Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Rain Forest Café

Parents of CDS second graders need look no further than their child’s classroom for a unique, memorable, and really fun dining experience. The Rain Forest Café, a yearly tradition for seven- and eight-year-olds, is a favorite activity of CDS families and certainly not your typical school lunch. Lucky us that we have a second grader!

The kids prepared for the café for several weeks. Lauren’s classroom was decorated like a lush, tropical rain forest, complete with a waterfall, twisting vines and branches hanging from the ceiling, plenty of colorful animals and insects, and beautiful leaves and flowers. We even saw a few iridescent hummingbirds outside the window which often enjoy the bougainvillea on the fence bordering the school.

As part of the preparations, each student studied a particular rain forest animal and wrote a detailed report about it, including illustrations and interesting facts. Lauren chose the squirrel monkey—my very favorite creature here in Costa Rica and, I think, a suitable choice for Lauren.

After the kids had been working on this project for nearly a month, Dan and I received a lovely invitation printed on homemade paper to come to the school for a special brunch served at the café. And special it was!

When we arrived, the kids were dressed as little waiters and waitresses, decked out in green aprons embroidered with “rain forest café” (what great keepsakes). Our personal waitress (guess who!) gave us $10 in rain forest money, led us to a table in the corner, and offered us a beautiful, hand-drawn menu.

The menu of 19 items included a variety of beverages, breads and muffins, fruit, main dishes, and sweets, all at reasonable prices, of course. An example of the offerings:

Rain forest mud (coffee)
Margay spot muffins
Morpho bread (banana bread)
Flying mangoes
Red eye tree frog sushi
Ocelots’ dinner (rice with palmito)
Scarlet macaw sandwiches
Piranha brownies
Jaguar spots (cookies)

Dan and I placed our order with our sweet server and she scribbled everything down on her tablet. Before she left to total our order, we had a chance to ask her questions about squirrel monkeys—because the tag on her shirt said she is an expert! Did you know that the squirrel monkeys' tails are the longest of all the monkeys’ tails? Or that squirrel monkeys give birth during the rainy season? Our server did (and now we do too)!

Our food was truly a meal's worth (especially the howler monkey pizza). Of course we asked to see the manager (Lauren’s friend Isabel—the capuchin monkey expert—who just happened to be turning eight that day) to give her our compliments. We learned she was made manager because she had the highest score on the math test and was best at helping her classmates make change with the rain forest money.

We made sure to ask plenty of questions of the girls about the rain forest, including whether the girls had their monkey tails hidden in their pants because we’re certain that secretly they are monkeys themselves. That sufficiently embarrassed them, making Dan and me feel pretty good about our parenting skills.

At the end of our meal, we tipped (with real colones this time!) our server and the café manager, and they gleefully wandered off, giggling about their tip and our teasing.

Finally we left this special café, so tickled with it all. The best part is that all Lauren has learned about the rain forest is applicable to her life here—and she has experienced it for herself. This tiny Central American country is one of the most bio-diverse regions on the planet, a home for some 10,000 species of plants and trees. We have seen and heard the squirrel, capuchin, spider, and howler monkeys in their natural habitats. The three-toed and two-toed sloths are not strangers to us. Agoutis, coatis, bats, scarlet macaws, morpho butterflies, crocodiles, the rare silky anteater, and a plethora of lizards, birds, and bugs—we’ve seen these rain forest creatures (and more!) living in the wild. It’s an opportunity hard to match and a learning experience that extends far beyond the classroom. We are living an amazing adventure!


Justine (Justwaaaa) said...

Aw, how sweet!!!!!!!!! This must have been a heck of a lot of fun for the kids, huh? And who cooked all the food???????
I wanna come live in Costa Rica with you for a while! I would just freak among all those wonderful critters!

Justine :o )

Four in Costa Rica said...

The parents provided the food. Lauren took in snake blood (reddish-purple grape juice). :)


Shelli said...

Well of course Lauren's an expert on monkeys, didn't we know that already?