Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Flight Delayed

Hello family and friends of the Blair Academy program in Costa Rica. The flight from Atlanta to Newark is delayed by about an hour. The students should be arriving around 6:40pm. Please let us know if you have any questions 303-679-3412. Thank you for your support of this program! It was a huge success!

Erin Hawk
Director of Operations

Delta 2537

Atlanta (ATL)
  Domestic Term-South
  Gate C47
 20 Aug
 20 Aug
  New York (EWR)
  Terminal B
  Gate 44
 20 Aug
 20 Aug

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It’s another rainy afternoon in Costa Rica…
Quoc managed to lose his glasses while swimming in the river so I’m designated to talk about our quite adventure-packed couple of days. For our last day of work we were soaked with rain, but we managed to keep smiles on our faces as we finished up with the labor.

The students at Paraiso High School gave us a nice presentation to thank us and express how much they appreciated us helping them to improve their school and spend some valuable time with them. After a long goodbye and a lot of posing for pictures, our group split up for discussions about gender roles in Paraiso. The boys went to Don Daniel’s house and the girls to Doña Amable’s. We learned a lot about the specific designations of household chores, a day in the life of the women present, and the true lack of jobs for women in the community. Not sure what the boys learned as Quoc is a bit out of it…
Quoc is back…thanks to Jonas! Jonas brought two pairs of glasses along and though not the exact same prescription they’ll work for Quoc for the remainder of the trip. Adventure race day! Too bad Lexi was out. He adventured to the clinic with Señora Shaw after a horrible night of sleeplessness, fever, other symptoms, and upset stomache. For similar reason (but way less symptoms), Brianna couldn’t make it for the adventure games either. She went back home to her host family and they took good care of her; she did not need to go to the clinic! Yay!

The race was loads of fun! We completed five challenges: salsa dancing, cow milking, river phrase translating, sugar cane grinding, interviewing in español. Team Chupa Chups (Grace, Ben, Aaron, Changer) came in first place, finishing all five challenges. Team Chibara (Justin, Zoe, Quoc, Jonas) came in second, skipping the interview. The sugar cane juice was muy delicioso, but milking the cow was a real struggle.

Later that day, we all went to Don Daniel’s house for a tour of his sustainable organic farm. Everyone had a chance to feed the pigs, whose waste was used to make methane gas for the family. Cow’s and goat’s waste was used with home-grown probiotics and other ingredients to make green compost for the garden, and we were able to try mixing the compost ourselves (just like concrete). Also, we visited Daniel’s well-tended pepper and vanilla plants, which are not only his bread and butter but also his effort to create a modeled organic farm that coexists with the ecology of Paraiso.
The next day our group headed back to Chilamate in the morning to explore the rain forest. William, our young tour guide, was wonderful at giving descriptions of the flora and fauna of Chilamate’s diverse, vibrant ecology. We stumbled upon a couple of humongous millipedes, giant bullet ants (no one got hurt), various types of birds, and a mossy sloth dangling high up in the branches. Although the air was densely humid, our group was not stifled by the tropic warmth. It was a rare opportunity to be guided through a quite pristine Central American jungle, to listen to incessant song and buzz of all forms of life and to witness such lush wilderness.

After exploring the jungle, we were invited by Jaime, a medicine man of sorts, to learn about the medicinal plants, fruits, and vegetables he grows in his backyard. He had plants that can repel bugs and help heal wounds. Some fruits and plants can cure constipation. We tasted some unsavory, bitter leaves and some very sour oranges. Still, we got to drink fresh coconut water that really refreshed us on such a sweaty afternoon. Jaime also offered us a fruit whose sap can be used to make blue tattoos that last for about a week. Don’t be too horrified if your children come home with weird looking (or slightly inappropriate) blue paintings on their skins, they will go away soon enough.

In honor of Mother’s Day and their mom’s birthday (August  15), Mrs. Crowner and Señora Shaw took their family out for dinner. It was the first time their mom had EVER been out to dinner.

Sunday is our last night with our homestay families. It’s hard to believe that our time here is so quickly coming to an end. It’s been quite the adventure!

Hasta luego,

Brianna and Quoc

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Greetings from Paraiso High School!

We left off yesterday at the worksite and we’re back again this morning for our last day of work. After we returned to work yesterday, we took a break for a quick game of soccer. No small feat when you’re playing against Costa Ricans. Lexi scored the only goal of the game (woo hoo!) and shortly thereafter, the ball popped and we could no longer play.

Grace and I were in charge of the teams mixing cement once we went back to work. All went smoothly as we worked alongside Costa Rican workers and Paraiso students. We’ve made amazing progress on the project!

After our longest day of work yet, our instructor, Randall, took us to the elementary school to see some of the work that other schools had done before us – a beautiful playground, colorful murals, and a great wide open space for the school to meet.

Then it was time for our daily group activity; this one was called “True Colors”. The object of this activity was to determine each person’s leadership style as connected to the way their brain works. We learned that some of us are conceptualizers, experiencers, artisans, and idealists. Grace and I both fell into the artisan category (aka the best category!) which means that we utilize our frontal right brain in most situations. Though not an exact science, it was interesting to see the different personalities present in our group.                

After Randall explained the importance of understanding different personalities when dealing with global issues, and fed us marshmallows, we headed home for the day to another delicious meal with our host families. Rice and beans and steak never tasted so good. Even the ice cold shower was refreshing after our long day. The host family we are paired with loves to talk and play cards and see pictures of the states, and we love to play with their three year old son, Santiago. Playing Jenga and Uno for hours is not uncommon. After a nice rest with the beetles and geckos, we returned to the worksite this th and 8th grade PE class, where the students do “acrosport”. We witnessed as they attempted pyramids and other acrobatics before returning to dirt and cement. It would be great to finish today…fingers crossed!
morning in time for 7
                                                                                                                                                                  Hasta luego y pura vida,
Zoe and Grace

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hello everybody,
We are doing great! Just to catch you up from yesterday, we had a great celebration of Ben’s “Sweet 16” on the worksite! Together, all 120 students and our group of 10 sang Happy Birthday in Spanish and in English. We think Ben was surprised but we know he was happy.

After our day of work we returned home to freshen up. Later, we met up for cooking class with Amable, one of the women who lives in the community, who is a great cook. We learned to make picadillo and tortillas. They were yummy! We met Amable’s family, her 2 daughters, and her two grandchildren. Ben continued to entertain us yelling out things he is learning from the Spanish phrase book Reverend Crowner lent him. Changer was a master chopper - the choyote, garlic, and onions didn’t stand a chance against him. After eating our homemade snack, we worked in our affinity teams to discuss local problems regarding economics, health, environment, and education.

We returned home for our real dinner after already being filled up with cake, the snack we made, along with snacks Changer bought from La Soda (the snack bar at the school). Then, it was off to sleep to rest for another day of working on the walkway/overhang/patio project.
This morning, we headed back to the school for more classes and to continue working. We first had an English class (Jonas and Aaron were late again). We helped the students with an English worksheet regarding the environment and global warming. We felt more in our comfort zone in this English class and were able to help a lot. After class, we have a brief meeting with our instructor, Randall.  Then we start on the blog as the others begin to lay cement over the dirt.
Now back to work….

Aaron and Ben
Pura Vida from Costa Rica!

After riding through one of Costa Rica’s mountainous rain forest national parks, we made it from the central valley to the Atlantic side of the country. We arrived at Chilamate Eco Retreat Center after the two hour drive. The Retreat had a large open dining area and a large open cabin for the whole group. We slept uninterrupted (aside from the “wooping” howler monkeys) in our bug netted bunk beds. The next morning, we awoke to another amazing meal, and some of us enjoyed Costa Rica’s delicious coffee.

Later, we went to the Sarapiqui River for a morning swim.  We then packed up our things from the Retreat Center and prepared to meet our homestay families.  First, we made a stop at the high school to meet the high school kids we would be spending the next three days working with.  After a short meeting and a few butchered introductions, we were dropped off with our homestay families.  Each of us met with our families and got to know the wonderful people that will be housing us for the next week.

We enjoyed some delicious dinners and went to sleep, readying ourselves for the work that we would do today.  We all woke up and arrived more or less on time. (Aaron and Jonas were late). We spent the morning in Spanish and French class with the high schoolers.
Now, Lexi and I are writing this blog as the rest of the group, along with some of the students who go to the school, are preparing an area for the new concrete pathway under the new overhang we are building.
These blog updates may be a bit inconsistent, as we are trying to find any time we can to write our thoughts.  We will try to keep you all up to date at home with our activities and let you all know that we are doing fine.
Until next time,

Lexi and Jonas