Hello everyone! I was the Lider del Dia (Leader of the Day) for today, and it was another fun day of learning and exploring! Today’s focus was on community, so we were able to spend a lot of time with local families in Aquiares. I’ll start with what I did with my group and the family I was with, then I will tell some stories of what other groups did. Then, I will bring it back with what we did all together back at the lodge.

After we ate breakfast in our lodging (shoutout to the awesome cooks Diego and Aurelio) we walked for a few minutes to a school. We got there at 8:30 am and met up with all of the families. We were split up into our groups and then followed a local to their home. I was in a group with Hope and Esther. The local who graciously invited us into her life was Evelyn. Because Evelyn only spoke Spanish, and Hope and I didn’t, Esther translated for us! Thank you so much, Esther and all the other Spanish speakers on the trip, you guys made this day possible!

Evelyn showed us her home and then took us over to her mother-in-law’s home. They live right across the street from each other, and almost all of their extended family live in Aquiares, so we got to meet a lot of them throughout the day. Evenlyn’s mother-in-law, Lorena, showed us how to make empanadas and tortillas from scratch! She showed us how to mix the dough, flatten them by hand, then fry them on a cast iron plate. Later, outside, Evelyn’s young niece served us plastic food as part of her Restaraunte Dora. I taught them a card game called King in the Corner (with the help of Esther of course) and one of Evenlyn’s uncles’ in-laws did really well and beat us immediately!

For lunch, we made a chicken soup with potatoes and carrots. And in the afternoon, we played several different games and then went on a short walk around the neighborhood. We learned that Evelyn’s happiest moment was when she had her child, Kevin! A very fun part of the visit for me was learning about Evelyn’s business. She bakes cakes and makes chocolates during the day for local customers. We melted chocolate, poured it into molds, added some filling, let it set in the freezer, and decorated it later. She also showed us the process of making a hot chocolate bath bomb, which was very interesting(and tasty)! And when we left in the afternoon, we got to take all of the chocolates with us!

Zach, Xitlalic, Alex, Tanya, and Christa’s group spent time with Norma and Antonio. They are an elderly retired couple that lives in Aquiaries. The group walked through Acquiares for two hours and toured the nearby church. In the later morning, Norma taught the group how to make a lot of different foods! Alex made arroz con leche, Christa cooked some chicken, Tanya made limeade, Xitlalic fried the plaintains, and Zach made arroz con pollo. Through talking with Norma, they learned that the coffee plantation in the area was positive because a lot of the community relies on it for employment. This group also learned that Norma and Antonia have very strong ties to the community, because they were raised there and they raised their children there. For an afternoon snack, everyone learned how to make tortillas and drank coffee with the tortillas. They also looked through photo albums of their family and learned a powerful story. Norma’s last born son had some physical and developmental disabilities which sadly led to his early passing away at 8 years old. One of his teachers was heavily impacted by his passing and explored ways to communicate with non-verbal children better. The teacher wrote about a proposal for a basic sign language in Costa Rica to give non-verbal children a way to express themselves and dedicated it to Norma’s child. But Norma didn’t know this, because the dedication to the thesis was written in English. So Tanya and Xitlalic translated it for them and it brought up a lot of emotions for Norma and Antonio. Everyone in this group felt the power of this moment and will hold it with them.

Nadia, Mikey, Aryssa, Zahirah, and Sonia went to meet with a young couple who live nearby. They met the couple’s three dogs and two cats. They were going to go see a waterfall nearby, and the lady was very excited to show them, but we are going to visit later on this trip, so they changed plans and spent time around the house. They played uno, and they made quesadillas. And Nadia actually taught them how to make tortillas! The couple has a farm business, where they grow bananas, papayas, mango, and pineapples.

Emma, Sawi, and Wendy went with Emilio, who is 25-year-old studying architecture in college. He has worked in agriculture for the past 4 years, so he was able to buy land and build the house he lives in now. Emilio’s mom works as a teacher(who helped to organize this community day). The group went on a walk around the town, following a route he walks with his dog. They walked to Emilio’s favorite spot, which is surrounded by trees and vibrant red and pink flowers. There is a little stream that runs through the whole town, and they stopped by the river bank and relaxed for a little while. Emilio enjoys his community because he grew up in Aquiares and most of his family lives nearby. Through talking with him, they found out that overall he likes tourism, but costs are rising in Aquiares because of it, and crime from the big cities is starting to follow the money, so there are some negative aspects as well. They cooked tilapia and rice together for lunch, Emma, Sawi, and Wendy succeeded on their first try to make empanadas! They spent a lot of time playing games with Emilio, and had a lot of fun laughing at their mistakes in the games!

When the time with families was over, we returned to the lodge and played a fast-paced game called taboo! There were two teams (the Cobras and the Cobra-eaters), and the losers had to wash the dishes. I was on the Cobras, and unfortunately, we lost, so I had to wash Emma’s dish. We ate dinner together, and I helped to lead the nightly meeting! We discussed what we learned from spending time with local families and the power of community. Buenas Noches!