What does Pura Vida mean?

You are a Nun and you manage a Foster Care program in Cartago, Costa Rica. You provide love, comfort and care for 20 children, ages 2 months to 8 years old. The concrete walls and barbed wire surround your facility, but you have created a Hydrophonics Garden to feed the children. Pura Vida.IMG_6255.JPG You depend on the sky for your water. Sometimes this runs out and you have no running water. Your humble washing machine is your hands. You have no dryer but you use the sun and wind to kiss the children’s clothes. Pura Vida.IMG_6284-2.JPG You are 5 years old and you live behind the big concrete walls with the barbed wire fence on top. You don’t have many toys, but there are non-working battery operated cars outside that can only be used if someone pushes you. Pura Vida.


IMG_6307.JPG You are six years old and you live behind the big concrete walls with the barbed wire fence on top. Some big kids came to visit and you made a new friend. You found some pieces of sidewalk chalk and he let you trace his body. Pura Vida.

IMG_6306.JPG You are two years old. You just finished eating in your high chair. Some big kids made you some Play Dough in the kitchen. One big girl came over and smiled at you. She showed you how squishy and fun it is to play with. Pura Vida.

IMG_6327.JPG You are 8 years old. Hogar De Niños Baik has been your home for the last four years. You were loved, comforted and sheltered inside these concrete walls with the barbed wire on top. You are being adopted by an Italian family. You are starting over. Pura Vida.


Thank You Mr. Moreno

Dear Mr. Moreno,
I know it’s been a long time since I was enrolled in your high school Spanish I class. I’ll just round it off to an even 20+ years ago. Despite it being so long ago that I learned basic Spanish, I was really surprised at how much I retained over the years and I’m happy to say that it has done me a world of good during our home stay in Orosi, Costa Rica.

IMG_6451.JPG Our routine was basically the same each day. We woke up early to a home cooked breakfast each morning. Doña Anna would name everything in front of us so we could learn it’s Spanish name. This always included “frutas organica” sliced up to eat or blended for juice. She reminded us every day that it was organic. How lucky were we?! Our favorite new fruit was Guanabana. You had to scoop a bite out with a fork. It had a slimey texture but tasted just like a sweet tart.

IMG_6319.JPG After breakfast we walked 8 blocks to our Spanish School (OTIAC) where we waited for our taxis to take us to our service project in the neighboring town (more about that later).

IMG_6453.JPG By the time we arrived, we would have picked up 2 to 3 stray dogs along the way. The main rule is “Don’t pet the dogs! Do not make eye contact!” Yeah, try telling that to this dog loving family. Finn and Piper named this one Spot and he always managed to find us and follow us everywhere. Even on our first day, he followed us on a hike up to the waterfalls in the valley.


Often, we would arrive home at dinner time to a house full of relatives. I showed them the pictures on my phone of the things we accomplished that day and I would have to look up some words and basically play charades to get my point across. But making mistakes and laughing about it is half the fun.

One night, we were invited to her sister, Marta’s house where we would pray and eat. From what Doña Anna told me, and what I understood, this was a tradition in Costa Rica on Friday nights. When we arrived, her living room was set up like a mini church with rows of dining room and kitchen chairs. The center of attention was The Nativity with tiny white lights and an Angel candle for decoration. At first I thought we were just going to say a simple prayer and maybe sing a few songs but we ended up reciting the entire Rosary in Spanish! I quickly looked up the “Hail Mary” and the “Our Father” so Charlotte and I could join in. Mr. Moreno, I was able to read and recite out loud everything I read quite easily. Charlotte was using her one year of Spanish as well and was keeping up just fine. Finn and Piper were so polite. They sat quietly and paid attention for 45 minutes. We were met with approving smiles and nods by the family. I think Doña Anna was proud of us.

Our last night in Orosi was a thank you party for our host families. We learned some Costa Rican dance moves and presented our host mothers thank you cards. It was a sweet way to end our time, dancing with our host mother. It’s a universal language. Again Mr. Moreno, Muchas Gracias!