beginning to end, as well as some of the problems growers face and how they solve them. At the end of the tour we tried some coffee before returning to our service work. Some people began tiling the basins where they separate and soak the coffee in, but I went up the hill to continue working on the cabin. We’re building a deck so that future visitors to the cabin can admire the gorgeous view of the valley. The cabin is part of Cedral’s push to promote rural tourism so that members of the community can earn a little extra income to further improve their quality of life. We ate lunch together in the cafetería at 12 after our homestay mothers came by to drop off food. Paige and I got beans and rice, chicken, and fried plantains. After lunch, we returned to the cabin for a couple hours to continue working. At 3 we came back to the cafetería and made little figures out of a paper-based clay with some of the homestay mothers (I made a turtle and her baby.)
Afterwards we were set free to spend the rest of the evening with our friends and host families. Paige and I spent the rest of the afternoon with Zeyta and Leietta inside their host mom’s brightly colored, cactus covered home. We made it home for dinner (we ate fried shark!) and spent the rest of the evening playing indoor soccer with Xenia’s 12 and 5-year-old sons. Right before we were about to say goodnight, I saw a flash of purple outside so I walked into the kitchen for a better view. The valley below us twinkled with the light of the city, and every so often the sky came alive with silent, lavender-tinted lightning. I stood and stared at it for a long time, absolutely awestruck, before exhaustion got the best of me and I left the kitchen, said goodnight to my family, and fell into bed.
July 10, 2018
I woke up this morning to the sound of rain on the windows and an array of birds singing in the trees. The smell of traditional Gallo Pinto and fresh papaya called me downstairs to the dining room where we ate our delicious breakfast with our host family. As one of the leaders of the day I had to meet down by the cafetería by 7:45am “Tico time,” a phrase that meant to signify our ever-changing schedules and arrivals. After discussing the plan of the day with my fellow leader we broke up into two groups. One group continued service work while my group went on a nearby coffee tour. We walked around a plantation filled with a plentiful variety of greenery, fruits, beans, and production machines. I was taught that coffee plants can be cut at different sizes depending on whether you’re looking for quality or quantity; the plant is cut at a middle level for quality, while the top of the plant is chopped off continuously for quantity. We also learned about the types of clothes that men and women wear out to the fields which cover their bodies completely to avoid the heat or any other possibly harmful factors. By the end of the tour, we got to taste the indulgent coffees and cappuccinos made here on site. Directly after, the whole group watched some of the World Cup game (France vs. Belgium) in our free time before returning to the cafetería to begin teaching our English class. Once we gathered all of the kids, we assessed their abilities to read and write with a simple 5 question quiz. From there, we paired less fluent kids with more fluent Global Works member and vice versa. We taught them what we thought could be helpful vocabulary in their community such as colors, animals, and greetings. It was a great opportunity to break language barriers and get everyone to feel more comfortable with their abilities. Afterwards, we had free time until our family dinners at 6:00. I hiked with a group of friends and some children from the English lesson down to a nearby soccer field to immerse myself into the friendly culture and have fun with new people. We played games and talked for hours while we watched the fog roll down the mountain tops and surround us in a white blanket of mist. Before heading back, I stocked up on snacks from the local store. Once my homestay partner and I arrived home, we were greeted kindly by our family and enjoyed a meal of toasted tortillas, alfredo pasta, and green salad. Before the night ended, we enjoyed watching an intense episode of Masterchef with our parents and little sister, and then headed to bed. The days are long but filled with a plethora of community service, language immersion, and fun.
July 14, 2018
It was a sad morning in Cedral, as it was our final morning in this beautiful mountain town. I woke up to freshly made tortillas filled with eggs and ham with a side of fried bread slathered in guava jelly. Soon after the final meal came the time to start the long down hill hike to our farewell spot. As I contemplated the perfect goodbye we started to gather for the final moments. These were the saddest on this whole trip. As tears built up in everyone eyes and hugs were given, people started loading up on the bus. We thanked Cedral for everything they have done for us and for everything they taught us. After saying goodbye the hour and a half bus ride to the city close by was chill. Everyone did there own things, then we got to lunch. We already missed the homemade homestay food, however many people appreciated having something other than rice and beans. When we got on the road again and arrived to the hotel, there was 3 hours of free time. Some of us went to the pool and others just used the time to refuel for the upcoming surfing days. Finally, near the end of our day we had a reflection time to look back on what we learned as well as share some heartfelt memories. We all had a long exhausting day and are looking forward to tomorrow’s zip lining/surfing adventure.
July 15, 2018
Today we spent our first full day on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. We woke up early to a breakfast of fresh fruits and jams, scrambled eggs, and coffee. Shortly after, we boarded the bus for a quick drive to Hacienda Barú, a protected stretch of coastal jungle home to sloths, iguanas and many different types of birds. We zip-lined through the humid forest canopy for most of the morning, then boarded the bus again and headed for Playa Uvita. Our surfing lesson began on the sounds of Parque Nacional Marino Ballena where we learned basic positioning and technique afterwards, we spent two hours in the water working with the instructors. While in the ocean, we enjoyed a gorgeous view of the rugged barrier islands to the west and dense jungle to the east. We also got to see a pod of rays feeding, something even the guides got genuinely excited about. We came back to the hotel in the afternoon and enjoyed a dinner of sea bass and salad. In the evening, the sky went yellow and orange as the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
July 16, 2018
Three weeks have passed, though it’s only felt like a week. Today we woke up to our last full morning in Costa Rica. Many in the group, including myself, had to brush off the sand from our surfing excursions and do some last minute packing before heading into the bus for the six hour journey to San José, Costa Rica’s capital. Along the way we took pictures next to Jacó beach and the multitude of crocodiles that lived just down the road. We also stopped for lunch and last minute souvenirs. The road trip was shorter than expected as we arrived at the hostel late afternoon rather than after dinner. After a brief rest in our rooms, we ventured out to a restaurant located in the grassy hills outside of San José for our final despedida, or goodbye party. A short but meaningful reflection followed dinner and phones were returned. Many (most) of us stayed up close to our 3 a.m. departure the following morning talking about our time together and how we would spend the rest of our summer.