Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Final Reflections: Henry S.

We are now on the airplane coming back from a week in Chilamate, Costa Rica. I think I speak for everyone when I say that this past week has been one of the most influential and enjoyable weeks of my life. While we were there, we laughed, talked (in two languages), worked, sang, and even cried. But most of all, we learned. We learned about Costa Rica. We learned Spanish. We learned about the world. We learned about what needs to change. We learned about culture. The culture is so different in rural Costa Rica. People wake up at 5:00am and go to bed at 9:00pm. Beans and rice are eaten at every meal. Cows are milked on a daily basis. Doors and windows are left open and unlocked. The culture of the small rural town of Chilamate in Costa Rica is so different, and we learned that not everything is the same as bustling, busy, and urban Brooklyn, NY. We also learned about what communities over the world are lacking. Day to day, everyone had all that they needed. But there aren't the resources for bigger more expensive projects. For example, computers and teachers and school space were an issue. Also, the community bridge was in a bad state, but there was no money for repairs. These issues are the ones that organizations like the WLS are trying to solve.

We also learned about each other and ourselves. We learned that we have put limits on ourselves, saying "I can't do this" or "I am bad at that." And we learned that when we step out of our comfort zones, when we break our limits, we grow and bond and live. Some people conquered their fear of heights on the zipline, while others confronted a fear or bugs every day. People also learned how they work in a group. Some realized that they are problem solvers, helping their friends through homesickness and drama on the trip. Others learned that they are real leaders, and can unify and organize the group. Others still realized that they are active followers, who, as we learned during the trip, are just as important as the leaders themselves.
On the airplane coming home, I look back on my time in Costa Rica with extreme happiness. I did really fun things, and am so glad that I had this opportunity. But, more importantly, I will take so much away from this experience. The friendship and understanding that I have is too valuable to quantify. So, thank you. Thank you to everyone who made this possible. And thank you to everyone who shared this experience with me.
- Henry

Student Reflections: Piper

On the last day of our trip, after white water rafting and relaxing with our families, there was a fiesta held at the teachers' homestay for all of the homestay families and us. Each homestay family walked to the party together and each family arrived at different times. When arriving, there was loud Spanish music playing, the smell of food cooking, and everyone laughing and having a great time. Everyone at the party was conversing and laughing, really showing the closeness of the community. Even though everyone arrived at different times, I noticed how once they got to the party, they jumped right into the dancing and conversing. After a bit of dancing and talking, and once everyone had arrived, we sat down for a great dinner of chicken and rice, beans, and other side dishes. Once everyone had finished eating, they turned the music back up and everyone got up and started dancing. This was when a group of Costa Rican girls (one of which was my homestay sister) preformed a dance for everyone at the party. This led to most of the Berkeley Carroll students to form a group in front of the whole party and start dancing. It was great because everyone was together in a small little circle dancing and singing and just having fun with each other. It was amazing how close everyone had gotten because of the trip, and this moment, when everyone was together and having fun with each other, really showed it. - Piper

Student Reflections: Maris

Monday night: everyone is packing and bringing their things together, saying thanks, and getting ready to go home the next morning. However, before our departure, we have a wonderful party with our host families and the community.

There is music and dancing, and there are performances by four young girls who kicked off the dancing that night. Next, the people from our group, danced to several songs as a group. Brianna displayed a great dance performance and rap. Floria also rapped for everyone attending the party.

We ate dinner, and had arroz y leche for desert. A special thanks went out to those who helped cook, prepared the party, and cleaned the dishes.

Next, we all said our goodbyes and hugged everyone. We walked home with our friends and host families for our final night together, and continued to pack for the next day.
  - Maris

Student Reflections: Kira


Our last day we worked on the Chilamate school. We painted the barriers of the auditorium, and we fixed the concrete barrier that keeps the rain from getting into the auditorium. We had some trouble getting started with the project because of all the rain that kept pouring down. So while we were waiting we heard the story of the work that has been done in Sarapiqui in the past. For example, we heard about the budget of the schools in Costa Rica. Most of the schools get money according to their number of students. Schools with less than 500 kids can't invest any money or time in the arts or sports. The parents of the school try to raise money to invest in the arts and sports. Some of the money that BC has raised went towards buying a SmartBoard for the classroom and wifi for the school. The World Leadership School helps with the projects for the schools. We raised money to pay for the projects we worked during the trip. We raised almost $8,000- $5,000 of which went to the Chilamate School and the rest went to La Linda Vista School. We also learned that 60% of the money we raised went towards the materials and 40% of the money we raised went towards the work force. Although some of the money we raised went to workers, some people in the community volunteered to help out. Without all the help from everyone that donated money and time, we wouldn't have been able to do anything for the community. So, thank you to everyone who helped. Our work was extremely helpful for the people of Chilamate. 


Touchdown in Newark!

We have safely landed at Newark and are taxiing to the gate. Students were happily occupied during the uneventful flight. 

I will update the blog with a more specific ETA to Lincoln Place once we have cleared Immigration, Customs, baggage claim, and are aboard our bus home. 

See you soon!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Student Reflections: Cassandra, Alex (Monday)

We started out the day with our usual breakfast of rice and beans, but aside from that I also enjoyed some homemade delicious pancakes and mangoes. After walking to our destination, which was the Chilamate school, we took part in an activity that involved a lot of communication. Our WLS guide Sarah gave us some bandanas which we used to cover our eyes. I was a little skeptical about the activity at first, but in the end it turned out to be really fun and interesting. When the rain had finally ceased we heard a story about the school. Davis, who runs the Eco-lodge with his wife Megan, told us how the school budget was based on the amount of students they have, which unfortunately means that they can't afford many things like art, music, or other activities. After our talk with Davis, we began to start our work at the school.
- Cassandra 

After a group lunch at the eco-lodge we changed gears and took the tour bus to the white water rafting tours in Sarapiqui. Once we got to the river, we divided up into four groups of five or six people. The aura before the tour was a very nervous vibe because some of us had never rafted before or just didn’t like the idea of falling off of the boat. I was personally nervous because I am hard of hearing and I couldn’t wear my hearing aids in the water, so I wasn’t going to be able to hear the whole time. However, once we got on the rafts on the river, everyone seemed to forget about their fears and got caught up in the constant bouncing against the waves. Also, the singing and rapping gave everyone smiles on their faces. I also felt very supported by my peers and it created a great experience. After, we ate pineapple, watermelon and laughed at the pictures taken of us. It was definitely a highlight of the trip for me and everyone. 

Painting the cement walls & pillars of the new auditorium - that last year's middle school group started. Since last year the roof has been raised & electricity updated so that there is now a location that can accommodate large groups of people.

Sealing cracks in the cement wall that was just built to divert water away from the new auditorium!

Hard at work raking leaves & sticks from the playground we painted the other day!

Yesterday's leaders hard at work writing the blog!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Milking the cow: urban goes rural

Verdad o falso: This cow urinated on me. Verdad!

Dance party gracias

Dance party!

Post zip lining celebration!

Milking the cow (2)!

Milking the cow!

Happy birthday, Barbara (Ashley's mom)

Feliz cumpleanos!

Tortilla success!

Raft challenge!


Student Reflections: Ashley (from Saturday)

It has been four days with our amazing homestay families; even with such short time, Kira and I have gotten so close with our family. I can clearly remember back to four days ago, when I had butterflies in my stomach to meet a new family that spoke only Spanish. But all of the jitters disappeared when my homestay mother, Digna, greeted me on the first day. Digna greeted Kira and me very warmly with a big smile and “Pura Vida”, a widely used Costa Rican term. I was greatly surprised with the immediate hospitality from my homestay family. I was even more surprised by the incredible cooking; I would pay dollars upon dollars for the food, honestly. I would never have expected to become so close with a family from another country with such ease. I am truly so happy to have gotten the opportunity go to a beautiful country and be hosted by a kind and caring family. - Ashley

Student Reflections: Callan, Aidan, Charlie (for Sunday)

This morning we woke to the smell of chocolate by going to the Sarapiqui Chocolate tour. During the tour Willie taught us about how to pick the fruit. We also learned how to grind the cocoa beans into cocoa nips, and then blend the nips in a process called conking. To me this was one of the highlights of the trip because I love chocolate. I was really surprised to learn about how bitter the chocolate is before you add all the milk and sugar. It was also really interesting to drink cacao hautl which is the indigenous version of hot chocolate, which was one of the first beverages that chocolate was in. Pura Vida. - Callan

After a great community lunch we split into teams to start our afternoon activity The Amazing Race.  We moved through the community in groups to build our teamwork and have fun.  There were five activities: dancing, milking a cow, making tortillas, flipping a raft, and a Spanish interview with a Chilamate community member. My personal favorites were milking the cow and rafting.

Milking the cow was more of a personal activity than a teamwork exercise; however, I enjoyed it very much because I have never milked a cow before before.  It was a strange experience, the utter of the cow, once you started touching it the utter filled with milk and I had to squeeze it out gently.  It was a little odd at first but I had a great time.  I never knew how creamy milk was before being pasteurized.

The rafting was hard work!  Our kicking in the water was very ineffective because we had to wear water shoes.  Without the speed of our feet, we couldn’t climb on the boat.  My team ended up using our tall teammates, Kira and me, as structures for our shorter companions, Henri and Piper.  Once they climbed on top, our shorted friends pulled us up.  Once we did that, we fell off the raft, flipping it the process.  Once we did that, we repeated the same climbing process and declared our victory on top the raft. 

- Aidan

     The next activity in the "Costa Rica Amazing Race" was dancing. There were three different types of dance we learned: bachata,  merengue, and salsa. For each dance there were three moves, and at the end we danced these new moves with our partner. Our teachers were two local dance enthusiasts, Ilena and Erica. We learned in the living room of my home stay (with a loud sound system). The energy was fast tempo and the vibe of the room was a mixture of excitement and nervousness. 
     The next activity was tortilla making. Our teacher was a lovely homestay mother named Dinora. The ingredients were masa (corn meal) and water. The first step was putting masa in a bowl and adding water. We had to mix the masa with water and then spread it on a cellophane wrap on a plate. We needed to turn the plate and at the same time press down on the masa. To end we put our masa on the stove and let it cook and then we had our delicious homemade warm tortillas with cheese. 
     In conclusion, the vibe of the day was a mix of taking responsible risks as well as having tons of fun. Pura Vida.    
  - Charlie

Leadership styles

Instructor Sarah breaks down different leadership styles to help students (and adults) see what attributes they bring to cooperative encounters. 

Cocoa tasting

Next our host ground the roasted beans with a traditional stone mortar & pestle . They added sugar and cinnamon. Then we took turns grinding it into a chocolate paste from which we made hot chocolate! We then added vanilla, chili pepper, milk, nutmeg, pepper & other spices to our individual cups. It was delicious!!

Then we learned how the beans are fermented. This process takes about a week and the bacteria used is from our human saliva! A few beans that we sucked on were introduced to a pile of fresh beans still surrounded by pulp from the fruit. By the end of this process the pulp had disappeared and the beans are fermented. Next the beans are dried in the sun and then roasted. We all got to peel the shell from the beans and taste them. They smelled & tasted like chocolate -100%pure cacao!!

Today we visited a cacao farm. We learned how the fruits grow (directly out of the tree trunks!) and how cacao is made. Our leader, Willy Wanka, broke open a fruit for us and we tasted the pulp and seeds inside, which was slimy & sweet like mangos.