IMS students and faculty have been busy in Costa Rica working on three main service projects projects–a language classroom, a garden, and building fences. Those working on the language classroom, carried cane reeds nearly 2 miles (3km) to repair the walls of the hut. Those working on the garden, visited the local families to collect the medicinal plants. Then, they shaped the garden into a spiral and placed the painted signs indicating the names of each plant. Those working on the fence, stretched out the mesh material as the welder soldered the pieces together.

On a typical day, the volunteers work in the morning, break for a midday lunch, and then regather for a couple of hours of work in the afternoon. After work one day, they visited Dona Juana’s house. One of the village elders, Dona Juana is one of the only people in the community who still knows how to process raw cotton to produce the naturally dyed strings used in local artisan crafts. She showed the group each step in the process from raw cotton to beautifully spun string. Many of the students even tried their hand at the process themselves. She also shared some photos of her grandparents. The photos were taken in the 50s when people in the community still used traditional dress. She was very touched that the group was interested in learning about these traditional ways as she fears that many of her people’s traditions will die with her.

The group also went to Boruca to meet Oscar, the culture teacher at the local high school and, at 40, one of the youngest people in the community who can speak the Borucan language fluently. When they arrived by bus to Boruca, Oscar lead them on a hike to a local river and waterfall. It was dark by the time they arrived and they were surrounded by fireflies as Oscar told them about the magic of that waterfall for the local people. Legend says that the waterfall hides an entryway to the underworld. He told the students stories about the different people who have claimed to have seen this entry way! 
After more work on their service projects, some of the group was able to help with the preparation of tamales for the group’s farewell dinner. They also went to the local school and lead the school children in various games that taught them a little bit of English. Next, a visit to Martin’s house for a hammock making workshop. Visiting Martin’s house is a lively experience as he has a coffee plantation and small farm with chickens and pigs on his property. The group really enjoyed the workshop and the visit.

Then, it was time for the farewell dinner at a nearby family home. They gathered all of the families together and enjoyed a meal of tamales and arroz con leche. Over dinner, both the community and the group shared things that the had learned during their time together. The community members mentioned how proud they were of the students for all their hard work and invited them back any time. The teachers, thanked the community for having accepted them into their homes. They wrapped up the evening with music and drums.

Before returning home, the group went on an exciting sailboat adventure, visited Manuel Antonio National Park, where they learned about Costa Rica’s Wildlife and natural history, and explored the different beaches of the park, including Gemelas beach where they saw spider monkeys and white face monkeys. 

Read about a few more days of the Costa Rica service trip from the director’s log.