This morning (Tuesday), we began the day with our Spanish for Mental Health class. Shortly after class, we traveled to El Porvenir to host another workshop for teachers and school administrators at one of the city’s local public schools.
We start each workshop with the same question: What made you decide to become a teacher? Often times, (if you haven’t already realized) when you work in a field with little recognition when so many societal barriers are stacked against you, it’s easy to forget what motivated you to get into that particular field. It’s interesting to hear how each individual found their way to become a teacher- whether it was by choice or because everyone in their family before them was a teacher too. Regardless of how they ended up in this profession, each individual described the same goal, and that is wanting to make a difference in the lives of their students.
The teachers discussed the hardships of maintaining their students’ attention in the classroom, mainly due to the fact that so many of them have to work night shifts in order to help bring in some extra money for their families. It’s difficult to know that majority of these students face a variety of obstacles outside of the classroom- most of which are outside of our control. However, what helps offer the slightest sliver of peace is the fact that there are so many selfless teachers willing and able to support these children in any way possible. It is our hope that these workshops will help those in the educational field better understand some of the difficulties that their students are facing so that an even greater amount of support can be fostered between the students and teachers.
Yesterday, I wrote about Boca Azul in Cartagena, Colombia. Boca Azul is supported by Foundation Casa Italia, and it is a school in La Boquilla that serves more than 300 of the poorest children who are in the need of the most help. The children who attend Boca Azul are between the ages of 1 to 14 years old and receive a full-time education, school support, one meal per day (which makes this the only place in the city for children to receive a free meal), first aid and medical attention, and after school activities. While taking a tour of Boca Azul, some of the students put on a show for us, and as you can see based on the picture below, they performed traditional dances of the area. The students pictured below are some of the most hardworking students in the school with the highest grades, and as a reward, they are able to learn the traditional dances. They took so much pride in their performance, and as you can imagine, it was a beautiful sight to see.
Upon waking up and eating breakfast, it was time for us to board the bus and officially begin our tour of Costa Rica. We drove around San Juan are got to see the city by bus, before continuing with our drive to Arenal. On the way, we stopped in Sarchi, which is known to be an artisan town, also known as a tourist trap for travelers eager to start spending their allotted souvenir money. Sarchi is home to traditional oxcarts of all different colors, which happens to be Costa Rica’s most famous type of craft since oxcarts have been used to transport coffee beans for centuries. And if you didn’t already know, Costa Rica is home to incredible coffee (which will be discussed in a later post).
We were given snacks, drinks, and fresh fruit before leaving, because the key to any tourist’s heart is to give them free food to get them in the mood to start spending. Once we left Sarchi, we continued on our way, but stopped again thirty minutes later in the city of Zarcero. The bus parked right outside Iglesia de San Rafael, a blue and pink church with various paintings of the stations of the cross. When you exit the church, you’ll find yourself in Parque Francisco Alvarado, which is a fun and beautiful park known for its shrubs that have been trimmed in the shapes of different animals and fun pathways to walk through. We had a little bit of free time to quickly have lunch, so we did so before boarding the bus again.
We made one more stop along to way to the hotel, and that was to a local Costa Rican school. While at the school, we got a chance to meet the students and watch them perform a cultural dance for us that they put together themselves. It was truly a unique opportunity that we all really enjoyed. We boarded the bus once more and finally continued on our trip straight through to our hotel in the district of La Fortuna in San Carlos alongside the Arenal Volcano. As you can see in the pictures below, we had an incredible view of the volcano from our hotel, and once we were finished taking pictures we went out into the city for a traditional Costa Rican dinner, thus concluding our first full day in Costa Rica.