Posted on Jun 27, 2013 by
I have just returned from two weeks in Costa Rica as a chaperone for my granddaughter`s Spanish Immersion School end-of-year trip. It was truly remarkable to watch the kids change right before my eyes: for most of the 19 eleven-year- olds, it was their first experience in a foreign country. Some of them coped very well, while others were more timid, but every one of them came home with rich experiences that will shift their view of themselves & their world here in the US. Kylie was very comfortable, as she has been quite the globetrotter during her young life, & her Spanish improved dramatically. She is on her way to being truly bi- lingual & I am very proud of her.
After only one night in a hotel in San Jose, the kids went into a five-day homestay, each of them in a home by themselves. They had to speak Spanish or get very hungry! They went to the local school one day with the school-age student in their homestay, a really fun day for them all. The community near Heredia is very warm & welcoming so the kids were folded into family life beautifully.
La Amistad Institute in Barrio Jesus offers Spanish classes for young people, but had never had such a large group, nor such young learners. I would recommend the Institute for anyone wishing an immersion experience; small group classes
& one-on-one teaching are the norm. There are college age students from all over the world, as well as teachers wanting to tune up their Spanish. One teacher from a bi- lingual school in Arizona brought her family so they could all work on Spanish at the Institute, & she volunteered at the elementary school for three weeks helping the teacher of
The Institute also organized dancing classes & a fruit- tasting event for our kids. We toured the Café Britt coffee plant, La Tirimbina Chocolate plantation, & Finca Corsicana Pineapple plant. We boated through the Cano Negro Wildlife Reserve (kids liked the crocs & sloths, of course!) & took a dolphin-watching & snorkeling trip from near Manuel Antonio, & the boat trip to Damas Island, where we saw troops of capuchin monkeys. We walked through Manuel Antonio National Park & the kids were entranced with all the wildlife. They swam & boogie-boarded for hours at a beach in the park &
another just outside the park, & though the water is pretty murky, they didn`t care. We enjoyed Baldi Hot Springs near Arenal Volcano, & we hiked around Arenal just after a pretty big eruption so we could hear lava rocks the size of cars rolling down the volcano`s flanks. At Arenal, we took the Sky Tram/Sky Trek, which involved a terrific set of zip line transits down through the rain forest. It was a highlight for lots of kids, & many of them discovered they could do something so totally terrifying at first.
My favorite accommodation was at Sarapiquis Rainforest Lodge near Arenal. We had only one night there & I would have liked more. A small bat got into our room one night, so all 19 kids had to run in & out to "help" the bat escape. Poor scared little thing probably had the worst night of its life!
One of my favorite activities with the kids was a scavenger hunt at the local market in Heredia. We divided the kids into teams with a couple of adults for each team, & armed them with a list in Spanish of items to be found in a traditional market. Speaking in Spanish, they had to ask vendors in the market where the items were to be found & ask about the price. The first team back with a correct list won prizes for all. The vendors were wonderful with the kids &
it was a delight. Costa Rica is actively promoting green tourism & it`s a great destination for families with children of any age. The tourism infrastructure is much more developed than the other Central America countries where I spend so much time & it is safe. Kylie says she would go back again, which is a stamp of approval from a seasoned young traveler!