Tag Archives: monteverde

Sunday Morning Worship With Quakers in Costa Rica

I sit in complete silence for forty-five minutes, as do the ninety people all around me. It’s Sunday morning in Monteverde Costa Rica and I am attending a Quaker meeting. We are comfortably settled on hand crafted wooden benches arranged in a circle. Our spacious timber frame meeting place has a soaring ceiling. The huge windows give us a full view of the trees and  plants of the cloud forest surrounding us. The wind breathes in and out in mighty gusts and rain spatters the glass.

forest costa ricaThat’s probably why Joy is Like the Rain is the first hymn suggested during the singing session prior to our contemplation. People simply call out a song title and we sing. Tis a Gift to Be Simple, Kumbayah, The Prayer of St. Francis, Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah and Everyone Neath Their Vine and Fig Tree. All are familiar tunes I’ve sung many times in my own Mennonite faith community.

After thirty minutes of singing our hymnbooks are collected and the silence begins without announcement or introduction. Some people close their eyes, some read their Bibles, some sit with their hands open palms up in front of them, while other fold their hands and bow their heads.

I begin by praying. It is lovely and peaceful not to feel like I have to hurry through my prayers, but to let my thoughts flow freely as I bring concerns and joys into mind and before God.

IMG_2307And then I try to empty my mind, like I’ve read one should do when you meditate. I try to concentrate on my breath and the wind, the rustling of the leaves, the creaking of the tree branches.

After forty- five minutes the silence ends when a woman gets up to speak. She talks about a Quaker high school in Cuba closed by the government after the revolution.    Now with relations thawing between Cuba and the United States, they’ve been given permission to commence classes again. The woman speaking has friends in the Cuban Quaker community and asks for support and prayer as they get ready to reopen the doors of their school.

A woman with ruddy cheeks, silver earrings and white hair rises next to talk about the strong winds blowing in Monteverde. It has reminded her that the wind is the earth’s breath and that all the air on our planet has been here since creation. We share the air we breathe with every living thing past and present. She suggests that when we feel chaotic or conflicted we just sit and breathe and receive positive energy from all the living things around us. Our very breath connects us to them.

The children have been meeting separately, the older ones return halfway through our time of silence and the younger children fifteen minutes later. Their teachers get up now and explain that the younger children have been learning how to be silent in meaningful ways. They have practiced meditating using a pebble and meditating by drawing pictures of objects in nature. The older children have been talking about how hard it is to voice your opinion when it is different from the opinions of most people around you.

Announcements come next about opportunities to join together in the coming weeks for square dancing, Shakespeare readings, book clubs, coffee houses and listening to activist students share their ideas for improving life in Costa Rica. Things to celebrate about the Quaker school in Monte Verde are listed and the congregation responds by waving their hands in the air instead of clapping.

Then visitors from Quaker meetings around the United States and from as far away as Cambridge, England introduce themselves. We introduce ourselves too.

The meeting ends with everyone shaking hands and blessing each other with a message of peace, a word of welcome or a wish for a good day.

I didn’t expect that attending a Quaker meeting for the very first time would be part of my travels in Costa Rica but I’m very glad it was. There are so many ways people of different faiths and denominations choose to worship and communicate with the Divine. Exploring their infinite variety is enriching both personally and spiritually.

Other posts……

Visiting a Quaker School in Costa Rica

Eight Tone Bells and A Choir Director From Winnipeg

A Tiny Church

Opposite Profound Truths





Filed under Costa Rica, Religion

Visiting a Quaker School in Costa Rica

Our house in the foreground is Fig House. Our host Risë who teaches at the Quaker School lives in the blue house behind us.

Our house in the foreground is Fig House. Our host Risë who teaches at the Quaker School lives in the blue house behind us.

It’s sports day at the Friends School run by the local Quaker community in Monteverde Costa Rica and we’re invited.  The woman who is in charge of the house we are renting in Montverde is a third and fourth grade teacher at a Quaker School in this community situated high up in the hills at the end of a long winding thirty kilometre rocky gravel road .    

Dave watches soccer at the Friends School Sports Day

Dave watches soccer at the Friends School Sports Day

Risë, our landlord invited us to her Friends School sports day on Saturday which was more like a school picnic and she also invited us to tour the school on Tuesday morning with Ric, her principal.  sports day quaker schoolBoth were great experiences for former educators like us always interested in what education looks like in different places. 

The sign over the door of the Friends School in Monteverde makes their peace position clear

The sign’ War is Not the Answer’ over the door of the Friends School in Monteverde makes their peace position clear

Eleven Quaker families came to Monteverde in 1951 from Alabama after four young men from their community had been jailed for refusing to serve in the Korean War. They were looking for a peaceful place to live. The isolated community of Monteverde in Costa Rica, a country which had abolished its army, seemed perfect.  

Monteverde Cheese Factory founded by the Quakers. We stopped there to buy cheese and icecream.

Monteverde Cheese Factory founded by the Quakers. We stopped there to buy cheese and ice cream.

The Quaker families set up dairy farms which led to the opening of the Monteverde Cheese Factory which is still in business today.  

Main building of the Friends School

Main building of the Friends School

They opened the Friends School in 1957 as a place where their own children and local Costa Rican children could receive an education in both Spanish and English.  Today the school has 120 students.  The majority are local Costa Rican children whose tuition is subsidised.

Typical classroom at the school with lots of windows open to the forest surrounding the school. Bird cutouts on the windows prevent the many birds in the surrounding woods from being injured.

Typical classroom at the school with lots of windows open to the forested setting. Bird cutouts on the windows prevent the many birds in the surrounding woods from being injured.

Classes are capped at 16 and while the school has written its own curriculum it meets all Costa Rican standards and affords children the kind of education that allows them to enter North American universities. For the lower grades classes are  billingual while older students take core subjects in English and others in Spanish.

Sports day participants doing yoga

Sports day participants doing yoga

The Sports Day on Saturday was a real community event more like a school picnic with a non-stop schedule of activities including yoga class in the school auditorium which  doubles as the Quaker Community Church on Sunday.

Kids on the trampoline at Sports Day.

Kids on the trampoline at Sports Day.

There was a trampoline, face painting, crafts and stories for younger children. There were fun volleyball, soccer, ultimate and basketball games. There was yoga class, zumba class and massage. 

Dave chooses his lunch items prepared by parents.

Dave chooses his lunch items.

Parents and other volunteers had prepared all kinds of great food for the sports day.

meal quaker school Our payment for the meal went to support the school’s scholarship program which makes it possible for local kids whose families may not be able to afford the school’s tuition which is several thousand dollars a year.

Solar panels on the classroom roof.

Solar panels on the school roof.

On our tour of the school on Monday we attended a school assembly which involved games and cooperative activities. Then Ric one of the school’s co-directors took us around the school. He told us the school is very aware of leaving the smallest carbon footprint possible. They want to teach their students to care for the environment. At the end of the school day kids help with clean up and sort and weigh all trash.solar oven garden quaker schoolThere is a greenhouse where plants are started for landscaping the grounds.  Lunches are heated in the solar oven. A volunteer will arrive shortly to do a transportation survey looking at ways that the school can reduce its carbon footprint by coordinating travel arrangements for students. labeled plants at quaker schoolThe plants on the school grounds are labeled for teaching purposes. library quaker school monteverdeThere is a large library open to the public and maintained by a committee of volunteers.   inside library monteverdeThe interior of the library was full of light and we saw several volunteers working with individual children. The school warmly welcomes volunteers, especially former teachers. They have many who come to the school regularly often for several weeks or months at a time. classrooms at quaker schoolWe had a chance to chat with several of the teachers on our tour about the possibility of volunteering and it is certainly something that would be very appealing in the future. 

Other posts…..

The Runaway Bay Resource Centre

Kornelson School

Visiting Hopi Mission School

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Filed under Costa Rica, Education

Our Heads in the Clouds

at the top of the world cloud forestWe were in the clouds and above the clouds. in the tram cloud forest After our bridge walk through the cloud forest canopy we took a tram ride even further up into the sky.  riding thet ram cloud forestFirst we were under the clouds, going through the cloudsthen riding through them and finally we emerged up above them.  two hundred year old fern treeOnce again we had an amazing guide, this time named Edwardo whose love of nature and information about the cloud forest added so much to our experience. He pointed out two hundred year old fern trees.  baby vultureHe had us look way down on the mountain side where a pair of baby black vultures had hatched and were waiting to be ready to fly.  

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Dave had taken a picture of a mature vulture in Dominical so it was interesting to see how different the babies and adults looked. view from the tramEdwardo pointed out the Pacific Ocean way off in the distance.  looking down from the tramWe could look down and see the suspension bridges where we had been walking just hours before. Now we were high above them. white faced coatiAs our tram ride ended Dave spotted this white-nosed coati. tram ride sky walkWhat made me sad on our tram ride was hearing our guide Edwardo say that unless something is done to stop it scientists predict that within twenty years global warming could mean the end of this cloud forest. 

dave and marylou cloud forestIt made me wonder as I have so often on this trip in Costa Rica, whether my grandchildren will have the same opportunity to see all this natural beauty when they are my age? 

Other posts…….

Walking in the Canopy

Walk at Hillside Beach

Walk at Louise Lake

Early Morning Walk in Saskatoon


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Filed under Costa Rica, Nature, New Experiences

Up In The Trees With A Man Who Knew It All

canopy walk monteverde

We were literally looking down on the tree tops! walking among the tree branches Yesterday morning we did a canopy walk in the Monteverde Forest.  We started out at eight in the morning and our group was virtually alone in the forest. We were with a couple from Switzerland and a couple from Chicago. suspension bridgesWe spent two hours traversing a series of five long suspension bridges about fifty meters high. You can see one of the bridges in the distance here. looking down on the tree topsSome of the trees towered above us but we looked down on many others. 

andre guide monteverdeAndre was our guide. He is a naturalist with a university degree and you could tell. He is the best guide we’ve had yet in Costa Rica. He taught us so much about the cloud forest. cloud forestCloud forests are found at high elevations throughout the world and much of the moisture the trees receive comes from cloud and fog. cloud forest trees are growing all the time

Trees in the cloud forest don’t have growth rings because they are growing all the time. The only way to tell how old they are is by carbon dating. on suspension bridge monteverde

Trees in a cloud forest can have up to a hundred other plants growing on them. Some of these plants, like most orchids are epiphytes which means they do not harm their host tree.  They derive the water and nutrients they need from the air and fog or rain clouds not from their host tree. walking above the trees But some of these plants, like strangler figs are parasites and they do harm the tree they are growing on. turn brown to protect themselvesWe learned that trees have different defense mechanisms to protect themselves from predators and parasites. They might turn their leaves brown or make their fruit bitter.rattlesnake golden plantAndre also taught us about the uses of various plants and trees in the cloud forest. This plant for example has little sponges for leaves that absorb water. If you are lost in the forest you can suck on them and get a drink.ginger plantThe leaves of the ginger plant are extremely soft on the underside and can be used for toilet paper. umbrella leafThis huge leaf can serve as an umbrella and its rough texture means it can be used as sandpaper or an emery board. lemonilla treeAndre crushed the berries from this tree and let us smell them. They had an overwhelming lemon scent. He said their juice can be used as a natural mosquito repellent. trumpet treeThe leaves of this trumpet tree are a favorite food of sloths, can be used to treat asthma and can end a pregnancy. By the way our guide Andre’s sharp eyes did spot a sloth in a nearby trumpet tree. millipedeAndre had encyclopedic knowledge about every creature we saw, even this millipede. He told us all about it. If Dave heard a bird sing Andre knew which one it was. yellowish fly catcherWhen Dave photographed this bird Andre told him right away it was a yellowish flycatcher. walking through the canopy monteverdeWe had a great morning in the cloud forest with Andre. The last few days in Monteverde there have been incredible high winds and the suspension bridges have had to be closed. So we were lucky that before we left here the wind died down and we were able to walk through the  canopy and get a bird’s-eye view of the cloud forest. 

Other posts……

Two Trees- Forty One Years

Edge of the Trees

Tree Inspiration

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Filed under Costa Rica, Nature

We Got Our Rainbow

fig house

We are now in Monteverde Costa Rica staying in the spacious Fig House in the foreground of this photo.  Our hosts Risë and Dario and their two sons live in the blue house just behind us. Risë is a teacher in a local school and Dario is a graphic designer. Risë is orginally from Baltimore, Maryland and Dario from Bogota, Columbia but they met right here in Monteverde in 2003. Fig House was built by Risë’s mother and she lives there half the year. When she is back in the United States Risë and Dario rent her house out to guests. The house is almost brand new and absolutely gorgeous.  You can see lots of photos of the finely crafted  interior here.  rainbow monteverdeOn its website the house is shown with a beautiful rainbow and we wondered if we would see one too.   Sure enough our first morning here there was a rainbow in the sky that lasted for a long time.  As the sun rose higher and higher the rainbow sank lower and lower till it disappeared.  It was lovely to watch from the comfy hammock chairs on our front porch. rainbow 1

rainbow 2

rainbow 4

rainbow 3

rainbow 6

Where does the rainbow end, in your soul or on the horizon? – Pablo Neruda

Other posts……


Sun Dogs and Steam

What A Difference

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Filed under Costa Rica, Nature