Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Punta Leona Blog/ Jaco Choir

Hello everyone! This is Natalia and Jillian, writing to you while sitting on the bus heading back to San Jose. For the past 3 days, we have been staying at hotel and resort Punta Leona. The hotel property was beautiful, with its many swimming pools, monkeys climbing above the restaurant, and most spectacularly, the beach! Mantas playa was a gorgeous, white sand, Pacific side beach, with calm, warm water. It was quite a change from the beaches in the Boston area. We were lucky enough to spend almost two full days dipping in the warm beach water and cooling off in the pool, with a few virgin piña coladas in between. Our rooms were named after different tropical countries in the Americas, so some of us were in Jamaica while others were rooming in Venezuela. It was a relaxing and rejuvenating experience after our time with the host families and long bus rides. Mantas playa was certainly a sight I'll remember, especially as the sun sank under the horizon and a ray of orange and red reflected across the teal blue water, with dark mountains off in the distance. Our days exploring the Costa Rican beaches were one of my favourite parts of the tour. 

Our concert in the Jaco community centre was very powerful. It began with adorable toddlers and elementary school kids showcasing their dances. That was really a treat. Then it was our time to shine. We sounded particularly amazing that night, with an extreme amount of support from our audience and the police officers. We sang a traditional Costa Rican song called Caballito Nicoyano, which the audience loved. They loved it so much that they wanted an encore! As we were getting on the bus to go to dinner, a young woman came to a few of us and was very excited about our performance and thanked us. She told us she drove hours to get here and spent a lot of time preparing for us, and said it was totally worth it. My favourite part of what she said to us was, "Even though you didn't win on TV, you are all winners to us!" 

 Carlos and Monkey friend

 They got so close!

 Morning rehearsal before free time on the beach

On a river cruise to look for crocodiles!  

Don't worry- they basically never move.

Our tour guide, Juan Carlos showing us mangrove seeds

Video recording of "Hot Tamales" on the beach

Short preview- full version coming soon!

Check out this awesome video!

Our accompanist Tal Zilber, has been working on projects with us to make videos of our tour. Watch this video to hear the choir sing and to hear the student's perspectives on their experiences on their time in Costa Rica.

Here is the link:

Summary of Monteverde

Here is a beautiful description of our time in Monteverde written by Josh Holtzman:

I knew it would be hard to say goodbye to my host family, but I didn't know just how hard it would be until the day came. As we drove away from our host house in their family truck, the dog belonging to our neighbour's house who was very beloved to all of us came running down the rocky road, trying to follow us. We called desperately for the dog to run, but no matter how hard he tried, he just never could catch up. And when we finally got to the community centre, Gabriel, one of our 3-year-old host brothers who was adored by the entire choir, ran up to me and nearly tackled me to the ground, attempting to finally win in our famous tickle-fight rivalry. When I picked him up from off the road, he commenced to call me "Loco! Loco!"-- his favourite nickname for me. After I finally peeled the hyper-energetic child from my legs, I joined the rest of the choir in lethargically climbing into the bus.

The ride itself was fairly uninteresting besides the half that was held on bumpy, unpaved roads winding up the steep mountainside slopes (yikes, talk about carsickness!) But our first destination before our hotel was much more exciting and somewhat more nauseating than the ride up-- walking the sky bridges above the cloud rainforests. Throughout the two-hour walk, we experienced the various and plentiful wildlife in the forests, the colourful and moist scenery, and, most importantly, the incredible bridges, dangling in the sky as daintily and delicately as the banana spider's web in our host family's shower (we named him Fred, by the way. Don't worry, he didn't hurt us, beside potentially scarring us mentally for life). These bridges hung many feet above the ground, only a few arms-lengths away from the green canopy of the mist- and cloud-shrouded rainforest. Honestly, it was the closest thing I ever felt to flying in my life, besides maybe ziplining (which I was honestly too busy screaming my head off to fully experience). 

After leaving the luscious forest, most were just a wee bit nauseous (as our chaperone David would say). But when we arrived at our hotel, that feeling was taken away, along with our breaths. The vast hotel property was located on a large slope near the top of a mountain. We were near the top of that slope, with an absolutely stunning view--the slope below with the Pacific Ocean a few miles away at the very bottom, glistening in the pink sunset light, surrounded by the mist-shrouded mountains. For some people, probably the most glorious part of all of this was the return of AC after a week of living without it in the muggy, buggy jungle. For me, it was the buffet dinner at the bottom of the property. After a brief rehearsal and whole group games, we went to bed, ready to start our adventures in Monteverde.

With most people renewed from a night of air conditioned sleep, early morning workouts, a buffet breakfast, and dearly missed hot showers, we headed out down the mountain to explore Costa Rica's four main exports: sugar cane, chocolate, coffee, and tourism (it's true: tourism is a major source of income for Costa Rica! But not chocolate, sorry, I lied). We went to a sugarcane farm called El Trapiche, the name for the sugar cane mill. During the tour of the farm, we learned the processes of producing the three products, whilst getting tastes along the way (for Kimani, that meant all-out ripping a stalk of sugarcane out of the ground and slicing open its sweet bark inside. He eventually monopolised our consumption of sugarcane during our walk through the mountainside fields). Some of the tastes we got included the coffee and cocoa bean at various stages of its production, sugar cane (duh), a chocolate treat, and eventually, a brown sugar fudge-y treat hand-made by members of the chorus! (I was one of the lucky few who got to make it, so I'm bringing some home. Better be nice to me!) 

After a delicious lunch made by members of the farm accompanied by brown sugar lemonade, we visited the gift shop where a lot of singers bought fresh grown coffee, and then we left for the Quaker school. This Quaker school dated back to the 50s, when a group of Quakers protesting the Korean War settled in Monteverde, hoping for a new life. Eventually, their school became a leading source of peace education for the members of the community. After a brief talk about this history, we joined a few students in a game of Ultimate Frisbee (my team won, obviously) and chatted with them about their experiences with the school. We then performed some of our best pieces for them before going back to the hotel.

After a couple of hours of free time, we hopped on the bus and drove along the cliffs of Monteverde to the "new" church of the Monteverde community, which was an open-air building right next to a small holiday carnival. As distracting as the flashing lights and spinning rides just outside were, we pushed through the Mother's Day church service we sang at. But we had a problem: the space was nearly impossible to fill! The acoustics were far too dry to sing in without sounding like a choir of oompah loompas who didn't know how to project, or a bunch of mice who were trying to sound like larger mice! But we pushed through, and we pushed through the additional short concert following the mass. After leaving the church, Juan Carlos took us to the best Italian place in Monteverde, where we laughed it up over unlimited food and ice cream, before going home for the night.

The next morning, we got up, "worked out", had a buffet breakfast, and departed for Punta Leona in all of its beauty and glory, but that's another story, and I'll let someone else tell of its beauty...oh wait, they're not gonna do that? Oh well, I guess you'll just have to imagine it.

Josh Holtzman 

Saying goodbye was hard

Don't cry!

A goodbye picture with the host family

The first tree top bridge

Maya, Isaiah, Ashley and I

Grace in the middle of the bridge!

I tried to be artsy

Views from the bus ride to our hotel in Monteverde

View from hotel room

View from hotel room: Monteverde

Coffee Beans

Ride on an Ox Cart


Walking through the sugarcane fields

Josh and friends eating dinner

Italian food!

Monday, August 17, 2015

A school visit, and a dance class!

August 12th:

Hey everyone, it's your favourite dynamic duo: Marysa and Maggie. We're here to talk to you about our day in La Fortuna at a primary school, exploring the town, and dancing. Our day began with a trip to a Z13 primary school, where we performed for over 250 kids ages 5-13. As always in school during visits, the children welcomed us and were ecstatic to share in our joy of music. We were treated as celebrities, giving some of the newer members the chance to experience what it feels like to perform and visit with children in other countries. Every member of the choir including chaperones were sought after for autographs and pictures. Many kids asked for signatures on their arms, and one lucky singer got to sign a forehead. The school children were so overjoyed with our gratitude and care coming to their school that they invited us to their festivities the next day which we were sadly unable to attend.
Unfortunately our Orphanage visit was cancelled for lack of space in their building, but we were still able to give them the gifts we brought and they attended the morning concert. Instead we had the chance to explore the downtown area of La Fortuna, wandering in and out of tourist stores and eating ice cream.
Back in Peñas Blancas we paired up to learn Salsa, Merengue, Cha cha, and the Cumbian Step. The heat made dancing challenging but still enjoyable. Members of the town cooked us dinner, and we ended the night with a piñata. As it turned out the dance instructors were also phenomenal singers, and in exchange for their performance we sang them two songs of our own.
  As the tour progresses we are aware of the growing and forming of friendships between all members of the choir. Recently there has been a wave of old South African songs which everyone seems to enjoy, to the point where choir members are crying in and out of concert due to nostalgia, beauty, and overal joy. All in all everyone continues to enjoy cultural emersion and time spent together.

Yours truly,

M & M

They were such a great audience! 

The fans!

Stacia lead the choir in "Ukuthula"

World Rhythm Ensemble 

 Dance class

 Our awesome teachers!

Stencia dancing with her host sister

Friday, August 14, 2015

A powerful and emotional morning.

Hello everyone! We have been very busy lately and wifi is not always available. But I want you all to know that not only have we been having a lot of fun, but we have been sharing experiences that will last a lifetime and that have caused us to grow much closer together. You may have heard your singers talk about "BCS Magic" or have seen the #bcsmagic hashtag, and if you don't understand what that is or what it means, this next story might help.

Isaiah has volunteered to write about a very special morning on August 12th. He organized for the entire choir to go and sing at the home of someone in the community who is sick. He organized this all on his own and the chaperones had nothing to do with it. Here is the story:

A few days ago, we had a concert in a saloon for the families who are hosting us. Ligia, the lady who signed up to host me and my roommates was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. Last week she had an emergency, and had to be rushed to the hospital. As a result of this she couldn't host us anymore, but other members of her family hosted us instead. Our host mother asked us on our second day in her house, if we could sing for her mother (Ligia), since she couldn't come to see us because of her illness. After dinner, a small few of us went across the street to her house, and sang for her. We sang "Nelson Mandela" and she enjoyed it, but the other guys and I didn't feel it was enough. So the next day on the bus I asked for volunteers to come and sing early the next morning. To our surprise every singer in the choir showed up, and we sang our best concert yet. After singing our four songs, there was plenty of emotion and BCS Magic in the air, along with tears of joy, and sadness. The next day we went to her house to give her presents, and she told us, "I was scared to die because I didn't know what heaven was like. I was afraid of the Angels, but after hearing you all sing, I know what they sound like and I am very much at peace." This meant a lot to me and everyone else in the choir. It was a true blessing, and a true example of the joy that BCS can bring to people.

This moment that the choir spent with Ligia a few days ago has had a huge impact on the students. Many conversations were had and tears were shared. This is definitely something that the singers will never forget. I hope this story has helped you understand the meaning of BCS Magic, and please send your thoughts and prayers to Ligia.

Isaiah and Ligia together

The whole choir woke up extra early to put on a concert for Ligia at her house

Ligia's daughter, Lindsay is an amazing person with so much love. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Cows and Rainforest!

Hello everyone. This post is from August 10th that didn't get uploaded in time.

This is Rose Kearns and Evie Hartenstein. We are both on our first tour with the Boston City Singers Tour Choir. Today we got to visit Freddo Leche farms. Here we got to milk cows, visit a strawberry farm and explore the rainforest. We walked into the barn to see two calfs; one was three days old and the other a week old. There were 5 cows that we got the chance to milk. This was a unique experience that we've never had the chance to have previous to our journey to Costa Rica. Coco, the person who taught us how to milk the cows, made us all experts! Then we got to visit the strawberry fields. It was in a greenhouse, making the environment very warm in order to keep the plants from getting cold over night. The strawberries were delicious: ripe, juicy and fresh.  Finally we visited the rainforest. Here we saw many species of plants including a natural anaesthetic used by natives upon reaching Costa Rica for ailments such as toothaches. The plant tasted spicy and made our tongues numb. After visiting the farm, we travelled three hours to be with our host families. These families have volunteered to open their homes to us for four nights while on our trip. Families usually host between 2 and 6 singers. Our family has a baby named Ian Zaid that we absolutely adore! We're very grateful to be able to stay with these families and be welcomed into their family. We can't wait to spend more time with them! ¡Hasta mañana!
- Rose and Evie

Strawberry fields forever
Practicing how to milk a cow 
Leora exploring the rainforest 

Scenic Views

Raavi Maggie and Isaiah on the tractor

Leora has got this down!

Simone milking a cow

Go Mariel!!

Freddo Leche Tours!

Our rainforest tour guide

Group photo before singing a song for the Freddo Leche Tour Staff