Youth Service Project

On one of my walks to town the other day these high school aged kids did not see me snap a photo of them with my phone. They were evidently doing a service project, possibly through the school, painting this public picnic table at the City Sports Park next to the covered Basketball Court. Hopefully they are painting all of the several at this park which are always full at lunch time with a very popular empanada shop across the street in one direction and fried chicken (el pollo frito) a block the other direction. 🙂

Teenagers painting picnic table in a public park, Atenas, Alajuela, Costa Rica.

¡Pura Vida!

English Festival Spelling Bee

First, Second and Third Place Winners in the English Festival Spelling Bee
Colegio Liceo de Atenas, Costa Rica
The light green uniform shirt means he is a graduating senior. All others blue!

First Place Winner Receiving a Gift from Teacher
Colegio Liceo de Atenas, Costa Rica

“Native Speakers” as Judges for the Spelling Bee
The teen is a student there, but from the states and a native speaker helping.
The rest of us are old retirees from both the states and Canada.
Colegio Liceo de Atenas, Costa Rica

We started at 8 with a 9 or 9:30 break with a full Tico breakfast (Gallo Pinto, eggs, plantains, bread
and coffee! Then at noon a full Tico lunch and a donut as we left about 2 PM. The teachers are so nice and appreciative, the kids so nice and polite and helpful. It is a joy to visit this public school! And I will again tomorrow as a judge for the English Festival speaking contest and conversational English activities. Fun! One of the English teachers is Zaray Monge, a friend at church where she is also a translator and she was for awhile one of my Spanish teachers. So even more special to help her! She has three kids of her own plus a foster-child and her husband is a teacher at the other high school, Tecnico. A busy family!

My Gift from School
A Beautiful Pot Plant!
Colegio Liceo de Atenas, Costa Rica

Photos of Liceo de Atenas on the web  (Google Image Search)
And my post on the 2015 Spelling Bee at Liceo

They have updated the website for El Camino de Costa Rica and are having weekend hikes almost every weekend, though mostly in the steep mountains right now. Check it out! This will eventually be a top tourist attraction for nature lovers & hikers!

Angel Tree Project

Trees in two places to get sponsors.

I volunteered through Su Espacio and met today with some of the other committee members to discuss the approach this year and how we will secure sponsors of 300 very poor children (no parent working full time). We also need to pay for food and entertainment at the party in December when they receive their gifts. I suggested that in addition to angels which is the child a person buys a gift or gifts for, we sell “party angels” to pay for the party. Susan (also from Su Espacio) suggested we make those stars. So now people can take an angel from the tree and get gifts or pay cash for a star to pay for the party. My first contribution to this project.  🙂

Of course Susan and I are in charge of the stars and tomorrow we go to Escazu to see if anyone has silver and gold poster board from which we will cut the stars. Silver for 5,000 colones ($10) and gold for 10,000 colones ($20). David and Corinna at Su Espacio are interviewing the parents to see if their children really qualify for the free Christmas gifts and will host the party. We will all help cut out the angels and write names and Christmas wishes on them. Susan and I want to recruit children to color the angels. We will have a big tree at Su Espacio and a smaller one at Kay’s Gringo Postres where we met today and where we should sign up a lot of gringos. Plus we are promoting it at Kay’s Gringo Halloween Costume Party with a raffle to earn some of the party money.

I’ve become David’s flier maker, so expect I will be doing that again pretty soon about the Angel Tree. And some of you thought all I did was sleep late and sit on the terrace photographing birds!

On Aprendo Espanol en Atenas I tell about Spanish learning for free at 

More School Relationships

They really get into decorating for these Spelling Bees! And they served me food and drink too!

I’ve been too busy to process 650 bird photos from the boat trip on Rio Tarcoles, thus that report will be delayed another day or more. So, a report on two more schools I’m relating to:

One of the Student Coordinators of the
Spelling Bee at Colegio Tecnico Professional

Wednesday I was asked at the last minute to help with the English Spelling Bee of a second High School, Colegio Tecnico Profesional de Atenas, more of a job & skills training school than Liceo, last week’s high school. It was wonderful and again the kids so friendly and helpful and hard working. I was “The Pronouncer” of words for this one. It hurt me every time a youth misspelled a word, as if I did not pronounce it clear enough, but we had to get down to one winner just like before. The winner was an extrovert 14 year old boy, one of the younger students, who was born in Dallas, Texas and moved here 7 years ago at age 7. He talks/acts like a real Tico, but did have an unfair advantage in the English Spelling Bee since his parents still speak English at home. But he won! He will go to the regional and maybe the national English Spelling Bee. I learned that the program was started here several years ago by a Peace Corps worker. And you wondered what they did?

Then today, I went with with Corinna, the wife of David Castillo and co-director of Su Espacio, to visit with the principal of Escuela Los Angeles (Los Angeles is a barrio of Atenas), received a tour of the school (as I got yesterday at high school) and she showed me their construction needs for and outdoor theater (to be their auditorium) and playground construction needs. They are going to have a Garage Sale, Venta Garaje, on October 3 that Su Espacio is co-sponsoring and I have been asked to help with marketing and promotion, especially to get expats to donate good clothing, etc. for the Garage Sale. Plus next week I will attend their arts festival!

I’m getting more involved with Ticos and local activities as opposed to just with expats like some. This has been my plan from the beginning and it feels good to participate in the local community. I love Atenas and the wonderful residents! Everybody helps me with my Spanish! And this evening I started a second Spanish Class, which emphasizes Costa Rica Spanish, which is unique in several ways. And I need all the help I can get to speak Spanish!   🙂   This is so much fun!

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. ~ Aesop

Love your neighbor as yourself.   ~ Jesus, Matthew 22:39

Great Neighborhood Project!

Except for Atenas Central, there are few sidewalks (like Donelson-Hermitage)
So in the neighborhood between Roca Verde and Atenas Central, the neighbors
got together and decided to build their own, since government isn’t doing it.

Today it was young adult volunteers mixing & pouring cement, other times
have had some older adult men doing it, at least a quarter mile finished now!
The orange roofs on hill at top of photo is a part of Roca Verde.

Today’s young men shoveling cement into the forms. Great!
I gave them a thumb’s up and said “Muchas Gracias” as I walked by.
Again you can see one Roca Verde hill in distance.
This is an earlier photo I took going down the hill toward our gate.
I feel much safer walking on a sidewalk than in narrow streets or very
rough shoulders if any! The closer to Central Park, the more sidewalks.
First shift leaving high school.
Almost all students walk to school here. 

It is interesting to watch how many people still walk in the street, possibly from years of habit, I would guess half. Of course further up you have no choice and that includes walking by the high school where there are no sidewalks. Gangs of teens leaving or arriving just fill the streets and cars wait (photo below or at right).

But it was sad to see in Tico Times recently that Pedestrian Deaths Outnumber Drunk Driving Deaths in Costa Rica.  Speeding and irresponsible lane-changing are the top two causes of road deaths here.

Maybe this one more sidewalk will save another life or two. Everything is not perfect in Costa Rica! Infrastructure is still lacking in many areas.

Front Drive & Back Neighbors

Front Drive from My Balcony – Fountain by Manager’s House & Pool

Today I stayed home and did laundry except for a training meeting for volunteers at the Atenas Chili Fiesta tomorrow. It started as a small chili cookoff by expats here in Atenas 8 years ago to raise money for Hogar de Vida, a Christian children’s home (orphanage) for abandoned and abused children just one block from our apartments. How neat!

Because I don’t speak Spanish well enough to work booths requiring communication, I was put on the Security Team. We will be posted around the perimeter of the Sabana Larga (bull fight arena and fair grounds facility). The only ones who showed up for the “training” was me and 5 teen boys from the New Summit Academy which is located directly behind our apartments. I hear their music and chatter some evenings but always before their 10 PM quiet time. I have often wanted to meet them or find out more about the school. I did today! 
It is a great special needs high school for just 30 students, all from the states, and I’m sure at a significant price for the parents. It is kind of a follow up school for wilderness programs like Outward Bound (as it was called in my day) and they are quite involved in the local community by volunteering like this and at places like Hogar de Vida. Those who know my relationship with special need schools know that I am excited to live next door to another really good one. Me and the boys will have fun being security together for tomorrow’s fiesta. Here’s the view of New Summit Academy from my back balcony or kitchen window and bedroom window. Now I’ve met these neighbors! And I already like them! 
Some Roofs of New Summit Academy behind My Apartment
seen through our Bamboo Forest & Where I Photograph Birds!

Another good day in Atenas, Costa Rica, where I keep finding good things happening in the land of Pura Vida! Pure Life!

10 Qualities of Successful Expats

Some of my most practical research information comes from current expats in Costa Rica who write blogs, newsletters or even have websites. One of my newest discoveries is a site and newsletter by Paul & Gloria Yeatman with their website at and I just signed up for their newsletter. By doing so I received a “free gift” of a linked document titled

The Top 10 Qualities of Successful Expats in Costa Rica

You might be able to see it at this link if not coded for subscribers only!  🙂

In case not, here are the ten characteristics without the wonderful, detailed discussion of each:

  1. Do your homework. 
  2. If you are married, both of you must agree.
  3. Rent for at least one year.
  4. Enjoy the simple things of life.
  5. Have a positive attitude!
  6. Learn to speak Spanish. 
  7. Join the Caja (national health care system).
  8. Hook into the local Tico culture. 
  9. Hook into the local Expat community. 
  10. Get involved . . . volunteer. 
Now if you have been reading my blog or know me, you know that these are all things I aspire too already, but it was encouraging to see them listed in this way. Hope you can get to the whole document with the above link! And isn’t my research a lot of fun!