Author Archives: richard

A Monteverde bird song medley

Enjoy the soundscape of Monteverde at the beginning of the rainy season with this compilation of birdsongs set to a catchy beat.


Photos for remembering

MFS faculty and staff, 1998.

Maypole celebration, 2002.

Jones Franzel, Jenn Bildersee, and Chad Wilsey after the production of "You can't take it with you," 2002.

MFS production of "You can't take it with you". Clara Rowe, Elena Arguedas, Lazer Friedman, Marco Vargas, Helen Joyce, Daniel Vargas, Silvio Curtis, and Carlos Wolff, 2002.

2nd/3rd grade trip to the Nicaraguan border, 1998.

Paul Englander, Tim Curtis, Suzanne Weil, and Wendy Wadsworth.


Judy Neuhauser with students in the Caminata, 2002.

If you have photos that you would like to share, please email them to


Playing-field progress!

The drainage system has been set up, the topsoil is back in place, and grass will be planted shortly!

The Magic Earth Basket

The mythology of the Dine’é (Navajo) people tell of the migration of the First People from the first world to the fifth (current) world. In the midst of calamity and escaping from one world to the next it was essential that someone remember to bring seeds so that life could be sustained in the next world. Seeds could not be kept in just any jar, for they would die. They need to be kept in the magic earth basket which keeps the seeds from dying and the seed never runs out. When seed is planted and tended there is always more and it never runs out. The earth makes seeds like the “Magic Penny” of the children’s song. They more you plant, the more you have. The more you share with others, the more that grows everywhere, and everyone shares in the abundance.

Frijol chileno growing in the school garden


Knowledge and understanding are like that too. Knowledge can be stored in books for awhile, but for knowledge to turn to understanding it must be shared and practiced. The more we share knowledge, the more understanding we receive, and the more knowledge there is in the community the more it multiplies and everyone shares in the richness of culture.

When I first came to Costa Rica 25 years ago, I didn’t have much more material wealth than the Costa Rican campesinos. Moving here meant giving up my lucrative job in the US and I didn’t have very much in the bank. One thing I did have was an education which gave me opportunities that the local campesinos didn’t have. I was fortunate to have been born to parents who value education strongly and who chose to live in a state with a good educational system. I had also had the advantage of travel and learning from people in different parts of the world. I realized that this was something I could share with my new neighbors. I found that as I shared my knowledge that I was getting back more than I was giving. The local campesinos who haven’t had much formal education have a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the natural world and skills that I can never hope to acquire. As we share back and forth it becomes a mutual enrichment.

In the Monteverde Friends School we give opportunities to local Costa Rican students to expand their horizons and see themselves in the context of the wider world. We also have students from other places who have the opportunity to get to know the local culture and ecosystem in more depth than they could as tourists. The sharing of perspectives and knowledge enriches all. The only way that this exchange can continue is by providing financial aid to the families that otherwise would not be able to attend the Monteverde Friends School. The 40% of the students who receive financial aid bring an important diversity and perspective to the school. Education is one thing that can be given to a person that no one can take away and that multiplies.

—Carol Evans

Hazel Guindon’s drawing

Hazel Guindon Badilla, class of 2007, currently attends la Universidad Nacional and is studying Arts and Visual Communication, with plans of teaching in the future.

Perspectives from a recent graduate

block print by Richard Joyce

It is said that education is an act of faith.  Teachers do not fully know the impact that they have on students, and students may not realize the ways in which teachers and educational experiences have influenced them until years after the fact.

Similarly, making donations is often requires trust and hope.  While donors have a general sense of where their money is going, we do not know exactly how our donation will play out in the lives of others, especially if we are far away from the recipient institution.

That is why I would like you to consider this photograph.

It doesn’t look like much, does it?

It is a boot print on the ceiling of the Meeting Room.  (And yes, it looks like the ceiling could use a dusting…)  As a child, I spent a lot of time looking up at it during Meeting for Worship.  I don’t know whom the shoe belonged to or even the exact year when the imprint was left on the plank during a work bee.  Gazing up at the boot print, I would think about the hard work and cooperation that communities require and the hundreds of lives that had converged over the decades in this room.  Naturally, I also thought about gravity reversal and how cool it would be to walk on the ceiling…

Other physical marks abound on campus.  The quotes painted on the walls of the colegio English/History/Español/Estudios Sociales classroom.  The hand prints on the underside of the slide on the play structure.  Some, like the boot print, are anonymous.  Others are not.  Really, I think the most important marks are intangible.  The feeling of being important to a teacher.  The knowledge that your classmates are watching out for you.  The effect of immersing oneself in silence and reflection on a weekly basis.  The affirmation that education should transcend barriers of class, language and culture.

The calling of yigüirros and the smell of rain on dust herald the beginning of the rainy season and also remind me that it was almost two years ago that I graduated from the Monteverde Friends School.  Since I graduated in 2009, many people have asked me what sort of school I went to.

“Was it an American school?” they ask.

Sometimes I’m tempted to turn that question around and say, “Of course it is.  Costa Rica is in America, isn’t it?”

However, my standard answer is, “I went to a small bilingual Quaker school.”  It works as a matter-of-fact answer, but fails to capture the essence of my MFS experience.  These are the sorts of things that I actually want to tell them:

  • That from my classroom windows I saw orange-bellied trogans, two-toed sloths, keel-billed toucans, white-faced capuchin monkeys, Hoffman’s woodpeckers and emerald toucanets.
  • That I never called a teacher Mrs. or Mr., and that now, as a sophomore in college, I am friends on Facebook with my first grade teacher.
  • That my readings in high-school included works by Joaquín Gutiérrez, Miguel de Cervantes, William Shakespeare, José Leon Sánchez, Zora Neale Hurston, Eduardo Galeano, Howard Zinn, J.D. Salinger, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chávez, Isabel Allende, Willa Cather, Pablo Neruda, and Carlos Fuentes.
  • That a soccer game does not need to be single-sex or single-age to be competitive and fun.

I’m sure you can think of many other examples that show what makes the Monteverde Friends School extraordinary.  Thank you for following this blog.  Thank you for the marks that you have left on this school and community over the years and the contributions that you have yet to make.  I like to think that there are strands connecting us through place, memory and friendship that are far stronger than any cables connecting our computers.

—Richard Joyce, class of 2009


An Easter reflection from Carol Evans

Carol Evans (MFS mother, grandmother and business manager) spent the night on the balcony of the Buen Amigo albergue and offers this photo and thought:

The view from Buen Amigo at sunrise

The Spirit is always fresh, always new.  Old forms die and change.

“Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.”

I am going to sit in a tree: A Meditation from Monteverde

I am a high school junior from California studying abroad at the Monteverde Friends School.  I have not been here for very long (and will not be staying for nearly long enough) but I have had a truly amazing experience here.

Monteverde is a small town surrounded by nature preserves in the middle of the cloud forest.  It was founded by U.S. Quakers trying to escape the draft in the early 50’s, attracted to Costa Rica because they had just abolished their army.  A small group of predominantly young people left their homes and communities for a country most had never seen with a language they did not speak.  They bought land that was then only sparsely populated, worked for three months to create a road robust enough to carry their possessions over, and set to work clearing land to create dairy farms.  Most would live in canvas tents for the next few years of their lives.  Eventually, Monteverde became a flourishing dairy-based town with its own successful cheese factory.  The Quakers saw the value in keeping some of the rainforest wild, and Wolf Guindon, the father of one of the founding families, helped to create and maintain some of the area’s preserves.  Sixty years ago, the Quakers founded Monteverde Friends School, where I now attend.

When I left my public college prep school in the states for the Friends School, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I was lucky.  I found a challenging and interesting learning environment, excellent teachers, a welcoming community, and some truly beautiful nature.  The workload, while not negligible, has allowed me time to hike almost every day, and to write, sing, play, and dream more than I have in a long while.  I have been challenged in all of my classes, and have been enjoying going to school more than I have since middle school.  The art teacher has inspired me to draw and paint for the first time since eighth grade or so, both in class and independently.  Admission is capped at eight per grade, sixteen per class, so not only do the students form a tight-knit community, the teachers have the opportunity get to act as mentors to their students.  Teachers and faculty have helped me with both academic and personal areas of growth, and are genuinely interested in what I have to say.  Students are kind, intelligent, interesting, and have exposed me to some new viewpoints. The school draws from all over the area, so we are a mixture of the descendants of Quaker settlers, exchange students, and Costa Ricans.  Recent alumni have gone on to the University of Costa Rica, Bowdoin, and Mount Holyoke.  It is truly an excellent school, and it is giving its students excellent opportunities.  I am happy there.

Although the school is private, it is quite generous with its financial aid: in fact, forty percent of the students receive some sort of financial aid.  The money to do this comes from donations to the school.  Because the economy here is largely dependent on tourism, the recessions in the US and Europe have hit the community pretty hard.  That brings us to this fundraiser.

I am currently in the states on college visits, but I will be climbing a giant strangler fig this coming Monday afternoon and spending the night on a platform next Sunday.  Though I’ll admit it takes very little motivation to get me to climb trees and sleep outdoors, I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to help out a school that is enriching my life.  I hate asking people for money, and I realize that most schools all over the world are very much in need of funding, but I am asking you to make a donation, no matter how small, to the Monteverde Friends School.  Doing so will help give a good education to a child in need.

Thank you for your support!

-Katie Leader, 11th grade

Katie in the high school English/History/Español/Estudios Sociales classroom



A comment from Jude Gladstone

View of the Guacimal River gorge from tree platform

“I spent 5 hours in the tree supporting the Monteverde 60th canopy campaign. I’m tearfully grateful to all the energy here for the scholarship campaign.  60 years of educating seeking to raise $60k in scholarship funds. Check it out and donate at We’ve got to continue educating these future stewards of the forest and the planet.”

-Jude Gladstone

Sarah Dowell providing support from the ground


Art auction is active!

Bullpen Leaner, Lucky Guindon

Go to the Art Auction page to place bids for a beautiful drawing by Lucky Guindon and a painting by Stella Wallace.  Check back soon for more artwork by Patricia Jiménez, Sarah Dowell, Paul Smith, and Bertalía Rodriguez!

Flower, Stella Wallace