Costa Rican Humblings – Part 1


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 🙂


Im Just on a volcano.

I went to visit the Irazu volcano. It was cold, windy and cloudy and I forgot to bring a sweater or a jacket. Even though I was freezing, I had an incredible experience, and I didn’t want to leave here. I can touch the clouds and breathing the fresh air. I was so high up in the clouds that you cannot see the city below us, but instead, you see the point of view, as if you were still on the seat of a plane. Blue skies and perfect white clouds that is all I see. I had accomplished a dream to visit a volcano. (Hernando Tirado, social service worker).

We Have Landed in Lima- Now Bring us to Food!

Since we are food science students, it was only natural for our first priority in Peru to be “arroz con pollo” (rice with chicken) and “juga de piña” (pineapple juice)!

After sleeping in a little (we got to our hotel at 4 am! A good sleep-in was earned) we hoofed it to the beach area of Miraflores where a stunning view of the Pacific waited for us.


Our group leaders led us to Tanta’s Restaurant where we feasted on beef stir fry, Tuca Tuca (beef filet in a coating and fried, with rice, beans and a fried egg) and fresh seafood. And of course, as much fresh juice as we could handle.

Tuca Tuca

After such a delicious lunch we were rejuvenated and ready for exploring the rest of Miraflores, like a cat park that had no cats (beautiful, but I was told there would be cats ready for petting and scritches) and buying lovely crafts from the local market. There were more culinary delights, such as “Chicha morada” (a sweet drink made from corn) and “Picarones” (a fried doughnut-like pastry made with sweet potato). But the most important was a hot churro filled with dulce de leche that affected me deeply. My life is now divided into two: BC (Before Churro) and AC (After Churro). Nothing from BC matters; all that matters is finding more churros filled with dulce de leche.

Or until I find something even more delicious that consumes my entire being. We’ve barely scratched the Peruvian culinary experience!


Similarities and Lessons of Peru by: Sandra Ezesky

Since being in Peru I have noticed that there are similarities between Peruvians and Canadians as well as lessons we Canadians can take from Peruvians.

First I would like to point out the similarities:

In Cusco, Saturday mornings are set aside for lawn care maintenance. Up the street from where we are staying you can find a guy who is cutting his grass with the assistance of four of his neighbors, who offer him sage lawn care advise or active criticisms. Each of these grass gurus are standing around with their hands in their pockets or holding a drink as they watch their compatriot battle the notoriously evil crab grass (yes they have it here too!) with a pair of scissors because lawns are very small here in Cusco. With a hard edge to his grass cutting technique he takes no prisoners ( or leaves any crab grass intact!) as each of his buddies look on, knowing it will be his turn at the next house to offer his advise or criticisms. Those of us in Canada with lawns are familiar with this type of urban peer pressure, except here in Canada the group offering the advise is also measuring the amount of torque used in their weapon of choice or the power of the poison, as they reach for another cold one.

Another similarity between Peruvians and Canadians is in regard to the “tax man”. In Canada we have been known to refer to these members of our society as snakes. In Peru they have a particular name for them…Cobras. Need I say more?

The lessons I feel we as Canadians could learn from Peruvians are:

Make our history accessable to all, for free. Granted Canada does not have a long history when compared to Peru, but the little bit we have available should be accessable to all Canadian citizens for free. Peruvians live with their history everyday, cities that were built by the Incas are still being occupied and are thriving such as the beautiful city of Ollantaytambo, and unlike Canadians Peruvians have free access to all of their museums and archeological sites when ever they want to reconnect with their past and do so regularly. If we as Canadians want to know where we are going, we need to know where we have been…I’m just saying.

Another lesson Canadians could learn from Peruvians is, enjoy life.  In the country of Peru there are more than 300 festivals happening throughout the year for people to choose from. The longest lasting and most elaborate of which is the Candaleria Festival. Groups of people come from all over the country to participate in the numerous parades happening throughout the city of Puno for 18 days, dressed in ornate beautiful costumes that are similar (there’s that word again) to the costumes worn at Toronto’s Caribana.

If we Canadians had a festival every day, week, or month of the year (including the horrendous months of January, February and March) we may find our mental health improving as a whole across the country.

Cusco, Peru

It has officially been over a month and a half here in Cusco, Peru. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to Peru. If there’s one thing that comes to most people’s mind when they think of Peru is Machu Pichu, and certainly not wrong about that but there is much more to Peru than just this historic site. From the people, the culture, their history and the diversity in both their climate and abundance of fresh produce. The lush greenery that consists of Sacred Valley and the high peaks that surround Cusco is a marvellous sight itself. As part of my placement here we have been working with a group at a local orphanage doing activities like mandala drawings which are more so a form of art therapy for the girls 3 days a week and the other 2 days the girls spend a few hours learning or excelling their knitting skills. But its not so much the activities that we have been doing but more so the relationship we have started building with a few of the girls is the more rewarding part of this experience. We also teach English two days a week to a group of girls. Although there is a language barrier at times I have certainly learned to read body language and to read faces.

This is close to Calca which is a small town in Sacred Valley
This is another example of lush greenery on route to Puno
An example of a girl’s beautiful scarf that she knit along with the flower
Showing the girls how to draw their hand and create their own mandala
Another talented girls work

And I will conclude with this short clip of a baby Alpaca, which are native to Peru.


– Hamida Hamid, Social Service Worker Student

The markets in Guangdong 


I would like to talk about the main markets of Guangdong province in this post.

A lot of people come to China for business, as for me, however, I do not have an acting business anywhere yet, but I definitely learn opportunities now, where you can find particular kinds of goods and how to negotiate.

I learned the following:

2 main cities are – Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Guangzhou – mostly textile, clothes, leather and leather goods. (Do not forget: most Chinese companies come to the canton fair twice a year, which is convenient)

Shenzhen – home for electronics, most electronic factories(for new, popular goods are located there).

So, If you happen to come to any of these cities, you will make your idea of business wider in terms of prices, logistic offers, goods themselves. It is very useful even to pose as a businessman, to see how the sellers react and what they offer.

If you just want to come to buy goods for yourself or your family, you can visit not the factories, but markets, they offer a whole variety of goods that can be sold retail, it is also possible, but don’t expect it to be “dirt cheap” in comparison to your home country: big companies, who order in enormously large volumes, get extremely low prices, therefore it is also no that much more expensive all over the world.

Vadim Ayrapetyan

Internship in Guangzhou – Things to be prepared for

Hello, my name is Vadim Ayrapetyan. I am a Centennial College student(international business co-op). I am doing my internship in Guangzhou, China. I would like to write about all the things that every person travelling to China has to take care of and be aware of.

-Make sure that everything happens according to the plan and you know the dates before you buy flight tickets;

-Know every second of your trip(layover, airports, terminals of arrival and departure, times, cities, where to eat). All that stuff matters – the more you know, the less stressed you are. You can even try to get the airport maps;

-Make sure you get the right type of visa with the desirable duration of stay;

-Follow the signs in the airports during layovers;

-As you arrive in Guangzhou – it is hot and humid;

-First thing you have to do – stay connected, it is worth all money that you will spend: you know directions, you have translator, you can chat with your friends or make new ones, it is not “wi-fi on every step” city, so it’s better to buy a sim-card.

-Not so many people speak English or have an English menu in the restaurants

-Not all ATMs accept foreign cards

P.S. I am not really a selfie person, but I like to take photos of lovely views, and I would love to share them with you
Vadim Ayrapetyan

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 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 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… hahaha!

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 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. 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 the 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 sees 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)

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 an orphanage we got the privilege of volunteering every Wednesday we were in Costa Rica. It is really an amazing place, and very unlike its Canadian counterpart. They follow a different model than the North American model and in my opinion, the kids have a better experience growing up there than an 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 nurse’s office, as well as onsite psychologists, social workers 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 are not without its 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.


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.


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 a 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 an 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 there’s 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 till 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 some time 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”. It’s 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 life 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, thank you, guys. you have all given me an 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

Inspired…My Indigenous Experience

My internship in Costa Rica has taken me on a journey of re-discovery, cultural understanding, spiritual enlightenment, and pushed the boundaries of physical exertion.  My work with indigenous students has inspired me and surpassed any expectation I could have ever imagined.  Visiting the different indigenous territories/communities, engaging in lectures, and shared information from the elders of these communities, I have come to realize that even though we are a continent away we are not that different.  These natives have endured the same pain, suffering, forced assimilation, loss of land, oppression, and torture due to colonization as did our natives in Canada.  So in retrospect is it true to say we are in a foreign country.  Foreign is only what we do not know, understand, or want to see.  Yes there are differences such as language, cultural traditions, customs, morals, values, and ways of life but is that a real difference? Is it any different from you and me?  They just want what all human beings want health, happiness, equality, equity, sustainability, family, and friends.  So is that foreign? Think about it.  We must not stay in a foreign state of mind and ignorance because last time I checked we are all one race, the human race, and part of one world.  Open your mind and heart you just might be amazed at what you will find.

My Experience

The highlight of my experience in Costa Rica was the honour of spending individual time with the Huetar tribe in Quitirrisi.  This community welcomed me with open arms into their homes, a glimpse into their everyday lives, and made me part of their family as well as community.  They were very pleased to share their stories, experiences, history of their community, and heritage.  The family unity, love, and support they have for one another is beautiful to witness and be part of.  After everything they have endured, lost, and struggled to rebuild, they are happy and have adapted well to their ever-changing environment.

traditional structuresDanny took me on a tour to a place where traditional structures were recreated.  Top right corner is a sweat lodge where individuals would come for clarity and spiritual cleansing.  Next is a gathering place where stories, educational information, and history is passed on.  Bottom right is another gathering place where community would come together for celebration.  Next is a traditional medicine hut where individuals would come for healing from the medicine man.

craftsmanThis is Danny’s Uncle.  He is a very skilled pottery maker.  He uses the clay from the earth, and other materials from Costa Rica land to produce these beautiful pieces.  He loves to create different ceremonial pieces and gets lost in his imagination when he is creating.  He also studies computer technology in San Jose.

ceremonialHere are special and traditional ceremonial pieces he created especially for me.  They sculpt various animals as they are sacred, honored, and cherished.  They hold special meaning and one with Mother Earth and eco-system.  It is a spiritual relationship.  The mask is a legendary leader and protector of the Huetar tribe.  This is Cote and he protected and led his tribe during the Spanish invasion.

basketThis is Danny’s father.  He is a skilled basket weaver.  The materials used to make these baskets comes from the bamboo trees in Costa Rica.  I had the pleasure of this master teaching me how to weave a small basket of my own.  He is a very patient man, loves his craft, and enjoys teaching.  He loves his family, country, and community.

2friendsFinally here is Danny.  Danny is a remarkable human being.  We share the love of music and while spending time with him I came to know that he has taught himself to play piano.  This amazing person does not just play piano he plays classical music.  Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach well you get the picture.  We also share the love of the sky, planets, nature, animals, and protecting Mother Earth.  Danny studies at TEC technologo de Costa Rica.  His course of study is Computers/Engineering/Robotics.  Danny is much more to me than just a student I have worked with he is my FRIEND who I care for very deeply.

familyThis was an amazing day.  I went on a hike through very steep mountain terrain on the hunt for particular plants for our dinner later on that evening.  This was very physical but fun to say the least.  The view from the top of the mountains incredible, and returning when it was dark added a whole new perspective to the land and sky.  Pure beauty.  The reward far surpassed the efforts because dinner was delicious and well deserved.

Spending time in this community has inspired me to want to understand the diversity that surrounds us, become more culturally competent, and be more empathetic to new comers.  I had the pleasure of being emerged within a community of loving, caring, and supportive individuals who welcomed me and made a part of their family.  I will be very sad when the time comes to return to Canada as I will miss all of the beautiful people who I have met here in Costa Rica.  However I will be leaving knowing that I have forever made an impact within this community, but the impact that they have made on me is never to give up, stand strong, walk proud, and most of all love and care for our fellow-man/women/child/mother earth, nature, and our planet.  I will cherish this experience forever, I have made a lot of new FRIENDS and FAMILA.

by Denise Hatfield, Centennial College Ashtonbee Campus, Social Service Worker, International Internship Costa Rica