This is my compiled list of five things to do in Llano Bonito, Costa Rica. As well as, it can be a guide for making the best out of your rural living-condition experience.
By: Sherry Ing, Centennial College Massage Therapy student currently in Costa Rica.
On your sole, get set, GO! In Llano Bonito, there are routes and passages that you can discover by foot with a hiking companion ofcourse. I personally wouldn’t go alone, two mind is better then one. I like to hear someone with a different view set as me and can point out things that I might otherwise have not seen with my own eyes. Along the unmarked path, sometimes there are no sidewalks, along the hills, you can get a taste of the edible berries and fruits from trees and bushes. Not sure what they are, but its good to have a local person guide you on what fruits that can be eaten. An unfamiliar fruit I had tasted was a “Manzana de agua” (translated as water apple in Spanish) Everyday the weather is different and you can always guarantee that the same place looks different. Sometimes you can be walking through the mist and fog, or have lightning and thunder in the background.
Goal! There is a solo outdoor fótbol (soccer in Spanish) field in Llano Bonito. It is bigger then the indoor soccer field located within the elementary school of Llano Bonito. Every Friday evenings, the female and male soccer players would have a game there. My homestay brothers play a family soccer game every Sunday with their cousins after church in the outdoor field. Sometimes there is a serious soccer game played on a Sunday there. People of all ages would gather to watch it behind the fence or sit on top of their cars.
Play dress up and find the needle in a haystack. There are little shops that you can find and buy used clothing. It is sometimes called “tiende de ropa americana” ¢200-¢300. You can find interesting patterns and fabrics from the mountain pile of clothings. It really is a workout and like finding a needle in a haystake as I mostly watch the girls pull clothing out of the pile and help with the pulling and stacking as well.
Its good to get out of the district once in awhile. Take the bus to the nearest canton, such as San Pablo or San Marcos. The cost for a bus ticket is approximately ¢900 Colones.
Attention all Coffee Lover out there, visit a coffee plantation and learn how its processed and how they do it here in Llano Bonito. It’s a 24 hour non stop coffee assembly during November to February and sometimes March. Local family and workers that come from the nearest country such as Nicaragua during this time to help out with the coffee picking and the production. It is also the summer season and time of harvest for the coffee plants.
What exactly am I doing this summer? Right now, Toronto is filled with crowds of cheers for Athletes competing in the Pan Am Games. I had the personal choice of either staying in Toronto and joining in with fellow aspiring health professionals to support the Athletes or intern at a health based internship in Costa Rica. Both are important to me and relates to health & people, but living cross culturally and developing international friendship was a new personal goal for me. As a Centennial student, I am taking part in a GEO international internship in Llano Bonito, Costa Rica at the moment this summer. Llano Bonito, which is translated into English as flat and beautiful, which is contrary to what the description of the location here actually is. There is a humour to it and if you get it, the hills aren’t exactly flat in Llano Bonito. Be prepare to pack a good pair of hiking shoes because it’s a gastrocnemius (calf) workout here. For the internship, it consist of working with the Proal women in natural health assessment and plant based medicine. While the majority of my work week is spent with children of Llano Bonito at two elementary school with an English teacher. Just recently, me and my fellow health-related program Centennial student revitalized the green house at Proal. We cleaned it up a bit and then planted different vegetables and herbs. We had red and green leaf lettuce, chives, curly and flat leaf parsley, and seeded zucchini and radishes. These are only for the coordinators’ personal use for now. Hopefully it can be turned into an educational green house for school children to visit and to learn about where their food come from. My time here is almost coming to a close chapter, living cross culturally in this brief time period in Llano Bonito is filling me with new stories and experiences to share with my friends and family. I am creating international friendship, and enduring challenges that inspire new ideas and way of thinking about life. What one personal and professional goal would you like to gain from an international internship experience?
I have been in Costa Rica for more than a month now, and still have three more weeks left. How time flies! I’ve done some hiking, tons of walking, and some crazy rides so far. The views are absolutely breathtaking from 360 degree. Since it’s the wet season now, fogs and drizzles will always stream in late in the afternoon. You’ll find yourself literally walking on clouds. How magical! My favourite pastime is having a cup of freshly brewed coffee, quilting at the studio, and looking at the fog engulfing the mountains, kissing my skin, tasting the cooling vapour, and inhaling the fresh air rushing through my lungs. Ah, happiness! It’s my first time making a “video” video not a photo video.
In the video I am showing a tortilla kitchen appliance. Tortilla is a traditional flatbread that is eaten in almost all meal here. You can find one of these in the home of a Costa Rica family or the like of it.
In Llano Bonito, the family functions, gatherings, and celebrations varies here. Last night and the night before, my homestay family watched a soccer game together. Whenever a family friend visit with their new-born or a soccer game is on the television, a traditional Costa Rica drink is served, called Ponche. It can be mixed with or without alcohol. The drink is a mixture of eggs, sugar, and milk. Taste and ingredients is almost similar to eggnog, the drink that is made and drank during Christmas season in Toronto. Another traditional food made in Llano Bonito is tortilla. A corn flour and water flatbread that is eaten in almost every meal here, along with your pinto. Pinto is a rice and bean mixture. The tortilla kitchen appliance is made of wood and has a hinge. The dough mixture is placed into the appliance and clamped to flatten it, creating a flatbread called tortilla. What traditional food do you have with your family and for celebrations?
Just the other day I was in my homestay family kitchen. I was shown and taught how to make a snack that consisted of unripe plantains, salt, and oil. The plantains were freshly picked by my homestay family. As the vegetation here provide many bananas, berries, cherry tomatoes, avocado, lime, lemon, rosemary, mint, chamomile, oranges, mangoes, and other fruits as well. Along with flowering hibiscus, roses, coffee bushes, poinsettias, and amaryllis. The “backyards” of the homes in Llano Bonita is literally a field of banana trees, coffee plants, avocado, mangoes, lime, and lemon trees, etc. Along the road you will find the odd tomato plant and black berries bushes. Sometimes, I would help my host family pick them and bring them home for them to make fresh fruit juices or milkshake out of it. What I notice is that Llano Bonito is a biodiversity within. As mentioned in one of my earlier post, Proal believes that nature and humans are in the same circle of life. Would you like to imagine a world where everyone and animals do not have to go hungry? Imagine having a feast of plentiful fruits and vegetables growing naturally and freely for all to enjoy at a shared “backyard”. Well, I believe Llano Bonito is the living proof of this. And if you plant and take care of one living plant to share your harvest, what would it be?
I was thrilled to hear my professor Marg announce that she would be going back to Guatemala to continue her work. I submitted my application on the very first day, and was already planning my trip before the acceptance letter. A few months later, I landed at Flores airport. That was unreal.
The purpose of our trip was to teach the local midwives how to use a birthing simulator MamaNatalie, teach the local women how to make reusable menstrual pads, and provide First Aid training to the local health promoters. We visited six different communities throughout our stay, and each community was unique in its own way. Most of the communities we visited are Q’eqchi’, the Maya people, hence it requires double translation from English to Español, then to Kekchi. It was challenging, but in a positive way.
I didn’t really experience “culture shock,” definitely some “culture surprises” during our stay in Guatemala. Photos speak a thousand words, hence I will walk you through our wonderful journey through photos. Have some tortilla chips ready, sit back and relax.
Day 1:Our flight is TO -> Miami -> Guatemala city -> Flores, then finally a two-hour bus ride to Sayaxche, It was tiring, but we were warmly greeted by the heat wave in Guatemala.
Day 2: Flores -2 hours smooth bus ride to Sayaxche
Meeting with Apidec (Programa Integral de desarrollo Christiano) & World Renew staffs. Had a crazy ride in a “cage” to our first village. I was chosen to be the first to do MamaNatalie (meaning I have to fake birthing). I knew I did an awesome job because everyone outside heard my screams from the classroom. Some said my hysterical screams scared some babies and kids oops. There is no bridge to cross the river in Sayaxche, so we had to take the ferry. Unfortunately on our way back to the hotel, a truck was stuck on the ferry and we waited for an hour before crossing a small river. Apparently the government made big profits from the ferry, so bridges are unnecessary. We had to hide in the jungle for toilet break! We were still full of awesomeness but began to feel the heat wave eating away our energy.
Day 3: Meeting with the Ministry of Health of Guatemala (Gobiernode Guatemala Ministerio de Salud Publica y Assistencia Social) in the morning. Visited our second village “San Juan Acul” in the afternoon. This village has a huge shelter outside. Sweat was pouring down, but the hot & humid breeze meant so much to us! I’ve said “mi nombre Beidi” so many times. Awesome but the heat was unbearable. We definitely had an awesome time at this community all thanks to the shelter that they have.
Day 4:Third village “Herencia Maya” meaning Heritage Maya. Most residents only know Kekchi, a Mayan language, so we have to translate from English to Spanish then to Kekchi (most communities we visited are Q’eqchi’ so triple translations hence triple the fun, and most of the communities were receiving visitors for the very first time, not to mention first foreign visitors). I used leftover fabrics to make♥and stars to the kids and they love it so much. This heat was overwhelming… people were starting to get sick😦
Day 5: Visit to Tikal, the Mayan ruins! Everyone was excited though we were not feeling well. The heat was not bad, bearable. Awesome day!
Day 6:Boating to the zoo in the morning, and had a fabulous view of Flores from far. Was a little upset that we had to cancel our afternoon trip to another ruin😦but at least we went to a good restaurant and I got a super yummy chicken sandwich and a Jamaican Rose drink. Got a super-itchy spider bite, and the rash was crystal-like. Finally started raining on the way back to Sayaxche, it cooled down the heat.
Day 7 & 8:Can’t remember what exactly happened during these two days. I was drained, and totally shutting down. I remembered the tables were so small and low, I have to bend down all the time while surrounded by groups of women and children. The noise, the heat, and the environment was sweeping over me like waves after waves. Due to the heat and long bus ride, more people felt unwell. I forced myself to drink lots and lots of water, and I survived the hardest period during this trip.
Day 9:Visited the last community! The kids there were overwhelming. They dragged you everywhere, touched your hair, put their little hands in your pocket digging for stuffs. I went to the bathroom with ten kids surrounding the door. Last time using MamaNatalie, my energy level left only 10% while doing it. A long day ended with kids holding my hands, grabbing my leg, and singing my name.
Day 10:Meeting with Ministry of Health again with reporters, and many cameras. Seemed like we’ll all be in Peten news! Our efforts had been paid off. Our MamaNatalie, menstrual pads, and First Aid sessions benefited the locals so much that the MOH will continue teaching the midwives and women with MamaNatalie and menstrual pad making. I felt so grateful. Drove back to Flores and finally SHOPPING TIME!!! (didn’t buy a lot because I was… exhausted). Day ended with a two-dollar ice cream.
Day 11: Guatemala City was raining and flight was delayed. Almost missed our Miami flight back to Toronto because of that. One American said “look at those crazy Canadian girls running in airport.” First thing back home is feeling extremely cold in 20ish temperature, but home sweet home :”)
I have to thank Centennial College for this amazing opportunity.Thank all the staffs from World Renew. Thank you Marg, Roya & Jo! Although we faced many ups and downs in this trip, extreme deprivation of veggies, tears and laughter, it was an experience that could only be experienced. It made me question my values, tested my limits, and forced me to grow. Thank you Guatemala! Someone told me this quote during this trip “You have to do other won’t, so you can have other can’t.” and of course my own quote “IT’S ONCE IN A LIFETIME!!!”
My first video blog and moving images that I had captured while I am here in Llano Bonito. I invite you to listen and see what I am experiencing and be apart of it as well.
Waking Up with the Natural Universe
Every morning I arise to the sound of the Rooster in LLano Bonito. My first morning here, I was woken up by the sound of the Rooster, house cats, the school children, and cars zooming by the house. I live in front of an elementary school, and the students usually starts class at 7am in the morning. I can hear them recite and repeat speeches in unison. This school is also where I will be assisting the students. I had attended a bullying intervention at this school. The activity was an hour long and was facilitated by the University students of Costa Rica. I had visited two other schools as well. One of the school, I will be helping the students with an upcoming English festival, that includes a spelling bee, an impromptu, and a theatrical speech.
Early in the morning around 5 am here, birds are singing and chirping happily. There are many hummingbirds, tiny creatures that flutters their wings in lightning speed while drinking the nectars of the purple butterfly bush. I also wake up to freshly new insect and mosquito bites. What is helpful is wearing light clothing, long pants, shirts and pants helps to deter them from doing this. Living higher in the mountains, it gets cold here at night and early mornings. But the late mornings and afternoons temperature increases. The sounds, sight, taste, and smell while living here is new to me but is very natural. What senses that trigger special moments in your life?
I had a days in at Proal the day after my arrival. I had the chance to observe the ladies at Proal provide a bio-energy assessment. Bio-energy assessment that the ladies at Proal utilized originated in Japan. They use a copper rod to assess the body starting from the head and moving inferiorly. Herbal medicine are used during this assessment as well. I am learning more and more about this throughout my time at Proal.
At the end of my first day at Proal in Llano Bonito, Costa Rica, I had the chance to do an active, passive, and resisted range of motion on a forearm. I was able to eliminate the possible cause produce the pain and what muscle is affected. ¡Exactamente! exclaimed the person, as I pinpoint the area that is affected. The extensor digitorum muscles that extends digits 1-4. During the assessment, digit 1-3 reenacted the pain in the forearm area. What I learned from my Clinical Anatomy and Orthopaedic & Biomechanic program classes were very helpful to help me figure this out. The days are going by quickly, and I am learning more and more of how I can utilize my learning in the Massage Therapy Program at Centennial in Proal in Llano Bonito, Costa Rica. Having to trust myself with independent research, getting feed back from my classmate and another student in the health related program at Centennial, figuring it out and building confidence in myself is a challenge. Have you been in a situation where its up to you to figure things out? How did you feel? What steps did you take?
Proal is a health based association that marriage the idea that nature and people are in the same circle of life. I and a fellow Centennial student are doing our internship here. On the day of arrival in San José, the Capital of Costa Rica, we landed in the Juan Santamaría International Airport. Our pick up ride was awaiting for us with a sign written with Centennial College and our names.
We quickly exchanged our American dollars into Costa Rican Colones at a bank between the ride from San José to Llano Bonito. I soon figured that it is easier to exchange the majority of my American dollars into Colones because I will eliminate the need to calculate the exchange rate when I purchase something here. From there we headed to our homestay family and it was quite the sight through the twist and turns of the mountains among the rain. At one point the hills were so steep that we had to back track and give more gas to drive up the hills that also lead to a sharp turn.
When the rain stops, a misty cloud covers the mountains, but soon clears out and several mountains peak appears again. Would you consider living in a mountain? Why and why not? Comment below and I look forward to hearing what you have to say. 🙂