Monday, March 22, 2010

Welcome to the Jungle

We returned last Saturday from our 10 day Service Learning trip with the indigenous BriBri community in Yorkin, Costa Rica.  There is next to no electricity in the community, so I took a journal with me to write down everything that happened each day.  Here are the entries, ENJOY...  [If you want more information on what the project was meant to be, I posted an earlier blog about it in January.] Sorry it took so long to post; took me about a week to get this written.

Monday March 1st
Yesterday we arrived in the community, finally, at about 4 pm, but not without difficulty as per usual.  It has been raining in all of Costa Rica on and off for about a week and a half now.  Our original departure was supposed to be this past Saturday, but because of all the rain, the river that we needed to take by canoe to the community was too high and dangerous.  So yesterday we left at about 7:30 in the morning and it rained for the entire day.  We got held up after an hour of travel in traffic because of a mudslide covering half of the road.  After 3 more hours, whilst it continued to pour, we got to a town nearest to the place where the canoes were to pick us up.  Ana and Maria told us they weren't sure if we'd be able to make it due to so much rain and that we may have to stay at a hostel and try to arrive today instead.  I'm not sure how it came about, but they decided to go for it anyway and so we continued in our private bus towards the canoe pick-up.  After driving down the raggedy, bumpy road for 15 minutes, we suddenly couldn't drive anymore -- Because the road was no longer a road but a raging stream of water.
In the background, where there are people crossing water, that's where the road is supposed to be

After taking pictures and waiting for Ana and Maria to decide our next step, we backtracked to another place where the canoes were finally able to come and meet us.  Thank God for my ginormous rain poncho, because we sat in the motorized canoes for an hour and a half as they traveled up stream in the raging brown river.  Several times I was sure we were going to tip over and about a mile from the final destination our canoe ran out of gas.  Luckily they were prepared for an occurrence such as this and had another can to fill up the motor.
Finally we arrived at the landing and unpacked all the black garbage bags of our travel backpacks.  Each of us were paired up with a roommate to live with with a family in the community.  After all the families had arrived, we all followed our families home.  Susie and I's "parents" are named Leyner and Emily...And they're 19 and 22..Kiiinda awkward.  We ate dinner at about 5:30 (rice and plantains) and by 6:30 were in bed quickly falling asleep.  Since there's no electricity and it gets pitch dark by 6:00, this wasn't too hard.
My food...pretty much everyday

Now on to today : First official day complete! It was pretty boring actually...We woke up at 8:15 and trudged through the muddy (and that's an understatement) trail to the main lodge of the village.  Once we finished going through introductions of the women who started and now run the organization STIBRAWPA, we split into 2 groups: One to pick medicinal herbs and the other to clear a space for a garden in which to plant the herbs.  In all actuality, I felt that things were a bit unorganized, at least today (but it IS only the first day..).  I was in the medicinal herb group and we followed this guy Julio around the forest with plastic bags and he picked random plants and put them in our bags.  Then we walked to the space for the garden to help out.  I did some raking of leaves and dirt along with another girl whose rake was made out of two sticks and some nails.  At 12:00 we went to our homes for lunch and then returned to the lodge at 2:00 where more unorganization occurred.  After walking to see a bridge nearby the lodge, we returned and sat and waited until Ana and Maria were able to force someone to give us lessons in BriBri, the indigenous language of the village.  The girl seemed much less than enthused to be teaching us, and to be honest we weren't feeling much enthusiasm either.  At 6:00 we left the lodge to return to our homes and eat dinner with our families.  Our family (Leyner and Emily) made us dinner but didn't eat with us or talk to us really.  New day tomorrow.

Tuesday March 2nd 
7:00 am
I effing hate roosters.

7:30 pm
Well day 2 is complete.  A little more eventful than yesterday.  We divided into 3 groups this morning: One to clean one of the lodges because a group from Ohio left this morning, Another to continue planting the gardens, and another to work on a septic system near the high school.  I was in the cleaning group.  It wasn't too strenuous of work, if you can imagine.  Actually we got done in about 15 minutes.
After our afternoon break, one of the girls was really sick and so I took her spot helping at the spot near the high school.  We were putting these huge rocks into a big pit and then after lunch we went back to fill it in with "dirt" which was actually mud so it was almost impossible.

Then we had another break and I took a much needed nap at the house that Michon and Beth are living in.  It's so weird.  We're always so exhausted here even though we go to bed by 8 and wake up at 7.  It might be the food (because we're also always starving) and that it doesn't give us a lot of energy or it may be the heat.  I'm not really sure.

So at our house, there is hardly anything here.  The toilet is an outhouse - and that's lucky.  Other people's houses just have a hole in the ground more or less.  The shower is also outside.  And inside our house there are two hammocks and our beds, basically.  There's no table and the only "chairs" are two tree stumps.  Susie and I can't quite figure out if our mom is pregnant or not.  Our parents are actually not married but in a civil union sort of thing, which means if they ever want to get a divorce/split up, they can.  Here, if you get married you are not allowed to get a divorce.

The "living room"

The stove



The days are going by so slow..Doesn't really even feel like they're that excited for us to be here.
8 more days!

Wednesday March 3rd
Well...It rained again today.  Awesome.  Today we divided into two groups : One to build a sidewalk at the high school and another to haul rocks to the site for the new lodge.  I was with the rock group.  We had to go down by the river, find medium sized rocks, and make 25 piles of 15.  Well, everyone thought the best idea would be to find the rocks and throw them towards the flat part 15-20 feet away.  I tried to voice my opinion that this was probably not the most effective way.. but my ideas weren't considered.  So we finally got the piles made and then proceeded to bag the rocks in potato sacks and carry them through the muddy trails, up the hills, to the site.  Let me remind you that it was POURING RAIN THE ENTIRE TIME.  And the site is about a 7 1/2 minute hike away from the river.  We had our break, and then afterwards Jenna, Susie, Tia, and I helped wash laundry in the river.  Now I know why washing machines were invented.

Afer that I didn't feel well so I tried to nap. 4 other people are also sick, but they're throwing up and I thankfully haven't done that yet.
After lunch we learned how they make chocolate because caocoa grows EVERYWHERE here.  Then, for the rest of our freetime we played a game called "Mafia".

We're feeling a little disappointed in the trip so far because we don't feel like our work is that greatly appreciated or needed.  We talked about wanting to stay a night or two in one of the tourist lodges and Ana overheard us and told us that we shouldn't be asking that because it may appear that we are not appreciating our host families because they are really happy to have us.  I don't know how true that statement is...
7 more days..

Thursday March 4th
7:30 am
It's currently pouring rain out.  It has been raining like this ALL NIGHT.  This day should be interesting..

Woke up this morning and it was still raining outside.  There has only been one day since we've been here that it hasn't rained.  Today we got to the lodge at 8:15... and since it's been raining so much we couldn't do any work.  So right now it's 2 o'clock...We've been sitting in the lodge since 8:15...Doing nothing.  I feel bad because I'm frustrated with this trip, but I don't know how else to feel.  I know that the rain isn't something we can control so I'm trying not to let that frustrate me, but everything else unfortunately is.  First semester last year, I saw a video of the study abroad trip to Costa Rica.  There was a part when they were on their service learning trip and they were leaving the village after the 10 days and everyone in the village was standing there crying- the kids, the adults, everyone -- and everyone on the bus too.  And because of seeing that video, I guess I was expecting a similar experience.  The place we are has people coming to visit and help them all the time.  Us being here is just like every other day for them.  And the work we've done has not been hard.  The hardest thing was hauling rocks in the rain, and that took 30 minutes.  It doesn't seem like they are that excited for our help.  So I'm starting to lose all motivation.
We still have a week left.  I really just want to go back to San Josecito.  I don't feel like I'm getting anything out of this trip and I'm very, very disappointed.  Not even the teaching art or school has really happened.  Yesterday they asked for 2 volunteers to do math tutoring... Well we all know I'm the last person for that task.  And today they asked for 5 people to do an English class.  5 people volunteered right away.  And so here I am.  Bitching on this piece of paper.
This trip is the first time that I've felt homesick for my real home.

Friday March 5th
7:50 am
It's still raining.  Hasn't stopped in over 24 hours.  Once again we won't be doing anything because of it. What an awesome trip.

6:00 pm
So today we didn't go to the lodge until about 9:30 because of the rain.  Ana and Maria told us that if it was raining, we didn't need to come to the lodge until lunch time.  At around 10:30, it wasn't raining that hard, so we went to try to do some jobs.  We went to the tourist lodges and Ana told us to clear out all the extra wood in the newer lodge.  Well that took about 15 minutes... Then we waited for another job.  Soon a whole bunch of villagers came to start making the roof covering out of palm leaves.  They let us do a few weavings but I rathered that they do it since they are pretty much professionals and our work isn't as good.  Don't want a leaky roof because the gringos helped out.

So then we were given the job of sorting the leaves into piles of "pequeno" (small) and "grande" (large). BUT the problem was that nobody really knew the difference between the two sizes.  Basically when we DO work, we're just given [pardon my language] the bitchwork and our help usually makes the job last longer than it would if they just do it themselves.  That was all the work we did.

Tonight we're staying in the lodge together.  I'm not sure, but I think someone might be killed in their sleep because we have been spending way too much time cooped up together...

Sunday March 7th

Friday night we slept in the "tourist" lodge.  I ended up only getting 3 or 4 hours of sleep because Kim, Susie, Diego, and Daniel (a kid from Costa Rica who is here volunteering also) were so loud all night on the porch of the lodge.  Ana told us that it had been decided that our families would bring some food to the lodge for breakfast Saturday morning, but then some peoples' families told them to come home for breakfast so there was more confusion, as normal.  Low and behold, yesterday morning no one came with any breakfast just like we kind of thought would happen.  Ana also told us that we were going to work from 9-12, and at 9:30 there was still no one at the main lodge and one of the girls' parents told her that no one works on Saturdays because it's a holy day or something similar for them.  Finally, Ana and Maria showed up and told us there weren't any "materials" for working.  So once again, we spent the whole day in the lodge playing cards.  I tried to help with our afternoon snack which was empanadas.  For my cooking skills, they didn't turn out half bad.

Most of us didn't eat dinner because our digestive systems are so backed up from eating plantains with every meal [they're from the same family as bananas, if you didn't know].  We spent our second night in the tourist lodge Saturday and then this morning went to our homes for breakfast.  After, Susie and I went back to the lodge to help clean it up.
Today was our "free day".... So we spent it doing exactly what we have done the past 4 days.... Sitting around...Playing cards....Twiddling our thumbs.....And braiding hair.

Ana told us that tomorrow we are going to do something even if it rains.  And by the way :  It hasn't stopped raining yet.

Monday March 8th
Today it only rained a little bit!  And we actually didn't spend the whole day in the lodge!  In the morning, we spent more time sorting the leaves.  Then we had our break and afterwards the jobs were digging holes again, which had also been a job in the morning, or cleaning the lodge.  The groups stayed the same, so I stayed to clean the lodge which took, oh about 10 minutes.  For lunch, Michon and Melissa made pizza which was a nice change.  After lunch, Germ, Tia, Jenna, Susie, Kristina, and I went to finish digging the holes.  Also, we were told a group of French people were coming today for a visit.  This morning, we saw a group but it turned out they were from Michigan.  Then tonight, another group came and we weren't sure what to say if they were the Frenchies.  Then it turned out they were from Pennsylvania.

Wednesday March 10th
Last day completed!!  But I didn't write about yesterday because I wasn't feeling well last night - So yesterday, THERE WAS SUN!!  ALL DAY!!  It was great.  We had 3 groups : 1 to clean, 1 to put the roofing pieces in the sun, and 1 to dig 5 more holes.  I was in cleaning group again and again it took us about 10 minutes.  There was no one at the site to dig holes who could give directions so we had to wait a while for that.  Finally we split into two groups: One to dig the 5 holes, each 2 feet deep and one to dig out and level an area of ground.  I was in hole digging, but first we had to carry the rocks that we brought there earlier last week to each one of the holes that had already been dug.  It wasn't fun, but the distance wasn't far so it was okay.  Then the guy in charge of the site had us dig 5 holes, each about 2 feet deep and it SUCKED.  But we did it.

After our lunch break we went back to help the group who was trying to level out a different area.  Their job was NOT easy at all.  They had to dig out a huge area of grassy mud and make it all the same level.  After we did what we could with that, we returned to the main lodge.

We learned how to make bracelets which was really fun.  I didn't feel well yesterday afternoon so when Susie and I got to our house I just went right to bed.  I think it's probably because I'm dehydrated because they don't really drink water here.  They use it in the frescos that they make, but otherwise they drink coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.  Plus, the water here tastes so gross, I can't even drink it on its own if I wanted to.

Today, our only job was to take rocks from the river (once again) and fill in the pit that we leveled yesterday.  Today was another sunny, blazing hot day.  After hauling rocks on the 7 minute path (aka hike) for 2 hours, we took a short break for "water" and juice.  We weren't even a 1/4 of the way done at this point.  After that, we worked for another hour and a half, and got just about over 1/2 of it done.  It was definitely the most difficult job, and we couldn't finish it.  We had lunch after and then went to swim in the river.

Tonight, before we left to go back to our houses, the little kids put on a play for us.  It was really cute, but hard to see and hear.  It was something about 2 tribes fighting and one tribe kills the chief of the other who was reincarnated as a tiger and killed everyone from the other tribe.  But I'm not really sure.

Tomorrow we're leaving at 10:00 and spending the next two days in Puerto Viejo at the beach.  Then Saturday, we'll be back in San Josecito!!

It's so weird to think that all the while I've been here, life has been happening as normal both at home and in San Josecito.  Things that I cared about missing out on are happening and I hardly even remember or care.  It just goes to show that you should never stop yourself from going places or living life just because you're afraid you'll miss out on something while away.  You miss out on so much more if you never take the chance to do something different.


Alright, so that's ALL just from my journal.  After leaving Yorkin, we spent two days in Puerto Viejo which is on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and it has a pretty high population of Jamaican people.  I kind of felt like I was in Jamaica for a little while.  We stayed in a really nice and colorful hostel and ate REAL, almost, AMERICAN food.  Hot dogs, potato salad, spaghetti, cereal... We felt like we had died and gone to heaven.  Not much to report from those 2 days... So here are a few pictures.