June 19: San Vicente

Last night, six of us stayed with homestay families from the early afternoon until this morning. I was in this first group. I liked my Tico family a lot. My IB Spanish 4 came in handy because no one was fluent English. The youngest boy, who was 11 years old, knew very little English, so I had to speak to them in Spanish. It was an eye-opening experience for me, because I got to briefly live in the style of rural Costa Ricans. Their house was just a little bigger than my garage and was simply constructed of wooden planks and a tin roof. They did have running water, electricity, and a TV nevertheless. It made me appreciate how fortunate I am to have the luxuries I have in the United States. I really liked the family, and we spent hours talking, despite coming from two different backgrounds. I gave the family a GS tee shirt to remember me, and two New York Yankees hats, since they are my favorite baseball team. They asked if I was coming back to visit them, and I felt so loved. I wanted to say yes, but I wasn’t sure if I would ever get the opportunity to come to Costa Rica again. I told them if I could, I would visit them. I will never forget my Tico family, who are like my real family now.

Today, however, is Friday. We went to yet another rural elementary school today to help out. This one is called San Vicente, not too far from the main road adjacent to the Sarapiqui River. Half of us came on the bus from the lodge with Pacho and Sara, while the other half arrived with our homestay families, with whom we spent the night. We gathered at the school at 8:45 a.m. and shortly thereafter started painting the fence outside the school a metallic silver color.

We had to cover the previous paint job, which was done in a terracotta color. We were to paint both the tubing and the mesh by partnering up in twos, one outside the fence and the other one inside it, and working in tandem. It was a bit of a tedious process, since most of it was a chain-linked fence and we had to paint each link. This time we were working with very viscous oil-based paint that had a strong fumes so we wore masks, which were uncomfortable since it was steaming hot.  It was also a messy project, as some of us got paint on our gloves, arms, hair, and faces. The weather also did not cooperate as it rained on-and-off all morning. Luckily, we were able to stay dry while we worked in a covered area that students use as they are waiting for their parents.

Mid-morning, we were given a break for about 20 minutes to snack on some fruit given to us by the school. We then continued to paint, dripping in sweat from how hard we were working. We may have not thought that today’s service was essential, but when we finished, we saw how great the fence looked and were proud of what we did. Then, we had a well-deserved lunch cooked by the school’s cook (who also happened to be one of the people that hosted our homestays), which consisted of rice, beans, chicken, and watermelon.

Then came the obligatory games, some of us played a game of soccer with the school kids, while others played Frisbee and yet another group passed around a soccer ball. We had a lot of fun with the kids, as they are very competitive and pretty good at soccer. After our playtime with the kids, we returned to work, but this time our task was removed branches and empty coconuts on the backyard and put them in the school’s compost hole. After our work, we once again sang to them “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars, which they seemed to be entertained by. I was our school representative who gave the teacher a care package, which consisted of notebooks, pencils, pens, erasers, and numerous other school supplies. The teacher thanked us publically and talked about the great help we provided and how the children were looking forward to our visit all week. The teacher was also happy that the school fence was getting a makeover. We then shook all the kids hands (we were too sweaty for hugs) and sadly said goodbye. At around 2:30, we left the school and waved goodbye to the kids, happy that we got another chance to help out a rural community and to live the way they do.

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