Sunday, December 28, 2008

Contribution to United Nations Goal #2

This team contributed to "Achieve universal primary education" , by building a new bathroom and the septic tanks for the system. They also cleared the sewage system coming from the kitchen, roofing was put up and a cement walkway built. The grounds were leveled and a composte pile started. Watch the video bellow:

December 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

First December Team's Contribution to UN Millenium Goals

This 21 member team (first team in December 2008) contributed 1184 total work hours to the San Luis Coffee Coop. They helped maintenance at the Coop primary site, coffee picking with the daughters of the Coop members, racking sundried coffee, worked natural composte into the fields, all in a sustainable way.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Costa Rica Tribute to our volunteers...

Dear Volunteers,

The Costa Rica Service Program is held in the Monteverde Region and surroundings, in quite emblematic peaceful villages, where life is simple, where life is taken at a slower pace, tranquility and friendship cherished as the greatest of treasures. Help us make a difference for the kids, the hope of progress and self sufficiency of the cooperatives we serve, like the coffee and arts and crafts coops, the village that now has the first computer room in an elementary school of the region, mini health clinics, gyms, community centers, drainage pipes, thanks to all the volunteers that generously chose to serve in this program.

But there is so much more that needs to be accomplished! One of our villages is even preparing surprises for the volunteers that will come on Independence Day (Sep 15th), the ladies even meeting in their spare time, to design good meals for volunteers whose faces and names are yet to be known but that they trust will sign up to help the village… Help us make the difference in their lifes! They are eager to welcome you and greet you with a smile!

I would like to share my favorite quote from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world …Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”.

Come , visit, serve, leave your “soul-print” in our hearts and land!

Saludos from the Cloud Forest,

Nia Salas
Costa Rica Country Manager

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Interesting links :

Quetzal and hummingbird webcam:

Treehouse Restaurant downtown Sta. Elena:

Satellite image showing monteverde region and Costa Rica

Thursday, April 24, 2008

April 24th, Thursday


We all knew today would be a difficult day as those of us at El Colegio, would be saying goodbye to the students, and Sally to her friends at CASEM. Harold greeted us with today “it is just the details”. This involved a second coat of paint on areas of the classroom and for Dave’s group repair of the accidental hole in the girls bathroom door and completion of sanding of same. All work achieved by morning “receso”. We were treated to the creamiest hot chocolate and then had free time until 12:00. The students were eager to show us their cheese making project and introduced us to the cheese maker. David was particularly, interested in this area due to his farming background and I think that the cheese maker enjoyed talking to someone who understood his work. /we all sampled the delicious mild slightly salty cheese.

We spent the remainder of the time sitting by the pond soaking up the sunshine and chatting with the students. Isaac precariously climbed a tree to pick us all guavas. 5 pigs were pleased to see us but somewhat to our dismay preparation for the sacrifice of one chicken was being made.

The students and staff of El Colegio took us to the Sta. Elena Reserve and after a hot lunch we hit the trail climbing through the most amazing forest to 5,600. Finally we all had a view of the Arenal Volcano from one of the viewpoints. As even better view seen from the precarious climb up the observation tower.

We returned to the party center to complete our goodbyes with speeches from students, staff and volunteers. The school graciously presented us with certificates in recognition of our work to improve the school facility.

We returned to El Colegio where we gave each other another round of hugs and kisses and went in our different directions.

We then went to CASEM to meet Sally. It was clear that staff were very sorry to see her go and presented her with a lovely bag made at the site. The progress Sally has made with learning Spanish there 2 weeks seems she has inspired the staff to tackle English 101 soon.

The work day progressed as usual, pricing, cleaning, and stocking shelves. Monica heard the sweet call of the trogan and we went hunting for it. She said it was the first one she had seen here.

Nia introduced us to a really elegant restaurant “Sofia” a perfect plan to spend our last evening in Sta. Elena. It was a bitter sweet evening. Nia has been an outstanding team coordinator handling her “senior group” with grace. It is going to be like leaving a family member behind when we head home. Wisely or not, at 7:50 am in the morning we are heading off for the Zip line adventure.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wednesday, April 23


Miercoles ,

Another beautiful sunny morning greeted us as we headed out towork. The wind has abated and ceased ripping the roof of the Amanecer. Anita, roger, and the girls painted the audio-visual room a thn coating of teal green while Dave, Jose and Daniel wire-brushed graffiti from the ban/o doors. Dave reported that he and Harold had a nice talk in a combo of espan/ol and anglais while on a trip to the hardware store to buy supplies,

My day was delightful, filled with many laughs and language mix-ups. There was on-going pricing and shelving of the products. The highlight was when lady called on her to translate for a customer. Leidy decided she wanted to learn more. English so then was a practice session after lunch.

After work Ferin drove us to the Monteverde Reserve. On the way, se stopped at Rio Shanti, a sweet little cottage-type shop where Nia’s jwelry is displayed. We also learned it was the oldest house in Mv.

We then walked the beautiful cloud forest trails. We spied toucanettes, several capuccins and a pair of balck guans. Roger barely escaped being bombarded by a black guan, much to our amusement and his obliviousness. We think the guan continued stalking him as we headed down the trail.

Near the entrance to MV was the Hummingbird gallery. The birds were brilliant and busy at the feeders so we watched for a while. They were all mesmerizing.

After a taxi back to the Amanecer and a lovely send-off dinner of chips, guacamole, salsa and rice-chicken we went bar-hopping. Actually we only made it to one bar, that seemed quite sufficient.

It seems today we more then the usually hilarious moments, from Anita’s dog story , her journal remarks, Roger’s close call and Dave curiosity about the well-being of the pigs. Maybe our saying for the day could be “laughter always lightens the load”.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tuesday April 22nd


This was the day for Sally to join us at El Colegio, have a tour of the campus and view our handiwork. She had a close call as Harold mistakenly assigned her to work at our morning meeting.

The teams were put to work completing graffiti removal of the girls bathroom and completion of painting in the boys bathroom. After a quick peak at the elbow grease involved in graffiti removal Nia and Sally made a hasty retreat to CASEM.

Harold halted graffiti removal in favor of painting and by lunch time the bathrooms were completed in well watered blue. The principal dropped in to inspect them and judging from the body language and conversation with Marlen he noted the lack of pigment of the paint. I’m almost certain I caught a slight smile on his otherwise serious face when he saw that the most important piece of graffiti was completely gone, thanks to Rogers special effort (Nia did translate but I’m not putting it in the journal).

The remainder of the day was spent completing the outside wall in the usual 2 tones with precisely scheduled breaks. The gold was completed by 2:35 p.m., most of us hoped the day was over us we washed brushes. However Harold had other plans informing us that we have 25 minutes left –the paint was ready- so the terracotta on the remainder of the wall. All the students pitche din and we surprised ourselves by finishing the job at 3:00p.m. exactly. Harold in his best English told Roger as we walked for debriefing that he was very happy.

The day for Sally and Nia was varied-some work and observation of workshops of bookmaking techniques and painting classes. All made for an interesting day. A side trip to the Quaker school to drop off Catalina and pick-up Fiorella, broke up the day they werevery excited to spot a mot-mot en route.

We all watched the sunset at the Atardecer with wine and snacks, that was followed by yet another fabulous supper from Irene. Traditional stew plate-picadillo de papaya verde.

We completed the evening discussing as to wether we were all up to the challenge of the zip line before we leave Monteverde!

Anew student Christian worked with us today!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday April 21

Thought of the Day-Roger
"The true secret to giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent as to whether it is taken or not and never persist in trying to set people right." Hannah Whitall Smith.


Monday morning, back to work day, dawned beautifully. Very little wind last night. A nice breakfast with eggs hit the spot. Roger read us a great report on the weekend and we were off.

The school strike was still on, but a lot of students were around. Harold sent Isaac and I to work on the door and Anita and Roger to clean walls before painting.

Lumber was found in the storage building next to the pigsty where we saw a mother duck with one duckling; the cow man caught the duckling and presented him to me, but I didn’t want too much to do with him because he had been swimming in the tilapia pond! We got our lumber and left!

Doormaking was sort of slow and so was graffiti removal. After lunch things picked up a bit and we went to the bank and book store. I managed to finish the door, although it didn’t get painted very well, and Roger and Anita managed to get some painting done.

Harold seemed to be happy with our work, so I guess our day was satisfactory. When we got to CASEM and picked up Sally, we walked back to the Ranario(frog pond). It was quite extensive with many interesting exhibits of frog habitats in miniature. Glass frogs, poison arrow frogs, cane toads, blue jean frogs and of course, the red-eyed tree frog of Cr. Our guide Alex was very knowledgeable and sharp eyed. How did he find all those “guys”?

We were all kind of tired when we got back but a quick shower and supper did wonders. Thanks to Nia for helping Sally and Dave with everything.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Saturday and Sunday 4/19 and 4/20

Roger Withrington

At last the weekend and a couple of days free of thin paint! We had booked ahead to see Arenal Volcano, and spend the night in La Fortuna. And so it was that after the usual excellent breakfast, we picked up our lunches packed in neat cloth baggies and headed off down the road. What a journey it was on rough roads down to the lake into La Fortuna. The views were beautiful as the van wound its way along the rugged hillsides. We bounced along over rocks, potholes and parts of the road made slippery and muddy by rain over the last few days. However, the driver was very good and we made it to the lake without incident. The trip across and down Lake Arenal was equally splendid as we paralleled the shore and spotted egrets and some other birds. The last leg over the dam and down to LA Fortuna on a surfaced road was smooth.

Alas; Volcan Arenal was hrouded in clouds and La Fortuna was humid and wet. No to be deterred, we took a walk around town noting the beautiful gardens and spotting a restaurant and a bakery for dinner and breakfast to come. Back at the hotel we ate our packed lunches and then rested up for a couple of hours before the tour to Arenal that started at 3. After picking up some additional people, we headed round from the East to the west side of the volcano where the 1968 and subsequent eruptions devastated the village of Arenal. Entering the Arenal Preserve, our driver spotted some toucans and our guide stopped the bus for us to have a good look. Thus started the spotting game as we headed to our destination that was a sclose to the volcano as allowed (about 2 kms). Our guide gave us a good history of it’s volcanic activity and then took us on a trek through the rainforest. He was very knowledgeable and ew saw many more birds, spider monkeys and plants including the traveling palm. We then headed for the best location for viewing volcanic activity and waited patiently for the sun to go down so we could see the expulsion and flow of red hot lava. Alas, the cloud teased us by rising up and falling back around the mountain. However, Anita refused to give up and obstinacy paid off as we saw a trickle red run below the clouds for a few seconds. That lava flowed so low emphasized the danger of the volcano for us.

The tour ended with a visit to the hot springs at Baldi. Dave, Roger and Anita downed their bathing suits and enjoyed the luxury of the different pools and waterfalls, all at different temperatures. We resisted the temptation of bars in set-up to serve drinks in some of the pools and finally caught a taxi back to the Choza Inn. We had a good beer and dinner at the Cascade restaurant. Then fully relaxed, hit the sack hoping for a clear on Sunday.

Alas!Alas! It’s Sunday morning, it is pouring with rain and the clouds are even lower. So, having common thoughts, we decided to take the early bus back to Sta. Elena and enjoy the afternoon there. The rain eased off as Sally, Anita and Roger headed to the bakery where we bought freshly baked cheese breads, croissants, empanadas and juice for breakfast. Then it was the return trip, just as adventurous as the previous day’s. The boat trip was longer as the pilot and guide went into some coves and did some extra bird spotting for us, while taking up the time for vans to come down to the lake on the Sta. Elena side. The ride up the bumpy road was just as beautiful; had some extra muddy bits and we arrived back at our hotel by noon. How nice it was to have the wind back, and here the sun was shinning.

After a brief rest, we went into town for lunch and then had a most enjoyable hike in the reserve ecologica. We didn’t see much more wildlife, but the path was very picturesque with some good workouts, tangled tree formations and incredible armies of leaf cutter ants. Towards the end of the trail were some unusual plants-the one not to be touched as Dave found out to his detriment.

On the way back to the Hotel we had a delicious ice cream. Getting back just before 6, it was time to shower, have dinner and learn that Nia had a relaxing weekend puttering about and getting the things she needed to do out of the way.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday April 18th

Nia Salas

Because our group is scarce in members yet not in quality, the overall consensus was that the team leader should write one journal. Since I am clearly outnumbered, I have agreed, to avoid “mutiny on the mountain”.

Today, at CASESMCOOP, Sally teamed up with Rosie for a day of reprising crafts into colones and other inventory duties for future input into the coop’s new management computer program. Of course, she continued her very conscientious tico/English glossary along side Catalina’s playfulness.

At the other side of Sta. Elena, the Colegio Team arrived in the morning briefing. Two new members joined Jose and Christopher. Yesterday, Anita managed to persuade Harold to paint a second coat in Maricela’s ecotourism room. I was rather impressed, since Harold has an immense belief in the limitless expansion capabilities of water paint. I suppose he thought it wise for the school as well as marital longevity.

Roger and Anita were geared up with rollers and brushes. The Silvia and Marlen sister team was left “on the middle line” detail duty with Christopher.

Dave was teamed up with the guys; Greivin, Jose and Isaac. Somehow, Dave managed to make some progress despite Isaac insisting to use our only ladder to paint the teacher’ s lounge light blue.

During lunch break the Colegio Team headed to town for the ATM. Since that didn’t work. I translated the withdrawal process for Dave at the cashier. Too many receipts to sign. We caught a glimpse of Don/a Nery’s daughter working at the bank.

Roger patiently waited outside to inform us Anita had headed to Chunches bookstore. A brief expedition inside the store, through paintings and books was lead. There Anita was inspired by the inscription on the back of a book left by the previous reader, I think more the the book itself.

We headed back to the Colegio, back wall painting…top last. A recess and a “waiting for wet paint to dry “ period was combined to continue our ongoing good will fooseball tournament. Lots of player substitutions, and a final score of England 3 CR 2, or lack of coins, ended the session. We headed back to finish the wall. After work, we picked up Sally the afternoon walk, through most of Cerro Plano’s art gallery district, of course, after a coffee stop at Paseo de Stella. Realizing the time we quickly headed for dinner where we toasted Sally and Dave’s 44th wedding anniversary…y muchos mas!

Most went to bed shortly after , a long work week was finished and a greatly anticipated Arenal combo visit waits in the morning. Bon Voyage!

P.S. I hope these are interesting characters and the author was not to full of herself.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thursday April 17th


We were greeted our first morning rain as we were shuttled to our worksites. At the Colegio more painting was done, although the quality of the work is in question. There was a minor issue of “to thin” or “not to thin” and the thinning won out. Nia surprised Sally at Casem about 11:30 am where we went to work on sorting cd’s, pot holders and other items. Sally also put CASEM stickers on the very useful recycled bags used for purchases. Catalina was Sally’s helper most of the morning, as well. Lunch was a wonderful “olla de carne” prepared by Rosie.

After work we took a wonderful walk in “Bajo del Tigre”, part of the Children’s Eternal Forest. Roger was the first to meet up with a “wild animal”, an agouti, which came wondering across a path. Next Anita spotted a coati, which was following us. Rounding a corner, Dave spotted several capuchin monkeys who delighted us with their leaping from tree to tree. We soon reached the Mirador, a beautiful look out spot, for a rest and a photo taking session. Twilight and all the lovely insect noises followed us back. We were totally surprised when Roger saw a toucan, a huge one. Our last sighting was a pair of mot-mots which ended our quite incredible Cloud Forest walk.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wednesday, April 16th

After a very windy night with a drop in temperature we woke to find the most beautiful rainbow. Amazingly, it did not appear to be raining but nevertheless, a beautiful low arc was visible across a large exposure of the clear sky. However, if we looked behind us the lush forest was clouded in a soft foie rain, called locally “pelo de gato”. Apparently the USA is blamed for the cold front moving in. We were soon on our way to work.

Those of us at the Colegio, were divided into two groups. Roger and I to work with the girls for the day Marlen and Sylvia. Unfortunately, Jessica had a sore throat so she stayed home. David assigned to work with Alonso, Isaac, and Greivin.

The plan for our group was to paint over the graffiti in the breezeway in colours (gold and terracotta) to match the school building. The first major task was to open the large plastic can of paint. Many opinions were offered and many attempts made but it was not until “Superman contractor David” arrived with just the right tool that the lid popped off. Line was needed to separate the two colors gold above and terracotta below. Making a straight line with masking tape over a long surface has its challenges. After several wobbly attempts Super David once again came to our rescue. Lines exactly plummet to tape measure specifications. Finally, David could get on with his assigned tasks while we started covering the graffiti. Quickly all those comments good or bad in Spanish or English along with romantic words and little hearts disappear beneath rollers and paintbrushes.
David’s group patched and painted the Religion room. David repaired some large holes in the wall using his carpentry skills cutting to size replacing board of various shapes and sizes.
Work was started in painting the room blue. It was a satisfying day for both teams a breezeway was almost completed and approved by our quality control manager Isaac, from David’s group. The religion room had its much needed repairs completed.

Sally had a busy day at Casem and in light moment was able to get a glimpse into the lives of the members over the coffee break and chatter. Catalina, Fiorella, the grandchildren of Nery, added an extra spark to the day.

Due to the horizontal rain we decided to defer our trip to the Children’s Eternal Forest in favor of hot chocolate and pastry at the coffee shop opposite CASEM.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tuesday April 15th

After a howling windy night, we awoke to a bright sunny day and another beautiful breakfast. Ferin, our driver, picked us up for our long ride to the Colegio, and took Sally off to CASEM. We met Harold our leader on the veranda and took us to the classroom where we got organized Paul, the headmaster, welcomed us and gave us a little historical info about the holiday just past.

Harold then introduced us to Sylvia, Jessica, Marlen, Greivin, Isaac, and Alonzo, showed us what we were going to be doing and then took us on a tour of the school grounds. They showed us their greenhouse where they were going to be planting to maximize oxygen production. A winding trail led us through the school forest to the outbuildings where pigs and chickens were being raised. Passing the tilapia pond we came to the cow barn and were informed about the milk operation.

Harold then sent us to the tourismo and ecology classroom to clean walls and floor and to get it ready to paint. When we finished that we had lunch at the school soda, rice, beans, and spaghetti with an oatmeal drink.

After lunch we were assigned the task of cleaning the tool room. Because it was located besides the chicken coop, it was very dusty. We hauled everything out and dusted it off, then replaced it. It went well except we spilled a container of old motor oil and I went all over the floor. With the aid of a hose and some brooms we managed to get things under control. Only ran into one scorpion.

Moving on we tackled the ban/o walls with water brushes and elbow grease. Not much graffiti was removed but maybe we can paint over it. Our day ended with a trip back to the Amanecer. Sally and Anita took a long walk and we dined on shrimp.

At CASEM, Sally cleaned the store and learned about the various items there. She met Patricia, one of the founders, who was mounting paintings.

Monday, April 14, 2008

April 14th

Monday-Our first holiday, and what a busy day. Up bright-eyed and bushy tailed at 7 we had a good breakfast of fruit, juice, granola and eggs. Then we were off on Nia’s tour of Sta. Elena that gave us a good orientation to the village and its surroundings. We were surprised by the variety of cheeses made at the small cheese factory, and ended the tour sipping coffee and hot chocolate at a delightful cafĂ© whose walls are covered by the paintings of Ellen Wallace a now 80 year old local British artist. We next had a most enjoyable introduction to CASEM, the women’s arts and crafts cooperative. Neri, the director, gave us an excellent talk on how they started illegally in 1982 meeting in a house and sometimes lying to their husbands on where they were legal and had moved into the building they now occupy. They had big economic problems after merging with a coffee cooperative that promised not to mortgage CASEM’s property. But they did, ran into debt and could not pay the mortgage. They were able to slave off collapse using all available reserves and dug themselves out of the hole. In the process they separated from the coffee coop, are in effect buying their property twice, and overcame strong anti-women sentiments from the men that sometimes led to divorce. Today they are fairly stable and have gone a long way to being accepted by the men. The coop has 90 members. The price of their goods is set by the member who made them. 10% of the sale goes to the mortgage and 25% to the CASEM leaving 65% for the member. The visit ended with an excellent lunch prepared by Monica- the renowned cook of CASEM.

The afternoon was spent at the Sta. Elena Reserve where we had a guided native tour in the cloud forest. First up was a white nose coati and then a semi-domesticated peccary. Alias Charlie the pesky pig, the peccary trailed with us much of the way. Much time was spent bird spotting our guide, Henry, was excellent pointing out a :
Fresciated tiger head
Three wattle bell bird
Purple throated mountain gem
Red faced spine tail
Black guan
Resplandescent quetzal
Slate throated skate
Three stared warbler
Yellow thighed finch
Ochracheus wren
Black faced solitude

It was a great experience and we greatly enjoyed the hike.

Cocktail hour was at our sister hotel where we sipped wine, dined on avocado and cheese and watched the sun go down creating wonderful red streamers in the sky. Dinner again was so much better than expected and well fed, we walked back to our hotel by 8.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

April 13 , 2008


After a delicious outdoor breakfast on the patio at our hotel, Orquideas in Alajuela we had a group meeting. We talked about team traits and decided we were going to be a good one.

We left for Santa Elena after lunch, driving on the Pan American Highway until Sardinal when we turned to heas north up the mountain slope. After a few kilometers of pavement, the road turned to dirt and it was slow going, our driver, Abel, was great and very careful so we survived the many curves, boulders and harrowing edges. We arrived in Sta. Elena about 4:00pm under still-sunny skies, for which we were grateful. We are staying at the Amanecer Hotel, a lovely place, filled with wood everywhere. Our hosts Irene, her mother Rosa and daughter Karla. We took a quick walk around our new town while Nia dealt with the bad news of a teachers’ strike which may potentially interfere with our work at the high school. Lots of ideas are being tossed about as substitutes, as well as some suggestions that 3 of us simply go touring about the country while Sally works. Vetoed by Sally, after a lovely dinner, we settled in upstairs for a second meeting, sharing our personal goals for our stay.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday, Febuary 22, 2008

Trip highlights by Sue:

Even though we’ ve shared many of the same goals, challenges and joy of achievement, each of us has experienced a personal moment that is especially memorable-

Christina: is pleased about her ability to do the demanding physical labour, requiring strength and endurance.

Dennis: was thrilled when Elvin work site coordinator greeted him with “Muy Bien!!” –a job well done.

Jean: also felt that sense of achievement but especially enjoyed our time-out at the “Tree house” sharing our personal stories among us and our Costa Rican acquaintances

Mary Ann: is pleased about a “first for her- mixing buckets of concrete with a shovel!

Michelle: hoped to see monkeys so, when she fed bananas to them, this close interaction exceeded her expectations by far!!

Nia, our team leader, will never forget how we cheerfully walked up the steepest hill when our van was too overloaded to make it. She had a premonition then that we would be a very good team. We all hoped so!

Sue’s highlight is hearing Dona Nery’s “story” of growing in esteem, confidence and independence through membership in CASEM.

Mostly we all learned from each other Pura Vida!

Friday February 22th, 2008

Thought of the day:
"Don’t be ungrateful for what we don’t have, but be thankful and share what we do have. Last but not least have a safe trip."

Journal: Dennis

Knowing it was our final day we ate a hardy breakfast and then it was off to CASEM (Mary Ann, Sue, and Michelle) and Cebadilla (Jean, Christina, Emily and Dennis). At Cebadilla the first day assignment (erect 3 flag poles) was started and completed. The orangie brown wall was repainted with what turned out to be pink. At CASEM they priced all day to complete as much as possible. At both locations there were touching ceremonies and farewell gifts for volunteers. All but Christina went to a great tour of a coffee, banana and sugar cane plantation wile Christina enjoyed a well earned massage. That evening we had a farewell dinner at TRAMONTI.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tuesday Feb 19, 2007

Thought of the day - Jean: "Live now. Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again."

Journal Michelle:

For those of us at CASEM, Sue Mary Ann and myself, we had a very exciting start of the day. When we arrived there were several monkeys looking for food. The owner of the grocery store was putting out his fruit for sale which attracted the animals> I bought 3 bananas and literally handed a banana to each one. It was amazing! They sat on the roof while they ate and everyone took photos.

The rest of the day consisted of changing prices from dollars to colones. I did speak with a man from Pennsylvania who was with an elder hostil group.

The group at Cebadilla wire brushed more walls of the building next to the school. Jean painted the door to the lunchroom. A couple of boys backed up into the wet paint by accident. In the afternoon, Elvin’s daughter, Elliet, told the crew it was too windy to paint so they started to shovel and more dirt to another area.

After work, the group from Cebadilla came to CASEM to shop. Some of us had coffee and pastries across the street at Stella’s Bakery.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Monday February 18, 2008

"Thought of the day: We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." ~ Winston Churchill.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Feb 15, 2008

Journal: Dennis

We all enjoyed another wonderful breakfast at the hotel. Then with a planned assignment change with Emily and Mary Ann we were off to the work site Cebadilla and CASEM. It was a pleasant surprise (when Christina and Dennis were being driven all the way to the work site. A bigger surprise came when Jean, Mary Ann and Nia joined in the fun of mixing cement, rocks and sand with shovels on the ground. The concrete was then carried in buckets to be placed in the forms with welcomed help from their local volunteers, who were in fact in charge. A ride to Marlene’s house was very much appreciated where we had a very tasty and nourishing lunch. Afterwards, we walked back to the work site where three more young ladies had been added to the work force. More concrete work, I was concerned about not finishing, but was assured everything was ok. Avery tired crew returned to the hotel.

Michelle did pricing. Sue was busy placing items in their proper place. The sidewalk work was continued by others. After a fulfilling lunch Emily and Michelle walked over to the gallery.

That evening we had a meal prepared by the hotel, which we took with us up to Nia’s house where we enjoyed a great view of the Gulf of Nicoya and of the many islands and of we took a couple of sunset photos. After dinner and a house tour we returned to the hotel.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Thursday February 14th, 2008

Thought of the day: "To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts." ~ Henry Thoreau.

Journal: Mary Ann
Mary Ann, Sue, and Michelle went to CASEM on a windy and rainy day. They were still having breakfast when we arrived, so we went upstairs to the classroom. Ileana said we needed to change prices from $ to colones, so the 3 of us spent most of the day sorting and reprising t-shirts and t-shirts. Michelle helped at the checkout as they were very busy with customers. We had another tasty lunch of stew, salad, rice, vegetables and cake. Dennis and Christina continued working on the retaining wall at the drainage ditch. Jean and Emily were painting at the school in Cebadilla at right Jean, Emily, Sue, and Michelle went on a night walk, while Dennis and Mary Ann went to Moon Shiva for a valentine’s dinner.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thought of the day:
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." ~ Unknown.

Journal: Michelle
Today was a fairly easy day (for some of us at least). Sue and I organized and priced a new shipment of t-shirts for CASEM. While merchandising, we both made sales to English speaking customers. That was exciting –instant gratification. Meanwhile, Mary Ann was outside helping with the sidewalk. She shovelled gravel of cement. Her and the other workers finished half of the sidewalk. I am planning on helping at least a little tomorrow.

At Cebadilla, the crew continued painting the fence and wall. Christina finally talked Dennis into letting her help. Apparently, she has become a pro at removing nails. She was continuing to work on her goal of wetting.

Five of us, including Nia, went to see “Little Miss Sunshine”. We all thought it was funny. That was a good end to a good day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Thought of the day-Jean
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." ~ Unknown.

Journal -Christina
Today the four of us who went to the village- Jean, Emily, Dennis and I- were separated by sex. Dennis was taken to shovel mud to form a concrete retaining wall at the aquaduct. We heard as we trekked to the home of a villager for lunch that it is arduous work- the mud is heavy and there are rocks that must be dislodged with a prybar.

We stopped briefly at the one-room school, we were introduced to the class of primary school children, mostly boys. Their desks are grouped by grade; the same man teaches all grades. We understood that, on Thursday, one of us will spend some time teaching English.

From there, we returned to the building which houses the lunchroom with kitchen at one end. For the first two days of school, the children have been dismissed for the day at lunchtime, so we´ve been using the room as our base.

The kitchen faucet had been dripping steadily on Monday. No amount of turning the knob would make it cease. So, I got a large pot and put it under to catch the drips. Periodically, I transferred the accumulation to an enormous pot. The rabid environmentalists among us could not bear to see the loss of water and not do anything to rectify it. On Tuesday, there was a steady stream flowing, so the water accumulated faster than the pot could be emptied into the enormous one. This effort is a “drop in the bucket”. We use the accumulated water to flush the toilet which is in a closet adjacent to the kitchen.

Jean headed to the chainlink fence with a woman from the community where they began painting it something akin to silver Rustoleum. Emily and I were destined to MORE wire brushing, this time, it was to remove paint from the exterior of the cinderblock school. Our “ladder” was two desks with three boards of varying widths.

After “lemonade break”, the only officially-sanctioned break- I took others to consult my English/Spanish dictionary- Emily joined the fence-painting, making it now a CREW. Umberto and I, wordlessly at first, continued wire brushing. Presently, he began to speak to me in Spanish. I, of course, was without my dictionary, but gamely tried to reply to his questions.

By the end of the afternoon, we had completed painting one side of the school and 14 sections of fence. I am not certain WHAT Dennis did at the construction site, but it was arduous. At lunchbreak, I tried volunteering to join Dennis, who declined my offer. Since I know about his activities in the women´´s movement, I am not certain that he rebuffed me because he believed I can´t do the work. It is possible that he thought I shouldn´´t slog around in mud wearing shorts, which is what I was wearing before I started to paint.

One of my goals for the time I am here is to expend enough effort that I SWEAT . Michelle, Sue, Maryanne returned to Casem but they didn´t fill potholes today. I was told that Maryanne wheelbarrowed and the others did helpful things indoors at the coop.

If I am going to work off any of the good food I am consuming, I will have to persevere at persuading Dennis that I will be an asset, rather than a hinderance because she injures herself!

Christina - veteran of January 12-23, 2007 Global Volunteers Costa Rica Team in Los Tornos and First Global Volunteers Team to Australia (CAMU in Kennedy), Feb.-March 2004.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Monday, February 11, 2008

Thought of the day-Dennis
From the Tommy Sands (Irish) song The Last Irish Rose an eye for an eye until everyone is blind “says what is hopping in many places today. In contrast what we do here today may help break that cycle through love and understanding.

Today was the first day of immersion our respective sites. Five of us headed to Cebadilla for our project at the local school. The community and previous Global Volunteers had nearly completed the lunch room, a spacious, airy building next to the one room school which as of today and the beginning of a new school year has 19 students. I varnished baseboards and moldings for the interior of the new lunch room. Scraping the rusted chain link fence was the major and most difficult job.

The wind was blowing very hard and Dennis washed on the back site, mostly on a ladder, Elvin. In the afternoon Emily joined me inside to avoid the sun which by lunch was taking its toll on her and red was definitely her color. We finished two coats of varnish on the boards and if I understood correctly, we will be painting a school house wall ma/nana.

Lunch was delightful and delicious prepared by the local team leader’s wife. Ileana played the guitar, this children and grandchildren came in and out and his cute little black dog eyed us from just outside the front door. She, “lint” in English has three puppies just eight days old and cute as can be.

The CASEM group moved a “mountain” of dirt with shovels and pick axes loaded the wheelbarrow, this became pothole specialists in a morning.

They, too, had a sumptuous lunch prepared on site by the CASEM chef and her helpers. They the Global Volunteers readily asked to do kitchen duty to delay finishing their pothole project. Then saved by Nia, work lessened, coffee was served and work was suspended for the day.

All in all it was a very good first day. We had fun conversing with words, gestures and laughter and actually got quite a bit done thanks to Elvin and Ileana who were organized and ready for us.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Thought of the Day-Mary Ann
"A tree is known by it’s freight, we by our deeds. A good deed is never lost: one who sows courtesy reaps friendship and one who plants kindness gathers love." ~ Saint Basil.


The cackling chicken announced the arrival of a warm sunny day in Alajuela. Our eight member Global Team, the 174th in Costa Rica, led by Country Manager, Nia Salas, gathered for a “tropical breakfast” prepared and served by our hosts, Robert and Alexandra formerly Canadian, now owners of La Rosa de America.

Our team is youthful 18-40+; while four of us are a bit more “seasoned”; we too are young in spirit! We started to “bond” even before Nia, effectively and efficiently, guided us through team building activities. As she reviewed Global’s philosophy of service –“Waging peace and promoting justice” she reminded us that “we are catalyst and our work is a vehicle”. Here in Costa Rica, we will first build relationships with our hosts, then we’ll begin the tasks they assign to us.

Many of us are in very early stages of learning the Spanish language and appreciate the magic phrase “pura vida” (literally pure life) which can be used in many situations, trusting we could absorb more though, Nia reviewed basic phrases as well as some “Costa Rican Spanish”.

Three of us will help at CASEM and our construction team of five will be at Cebadilla. After our “casado” lunch (every meal is a feast), Eric, our driver, arrived to load us and our luggage in his Mercedes van. With most luggages on top, safely secured with a bright green tarp we piled in eagerly anticipating our four hour ride to Santa Elena. We took the scenic route since all roads to S.E. are scenic. We began to gently ascend to the 4500 feet altitude paradise near the famed cloud forest via Aguacate mountain (all road trips in CR involve mountains). And we feasted again-this time a feast of nature: waves of green sugar cane, pochote(orange blooming trees) guachipelin (yellow blooming trees); the veraneras-summer flowers in magnificent iridescent hues; mango and plantain trees to name a few, sprinkled among lush and various shades of green vegetation where lean cows (like goat-cows) graze on the steep hillsides.

As the roads grew steep, and two attempts to make it up the steepest stretch, Eric announced there was too much weight so we opted to walk and leave the luggage intact. Even the Gail-forced winds didn’t bother us much since we spotted our first rainbow and had the sun-washed gulf on one side and the cloud forest on the other-Eric waited at the top of this “wicked stretch” of road.

The last 22 km. are white, super dusty and rocky-rugged is an understatement! And we were rewarded as we got our first glimpse of Santa Elena at sunset and a refreshing drizzle called “pelo de gato” (hair of the cat). The crowning glory of this journey occurred when we were very warmly welcomed by Irene, Karla and Rosita into their charming “chalet” hotel and a delectable meal. Our rooms are cheerful and the ever constant wind will lull us to sleep. After a very short discussion and review of our schedules it was very “early to bed” for all, to dream about all we’ve learned today-C.R.’ s beauty is unsurpassed, and it’s culture, food, drink and economy – have all , it’s wonderful people.