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.