Friday, June 29, 2012


Last night´s volleyball game that several of us planned to attend did not take place, so instead Pam and Sandy attended the 7:00 mass at the local church--a very moving and interesting experience.

Friday was another work day at the Reserve for two of the Metz family members, Jennifer and Gifford. Following work, their family enjoyed some adventure sports, bungee jumping and other canopy swings.

The "ladies" work day was again at the local high school, helping one of the English teachers work on language skills with his students. Following the work day, we went on a short tour of the local cheese factory started by the Quakers who first came to this area in the early 50s. We also got to taste several of the many cheeses they produce there. We were able to visit some of the local co-op shops and galleries along that road afterwards.

We had our last dinner together as a full team, reminisced about our week, and said our goodbyes to the Metz family.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Work and Flexibility

Reflecting back on the day, it seems that several of our team characteristics came into play--flexibility, cooperativeness, cultural awareness, helping where needed, and endurance.

The Metz family was back at the Santa Elena reserve, continuing the arduous task of hauling rocks, as well as road repair. Added to machetes as a tool of choice was the pick ax--used to break up larger rocks.

The three ladies found the high school in a state familiar to most schools two days before vacation--students were either finished with exams and pretty much tuned into friends and cellphones, or getting ready for oral presentations. Teachers seemed to be on different schedules and no one really seemed to want three English mentors.

After chatting with students for a time, Jorge the recycle man came to our rescue. Pat was sent to the Greenhouse for sweeping(our reputation for cleaning is getting around), and then worked with students planting tiny seedlings in a large box and cuttings into plastic dirt tubes. She later joined Sandy and Pam who had been planting mature plants into holes dug by the students. The new plantings surround the pond and will attract hummingbirds. It was interesting to see the area the Metz family had been working in--pigs, cows, ducks, and a pond right next to a sports area.

In the afternoon, Pam and Pat took the same coffee/chocolate tour the Metz family had done the day before. Very interesting(as well as entertaining).

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Becoming Part of the Community

Our whole group began at the school this morning, and it appeared transformed because the students were in session. Yesterday the school was so quiet, but today it was abuzz. The Metz three did outdoor work, while the three ladies assisted with preparing students to give presentations and other teaching activities. The ladies had also reorganized the whole library the previous day, and they wished they had taken a "before" and "after" picture to document the vast difference!

The outdoor work for the Metz three consisted of clearing vegetation along the sides of the 1 km trail that winds along the top of the hill behind the school, and also preparing seedlings for future reforestation. The latter activity was a continuation of work that was begun the previous day. Machetes were distributed to all and sundry, including the two teenage Metz boys and about eight high school boys. This had to be a highlight, and the Metz boys were most impressed by the superior machete skills of the Santa Elena boys, noting that they could repeatedly strike the exact same spot on a good-sized branch in order to quickly sever it. Luckily, branches and twigs were the only things severed and we returned to lunch at the office fully intact.

During the afternoon, our group worked with Jorge and Mario in the outdoor recycling area adjacent to the blue recreation building. Talk about before and after! We achieved a great amount of clean-up to an area that was a dumping ground for bags of trash and recyclables. It needed alot of help and we did provide that. Gifford was bounding around collecting refundable bottles with the most energy of the group. His Spanish came in handy, but we were all able to communicate well enough with gestures and demonstrations. Pat was the bottle cap picker upper to beat them all, and Pamela was busy to the end, stuffing giant collections of plastic bottles into the shed. We did wonder what the "master plan" was for future organization and pick-up of the recyclables, but that may be a mystery we will never solve. We all worked well together, and Jorge and Mario were most gracious and appreciative.

That afternoon, while riding with a group of travelers in a van to visit a nearby coffee plantation, I listened idly to the familiar tourist conversation consisting of questions such as "What have you done here?" and "What are you going to do next?" In the back of my mind, I recognized how these conversations can sometimes sound a little competitive, but for the most part they provide fellow travelers with good tips. As I was half listening to them, Gifford poked my shoulder and I noticed he and a boy on a bike outside the van were waving to each other. Gifford turned to me with a happy expression on his face and said "That was Carlos!" Apparently he and Carlos had cleared trails together that afternoon at the trail behind the high school. As I watched Carlos and his red bicycle recede behind us as our van bumped up the next hill, I felt a little shiver as an emotion passed through me. Through our side by side work, we were becoming part of the community, so much so that my boy was being waved at on the street.

I didn't feel simply like a tourist, thinking about which attraction or restaurant gave the most bang for the buck. For the admittedly short period of time that we were there, we were of the community, not just visitors to the community, and this, to me, made a world of difference.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Getting to Work

The mood around the breakfast table this morning was one of great cheerfulness. Even after being informed of the absence of students at the school due to a teacher strike, the group remained cheery as we all reviewed some basic Spanish phrases with Pam. After Spanish class, we marched down the steep hill to the conservation office. Once there, we reunited with Walter and Wendy, and met Oscar and Adolfo, our coworkers for the day. After splitting up into two teams, the Metz family being one of them, we got to work. The Metz family worked on planting a row of hydrangeas on a hill outside the office and digging a drainage trench at the bottom of it. Adolfo spoke almost no English, and Gifford and I took this as an opportunity to work on our Spanish. The cheeriness of this beautiful town is made apparent through random interactions with happy strangers and their appreciation of our work. After being interrupted twice by heavy rain, we took a lunch break. After lunch, we planted small trees in green bags filled with soil, while chatting animatedly with Oscar. He gave us a tour of the farm owned by the school, complete with 30 cows, 11 pigs, 100 chickens and a pretty man made pond. The products of these animals are sold by the school for profit, a far cry from any schools in the New England area. After work, we reunited at the Treehouse Cafe for dinner, and returned tired.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Getting To Costa Rica

Our team of six together with our team leader Pam, have come from many places within the United States to Costa Rica. Some of our journeys here were easier than others. But we are all ready to engage in a Global Volunteer Adventure.

Our trip from Alajuela to Santa Elena is a sensory experience. Our trip along the Pan American Highway lets us absorb the lush green landscape. Entering the Santa Elena Cloud Reserve is an "Ah Ha" moment with cameras snapping as we watch the wispy strands of clouds begin to engulf the valley below.

Before dinner at the Mar-Inn, we discuss our individual reasons for coming here to the Santa Elena community. Our reasons are varied, but together we decided that we want to make a positive impact, we want to help, and we want some personal enjoyment.

After dinner prepared by Zelmira and served by Geovanny, we had two special guests--Walter and Wendy from the Reserve and the local high school. We are set to begin our projects.