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Visit to Bambu Indigenous Centre and Talamanca Indigenous Cultural Festival
Time goes so fast and it´s already one month since me and Jakub started our marketing internship with Tropical Adventures. We have already had an amazing opportunity to go to the Manuel Antonio National Park, where there is a great future possibility for Tropical Adventures to open a new projects for our volunteers. But more about this trip you can read in our other post from David here.
Another great possibility occurred for exploring more beauty of Costa Rica and we went to stay few nights in Bambu village, where our Bambu indigenous project takes place. Commonly labeled on traditional maps as “Bratsi”, Bambu can be reached about 30 minutes from the main indigenous community of Bribri. During the way to get there we were passing alongside Suretka river and on the opposite side of the riverbank we could have seen Panama. We stayed in Bambu Cultural Centre that was built by using traditional indigenous methods and hosts people from around the world. Just by staying in the Centre it supports up to 20 local families through the income it produces through receiving overnight guests.
Next day we took a look around and visited elementary school of Bambu, where our volunteers have opportunity to participate and also retirement home, where we were warmly welcomed by one of the nuns that takes care of the elderly people living there and volunteers are there welcome as well. For more information about typical day in Bambu you can read more here.
Talamanca Indigenous Cultural Festival
As the headline indicates, we didn´t come to Bambu just to enjoy beauty of indigenous centre and hospitality of local people, but the main reason was to experience a Talamanca Indigenous Cultural Festival, that took place during the weekend August 6-7 in nearby village called Amubri. This was a first year of this festival among the indigenous communities of Talamanca and local political officials. The event was held in honor of common unity organized by our friend Danilo, a Bribri political activist employed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Early in the morning we had to get to the shore of Súarez river. The only way how to cross the river is by motor canoe, since the government doesn´t have enough financial resources for building a bridge over the river. On the other side a bus was already waiting and we continued our adventure towards the festival. After a while we arrived to the place of the event. My colleagues Jakub and David could lend a hand and utilize their height for hanging the big table over the stage, as you can see on the picture :).
Festival started by several speeches of local prominent personalities that were followed by playing and singing the national Costa Rican anthem in Bribri language. As next a performance of local children showing the traditional dance of local culture was followed.
These showcases of indigenous culture attempted to show local political leaders the value of the community’s presence as well as encourage the leaders to help facilitate the administrative process of obtaining the “cédula de identidad” for the many undocumented indigenous community. The “cédula de identidad” is the necessary identifiable ID card which is required in obtaining any services as well as accessing and transactions in Costa Rica. The process for obtaining the cédula is highly complex for native people who often lack the necessary resources to navigate administrative procedures.
Bambu is located about a one-hour bus ride away from the popular tourist beach town of Puerto Viejo, where we had also opportunity to spend some time. It is home to beautiful beaches, such as Playa Chiquita, Playa Negra, and Punta Uva and it is a place with the most amazing surfing opportunities. And of course, this place will love fans of reggae since cadenced rhythm of this music are present everywhere. That is caused by substantial Jamaican population that lives here. We had a chance to try Carribean sea and also experience Puero Viejo´s local delicious food and town´s nightlife. But there are plenty of things what to do in Puerto Viejo such us many water sports as above mentioned surfing, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, horseback tours around the area, mountain biking or for those who prefer some nature there is a possibility to visit for example National Park Cahuita.
(By Marketa Sobotkova – Marketing Intern)
Marion Arrives to Bambu
Marion Brastel, from France, is our newest intern. She is living in Bambu on the Talamanca Indigenous Reservation and managing the implementation of our Organic Farmer's Market project. She'll be with us for 6 months.
There are places in life that make you feel "at home" instantly. Truly they are few, but Bambu and its Cultural Center is one of them. It might be for the vibe emitted by the round structure and the constant feeling of being in harmony with nature. But certainly more because of the laughs of the people who work and live there or come and go during the day. Don’t be fooled by the cook, Albany’s, grumpy look. She has the kindest heart and already feels like a mother to me; Danilo,a philosopher who leads without title, welcomed me as a member of his family, so eager to teach me the Bribri culture and language.
They are not poor they tell me, because they have enough to eat, they are surrounded by lush nature - but most of all they have love and dreams. As people open up, I learn about their lives and their hardship, the lack of job opportunities, the ridiculously low price of plantains, the unpredictable moods of mother nature, who can provide abundance as much as destruction, the corruption, alcoholism and the discrimination.There is no internet, sometimes no TV, most of the time no phone, or any of these things we now find ourselves unable to live without. It can sound scary for many, but to me it revealed the spontaneity we lost in dealing with our kin in our overly-busy lives. The biggest culture shock I would say was the idea of popping in someone’s house without notifying them previously of my visit. What if I’m disturbing them? What if they don’t want to see anyone? I should find an excuse for me dropping in…But every time time, no need for an excuse, they do not even ask why I'm there, they cheer and ask you instead if you want some coffee or a cool drink. Spontaneity, hospitality and caring. So I got my spontaneity back a bit and with it a feeling of connecting with people truly. I just love these evenings all reunited in the kitchen, chatting, laughing, teasing each other, learning from each other.
Everyday here is a lesson of humility and love, a journey back to the simple things.
Testimonial Karin Miller
Bambu was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I stayed with a family, which really added to the experience. During the days, I volunteered at the retirement center and the school. The people at the retirement center were really appreciative of the volunteers, and it was great spending time with them and getting to know each individually. The school was fun too, and the children were very excited for their English lesson!
After volunteering, it was great to return home to my family and eat lunch with them. After lunch, I either participated in a tour or spent time with my family. I did the Panama Waterfall Tour on my first day in Bambu, and it was a great introduction to the week. Ito and I took a boat ride out to the waterfall and spent a couple hours swimming there. It was beautiful!
I was sad to leave my family at the end of the week, and I would love to return one day. I only spent a week in Bambu, but the people were so friendly and open, that by the end, I felt as if I belonged there. Likewise, I was very happy to volunteer through Tropical Adventures because they really took care of me. Susan practically organized the whole trip- all I had to do was book my flight! Tropical Adventures booked my transportation, housing, and meals; they made it easy for an outsider to get an inside look at Costa Rica.
Volunteering for students?!
Just yesterday we came across an amazing article about high school students and volunteering.
Actually it’s an article and a debate about the question: ‘’ Should high school students be required to volunteer in community service projects?’’
Well do they? There are all kinds of projects available, whether you’ll teach children English, or teach kids how to swim or surf, you could also just play with them. This doesn’t only benefit the children but a student that wants to become a teacher will have a great opportunity to apply their course line into practice. This way they will gain experiences and by the end of their education they will have already done something to enrich themselves. Of course the work students do in the communities is connected with what they are learning in school.
We have had several interns in the past that gained experience in their field of study.
There are many things they help with at the center located in Bambu, including teaching English to the families who work there, children and adults from town, translating for the tours, helping to build marketing material, planting flowers and trees, general maintenance, and the planning & fulfilment of cultural activities. Also the Spanish language skills of the students will highly increase during their stay in Costa Rica. Students who want a teaching degree will have an opportunity to apply their course line.
At our Wildlife Rescue Center we provide quality Spanish language classes (optional) at our on-site language school
Well so far the poll is 58 % Yes and 42 % says No. How will this turn out?
A piece of Bambu
Today, we all live in a world full of new technologies and everybody is fond of progress. All of us are looking forward to a brand new car that we can’t afford anyway, just to have it. We all think that you could not live without the Internet or even without a computer any more.
All of us? Not exactly. If you are looking for a remote place, where 13 years old kids don’t have a cell phone and don’t even care about it, Bambu is the perfect place for you! In Bambu, the only worry will be about what game we can play, who is coming to visit us today or if you will catch a fish! Of course, the absence of these technologies mainly comes from their lack of money, but I can guarantee you that these people are happy the way they live. Their way of life is just different. After an immersion in Bambu, you won’t see life the same way and you will acknowledge that we live with much more than we actually need. That’s why all our volunteers love to go to Bambu. They find peace, calm and friends for life.
Here are a couple of interviews of kids from Bambu, they answered the question:
Que se acordara más del tiempo pasado con los voluntarios?
(What will you remember of your time with volunteers?)
-“Me gusta mucho encontrar nueva gente y me gusta mucho la clase de francés con Romain, aunque sea muy difícil! Y la muchacha Chloe me enseñó nuevos juegos de manos muy graciosos que podré ensañar a mis amigas de la escuela!” Yerlin, 10.
-“I love to meet new people and I really like Romain’s French class, even if it was very hard!
And the girl Chloe taught me very funny new hand games that I will teach to my friends from the school!”
-“I loved English class, now I can translate Michael Jackson songs! We played soccer and ran everywhere! I also taught the volunteers how to dance raggaeton!
-“We played Frisbee with all kids from Bambu and we won against the volunteers! We were faster than they were!”
-“Nos fuimos a un tour a ver la catarata con Romain, Chloé y mi tío Héctor y Romain me tiró en el agua! Cogimos un bote y comimos sandía cerca de la catarata, la pasamos muy bien!” Steven, 13.
-“We went on a tour to the waterfalls with Romain, Chloe and my uncle Hector. Romain threw me into the water! We traveled in a boat and we ate watermelon, we had a great time!”
Bambu must be the most relaxing place in the world and people there, the nicest people ever. There is no reason for you to not come and find out by yourself! You can decide to come for a week on a project, or to come for the Holiday Project 2009, of which a part will take place in Bambu too! Either way you will be welcomed! Hope to see you soon!
WHAT MAKES US DIFFERENT ?
Nowadays, something is happening to the world. People start to worry about the place we live and feel more and more concerned about ecological issues. It is a good point, but we have to be careful about the way to do it, and be very vigilant about who to trust in.
When you want to travel and to discover a new country, the safe reflex is to get informed about who you are going to travel with and especially if you have chosen to volunteer. Nevertheless, do not think that all ecotourism companies and organizations will provide you the same service quality, it is not true. Some of these are just using it as a business, won’t care about the kind of activities and you will be doing nothing really useful either for the community or for yourself.
At Tropical Adventures, our purpose is your personal fulfillment, the community development and the environmental aspects.
What we can do for you:
First, only come if you really want to do so and if you are highly motivated. We are not offering a sweet and nice hotel with swimming pool and drinks all day long. No, what we can do for you, is provide you with a sense of self accomplishment, a new definition of yourself and something that you probably never felt before. You will meet people from our communities, our friends, and not just business partners. Our host families will do their best to make you feel comfortable and will teach you all they can about the Costa Rican culture and lifestyle.
We have been providing these projects and tours for years now and you can be sure that every single day will be busy. We have all kind of activities for you, no matter how old you are, if you are in groups or by yourself, or if you came as a family. What we offer you are not simply vacations but life experiences.
What we can do for the community:
As I already said, we are not talking about collaborators, but very close friends. Our action, through your help, can help more and more people each year. First, because we are a non-profit organization, the benefits made from programs are going to the communities we are working with. We buy them materials like paint or tools and gifts, this money is also helpful to pay teachers and school supplies. Secondly, the meeting between local people and foreigners is really beneficial for both parts. You, as volunteers, will teach them English and they will teach you a lot of things about their culture. And last, but not least, the point of our commitment is to fully respect the environment, nature and the culture. We want you to learn how life is here and why we love it.
Tropical Adventures is not about being a regular company, making profits, selling you a service and taking your money. Tropical Adventures is a community, a way of thinking morally and more than this, we are a family, growing every time a volunteer joins us. We would love for you to be our next family member.
Alto Katsi by our intern Rebecca Uncles
Visiting Alto Katsi
Rebecca Uncles, intern for Tropical Adventures
New Partnership to Help Indigenous Flood Victims
In our special December newsletter we spoke about the floods that happened in Costa Rica and Panama in November. Thousands of people lost their crops and livestock in the floods and others had to leave their homes and go into temporary shelters. Indigenous people in the Talamanca area where we have several projects were some of the worst hit. Many lost crops that they will not be able to replant or harvest any produce from for a further 18 months, meaning they have been left without an income source for food, clothes and living expenses. This is a particularly critical time in ensuring the people affected receive on-going help as many of the immediate relief efforts have subsided.
In addition to the support we are giving in the way of donations of food and clothes to some of the affected families, we are going to be partnering with Children Incorporated - a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the maintenance, support, education and welfare of needy children all around the world. We will be working together with them to help support the people on the indigenous reservation post-flood and to create a more sustainable income in the form of a co-operative that will allow community members to come together and support one another in economic activities aside from banana or plantain production. We are currently researching, together with Children Inc., the possibility of creating a chicken farm co-operative.
After getting the project going, we'd also be helping them with setting up distribution and marketing of their products, including the creation of an area farmer's market. Our plan covers sustainable income, disaster relief, assistance to children and elderly and will help many people who can't harvest any more crops for 18 more months. In addition to this, we are hoping to be able to employ an intern in the area to help us research and develop this and future projects that will help people in the Talamanca indigenous area.
In addition to this, Children Inc. will also be helping us to set up a Sponsor-a-Child program. We are very much looking forward to working together with Children Inc. to further extend our support of Costa Rica's under-resouced indigenous people. Keep posted for further info!
Counting Down to December...
It is only 32 days and counting until our first Christmas Project. The lights and decorations are starting to go up all around Costa Rica and we are working really hard to ensure all the events are a day to remember for all the community members who will be taking part. We want to make sure we put a smile on the face of everyone who attends - children and adults alike. This year is set to be much bigger than last year and we are in much need of donations in the form of supplies (decorations, arts and crafts and gifts for the children) and money to buy these supplies and yummy food and drinks for everyone. Please contact us if you would like to get involved in any way - we greatly appreciate every tiny amount of help that we receive.
This year we would like to be able to invite all the children from Cocles School in Puerto Viejo to come to the Puerto Viejo Christmas Party. Cocles is a beautiful location - set back away from the beach and the lapping waves of the Caribbean Sea. It sounds idyllic but the reality is that the school is so understaffed that pupils are only able to attend school for around 3 hours per day. In Costa Rica, lack of schooling has a very negative effect on the long-term career prospects and money-earning potential of many of the children. Many children do not continue in school after 6th Grade as they go to work to gain extra income for their family household or they lack the ambition to continue with school studies.
Our goal and the goal of our volunteers at Cocles, as well as teaching English, is to mentor and act as role models to the children to encourage them to be interested in their studies and enable them to want to continue learning after they finish primary education. Being able to speak English is a skill that greatly enhances career prospects in Costa Rica and without our volunteers, the students at the school would receive no English tuition at all. English classes simply do not take place when there are no volunteers at the school.
Today our Director, Isaac Garcia, is in Puerto Viejo to meet with the school head teacher to find out if we can invite all the school children. It would be wonderful to see all the children there and we hope they will enjoy the fun and be inspired by the efforts of ourselves and our volunteers. Following that meeting, Isaac has a big meeting with the Puerto Viejo Development Association Board. This consists of 15 community leaders from the Puerto Viejo area. Amongst other things, he will be presenting the plans for the Puerto Viejo school Summer Camp and discussing with the board the possibility of having the event in the town cultural center which is larger than last year's venue and will allow us to invite more children from the community. Isaac will also be visiting some local business in the area, including some of the main hotels and restaurants, many of which are run by foreign ex-pats. We are hoping many of them would like to donate to our two events in Puerto Viejo and help us out with materials for the events.
Also over the Christmas period, we are very much looking forward to welcoming a group of students from the Central Michigan University. As well as participating in our Christmas Projects, they will also be staying at the beautiful Camaronal Reserve and taking part in our Turtle Conservation Project there. This project is particularly understaffed and in much need of volunteers to help protect the endangered sea-turtles from becoming extinct by ensuring their eggs are laid in a safe place and do not get poached. This area is quite rustic and very remote but all the volunteers we have had there have had a wonderful time and usually wish they'd stayed longer. You can read what some of our past volunteers have written about their experiences at Camaronal here.
Our friends from Michigan will get to fall asleep to the sound of the lapping waves, experience the rugged beauty of the area, see live turtles laying there eggs and above all - work with some amazingly friendly, dedicated and knowledgeable people. In particular with this project, we are very grateful to Danilo Gabb, our friend and indigenous leader who runs the Indigenous Cultural Center in Bambu over on the opposite side of Costa Rica who will be lending us enough tents to host everyone from Michigan. We are so lucky to have such great friends who are willing to help us and our friends on other projects out!
As always, please contact us if you would like any further information on our projects, what we do or to see how you can help.
It’s Christmas time already?
As crazy as it sounds, we’re already preparing for our Tropical Adventures’ Christmas Projects. This is happening for two reasons: For starters, we have a big demand on people interested in participating in the big Christmas parties that we provide for our communities, and second, because it’s time-consuming organizing these events. We really need to start now to have everything in order by December.
Although it is a lot of work for a small foundation such as Tropical Adventures, last year we created four big beautiful events. The first one was our La Flor Christmas Party. For those of you who have been in La Flor, you know what a beautiful town this is. The fresh air, the spectacular view of the charming Orosi Valley, the endless vegetables gardens, the humbleness and sweetness of the people, the innocent vibe of this place is just indescribable. All of our volunteers have left this project with tears in their eyes.
What we did last year here was amazing. The place where we hosted the party was beautiful and big enough for all the guests. The day couldn’t have been more perfect; they sun was brighter than ever and the endless mountains were witnesses to this fun party. We hired a big inflatable bouncy slide to entertain 185 people (kids, host families, teachers, volunteers and friends.) We also had ice cream, hot dogs, drinks, pop corn, lots of games, gifts, music, nutritional evaluations for the kids and their parents, and at the end, a big piñata (Frosty, the snowman) full of candies. It really was a glorious day.
See pictures here: http://www.tropicaladventures.com/gallery.php?g2_itemId=2389.
Two days later we were in the Puerto Viejo Area. This is where Tropical Adventures started. Our very first project was here (teaching English in the Hone Creek and the Puerto Viejo elementary schools.) This is where we have been for three years already; our heart is in this area. Beautiful host families have supported us with loving care for our volunteers. Puerto Viejo has been our dream as a foundation and it has been the place where we’ve seen the biggest change as an organization.
For this party, we asked one of our dear
friends if we could use his hotel to host the party, Kaya’s Place. The place
was perfect. We decorated the entire place with balloons, lots of games for the
kids, great snacks, drinks, excellent support from the hotel staff. It was a
party on the Caribbean Coast. The ocean was in front of us and the tropical
breeze was refreshing. We didn’t have a
piñata for this party, but we had live music and an excellent fire show.
All of our Puerto Viejo friends were present that day. Good times.
See pictures here: http://www.tropicaladventures.com/gallery.php?g2_itemId=2773
Our third Christmas party was on the Bribri Indigenous Reservation in the town of Bambu. It was a sunny December morning in Costa Rica. We arrived there around 10 in the morning full of gifts, food, great enthusiasm and party decorations. When we arrived, Sister Blanca was finishing the daily morning exercises with the residents in the activity room. We were trying not to disturb the residents with our presence when we got there (we wanted to be respectful of their space), but Sister Blanca encouraged us to play music and start the party immediately, so we did. The residents were extremely playful that day. We all started to join in and play with them. We danced, played with bubbles, balloons and typical Costarican games. We provided a lot of food (fruit cocktails, drinks, lunch, ice cream, pastries, coffee, tea and shakes). We gave away gifts at the end, thanks to all the donations we received through the year from all of our supporters. It was a fun, satisfying and beautiful day. This party was different; it was more about sharing with the residents and just “being there,” if you know what we mean.
See pictures here: http://www.tropicaladventures.com/gallery.php?g2_itemId=2391
Our last party was hosted in the big Cultural Center of Bambu, also on the Bribri Indigenous Reservation. It was a rainy day and we seriously didn’t know if we were going to make it all the way to Bambu. The small rivers on the way there were transformed into big rivers. Two of our cars were damaged that day trying to cross the rivers, but we made it in one piece! When we got there, everyone in the community was waiting for us. So, they all helped us out with the decorations.
In total, we had seventeen folks volunteer with us for this party. It was quite the scene! If you can imagine, we had the majestic cultural center surrounded by the rain forest and lots of kids everywhere waiting for the action. For this party, we invited all 75 of the students from the Bratsi School, host families, teachers, retirement home staff, neighbors and friends in general. All of our guests had a great time; it really was one of those unique experiences in life. Just getting there was a lot of work, but it was so worthwhile. The most fun games ever, great surprises for the winners, ice cream, candies, hot dogs, drinks, cakes, great gifts for all the kids donated by the Schneider family, toothbrushes for everyone, great food packages for the host families donated by the company Magui, and the big finale, the Piñata, which was devoured by the kids. It was the best time ever.
Just a few days after this party, the Segehuis family visited Costa Rica from Canada to volunteer with us. They brought more than a hundred backpacks, with all the necessary supplies for the school year for each one of the kids on the Indigenous Reservation.
This year we’re going to be adding a Christmas party in Guanacaste (Camaronal, Hojancha, Monte Alto, Barra Honda and the Monkey Park Animal Refuge.) This has been our first year working in the Guanacaste Province, and it has been a tremendous start for us in this area.
Last year when we did these types of events for the first time, we were kind rolling with the punches and going with the flow. We were receiving endless calls from individuals and families who kept asking for our plans for the holidays as an organization, so we came up with the Christmas Parties and the Summer Camp in Puerto Viejo. We received a lot of support from friends and volunteers with lots of donations and gifts. Past volunteers such as Phyllis and her husband came for the second time to volunteer with us. Almost all of our past volunteers sent Christmas presents for their host families, and we already have people in Puerto Viejo asking us for the Summer Camp in December.
This year, it is our decision to continue with this legacy of beautiful work. We’re planning on hosting five big Christmas parties. This is how we want to spend our holidays, bringing joy where is needed and doing something great for these communities. They deserve it. If you are a past volunteer, and you’re reading this, you know what we’re talking about.
There are no words to describe how wonderful it is to celebrate with these fantastic and loving people. If you feel you are called to share your time with us and others this holiday season, know we’d love to have you join us!
Happy Holidays in advanced to all of you!
Tropical Adventures Family.
Self Discovery Through Exploration