Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Papaya Storm

A few weeks ago, I went to cut down some papayas from a tree out back. You see, if I wait too long, the papayas ripen and the birds come and eat them. The birds are pretty, and I enjoy watching them, but they eat the papayas that are rightfully mine! Mine! Anyway - when I went to lasso a nice, ripe papaya, I managed to knock half the fruit off the tree. This means that I got hit in the head with several unripened, green papayas. Definitely the most refreshing concussion I've ever experienced.

As I recovered from the fruit avalanche, I had just induced - I saw sitting there, alone in a bare section of the tree was the bright yellow, ripened papaya - the one I had been aiming for - unscathed and mocking me.

So, here are some pictures of my fruity assailants. I had to find something to do with all these giant, green papayas - So they wound up in a couple of salads and salsas.

Oh, yes - they ARE that big.

Clearly delirious from impact

Eh, ripe enough... Take THAT birds!


So, this summer, I went crazy and purchased some goats. This was not an entirely preposterous endeavor. It will surprise most of the people that I know that there was an actual plan for the goats all along. 
You see… goats will eat darn near anything that they come across. Which means that they are replacing my compost pile for a much faster system of organic reconstitution. 
Goats, as with other ruminants like cows, deer and sheep, have a rumen. This rumen acts as a decomposition center that rapidly breaks down things that are otherwise indigestible to animals without one. 
Using goats this season, we managed to keep from throwing out any of the corn waste that is produced from corn production. That includes the husks and stalks. The pictures below are the goats and all the personality that comes with them. 
The big male and I have a strange relationship - he keeps me on my toes.

This is the mama goat - soon she'll be a mama again!

The baby, he's packed with personality

Soon to be a mama for the first time, she loves banana peels!

I'm excited for this herd to be much larger

In a few weeks, we hope that two of the females will give us some babies so that we can have even more goats and start collecting goat milk for cheese production.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Instead of focusing on both the lives and opportunities that were lost as a result of the events 10 years ago, let us focus on the future we have the opportunity to build for the next 10 years.

Posts will resume soon. It's been a crazy month.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer Camp

Melana explains the rules of a modified "Duck, Duck, Goose."

I teach the kids about colors before a painting session.

Melana managed to make our house look like a classroom.
Our younger students were the most enthusiastic learners.
During the summer, Melana and I worked on two projects that offered structured activities for young people while they were out of school. In the US this is often referred to as “camp.” The theory is, children and young adults without structured activities and loads of free time are far more likely to get into trouble in any country regardless of culture. Trouble can be defined as anything from coloring on the walls to throwing balls through windows to drug use.

Structured activities for young people are a rather new concept in rural Costa Rica. It is expected that older children will take care of younger children rather indefinitely with minimal input from the parents except during mealtimes, bedtimes or other ritualized activities.

Keep in mind that this is a system that worked when young people had work to do in the fields and could do jobs around the house at regular intervals. As most young people no longer spend a significant portion of their day on agricultural work, however, they have the opportunity to fall victim to the mother of all bad ideas: boredom.

(Keep in mind that an agrarian model is also why US students have the summers off. If you’re a US student, do YOU work in the fields during the summer?)

The idea that adults would voluntarily spend any more time with children than was absolutely necessary seems a little crazy to the average Tico. Therefore, the idea of camp and structured activities for young people was greeted with skepticism by the community.

So, Melana and I decided that we were going to start with a two day English camp. The first set of kids would come in the morning at 7:30 and the second set would arrive at 12:30. We invited the younger children (7-9) to come in the morning followed by the older kids (10-12) to come in the afternoon.

Melana set up the house to look much like a classroom. There were colorful books everywhere and plenty of space for sitting on the floor. We had 5 participants show up. The kids learned about English and made their own animal books and sang songs. After juice and a snack we took them outside to play.

In the afternoon, we ran into a problem. The younger kids didn’t want to leave! We wound up having to tailor our activities for the younger kids who couldn’t keep up with their more advanced students. In all, we wound up with an afternoon group of about 12 students.

The next week, we helped some other volunteers in a larger city with a much larger camp of 6-12 year olds. We started with about 15 students. This camp was not focused on English learning, however and we engaged the kids with several “camp” like activities. Over the course of the week, friendship bracelets and team-building exercises were all the rage and long, competitive capture the flag style games dominated the late mornings before the kids went home for lunch.

Though all of this was extremely fun and rewarding, the other volunteers and I were exhausted after chasing after children for a week or so. Unlike US kids and young adults, the youth in Costa Rica are not used to structured activities. As such, they need to be guided through every step of the way. Concepts like “tag” need to be explained in nauseating detail because the concept just hasn’t been presented to many of them before. Children usually play on their own, but never with adults watching, and never with rules.

The whole experience reminded me how important structured activities are to childhood development. We don’t just play SPUD, freeze-tag and tennis-baseball because it’s fun. We do it because “play” prepares us for life as an adult. Interacting with other individuals and operating within a series of agreed upon norms are just two examples of skills we can derive from this.

I’ll end this thought here to give you all some more pictures of Costa Rican kids playing.

Introductions are always a must at camp.

Students paint reused soda bottles for potted plants.

In this team builder, participants must turn over the tarp without using their hands!

"Helium Stick" : one of my favorite team builders.

Students join hands for a human knot.

Two students play "capture the flag"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Spanish Joke!


-Thanks to Joan for finding this!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Happy Ramadan!

Today is the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. Happy holidays to all my friends who celebrate Islam!

To all non-Muslims, the month of Ramadan is a great time to learn about Muslim culture. For example, did you know that an observing Muslim should not eat before sunset for the entire month of Ramadan? To find out more, you can read about it here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

On Norway

I do not have the special connection with Norway that I do with Japan. But, as someone who works with youth camps, I feel very connected to this. My thoughts go out to the Kingdom of Norway.

May we all support Norway through this tragedy with compassion and tolerance.