Thursday, June 30, 2011

Field Trip!

This post is long overdue.  We had the wonderful experience of accompanying tenth grade students on a field trip in the beginning of the month.  Maybe wonderful isn't the word that truly conveys the experience - unique, adventurous, confusing, spontaneous - take your pick.  They all work.

This field trip did not resemble any prior field trip that either of us had ever been on.  There were three chaperons for about 26 students - the two of us and the music/tourism teacher Eduardo.  I must admit though, that 26 is just an estimate.  There was never an official headcount and when we arrived at our first stop Eduardo was asked how many people were in our busetta (little bus) and he looked around for about two seconds and said 30 with a shrug of the shoulders.

The first stop was at a biological reserve called Tirimbina.  It was amazing - nine kilometers of trails through the jungle, suspension bridges crossing the Sarapiquí River, sloths, snakes, frogs, bats - you name it.  We were in heaven being outside after a long respite.  We also had the pleasure of walking with a small group of students that seemed to spot every little critter that was hanging out near the beaten path.  They pointed out giant beetles, huge ants, little frogs, bats, crazy looking insects, sloths and snakes.  They took their time and photos of just about everything they came across, allowing us to catch up with them and take our own photos.  Then we came to the harsh realization that while we think walking through the jungle is cool, tenth graders can only take so much of this coolness.  We may have covered about five kilometers before they were begging for a break and to get out of our jungle surroundings.

We sadly left the jungle, bringing up the rear, following the students as they made their way back across the suspension bridge that had given us a brief glimpse into the jungles of Costa Rica.  The group convened at a small program shelter and started to make lunch.  We had embarked on this journey somewhat unprepared - grabbing a loaf of raisin bread and some cheese empanadas from the grocery store on our way out of town.  The students however quickly set up shop.  Out came the loaves of bread, sandwich meat, cheese, tomatoes, mayo and ketchup.  They got to work and made sandwiches that were better than ones brought from home - these were fresh and not squished or soggy after sitting in your backpack all morning long under the hot sun.  Lesson learned.

As they began cleaning up leftovers Eduardo posed the idea of going back into the jungle.  This was not well received.  Instead, the brilliant idea of taking a side trip to the nearby Serpentarium (Snake Garden) was put on the table and Eduardo excitedly called the owners up.  He set to making a deal and got off of the phone asking students if they could put up mil colones (about $2) each to pay for our time looking at the snakes.  Some people put in more than others to cover the cost of this unexpected adventure and Eduardo called back with the grand total (less than a mil per person) and permission was granted - by the Serpentarium owners that is; the school and parents were not contacted.  Like I said, this was unlike any field trip we had ever been on before.

Eduardo called the driver of the busetta who was unavailable at the time so the group decided it would be best to walk down the busy "highway" for 300 meters to get to our destination.  With cars flying past we moved quickly down the road, searching for safety and the building with a giant snake painted on it's side.  The owner met us upon our arrival, explained the rules of observation and let us in.  We saw snakes that we had never seen before (perhaps as a result of import laws in the states) and heard the laughter and shrieks that  the students let loose.  The trip was brought to a close with the opportunity to hold a ball python.

The experience just got stranger from there with the girls fighting over who would hold the snake first and the guys discretely moving to the back of the crowd.  The snake was draped over shoulders, kissed and passed from one student to the next.  Some of the girls squealed and timidly approached the snake, ultimately taking it in their hands long enough for a photo.  Some of the guys called out for their mothers as the snake was placed in their hands but they ultimately struck rock star poses for the camera.

With the snake growing restless and the busetta on its way it was time to pay for the trip.  That's right, transportation wasn't paid for until the end.  One student was put in charge of collecting the money (about $4 per person) and making a list of those who had paid.  When the driver showed up the money was passed over and tucked away - no need to count the money, we're all honest here.  As we started the trip home Eduardo turned around and asked for the permission slips.  Good time to check on those, right!

A trip like no other resulting in a whole list of dos and don'ts for when we're teachers leading our own students on field trips.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

May [Happy Anniversary!]

May came and went and we're still trying to figure out what exactly happened to the month - although we do know that we officially reached our one year anniversary as volunteers.  We've gained a new puppy, a parrot and there are numerous toads and tree frogs that seem to want to join our family.  Now June is here and with it a calendar full of events.  So, before we get caught up in what is to come, here is a quick recap of May!

Grab a snack and something to drink, these journal updates tend to be a bit long!

(top) 1- walking in the rain, 2 - the new parrot, 3 - all cleaned up for the student arts festival 4 - Josh and Chris in Cahuita,
(middle) 5 - Ashly, 6 - Sheirys and her caterpiller, 7 - ice cream in a bag, 8 - having fun with the girls
(bottom) 9 - tree frog, 10 - basilisk, 11 - yarn octopus, 12 - tree frog in shower, 13 - Nutrition Day 

May 1

20 days and we reach the one year mark that really counts!

May 2

We got laundry done which is normal and I had my aerobics class, but nothing else followed Monday's usual pattern (if we have anything usual here).

May 3

Another strange day in the life of us, but I guess that's to be expected by now, right?

May 4

Yuli says she would like to exercise but doesn't have tennis shoes.  Her mom says she likes being fat.
[the outcome of a conversation I had with some friends about coming to aerobics class]

May 6

After dinner we led dinamicas (ice breakers) with intermixed groups of indigenous youth.
We left tired and ready for bed.

May 7

It has been wonderful to be a part of this, but it's even better knowing that Peace Corps isn't necessarily needed for the event to take place.  So promising for the future of Copa Indegina (National Soccer Tournament for Indigenous Youth).

May 8

There were traditional dances performed at half times and between games.  There was a sense of respect and camaraderie between tribes.  It was great.  The big event.

May 9

Erasers were created because of Costa Rica.

May 11

Oh what fun it is to ride in a big inflatable raft!

May 14

We had a long morning on buses, but it was well worth it.

Last time we went our shorts may have gotten a little wet.  This time at the midway point our attempts to keep our shirts dry was futile. Then we had to cross through what we'll call squid ink before climbing on dry land again.

...but not until a local named Anthony tried to send us to a different restaurant (and later offered to sell us pretty much any kind of drug we could imagine.)

May 16

Chris ordered us a new adventure camera after the old one shocked him.

May 19

Hot, Hot, Heat!  Goodness this week just seems to keep on getting hotter.

May 20

We window shopped outdoor toys today - anxious for this next year to go quickly.  We're sure it will if the last couple of months are any indicator - we just need to move though the rough patches.

May 21

... at which point they found out that they were scheduled to work with kids from 8 - 2, not 9 - 12.  With the expected blips, things went pretty well based on the sound of things.

May 22

Oh yeah, we've been in Colonia for a year!

May 23

At one point while I was reading I raised my head to a commotion taking place by some of the bars on the porch to find a parrot trying to get in.  It made it through the parrot sized spacing of the bars and then flew across the porch to the other side.  Chris came out to take pictures and Maria coaxed it onto her arm and ta-dah, we have a pet parrot.

At lunch Florecita decided she wanted to sit on Chris' shoulder and so tried to fly and land on him - a pretty freaky event when you're not used to having a parrot in the house nor are expecting it to come flying at you.  Apparently the same thing happened to Maria, as a result she clipped the bird's beautiful wings.

[note: Florecita had been someone's pet previously as is evident by her cut beak.  She was either set free or escaped and found a new home with us - or rather our host parents - we don't exactly do pets...]

May 26

Rodrigo did baile popular (popular dance) and while the performance is indescribable, I will say he ripped his pants in the first third of the performance and kept at it - I'm not sure it was really all that embarrassing for him, he was already halfway naked.

Another interesting day for the books.

May 28

We had a nice relaxed lunch with Rebecca, catching up and just chatting.

Along the way we bumped into Megon and Kevin and were able to catch up for a quick minute.

May 30

We'll be going to the forest on Friday!

Yesterday we made the decision to start making our own food.  We've evaluated what we're paying (~$300 a month - about what we spent in Maine) and what we're eating (not much) and it just doesn't even out in our books.  So, now we need to directly/indirectly tell Maria.

May 31

Talked to Maria this morning and blocked her attempts to keep cooking for us.  I just blurted out that with schedules it'll be better.  That Chris misses cooking.  That we don't want her to worry about us if they're out of town.  It just kept coming until she gave up., it's done.

June, treat us well, please!