Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day #14: The Final Day and the trip back.

Sorry, it's been a few days since I've had a chance to write this final day.  Tuesday I was going to post the final post, but then found out that I had already packed my camera and wouldn't have any pictures to go along with the text.  And we all know how BORING those are.  So I waited until I had internet access, which is today.

Tuesday we finished a lot of our projects.  No, we didn't get the wall built, but we got as far as we could.  I don't think that we could have gotten any more done on the wall than we did.  The only way would have been if we didn't have the half day of re-digging the trench, but still, that equates to about another ten rows of block maybe?

So the final post is this.  I don't want to finish this thing only talking about The Pits and not mentioning any of the other projects.  Between our two groups, there were roughly 60 of us that went down to work.  There were just over 30 in our group and 30 in the first group.  Between the two groups we represented 28 churches.

Here are some of the other projects that were completed while we were there.

The cabinets that Jim, Bernie, and Steve built.

One section that was repainted by the painting crew.

The wall and ceiling that was sheet rocked.  Before we started there was no ceiling and particle board for walls.  Now it's a classroom.

Some of the sewing crew that made aprons for the cooks and drapes for all the windows in the houses we were staying in.

The wall right outside our houses that was first scrubbed down, painted white, then beautified by Vicki and one of the Sue's.

Here's where we left the wall.  As you can see there's only about nine rows laid.  But like I said, we couldn't get any farther than this.

And here's the crew of Group II.

We flew out of San Jose at around 3 pm.  Connected in Charlotte and made it back to MSP right after midnight.  We pulled into Heron Lake at 4:15am.  I've been worthless for the past couple days, but am now rested up.

Final thoughts on Costa Rica:
The mission trip was phenomenal.  It was very well planned and organized.  We had a great crew that worked well together.  We completed many projects and left the wall at a good place to be finished for the next crew.

It was a great learning experience for me.  I've never been out of the country (save for Canada, and then it was only to Winnepeg).  It was very educational to be put into a place where I didn't speak the language and had to make due.  Sure we had interpreters for some of the time, but there were other times where we had to figure out how to communicate.  Also, we saw a fair amount of poverty, especially when we went to Los Guidos.  The discussions that evening were largely about how people couldn't believe the poverty they saw and that it struck a deep chord and desire to help these people.  The point was brought up that even though the poverty in Los Guidos is so evident, it's not too far from what we see in our home towns.  No, there's no tun roof shanty neighborhoods in Worthington.  But there are still families that have no income, live in questionable housing and go to bed each night on the floor wondering when and where their next meal is going to come from.  Sure we have a better social system set up to try and provide for these people, but it's still here.  There are still families in Worthington that are searching each and every day for any sliver of security in their homes.  Poverty and injustice may have different faces and people in Costa Rica as opposed to Worthington, but the problems are still there.  At the very least, the mission trip to Costa Rica reignited my call to service within Worthington.  No, I don't think that we will ever be able to cure poverty.  But there's still a need for people to feed the hungry their fish to put at bay their hunger now.  And also there's a need to teach the hungry how to fish, so they can eliminate their hunger for the future.  Are we willing to take the first steps against poverty?  Well that's a question we each need to answer for ourselves.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Day #13: Call me Bender

Today was a good day. It kind of sucked that my arms were sunburnt. The morning was close to unbearable. It was warmer than normal, sunny, and not an ounce of breeze. We finished pouring the foundation that we had blocked out.

Barb and Dennis looking at our morning work.

When we were gone on Friday, Wegner and Wilber put a finish coat on the wall that was done. Only problem was that no one was around to water the wall to keep it from drying too fast. So what happened was that there were some areas that didn't stick like they were supposed to. So today, some of the guys got to knock off the unstuck finish coat. But it wasn't all for loss because they were then able to get two of the sections completely finished. It looks pretty good. I'm excited to see the finished wall. Unfortunately we're not going to be around when it is finished.

Wilber, Dan, and Wegner finishing the wall.

This afternoon we were lucky enough to get some cloud cover blown in and the wind picked up so it wasn't AS miserable in the pits. I spent the afternoon bending rebar to make yet another form for the wall. I got done with that and went to see what the rest of the crew was working on over at the wall. Where the footer was dried they started laying a couple rows of block. It was kind of cool to see the wall actually coming to fruition after days of digging and pouring in the trench. Tomorrow we'll probably be laying block all day (unless Wilber has other ideas, which oftentimes is the case).

I know it doesn't seem like much, but a lot of us were hoping to see this point.  Wegner and Dan laying the first row of block.

Most of the other projects that our team has been working on are coming to a close. The ceiling team (which if you remember, I was on for all of one day) has gotten as far as they can go. They got the ceiling up, mudded, and sanded.

The painting team is done with the areas that were alotted them at the beginning of the trip. Now they're on to "bonus" painting.

Clyde and Dennis put up the metal basketball nets that we brought down.

Jim Hvistendal and Steve are finishing up with their storage cabinets that they've been building. They're also going to get the First Aid cabinet and a recycle bin built before tomorrow, noon.

Vicki only has about an hour's worth of painting to finish her mural that's right outside our houses.

The sewing group has made drapes for all the windows in our houses and are in the process of fixing three sewing machines from Los Guidos. Los Guidos Methodist Church has a sewing ministry that they're just starting. Only thing is is that three of the four sewing machines are broken. So they brought them over and we're going through them.

Overall, we're accomplishing as much as we can in our short two week trip. No we're not going to see the completion of the wall. But we never came in thinking that we could get that far. We just wanted to be able to lay some block. And tomorrow that's what we're doing.

We're all starting the beginning processes of packing and getting organized. I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to get everything packed again. Either way, I'm going to miss Costa Rica, but I really miss being home. Maybe in the future my family will be able to come down with me. And then we'll see the finished playground.
The Southern Prairie District Crew in front of the Wall.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day #12: Burnt to a crisp.

Well, it was going to might as well have been today. I finally got miserably sun burnt today. We were up in Monteverde this morning yet. About ten of us went out or a horse back tour of an area farm that had sugar cane, coffee trees, herbs, and other things. It was family operated and a family farm. Only thing was is that it's been hovering in the low 70's the whole time we were up in Monteverde that sunscreen wasn't even on the radar. Of course I've been out of sunscreen since about day 5 and have been mooching off of Gordon for the past week. Well, today I didn't think of it and of course it was hot and sunny all day. We were less than halfway done with the horse ride and I knew that I was going to get burnt. Luckily I had a hat on, so my face didn't get burnt. Only my arms and my neck a little.

So about the horse ride. Now I've been on a couple of horse rides in my day. Mostly before I graduated high school. So it's been a while since I've saddled up. But one thing I vividly remember about the horse rides is that one, we ALWAYS wore helmets, and two, we went so slow that snails would pass us flicking the bird. So when I signed up for the horseback coffee tour I wasn't too worried about Ole Seabiscuit.

So we get out to the farm, there's a bunch of saddled horses standing around, nothing out of the ordinary. We get in the building and they ask us to sign a "I promise not to sue" waiver, again it didn't surprise me. So now into the helmet line...oh wait. There were no helmets. No worries we'll probably be going super slow, I don't need a helmet anyways. So we're outside waiting to saddle up. While we were waiting, a rather ambitious horse (who later I find out is named Humilde) starts trotting away and the workers have to go run down. I made some quick joke to Clyde that that was his horse. Hardy har har. So the worker walks Humilde back up to the group and guess what...yep, he signale me over to mount up. Oh great, I've signed a waiver, no helmet, and I'm riding a barely tame rodeo horse that's going to buc me three ways from Friday. I love you babe, but it doesn't look like Daddy's comin' home!

I get saddled up, no poblem. Humilde turns out to be a great follower, once saddled up we're standing with the crowd. No the leader is getting saddled up and will probably give us about five or ten minutes of pointers as to how to control this monster I'm sitting on...oh...nope, he just makes a "Follow Me!" gesture and we're OFF! It's okay, I'm sure the trail is no big deal...probably really flat, we'll be going slow...I'll be fine. Well we come around the first corner and start heading down a hill that litterally looks like this \. Not good, but me and Humilde made it. It was a pretty shaky start, but I'm still on top and the train is going slow. Well, remember when I said my trusty steed was a good follower? It turns out that when the horse he's following starts galloping, Humilde decides it'll be fun to see if this unequipped, untrained, newbie of a handler can hang on for dear life. Sure enough, without warning, Huimilde takes off after the horse she's following. It wasn't too far, but it was up a hill like this / and when it was over my eyes went from this oo to this OO. Luckily the lead handler's daughter (probably no more than 14) rode up beside me and explained in spanish, "I'm terribly sorry for our inadequate equipment and training. But I will not let our downfall as an entertainment company deminish your capacity to be entertained on this ride. I will do everything in my power to make it right. Including, but not limited to, riding slowly in front of your fare steed to ensure his speed is agreeable to your level of comfort. And yes there are going to be some very difficult hills and passes, but through my expert experience and ability to lead, we will make it out the other side without you feeling like your life has been endangered any more than it already has." I'm sure that's what she said. I mean I don't speak spanish...very little spanish. And I can't put more than three words together to form a sentance in spanish. But I'm positive it's what she said.

Well anyways, with the young godsend of a horse handler limiting Humilde's speed, we made it to the top of the mountain that overlooks Monteverde. AND we even made it back in one piece. Final word on the horseback ride? It was AMAZING!!! It's always an amazing thing to feel like you're putting your life out there. I mean there were some parts of the trails that had a sharp grade off the edge that if you would have fallen off that side, you'd be rolling down quite a ways. But how else do you get to see the grand views and landscapes? Sometimes beauty just requires a moderate about of risk.
Before getting on the horses.
Up one of the easy sections of the trail.

At the top of the mountain overlooking Monteverde.

So the horses were cool, but after we got back the family fed us. We weren't expecting it. But we got some traditional Costa Rican rice and chicken served with fresh pineapple, watermelon, and cabbage salad. It was great. Then it was to the back to see their family farm operations.

Sugar cane one the left and the foreground right.  Herbs further back.

This farm was cool. The family owns about 100 Hectares (which is just under 2.5 acres per hectare). Of which we saw about 60% of it on the horse's back. When we walked back behind the house we saw more of what they did. Their little family has a small sugra cane and coffee tree operation. They also grow a fair amount of herbs and some rooted vegetables like radishes. When we got back to the shed, the farmer's wife was back there roasting beans on an open flame, then grinding them in a small hand grinder, then boiling water and using an old coffee maker. It was a pretty cool thing to see the whole process. And the coffee was one of the best cups I've ever had! It just tasted to clean.

Roasting the beans, boiling the water.  The grinder is right in the middle.  The coffee maker is to the left on the table.

Making coffee.  To the left is sugar that was made from this farm's sugar cane.

Also in the shed, they had an old sugar cane press and an old distiller. The sugar cane press took two people to run it and it operated just like an old clothing ringer, put them through and ring them out. The amazing thing is that in each piece of sugar cane, there is about 1 liter of water. They ran two canes through the press together, five times and each time the same amount of water came out. Then they served it to us as pure sugar cane juice and wow. It tasted like pure sugar with the aftertaste of fresh vegetables picked directly from the garden.
Getting the juice out of the cane using a machine that's 60 years old.

THEN, they showed us how the distiller worked and served us up some of that. What they do with the distiller is juice some sugar cane, take the juice in a canister and place it in the shade for 8 days. Then they bring it inside and start a small fire underneath it and let it slowly cook. It takes about 3 or 4 hours to finish, but eventually the newly made liqour drips out the spout like a coffee maker. And talk about feeling the burn. They served us just a small swallow, but it burned all the way down...and then kept burning. We asked what the usual alcohol content was and the farmer said roughly 70%...yep, it sure tasted like it.
The cane juicer in the foreground, the distiller in the aft.

Overall our tour today was very interesting. It was cool to see two major parts of Costa Rican agriculture in the coffee and sugar cane. Also, it was neat to learn about how they were doing things more than 50 years ago. A little history never hurt anywone.

The rest of the day was spent on the bus coming home. We got back to our houses around 6pm, ate, had devos, and we were left to do what we do. Tomorrow we're back in The Pits to nock off day 6 of 7 work days. Tehn Tuesday we work, then pack, and Wednesday we hop on the steel bird to come back to our darlings.

ps-I've update Day 11 with pictures.  I didn't have any pics from Day 10...we were driving all day.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day 11: Living in a cloud forest

Today´s been pretty cool.  It started early this morning, we were on the bus from our hotel to get into Monteverde for breakfast.  It was the normal scrambled eggs, toast, and of course rice and beans.  It wasn´t bad.  After that a group of us went up to take the Sky tour.  We went on the Sky Tram which is like an enclosed ski lift.  Only thing was is that we were about 400 feet off the ground at the highest point.  It was kind of a bummer because it was cloudy at the top of the mountain today.  So we couldn´t see very far, but it was still quite the experience.  I´m not too afraid of heights, but when were were at the precipice there was a big gust of wind of about 30 mph that hit us from the side.  When you´re that high up and the thing starts swinging side to side...your hearts starts beating and you grab onto anything that´s solid.  When we got to the top we found out that in order to build the tram, they hauled everything up on the backs of men.  They would strap pieces on and hike up the mountain.  It took almost two years to build the thing because of this.  They didn´t want to disrupt the cloud forest around it by building a ATV path or truck path, so the backs of men was the only thing left.
The Worthington Crew at the top of the Sky Tram.  It started pulling away right as we were taking the picture.  That's why Gordon looks kind of wierd.

Up the mountain and into a cloud on the Sky Tram.

Then we were on to the Sky Walk that took us over five suspension bridges that went through the cloud forest.  You might be asking, why it is called a cloud forest.  Two reasons, one the elevation.  We were at about 5000 ft above sea level.  Second the precipitation.  This cloud forest gets about 12 ft of rain a year, the Costa Rican rain forest gets 24 ft a year.  It was a cool hike.  We learned a lot about tarzan swings, the ecosystem, and we even saw some monkeys.  The highest bridge that we went across was 150 ft. above the ground.  And when the wind blew, you held on.

One of the monkeys we saw in the Cloud Forest.

Then we were off to Salvatura which is another 2 km up the mountain.  When we got up there we went into the butterfly garden.  It was pretty amazing seeing the different varieties of Costa Rican butterflies.  They had hatcheries, and our guide was really good.
Butterfly garden hatchery.

Then we were off to the humming bird garden.  I tried to get close to them and got about 18 inches away.  I took some blurry pictures.  There wasn´t a guide this time, so it was just us there, watching, getting dive-bombed by humming birds.
If you look close you can see some humming birds close to the feeders.  Clyde was about 18 inches from it and getting dive bombed in the process.

Tonight some people are going in to the Children´s Eternal Rain Forest.  I decided against it since tomorrow we´re going on a coffee plantation tour and horseback riding.  The Children´s Eternal Rain Forest is a section of about 50,000 acres of rain forest that was bought and made into a preserve.  Dr. Hedstrom does a lot of work out of there.

Today was a great day, I´ll try and post pics tomorrow night when we get back to Carrillos.

Day 10: Trucker´s burn and a Fearless Carlos.

Friday was a LONG day in the bus.  We spent the better part of the day driving up to Monteverde.  The thing with driving in Costa Rica isn´t that it´s long distances between town or locations.  It´s just that the roads are so windy and the speed limit is no more than 60 km an hour.  So it takes a LOT of time getting from A to B.  Also the trip up to Monteverde is a one way in and one way out type of deal.  And once you get to the mountains it turns into gravel...and a lot of switchbacks and long drops.  And then when you think you´ve gotten to the go higher and higher and higher.  The view of the bay only gets better and better the higher you go up becase you´re getting a better and better viewpoint.  When we finally got to the top of the hill and into Monteverde we all breathed a sigh of releif as we were back on hard top roads. 

Monteverde was founded in the 1950´s by a group of about 50 Quakers that came from Alabama.  They left Alabama to avoid the peace-time draft.  They pretty much found a piece of land that no one claimed or owned and said, ¨This is ours.¨¨ and now there´s Monteverde.  There are some families that basically claimed over 500 acres of land just by saying so.  Still today there is a good population of Quakers that live on the land.

First we went to eat, then we made a couple of stops.  The first was to the CASEM Co-op.  CASEM is an organization formed to give Costa Rican women a way to utilize their craftmanship skills and gain financial independence.  Everything that they sell at the Co-op is hand made by Costa Rican women.  It´s not like a sweat shop or anything.  There´s everything from beadwork jewelry, to hand sewn table clothes, to hand painted portraits.  It´s a very interesting place to be.

Next we were off the to Monteverde Cheese Factory.  Unfortunately we came in at the end of the day and couldn´t get a tour.  BUT there was a tour ending when we got there an I got in on some juicy facts.  One is that they do just over $15 million worth of sales each year...and less than 1% of that is to the U.S.  Almost all of it is to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama.  Not bad for a cheese factory tucked into the back 40 of Costa Rica.

After that we checked in to our hotel, then grabbed a good lunch at a hole in the wall restaraunt.  Then I took two games of three handed Cribbage from Clyde and Steve M.  It was a long day, but a good day.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day #9: Meeting Hank Hill and throwing cement.

First off...I met Hank Hill today.  The only difference is that the real Hank Hill was from Arlen, Tx.  The Hank Hill I met today was not.  Ok, so here's what happened.  This morning I woke up a little bit earlier (6:30 instead of 6:55).  I was sitting out at the table in my morning grog, waiting for the IB to kick in when this man and lady walk down to our house.  He introduces himself as Don from Texas.  Honest to God, this guy talks like Hank, walks like Hank, stands like Hank...he's Hank Hill.  He talked about things that happened in "Jew-Lie" and said stuff like, "Hawsit goan?"  Not to make fun of his accent...but there's no doubt he's from Texas.  So Hank and Peggy are here until we leave.  Down to help out on their own dime.  Taking a week of their life and helping us out.  It's good, we've adopted them into our team just like we adopted Stan at the beginning of our trip (he left Monday).

Wow we got a lot done today. All morning we were cutting, forming, and tying rebar for the slab in the bottom of the trench. By lunch we were able to get the final pieces tied in to where we wanted to pour. This afternoon we were able to pour, pour, and pour cement. We got almost done with what we had blocked out. For a short while we were down to only one mixer because Jim and Scott were taking a different formula of cement up to a clinic on a hill behind the school to fill in a damaged handicap ramp. So I guess if there are people that will now get into the clinic that couldn't before, it's okay that we didn't get the slab exactly where we wanted it. BUT, we still got a LOT done. I was talking with Bernie and Dennis (trip assistant and leader, respectively) later this afternoon and they both said that we don't usually get that much done in one day on any one project. I think even Wilber and Wagner were surprised we got that far. We did have about 20 minutes left at the end of the day to do another mix, but everyone was gassed and we didn't have any more bags of cement close to the mixers. It's not that they weren't on site, but they're each 50 kgs and extremely awkward to lift. Usually we load three bags in a wheel barrow and wheel them up to the mixers. But it'll all be waiting for us Monday morning.
Gordon watering the wall.  It gets so hot in the sun that the concrete and wall have to be watered down each day (sometimes multiple times a day) to keep it from drying too fast and becoming brittle.

Tanya tying the rebar in the trench.  The verticle ones are threaded through the cinder blocks and sure up the wall.  The flat mesh are for the foundation for the wall.

Pouring concrete.  What do you do when you don't have a chute?  Improvise.

Two mixers going full bore again.  Clyde filling Scott's barrow.

Today was probably the least humid day since we've been down here.  Here's a good shot from the pool.  You could see the distant mountains really well today.

Tomorrow we're off to Monteverde. It's going to be a sort of break for three days for us. But it's also going to be highly educational for us. We'll be right in the rain forest at Monteverde. Costa Rica used to be almost entirely covered in rain forests. At the beginning of the 20th century the country still had 67% of its rain forests. By the latter part of the 20th century they were down to 17%. So to go into the rain forest is to get a good feel of Costa Rican history and landscape. Also, ecotourism is the biggest money maker for the country, so our trip up there also helps out the Costa Rican economy. In fact, when we go anywhere from our houses and work sites, we always take the same bus with the same driver. On the side there's the word "Tourismo". Basically it's a tourist bus. Everywhere we go people are waving at the bus, welcoming us.

I'll have more to report tomorrow. Since the work today was kind of redundant and the same thing that we've done in the past, I don't feel the need to go into any more detail.
Good news! Ron got his stitches out today. We have two nurses and a physical therapist on this trip, and they've had their work cut out for them. If you want to pray for us, pray for healing and endurance. We have Ron with his head (and later leg), Phyllis hurt her thumb and has it wrapped, one of the Susans (there's three) has a bum shoulder, one of the Jims is sick, Jill is better now but still not's been a world of hurt the past couple days. So pray for us to make it through our trip to Monteverde and then the last two work days in good shape.
More tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day #8: Los Guidos Methodist Church

Wow today was fun. We went to Los Guidos which is SW or San Jose. Los Guidos is a shante town made up of mostly undocumented people from Nicaragua and other countries. To give you an idea of the town, Los Guidos is made up of 13 sectors. Each sector is about 3 blocks squared. Within each sector there is roughly 1,000 children. Los Guidos is just under 4,000 square meters and holds over 20,000 people. So, over population is a huge issue. Also, with the decline in the world's economy, unemployment has run rampant. The people that live in Los Guidos are usually workers that do the undesirable jobs of Costa Rica (sound familiar?) like harvesting sugar cane, working long hours for little pay. Along with the huge issue of poverty, there is a large gang population in Los Guidos which brings into play: drugs, violence, prostitution, etc.

We were working with the Los Guidos Methodist Church. I originally had stated that we were working with an orphanage, but rather it was only a feeding program started and operated by the pastor at the church. When we showed up, the pastor sat with us and explained what they did there. He also explained that this morning, people from the government showed up and decided that one of the buildings that they use are topographically dangerous. Meaning, they were worried it was going to fall down the hill. Later Charlie explained to us that more than likely it was the work of a lady that has wanted to shut the church down. The issue with this house and where it was, is that in Los Guidos there is such a problem with over population that almost all of their population is comprised of squatters. So, if someone wants to make waves in the community, they just have to call into question the ownership of the land. And if those people don't have the deeds to the land they're living on, their houses get dismantled and they have to leave. As it was with this house that the church was using for its children's program, there was no deed to the land. So they took the house down. The same person that had the house dismantled, for some reason, wants to shut down the church. But the church has the deed to their land, so she can't do anything. Either way, the pastor was full of grief today, but you could tell that he was fully relying on God.

We helped feed the kids today, serving them their food. Right now Pastor Ponce has about 100 kids on his roles that he usually feeds breakfast and lunch. They were back in school last week so we only fed the younger ones. He would like to eventually be able to feed 120, but as it is his budget is already stretched to the max. Even when he feeds 100 there's barely much more than some rice and beans for the kids. BUT, that's more than what they would get at home.

After the meal the kids came into the church and did a short program. It was tons of fun.

Tomorrow we're back in The Pits. We'll probably going to be pouring cement all day...w00t...I guess.

Here's some pictures from Los Guidos:
Los Guidos Methodist Church

The Worthington crew with Pastor Edgar Ponce.

Barb and Dennis Glad serving kids lunch.

And now the kids...

More tomorrow!


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day #7: An education and a sun tan.

First off...we baked today.  There wasn't any breeze until about 11 that meant we sizzled in the sun.  Second off, Corrine asked me a good question in an email today: Do you have a guess as to what God really wanted you to see on this trip?

To answer your question. I'm not sure exactly why God wanted me down here. The biggest thing that I've noticed since being here is how egocentric we are as Americans. Living in a world other than the States has opened my eyes to the rest of the world. It bothers me how in our news we don't hear anything unless it pertains to our country. Why? Is there nothing else happening in the world? No, but we don't think it applies to us. I feel vastly under-educated while being here because I'm not bilingual. It seems there are more and more people willing to learn english in the world than Americans willing to learn other languages. I've already seriously considered trying to teach myself more spanish if we come back next year. I mean they are teaching kids in 1st grade down here some basic phrases in english. We didn't get any spanish until high school. So basically, I'm as bilingual as a 1st grader in Costa Rica...kinda sad. Another thing that I've really been opened up to is all the vanity that we have in America. When we flew in we flew over rusted tin roofs. And I remember thinking to myself, "These poor (as in poor in spirit, not wealth) people, they have nothing." But since we've been working with them and interacting with them, it's not like that. It's just how it is down here. And it's not bad that maybe their roofs are rusted (which is more likely because they get 14 feet of rain each year) or that the cement isn't as perfect as we see in the states. It's just how their society is. They don't have the "Poor me poor me" attitude, they're content with what they have. And actually they are VERY family oriented. The other day in church there were a few small children that were literally being passed around from mother to mother. Older mothers to younger mothers. Younger mothers to old mothers. And the kids embraced each mother as their own. I truly think that their community is stronger than most of America's because the neighborhoods are so closely connected with each other.

Ok, today's events...simply put...I poured cement...all day. I did a little of the re-rod work later this afternoon, but only for about a half hour before the day was over. Tomorrow we're to the orphanage. I'm really looking forward to it.
A shot of the finished wall cap.  They pulled the forms off this morning.

They did finally finish digging the trench today.  You can kind of see the small trench within the trench. About halfway up in this picture they have a form that we were filling concrete on the outsides of.  The brown concrete we were using was just a leveller so we can lay a good slab maybe Thursday or Monday.

Barry, Phyllis, Ron and Clyde working on more wall cap rebar.  On the left is the rebar mesh we're going to put in the bottom of the trench.  There are vertical pieces of rebar that will be tied in once we get it in the trench.  But eventually it'll make it into the trench and be covered with concrete.

This is what I'll most likely be looking at our last three work days...cement mixer.

We had Dr. Ingemar Hedstrom and his daughter come and give a short presentation on their work. Dr. Hedstrom is an ecobiologist working in the rain forrests in Costa Rica. He talked breifly about the dangers of losing the rain forrests. But for me the more interesting part of the whole ordeal was his daughter's work. She's an anthropologist that works with the Cabecar Indians in Costa Rica. She has been here for 15 years, from Sweden, trying to educate the Cabecar tribes. The problem is that the tribes are not modernized. They are very isolated from the rest of Costa Rica and live in the rain forrests. It's not that they don't want anything to do with education. But to get a teacher from the state school to come out and teach takes about two days of travel through the forrests. BUT, Dr. Hedstrom's daughter (and I refer to her as that because I forgot her name...Mirian or something) has finished (with help) writing reading and writing books for the Cabecans for grades 1 through 4. The problems that she's had through the years is that the Cabecans are very much an oral history tribe. They have never had the need for writing and reading because all of their stories and history has been passed down through storytelling. So finally they're starting to get educated on reading and writing.

The most interesting part is how both Dr. Hedstrom and his daughter were very adamant about bringing up good, uncorrupted leaders in Costa Rica. And how in order to do that they're going to have to come from the Costa Rican church. The problem is that because of different politics, the leaders have been coming up from outside of the church and have been corrupted by outside influences. And when they were saying corrupted and non-corrupted, they were talking about the current leaders in Costa Rica have many special interests that fulfill their needs. But good, uncorrupted leadership that leads to better the country as a whole instead of just for a certain people group. It was interesting some of the parallels we can make with our own country.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Day #6: The Pits or The Trenches

Well, as expected I was moved back to the playground (or as what's been commonly called "The Pits" or "The Trenches" by our team). We had two cement mixers going and we got the cap to the wall poured to the corner. Dan Hurley and I mixed the cement, we'd then get about five wheel barrows full our of each mixer, barrow it over to the wall where it would then be shovelled into buckets and lifted to the top of the wall. The two guys at the top of the wall would pour it and make sure all the air bubbles were out. We got it poured rather quickly and were able to get all the concrete equipment cleaned up and finish backfilling with rock by lunch. After lunch five of us were back into the trench to finish digging the narrower trench within the trench. It only had to go down about 4-6 inches and was 12 inches across. With the pick axes, shovels and buckets we made pretty good progress. We were about halfway to the end when Wilber pulled me off the trench team to mix more cement. We started laying the subfoundation for the first two sections in the trench. Tomorrow it sounds like it's going to be more trencing and mixing and pouring. It should move pretty quick. That's the one thing with concrete in hot sunny weather, you have to move fast or it dries before it's in place. Overall it was a great day. We got a lot done.

Dan Hurley and Gordon waiting for th concrete to mix up.

Filling up buckets to be lifted up to the cap.

Dumping the extra concrete into the trench.

Finished wall cap.  No it's not pretty, but that's how the do it down here.

Tomorrow we'll probably be able to take the forms off of the wall cap sections we poured today. I'll be sure to get pictures of that.

For lunch tomorrow we're going to have Dr. Hedstrom, an ecobiologist and professor whose focus is on eco-theology, come in to talk with us. It should be very interesting.

Well that's all that happened today. It's shorter, but today flew by. Tomorrow is the one week mark. Then Wednesday we're going to southern San Jose to feed some children at an orphanage.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Day #5: Rest on Sunday

This morning we went to the local Methodist church. It's a church that doesn't have a building quite yet, but they have a metal skeleton structure to worship in. It was pretty nice...outdoor church! The service reminded me a lot of the services at Christ's Gospel in Bemidji. VERY charismatic. VERY energetic. There was some people that walked up to the front and prostrated themsleves in the front. There were others that were slain in the spirit. There was a bunch of worship dancing. It was pretty cool. For the sermon they had someone translate it so we could understand. No translator for the worship, but honestly the message and experience was beyond language.
The sign over the front gate.

The metal frame chruch building.

The Sunday School building next to the church.

Inside the sanctuary.

The entrance to the sanctuary.  Yes, all of these seats are pretty well filled when the service starts.

Later tonight we had a discussion about the service after supper. Like expected, there were people that were very uncomfortable with the people that were slain in the spirit. A lot of people didn't like how loud the music was (and it was on the loud side...but I didn't think it was too loud). We started a discussion about the authenticity or not with those that were slain (and I only saw two, so it wasn't like people were falling all over the place). There were a lot of people that were skeptical and thought it was too much of a distraction. But they also thought that the people that were dancing were too distracting. A quote from one person, "I guess I'm just too German to worship like that." My thought is, sure it may make one uncomfortable. But that doesn't mean it's not authentic. In all honesty, we will never no how authentic it was, and it's none of our business. It's one very personal experience that is between the person and the Holy Spirit. Do I think that being slain or speaking in tongues brings salvation? No. But it IS one aspect of worship that cannot be denied if led by God to do so.
What was also frustrating was how there was a lot of people that enjoyed the energy that was running through the service and the church. They liked the freedom of worship that was there. But then they said something to the effect of, "But that'll never happen in my church." Basically, "I love what I experienced, but I'm not going to do anything to change things back home." When will people wake up? Does all worship have to be like this? No. But worship should always be as free as it was today. No matter what form it takes, we are called to worship freely.
Other than that, I played cribbage with Clyde and the Steves all afternoon. It was a good day of rest. Tomorrow we're back at it. I'm starting out in the classroom to see how far we can get with the sheet rock. Then we'll probably be ready to pour the cap for the wall in the afternoon where i'll move to the cement mixer. Hopefully it's not unbearable. But we'll make due.