We’ve now been in Cuajiniquil for two and a half days. We arrived on Monday evening, started our projects yesterday, and have continued working today. Our major group projects are broken into four groups: Farm Project, Beach Project, Community Project, High School Mural. The students have been divided up into groups of four or five, and are sticking with this project for these first three days.

The Farm crew is working with a local farmer, Luis Fernando, to improve his recycling system on the property, to clear land, and to bake bread in the wood-fired oven. Beach project is responsible for increasing tourism to the area by focusing on one beach, Junquillal, and creating signage to direct traffic that way. It’s a beautiful beach that hasn’t been able to attract as many tourists since it’s a bit off the beaten path. Students are also doing beach cleanup because it’s a nesting beach for turtles. The Community group has been our most flexible; they’ve done everything from walking around to create a map of the town to asking community members what they do as a sort of informal census. This group is also creating signs for key locations as there are no street names here; the locals just use landmark directions. The Mural group is finishing up an incredible ocean mural started by the previous Costa Rica community service group. They just finished the front mural today, after an impromptu teaching session in one of the English classes, and tomorrow they’ll work on some individual murals on other walls in the high school. All of this…is done by 12:30 p.m. In the afternoon, all students go to the elementary school to work with the first, second, and sixth graders with art, sports, and reading books in English. Then, everyone plays a group game of pickup soccer, one of the most organic ways to bond with locals. Dinner, group meeting, card games, bonding games, and we call it a night.

We’ve eaten at a local restaurant, danced Zumba with an instructor from Liberia, planned our independent projects, and helped with the cooking and cleaning at the house of Coqui and Elliot, our primary contacts and our home away from home. The boys have been camping on the beach in tents; the girls are in a little house in the center of town, right by Coqui and Elliot, and we’re all learning to live without mattresses, air conditioning, and cold water. Every day is a moment to practice the Costa Rica mentality: Pura Vida. Translated literally, pure life. Translated organically, everything is good. Time isn’t as important, organization isn’t as important, stress is unnecessary.

Mural at the high school.

Mural at the high school.

Completed the mural today!

Completed the mural today!

Exercise break between reading books.

Exercise break between reading books.

Exercise break between reading books.

Exercise break between reading books.

One of the students at the elementary school.

One of the students at the elementary school.

Break time during sports camp.

Break time during sports camp.

Origami lessons at the elementary school.

Origami lessons at the elementary school.

Face painting at the elementary school.

Face painting at the elementary school.

Prepping for village life.

Prepping for village life.

Art camp at the elementary school.

Art camp at the elementary school.

Reading English books at the elementary school.

Reading English books at the elementary school.

Pure vida is a great mentality to learn from, especially for these young overachievers who are already planning their own projects that they can contribute to this community. It’s been a whirlwind these last few days, but we’re excited to check in and to share some of our moments of bonding and growing together.