Small town life in Puerto Jimenez

Community mentality is an increasingly rare phenomenon in the UK. When was the last time you went to an amateur performance in your local village hall? When did you last attend a local fete, or a bake sale, or a parish council meeting? What even is a ‘parish council meeting’?

Yet, in Puerto Jimenez, vestiges of this community spirit remain. With a population of about 2000, Jimenez sits somewhere between large village and small town, but the community is as close-knit as any. We’ve got bad stereotypes of small-town life in England, especially if we take cues from J. K. Rowling’s micro-politics in A Casual Vacancy, or the mind-numbing boredom of The Archers, or the absurd homicide rate of the little town of Midsomer. Jimenez, you’ll be happy to hear, is like none of these.

Jimenez is a close but open community, Ticos and Gringos mix with fluidity, and all are remarkably welcoming to newcomers. You’ll get to know many familiar faces, starting with Madis (our friendly landlady) and her family, and extending to the staff of the school, the children, and their parents. But perhaps you’ll also get to know the ever-smiling staff of our favourite smoothie shop Cosechas, or the snooker/pool sharks who hang around the excellent food and watering hole Marisqueria. It’s really up to you: your preferences, your interests, your willingness to seek out the hidden gems of Jimenez

There are so many opportunities in Jimenez to immerse yourself in local culture, which still proudly thrives alongside the blossoming eco-tourism industry. The polar opposite to the uber-touristic areas like Guanacaste, the essence of Costa Rica thrives in this quiet town. It’s a perfect chance to sample a taste of the ‘pura vida’ of Costa Rica, to go home not only with a TEFL certificate and some great memories, but a real sense that you’ve integrated with the local environment.

You may do something as grand as helping to organise a fundraiser, or event, or it might be as simple as going to your favourite restaurant and asking for ‘the usual’; the community atmosphere here is infectious, and it’s sure to rub off.

By George Shankar, Field Communications Officer

Find out more about the Costa Rica Teaching project.

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Spanglish wasn’t just the name of a mediocre rom-com from 2004, it’s also going to be your primary mode of communication with some of the kids whilst teaching here in Puerto Jimenez. It is rare for a school in the Osa Peninsula, a relatively remote region of Costa Rica, to offer teaching in English, but this is exactly what our volunteers will provide in Corcovado School.

A benefit of this bilingual education is that the older children are fluent (or at least conversational) in both languages and are a genuine delight, rather than a challenge, to teach in English. This is not always the case for the younger pupils, however, as the standard of English within age groups varies to a huge extent.

Although at first this might seem like an obstacle to teaching, the language barrier is in fact a blessing in disguise. One of the first rules of TEFL teaching is to use the Target Language (in this case, English) as much as possible. So, when it comes to English lessons, it’s sometimes the case that the less Spanish you know, the better you might be at it! You’ll have to find creative ways to get your point across and you’ll have to make sure that you keep your vocabulary simple (but try not to regress into the classic Brit-abroad ‘loud-and-slow’ accent!). If you can speak Spanish, try to use it as little as possible in English lessons, though an added benefit is that you’ll be able to help out with Spanish classes as well!

The most important this is to not be daunted by the whole scenario. It really is beneficial for the children, and it’s really not a big deal when it goes a bit wrong. In fact, nine times out of ten, you’ll all be laughing at any misunderstandings that occur. The kids learn a lot from native and fluent English speakers, as the majority of teachers here are locals, so even the smallest amount of tuition can help the children improve. Plus, you’ll inevitably pick up a lot of Spanish yourself, so you can go home speaking a whole new language!

By George Shankar, Field Communications Officer

Find out more about the Costa Rica Teaching project.

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Teach. Trek. Live.

When I arrived in Puerto Jimenez, I was unsure what to expect. This was my first time travelling alone and I have to admit that I was nervous. Yazzy and Peter greeted me at the airport, and after unloading my stuff at the house, we walked together to the beach. The cool waters of the Golfo Dulce washed my fears away. Glorious.

The next day, I went to the school to start teaching. I met the Principal, Elmer, all of the teachers, and the kids too of course! I ended up working with Casey, the pre-Kinder teacher in the mornings, and Molly, who taught Grade 1 and 2 in the afternoons. I would give my teaching experience at Corcovado School a big thumbs up! My favourite part of my time here was seeing a different kind of lifestyle, and learning about the meaning of ‘pura vida’.

At the end of my first week, I went (along with 5 people from the Jungle Project) to Corcovado National Park. When I was told that just to get to the park station I’d have to walk 20km, I felt like I was going to puke. I found it hard at first, but by the second day it was clear that it was all worth it, and I actually started to enjoy the experience. I loved seeing the three Tapirs on the morning of the second day, it was crazy!

Overall, I would say that coming to Costa Rica was an eye-opening experience. It was challenging, and pushed me to do things I probably never would have done otherwise, but I am so glad that I made the decision to come!

By Anika Schachtler, Teaching Volunteer

Find out more about the Costa Rica Teaching project.

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Five Teaching Tips for Volunteers

1.    Don’t expect school to be like you remember it

School is very different in Costa Rica when compared to the UK, Europe or US. The emphasis is on independent learning and trial-and-error, rather than spoon-feeding knowledge and facts to a syllabus. Also, it is important to note that classes operate on the highly flexible concept of ‘Tico Time’, with numerous breaks throughout the day.

2.    Be willing to learn

Sure, you’re here as a teacher, but one of the greatest gifts of the teaching profession is that it’s a two way street. Teaching is a collaborative learning experience – there’s always an opportunity to learn from children’s perspectives and insights. The school environment here is also a perfect chance (if you plan on a career in teaching) to learn new techniques in the classroom.

3.    Enthusiasm and attitude are half the battle

Gaining the trust, respect, and friendship of the children and teachers is a simple matter. Just approach the experience with the same gusto and passion as all other endeavours. Enthusiasm is infectious, and showing your interest in an activity, no matter how simple or small, is the best way to promote interest in your students.

4.    Embrace the chaos

There will be rigid activities in the day, such as reading time, maths equations, and individual work, but at times, especially in the younger classes, structure can be difficult to come by. Children might be working in groups or alone on completely different subjects or projects; it may look like a bedlam, but there’s always method to the madness – it’s your job to observe and encourage their creativity!

5.    Have fun!

School in Puerto Jimenez is stimulating, engaging, and a little bit crazy. The kids are full of energy, and will constantly ask you to read with them when they’ve finished their work, or play with them during breaks. The teaching environment is relaxed, and all the staff are incredibly friendly and helpful, so get into the swing of things and get stuck in!

By George Shankar, Field Communications Officer

Find out more about the Costa Rica Teaching project.

Check out what volunteers in Costa Rica are up to right now!


Día de la Tierra

Monkey bridges and Bird festivals. These are just two of the initiatives being showcased at the newly-renovated Corcovado School – one of the schools in Puerto Jimenez alongside which we work closely. One of the key educational objectives of the school is environmental awareness, and that is part of the reason why we like them so much!

During the course of their normal lessons and education, the children are taught about the importance of environmental action such as the creation of monkey bridges – large trees which arch over roadways. Work such as this is vital in protecting the many endangered species in the region. Our volunteers are in a unique position to provide an outsider’s perspective (and language) on reforestation and conservation, and the children are always keen to learn from a new voice.

This week, however, Costa Rica celebrated ‘Earth Week’, and our volunteers got stuck in with the preparations! The Frontier Teachers were involved in creating musical and dramatic compositions with the children, showcasing environmental themes. They also worked together to make art out of rubbish as a way of teaching the children about the importance of recycling – water bottles, cardboard, and tins can be reused in a way that is both inventive and beneficial for the environment.

The preparations culminated in the Earth Day parade on the Saturday morning, along with celebrations in the town hall – traditional dancing, a puppet show, and interesting talks and videos about the environment. Many children attended, along with parents and family, and education was combined with a social event.

Here at Frontier we support all efforts to educate people about the environment, and alongside Corcovado School we hope to provide as much exposure for unique wildlife as possible. Future events include planting trees and visiting local producers of food, and we’re looking forward to taking part!

By George Shankar, Field Communications Officer

Find out more about the Costa Rica Teaching project.

Check out what volunteers in Costa Rica are up to right now!


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