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Teacher Pages

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 1 month ago

Sunday, April 4, 2008


The group so far has shown an immense capacity for flexibility. Interviews and activities have been shifted, re-organized, and shifted again due to unforeseen conflicts in schedules, teachers strikes, emergency votes for political parties, just to name a few. Through all this the remain ready and willing to do what is needed and rise to whatever occassion emerges.


What was to be our first and most anticipated interview in San Jose with Epsy Campbell will now be our final interview before heading out to the rainforest. The questions have been creative and thoughtful, eliciting some interesting and often original responses from our interview subjects. A common theme that emerged from our time with Congressman Francisco Pacheco, Maria the Volcanologist, and Manuel Obrebgon, the pianist and band leader, is the vast power of the earth and it's ultimate supremacy over human beings. Maria repeatedly mentioned the power of the earth through eruptions, convulsions, lava flows to swallow whole towns, to send populations running, to overwhelm and destroy those who failed to take her seriously. She also emphasized the notion that there should be some places that human beings are not allowed to go. That these boundaries and protected places made possible the preservation of natural beauties and treasures that should not be tainted by human contact.


Manuel Obregon, always succinct and wise, offered the notion that all the fear about humans destroying the earth is misplaced. In his mind, we are really at a point of considering whether we will listen to the earth and save ourselves, or ignore nature's warnings and be destroyed by it. Since he was in New Orleans during Katrina he has some first hand experience with the power of the earth to destroy human designs. He says that the people and place changed dramatically during that time. He also said that the earth will continue no matter what we do. The question is, will we? His current project uses the many rivers of Central and South America as conduits for the multi-cultural orchestra he has constructed as well as a means of bringing media attention to the various economic, political, and environmental challenges of the communities located along the rivers. He hopes to emphasize the unifying power of rivers rather than their more common use as boundaries separating cultures or nations in conflict. My hope is to have him and his orchestra visit Pittsburgh at some point. Given the powerful history and geography of our own rivers, this seems like a wonderful connection to make and perhaps a new way of understanding the bodies of water we often take for granted.


Francisco Pacheco, a man of large importance but modest stature was perhaps most direct in explaining the essential human condition in relation to the earth. When asked by Jamar if he had ever dreamed of ruling the world, he replied, "The world is very big, and I am very small." 'Nuff said.


Our time in La Carpio, the squatter community made up largely of Nicaraguan immigrants was also an awakening to both the immense resilience and creativity of human beings and our complete dependence on one another and ultimately the earth. From humble beginnings, these people have taken direct action to obtain basic services of electricity, lighting, and public phone service. By strikes and road closings they obtained government recognition. When the strikes themselves got out of hand they found means to organize and unify in the interest of their common survival and development. The women who run the organization we worked for today are amazing examples of the creative responses human beings are capable of in the face of seemingly unfathomable challenges. Once again, they served us far more than we served them, despite the students' amazing artistic stamina of the students and our very capable guest artist Rebecca from the University of Costa Rica. May the SS City High '08 sail calm seas for many years to come.


Tomorrow we leave for the rainforest hoping to take with us some of the modesty and intention to listen that each of these interviews has taught us. Each one of us, including myself, are just reaching the edge of our comfort. (Mine came when our very gracious host and chef Don Francisco cooked us cheeseburgers and played American music throughout dinner tonight.) As with the students, I continue to learn how to accept what is rather than rail against or try to control it. Usually it ends up better if I at least wait and consider the broader context before reacting. In this case, the only thing to say was, "Thank you" and appreciate the joy, however perverse, on the students faces. Let them eat burgers, because the rest of the week we won't be anywhere near a McDonald's, KFC, or any of the other trappings of American sprawl found easily throughout San Jose.


On that note, we will be out of regular communication until Thursday at the earliest. Students will surely have a great deal to write about come Friday when we make our way back to the city. Until then, adios.


Ryan Oliver


Friday, April 11, 11:27pm


We've returned from the rainforest safe and sound. Despite a few scrapes, bruises, a bit of heat exhaustion, and some small intestinal issues the group is in tack. A great deal of growth seemed to happen on the second half of the trip. More people hit their limits and went beyond them, more people needed support from the group and got it, more people found real joy in each other and the experiences of working, playing, and eating with the community of Quebrada Arroyo. Given the itinerary this year there were no "free days" until the very end. This meant the sigh of relief was almost audible when we finally left for the beach yesterday morning. While everyone showed courage in our two days of work and had down time to swim and play, the beach was our first moment of true relaxation and everyone relished it. The ride back to San Jose this morning was long, but full of laughter and games. We have had sufficient time together to develop the requisite inside jokes.


Matt set up the masked dancers for us again and this group was exceptionally into the celebration. We're all tired, content, and ready to come home. Thanks to all those who supported the trip and had the faith and trust to send your loved ones off with us for the past ten days. We expect them to repay you with the growth they've earned, some good pictures and gifts, and better stories.


Just a small reminder to check the flight info before coming to the airport in case of any changes or delays...The intinerary with flight info is still posted on the first page of the blog.


Ryan Oliver

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