An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Michiko W. '18 

Students taking Advanced Ecological Studies: GSL Costa Rica are currently in Central America, living with local families and working on service projects. More information on their trip and Lakeside's academic courses with Global Service Learning components is available here.    

I woke up today at eight and had a great breakfast of rice, beans, fresh eggs, cooked plantains and watermelon (plus hot cocoa) cooked by our host mom, Johanna. We headed to the Ranch (only a couple minutes away) and started the day with some mulching, gathering leaves from the rainforest and covering beds we’d planted yesterday. It was very hard work, particularly carrying the bags uphill from the rainforest in the direct heat (which is incredibly strong). It only took about a half hour to sweat out all of the sunscreen I’d put on.

After the hardest work was over, we started planting yuca. Yuca is a tuber (also known as cassava) that is edible. The day before yesterday we had sort of hash-brown yuca that was my favorite food here so far. We then learned about grafting from Scott, and everyone was super interested in it and I think I can say for all of us that we learned a lot. We followed that lesson by preparing bags of dirt for future plants and grafts. After lunch (rice, vegetables, beans and plantains) we got a fermentation lesson from Rachel and spent the next couple hours chopping green papaya and carrots, peeling ginger and turmeric, and mashing garlic to make tropical sauerkraut and kimchi.  We’ll get to taste them in a couple weeks!

We’ve just finished up with that and I’m writing this in the late afternoon. It’s not quite so hot as this morning, but still quite humid from the rain that fell some hours ago. The rainy season is just starting now—it’s been raining about once a day, but only started to do so last Sunday. Right now, there’s a lot of what sound like crickets and strange bird calls, but the jungle noises change based on the time of day like clockwork. There’s birds, insects (lots of cicadas), frogs, and roosters, of course. I may have heard a monkey at some time too. There are so many species of plants alone, and I always see new things every time we go into the forest.

It really does look and feel like the jungle here. It’s misty out now, and some of the nearby trees are fifty feet tall. The ranch is a really cool place. They have two cats (lying on the table in front of me), two dogs, and a great library in one room. I’m hoping to get to a lot of those books. Being here has really inspired me to do a lot of things at home to try and make things more sustainable there and do more things myself. I’d like to try fermentation and do a lot more gardening! Yesterday, we got to try miracle berries, which I’d heard about, but never tried. They make very sour fruit very, very sweet. I ate almost a whole sour lime. I guess I can grow the plant inside the house back in Seattle. I’m looking into what else I could plant.