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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
On October 5, tropical storm Nate hit the Costa Rica shoreline and devastated the entire nation. There were multiple deaths, massive amounts of infrastructural damage, and a state of emergency was declared closing government offices and schools throughout the nation.
In the wake of such a massively destructive storm, many families were left without homes, food, clothing, electricity, and water. Even though the country was distraught and wracked with grief, many communities quickly rallied to aid the families that were in need.
One such contributor was Timothy Garren, an Idioma Internacional teacher. He organized and promoted a clothing drive that benefitted families in the coastal town of Quepos. He asked the other teachers and our friends to donate any clothing that was still functional but no longer used. It was a simple request, but one that was needed regardless. The results were better than even he could have foreseen. He was able to collect a rather extraordinary number of articles in a very short time. There were dress shirts, jeans, leggings, socks and underwear, casual clothing, and much more. These were then delivered to organizers in Quepos where they were sorted and distributed to the families in need.
Having someone show such care to people he has never met has been inspirational at the least and extremely heart-warming as a standard. This is the sense of community that we feel on a daily basis at Idioma Internacional. We have become part of this country, this culture, these communities, and this beautiful world.
Here at Idioma Internacional we are half-way through our 5th year supporting Movember, a global movement to raise awareness about the dangers and causes of prostate cancer and testicular cancer, along with general education about men’s physical and mental health. Many members of the staff have seized the opportunity to show off their handsome, smoother, and younger looking faces.
During the month of November, male participants shave their faces bald. Then, they can choose whether to grow their beard or mustache for the entire month. The participants take a photo of themselves at the very beginning of the month (with no facial hair) and also track their progress by taking one photo for each week of hair growth. Profiles are created on the Movember website, where the participants upload their photos. Check out our profiles! Once the profiles are created, followers are encouraged to donate money to the research and disbursement of education programs worldwide. Idioma Internacional is donating for each staff participant or sponsored participant.
If you are female and want to contribute to this great cause you can sponsor a male friend, family member, spouse, significant other, etc. Upload their pictures and track their profiles. These amazing women sponsors are called Mosistas!
The second most prevalent cancer in men, prostate cancer is a topic that is not talked about enough. In 2012, there were more than 1.1 million documented cases of prostate cancer. This staggering number still doesn’t receive the attention that it deserves. As stated on the Movember website, “men are dying too young, before their time.” The Movember Foundation has a plan: Raise awareness through research, improve the lives and health of men by educating them on ways to take preventative action, and reduce the number of men who die too young.
Please follow the Movember Foundation’s link below to learn more about what they do and how you can help! The time to act is now.
Here at Idioma Internacional, we are not only dedicated to our primary focus of English education, but we also hold a high regard for social responsibility. On October 8, 2017 our company participated in the annual Anna Ross Walk Against Cancer. Several teachers, administrators, and staff members joined the thousands of Costa Ricans to raise money for this great organization to continue their commitment to providing free services to cancer patients and their families. Idioma Internacional provided the entry fee for all of our company’s participants.
The Dr. Anna Gabriela Ross Foundation is a non-governmental, non-profit organization dedicated to serving communities in all of Costa Rica with free education and support services to cancer patients and their families. To date, this organization has served more than 145 communities throughout Costa Rica. Their mission is to provide education about prevention, early detection, wellness, diet, exercise, and mental health in order to battle cancer at all stages of its harmful and life altering path. The foundation gives free workshops and talks to stifle the spread of cancer. (http://www.ross.or.cr/)
On October 8, the staff at Idioma Internacional took to the streets with throngs of Costa Ricans and showed our support for such a wonderful organization as the Anna Ross Foundation. According to our Administrative Assistant, Christina:
“It was amazing to see so many people come together for such an important cause. When I turned onto Paseo Colon, I just saw an ocean of people. I was impressed by the amount of people that came to help raise awareness and support the event.
As we started running, it felt great to be surrounded by so many good people. There was even a man with crutches participating in the run! There is nothing more inspiring than seeing someone without a leg accomplishing what he did. It reminded me why I participated in the event in the first place. I will never understand the pain and challenges faced by someone with cancer and their loved ones. All I can do is show my support and help raise awareness. Seeing all these people come together really made me feel hopeful.”