It was great to wake up in Costa Rica. Our day started out with a nice breakfast of fresh fruit, eggs, and omelets. The mango was especially good. Our team consists of two families essentially: 1) the Bixler family with parents Ray and Caitlyn and their kids Emma, Jack, and Thomas – aged 20, 17, and 10, respectively; and 2) the extended family of Pam with her eight-year-old son, Edison, and her sister-in-law, Julie, with her partner, Jeremie, and her two kids, Christian (17) and Ben (11). Then, of course, there is our fearless team leader, Maggie, who is the Costa Rica Country Manager and has been leading teams here for over two years.
Caitlyn, Ray, Thomas, Jack, and Emma
Pam, Ben, Edison, Christian, Jeremie, and Julie
After breakfast we all sat together in a circle and listened to Maggie share the upcoming week’s itinerary. Can’t wait to get started.
Next everyone took a turn reviewing Global Volunteer’s ten guiding principles. Listening to each principle helped all of us understand how we can better serve the school we are about to help. After we read through the principles, we created goals for the group as well as the characteristics necessary to demonstrate to each other and to our hosts.
Our Team Goals are:
To experience the natural world of Costa Rica
To learn about the culture through interaction with the community
To create friendships and strengthen relationships
To serve others in a meaningful way
To grow personally
Our Characteristics of an Effective Team:
patient engaging inclusive humble
observant risk taker helpful sense of humor
tolerant social encouraging open-minded
respectful genuine proactive outgoing
accepting flexible non-judgmental good listener
Our meeting room at the lovely Hotel 1915 in Alajuela
We finished our morning session re-learning the importance of being healthy and safe. We were reminded to always drink bottled water, although the coffee should be fine, and to be very careful when crossing any streets.
Once we completed the morning session, we walked a few blocks to a restaurant for lunch. During our walk, and even though we had just learned the rules for safety, Ben still had to be held back by Maggie from crossing one of the streets too soon. We are all going to have to be careful about this rule as we’re very used to drivers paying careful attention to pedestrians. The good news us we all safely made it to the restaurant where we enjoyed a nice lunch of fajitas, chicken nuggets, and sandwiches, with Christian eating a belated breakfast of scrambled eggs and pancakes. Everyone seemed happy and full.
We then headed back to the hotel and packed our bags on the shuttle that was taking us to Santa Elena. Our driver was very pleasant and personable. During the 3.5-hour drive to Santa Elena, we stopped mid-way for some ice cream cones, milkshakes, and other treats.
The view on our ride up to Santa Elena
With the sweet treats in our bodies, we loaded ourselves back into the van so that we could complete our trip. Near the end of the drive the paved road turned into a dirt road, which we drove for the last 18 kilometers. It was then explained to us by Pam that the very bumpy road was giving us our first tropical massage, something she had heard from a driver on a previous bumpy trip she had taken in Costa Rica. Many of us also started to debate whether we might have to get out and push the van as it struggled to make it up many of the very steep hills. Furthermore, as we got higher into the mountain it was very noticeable that there were no guardrails. It sure looked a long way down from the road, and you could see the severe drop-offs from inside the van. So thankful we had a safe and very capable driver.
The Mar Inn – our home in Santa Elena
Traffic on the road picked up as we drew nearer the town, and it was very exciting to see the quaint town of Santa Elena up ahead. It was nice to drive through the town to at least get a glimpse of the restaurants, shops, and grocery store. We arrived at the Mar Inn just a few moments later and were very happy with the accommodations. What a very lovely B&B. We quickly settled in and then met for dinner, where we met two of our hosts, Jorge and Tobbit. Over a terrific meal of chicken, rice, and beans, we heard from Jorge what to expect over the coming week. He confirmed that we will be building a facility to house a garden as well as help build a vegetable garden outside.
The night very quickly wound down as everyone appeared to be a bit tired, so we all went back to our rooms and crawled into our beds with thoughts of working hard, doing some really good work, and making new friends tomorrow morning. Time to get to work.