Letters for You from GLA Staff
June 14 – June 23, 2015
When people ask me about my summer in Costa Rica, all I can say is, “How much time do you have?” I still can’t believe the first session was three months ago. It was my first time being a mentor to a great group of GLAers.
We had a group of around 36 of you and it was definitely a learning experience for everyone. From the community service (was it hot or what?) to the cultural aspects (how many of you got tired of gallo pinto?) the summer was filled with so many learning opportunities! I am glad how much of you were open to the experiences placed in front of you
You all started many of the service projects. You may not have been there to see the completion, but your impact was felt throughout the sessions! There were more holes to be dug, more cement to mix, and a lot of kids to play with; I am glad you were there to get it all started. I hope you all checked in to see how they all turned out.
We also had the rainiest of all adventure days. We zip lined, water tubed, in category 4 waters, and went horse back riding with the much-needed rain. No one else got that the category 4 or rain experience!
- I hope you all enjoyed the rest of your summer!
- My mentor group loving the question game. I think we played it 3 days in a row.
- Emily had to ride in a one-person tube with me after we flipped so she could catch her own again. Sorry Emily!
- It was so awesome when Abby S. led the Ships and Sailors game.
- Thanks to all the students who shared their thoughts and experiences during the identity game to the whole group.
- Angel, I enjoyed your singing and the conversations we had.
- The very bumpy boat rides. We all got soaked!
- I could tell Snapchat, instagram, and facetime were missed; so seeing all of the expressions when we finally had Wi-fi was too funny.
- Abby R. for the awesome talks during lunch.
- Star gazing on our night beach walk was incredible.
June 26 – July 5, 2015
Dear amazing GLA-ers,
Isn’t it just wild how time flies…?! It doesn’t seem like so long ago that we were all enjoying gallo pinto together and cruisin’ down the dirt roads with the cows! I hope you all still look back at the times we shared together at Ecoplaya as fondly as I do 🙂 The days we had there were filled with so much laughter, growth and inspiration! I’m still so impressed how well you all worked together at service, tried new things and supported one another. You all made such an impact on the communities in El Jobo and La Cruz. The children at each of the schools idolized you all and had such a blast playing games! Whether that was on the soccer field, braiding hair, or playing hangman! From all of your hard work, you’ve left behind footprints of positive change. It was a pleasure watching the growth that take place in all of you as the days passed (including physical growth)! We had some pro shovel-ers and pickax-ers by the end!
From buying snacks and fruits at the local markets to seeing monkeys swing through the trees- I hope there were moments that are still captured in your memory today. I loved sharing experiences with you, both big and small. Zip lining through canyons, practicing Spanish and checking out an uninhabited island together! Remember when we almost won the soccer game against the locals?…. ha! At least it was still a good time, win or lose 😉
One of my favorite activities was knocking down coconuts with a long stick from the trees at home base and then using a machete to cut them open to drink! I remember that it was Matt’s first time drinking a fresh coconut. I will also never forget the countless crabs and salamanders that I rescued from various rooms (my lovely neighbors, Maya and Mia!). Do you remember jumping straight into the pool after the soccer game? Or when Dolin was it for Sardines and then it taking ages to find him in the bushes?! I also loved watching the guys step out of their comfort zone with the dance lessons! You all have some natural talent! I loved stargazing with you all every night before lights out.
Reflecting on all of this makes me realize what an incredible opportunity it was to meet each of you and share this special experience with you all. I have no doubt that all of you will accomplish the goals and dreams you set for yourself towards. It excites me to see such a talented and compassionate group of young adults; already so aware and eager to learn about the world. I wish you all the very best with what’s ahead, as you continue to carry what you’ve gained from GLA into your futures!
July 8 – July 17, 2015
I believe that [Eco Playa] Session 3 of the time I spent as a mentor at the Beachside Service Adventure in Costa Rica was the session filled with the most student leaders. I can think of many people that were motivational and kept the attitude at home base fun. Not only were students inclusive, but they encouraged each other to face tough challenges such as being away from home and staying positive during difficult days at service sites.
Session 3 was also the most competitive, the students took the soccer games against the locals very seriously and their passion was greatly admired by the locals, who are very passionate about the sport themselves. While we still lost the soccer game against the locals during session 3 (we never once won while I was a mentor in Costa Rica), there was a strong sense of camaraderie between the students for the rest of the session.
Not only was this session filled with strong leaders, but I believe the students left the program with a strong desire to keep exploring. Beachside Service Adventure was but a small taste of what the world outside the U.S. can be, and many students were coming up to me and asking me about my time abroad saying that they wanted to keep traveling and experiencing different cultures and immersing themselves in other languages. I believe these students made the most of the time they spent in Costa Rica, and nothing is more rewarding for a mentor than to see students leave GLA with a growing desire to see more of the world.
- Shirley getting pulled by the strong current when were at the hot springs, only to be saved by one of the students further down the creek.
- Ben cutting open many coconuts “fruit ninja” style.
- Lisa, one of the mentors, doing her talent during the talent show. It was a series of impressive jump roping skills while playing the harmonica simultaneously. I was impressed to say the least.
- Marie’s fabulous singing voice all the time.
- Charleigh going up to the top of the uninhabited island barefoot. You go girl!
July 20 – July 29, 2015
I hope you are all doing well and the school year is off to a good start. I know some of you are taking full loads with AP classes, IB, extracurriculars, college prep, etc., so I know you are all keeping busy! And, for those of you who are now starting your first semester of college, congratulations and enjoy the ride… Don’t forget to get involved with some of the organizations on campus – those are a great way to get involved in meaningful service and meet people who share your interests and passions.
I can’t tell you how much it means to me that I got to spend 10 days with you in Costa Rica. As I told many of you, my first experience with GLA was last summer in Tanzania. The Costa Rica program was completely different and also very meaningful. One of the biggest things that I took away was how fulfilling life can be when you dive head first into adventures… Whether it was having an impromptu sand fight on the beach, zip lining through lush green trees, riding on a tube down a rocky river, pick axing, playing with toddlers at the nursery school or watching the sun set on the secret beach, I tried to be present in every moment to absorb the beauty of the culture and nature around us.
It was inspiring to hear about why all of you joined GLA and came to Costa Rica. Some of you have traveled the world. For some, it was your first time traveling internationally (or first time traveling alone). But, for everyone, it was a stepping stone to continue exploring the world and doing community service at home and/or abroad. Even though there were 64 students in our session (the largest group all summer), it was amazing how quickly we became a community, and at the end of 10 days, each person on the trip seemed a little more open to diving head first into the next adventure.
Here are 10 memories that come to mind from our trip:
August 5 – August 14, 2015
¿Como estan? ¿PURA VIDA? It has been a while since we have been blasted by wind every time we step by the pool, ridden in bumpy buses traveling across the Costa Rican countryside, and making friends with countless new people. Can you believe that just a short time ago we were basking in the sun in Costa Rica? I think as mentors we knew from the get-go this was going to be an amazing week with amazing students. I remember walking along the beach on the first day and hearing about one person’s passion for marine animals, learning that this group had a great taste in music and that there were a lot of siblings!
Some of my favorite moments
-Wandering aimlessly in a swamp in an impromptu hike, where we almost lost some flip-flops
-Trying to make sure a certain person doesn’t swim so far away that he crossed the Pacific Ocean
-Countless games of ping pong
-Countless games of football (not American football)
-Friendships created from sitting on beach chairs just chit chatting
-The MOST DIVERSE talent show all summer (pick up lines, dancing, singing, magic, cheerleading and more!)
-Eating lots and lots and lots of rice and beans
-Hiking to the top of an island
-Learning that some paint doesn’t come off skin as easily as we would think
-Being able to share a couple of hours with Costa Rican families (even if Spanish didn’t come as easily to you)
-White water rafting (always soo much fun), zip-lining, horseback riding, hiking and jumping into the ocean and trying not to step on sea urchins . . .
We were extremely impressed with you all the work you all put in these 9-10 days. Just as an update by the end of the next session all projects were finished in El Jobo, the sidewalk in Barrio Irvin was finished, benches at the technical high school were all installed, the Ecoplaya beach looked even more beautiful after cleaning up all the garbage, the entire fence was finished and fortified, and we had so many community members asking about what you all are up to now.
I know that it is easy to fall back into the routine but I hope you all are keeping up with each other. Also, as you are going about your daily life, we hope that this experience still has an effect on you. I hope next time you eat beans and rice you remember all the fun and all the friendships you made in Guanacaste, COSTA RICA!!
August 5 – August 14, 2015
Hola mis amigos!
Wow! I still can’t believe that you are all back home now with Costa Rica being that crazy thing you all did last summer. It feels like yesterday that we were sitting down that first night and all of you were there talking about how it’s so different than anything we’ve ever seen before and we were all opening up about who we really are. I haven’t stopped telling everyone about what a great experience GLA was for me and how it was really the students (You all!!!) that made it special and kept every experience new and exciting for everyone involved.
One of my main highlights (of many) included all of the great community service we did. The countless hours and blisters we endured to make ping-pong tables, playgrounds, French drains, and a WHOLE LOT of cement will always stick out in my mind as the most useful projects I have ever been a part of. The school children are enjoying everything that we built (except if you are reading this after dark, you know nobody can do anything after dark there). After my time at GLA, I stayed in Playas del Coco a bit longer to work at the Monkey Farm and got a chance to visit my work site’s school (Obandito) to help out with animal conservation awareness and general English lessons. All of the kids were asking how you were all doing and some of the older kids named a few of you personally as their favorites from the whole summer! They are now enjoying the ping-pong table in P.E. and the basketball hoop is up and operational. All that we accomplished and the other projects completed during our trips have significantly improved the communities that we worked in for generations to come. So give yourselves another pat on the back, you did it! Nice work!
What a crazy summer! It’s truly incredible to think about we did in just a few days! Let’s all take a moment to remember Julia’s birthday party with the water balloons and night swimming! I’ll never forget the look on Jade’s face as she was being pulled into the water! Then, there’s Caro, being launched into the air performing perfect backflips to our amazement. And we can’t forget our craft circles. Still wearing that friendship bracelet, Olivia! Additionally, JC’s video worth a thousand words a thousand times! And, most importantly, all the new friends and memories we made.
I can only hope that you left this summer with ideas of not only how to improve every community that you are in, but how to improve yourself in it. You all came with such great ideas, amazing and creative outlooks on life, and, truly, good intentions of improving the world around you that all you have to do now is go for it! And please remember, you are all the hero of your journey, love the path you’re on and own it!
You all made my summer the best I’ve ever had and I thank each and every one of you so much for it! I came away a different person and it’s all thanks to the students, the mentors and the local community. This summer was simply unforgettable!
I wish you all the best of luck this school year and if our paths ever cross again, don’t be afraid to shout at me and make a weird face, because you know that’s exactly what I’ll do to you!
Pura Vida and never skimp on the gallo pinto,
For all of our Beachside at Ecoplaya students from other sessions, your International Directory Lindsey has provided a couple hundred wonderful photos for your viewing below. Enjoy!