Archive for the 'Alternative Spring Break' Category

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Caoba Farms!

Hello blog readers!

Today after breakfast, we headed to Caoba farms, which is a new portion of the trip that has been added. Caoba Farms is a sustainable organic farm that grows food and several plants. Along with having many animals on site. We were split up into 3 separate groups along with different tasks to do. The first group helped fill 30 bags of compost for fertilizer, and the other two groups were assigned different farms to help dig the weeds out. We had a fabulous lunch there before walking to Antigua.

After volunteering in Caoba farms we headed to Antigua where we had an hour of free time shopping in the markets of Guatemala. There we bought hand made blankets, bracelets and other awesome souvenirs. Next, we all did the scavenger hunt in the food markets. The task was that each group was provided with a list of items to receive and other small tasks to accomplish. The point of this exercise was to have us communicate, and navigate the market by ourselves. With the food we got, we made dinner ourselves at the house which was nachos, guacamole, corn, and various unknown fruits which many were willing to try!

We’re settling in for the night getting to know each other more, reflecting on our experiences here so far, and stretching before our big, long service project day tomorrow. It still doesn’t seem like we’ve only been here 4 days. The people we’ve met and the moments we’ve had here seem like its been so much longer.

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Volunteering and Exploring- Utah

Wow!  Arches and Canyonlands National Park(s) are AMAZING. National Parks rely each year on trail crews, clean up crews and general work crews to keep these federal lands pristine and accessible and our UW Oshkosh team is helping to maintain. This has been a great way for our group to connect, volunteer and explore! Camping and exploring really allows us to enjoy the natural wonders our world provides–time is going fast, but we are truly loving this experience.

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Volunteer Day 3

Today started much like every other day, the only difference was five of us had to get up and do breakfast this morning at 6:30. The rest of us rolled in for breakfast and lunch making between 7-7:40. After we were done with breakfast we left around 8:30 to head to the New Orleans Museum of Art. We worked with another school from Chicago inside of the NOMA Sculpture Garden. During this volunteering we learned that this sculpture garden opened up about a year before Hurricane Katrina so they had to shut down for awhile but they were lucky enough to escape with very little damage. There was very little damage because the sculptures are heavily packed into the ground. Inside the park there are around 60 pieces, currently at capacity with their sculptures so they are working on a 6-acre expansion. Our group worked on planting Louisiana Iris Blooms and weeding around them. We then added mulch to the ground. They will be having an event in a few weeks when the Iris’ are in full bloom.

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One of the really awesome things about our volunteer experience today was the people from all over the states were coming through this garden and they would stop and want to talk with us. They would ask us where we are from, what we are doing there, how we got here, etc. They were all incredibly nice, and not just the tourists, the people from the community were all incredibly appreciative of the work we are doing. This really helped our group keep a positive mindset, it was a nice reminder that the work we are doing whether large or small makes a difference in every way.

After we finished our volunteering we were able to stay in the sculpture garden and go explore the actual museum too. We did that for about an hour and half after lunch before going over to this quaint little cafe named Morning Call. The service was a little rushed and not the most welcoming of places, but for the most part the food or drinks we got did taste good. It was pretty impressive that our server was able to take down all of our orders (9 of us) and come back with everything but two items.

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We left the museum at three and since we still had two and half hours of free time we decided to visit the Superdome (Natasha’s favorite part thus far). It was awesome because not only did we get to see the Superdome but people were able to explore a little bit more of New Orleans. Some found a cool costume shop while others just explored the wonder that is the Superdome. Today was just a really relaxed day (which is why there isn’t as much to talk about today) and we were able to get back to Camp Restore early enough to have some actual relaxation time. Then it was dinner followed by debrief time. During debrief time we were given our letters from home. There were tears, there were laughs, everyone was happy in the end to have gotten something from home.

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And now those favorite parts!

Olivia: “Interacting with the community visitors while gardening and learning more about them!”

Clare: “My favorite part of the day was talking to all of the people walking through the sculpture garden and being told we were ‘professional gardeners’.”

Ann: “Seeing how much the garden visitors appreciated our work.”

Jackie: “I loved the ‘cold’ 65 degreed day spent in the beautiful and reflective sculpture garden and working alongside the group from Chicago.”

Emily W.: “I loved walking through New Orleans and being able to interact with the community and just enjoy my time being here.”

Madison: “I loved the people in the community they were so welcoming and appreciative of our hard work and it definitely made the experience 100% better (Also, the accents and positive vibes our group has all the time).”

Karis: “I loved the spontaneity of the afternoon and exploring some of the downtown area.”

Emily T.: “The weather today was fantastic and easy going. I love how close we have gotten with each other and how much invovlement we are doing with each other in New Orleans!”

Kalee: “I loved the gardens and museum! It was so nice to be in a peaceful place filled with nature. I liked getting to talk with the people coming through the gardens and seeing the impact we made. Also our reflection time was incredible.”

Natasha: “While being able to do what we are here for is always incredible my favorite part of the day has got to be going to the Superdome! I loved being able to experience more of New Orleans but especially getting to see the Saints home, it was just a really beautiful place (even if I did spend a bit more than planned on Saints apparel).”

Monday’s Coffee Adventure

This morning was filled with pineapple pancakes to prepare us for our coffee tour! We met up with Virgilia, one of the only 3 women in the co-op and first to join, to head to Agua. Families have plots of land on Agua and some have to hike up to 3 hours to get to their coffee trees. The plot we were at was thankfully only a 30 minute hike. Once we arrived, we learned how they originally plant the coffee trees, how to maintain them, and where the coffee bean actually comes from. Each tree has many branches which produce clusters of cherries which hold 2 coffee beans each. It is important to make sure the cherries are a dark red cranberry-like color before harvest. If they are picked too soon, 1 unripened cherry/coffee bean cancels out 56 ripe ones which can interfere with the taste of coffee. As we picked them, we learned there are many, many steps from planting the first seed to brewing the coffee at home.

The process includes: picking the cherries, de-pulping (getting the coffee beans out of the cherries), fermenting (roughly 24 hours), washing (done 3 times), and the longest part of the process is drying the beans out. Drying the coffee beans takes 8-12 days. After drying, an important part is taking off the outer parchment and sorting by size then going through defects such as unripe or overripe beans. Once the best beans are chosen, they are roasted in a big clay plate over a heated stove. To keep track of roasting time, you keep track of the different aromas, color, and the extra layer of parchment coming off of the beans. They are then moved into a pan and stirred to cool off the beans faster before grinding on a stone grinder by hand. Once they were ground down enough (which Virgilia did much better than we did), we poured the grounds into a large boiling pot of water and let it sit until ready. We sat around the table drinking our freshly roasted and brewed coffee while learning about her experiences as a female farmer, within the co-op, and about her family and children. We had lunch with her and were on our way back to our residence before learning more about De La Gente and participating in our own cupping (coffee tasting) and brewing methods.

It was a long day of learning about the hard work that these coffee farmers go through every day during each season from start to finish. We’ve had a lot of delicious coffee, but the most important aspects of the day were learning more about their every day lives, the work they do, and the importance of appreciating what you have and the people around you.

Tomorrow is a full day of touring Antigua and checking out the markets, so we will say buenos noches!

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GMHC Day 1

Today marks our first day volunteering at GMHC. As per usual we had to stop for our morning cup of joe at a nearby cafe in Harlem. Our commute on the subway to GMHC was interesting this morning since it was our first weekday since we arrived on Saturday. The subways were packed with morning commuters like ourselves on their way to their schools or jobs. Once we arrived at GMHC we were welcomed with warm opening arms. We met with our coordinator Shelley where we then did our orientation with the college of Charleston South Carolina on the mission, history and services. Next, we took a tour with the director, David Pais who shared his own story and gave detailed descriptions of each department within GMHC. Today we had lunch at a Korean Food Mall filled with a variety of choice to choose from. We loved the bubble teas! When we arrived back at GMHC we were able to watch the documentary, Larry Kramer In Love and Anger. Following the film we discussed our thoughts, what was surprised us and what we learned from it. We then had a HIV 101 workshop with Rob who shared his own very personal story with us and allowed us to ask questions. He did this by delivering it in his own unique way of “spitting verses.” After discussion we were allowed to split off into smaller groups to continue to tour NYC. Starting off in central park we discovered a bridge that held an amazing view of the city and provided us with beautiful photo op. Secondly, we found our way to an ice skating rink in Brookfield place on the water with a view of the skyline. Realizing we were hungry we went on an adventure to find a Mac ‘N Cheese bar. After indulging ourselves in our beloved cheese we miss we stopped at Grand Central Station to scout out some dessert and admire the beautiful architecture. We ended our night with gourmet cupcakes from the station and returned back to the YMCA for a much needed night of rest.


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