June 18, 2017
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 in 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 the U.S., Canada, and the Philippines! 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 get to know each other, play a few games sourced from Aileen’s extensive Game-repertoire, and discuss what the students should expect from the next two weeks. With the students who arrived before 4pm, we all 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 Isabelle Paisan, Madison Callahan, and Salena Schottenheimer, Alfredo, and Casey. Students look forward to comfortable air-conditioned rooms, a Costa Rican sunset over our private lake, and an opportunity to catch up on much needed sleep. Cell phone service is limited with foreign SIM cards, so please expect some delays in communication while your student is at home base. I, however, can be reached via my local numbers +506 7248-0065 (or my other number: +506 8374-2560 in case of connectivity issues). Wednesday night will serve as one of our dedicated “Wi-Fi nights” so your child can catch up on communication with friends and family back home.
Tomorrow morning we look forward to an orientation on our dock, followed by an amazing first day excursion. So as they say here in Costa Rica, “Hasta muy pronto”, and of course, “Pura Vida”!
-James Tuttle, International Director
Already we are on the 5th full day of our program here in Santa Teresa de Cutris! I have asked students to provide a paragraph providing their own perspective of the activities from each day of the program. Due to limited connectivity, I am uploading a few days of the students’ experiences all at once.
June 18, 2017
Hola! My name is Chloe and I am from Dayton, Ohio. Saturday started very early for me! 3am. When we arrived, it was super humid and all I wanted was water. Once we left the airport, we had a long ride home through the winding mountain roads with the most gorgeous views and I ate the best I have ever had and afterwards we left for our new home. It is beautiful here and the food is amazing, I will never be able to eat fruit again. Today, Sunday, we went on a boat tour and saw Howler monkeys and exotic birds. When we came back, we went swimming in the lake. Lastly, our night ended with spaghetti and mentor groups. This is only our first whole day here and I am excited for the rest of our journey.
June 19, 2017
Buenas Noches! My name is Emely and I’m from Miami, Florida. I along with all the other GLA students, got to experience all that Alfredo’s “finca” had to offer. We got to have a unique coffee tasting tour of the best coffee in both Costa Rica and Brazil. After tasting six of teh some of the best Coffee in the world, we go to visit some cows in a farm. Some us were able to pet hte animals, and one of the cows even began to munch of the student’s jackets. Due to the heat we all got to take a dip in the lake (on Alfredo’s Finca). To finish off the day we got to go to a nearby restaurant and enjoy some delicious Costa Rican food. Overall, I really enjoyed learning about the coffee industry and meeting some unique animals.
— Emely Acobo
Hi, my name is Jonathan Palash-Misner. I’m from San Francisco, California. Breakfast is amazing every day, but today was especially good. We had Gallo pinto, eggs, hash browns and fresh pineapple. All from the farm we are living on. Today was our first service day. I went to work on a school called Cajeta We taught the kids English phrases and got them rest for their spelling bee. I even got to play soccer with them! Bonding with the kids at my school has been the highlight of my entire trip. The connections we are able to establish even despite the language barrier are priceless. After our service we had a chance to eat a delicious lunch of roast chicken rice and beans before jumping into swimsuits and hitting the lake! As always the lake was amazing. After the lake we separated into three groups and rotated between having Spanish lessons with Casey, hearing the story of one of the most interesting people I have ever met, GLA’s manager of central and South American programs, Mathew Dawson, and finally seeing a “lecheria” where we got to milk cows, learn about sustainable farming methods and eat amazing cheese, coffee and ice cream. Once we finished up our last bites of ice cream we came back to the farm for an amazing Costa Rican soup, consisting of beef, potatoes, and corn (still on the cob). We ended our day with a mentoring group focused on sharing and listening to each other’ stories. We learned that everyone has a story if your willing to listen to it.
June 20, 2017
June 21, 2017
Hola! Today was an action filled day. It started off with a spelling bee at the school. My service group arrived and immediately got to work practicing (English) with the kids. They were all really good! We taught the kindergarteners the Spanish equivalent of Duck, Duck, Goose. We played, “Gato, Gato, Raton,” but they didn’t quite understand. These kids are the cutest thing ever. TheThe day wasn’t all service filled, though. After serivce, we came back to “La Finca” for lunch and then went to the ziplines in La Fortuna. To be honest, I was scared of falling, but the ziplines had teh most beautiful view of Costa Rican villages. I was so at peace when flying down those cables. It was such a rewarding day. The spelling bee, “Gat, Gato, Raton,” and feeling at one with myself and the land, all while conquering one of my biggest fears.
— Katie Kocsis
Hola! I’m Jared and today we did a bunch of fun things. First, we played with the kids and that was a lot of fun because we got to help them study for their spelling bee and it was really fun and cool to see how even though they don’t have much they live life to the fullest. Also, today we went zip lining which was very fun and the view of Costa Rica from above was beautiful because even though it doesn’t have a lot, it’s still a very beautiful country and one of the best ones I have even to and I would stay here forever if I could. Adios!
— Jared Dooley
June 22, 2017
“Zombie, zombie, zombie!” Victoria giggled, as she spun around to face her peers. They froze, motionless, suppressing their laughter and trying not to move. We were playing Zombie Zombie, a game in which a group will try to steal a water bottle from the “zombie” while their back is turned. Once they get the bottle from the “zombie”, they have to bring it back to the starting point without the “zombie” figuring out who has the bottle. While it may seem like just a game, it teaches the kids very important lessons while allowing them to enjoy themselves through competition and antics. It teaches kids to work together by encouraging them to create strategies and subtly reinforces the importance of sharing as each must hide the bottle once before returning to the starting point. The kids at Santa Teresa School are obsessed with the game not only because they get to play it with cool American teenagers, but it allows them to have fun, run around, compete and work together simultaneously. Not only is it a learning experience for them, but it’s a learning experience for us as it teaches us to connect with others despite language barriers and cultural differences. These language barriers we face are no obstacle for us during Zombie because laughter is the universal language, and there’s ample supply of it here.
— Sophia Rubbo
I can tell you that today was the third day of service, and my 6th day being in Costa Rica. The school where we volunteer at contains the happiest and energetic kids I have ever seen. It’s the energy that leaves us once we reach a certain point in our lives. The energy that drives them to play outside in the scorching sun. It provides them the want to ask questions and to be curious about anyone and everything. These kids share their thoughts that I wish came naturally to me. The kids I’m meeting at the school have taught me all these wonderful things that I hope to keep with me forever. Sometimes I think, “Why don’t we all just stay kids?”
— Sam Flores
June 23, 2017
¡Hola Amigos! Today marked the end of Service Week 1. All week my service group and I have just been teaching and planning with the students. The school wasn’t in session today because 1 teacher had a doctor’s appointment – so different from the U.S., but we were still able to get some of our service for them done, which felt pretty amazing that we were finally able to do something for the school as a whole. After service, we came back to La Finca (the farm) for lunch, where we saw Caballos (horses) blocking our way to our house. The experience of walking around 3 horses was definitely something else. We didn’t see any of our school kids, so we made up for it with wildlife. It was a good day in all, but a little hard for me. It was my mom’s birthday and I miss her and my family so much. I had everyone say Happy Birthday to her over speak and it made me realize how close I’ve gotten to these people and how much I’ll miss them when I leave. I can’t wait to see what adventures await for us in the upcoming week. ¡Hasta Luego! Tambien: ¡Feliz Cumpleanos Madre!
Escuela Santa Jorge, that is the name of the school I am doing service at! Today the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders had their Spelling Bee. The winner was Christopher, you don’t know him but him, along with others are the kids I have grown to love in this past week. This past week has been an emotional roller coaster for all of us. My experience with culture shock was rough but with the help of everyone here I’m over that and I know I will miss this place.
— Salena S.
June 24, 2017
The Journey to purchase souvenirs in La Fortuna was fun for some and stressful for others. We traveled block by block to find the perfect gifts for loved ones and memorabilia for ourselves. The race for bracelets was real. Nearly every person bought beautifully stranded bracelets to add to their collection. There was talk about expensive prices and bargaining with the sellers, but they weren’t going lower the price at all. Some of us got lucky and were able to find items on sale, others felt it was worth it and spent what they believed was too much. Whatever the price or the item, those objects bought in Costa Rica will always serve as a reminder of all of our unforgettable excursions and the heartwarming bonds we’ve created with the local students.
The horseback riding was an exhilarating memorable experience. It was a new experience for many, while others showed their skills of riding a horse.The excursion went near the Arenal volcano going uphill and downhill and in flat land. We had the chance on the way to feed the horses with guava and ride them near the waterfall. When it began to pour, some horses galloped way up high and some went the other way, but for the most part, the ride was smooth with a challenge. It definitely brought tears, laughter, scared, and a new perception of Costa Rica…and soreness.
— Shenna Padilla
June 25, 2017
Today, Sunday the 25th, began with a delicious breakfast and then rafting down the river. Everyone got to relax and enjoy the beautiful view. We passed by crocodiles, monkeys, bats, and iguanas. In the afternoon we were able to chill and swim. Alfredo’s brother brought a jet ski and let us take turns tubing in the lake. It was lots of fun! Since today was also Mongo’s last day, we threw him a surprise party with ice cream and balloons. He very much appreciated it, and we are extremely sad that he is leaving us. Overall it was a very fun day!
— Hailey O.
Today, the 25th was Mongo, our beloved bus driver’s, last day driving us around. Everyone on the trip felt his joy and enthusiasm. He knew the places we would like going to and had a connection with each of us. Our group wanted to pay back the favor by throwing a goodbye party. A lovely poster was made with all of our signatures as a gift to Mongo. We celebrated with ice cream and chocolate and danced to lots of music. Tears fell as we said goodbye to Mongo!
— Murfee J.
Every day after service group we do an end of the day activity, today we visited the hot springs. Before we got started, we had to say bye to our first bus driver, Mongo. Mongo was like a father to many of us, even a close friend. Even though we won’t see Mongo for the rest of this trip, we remained optimistic for our new bus driver that we would meet after enjoying the hot springs. My first stop was the hottest hot spring. It was muy caliente. We all relaxed and spent time bonding with each other.
— Andrea Garibaldi
June 26, 2017
Today, I went to my service group in Santa Teresa, in which we taught them body parts. I laughed liked I had never laughed before. Thinking about the few days left with the children, brought me deep Sadness. I loved singing with them, “Ray and el Sol”, and showing off my awful soccer skills, in a soccer match. For our afternoon activity which was a surprise, we went to an animal shelter. We saw dogs of all types, shapes, and colors. We were able to bond with them and we got the opportunity to bathe the dogs! Spending time with the kids and catering to refugee dogs brought me joy and brightened my day in Costa Rica.
— Juliet A
I was one of the first leaders of the day along with another girl Emely towards the beginning of the trip which made it interesting to see how everyone reacted towards the concept.
I enjoyed seeing how the group split off and started to form friendships.
On the first day, we started with a lake tour. We were able to see monkeys, iguanas, and my personal favourite caiman. Toward the end, it started to rain everyone was in a hurry to put on their rain jackets except for Johnny and myself who put our rain jackets over our bags and stuck our heads over the sides. One of my favourite things about Costa Rica is the rain, it’s warm but refreshing. I was so tempted to jump in the water with the Caiman and all and just enjoy it. At the end of the day we went out to a restaurant which made me nervous because one of the instructors said that we would attract a lot of attention, and why wouldn’t we 23 Americans/Canadian. But it ended up being a really good night and I am thankful for that because I do not like to attract attention to myself.
June 27, 2017
Today, our service group walked to Santa Teresa School and all the student ran up to the person they adored, which warmed all of our hearts. Although we taught them numerous body parts in English today, we also worked on certain projects for the students so they could learn about us and we can learn about them. Today we could see how much their English had improved from the day before from them approaching us and telling us their favorite colors without hesitating. Unlike any of the other days, we all gave them piggy-back rides and ran around, which made the kids super happy. This entire trip has given me a new perspective on so many things and I am going to miss all of these intelligent, precious kids.
Egg, egg, rock! Today while we were at our service site we had a missionary group come; they brought games, toys, and last but not least soccer balls! We played egg drop, which is a game where people have a spoon and an egg, the goal of the game is to be the first to cross the finish line without dropping the egg. We did not have enough eggs for each student so we had to make do with a rock substitution. While playing this game, it was obvious the students were always jumping at the opportunities to learn new games and play with whomever and whatever. After myself and my peers stated our names, favorite foods, and colors, the students ultimately wanted to show off their new English skills and introduce themselves. Santa Teresa Norte, the school at which I’m working at, only had 11 kids so we were surprised to see how shy they were towards to missionary group. It took a while for me to realize that they were this way when we first came in, but the second day we all acted like we’ve known each other for years. It has only been a week in a half, and I’m already being surprised with serenades from some of the students. They’ve shown that they are willing to make strong connections with complete strangers with little to no hesitation. Also, they’ve shown an immense amount of compassion towards us and learning English. I came to Costa Rica thinking that I would make a huge impact on these kids lives, however, I was surprised to find out the impact they made on me was just as big.
Lost connectivity prevented some student blogs from being posted while students were abroad. These entries were added on July 9, 2017 after the program’s conclusion.
Today, our service group walked to Santa Teresa School and all the student ran up to the person they adored, which warmed all of our hearts. Although we taught them numerous body parts in english today, we also worked on certain projects for the students so they could learn about us and we can learn about them. Today we could see how much their english had improved from the day before from them approaching us and telling us their favorite colors without hesitating. Unlike any of the other days, we all gave them piggy-back rides and ran around, which made the kids super happy. This entire trip has given me a new perspective on so many things and I am going to miss all of these intelligent, precious kids.
— Isabelle Paisan
Welcome back to another exciting entry from one of your fellow GLA students. Today our story starts with marriage. Not officially, of course. It all started with a miscommunication. When an English student tries to understand a hyperactive Spanish speaking child, all they usually do is smile and nod. So of course the subject of who has a boyfriend/girlfriend came up, which then lead to marriage. So two of our own will now live happily ever after, joined together by the love of these children. After that, the day was pretty relaxed as we learned how to survive if we were stranded in a rainforest here in Costa Rica. We ended the day with a slightly terrifying lightening/thunderstorm.
— Oonagh Spunner-White
Buenas noches! My name is Natalie Collins and i’m from Fort Worth, Texas. Tonight is, sadly, our last night in Costa Rica. We have all shed many tears today from saying goodbye to the kids and leaving this beautiful country. The kids at our schools have taught us so many valuable lessons to take home and share with our culture. On this trip, I have learned how to be a great leader, but also learned from that you must embrace the differences between people. Saying goodbye is hard, but we will carry the memories we’ve made and the lessons we’ve learned with us for the rest of our lives.
— Natalie Collins