HISTORY

THIS IS WHAT RANCHO LEONA LOOKED LIKE:

Backside of Rancho Leona La Virgen de Sarapiqui, Heredia, Costa Rica

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!

the, jungle, of
Breathtaking Sights
river, flood, flooding
Swollen Rivers

 

Swollen Rivers

 

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

 

says:

 

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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