Weekend getaway to Rio Palenque

Written by Kirti, Nicole, Emma, and Spencer

Nuestras queridas familias y amigas,

Our first week in San Luis has been fantastic.  We´re all fitting in nicely with our families and getting used to our daily routines. The community is so close-knit that all members alternate working alongside in the construction of the comedor. The town is very agricultural so everyday there are fresh vegetables and freshly-squeezed orange juice.  As our first week came to a close, we made good progress construction-wise and finished up the foundation of the comedor and the towers for added support. Although the work can be brutal, it is equally rewarding.

As a retreat from our work, Adam and Caroline planned a weekend away in the  Biological Reserve of Fundacion Wong in Rio Palenque.  After driving 3 hours in a tiny bus that magically fit all 17 of us, we arrived at the nature reserve full of indigenous and tropical plants. The hotel and environment were beautiful and serenely quiet  (we were the only ones staying there).  Plus, all 15 of us students were ecstatic to take hot showers without a bucket.  Though all the rooms were spread out, we spent the entire weekend as a group. Adam and Caroline planned many activities that were aimed to center the group and have fun while doing so. For example, one of the games included was “Sea of Confusion”, where we identified the groups’  important values by writing them down on pieces of paper and using them symbolically as stepping stones to cross the Sea of Confusion with certain rules and obstacles (the room).  It may sound confusing, but was a very fun game that filled the whole group with laughter.  Food-wise, even though we were hoping for a variation in grain, we were all still content with rice… (mas o menos).  Although construction is hard and life is very different, we have adapted well to everything except the food, which we have all found the most difficult to adapt to with the constant rice and bean diet here.

Our first night in Rio Palenque in addition to our first week of construction proved too tiring that our entire group chose to sleep INCREDIBLY early…  The second day in Rio Palenque was also full of games and craziness.  The group divided into teams to play “Pirates Booty”, a game that relied on communication and trust.  While Caroline and Adam placed objects randomly in the grass, we formed groups of 3.  One team member of each group was blindfolded, the other was a signaler (who couldn’t talk but could see where the objects were), and lastly, “directioner”, who had to give directions but could not see and had to rely on the hand movements of the signaler).  Later in the day we took a beautiful nature walk through the forest to the river for a refreshing swim.  After a difficult, hot, and sweaty walk, we finally reached the wide river and eagerly jumped in to relax.

Later during our excursion, we met to discuss our secondary projects.  In addition to our central project, which is to build the comedor, we also wanted to pursue other smaller projects that we thought would additionally improve conditions of the community.  After much discussion, we decided on several projects that we thought would be useful and enjoyable.  Some of our projects include painting a mural of the Global Routes logo (the tree with the world) accompanied by our hand prints, names, and a quote to represent our goals. Another group of students were interesting in improving the sports areas of the schools.  For example, the kids love to play “baseball”, but don’t have a place to do so.  Hence, they wanted to  paint a baseball field and teach them how to properly play it.  Today, we also worked on removing the roots from the children´s “play area” and now are working to fill the pot holes in.  Some other projects may include: creating a mini library, holding an American barbeque for the community, and cleaning their central park.

On the final day of the excursion, we played some fun games just to let loose and have fun, and ended with an activity called “Berge´s Circle of Love” that the whole group greatly enjoyed.  We walked into a room lit by candles and sat in a circle with our backs facing the center of the circle so no one could see one another. Every couple of minutes, Adam would pick 3 new students to come into the center of the circle, and he would say statements such as “Tap someone who has made you laugh”, or “Tap those who you have had a conflict with”.  Anonymous people would  tap you on the shoulder for your different talents and challenges, and the activity proved to be a very calming and eye opening experience. On our final day of the excursion, we squished back into the mini mini mini van and headed back to our homes in San Luis de Las Mercedes.

Adios por ahora!

P.S.  Yesterday, after a loooooooooooong work day from 8 am to 4:00 pm, we took a quick dip/bathe in the river followed by a fun soccer game with the community!  A great way to end the day!

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