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.