Friday, September 17, 2010

Onto Ecuador

Hi friends, family, blog followers, and strangers (yes, you, Dad)!
I apologize for the infrequent blog posts. We have been running nonstop busy here in rainy Costa Rica, the past few days. I'll try to get you caught up now.
Costa Rican Activities:
  1. We (the TBB students) set a world record for the number of passengers in the back of a 3 seater truck while driving through sheets of rain. 
  2. We ziplined through the rainforest. We saw creatures not typical of southern Minnesota! Sloths, snakes, and several other things that made my skin crawl. I must add, though, that going head first down trees tends to distract you from such sights. All in all, LOTS of fun!
  3. Faith and I should NEVER kayak together again, especially through mangroves. Crabs, spiders, and lots and lots of trees, were almost more than we could navigate.
  4. And finally, NEVER EVER fall asleep listening to music. I've found that it can result in a headphone getting implanted in your ear. No worries our future TBB surgeon, Hannah, quickly extricated the device from my ear. 
In addition to all of our adventurous activies we have also been immersed in educational sessions. We discussed our summer reading - Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn; The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs; A White Man's Burden, by Easterly; and Development as Freedom, by Jeffrey Sachs. Ishmael was my favorite. Not exactly a quick read, but the serious message about the real nature of human society was gripping. Aside from our book chats, we have been working on self-interviews, goal setting, and safety/ preparation for our upcoming trip. Who says I didn't continue on with school this year?!   ;-)

On Sunday we depart for Ecuador. Our work soon begins! I'm nervous, but eager to begin. In Ecuador we will be staying in the rural community of Bua. This is a town which faces deforestation due to agricultural practices. The community's only water source (a river) is constantly polluted and decreasing in size quickly. In Bua I will live with a local family for five weeks. During that time, I will help plant trees with local farmers, encouraging them to implement environmentally friendly farm practices and to become aware of forces that affect decisions and their consequences on resource management.

During my stay in Bua I will not have access to Internet, let alone running water. My blogs will therefore become very infrequent. I hope to keep in touch at least once a week, when we spend time in Quito, but my time to help others and learn from my experiences is here. I may be be ignorant to what is ahead, but I am a ready to help.

I miss you all. Please check back for an update in about a week or so.

maddie p

P.S Don’t forget I have a mailing address in Ecuador J

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It has been nonstop rain in Uvita. If it truly rained cats and dogs somewhere at some time, this must have been the place. The raindrops seem to be the size of gumballs. With that said, the weather has not stopped us in the least.  

Yesterday, we made a trip to the beach and learned how to surf. Let's just say I found my future career :-) I was actually able to get up numerous times, even if I wasn't "hanging exactly ten!"  

Today's activities were a bit more relaxed. We discussed more about what to expect in Ecuador (bugs, showers in the river, food hoarding, malnutrition, etc...). How can I really be ready for such experiences? Makes my surfing seem pretty trivial. After our talk we watched and discussed the movie "Baraka."

I've gotten to know the other kids on our trip much better now. It's a fun group. I even found a running buddy. I get more and more excited about these upcoming 8 months each day. I know, however, that once we leave Costa Rica we are in for some real challenges. The real world awaits and I hope I can make a small difference. 

maddie p

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nonstop Work In Costa Rica!

No fears we are still alive :)
Waterfall pouring into the natural pool
The whole group!

Four Days Down, 205 1/2 To Go!

Hello from Uvita!

Wow, I can't believe I've only been gone for four days. Yet despite the title of this post, I'm more certain than ever that I've made a difficult, but rewarding choice. 

Alright, let's step back a minute. On Thursday morning we woke around 7 am, had breakfast consisting of beans and rice, and then loaded a bus for Uvita.  The drive was nice but long considering the all the moving we have recently done. On the four hour trip we crossed a mountain range overlooking the entire city, it was breathtaking. 

Upon arrival at our "hotel" we were assigned to specific rooms within each bungalow. I'm rooming with Lusia and Hannah. The rooms are decent - 5 Star compared to last night's hostel. They consist of 3 beds, a TV that doesn't work, but goes well with the decor (see Mom, I haven't ignored everything you taught me) and a bathroom. I'm told that last amenity will soon be a luxury. Gulp! After settling into our rooms we headed for the beach. Okay, so it appears that my TBB adventure won't be all study and toil, but give me a break.  

The water felt so nice, even despite the fact that it was raining about as hard as I've ever seen it rain. The water was extremely warm, and the waves were huge. I was convinced a riptide was going to pull me under, but I survived. After swimming we had dinner (more rice and beans) and began our first discussion. "What development?" was the title. It was intense and provoking. No talk about strip malls, and new stadiums. Food for the starving, shelter for the homeless. Intense is an understatement. The discussion was 3 hrs of eye opening discussion, but Rayn's ocassional sarcastic comments provided some needed relief.

Yesterday (Friday) my alarm sounded at 7:00am, and I woke up with goosebumps covering my legs! The nights are colder than I imagined in Costa Rica. We had breakfast and played some team building games. They seem a bit silly, but were told we will need to depend upon one another over the course of the next eight months more than we can imagine now. Afterwards, we took off for our hike to a waterfall.  

After losing 20 lbs of sweat we finally arrived at a giant waterfall. It was BEAUTIFUL! Underneath the main fall there was a "natural pool" surrounded by other huge falls. We went swimming to rinse off all the sweat and then had a picnic lunch... no rice and beans this time! :) 

A few hours later we trekked back to the hotel.  Later in the day we went over rules, expectations, purpose of the trip. It only took us 2.5 hours so thats good. Among the things we discussed were the possibility of getting mugged, fake ATMs, and relationships within our group. Good thing I took self defense before leaving the States. I'm 105 pounds of holy terror now. Ha! Dinner followed our discussion, we did yoga and headed to bed!

It's 7:00 AM on Saturday and I'm about to go for a run (not alone, Dad!). I'm looking forward to another day. Surfing lessons are on the agenda. Lest you think this trip is all fun and games, I've been told you never know when those might come in handy working in the farmlands of Ecuador!  ;-) 

maddie p

Thursday, September 9, 2010

First stop - Costa Rica!

After meeting up with the TBB group in Miami we boarded a flight for El Salvador for a transfer ... and then FINALLY made it to Costa Rica. The trip took approximately ten hours. Oh, and did I say, we are lucky to be alive? It´s ¨rain season¨ in Costa Rica, making it very difficult for planes to land at times and it seems our flight was one of those times. The pilot said we only dropped 100 feet in altitude, but my stomach says it was at least a mile. When we finally touched grounded we skidded a bit, but I was too happy to catch up with my insides to notice much.   

After collecting our bags at the airport, we made our way to the hostel where we are staying. The room was actually better than what I had imagined. We all had room to spread out on the floor and I actually think we outnumbered the bugs. I've been told that won't always be the case.  

Today we will take a bus to Uvita, Costa Rica, a costal town where we will be for TBB Orientation. Ahhh, well, this computer is extremely frustrating - since everything is in Spanish and there are keys such as this ¿¡¿Ñ... So,I am going signing off. I miss everyone terribly and will try to update this from Uvita in a few days if Internet access allows.

maddie p

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Goodbye USA, Hello world!

I've said my goodbyes, my backpack is stuffed to the brim, and now I'm off!  I'm leaving for the airport in 10 minutes. I can't believe this trip has finally become a reality. 

First stop - Costa Rica for 10 days!  

Ahhhhhh! I'm nervous, yet so excited.  I can't describe how much I will miss everyone. My family. My friends. and of course ... my cellphone.

Goodbye. See you soon ... well, come May!

Love, love, love,

maddie p

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Off I go...

Wow! It’s hard to believe, the time has finally come to leave on my adventure. I’m about to travel and spend the next 8 months faaarrrr from home! I won’t lie, this past week has been very difficult. I’ve been back in Shattuck these past couple of days, yet all of my friends are gone. It makes me miss high school (I never thought I’d say that!). It's hard to move on, but I understand that an experience of a lifetime awaits.

As part of that, I have been desperately trying to finish reading the 6 books we were assigned as part of the Thinking Beyond Borders (TBB) program. That task is easy, however, compared to my packing assignment: Trying to shove all my belongs for 8 months into one, single BACKPACK! I am allowed two pairs of shorts, two pairs of pants, six shirts, two coats, and no hair straighteners. How does one live?! :-) Needless to say, I’ve multiplied that packing list by about 4, only to have my Dad divide it by 5. My argument was that I could bring more since my clothes are fairly small! Given his ever expanding size, on the other hand, would be allowed one shirt and one pair of pants!

The thought of leaving for 8 months is just beginning to scare me! It has finally occurred to me that I might ACTUALLY miss my family almost as much as my cell phone. :-) Despite these fears, I know that I am physically and mentally ready to meet all challenges presented. From tough conditions, comes great opportunity. Consequently, I know I will have a wonderful experience of giving, learning, and growing. I am very excited to meet the other students and the 3 fearless leaders going on the trip with me. Our only contact to date has been on Facebook, so it will be nice to connect pictures with actual faces.

With that all said, welcome to my blog! I’m not positive I know what I’m doing, but I’ll try my best. I will attempt to update it weekly, but depending on my access to the Internet my entries might be sporadic, please bear with me. And I apologize in advance for incorrect grammar and poor language but…. this isn’t intended to be a graded essay - even though my dad may be reading it!

I leave on Wednesday at 7AM and fly to Miami to meet up with the other students and leaders. From there we travel to Costa Rica and ten days of classes, orientation, and maybe a bit of fun.

Please, please, please try to keep in touch with me!  You can follow my blog, email me (, send me Facebook messages, or if you really love me - send me a letter! (I will post addresses soon). Any form of contact would make me extremely happy! 

Goodbye. I already miss everyone sooo much … and I'm still here!

maddie p