Middle School at Costa Rica: Pura Vida
Every other year, our Middle School has the wonderful opportunity to visit Costa Rica. The trip is part Spanish immersion classes, community service, and ecotourism. Because of the pandemic, this is our first year returning to Costa Rica since 2019. Along with the students were middle school teachers, Jeff Peters and Johanna Kenney, and the Director of Advancement, Alex Valera.
The students spent their first three days receiving Spanish lessons from Costa Rican Language Academy (CRLA) from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Their home base is with our host families whom they have breakfast and dinner with. After graduating from CRLA, the group went to Tortuguero for three days, followed by a return to San Jose to do a day of community service, and finally a day on the Pacific side, ziplining and at the beach. After ten days away from home, they return, exhausted and glowing from their experience.
The students write updates that are then shared with the classroom community. Here is their adventure…
This update was composed by Luke, Julien, and Kian.
We've been here for a day now, and we have all had so much fun! Everyone in the class was exhausted on day one after a lot of flying, so we were all relieved to get to bed.
Today, we headed to the Costa Rican Language Academy (CRLA) for our Spanish lessons. The school is very pretty, and the food is very good. The courtyard has a wide variety of plants. The food they served was exquisite. They had beans, rice, slaw, vegetables, chicken, stuffed tomatoes, fried plantains, and iced tea.
After that, we went back to Spanish classes, and we did that until 3:00 p.m. After that, we had an hour of Latin dance class and then returned home to relax and get ready for dinner with our host families.
This is Jeff. It has been a whirlwind of activity so far. Everyone is really enjoying themselves. The students were split into three different groups for Spanish classes and, from the sound of the laughter coming from the classrooms, they were all enjoying themselves. The weather here is hot and humid, but we can't possibly complain after escaping the Chicago chill. This is a great bonding experience for all of us and we are looking forward to the coming adventures. The students will be taking turns writing updates each day, so please be on the lookout for those.
Welcome to Taara, Eliza, Adrian, and Indie’s recap of Day 3 in Costa Rica.
We started our day with our host mother and a yummy breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and very delicious jam (guava and cinnamon pear). The bus arrived early so it was a mad dash out the door, but we picked everyone up and got to CRLA in plenty of time for class. We learned a lot, had a break then learned some more. In our classes, we played a lot of games and it’s a lot of fun.
For lunch, we had lasagna, salad, and garlic bread with iced tea which was all delicious. Then it was more language class. We closed the school day with a cooking class outdoors in the beautiful garden. We made empanadas which were extra excellent. After that, we went home and played with our house dog, Sally. She’s so cute!
Before dinner, we walked with Johanna to the nearby supermarket for some delicious fruit. We sat outside and watched the world go by. In that same mall is a small pet store and we visited an adorable kitten. We took a short detour on the way home and saw more neighborhood kittens.
At home again, we played with Sally in our beautiful backyard and took some pictures of the valley as the sun went down and the city lights came on. For dinner, which was a casserole of sorts, and a salad was quite delicious. Señora’s adult daughter, Paola, joined us. She was very friendly and sweet. After that, we relaxed and retired to our rooms for much needed quiet time and sleep.
We’re excited for tomorrow.
Costa Rica: May 5th Update
Welcome to our third Costa Rica update! It has been so much fun seeing the class wholeheartedly dive into the culture, language, and experience. The weather continues to be sticky and humid, but that has not put a damper on anyone’s spirit here. Today was exciting as the class graduated from their CRLA classes and received their certificates. It is a testament to their hard work over the last three days and how, in such little time, their Spanish has flourished even more so.
Everyone is brimming with excitement as they are busy packing and looking forward to our journey to Tortuguero, on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, tomorrow. The anticipation is palpable, and we cannot wait to take in the beauty of the land, as well as see monkeys and sloths and any other critters who may want to say hello—even though we will, undoubtedly, be sleepy at our 6:00 a.m. departure time.
Today’s update is brought to you by the letters CR as well as Clem, Iris, Jay, Phoebe, and Simone.
Con pura vida,
Bright and early at 7:00 am, we hopped out of bed. The start of day four was going smoothly. We had strawberry (fresa) banana pancakes. They were AMAZING. We got on the bus over to CRLA (Costa Rican Language Academy) for Spanish classes from 9:00 to 10:30 am. We then has a break/snack time, then more Spanish classes till 12 pm (lunch). We had chicken, rice, and vegetables. They were deliciosa (delicious).
After lunch we learned cool games to play with the orphans on Tuesday. The games were super fun! The first was hopping from start to finish in a sack, a relay with our teammates. The second was rock paper scissors tag, but with a giant, dwarf, and a wizard. After that we played hoodwinker where we would wink at people and they would have to fall down dead. Next we played a jump rope game where we had to jump in a specific pattern.
At last it was time for our graduation, we all lined up and got our certificates. Then we headed out, jumping on the bus. We then went to a shop to buy some souvenirs. It was one large shop. It had everything in it, from jewelry all the way to wooden boxes. We stayed there for a little bit. When we finished, we got back on the bus and Ms. Johanna told us our dorm assignments for the lodge.
When we were back at the host houses, we started packing then got distracted and started playing taco-cat-goat-cheese-pizza (TCGCP), THEN, we ate dinner and actually packed.
We’re looking forward to another great day!
- Clem, Iris, Jay, Phoebe, and Simone
This update was composed by Luke, Julien, and Kian.
Today we all had fun. We had an early wake up at 5:00, which had us all tired. The large bus arrived, which we all liked because it was comfortable and had air conditioning. We started by driving up the mountains and into a cloud forest. We descended, passing through lots of dense jungle.
We then passed through rural Costa Rica, stopping along the way for some delicious breakfast, and then we continued on until we got to the boat dock. We boarded our boat for the hour-long boat ride to get to the Evergreen Lodge.
At the lodge we dropped off our stuff at our cabins, but not before we had an amazing ginger welcome drink. Soon after arriving, we got into the boat again and traveled to Pachira Lodge for a guided nature hike, seeing armadillos, monkeys, and lots of spiders. After our hike, we took the boat back to our lodge and swam in the pool for an hour before changing and eating a delicious dinner.
This is Jeff.
It was indeed an epic, beautiful, and long journey. The boat ride to Tortuguero and our Evergreen Lodge was incredibly beautiful. We saw many birds and even stopped along the way to watch a howler monkey feeding. Our guide, Valentine, is incredibly knowledgeable about Costa Rican history, flora, and fauna. Along with the animals listed above, we also saw a three-toed sloth.
We’ll be getting up very early tomorrow morning in order to be at the dock for a 5:30 am journey through Tortuguero National Park. The weather was not as hot today as expected, but it is definitely very humid. Everyone is in great spirits and we are all happy, healthy, and hydrated. Please enjoy these photos.
Welcome to Taara, Eliza, Adrian, and Indie’s recap.
On Saturday, we woke up at 5:00 a.m. for a two-hour boat tour of the canals in the hopes of seeing animals. And yes, we saw a LOT of animals! There were parrots, macaws, a toucan, hummingbirds, Caymans, monkeys, an ant eater up in a tree, butterflies, Jesus Christ lizards (named that because they can walk on water), iguanas and spiders. Our tour guide, Valentine, knows a lot about the animals and their habitat and shared a lot of information with us.
After our tour, we had breakfast. There was an assortment of foods like fruit, cereal, eggs and ham. After eating, we all went to the pool and swam for HOURS. It was so much fun! Then we freshened up and headed to lunch.
In the afternoon, we took the boat into town and heard about the man who fought to save this area for the sea turtles. We walked on the main strip and got smoothies, ice cream and coconuts. We also shopped for souvenirs. We took a boat back and had free time. At 6:00 p.m. we went for a night hike with Valentine. It gets dark early here. We saw a couple of frogs and lots of spiders. We also noticed a lot of lightening bugs. They are bigger here and stay bright for longer, it seems. Then we had dinner which was beans, rice and veggies. We showered, hung out and went to bed on the early side. We were all very tired.
The next day, we woke up at 6:30 p.m. which seemed late after the day before. We packed our bags because we are headed back to San Jose. At breakfast, the omelet bar is very good. The watermelon, pineapple and papaya are also yummy. We relaxed a little after breakfast and then walked around the lodge. We saw a porcupine in a tree! And a position dart frog that was so cute. There was also a family of Capuchin monkeys eating flowers and jumping from tree to tree.
After breakfast, it was a boat ride back to the bus that would take us back to San Jose. The boat ride felt so much shorter this time than on the way to the lodge. We got off at the boat launch and it was SO HOT! We got off the boat and onto the bus for a long drive over the mountains and through the cloud forest. We stopped for lunch and then kept on driving. We got to our host families where we relaxed, ate dinner, and showered. And finally, we went to bed.
We can’t believe we'll be home the day after tomorrow. Each day thus far has been simultaneously long and short, jam-packed with outings and events. Luke said, “I wish the trip was two weeks long!” Clearly, they are having a good time.
Today’s vibe was different, however, in that we went to visit Pueblito Costa Rica. The group, while still jovial, had several moments of introspection throughout the day. Pueblito permanently houses over 100 children and adolescents who are there by recommendation of the National Children’s Trust (PANI), Costa Rica’s equivalent of DCFS. Their mission is to “... offer children and adolescent survivors of situations of social risk, protection factors under the family modality, strengthening their rights and promoting their duties within a comprehensive approach.”
The middle schoolers played soccer and jump rope games with the older children, had arts and crafts with the preschool children, and also fed the infants as well as put them down for their nap.
We also had a lovely lunch overlooking a spectacular view and were wowed by an even lovelier view at the Mirador De Orosi lookout point.
Here Clem, Iris, Jay, Phoebe, and Simone share the day’s events...
Con pura vida,
This morning we got up, ate breakfast, and got on the road to the orphanage. It was about an hour, and when we got there, we got a tour of the facilities. We saw the houses; there were 15 houses with about 8-9 kids each, with each having a house mother. We learned a lot about how the orphanage works. We also learned about the school and what activities the kids play after the school day is done. There are a lot of kids that we met from the ages of 2-18. There were a lot of kids at the orphanage, in total there were 105 kids there. Then we split up into groups. The first group helped out with the infant and toddler daycare center. The second played games with some of the children in the gym.
After our activities, we got together and went to lunch at a restaurant. Then after we ate, we chased some chickens around and looked at all the other animals that there were. Next, we got back in the van and drove to a little outlook where you could see down into the whole valley. It was an amazing view. Then, we started to drive back to the orphanage.
When we got there, we all got to take a look inside the houses that the kids live in. They asked some questions about the U.S., and we asked them some questions about Costa Rica. After that, we started to head back to the court area to play some games. We played soccer and made bracelets with the kids. In soccer, our team lost 5-1. 🙁
The entire trip was so eye-opening. To see these kids who are actually orphans or foster kids. When we were little, we would pretend to be orphans like Annie, but seeing non-romanticized orphans is so different. We all got to see how much the orphanage provided housing, stability, and kindness for these children in different ways.
- Clem, Iris, Jay, Phoebe, and Simone
I'm writing this from our bus on the way back to San Jose from a long and amazing last day in Costa Rica. It's dark and bumpy, so please excuse any typos. The kids are all wiped out and silent, so this installment is purely mine.
We had a most excellent day that began with a 6:44 a.m. pickup. We traveled in our small bus to Jacó on the Pacific coast, which took about two and a half hours. Once there, we began our zip line tour by gearing up in our harnesses and receiving an orientation. We then proceeded up the mountain on an aerial tram. During the journey to the top, our guides pointed out vegetation and wildlife. Once at the top, we began the zip line portion. All told, we each went down approximately ten different sections. It was amazing to watch, as all participants embraced the challenge. The energy and joy were palpable. Once we reached the bottom, soaked in sweat and smiles, we visited their butterfly garden, seeing blue morphos among others.
Following our zip line adventure, we boarded our bus and headed to a resort on Punta Leona beach. We ate an excellent buffet lunch and then headed to the beach for the rest of the day and early evening. The ocean was beautiful and the water was warm. The kids played in the waves for hours, thoroughly enjoying the entire experience. We finished by watching a beautiful sunset over the Pacific Ocean, a fitting end to our final full day.
Once we arrive in San Jose, we'll all pack and go to bed ready for our return to Chicago. As of now, our flights are on time and we hope our travels are smooth. Please be sure to follow our flights so you can be aware of any delays. Otherwise, we plan to be on the ground at O'Hare shortly after 8:00.
Please enjoy these photos from today, and we can't wait to see all of you.
Thank you again for your support and for trusting us with your amazing kids. We are grateful to have shared this amazing journey.
All my best,
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A blog by various Alcuin staff members.