With everyone arriving at different times, today was very chaotic. After the majority of students arrived, which was not until the afternoon, we were off on a city tour of San Jose. David, our local tour guide, showed us all the major historic landmarks of the country’s capital. We went to the first national bank and the first supermarket where we all (except Lilly) bought rubber boots. It was then back to the hotel for dinner, which was rice with grilled chicken and salad. After a very long day, we were all happy to go back to our rooms and get ready for Day 2 of our Costa Rican adventure!
After our last “American” breakfast for a while, of pancakes from Denny’s, we were all packed up and got on to the bus ready to head to the “Home Base” or place we will be staying for the next 21 days! On the way, we stopped at a coffee farm, which is in fact the 5th best coffee in the world! We had a tour of the machinery and taste tested coffee beans. We are all now experts in all things coffee! It was then off to home base which we all found breathtakingly beautiful. We met the staff there: Leo (owner), Memo (chef) & Ale, we can’t forget about Brutus and Cala, the two dogs! We learned who our cabin room mates were and had time to settle in before we played games before lunch. After lunch, we underwent an orientation which gave a little insight on what this program had in store for us. Then it was dinner! Surprisingly it wasn’t rice & beans! After dinner we were assigned our mentor groups (Kaylyn or Manuel). We did a short group activity, which was the spider’s web game. Where we would cross our arms and hold two other peoples hands, then we had to try and unravel ourselves without letting go of their hands. It was quite a challenge but we ended up in two separate circles, which isn’t the aim of the game but we all had fun doing it anyway. We finished Day 2 on a great note especially excited for the next day because it would be our first day in the communities!
We had a lovely wake up call by Meghan, our director, who was playing music on the loudest volume her speakers would let her! We were down for breakfast for 7 and off in the bus at 7:30 to head to San Bernardo, the first community we would be working in. Upon arrival we were welcomed with a performance by the local primary school kids of a few traditional Costa Rican dances. Soon it was our turn to try. The lucky few, who the kids picked out, got to try on the traditional dress and learn a few moves! We then met Arturo, who is with Green Communities, the group we are working with in the communities. We were separated into two groups: Group 1 was making organic fertilizer with Arturo while Group 2 went with Eduardo, the owner of a coffee farm in the town.
On Eduardo’s farm the group helped dig trenches to prevent soil erosion when it rains. As it is the rainy season, it is very common at this time of year, as we found out. We felt very honored to be the group to help the first farm use organic fertilizer for their crops in San Bernardo. Before we knew it, it was lunchtime! Some of the local women of the town had prepared for us rice & beans with fish and vegetables, the first of many delicious meals they would prepare for us.
After lunch, we had our first Spanish class. To start with the teachers gave us a small exam which included an oral interview and a written test, to see how advanced our skills were. We were placed in one of two groups. Spanish class was soon over and we were off back to home base. We got an hour of free time before dinner and Kaylyn’s mentor group had wifi. After dinner, we had mentor groups then had a group activity, which was a personality test sort of thing, seeing what kind of leaders we are. That ended Day 3!
We had our first “leaders of the day” today, Amy and Hailey. As normal we headed to the service site after breakfast but we got to stop on the way to take a few pictures of the amazing views. We split again into our two groups but switched activities from the day before. Javier and Nacho, two local boys that were working with us, cut us all sugarcane to try. After lunch, we played a bit of soccer with the children that just got out of school for the day. Luckily for us, one of the young girls spoke pretty good English so she helped translate for us! Appropriately it was then time for our Spanish classes that were being held in Santa Maria, the closest town to our home base. During Spanish class, as an activity, we were sent off in pairs to find three different places in the town designated to us and to find out certain information about these places to go and report back to the class at the end of the activity. We all bought milkshakes from the coffee shop in town, which is also the place we toured on day 2. We then headed back to home base where Manuel’s mentor group had wifi for an hour. Dinner was amazing as usual! David from Green Communities did a group activity with us afterwards about the effects of outsiders coming into communities and attempting to change it to fit their personal needs not the rest of the community. After the group activity, we had mentor groups and discussed what we would need for our first excursion, which was white water rafting!
Today we had a very early start, 5:30, to be down for breakfast at 6 am and to leave by 6:30 . We traveled to the Guayabo National Monument then to our hotel for rafting. Sam and Emina were team leaders today. At the monument we toured where a native tribe used to be located. After our tour it was time for lunch! The plan after lunch was to go to a park nearby but that was aborted when we got a flat tire. So instead we all played Heads Up in a town center with local students and families finding us all very entertaining! We all decided to get ice cream before we headed to the hotel, with our plans to go to the park gone. During our ride to the hotel we all enjoyed a jam session on the bus to Mr. Worldwide (Pitbull). Once we arrived at the hotel and got our room assignments we had 2 hours of free time. A few of us decided to go see a waterfall nearby with Carlos. We underestimated the time and the intensity of the walk down especially with the muddy conditions, so showering before we went was not the best idea! We ate dinner in the restaurant in the hotel then had our group activity. Our group activity was with us all sitting in a circle facing outside the circle with our eyes closed. Three students at a time would be chosen without the rest of the group knowing to tap the shoulders of people that related to the question she was asking. That concluded Day 5!
We all awoke to the lovely sound of the pouring rain, which was the exact opposite weather we had hoped for that day since we were going white water rafting! After a short lie in until 7:30 and breakfast we were all ready for the buses to come and collect us, even if it was still raining. After discovering that the river we had planned to raft on had flooded due to the rain, our leaders of the day, Dennis and Olivia, had to make the decision of where to relocate our rafting adventure to. They decided on going to a different starting point on the same river that was not as dangerous to the new conditions. After a little longer bus ride than expected, a short stop in a local shop and a 20 minute hike downhill we reached our starting point! We split into our rafting groups and were off down the river. A few rapids later we stopped at a waterfall. Our tour guides showed us how to climb up, stand under the waterfall and then we got to slide back down to the bottom. We saw many different types of wildlife, such as frogs, birds and spiders while on our trip. We ate lunch two rapids before the end. It was all spread out on the bottom of a flipped over raft. We had burritos, pineapple and watermelon. After finishing the last few rapids we had the chance to jump in the river and float down stream. It was then time to head back to the hotel to change buses (the Mario Kart we had named it) and drive back to Cedrela. After a few bathroom stops and the odd snack break we arrived back in time for dinner and a short mentor groups. It was a very late end for us today so we all were very happy to go back to our cabins and get some well-deserved rest!
We all awoke to Connor and Lilly’s wake up call, which we all thought we were having another earthquake due to Connor’s loud banging on our cabin doors! It was laundry day today so we all had to figure out how to fit all our lovely dirty clothes into one bag per cabin to give to Leo to get washed. Today for a change we worked on Nacho and Javier’s family coffee farm, digging trenches and square holes for the runoff water. While walking back Carlos pulled up in his pickup truck and we all hopped in for the short ride down to the community center instead of walking 20 minutes downhill back. After lunch we went back to home base for Spanish class. Today’s class today was all about traditional Latin American styles of dance so we spent the time learning different moves to the salsa and merengue. For the last hour we had a zumba class from a lady from Santa Maria. It was great fun but very tiring! We then got an hour of free time before dinner and mentor groups. We got our laundry back, which was not expected until tomorrow so that was a great surprise and great end to the day!
Our team leaders for today were Abby and Lauren who all gave us a lovely wake up of running into our cabins full of energy! We all were very excited for today’s breakfast, which were pancakes! Today’s service work was helping make cement to build a sidewalk coming from the primary school to the community center. In Spanish class we went to the kitchen in the school and learned how to make a beef soup which tasted amazing! Arturo was leaving us to go help another group in a different community so we had to say goodbye to him to what we thought was the last time we would see him but we were happily mistaken!
After our wake up call by our leaders of the day Jen and Destiny and breakfast we were off to our last day of service in San Bernardo. We split into 3 groups and every hour we moved to a different activity. They were: painting tires, making cement to finish the pavement from yesterday or digging holes for posts to place behind the tire fence. We got to write our names in the cement before it dried so we will always be remembered but personally I think we would be a hard group of people to forget! While cleaning the shovels we all got a little sidetracked with a water fight us GLAers against Javier and Nacho, I think we won!
After saying all our goodbyes in San Bernardo we hopped on the bus and headed into Santa Maria for some coffee and some time to go around by ourselves, with a buddy of course. We had dinner during mentor groups to save some time for our group activity. Tonight’s was a TED video on first impressions and we had a discussion on it afterwards. We finished up the night with watching a few of Javier and Nacho’s Taekwondo videos.
After Jamie and Sarah woke us all up and we had eaten breakfast we were off to a new community, Zapotal. We were welcomed with a dance from the children from the local school. Today we got to make eco- bricks for the first time. Eco-bricks are made out of recycled plastic bottles filled with plastic bags, wraps etc. We plan to make enough to build a bench! After lunch w headed back to home base where Carlos and David came to talk to us about consumer products and the linear cycle it goes through. We learned how to lessen the impact it had and became more aware on its effect on our earth. We had a joined mentor groups where we played a few trust exercise games. After dinner we decorated the dinning room with balloons, birthday hats and banners since it is Dennis’s birthday tomorrow!
Our leaders of the day Sam and Lilly had decided on a very relaxed day today, which we all needed. We spent the morning at the beach by our hotel where we got to buy souvenirs such as shirts and jewelry. The waves at this beach were much larger than the ones yesterday so we enjoyed watching the surfers and jumping the waves. After lunch at the hotel we were on the bus back to home base. Memo had made us burgers for dinner, which were amazing! We tried ours with strawberries, apparently that’s very popular there, but they tasted pretty good. We had short mentor groups tonight since we were all tired from our day at the beach!
We were up at our usual time, 6:30 by our leaders Emina and Connor and off to service at 7:30. We split into 3 groups, 2 mixed cement while the last group finished stuffing the bottles with plastic for the bench. We ended service an hour before lunch so we could play our community soccer game. We had Spanish class in San Marcos, which we got to walk around to visit the bakery. We had mentor groups before dinner, which we all loved since it was pasta! For our group activity we played multiple games such as Queen B and flipping a tablecloth with us all standing on it. We all enjoyed tonight’s group activity a lot!
Everyone was woken up to the music of Jen and Olivia. On the way to service we had a pump up session to get us all ready for service today! David and Jonathon gave a little in sight on the history of Zapotal, which was very interesting. We split into our 3 groups again 2 worked in the soccer field to dig trenches to stop it from flooding the other one was making eco-bricks. After lunch we had a small dance party with the members from the community. We made a congo line and had a dance battle! We had Spanish class back at home base where we practiced our acts for the final presentation. We had mentor groups and group activity before dinner. Our group activity was completing an obstacle in groups of 5 while our feet are constantly touching, it was harder than we all thought! After dinner we split into our talent show groups to practice before we were in our cabins for lights out.
Lauren and Jamie had us in the bus 6 minutes earlier than usual, probably due to the guacamole we had for breakfast! We worked on the sidewalk and trying to finish the eco bricks. The women of the town performed for us today some dances that we got to join in with. Back at home base we had our last Spanish class where we performed Vivir mi Vida and danced to Carnival. We got to practice our talent show acts after dinner.
Sam and Sandra woke us up to our last day of service. We all made eco- bricks till snack time today which finally allowed us to make enough for our bench! After snack we all went down to the soccer field and started mixing cement for the bench. Jonathon helped us lay out the cement and place the eco-bricks on top of the cement layers. We painted the bottles to add a little color to the plain plastic and inscribed our names into the wet cement. We had to say our final goodbyes to the community of Zapotal which was very emotional. We stopped at San Marcos on the way back to home base to get any supplies we may need for our talent show acts later that day. We also stopped in Santa Maria at the coffee shop to get one last coffee. It was then back up to home base for an early dinner before the show. The talent show went great! Nacho & Javier came from San Bernardo, Carlos, Arturo & David came from Green Communities and Jonathon’s whole family came from Zapotal.
Highlights included Meghan and Kaylyn feeding Cala and the neighbor’s dog like they were humans, Nacho & Javier’s staged Taekwondo fight and Connor’s lip syncing to Party in the USA mad the night. As a group, we all performed the Semilla song. It was a great night!
Contributed by Olivia Larder