A Travellerspoint blog

Raleigh (Weeks 5, 6 & 7 of 13): Alpha 3 is the Team to be!!

Three weeks of rain, mud, and carrying bags of sand up a 1.5km hill; and yet somehow we still had the best time.

rain 15 °C

I was super nervous about meeting my project group and about the first few days, but we had a great team, and Neil (my fellow PM) was great!! The training flew by and there was no time for nerves, we played name games, ran sessions on the code of conduct and cultural awareness; we went on a mini jungle camp and then collected, counted and packed kit ready to leave…

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Our group on "jungle camp", or botanical garden camp
(which ever you prefer to call it)

Gema (my Spanish only Nica Venturer) making our first taste of the famous "Energy Bomb" or "Bomba Energia"

Us counting the food the day before we were deployed

Arriving at Tenorio Volcano National Park we took a few days to build our jungle camp, with the constant rain and beds being flooded every night, it was four days before we moved into it properly, and we had beds collapsing in the night on three different occasions.

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Before moving into the jungle, we set up camp in the "classroom", us sleeping / relaxing and playing cards

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The start of our Basha village, and the Boys Cutting Bamboo for the Beds

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Our Group Tarp, and me in my hammok!

More photo's of around camp...
Left: the washing (or rather the wet clothes, which we strung up everywhere and they NEVER dried, it was so wet and humid)
Right: the famous three bowl system, Raleigh style, and I am not sure why it is called the three bowl system when there are blatently four bowls... don't ask, but the bowls are for hands, wash, bleach, rinse ... in case you were interested.

Me doing the radio!
I remember being so scared of speaking on the radio in Namiba 10 years ago, it is amazing how things change, now it is just fun!!

I was really worried about moving to jungle camp and sleeping in a hammock, but in the end (despite being constantly damp) the hammocks were actually more comfortable than the floor of the class room, though trudging through the mud every day to get to them, we were glad of the wellies we brought!!

We started work almost immediately, meaning we had very little free time for the first few days, as we spent the mornings working and the afternoons building and then fixing jungle camp. The main job was carrying bags of sand, stones and cement up a muddy, slippery and often waterlogged 1.5km path; by the end we were walking up to 18km per day with these sacks; sometimes we also helped with the work at the top of the path, cementing the steps and handrails. We broke this up with other jobs, including collecting rocks (an even worse job!!) and building rock gardens (which was actually fun, but we didn’t finish them as there weren’t enough days without rain). The jobs were really hard work, and for the most part not hugely interesting, but we ploughed on through the rain and the thunder storms and felt a huge sense of achievement for the work we did.

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Me carrying a sand bag, and us picking up rocks

Us building the rock gardens

The food we ate was also an experience, lots of pasta, refried beans, rice, porridge, rice pudding, macaroni cheese, crackers, smash, tuna, soya, lentils, energy bomb (a mix of porridge, condenced milk, coco powder and rasins). And I also learnt how to make empanadas and tortiallas; two lantino specialities which I will reproduce for you guys at home when I am back.

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Me and Gema on our cooking day!! (With Michelle peaking in on the left)

We also went on a few day trips and half day trips, swimming in the local river, a walk up past the waterfall to where the water changes colour (from the normal grey to the brilliant blue it is in Tenorio), and we went on a trip to a coffee plantation.

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Me by the blue river and the water changing colour...

Us drinking coffee in the kitchen, and me with the coffee farm owner (80 years old and work 10 hour a day!!)
He was super surprised I was the boss, but insisted on having his photo with me after!

The best part for me, and the part I was most worried about… in terms both of if I would be any good at it and if I could do it at all, was being in charge of the group, being the responsible one for 11 young people and also being involved in the personal development of the guys in the group. But in the end it was so much fun, nothing to worry about at all; me and Neil were a great team, and the group were fantastic. It was amazing how the group (or my reviewees) confided in me, how they all worked together as a team, how they took on the responsibilities of day-leader every day, shared their feelings during end of day reviews, and talked to me during our one-to-one sessions.

The guys in my group, totally made it all worth it, seeing there smiles as I told them how good they were at something they hadn’t realised they were good at, seeing their commitment to work at something I told them they should work on in next phase, and hearing their feedback for me, the good and the bad and also hearing how much appreciated my leadership... It was all a truly amazing experience.

There were also the ups and downs, some brilkliant moments and some difficult ones, some moments of happyness and some fierce arguements, some excitment and some sulks. There were horrible moments … for example when someone threaten to hit someone else with a shovel … and other really difficult ones; for example when one of the guys refused to speak English for a whole day because he was so upset.

But then the amazing moments over shadowed the bad moments completely … for example when I had my one-to-one with the Nicaragruan member of my team at the end totally in Spanish and I understood everything she said and she understood everything I said … or when after two weeks of wet clothes, cold showers, and sleeping, eating and socializing outdoors, we were, as a treat for working so hard, invited into the warmth of the ranger station, for hot showers use of the tumble dryer, real coffee, bread and jam, gallo pinto and rice pudding; it made us feel so appreciated.

Me and Niel pretending to work during the afternoon in the ranger station

Us with our plack at the ranger station, at the end of phase!
Back: Tomas, Neil, Dan, Tom, Gema, Suzie, Louis
Front: Cole, Me, Raymond, Michelle, Andres, Alex
They were an awesome group, such diderent characters, and yet so good together as well

I would do it all again in a heart beat, and I am really sad not to be going out with another project team next phase. But I am fieldbase staff, and field base needs me!! So I am for the next 3 weeks, I will be firstly helping with the Adventure Challenge; an 8 day team challenge completed by the 5 week venturers. They are out already on the 5 day trek, and I will be helping with the 3 day adventure part of the challenge in a few days time - no idea what I will be doing for that, but I will keep you posted!!

And then after that I will then be going on the Nicaragrua road trip; to see some of the Romeo Community Phase Groups, and the Miratomba Trek, and to visit some of the Charlie Groups (a new part of Raleigh, which I've not heard much about, so I will hopefully learn more about that while I am there)!

So excitment all round, wish me luck with next phase and I hope I am not out of contact for so long this time, but we will see how it goes!! No promises! Have fun and speak soon. x

Posted by marajade1_200 20:40 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (1)

Raleigh (week 4 of 13): The Last Bits of Training

Write ups, a well deserved day off, classroom training, various wacky evening activities, and finally … what we are all here for; the arrival, of the Venturers …

rain 25 °C

On returning from our PPVs (project planning visits) we spent the two next days writing up the reports, and (for me) some more time on Logistical tasks, before having a well deserved day off. The majority of people went white water rafting, but having already been with Helen when we passed through Costa Rica a few months ago, I decided to spent the day relaxing and running some personal errands.

We quickly forgot our day off, as we followed it closely with two days of intensive class room based training, on personal development, the code of conduct, sustainable development and various other important sessions we are to run with the Venturers when they arrive. In between, we spent our evenings with movies, a Ceilidh (pronounced Kayliegh, a Scottish dance event), a Ralegh-oke night (karaoke) and a pub quiz, we did some more circuits training and the Logs Team spent any other spare time laying out food and kit in the Bodega for the 1 night Jungle Camp and for Phase 1!

Me, Louise and Jen at the Ceilidh, dressed in our tarten!
(Please don't ask about the facial expression...)

The last day before the Venturers got here, was supposedly for planning, but in reality I cleaned, helped in the Bodega, helped put up “The Resort” – a huge marquee style tent where some of the venturers will be sleeping – I read the Project Manager packs we were handed out that morning, I helped welcomed the host country Venturers at about 12PM, I took part in the Costa Rican cook-off (making Empanadas, only Spanish speaking allowed) between 4PM and 6PM and ended doing about half an hour of planning at about 9PM, after dinner and a trip to Max Palli (the local super market).

One of the better entries into the empanada compeitiion
Marked on presentation, taste and creativity

The judges tasting another of the entries
(The faces pulled by these guys during this was hillarious)

Today was the day of Venturer arrival, and over 100 people descended on field-base, we welcomed them (at 7:30AM) with cheering and dancing, and enjoyed a delicious Costa Rican breakfast, before splitting them into their Hotel (cough-tent-cough) Groups, and sending them round doing the various different admin tasks we all did when we first got here. All the PMs were leading groups of Venturers round, but the Logs Team were excused to finish off kit and food allocation.

Tomorrow morning first thing, we have project group allocations, and then I will be with my project group for the rest of the Venturer training… and on into Phase 1!!

I don’t expect to write another blog post now until I get back, and I will be out of contact from about now until I return to field-base at the end of phase 1. If you want to read more about what is going on with Raleigh whilst I am away, please look at the Raleigh blog at: http://www.raleighcostarica.blogspot.com/. If you want to send me a message you can post a message on the blog (!!with my name at the start!!), and it will be passed on to me on the radio! Enjoy the next month without me, and speak to you when I get back!!

I'll miss you all, speak soon!!

P.S. Appologies about the lack of photo's this week, promise there will be loads when I return!!

Posted by marajade1_200 16:59 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Raleigh (week 2 & 3 of 13): The Training

The Crazy Arrival, Far Too Much Training, Jungle Camp, Phase 1 Project Announcements, and Project Planning Visits…

rain 20 °C

The long awaited arrival day of all the Project Managers finally came last Thursday, and they all descended on field-base in mass, increasing our numbers from 14 to 35.

We had a crazy three days of different training sessions including communications training; medical training; holding day reviews; the day leader methodology; personality types; avoiding and dealing with emergencies; risk assessments; tools training … and if that is not enough, probably many more things I have forgotten.

Following this we were straight out on Jungle Camp

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... a practise camping trip for all Volunteer Managers...

...including various strenuous and challenging activities such as …
...getting up at 5AM; working as a team; practising the day leader concept and conducting reviews each days; map reading...

...cooking on our tragias...

...learning how to make hammocks and Jungle Camps...

...practising river crossings...

...practising a risk assessment; practising a medical emergency (along with CPR and stretcher-ing)…

...whilst also enjoying the beautiful scenery, and the smoking volcanos!!...

But as well as a practise of camping, navigating and team work (as if that wasn’t enough), this little excursion was also another kind of practise for the Logistics Team (of which I am a key part)! It was a practise for distributing kit and food, and collecting it back again at the end of the three days... this might sound straight forward but imagine tents, cooking kit, hammocks and food for 30 people for 3 days, and think again… it was a well needed practise, as soon we will be doing the same for over 100 people…

At dinner, the day we returned from Jungle Camp, we finally found out the project allocations for phase 1 (we found out who will be managing them). And I was super surprised, excited and a little nervous to find that I am being deployed on project immediately as a Project Manager for group Alpha 3 (A3)!
(As I am primarily a Logistics Co-ordinator it wasn’t definite I was going to get sent out on a project at all, though I mentioned that I would like to, I never envisioned they would send me out on first phase).

Our Team Picture (for the picture competition)
...we were meant to use our kit to help with the photo, but mini chocolate footballs seemed more appropriate for some reason...

I am going to Tenorio Volcano National Park, to work on building a trail, and I am going with Neil (a Project Manager) who will also be there for the full three week project with me, and Leanne (the Communications Officer) who will be there for the first week.

After finding out our project allocations, we were swiftly deployed on our Project Planning Visits (PPV’s), which again required the Logistics Team to organise the kit and food. Of the 10 groups going out, only 4 required kit (my specialty), so I quickly sorted out the piles of kit in the Bodega, and left a fellow Logistics Co-ordinator in charge of distribution, whilst I packed my bags and planned my trip with Leanne and Neil.

Our PPV was a three-day trip. One day to travel to Tenorio Volcano, an 8 hour trip; where on arrival we also managed to squeeze in...

...playing football...

...meeting the park rangers...

...and helping unload a truck full of cement.

One day to ask all our questions;

...to inspect the jungle camp...
...and to set up and practise on the radio...

...to view the work sites...
(what?! you can see the path in the background, the lizard is way more interesting...)

...to do the risk assessment and the environmental and cultural impact forms; to complete the emergency planning forms...
... and to meet the work men helping with the project...

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...and we also managed to squeeze in a hike to the waterfall, and the view-point...
(With a little bit of team building along the way)

...and we carry some materials up to the workmen on the way (a very busy day all-in-all, yes that was all one day).
And then we had one day again to travel back to field-base...

So ... after two and a half weeks of early mornings, late nights, more physical activity than I have done in a while and lots of hard work I am truly shattered. But I am also super excited for the last few days of training and the now very imminent arrival of 100+ young people, especially because a group of them are going to be MY Venturer’s on phase 1!!

Posted by marajade1_200 18:40 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (2)

Raleigh (week 1 of 13): The Advance Team and Field-base

Three months of Raleigh, three months of Costa Rica, and apparently three months of rain; welcome to hard-work and raincoats.


So my three months of travel are now behind me, and the next (more serious) phase of my journey has begun. I started with Raleigh about a week ago, now and I know it has been longer than normal since my last blog post, but it has been a little crazy here, especially for someone who has become far to used to doing exactly as they please 24 hours a day … this ‘new’ regimented, work-like, timetable has been a little bit of a shock to the system. But we are getting ahead of ourselves, let’s start at the beginning.

For those who don’t know, Raleigh is a gap-year and aid work charity, and one very close to my heart. I went away on expedition with Raleigh in 2003, when I was 18, and the experience changed my life, during my 10 weeks on expedition with Raleigh in Namibia, in Africa I left behind the shy, nervous little girl of my childhood and became the wondrous and confident adult you all know and love. Ever since then, I’ve said I would go back as a member of staff and help other young people have those same life-changing experiences I had and, here I am, almost 10 years later.

I have done a lot with Raleigh in the last ten years, in 2008 I volunteered in head office for 6 weeks, in 2010 I took part in the Kinabalu Challenge, and I’ve been involved in numerous “Raleigh weekends” through work as well (as many of you know my old manager was also a well renowned Raleigh fanatic), but I am super pleased to be out here on Expedition again and am enjoying get stuck back in the thick of it.

If for some reason I haven’t spoken to you about Raleigh previously, I will quickly give a brief background to what happens out here on expedition. Generally Raleigh takes a group of about 100 17-24 year olds on a 10 week-expedition to a 3rd world country. These young people are there primarily for personal development and secondarily to do aid work and there are usually a mixture of youth from England, Europe and the host countries (in this case Costa Rica and Nicaragrua).

During the ten weeks all the Venturers (as we call the young people) complete three three-week projects, an environmental project (in this case working with turtles, or working in rainforest reserve), a community project (in this case building a school, a class room, or setting up a clean water system) and an adventure project (usually a trek). The Venturers are supported by a team of about 30 Volunteer Managers (as we call the staff members; VMs for short). The VMs manage the above mentioned projects, and do Accounting, Logistics, Communications, Photography, Medical and Admin behind the scenes.

I am a Logistics Co-ordinator for the next 13 weeks, and hopefully during one phase (as we call all the three week projects), I will go out as a project manager for a group of young people.

I am here three weeks before the Venturers arrive, and one week before the rest of the Volunteer Managers, I am currently part of the Advance Team. The rest of the Volunteer Managers arrived today, but for the last week the Advance Team have been here setting up Field-base; our base of operations.

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...field-base; the office, and the kitchen...

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...the staff room and the chill-out area...

This set of photo's shows where we have been working and hanging out during the days here

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The house and the girls bedroom
(Where we will be living for the next 10 weeks)

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The Venturer Accomodation and the view down the road

The Logistics Team is a Team of 5, and we are organising Food, Kit, Tools, Comms, and Vehicles and I have been put in charge of Kit and Tool. It has been a mammoth task.

My office, also known as ‘The Bodega’ is a massive store room, and I’ve had to empty the shelves, count the kit (over 250 different tools, pieces of camping gear, cooking equipment, safety equipment and other odds and ends), mark the kit and put it back again (that in itself took two and a half days with a lot of help from other members of the team).

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Here is a picture of me and my office; and a couple of pictures of the inside
(inc. all the kit I have spent days counting!!)

Then I have also have had to plan what Kit will be needed for Jungle Camp for 30 VMs (you and I will find out more about that next week), project planning visits for 20 Project Managers (in order to get to grips with their project sights before the expidition starts), and also all the kit needed for the 10 projects (with about 15 people in each one) happening during the first three weeks. And after that; I had to lay out kit for the Jungle Camp and look at trying to fix broken kit. Sounds complicated or perhaps outside my normal knowledge base? That is because it was both; but I got there with a little help.

Here is a picture of me in the “real” office, mocking-up some kit lists

In between all this we have also been out for dinner in town; we’ve organised a film night (we watched “My Idiot Brother”); we’ve had a games night (playing a mammoth card game called Racing Deamon), we’ve done circuits (my first real exercise in the last three months); we’ve had a swimming test; we’ve visited Volcan Irazu, a local volcano (and had the excitement of a car break down on the way); and we’ve even had a pizza night with a salsa dancing lesson (of course they go together!).

...a picture of the Volcanoe...

...and a picture of us at the top (posing)...

So, it has been an eventful week, and with the rest of the VMs arriving in San Jose today, tomorrow will be the start of our training and even more hard work, with a good dose of fun mixed in I am sure!!!

Posted by marajade1_200 15:23 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Raleigh: Glossary

For when you read my blog over the next thirteen weeks and think what the hell is she talking about, read this… you don't have to read it now though as soom of it will be repeated in my first entry.

Advance Team (also known as field-base staff) – arrive 1 week before all other VMs and prepare field-base for everyone else’s arrival, they are on sight for 13 weeks in total.

Adventure Project – a three week trekking project in Costa Rica or Nicaragrua, usually camping and walking through rainforest or up volcanoes or mountains. These projects are lead by 2 or 3 VMs, and usually have 12 participant Venturers.

Bodega, the – the store cupboard where all the kit and tools are kept, also known as my office

Change Over – the time in-between phases (usually 1 or 2 days), where all VMs and Ventuers get together to clean kit, drop off old kit, find out allocations for their new projects and then pick up new kit and get transported to the new project sight.

This is where all the Ventuers will sleep when they are at fieldbase during change over
This hasn't happened yet, so that is why the pictures look so empty, no-one is here yet

Communications Officer (Comms) – looks after the magazine, the official blog and other media related stuff.

Community Project – a three week project based in a community, during our Expedition these are building a school, building classrooms and building a clean water system. Some of these projects last three weeks and are done by only one group.; Some projects last 9 weeks and are completed by three different three week groups. These projects are lead by 2 or 3 VMs, and usually have 12 participant Venturers.

Environmental Project – a three week project based in a natural environment, during our expedition these include working in the rainforest or on the beach, working with turtles or working with nature resers and rebuilding or building steps and trails. Some of these projects last three weeks and are done by only one group.; Some projects last 9 weeks and are completed by three different three week groups. These projects are lead by 2 or 3 VMs, and usually have 12 participant Venturers.

Expedition, the – the expedition lasts for thirteen weeks, one week with just field-base staff, 2 weeks more with all VMs and then ten weeks during with the Venterers are on sight.

Fieldbase – the office where all the work gets done, where all training happens and where everyone (all 130 of us) get together during change-over

Jungle Camp – a practise in the jungle lasting 2 or 3 days (not happened yet, photo's to follow)

Logistics Co-ordinator (aka Logs) - this is what I do, there are a team of 5 of us and we organise3 food, kit, tools, transport, communications for 130 people over the next 13 weeks.

Phase 1 – the first three week project, there are 10 projects going on at once, and 10-15 people are deployed onto each project. Usually there are 3 or 4 of each type of project happening at the same time, Community, Enviropnmental and Adventure Projects.

Phase 2 – the second three week project, after the first 3 week project everyone returns to field base for change-over. Everyone is swapped around and everyone is deployed back out to a different project site for the next three weeks

Phase 3 – the third three week project, again everyone swaps groups and projects to do a different project on the third phase.

Project Planning Visit (PPV) – Volunteer Managers visit the sites without the Ventuers to look at the site, talk to the local organising team and get an idea of the project and stafey issues before they are deployed.

Project Managers (PM) – VMs or Volunteer Managers who go out on project sight with the Venturers to manage the projects and look after the young people. Some field-base staff get to do this for one phase, so hopefully this will be me! The rest of the PMs arrive today, so photo's of us all together will follow!

Training – before the Ventuerers arrive the VMs and PMs need to be trained for 2 weeks, PM’s arrive 1 week after the Adavnace Team, and 2 weeks before the Ventuers. There will be photo's of the training to follow as it starts today!

the young people aged 17-24 who volunteer with Raleigh

Volunteer Managers (VM) the adults, aged 25+ who organise and each Raleigh expedition (with the help of some regular full time, paid staff as well).

Posted by marajade1_200 15:19 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

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