All students are on their way home after an amazing program!
The three life changing weeks are coming to a close! Even though we are all going to miss each other we can’t deny that the people that we have met here, Costa Rican or not, have changed our lives!
In closing discussions we were talking about our “A-ha” moments! For me it is when I really had to use the bathroom (like really, really bad!) and the tour guide simply asked this woman who lived nearby and she let me…not only a stranger but a foreigner (who didn’t speak her language) into her house! I was completely amazed! No one in the states would do that! Here is a collection of “A-ha” moments from people on this life altering trip!
Marin- “seeing the school kids use the sidewalk that we created; our hard work turned into something tangible!”
Kate-” after the Costa Rican loss in the World Cup the Ticos were still so happy and gracious. People lined up on the side of the road waving flags to greet every car driving by. The sense of community even in the face of defeat was inspiring.”
Vivian-“second night when I realized I was on my way to making 23 new friends :)”
John M.-“When the plane landed and I finally realized that I was in Costa Rica”
Alec- “After a leadership session and I realized that there are so many different ways to live in the world, and that the way I was living was one of worst possible”
Nick – ” I was astounded to realize there was no connection between economic prosperity and happiness.”
Marc-“from coming to the last coffee plantation, and finishing on the last day, completing something that was never thought possible”
Josh-“I realized that I can enjoy sooooo soooo much without technology. I admit that I used my phone a couple times but I depended on it less!”
Hoyt- “When we left San Pedro and thanked the local women for all their cooking. The women were so happy to have met us!”
Koby-“you don’t need to lead a group to be a leader, you just need to show them!”
Ethan-“I was amazed when I realized that “the people who are happy are the people who have less.” I love how the Costa Ricans focus on community and friends rather than material aspirations.”
Linda-“when I came to the first lunch in San Pedro and the people welcomed us and did their traditional dances, I knew I was in Costa Rica.”
Irene-“during the soccer game everyone still had pride and welcomed us in to cheer with them! This lady even gave me a horn! And then after they lost people were still cheering because they took so much pride in their country!”
One thing that every student needs to keep in mind as we all pack up and return to our homes is “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” -Dr.Suess.
Vamos a la Playa
Even before wake up call, we could all hear the heavy, trembling rain smashing against the hotel roof. When us students finally got up for breakfast at 8, we were all ready to have fun and explore the city of Dominical. What we weren’t ready for was the Costa Rican humidity, which was so different from the mountain climate we were used to back at home base. With sweat dripping from our foreheads, we ate our breakfast of beans, rice, and fresh fruit at the Diuwaka Hotel restaurant.
After breakfast, we explored the streets for what to do next. We came across a surf shop owned by a man named Nick. He was tan like wood with hundreds of gray hairs popping out of his chest. Nick also had an impressive beer belly, one that probably took decades to achieve. He was very helpful in letting us rent our own surfboards for the day, and even gave us a few pointers for us first-time surfers.
We then headed to the beach with our 8-foot tall boards, reaching the rocky shores of the beachfront. There were tourists all along the sandy coast with stretched out towels and sun burnt faces the color of ripe apples. We rushed into the water with surfboards and boogie boards at hand. I “surfed” for 2 hours in the lukewarm Costa Rican waves. The currents were very strong; so strong that after half an hour, the riptide drifted everyone a clear 100 yards away from where we first started. After what seemed liked the longest time, occasionally drowning under the salty waves of water, we drifted back to shore to dry off and rest.
After we showered and removed the sand from places that are best left unnamed, we ventured through the local streets to shop for souvenirs. Rummaging through the little shops, the vibrant colors and beautiful cloths drew dozens of people inside. The beaded bracelets and vintage “Pura Vida” t- shirts were plentiful and attracted buyers from every which way. As we perused through the merchandise, I could feel the stares of the shop owners making sure no brazen tourist even attempted to pull a fast one on them. Although everything was overpriced, it was fun haggling with the owners. As we negotiated the prices down, the constant protest of the shop owners and their merciless attempts to reap the biggest profit possible definitely separated the boys from the men.
When the dust settled and the money was spent, our group headed down to a local restaurant by the beach for lunch and to watch the World Cup Finals featuring Argentina v. Germany. We didn’t get to watch the entire game since it ran too long and the humidity was getting to everyone. I’m convinced that if we had been there for only ten minutes more that our clothes would have melted into our skin. Alas, we began our three-and-a-half-hour-long bus ride back to home base. When we entered the bus, the air conditioning was like a fresh breeze straight from heaven. We also stopped by a shop for food, and as expected from teenagers with no parental supervision, everyone stocked themselves with plenty of junk food. The combination of chips, chocolate, and a bumpy bus ride left some sick and nauseous.
When we returned back to home base, we were welcomed home with the embrace of our hosts and our chef, Memo, who’s food made us forget all about our tiring trip. After dinner with bellies full and people starting to nod off, we spoke as a group about our expectations for our next (and last) week of service in Costa Rica. In the end, everyone hobbled off to bed under their covers to rest up for the next day of service in San Pedro.
Service & Rafting!
This week we worked in the community San Bernardo. In San Bernardo we were split up into three groups. One group worked on cement the other group on Eco bricks and the last group on building a fence for the soccer field out of tires. The Eco bricks group filled empty plastic bottles with garbage and they had to be filled completely. The group building the fence had to dig a trench at a certain width and height so that the tires would fit.
Over the weekend we went white water rafting. We were divided into five groups of seven, including the guide. Our guide, Sasi, explained some commands before going into the river like paddle back, paddle front and lean. After learning the commands we went down to the river. Our group was in the back since the guide had the safety rope in case anything happened. We got in and he started telling us to paddle front or back or to lean. We got to a point where we were allowed to practice swimming across the current. All the groups stopped and started swimming to the other side. Once someone got to the other side the next person was allowed to go. Swimming to the other side was pretty easy because the current pushed you in the right direction but at a certain point you had to start swimming harder so that the current wouldn’t take you. Swimming back was harder for me personally. First you had to throw yourself off a rock and start swimming with the current hitting you. My guide had to throw the rope to help me get back.
After that, we kept going until a point where our guide told us if we wanted to go into the water, do it now, it was the perfect time. We thought he was playing around but then Irene went in and so did the rest of us. The water was so good and it wasn’t too cold. I stood near the boat holding on to it when I noticed he was helping someone to get back in. Then he helped me and I tried to help someone else. It was so much fun and time flew by really fast. We stopped at a certain location where they had food for us. It was a really nice experience especially since it was my first time doing it.
The Adventure Continues…
The first week of this GLA adventure is over and I can honestly say that it feels as if it has been a month. We have been able to cram so much into such a small time that I am beginning to lose track. It has all gone by so fast and yet we are not even half way done with this 3 week time slot of all our lives. The trip started with 10+ hours of flight to reach our destination, which was immediately followed by meeting our small collective of teenagers ranging from 13-17 and our three leaders, Andrea, Carlos and Mar. We then exchanged money and paid the $29 fee to leave the country. Next was a 2 hour bus ride to home base with 23 other awkward kids I’ve never met before. Once getting to home base in the mountains around the city of Copey in the Santos Region of Costa Rica, we split into cabins and slept. The second day consisted of get-to- know-yous and various ice breaker activities as we all get to know each other a little more.
The next few days quickly fell into routine and rhythm as we volunteered at the local town San Pedro and helped continue the construction of a side walk for the children to walk to school instead of walking in the road, as well as the maintenance of an eco coffee farm where natural substances are used in place of things like pesticides and growth chemicals. Throughout all of this, the group has been able to work along side and interact with the locals known as “Ticos,” allowing for rich experiences and Spanish speaking opportunities offering non- stop growth for both sides. This efficiently became the norm for the next few days until we were allowed a precious 2 day break to go on our first excursion of white water rafting. This started with a long drive with only a stop to watch the Costa Rican’s face Holland in the World Cup, and another stop to refill on snacks and other small luxuries. We then stayed in a very nice hotel for a night and woke up to the sounds of the bus horns telling us it was time to go rafting at last!
Every day has been a new experience with no single day like any before it. The experiences I have individually gained have started to make a visible impact on my person and it has only been a single week out of three. Everyday brings something new with the best part being that no matter how hard you try, it is impossible to predict exactly what will come. I look forward to the next 2 weeks in Costa Rica, making life long friends, helping the community, improving my Spanish and viviendo la PURA VIDA!
The program is called Global Leadership Adventures with a purpose of creating leaders that would spark a positive change through out the world, and that change would spread like wildfire! But to create leaders we first have to start by creating a successful team! That can be a difficult challenge when you take 24 students and 3 mentors, not knowing each other, and throw them out of their comfort zone in a different country! But we all went from not knowing one another to talking to each other like we have been next door neighbors our entire lives… and it shows!! For example in our service work we spilt into groups and in San Pedro one group was doing cement and another group was working with coffee. The coffee group was done first and the sidewalk group still had some work to do and then clean their supplies. Without hesitation the coffee group grabbed shovels and hoses and started working!! It was awesome! And the locals noticed! The locals make us lunch everyday to thank us for all the hard work that we are doing for their community, and it has been delicious!!
In this first week we had one of the most exciting things… The Costa Rican World Cup game!!! On that day… The air was different…everyone wore a jersey, and the flags were out! On our way to rafting we stopped in town so that we could watch the game!! The restaurant had a fun atmosphere and I was so excited to get my hamburger and french fries, but even that was different! The ticos all dressed up in jerseys, wigs, face paint, temporary tattoos and they brought horns and drums into the restaurant! It was so crazy!! And they welcomed us! They invited us to sit with them, taught us the chants, and gave a horn to Irene! It was so cool! It was sad when Costa Rica lost the World Cup but that did not upset the ticos. As we finished our drive to the rafting location we saw so many of them on the side of the road waving flags and cheering. It was heartwarming to see these people not lose their spirit!
A big part of this program is learning about sustainability and how we can help with simple acts. We are learning about sustainable coffee farms and helping provide labor to local farmers who couldn’t afford the labor for the Eco version of coffee farming. We have pulled weeds, loosened soil, and fertilized with organic products! It is very hard work but it is really helping the communities and teaching us about what humans do to the environment and the simple actions that we can do to change it. In the coming week we are going to build a fence by reusing tires and build benches out of “Eco-bricks” which is basically plastic bottles stuffed with plastic. What an amazing way of reusing things that would other wise end up in a landfill!
By: Carlos Bill
Well, it is official; the GLA Spanish Service Adventure Mountain program is in full force. Starting with the first students arriving at 6am Tuesday morning and the last one at 8:30pm, all the motivated, enthusiastic, amazing learners are here, happy and healthy! Our international staff consists of Director Andrea and Mentors MarDestinee and Carlos. I can confidently say this is an amazing team, which is only enhanced by our local collaborating partners. We all agree that we are lucky to have such a strong local Costa Rican staff running an authentic environmentally sustainable program as well as such a strong home base (GLA) in San Diego providing support.
The program is located in the South Central region of CR called Los Santos. It consists of three towns: San Pedro, Santa Maria and San Marcos. Our home base in Copey, the beautiful Cedrela (Cedar) Eco Lodge is located about three miles uphill from Santa Maria and sits around 6,000 feet. It consists of seven cabins, staff quarters and a beautiful dining hall built four months ago. The cabins and all the furniture are built using local Cypress and Oak and are nothing short of master craftsmanship woodwork. The cabins range from one to three floor units with winding staircases, balconies, and large glass windows to take in the breathtaking views of the rolling hills and valleys below. There are over 50 species of birds in this area alone and a trail that winds through the hundreds of acres of forest above and behind Cedrela where one can find all sorts of food being grown. The mornings are crisp and cool but the sun quickly warms one up. Throughout the day the clouds roll in at around the same level as our lodge. The days are hot, the afternoon rains are cooling, and we have dipped into the low 60’s in the evenings. At night we trade flip-flops for socks and shoes, t-shirts for a warm sweatshirt and cold water for a hot tea.
The students have been amazed by the property and excited about their living quarters. The first wave of students, who arrived early Tuesday morning, were so pumped up they couldn’t take a nap even though they were on a red-eye flight. They spend hours helping me make signs for the program. All of the students have been incredibly open towards everything here. They are full of questions, eager to learn, and have been practicing their Spanish with the local staff. Today, Wednesday, was our first day in the community. We met the local community, who prepared us lunch. A handful of the little girls from town performed traditional dances and the students also had Spanish class.
True learning is taking place and we are only one full day into our program. We want to thank the parents for supporting their children on such an important journey. Through the students we see the work that has been done at home and we hope they return even more change’ they want to see in their lives and their local communities.
All students have arrived and headed to the home base yesterday. Stay tuned for blog updates and photos!