And I have been really busy: the last few weeks included making a video about a local farmer to display at the weekly farmers' market, doing a massive lab on local water health as compared to land use and deforestation, performing an oral history project about a fifty year old Scrabble guide book one of the original Quaker settlers made by hand by sifting through her unabridged dictionary, and reading and translating studies performed by Institute students over the last fifteen years to make a booklet – in Spanish – that documents the studies for distribution among the twenty or so farmers who have year after year allowed students to perform experiments on their land without ever having seen the results of those tests, the caferos (coffee farmers) of the Santa Elena Coffee Cooperative, and anyone else in the zone who interested in the research.
Add on to that room draw, class registration, finishing my thesis proposal, and campaigning to be president of the Goucher Student Government Association from abroad, and it becomes pretty obvious why my better habits from the first half of the semester (doing yoga, teaching myself how to play guitar, going to sleep early, and writing in my blog) have gone to the wayside.
Finally, presentations for our Environmental Sustainability class stretched from project proposals suggesting that the Institute create a permaculture garden and build two composting toilets to a research project about biodigesters, a documentary video about CO2 emissions and personal automobile use in the Monteverde area, and Sarah's and my Cosecha de Cienca (Harvest of Science) book documenting fifteen experiments about shade-grown coffee, organic fungicides, and biodiversity protection on farms.
Elise, me, Emma, and Erin on the caminata (walkathon) fundraiser for the Monteverde Friends School. Volcan Arenal is behind us.
The next evening (Tuesday night we had a bonfire at Anibal's house and then a party thrown for us at Moon Shiva – we had been a substantial portion of their client base since we arrived in January) the Institute threw a banquet party for all of the host families who had taken us in, and for the first time I was struck by how much of an impact we had been making on the community. We've always known Santa Elena was was a small place – each of our host families was related to or good friends with at least a half dozen others' – but seeing the 150 people who had fed us and packed our lunches and washed our clothes and taught us Spanish all in one place talking and joking with each other for the first time since the day we arrived was startling.
After the meal, Anibal brought out two Piñatas: the first was for all the host families' kids, and the second was for us, the soon to pack their bags students. All hell broke lose as kids and older kids alike made fools of themselves, nearly lopping off heads with the broomstick as they swung blindfolded at the piñata and the entire crowd cheered them on, yelling directions in Spanish and English simultaneously. “Abajo! Abajo! To your left! A su derecha! Izquierda, izquierda! Atras! Behind you! Eso es!”
I was hit by this overwhelming sense of how lucky I, and we all, are to be able to participate in such a program and be so lovingly accepted into such a wonderful community. Even though the person standing next to me spoke English, I automatically went to translate that feeling into Spanish, but could not for the life of me remember the word “suerte,” “luck.” So I did what anyone surrounded by a new language learns to do so well: I figured out how to say it in different words.