Thursday, February 9, 2012

Happy Endings

The day started normally with breakfast, followed by reading of the previous days journal entry by Dick and thought for the day from Simone. The team tried to practice our "going away" song, "Getting to know you" on the morning trip to San Rafael, punctuated by grunts every time we hit another bump. Our counterpart San Rafael leader, Alex, and his local team were ready to start another productive day when we arrived at the community center. He assembled the entire integrated team on a circle of chairs and laid out the work plans for the day. The local team was larger than normal. He congratulated the team on all the good work accomplished so far and singled out the welding team for the good job in installing the new window grate. Alex again demonstrated his leadership skills and qualities in organizing the tasks to be completed and in integrating the Global-San Rafael team.

The Global males, with local assistance, finished pulling the nails from all the recovered lumber and the roundelle fence and remaining post and filled the post holes with dirt. They also cleared the trench which will drain water from the area where the new metal bleachers will be installed. They then tore off the (ugly) galvanized sheeting form the front fence on each side of the main entrance to the roundelle. This generated more firewood. The GV ladies helped a large local contingent in finishing the paint job on the front of the center, including both inside and outside of the doors.

After another delicious lunch prepared by Giselle, all hands convened at the school for the last English classes conducted by Team 217. As usual, all hands first gathered to sing "Clementine". All classes seemed to go well, with enthusiastic (and a little emotional) thanks from the students. The GV teachers felt that this aspect of the daily assignments resulted in a job well done.

After the evening meal at a local, Santa Elena, restaurant, the team donations were provided to Nía to be presented to the host country representatives in the morning. Copies of training material, including lesson masters, were given to her to begin a library to support future Global Volunteer Costa Rican conversational English classes.

- Don

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

We may not have everything, but don't waste what we do have.

After breakfast we looked at Don’s S.O.Y.---Save Our Youth (one of Don’s passions) brochure---so very well done and illustrated. Then I learned of the 3 leche cake which is apparently real yummy and can be made to have different consistencies. We also saw one of Don’s innovative teaching ideas using grocery flyers as a teaching aid in his English-Speaking classes.

We arrived at the Community Centre to realize that the number of ‘out-of-town’ volunteers exceeded the number of local volunteers. One of the top philosophies of Global Volunteers is that the understanding of 1:1 working together must be adhered to and is well explained in the Global Volunteers Manual. Alex who is very dedicated and committed went out to see what he could do. The day was saved within a short period of time. We were so relieved, as much can be done in one morning. We also understand that these people have very busy lives, children to raise and school vacations are not yet over. After Allan helped me to organize myself, I went back to painting the surrounding brick fencing. I got by with a lot of help from my (new) friends. At times we were all so quiet and the beautiful surrounding countryside made it feel like a peaceful and profound and united meditation. The demolition of the bleachers continued (nails removed from good wood, nails hammered down in old wood, and all nails tossed together for now, to be sorted later---Tico philosophy---we may not have everything/do not waste what we do have. The back wall of the bleachers also came down. Don searched for and found the RED CROSS sign, that on hindsight he was sorry he had thrown out. The grillwork that Jean and Kevin cleaned and painted yesterday looks REAL good. However, the fit for the window space is not quite right and will require some tweaking. The motto of, “measure twice and cut once”, I’m sure will be strictly adhered to. Today Jean and Kevin painted the large sliding door (used by the zamboni). Jean was not totally satisfied with the end result and appearance; but I know by now that she does not let anything defeat her.

Lunch was at Alejandro and Marta’s. Delicious again! Home-made tortillas again! As the day smoothly progressed, it made me wonder if the birds thought they were supposed to compete with all the beautiful rainbows we have seen along Rainbow Valley. We saw not 1, but 2 Toucans.

- Simone

Monday, February 6, 2012

A productive Monday

A gorgeous day began with a delicious fritata for breakfast and a recap of everyones free time experiences over the weekend. Then another trip on forty miles of bad road to the work site where we met with Alex who outlined the work to be done.The painting of the front wall continued as did the demolition of the Red Cross building and bleacher ramps. These items are close to completion.On Saturday the community had a meeting and were impressed by the amount of work done by ¨senior citizens¨.

After another abundant lunch at Giselle´s the group proceeded to the school to continue their English language classes with one member staying behind with one of our host to prep and paint a metal grid in hopes it can be installed and welded before we leave.Dick was surprised and encouraged when he said to his class ¨hello, how are you¨? and they responded Ï am fine, thank you.¨ They all seemed happy at the end of class and wanted a photo taken with him.Don´s class was learning contractions and words that are spelled the same but have different meanings.Simone and Allen discussed the colors of the rainbow and directions on a compass. They used a world map to show where they and their relatives are from.All in all another rewarding day.

- Jean

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Weekend in Costa Rica


Breakfast was at 8:30 this morning, it was a nice sleep-in, but lunch at noon was a little close. Dick, Jean and Don went on the Mountain tour and walked about 6 km. (so they say). While on the hike Dick and Don climbed a tower while Jean guarded their packs on the ground. Apparently the last 50 or so feet of the climb was upside down. They both got magnificent photos of Mount Arenal. Meanwhile Allan and Simone stayed around the ranch and regenerated. After dinner everyone turned in early again.


Another late breakfast again, and Dick and Don left to do the zip line. Jean says that the photo of Dick on the zip line looks like he had a “ OH!!! DO-DO!!!” look on his face. After zipping over and thru the jungle, Don did the suspension bridge and got a movie of a Quitzal and a Trogan. Was he ever excited. Simone and Allan went on another walk-about. Jean walked to town and got caught-up on some of the things that needed catching up on. Nia got back from San Josenone the worse for wear. We had dinner talked about the weekend played Banana Gram and hit the hay. Early to bed, early to rise, I think the saying goes.

- Allan

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Painting with Blue and White

Breakfast and than team meeting after which Don got in his stagecoach and the rest of usgot in the van and travelled to San Rafeal. It sure seems to be a lot shorter trip. Is it we´regetting used to the trip or are we talking enough to make the trip bearable? The paint is finally here and after the group meeting Alex (El Jeffe) put 2 GVs, Dick and Don, on deconstruction of the bull ring, and3 GVs Jean, Simone and Allan on painting. The fence out in front of the comunity centre isconcrete and pipe. The concrete will be blue (azul) and the pipe white (blanca). After rubber gloving and OR booting up, Jean went to the blue corner and Simone and Allan went to the white. We all seemed to start at the same end, and everyone was getting in each others way.Carman, Alex and Amolia also got into the frey, painting blue. While mixing the paint with thinner,Allan´s sunglasses got splattered with white paint and Hellen, Amolia´s daughter cleaned thepaint off them and did a fantastic job. Once we got things sorted out, there was only a little white on the blue and a little blue on the white. The fence really looks great but there isa lot left to do, as we´re suposed to do the front of the hall, and all the metal doors as well.After fruit break Allan swithched with Dick. Dick painted blue with a roller, and Jean went to white with Simone.

Allan went with Don to the bull pen and removed the suports from the already removed bleachers and took out the nails with Aparisio. It´s going to take a while, asthere sure are a lot of nails. They are all bent over and need to be straightened before beingpulled through. There are two piles of lumber,good reusable, and basura, or firewood. These two types of lumber are devided into another10 or so piles, but that is another day. The firewood pile is very large, we should talk ElJeffe into having a marshmellow, weiner or pig roast, there will definitly be a big fire.

Lunch was at Geselle´s again, and she always seems to out do herself. We had fried yuccadone up like a potatoe pancake, with cheese and seasoned with garlic and herbs and was verytasty, rice, beans and fried banannas. After wearing Samuel out we left for Mar- Inn wherewe hang our collective hats. Dinner will be at 5:00pm tonight as Don wants to do the nightwalk.Dick & Jean went for ice cream, and Allan & Simone went on a walk about. Everyone is going to catch up on some rest this weekend I think.

- Allan

Friday, February 3, 2012

Think outside the box

The amazing landscape continues to just blow us away. The vigorous wind continues to take our breath.

Upon arriving at the Community Centre, we were warmly greeted by Nicolas, Steve and Aparisio (Apparition).We accomplished much this morning. Grace (a teacher) presented herself to also help scub the fence. Steve and one, and sometimes even a second man also worked with us every step of the way. At one point, Jean asked me for the time. I answered "10". She looked up, she looked around at the sky, she looked at me and exclaimed, "IN THE MORNING?!!" We later started washing the outside walls of The Centre itself. The mold was very thick on much of the cement. Jean may be petite, but what a power house!---physically, mentally and sense of humourlly. A little later, after we had a break, we enjoyed very juicy watermelon and felt re-freshed.Allan told me that they strung the electrical wire from the road to ´la cocina´ and put it in conduit. Allan, Dick and Nicolas started filling in the trench. Don began getting the items necessary to put the electrical wire into the power boxes. He gave up trying to shovel dirt with a spade. He (Dick) fashioned a washer out of the plastic tape container so one of the explosive connectors would work. He saved a few colonies there. Our Smart Boy (as Alex referred to him with pride) not only is able to think inside the circuit box, but also outside the circuit box.

Lunch was at Nicolas´ House-Father's and House-Mother's casa. We were greeted so warmly. It was a delicious affair with much to choose from! We even had homemade tortillas. We had Tamarindo juice to drink. The tomatoes in Canada are never this tasty.The afternoon was spent teaching english-speaking. Allan and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We floundered more than a few times but the kids were always respectful and willing to participate, even through shyness and self-consciousness. One exercise, "On your birthday, tell me in English please, what you would like to receive." "A Play-Station!!" To a young girl who would like to possibly become a Chef one day, "Tell me what is your favorite thing, in English please, to make?" "Pizza!!" I hate it when that happens! But Toddlers even are able to outsmart me most times. Don said that his class was able to pronounce "th" quite quickly, eg. "thirsty". He also has a great trick to help them pronouce the V sound.Things are great.

We all feel at home with each other already.

- Simone

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Team Work

The team again boarded the "galloping mechanized stage coach" for the dusty, "trip over the rocky road (not the ice cream type) to San Rafael. Our counterpart San Rafael leader, Alex, and his local team were ready to start another productive day when we arrived at the community center. He assembled the entire integrated team on a circle of chairs and laid out the work plans for the day. He congratulated the team on all the good work accomplished so far and singled out Dick for the innovative "plastic washer" solution to an oversized hole in one of the junction boxes used in the power cable replacement project. Alex again demonstrated his superb leadership skills and qualities in organizing the tasks to be completed and in integrating the Global-San Rafael team - and it is truly a team! Before scrambling to the appointed tasks, the team performed some last minute clean-up of the center in anticipation of an important meeting with government representatives from San Jose.

Since the paint (promised for Wednesday) had still not arrived, half of the team was sent to continue distruction of the wooden bleachers and salvaging the reusable wood. Alan, Dick and Don completed connections for the new underground 220 volt power service and recovered the old ariel AWG 4 power cables for use in future projects. With little fanfare, Alex threw the switch at the street power connection box and voila! nothing (adverse) happened!! Sometimes nothing is better than something. Each of the circuit breakers in the center were actuated and found to work perfectly. We took advantage of the moment and marked the area controlled by each breaker on the circuit breaker panels (for future reference when all knowledgeable locals are no longer around). To comemorate the occasion, Alex asked each of the Global Team members to sign the back of one of the circuit breaker panel doors.

The power team then joined the bleacher distruction team until lunch time, adding to the decibel level of pounding hammers and screeching nails being pulled. The nails continued being saved for reuse and the wooden planks were separated into a reusable pile and a firewood pile, much like the biblical sheep from the goats. Through it all, Jean could be seen scurrying around under the bleachers, salvaging the fallen planks, carefully dodging the rain of falling wood.

Another marvelous lunch was provided for the team at Gisselle´s home, with rice, beans, fried green beans, fried cheese and a tomato and cabbage salad. Don tutored one of the local youth with his practice test problems on geometry and algegra, before joining the rest of the Global Team at the school for the scheduled afternoon English classes. Before going to their respective classrooms, all the students joined in with the Global Volunteers to sing "Darling Clelmentine" to the accompaniement of Don´s harmonica. There was markedly more participation by the students than yesterday. This introductory song will be repeated at the start of next week's classes. The classes were divided into much the same groups as previous days with their assigned Global Volunteer instructors. As usual, some students did not return and other new ones showed up. Don´s adult class dropped to two students and he concentrated on prepositions of position and continued helping with English translations of the Spanish phrases requested by the "students", emphasizing proper pronunciation. Dick brought his students over for a lesson on the names of barnyard animals, illustrated by Don´s imitations of the respective animal sounds. One of Jean´s students commented that Jean seemed to be learning more Spanish. Allan and Simone conducted a very interactive class session, with help from Alex. The material seemed to be very stimulating and fun for the students.

Return to the hotel in Santa Elena was delayed about 30 minutes while Nia, the team leader, received treatment at the local clinic for dehydration and stomach flu. After another dusty, bone-jarring trip back to the hotel and another tasty, nutritious dinner, the team discussed the events of the day and plans for tomorrow and next week. The team is feeling increasingly exhausted, but fulfilled, as the week´s activities are catching up on us all.

- Don

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"We must make certain that our path is connected with our heart"- Jack Kornfield

Well, as they say ¨"Another day, another dollar" or for us one could say "Another day, more surprises". Little did we know that we had been spending each day with a barnyard full of animals.....details will follow.Breakfast this morning was OJ, coffee & pancakes and, in what seems like typical TICO weather, we experienced sunshine, clouds, and rain, each multiple times, in various combinations, and sometimes all at the same time. And that was just while we were eating breakfast. Then Nia past out hard hats which should have been a hint of things to come.At 8 oclock we all piled into "Galloping Gertie", what seems like a totally springless van, and proceeded to bump and bounce down the road to San Rafeal (now I wouldn't exactly say the wind was strong but the dust from the road was in front of the van instead of behind the van).At the work site Alex, the head of the local Development Association, again demonstrated his great organizational and managerial skills by having a short meeting with all volunteers both Global and local. Then we each got our assigments for the day. Don, Allen and Dick got the 'cushy' electrical work and Simone and Jean were given 'hard labor' in the Bull Ring tearing down the old bleachers to make way for new ones----destruction before construction.The electrical job progressed well. Don, inspite of almost having to tie himself to the meter pole to keep from blowing away, managed to make all the connections at the incoming end of the electrical wiring. Allen and Dick struggled with the conduit and wire routing at the circuit box end but finally managed to get that completed and waiting for Don's skills to make the wiring connections. Of course they had problems with the box 'knockouts' but today the knockouts were too small where yesterday the knockouts were too big. Who says Global Volunteers doesn´t offer a variety of experiences? Right now we are having a debate about who has to stand next to the circuit box tomorrow when we throw the power switch---Don or Alex?

Simone and Jean had some rough going trying to knock down the bleachers. The board had all been secured with nails that had been bent over after they came through the boards and at first they didn´t even have a crowbar. Fortunetly Adrania, a local volunteer, proved to be very handy with even basic tools and work stared moving along. It was very hard work but they kept at it all morning. Dick even went down to help after the electrical work eased up but he only managed to last 40 minutes before walking off saying something about ´lunch time´.It can´t go without saying that we had a wonderful group of community volunteers today. They worked really hard mostly helping dismantle the bleachers. They did a great job!Lunch today was a big plate of spagetti followed by the most wonderful rice pudding, and of course some more coffee.After lunch we all walked (or I should say waddled) down to the school for our teaching jobs. We started today with a joint session where Don played his harmonica and we all sang "My Clemintine". Then we diveded up in our individual classrooms and spent the next 2 hours racking our brains trying to impart some of our English speaking abilities to our victims, I mean students. At 4 oclock we all emerged from our classromms mentally exhausted and wondering how teachers do this every day!!!

Today we had a special treat because after school we got to visit and tour a local coffee farm. Our host, Alejandro, explained that a group of local farmer, and now even ones in other countries, have banded together and are now by-passing all of the the middlemen and selling directly to the end-user. He also took us on a tour of the processing of coffee and of his father´s farm, a farm that was recently recognized by the United Nations.After the tour we were invited into the home for coffee and cookies with the entire extended family. We were also treated to more of Don´s harmonica playing and, as an encore, to all kinds of very realistic animal that´s TALENT!About 6:30 we again piled into the van for another jaw jaring ride back to the hotel and a hot meal of rice and vegatables before retiring.A long but productive & interesting day.

- Dick