Category Archives: A Day in the Life

Montreal, Day 9

Garden

by Melissa Ford ’21

Today we started our first day of service at the school Louis Joseph Papineau. We arrived at the Jardin des Patriotes (Patriots Garden) and split into two groups that would alternate tasks every so often. A few of the students from Be the Change came and helped throughout the day as well. One group moved compost into the garden while the other group painted. We worked with Camilla who runs the garden and she was super sweet. If I was having difficulty speaking French, she helped me rephrase and get to what I wanted to say,

We ended twenty minutes earlier than we were supposed to because Camilla said we worked faster than she had expected. Even though it was a hot and sunny day, we were able to do our best. We took breaks often and made sure to stay hydrated.

We went to a circus next and got a tour of the building. We learned the history behind the building called la Tohu which was where we were. There were artists practicing on the stage and we got to watch some acrobats and dancers. By the time we left the main room, we were all in awe of what the artists could do. For each show the artists have to learn a new choreography, they were amazingly talented.

By the end of the tour, we were all tired and needed a rest. We went back to the house had dinner and either took a nap or rested. At 7:30 pm we were out again with Donna, the woman who runs Be the Change at the school. We venture to the sights of the “Oratoire” and the top of the Mont Royal which have the best view of the city. As the sun descended, we were met with a golden view of a gorgeous city. Then as it got dark and lights began to appear we marveled over the twinkling of the plethora of lights in the city. There were many tourists viewing the city lights, but there were even more lights showing us how active and lively the city truly is. From above we could recognize murals that we had seen earlier in this trip and so. we were able to see all the places we had been. It was honestly the most beautiful sight to end our fourth to the last day in Montreal.

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Costa Rica June 16, 2019

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By Lexie Osbourne ’20

Today was filled with adventure and a learning experience. We started the day with a great breakfast at Pachira Lodge then headed off on a boat to the Tortuguero National Park to explore the canals. This was a two-hour long boat ride through the canals learning about the species that live along the river. In total this national park is 50,000 acres of protected land established to ensure the safety of the wildlife which live there. The area is most known for green sea turtles, however, there are many other amazing animals in the area. We were able the see neotropical river otters, green iguanas, caimans, howler monkeys, a rat snake, a basilisk (“Jesus Christ” – because it walks on water) lizard, bare tiger herons, green herons, an anhinga bird, and northern jacanas, as well as, many different types of trees. One thing that stuck with me is how important the protection of the area is given there is a high density of various animals but a low concentration of them all. I truly appreciate how the community was able to come together to work on the goal of protecting their environment through eco-tourism. This community effort is so important and should be more widespread.

After lunch, we worked on the beach of the Caribbean side of Costa Rica and cleaned up the trash that could be injested by the animals. We were able to remove a lot of materials that could be recycled – we know because we sorted it all! Because it was Sunday, the recycling Center was closed, but we still wanted to make sure we were recycling, so we sorted the trash and left the recyclables outside of the recycling center in labeled bag. Even though this was a relatively small effort in the big picture, it still means a lot since we were able to help remove part of the problem. I did find it interesting that for an area that talks about protection of wildlife there was quite a bit trash. Whether that be from tourists or locals that don’t see the importance of not littering hopefully soon there can be more awareness to how harmful the trash can be. The Sea Turtle Conservancy is doing a great job of that and hopefully their amazing work gets further spread throughout the community.

During the beach clean I made a new best friend – a dog I named Marble. I met him on the beach and after the clean he followed me to stores and even to the boat that we were leaving from. He was so adorable, and I hope that someone takes care of him. It was so sad having to leave him since he was such a great addition to the trip. Later, we were able to walk through town to buy souvenirs and help the local community. The community is so beautiful and vibrate with colors and nice people. The visit to the canals and the beach clean-up has further showed me how important and beneficial taking care of the environment is. It will be very hard to go back to busy New York City since everything in Costa Rica has been amazing. I can’t wait to visit again and learn more.

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Costa Rica: June 15, 2019

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by Eden Jones ’20 

Hi everyone! My name is Eden Jones from the class of 2020, and I’ll be filling you in on today’s activities during our sixth day of the 2019 Service-Learning trip in Costa Rica. Today was a typical traveling day for everyone, with an early morning drive (early meaning 6:00 AM!!) from the town of Arenal to the port of the “Lucky River.” From there, we all boarded the boat, sailed through the river,  into the canal and headed towards the beautiful town of Tortuguero, located on the Caribbean/Atlantic side of Costa Rica.

Tortuguero is one of Costa Rica’s more secluded locations because it is only accessible by boat or plane. Also, tourists are not the only visitors to this amazing place. Sea turtles (five different species to be exact) arrive on the Caribbean shore of Tortuguero from the months of July to October. The females come to lay their eggs and begin the newest generation of sea turtles. The Sea Turtle Conservancy, along with the people of Tortuguero and aspiring marine biologists, assist in the protection of the young sea turtles by prohibiting poaching or abuse to the animals during their nesting period. During our visit to the Conservatory, we learned important facts about the protection of Sea Turtles, along with now the people of Tortuguero help to make a larger impact. Through todays experiences, myself and everyone on the service trip included dove deeper into understanding Costa Rica’s emphasis on Eco-Tourism and the importance of protecting the environment. Along with learning this, I personally felt a strong sense of community and safety while exploring the town of Toruguero. The store front owners and those watching soccer on the television greeted everyone with a “Pura Vida!” or a kind “Buenos Tardes.” Everyone on the service trip clearly had a smile on their face after our day trip to the town.

After, we sailed back to our hotel, the Pachira Lodge, and enjoyed our second meal together in Toutuguero. Overall, our service-learning trip to Costa Rica has opened a new door to the wonders of renewable energy, the happiness that Eco-Tourism can bring to people, and for me, a view of the world that I’ve never seen before.

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History’s Witness—Scavenger Hunt in Quebec City

David Xi

by David Xi

Today we embarked on an exploration journey that took us around the Old Quebec City, originally built as a fort to defend the settlers from the invasion of other colonists (mainly those south to Quebec in modern-day United States). Our scavenger hunt started at the exterior of the city, where we saw the stone walls that have protected the city for hundreds of years. Ancient yet formidable, these walls were the guardians of Quebec City’s history and culture. Right next to the Old City was the Quebec National Assembly—a solemn and authoritative hallmark of western democracy. Surrounding the Assembly building were past generals and politicians whose statues were enshrined into its walls, their glorious heroism forever captured in history as a testimony of Québécois patriotism. The crosses on those statues revealed the pervasive influence of Christianity, as well as the pious and faithful spirituality of the locals. At the front of the Assembly gate sat a statue dedicated to the indigenous people. Holding bows and arrows, their presence reminded us of the tremendous suffering of the indigenous people in face of European occupation. While historical figures are often viewed as heroes by some people, they are also the source of great injustice in the eyes of the others. Touring around the National Assembly and submerging ourselves under the awesomeness of those statues, we learned that the essence of history is not glorification, but truth-telling. The perspectives of the minorities can provide us with a deeper cultural and political understanding of who we are as a society.

Going into the Old Quebec, we saw rows of cannons lying beside the dampened sidewalk, bringing us back to three hundred years ago, when countless battles were fought at the very spot where we were standing today. Raptly following the soldiers whose footsteps paved the way for future generations, we arrived at the Notre-Dame de Québec. Bells ringing, people praying, the church’s dominance was made obvious by its towering spire, creating an atmosphere of aloofness that was both sacred and intimidating. Right next to it was the statue of François de Laval, the first Bishop of Quebec. His was the proof that faith does not fade away as time passes; generations to generations, the continuation and elevation of Christianity is ensured as in those churches, monuments, and the hearts of countless faithful Christians are God’s words preserved.

Keep walking forward, a huge monument entered our sight. It was built to commemorate the inclusion of Old Quebec in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. A few blocks away, we found the hotel Le Château Frontenac, where in 1943 Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom gathered to discuss strategies vital to their victory in WWII. Who could have known that on a hot September evening seventy-six years ago in this very hotel, humanity’s future was permanently and inevitably changed. Reading this story on a bronze plate outside, we were pulled into that era of flames and chaos, imagining ourselves at the negotiation table and witnessing first-hand the most epic comeback in human history, one that put an end to the evil fascist regimes and salvaged our freedom. How evident it is that our actions today, however insignificant they may seem to us at this moment, might alter the course of the lives of millions of people.

As noon approached, we revisited the exterior walls of the Old City and went to an ancient military base nearby. It was used as the main defense center when first constructed and is now a major tourist site. Even though the fort is no longer in use, we still saw two soldiers guarding its entrance, defending the honor of this symbol of Québécois tenacity and valor. Finally, we journeyed southward to locate the Garden of Joan of Arc. At the center of the plaza sat the grand statue of Joan of Arc, the girl who liberated France in the Hundred Years War. Sword in one hand, the statue posed for an outcry of justice as the words of liberty echoed with its elegance. This statue was not just a monument to a monumental woman; it was the perfect combination of poise and passion, of beauty and bravery, of sublime and strength. What’s more gratifying than to learn that centuries after her execution, Joan of Arc’s heroism is still celebrated whilst the despicable deeds of her persecutors are burned into traceless ashes of history?

At the end of the scavenger hunt, we broke off into groups to enjoy lunch and to spend the afternoon revisiting sites that intrigued us. While the exploration was over, we left having a much deeper understanding and appreciation of Quebec City and its history, culture, and religion. It is through experiences like this—where all individuals can be submerged in this living monument of human evolution, intertwined with ancient complexity and modern easiness—can we truly comprehend the meaning of history—that we are not merely its witness, but also its creator.

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Day 6, Montreal

Day 6

by Justin

We travel to Quebec City after four days of busy service in Montreal. The trip from Montreal to Quebec City takes around two and a half hours. Most of the group members are able to take a nap during the trip so that they can conserve some energy for afternoon activities. One significant difference after arriving at Quebec City that I have observed is how the language of the sign changes. In Montreal, there is a number of signs that are written in English. However, there is hardly anything that is written in English in Quebec City. There is even no English menu in the restaurant that I have lunch today. During lunch time, the group is able to do some shopping and have lunch at a large shopping mall in the downtown area. After moving into the new house that we live in, we take a brief rest and head directly to the old city area. Unlike the modern, tall buildings in Montreal, buildings in Quebec City are more similar to the ones in Europe and have a more classical structure than the ones in Montreal. One of the most grandiose architectures that I have seen today is Château Frontenac in the downtown area. There are also many statues situated around the castle, possibly to commemorate its creator. There are many signs of cultural influence in the old city: the ubiquitous French signs, the French architectural designs, etc. In today’s brief exploration of the old city, we find some restaurants, a few souvenir shops and an art store. I feel very tired as the days comes to an end. Still, I am exhilarated for tomorrow’s visit to the museums and to learn more about the history about the city.

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Costa Rica June 14, 2019

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by Urgen Sherpa ’20

What’s up yaw? Its Urgen Sherpa ’20 and I am your blogger for today. After spending the second night at Hotel Montana Monteverde, we sadly made our departure to our next stop, Arenal. However, prior to our departure, we were able to make full use out of what the hotel had offered us: Breakfast. To those who are not familiar with me, I typically eat a heavy breakfast to start my day right. Luckily, Hotel Montana was able to offer just that, a heavy breakfast. We then continued to our next stop, with a slight adjustment, that being the switch with bus drivers. Our beloved Ronald made an even earlier departure then our group in order to ensure the safe arrival of our luggage in Arenal. Thus, Antonio, our replacement driver, drove us to our next destination – Arenal. The journey was long, but scenic in every imaginable way. We drove up, down, left and right, passing by schools, churches, fields, mountains, and even “fresh” cows. Antonio’s determination was touched by everyone heart during the ride to Arenal. And we finally made it to Lake Arenal!

Upon our arrival to Lake Arenal, our group gave our regards to Antonio, and opened arms for a new mate, Carlos. Carlos, much like Antonio, contained the gushing determination that was touched by everyone during our boat ride through Lake Arenal. During the boat ride, our tour guide, Mario, began introducing key facts about Lake Arenal. I for one, took notes on his informational lecture and would like to share some of this notes that I took during our smooth boat ride. Did you know that Lake Arenal was a man-made lake, built in 1970 stretching over 34 square miles? And did you know that Lake Arenal produces 30% of the electricity used in Costa Rica daily? Lake Arenal is also known for its contribution towards Costa Rica’s hydroelectricity as it contributes around 70%. Lake Arenal is also home to wildlife such as, fish, otters, and caymans. Though the boat ride was smooth, I noticed that water levels in the lake were low. Mario stated that the decrease in water levels in recent years was due to insignificant amount of rainfall which is caused by the pressing issue of global warming. Mixed emotions were felt upon our arrival to the other side of Lake Arenal. However, the cooped-up emotion was disregarded when we met up with Ronald! With the help of Ronald’s astonishing driving skills our group then proceeded to our next destination, Hotel Arenal Paraiso, the hotel we are staying at right now. We ate lunch and then made way for our final stop during our day – a hike to the base of a volcano.

As we drove through the security gate, we made our way through the national reserve. We could smell the change in air as we drew closer to the volcano. Because the volcano is 1700 meters, it took time for our group to hike up to the lookout point. As we journeyed along the volcano, I took in some informational facts about the volcano. Did you know that it last erupted on July 29, 1968? The eruption formed about 5000 small craters along the volcano. And being that the eruption was somewhat recent, vegetation around the volcano is relatively new. Mario explained to us about the concept of Ecological War. And luckily, we were able to glance Ecological War at first hand. What does it mean? It means that species of plants compete with each other for space in the forests and we could see the tall grasses beginning to take over! After about 45 minutes into the hike, we made it to the summit where we were able to view the volcano (sadly, the top was in clouds all day) and Lake Arenal. As the hike came to an end we came back to our hotel. Which is where I began to start this blog. Pura Vida!

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Costa Rica–Last Night in Monteverde

by Kelly ’20

Howdy everybody! It’s Kelly ’20 with today’s blog post. Tonight is our second and final night in Monteverde and I’ll outline what we did our last day in the area, before we travel to Arenal. After a hearty breakfast, we traveled to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve (which is run by the local high school!) where we helped carry gravel to prevent erosion on visitor pathways. Our two guides, Walter and Jackson (aka MacGyver), showed us the path that we were paving and then we got to work. We carried sacks over our shoulders on a windy path and eventually it began to rain quite hard. After working for a while, we were cold and wet, but after our work we returned to the forest with Walter and MacGyver to see the quetzal, a colorful and shiny bird with a very long tail. Although we did not see the male, we did get to observe the female leave her nesting box; the female is not as visually striking as the male since she is grey with some reddish orange markings, but she was still exciting to see. (Side note! Today I just realized that “quetzal” is etymologically linked to “Quetzalcoatl,” the feathered serpent of ancient Mesoamerica, so the bird’s name literally means “feather.”)

After eating lunch and resting for a bit, we traveled to Monteverde Friends School. In the 1950’s a group of 11 Quaker families moved here after four members of their community were jailed for refusing to serve in the Korean War. They chose to settle in Costa Rica shortly after Costa Rica abolished their army and began encouraging foreigners to settle the land. The Quaker families started around 30 farms, including a cheese factory – the Monteverde Cheese Factory, which still exists today! While at the school, some of us played a very informal game of volleyball with a soccer ball that we had found, which had left some gnarly forearm bruises by the time we entered the school’s Meetinghouse for a brief Meeting for Worship. A short shower of rain passed by while we were there and I found the sound and sight of it through the door to be both centering and calming. At the end of meeting, Walter (from GS) observed that the beams of the room weren’t held together by nails of screws, but by fitted joints and pegs, which was very interesting. I don’t know much about construction, but I do know that the walls and ceiling of that room were unique.

Then, we went to a bat forest exhibit, where a woman named Anna taught us about the types of bats that could be found in the region, told us how bats are beneficial to the environment, and showed us the bats that were cared for there. I loved her enthusiasm and her clear enjoyment of her job, so I asked her a lot of questions about different types of fruit bats, especially Flying Foxes, which are the largest type of bat in the world (and do not live in Costa Rica). She also brought out her two dogs at the end of the tour for some of us to pet. One of them was named Coffee, because “she looked like a little coffee bean as a baby.”

Overall, today was a groovy time, especially since things that I enjoy – linguistics and wildlife conservation – which I didn’t think had a connection, actually did. Likewise, I also have always loved bats, so seeing and learning more about them was very fun. I’m going to miss Monteverde immensely, but I did see some farmland for sale up here, so maybe I’ll move back – and as Kim suggested, maybe teach at the Friends School!

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Bonaire, June 11

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by Francisco Correia 

Trash, trash, and trash. This was mostly what we experienced today. While I could not dive and pick up trash from the reef, like the rest of the group, I still got to experience this in our evening beach cleanup on the eastern coast of Bonaire. When we first got there, we could not see any trash. However, after 30 minutes, we had found enough trash to fill up all our bags.

After cleaning up, I felt great, but there was something that deeply upset me. Much of the trash that I cleaned up was everyday items that much of us use. While doing these cleanups can be helpful, the trash will just keep showing up. The only way to fix this is to stop purchasing single-use plastic products. However, in today’s society this is nearly impossible. A question that I keep thinking about is: What can we do to stop this problem? Is there even a solution, or are we helpless? I still do not have an answer to this question, but I hope that I do by the end of this trip.

This experience so far has made me feel powerless, but hopeful. I know that no matter how much trash we clean up, more trash will show up. However, if we can learn from this trip and share our knowledge with others, we can make a difference.

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Costa Rica, June 13

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by Catherine Tatum ’20 

Hi everyone! It’s Catherine Tatum ’20, today’s blogger. Right now, I’m typing this from the lounge of Montaña Monteverde Hotel, our hotel in Monteverde for tonight and tomorrow. We started the day by leaving our beautiful hotel in Guanacaste, Hacienda Guachipelin, and retracing our steps back towards Liberia Airport, stopping at a Walmart. There we picked up snacks, and Kim and Mario bought some beach towels for our service that day.

Today’s service was picking up trash at the Playa Hermosa (“beautiful beach”). At first sight, the beach looked pristine and we questioned whether there’d be much work for us there. But upon closer inspection, we found trash that often goes unnoticed or is misconceived as too small to be harmful – microplastics. These small bits of plastic are frequently consumed by marine animals like fish and sea turtles, and the accumulation of these plastics in an animal’s stomach and intestines can be fatal. We found these small bits strewn throughout the beach and did our best to pick up every piece we saw. When we think of the problem of plastics in the ocean, mostly larger pieces come to mind, like plastic bags or bottles. And while these are harmful, and we certainly found some of those, small pieces of plastic are just as deadly. In addition to these, my group found a bonfire of partially burned beer cans half-covered under brush. Shout out to Tracy Banfield (Kelly’s mom) for the extra work gloves! Before it was time for lunch, we got to play in the water a bit too, which was surprisingly salty to some of us.

We continued past the airport we arrived to make our way to Monteverde. This was a three-hour drive, with the chunk of time being a twisty, bumpy road up into the cloud forest in which Monteverde is located. The second shout out of this blog post goes to Ronald, our bus driver. Ronald was not fazed by the drop offs or the cars coming towards us from the other direction on the very narrow road. It was amazing to watch the climate shift as we moved from Guanacaste to the Pacific to Monteverde, going from a semi-dry forest to the beach and on to a cloud forest. The view from the bus ride was absolutely incredible, and if you check out our Instagram you’ll see some photos (or videos!) of that. Tomorrow we’re doing more service locally, but tonight we’re enjoying experiencing the climate of the cloud forest and seeing an incredible sunset.

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Montreal Day 4

 

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Today we were at Moisson Montreal again, although things were a little different. We split up into groups of five and were sent to different tasks. My group was taking boxes with different supplies and loading them onto palettes which we then moved to an area with loading trucks. In previous days we had been helping with other parts of the process. To see the full picture of who and how we were helping people really brought the service aspect to life and showed a different perspective. It was also nice to have a change of pace, see new parts of the warehouse, and meet different people. Since we were so tired from moving boxes all day, we settled in the apartment for a short rest after service.

After the break we took off for a long walk into the city and saw the heart of downtown. We ventured into old Montreal and broke off into smaller groups. We ate dinner out and got ice cream after. We explored the quaint pop-up shops that lined the brick paved road. We saw street performers, caricature artists, and small school groups touring. There was so much more we wanted to see but time was running out. Gathering back together, we took the opportunity to take some photos in the fading sunlight. It had been a long day so we rode the subway back home to rest our feet.

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