Costa Rican Tales & The Schools

BOOKS FOR SCHOOLS & COMMUNITY

ABOUT OUR LOCAL SCHOOL - Escuela Tuetal Sur - the future of our planet is contained in the ecosystems that maintain the balance and health of our planet. The guardians of one of the most diverse ecosystems on this planet are now going to schools all over Costa Rica.

But there are no books in Costa Rican villages.

These kids have many challenges ahead and perhaps one you can help with? Bring a book or two with you on your next trip and we'll get them directly to the school library here. Better yet perhaps you'd like to visit the school yourself and take a glimpse into the future of Costa Rica. We are happy to take you to our school when you visit.

The school pictured here is a model school in our local community - Tuetal Sur, near Alajuela. The state provides every community with a schoolhouse (roof, walls, floor) and qualified teachers to teach. But teaching materials are another matter altogether. These are provided by the community which in our case is literally "dirt poor" (some homes have dirt floors). But poor in Costa Rica does not mean hungry and the kids you will meet here will invariably prove poor does not mean unhappy either.

Maybe you'd like to do a little for children's literacy in Costa Rica? Reading materials are impossible to find and are very expensive here. Translation - "the kids have no books". Most schools here have NO library. Maybe you have access to school books (best are reference books, Spanish or English, learning aids/flash cards and the like for kindergarten etc . . . ages 4 to 14). We are collecting working laptopswhich perhaps you put aside for a rainy day – consider bringing it with you for a child in the barrio to use at the school. These books and computers will go directly to the Escuela Tuetal Sur (local public primary school) close to the hotel.

You will be most welcomed at the school if you'd like to deliver some books or a computer in person - they will be very happy to see you and show you what has become a model school! 1 book, 10 books - everything counts here. Here's a bit more on the school web site: http://www.escuelatuetalsur.com/support-the-kids.html . This might just be your most interesting visit of your trip.

And something new we just added . . . there are some 20 Nica kids who live on the gorgeous slopes of Poas Volcano (45 minutes from the hotel) who happen to go to the local public school - Escuela Poasito. But they, being of illegal parents, cannot get assistance to take a van to school from their "tin shacks on the gorgeous hillside of Poas". The kids are walking over an hour or two on a windy, often rainy little road.

The director is a delightful dynamo who goes by the name of Sonia Barrantes - her village and her school were knocked out in 2008 by a 6.2 earthquake they happened to be at the epicenter of. The school has been rebuilt but the village is still damaged. If you go to Poas Volcano you will be 3km from the school, if you go to La Paz Waterfall Gardens you will drive right by the school.

If you give me a day or so notice we'd like to invite you to drop by the school and do a little to help these kids get to school . . . a small donation will pay for a van service and help make sure the kids get an education. We are also trying to get them more books and if you have an old laptop you haven't used in a year, think what it could do for a child of Poasito instead of gathering dust in your closet. The school itself is a nice visit and with a little notice we can have someone show you a local dairy and strawberry farm.

THE FIRST GRINGO TOURIST

HOLIDAYS IN COSTA RICA 1859 - 1860
By Thomas Francis Meagher

Our link to a scan of an article written by the first "tourist in Costa Rica" in 1858 - Thomas Francis Meagher. But Meagher was no ordinary tourist. He was in fact a leader of the 1848 Irish uprising and had been sentenced to death but commuted to penal colony for life in Tasmania and escaped to become a New York lawyer and writer for Harpers Magazine.

To set the stage, Costa Rica had recently been invaded by the so called filibusters - a group led by an American, William Walker. But our tale begins in a place we gringos now call Puntarenas - in March 1858 though then it was
known as "Punta Arenas". The gringo Walker had already had his sorry ass kicked back to Nicaragua in April 1857.

Meagher lands at Puntarenas and tells a tale of travel in Costa Rica, meeting with president Mora and eventually getting the concession to build the rail road . . . later built by Minor Keith. Meagher later went on to build the Irish Brigade to fight on the Union side in the US civil war. He is credited with killing more Irish in a shorter period of time than almost anyone due to the bravado or craziness of his leadership. Meagher later gets himself "elected" to governor of Montana and later is murdered by being pushed overboard on a paddle wheeler while running guns to kill Indians.

A small side note: the reason Meagher didn't get killed by the British after the Irish uprising was that they inadvertently sentenced him to be "hung, drawn and quartered" which had not been done in over a century. Everyone had forgotten how to do it so it was better to send him to Tasmania.

PAUL'S ORCHID PAGE

A page of local orchids - excellent stuff! This is a photo of the national orchid - the Guaria Morada. This specimen lives on an oak tree just outside the Rain Forest Casita in the Pura Vida garden - it is over 20 years old.

Wherein Paul Mitchell, an orchid wizzard lately of Florida
and soon to be of Costa Rica, comments on photos, habitats, care and nutrition and so on of orchids found in many places in Costa Rica.

Paul will introduce you to a whole host of interesting factoids and likely stimulate your own orchid interests. Unfortunately this is what happened to me and the reason for the Pura Vida Hotel orchid collection today.

MAY WE INTEREST YOU IN RURAL TOURISM?

We have many travel stories from our trips around Costa Ricaand this is just one - you'll find more on our blog here. One such tale from a rural trip: The Bike Ride: Rural Treats in Costa Rica.

This is the story of a brief trip to the turtle arribada in Ostional and the women's co-op of Isla de Chira.

This little tale is about a rural community trip we took in a few years back during the height of the "temporada baja" AKA "the green season". We have lately visited a number of remote locations in Costa Rica as part of an effort to better understand our adopted culture. We continue to seek such routes so that more of our guests can experience "the real Costa Rica" and not just "THE circuit" prescribed by a generic guide book.

If you want ideas for rural community tourism . . . everywhere in Costa Rica you can find rural communities that have banded together as family run co-ops with some initial funding to help protect some natural treasure in a sustainable way that employs people of the village. The future of Costa Rican tourism will be a delicate balance between providing tourist "access" to our tropical diversity and maintaining that very diversity. There are many ways to provide "access" (we don't mean freeways to the coast). One to ponder is the idea of spending a day or a night in a rural Costa Rican community (yes many have private bathrooms and all we have visited have spotless accommodation). For more information contact Kyra Cruz at actuar@racsa.co.cr.

If you would like help planning an itinerary that includes more community-based destinations, where you can swim in waterfall pools, see wildlife and support local conservation efforts, contact our friend and mentor on eco tourism, Beatrice Blake, author of The New Key to Costa Rica: beatrice@keytocostarica.com. Recommended: river trip to the indigenous Yorkin village on the Panama border near Puerto Viejo/Cahuita or road trip to the Maleku indigenous reserve just north of Arenal.