THIS IS WHAT RANCHO LEONA LOOKED LIKE:
MY CHILDREN GREW UP AS PART OF RANCHO LEONA
The back side of the original Rancho Leona building is still standing and still crumbling at the edges. When I first went to Sarapiqui, the Rancho’ was a rambling old building; creaky floors; night sounds from crickets, toads, opossum and bats. Amazing frog concerts serenaded us every night; boa constrictors slithered into the kitchen, wrapping themselves along the rafters and it was a nightly adventure just getting to the outhouse and shower. And….nightly adventure just getting to the outhouse and shower.
IT WOULD BE ‘HOME’ FOR A LONG TIME!
ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS BORN!
The Sarapiqui flowed innocently next to the Rancho but could become a raging torrent at a
moments notice. It often came within a cat’s whisker of entereing our kitchen!
Earning a living was not easy in a town like La Virgen de Sarapiqui. You had to be Jack of all
trades. There was no choice but to be entrepreneurs. ECLECTIC at that! In the years to come we
did an assortment of things to stay afloat.
First Rancho Leona was a place to lodge and eat. Eventually it became an international tourist
destination for backpackers, adventure seekers, birdwatchers and ecology lovers. Only very
adventuresome people came to this remote area. A young German brought his kayak, stayed at
the Rancho and was the first to run the Pozo Azul Waterfall. Roger was followed by countless other kayakers in the years to come.
Kayaking down the Pozo Azul Waterfall
Soon my husband, Ken Upcraft, started buying kayaks and developed an easy ‘class one’ trip for
tourists, down the Sarapiqui River. ‘Kayak Jungle Tours‘ began. Experienced kayakers from
around the world started coming to Rancho Leona and bringing their own kayaks. They were
experts looking to kayak the Sarapiqui and other rivers with class 4 and 5 rapids.
We added other services for tourists, making their stay at Rancho Leona memorable. We made
arts and crafts to decorate the old building and offers our products to the guests.
KAYAK JUNGLE TOURS A FLOAT FOR BEGINNERS
I designed the stained glass pieces, T-shirts, and
jewelry (Seeds and Beads). The whole family helped put together the stained glass which
eventually went international. My husband, a master craftsman and musician did the glass work.
Along with running an eco-business, we served great food and provided awesome service to our
collection of international adventure tourists.
COMMUNITY OUTREACH AND TEACHING
Indian legend presented at Selva Verde Lodge
Along with the Rancho Leona business, I became a mentor for the villagers and did a lot of
community outreach. I taught EFL ABOUT LEONA to many of the villagers in Sarapiqui, and later
did theater with students. I wrote plays which involved environmental, cultural and historic
awareness. We had exchange activities with visiting high school students from USA. All this work
was life changing for many of my students as well as community members. As one of my students
I thought Leona’s art classes were the best, like when we went to Doña Elba’s and Mechi’s where
we’d sketch flowers, landscapes and fruit. I especially remember the theater group, and the plays
we did at Selva Verde with the script she wrote about protecting nature…
Cindy Porras, Grecia, Costa Rica Manager, Tamarindo Transfers and Tours
Another student says: “…I think of you often and am so thankful for everything you did for me.
You really inspired me in my love for languages and cultures, which led me to where I am now. So
many kids (now adults) from Sarapiqui have become successful individuals because you believed
in us. I hope I can see you again one day.”
Lorna Fair, Tham Spanish Teacher, Marietta, Georgia
I also wrote and produced a major puppet play for children at risk. The project was sponsored by
‘Fundación Ser y Crecer’ and the play toured all over Costa Rica helping children deal with or
denounce sex abuse.
Additionally, I was a guest lecturer at Selva Verde Lodge for Elder Hostel groups. This was
sponsored by Friends for the University of Peace in Santa Ana, Costa Rica. I would promote the
community to the groups and even managed to get a scholarship for one of my students:
“…I also had the opportunity to go to the States as a Rotary exchange student, which was a life-
changing experience. Thank you, Leona, for helping me not only academically but in every single
way you could. I’ve not had another opportunity like that one with her. But one thing I know, if I
ever have the opportunity to help someone (like you did me), I will!”
~Yazmín Menjivar Miranda, now English teacher at Liberty Christian Academy Costa Rica
My wide experience developing curricula and teaching EFL to biologists, engineers, bankers and
local organizations gave birth to my ‘Deep Roots of English program for which I offer
presentations and workshops as well as my upcoming book to help ESL/EFL teachers worldwide
preserve the world’s bridge language (Lingua Franca). I eventually left Sarapiqui and became an
international lecturer and teacher trainer but I owe a lot of my expertise to my years at Rancho
Leona in La Virgen de Sarapiqui, Costa Rica.
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