Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
When the waves of GLA blue started to come in through the arrival gate at the Liberia terminal, Session One of The Initiative for Children had officially begun. We all piled on to the bus that would be our primary transport for the next three weeks and met our driver, Nixon, who would become dear to us all. After a very long and bumpy ride home, we settled into our home base and were served our first dinner by Kim, our incredible chef. The first few days were filled with team building games and tours that allowed us to familiarize ourselves with our new home in Nosara, Costa Rica. Being a service-learning trip, we were all anxious to see our work site in the neighborhood of Santa Marta. When we first pulled up in front of it, we immediately realized we had our work cut out for us. What we stared at were the remains of a playground for which to get to we had to cross a makeshift bridge of tires and rocks over an enormous swamp like mote. It was hard to picture what this deteriorated lot could become but, nonetheless, we showed up the next day bright and early with our work gloves on determined to create something great in the weeks to come. In addition to our daily work at the playground, we ran a camp for the children of the community at the nearby plaza. Each morning, a third of the group would lead a parade of children and dogs away from the work site and spend hours playing games. It was here that the GLA students revealed their previous experience and innate ability to entertain, teach, and care for youth. With unconditional compassion and the best intentions, the international staff witnessed the GLA students foster a safe environment for the neighborhood children and connect on an intimate level with kids of all ages, infants to teenagers.
Outside of service work, our afternoons and days off were filled with cultural and adventure activities. This group had a knack for creating a sense of mutuality wherever they went. Whether it was backyard soccer, clapping games, or somehow turning every bus ride, cooking class, and vacant moment into a dance party/sing-along, the GLA students demonstrated that they loved having fun and were inclusive of the local community in doing so. Adventure activities are nearly always a good time. It’s hard to beat the longest zip line in Costa Rica, horseback riding on the beach, or rafting over a 12ft waterfall. However, the peak of the trip, despite being during an excursion weekend, was not a result of an adrenaline filled moment. New places, walks through the rainforest, and long bus rides ignited a transformative experience for this group who through group reflection and introspection collectively made the final step towards forming a strong and fully bonded unit.
By the end of the final week, the playground had already been transformed into a colorful and desirable place to be. The GLA participants devoted 52 hours of their lives to mixing cement, building play structures, digging irrigation canals, and serving as mentors to the neighborhood kids. On our last day, as the final touchups were being made a flood of children showed up to look upon what the GLA students had created for them. Our local leaders, Alvaro and Susan, gave the final okay and the park officially opened. Instantly there were kids playing soccer, swinging, climbing, and laughing in every square foot of the playground. Students joined in, group pictures were taken, and when we finally boarded the bus to leave, all of the kids and parents at the site ran to the perimeter fence and waved us goodbye. As we drove off, the buss filled with emotions. The GLA students had bonded with each other and this community at an unanticipated level. Although it was difficult to recognize that the trip had come to an end, witnessing the playground become the vibrant and safe place to play that we hoped it would have confirmed that the past three weeks had been for a good cause and that the GLA students had accomplished their goals.
Kodhei- you were our first student to arrive in the first session of the summer. However, when you came through the arrivals gate there was another GLA program picking up and we all waved to you hoping that you were in our program. When the words “the initiative for children” left your mouth it was one of the most exciting moments of our summer.
Kira- remember Santi? I doubt you’ll ever forget him. I’ve never seen someone form such a quick bound with a young kid as you did in the midst of an intense construction service project!
Jonah- Campanita Dos! The day you dropped the shovel on Nixon was what finally allowed us to become close with the local staff. I’ll always remember you sitting on Campanita’s shoulders in order to hammer the top of the seran.
Kennedy- Have you been able to find an empanada as good as the ones we had everyday at the park? I’m sure Diana, the “empanada lady,” misses you as much as you miss her.
Lesly- I still owe you a Pipa for scoring a goal on me at the plaza!
Ester- remember how we watched Finding Dory? Your trip should have been called, “Finding Paublo.”
Beatrice- the evening of the cooking class was the first night our group busted out the tunes and dance moves. We all followed your lead when you sang, danced, and stirred the bowl of Arroz con Pollo.
Lizzy & Britton- you two were the first people to discover the secret star gazing spot. Looking up through the jungle, it was often hard to distinguish the fire flies from the shooting stars.
Oscar- you road a horse next to La Boca, through the jungle, and on the beach. Then you posed for the most incredible sunset photo of the summer.
Summer Blog Posts
The Initiative for Children students arrived to Costa Rica today safe, sound and ready for 3 weeks of service, fun, and adventure! Our early arriving students had a typical casado lunch, consisting of rice, beans, plantains, salad, and a choice of either chicken, steak, or veggies. After lunch, the rest of the students arrived and we made the three-hour journey from Liberia to our Home Base in Nosara (with a rest stop halfway.) Today, our students also signed up for two adventures of their choice- surfing on one of Costa Rica’s best beaches, stand up paddle boarding through mangroves, zip lining through the jungle, or horseback riding on the beach.
Once we arrived to our Home Base, we unloaded suitcases and got everyone moved into their rooms. We had a delicious dinner and then headed to the pavilion for quick introductions and our first group activity. Everyone went to bed early so they are ready as tomorrow we start orientation bright and early!
Check out some pictures from today:
The Initiative for Children team started the day bright and early. After a delicious breakfast comprised of local fruit and Gallo Pinto, a typical Costa Rican rice and bean dish, we gathered at the Home Base pavilion to play group bonding games that included the local staff. Additionally, the students created skits to teach each other about the program and hotel rules, discussed cultural norms, and, in the midst of all this, saw their first monkey!
Together, the group walked along a path, through the jungle and on the beach to a restaurant located right on Playa Pelada, the beach where the “locals” choose to spend their time. In the afternoon, everyone was able to cool off in the Pacific Ocean, play volleyball, and spend some enjoying the beautiful sight. The day came to a close with an enormous pasta feed followed by a closing activity, prompting students to answer the question: “What inspires you?”.
Today we headed out to explore the service area after a healthy breakfast of eggs, cereal, fruit, yogurt, and toast. We connected with the locals and the children at the park, where we will be doing the majority of our service work, and discussed our plan for the next few weeks. We were given the opportunity to test out the tools that we will be using and talked about the activities that we will be doing with the children.
Next, we headed out to the recycling center! We were provided the opportunity to really learn and understand the recycling process, the sorting of the waste by both material and color. We even got to see the machine breaking down the glass into small pieces!
After lunch, we headed into our Spanish classes based on our proficiency level. The native speakers learned ‘tico words’, the intermediate class learned useful phrases for the worksite, while engaging in general conversation, and the beginner class was introduced to Spanish and the basic phrases that may be used to get around in Costa Rica.
In our mentoring groups after Spanish class, we discussed our emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual state of mind, and our thoughts on leadership. This led to a conversation about those whom we find to be inspirational leaders. We also played games that required teamwork and coordination.
In the evening, we went down to the beach, climbed over rocks, played beach football, took pictures, and watched the beautiful sunset. We made it back in time for a delicious dinner of burritos. We ended the day with the documentary ‘180 degrees South,’ and our reflections about what we learned during the day.
– Alyssa and Kodhai
Today we started our first day of service at the community park in Santa Marta. It was a day of cleaning up the service site, preparing to build, and improving upon the park’s existing structures.
While working on the service site, we connected with the community by playing with the kids and buying empanadas and orange juice from a woman in the neighborhood.
Lastly, to end our adventures for the day we took a community walk through Nosara. We learned a lot about previous GLA projects in the area and how the community works and runs.
– Jonah and Isabel
The students woke up at 6am and we all had breakfast together at 6:30am. After breakfast, we departed for our second day of service. Our service was from 7:30am to 11:30am with breaks in between when some ladies from the community made empanadas and orange juice for us. We split the group, so that half of them did service at the playground, while the other half did activities with kids from the community. At the playground, we dug up holes to put up posts for a fence, painted wood for the fence and fixed the hopscotch area. The group who did activities with the kids played soccer, taught them some English, and played tag.
After service we came back to home base to shower and eat lunch. For lunch we ate chicken with onions and bell peppers, yucca (a root vegetable, very similar to a potato) and salad. After lunch, we got together at the Pavilion and decided to come up with ideas for our community norms such as respecting each other’s boundaries, communication, being mindful, wearing appropriate clothing, and volume control. Everyone discussed and signed the community norms aka the GLA Constitution. We then went to a community member’s (Lisbia) home and she taught us how to cook a traditional Costa Rican dish called Arroz con Pollo. After we cooked, we got to taste the meal, which was really good. Lisbia also had some side dishes for us like a vegetarian meal, vegetables, fruit, salad, potato chips and te frio (a type of iced tea). We then hung out for a while in her house, listened to music and had a really good opportunity to talk to others.
Then, we came back to home base and got a surprise from Kim, our chef. She baked us chocolate cupcakes and we had ice cream with it. After our dessert, we played mafia and had our squeeze of the day, which was centered around the following question: how did you respect your community. Then everyone went to bed and fell soundly asleep.
– Kathy & Allison
June 17, 2016
Today started with our normal 6:30am breakfast followed by the bus ride to service. At the service site, we continued to dig more holes, mixed concrete, painted, and did whatever work we could do to keep busy. The park is already looking so much better now compared to the day we started. The activity group organized and played fun games with the children. Additionally, we painted pictures and taught them some basic English skills.
After lunch we had the opportunity to go to a gelato place where we had delicious Italian gelato. Here, we finally had wifi and were able to connect to friends and family back home.
When we returned to home base, we had a snake presentation where we learned about the dangers and types of snakes in Costa Rica. Ryan, the Snake Dude, brought two different types of snakes and we had the opportunity to touch both of them. Finally, we wrapped up the day in our mentor groups where we discussed values and our experiences on this trip so far.
Day 7 at the service site started off with a lot of digging and a lot of painting. There was mixing of cement and decorating of tire-caterpillars. Through the heat and the humidity, the crew persevered and successfully set up several poles for the new swing set and for the framing of the fence. The painters worked tirelessly to sand the frames and tires that needed painting and occasionally decorated themselves with a colorful stripe on their face when wiping sweat off their forehead. Our crew was strong until the end when we headed off to meet the activities crew at the community center to watch the local soccer tournament.
Over at the plaza (what Costa Ricans call the soccer field), the GLA volunteers organized activities for several kids. We drew, made origami and paper airplanes, and played soccer. Later in the morning, there was a soccer tournament, so the GLA students and community kids couldn’t go inside the salon (community center) during the game. We used the small space we had to play Duck, Duck, Goose, Ring Around the Rosy, Simon Says, and soccer. About twenty community kids joined in the fun. We saw several familiar faces and also met some new kids.
At the soccer tournament, there were many options for food. Some people had the vegetarian bowl (which consisted of a tortilla with yucca and salad), and others chose the carne pinchos. Personally speaking, the pinchos were the best thing I’ve eaten in Costa Rica (it reminded me of my mom’s cooking, thanks Mercy).
Later in the afternoon, Jessa and Dash held mentor group sessions on the beach. Each person had time to share her or his life story. It was very emotional!
In both mentor groups, we got in touch with our emotions. We talked about weaknesses and strengths within ourselves. It was a mixture of tears, hugs, and mosquito bites. Although the mentor groups lasted for around three hours, the conversations continued among the students afterwards, and it gave us all something to think about and process during the ensuing meal and free time.
– Britton and Kira
PS- Hey, Mom. It’s Kira. Do you see that picture of the little girl? Doesn’t she look like Mily?? So cute!!
Today marked the eighth day of GLA’s The Initiative for Children program in Costa Rica and it was truly an adventure. Instead of having breakfast at 6:30am we had breakfast at 7:30am! That’s a whole extra hour of sleep! After a nice meal of fruit, gallo pinto, and eggs we all headed to the Pavilion for an activity. At the Pavilion we watched a creative short film about technology and the human connection. This video sparked an eye opening discussion determining both the positive and negative uses of technology.
At 8:00am we all got on the buses and drove to the SIBU Monkey Sanctuary. We participated in a hands-on tour of the sanctuary where we learned all about the life and struggles monkeys face due to new infrastructure developments. Check out the work they do: http://sibusanctuary.org
After lunch we all divided into our different adventure groups. Some of us got to surf Costa Rica’s famous waves, while others got to zip line over the green canopies, or go stand up paddle boarding in mangroves.
Those of us who went zip lining experienced A LOT of unexpected tropical rain, with the VERY unexpected appearance of a boa constrictor.
On our surfing extravaganza we first did some souvenir shopping than headed for the beach. At the beach we split into groups of three and got a quick surfing lesson where we were taught skills like how to paddle and stand up on the board. Afterward, we all headed out into the ocean. While we surfed the sun began to set and it rained too. It was a beautiful experience.
Our stand-up paddle boarders had a great time paddling through the mangroves, avoiding baby crocodiles and seeing wildlife. Unfortunately, our trip was cut a bit short due to swarming mosquitoes. We enjoyed a snack of fresh pineapple and watermelon. Afterward, we headed to the beach to watch the surfers end their lesson and enjoy the beautiful sunset.
And here are some new photos from the adventure:
Today was a very eventful day! After breakfast, we spent a wonderful morning lounging on the beach and swimming in the ocean. Afterwards, we had a delicious lunch at Soda Vanessa (a small restaurant is called a soda in Costa Rica).
From there, we broke up into our groups and headed to our activities. These activities consisted of zip-lining, surfing, and horseback riding. The surfers and horseback riders were even able to catch a glimpse of a beautiful sunset. Upon returning to home base we ate dinner and headed to the pavilion for a game night. We are ready to continue our service tomorrow!
June 21st – Day 10
After a long weekend of fun, the students went back to service. An exciting evening full of fun events followed the hard day of work. First, we all went to the house of our cook’s mom to learn how to make bread. When we finished and the bread was in the oven, we proceeded to attend an interactive marimba concert! The night ended with a Tico BBQ and more fun music.
The students enjoyed themselves!
June 22, 2016
Today was very sunny and nice. We had a lot of fun getting closer to finishing the park, interacting, and playing soccer and fun games with the local kids. We got a lot done and are closer to completing the park and may be moving on to refurbishing the plaza.
At the community center there were a few locals that came out to clean up the trash from the 3-day soccer tournament they had. All the students from the activity area volunteered to help them tidy up the soccer field.
Before dinner, we had a dance class. Check it out!
Overall, all the students are healthy and enjoying everything that Costa Rica has to offer.
– Carson and Mia
June 23, 2016
Day 12: Para que aprendan
Leaders of the Day: Lesly and Ester
We began the morning at 6:20 am by waking up everyone while making sure they got to breakfast on time. Our value for the day was Punctuality and we made sure they understood it. Most got to breakfast late, but we let it pass because we understand we were all tired. We then headed to Santa Marta to continue our amazing service work that will forever stay in our memory. Since we’re bilingual, we took the liberty of writing our daily schedule in Spanish.
At service site, we built a new structure and began painting the sign at the front of the park. The new structure was a climbing structure with colorful tires. Britton, Oscar, Kira, and Kathy helped finish building and repainting it. Allison spent the morning repainting and going over the letters, that Ester drew, with paint to make sure the sign was colorful and attractive for the guilas (the Tico word for kids). Five minutes away Ester, and a few other students went to the Plaza to entertain the kids with coloring, jump roping and a few good games of soccer. Also, a few of us got to meet some Ticos and get to know them and their lifestyles in Costa Rica.
As one of our afternoon activities, we had the opportunity to go to a cafecito. A Cafecito is a small event that involves queso fresco, tortillas de maiz, coffee, and a good group of friends. A cafecito usually occurs either a few times a week or even every day. As a group, we got to meet Marleny and her beautiful family who also hosted this amazing cafecito from 4 to 6pm. As 6pm approached, Jen, took this moment to give us a tour of where the second Initiative for Children group will be working this summer.
It is currently 7:27pm, Lesly and I are sitting here writing the blog while our peers are preparing their own unique desserts. It is Dessert & Movie night and we feel very excited to share this moment with each other as the days are flying by.
-Lesly y Ester
P.S. I love you so much mom!! And I miss you and everyone very much!! No puedo esperar verla pronto con una caja de pizza y un gran abraso!! -Ester
P.P.S Te Amo Madre mia! Hope your having fun without me, I know you’re not because you text me everyday telling me you miss me! I miss you too! -Lesly
Today the Initiative for Children group woke up to a warm summer day. After enjoying breakfast, the group worked hard at the worksite to finish the park and spent time at the community salon playing and learning from the local kids. After putting in a couple of hours of hard work, the group came back to home base to eat steak for lunch. Even though it began to rain, the group was not held back from participating in the experience of seeing and riding an ox cart. After the Ox cart experience, the whole group was able to use wifi at local cafes. We ended the day by eating fried chicken fingers and French fries.
June 25, 2016
Today we woke up bright and early. We ate breakfast and headed out at 7am for our 5 hour journey. We stopped a few times along the way for snacks and bathroom breaks. After lunch we hiked and crossed a few hanging bridges! After our long drive, we arrived at our new lodging during our weekend adventure.
Written by Kennedy & Skylar
June 26, 2016
Sunday, a haiku:
Cow milking is fun
We all hiked to blue water
Sugar cane we loved
June 27, 2016
We had a very adventurous day today. White water rafting was new for some people, and everyone had an amazing time! We spent about two hours going through rapids and encountered a 12 foot waterfall at the end! Most of us only got drenched, but a couple people experienced the thrill of being ejected from the raft. Everyone made it out with no injuries while having a lot of fun.
After rafting, we took a 3 hour bus ride to homebase in Nosara.
When we got back to home base, we gathered together under the pavilion and did our squeeze. Squeeze is our daily evening ritual. We all hold hands in a circle, the Leaders of the Day come up with a question and we all go around and answer the one question asked. Today’s question was “What was your favorite part of the weekend?”. Some of the responses we had were: hiking to the waterfall, white water rafting, seeing the clear blue water, and swimming in the river.
One word to describe today would definitely be “chill.” After a well deserved extra hour of sleep, we were treated to a delicious pancake breakfast! Later for the first time, we were all on time to meet the bus for service when we learned that they would be half an hour late. This meant that we got even more time to play cards, listen to music, and even sleep!
The day at the work and activity sites was pretty easy going, and yes, chill as well. After service we had lunch and four hours of free time. Some of us spent a couple of hours at the beach swimming and having a sand fight, while others watched Inside Out. We all met up to watch the sunset before our amazing pesto pasta dinner.
While today was rather laid back, I think we all got a lot out of it. In the midst of the messy sand fight, tear jerking movie, and endless card game battles, we have all grown closer together. I’m sure we all can’t wait to see where these last three and a half days will take us.
June 29, 2016
As our trip is coming to an end we are almost done with our service project. Today we were able to do some final paint touchups and construct a green saran barrier for the playground. Many of the kids who have been attending our daily activities at the plaza are currently studying hard for their finals, so we have adopted the idea of picking up trash around the community. Our afternoon fishing trip was canceled due to rain. So, instead, we stayed at home base and did activities with our mentor groups. Tonight we had pizza for dinner and watched Finding Dory.
Written by Lesly & Kennedy
June 30, 2016
Today we all hopped on the bus and bumped to the service site at 7:15 sharp. Eight of us walked to the school where we met up with cute kiddos who had just taken their midterms (good times) before “winter break.” During recess, we played fútbol, piedra, árbol, puente, limbo, gave a multitude of piggy back rides, and face painted a bunch of really, really cute little kids, who were all super excited to be transformed into their favorite superheroes or animals. It was just sooooo lovely how all the kids were “aspauragusing” themselves. About an hour through the day, all the GLA kids were exhausted (can’t beat the heat), but were greeted by the lovely empanada lady, Diana, who brought them chicken and vegetable empanadas and fruit juice. These kids were so #adorable. As we walked through the neighborhood on the way back to the service site, the kids like waved at us and stuff, it was SO exciting.
At the same time, the rest of the GLA students were busy at work at the service site. It was the #struggle. After putting up the green mesh around the soccer field to stop the ball from hitting the cute houses around the field, we touched up everything in terms of paint; so that means we finished painting flowers on the monkey bars and decorated painting and drawings on the fence, but were totally not done with that yet (we only have one more day, yikes!) Um, yeah, so like that’s what we did at service, and it made us all really sweaty, and seriously, like I’m telling you, no joke, my arms are the color of tomatoes.
Back at homebase, we had a scrumdiddlyumptious lunch (aka, chicken wings…WITH BBQ SAUCE.) Después del almuerzo (I’ve been practicing my Spanish!), we had two hours of free time where some of us decided to catch up on our beauty sleep, and others chose to play a super rad game called Buddha. Next, we all hopped back on the bus and jammed our way to the Café Paris to eat some yummy snacks and connect to wifi (#instagram #snapchat – my streaks are still alive y’all!) After Café Paris, we all ran around in groups of three (responsibility thanks to the leader of the day AKA ME) to do some shopping!!! We shopped till we dropped, but we all made sure we had at least $30 to get back into the United States (*cough* Carson).
Flash forward to Homebase, where we had a really solid meal of meat and bean burri-toes (gotta have that protein!) with a side of salad. After filling our tummies, we all were told to go down to the pavilion. . . SURPRISE! It was an unbirthday partay!!! Since nobody’s birthday was actually during the program dates (happy early b-day Lesly and Mackenzie!), we celebrated with some colorful balloons and tres leches cake (also scrumdiddlyumptious.) Our party was super lit!! We all jammed to some classic throwbacks, like the Jonas Brothers (you’re still hot Nick), Miley Cyrus (I miss the old you), and the Cheetah Gurlllzzzz (it was funny as Hal!) #throwbackthursday!!!!! After our nightly squeezy squeezy (bonding!), we all headed up to our rooms to catch some zzzs before our last day of service tomorrow #:( #frown #liveloveCostaRica #PuraVida. Today was so gg.
XOXO, Gossip Girl ?
Starting our last day together, we had breakfast at 6:30 and arrived at service around 7:30. The group split up, 8 people stayed at the service sites, 8 people went to the plaza to paint tires around the field and the rest of the group did activities with the children from around the community. We finished adding more structures to the playground, repainted some of the old structures, created a fence and put up a mesh fabric so when the kids play soccer the soccer ball won’t go into the neighboring houses.
After we came back to Home Base to eat lunch, we had ice cream floats for dessert. Once lunch was finished, people either went to pack up their luggage or took a survey for GLA. Many dressed up for dinner, since it was our last dinner together. We had burgers and fries, which many of the students enjoyed.
After dinner we had a nice surprise at the pavilion with a marimba band and many local staff came and enjoyed a little dance party. Our GLA staff (Dash, Jessa and Yensi) created a slideshow with pictures throughout the trip. Kira also created a beautiful short little video put together of many things from this trip. We then headed to the beach to look at the bioluminescence and to stargaze a little bit. After a wonderful last night together, everybody went to bed excited to go back home to their families.
Signing off for the last time,
Alyssa and Kathy
After three weeks together, our program has come to an end. Today was a bittersweet day full of sad goodbyes. It is incredible to think how our group has grown together. As the final students passed through security, Yensi, Dash, and I stood with tears in our eyes. We want to thank each and every one of you for being a part of our family. We will miss you dearly.
We decided to skip the rice and beans for lunch and got McDonald’s (burgers, fries, and McFlurry’s!) Then we spent the day in Nicoya, shopping and preparing for the next session. We got home at 7:45pm to dinner of quesadillas and guacamole (thanks, Kim!) and then moved into the Rancho.
Big difference from our first group picture on the bus!
Hanging and waiting for Carson to check in
Home, sweet home
Wifi works great- Jonah you wouldn’t believe how simple the password was…
As a final gift to you, some excellent pictures of us:
Check out those piercings!
I have never done any interesting body alterations, so here are these photos:
Mhawk in South Africa
fohawkish in Brasil
Alright folks, lots of love- be in touch!
Jessa, Dash, and Yensi