Hello family and friends of the Spartanburg Day School program in Costa Rica!
The students are at the airport in San Jose and are checked in for their flight back to Charlotte. We are thrilled with all that was learned and experienced during this program. We don't anticipate any delays and the flight is currently on time. We will post on the blog with any updates. Thank you for your trust and support.
"To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there." Kofi Annan
Dear Family and Friends,
You probably already sense this, but the travelers I brought home to you are not the same as the ones you dropped off a couple of weeks ago. They are stronger, deeper, more confident, more curious, and more connected to each other and the world beyond them. I don't know whether they will articulate that immediately or whether that reality will reveal itself over time in their words, deeds, and way of being, but I want you to know that they pushed themselves (and each other), gave of themselves, and were there for each other in ways that I never imagined. They are (and always will be) the pioneers in global experiential education in our middle school and I can't wait to see where this path will lead us all.
I woke up this morning missing each of them. Azra and I have been regaling our family with stories of inspiration and hilarity since we got home last night. I am so grateful for your trust and support in allowing me to share this experience with them. You are as brave and wonderful as they are.
I will share a folder of photographs with the students within the next couple of weeks. I also promised them that we could schedule a reunion before we go back to school in August, so I will be in touch about that later in the summer.
In deepest gratitude,
While you may have predictions about what you will take from an experience like this one, you are bound to be surprised by the twists and turns. Yesterday began with a final visit to the community school to wrap up our work and celebrate with the students. In the afternoon, the most anticipated activity of the entire trip was finally upon us...whitewater rafting! We were guided by a young man from the local community who was on the Costa Rican national rafting team, so we were in very good hands. They took photos of us on the river and I will share those with you as soon as I receive them.
In the evening, we headed up the road to celebrate the end of our time in Chilamate with the local families that we have grown to love. They prepared a delicious meal for us and the kids danced and played until it was time to head back to the ecolodge where we said an emotional goodbye to the incredible family that created this beautiful rainforest retreat and curated our experience here. Our final activity of the program (and the hallmark of World Leadership School programs) involved hearing our young leaders' personal leadership stories that they have begun to develop. They are well on their way to understanding who they are and where they are going and I can't wait to see all the ways that we, as a community, will be rewarded by their brave decision to say yes to this beautiful journey in Costa Rica.
We will depart this morning for San Jose, stopping en route for an aerial tram ride above the rainforest for our last opportunity to see wildlife. We're staying in a little hotel near the airport tonight and depart tomorrow afternoon. We are so eager to see you all at the Charlotte airport!
We are beginning to brace ourselves a little for the looming bittersweet ending of this incredible adventure, but in the spirit of being present, today was all about milking it-- figuratively and literally. Each of our young leaders drew on their personal strengths to help the team succeed at the Leadership Challenge. They used a map to help them find their way to various locations in the community where they would learn a dance, make tortillas from scratch, milk a cow, interview an inspirational educator (in Spanish!) etc. Both teams performed beautifully and, more importantly, had fun!
We decided to give the kids a break from blogging tonight so they could have some extra down time for their favorite low-tech activity together: playing games. I smile at the sound of their laughter as I write this and will linger a little after I'm finished to take it all in.
Note: The post from Monday night was stuck in cyberspace, so please be sure to see Will Work for Chocolate from 6/25!
We started off our day visiting the school and helping the Costa Rican students improve their English skills. This was something that we were looking forward to, but sadly it did not go so well. We encountered some road bumps. Turns out, tween drama is universal! We are going to give it a second chance, though. After our time in the classroom, we continued working on our construction project. It looks good so far and we will keep you posted on our progress (in the bathroom and the classroom)!
We spent the later half of our afternoon with a ethnobotanist, which despite the name was very interesting! Our tour guide was ironically the brother of our chocolate tour guide. Small world! Not surprisingly, our ethnobotanist steadily reminded us that his brother had a bigger gut. We got to learn about various plants and their medicinal properties. It went pretty well; just look at Holden above :) We tried different fruits, and we also tried a leaf that numbs your mouth. (See Alexavier above) We got to experiment with the lipstick plant and use wax from a leaf to leave an imprint on top. The best part of the day, though, was that everyone got their own coconut! By the end of the day we were pretty tired and delirious (See me above)
Love you family see you all soon :))
When children learn that they were right, they think that their intuition and instincts are especially strong. But I assume, as parents, you know that it's just wishful thinking; except for today, when our dreams were fulfilled, as we learned that chocolate can make us happier and healthier, but I'll get to that part later. First, we began the tiresome job of finishing the partially completed bathrooms. Holden and Liza laid tile with cement, while the others, including myself, grouted the areas in between the pre-set tiles. We worked for two hours straight, stopping for a pineapple break only once. We grouted roughly half the bathroom, and the wall tiles were nearly completed. We were sweating and dirty by the end of it, but strangely, ridiculously happy. We trekked back to the eco-lodge and promptly showered. Clean and eager for chocolate, we embarked to the forest where our chocolate eating adventures would commence.
Homesickness is inevitable when you are away from home and, for me, it was just starting to settle in. But lucky for me, chocolate releases endorphins, which make you ecstatic, no matter how hard you resist. When we arrived at the chocolate farm, we were greeted unenthusiastically, but soon found out that our guide was one of the most fun and exciting people we had met so far. Some of our group participated in a "show" our guide put on, which coaxed many laughs. We then drank the "drink of the gods," and completely fell in love with it. Rich chocolate and milk; who wouldn't love it? Then we made more chocolate and sampled many different kinds of it. At the end of our adventure, we lugged our tired bodies back to the lodge, and heard my own mother's Leadership Story, which may or may not have caused some tears. It was moving and incredible, and I think that everyone was changed by it, even if reluctantly. But in the end, this had been the best day yet.
(Hi Rollie and Todd! I miss you guys so much, and have a great souvenir too! Love You!!)
Pura vida means pure life. This is a common phrase in Costa Rica but its meaning really sunk in today. When we were talking about our trip to our guide we said, "pura vida." When we jumped from the tower onto the zip-line we yelled, "pura vida." We learned today that sometimes you really feel it, but sometimes just saying, "pura vida" can make you feel like you are living the good life. We might just bring this phrase back home with us.
Our morning activity today was our home stay. Today was about seeing how the lifestyles of a few families in this village compare to ours. We went to our homestay house with a partner and each of the groups got to experience what foods and different animals they had. All of the groups used their Spanish, connected with the family, and learned a lot.
In the afternoon, we went zip lining in the rainforest canopy! Some were hesitant at first, but by the end they had worked up enough courage to do the biggest zip-line of the course: 15 seconds of terror 75 feet above the ground. And below us, there was a raging river filled with sharp rocks. It was all pretty standard. Halfway though the course we saw howler monkeys with babies and one of our guides thought it would be a swell idea to shake up a bullet ant nest until they came swarming out. Don't worry-- we kept our distance!
After a terrific day everyone is happy and healthy (still) and ready for the next adventure!
Hey Mom and Dad, I miss you guys so much! Take care of the puppers for me!
Hey Mom, I miss you and kinda my sister and brother. I hope everyone is great and healthy at home!
Today, on the second full day of our Costa Rica trip, we had a series of adventures. We joined a futbol camp comprised of people of all ages. We were all tired and sweaty by the time it was over. After all of our hard work, we took a break to eat pineapples, bananas, and cookies. After our snack, we participated in a weekly raffle. The raffle winners from our group won Costa Rica soccer jerseys and the winners from their team won the equipment we brought from home.
Then, we went to an organic farm owned and run by an inspirational man named Daniel who is responsible for introducing organic farming practices to Costa Rica. Ask us all about his story when we get home. It is unbelievable. Our work on the farm began with making compost from mixing chicken feces, pig feces, carbon, micro organisms, and other things. After that, we fed his pigs with leaves and whole pineapples! Daniel then took us on a tour around his farm showing us the vanilla plants he pollinates by hand with a syringe. He also allowed us to pick and pack peppercorns. Liza holds the world record for eating the most peppercorns by any visitor to his farm (30!).
We are glad to say everyone is having a wonderful experience! We are all happy and healthy.
Hey Mom, I miss you, but I'm having a great time and I'm so glad I'm here! -Cate
Hey Mom, I miss you, but I'm also happy I'm here. -Elliott
Our first full day was packed with various adventures. We got to wander in the jungle and see a sloth, we met and played soccer with the children that we will be working with for the next several days, and we witnessed the tragic loss of Costa Rica's position in the World Cup. It was a very exciting day and reassured us that this trip would be no less than amazing! Our day started out with a 5:00 AM playing card session (jet lag...woke up early!). This was followed by us watching a very unfair overtime game that resulted in Brazil winning 2-0. We got to venture into the rainforest and observe the extreme biodiversity of rural Costa Rica, including the sloth! Then, we enjoyed a little down time and a refreshing lunch before experiencing what would be our favorite part of the day. We were introduced to the principal of the local elementary school and played a quick (and very competitive) game of fútbol with a few 3rd grade students. We were given an in depth tour of the entire school, including the partially-finished new bathrooms, which will be our construction project. After this, we were extremely exhausted, and were rewarded with a lot of down time and game time! This was an adventure-packed, exhausting day, and we look forward to many more of these adventures!
Liza and Azra
(Miss you Mom, Dad, Will, Lily, and Vinnie!! I am having a great time and will see u soon! :) - Liza)
(Hey, Caroline, Rol, Todd, and Boon! I miss you guys so much! I can't wait to see you when I get home! Love you!!- Azra)