Becoming Part of the Community


Our whole group began at the school this morning, and it appeared transformed because the students were in session. Yesterday the school was so quiet, but today it was abuzz. The Metz three did outdoor work, while the three ladies assisted with preparing students to give presentations and other teaching activities. The ladies had also reorganized the whole library the previous day, and they wished they had taken a “before” and “after” picture to document the vast difference! 



The outdoor work for the Metz three consisted of clearing vegetation along the sides of the 1 km trail that winds along the top of the hill behind the school, and also preparing seedlings for future reforestation. The latter activity was a continuation of work that was begun the previous day. Machetes were distributed to all and sundry, including the two teenage Metz boys and about eight high school boys. This had to be a highlight, and the Metz boys were most impressed by the superior machete skills of the Santa Elena boys, noting that they could repeatedly strike the exact same spot on a good-sized branch in order to quickly sever it. Luckily, branches and twigs were the only things severed and we returned to lunch at the office fully intact. 


During the afternoon, our group worked with Jorge and Mario in the outdoor recycling area adjacent to the blue recreation building. Talk about before and after! We achieved a great amount of clean-up to an area that was a dumping ground for bags of trash and recyclables. It needed alot of help and we did provide that. Gifford was bounding around collecting refundable bottles with the most energy of the group. His Spanish came in handy, but we were all able to communicate well enough with gestures and demonstrations. Pat was the bottle cap picker upper to beat them all, and Pamela was busy to the end, stuffing giant collections of plastic bottles into the shed. We did wonder what the “master plan” was for future organization and pick-up of the recyclables, but that may be a mystery we will never solve. We all worked well together, and Jorge and Mario were most gracious and appreciative.




That afternoon, while riding with a group of travelers in a van to visit a nearby coffee plantation, I listened idly to the familiar tourist conversation consisting of questions such as “What have you done here?” and “What are you going to do next?” In the back of my mind, I recognized how these conversations can sometimes sound a little competitive, but for the most part they provide fellow travelers with good tips. As I was half listening to them, Gifford poked my shoulder and I noticed he and a boy on a bike outside the van were waving to each other. Gifford turned to me with a happy expression on his face and said “That was Carlos!” Apparently he and Carlos had cleared trails together that afternoon at the trail behind the high school. As I watched Carlos and his red bicycle recede behind us as our van bumped up the next hill, I felt a little shiver as an emotion passed through me. Through our side by side work, we were becoming part of the community, so much so that my boy was being waved at on the street. 


I didn’t feel simply like a tourist, thinking about which attraction or restaurant gave the most bang for the buck. For the admittedly short period of time that we were there, we were of the community, not just visitors to the community, and this, to me, made a world of difference. 



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