I’m in a little town called La Fortuna near the Volcan Arenal. My group and I decided to take a weekend off and just have a fun, relaxing break.
We needed it. Our second week in the community to me felt more of a struggle for my mind and body. On Sunday afternoon, one of the community members passed away in a tragic motor vehicle accident. It all happened so suddenly especially right at the end of a great weekend of fun and festivities that to me it felt like a shock. In the small community of Los Jasmines, the tragic loss brought everything in the community to a halt. Our project was no exception.
The first week felt like it flew by real fast! We were warmly welcomed by the women’s organization and our families, made some progress with our project already and completed painting the school tables a pretty turquoise colour. The colour we used reminded me of the water near Isla Tortuga. This was definitely one of my more favourite tasks in our 5 week project. When the kids started school on Monday of this past week, they loved their new desks which made it all worth the effort.
The community is building a new church (iglesia) and the weekend was dedicated for fundraising for the new church. My group and I attended mass on Friday as it was a great way to meet with all the people in the community. Shortly after the mass, there was a beauty pageant for the little girls. It was more a competition to raise money and the little girl who raised the most was awarded with a crown – the little princess was adorable!
My group and I went to Upala on Saturday; purchased some snacks, necessary items and went to an internet cafe for an hour or so. On Sunday morning, there was an ox-cart parade and our group got to be in the parade on one of the carts! I have to say it was a scary experience at first. The oxcart was “driven” by a 10 year old kid! As we made our way up and down the hilly road at some points it seemed like the cart would break. Once we got over the fear, it was a super awesome experience!
The parade ended near the community hall, and was followed by an auction. My host mom had donated a cow and some other people donated their cows, pigs, chickens and a few other items. As a group we bid on a cute little pig at the live auction. It was so much fun and we donated the church about 36,000 colones and the pig. It really helped us bond with the community and show our support in their initiatives. I even participated in a spontaneous salsa dance at the end of the festival.
On sunday afternoon, we headed out to meet a family that just welcomed a new born baby a couple of days after we arrived. My group and I bought some baby diapers, lotion, wipes and pacifier as a gift and were on our way to give it to the baby’s mom. We barely made it a few feet away from our house when we heard the news. Moira’s host dad was in an accident on his way back from the auction, and he was presumably dead!
The news shook me a bit because Megan and I only met the Signor earlier that day just before the ox-cart parade had started! I won’t go into more details about this incident out of respect for him and his family. I can tell you the whole thing really changed me and my group in a way we had not expected.
We were supposed to start construction of the computer classroom on Monday and we ended up postponing this to Thursday. Instead we helped the women in the greenhouse and helped clean up the kindergarten classroom. The next few days were spent on collecting donations of food and money in preparation for the funeral. We didn’t have much to do otherwise with our projects on hold. However this was a unique opportunity to really learn more about the culture of the community, bond with them and also for our group to bond with each other.
This past week had been super super hot. There’s been very little rain. For someone who barely broke into a sweat in Donovan’s boot camp class at Bayer, I have been drenched in sweat just from sitting! I am exhausted even though I have done very little physical activity. All this together with the hundreds of insect bites, made the next four weeks seem like really really a long time from now. I have to say I have been feeling homesick. I miss my clean, cool apartment, my own privacy, not having chickens and geicos running around the house all the time, heck I miss Canadian snow!
We finally began construction on Thursday. The contractor is a really wonderful, fun-loving man. We were excited to finally get started. On day 1, our work involved measuring the length of the room we’d build and digging a trench in the ground in which to lay the foundation. Sounds easy and as we got started we quickly realized it was far from easy. Already by 9am the heat was intense. By about 10:30am with every stroke I hit the ground, I felt my heart racing faster and faster. I was surprised because I had breakfast, I had made sure to remain hydrated and I have been taking multivitamins every day. When I finally began to feel nauseated, dizzy and all I wanted to do is sleep, Megan put her foot down and helped me get home. My mom and sister (Ammi) made me eat fruits and I took a nap.
Honestly, I feel fine and I am a bit confused why my body would get depleted of nutrients so fast. I also felt guilty leaving my group members to continue with the work. But I also wasn’t contributing much. It turns out the heat got so intense, by 11:30 even my group members decided to call it a day.
I woke up at 4am on Friday and worked on some goal setting. This made me feel a lot more energized and ready to tackle the day’s challenges. I also think it helped that I woke up and had some ‘me time.’ I accomplished far more on Friday and felt just fine. In fact, Friday afternoon we had organized a friendly soccer match and not only did I play for the first time, I scored a goal!!!
So you can see how excited we are today to have a clean room, with air conditioning, hot water in the shower and get this…no insects! We were a bit too excited about eating burgers for lunch after two weeks of rice, beans and occasional mystery meats! Then we all felt really sick…just like the people on Survivor! LOL We’re feeling better now after a two hour hike and soak at the hot springs. Today was such a treat! I’m looking forward to my first (hopefully) uninterrupted 6 hour sleep.