A Visit to the Beautiful Cloud Forest

Cloud forest in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Team Journal Entry for Thursday, March 10

We assemble for breakfast in the hotel. The mood is relaxed and convivial. Considering we were total strangers four days ago, there isn’t any awkwardness or pretense. Our team is gelling naturally. Of course, the bar is set very high with this group. There are two former teachers, a former surgeon, a recently retired New York Times editor, and myself. With a previous Global Volunteers trip under my belt, I thought I’d be showing the newbies the ropes. Little did I know. I’ve been teamed with people that in total have been on 16 Global Volunteers trips prior to this one. Guess who the newbie really is? How does anyone compete with that? Which is the point, they aren’t competing, they are just living amazingly full, rich, unselfish lives. These people are who I want to be when I grow up. But I regress…

After arriving at the high school, we get a tour of the on-campus dairy and the pigs up the hill next to the pond. Walking the halls, I stop to speak with a student I worked with yesterday. While we were painting buckets, I played an eclectic mix of music from my iPhone for Jessica and her friends. I asked if they’d heard of Maroon 5 and they were hesitant. The song begins and recognition lights up their faces, and they proceeded to sing every word. A few songs further in the shuffle came Tom Jones’ “She’s a Lady,” and Jessica knew that one as well. She is not an atypical student – the classes are chock-full of smart, talented future leaders.

Volunteering in English classes in Costa Rica

Roberto in Ílfido’s conversational English class

For a change of pace from working outside, I opt for the classroom. The teacher, Ílfido, asks me to talk about myself so the students can get experience in listening to a native English speaker. I try to speak slowly and introduce myself. I talk about my job, my family, and the things I like to do. Ífido picks up on my comment that I like to read and asks me to expound on the importance of reading. This topic is near and dear to my heart and well-rehearsed as I’ve given the speech to my children many times. As I’m talking, I’m not sure if I’m seeing blank faces or rapt attention.

Then the students pair up to perform mock job interviews, in English, with one student acting as the job applicant and the other the interviewer. They all do very well and I remember how difficult it was for me when I was in Spanish class and had to talk in front of the class. I keep wondering if I’ve spoken slowly or clearly enough to have made an impact. The bell rings to end class and perhaps my question is answered: each student shakes my hand upon leaving.

The trails at Santa Elena Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica

The trails at Santa Elena Cloud Forest Preserve

To end the day, we go on a tour at Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. It is an incredible example of biodiversity. We see animals I’ve never heard of, such as headlight click beetles and leaf cutter ants. We see a toucan, a brown jay, a wren, and a sleeping sloth. It is a beautiful ending to an amazingly full, rich day.

A coati looking for food at the preserve in Costa Rica

A coati mundi looking for food at the preserve

Volunteers exploring the Cloud forest in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Listening intently to our guide, Guillermo, tell us about this amazing ecosystem

Entry submitted: Robert

Message of the Day – Sharon: “No todo lo que brilla es oro.” – Spanish proverb

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