Media and Journalism Intern Project 

As a Media and Journalism Intern with Frontier, I have the opportunity to design my own project and focus. At the beginning, I wanted to write about everything, but I learned that doing everything is neither attainable nor healthy. Working with the schools was definitely something I wanted to focus on, so I rode the Collectivo (a bumpy and expensive truck service) from Playa Piro to Puerto Jimenez to commence my unknown project.

As soon as I stepped foot in the school, I quickly noticed the colors green, blue and brown. From the two weeks I have been here, I believe those three colors are representations of Costa Rica. This country is known for its biodiversity, oceans, and agriculture. Even though the presence of these colors in the school may have been a coincidence, I believe they were chosen for a reason.  These colors act as a constant reminder for the children of the natural wealth and beauty of their country.I was introduced to Leah the secretary who is very nice to the children. We spoke about the school for a while, but in realty it was only thirty minutes of dialogue because she kept leaving during our conversation. Although it was hard to stay focused, I managed to get some questions answered. I asked about the curriculum, the children, the country, and her goals for the future in regards to the school.

Initially, my focus was to see if tourism has any effects on the education system here, but the administrator said after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 tourism has not been the same. I felt as if there would not be much to write about on the topic of tourism in relation to the schools here, but I did want to incorporate it somehow in my project. After coming home to the staff house, I generated a list of possible topics of interest, and decided to do a little research on the history of Costa Rica.

Costa Rica’s education system is very good. The public schools are free, and the government provides the curriculums and pays for the teachers. However, many teachers and parents invest so much money in order to keep the schools running. Toilet paper, school supplies, books, and uniforms have to be paid by parents or teachers. The school I am working with is private, which means the parents have to pay for their children to attend school.

Leah, the secretary of the school, says that the school relies heavily on sponsors or donors in order to buy supplies, pay the teachers, and even have enough funds to finish an academic school year. Besides the fact that the school needs more funding, they do everything in their control to make the children happy and worry free, which is one of the many amazing things this school does for the children.

The children are learning how to teach themselves, and the teachers are mainly there to guide them along the way. This is what makes this school vital for the future of Costa Rica; it is truly focused on the children’s futures. As a media and journalism intern, I will create a documentary showcasing the importance of the school. Alongside this, I will be generating a number of articles that talk about important issues of education.

By Estrella Vargas  - Intern

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Dinner on the Sea Shore

When it’s a special occasion – like on somebody’s last day, or after a long day of dolphin watching, or we’re just hungry – we sometimes all go out together for a massive seafood meal (other options are available, such as pizza!).

One of our favourite spots is the Marisqueria, famed for their camarones al ajillo, ceviche and great value $4 ‘Bocas’ menu. They set us up a large table, just across from the sea, and cook up some real fishy delights.

The waiter, aptly named Marlin, is a friend of ours; he often pops into our parties to share a glass of whisky or rum with Alex. In his native merry manner, he brings us steaming plates of fish, tacos, nachos, Central American classics. A Costa Rican speciality is the fish taco, an unorthodox combination, but I can personally vouch for its quality! We wash it all down with a cold beverage, and slowly make our way to the bar, the beach, or the pool table.

Some people like to stick around until the early hours, playing pool and chatting away. Thanks to the large diversity of volunteers, we have a number of all-play pool games to keep us going, and loads of interesting topics of conversation! As we leave, we can hear the waves lapping against the shore, and a soft padding as a friendly local dog tried to follow us home.

By George Shankar - Field Communications Officer

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

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Adventure through the Mangroves

There are lots of ways to spend your spare time in Puerto Jimenez; one of our favourites is to visit the local Mangroves – a highly protected, diverse, and mysterious habitat. Mangroves are important worldwide not just because they host huge levels of biodiversity, they are also proven barriers against tsunami, cyclones, tidal surges and other potentially dangerous natural phenomena.

Getting to the mangroves in Puerto Jimenez is a bit of an adventure in itself. First, you need to ask permission from the warden, and local landowner, who will then lead you through a narrow pass, ducking under trees and hopping over streams, into ‘los manglares’. Once inside, it’s like entering another world. The ground is spongy underfoot, and you can spot the snouts of Spectacled Caiman and American Crocodiles emerging from the large pools which rise and fall with the tides. There is something unnerving about walking alongside these primeval beasts, their cold eyes watching from below the water.

The path curves through the mangrove trees, past dried up lagoons filled with leaf litter and lizards, and small pools that are criss-crossed by Basilisks as you pass by. Basilisk lizards are also known here as ‘Jesus Christ lizards’, because they are able to run directly across the surface of the water, a feat which never fails to captivate me. They lose this ability as they grow and instead grow a large crest for intimidating predators. Snakes have been spotted here, even Boa Constrictors, the largest snakes in the region, though they are incredibly elusive beasts.

Most enigmatic, however, are the flocks of White Ibises and Roseated Spoonbills which perch on the fallen trees in the lagoons. Their long, elegant necks match the serenity of the location. Minutes pass to the tune of humming frogs and whistling birds. Beautiful, but with a hint of danger: the mangroves of Puerto Jimenez are a place apart from the light bustle of the town, a place of escape and tranquillity – a private retreat for the curious and adventurous.

By George Shankar, Field Communications Officer

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Mi casa es su casa

‘My house is your house’ goes the phrase, and it is as true of our house in Puerto Jimenez as anywhere else in the Spanish-speaking world. With up to seven volunteers at once staying in the house (although we rarely have more than five), living in Puerto Jimenez redefines the meaning of the term ‘communal living’.

It can be a challenge at times (i.e. when you all need to take a shower before school starts at 8.00), but, as with our friends in the jungle, we find that living in such close quarters creates a wonderful sense of camaraderie, and also provides an opportunity to form strong and lasting bonds with fellow volunteers.

There are six rooms in the house: three bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a large living room. Most of your time in the house will be spent in the last two rooms, cooking, talking, playing games, and, of course, planning tomorrow’s lessons! We take turns in cooking and cleaning, though normally everyone chips in with the work, even if by just chopping a single onion. Afterwards, we either gather in the front room to recount our experiences of the day, or head out into town for a smoothie or a beverage.

A recent addition to the luxuries of the house is an ultra-fast internet connection, which helps both in researching materials for lessons and streaming films from Netflix. Everyone’s favourite amenity in Puerto Jimenez, however, is not technically part of the house. It can get very hot in town (we’re only a handful of degrees north of the equator), and we’re lucky enough to have use of our very own private swimming pool. It is the perfect place to wind down after a hard day of teaching at school, and it also provides a surprisingly good vantage point for wildlife spotting. A normal 1-hour stint in the pool will reward even the most lax observer with sightings of parakeets, macaws, tanagers, hummingbirds and perhaps iguanas.

Cooking together, cleaning together, eating together, teaching together, it is inevitable that our teaching volunteers become incredibly close. We’re sure that by the end of your time here, you’ll understand as well as we do the meaning of the phrase ‘mi casa es su casa’.

By George Shankar, Field Communications Officer

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New school, new ideas, new beginnings

On Monday, February 9th the new Corcovado School opened its doors to 61 students and their families. This was only possible after an intense period of restructuring, reshaping, and rethinking, for both the physical and ideological architecture of the school – and the results extend far beyond what the eye can see!

The winter holiday saw the community unite (along with some of our volunteers) to create a brand new assembly space for the school, along with some additional classrooms, and a restored play area. The work progressed quickly, thanks to the valiant and persistent efforts of parents, teachers, and other volunteers. The finished product is a practical, safe, and stimulating environment for the children; seeing their smiles and darting, curious glances is enough to know that no effort has been wasted.

In this new structure – this collaborative effort to improve the educational experience of the school – is something symptomatic of the culture nourished in our small corner of Costa Rica; it tells us about the hopes and dreams of a local community (comprised of both Ticos and Gringos) working together to improve life for both themselves and their children.

The new Corcovado School stands testament to what can be achieved by positivity and co-operation amongst a close-knit community. With its new buildings come new initiatives: instilling passion for the environment and a love for the Earth, in Costa Rica and around the world. The results are not immediate, but the aim is clear – a diligent and educated youth gives rise to conscientious and respectful population: environmentally aware, politically active, socially co-operative.

Upon these sturdy new foundations, Puerto Jimenez builds its future, and we are proud to play our part.

By George Shankar, Field Communications Officer

Find out more about the Costa Rica Teaching project.

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