Tuesday June 18, 2019
Hola family and friends!
Today all 21 GLA students arrived safe and sound to San Jose, Costa Rica. After everyone arrived, we spent the afternoon getting to know each other by the pool at our hotel in San Jose while we did our swim tests. Good news – we all passed! Surfing next weekend is going to be so much fun.
We then ate dinner across the street – a typical tico (Costa Rican) dinner of rice, beans and meat, along with some delicious veggies, salad, and to top it all off – rice pudding! After dinner we hung out with our new friends for an hour, talking about which parts of the program we’re most excited about.
Sadly, we have to say goodnight now, as we have a busy day ahead of us, including a bus ride to Santa Maria de Dota, where the Ecolodge is located that will soon be our home away from home for the next two weeks. Can’t wait to tell you more about it once we get there!
Hugs from Costa Rica!
Wednesday June 19, 2019
We began our first full day in Costa Rica at a hotel in San Jose, waking up around 5:30 to meet for an authentic Costa Rican breakfast, consisting of rice, beans, fruit, bread & jam, and jugo de papaya (papaya juice). After loading ALL of our luggage into a giant tarp on top of the bus, we rode over to downtown San Jose where we partook in a short walking tour. Diego (our local program director) was our tour guide and passionately pointed out landmarks & sculptures of Costa Rica, which he is proud to call his home. Despite the commercial businesses, San Jose was noticeably different than many cities we are used to in the U.S.A.
After experiencing a bit of San Jose we boarded the bus again and began to drive into the mountains, away from the billboards and Starbucks that were around every corner. As we ascended the winding mountain roads we cruised past small, colorful houses perched on the lush, green mountain-sides, cows & horses grazing grassy fields, and a group of Ticas (costa rican girls) learning to dance in vibrant red skirts. We also saw many windmills spinning on top of the mountains, which I recognized as visual representations of Costa Rica’s passion and commitment to sustainability.
Our first stop before arriving at our ecolodge was a family-owned organic coffee farm called Pira De Dota. Here we got to taste 3 different types of coffee (including the coffee they grow at Pira De Dota) and we also got to go on a tour around the farm to see how the coffee beans are picked, prepared,and turned into a bag of ground coffee beans that are ready to be sold in stores.
Getting to see the entire process of where coffee initially comes from was an eye-opening experience that made me feel more appreciative of all the hard work that goes into making a single bag of ground coffee that can be bought in Starbucks. It was also very fun to get to know the locals who run the coffee farm (Gabriel, Ana, & Ariana). Without them, you wouldn’t even have a cup of coffee to energize you every morning!
After thanking the owners & workers and buying some bags of coffee (of course!) we boarded the bus again and drove to our ECOLODGE!! Before discovering which cabins we would call home for the next two weeks and who our roommates were, we ate un almuerzo delicioso (a delicious lunch) prepared specially by the staff on our program (Flori & Jairo).
For the rest of the day we took time to get orientated, explore the lodge, and get to know each other by playing some games and discovering who our mentor groups are. After eating a dinner of rice & beans (surprising, I know), we settled into our cabins for our first night nestled among the montanas verdes (green mountains). We had a few frightening encounters with some bugs (aye aye aye, those Costa Rican bugs are LOCO!!), but overall, our first day in Costa Rica was a BLAST and we can’t wait to experience more. 🙂
-Parker and the Paparazzi
Thursday June 20, 2019
As the second full day of what will become routine has come to a close, many of us have taken the time to reflect on the day’s activities. Our in-depth discussions and seeing the way Ticos (Costa Ricans) live/what they are compassionate about have provided us with different perspectives on our lives back home. The line that stuck out to me was said by the founder of Green Communities, Jonathan, who has partnered with GLA for the duration of this program. He said, “Why are we trying to go to another planet if we can just take care of our own?”
We wake up early and enjoy a Costa Rican breakfast cooked by the staff at our lodge. The bus ride was short; it was only a half our before we met with Jonathan, Albaro, and Lucia, who would be leading the morning’s discussions and service. Jonathan splits us into groups and challenges us with choosing 10 things to take on a space ship to a new planet. He explains that there’s no easy way to start life on another planet, which is why we are there taking care of our own.
We learn how to make cement, and we split into groups to work on paving a sidewalk. Sidewalks make the locals happy, which in turn, motivates them to transform their coffee farms to be eco friendly. Jonathan tells them the volunteers will not come back to help and bring in business if they do not cooperate. So we mixed concrete and cleared land.
After the delicious Costa Rican cuisine generously provided by local women, we played a somewhat competitive soccer game with a few young children (my team won!). We arrived back at the lodge around 2pm where we were given time to shower before the activity. The staff divided us into groups, and we were assigned a part of the coffee process. With given information, it was our part to debate how much money we deserve from a $12.50 bag of coffee.
After quite some yelling, we were ready to hear the reality. Turns out, Starbucks receives $12 from the transaction. This news left us in shock. The people who labor for hours in the heat get a measly $.02! We discussed, searching for ways to avoid the unfair distribution, but sadly, there’s no simple answer. We ate a dinner like the meals of before; rice, beans, meat, and veggies; met our Spanish teachers; and headed to bed.
I’m impressed with the bonds we students have already formed. I hope the group chat doesn’t die after the trip.
-Meredith and the Paparazzi
Friday June 21, 2019
Hola familia y amigos!
We hope this finds you well! Today, we all woke up at the crack of dawn and had breakfast in our dining area at 7:00. Our desayno consisted of rice & beans, huevos (eggs), and delicious bananas! We then trekked onward to San Pedro to fulfill our day of service. Service comprised of mixing concrete, packing sacks with dirt, and finally pouring our cement into the designated space that was carefully shoveled and pickaxed by our volunteers. After our first 2 hours of hard work, we took a much needed break and filled our bellies with the freshest fruit one has ever tasted- pineapple and papaya! While we sat relishing in the warm sun, to our surprise, Jonathon and Albaro sneakily sprayed us with the hose! It was refreshing and gave us a boost to continue our last 2 hours of morning service.
As we completed our service, we all piled into the back of the truck and drove down to the community center for our almuerzo (lunch)! We had pollo, rice, beans, and vegetables, as well as a delicious passion fruit juice freshly squeezed by the locals. Afterwards, we met up with some of the teenagers, also referred to as dreamers, from San Pedro and they joined in on our Spanish lessons with Juan Carlo and Diego. We all gathered around on the field and split into two groups. It suddenly began to lightly rain- which is very common in Costa Rica- so we did class outside on the bleachers that was nicely shaded. In our groups, we paired up and conducted interviews with one another in Spanish and shared them in front of everybody- while displaying our wide array of skills!
Following Spanish class, we went into the community center and made homemade tortillas with the local women of San Pedro. We each rolled them out in balls and helped cook them. Then we ate our creations with refried beans and sour cream, as well as a cup of coffee! Shortly after, we headed back to the Ecolodge and freshened up for dinner. For our activity of the night, we watched a compelling video on over consumption and the correlation to the idea of having a very materialistic economy in the U.S. it put a lot of things into perspective for all of us! Then, split into our mentor groups with Zina & Maggie and discussed ways to combat over consumption, found ways to relieve the waste we produce, and we brainstormed ideas on how we can be the change in the world.
Afterwards, we walked up to our cabins and looked into the night sky to find the largest, brightest stars we have ever seen. It was absolutely beautiful. Know that we too, are looking at the same sky as you.
¡Mucha amor de Costa Rica! Hasta mañana,
Audrey and the Paparazzi
Saturday June 22, 2019
Day 5 started with an early wake up and a delicious breakfast of toast, eggs, plantains, and papaya at 7am. We loaded the bus and danced through the thirty minute windy bus ride through beautiful scenery to the community center of San Pedro where we put on our muddy rubber boots and packed into the truck that took us to the work site. This being the last day we were to work on the side walk, we had to split into groups and preform different tasks in order achieve maximum efficiency.
One group shoveled rocks into bags to be used to make concrete, another group mixed cement, and the third group leveled the ground for the sidewalk and laid cement. The cement was laid in a perfectly smooth manor that was later disrupted by the hand prints of every GLA student and local that worked on the side walk. It was the perfect way to make our mark on the work we had done. We were lead and assisted by an extremely able bodied 56 year old Costa Rican man who works 7 days a week with no breaks and somehow still had the energy to joke around with all of us. Once we finished our 4 hours of service, we returned to the community center to enjoy the filling lunch prepared for us by the generous women of San Pedro.
After digesting pasta, it was time for Spanish class. The group integrated with the local young people of the town to play games and learn about each other’s lives. Pairs of locals and GLA students stood in front of the group and presented what they had learned about the lives of their partner. This included things such as information about their family, interests, and favorite recipes. We also played a game were one person was blind folded and the rest of the group had to direct them in Spanish towards a hidden object.
As the restlessness of sitting kicked in, we commenced in a large game of soccer. The age of the players ranged from 4 to late 60s and the game was a lot of fun. Once we rode back to the lodge, it was time for showers and then dinner. After dinner we all participated in group karaoke to end the night. Everyone is well and a difference is being made.
Signed: Emily and the paparazzi
Monday June 24, 2019
At 4:00am we were all awoken by our iphone alarm clocks and proceeded to groggily get ready for the exciting day ahead. After a sleepy cereal breakfast everyone boarded the bus with our backpacks stuffed with items like swimsuits, water bottles, & beach towels – A LA PLAYA !!
From the bus we all split up and hopped into three 4x4s to ride the rest of the way to the pacific coast!! Although it was only 6:30am, the fresh air, bumpy roads, & majestic mountain views energized and woke us all up. The ride to the beach was about 3 hours, starting in the mountains, winding through jungly roads with vibrant birds & butterflies fluttering overhead, splashing through flowing creeks, & cruising past rows of tall palms and cow pastures until finally we arrived at the small, coastal town of Dominical.
We spent the next hour browsing all of the colorful, handmade Costa Rican souvenirs that lined the quaint street and buying gifts for friends and family members (so get excited!!). Then we all changed into our swimsuits and walked down to the beach for our SURF LESSON! After being on the coast for only an hour we could already tell that it was very different from the cloud forest and Santa Maria – everyone was hot & tired from the tropical, humid air so we were very excited to jump in the refreshing ocean.
Our local surf instructors taught us the basics of paddling & standing up on the board while we were on the sand before we carried our surf boards out to the warm, salty water to catch some waves. For most of us it was our first time surfing ever, but surprisingly everyone got the hang of it pretty quickly and everyone was able to catch at least one or two waves. To me, the phrase “Pura Vida” correlates really well with Costa Rica’s surf culture since surfing is all about being calm, present, and taking the waves as they come.
After eating some fresh cut pineapple on the beach we all walked back to the marketplace surfshop to rinse off and then walk over to a nearby restaurant for lunch. At last we took the bus to our hotel where we would be staying for the next two nights. Our hotel was another eco-hotel, which I think many of us appreciated after learning how important it is to travel responsibly and environmentally-friendly.
Once we were all settled in some of us swam in the pool while others walked back to the marketplace to browse more souvenirs and sit on the beach for a while. In the evening everyone ate dinner at the hotel and by the time Zina came around to check if we were all in our hotel rooms everyone was passed out from the long, hot, pero muy divertida (but very fun) day 🙂
Encantamos la playa!!
~Parker and the Paparazzi
Tuesday June 25, 2019
Today we woke up for breakfast at 7:00 am. After breakfast we left for the Manuel Antonio National Park. Once at the park we met our tour guide who led us through the many trails of the park showing us various exotic animals such as colorful frogs, monkeys, and two and three toed sloths. After our hike through the National Park, we relaxed on the beach for two hours. On the beach we body surfed and enjoyed cooling off in the water. After relaxing on the beach we ate lunch at a restaurant a short walk away. Then we drove to the market where half of the group left the bus to shop while the other half returned to the hotel to rest. Next we had dinner at 7:00 pm and then had downtime where the group bonded by the poolside.
~Zach and the Paparazzi
Friday June 28, 2019
To start out this day, most people woke up around 6:30 to make breakfast at 7:00. For breakfast, Flory and Jairo whipped us up some scrambled eggs and pancake toast with jelly. We were promptly on the bus at 7:30, ready for another day’s work. On the bus some listened to music, while others talked about how their morning was so far.
We eventually arrived at San Pedro and changed into our stylish rubber boots and rode a rollercoaster-like ride to the finca )de cafe (coffee plantation). We worked for a solid two hours with the Young Dreamers (teenage ticos), before taking a fruit break, munching on pineapple, papaya, and orange. After the break, we fertilized more coffee plants, working as a team to form an assembly line. After another wild ride in the authentic Costa Rican rollercoaster, us GLA students ate a lovely meal prepared by the women of San Pedro, consisting of rice, beans, and a meat patty similar to meatloaf.
After changing out of our work dirty work clothes, the GLA staff divided us into groups for our adopt-a-Gringo activity, where we visited a home of a local Tico for an hour and conversed with them about their daily lives and interests in Costa Rica. Some of our conversation topics consisted of familias (families), deportes (sports), mascotas (pets), y bailes (dances). It was also a custom for each group to bring a regalo (gift) to our host familias, who also provided us with coffee and snacks like tortillas.
After, we boarded the bus and headed back to the Cedrela Ecolodge where we had a short break before learning, from Chef Leo, to make empanadas and quesadillas using homemade tortillas. We then ate our beautiful creations, even though Sous Chef Hayden did majority of the work. Next, we chilled in our cabins until dinner, where we ate spaghetti and chicken. Then, we brainstormed about problems we’ve noticed in San Pedro, and what steps we could take to better the situation in this small town. Some ideas we generated were the construction of a clinic, as well as the increase of eco-friendly farms in the area. This was a loco (crazy) day, filled with service and increased relations with the ticos.
BESOS Y PURA VIDA
P.S. Abrazos para mama – Chris and Jacob
We started off the day with a good breakfast of toast, eggs, and bananas. Today was the last day at our service site in San Pedro. We met up with the Young Dreamers in San Pedro and started our service at eight. Gringos and Young Dreamers were paired together to shovel compost. The compost we shoveled to be stored for later projects is what we have been spreading across ecological coffee farms, our service activity for the past three days.
In total we were able to shovel 470 sacks of compost, a Green Communities record!! Since we were so efficient we had some free time after service and some people decided to visit the pulperia for the last time to stock up on snacks for our extreme forest adventure tomorrow. Others played soccer or frisbee with Ticos. We enjoyed our last (yummy!) lunch with the San Pedro ladies who have so kindly cooked for us the past two weeks. After lunch dance class was hosted by Jonathan, the Green Communities founder, where we were paired with the Young Dreamers and learned dance styles such as salsa.
We all enjoyed ourselves and no matter how rhythmically challenged everyone learned some too! We all took photos and got the contact information of our new friends the Young Dreamers and said a sad goodbye as we left San Pedro for the last time. While everyone is a mixture of sad and excited to go home we our all looking forward to our adventure tomorrow!
– Grace and the paparazzi