Montreal Day 5

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by Lorelei 

Today we had a free morning! Everyone got to sleep in a bit and then some of us went out to the café around the corner for a delicious breakfast and some wonderful smoothies. Around 10 am we headed out to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to see the Thierry Mugler couture exhibit, which was so cool! Every room was tailored to the pieces that were in it, which really added to the experience. The very first room was focused on the costumes Mugler had designed for a production of Macbeth in Paris. It was very dark, and in the back of the room was a hologram scene of Lady Macbeth going mad, with sound effects of crows screeching, and ominous music. The room after that was focused on the costumes Mugler had designed for celebrities, such as Lady Gaga, Madonna and Beyoncé. My favorite room was a large hall where the walls were screens showing underwater scenes that morphed into rainforest halfway down. There were sound effects to accompany the scenes, and it felt like you had just walked into a different universe. The costumes in the room were inspired by marine life and animals in the rainforest and were absolutely incredible. I could have spent hours in the exhibit, but we had to head over to Santropol Roulant, an organization that provides a meals on wheels service to the community. We were given a tour of the building and got to see the roof gardens and some cool murals. After the tour we went to their farmers market and got some fresh organic produce for dinner. The rest of the evening was spent cooking dinner, eating and relaxing.

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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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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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Bonaire–June 10, 2019

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by Claire Schumucker ’20

“It’s too busy, let’s do the paperwork later” was one of the first sentences that we heard two days ago as we were leaving the Flamingo Airport in Kralendijk. The laid-back and casual nature of this comment struck us all. There we were, on a foreign island, about to dump our gear into local pickup trucks with keys hidden under the floor mats and the legal, logistical work was just completely and utterly brushed over.

I share this phrase simply because it encapsulates the general laid-back nature of much of what we have experienced on the island. We were practically the only people at Mi Banana, the restaurant where we had dinner last night, and the owner and the owner’s family walked us through everything on the menu and made jokes and conversation the whole night. This interaction was unique because of the uncharacteristically authentic and warm interactions.

The warmth and positive energy have radiated through our diving experience at Dive Friends Bonaire as well. Today, this morning, we conducted open water dive #2 and #3 off the western side of the island. We practiced navigating with a compass, both at 15ft under water as well as on the surface. Also, in dive #2 practiced surfacing (from approximately 20ft) by using our buddy’s (dive partner’s) alternate air source. We headed back to land, got new air tanks, and headed back into the water for open water dive #3. Here we explored the reefs at around 35ft and various schools of fish swim and float by. Being 20ft underwater with only an apparatus that lets me stay alive forces me to stay present in each of my tasks. I become aware of my position, depth, and I also become more spatially aware. Because of this necessary awareness I am immersed in the spirit of diving and became present in the moment. Since we stepped out of the airport, the busy work and trivial tasks shave been set aside. Both under water and above the water I have felt particularly aware and present. The almost slow-motion experience at 20ft underwater surrounded by only natural rocks and animals is an unfamiliar experience.

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Montreal Day 2–More Chocolate

by Johanna 

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Today was our first service day, where we spent the majority of our day working at Moisson Montreal, a food bank dedicated to help and make people’s lives easier by preparing them food that would otherwise have been thrown away by supermarkets. After arriving at Moisson Montreal we were shown an introductory/safety video and were explained the reason and beginning of their food bank. Safety was an important aspect since the majority of the people working there were volunteers, which included wearing steel tips on our shoes for protection. Our group was assigned to pack multiple different chocolate mixes into smaller boxes to be later distributed to people who can’t afford it otherwise. It was a very big amount of chocolate that we packed that would have otherwise been thrown out because they weren’t bought within a certain amount of time to stay fresh. Throughout the day we made our assignment into a game/competition, as we tried to fill as many boxes as possible in the fastest amount of time (which got very stressful as many in our group are quite competitive, in a friendly way.)

We managed to pack a lot of boxes during our time, and although our hands and feet were hurting, we kept going, knowing that the more boxes we packed the more people we helped. We definitely got a few stares as we chaotically packed those boxes as fast as we could, however, they all seemed to enjoy us as we “demanded” more chocolate.

I think we can all agree that our service day was a successful one, but now we are very tired, longing for our beds.

 

Thank you,

Johanna

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Montreal Service Trip Day 1

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by Rachel Brown ’20

Excitement was high as the 10 of us awaited for our departure in Gate A11 of the Newark Airport for our Montreal Service Trip. Our arrival to the airport was joyful as we sang along to modern music and played games to familiarize ourselves with each other. As we worked our way through the TSA, a few of us were called to be randomly checked, which was suspenseful yet we all made it through one way or another.

We arrived at the gate at 9:50 am and waited until our boarding time of 10:20 am. As we made our way into our seats we felt our excitement rise as we knew that we were going to be in Montreal, Canada in less than an hour.

The flight was smooth, as Johanna and I watched Mama Mia 2 and before we knew it we were on the ground in Canada. Customs was exciting, we saw things that we have never witnessed before such as Advil dispensers, and a quick and efficient check in system contrary to the States.

When we arrived, there was a bit of chaos with different Air BnB’s and car exchanges however we made it to our house in one piece. We then made our way to get some sushi, which happened to be all of our favorite foods. As we enjoyed our miso soup and sushi rolls we basked in the glory of the kindness of the Canadian people.

We then had time to relax and chill out while buying groceries for the apartment, which was at a market called Marché Eden. Overall, our first day although a bit chaotic was successful in learning to go with the flow and learn to deal with what we were given.

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Costa Rica Service Trip 2019: The Day Before Departure

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by Kim Major, associate director of admission

In less than 24 hours 14 students and two adult chaperones will be on their way to Costa Rica to begin our adventure. I can’t wait! Admittedly, I also can’t sleep. Before a trip, I get so anxious worrying about last-minute details, that I am writing this at 4:00 AM (yikes!).

This will be the second time I have gone on this trip, and I am looking forward to so many things. I am eager to go to the places we ventured before and look at them at a deeper level. Without everything being so new, I wonder what I will notice that I missed the first time around? For me, the first trip to Costa Rica opened my eyes to a whole different kind of travel. Before going on the trip, I saw an ideal trip as one where I could see some landmarks or sleep in the sun (and, don’t get me wrong, I will never turn down a day at the beach). After the trip, I realized that what I had most enjoyed was getting to know members of the local community and seeing plants and wildlife I had never seen before. It hit me that travel isn’t just about relaxing and taking photos, it is about working to understand a world different than our own. I truly hope that our students end the trip believing this is true, as well.

On this trip, we get to experience so many different regions and ecosystems in Costa Rica. It is truly eye-opening. As we learn about the country’s efforts in environmental sustainability during every stop, our students will have a chance to understand the fragility of our environment, the wonder of a diverse ecosystem, and what can be accomplished when leaders in government, industry, and science come together to solve problems. Our service work is largely environmental – trail work, beach clean-ups, and some community resource work in our homestay community. My wish for our students is that they be inspired by what they learn about sustainability in Costa Rica and apply it back at home.

One of the things I am most eager to see is how our students will fare without cell phones for nearly two weeks. In the time leading up to the trip, students spent some time reflecting on this. While there is some anxiety about not being connected in a virtual sense, students are really looking forward to a different and perhaps more authentic sense of connection with one another.

Each day of the trip, at least one student will write a blog post each day. We will send them along to George School to add to this blog (we will have photos going forward!). We hope you will follow along. You can also keep up with our trip on our Instagram. Follow us on Instagram @gs_costarica19. Pura Vida!

Photo of Arenal Volcano National Park – one of our stops on the trip

 

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