For our last day of classes, we had class in the morning and then went to lunch and had a certificate ceremony to "graduate" from CRLA. The teachers said what we did and what we were good at and then gave us our certificates, and the people at CRLA made us cake to have after our lunch. I thought that the classes were very effective for the students at that level, and I had a lot of fun in the classes. It was a very different way of learning than at school. For example, there were only three people per class, so the teacher could focus more on helping certain students learn different things.
After CRLA, we went to a store called "Pequeno Mundo," which means small world. They had anything you could need for very low prices. We went there to buy food and clothing for the orphans that we had seen the day before and were now going to see again. When we were driving to and from the orphanage, we saw many houses that seemed to be leaning on each other without any stability. The people seemed to be very impoverished. Our tour guide told us that many people in those areas were drug dealers, drug addicts, alcoholics, and abusive or neglectful to their children. Many of the children in the orphanage had come from families that neglected them and left them on the street alone or were taken from their parents because their homes were unsafe. Some children in the orphanage were extremely nice, while others were unintentionally aggressive, but all of the kids would smile and laugh no matter what had happened to them in the past. I thought this was a very beautiful thing, because it shows you can change someone's life just by giving them safety and love.
We bought mainly rice and beans (a staple food for Costa Rica), clothing, and school supplies for the children. We also bought three basketballs for them to play with, but that is not what the orphanage mainly needed, because it's very hard to take care of over 90 kids and to have enough funding from the government. They appreciate anyone sending money, clothing, or food, because those are the main things they need. Even though we donated a lot of food and supplies, I felt like it was more important to play with the kids and make them feel loved than to give them a dinner of rice and beans.
When we were playing with the kids, everyone was supposed to take care of one or two children. I ended up taking care of a little girl wearing all blue who was about 3.5 years old. We were playing on the seesaw; she would sit on one end, and I would push the other end up and down. It was amazing to see her have this gigantic, beautiful smile and laugh so much, even though her family couldn't take care of her. Even at the orphanage, she has so much less than I do (or many people in America). I thought that it showed that material wants aren't what we should be made of. For example, most of us feel lost without the internet and technology, but many children in Costa Rica have never even seen a phone or used the internet, and they can have just as much -- if not more -- fun than we have ever had in our entire lives.
When we were playing with the children, all of a sudden it started pouring and I ended up holding the girl I was playing with and had to give her back to her caretakers before saying goodbye. She was in tears when I took her back to her house mother. As we left, I felt sad to not be able to say goodbye to her because I felt like I hadn't done what I was supposed to if she was crying when I left.
In Costa Rica, I would like to be able to help create an organization, or donate to an organization, which will stop poverty in Costa Rica and create solutions to the social problems so those children won't be without a family of their own. I think I'll always remember seeing the impoverished parts of Costa Rica, and also seeing the contrast of seeing how close the richest parts were, and how unfair that must feel. I will also always remember the crying child in the rain.
MIddle School Teacher
Hola! We started off the day with our morning classes at CRLA. I have to say, waking up early and going to three hours of Spanish was something I was not looking forward to. But I did have a change of heart. Over the past two days we have learned so much Spanish it blows my mind. First of all, our (Alcuin) teachers, who basically knew nothing about Spanish, have been communicating at the places we have gone so well. Second, the classes go by so fast, and we all enjoy our teachers a lot.
After our classes, and of course our amazing lunch at CRLA, we went on a bus ride to an orphanage named Vista del Mar. We spent about two hours playing with children around ages two to ten. We were all very anxious about speaking with the children and not being able to understand them, but I think we all were able to have conversations with them with little trouble at all. At first, the kids stayed in the corner, but after about ten minutes, the children had picked one of the Middle Schoolers or teachers and had become more than comfortable with them.
When we left the orphanage, we went on a bus tour of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. It felt like we went everywhere we got to see so much. From neighborhoods to stores to buildings, I think my favorite was feeding the pigeons in park. Our tour guide had bought corn for us, and when we put the corn in our hands, the pigeons would fly up and eat it. It was very scary at first, but once you got used to their claws and beaks, it was a pretty cool experience.
To top off our night, we went to a very fancy restaurant attached to the hotel. Everyone was very polite, and we got our food very fast. It was delicious, I think we finished ours within twenty minutes. After our main course, we had dessert. We had some kind of mango ice cream with chocolate and strawberry drizzle, I promise it was a lot better than it sounds. After dinner, we went back to our hotel rooms to journal about our day and then go to bed.
Alcuin 8th Grader
When the noon hour arrived we filled up on a very satisfying lunch, that consisted of rice and beans, a choice of meat, and vegetables. Some of the kids also enjoyed an ice cream. After our lunch break we had an afternoon lesson and were assigned homework for this evening. It was then that we were led to a studio room for Latin dance lessons! Little did we know we would all be pushed to our physical limits as the instructor set the music level on high and led us through several styles of dance. Our smiles may have belied our fatigue, but it was such a great opportunity to try something new. Hopefully our muscles will recoup as we get another chance tomorrow to dance.
Our day at CRLA concluded with the group being instructed on how to make empanadas. We all got our hands into the ingredients and enjoyed the tastes of our labors. Maybe the kids will surprise you at home by asking to make these tasty snacks, which can be stuffed with a variety of delicious fillings.
Finally, our day ended with a quick dinner at the food court at the mall and a movie. We enjoyed seeing "Home", a Dreamworks production that was dubbed in Spanish. It was a relaxing way to spend the waning hour of the day and it gave the kids just a little more brain stimulation to keep up with their Spanish. And I'll admit, there were a few tears shed as the movie pulled at our emotions in classic Hollywood fashion.
Well, time to go to bed. We hope all is well and we look forward to sharing more of our adventures with you tomorrow and the rest of the week.
Middle School Teacher
Whew! What a long -- but exciting -- day we've had today!
We began it all with a 4:00 a.m. meeting at the airport. We were all surprisingly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed running on adrenaline to be sure. We sailed through security, and our first flight was a breeze. After a quick layover in Houston, we hopped onto our second plane and enjoyed an equally smooth flight into Costa Rica. In keeping with the theme, we picked up our luggage and took a straight shot through immigration -- no lines, no waiting!
Speaking of waiting, our dear friend Lorenzo (our guide from the previous trip) was waiting at the airport with his own two "assistants" (his beautiful children). We were so happy to see him again after two long years! After greetings and enthusiastic hugs, we loaded up the CRLA van and headed off.
After a short drive, we arrived at the Boutique Hotel Jade for a much needed break. The kids hopped straight into the pool and spent some time just relaxing and playing. The adults hung out on the sidelines, enjoying the sunshine. Laughter and smiles abounded.
Once we were rested and recharged, we freshened up, exchanged our money, and headed out to the mall for dinner. We thought there might be some anxiety about ordering in Spanish, but the students headed right off to their chosen food place and communicated like pros. The adults took a little more guidance from Rita to make sure we ended up with the right orders! We're all looking forward to being ever more independent in our language skills as the days go on.
We rounded out our night with a quick trip to the local mercado to grab some water and fruit, and then it was back to the hotel for some down time and journaling before bed. The kids have all been so excited to be here and so enrapt with all of the cultural surroundings, both different and familiar. We are all ready for a good night's sleep, and we are even more ready for all that tomorrow will bring!
Middle School Teacher
A blog by various Alcuin staff members.