Three weeks of rain, mud, and carrying bags of sand up a 1.5km hill; and yet somehow we still had the best time.
04.07.2012 - 23.07.2012 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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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