Category Archives: A Day in the Life

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 13, 2019

by Long Pham

Today was a fun and informative day for me— it was the day that I made my first dive as a certified diver. It did not start well at first because I was so confident that I descended way too fast. I didn’t think it was a big deal at first until Chris told me after that I could have ruined the whole dive for everyone if I’m below the depth limit, which I wasn’t. This made me realize how my own carelessness could have negatively affected everyone else’s plan. After that I followed Chris’s instructions and we all had a great dive. That afternoon we met with Caroline from Clean Coast Bonaire to learn about the trash around Bonaire. I didn’t believe there would be so much trash because of how well the beach and the reef here are protected. That changed after we met with Caroline and did a beach cleanup right afterwards. The beach cleanup was only 30 minutes but the number of discarded cigarette butts we found were in the hundreds, along with many other types of trash like bottle caps, plastic, etc. After the beach cleanup we had a chance to either go diving or snorkeling. I chose snorkeling this time and honestly, I had a blast. Many people would think that diving is always the obvious choice, but snorkeling is so much more relaxing to me and still gives you the ability to look at the beauty of the marine life. Also, I think snorkeling helps you to appreciate diving more because diving enables you to be so up close with the beauty that you can only see from a distant while snorkeling.

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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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Bonaire-June 12

by Arran Goldman

Because I am a certified Advanced Scuba Diver, I got to go on a morning dive as a safety diver to certify Avery this morning. We stayed at the same location that everyone else had been certified: ChaChaCha Beach. This dive spot is pretty nice, and on every dive,  I have seen something new and amazing. So far on this trip, that was my favorite dive due to  the incredible life we saw. It lasted about 68 minutes which is a very valid length is consistent with my previous dives with my brother. I found a spotted scorpionfish underwater during the dive. He was incredible and blended in perfectly with the rocks. We also saw another rock beauty, one of my absolute favorites, as well. Every time I think about this fish I smile.

At the end of the dive, Avery and Chris took off their fins and staged a fake fight underwater in slow motion. It was really funny, and I finally felt like I was diving at homeThat dive was awesome. We did a second dive later that day, too. This was the dive which changed the way I thought about diving, and proved to be a pivotal dive in my trip so far. When Chris was hovering above the water in a sitting position, I realized how incredible just the action of diving is. We are underwater with hoses and tanks, observing an almost completely different world. It’s really amazing to think about how everyone else is living their lives on land, while the fish and the corals are living separately in a different world underwater. The things and fish that amaze us are just normal, daily life for everything else living sub aqueously. Anyway, after we de-kitted and put our dive equipment away, the small group of us met up with the rest of our service trip at a place called Eden Beach, where everyone else snorkeled and played in the water. Barbie, Olivia, and I hung back to snorkel and flip in the water. We saw a sharp-tail eel, honeycomb cowfish, and countless trumpetfish. We also stumbled across some coral tree farms where there were pieces of staghorn coral hanging on PVC pipes to promote growth. I’ve always heard about the coral farm, but I had never actually seen them before. It’s incredible to think that humans can do good and save a reef, but we can also be mind-blowingly destructive as well.

Later today around 8 p.m. we went to a sea turtle presentation to raise awareness about the dangers to local sea turtles. The presentation was very factual, and I learned a lot about the life of a sea turtle. I also learned how to better tell the species apart. I really hope that we can see a turtle. Even though I have seen countless turtles on dives in Cayman, it would still be amazing!

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Day 3 in Montreal

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by Melissa Ford ’21

Today was our second day of service. We all awoke reluctantly with immediate exhaustion. It rained off and on today which allowed us to cool down for the first time since we arrived in Montreal. Trying to not let exhaustion consume us, we got ready to go back to Moisson Montreal.

When we got there, we put on our protective toe covers and locked our belongings away. We walked back to the tables we were at the day before and waited for our task. Sorin asked if we wanted to do something new or the same thing, we said we wanted to do the same thing we did the day before without hesitation. We already had a routine set up, so we knew what to do. There were already pallets full of chocolate for us to unpack, so we jumped right back into our groove. We weren’t as fast as the day before, but we were still trying our hardest.

We had half a day at Moisson Montreal where we finished two and a half pallets and all of the chocolate that we were given. We had gotten out a little early so we ate our lunch before we got back in the cars and went on our ways. Next we went to CHSLD Providence. Saint Joseph Retirement Home.

Here we got a quick tour of the home that had over eighty residents. On the second floor was a church room where everyone gathered for mass or other religious activities. There were dining halls on each floor as well. We all gathered with a handful of the residents and volunteers in the first floor dining hall to play Bingo. Each of us got placed around the tables so we could help and talk to the residents. Some of them were over 100 years old! The oldest we heard was 108 years old. We then played many different rounds and types of Bingo. Sometimes we had to fill the whole board, get a “T” shape, the square around the FREE space, the four corners, or just a line.

Each time someone won. They got a prize from the prize table. The whole time we were playing Bingo, they were only speaking French so we got a lot of practice with our numbers and simple conversation.

After Bingo we said goodbye, well “au revoir” to be exact, and climbed back into the cars to go home. At home, a group of us began to make dinner. We all ate and those who didn’t cook, did the dishes.

Today went by fast and was a bit exhausting, but we were still able to have a good time. It was fun to use our French skills to help the residents and to challenge ourselves with hearing French.

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Costa Rica Day #1

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by Ashleigh Curry ’20

Hey everyone! It’s Ashleigh Curry ’20 and I was the blogger for our first full day in Costa Rica! After an early morning start, we traveled Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park for a three-hour hike through the luscious forest. The hike included a spectacular view of the park, several bubbling mud pools, and sights of several species of insects, birds (including several toucan sightings!) and monkeys.

We learned that while the country of Costa Rica is 19,700 square miles, it contains nearly 920 species of birds. The United States, which measures 3.797 million square miles, has roughly the same amount of bird species. The biodiversity of Costa Rica fascinated us as we realized that this small country contained nearly 9% of the word’s bird species. Some of the birds we saw on the hike included the Motmot, Toucan, and the Lesser Ground Cuckoo. At the volcanic lagoons, we also learned that only 5% of the electricity in Costa Rica comes from fossil fuels – the rest is from renewable energy sources!

After the hike, we gathered back for a delicious lunch at the hotel before going on a horseback ride to a nearby waterfall. All the horses led us swiftly to the waterfall, occasionally speeding to a fast trot or diverging from the path for a snack. At the waterfall, we had the opportunity to swim and spend time relaxing in the natural plunge pool.

Our final activity of the day included a visit to the Rio Negro Hot Springs and Mud Baths. At the destination, we soaked in the hot water and even dipped our hands in the 90-degree Celsius spring (for an instant only!). We also had the opportunity to paint ourselves in mud for a full-body facial. The hot springs were a perfect way to end the busy day and allow us to unwind before dinner.

We are looking forward to our first service project tomorrow – a cleanup at a beach on the Pacific coast.

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