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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anna Ross Race Against Breast Cancer 2018

Little compares to the sense of purpose and drive you feel when you’re part of a team. Add that to the festival-like atmosphere of a city-wide race, with music, volunteers passing out water, and people on the sides of the streets cheering you on, and you have the recipe for a gorgeous day in the Costa Rican sun.

Some of us like racing and fitness, some of us are simply volunteers at heart and love participating, and for some of us it was deeply personal — we were there for the same reason the Anna Ross Fundraiser was created, because someone dear to us had been affected by breast cancer. Regardless of our reasons, we were all there together, an Idioma Cares team of eight, with that sense of purpose and drive multiplied by thousands who were side by side with us, same uniform and everything.

We made our way as a group to the start of the race on Paseo Colón, a stone’s throw away from our office. A fire engine that blew bubbles out of it seemed like the best pre-race photo op, before the sweat and sunscreen drenched our faces.

When the race began we knew that we wouldn’t stay side by side for long, but we had the same goal and destination. Regardless of our time or distance we all ended in the heart of Sabana Park and were met with cheers and medals. We designated a spot by the pond behind the main stage for us to all meet at afterwards. After enjoying our newly found deep breaths and congratulatory Latin dance music from the stage behind us, we exited the park as a team, knowing we had accomplished our shared goal separately, yet together.

Shortly after gathering our things at the office, we were clinking our bottles together with a well-earned salud and enjoying some much-anticipated food and drink in a cantina at the foot of an Escazú mountain, a simple bus ride away from the office where a lot of the teachers live. What I really love about Idioma Cares is that the comraderie of contributing to a cause doesn’t stop at a single event. It’s part of who we are. At our most recent staff retreat, one of the group’s proposed definitions of “excellence” was, “setting a high standard, meeting that goal, high fiving, then setting a new standard.” Enjoying an ice cold Imperial with my teammates was the exact high five I was looking for after running a 5K. And if that’s how we end a day of sun and sweat together, I know we’re all looking forward to the next new standard.

-Timothy Garren

 

Costa Rican Independence Day Celebration

Every year, on September 15th, Costa Rica celebrates its independence and this year marked 197 years of a free and independent Costa Rica.

At Idioma Internacional, we have a celebration each year to mark this historic event and celebrate the ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle we enjoy living and working in beautiful Costa Rica.

Each year, we eat the traditional tamal, wear a chonete and pañuelo and listen to the folklore and the history of the different important events that shaped Costa Rica’s becoming an independent and autonomous nation.

This year was even more special for two reasons. First, we currently have 3 classes at our office on Fridays: two classes of 11 Costa Rican youth with a socio-educational project we work on with Fundación Monge and a private class with 2 professional adults. So this year we were able to invite our Tico students to our celebration for a truly multicultural event.

Second, we had a surprise competition where our Idioma teachers were teamed up with our Tico students and charged with making a farol, or lantern, that symbolizes part of the lore of Costa Rican independence. Faroles are central to the Costa Rican independence day experience as Tico kids create them in school every year growing up.

We divided into mixed teams of foreign teachers and Tico students and got right to work! We had only 30 minutes to construct a farol that would be judged by the following criteria: a) representation of Costa Rica; b) use of materials; c) ability to be illuminated; d) creativity; e) ability to hold up/durability for use.

We put on some typical Costa Rican music and started cutting, pasting, laughing and attempting to create the best farol of the group. With a prize ready for the winning team, the stakes were high!

 

After 30 minutes, our time was up; we were asked to drop our scissors and glue sticks and step away from the table. Competition was now on!

One by one, each team explained their process and farol and showcased it to the group and the panel of Tico judges from our Idioma team, made up of Martin, Diana, Wilberth and Charlyn.

While all groups did a great job, and creativity was certainly not lacking, there was one team in particular that stood out as the clear winner. Team ‘Choza’ with Sarah, Lintonia, Fredman and Alexis won with their farol!

The winning team was rewarded with a pair of movie tickets for them and a friend in addition to proudly wearing the badge of honor of winning the very first Annual Idioma Farol Contest, 2018.

The entire morning and celebration were very special and it was a half-day event filled with culture, food, music, merriment and making connections with people of different ages, nationalities, backgrounds and experiences.

That afternoon, one of our adult students took some time to send along her gratitude for the event. Her words truly sum up the spirit of the day, and the spirit by which we live and work as a team at Idioma Internacional:

Muchísimas gracias por invitarme hoy a la actividad de Idioma, me encantó. Muchas gracias a todos ustedes por devolverme la alegría y sentirme agradecida por el país que me vio nacer.

Felicito al equipo por el gran trabajo, en Idioma Internacional se siente el amor, cariño y dedicación para hacer las cosas de verdad que los felicito. Que viva Costa Rica!

-Brendan Mulhall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Example

Language. Community. Action.

These are the three pillars of our social responsibility initiative: Idioma Cares.

The Idioma Cares leaders and staff volunteers conducted a park cleanup on Sunday, August 19th, 2018, with the mission of taking action in the community to make a positive difference. We chose “Parque de la Paz” in Desamparados as it is relatively close to our office and it is not provided with a private sanitation service like our local park, “Parque de la Sabana.”

Tim, our team leader, took care of the planning, supplies and logistics for the event. These preparations included scouting the location ahead of time and providing each of the Idioma Cares team members with a map of the park and a designated area to be cleaned that day, so as to cover the entire park and maximize our impact.

We numbered just over a dozen participants, including my two children (five-year-old and a seven-year-old) and a teacher’s partner who joined in the effort. First thing we did when we arrived was climb a steep hill in the center of the park with an incredible lookout point where we game-planned and surveyed the park. Tim passed out gloves, garbage bags, water  and maps while we got into teams of two, with one person taking a large bag for garbage and the other person taking a bag for recyclables.

We all set out to scour and clean our assigned areas of the park with an 11:00 am meet up time to throw the garbage in the park garbage bins for a later pick up (previously coordinated by Tim) and load the recyclables into our cars to haul off to a recycling center in neighboring Escazú.

By and large, it was a typical San José Sunday morning: beautiful weather, blue skies and lots of sunshine, billowy white clouds, scores of families and individuals bustling about the park. And there were some unanticipated, yet insightful  and positive moments to the day above the expected parts of just picking up trash and recyclables to clean up a city park.

The first element that stands out to me was the experience working alongside such a good-hearted team that took their personal time to make a difference in a place that is not their home country. That is so inspiring. Most of the Idioma Cares team is not from Costa Rica, yet their desire to serve and make a difference shows how compassion, support for others, and doing good goes beyond territorial and cultural borders. We were all volunteers joining together for a common cause of making a positive difference. It was pretty cool. And really fun.

The second element that sticks out is how proud I am of my children for participating wholeheartedly in the clean up efforts. This was an important lesson for them that I am really happy they got to experience in addition to their witnessing of the Idioma Cares team setting an example. It was great to see my children do something for others in order to make things better instead of playing, which is what they normally do on a Sunday. I hope this is something that they build upon for years to come as they make their way.

The third element that struck me was the impact we had on the locals. We all wore team shirts and that really made a difference, as we were highly visible while cleaning up the trash and separating it to recycle. Our good acts were noticed by a lot of people and many of them came up to us and thanked us for what we were doing. I didn’t know how to respond, as it was a little awkward. Here they are, thanking us for cleaning up their park, and you could tell they felt as ashamed as they were grateful. And for me, I didn’t know whether to say thank you or ask for them to do more themselves to help their own community. Just act, I thought. So I only said thank you and offered a smile.  

I couldn’t help thinking during the clean up that everything we were doing that day could have been avoided if everyone were responsible with their own trash and recyclables. Even though Costa Rica’s citizens have made monumental improvements over the years in terms of protecting the environment and not littering, there is still some work to be done. That is why the visual impact the Idioma Cares efforts had on the locals and the example we were setting give me confidence that if we continue to act in good will in a noticeable way in the community, that permanent positive change can be achieved. This is indeed the ‘Pura Vida’ vibe that can help move this wonderful country toward a brighter future.

 

Brian Logan – Founder

Biannual Idioma Internacional Retreat Trip – May 2018

It may seem like meeting up on a Sunday morning at 6:45 am is cruel and unusual. But when it is to meet up with your coworkers to head up the slopes of a volcano to an amazing place like La Paz Waterfall Gardens, it’s neither cruel nor unusual.

On May 13th of this year, our entire company (teachers, supervisors and office and support staff) met up for a gallo pinto breakfast at our office before enjoying a half day at La Paz Waterfall Gardens followed by lunch in the folds of Volcán Poás.

We arrived close to 9:15 am and once we got exchanged our passes for our bracelets, we organically split up into a few different groups and headed into the conservation area.

My group first hit the aviary and got to hang with toucans, scarlet macaws and more! One toucan actually got a little ‘too close for comfort’ with one teacher and was looking for not just a snack, but a friend too! And we’ve got a picture to prove it!

We strolled through the area with monkeys and sloths before entering another area with flying things; this time, they were horned beetles and butterflies! Well, perhaps I should explain.

First, there was an entrance with glass cases full of really incredible insects, all pinned to a board like the ones in those laboratory drawers where they count and keep species. After walking the ramp flanked with all kinds of creepy crawly and flying things, there was a glass door that opened to a multi leveled enclosure full of plants and greenery and butterflies!

This butterfly sanctuary was my second favorite part (we’ll get to my favorite). It was warm and humid in there and I would venture to guess several thousands of butterflies flittering and floating about. And they are not shy! They will land all over you and even pose for a selfie!

Several employees supervise this area to ensure that everything goes smoothly and also educate the visitors about the entire process from cocoon to chrysalis to butterfly! Oh, and you can see probably two dozen butterflies in every stage of their development, wiggling about in their cocoons, emerging from them, and flying away. I only gazed in awe for about 15 minutes but I could have stayed all day.

There are also snakes and reptiles, an open area for hummingbirds (and you can feed them by hand at 9am each day!), big mountain cats and poisonous frogs to meander past as you head to the trailhead, which leads to my absolute favorite part of the park: the waterfalls!

A well-maintained trail winds down from the main property along the rocky cliffs that frame a series of five—count them, five—gorgeous waterfalls. The last one, and most famous, is the Peace Waterfall, or la Catarata La Paz.

IMG-20180513-WA0055

If I could spend all day in the butterfly sanctuary, I could spend an eternity gazing at, listening to and feeling the spray from those massive waterfalls. Neither pictures nor words can relay the beauty and awesomeness of those waterfalls. I would simply recommend that you visit some time to experience them.

Alas, after a half-day of adventure we were ready for lunch! We headed to Freddo Fresas near a small town named Frailes and had a great meal as a team and lots of strawberry juice and strawberries and cream to boot!

What could be better than an adventure to a beautiful conservation area, that only accepts rescued or injured animals, set amid the tumbling folds of a volcano in Costa Rica? Going with a great team of friends and coworkers perhaps.

Brendan Mulhall

The Hardest Word to Say

When I close a chapter in my life, even with a new one beginning, I struggle to find the right words or ways to express myself. It is no different this time. The end of my contract here at Idioma Internacional has me struggling to describe the feeling. I have known for a little over a month that I would be ending my contract and moving to a new phase of my educational career. However, preparing for departure is a task in and of itself. Mentally, I have had to think positively. I know how much this company has offered me. I believe in the over ten thousand words I have written in this blog that I have expressed a lot of truth and sincerity. The friendships I have made will stay with me, whether physically or emotionally, for the rest of my life. However, the reality of moving on doesn’t really set in until it is upon you.

Some of the most challenging aspects of leaving such a great part of my life were having to tell my students. Sometimes, however, it does go smoothly. A few of my classes were ready and aware of the way that it goes. These were fairly easy on the emotions. We all shook hands, wished the best for each other, and decided to stay in touch. I went to a lunch with one of my former classes and had an excellent time just bonding and hanging out as friends. It was nice to share some memories with these great students outside of the classroom. However, I know how much I already miss that group.

One of my classes really surprised me. It was one of the lower level classes that I taught. They are an amazing group of people with such varied backgrounds and experiences. When my last night as their teacher arrived, they surprised me with pizza at the end of class. This group always worked very hard and sometimes it was difficult for them to arrive focused for class. However, seeing their progress in just over five months was so motivating and impressive. They had advanced so much in such a short time. Their hard work paid off and many of them have improved so much that I believe they are above the level they are studying.

And just as beautiful as those classes were, with sad but well-handled goodbyes, there was one that brought a flood of emotions over me. This goodbye took my breath away. Literally. I had this class for almost my entire contract. This group was one of the colegios (high-schools). The final class began as normal. The students were taking their short break from regular school to this scholarship program that we teach. A few of the students expressed that it was sad that this was the final class. I knew it too. I felt it. But we all got the lesson going and moved into the routine. I feel close to this group because we have grown together as individuals and as a group. We have had to face some difficult challenges and we have had to make some adjustments throughout the program. However, as smooth as things were going at the beginning of this last class, it suddenly changed. The teacher who replaced me was leading a lesson as I sat in the back of the room. The realization that this was about to be the last time I taught them hit me. My eyes began to well up. I had to take a few deep breaths to keep from crying. One of the students noticed my demeanor and called me out, “not yet, teacher. Not yet.” I giggled, but that made it a little harder, so I busied myself with more instruction and correction. Then, with barely 5 minutes left to spare, I began to say my thanks to the students. They stopped me. They had a few surprises ready. They pulled out a handmade poster with our group picture in the middle and handwritten post-it notes all surrounding it. The waterfall began the moment I saw what it was. I couldn’t even see the words on the notes because I couldn’t stop the flood. I thanked them with every ounce of my being, but they were not done yet. Then, they presented me with a humongous bag of candy and a small figurine that will forever remind me of them. As we finally cleaned up the room and began to leave, many of the students took pictures with me. We exchanged high-fives, hugs, and at the end one final “everybody hands-in” huddle and cheer. I had nicknamed them Team Awesome. So, of course, it was “awesome on three.” I fought off the tears for the rest of the goodbyes, but it was incredibly difficult. I felt appreciated in a way that I have never felt before. Every struggle in my life was worth that feeling.

Before signing off, I want to make one thing clear: I appreciate every single person that has ever taken the time to read any of these posts. I am so thankful that I had the chance to write for this company. I love writing, even if I am not very good at it. I hope that these posts will continue and that the next author will be even better than me. Thank you. Each and every one of you. And as the title suggests, I hate saying this word: goodbye.

Thank you again,

The Author