Thursday, December 31, 2009

December 31, 2009

Quote of the day
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
-Mahatma Ghandi-

I knew that Wednesday was going to be one of those days where everything just goes your way. After two days of in depth analysis I finally figured out how to get hot water working in my shower. Once again Grace came through at breakfast and we got shuttle service at the hotel. Although I was disappointed not being able to climb down and up Mount Saint Elena the weather on Wednesday just couldn’t have been better.

At the work site the team showed that it could do it all: indoor painting, outdoor painting, lunch preparation, cinder block moving, path reclamation and thanks to Amanda we even do window frames. I wasn’t even too worried when a pile of gravel magically appeared on the front lawn. I now know that anything can be accomplished when have a lot of Costa Rican pancakes/ arapetas. It seemed like the local people were getting more comfortable with us and our translators; Heidi, Kellie and Emeline were worth their weight in gold in helping us connect to our hosts. Unfortunately I now owe Zeke thirty million colones and will have to flee the country at the end of the week. As usual during the course of the day the hummingbirds put on quite a show.

After the workday ended the team disbursed to walk the canopies of the cloud forest, hang out in Santa Elena or try ziplining through the rainforest. Personally I felt some trepidation as we began the zip line adventure but I wasn’t going to lose face in front of: Devin, James, Zeke, Megan and Kathleen who led the way. I’d also have to say that our team of guides couldn’t have been any nicer. Now because I suspect some of you are going to try this at home lets do a quick zipline review session…

1) Grab the harness tightly with the left hand
2) Put you right hand back over your head, cradle the line but don’t touch it unless you want to break
3) Cross your legs in front of you
4) Lean back
5) Stick your head out to the left and try not to look down.

It doesn’t sound very difficult but on the first 650 meter run over a gorge I had an extremely bad moment. I wanted to chicken out but that Mark Twain Quote had followed me around all day so I pushed off. As the tress fell away and I felt the crosswinds panic set in! Then I remembered that no matter where I was and what sort of trouble I was in Nia had to come and rescue me. Welcome to another day in Costa Rica

-Jim –

Monday, December 28, 2009

December 28, 2009

Millennium Development Goals:
Total of 864 hours.

Repainted the Casa Club community social centre, built a bathroom and septic system, dug out the sidewalk from mudslide, dug the culvert for it, redid the front garden , put up cement wall for window garden, weeded cement garden pots , cut down branches from trees that hovered over the ceiling of Casa Club, chopped for wood use.

Painted window metal grids, painted inside walls and ceiling the kitchen, and all outside walls installed new chimney for the kitchen.

Cas Club is used for community affairs, meetings and orphanages in the country will use it as a vacation venue for kids.

Quote of the Day:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled and that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken

What a glorious first day!

We started off with a breakfast call at 6 am-early rise which we will have to get used to.

After a hearty breakfast we walked to the bus—waited for a short period and then was off to our first day at Camitas.

After introductions with the representatives of the town, with a description of some history, Nia oriented us to the town by giving some history of past Global Volunteers projects – what accomplishments! We cannot forget --delicious coffee was a part of this orientation.

In this town there are 250 people, 50 families with a doctor that visits 2-3 days every couple of weeks.

After the elders of the town had a team meeting to decide on work projects for the day the group started out by getting some supplies required for our first day activities.

We started the day by weeding and cutting trees. Working in a matched labor environment one of the local people came with a chain saw and cut the part of the tree over the social club.

Then we went to work with machetes in order to cut the large branches into smaller bits to pile a mile high in various locations.

Lunch was delicious with an after lunch soccer game played by the younger members of the group and a walk to the local store.

After lunch we painted the side of the club house with great energy and completed the one side of the building in one hour flat. Great teamwork!
Cleanup took sometime as many of us had paint all over and then we were back to the bus and to the hotel. A rest period turned into a goal meeting and a tasty dinner.

The end of a great first day!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December 8, 2009

Millenium Development Goals:

One 45 year old one-room schoolhouse rebuilt 2 walls, ceiling and roof in the village of Cebadilla, Guanacaste. A total of 840 hours of work on the school room including scraping and painting, weeding and digging culverts around the area. Kids will find a new school room when they head back to school this February!

The day dawned bright and sunny. From our vantage point in the breakfast room, we could see the rolling hills and lush greenery nearby down to the Gulf of Nicoya (if my limited geography is right). By the second day, we have become old hands at the routine: load up on protein, caffeine and guava jelly before tumbling into the van to Cebadilla. Upon arriving at the school, we were greeted by our stalwart crew: Senor Elbin, Geovanny, Gerardo and Big Henry. One of the day’s main tasks was to dig trenches around all the school buildings to improve drainage and prevent flooding. Aaron showed a strong affinity for ditch excavation, ably assisted by Dana Calvin and Jordan. Loriann, Carolyn, Laura and Ashley cheerfully tackled the pile of metal ceiling beams, serenading us with show tunes while they sanded off the rust. After an initial foray into weeding, Roberto, Dana Beth, Jenny and Austin began sanding and stripping the paint from one side of the school, in preparation for repainting. Actually, “sanding” is an imprecise term, given the variety of tools we used – parts of concrete blocks, wire brushes, garden trowels and one actual paint scraper (the trowel turned out to be the most useful, though none of us achieved the level of results of our local colleague). In general, tools are used in more varied and flexible ways than our superspecialized hardware stores would imagine – a machete can not only chop weeds and grass, but pry open paint cans and even removed louvered window frames.

Mid-morning, we took a break to learn from Elbin and Nia about the process for obtaining [local] project financing. Elbin had assembled a dossier listing proposed tasks, broken out in detail the materials needed for each, with an architect’s renderings and evidence of the need for the work, This had to be approved by the school committee, the district council, municipality, and national development agency, as well as the education ministry (because it owns the school). The approval process took a mere two years – for the enormous sum of 7,000 USD. Clearly the tradeoffs between accountability and efficiency are just as tricky in Costa Rica as in the U.S.!

We enjoyed another delicious lunch at the home of Elbin’s eldest son (maiz con chayote, arroz, frijoles negros, pasta and watermelon). Throughout the day, we were joined by a rotating succession of men and boys from the village. We’re also developing cautious friendships with a number of local canines: Dog Who Chases Cars, Dog with Hiccups, Dog Who Rides in Wheelbarrow (aka Canela). And Ashley in particular has succumbed to the charms of a plump golden puppy belonging to Elbin’s grandchildren.

Of course, the main development at the work site was when the roof came tumbling down, one rusty corrugated metal sheet at a time. Now it’s not allowed to rain until we get a roof back over the building (ha ha).

As a reward for our labors, we enjoyed a post-work horseback ride across the countryside. The scenery was beyond spectacular, with the fading sun illuminating more plants than we could recognize, including coffee plants and banana trees. All returned from the ride safely, and Jordan’s initial reluctance was more than overcome by a quaff of the locally brewed sugar liquer (practically flammable). And those who opted out of the ride will earn some dividends as well – by being able to sit down tomorrow without pain.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thanks to our Partners in Costa Rica!

Dear Friends,
As we celebrate Global Volunteers' 25th Anniversary in the world and our 18th anniversary in Costa Rica, we share our joy of the contributions made. We also wish to thank the unconditional support of our fellow Host Partners and vendors in the area of Santa Elena and Monteverde. We wish to reiterate our commitment to sustainable development in the context of peace, harmony and collaboration for the benefit of those who need the support of our volunteers en la Santa Elena, Monteverde and surrounding areas. We wish you all peace and ask for more volunteers to work in partnership with us in Costa Rica!

Thank you, Nia Salas
Global Volunteers Country Manager

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Day in the life of a volunteer for APAPNEM

We awoke to the winds – noticeably higher than in the past few days – a bit cooler and mostly cloudy. Rain was expected but little, if any, fell through the day.

Our 7:30 breakfast was generous and delicious, as usual, centered on scrambled eggs.

Barbara and Barbara left for CASEM and the rest of us arrived at the gym before 9:00. Our start-up was leisurely but, when the activity got going, most of us were painting tabletops. Ryan and Dave had their hands full in the afternoon with three young boys. Bernie was drawn away from painting, returning to her weaving project. Bob and Marcotulio were crafting wooden coffee brewer stands and Karen divided her time between needlework and filming of her “documentary”.

Patricia, Edith and Ruth, the resident artists, were busy through the day sketching flowers, plants, birds, frogs and other figures and forms on the tabletops. They are so talented! Their artistry combined with that of the volunteers, both Global and local, transformed the tabletops into beautiful artwork. Really special!

Lunch was great thanks to Chef Enar, who was ably supported by Ryan and several ladies. Spaghetti and a generous salad hit the spot.

I was going to report more on the group’s activities of the day. However, I choose to center much of the remainder on my activity.

Patricia paired me with Yailin, Edith’s 9 year-old daughter, at the beginning of the day. She’s a sweetie, so enthused with the painting we did together. After painting the edges of several tables, we painted a few plant stands. Then John started supplying us with napkin holders – I lost count of the number.

In the meantime we were joined by a smaller girl (or did we join her?). Leslie is 10; she scurried around getting paints, blending them with a talented eye and painting like a pro. She was decorating the pieces with flowers, trees and clouds without hesitation. She must have been painting before she was born.

Yailin and Leslie worked together so well it took the heat off of me. They painted individual pieces and did several joint projects. What a delight! I was content to be an observer and, on occasion, a color and application consultant. But then Leslie assigned me to paint a napkin holder. When I finished mine in red, white and blue, Leslie was quick to point out that these were the colors of the Costa Rican flag. Truly, that was my intent.

It was a full day for me. Those two made my day. I mentioned to Patricia that, if I were looking for more grandchildren, those two would be at the top of my list.

A lively game of “99” closed the day with Barbara H. winning the pot.-Tom M.
A day in the lif of a Volunteer at CASEM-From Journal Jan 13, 2009
We shared lunch with Doña Nery, Marina, Leidy, Monica and Rosie. Marina prepared pasta with a red tomato-meat sauce and green salad with avocado, tomato, cucumber and lettuce. And fresh pineapple for dessert. They like to sprinkle salt on the pineapple to enhance the flavor. During our lunch break we took another short walk ending at the café!

We dusted and arranged wooden sculptures and paintings in the gallery in the afternoon. It is very gratifying to be at CASEM and see the pride they take in their work. In the words of the Impressionist artist, Mary Cassatt, “Women need to be someone, not something.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Summer Opportunities

For the summer we have the possible upcoming projects in the Costa Rica Service Program:

The village of Cebadilla is scheduled to receive funds soon from the local municipality to remodel the one room school house.  The idea is to change the roof, change the windows, paint and re-tile the floors, we will supporting this effort there.

The APAPNEM (Association of People with Special Needs and Elders of Monteverde), is still battling the donation of the land and an opportunity has come up to manage the local cultural site and to use it as storage for APAPNEM's belongings. If this site is given to them for administration them clean-up of the facilities is needed , redoing the lights , collect and store inventory, varnish furniture and continue the building of unfinished crafts to raise funds for the association.

CASEM will be receiving teams to start the digging of the land of second store location on the opposite side of town of the first store, near the Santa Elena Reserve. They hope to "catch" tourists that do not make it to the Monteverde Reserve, the first store serves this last route. The second store will also serve as a depot to collect crafts from the associates, so they can be spared the expense and time of going from remote areas all the way to downtown Monteverde.