Darius' Costa Rica Adventure

Student Exchange Program (SEP)

Under the guidance of Lower School Spanish teacher Pica Lockwood, the Student Exchange Program has introduced students to the land and people of Costa Rica "“ specifically, the village of Boruca "“ for each of the past four years. Five students from Boruca are currently visiting RDS. During their two weeks in the Bay Area, they will stay with different SEP families every couple of days to get a taste of different households, visit local areas of interest such as San Francisco and Oakland's Chinatown and the Fruitvale districts, attend classes, teach traditional Borucan mask-painting in eighth-grade art class, and participate in the Spanish classrooms. All of the SEP students have either spent time in Boruca or will be going on the trip this summer to apply their Spanish language-skills, experience life in a rural Costa Rican village, and work together on a community service project. The Borucan students' visit is the opportunity for our students to host their Costa Rican friends and give them a sample of life in the U.S.
To deepen their reflection on the overall experience of cultural exchange, we asked them to interview their Borucan guests and share their impressions with us (responses translated from Spanish by Pica Lockwood and Beth Frankland):
SEP: What have you liked most about the U.S or thought was most interesting?
"The distinct differences in neighborhoods."
"It was a surprise for me that there were so many diverse neighborhoods, with so many cultures, where people have their own stores, and speak their native language." (Billy & Christopher)
"The differences in buildings, and also modes of transportation. And that cars actually stop for pedestrians when they're crossing the street!" (Diego)
"Recycling at people's houses. Everything goes into a different bin. In Boruca, it all gets put in one bag and we have to take it to the dump. The garbage doesn't get picked up." (Kimberly)
SEP: What are the differences in schools in the U.S. and Boruca?
"Here there is more respect between students and teachers in middle school and high school. And the teachers take their jobs more seriously here and command more respect in the classroom than we are used to in middle and high school." (Christopher and others)
SEP: What has your experience at the home stays been like?
"The home stays have all been different. At Channing's house, we had to wash our hands before dinner, and take off our shoes."(Pecas)
"One of the surprises was the difference in food. There are so many wheat and bread products! We even ate salad with bread (croutons) in it! We eat a lot more rice." (Kimberley)
"One of the biggest differences is that in the U.S., dinner is a time for togetherness and conversation. In Boruca, dinner is a time to eat, be alone not talk."(Diego)
"People drive everywhere. My back hurts from being in cars and not being able to walk to someone's house!" (Christo)
"I might go home from school four times in a day in Boruca (for lunch, to change for PE, and to get there in the morning and home in the afternoon). That's a fourteen minute walk there and back, so we do a lot more walking."(Kimberley)
"One of the things that has been difficult is getting used to how cold it is."(Abigail)
"The hardest thing is not being able to walk around the town at night! I feel trapped inside, watching TV." (Pecas)
"At night, we're used to going out and hanging out with our friends in a public place, like we might just sit on a bench and talk."(Diego)
Our program skillfully weaves community service, cultural exchange, language learning, personal growth, and physical challenge in order to provide an opportunity for students to engage with a different culture in meaningful ways while forming relationships that continue long after their return home.

Boruca (also known as the Brunca or the Brunka) are an indigenous people living in Costa Rica. The tribe has about 2,660 members, most of whom live on a reservation in the Puntarenas Province in southwestern Costa Rica. The ancestors of the modern Boruca made up a group of chiefdoms that ruled most of Costa Rica's Pacific coast, from Quepos to what is now the Panamanian border, including the Osa Peninsula. Boruca traditionally spoke the Boruca language, which is now nearly extinct.

Like their ancestors the Boruca are known for their art and craftwork, especially weaving and their distinctive painted balsa wood masks, which have become popular decorative items among Costa Ricans and tourists. These masks are important elements in the Borucas' annual Danza de los Diablitos ceremony, celebrated every winter since at least early colonial times. The Danza depicts the resistance of the "Diablito", representing the Boruca people, against the Spanish conquistadors.

To further the mission of fostering cross-cultural friendships among students, and to allow for as much positive change, the program is comprised of three key components:

1. Group Projects
Group projects provide students with the opportunity to work together to accomplish community service projects in the community.

The itinerary includes 7 to 8 days devoted to student groups providing service to the community of Boruca. Many interesting opportunities are available.

2. Independent Projects
Independent projects provide students with the opportunity to choose topics that interest us and pursue in-depth activities in those particular areas.

3. Excursions
Excursions offer students an opportunity to learn about the geography, flora and fauna of Costa Rica, to rest and relax with both American and Costa Rican peers and to meet physical challenges.

I am so very excited about going to Costa Rica and I am looking forward to blogging about it when I return. Thank you for your financial support and helping to make this trip possible.




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David Earl Spencer 
Oakland, CA
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