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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Costa Rica: They Speak Such Good English

I was stunned by the level of English I was hearing in Santa Elena. The answer was at the cheese factory.

Monteverde Cheese was founded by a group of Quakers who had emigrated to the area from the US in 1958. They left because, as conscientious objectors, one of the things they objected to was the installation of the peacetime draft.

After scouting the country, they eventually settled in Santa Elena. A few people brought household goods and other necessities overland. The rest flew. Their intention was to start dairy farms, but they quickly realized that they were so far from their intended markets that, lacking refrigeration, the milk would spoil before it was delivered.

So, equipped with a three step process documented in an issue of Reader's Digest, they decided to try making cheese. Cheese wouldn't spoil on the way to market.

They also, of course, established a private school. The curriculum is taught in English, and a lot of local children attend. So not only are there families living in the Santa Elena area who are US immigrants, there is a school that gives children total fluency, just up the hill from the cheese factory, on the way to the cloud forest. And some of the children take that Polaski County school bus to get there.

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