Hi everyone!

Today was community day! We spent the day with Costa Rican families learning about their lifestyle and their costumbres (customs). To start off our day, we woke up at 7:30 am to have breakfast at 8:00 am, which consisted of banana pancakes, ham, eggs, and fresh fruit. After breakfast, we all walked to the basketball court to split into four groups before going off with our designated families.

Katie´s group consisted of Sasha, Emma L, Emily, and Ryan:

After everyone else was split up into their families; Memo walked us to our family´s house. Our family was Amalia, Cecilia, and Carol. We all helped set up the table and chairs outside on the patio so we all had space to sit together. Once we did, Amalia started to teach us a game called “Rummy,” played with chips like dominos. We played a couple of practice rounds first. Once we got the hang of it, we played for about an hour with everyone, and occasionally by ourselves, while Amalia set up the ingredients for lunch. We helped her cut up the vegetables for a salad she was making to go with our rice and pork. We continued to play Rummy while we waited for lunch to cook. During that time, we got to know more about the three of them, their family, and how long they´ve been in Costa Rica. We were then able to tell them about ourselves and where we’re from as well. We then ate lunch outside. For a majority of us, lunch felt like home when we first took a bite. It made Amalia very happy that we enjoyed the food and finished our plates. Throughout our time there, a lot of neighbors stopped by Amalia´s house to say hi and introduce themselves. More and more of Amalia and Cecilia´s family started to come to celebrate Costa Rican Mother´s Day; it´s tomorrow, but they mostly celebrate it today. A tradition of theirs is to make a big lunch and dessert for their entire family. Our dessert was a waffle bowl filled with ice cream, strawberry jello, and fruit. After dessert, we all played dominos, where we continued to get closer to Amalia´s family, especially Carol´s niece who started to get attached to us. Once everyone in the family left, we talked to Carol about her life in Costa Rica. She told us what she loves about it, which is the community. They are all lovely and treat each other with love and respect. We took a lot of pictures on our Polaroids since it was something they were able to see and experience for the first time, which they really enjoyed. After we helped Amalia and Cecilia make the empanadas, they laid out the dough for us and we spread the refried beans and added cheese and they fried it. We then ate one last time and shared an emotional moment where they told us we can come back whenever we wanted. Then we headed to the basketball court to meet up with everyone else.

Vicmary´s group consisted of Chloe, Emma H & Clive.

We were welcomed into Aida´s family with so much love. To begin, we walked into their beautiful house which was fully decorated by handmade knitted artifacts done by la Señora Aida. We sat down on their couch and proceeded to ask questions regarding their lifestyle and their costumbres. Something that stood out is all the similarities that we held. For me, a female born and raised in the Dominican Republic, things like las pruebas (tests) [done in school to pass towards the next grade], los juegos de cartas (the card games we played), the game “stop,” and simply the immense sense of community in this beautiful neighborhood, brought me straight back to my childhood were I was truly worry-free and was fully present in the moment. Here, we realized how much New York deprives us of having fun that doesn´t include going out to a party, but fun that, regardless of being inside a household, time flies by with a few rounds of a card game filled with laughter. Subsequently, we went to La Ceiba, a stunning huge tree where we relaxed and enjoyed the view while Aida stayed behind making our delicious lunch. Lunch time came and rice, pollo con papas y ensalada with lemonade was served. We helped Aida by cleaning our dishes and continued to play card games after. Lastly, inside Aida´s house, we cooked our Empanadas de Queso. We started by shredding the cheese and making the flour and building up its consistency. We then formed a small ball shape with the flour in our hands and continued to follow Aida’s instructions until we had a cheesy and tasty empanada. Guess what happened next??? Yup. We played a few rounds of “stop” and ended our visit to la Señora Aida by thanking her for being so welcoming. 100/10 if you ask me…

Steph´s group consisted of Kierra, David, Tenzin, and Kate.

Once we split up into our mini groups, our family, Emilio, took us to hike up a mountain close by. After what felt like hours of hiking and almost falling, we made it to a beautiful stream of river! The water was so clear and refreshing, that we crossed it (and got our shoes wet but the experience was like no other). After that, Emilio took us up to a viewpoint (so yes, more walking up the rocky roads) that overlooked the whole town. Then, we went to the mini-mart to buy some much-needed water and we headed towards his house. We were welcomed with open arms by Emilio´s mother, who was the most wonderful human being, and headed out to the patio to play some UNO Flip! After the game, Emilio taught us how to play Run, a game that is played here. We all became so invested that we spent 3 hours playing that game! While we were playing, we were able to talk to Emilio and learn more about Costa Rican life. Then, Emilio’s mother served us some delicious food which consisted of arroz frito, maduros, and una ensalada de platano con chiles. Afterwards, I encouraged everyone to wash the dishes and help out. We then proceeded to play some more competitive round of Run (with David and Tenzin being really invested while Kate kept getting confused…it is okay though; we love you). Emilio’s mother then called us all into the kitchen to make the empanadas de queso y frijole and some tortillas de queso. She taught us how to properly make las empanadas and then we feasted! We helped out with the dishes (again) and then sat outside and talked with Emilio. Then our time together was cut short and we had to say our goodbyes. We all started to feel emotional the moment that Emilio’s mother hugged us and Emilio as well. I can say for sure that we have held this moment close to our hearts and really wished we had more time to spend and bond. 🙁

Shirley´s group consisted of Fiona, Daran, Gracie, and Imogen.

After splitting into our groups Arlene, her mother, and her aunt, walked us uphill toward their house. Once we arrived, we got straight to work on making empanadas with the cheese we bought from the dairy farm yesterday. We made cheese and bean empanadas under the direction of little Arlene´s aunt. While she fried them, we washed our hands and sat outside with Arlene playing games like Jenga (I lost) and later began to color. Just as we finished eating, our family let us know that we would learn to make pan casero (homemade bread) with Arlene´s grandmother! We were all so excited to get the chance to bake yet another dish with this amazing family! The process of baking the bread was so much fun! Under amazing guidance, we kneaded a bunch of dough and formed them into circles that then received a mountain full of compliments! We were all extremely proud of our little creations! Once they got out of the oven we added a wash of milk and sugar before heading back out to play and color with Arlene. Before we knew it, it was lunchtime so I stepped inside to help chop the meat we were eating while others cut plantains and lettuce for our lunch. We then ate a delicious meal knowing it would not have been possible without everyone’s hard work, Just as we were finding new games to play and more fun activities to do together, it was time to leave! Saying goodbye to them was much harder than we anticipated, we had no idea how much we could all bond in a couple of hours, but we made sure to take a group photo before giving our last hugs and saying bye for now. Overall, we had an incredible and fun time with our family and couldn´t have asked for anything more 🙂

After everyone’s individual fun times, Memo and the other adults walked us back to the basketball court where we got to play with the local children in games such as soccer, volleyball, and basketball. We played for around two hours before heading back to the base house to get ready for dinner and our nightly meeting. We ate lentil soup, rice, and a side salad then headed into our nightly meeting where we recapped the day and passed the torch on to Chloe. The group then planned a surprise for Vicmary and sang her an early happy birthday (10 pm here but midnight in New York)! Overall, all four of us had an incredible time being the leaders for today and watching the entire group breakdown the language barrier and really get to know everyone in the town; we couldn’t have asked for a better day!

Were sending big love to our parents and loved ones from Costa Rica!

Pura Vida,
Shirley, Steph, Vicmary, and Katie 🙂