Costa Rican Humblings – Part 1

Hola,

My name is Nour Daoud, and I am a fourth semester Social Service Worker (SSW) student, at Centennial College. I am currently in Costa Rica, completing my final placement. Since I am very interested in a future career doing international work, I have opted to complete an international internship, as I thought it was suitable for me. I have been humbled and challenged more than I can describe to you in words. So I thought I’d spare you my boring personal reflection, and just show you why. Please bear with me as this is my first blogging experience ever, and I hope you enjoy it!

Never be afraid to take a risk, or be pushed out of your comfort zone. You never know what you’ll discover about yourself!

Till my next post….PURA VIDA (if you ever visit CR, you must learn this expression)!!!

Ciao mis amigos 🙂

Nour

An Overview of My 3 Months in Costa Rica

Reflecting On My 3 Month Experience 

Looking back on my time here in Costa Rica and all the things I did and experienced, dealing with the barriers I faced, and the great people I  met and friendships I made.

I am feeling bittersweet of my soon departure from Costa Rica. I am happy to go home and see my family and friends, but sad to leave my friends here and this wonderfully beautiful country; with all the sun, nature/rain forest, animals, mountains and adventures. Goodness who would ever want to leave.

When I got here on the 8th of January I spend 24 in Orosi Valley it is a great little town. I went horseback riding, sightseeing, and my first time trying Costa Rica food (Gallo Pinto and Fresca). It was great!! It was sunny, hot, and beautiful. Speaking Spanish for me was a little hard because my pronunciation was really bad, but I got through it. And Costa Ricans (ticos) are great people with tourist, they will try to help you as much as they can.

Another thing I was shocked with is that the cars had the right of way, and that you had to wait for a clearing before crossing the street. As well as their sewer lines are open and run between the road and sidewalk, so you have to hop over them to cross the street. I also had the experience that sometimes the bus driver will not stop the bus to pick you up, they will see you and just drive passed you (haha that was fun).

I have been zip lining with Tranopy zip lining by Rain Forest Adventures, and Playa Jaco Beach. The zip lining was crazy we were 100,500 above sea level and had to do 10 zip lines back to back all the way down the rainforest mountain above the trees, it was amazing! And Jaco Beach was was wonderful. Although I did lose my eyeglasses in the ocean. When your friend tells you to jumps over the waves so she can get a picture of you, just remember to keep your glasses in your hand and not tucked in the front of your t-shirt… hahah!

These are some other things I did on my free time:                                                                    Nauyaca Waterfall and Playa Dominical Beach, Isle Tortuga and Playa Puntarenas Beach.

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Meeting, bonding, and working with the Indigenous students for Tec. They are truly amazing people. I will always cherish them dearly. We did a lot of things together, but my favourite things we did was visiting some of their Indigenous communities/territories (We went to Quitirrisi to the Huetar Tribe, Talamanca to the BriBri Tribe, and also San Carlos to  the Maleku tribe, Rey Curre the Boruca Tribe, and Boca Cohen a Cabecar tribe Territory).  Some of the other things we did was having a culture night-food fair/ feria de comida, we did a photo project, Spanish/English classes twice a week, social meetings/get together with the students it was great!!! These individuals are the just wonderful people with a rich history and community.

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Our Supervisor Diana and her assistant Joana are great!! They are the epitome of what a social worker should be like. I hope I can be that amazing we I start to work as a social service worker.

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We also volunteered once a week at Pueblito. This unique organization was established for at risk children. Pueblito Costa Rica offers children and adolescent survivors of situations of social risk, protective factors in the form of family, strengthening their rights and promoting their duties within a comprehensive approach. It was originally founded and started by Canadians. There are 15 homes with the “donas” (mothers/caretakers, multiple staff and volunteers, there is a daycare on the property that is for the surrounding community (own by a different organization). Founded in 1974 as a project of the Canadian International Development Agency. In 1975 town starts operation as welfare and Social Care Association. In 1984 signing of acknowledgment with PANI. It is a non-governmental organization.

pueblito pic

These are just some of the things I did here, but not everything. Yes, we did travel all over Costa Rica with Diana, Joana and the students, and thank you for the wonderful picnic at Jardin Botanico Lankester Gardens.

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And now it is time to say goodbye and hopefully see you all soon. I will miss you all very much, thank goodness for social media! Pura Vida mi amigos y amigas!!! 

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By: Abir Hassanien                                                                                                                                    

Social Service Worker                                                                                                                              

 Centennial College (Ashtonbee)                                                                                                          

International student placement internship Costa Rica (Instituto Tecnologico de Costa)

DownTime in Costa Rica :)

As you can imagine, we are not working 24/7 and we do get the weekends off, so I thought I’d share what I’ve been up to on my free time here in Costa Rica.

There are a lot of waterfalls in Costa Rica so I got the chance to visit a few of them. We found a tour organization and they took us to see the Nauyaca Waterfall and visit the Domincal Beach in January as well as Isla Tortuga in late February. Both trips were awesome.

We had about an hour and half hike up a mountain to get to the waterfall but it was well worth it and I love hikes (and yes it really looked like that). after swimming around in the waterfall for a bit we head back down and over to Dominical Beach for dinner and for me to see my first ever Costa Rica sunset. pretty damn nice looking if you ask me. For the trip to Isla Tortuga (turtle island) it was pretty good as well. A bit hectic cause it took an hour and a half on a boat to get there but it was also worth it I think. The water was so beautiful (the pic to the right) and I went snorkeling for the first time ever there!!! soo cool. after I stopped freaking out every time I put my face in the water and breathed it got a lot better when I got the hang of it. But it was so cool, for those of you who haven’t tired it, I highly recommend it. The fish pass right under you and its just so amazing, like being in a whole other world. I won’t post any pics of snorkeling cause I don’t have any and I probably also looked ridiculous in the goggles, you’ll just have to imagine it ;). After playing a couple games of volleyball on the beach it was time to call it a day and we headed back.

The University I am working at (ITCR/TEC) hosted an international day for all the international students going there (there were 30 of us) to get to know each other. There were students there from France, Czech Republic, Germany, Mexico, Spain, etc. they were from everywhere. There were even a few from the USA (they weren’t Trump supporters don’t worry). So the school took us on an all expenses paid trip to Jaco Beach and Rain forest Zip lining :). needless to say it was great day. made a lot of new friends, had my first time in a rain forest and zip lining was also preeeettyy dope.

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Following the Jaco trip. and with the friends I made on that trip, we planned another trip together. We spent the weekend at Manual Antonio. For those of you not familiar with Manual Antonio, it is a BEAUTIFUL beach (my favourite in Costa Rica). It has beautiful white sand, and it is right besides a national park with lots of wildlife … MONKEYS for example. haha seeing a monkey was on my list of things to do in Costa Rica so I proudly checked that off the list after this weekend. We stayed in a cheap hostel near the beach spent the day at the beach and the night at the pool. it was a hell of a weekend. These European kids sure can drink 😉 haha so it was a great night full of great drinks great music and great friends. anyways I had a blast. We checked out the national park the next day and met some monkeys 🙂

Other than these, I’ve just been wandering around from adventure to adventure, just yesterday I was at Volcano Irazu National Park with my friends. Instead of just explaining them all, i’ll just post pics 🙂

So yeah, I think that’s about it. I think I’ve covered everything aha

So I hope your having a awesome day and keep smiling guys.

By: Jason Bridgemohan

Saying Goodbye to Paradise and Returning to Reality

So, as you can probably tell by the title, I am soon to be leaving this beautiful island nation of Costa Rica and returning to the bitter cold of reality (and Canada ). Being here, on the ground, out in the open and right in the middle of social work has taught me so much and I will be returning to the snow, a changed person. But before I get into that, lemme show you some highlights of my time working here in Costa Rica.

Pueblito :

Pueblito is a orphanage we got the privilege of volunteering at every Wednesday we were in Costa Rica. It is really an amazing place, and very unlike it’s Canadian counter-part. They follow a different model than the North American model and in my opinion the kids have a better experience growing up there than a orphanage in Toronto. Instead of putting all the kids to live in a foster house Pueblito is set up more like a community. The kids live in something of a “gated community”. There are 18 houses in this community each with about 5-8 kids in each with a surrogate mother who looks after them. Along with the houses, there is also a computer lab, outdoor gym, playgrounds, daycare (free for the surrounding community) and a nurses office, as well as onsite psychologist, social worker and tutors for homework. This kind of model allows the kids to grow up in more of a community environment. They even have a bus that they use to take the kids on field trips. This model and place is not without ts flaws, don’t get me wrong but it was interesting to see a different model in place and one that I would be glad to see implemented in Toronto. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the kids for obvious reasons but here are some murals that are on the property, one of which the kids helped make.

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English Classes: We got the awesome opportunity to teach English. Not with like a full classroom or anything (I’m not trying to hype myself up lol) but with a group of indigenous students. It was a group of about 7-15 kids and since English is their THIRD language they were having some trouble with it so we offered to teach them. So every Monday from 1-3pm we would have English Classes. It was a lot of fun working with the students and fun teaching something that we sometimes take for granted.

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Visiting Earth University and the TEC University fair :

Earth University, as many of you may not know, is one of the best universities in Costa Rica and after visiting it, I can see why WHOA IS IT IMPRESSIVE. The grounds of the school are so large that if you didn’t have a car or a bike with you, you would probably be walking for about 20 minutes before you saw any sign of human life, yeah it’s that big. But it’s not just it’s size that’s great. Everything from its curriculum, the way they teach the classes, the layout of the school, the mandatory activities and even the application and selection process set this school apart from the others in Costa Rica. I can’t go into depth on each of these points but i’ll say a little about each of them. They specialize in Agriculture, Business and Leadership programs. Every classroom is separate and has a retracting wall so they can bring in animals and plants to help the students learn and most of their classes have a hands-on approach. The layout of the offices of the teachers and services are extremely accessible to the students and you don’t need a appointment to see them you just pop in when you need to, Every Wednesday and Saturday from 6am to 11am the students are required to work on one of the on campus farms for them to really GET into their work and learn firsthand about agriculture and the process up close and personal. And the entire staff is involved with the application/selection process, they mostly bring students from around the world, and many from small villages as they recognize that sometimes you may not have access to the best education but you are still able to make a difference. They actually travel to the country to interview the student and they have to demonstrate how they have helped your community to get in. It is a very extensive but interesting approach. I could say more but I feel like i’m getting a bit too long on this post. if you wanna know more, google “Earth University”.

Food Fair : I know I know, your thinking omg theres more, this is the last one, il try to not make it as long as the last. We held a Pot Luck with the indigenous students and it was a great time. They were stoked for it and they each made a traditional dish from their communities so it was a great opportunity for us to try food from each of the different indigenous tribes. of course they wanted us to make some traditional Canadian food for them so we made some homemade mac n cheese and of course the EXTREMELY traditional and precious Canadian food that is Poutine ;)haha. Needless to say, it was a delicious night and we ended it off with some karaoke XD I may or may not have brought the house down 😉

There’s a week left til i’m headed back to the land of ice and snow and I will be very sad to be leaving this awesome place and the awesome people i’ve met here. Being here in Costa Rica has taught me  many things about its people and about myself but something really important it has taught me is something I might have been ignoring for sometime in the busy North American lifestyle, and that is, to slow down and smell the roses. In Toronto, everything is very task oriented, no one really leaves their house unless they have something to do or somewhere to go, no one really smells the roses we all just assume they will be there later for us to smell, but before you notice the moments past and you’ve missed it. Being here, its reminded to me to smell those roses and to live in the moment, and the importance of living in the moment, life’s too short to be living anywhere else.

Costa Rica has also taught me the true meaning of Pura Vida. Some of you may know what this means, some of you may not, it is basically the slogan for Costa Rican life and it mean “pure life”. Its all about living life to the fullest and making the most out of life. not just that, its also about finding happiness and being happy in life and recognizing that there are always people out there who have it worse than you, so you should never take what you have for granted. It encompasses all that is Costa Rican life and every Tico lives their live to Pura Vida. This is something I truly love and will be taking this home and everywhere else I travel to for the rest of my life (and yes there will be many more places 🙂 ).

Before I say goodbye for this post I would like to give a special shout out to Blair Fewster and Diana Segura Sojo, my supervisors in both Canada and here in Costa Rica. this awesome opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without you guys and you have both gone above and beyond to help us and make sure this opportunity was a great one. You are both fantastic and keep up everything you are doing. Never change. Also another shout out to the Global Experience Office at Centennial College for setting this up as well, thanks you guys. you have all given me a experience that has changed my life.

OK enough of the mushy stuff, that’s it for this episode guys. I hope you are all having a fantastic day and keep smiling. Pura Vida Mae.

By: Jason Bridgemohan

Costa Rica’s Indigenous community Boca Cohen

          Indigenous community Boca Cohen

An Cabecar tribe/ethnic group in the province of Limon

By: Abir Hassanien                                                                                                                                                                         Social Service Worker                                                                                                                                                       Centennial College (Ashtonbee)                                                                                                                                 International student placement internship Costa Rica (Instituto Tecnologico de Costa Rica)

Some information on Cabecares

There are around 10’000 Cabecar (pronounced cah-beck-car) Indians is the largest Indigenous group in Costa Rica and is considered to be the most isolated in the Mountains, which requires a few hours long hike to reach. Therefore, the Cabécar Indians have not been exposed to many basic items, and few of them have been exposed to education, they are very traditional and still preserve their “Chibchan language, natural medicine and patrimonial culture. They have a rich corpus of stories and legends, some of which are written down in Spanish and the Cabécar language. Their located throughout the Southern Atlantic Coast, Limón province, Chirripó (Pacuare valley), valley of the Rio Estrella and the Talamanca reserve. As well as Ujarrás de Buenos Aires and China Kichá. Their cultural identity is probably the indigenous group with the most distinct cultural identity. The original Cabécar language is still spoken next to Spanish, but they speak mostly their own language rather than Spanish.  The Cabécares have retained many of their customs and traditions and their clan ties are still very tight. Their activities consist of agriculture (coffee, cocoa and bananas), bird hunting and fishing, etc. Here are some videos of Boca Cohen:  It took us over 4 hours to drive from Cartago to Limon (we took breaks to eat and stretch our legs), and then to drive the isolated rocky road to Boca Cohen, it was an adventure alright!! (specially in a 4×4 truck/jeep and the back seats are along the sides with no seat belts, and your knees are at your chest, and you are bounce around), it was fun!! (We had to drive passed/through the Dole’s banana plantation to get to the road that took us to Boca Cohen). Oh Costa Rica doesn’t have street sign of street names, so you will have to stop and ask a local how to get to your destination if you don’t know (that is really fun). The weather in Costa Rica changes for exaple in the mornings it is cool/chilly, then it warm/heats up late morning to mid-afternoon, then late-afternoon to evening it cools down again. This picture is of a community that is two to three hours walk away from Alto Cohen. This community/settlement is called Boca Cohen.  Bocha CohenJanil is an indigenous Costa Rican. Her tribe/ethnic group is Cabécar, in Alto Cohen, Valle la Estrella, in the province of Limón. We meet her at another indigenous community Boca Cohen that is more accessible by car and closest to Alto Cohen. It is also the same community that Janil went to school, and completed her high school. Janil told us that she had to walk 2 hours each way every day for school (she also told us that the walk for us would be 3 hours long). And remember these are isolated communities in the mountain rain forest jungle of Costa Rica. We had so unexpected situations happen on our trip. There was a young couple that live in two different communities. The women was in labour and on her way to the clinic. We were asked if we can drop of the young man to meet his significant other on our way out. We agreed. Then we found out the Janil went to school with the young man and that he is very interested in applying and attending Instituto Tecnologico de Costa Rica (TEC), he asked Jenil and Diana all the information and contract information he needed. (So hopefully the new father will be attending post-secondary education soon). And the couple had a happy new baby (it is crazy how far and isolated the journey through the hills on the rocky road to the clinic is, I was shocked and glad we were there to give them a ride. But women in these communities do that all the time, or alone at home… WOW). Janil Bocha Cohen.jpgThese are the pictures from the whole day, we had lunch at a restaurant by the beach close to the port/harbour in Limon it is a beautiful place. Everyone got to know each other a bit. It was Janil’s first time being at an ocean beach.  Limon Beach.jpg  By the time I got home it was after 10pm and I was beat.  All I can say is PURA VIDA!!

 

Prince Edward Island, the birthplace of Canada.

Words cannot describe how amazing and humbling my experience with Habitat for Humanity PEI has been. This past week, I had the opportunity to work alongside some of Centennial College’s most hard-working, respectful and hilarious staff and students whom I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet outside of being selected for the GCELE. Additionally, I had the chance to meet and work with some of Habitat for Humanity’s most dedicated and inspiring employees and volunteers.

lastday

Prior to this GCELE trip, I had attended a HFH volunteer orientation session in Toronto a couple of years ago. I didn’t commit to any builds at the time so I wasn’t sure of what to expect on this trip to PEI. With this trip, I was thrown into close living quarters with 13 strangers. We had little Internet access, very few hours of screen time, communal accommodations and a structured schedule set by Habitat for Humanity.

Here are some things that I learned while on this GCELE:

  • Hearing individuals’ stories of hardship and perseverance make way for personal reflection and feelings of gratitude. One of the restaurants we went to during the week was Sadat’s Cuisine in Charlottetown. The Sadat family of seven came to PEI as refugees in 2007 (article here). And with the help of Habitat for Humanity, the Sadat family was built the biggest home on PEI to date to accommodate their large family. While Said Akbar Sadat was telling his family’s heart wrenching story about coming to Canada and starting over, his voice was filled with love and appreciation for the kindness and gifts they’ve received.
    nine-mile-creek-build
  • Teamwork, pitching in and cooperation are vital interpersonal skills – especially when drywalling! We were there to help build a house for a family in need – there was no room for people to slack off and not participate in the daily tasks assigned.
    drywall
  • You are bound to experience discomfort and inconveniences – you’ve just got to suck it up and stick it out! I can confidentially say that I had the most mosquito bites of our group on this trip. My left eyelid was swollen for the first half of the trip with a bug bite below my brow line and one under my eye making me look like a female Quasimodo without the hunchback. Showers, bathroom and the kitchen were shared spaces so you had to be mindful of others. There may be snorers amongst the people that you’re sharing a room. Your everyday comforts and luxuries are not always readily available, so find better ways to spend your time. Another takeaway from this point? Bring lots of insect repellent and ear plugs.

I had a wonderful time in PEI and I am so grateful to have experienced it through Centennial’s amazing GCELE program. From my experience, Islanders are very friendly and gracious people. The lifestyle there is very relaxed compared to Toronto and there’s very little traffic on the roads. There’s a strong sense of community and pride in PEI… I mean it is the birthplace of Canada after all.

PEI-bridge

Fiona Lui
Children’s Media post-graduate program
PEI TEAM #2

Habitat for Humanity and the Learning

The last blog I wrote I talked about specific experiences that were very valuable in my learning throughout my trip in PEI. This one is more about what Habitat is all about and the learning that I experienced personally. First off Habitat for Humanity is a not for profit organization that helps families that are in need of affordable housing. To qualify you must make a certain amount of money a year, put in 500 hours of volunteer work for Habitat and the family also pays a mortgage back to Habitat for Humanity and that money goes to making another Habitat house for another family. That is pretty incredible in my mind because the families put in the time and buy paying the mortgage of there house Habitat is able to provide other families with the same opportunities to fit their needs.

Personally I did not know what to expect going on a GCELE for Habitat for Humanity within Canada. There are differences in culture even in the same country! Their highways are different, their traffic lights are different, the air is different and the people are different. They are so relaxed, calm and friendly. You hardly ever go out without seeing someone you know. I personally like this small tight community because I am a very friendly and social person who loves to talk. There was a lot more physical work than I expected! Our team and myself personally pushed ourselves above and beyond what I thought I and our team was capable of. I never envisioned myself shingling a roof. That was an incredible and confidence boosting experience. It was also an emotional and mental roller coaster. We had to learn how to work with others who come from all different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs. We also lived in very close proximity to each other for 8 days which can be tough having little privacy. Being able to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself to get out of bed even when I was exhausted and sore was hard. But something I always said throughout this trip was that this trip was not about me. Every time I said that I was able to move forward. I became mentally and emotionally stronger because I was tired, sore and still worked. If you got hurt we would stop pull ourselves together and keep going. That’s just how our team worked. We worked so well as a team and their is no other group of people I would of rather built this house with than them.

Thank you to Centennial College, Habitat for Humanity PEI and all the people that made this trip possible. I truly learned a lot and can proudly and confidently say I am a stronger person physically, mentally and emotionally.

This is just a little video I put together about my team and I on our trip and the experiences we had the opportunity to have!

Rebecca Harber

Habitat for Humanity PEI

GCELE PEI Team 1

Early Childhood Education Program

The Changing Experience

Being chosen to go on a GCELE within Canada – PEI I did not really understand why in Canada as I did not see absolute poverty in Canada which was my idea of poverty. Although Canada has a lot of relative poverty such as living pay check to pay check. After meeting the family at the welcome dinner I started to understand why I was here. Erika (the mother) also wrote us the letter below which was so nice to read after meeting her.

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I realized that this trip was not about me but to serve others. I still had not seen the awe factor of what my hard work was going to do for a family to its full extent until Day 4.

Journal entry Day 4,

Erika and Alyannah (the family we were building a house for) showed up this afternoon to see the progress on the house and they were so happy. When I asked Alyannah (the child) where her room was she would run to her window inside and say look this is my room banging on the window with such a big smile on her face. That was worth it all, to see her face was incredible. Aly asked me if we could go out back to see the work we had done on her house so I went with her. I brought her back inside and Erika came up to me and said thank you so much. She was like I am just going to give you a hug. That was absolutely amazing to be apart of.

This encounter/entry made me realize what we were doing was giving a family such joy, hope, safety and love. They were so thankful by the end of the week of what our team had accomplished. We built the entire foundation of her two bed room, one bathroom home. At the end of the week the family and Habitat for Humanity PEI thanked us with a thank you dinner. Erika and Alyannah were so thankful! Alyannah gave us each one of these unique frames below with a map of PEI on it. Alyannah had drew a heart on it where we built her house. It was absolutely precious to see her face and for such a shy little girl at the beginning of the week to come out of her shell and love us so much!

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Myself and Erika top left, Myself and Alyannah top right, and the thank you gift from Alyannah on the bottom.

Rebecca Harber

Habitat for Humanity PEI

GCELE PEI Team 1

Early Childhood Education Program