Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sand in My Snow Boots

We biked along the oceanside road, winding through the groves of tall trees, it teased us with glimpses of the turquoise Caribbean waters. Lazily pedalling past the restaurants, cabanas, yoga retreats and chocolate tours that are tucked behind the luscious bushes, we made our way back to Puerto Viejo. The late afternoon sun filtered through the leafy branches and lit up the salted air, settling on our sun-kissed skin like magical pixie dust.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Sun Will Always Rise in the East

"The days are long, but the years are short." Gretchen Rubin

I have been debating with myself for weeks. Christmas carols, "Should I listen to them?" Every other year there would be no second thoughts, they would be playing non-stop from November 1st right through to New Years. But this is not like every other year. I am not at home, I am not going to have a white Christmas, I am not going to eat Turkey, stuffing and so many shortbread cookies that I have to unbutton my pants. "Should I subject myself to all of the memories and feelings associated with listening to Christmas carols?" I pondered. 

Today I cracked; before I even knew what my hands were doing, I was typing in 'Christmas Playlist' on YouTube. I am listening to "I am dreaming of a white Christmas" and drinking apple cinnamon spiced tea as I write this, reflecting on how this Christmas feels completely different than any other, and how grateful I am for that. 

This week has been the hardest since I have been here. The tides keep turning in my head and as the waves crash upon the shores of my thoughts, I don't fight them. I float, letting them pull me out to have wonderful new experiences, and then pull me back in, where the nostalgia of a white Christmas momentarily leaves me stranded on the shore. While embracing this complex suite of emotions, it has underscored that nothing in life stays the same. Whether we embrace it or not, the world is always changing, we are always changing, time continues to pass, and we continue to live.

Friday, December 13, 2013

   Spanish Headaches and Hydro-dams

    A Natural Resource Conflict Resolution Mini-Course

     "When you live on a round planet, there is no choosing sides." Wayne Dyer

I stood shyly in front of 20 people, including my boss and 19 other natural resource professionals that I had just met. "Disculpame, mi espaƱol no es perfecto" I said as I began to introduce a Director of a Guatemalan Univsersity. A part of me wanted to run away, pass at the opportunity to participate, in fear of what? People making fun of me for trying to speak their language? What is the worst that could happen? I will make a few mistakes. I recalled my days in France, when it dawned on me that I could try to speak, and eventually improve, or I could not say anything at all and have a very silent three months. With this re-affirmation I pushed my nervousness aside, smiled and did my best to introduce my new classmate. This 45 seconds on my Monday morning was a privotal moment, demolishing my fears and setting me up for a week of mini-presentations, rich conversations and enlightening presentations.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Black Coffee and Bosques

Taking a little walk around campus at lunch

There is nothing like waking up in Costa Rica. The sun rises shortly after 5am, I cannot for the life of me sleep in past 8 and whenever I walk out the door in the morning I get a boost of energy. The sunshine is warm on my face, the breeze fresh on my skin, and with sounds of the beautiful birds singing I can't help but to smile. As I make my way down to the centre of campus I turn around. Is the volcano showing its' face today? Often it is lost behind the clouds, and the first time I saw the volcano's peak, I was slightly alarmed and fascinated that it was smoking! Although I have learned it is completely normal that is releases gases. 

The Turrialba volcano on my way to work
The cool air engulfs me as I enter the Wallace building. I was a bit nervous on my first day, what if I don't understand them? What if they don't understand me? What if I am not the right person for the job? My nervousness quickly dissipated as I was warmly welcomed by the other Cuso volunteers, introduced to many people in the building and shown to my office. Within an hour I had been asked several times if I drink coffee, a simple "si" seemed easier than explaining that I prefer tea, but I sometimes drink coffee in the afternoon. I learned that 9am was the office coffee time and they drink their coffee black, so there I was, drinking black coffee and conversing in my broken spanish. Two weeks later, I must confess I am slightly addicted to the stuff. 

I have been spending my time getting to know CATIE itself, the work that it does, as well as the current needs and priorities of the Model Forest. I think my work here will be very rewarding and a rich professional experience. I have already attended two meetings and done a field visit. What I have pieced together from these meetings, as well as the piles of books I have been wading through, is that there are three current priorities for Bosque Modelo Reventazon (ABOMORE).

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

18 Hours in Panama

Taxi Service, Bocas del Toro

I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed on Thursday morning, it was piled up with posts about loving snow, hating snow, people getting stuck in snow, people skiing and pulling sleighs in snow. Snow was everywhere, and what was more the CP Holiday Train was due in Merrickville that night. My heart sunk a little, thinking about the holiday festivities I was missing. Pulling out my winter boots for the first time, feet crunching through fresh snow, looking up to the sky as the flakes fall. Most of all, I missed sipping hot chocolate and baileys with my bestie Danielle, watching the Holiday Train pull into town, completely lit up and blaring Christmas carols.

“It’s fine” I thought to myself, “I am going to the beach this weekend.” Pulling my attention away from the computer screen, I focused on the lawn outside my apartment. It was now a lake. The ‘rain shower’ was not letting up. If Ontario was getting 20cm of snow, I was sure that Turrialba was getting 40cm of rain. I suddenly understood why they call it ‘lluvialba’, when it rains, it pours, and it pours all day long. I packed my bag, put on it’s rain cover (amazing invention), my rain coat, flip flops and umbrella and made my way out to the bus stop along the highway.