Saturday August 4, 2018
Bienvenidos a Playa Junquillal Session V of Beachside Service Adventures! From all the staff here, we wish you a warm welcome 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.
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. 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.
And last but not least… today we will find out which service projects we will work with!
From all of here at Junquillal we are so happy to have started Session V! Pura Vida!!
Sunday August 5, 2018
Today we woke at the crack of dawn to eat an early breakfast of traditional pancakes and gallo pinto. Then we went on the tubing adventure of a lifetime. The bus ride, though long, was one of many enriching bonding experiences we shared. Through the joint cultural immersion of listening to Spanish music, we became closer as a group and gained exponential respect for the beautiful culture and tradition by which we were surrounded.
Once in the river we were met with a plethora of new challenges. Firstly, we worked together to ensure the safety of everyone in the group by helping people who had fallen out of their tubes and providing assistance to those who were apprehensive.
Afterwards, we were taught many traditional Costa Rican dances, such as the salsa. This was another cultural endeavor as we were urged to leave our comfort zones and immerse ourselves into another tradition.
Finally, we got into our mentor groups and discussed each other’s personal values. This is pertinent to leadership because everyone’s different values will come together this week to achieve a common goal. In addition to this, the activity helped us reach common ground when it comes to the essence of each person.
Looking forward, we as a group are excited for tomorrow, with it being the first day of service, where we will be able to channel all we have learned these first few days into making a real difference here in Costa Rica.
Tuesday August 7, 2018
GLA had another fantastic day including the students learning to incorporate the new pillar of leadership: Uncover Solutions. The ROW team went to a school and helped the students by painting their recycle bins and making recycling signs so the students will find it easier to sort out their waste. Playa Avellanas went to a beach to hang up signs uncovering solutions to pollution. They also picked up trash to contribute to solving pollution in the ocean. The Paraiso group had a great day painting tires to resemble Minions, flowers, ladybugs, bees, giraffes, zebras, and a well. They bonded over adding details to a mural and improved their Spanish skills by communicating with the students at the school. Today at VerdiAzul we had a great time planting 21 trees together in addition to spending time cleaning up the beachfront. Later, during a break at VerdiAzul, we spent time playing a competitive pickup soccer game with the staff.
Lastly, the team Pargos school played with the happily spirited kids and continued working on the mural for the school! We then went all together as a program to the Eco Museum to learn the tradition of making clay pots, plates, and bowls by the Chorotega Indigenous people. We also learned about the history of this indigenous tribe of Guanacaste. After dinner, the mentor groups got together to watch the TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story, by Chimamanda Adiche who demonstrates how stories that are told about different cultures turn out to be to be the face of that country. Chimamanda stressed how we need to not look from a narrow point of view, but be willing to explore all of the stories of a people or a place. This was very moving and opened up a lot of the student’s eyes.
Wednesday August 8, 2018
Today we woke up bright and early for another day of service. We all went in remembering the pillar for the day; take action. Paragos continued the school’s mural with help from students. VerdiAzul transplanted about one hundred trees. ROW worked together to plant trees after encountering bulls on the way there. Avellanas headed to a fishing area to pick up trash and then got smoothies and played volleyball. Paraiso finished their school’s mural, painted tires, and watched a spelling bee that was held for students.
After service, we were rewarded with a lunch of rice and chicken. We had some time to hang out at home base and swim in the pool. Next was beach time. Everyone had a lot of fun in the waves, attempting to body surf. A game of soccer was played with a few locals.
Matt Rosensteele for ROW shared with us his experience in the Peace Corp and talked to us about advice he had about doing service. After dinner, we had a meeting with all groups and mentors about “voluntourism” and all perspectives and things we can do to avoid a negative impact on the communities we serve. We look forward to more service and learning tomorrow!
Friday August 10, 2018
On the day 7 mark, the GLA students departed for another early morning service adventure. The beach cleanup group rode to the Avellanos beach and, with help from some benevolent Ticos, began on the journey of restoring the beautiful Costa Rican beach. The run to beat the tide was excruciating, but the work was rewarding.
The Pagros group diligently finished their mural while still having fun playing with the kids. They learned to balance hard work while interacting with the children.
VerdiAzul traveled to where the ocean meets the river and the mangrove trees thrived. There they learned to care for the environment by spending hours planting trees.
ROW went to their service site and continued to focus on helping Costa Rica’s watershed by planting trees. They surprised themselves by exceeding their goal of the number of plants they were going to plant. They were proud of themselves for their efficiency.
Last but not least, the Paraiso group accomplished many things by building a well, painting tires, digging holes, and finishing their mural.
After returning to the resort and eating a delicious lunch, the GLA students divided into 3 groups for rally day. One group started with playing soccer with the locals and learned about communication, teamwork and leadership.
Another group was warmly invited into the home of a family in the community and there they learned how they grow, farm, and cook with their corn. They received the opportunity to make empanadas and try the cultural food and drinks.
The last group learned about the elements of the world with instruction from a performer. They learned how to twirl a baton, juggle, and connect their body with their mind. Each group got to rotate through the 3 stations throughout the afternoon. Once rally day was completed, the groups piled on the buses, sang joyous songs, and returned to the resort for dinner.
Mentor groups talked about their overall experience. They covered the highs and lows of their trip, and what the students needed to improve for their leadership skills. After a long day of learning and hard work, the GLA students took to their beds to prepare for tomorrow’s adventure.
Today, we woke bright and early for a long day of rewarding service and endorphin fuelling adventures!
The group was split into two sub groups. The first group enjoyed zip lining over lush forests and fields of green. The second group experienced the luxury of a catamaran ride, followed by snorkelling, in the glimmering waters of Costa Rica.
Upon arriving to Pura Aventura, the zipliners were strapped into harnesses and driven to a thrilling new challenge. Those of us who had ziplined before calmed and encouraged those who were nervous about tackling this experience. Through teamwork we made it down all eleven ziplines, soaring through thick foliage bursting with vibrant flowers and wildlife.
On the other hand, half of the group was treated to a luxurious ride upon a regal catamaran amongst the many wonders of the Pacific Ocean. Although less adrenaline pumping than the ziplining, the group shared a unique bonding experience which consisted of food, friends, and fun!
After our respective adventures, we returned to home base for a quick lunch followed by service. Today’s service was bittersweet – as it was our last day – but was also a facet for reflection, as we got to look back at what our service consisted of. We also got the opportunity to see the impact that our few days here have had on the community.
For our final full day, our groups did the other adventure so that all students were able to enjoy the catamaran and ziplining. After our adventure, we did the end of the program book-in debate that focuses on the ethics of having mega sporting events like the World Cup. Finally, we had a poolside party complete with a fire dancer and music. We will always cherish the fulfilling memories made within these 10 rejuvenating and eye opening days.