On sunday, the students of Indian River State College flew into San Jose in the morning a little sleepy, but ready to go! After eating a typical Costa Rican breakfast at the café across the street from CPI, the students were walked around San Joaquin de Flores to have a better concept of what a typical Costarrican town looks like and to familiarize themselves with the area. On their tour, they saw the Church of San Joquín, the municipal building, a soccer field and a school. At the end of the tour, everyone enjoyed getting ice cream!
The students came back to CPI to take their Spanish placement tests and to have their interviews. After finishing the placement, the students were able to relax and enjoy the CPI campus until their host families arrived.
The Mama Ticas came at 3pm to meet their new sons and daughters. Everyone was excited about meeting their new family. With lots of smiles and laughter, one by one everyone was introduced. The students went home with their familias Ticas to enjoy their first home cooked Costa Rican dinner with their new family.
The students met at their meeting point in the morning to go to La Carpio for their service project. On the way to La Carpio, they stopped at a supermarket to buy some drinks and have their first money exchange into colones. In La Carpio, the group received an introduction and met with Giselle (Gail) the woman that created the Costa Rica Humanitarian Foundation. After they walked La Carpio and saw how difficult the living conditions were, the group went to “La Libertad” where the students were able to play games, color and talk with the children. Both the students and the children had a wonderful time. There was lots of laughter and joy in room. After they played with the kids, the students said their goodbyes and came back to CPI.
After having a really good “casado” at CPI (which is the typical lunch in Costa Rica) the students started their first classes in the afternoon at 1pm. The students are in small classroom sizes, of 2-4 students per teacher. With small classroom sizes, each student is able to get the full attention of their teacher to help them with their level of Spanish. The students have classes from 1-5pm with a break in between, where the group has the perfect chance to try “bocadillos” from Costa Rica such as empanadas, prensadas, palitos de queso and many of the tropical fruit juices. The students had a great time getting to know their professors and learning more Spanish.
The students met early in the morning to go back to La Carpio to volunteer. They were able to explore more of La Carpio and see the same children from the day before. They continued teaching and playing with the children. The students were able to start using the Spanish that they learned in the classroom yesterday to speak with the children today. It was lots of fun! After another wonderfully prepared lunch, the students returned to CPI for classes. It was a great day!
It is Wednesday and the guys are ready to start exploring Costa Rica. This time the group met early to travel to the Poas volcano, one of the most beautiful in Costa Rica. On the road they saw many strawberry plantations and a great view of the Central Valley. Once in the volcano, the group rushed to see the largest crater in Central America, which that day due to the excellent climate you could see perfectly. Continuing with the expedition, the group took another path to the spectacular Botos lagoon, where they took many photos of its beauty and turquoise color.
Before continuing with Spanish classes, the driver stopped for lunch at a renowned restaurant in the area, where the group had the opportunity to drink a refreshing Strawberry juice and even try the traditional “Mondongo”.
Thursday there was the aroma of coffee in the air. It was the perfect day to learn about Costa Rica´s golden grain and for that we only had to drive 15 minutes to get to Café Britt, where”Maria and Tulio” were ready to teach us all about the coffee. They made the tour educational and fun. In the coffee plantation we learned all about coffee and how they harvest their grain, which is the secret of good coffee from Costa Rica. It was an incredible experience to try different types of coffee in a coffee plantation.
The best part was yet to come. The group went to a mini theatre to learn about the best coffee-growing areas of Costa Rica and learn how to taste coffee like the professionals do. Finally the time came to test all types of coffee, from the soft and aromatic light roasted to the espresso, which is dark and strong. In addition, the group had the opportunity to pass by a display to try different types of chocolate with coffee and fruit in them. They did all of that plus a visit to the new butterfly garden and an excellent buffet lunch.
After an amazing week in Heredia sharing cultural experiences with the familias ticas and learning Spanish, the group was ready to further explore Costa Rica. The next destination was Arenal, one of the most majestic places in Costa Rica. On the way, the group stopped in Sarchí, which is known as the birthplace of Costa Rican art because it has the best artists and creators of oxcarts in Costa Rica.
In this place, you can still see the old techniques used for many years to paint and build the oxcarts. Sarchí is a small village characterized by its craftsmanship and its possession of the biggest oxcart in the world, which can be seen in its central park.
After getting to know Sarchí, we went directly to La Fortuna to have lunch and explore the area surrounding Arenal volcano. Later, the group got to experience natural hot springs and have a beautiful dinner at their hotel.
The next day, the group hiked to a waterfall in La Fortuna in the morning and visited a finca (farm) in the afternoon. They learned about sustainable practices in agriculture and had a typical lunch there.