January, 2002. From this month on, Andrea Bonilla (manager of Lapa Rios) will continue to write this journal. According to the goals of John and Karen, staff and management have now moved into the actual running and decision making for Lapa Rios. Of course, this includes our community outreach. Andrea is the one who takes our guests now for School visits (sometimes one of the guys in the reception does it, as well). So, the "narrator" from this point on is Andrea!
February, 2002: School year officially began in Costa Rica on the 4 th of February. It's already the 11 th , and no teacher has showed up. There is a group of 4 neighbors, lead by Rafael "Rafa" Núñez, that are coming everyday to clean the school and set the stage up for the new teacher. Let's see when he appears. Don Eliecer Chavarría will be moving to Puerto Jiménez soon, therefore little Kathy will not be coming to the Carbonera School this year. I heard through the grapevine that don Eliecer will not be joining the school board this year for that reason. Having been such important leader in the past, this is sad news. But, hey, this might prompt new community leadership in Rafa.
February 13 : We have a teacher! His name is Lecner González. He is 22 years old. Apparently, he is close to finish his university degree in education, but the Ministerio de Educación has allowed him to start teaching this year. He will attend his university classes on Saturdays and Sundays so I can predict he will do Friday lessons only in the morning, so he's able to leave on time for school in Villa Neilly (4 hours away). We are a bit disappointed not to see teachers Zoraida and Jorge Luis this year. looks like the Carbonera School is not a place where teachers want to spend more than one year; career develpment does not include the most rural schools like ours. After 3 days, Lecner has not done much of decorating walls. Mmmm, it feels like we're off to a slow start this year. Not surprising. I explained to Lecner the recycling system that Jonathan set up last year. It does not seem to be highly used yet.
Rafa has been showing up to fix some broken locks, help with the new water pump that was began to be installed at the end of last year, and other details. Do we have a new community leader here?
March : After 3 visits to the school with Lapa Rios guests, it feels like things are starting to move forward. The recycling bin for disposal of batteries is being used, but not the other ones (paper, cardboard, plastic and glass). The children seem to be very comfortable with teacher Lecner. They are always sitting in class in an orderly manner, and then they come out in their brake happily. Today, a guest who is a teacher back in the U.S. asked if they could do the Salutation to the National Flag. It was great to see them all doing it perfectly! We have 22 students this year, and again, grades 1, 2 and 3 will come in the morning shift (7:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.) and grades 4, 5 and 6 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The school kitchen, as usual, has not started this year, but teacher Lecner has the cooking lady lined-up, just waiting for the Ministerio funds to arrive and be able to buy the food.
Interesting newsflash: the new (unofficial) "board" met (no invitation to Lapa Rios representatives was done), and Rafa proposed to organize a "Domingo Deportivo", a whole Sunday fund-raising activity with soccer games and sales of food and drinks. The idea is to raise funds to start buying the food for the children and not just wait for the Government funds. It's great to see how this community is learning to organize itself and find solutions on a creative manner.
Another newsflash, but sad ones this time: World Teach will not be sending us an English teacher this year. The Lapa Rios reservations staff has called the local office of World Teach, and they report that this year they had fewer volunteers, and Carbonera is not in their priority list. Mmmmm. we miss you, Jonathan!
April : Good and bad news! The good: first, the school kitchen is working now! The funds raised in the Domingo Deportivo allowed them to buy groceries for about 2 weeks. The first transfer of money for the school kitchen has also been received. Complete meals are being cooked: rice, beans, fried plantains, eggs, and a natural drink. Second: we officially have an assigned physical education teacher, Erick Lezcano, who will come on Thursdays. It's a nice opportunity for the children to learn new sports and recreational activities. Erick met with me, and has proposed that the School Association helps in the organization and financing of a tin-roofed basketball and volleyball court. Sounds like another opportunity for the Community to come together united by a common goal.
Now, the bad news: first, the electricity is not working. The batteries seem to be fine on the charge side. David Rice, our local "gringo" expert in solar panels is out of town for 2 weeks. We'll have to wait. Second: Dominga del Carmen and José are 2 new students that showed up for class this year. They are part of a Nicaraguan immigrant family. Because they have brought absolutely no identification documents, they can't be officially enrolled in School. This means they can show up and attend classes, but will not receive official grades nor official grade pass/fail notice. Their mother left for Nicaragua 2 weeks ago to bring documents, and has not returned. Now, little Dominga reports that their older sister has gone to Nicaragua to find out what happened to Mom! This is a really poor family, so we are helping with some donations of clothes and shoes that guests of Lapa Rios brought in January. We'd love to see them enrolled, but I guess the most important thing is for them to learn.
May: Following up on the Nicaraguan family. great news and bad news. The great news is that Dominga is officially enrolled in classes. Her mom and sister are back from Nicaragua and brought her identification papers. The bad news is that José was sent back home, because his mother couldn't get the proper documentation for him. Even though we asked the teacher to keep José in school, his superiors decided against it because they don't have any legal authority over the child's safety and it's a very big risk they would take. Sad, but understandable.
Unfortunately, up until now, the recycling system established by Jonathan, the previous English teacher, is still not in action. Maybe the secret is to have an activity with the children to make them understand the importance of recycling. We will include this in our wishlist!
The budget for the tin-roofed basketball and volleyball court was done by the Lapa Rios head for maintenance. Erick, the physical education teacher, took the budget to Judesur (a development agency that funds rural projects in the South of Costa Rica). Once approved, the School association will donate part of the funds.
June: The School Association has painted the walls of the school. This is done every two years. Rafa Núñez, who definitely has risen as the new community leader, has filed a new request for the association: to build a tiled-concrete piece of furniture for the kitchen. The School Association will do it, as this qualifies within our standards (infrastructure projects). We think this is the best way to use Lapa Rios guests' donation money.
Jason, one of our "gringo" neighbors who is very knowledgeable in solar panel technology, has donated his time to fix the electricity in the school!!! Power is back on. J
Mid-term vacation time will start July 1 st . The children are looking forward to that.
July: Children went on vacation and came back full energy. The first day of classes was pouring and they all walked to school. To their surprise. the teacher didn't make it. L Fortunately for them, the next day they had class. They are now trying to put all the recycling systems back in order. The kids are definitely missing an English teacher, all of them are so eager to learn; they keep reviewing the little English cards that were donated by a Lapa Rios guest. Hopefully next year there will be a volunteer from the World Teach Association.
Towards the end of the month it was "agriculture day" at the school. All of the kids brought a tree from their house and they planted it. For the rest of the year, the kids will be responsible for taking care of their own tree. Let's hope it rains!
August: 15 th of August is Mother's day in Costa Rica. The kids in school made a beautiful mosaic on the wall between the two classes full of poetry and drawings of all types. Good news, we received an application from an Australian marine biologist, who is interested in giving English and biology classes in the school. We will wait to see what happens.
Lecner is still not very good at recycling and keeping the library in good shape. We asked our Assistant manager's wife, Maryelin, to go for two sessions and organize the books. She went and finally organized everything. We will see for how long the kids will keep it that way.
September: We had our yearly school field trip to Lapa Rios. In one of the previous visits to the school, they were handed out one book each and they had to make a book report. Along with the report, they had to be creative making a thank you letter for the kids in Canada who had sent them all beautiful presents. The first thing we did was sit around the pool and have them present their book and their thank you note. Then they sang and danced with Karen Lewis, the owner. After that, Wilber, one of our star cooks, explained to them the different recycling processes. The idea is for the kids to get excited about recycling for at least these finals months of school.
The 15 th of September is Costa Rica's independence day. The kids each designed what we call a "farol", a small candleholder made out of paper bags, cardboard and whatever the kid's imagination offers, with symbols from Costa Rica. That Sunday, late afternoon, they proudly lit their farol and walked all through the Matapalo neighborhood, with a little drum and making noise.
October: There is a new turtle tour in Lapa Rios, it is done in the early morning, at Piro Beach. The project is owned by a local family and directed by an Italian resident. The tour consists of a walk through the primary forest, crossing a river, and once you get to the hatchery, you can help release the little sea turtles into the ocean. We took the kids on a field trip to Piro! They absolutely enjoyed it. They were so excited, their little faces were shining. Danilo, our guide, volunteered to take them and take care of them. Once the tour was over, we went to Piro School. There was a double meaning to this part of the trip. The first, so that the Carbonera kids could realize how lucky they are, and how many things they own. The second was for them to share with the Piro students part of the box of gifts brought down by some our Lapa Rios guests. Sharing. Something we have started to teach them little by little.
We had a great gift this October, and his name is Paul. He came to Lapa Rios, wanting to work with the school children and teach them English. He did a great job for month and a half, and we thank him for motivating the kids to learn another language, and for organizing the school's library.
November: Really sad news, Lecner, the school teacher, died from a stroke mid November. The kids were very sad since they had already become attached to him. I said a prayer for Lecner last week, when school was back in session. A new teacher has been appointed and she seems to be pretty competent and organized. We are hoping that she will be appointed next year, since this will help with the kids stability.
The kids are on their last days of school. Their final exam is on Friday. We will have a small activity with cookies and sodas to congratulate them on their hard work. Hopefully they will pass the exams from the ministry of education.
10 th of February: First day of classes. Classes were supposed to start at 7:00 AM, all the kids, in their uniforms, with their new back packs, eagerly wait to see if the teacher will arrive. We wait until 7:30 AM, and the teacher doesn't come. The parents get together and along with the Asociación de la Escuela Carbonera we write a letter to the Ministry of Education. The teacher that has been appointed by the ministry has declared that he doesn't want to come and give classes so far away. We all keep our fingers crossed, hoping that in the next few days somebody will come as a teacher.
24 th of February: Finally! There is a new teacher, her name is Giselle. She has taught in the Puerto Jimenez school before. She seems very organized, and because she has previous experience, she knows how to keep the children busy. I took them some school supplies that kids from the Liberty School donated to the Carbonera School. They were so happy to see the colored pencils and the different erasers. Now they have an extra curricular assignment, which is to write a thank you note for the kids who donated the items with their new pencils and paper.
March: The parents of the school invited me, the hotel manager, and Edgar, the maintenance leader from Lapa Rios, to participate in their "Junta". This is the organization that manages the funds for the school and that helps with the administration of it. The first meeting took place, and there was a problem with the amount of money that the government grants for food for the kids. They are giving ¢120 per day ($0.31 USD) per kid for the food. This is not even enough to buy them candy. Thus, the parents will have to raise the money. The last week of March, the Junta organized a "Sports Sunday" at the school. Other schools and soccer teams from the area are invited to participate. In this way, they sell food and refreshments and raise some money. The event was a success!
April: April is a short month. The teacher had to have minor surgery, but decided to take advantage of the Easter Week vacation. Thus, the school closed from Wednesday, April 9 th and opens up Monday, April 21 st . Quite a break for the kids!
May: The kids came back from break and they have been working hard all these months. The end of the first semester is almost over. William, one of our guides, took the older kids on a tour of the Lapa Rios reserve. The idea is for them to start appreciating nature with a wider point of view. The kids loved it. Now the smaller kids want a tour as well!
June: All the public school teachers are on strike. However, Giselle, the Carbonera School teacher, has come to give classes every single day! We have told her how much we admire that in her. End of the term came and the kids came up to swim in the pool and eat brownies and carrot cake as a reward. It was so much fun watching them play and appreciate this opportunity so much. We started giving the kids gymnastic classes. The attendance was really high the first two lessons.
July: Kids were on vacation during the first two weeks. The gymnastic classes weren't as successful due to the vacation time. Most kids went to Puerto Jiménez to visit family. The last two weeks of July they came back to the school and tried to "get back on track" after some fun time on their vacation! Unfortunately the gym teacher left. We are trying to start some typical dance classes, salsa and merengue classes for the kids. The idea is for them to make a little performance at the end of the year.
August: Classes have started. Monday 4 th of August they had a soccer tournament in Puerto Jimenez. The kids were so excited that they approached me a week earlier to see if they could get a ride to town. It was a rainy morning, but that didn't stop the kids. They were all waiting for the Lapa Rios truck outside the school. The kids won the first round of soccer. They went back on Friday to participate in the finals!
September: The 15 th of September is Costa Rica's independence day. The tradition is that kids from all the schools build their own little lanterns representing flags, ox carts, etc. These lanterns are brought to school and there is a contest to see which is the best lantern. After that, there is a parade where the kids show their lanterns and the band plays national anthems. Just like every year, the kids participated in their own parade that went from the school all the way to Matapalo. This year there was a slight difference, our guests from Lapa Rios accompanied them in the parade. It was a great experience!
October: Treat or trick! None of that at the Carbonera School! Most of the parents in the school think that Halloween is a devil worshipping festivity. Thus, only very few of the kids were allowed to participate in a small treat or trick organized by Katie, our food and beverage manager. The ones that did go where dressed up as a butterfly, Santa Claus, spider man, and a couple of other original costumes. This month Lapa Rios started paying Yarixa, the lady in charge of folkloric dances for the hotel, to teach the kids in the school some typical dances. This is the first time that they receive something other than the four basic school subjects (math, science, Spanish and social studies). The kids are very enthusiastic. Yarixa has also started teaching them small skits. They will make a small presentation in December at the sixth grade graduation and at Lapa Rios.
November: School is almost over. The kids are getting ready for their final exams. There will be, hopefully, five kids graduation from sixth grade this year: Gerlin, John, Aaron, Yoiline and Vanessa. They have all worked really hard and Giselle, the teacher, has been very focused. She has even started giving them classes on Saturdays to make sure that they are ready for the sixth grade baccalaureate. All of the kids are also practicing the typical dances. Their repertoire includes "Soy Tico" (I am Costarican), "El Torito" (The little bull) and a couple of skits (the cowboy mouse, the little duck, etc).
December: School is over. The five sixth graders graduated! 20 th of December, at 2PM, I went down to the school with a couple of guests to participate in the graduation. The graduation was dedicated to Lapa Rios. The kids were so proud of their accomplishments. More than half of the Carbonera and Matapalo community were there. The kids did an amazing performance of all the typical dances and the skits. The graduation lasted over three hours! December 25 th , the kids came up to Lapa Rios for their first presentation. They performed typical dances and skits. Our guests loved it so much that they requested a second presentation, that same evening, and all of the kids gladly came back. Hopefully their enthusiasm will last for next year! Summer vacation have started and classes will resume February 2004.
February: School started on the first day of classes! Quite a change! We have a new teacher, her name is Grace. She is from Palmar Norte and it’s her first time teaching… She seems very nice and maybe a little too sweet for the kids. We wish her good luck! The government changed the school schedule this year and all of the kids will now be attending school from 7am until 1pm. The six grades will be combined. What a way to start teaching! The kids practiced all through their summer vacation their dance classes. Their typical dance teacher and art teacher, Yarixa, was not as enthusiastic as they were during the summer. We hope she will commit to this year of schooling.
March:The tour to the school has been more popular than ever! The kids have learned how to play duck-duck-goose, red rover – red rover, baseball! Yes, our guests brought baseball bats, soft balls, gloves and taught them how to play baseball. It was a riot! Unfortunately, Yarixa had to leave the Osa Peninsula and we had to find a new teacher. The good news is that Marijke, one of our receptionists and also a very talented, young woman, took the role of typical dance teacher and art teacher. The kids love her. She has great energy and loves the kids. She has also been working with them to perfect their dances.
April: We got in touch with Elvira, the high school teacher who directs the Puerto Jimenez typical dances. We are bringing a teacher from San Jose to help Marijke with the dances. The kids are very excited. They keep practicing and being flexible with Marijke’s working schedule. Last week they did an amazing presentation at Lapa Rios! Also, for Easter break, Katie (our food and beverage manager and mom to one of the kids from school) did an Easter Egg Hunt for the kids. They had tons of chocolate eggs and fun! The kids loved it. We also had as a guest Bill and Jocelyn Sladen. Bill showed the kids a video where he participated in teaching geese how to follow an ultra-light plane to be able to teach them their migratory routes. It seems to me like we might have some future biologists in this little group of kids!
May: The kids are getting better and better with their performances. It is nice to see them grow and appreciate our culture. The sad news is that Grace, like most of the teachers from previous years, keeps “calling in sick”. Most of the time kids only have classes Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The kids, who normally love coming to school, have started to show a small attendance decline. We hope that it gets better.
June: Last month of classes before mid-school rainy season vacation. The kids, guided by Marijke, prepared a very nice present for Father’s Day (third week of June) and had a small celebration with some of the parents that came to the school that day.
July: Two weeks of vacation started first week of July and most of the kids left the Matapalo area to go to Puerto Jimenez, Perez Zeledón and even San Jose. Marijke worked until June and asked for a three month leave. She went to Holland to get married and will be coming back in October. Heidi, one of the mothers is going to help us meanwhile. 25th of July, a national holiday which celebrates the incorporation of Guanacaste to Costa Rica, was rejoiced by the kids from the school with local food and typical dances. Some of our guests accompanied us in the celebration at the school.
August: Heidi has done a good job as a replacement. She has even started practicing the dances to see if she can join them in the performances. Mother’s day came (15th of August) and the kids did a beautiful presentation for all the mothers and gave them a small art gift. Heidi still continues to help us out and Grace continues to not show up to school Mondays and Fridays.
September: The 15th of September is Costa Rica’s independence day. The kids participated in the Puerto Jimenez parade with the typical dance group and then with their own parade that went from the school all the way to Matapalo. This year our guests from Lapa Rios accompanied them in the parade. It was a great experience!
October: Mareijke came back from Holland and has decided to continue with the typical dances and art lessons. The kids are so happy. They were invited to perfome their dances at La Palma in a very important cultural activity with the community. Everything was great and we heard excellent comments about the presentation.
November: The kids are getting ready for final exams. They have all focused on the exams. They were invited again to perfome their dances at the Puerto Jimenez cultural parties with other schools and high schools of the area.
December: School is over. Summer vacation have started and classes will resume February 7th 2005.
January: The summer vacation is almost over and Lapa Rios have decided to invite the kids to the Dolphin tour as an award for their efforts. They went with Mareijke and Katie. They had a really fun day swimming with the dolphins and having lunch at the beach. They are excited to begin the lessons again.
February: School started on the first day of classes!! Grace is going to be the teacher again. We hope she will commit to this year of schooling with the kids and have a better relationship with the parents.
The Carbonera School is a success due to the contributions of many people with many skills. When thinking about who we are because of our own education we can appreciate that education needs to be shared and available to all. The world will be an easier place to live—for everyone. If you would like to share in the ongoing building of the rural Osa Peninsula schools, make your tax deductible contributions (memo: “School Association”) to: Costa Rica-Minnesota Foundation, 2424 Territorial Road, St. Paul, Minnesota, 55114. If you are in Lapa Rios make out a check to ASOCIACION de EDUCACION. Drop it in the general tip box at the reception desk.
Lapa Rios, Box 025216-SJO706, Miami, FL 33102
100% of your gift helps continue building the Osa Peninsula rural schools.
Lapa Rios, phone: (506) 2735-5130, fax: (506) 2735-5179 email firstname.lastname@example.org December 2003