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Costa Rica

Sustainable Tourism in Costa Rica

Costa Rica was awesome

By Costa Rica

Costa Rica was awesome. It was my first time there, so I didn’t really know what to expect. When I first got to the hotel definitely felt the Christmas spirit. Soon as you walked in there were Christmas decorations everywhere. When I get to the room I noticed there was how you turn on the lights is exactly how they do in the UK and Paris. You have to put your room key in a slot to power everything In the room, so when the key’s not there, to power goes off after a certain amount of time. While on the tour, walking by the gym the hotel wasn’t using the same system as they were in the rooms. So the lights stayed on 24/7 unless someone turned them off.

Day 2 we went to Finca Rosa Blanca which is a shaded organic Coffee Plantation. I really enjoyed the tour we had there. They let thing grow as naturally as possible which the need for human touch. For example they have a natural irrigation system, which is made up of dying banana plants.That really blew my mind. The reason they use the banana plants is because the cells in the plant holds a lot of water that contains magnesium and potassium, which is good for the soil. Since the plantation is shaded it has a natural weed control also. Until then I never knew that just by having shade you can control the weeds in your garden/plantation. I’d like to bring some of those practices back home with me since I’ve been wanting to grow my own fruit. It was also cool to see how they dried the coffee literally nothing but it laying on a table. So if its rainy season it takes longer for it to dry. Next door to the drying area. Was the processing room literally only had 3 machines in there. The roaster, sorter, and a mill to grind up the coffee. While there I found out that there was this type of coffee that was sweeter since it didn’t go the fermentation process. I think it was called the honey roast not 100%, but it smelled so good when one of the guys were grinding up the beans. I don’t drink coffee often but I finally found a brand I knew I’d like. But to be honest out of everything on that tour, I enjoyed the lunch there the most. That lunch was so good, I had casados de pollo. It had rice n beans, gallos de papas, plantains, and a salad. So with that lunch and the view we got from our table it was definitely one of my highlights of the trip.

On day 3 we went to the Pacure river for white water rafting. That experience was amazing. The Pacure river is in the top 5 rivers to go white water rafting in the world. So it was pretty cool that my first time doing it was there. To be honest I think I underestimated how long it’d take us to finish everything there. It took 2 hours for us to get to Rio Tropicales lodge. Outside of the lodge was beautiful. There definitely an eco-lodge. You see them doing different thing like making compost for the plants out of all the food waste. Also they make their own soaps there with was pretty cool to me. After I got distracted and stopped paying attention since I saw a dog and some chicks being all adorable. I was ready to get back on the raft but before that we had some fruit from the lodge it was sooooo good. After that we got back to rafting. after a while we reached an area called “Dos Montanas” since its where 2 mountains meet. That place was gorgeous. I got sad since my phone died and couldn’t take I just jumped in the water and chilled until it was time to get back in the boat. I was definitely in the moment and enjoyed every second of the beauty of that area.

Day 4. We arrived at Rancho Margot, which has 2 types of accommodations for guest. We stayed in the bunk area, so it was like we went camping at a summer camp. They have farm there also. They have pigs, cows, chickens, and different types of medicinal plants. Had a chance to milk a cow, it was more difficult than you’d think. But I ended up getting it…. Somewhat. The farm to table aspect there is really cool. Pretty much everything we saw for breakfast, lunch, and dinner was sourced from the farm on the property. The only thing I didn’t really like at the ranch was the night “hike” we had.  We were told we going to do a hike to the volcano, so we were all excited for that adventure. But it just ended up being a walk around the ranch at night. Now it was optional that understandable but everyone was ready for an actual hike to the volcano, so we were all disappointed in that. Other than that some of the other amenities were awesome though. We had a nice pool, yoga near a creek. Both were really peaceful. They make their own compost through the use of Californian Red worms.

That day I also had the chance to go zip lining. Most amazing experience ever. I definitely want to do that again. We had the best view of the volcano and lake Arenal.  I never would’ve thought that I’d get to go zip lining and the fact that it was near the volcano was mind blowing.

Day 5 & 6 we stayed at a community got there in the afternoon and had lunch. The best part of that place was the pineapple juice we got to drink. It was so good , and refreshing. I could’ve drank a whole gallon of that by myself. after lunch we painted a church. That was my least favorite experience there, not because of the painting but because of how hot it was. I can’t stand being in the sun or hot for that long. The painting itself was fun though. But my highlights of that stay was after we painted n played kickball with the locals we went to this creek, and dinner at my homestay’s place. At the creek it was so much fun but ended up having war a war wound…. I lost my shoe. Trying to find the shoe I had to show off my parkour skills, hurting my foot in the process hahaha. It was an interesting experience. Definitely miss that shoe, it was so comfortable. But anyway we leave the creek and head to the house. The house I stayed at had 2 little boys. They were super energetic, so it was fun to play n run around with them. But at this house the pineapple juice I mentioned earlier was 10x better than it was at lunch that afternoon. And having something different than rice and beans for dinner was a blessing. We had a soup dish called “Donja carna” if I’m spelling it right. It was so good I’m not usually a soup person but I destroyed that dinner. The next day we planted some trees which was really cool so I learned a little bit on how to do that for when I start my garden.

Day 7 we went to the Bribripa which is an indigenous community. I felt that we wasted a lot of time, but it was pretty cool. We heard the story about their god came to be so that was really interesting. But it took 2-3 hrs for that story. I was tired so I almost fell asleep. I actually felt bad about that but the way the person talked and how long it took was definitely a recipe for knocking out. That night we learn how to talk in some of the Bribri language. Listened to music and danced with the locals. The next morning we went on the hike no one was expecting. This was the real hike that everyone wanted but the fact that we kept getting told something about a hike every time and it ended up being a little walk that was what we were use to at that point. But this was a legit hike we climbed up the mountain to get up to the this farm at the top. At the top we saw rice, beans, bananas, and sugar cane.

The farmer there was really cool. Apparently he was really surprised that I was there. On that side of Costa Rica there aren’t a lot of black people since it’s not the Caribbean side. So he was honored that I was on his farm. I didn’t understand him, but from what I was told he was pretty much calling me a king, and that me being on his farm was on the same level of their god giving him a good harvest. That was a pretty surreal experience. In America people tiptop around the topic of race, since sadly we still have problems with that even in 2018. But the way he talked about it you could tell he was just so genuine about how he felt about me being there. If I could blush I probably would’ve been. Since it’s a 180 of how a lot of people see African American men in the US. Instead of being demonized , I was actually looked at in awe, like in his words “a king”. After that we went we walking around more and got to this house where they “process” the rice. It was pretty cool pretty much it’s like a gigantic motor and pestle.So from there you literally just smash the rice to release it from its shell.  After that we were showed the different types of bananas the farmer has. There were purple banana, square banana, apple banana, and the regular banana. The apple bananas blew my mind, they literally taste like apples. so I made sure I took some with me. The farmer was nice and gave me more than what I already had. So I was happy with how we finished off that morning.

On the last day we didn’t have as much free time has we wanted. Soon as we left Bribripa, we went back to the Rio Mar and immediately had our tour there. With the hotel using all local plants, you’d see some of the native animals running around which was nice. They also hire people locally at most the people that work there are from a town that’s an hour away. They used solar panels to heat the water, and have plans of doing different thing to get more sustainable. After that we got ready to see go to the beach and see the sunset. Sadly there wasn’t that much time for that so we had to rush. But it was worth it. That sunset was beautiful. I think I got some really nice pictures of it. The pacific ocean was nice and warm, but I didn’t know the waves there are huge. I see why people go there to surf. One thing that really amazed me about the beach was the fact that you could walk so far into the water and the water is still at knee level. It’s really different that in Miami. That sunset I really felt the “Pura Vida” mentality on the beach that evening.

The next morning we headed to the airport and had some time to think about everything. This trip really did make me realize just how hard it is to produce good food. Between all the fruits, the animals and meats and the plants. All of the different ways of making everything the best quality it can be. For example I’ve never had a mango in December that good or the fact that some of the best pineapple on this earth is from Costa Rica. I really grown more appreciative towards my food after this trip. I’d definitely go back to Costa Rica.


Coffee Fueled Perspectives from Serena

By Costa Rica

Let us become caffeinated with excitement, sustainability knowledge, and of course coffee with the tellings of an adventure with Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation in Costa Rica.

This organic, shade grown, and sustainable coffee plantation is nestled within the mountains of Costa Rica, where quality is truly valued versus quantity. Our group was welcomed with wonderful hospitality (as we were in all our visits) and we began a tour to see a wonderous process from beginning to end that is rich in history and that has taken the world by storm.

Our adventure began by seeing where the coffee process all begins: the coffee plant or the variety that they grow, coffea arabica. Coffea arabica is the most common variety of coffee planted around the world, and Costa Rica is definitely a recognized grower in the world of coffee origins. A method in which they grow – shade grown, is only one of the most notable parts of their sustainability. Shade grown coffee involves a natural canopy over the crops in order to have a diverse plant life which  offers a symbiosis life cycle with the coffee crops. Shade grown coffee is also known to have a unique flavor due to slower growing time, which is said to make the flavor more concentrated and pronounced. The plantation took many steps from waste to upkeep to continue to be as sustainable as they are, and work to reduce the carbon footprint of not only their plantation, but the country as a whole.

The processing of coffee from being handpicked, peeled, washed, and dried is one that is long and labor filled, but normal in the life of a coffee bean. The plantation noted their focus on continuous sustainability and use of their natural resources through the process. An example includes the composting of the outer fruit outside of the bean and returning it to the soil within the field after it is decomposed.

From growing to tasting, we learn the art that is coffee cupping, the recognized term for tasting varieties of coffee. With an activity such as coffee cupping, it can be a process similar to wine with a distinction of flavors and careful tasting techniques. The flavor is distinctive, bold, and bitter after our analysis as a group of the notes of the coffee. It was a fantastic experience as smells of freshly roasted honey coffee filled the air in the same room as us.

With the goals of coffee becoming the first sustainable crop in the world, it is expressed that one of the biggest challenges is making sure that smaller plantations such as Finca Rosa are taking the proper sustainable steps, and it is seen that this plantation is helping towards that goal.

With an experience such as this, we enjoy our coffee fueled sustainable knowledge filled adventures even more.

Submerging into the life of a Costa Rican native.

By Costa Rica

Submerging into the life of a Costa Rican native is a truly humbling experience.We had the pleasure of spending the night with a local family in Pueblo Nuevo, and in exchange we helped them paint the community church and plant trees. I was lucky enough to stay with Mari and her four children, who were beyond welcoming and hospitable. It was a surprise to see young kids naturally engaged and unafraid to speak to strangers. At first, I had a reserved approach since I wasn’t sure what kind of customs and values the family had instilled in their home. Luckily, the kids made it very easy to open up, be ourselves, and share our stories. The entire family expressed such genuine emotion and kindness that we all quickly started dreading the fast approaching goodbye. We discovered that the family has grown to love hosting students and they accept every opportunity they get to participate in the volunteer tourism exchange. Ensuring that the home is ready for visitors and welcoming the guests is the mother’s responsibility, while the husband works as an electrician. The mom, Mari, informed us that they get to host students up to three times a year, and they typically stay for periods of 1-3 weeks. The students work in community improvement projects throughout the day and at night they participate in social events hosted by the town. The nightly cultural exchange is something the entire town looks forward to as they get to learn and socialize with their temporary visitors. For instance, one of the nights a dance class is hosted, where the locals and students teach each other their favored/traditional dance styles. Mari also explained that the community center where they host these nightly events was built by the volunteer students. The town takes great pride in having the opportunity to collaborate with students. It allows them to educate foreigners of their lifestyle and it gives them the help they need to build a well-rounded community.

One of the first questions that came to mind while chatting with Mari was, but what about the impact this has on her family and more specifically the way the kids are raised. Was she not worried that they might want to leave to pursue the life that these visitors describe they have? To my amazement, it was the complete opposite. She felt blessed to be able to expose her children to different cultures, personalities, and opportunities. To her this is a way to open their eyes to what the world has to offer and also a chance for them to develop their interpersonal skills. It was evident from the short time exchanged with the family, that the kids did benefit from having people like us around. Their thirst to learn new things and to get to know us was heartwarming. The eldest child, Paola, quickly asked all of us for our social media profiles to be able to connect with us even after our departure. They normalized the experience for us by quickly making us feel accepted and cared for.

It was also wonderful to experience the benefits the community has from voluntourism. We had the opportunity to see the church and eat at the dining hall that was built by volunteers. Both are structures that the town value and appreciate having. Mari, who has lived in the town since she was two years old says that they are fortunate to have the assistance of people willing to make a change. While I think this program creates symbiotic relationships, I also believe that in the long run it modifies the standard family structure and routine since they don’t get complete privacy. Perhaps this town has not done this long enough to be affected negatively.

Needless to say, this was an amazing opportunity that surpassed all expectations. It almost felt like we had not done enough for them in return. Initially, I was dreading going into someone’s home without knowing anything about them, and mostly because of the social problems that we are surrounded with in today’s society. However, it ended up being one of the best days on the trip. It was thrilling yet heartbreaking, trying to learn as much as possible from these people, knowing that we might not see them again. I personally felt lucky to speak Spanish because I feel like it would’ve changed my perspective on the experience had I not been able to easily communicate with them. I also think that because this family is familiar with hosting students it made the entire stay seamless. The space they offered us had everything we needed. I believe the community’s limited resources is what enables it to increase the volume of volunteers it attracts. If I were asked to do this again, I’d say yes in a heartbeat.

This can really change your view on the world and what we really need to focus on

By Costa Rica

Costa Rica Day 7

 It’s already been seven days since our arrival in Costa Rica and so far it has been all pretty amazing. Today me and the rest of the group arrived in an indigenous community where we’ll be staying overnight. As soon as we arrived we ate lunch, and after resting for an hour we all went together on a tour where someone from the bribri community showed us where they live and some of the medicinals plants they grow. The bribri guide told us a beautiful story about the cacao plant and how it used to be a beautiful woman. The bribri guide also told us the story of their god (Sibu) and about their shaman which is someone who is one of the most important people in the bribri community. The last and more important thing the guide showed was this sacred conic house where he explained how the four levels of the house represent the four levels of the world.

I found all of their stories about life and after-life very interesting and very different from other religions,  After dinner everyone got together to learn more about the bribri language and different spirituals dances. The bribri people showed us a couple of different dances and asked us to join them. What really amazed me about this whole experience is how much the bribri communities care about the environment and how pretty much their whole world revolves around nature. Thanks to them, I really learned and understood how much, and in how many different ways the earth we live on can help us and how important it is to make sure we take care of it.  The local culture is definitely well integrated into the tourism experience, especially ours, since the bribri community is really environmentally friendly and since the main goal for us was to really get a sense of how everyone, especially the people studying in hospitality, can be environmentally sustainable and how we practice everything we learned throughout our experience. I believe that having better accommodations would definitely improve the tourism experience and more people would decide to stay longer in order to really understand what the bribri culture is about and have more time to ask the bribri people about what their goal is regarding helping the environment and how they are planning to make people start getting involved in going green, and helping the earth we live on. It was a really great experience, it was really amazing staying with them for a whole day and I really appreciated how they made all of my meals vegetarian since they usually eat meat and how I was the only one who couldn’t eat meat.

I believe that everyone should go visit this community to learn more about them and their culture since this is definitely one of those experiences that can really change your view on the world and what we really need to focus on.


Sibu and the Eight Wonders

By Costa Rica

On day 7, we went to Salitre to meet the indigenous community of Bribri Pa Kaneblo. It is a small community of 1,800 people but they own 11,700 acres of land. We met one of the villagers known as Jose and he was our temporary tour guide. He told us that he wanted to pass down what his elders have taught him.  He gave us a brief description about the village and how half of it is situated in another part of Costa Rica. They have their own language which wasn’t a written language until 1992. They showed us words such as mia mia, which means thank you and mishka, which meant continue. We also learned about how they grew their own food such as Iam and rice (which we saw the rice farm the next day).

He took us on a tour of the medicinal plants in their property. They had Kalkӧ Kapӧli, Pataste, Cacao, and so many more. Jose later told us about Sibu who is their god. He told us a story about two women named Pataste and Coco where Pataste cared for Sibu, who was pretending to be an old man, but Coco wanted nothing to do with him because he was old and sweaty. One day, Sibu made Coco fall from her hammock and out came gas from her body, turning her into a plant. He then mentioned how there are eight worlds, 4 above ground and 4 underground. Sibu imagined one world full of life, which is the Earth. He said that Sibu made the planet special for us and we can feel his love by breathing, eating, and drinking. He made a comparison with Earth to a little girl. They are both very fragile and cries whenever chemicals are added to them. One of the Bri Bri philosophies is that Sibu, people, and nature are 3 components that can’t live without each other. Later at night, they performed a dance for us which is a dance that they do for happiness and whenever a ceremony happens.

It was amazing to hear these stories that would be told to younger generations of the Bribri community. They had their own god who gave them everything because they cared about them. The community tries their best to preserve and conserve the area around them because they are grateful for what Sibu has given them and they don’t want it to go to waste. This gives tourists a perspective towards what they believe in and can even compare it to their own religion or what their culture is. Hearing him talk about Sibu was great because you can hear from his voice that he was passionate about him. The dance was beautiful and I loved how not only adults were doing it but also kids. I would’ve liked to hear more stories about Sibu and what he’s done for people, that could be something they could improve on. Another thing that would be interesting is teaching tourists on how to do the dance (unless it’s offensive, then that is not a good idea). Other than those small thoughts, I had a great time staying a day in their village and just experiencing the cultures and hearing about their traditions. I will always have Sibu on my mind.

Truly an eye-opening experience for me making me appreciate how much effort is put into being sustainable

By Costa Rica
Currently having entered my sophomore year of university it became apparent that most of my time has been stuck in the books learning about food service hospitality sustainability rather than actually trying to understand it with hands-on experiences. Having never traveled alone, this experience will teach me how to truly incorporate sustainability to real-world situations in my field of study ( even though the size of my industry is different from the locations visited). Leaving home for so long and so far away gave me the confidence and knowledge I needed to bring back knowledge to my environment to help me succeed and help create environmental sustainability. My visit to the Crowne Plaza, Rancho Margot, Finca Rosa, and BriBripakaneblo Buenos Aires has shown the positives and negatives of being sustainable in the food service hospitality industry.
All these locations dealt with handling agriculture until it reached the table in an ethical and environmentally safe way. Although the food is higher quality, good for marketing and ethically sound the process from beginning to end to making organic sustainable meals is time-consuming, un-efficient and not very popular topic depending on where it is taking place. Watching farmers climb up steep mountains to farm small amounts of food for the community to collecting scraps to sell or make compost truly was an eye-opening experience for me making me appreciate how much effort is put into being sustainable.

This sustainability feature still resonates with me!

By Costa Rica

Never in a million years did I think I would end up at a coffee plantation, and you know what? I don’t regret one second of it. It was so cool learning about coffee production and the Costa Rican coffee culture. I was in awe with the entire plantation and all that it had to offer but there were three things that really caught my attention.

First, was learning that their banana plants work as an irrigation system. In the lining of the plant’s stem are small pockets of WATER! How cool is that? The water is used for the soil and the rest is chopped off after the bananas become ripe.

Another observation I thought was interesting was found in the bathroom. Very minor but I noticed that they had to separate trash cans. One for the toilet paper because it was not too be thrown inside of the toilet since there is not a filter system to separate that waste, and the other was for hand towels. They did not use paper towels or have a fast hand dryer but used towels instead. I thought it was a cool concept because instead of using paper towels, which goes to waste, you can just wash the towel and it can be used again.

Did you know that avocado pits can serve as another use other than planting an avocado tree? Well I didn’t either until we had lunch at Finca Rosa Blanca. I ordered a watermelon juice that was served in a mason jar and before opening the straw, my classmate pointed something out. On the straw wrapper it read: Made from an avocado pit! How mind blowing is that?! I was hesitant at first because I was hoping it wouldn’t taste like wood but the straw was smooth. One week later and this sustainability feature still resonates with me!

The Perfect Circle

By Costa Rica

I have this tendency to get super excited about things. This passion drives me to complete tasks and give it my all….until I lost interest and give up. It is a frustrating habit of mine that causes me to procrastinate on numerous amounts of tasks. I was in the middle of my senior year and I was trying to fight an academic probation. I lost interest and my passion to finish my degree. It was a quiet numbness that surrounded me and I couldn’t shake the feeling of I wasn’t good enough to graduate. Slowing drifting into a eternal numbness of “Well that’s how it is going to be and I can’t change it”.  Well, I’m happy to report how wrong I was.

I had a sit down with my adviser and she was said “Listen this isn’t a worse as it could be. However, I am not your mother and I can’t change this unless you want to change yourself.” I started to feel myself shake from my numbness and realize I’m too close to give up now. We moved around a  couple of classes around and I retook the ones I failed. It felt like I could turn this around. Then my adviser suggested the new study abroad class in Costa Rica as my last class for FIU. Along with this suggestion she looked at me with  hope in her eyes and said “you got this, envision that diploma in your hand. If anything you should create a vision board and put a picture of a diploma on there.” As corny as it sounds, that’s exactly what I did.

I drove to the craft store and loaded up on all different magazines and glitter I could put on this bad boy. I was excited again and it felt good. The first thing I stuck on there was the flyer for Costa Rica class and I continued to add things. My roommates came home and started to make fun of me for the board and kept saying how I was going to leave it unattended in about a week. I laughed with confidence saying how my life is going to change because of this board. Somehow my roommates knew my habits very well because the board was left half finished. However I did set in motion getting my grades higher up and setting a track in place to make Costa Rica happen. Slowly but surely the board did get finished.

Now fast forwarding to the actual week of the trip and I still had my procrastinating habits alive and well. However, somehow I made it to Costa Rica. The trip was absolutely amazing and brought back passions within me I had forgotten about. Especially one area of the trip at Rancho Margot. A eco lodge and all natural resort that offered their resources in all sustainable light. We stayed their for about two nights and it really was an experience I never had before but it was great. I remember touring the property with our tour guide and he showed us certain areas that contained live stock. One area had cows and these cows were the leanest and healthiest looking cows you could ever did see. We learned that these cows only ate the freshest of grass in order for their compost to be pure and re-purposed for soil. The guide even showed us the compost and you could see bits of grass growing from it. Professor Beltran explain this was a perfect example of life cycle analysis. Having a product complete the perfect circle from start to finish. I was quiet for a moment until I realized I need to develop my own perfect circle complex. So simple yet it was a habit that i desperately needed to adapt. No more procrastination and leaving tasks unfinished like my vision board. If I had an idea, it is going through start to finish without an hesitations.

We finished our time at the ranch and moved on to staying at a local community called Pueblo Nuevo. We were given the tasks of either helping paint the local community church or moving soil via wheelbarrow to cover a pipe near a area of plants. I decided to try the moving soil talks along one another person and we went to work. I decided to try out my new perfect circle analysis and stick with finishing the area within the time we were with the community. I struck my shovel into the dirt with a long, forgotten passion that was not inside me for quite sometime. I moved the wheelbarrow back and fourth until we had to go on break. The next day followed with more community work and I continued my work with the soil. Before I knew it, the job was done. I can’t describe to you the feeling of completing that job with such fire. It was the first task I completed using the perfect circle concept and it felt amazing. Through the rest of the trip I continued to develop that passion through learning about suitability and making new memories with great people.

This trip started something within me again. Something that can only be described as a small fire that is growing more and more each day. The days of procrastination and half attempting things are done. My time with the local community and Ranch Margot really did a number on me. I am using the life cycle analysis and adapting that perfect circle into my own life. Tasks that I need to get done will be seen through the very end and be completed with the fire I developed within. I owe an academic adviser, a simple vision board and most importantly Costa Rica more gratitude than I could possibly give. I can’t say I’m the perfect person with my flaws fixed but I am ready for a change. A change that is already in motion and it’s all thanks to a cows eating habits.




Estevan y Andy: Los Chicos de Pueblo Nuevo

By Costa Rica

When I think of the term “human experience,” I think of the documentary The Human Experience. The film follows two brothers who travel to three various parts of the world and live with three different groups, living with New York City homeless people in the middle of winter, disabled and abused orphans in Peru, and Leper African villagers. The whole focus of the film is the self-exploration for happiness even in the midst of unfortunate conditions, and that there is always a beauty that can be found between the conversations humans can have with one another.

When I found out about this study abroad, I was immediately sold on the white-water rafting the program initially marketed and I didn’t even bother researching the extra activities on the trip’s itinerary. I also needed an extra 3-credits for the fall semester, and with the adventure that I had pictured with this trip, I thought, “Why not?” (Update: 10/10 would recommend white-water rafting)

While reviewing the trip’s itinerary a week before arrival, I was surprised to see that we would be engaging and living with a local family. In all honesty, I initially thought of the visit as a waste of time. This was my first time visiting Costa Rica and I wanted all the available time to do even more sight-seeing. In addition to the local family stay, we would also be volunteering our time for the community we would be staying at.

Arriving in Pueblo Nuevo, our class immediately separated into teams that would either paint the community church’s floor or digging soil nearby. I wanted to put my painting skills to test.

While painitng, I noticed a group of 3 boys running around the church and peaking their heads behind the gates. They seemed very interested to meet our class and they wanted to make sure that their presence would be known in our work space. Out of the 3 boys, 2 of them, which were brothers, stood out to me as they playfully interrupted our class’ work space.

Estevan and his younger brother Andy were members of the community that both lived with their single mother and were even neighbors with their grandparents. After getting to know their names in the middle of painting, I asked them simple questions in order to get to know them a little bit better.

“What’s your favorite color? Do you like soccer? Who’s your favorite soccer team?”

I eventually found out that my roommates and I would be staying with their grandparents that night and the boys were thrilled to hear that. Estevan and Andy saw this as an opportunity to have older brothers to play around with for the rest of the day.

 Already exhausted from volunteering, I knew, having younger brothers myself, that these boys would wipe the floor with me by the end of the night. After volunteering, our class played kickball with some of the local kids and later cooled down in a nearby creek (my face says it all). 

Heading back to the houses we would be staying at, Estevan and Andy’s mom took me and my roommates to her parents’ house and introduced us to them. By that time, I had figured out that our hosts for the night did not know a word of English and my Spanish speaking ability isn’t the best. One goal I had in mind for this trip was to speak as much Spanish as I could and improve on my speaking ability. I saw this as a challenge to help reach my goal by simply engaging in conversation with this family.

I learned about the family’s history in Pueblo Nuevo, their views on the community, what they liked about Costa Rica, and their culture. Becoming more comfortable with our hosts, the boys were super excited to show us their backyard and the farm that their grandparents had. After having a delicious dinner that the grandmother prepared, the boys started jumping all over us, requesting piggy back rides and more, and even played with the various Snapchat filters on my phone. They even gave me and my roommates the greatest nicknames of “Dante Elephante,” “Michael Jordan,” and “Jorge de La Selva”. Keep in my mind that our names our Dante, Michael, and Josh. At that moment, they reminded me so much of my own brothers and their playful innocence. These boys were so happy to be with a group of people that they’ve never met before that they looked up to as older brothers. They were so sad to leave to their mom’s house later that night, knowing that they couldn’t spend the night with us. I couldn’t believe how close these boys got to us in a matter of hours with little conversation.

In The Human Experience, the two brothers end their journey by reconciling their severed relationship with their father. Realizing the conversations they had with these three groups, they learned that pain will always be there, but they learn to forgive their father to proceed in having a healthier relationship. I had a similar experience with Estevan and Andy.

Seeing the joy and innocence in their eyes playing with us reminded me a lot of my relationship with my younger brothers. I’m an out of state student and I normally see my siblings twice a year at most. This winter break, I couldn’t make the time to fly down and see them and I know they’re sad to hear that I won’t be seeing them this holiday season. I realized that the same joy these boys saw in us is the same joy my brothers have when they see me, yet I pay so little attention to that. Knowing that I brought some happiness to these boys’ lives lets me know I can do the same with my own brothers.


Leaving Pueblo Nuevo the following day, I could see that the community was grateful for our work and I knew a small part of me would be left behind there with Estevan and Andy. Before leaving, I managed to give Estevan my FIU hat to keep as a reminder of the short time we had. After saying our goodbyes to the community members, Andy managed to run alongside our tour bus as we drove off to our next destination. It was a picture-perfect moment, symbolizing how much happiness we were able to bring with the bonding experiences our class had there.


By Costa Rica

If you were to tell me a couple months ago that I would be traveling to Costa Rica for my last class at FIU, I would have said that you were insane.  Fast forward to November 30th, 2018; In 12 days this concept is actually going to be put to life.  I can not express to you the excitement that I am feeling for this trip. A part of me is scared, I can not lie to you. However, that fear is replaced by a quiet adrenaline that grows each day to see a beautiful new world. Join my classmates and I as we embark on a great journey to Costa Rica in the name of Hospitality and Sustainability. More to come 🙂


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