Wow! ( dijo el perro) the day has finally arrived for Airport pickup day on Day 1 of GLA’s Children’s Initiative for Costa Rica! Let me start by first introducing myself! My name is James Tuttle and I am the International Director for the program this summer! I am from Denver, Colorado, and I feel honored that I get to spend the summer between year one and year two of medical school having an amazing time in Costa Rica with students from all across the U.S.! I am happy to be returning to Latin America after having spent two amazing years managing college students in the mountains of Guatemala.
I am joined this summer by two amazing student mentors Casey and Aileen. Casey is an expert Spanish language instructor who is working on her Master’s in Spanish Language, while she manages her university level Spanish classes. Aileen is taking a break from her work leading teenagers on 20-day wilderness hikes with Outward Bound to share her years of experience with GLA students this summer. Between the three of us we have over 15 years of experience working with youth, and over 10 years travelling, living, and working abroad.
Finally, we are hosted and guided by our Local Director Alfredo Corrales. Alfredo is well known member of the town of Santa Teresa de Cutris where he owns an amazing 200 hectacre finca (farm), complete with 3 beautiful lakes, farm hands, and everything una vida en el campo requiere. Alfredo is the father of three sons, a master in the kitchen, and is joining Casey, Aileen, and I with over 30 years experience working in hospitality as a hotel owner, business owner, and partner with GLA since the program’s conception.
Our first group of students arrived early in the morning, and as we awaited the arrival of the others we had time to play a few hands of Uno, visit City Mall, and discuss what the students should expect from the next two weeks. With the students who arrived before 4pm, they are headed directamente for la Pizzeria, “Iguana Loca” (named for the Iguana’s which sunbathe in front of the restaurant during the day).
As you read this we have already headed on to our home base at Alfredo’s finca in Santa Teresa, where we will be joined later in the night by Sara King-Hook, Helen Hudson, Krystal Joy Llose, Alfredo, and myself (James). Helen, Sara, Krystal, and I will eat dinner in San José!
Students look forward to comfortable air-conditioned rooms, a Costa Rican sunset over one of our three private lakes, and an opportunity to catch up on much needed sleep. Not much in terms of “roughing it” is in store for our group. However, cell phone service is limited at home base so please expect some delays in communication while your student is in Costa Rica, I however, can be reached via my local number +506 7248-0065.
Tomorrow morning we look forward to an orientation on our dock, followed by a day of planning for our English summer camp that will be facilitated by our staff and your students to benefit local elementary aged children from around the surrounding communities. So as they say here in Costa Rica, “Hasta muy pronto”, and of course, “Pura Vida”!
Dear Parents, family, and friends. As often as possible I will be posting updates written by the program’s “Leaders of the Day”, two students who are chosen to help lead many of the activities throughout the day, and facilitate group discussions. The Leaders of the day are also asked to write a paragraph about their experiences, reflections, and takeaways from the day’s activities. This approach helps to provide the student’s perspective on their experiences while simultaneously keeping families updated on the day’s happenings. So without further ado : My GLA group and I spent our first full day in Costa Rica. When we woke up we had breakfast. After breakfast, we went to the dock and did activities to bond. We got into our service groups and played human knot, my team won. We had a delicious lunch which was chicken, rice, beans, smashed potatoes, and salad. We had free time for a while and then we went to the lake that is right next to us to swim. The water felt really nice and warm. Some other people and I went to the top of the dock to jump off into the water. It was scary but also fun. After we planned our service work for tomorrow played a game called song wars. Overall today was an amazing day, I enjoyed it very much.
– Daniela Sanchez
Today was the first day at home base! The farm we are staying at is so beautiful. There are cows, dogs, and a lake! We began the day with a delicious Costa Rican breakfast. Then we had time to go over all the rules, do fun team building activities, and get settled into our service groups. I feel like I am getting to know everyone and their names after all the fun games we played introducing ourselves. Afterwards we had lunch of chicken, rice, beans, and salad which was so good! Unfortunately it was starting to drizzle out so we had to hurry up to swim in the lake. We all jumped off the dock and had a great time swimming. Then we met in our service groups and discussed our plans for the activities we would do for the children we are going to see tomorrow! I am so excited to play with the children.
July 5, 2017
We had sausage, eggs, rice and beans, and fresh fruit for breakfast this morning. We spent yesterday planning our activities for the kids and today they arrived at the home base for their first day of activities and we were all wicked excited to meet them! The 3 stations included arts and crafts, field games, and science all with an aspect of english education. In the arts and crafts group we worked on numbers, colors, and animals. We played number games, color games, and taught them to make paper fortune tellers. The kids were all so great and had lunch with us here! After that we all went to swim in the hot springs and got ice cream on the way back to the home base. -Jessie Paquette
July 6, 2017
Today was amazing we woke up to see an interesting schedule that continued to change but always for the better. The food has not been even the slightest bit disappointing because each meal is something unique with its own style to make it amazing. Usually back at home in N.Y. the best part about the trip is the ride to the destination rather than the destination itself, but this has not been the case in Costa Rica one bit. Its not just because we’re in Costa Rica that makes it so fun, it’s the people, the mentors, the other students, the locals, everyone is what truly makes this the best part of my life yet. It’s almost impossible to find something to complain about with this program because it is so awesome. – Justin Cartagena.
July 6, 2017 (continued)
Today, we worked on cleaning out a building and painting beams for the school down the road. We started right after breakfast and worked until lunch and we made a lot of progress. We had planned to go on a tour around the farm and to see the cattle and taste test some of Alfredo’s coffee, but since the weather was good we decided to go to the animal refuge instead. There we saw a ton of new animals that we had never seen in the United States. Then we returned from the zoo and swam in the lake under a beautiful sunset.
— Lukas Affeltranger
July 7, 2017
As every morning, we ate our breakfast in front of a beautiful lake. Shortly after, young children from the Santa Teresa school arrived. Three stations were set up: a science station, an art station and a activity station. The children rotated stations every 30-45 minutes. After, we all hopped onto the bus to find our way to a lovely home. This lovely home stands out to be very special because the owner dedicates immense amounts of time to the local costa rican dogs. Costa Rica possess many stray dogs so this generous family looks after the dogs that don’t have a home. We washed the dogs aside a gorgeous river surrounded by a thick tropical forest. Once back at home base we had time to play team building games. Last but not least, we enjoyed a delicious pizza.
— Máxime Paul
Today was one to remember. We started our day, as always, with an incredibly good breakfast courtesy of the GLA staff. After that, we began setting up our activities for the children, which for my group, consisted of making slime. Though our hopes of having the kids make slime was not completely successful, seeing the smile on their faces while messing around with the ingredients was completely worth the major clean up endured after. Though our day was far from over, the best part of it, in my opinion, was when this kid, Delvin, taught my group and I how to make a paper boat, which i gave to my friend, Madeline. The fact that something as simple as teaching us how to make a paper boat made both him and us volunteers extremely happy was honestly so unforgettable. And as if our day couldn’t get any better, today was the day that we got to spend time with and wash a few of the dozens of stray dogs taken in by a political couple here in Santa Teresa. Overall, I can honestly say that this has been one of the best days thus far for me, and likely some others, while volunteering here in Costa Rica.
— Krystal Llose
Several more photos are uploaded in the group Dropbox folder here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/eq1slkb2nuyypa1/AACvrozpzWrR23asUbZVlJy4a?dl=0
Costa Rica has been such an life changing experience. The friends I have made so far are amazing. Everyday had been a new and fun experience! This morning we woke up and had a great breakfast and then moved into planning for our last few days of summer camp with the kids in Costa Rica. After that we had fun jumping off the dock and having lake time. Later, we had lunch and then headed out for some rafting tours in the RIVER. On the way home we stopped at the grocery store and the ice cream shop! I can’t wait to see what else Costa Rica has in store for us!
Costa Rica has been a blast so far! We have all met great friends and have experienced new things! Today started out with a delicious breakfast. We then all planned out our service groups for the kids camp next week. The three groups are dancing, martial arts and team building! After that, we took a good long break at the lake and had fun jumping off the dock. Later in the day, we went rafting along the river and got very wet as we enjoyed a water fight. The group then drove back to home base and had fun with activities and wrapped up the day with a delicious dinner and bonfire!
July 9, 2017
Today we woke up early to go horse back riding. We split up into two groups and one group went on the horses and the other went into town to shop. We met back up for lunch. For lunch we had tacos with beans, pico de gallo and beef. After that the other group went on the horses and the other went shopping. We rode the horses through the jungle, rivers and through fields to get a view of a volcano. Some people got a change to get their horse to gallop. It was a great day with many beautiful views from the top.
⁃ Sarah Webster-Heenan
Sunday July 9th part 2
Today was an especially exciting day. We got up an hour earlier, enjoyed Alfredo’s always amazing breakfasts, and found our seats on the bus for a ride to a horse stable. Although it was raining, I will never forget the beautiful views and memories made by so many of my friends facing their fear of horses. After this, I found very adorable sloth-themed souvenirs and enjoyed some ice cream. Alfredo ended our day with another amazing meal, followed my some serious bonding time during mentor group. Today was definitely a day I will always remember.
Monday July 10th
This morning we went on a hike around the home base and saw some lakes. We also saw an iguana belly flop into a lake from a tree. In the afternoon, Alfredo taught us about coffee, and we tasted different kinds of coffee including Alfredo’s. We also learned about cows and got to pet one. Then we had lake/nap time, and tonight we had a surprise birthday party for our director James.
Tuesday July, 11th
Today started with eggs, rice and beans, sausage, and fruit for breakfast. Soon after, we split into our independent service planning groups. My group worked on our dance to “How Far I’ll Go” from the Disney movie Moana. We discussed different ways in which we could teach the Costa Rican kids the choreography and how we could introduce new English words throughout the song. From 10am to noon we did our service at the Santa Teresa school, which included power washing the walls with bleach and painting. At 12:30 we all came together to enjoy lunch: mashed potatoes, salad, pork, rice, and vegetables. In the afternoon, we were treated with a Coffee tour from Alfredo. We tasted different coffees and compared them to the “best” coffees in the world (we all decided that Alfredo’s coffee was way better). We then took a trip to the barn to learn about the cows here on the farm, as well as how different types of meat are produced. Overall, day eight has been really fun and interesting!!
July 11, 2017
Today was one of my favorite days of this entire trip. This morning we did service at the school and a hike for the people that did service yesterday. My service group painted at the school, and other than getting paint on my shirt, it was so much fun. After lunch, we went zip lining. The picture is of the entire group waiting for the first zip line. My favorite thing about the zip line was the amazing view from the cable. You could see mountains, wildlife, farm land and more! Overall, today was such a great day, and it made me never want to leave!
– Ashley Aaron
Today was an action-filled day. We started off the day by enjoying a scenic hike throughout Alfredo’s neighboring properties. The short hike proves to be worth the sweat; we saw monkeys hopping in between trees! In the afternoon our excursion consisted of a bus ride to La Fortuna to go zip-lining. The course consisted of thirteen zip-lines ranging from 25-500 meters long! I had such an amazing time! We wrapped up the time with time to shop in La Fortuna. The local ice cream shop was delicious! I can’t wait to see what adventures tomorrow holds!
July 12, 2017
We woke up to a sunny day and some of Alfredo’s fantastic banana pancakes this morning. Today was our first day of independent service groups with the kids, and my group, led by Justin, played games with them involving leadership and teamwork, such as their favorite- birdie on a perch. In the afternoon, we went to the lake and then rotated between three activities. We had the chance to milk a cow and learn about the cheese-making process from the family that makes the cheese we eat at home base, we had a Spanish class with a local teacher whose school we are working on, and we made our own empanadas, which turned out delicious. After a dinner of pizza and wifi, we had a party at the dock to celebrate Jessie’s birthday.
Today started with another amazing breakfast from Alfredo followed by the arrival of the kids for our second to last day of camp. I helped out with the martial arts portion where we taught them punching, kicking, and forms. When all the kids had left we enjoyed lunch and lake time before our afternoon activities. For our activities we had three class rotations that included cooking empanadas, learning Spanish, and milking cows. We then finished the night with pizza wifi and cake for Jessie’s birthday! I can’t believe it’s all coming to an end!
July 13, 2017
Today was another great day in Costa Rica. We woke up to a good breakfast of pancakes, eggs, rice, and my favorite the fruit. After eating we had planned our individual service. There are three groups, dance, soccer, and mural painting. After individual service planning everyone split into two groups, one group did a tree hike and the other group did service at the school. I did the service at the school and we painted the inside of the classroom and so much was done, everyone really did a good job today. After we had salsa dance lessons which was super fun then had more individual service planning. I look forward to the more adventures out in Costa Rica, pura vida !
After a late night, everyone woke up a little groggy, however Alfredo’s cooking left us feeling energized. The day began with service planning, where we talked about how we can make our last day of camp with the kids the best it can be. After, we split into two groups. One went to do service at the school, and the other took a hike to the largest (by diameter) tree in Costa Rica. I went on the hike, and we saw lots of exotic animals like a poison dart frog, colorful butterflies, and bats. We had some extra time afterwards and so we decided to go down to the San Carlos river. We spent some time at the river skipping and throwing rocks, and only left when it started to rain. After a delicious lunch, we prepared ourselves for a salsa dancing class. Everyone had a great time with the complicated spins and steps, and some of the pairs even performed for everyone at the end. Salsa left everyone exhausted, so we took some time to shower and relax until we met again for more service planning and a discussion on cultural norms. Following dinner, we all met up for one of our final mentor nights.