August Student Intercultural Trip a Success!
Last Tuesday, we dropped our 2021 August Intercultural Program participants at the airport. Being the first time we offered a "mixed" immersion program (students and (optional) parents), we had both age groups with us, having participated in parallel but occasionally overlapping itineraries. It was a blast!
The goal of this trip was to have students fully immersed with local students and families and experience life in our rural community of La Flor, located two hours North of the airport. This meant they'd been cooking daily some of their own Tico meals with the support of several of community members (they even tried their hand a tamales, a group, several-hour undertaking!), engaging local kids in enrichment projects, participating in conversation hours almost every evening, performing community service in La Flor, taking some mini-lessons and participating in charlas about Costa Rican history, conservation, agriculture & produce, and more, and of course, doing a bit of hiking and exploring of our area. Parents got to do daily outings with Johel, getting to see and hike some of the coolest areas in our region. Here's a bit of a recap and some highlights:
The trip kicked off on full day #1 with orientation and then meeting our conversation partners. After a rousing game of Costa Rica v. US trivia to break the ice, students set off in small groups to perform a La Flor scavenger hunt, taking selfies at every site.
Daily, students had the option of walking up to the sounds of birds and chickens:) and heading out on a morning walk 100% in Spanish with myself or other community members. Each day, different students took me up on the offer and did an awesome job with the small-group chance to work on their language skills.
Mornings involved "charlas" (talks) about different Costa Rican topics: sometimes we'd learn under the nearby Caimito tree, sometimes students were in charge of researching and presenting about their own topics, others, they listened to community members. A local environmental studies major at a regional university provided a charla about a month-long recycling campaign and recycling in Costa Rica, a topic which prepared our students for our community service project.
4. Lunchtime was when they tried their hands in the kitchen: each day, they'd take over with Alicia, one of our homestay moms, to learn how to make everything from Arroz con pollo to Chalupas to fresco from fruits we'd harvested earlier in the day. When all was said and done, we'd share our meal. Never once didn't things go wrong:). We even pumped out 80 tamales as a team, roasting banana leaves over an open fire, and assembling them assembly-line style.
5. Afternoons were set aside for engaging with youth in the community: art projects, making and distributing recycling campaign flyers, minute-to-win-it games in the soccer field. Community kids of all ages joined us to meet the visiting students and join in on the fun!
6. Later evening, after an hour or two of free time (which usually involved some serious rounds of "Exploding Kittens" or frisbee in the plaza), dinner was served and then arrived our conversation partners. Local kids matching the ages of our visiting students from three neighboring towns visited nightly to engage in activities for English/Spanish practice, board game nights, and a bonfire. This was definitely a highlight, as both groups of students got the chance to work on their language skills and make friends that be keeping in touch for a long time coming.
7. Throughout the week, we took a few pauses from community immersion to explore: students got to visit local Thermal Waters, hike in Bajos del Toro - a drizzling, through the jungle, over rivers and in the mountains hike to the incredible "Gemelas" waterfalls, visit the Lapas wildlife rescue, and stay overnight at Finca Nueva Luna, a regenerative organic farm that offers a great produce tour, some hiking, fabulous meals, and a great pool. The hike, despite the damp terrain, was a highlight, something unlike anything anyone had done before, and proved to be super rewarding, albeit a bit muddy, for the group. The experience was very authentic to Costa Rican hiking: a combination of rain, sun, fog, mud, gravel, suspension bridges, and an epic destination!
8. The student program concluded with our Recycling Campaign, where several local students and our local coordinator set out on a particularly hot day to collect so much recycling that the municipality caught wind of our project and offered to come to La Flor to pick it up (versus us taking it to the drop point.). While working, we got rewarded with fresco and fresh bread from one family and ice creams at the end. We collected, sorted, and stored and made a huge impact on the planet, as normally families in this area, due to lack of vehicles or trash/recycling pick up, end up burying or burning their waste.
9. All the while, our parent participants explored daily Rio Cuarto: hiking in Bajos del Toro, visiting a Biological Reserve for a chocolate tour and hiking, viewing the Arenal Volcano up close during a visit to the National Park, touring a butterfly garden, and stopping by Laguna Rio Cuarto to view the deepest lake in Costa Rica. Johel provided a wealth of information during the outings and they enjoyed lunch out at different local soda daily. It was definitely a busy week!
The group this August was amazing, getting sometimes quite a bit of their comfort zone to meet new people in a new language, try new foods, and explore new places. We loved hosting them here in La Flor and can't wait to bring our next group to the La Flor community!