Tag Archives: San Jose

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Costa Rica “Gift of Happiness”, Part 1: Arrival in San Jose

We just got back from Costa Rica, thanks to an all-expense-paid trip from the Costa Rican Tourist Board through their Costa Rica’s Gift of Happiness Sweepstakes. It was a terrific and amazing trip in every way — providing adventure, relaxation, stunning natural beauty and diversity, warm and wonderful people, fascinating culture, inspiration about sustainability, and numerous opportunities for us all to practice our very middling Spanish.

Because our trip was scheduled to begin the day after Anna’s school year ended, we experienced a bit of a whirlwind leaving home. Our adventure began immediately, though, with an easy day of flying and arrival in “The Happiest Country on Earth“.

We truly knew we were in excellent, capable and caring hands when Carlos met us at the airport, in a Gift of Happiness shirt and bearing gift bags for each of us, along with a booklet of vouchers we would use throughout the week for hotels, tours and more.

Because we arrived late in the day, our first night was spent at the Ramada Plaza Herradura in San Jose, where the airport is located. It was a fine and vast hotel, with a Catalan-meets-Miami feel. We relaxed, sampled the Costa Rican liquor, Cacique (the brand) guaro, a strong sugar-cane-based, vodka-like liquor, and then a coconut-based cocktail called a Miguelito, while all-purpose international dance music pumped into the lounge.

The next morning we enjoyed the typical Costa Rican breakfast, Gallo Pinto, or rice and beans, along with sumptuous tropical fruits, grilled vegetables and dark bread. We marveled at our good fortune to have landed in this lovely, exotic country for a week and were full and smiling when Carlos came by in the Gift of Happiness van to take us to what he promised would be a very special place.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Gift of Happiness adventure.

 

Children Opt for the Box Over the Toy

First came word from Lenore Skenazy, the wonderful keeper-of-the-calm-flame over at Free Range Kids, that the era of the passive toy was over. It seems she had done a sweep of the recent Toy Fair, where next Christmas’ gewgaws were revealed to the trade, and found, to her delight, that largely gone were loud, electronic, performing toys like Tickle Me Elmo, and in their place were toys that called on children’s imaginations to build with them and do things with them. Imagine that!

Then I ran across this story that should be required reading for anyone who is in any way feeling inferior or stressed out because their children do not have the latest wonderful toy that will help them get into a good college, or at least goose their fine-motor development:

When the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose, CA, found itself with empty exhibit space between shows, clever exhibit designer Ronnie Bogle tossed a few giant boxes, which had contained the museum’s new recycling bins, into the area. Almost immediately, children were crawling in and around them, drawing on them, role-playing in them, and creating skyscrapers, houses and forts. New boxes were added and the exhibit was christened Box City. It became one of the most popular exhibits in the museum.

You can read the complete story of Box City here.

Said Ronnie Bogle, “One of my fondest childhood memories is when we got a new refrigerator and my dad gave me the box. For two weeks that thing went from being a house to a rocket ship to a train to a car.”

This is another nice reminiscence about playing with refrigerator boxes, from the GagaSisterhood site, which is geared to grandparents.

Children’s Museum marketing manager Autumn Gutierrez echoed the idea that children can have fun without fancy toys.

“The kids really love our high-tech exhibits,” she said. “But then the window washer comes along, and they are just as excited by that.”

Worth remembering!

Photo: Melissa Gutierrez

Related posts:

Gopnick: Babies Learn by Playing
Time Magazine: Can These Parents be Saved?
Children Opt for the Box Over the Toy
Movement to Restore Free Play Gains Momentum

School and Community Gardens Grow More than Food

I recently came across two wonderful stories about community gardens.

Ground will soon be broken for the first New York school garden in the Edible Schoolyard project, which was begun by pioneering chef and school garden proponent Alice Waters. The garden, at Public School 216 in Brooklyn’s Gravesend neighborhood, will feature a solar-powered building with a kitchen classroom that includes space for the children to make and enjoy meals from the food they’ve grown. Also in the works are a chicken coop, a composting system, an outdoor pizza oven, a portable greenhouse, and rainwater collection.

The 460 students, grades K-5, will learn a variety of traditional subjects through the garden, and it is hoped that the school will become a center for environmental and agriculture studies. The school, in an area where children would not normally have ready access to gardens, represents the 6th Edible Schoolyard in the U.S. and the only one currently set to operate year-round. School Principal Celia Kaplinsky said she also envisions the garden as a place to build community, where children with many different cultures and languages can bond.

Read more about Brooklyn’s Edible Schoolyard in this New York Times article.

Another terrific story just surfaced about a series of backyard vegetable gardens in San Jose, CA. The project is spearheaded by a group called La Mesa Verde, which is part of the Silicon Valley Health Trust. Both groups encourage healthy eating and community enhancement through gardening, noting that growing ones own healthy food is not only a source of pride, but a surefire way to have access to good greens.

30 backyard gardens were recently planted in San Jose’s Gardner and Washington-Guadalupe neighborhoods, which are home to many relatively new Latino immigrants who comprise the city’s working poor. The neighborhoods, while blessed with an average of 300 sunny days a year, offer limited access to fresh food. Homegrown food has meant access, along with tremendous money savings, for many. Says one resident, “People don’t eat vegetables unless they are close by.”

La Mesa Verde founder Raul Lozano hopes to get about 70 more backyard gardens planted by spring, with help from community volunteers.

Read more about the San Jose backyard gardens in the New York Times.

Photo: Jean-noël Lafargue. ChickenFreak

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