News from Costa Rica

Homestay Account (by Brooke ‘16)

This morning, instead of waking up to rain falling on the roof of my jungle-surrounded bungalow, or being scared awake by my alarm, I was awoken, at approximately 3:28 a.m., by a rooster. This rude awakening was because I was at my homestay last night, and instead of sleeping at the eco-lodge with my roommate, I was in a house with my host parents, Bernarda and Ademar.

​Before I get any further, I should probably rewind a little and give some background information. Half of our group of twelve did homestays on Thursday night, and then on Friday night the other half of us replaced them. As luck would have it, I had to follow-up someone from Thursday night that is a fluent Spanish speaker, so I definitely did not live up to her abilities (even though I have taken three years of the language)! For example, during one of my first conversations with my host mother, I tried to tell her that I heard she had three dogs – “perros”. Since I cannot roll my rs, however, I ended up telling her that I heard she had three “buts” –“pero”(as in the conjunction, not the anatomical feature).

​I’m not going to lie, I had a rough go of it at first. I had some very awkward moments, and was extremely nervous about being seen as being disrespectful in any way. At one point in the night they cut a fresh pineapple out of their backyard and put the entire thing, cut-up, in a bowl and handed it to me. Unsure of what to do, I finished off the majority of it. Yes, it was delicious and incredibly fresh, but I can’t say I had ever eaten so much pineapple in one sitting before!

​I think the true highlight of my homestay experience was talking with my host parents’ adorable eight year-old granddaughter, Natalia. It was a unique experience because she got to practice her English with me, and I got to practice my Spanish with her. I taught her how to say “I am eight years old” and “flower,” and she reworded her sentences into simpler forms whenever I didn’t understand (which was pretty often). She also showed me all of her grandparents’ animals –which included a pig, multiple cows, at least fifty chicks and chickens, and the aforementioned dogs- which really was the best part of the entire experience. We bonded over pineapple juice and dancing (her love for it, and my inability to do so), and when it was time for me to go, I was sad to leave my host parents, but especially Natalia. Even though I only got to be with her for a short amount of time, she was like the little sister I always wanted (no offense to my younger brother Gregory).

​All in all, while I was extremely nervous to be at my homestay, and I had a tough time speaking Spanish, it was an unforgettable experience filled with wonderful people, a lot of pineapple, and memories made with a little girl that I will never forget (I really won’t; I took a selfie with her to make sure of it!).

Day plan (Charlotte ‘16)

Today is Saturday, and the day started off by picking up the students from their homestays, then picking up the rest of the group from the lodge to continue to help the SCLC. We headed off to Fernando’s Farm where we would be planting native almond trees, which are important to animals like the Great Green Macaw . At the farm we were briefed about the procedure to plant the trees, then met with another group from California, who also came to help plant for SCLC. The trees will be very beneficial because even though they take a long time to grow, they will become big and strong. Additionally, the trees attract many species with their shade and fruit. The trees were to be planted in a cleared spot where they would get sufficient light. Stakes were placed in the location that Fernando wanted the “almendros” to be planted.

We began planting the trees by working in pairs, one to dig a hole, the other to plant. In this manner, we were able to plant 39 trees total. On our way back to the meeting point on the farm, the guide let some of us use his machete to cut weeds, however we made sure to be very careful. At the meeting point we were shown how the coffee beans are roasted on a concrete top above a flame and then grinded using a hand grinder. We were also offered a refreshing coconut that was skillfully cut open with the machete. Next, we travelled to the Sarapiqui River for a boat tour.

Once on the boat, we headed down stream with a strong current. It has been raining steadily for the last three days and the river level has risen dramatically. Because the water level was very high today, it could be difficult to navigate. Along our journey we heard and saw howler monkeys in the trees, Jesus Christ lizards, a sloth, and several iguanas. We also passed the banana plantations that are located just along the river. Mario told us that the river serves an economic purpose because the tourist attractions create an income. To add on, the river had also been protected to preserve the river and keep it in good condition, eliminating the trash that used to float in the water. After our beautiful boat trip it was time for our visit to a organic pineapple plantation.

We hopped onto a seated truck hitched to a tractor ready to explore the plantation with our guide Carlitos. Carlitos was a strange character who made sure that the trip would be a truly unforgettable one. He pretended to be mad and upset that we were laughing at him, when in fact we were all nervous to answer his questions wrong. It was all a big farce and he made a lot of corny jokes when we answered his pineapple questions incorrectly. Brooke was laughing so hard that she started crying. Carlitos took the opportunity to make a big scene about it, which made us all laugh even more. We learned that a majority of the pineapples are hand planted and also hand picked, reaching to about 8,000 hand picked pineapples in one day. Along the ride we were offered freshly picked pineapples, after Carlitos went through an elaborative ritual to clean them open with his very sharp machete. Rhodes took a turn cutting the pineapple for us after watching Carlitos, and managed with an OK amount of success (as Carlitos would say, he did Ho-ca: the Spanish pronunciation of the two letters in O.K.). The pineapple plantation grows its product organically using no pesticides or fungicides, so black plastic is needed to be cover around the pineapples to keep away any harmful bacteria. They lose 30 percent of the product to pests. We also learned that a ripe pineapple has large and symmetrical eyes, and a golden-yellow bottom. After the ride we were treated with non-alcoholic piña coladas, pineapple marmalade, and pineapple empanadas, which were all delicious and were all finished quickly by the group. We thanked Carlitos for the ride, and drove back to the lodge exhausted from a most active day.

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