by Jill Robinson and the Greenheart Travel High School Scholarship Winners to Costa Rica
The Greenheart Travel Scholarship winners were up to an early start for their second day in a new country. The four high school students: Braulio, Fernando, Nitza and Luzmaria had a full day of cultural events to initiate them into the Tico way of life. First stop, Espiritiu, for a crash course in coffee at the Cooperativa Naranjo coffee plantation for a tour and tasting.
“I can finally say that I am head first in Costa Rica,” Nitza Solis wrote in her journal. “The ‘toe test’ (to see how cold the water is) of Costa Rica is finally over. I am officially here! The activity that stood out to me was the coffee taste testing. It was so good and an authentic piece of Costa Rica. I never knew there are coffee tasters, much like wine tasters.”
The four students had arrived without much of a taste for this morning staple, but as the day progressed, an appreciation for the hard work that went into a morning cup o’ joe had grown tenfolds.
“When we arrived at the coffee plantation we met our tour guide whose name slips my mind, but right away, he took us to try two different types of coffee,” Fernando Arce wrote in his journal. “They were both fresh and very good. Then he took us on a tour and told us tons of information about coffee. He had a lot to say, and I was glad because there was a lot I needed to learn. We then entered a small house and our tour guide asked me and Braulio to grind the coffee in a type of machine and for Luzmaria to pour water to make the coffee. We then drank the coffee we had just made, which was really good as well.”
With the help of a caffeine kick following the coffee tour and presentation, Braulio and Fernando accepted a challenge to pass a test of Costa Rican strength. The tour guide handed them their ax and let them each have a try at a log before them. To break it in half meant they were ready to marry, a status neither of them were too eager to earn, but both of them kept a good sense of humor throughout the attempt. After the fun, the students piled into their “tour van” and rode the roller-coaster of pavement back to where their new host families awaited.
Each student had a different host family for the duration of the trip, and the nervousness that comes with meeting someone for the first time began to intensify as they approached each stop. After the initial introductions, they were welcomed into the family as if they were old friends.
“Meeting my host family (Vasquez) for the first time was scary and nerve-wracking,” Nitza wrote. “But once I started to get to know them, they made me feel at ease, especially Dona Dinia. Sometimes it is a little hard to communicate if I do not know a word, but overall I feel that I am not afraid to make mistakes and correct them.”
Luzmaria agreed, and found herself right at home with her new family.
“I love my host mom Danixa!” Luzmaria Guzman wrote. “Never have I so easily conversed with someone new (and in Spanish too!) My host family consists of Danixa, her son, her parents and her brothers and sister! All of whom are just as nice. They say I talk in Spanish well. They hear my Mexican accents, which I think is funny.”
With new homes and families come adjustments, but it is all part of the cultural immersion that is part of travel. These four students welcomed the challenges that awaited them throughout the week, even if it meant going without some of the comforts of home for a while.
“My first night has been good so far,” Braulio Fernandez wrote. “My host mom made fried fish with “pinto” (rice and beans) and salad. It was very good. The only thing that threw me off was that we didn’t eat tortillas with our meal. I desperately wanted a toasty corn tortilla, but I guess they don’t do that here. Oh well. I’m glad that’s my biggest complaint.
P.S. No trouble with heat so far.”