Last thoughts on Costa Rica, weeks 5&6

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Today, we went to the National Museum.  As a group, we’d visited several other museums in Costa Rica and so I was interested to see how this one would stand out.  The first thing I learned was that the building itself is historical.  It used to be a fortress and was originally built as military barracks.  There may even be bullets in the exterior walls!  We got to walk around inside and see what all the different rooms used to be.  We even saw the exact spot where the president had announced that Costa Rica would no longer have a military in 1948.  I loved being able to see so much history from several different eras that this country has gone through all in one building.  Next, we walked through different exhibitions about the native people who first lived in this area of Central America as well as some focused on the political evolution of the country.  I found it all so interesting to see the different perspectives people had on Costa Rica and the way each opinion helped form the diverse country that it is today.  After our time at the museum, we all walked across the street to a market for souvenir shopping.  We were able to haggle with a few of the shop owners and buy some great things to take home.  People got hammocks, mugs, and little trinkets with pura vida on the side.  It was a lot of fun to wander through the different tents and practice my Spanish with the shop owners.  Overall, it was a very good day and another one to remember in Costa Rica. Continue reading

Weeks 3 and 4 in Costa Rica

ImageI have now been in Costa Rica for more than 3 weeks. It is amazing how time flies when you are having fun. Having never left the United States the first week was a lot of culture shock. I had to learn a lot about Costa Rican culture and how to speak Spanish. Although my Spanish is not great just yet, it is enough to get around the town. The last week our group visited the legislative branch of government here in Costa Rica. It was very interesting to see another form of government, up close and personal. We toured the building and even got to sit in the chairs that elected officials sit in during debates. I realized how similar the United States government is to this democratic system of government. It was interesting to note that in Costa Rica they allow anyone who is interested to come and watch the debate take place. I thought this was very intriguing and would encourage citizens to hold their elected officials accountable. Continue reading

Costa Rica: Part 1

Image            We arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica last night and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t still nervous. The first night with my host family was a bit awkward, but I know things will get better once I’ve fully settled. My family is small, consisting of my mom and her two adult children, but they’re very nice despite not speaking any English. They make sure to speak slowly enough for me to understand and do their best at not laughing when I mess something up. We had our introduction to the Center where we’ll be studying today and it’s absolutely beautiful! I can’t wait to get started and fall into a comfortable routine in my new home. Continue reading

Blogs from our last service site, Washington DC

ImageWow, what a week it’s been here in D.C. At the start of the week we knew it would be a busy one, but I don’t think any of us knew just how busy it would be. Each day we’re split up into various groups and sent out to different places all over the city. I can’t even begin to name all of the organizations we’ve worked with so far. One of my favorite places to work, however, was an organization called Miriam’s Kitchen. Much like any other soup kitchen, meals were provided to the homeless throughout the day, as well as other supportive programs to help the clients get back on their feet. Though something special about Miriam’s Kitchen was that they offered therapeutic art classes nearly every day.  Everyone was welcome to do whatever artistic outlet they wanted. Some painted, others wrote, and one man in particular seemed to be the master of beads. Down the street at one of the universities,  there was an exhibit of many of the participants’ work and I was astounded at the amount of talent these people had. Being an artistic person myself, I really appreciated the use of art in trying to help the homeless and I enjoyed seeing what those at Miriam’s Kitchen had to offer. This week has really opened my eyes and gave me a new perspective on the homeless population. Continue reading

Kentucky Perspectives

ImageIt was the first full day that we were in Harlan and mountaintop removal was still a pretty new topic to me.  Just from hearing about it earlier that day, I had decided that I was strongly against it and disgusted with the greedy coal companies that destroy these beautiful mountains for really only one thing – money.  In the afternoon we went to a couple’s home who make art to symbolize their view of coal mining and mountaintop removal.  The first thing I saw when I walked into their cozy studio was a large, detailed sculpture of a woman lying as if she were a mountain with her stomach being torn apart by large machines.  She had tears streaming down her face, ribs showing, and blood dripping from her side to represent the immense pain she endured.  The sculpture represented the view of environmentalists that are fighting to end mountaintop removal in the Appalachian Mountains.  After looking at it for a while, I began to take in all of its elements as a whole and realized how much I loved the sculpture.  Personally, I agreed with its message and thought the artist had a great representation of what coal companies are doing to great Mother Nature.  Throughout our time at their house, I went back to that sculpture about five times and the image of it will never leave my mind. Continue reading

St. Louis Blogs

ImageComing into this week I was incredibly ignorant on the subject of hunger in general, but even more so pertaining to the issue of domestic hunger.  I wasn’t aware of the significant and growing numbers of Americans that are going hungry every day.  This led to two major revelations for me this past week: the first was just becoming aware of the major problem that hunger is in the United States and the second was culture shock of being exposed to hungry individuals from Saint Louis and the surrounding areas.  With that being said, I enjoyed every part of this past week.  From working at City Seeds Urban Farm to participating in Operation Food Search’s backpack initiative, it was all a lot of fun and did a lot of good in the Saint Louis community.  When I arrive on the Elon campus in January, I will definitely be looking for opportunities to work with the Campus Kitchen to help feed local families and end hunger one meal at a time. Continue reading

Service Week 1: Pine Ridge, SD

Working with RE-MEMBER was truly a unique experience that I don’t believe I could have had anywhere else.  The poverty and overall harshness of the living conditions of the Lakota people of the Pine Ridge Reservation was shocking and unsettling.  The long days of intense physical labor, combined with the emotional effect of our surrounding environment, left the group exhausted at the end of every day that we spent on the reservation.  Pine Ridge2No matter how tired we were though, I was encouraged to see the amount of active listeners that were engaged in the phenomenal speakers that we were fortunate enough to hear from.  Even with all of this in mind, the most memorable moment came from The Porcupine School.  One of the little girls in my second grade class, named Lynsey, approached me during our lunch time with a series of statements that have since changed my life and my outlook on such.  She looked up at me and said, “You are perfect.”  Not understanding what she meant by this I asked her if she could clarify.  Her response to this request was that people on the reservation say that “the white man is perfect.”  I was completely and utterly shocked.  In the moment, I experienced a brief moment of extreme dissonance.  I was unsure of how to respond to this assertion from such an innocent, eight-year old girl.  I told her that her statement was extremely far from the truth and that the color of your skin does not determine how good or bad you are. Continue reading