Hospital Nacional de Niños

December is a special month known for giving and this past December, Idioma Internacional wanted to focus on the children in our community. On Thursday, December 12th, a team from Idioma planned and prepared a holiday event that the children would never forget. Idioma teamed up with the Hospital Nacional de Niños to create an event specifically for the children who rarely get to experience the holidays and the special treats. Our objective for the day was to include the young boys and girls who are often left out of parties because of their dietary restrictions.

The day started at 8:00 am at the Hospital Nacional de Niños off of Paseo Colón. We set up the large playroom with green and red decorations, divided up different stations to make origami Christmas trees and decorate ornaments, and played Christmas music. Once the children and their families settled in, our first activity was Christmas caroling. Standing in front of the playroom, we sang three English Christmas carols — We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is Coming To Town. After singing, we moved to decorating ornaments. With our numerous supplies, the children were able to customize their own ornaments for their trees. Not only was it a hit with the children, but their family members too!

The best part of the day was our Santa surprise! Towards the end of the event, while the kids were creating their origami Christmas trees, our Academic Coordinator, Bill Harris, dressed up as Santa and surprised everyone. Everyone was so excited because even when some of the kids were skeptical about Santa Claus, they began to believe in him after seeing Santa in his bright, red costume and his big bag of presents! Once Santa was settled into his chair at the front of the room, the kids took pictures and told him what they wanted for Christmas. Everyone had officially begun to get in the holiday spirit after seeing Santa.

The morning ended with a group photo and many hugs and smiles from the children. Events like this one reminded us why community is so important and how powerful supporting one another can be. Idioma continues to bring that support in the events that they’re involved in — no matter the season.

-Kim Barnes

Anna Ross Race for Cancer 2019

Being active as a team is something that Idioma promotes and in previous years, the staff participated in Dr. Anna Ross Walk and Run Against Cancer. This year was no different as teachers and administration alike gathered together this October for Breast Cancer Awareness. Much like other supporters of the Anna Ross Foundation, some teachers and administration from Idioma joined together to walk, run, and promote Women’s Health.

In our pink shirts and tanks, our group of 11 set out at 7:30am to walk to the start of the race on Paseo Colón. We were all motivated by seeing hundreds of people (runners, walkers, and supporters) involved in something so life-changing. The Dr. Anna Ross Foundation has done so much for not only those who have been directly affected, but also their loved ones. The Foundation is maintained by numerous donations and sponsors who believe in the work and research that is being done. They lead the way in health by providing free workshops all over the country to stress the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle with healthy eating habits and exercising daily. 

For the past 16 years, the Dr. Anna Ross Foundation has created many events related to cancer and the Walk and Run Against Cancer is one of their biggest events, catching the attention from both Costa Ricans and health professionals to raise awareness about the sickness in the country. That is why it’s important to take action in something that affects many people and why we, as Idioma Internacional, are always ready and willing to be part of a movement that supports those we care about.

-Kim Barnes

Barrio Cuba Donation and Volunteer

An unexpected fire in Barrio Cuba in late September brought the Idioma community together again. Near our office on Paseo Colon, our neighbors’ homes in Barrio Cuba were hit with a fire that ruined everything and left its tenants with nothing. Because of the sudden urgency of the situation, Idioma Cares rallied in a short amount of time to bring in as many donations from the team — clothes, food, hygiene products, etc — to give to Asociación Obras del Espíritu Santo in Barrio Cristo Rey, near where the fire happened. La Asociación is a large Catholic organization whose main job is to help the people in any type of situation. We were able to collaborate with them and they were thankful and astonished by the amount of people that Idioma Cares brought with them. 

Kim and Christian ready to take Idioma’s donation to Asociación Obras del Espíritu Santo.

Along with donating items, many teachers and administration volunteered their time to help sort through the donated items with La Asociación. Outside, some volunteers carried boxes from the loading trucks and counted each type of item with the workers. Other volunteers helped with posters inside. I was impressed but not surprised by how willing the Idioma team was to donate their items and their time. What was even more amazing that after our allotted time with La Asociación, some of our team stayed extra and helped. 

Brian and Jason helping to load the sorted items on a truck.

Without hesitation everyone who donated, whether it was donating goods or donating their time, did it with a positive attitude. Idioma Cares was fortunate to work with a highly-established and well-known organization that deeply cares for its community. This shows just how much we can accomplish together. Within a span of a few days, Idioma brought in numerous boxes full of items and volunteered their time to help. We continue supporting those around us because we believe that doing good makes the world a better place. 

Our Idioma Cares team.
A look inside la Asociación’s work.
Bailey and Summer helping with posters.

 -Kim Barnes

Universidad La Salle Donation Drive

After taking on an additional role at Idioma, I knew that my first project for Idioma Cares would be one to remember. Idioma Cares is based on the foundation of helping the community and getting everyone involved and that’s exactly what this first project did. Idioma Cares collaborated with Universidad La Salle in San Jose along with Dan Cruz who works for a specific organization within La Salle, Consultorio Jurídico, which aids immigrants and refugees that enter Costa Rica. The Consultorio Jurídico works alongside other organizations to bring help and support to these immigrants and refugees in legal ways. As part of Idioma Cares, we provided canned goods and donated clothes for a specific family. This family of five comes from Haiti but they were living in Venezuela until the political unrest started and it was no longer safe for them. They uprooted their lives in search of the American dream but unfortunately, a “coyote” took everything from them. Now they are residing in Costa Rica with the help of the Consultorio Jurídico. 

Universidad La Salle, Costa Rica Universidad La Salle, Costa Rica

After many phone calls and messages sent, I was finally able to meet Dan, drop off the canned goods and clothes, and tour La Universidad La Salle. On July 17th, along with two other Idioma teachers, we were given the grand tour of  La Universidad La Salle. Dan was very proud in showing us his place of work and as visitors, we were just as excited to see how everything works and to know just what kind of organization we were working with. We met some of Dan’s coworkers and their love for helping others were very evident as they explained their roles. At the end of the meeting, we took a few group photos and said our goodbyes.

Idioma Cares in Universidad La Salle Campus
Jacob, Kim, and Jonathan

This first collaboration between La Salle and Idioma Cares will not be our last. While our official title is teacher, we are so much more than that. We are collaborators. We are supporters. We are givers. We are people who care about others. And that is what Idioma Internacional and Idioma Cares will continue to be.  

-Kim Barnes

Come one, come all!

Back in the day, as they say, the Idioma team used to get together every Sunday evening to have dinner as a team, and always at the home of the first academic director, Joy. At that time, we all lived in the same neighborhood and we were a much smaller operation.

Fast forward to 2019 and having nearly tripled in size, we now live all around the central valley, counting four of the seven provinces as home to Idioma and its team.

Nonetheless, the passion for spending time together and eating together has never been far from Idioma; it was in this spirit, to take some time outside of work to share, laugh, eat and enjoy the rich diversity on our team that we organized a mid-year potluck in the late afternoon on Sunday, June 30th.

At 4pm precisely, the hour that we started the potluck, it began to downpour…torrentially and so much so that within minutes, the road gutter in front of our current academic director’s apartment, between the road and the door to his apartment, was filled with a half-foot deep, six-foot wide rushing ‘river!’ It’s a good thing that everyone arrived on Tico time and not on time! By 4:30pm when people started showing up, the downpour downgraded to just heavy rain and the ‘river’ was crossable by way of a leap and we all made it upstairs to start warming up food and eating!

We had shrimp and grits along with sausage and fried apples from some of the southerners on staff. We had fruit salad and a huge pineapple for a more Tico flair. And no potluck is complete without a couple of potato dishes, as in mashed potatoes and home fries!

We all took turns grazing through the food line in Brendan’s tiny kitchen and the chatter and clatter soon took a downward turn as the silence of good-eatin’ commenced! There was enough food for seconds (and thirds for some, who shall remain nameless!) and a surplus to take to the office for some Monday munching.

Add we enjoyed some guitar strummin’ and singing in an impromptu session before we capped the evening off early but very full, full of international fare, Idioma friends and the Costa Rican Pura Vida vibe.

-The Author

Playa Agujas – Beach Cleanup

We got home way later than we expected. It was a long drive back from the beach in typical Sunday traffic in the high (busy) season that I hadn’t taken into account when planning when we would leave. A lesson learned for next time. To me, that objectively sounds like a really less than ideal way to end a long day. But with this group of friends, at the end of this day, we had a blast the entire time we inched forward.

On our way to the beach

The music was blaring (in a fun way) in our humble buseta.  Everyone was singing, laughing, and swapping stories.  We generally made the best of the time.  When we finally arrived at the office everyone pitched in and helped unload the barbeque supplies and the recycling we had collected.  It was a long day rewarded with good company. A Sunday well spent.

We got up early and met at 8:00 a.m.

The day started with everyone meeting at the office. It was 8:00am, and again I’m inspired by the amount of hands that showed up to help. Sure, we were getting a day at the beach together and a nice bbq lunch to go with it (which is awesome!), but it’s still collecting trash in the sunny heat of the Puntarenas Province and carefully sifting it into recycling piles to make sure we’re helping the environment properly. My point is there are plenty of other places all nine of us could have chosen to otherwise be on our collective day off, and yet, this is where we all wanted to be.

 Separating the recyclables   Some garbage was hidden   We found a lot of small chunks of plastic

We have done a couple of park clean ups now, like at Parque de la Paz, and Peace University Park, but this was our first beach cleanup. One thing we have learned from park cleanups is how they’re deceptively filled with trash. You don’t necessarily see what you aren’t looking for. But bend over and pay attention and suddenly you can’t stop seeing the trash, small and large. On a beach, the amount of cigarette butts alone could have kept us there all day, in addition to large chunks of broken materials ditched in the forest the banks the sand.

Using a hat to protect from the sun         We tried to clean as much as possible

But once again, when we were decked out in gloves and separate trash bags for junk and recycling, it wasn’t long before people took notice of the pairs we had broken out into and saw the impact we were making. Shirley, the Costa Rican owner and co-operator of the buseta we had rented, asked for gloves and a bag to help in the effort. And before long other people there, just to enjoy a relaxing day on the beach, were pitching in too. One person even asked Shirley, “Why are you doing this?” Her response was simple and profound, “because this is my beach, too.”

Every inch of beach we cleaned was a small victory      Resting for a little bit

Because this is their beach. And it’s our beach, too. This is why we were there. We are welcome guests in this gorgeous country. We are also active participants. When you’re invited over for dinner, you’re of course going to offer to wash the dishes.

After concluding our efforts with a celebratory cheer, we concluded our cleanup by moving to a more secluded and shaded area that was perfect to set up hammocks and start the grill. We had Frisbees and volleyballs to toss around in the ocean and made new friends while doing so. Shirley, the joiner, of course, came out and had fun with us in the ocean.

Celebrating in the ocean     Celebrating in the ocean

On our way home we stopped for batidos, or fruit smoothies, as an extra gift from Idioma Cares that Bailey had chosen for all of us. And even though it took a long time to arrive to our beds after that, we loved and made the most of every second of it.

This is their beach. And it’s our beach, too. I think we all took pride in knowing we had shown that the respect and reciprocity it deserved. It was a delicious meal. And we made sure to do our dishes.

-Timothy Garren

 

Idioma Internacional Kick Off – January 2019

Our Idioma Cares kick-off event of the year was as inspiring as it was fun. Good things come to those who show up. And, including brand new members of the team, we had a solid group show up to help our own community.

We have done a park clean-up in Parque de La Paz, but this was a beautification outside our actual doorstep. It was satisfying being able to clean up what we see every day, what is our home, and what is home to many others.

This was an Idioma Cares event with a dual purpose, to start the year off with committing to action and community with cleaning up our surrounding streets, but it stemmed from the philosophy of Idioma Internacional itself, of building a family. So we combined our clean-up event with a BBQ as a team to celebrate our commitment and dedication. We are all here from another land as appreciators of different cultures, specifically Costa Rica. We are not just finding purpose, but making a purpose by giving back to the country that has hosted us.

We grabbed our bags and gloves and spread out across the neighborhood to grab trash and recycling that was left behind.  We enjoyed working side by side with our co-teachers and admin comrades, and we also knew there was a delicious barbeque on the other side.

After the clean-up, we proceeded to the beautiful University for Peace Park to grill out with hot dogs and hamburgers and all the snacks and drinks we could take with us (we didn’t have our vegetarians or vegans with us, but we were prepared for their dietary needs).

There was a beautiful February sun, soccer fields, a forest to explore and good company to have.  One thing I enjoy a lot about our team is how easy and fun it is to just hang out, and shoot the… you know.  TEFL teachers have so many things in common, and as many differences that the stories we share are always something to enjoy and learn from.

We cooked together, drank together, played games together, and hiked together. We all came here to teach English, and in so doing, make a difference, but we also get to make a difference in our personal relationships. When you have picked up trash with a friend it is that much easier to laugh about crazy hostel experiences in a beach town.

New members of the team made us laugh while getting to know them as we jammed to music. We played soccer with the locals as if we could hold a candle to their talent. And as we piled into the cars to exit before the sun went down, it was refreshing to see that our team took the time out of their Sunday to spend it together.  We made our front door prettier and safer, and we did it all in the comradery that makes living abroad so necessary and awesome.

Our start of the year was as successful as the rest of our year. Now we get to walk into the difference we want to make, and the friendships we are here to have. Because they are waiting for us, and good things come to those that show up.

 

-Timothy Garren

December 2018

Wow! December was a packed month at Idioma Internacional.

As we began to wind down another great year, we had a lot to celebrate and a lot to be thankful for.

We actually kicked off December by having our annual Idioma Christmas party! We started the night off with a gift exchange at our office. As usual, a lot of the gifts were consumable (food and drink alike) and there were a few favorites that got stolen until they couldn’t be stolen again.

We took some pictures at the office and then loaded up in a private shuttle to head up to the mountains of Heredia and have the famous paella at La Lluna de Valencia. The night was replete with flamenco guitar and dancing, a fire show and the proprietor coming around with his famous bota full of wine! We ate, drank and had a really fun and warm Christmas celebration as a team.

December festivities continued with our 2nd annual Gingerbread House night! We got into teams and put on some villancicos to put us in the Christmas spirit while we got to work building our Gingerbread Houses.

All of this only brought us to the middle of December! We still had some events to go, not the least of which is our 2nd annual Christmas Pie in the Face Raffle.

At the end of every year, we choose a charity to support and raise money for by selling raffle tickets to our students. Our students can buy a raffle ticket and with it buy a chance for their teacher to get a pie to the face!

This year, we have been working closely with an organization called Boy with a Ball for which we raised 134,215.00 colones as a team! And with such a remarkable turnout, Idioma Internacional was able to match that amount and double the funds we were able to donate!

We picked the raffle ticket at random to find our lucky winner to get a pie in the face and sure enough, our teacher, Brian, who sold the most actually won!

And of course, each year an Administrator is also chose at random to participate because the only thing better than one person getting a pie in the face is two people getting a pie in the face!

With all the December and end-of-the-year activities behind us, we all hopped on planes, busses and in some cases, motorcycles, and headed out to enjoy some paid vacation time over the holidays. Here is a quick snapshot of the last sunset of 2018 in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica…

-Brendan Mulhall

 

 

Friendsgiving Costa Rica Style – November 2018

Venezuela, Costa Rica, Australia, Finland, United States—these are just a few of the nationalities represented at our Idioma Friendsgiving celebration this year. Needless to say, it was an international and very Tico-style Friendsgiving this year. There was not even a turkey in sight!

One of our teachers graciously invited the entire team to his home to celebrate with food, friends and to take an evening out of our busy lives to give thanks for all the blessings we enjoy living and working in beautiful Costa Rica.

We celebrated potluck style: a southern-inspired chicken and rice dish, green beans and bacon, goat cheese and almond dressed salad with a homemade balsamic, homemade cheese and fruit dip, mashed potatoes, a vegan curry, bread and dips, and brownies and a cranberry apple cinnamon cake to top it all off. And we had wine and sangria to drink, and of course a Costa Rican specialty: a homemade chiliguaro shot brought by a coworker to share.

We scrounged up benches, a couch, some beach chairs and anything we could find so that we all had a seat at the table to eat, chat, celebrate and be thankful together. While the food and drink were plentiful and flowed throughout the evening, it was spending time with both co-workers and friends that truly made this a Friendsgiving to remember.

-Brendan Mulhall

 

Biannual Idioma Internacional Retreat Event – October 2018

Over two different Friday mornings toward the end of October, our teaching staff gathered for the second Retreat of 2018.

We had a healthy breakfast of granola, yogurt, fruit, bread and spreads, juice and coffee to get us started on both days. Our professional development activities focused on our core values of Excellence, Sound Character and Innovation and were complemented by some fun team-building activities.

After the two mornings of professional development, we all met up at Bol Cariari for a Sunday afternoon of wings, beers and bowling shoes! For this Retreat Event, we decided to keep things a bit closer to home and indoors, which was a great idea given the massive aguacero that dumped all afternoon.

Many of us wish we had had bumpers in our lanes to help improve our scores; however, proudly there were a few of us who actually broke the 100-mark! As more beers were cracked open, our scores tended to increase as well.

While we may not have a career in professional bowling ahead of us, we are certainly aficionados of snacking, drinking, laughing and lofting gutter balls one after another.

-Brendan Mulhall