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Thursday August 16, 2018
Bienvenidos a Playa Junquillal Session VI of Beachside Service Adventure! From all the staff here, we would like to welcome you, our final session, to your beautiful new home for the next 10 days. Playa Junquillal is located in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica – one of the largest expanses of dry rainforest in Latin America. Believe it or not, we are actually in winter here meaning it’s the rainy season. We’ve come a long way since Session I, and we are so excited to share with you all the fantastic things we’ve learned throughout the course of our program. Here’s to making these final 10 days really count!
Beachside Service Adventures is a program of GLA dedicated to service learning, which we achieve through working with local leaders to achieve goals such as environmental restoration, beach cleanup, and school beautification. We have four service projects this session, which students will break out into based on their interests and availability. Students will be assigned their mentor group, who they will spend with during service, and also at night during leadership seminars. Many of the projects have an environmental focus due to the widespread issue of deforestation in the region. Examples include ROW (Restoring Our Watershed) and VerdiAzul – which works with sea turtle habitat restoration.
Last night, students got their first taste of Costa Rica at dinner… the traditional dish called Casado! It’s comprised of beans, rice, salad, plantains and a protein such as chicken. Students settled in to their cabins at 10 last night to awake to a morning of orientation!
Today, we are getting properly acquainted through various team building activities and leadership seminars. For example, we played the classic Mosquito, Gecko, Sloth (a take on Rock Paper Scissors) as pictured below. Additionally, staff reviewed the various polices and safety protocols. However, instead of a traditional lecture style, students participated directly in this discussion by becoming experts in a certain subject – such as house rules. They shared the knowledge that they learned to other students, which allowed students to take on a leadership role and facilitate more efficient learning.
Later, we discovered our mentor groups and completed the team building activity “bucket of dreams,” which albeit frustrating at times, comes with the satisfaction of sweet victory at the end as everyone works together to retrieve the bucket (picture below). We also had a leadership seminar devoted to leadership style, and finally had mentor groups after dinner where we shared our stories of self.
From all of here at Junquillal we are so happy to have started Session VI! Pura Vida!!
Friday August 17, 2018
We started the day today with the service groups, Playa Avellanas and Pargos School heading off bright and early to the beach, to clean up trash and play soccer with the local students. Meanwhile, the Verdiazul and ROW groups spent their time sanding and painting wooden signs for various informational purposes. After a delicious lunch we traversed to a local beach, Playa Blanca, where we got to swim and soak up the sun. Afterwards, Silvia, a local leader from Junquillal, came and gave a presentation about Costa Rica, Guanacaste, and Junquillal to give us some context for this place we are calling home for these 10 days. Dinner was arroz con pollo or arroz con camarones, a local specialty. After dinner, we spent valuable time in our mentor groups discussing our most important values and how they impact our actions.
Saturday August 18, 2018
We began the day with clear blue skies and lots of sun. You might think it’s a wonderful day for vacationing, however the students were hard at work and committed to their service projects. Around 7-7:45 we ate breakfast that consisted of French toast, the usual rice and beans (gallo pinto), fruit, and fresh juice & coffee. At 7:45am the Playa Avellanas and Pargos School projects hopped on the GLA bus to their service site. There was a change in schedule for the Pargos school team. Due to the fact that today is a Saturday, the school was closed and so they joined the Avellanas group. It’s worth noting that a couple of local children tagged around with us in helping the Avellanas group. When arriving to the beach the staff and students wasted no time and gave full effort to their project. Both groups performed a massive beach clean up and planted a whopping 20 trees near the beach. There were several bags of garbage that mainly comprised of plastics at the end. From what we learned and knew, plastic that is not properly disposed of has a detrimental effect on ecosystems and beaches. When finished, the Avellanas group played a quick but thrilling game of soccer with the children.
While the Avellanas and Pargo school projects were hard at work at the beach, another group, VerdiAzul, was working hard in another beach. The group headed out of the resort around 8am and began their day making informative, attention-grabbing wooden signs. Their goal was to make signs that inform locals and tourists to preserve the beach for turtle offsprings. In addition to making those signs, they worked on planing a highly anticipated field day for the local children of the community. So stay tooned on reading future blogs.
Lastly but not the least is the ROW project (Restoring our Watershed). The group visited Centre Verde, an ecocenter, to begin work on getting seeds ready to plant. The team sanded a massive total of 500 seeds and transplanted 20 tree plants. Along the process, they were educated more about the drought and economy of the area.
These projects were just the beginning of the day and more activities awaited. After lunch, the students prepared for the visit to the eco-museum of pottery. The hour-long bus ride had some sleepy heads. When we arrived, the group separated two groups and alternate from the pottery demonstration to the museum tour and vice versa. We got to learn the process of how ceramics in the local community were made based on the Chorotega ingidenous culture. At the end of the tour, students bought many amazing and intricate ceramics that were actually made from local people but also know that the money goes to support the people. After the trip, we continued with our regular program of dinner and mentor circles. And shoutout to the leaders of the day Anthony on the blog, Coco on leading the dinner circle, Danelia on the schedule announcements, and Lina on the photography.
Sunday August 19, 2018
We woke up bright and early in time for a 6:15 breakfast of eggs, bacon, beans and rice. After we ate, we got on the bus for a 2 hour ride to an area near Liberia and the Rincon de la Vieja volcano for an exciting tubing adventure! We geared up for the rapids and embarked on a 45 minute tubing excursion through the tropical dry forest. Once the tour ended we were able to see a howling monkey amongst the trees while we waited for the bus to bring us back. The mentors packed a to go lunch for us that we ate while we shopped for souveneirs in the adventure tours center. Once we got back from tubing, we had about an hour of free time that many people used to swim in the pool and then a dance team came and taught us how to dance to various songs. After that, we had dinner that consisted of delicious pulled pork sandwiches and then watched a TED talk for our leadership activity of the day about checking our assumptions and making sure we seek to learn all of the stories about a place and a people instead of just believing one thing.
Hello GLA families! Today the Playa Avellanas, Pargos School, VerdiAzul, and ROW Service Groups went into the community and enthusiastically improved it in various ways. The Playa Avellanas Service group traveled to the Avellanas Beach and picked up pieces of plastic and litter. The Pargos School Service Group went to the Escuela Los Pargos and painted a mural depicting a cowboy and cowgirl wearing traditional clothing, with pottery on either side.
The VerdiAzul Service Group planted signs on the beach to prevent cars from driving on the beach where the turtle eggs are in their nests. The ROW (Restoring Our Watershed) Service Group planted sapling trees to replenish the underground aquifers which provide water to the community. Later in the day, the Students and Mentors went to the nearby Playa Negra Beach where Mentor Carlos and Travel Advisor Heather taught many Students to surf for their first time. At the end of the day all the Students and Mentors had a wonderful time surfing at Playa Negra and serving the community.
Tuesday August 21, 2018
This morning, students woke up to a breakfast filled with pancakes, rice and beans, yogurt, and a variety of fruit. We were ready to head out early for a morning full of service. Playa Avellanas went to the beach to clean up areas around mangrove trees and surrounding beaches. At Los Pargos school, the group expressed their creativity by painting a mural. They finished by playing a game of soccer with the local kids. While Avellanas and Los Pargos worked on their projects, Verdiazul and ROW were also hard at work. ROW worked on nourishing plants to better help the environment and learned about reforestation.
After lunch, we were filled with fried chicken, vegetables, and mashed potatoes. The afternoon had so much more in store for us. We learned from a fire performer, who taught us about overcoming our challenges through various activities. We also took a cooking class, learning how Costa Rican’s use corn in their dishes. After sipping some coffee and trying delicious foods, students played soccer with and against the locals before heading back to the hotel for dinner. After a make your own taco dinner, students broke off into their mentor groups to end the night.