Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Janet joins the joy

The start of a new week, and the team was as busy as ever. Janet started her first day, and Rachel initiated her by joining hands and elbow grease to clean the last of the classrooms from top to bottom (well, not exactly ¨top¨since the ceiling was metal and didn´t need cleaning) and prep some fencing for painting sometime this week. Tina was busy most of the day gathering grass and planting it along with some local volunteers -- pretty much all of it in the middle yard which was dug up and leveled by Taylor last week. And, speaking of Taylor -- he was quite the Renaissance man today! He helped lay rebar and pour cement in the trench he dug last week, gathered up some fencing to be repurposed in the new backyard and many other things way too many to mention.

As has become the custom, the last hours was spent teaching English to the local volunteers -- and some of the local volunteers became teachers themselves when they taught some Spanish to Janet, who has a lot of catching up to do!

And when our work day was over, we got a very special treat when Alex took us to a wonderful family-owned sugar mill. Out of gratitude for the work the team has been doing for San Rafael, we were given a special tour of how sugar cane is made into molasses and how molasses is made into candy -- even got to try a few (or more) bites of it. Yum. After the demonstration, we took a walk through the fields to see the sun set over the bay and the mountains -- an absolutely breath-taking end to another productive and enjoyable day in Costa Rica.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Tina narrates friday's service program and personal weekend activities

Our day began as usual with a lovely breakfast at our hotel and reading of the prior day´s journal plus the quote of the day. We discussed how our teaching was going and compared notes from our prior evening of prep work. The day was cloudy, rainy and overcast and falling before the holiday weekend affected the turnout for work. Several people once again, but not as many as had worked together on Thursday. Xinia continues to be the unofficial jefe who helps direct the work of the group that is present each day. A new San Rafael friend, named Nidia, worked with Rachel and I on cleaning the exterior of the school building, including a thorough scrubbing of the concrete which was covered in many layers of mud and dirt. We wished for a power sprayer, but got along with elbow grease, brushes and enthusiasm instead. Taylor was once again at the rock pile, wheel barrowing and also again working on moving dirt and leveling ground. We also worked hard to clean the drainage area in front of the school. Rachel and Tina crossed the barbed wire fence with shovels in hand to dig a deeper trench to allow water to drain away from the school. It was one of our dirtiest jobs and most physically demanding. As always, Taylor was a big help, wheel barrowing away the final load of rock and soil. Due to the wet and cold morning break featured coffee along with tamales left from the prior day and a hearty lunch was served as well. As we finished our San Rafael day a bit early to allow the local folks time to prepare for the holidays, Rachel, Tina and Taylor spend extra afternoon hours preparing our English lesson materials.

The holiday weekend was a joy for the team of Taylor-Rachel-Tina, as we enjoyed the arrangements Giovanni made for us to hike at the Arenal Volcano and to dine and relax at Valdi Hots Springs on Saturday. The bus-boat-bus trip is lengthy, but fascinating and the Hotel cabinas at La Fortuna were superb...what a lovely landscaping job at that establishment and a very nice restaurant with very kind staff. After Christmas morning breakfast at the hotel, we bus-boat-bussed back to Monteverde on a truly sunny & beautiful day, arriving in time for another fine meal at Mar Inn before dashing off to the Canopy Tour. Although Nia discouraged us from the zipline, we couldn´t resist and the three of us found the experience thrilling! At evening time, we welcomed our newest volunteer, Janet, to the group and shared a lovely Christmas evening meal together. An unconventional holiday for us, but a very memorable one!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Beautiful Rachel inside and out


This morning we were once again greeted with a wonderful breakfast eggs, fresh bread with piña (pineapple) and the breakfast version of rice and beans called gallo pinto (the dotted rooster). We then headed out to San Rafael to meet the rest of the crew, the community, and began to get to work. Today was unlike the rest because Tina, Taylor and I got to work together cleaning out a classroom. Although this my sound simple it is just the opposite. Have you ever mopped the ceiling with a wash cloth and a broom? I don't think so. I might add in on Taylor´s behalf that before the cleaning job he did push the wheel barrel full of earth across the property about 18+ times with some other muchachos in order to prepare the land for a grassy garden area so the kids will have a place to play, which used to be a mud pit because the land floods all of the time. After a wonderful cafè break our day took a bit of an unusual turn in that the volunteers were asked to teach some of the community English. We were broken up into three groups: Tina worked with the adults, Taylor worked with the teenagers, while I worked with the children of San Rafael (who are very smart by the way). I think we as volunteers are learning more from them than they are from us. ¡Pura Vida!

Tired Taylor trends on!

Today was extremely eventful, however it was also exceptionally tiring. We started this morning at 7 with a wonderful breakfast and an always pleasant recap of the previous day via Tina, followed by an inspirational message from John Lennon. After breakfast we packed our packs and took the bumpy 20 minute shuttle ride San Rafael what was suppose to be a day of painting and planting, but boy were we ever wrong. The first half of Rachel and Taylor's day consisted of digging a trench that seemingly extended all the way to china(for drainage not for quick escape). After our early day tasks the entire work team was extremely exhausted so a hardy lunch was required. Once the team had eaten a bountiful lunch we were sent on a mission to get grass from the local high school but were almost immediately sidetracked via an amazing display of ancient clay craftsmanship and a somewhat makeshift game of soccer. Once we got back on track we went to the school to gather the grass in a way none of us had ever seen before....a machete. Once we had enough grass to return back to the primary school we endured our long walk back. We returned back to the Mar inn around 4 pm and were all so exhausted we almost immediately fell asleep. After dinner we all discussed our plan of attack for teaching English to the local San Rafael residents, we in turn actually helped teaches Spanish to the entire team a little better.

Monday, December 19, 2011

On the First Day of Service Program ...my true love gave to me...

We began the day with a hearty breakfast from our hosts at Mar Inn and a crash course in survival Spanish from Nia, followed by a rollicking ride on the rutted dirt road winding northwest to San Rafael. Along the way we stopped twice so that Nia could exchange embraces with townspeople with whom she had worked on other Global Volunteer projects and also to take pictures of the stunning views all around us. At last we disembarked at La Escuela where we were greeted by the project leader Alex, who introduced us to a dozen local volunteers including two Carmens and two Sonias. While Rachel (aka Raquel) and her novio Taylor helped the San Rafael PTA members dig into the earth, hauled heavy fencing and plant grass, Tina cleaned cielings, walls and windows of an elementary classroom. Morning break for incredibly sweet fresh pineapple was followed by a delicious comida featuring beef and an afternoon break of piping hot coffee and amazing hand-made empenadas prepared in la cocina de la escuela. Nia photographed our efforts in minute detail, including our introduction to the coffee-picking out back of the school. The day´s end brought a performance of folkdancing by students in the freshly-scrubbed classroom. On the journey back to Santa Elena we were treated to a rainbow, a view of Nicaragua and a herd of cows crossing the road. A meeting to establish our goals went quickly due to an agreeably cansado[tired] and hungry team. We enjoyed another of Zelmira´s delicious meals and purchased our Holiday weekend tickets from Giovanni. The highlights of the day were many, but I will always remember Carmen´s wisdom: she told us she laughs so that she doesn´t grow old.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rachel starts the team journal

We woke up for our first official day in Costa Rica at 8:00 AM to meet downstairs for breakfast (pancakes and fruit) :). After the wonderful breakfast we began our first work task. We had our first official meeting that consisted of Introductions, General Principles, and Guidelines and of course Health and Safety conditions. One of the main ideas that Global Volunteers strictly enforces is working "hand in hand" with the community which means that we not only will be able to help the community which we are assigned, but we will get to know the community personally as well! After our meeting we took a beautiful drive from San Jose to Santa Elena. On the way to our destination we stopped at the restaurant "El Jardin," from the restaurant we were lucky enough to see a beautiful view of the Gulf and the Mountains (which is very rare considering the restaurant is located in the cloud forest). We then continued up, down, and around the mountains where we got to experience the "Costa Rican massage." We arrived at the Marr Inn in Santa Elena after a long day of traveling but we were rewarded with once again another beautiful view. Once we arrived at the Inn we made sure to cover some more of the Guidelines as well as team building characteristics such as respect, deferential, altruistic etc. Nia made sure to prepare us for our day to come and explained what was to be expected! We are all extremely excited to begin this project!