The following Blog was shared here by Margaret Mooney a student studying abroad with Michigan State University's Residential College in the Arts and Humanities. The Girls for Success program and Hone Creek community are a host site for the study abroad program on sustainability and community engagement in Costa Rica. The following is her first hand account of her work and studies!
February 21, 2019 -Today is already my third full day in Hone Creek! I’ve been enjoying settling into being at Doña Emilia’s house, she is wonderful and has made us feel so at home! I love getting to spend time with her because I am really hoping to speak Spanish as much as possible while I am here and I know that with her is a great opportunity. This morning we went for a walk which was so beautiful but also so hot! We left at seven this morning but we should have left earlier because the sun was already getting to be too hot during the walk. I am also so excited to build relationships with the girls in the program, they are so much fun and I hope that with time we all get to be friends. Yesterday we did a fun activity with them where we painted rocks for the garden that had the names of different vegetables on them. It was cool to watch everyone be creative and make the rocks their own. I think it’s amazing that I think it’s amazing that the program places emphasis on creativity because I know how powerful arts experiences are and integrating them as much as possible is really valuable. I already know that my time here is going to fly by so I want to soak it all in and be present for everything as much as I can be.
February 25, 2019 -Today is Monday which means it has been a week since I came to Hone Creek. A lot has happened so far and I know that my time here will continue to be busy and exciting. I am looking forward to the days ahead with the girls because on Friday we had a really great classroom day with them and are hopeful about the impact that we will be able to make. It feels good that they are beginning to like having us around more and I know that our relationships with them will keep getting stronger. Tomorrow we will be leading a lesson with the Tuesday-Thursday group who we have spent less time with than the Monday-Wednesday-Friday girls so far. It will be nice to get to know them more. Something else that I will be working on this week is composing short bios about each of the girls that will be posted on the program’s website. Stay tuned! I am glad to be getting this opportunity because it will be a chance to get to know the girls better (especially since I still need help practicing names!) This morning we also did laundry with Doña Emilia for the first time which was really fun. It was cool to learn how she does it and spend time with her, Katlyn, and Kate. Even though the three of us have had some ups and downs in transitioning into being here, we are starting to feel like sisters since we are all staying with Doña Emilia.
February 28, 2019 It has been so rainy this week! This is the first morning in while that I have woken up without it being raining. I haven’t minded the rain but it has been making me want to stay cozy in bed a lot! We are in Puerto Viejo this morning to do some work and are planning to ride the bikes that got fixed for us back to Hone Creek afterwards so I am glad that it won’t be raining for that. This has been a good week with the girls, we have done a lesson with both groups at Doña Emilia’s house, Tuesday and Wednesday, and today we will be back at the school with them to hang out during costura (sewing). We have been working on telling time with the girls and in both groups there are some girls who are more comfortable with it than others. Navigating instruction when there are different levels of understanding is something we are having to figure out because some of the students will finish quickly while others need us to sit with them for more explanation and help. Yesterday I was working pretty closely with Whitney throughout the day and that was really fun. I love having the opportunity to both help with teaching and also just get to know the girls. Whitney and I were able to chat a little in Spanish throughout the day and during an exercise about what time she does certain activities I practiced the related English vocabulary with her. This activity lent itself well to vocabulary practice because on Tuesday as well I made some lists of words for a couple of the girls who are less strong in their English. After class on Tuesday I walked the girls home and ended up going with a couple of them to the pulperia which was fun. When we got back I talked to one of the moms, Ruby, about our being here and working with the girls for the next several weeks. It was great to have this chance to introduce myself and begin talking about what we are planning to do during our time.
March 4, 2019 This was an awesome weekend! On Friday night Kate played in a women’s soccer game at the field near the Hone Creek supermarket. She had a great time playing and it was cool to see that there is a soccer team for the women of the community to come together and do something fun and active. On Saturday Kate, Katlyn, Doña Emilia and I went to the beach nearby called Manzanillo. It was a nice day and I was so happy that Doña wanted to spend time with us and go do something together. We had lunch at a soda and walked to the beach. The walk took us through a national forest refuge and along the way we stopped at a beautiful lookout point to see the water. When we got to the beach I was totally ready to get in the water and cool off. The waves were gentle so it was relaxing to get to just be in the water. Having the chance to enjoy the beach with Doña and the other girls was a needed break for all of us after a big week. When we were getting ready to head back to Hone Creek we realized that the bus schedule was different than what Doña had thought it was so we could not take the bus like we had planned. We were able to get a taxi though and it was the same driver and his wife who Kate, Katlyn and I had rode with before for an internet day in Puerto Viejo. Since there were four of us and the two of them in the front we all piled in the back seat with Katlyn on Kate’s lap. We all laughed the whole way and got to enjoy the views from Manzanillo back to Puerto Viejo. Yesterday was also an awesome day. In the morning we helped at the school getting the space ready for the soccer field that a group of engineering students from MSU are going to work on this week when they come here for spring break. It will be cool to see some other students from our university along with Ellie who was on the same program as us last year who is also coming. Yesterday we got to meet a lot of the girls’ parents who came to help at the school and we all enjoyed ourselves getting work done. Seeing the community come together and getting to be a part of it was a valuable experience. We also did a painting project with some of the kids who came and they had a great time with it which was a blast! I love that I’m starting to feel like a part of the community here and that our plans for the rest of our time will hopefully make a difference. After helping at the school, Kate, Katlyn and I met with a few of the older girls from the Girls For Success Club who were able to spend a little time with us. We spent some time just getting to know each other and also had a survey for them about what they may be interested in doing with the program in the future that we can help with. I’m looking forward to talking more with Patricia about the information we gathered and making a plan. Afterwards Kate and I went to watch a soccer game that Doña’s son, Adenil was coaching and when we got back spent the evening with the family eating dinner and playing cards.
March 8, 2019 This has been an exciting week! There have been other MSU students here for their spring break to clean and fix up the outdoor space at the school for the girls. It has been nice to see other students and be a part of some great work! On Tuesday we painted rocks with the girls and the help of Doña Emilia that would be used to line the path up leading up to the school. On Wednesday morning we helped the other students along with members of the community with a number of projects in the play space outside of the school. These included leveling the ground and removing trash and rocks to create a space for soccer, creating a walkway up to the school, and assembling a large trampoline for the girls. After a big morning, we were able to join the other students on a trip to the beach in Cahuita which was fun. There are a few different groups from MSU here for spring break and everyone was at the beach on Wednesday which was cool. After having been in Costa Rica for over two months it felt good to be connected back to some of my MSU peers for a bit. Ellie, one of the students who was a part of the same program as me last year, has also been here helping which has been really nice. It has been good to get the chance to talk with her about being in Hone Creek and working with the program. On Thursday morning we had the chance to talk with our professor, Vincent Delgado, about our work in Hone Creek and the plans we are making for the rest of our time here. Afterwards we were able to enjoy lunch at Doña Emilia’s house with the other students and attend a celebration at the school with the girls to enjoy the new space! It was awesome to see the girls having so much fun with their new trampoline and enjoying the beautiful space!
March 9, 2019-Today was already our last day in Hone Creek for now! We go back to Santa Ana tomorrow for a week of Spanish and work on our research. I think it will be nice to be back to see our classmates and our school, Conversa. I am excited for when we come back too though! The past couple of days have been good. Yesterday I did laundry in the morning which was fun, I really enjoy doing it in Doña’s ranch. It was really sunny so when I hung my clothes up to dry they dried very quickly. Then we spent the afternoon working in Puerto Viejo and had the chance to meet up with Patricia for a women’s march that was taking place for Women’s Day. This was a such a cool opportunity and I am so glad that we got to be a part of it. When we got back we had dinner and spent time with Doña Emilia’s family and her grandkids playing cards. Today we biked in to Puerto Viejo to get our bus tickets and do some more work. We also met up with Patricia to buy snacks for our event with the girls that we had this afternoon. With the work we are doing, it is important for us to build relationships with the girls from the program who are in high school so we wanted to have them over at Doña Emilia’s to get to know each other better, talk about the program, and have some fun. We had a really nice turnout from the girls so it feels good to know that they know who we are more now and are getting to be our friends. We also played water balloons in the yard which was a highlight of the afternoon for all! Tonight Katlyn made dinner for us and Kate made us a yummy batido for dessert, when we get back I will have to make something! I am so lucky for our home at Doña Emilia’s, she is the kindest woman and I am so happy.
March 20, 2019 -I got back to Hone Creek on Sunday and will be here for the rest of this week and then three more weeks. I already feel the time going by quickly and there is a lot that we are hoping to accomplish during our time. Doña Emilia was in San Jose over the weekend so I actually got to take the same bus back to Hone Creek with her on Sunday which was really nice. When we arrived we had lunch and then had a restful day settling back in to being here. It rained a lot in the afternoon and I took a little nap which felt great after an early morning and long travel day. On Monday we were back in class with the girls and were working on new vocabulary, items in the kitchen! The girls had a lot of fun when we split into teams and played a vocabulary game. Two of the English words would be written on the board and then upon calling one of them out in Spanish a member of each team would run to the board and whoever touched the English word and could say it correctly won that round. It was cool to see the girls practice what they are learning in a game. Monday night after class Kate and Katlyn and I helped get ready for a surprise birthday party for her son Adenil’s girlfriend, Johanna. It was an awesome night and so fun being a part of the celebration with the whole family and some friends who came too. Yesterday we went into Puerto Viejo to work with Patricia in the morning. We worked for a few hours and then took a walk along the beach before heading back to Hone Creek. We had class with the Tuesday and Thursday group yesterday and worked on the kitchen vocabulary with them as well. Zugeily’s mom was in class and we got to talk to her about the work we are doing and plant the seed for further communication with her in the future. It will be valuable for us to hear more from her because she has a daughter in both the program and the Mentorship Club. After class I got to go for a walk to the river with Johanna and chat with her in Spanish which is also one of my favorite things to do here.
March 24, 2019- This was an awesome and productive week. Wednesday and Friday were both great days with the girls. On Wednesday we had a large group because there was not school that day so almost everyone came to the program. Class was a ton of fun with so many girls and I loved getting to see them all together. We worked more on kitchen vocabulary and added more words based on recipes for a green salad, fruit salad, and a traditional Costa Rican plate. With all of these words we played a round of the game from Monday where one person from each team has to run to the correct of two English words after calling out the word in Spanish. On Friday we had workshop with Doña Emilia and a lot of girls came that day as well. We started with the usual English warmup of saying the date and what day it was and will be yesterday and tomorrow. The girls were all engaged and wanted to practice with this a lot - we went around the room twice having everyone say the dates individually. Doña Emilia was also practicing with them! Afterwards the girls helped Doña with some gardening but also had free time. During this time a lot of the girls were in the school drawing and doing some more English practice on the board. Another highlight from Friday was that a lot of the girls, especially Krystell, were taking photos on our phones of each other and what we were all doing which was fun. A lot of beautiful images came out of this and I loved seeing the girls so excited to express themselves creatively this way. After class on Friday, Kate, Katlyn, and I went with Doña Emilia to have an interview with Janeisy’s mom. Janeisy is one of the high school girls who is in the Mentorship Club and speaking with the families of these girls is something really important to the work we are doing. We were able to understand a lot more about the wants of the parents from this interview and this will definitely guide us moving forward. Yesterday, Saturday, we went into Puerto Viejo to have a work day and got a lot done. Today Kate and I went to Punta Uva with the family which was a nice break. It was a beautiful day for the beach and I am so happy. March 29, 2019 Today was a nice day. This morning Kate and I got up early to enroll in our classes for next year. Planning classes is always a long process because there are usually conflicts with classes overlapping and trying to get everything exactly right takes time. Next year will be my senior year of college and I am hopeful to have all classes that I excited about as much as possible. I did some other work this morning before lunch and having class with the girls. Today class went well, we continued with kitchen vocabulary and the girls are getting to be awesome with it. We were also lucky to have Erica from the Mentorship Club with us today. After a round of a vocabulary game, Liria needed a little break and I went to join her. We played a couple games of bingo and Erica joined us which was a fun moment to get to spend with both of them. After class I walked home with Marypaz which was great, she is such a sweetheart and it is moments like this that I treasure so much about being here. Tonight we played cards and hung out with Doña Emilia’s grandsons which is also a favorite thing.
March 31, 2019- Yesterday we went to Carbon with Doña Emilia to visit with her sister and her parents. Getting to speak with her parents and hear them recount stories and memories about the history of this community was such a special opportunity. We also got to hang out with the granddaughter of Doña Emilia’s sister who was at the house as well and she was really cool. She is 10 and we were able to play games and make crafts together. We made cootie catchers after she had showed us how to make origami boats and she had a lot of fun with that. Today was pretty laid back, we went to the beach with Doña, Adenil, Johanna, and Denilson and it was such a beautiful day for it. We were there to enjoy the beautiful sunset which was incredible. The moments like that when I am able to see the beautiful nature here make me stop and remember that wow I am really in Costa Rica getting to have such amazing experiences. I can’t believe we already just have two weeks left here and I am hopeful to enjoy every minute of it while getting all of our work done.