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The Monkey Who Should Be in the Major Leagues: My Experiences Teaching English in Sámara, Costa Rica

Have you ever played dodgeball? Have you ever played dodgeball with a half-eaten piece of fruit? Have you ever played dodgeball with a half-eaten piece of fruit against a monkey? Well, I have, and all my years in gym class couldn’t have saved me from being on the receiving end of a slimy, juicy, have-eaten mango splattering across my chest.

Sámara, Costa Rica is an exotic place. With white sand meeting the cool blue ocean, coconut and mango trees lining the beach and streets, great surfing waves, monkeys and orange-colored squirrels, and dark green vegetation covered hills as a backdrop, Sámara is the picturesque beach town. However after being in Sámara for two weeks I can see it is unique for a couple reasons.

First, in Sámara I can make a measurable and real impact on lives of the people here. On paper, Costa Rica has one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America, and Costa Rica’s educational system in the central areas near the capital are truly superb. However, beneath the surface, away from the guide books, in the rural areas there is a real-need for supplementary classes. So, I am working with Asociación CREAR to build a free, sustainable, and effective English language program for both students and adults, and the progress we have made is phenomenal.

We have daily after-school English Classes for students ranging from pre-K to 3rd grade, and classes twice a week for adult learners. In both classes, we focus on keeping classes relevant, fun, and interactive, which is very easy with the energy and curiosity that each student brings to class.

It is incredible to see the students’ growth in just two weeks. My younger students are using what we teach to help them improve their studies at school, while my adult students are using the English classes to help their business in the tourism and service industry.

Second, Sámara is small enough that in a very short time you can meet or know almost everyone who lives in town. In just two weeks, a walk to work includes dozens of greetings to friends and acquaintances. Furthermore, the people of Sámara are nice and inclusive. Whenever I walk by the soccer field or a game of beach volleyball game, I am always invited to join.

Third, Sámara is a community of people interested in learning. There is a Spanish school which always has around 25 students, all of whom want to practice Spanish. In Sámara you will learn how to dance. I have been taking Salsa, Bachata, Zumba, and Latin dance classes every day for free, and Sámara has Salsa night every Thursday and Reggae night every Friday. I have also had the opportunity to take cooking, surfing, and yoga classes all for free. At night, after a full day of sun, beach, and work, I have learned a lot from the locals’ endless number of stories.

I have had countless new and interesting experiences in just two weeks, a Major League pitcher of a monkey hitting me with a mango being just one. So if I could find dodgeball classes here, then everything really would be perfect.

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