Thursday, March 3, 2016

Only two more days in Costa Rica

Today was our last day at La Lucha school. We were able to finish up the wall and the painting and the final product looked great. The students were so happy to be able to help the school with something that they really needed. Its a great feeling to know that you have made a lasting impact on your interim trip. We had a time of sharing and reflection with the community with speeches made by the school and by our students and then we had a celebratory soccer game with La Lucha students.

Carlos, one of our WLS instructors, and Anjana helping Shai with her speech
our hardworking team

saying goodbye to our new amigos

Then, after lunch with some local families, we had a brief down time back at the hotel before we embarked on an adventure race. The students split into four groups of five and had five stations or checkpoints that they had to pass through: Salsa dancing, water challenges with a raft, making a tortilla, milking a cow, and having an interview in Spanish. The last three were done at the homes of nearby Costa Ricans who welcomed us into their houses for this game.

Introducing our teams from top left: The Amigos. Top right: Team Bionic Penguins. Bottom left: Team Bullet Ants. Bottom right: Lost Tribe of Mount Vernon

our map. Students had to navigate their way through the map on their own

Running to start the race

Determined runners on their way to the next check point

Learning how to milk a cow

One checkpoint had various water challenges, including having all members stand safely on a raft for three seconds

Learning to salsa dance

Making our own tortillas from scratch

What other interim trip gets to milk cows?

Tomorrow we are white water rafting!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Second Day of Community Project and A Visit to Sustainable Farm

Today we continued our work at La Lucha school. When we arrived, we saw that they had continued working when we had left yesterday and the trenches had already been dug for the wall. The main job for the shoveling team today was to mix concrete together so that it could be poured for the walk way. The painting team did the poles on the walls as well as painting the front entrance walls white so that a mural can be painted on it tomorrow. We also had a team sanding down the front gate so that it could be painted black. We had another team go into the classrooms and teach an English class for the children there.

After we left La Lucha school, we went to Daniel Revas' sustainable farm. After originally working for a large fruit company, Daniel saw the great destruction it was causing the environment as well as the people who were working on the farms. Miles of forests were mowed down, gallons of chemicals poured into the rivers and lakes, and the repercussions were vast for not just the ecosystems that were destroyed but in the lives of the workers who were affected by these chemicals. Daniel decided to make an organic farm where he and his family could truly live sustainably. He showed us four parts of his farm. We were able to see his new vanilla plantation, in which he was able to also create an ecosystem for the birds and other animals who enjoy the shade that the vanilla plants need, his compost system that is completely void of dangerous chemicals, his pigs that we were able to feed, and the methane gas, from the pig waste, that is utilized as a source of power for his house. His family provided lunch for all of us, all made with organic food and heated on a hot plate powered by the methane gas. It was a great experience to see how important sustainable living is and to see how we can also make a difference when we buy organic food because we can support people like Daniel, who work hard to create a better world for the future.

Afterwards, we returned to the lodge and had a two hours of free time, in which most students went swimming in the lake while others played checkers or card games. After dinner, we had our ANCHOR debriefing session (which stands for Appreciation, New, Concerns, Hopes, Obscurities and Reading) led by our leaders of the day Chayton, Deanna and David, and then went on a night time rain forest hike.

Deanna and Connor hard at work prepping the cement.

A part of the painting crew - Katie, Kathryn, Anjana and Gabby.

Shai and Katherine, a part of the sanding crew, show off the flecks of paint left on their skin from their hard work

Julia practicing her Spanish skills

Teachers Brandon, Shai, David and Anjana teaching the numbers in English

A panorama view of La Lucha school

The tour of the sustainable farm. A cow going to the bathroom in front of us, Daniel showing us his vanilla plants, and the hike up to see the compost

Feeding a baby calf some water

The pigs whose waste is utilized as methane gas to power their electricity

Monday, February 29, 2016

The first day of our community project

Today was the first day of our community project. After asking the community of La Lucha, they told us that they wanted a new auditorium for the students. Right now, they don't have one so if they have assemblies, they have to be out in the field, and as we've experienced it today, it is incredibly hot and not the best environment to try to hold such meetings. Our job for today was twofold. One team was the shoveling team. They shoveled out dirt to make a wall so they could first level out the field for them to pour concrete on. Another request the school made was for us to help them make it more colorful, because right now the walls are plain and bland. So, another team was the painting team and for today, they sanded down the posts so that we could start painting them tomorrow. We will also paint a mural on their opening gate. This community project is especially meaningful because we know that this is something that the school needs and asked for directly. After working, a few of the students took a break and played games with the students. Soccer was especially popular and since we have several members of the MVPS soccer team on this trip, it was fun to see them interact and play together.

When it was lunch time, we split up into three teams and each went to a local house, where they prepared a meal for us. Each team had at least one adult with them but we tried to stay in the background so that the students could really be the ones to initiate and have conversations with the hosts. The food was delicious and the students did a great job practicing their Spanish as they asked questions and learned more about the Costa Rican culture.

After lunch, we went to a field where we played team-building games together and then we split into two teams again to have coffee time with another local family. Coffee time is a very important time for Costa Ricans and we were able to share a small snack time with them.

We are back at the lodge now, enjoying some free time before dinner. Since today was our first "working" day, we will end early and after dinner, we will just have a short meeting to conclude the day and they will be free to rest.

We've been lucky with great weather so far. It hasn't been too hot and we haven't had a lot of rain either. The clouds have been out and so luckily no one has been  sun burnt. We have been consistently reminding them to reapply their sun screen and bug spray.

As a reminder, you can also be checking Twitter with the hashtag #MVInterim and #MVCostaRica for updates from our trip- you do not need a Twitter account. You can just search for hash tags and see updates on what we are up to.

Tomorrow we are working at La Lucha school in the morning and then spending the lunch and afternoon at a sustainable farm where we will learn about the blessing and curse of the pineapple industry for the country of Costa Rica.

Eating fresh coconut

A part of the leadership games we played was to be blindfolded and then guided through a "minefield" of toys and other obstacles by a friend who stood outside the lines and talked us through the path.

A small road side store where students were able to practice their Spanish to buy some Coca Cola and other snacks

Walking to the house to eat lunch

Playing with the students

Despite the heat, our students were so hardworking. I was incredibly proud of them.

Playing a version of tag with the students

A short break to play soccer

Working hard to help La Lucha school

A view of La Lucha school as we are walking in

Our bus ride to the school

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Rainforest Hike and Ziplining

We started off our second day in Costa Rica with a late start; breakfast was not until 8:30. Nonetheless, most of the kids were up and hanging out by 6:30 AM. After breakfast, we split up into two groups, each with a guide, and headed out to the rainforest. We learned about poison dart frogs, bullet ants, bats, holler monkeys, and all types of different animals and vegetation that lives in the rain forest. After an hour hike, we ate lunch and headed out to zipline! All the kids were brave and went ziplining- we did a total of 9 courses with our last one going out over a beautiful river. Now we are back at the lodge and getting ready to go for a swim in the river by the lodge.