Sunday, April 29, 2012

Día del Libro - Día del Aborigen

¡Ma'skiná! Assuming I understood correctly this past week, this is the general Cabécar way of saying hello, how are you. The Cabécar people are an indigenous group of Costa Rica. We were fortunate enough to participate in a regional event organized by a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer for World Book Day (Día del Libro) in the Cabécar community of Cerere.

Last Sunday we left home nice and early so that we could meet up with six other Peace Corps Volunteers en route to Cerere. We were joined by Ken in Limon; Matt, Rose, Rebecca, Stephen and Melinda joined us on the bus about 45 minutes later. We rode into the middle of banana fields that were foreign to Chris and I and disembarked at a T in the road where nothing seemed to exist. We lathered on sunscreen and changed into appropriate footwear for a hike and off we went.

Crossing the River (by Ken)
After roughly an hour and a half we took a break from the hot sun and bought some cold drinks from a local pulperia (convenience store). We made sure we were fully fueled for the remaining fifteen minutes of our walk. What lay ahead of us was a river crossing, several stream crossings and finally, the elementary school in the town of Cerere. We took off our shoes and slowly made our way across the river. For those of us who haven't yet acquired tico feet it was quite painful. Most of us chose to wear shoes though the remaining stream crossings and deal with wet shoes for the rest of the week.

When we got to the school we met Will, the principal. He kindly gave up his office to us and declared that it would be our home for the next couple of days. Then he took us back across the river to collect foam pads to use as mattresses. En route we stopped and met a couple of the community kids who were more than excited to talk to us and show off their newly born puppies. With darkness upon us though, we couldn't linger and so grabbed our pads and made our third river crossing of the day.

Tired and sweaty we gladly took advantage of the shower in the teachers' house. Fidelina and Viviana were very welcoming and kindly gave up their bathroom over the course of the next hour and a half. Once we could stand the smell of ourselves again we ventured off to dinner at one of the neighbor's homes. In a community that as a general rule does not have electricity we enjoyed a candle lit dinner of delicious food slow cooked over an open flame. Then, with the day catching up to us we retreated back to the principal's office and climbed into our sleeping bags and/or sheets and fell asleep as Ken read us bedtime poetry. 

Playing with the kiddos
The next morning we were up nice and early in an attempt to have our belongings stowed away before kids started showing up for school. They showed up, drenched as a result of long walks on a rainy morning, and were excited to see their friend Mateo and see that he brought friends with him. We were split into groups and had two, one-hour sessions of dinamicas (ice breakers/ activities) with different student groups. The dinamicas ranged from 'get to know you games' to duck-duck-goose and Bear-Salmon-Mosquito. We ran around, made fools of ourselves and had a really good time. 

Group Shot
After our final student group of the day we took a hike to an overlook up the mountain. We had a beautiful view of Valle de la Estrella and enjoyed one another's company. It was a great opportunity to decompress after our day of activities, to think about what the next day's activities might look like, and to catch up after not having seen one another in a while. We returned in time to clean up and to enjoy another wonderful slow cooked meal that included fresh caught fish (some of the best any of us had eaten in Costa Rica!). With the nice cool mountain air that comes with a day of rain and Ken's reading of some classic poetry we all had a good night's sleep.

Tuesday morning brought us to the meat of our event. Día del Libro. We had all been emailing one another with lesson plan ideas over the previous week and we were a little anxious about pulling it off. Rebecca, Stephen and I had been assigned to second and sixth grade students. Chris, Rose and Ken were to work with first and fourth grade. Matt and Melinda had fifth and third grade. That meant we all had to create two three hour lesson plans. It was a little stressful as we weren't really sure what we were going to encounter when we strayed away from fun games, but it all went really well. 

Stephen as Max, leading the monsters in a party
Donde Viven los Monstruos was a big hit in several classes. I think that first, second, and fourth graders all had the opportunity to hear the story, make monster masks and then act it out. Picture pages were used to inspire creative writing. Prompts were given to push students to create their own conclusions to a predicament that characters encountered. Older students were trained to read to younger students. Stories were illustrated and origami was made. There were a few running games thrown is as well when students needed time to burn off some extra energy. At the end of it all we were happy and tired but ready for more.

In an effort to get the community involved in the spirit of reading and/or storytelling Matt had worked with the school to prepare an evening of Cuentacuentos or storytelling. We worked with the teachers to prepare drinks and sandwiches for those that came to the event. Firewood was collected to build the fogata (bonfire).People slowly started showing up, we were a little concerned that we were going to be left high and dry, but before we knew it all of the seats were filled and we had to move more chairs out from the classrooms.

Roasting Marshmallows (by Stephen)
We served food and Matt started the evening with a magnificent story that cracked everyone in attendance up. He would be asked over and over again throughout the next day to tell it again. His story was followed by a couple from some of the teachers at the school. Then we got the kids involved. Chris read De la Cabeza a los Pies ("From Head to Toe" by Eric Carle) and Stephen led the kids in doing all of the animal actions. I followed him with a retelling of Donde Viven los Monstruos and Stephen led the kids that had brought their monster masks in acting it out. To top things off, Rose introduced the idea of roasting marshmallows to the community. It was a hit. Several kids had three or four before we ran out. Once everyone was on a sugar high we called the evening to a close and worked with community members to get desks and chairs back into classrooms. Once everything was back where it belonged, us volunteers settled back around the fire and continued sharing the stories of our lives.

The following morning Chris and Ken had to leave bright and early as a result of other commitments. They crossed the river around 4:30 so that they could get on the 5am bus out of town, avoiding the hour and a half walk that we had taken on Sunday. The rest of us slept in for a couple of more hours and then made some PB&J sandwiches for breakfast.

Cabécar drama
We were fortunate enough to have been invited to the area celebration of Día del Aborigen. We waited around for about two hours for the tractor and trailer that would take us further into the indigenous communities. It was a bumpy ride that started off with some tractor trouble, but we eventually made it to the school where all of the neighboring communities came together to celebrate. We heard speeches, stories and poems read in Cabécar. Student groups performed plays and dances. We felt lucky to be a part of it, even if we stuck out like a sore thumb. I guess we're all kind of used to that though.

The gem of the day was being able to eat a traditional Cabécar meal. The women worked origami magic with banana leaves and presented us with nice little boats that would serve as our bowls for lunch. We enjoyed a stew made with platano, yuca and cerdo. I asked for mine to be served without the meat, but it sure looked good. Everything was delicious. We ate with out hands and managed to drink the broth out of our banana leaves without making a mess.

Eating out of our banana boats
After lunch we watched a little bit of a soccer game and then climber back on our trailer and headed home. Once back at the school a couple of us crossed the river to go to the pulperia and we came back with Adriana and Gabriella, the girls that we had met our first day in town. They wanted to make sure they could say goodbye to everyone. And the wanted to play. We did riddles for a while and then Matt read some Curious George, but they ultimately got their way and we played a couple of rounds of Bear, Salmon, Mosquito. Then we cleaned up and enjoyed one last candle lit dinner at the neighbors.

We didn't have Ken to read us to sleep, but we heard many hilarious stories from Stephen. We eventually called it a night as people (me) started falling asleep as we had to be up nice and early the next day.

Our final dinner in Cerere (by Matt)
We left the school at 4:30 in the morning, surviving the river crossing in the dark and loaded onto the bus a little after 5AM. Rose was the first to go, needing to catch a bus to San Jose en route. The rest of us continued on to the community of Penshurt where we filled up on pinto con huevo. Eventually we had to say our goodbyes though and go our separate ways. Stephen and Melinda headed south, Matt back inland and Rebecca and I traveled back to Puerto Viejo.

It was an incredible week. An excellent way to start closing out our service. We feel blessed to have had the opportunity to work with such amazing people and to spend time with friends that we hadn't seen in a while. It was also an incredible experience to stay in one of the indigenous communities for a couple of days.


For those of you who read Spanish, below is a story that Rebecca, Stephen and I wrote while doing a creative writing session with sixth graders. We had to include robots, monkeys, a desert and a volcano. Enjoy!

Había una vez, hubo una manda de robots que querian conquistar el mundo. Marcharon en el desierto del saturno buscando una reserva de petroleo. Si no encontraron una reserva de petroleo, se oxidaráron y se perdieron todo su reino de su parte de la galaxia. De repente, se encontraron una cuesta de arena lo que alcanzaba hasta el cielo. Estaban seguros que estuviera llena de petroleo, gritaban de alegria, ya se salvaron. 

Los robots ya habia comenzado a subir la cuesta en busca de la aperatura de su tesoro cuando sentieron un temblor fatal. Los robots se cayeron al suelo de rodillas con tanto miedo. Cuando miraron hacia la cima, vieron una erupción muy rara. Se dieron cuenta que estaban subiendo un volcán en vez de una cuesta. Después de echar un montón de ceniza, el volcán echo un tropo de monos hasta el cielo. Los robots temblaron con miedo, estos monos eran sus enimigas desde mucho tiempo y igual querian conquistar el mundo. Empezó la lucha más luchosa de los tiempos. Los monos cayeron desde el cielo sobre las espaldas de los robots gritando y aplastando bananos en las caras de los robots. Los robots respondieron en forma de lanzar rayos de sus ojos, matando los monos en forma grosera y escandalosa. El casique de los robots se deslizó en una cascara de banano, haciendolo cayer y tomando con el la fuente de vida de todos los otros robots. Los monos brincaron, gritando con alegria que ya eran los reyes nuevos de la galaxia. Se pusieron el banano como la fruta más poderosa y estimada de la galaxia.

El fin.

1 comment:

Rose said...

Awesome!! If you don't mind I will share your blog with my friends (I'm being lazy about writing my own)

It was a pleasure to live this adventure with you two!!