As I sit down to write this journal post-pasta on Wednesday night, after our third day of work, I keep thinking of one of the team’s established goals: “to build friendships and to strengthen existing relationships.” Personally, this best defines my day at Colegio, and I believe it may define it for others as well. As the week has progressed, I find myself recognizing and greeting students who have previously worked with me; their responding waves and smiles make me feel more like a friend, rather than a stranger.
This morning, alongside a few of my fellow volunteers, I hauled wheelbarrows of dirt and stone up the slopes of Colegio to the plot for a future vegetable garden and greenhouse. We were accompanied by Jorge’s eighth-grade class of students, which ranged from the ages of 13 to 18. This extremely exhausting experience left all of us laughing at ourselves as we struggled and slipped up the campus. Rachel, a student who spoke English particularly well, was not only helpful, but great company. She, Pam, and I chatted about how we must be getting stronger and should look quite toned after the day’s work. She and I found a bit of comradery during the morning as we discussed our favorite music and activities, both American and Costa Rican. In response to the work, I must say I am proud of the team and students for lugging those heavy (and I mean heavy) wheelbarrows up the hill. It proved a productive first few hours.
In the afternoon the team was joined once again by Lissette’s class of eleventh graders, a lively bunch of kids who remind me of my peers as a teen in high school not so long ago. The vibe between students and volunteers was different this time – more comfortable, even silly – and I say without hesitation that budding friendships were forming between our group and theirs. As we tilled and dug and planted in the soon-to-be vegetable garden, conversations were tossed around in both broken English and Spanish. Although it was still difficult to communicate at times, I felt a desire in both myself and my comrades to truly understand the other and translations were frequently made either between other students or Maggie. An interesting personal side note, I found my tocayo – a boy named Emmanuel, better known as “Emma”. If you can guess, tocayo means we share the same name. Not surprisingly, once the other boys in the class discovered both of us responded the name, “Emma,” it was “Emma Emma Emma” yelled across the field to one another, laughing as both Emmanuel and I looked around. This instance in particular made me feel like I was one of their peers just joking around, making the work fun – an honest and simple connection from one human to another.
A conclusion to both our day and this journal entry comes with what I believe to be the solidification of newfound friendships in Costa Rica: a fútbol match. Although the only volunteer with any soccer experience was eight-year-old Edison, many of us joined the game and scrambled around on the cement field, calling out to one another as if we’ve been playing on this turf at the end of every Colegio school day. I think, in many of our busy social and work schedules, one forgets how good it feels to just play a simple game of, in this case, soccer (even if we weren’t quite good – terrible, in fact). I can only feel gratitude towards these students for welcoming my fellow volunteers and me into their school and making us feel young again. There really is a kid in all of us, and after a hard day’s work, they just want to have fun with friends, both old and new. After today, the kid in me definitely showed her competitive side, and I think we can all attest to that.
Entry submitted by: Emma
Message of the Day – Christian: “Become friends with people who aren’t your age. Hang out with people whose first language isn’t the same as yours. Get to know someone who doesn’t come from your social class. This is how you can see the world. This is how you grow.” – Unknown