I think I can finally safely say I am over most of the Jet lag (Ha!). I woke up with a good nights rest and went to prepare some breakfast and green tea for myself and my roommate, Monica. We were out relatively early today, as Monica and I have a meeting at 9am with our program coordinator, to go over our finalized timetables. We were both excited and nervous on our walk to school this morning (Fun Fact: The sun really doesn’t come up here until around 9am). So, we have both learned to do most things in the dark lol! (Which also saves on electricity, thumbs up for sustainability).
As we walked to the university (about a ten-minute walk from our flat), we shared our excitement and nerves regarding our upcoming semester at the University of the West of Scotland. Upon arrival, we met with our coordinator who happens to be from Greece (so he has both a Greek and Scottish accent mushed into an entirely different fraken-accent). He’s great. He was able to work out and give us our identical timetables and… guess what! We only have three classes (due to credit sizing conversion between Canada and the UK). This meaning, we only have classes on Wednesday mornings and Thursday’s. Giving us five extra days for exploring, study and whatever else we can get ourselves into, Woohoo!
After discussing enrolment and some paperwork; Monica and I were free for the rest of the day. I ended up buying a University sweater to show some UWS pride (and it’s a plus because it’s very warm!). We got hungry around 1pm, so we decided to go to “Malatso” (a cafe located near campus, as they carry a vegan menu and have student discounts!).
I had a delicious vegan mini “Scottish breakfast”, it was very tasty! Monica also enjoyed a baked potato, which is a staple food here in Scotland. After eating, we explored the town of Paisley together and finally bought pillows for our flat!! Yay! (no more sleeping on my airplane neck pillow…lol). For the remainder of the afternoon, we took some photos together and explored the old churches in the area. The main attraction here in Paisley (the town we are staying in, near Glasgow), is “The Paisley Abbey”, which is an old church that dates back to the 12th century! It is so beautiful and we are so lucky as it can be seen from our flat window.
After finishing our exploring for the day, we visited Morrison’s (a UK grocery store), to do some food shopping and use their wifi. We are loving all the new and exciting products that are offered here. What an adventure it has been. When we got home, I made us some long-grain rice and vegetables for supper (alongside some trustee convenience store bananas! Which are surprisingly very good).
I finished packing my school bag for tomorrow and prepared myself for bed. I went to bed around 9pm. I know that seems early, but since it gets dark so early, we feel tired much quicker. Also, we did a ton of walking today.
Tomorrow marks the first official day of classes!! We are both so excited!
Love and Greeting from Bonnie Scotland!
You can continue to follow Monica and I’s adventures by following us on our Instagrams;
So, as you can probably tell by the title, I am soon to be leaving this beautiful island nation of Costa Rica and returning to the bitter cold of reality (and Canada ). Being here, on the ground, out in the open and right in the middle of social work has taught me so much and I will be returning to the snow, a changed person. But before I get into that, lemme show you some highlights of my time working here in Costa Rica.
Pueblito is a orphanage we got the privilege of volunteering at every Wednesday we were in Costa Rica. It is really an amazing place, and very unlike it’s Canadian counter-part. They follow a different model than the North American model and in my opinion the kids have a better experience growing up there than a orphanage in Toronto. Instead of putting all the kids to live in a foster house Pueblito is set up more like a community. The kids live in something of a “gated community”. There are 18 houses in this community each with about 5-8 kids in each with a surrogate mother who looks after them. Along with the houses, there is also a computer lab, outdoor gym, playgrounds, daycare (free for the surrounding community) and a nurses office, as well as onsite psychologist, social worker and tutors for homework. This kind of model allows the kids to grow up in more of a community environment. They even have a bus that they use to take the kids on field trips. This model and place is not without ts flaws, don’t get me wrong but it was interesting to see a different model in place and one that I would be glad to see implemented in Toronto. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the kids for obvious reasons but here are some murals that are on the property, one of which the kids helped make.
English Classes: We got the awesome opportunity to teach English. Not with like a full classroom or anything (I’m not trying to hype myself up lol) but with a group of indigenous students. It was a group of about 7-15 kids and since English is their THIRD language they were having some trouble with it so we offered to teach them. So every Monday from 1-3pm we would have English Classes. It was a lot of fun working with the students and fun teaching something that we sometimes take for granted.
Visiting Earth University and the TEC University fair :
Earth University, as many of you may not know, is one of the best universities in Costa Rica and after visiting it, I can see why WHOA IS IT IMPRESSIVE. The grounds of the school are so large that if you didn’t have a car or a bike with you, you would probably be walking for about 20 minutes before you saw any sign of human life, yeah it’s that big. But it’s not just it’s size that’s great. Everything from its curriculum, the way they teach the classes, the layout of the school, the mandatory activities and even the application and selection process set this school apart from the others in Costa Rica. I can’t go into depth on each of these points but i’ll say a little about each of them. They specialize in Agriculture, Business and Leadership programs. Every classroom is separate and has a retracting wall so they can bring in animals and plants to help the students learn and most of their classes have a hands-on approach. The layout of the offices of the teachers and services are extremely accessible to the students and you don’t need a appointment to see them you just pop in when you need to, Every Wednesday and Saturday from 6am to 11am the students are required to work on one of the on campus farms for them to really GET into their work and learn firsthand about agriculture and the process up close and personal. And the entire staff is involved with the application/selection process, they mostly bring students from around the world, and many from small villages as they recognize that sometimes you may not have access to the best education but you are still able to make a difference. They actually travel to the country to interview the student and they have to demonstrate how they have helped your community to get in. It is a very extensive but interesting approach. I could say more but I feel like i’m getting a bit too long on this post. if you wanna know more, google “Earth University”.
Food Fair : I know I know, your thinking omg theres more, this is the last one, il try to not make it as long as the last. We held a Pot Luck with the indigenous students and it was a great time. They were stoked for it and they each made a traditional dish from their communities so it was a great opportunity for us to try food from each of the different indigenous tribes. of course they wanted us to make some traditional Canadian food for them so we made some homemade mac n cheese and of course the EXTREMELY traditional and precious Canadian food that is Poutine ;)haha. Needless to say, it was a delicious night and we ended it off with some karaoke XD I may or may not have brought the house down 😉
Culture Night-Food fair/ Feria de Comida at Diana’s house
There’s a week left til i’m headed back to the land of ice and snow and I will be very sad to be leaving this awesome place and the awesome people i’ve met here. Being here in Costa Rica has taught me many things about its people and about myself but something really important it has taught me is something I might have been ignoring for sometime in the busy North American lifestyle, and that is, to slow down and smell the roses. In Toronto, everything is very task oriented, no one really leaves their house unless they have something to do or somewhere to go, no one really smells the roses we all just assume they will be there later for us to smell, but before you notice the moments past and you’ve missed it. Being here, its reminded to me to smell those roses and to live in the moment, and the importance of living in the moment, life’s too short to be living anywhere else.
Costa Rica has also taught me the true meaning of Pura Vida. Some of you may know what this means, some of you may not, it is basically the slogan for Costa Rican life and it mean “pure life”. Its all about living life to the fullest and making the most out of life. not just that, its also about finding happiness and being happy in life and recognizing that there are always people out there who have it worse than you, so you should never take what you have for granted. It encompasses all that is Costa Rican life and every Tico lives their live to Pura Vida. This is something I truly love and will be taking this home and everywhere else I travel to for the rest of my life (and yes there will be many more places 🙂 ).
Before I say goodbye for this post I would like to give a special shout out to Blair Fewster and Diana Segura Sojo, my supervisors in both Canada and here in Costa Rica. this awesome opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without you guys and you have both gone above and beyond to help us and make sure this opportunity was a great one. You are both fantastic and keep up everything you are doing. Never change. Also another shout out to the Global Experience Office at Centennial College for setting this up as well, thanks you guys. you have all given me a experience that has changed my life.
OK enough of the mushy stuff, that’s it for this episode guys. I hope you are all having a fantastic day and keep smiling. Pura Vida Mae.
So this weekend we went to Talamanca, more specifically to the Bri Bri indigenous community located in Talamanca. Lemme tell you, what an adventure. Lemme tell you first, its like a 5 hour drive to Bri Bri from where we started so this adventure started off pretty lame, waking up at 5am and being crammed in the back of a hot jeep with 7 other students for 5 hours…but not to worry, it defiantly got better.
After we finally arrived at our destination, we met with some elders from the community, who just to happened to be the grandparents of some friends of mine, and they taught us about their culture. We learnt so much from the elders my brain was exploding with information by the time we left. we learnt about their customs and beliefs, how they came to be here, their views on marriage and sooo much more. Did you know that long ago, the Bri Bri people believed that people were born from corn seeds? thats why corn was and still is considered a sacred food by the Bri Bri people. super interesting. I also learnt that many of the elders have been working with an organization to help make a Bri Bri to spanish dictionary and have even converted parts of the bible to Bri Bri, all in an effort to keep their language alive and prevent it from dying out like many of the other indigenous languages in Costa Rica. Their efforts to preserve their way of life are incredible and I really hope their language and amazing ways of life are still around for generations to come. After the learning session they told us some legends and stories of the Bri Bri people (my favorite being “the water tiger”) , I won’t recite any as they are far too long but I implore you to google a few, they are extremely cool.
listening to a speech about the history of the BriBri tribe by one of the Student’s (Gean) uncle.
The next day (sunday) was just as interesting at the first. We met this man (who’s name I dont remember) who I found extremely curious. He grew cocoa beans and produced his own 100 % organic chocolate. Despite being an curious fellow, I also found him to be very wise. He told us (and this is word for word) “Human beings today are confused, we used to be all about togetherness and unity and respected the circle of life and the world but now we are all confused, we are all square. we cannot agree on anything and we live a square life, square houses, square doors, square mind. we no longer respect the circle and that is why we are failing”. A wise man indeed.
After having lunch and discussing the world with the wise chocolate man we went off to have some fun. Cause after all, what’s work without a little fun. So we hiked off to the local waterfall, as all the locals do, and spent some time cooling off in the beautiful mist of the waterfall, while mentally preparing outselves for the 5 hour trip back to Cartago.
A great end to a great weekend, in the beautiful place that is Talamanca !
I was thrilled to hear my professor Marg announce that she would be going back to Guatemala to continue her work. I submitted my application on the very first day, and was already planning my trip before the acceptance letter. A few months later, I landed at Flores airport. That was unreal.
The purpose of our trip was to teach the local midwives how to use a birthing simulator MamaNatalie, teach the local women how to make reusable menstrual pads, and provide First Aid training to the local health promoters. We visited six different communities throughout our stay, and each community was unique in its own way. Most of the communities we visited are Q’eqchi’, the Maya people, hence it requires double translation from English to Español, then to Kekchi. It was challenging, but in a positive way.
I didn’t really experience “culture shock,” definitely some “culture surprises” during our stay in Guatemala. Photos speak a thousand words, hence I will walk you through our wonderful journey through photos. Have some tortilla chips ready, sit back and relax.
Day 1:Our flight is TO -> Miami -> Guatemala city -> Flores, then finally a two-hour bus ride to Sayaxche, It was tiring, but we were warmly greeted by the heat wave in Guatemala.
Day 2: Flores -2 hours smooth bus ride to Sayaxche
Meeting with Apidec (Programa Integral de desarrollo Christiano) & World Renew staffs. Had a crazy ride in a “cage” to our first village. I was chosen to be the first to do MamaNatalie (meaning I have to fake birthing). I knew I did an awesome job because everyone outside heard my screams from the classroom. Some said my hysterical screams scared some babies and kids oops. There is no bridge to cross the river in Sayaxche, so we had to take the ferry. Unfortunately on our way back to the hotel, a truck was stuck on the ferry and we waited for an hour before crossing a small river. Apparently the government made big profits from the ferry, so bridges are unnecessary. We had to hide in the jungle for toilet break! We were still full of awesomeness but began to feel the heat wave eating away our energy.
Day 3: Meeting with the Ministry of Health of Guatemala (Gobiernode Guatemala Ministerio de Salud Publica y Assistencia Social) in the morning. Visited our second village “San Juan Acul” in the afternoon. This village has a huge shelter outside. Sweat was pouring down, but the hot & humid breeze meant so much to us! I’ve said “mi nombre Beidi” so many times. Awesome but the heat was unbearable. We definitely had an awesome time at this community all thanks to the shelter that they have.
Day 4:Third village “Herencia Maya” meaning Heritage Maya. Most residents only know Kekchi, a Mayan language, so we have to translate from English to Spanish then to Kekchi (most communities we visited are Q’eqchi’ so triple translations hence triple the fun, and most of the communities were receiving visitors for the very first time, not to mention first foreign visitors). I used leftover fabrics to make♥and stars to the kids and they love it so much. This heat was overwhelming… people were starting to get sick😦
Day 5: Visit to Tikal, the Mayan ruins! Everyone was excited though we were not feeling well. The heat was not bad, bearable. Awesome day!
Day 6:Boating to the zoo in the morning, and had a fabulous view of Flores from far. Was a little upset that we had to cancel our afternoon trip to another ruin😦but at least we went to a good restaurant and I got a super yummy chicken sandwich and a Jamaican Rose drink. Got a super-itchy spider bite, and the rash was crystal-like. Finally started raining on the way back to Sayaxche, it cooled down the heat.
Day 7 & 8:Can’t remember what exactly happened during these two days. I was drained, and totally shutting down. I remembered the tables were so small and low, I have to bend down all the time while surrounded by groups of women and children. The noise, the heat, and the environment was sweeping over me like waves after waves. Due to the heat and long bus ride, more people felt unwell. I forced myself to drink lots and lots of water, and I survived the hardest period during this trip.
Day 9:Visited the last community! The kids there were overwhelming. They dragged you everywhere, touched your hair, put their little hands in your pocket digging for stuffs. I went to the bathroom with ten kids surrounding the door. Last time using MamaNatalie, my energy level left only 10% while doing it. A long day ended with kids holding my hands, grabbing my leg, and singing my name.
Day 10:Meeting with Ministry of Health again with reporters, and many cameras. Seemed like we’ll all be in Peten news! Our efforts had been paid off. Our MamaNatalie, menstrual pads, and First Aid sessions benefited the locals so much that the MOH will continue teaching the midwives and women with MamaNatalie and menstrual pad making. I felt so grateful. Drove back to Flores and finally SHOPPING TIME!!! (didn’t buy a lot because I was… exhausted). Day ended with a two-dollar ice cream.
Day 11: Guatemala City was raining and flight was delayed. Almost missed our Miami flight back to Toronto because of that. One American said “look at those crazy Canadian girls running in airport.” First thing back home is feeling extremely cold in 20ish temperature, but home sweet home :”)
I have to thank Centennial College for this amazing opportunity.Thank all the staffs from World Renew. Thank you Marg, Roya & Jo! Although we faced many ups and downs in this trip, extreme deprivation of veggies, tears and laughter, it was an experience that could only be experienced. It made me question my values, tested my limits, and forced me to grow. Thank you Guatemala! Someone told me this quote during this trip “You have to do other won’t, so you can have other can’t.” and of course my own quote “IT’S ONCE IN A LIFETIME!!!”
I have been thinking about the best way to share my experiences in Seoul. I have decided to go the 140 characters or less route of twitter. Anyone is able to view tweets so it is easier to share. Enjoy, a few of my posts!
There are a few more posts on twitter. If you are interested then you may view them at http://www.twitter.com/kevpolson. Also, I take requests so if you want to see something let me know. I’m still here until July 27th so there is more to post.