Summer 2004

The summer 2004 Cuba-Rica unit has returned but we'll leave the pictures and stories here.

Fri, 19 Mar 2004

Texts for the journey
[] -- Required texts and reading suggestions for the SST experience, some of which parents and friends may want to read as well.

The journey begins
[] -- Students will leave for Cuba Wednesday, April 28 and return to Goshen on July 24. Here's a bit of what's in store.

Mon, 12 Apr 2004

First week in Cuba for the Graber Millers

Things have gone extremely well for the Graber Millers in their first week of preparing for the arrival of 21 Cuban SSTers. Ann and Keith and their children -- Niles, Mia, and Simon -- arrived in Havana Monday, March 29, and settled into their eighth-floor apartment in Centro Habana, a 12-minute walk from the center where students will be living. They spent the first week finding out where to locate groceries, exploring Cuba's various transportation systems--that one photo is of a cocotaxi)--visiting museums students will experience in May, and meeting with Goshen College's various Cuban partners. One of their highlights was taking the ferry across the Havana Bay Saturday to see the Church of the Black Virgin and its related museums in Regla, one of the centers for Santeria worship in the Havana area.

The Presbyterian Center

[] --

The Presbyterian Center where students will stay is located in Centro Habana, just a couple of blocks from the Barrio Chino. It is rooted in a neighborhood that was a commercial area prior to the 1959 revolution; now few businesses exist immediately around the center since most buildings have been converted to multi-unit housing.

Rev. Hector Méndez, pastor at the First Presbyterian Church, and his daughter Suecia met with the Graber Millers Thursday along with the directors of the Centro Cristiano de Reflexión y Diálogo in Cardenas. All of the SST working relationships seem tremendously amiable, and the Graber Millers are particularly impressed with the setting where students will be housed and fed during their intial weeks in Cuba, as well as with the graciousness, organizational skills, and hospitality of the students' Presbyterian hosts.

Tue, 13 Apr 2004

John Lennon park

Saturday evening Keith and Ann went out with Cuban friends Mayra and Carlos, who have befriended other SST leaders in the past. Together they went to a paladar, a private home that serves evening meals. An explosion of these emerged in the mid-1990s, but then when the Cuban government began imposing large taxes on the establishments, many stopped the enterprises.

The food was beautifully served, and Carlos and Mayra talked at length about their years both before and after the revolution, their affection for Fidel, who has been a kind of father figure for them, and the changing generations. Mayra's father fought for the revolution, but her Dad's brother was jailed for 20 years for being a counter-revolutionary. After the meal they took a taxi to a statue of John Lennon in Vedado. The government placed the statue in the park recently as a kind of apology to Carlos and Mayra's generation -- Beatles music could not be sold in Cuba back in the 1960s, and students in school had to have their hair cut short. Now the Cuban equivalent of Baby Boomers take pilgrimages to the seated Lennon figure, plunking down beside him on the park bench and leaving flowers at his feet.

Wed, 21 Apr 2004

Accomodations at the Presbyterian Center

The Presbyterian Center itself has beautiful spaces for accommodation and relaxation. In the first two photos you can see the living room, kitchen and bathroom for the 10 men in the SST group.

In the men's apartment, which is located on the second floor of the center, there are two adjacent bedrooms with bunks. The men's apartment has its own bathroom and shower, and the women's apartment has the same accommodations one floor up. There are several other showers available just down the hallway.

Students will not be able to do any cooking in their rooms or at the center, but they will have a refrigerator in each dorm apartment, and hot water for coffee and tea will be available all day every day. In the open-air terrace, students will find a variety of places for sitting comfortably, as Ann Graber Miller shows here!

Preview of the first week

During the first week, students will participate in several lectures about U.S.-Cuban relationships, hearing from both U.S. and Cuban perspectives. They also will visit a number of museums, including the fort in Habana Vieja that Niles and Keith Graber Miller visited this week (first photo). From the fort you can see (second photo) the Plaza de Armas and the Museo de la Historia Natural. On top of the museo, located across the plaza, is a glassed-in restaurant where the SST group will have dinner their second evening in Havana.

Time with friends

The Graber Millers have been busy making arrangements for lectures, buses, and other logistics of the SST experience. They also have been spending time with their primary Cuban friends and cultural informants. Ann spends an hour or more every day with friends Noylin and Cora. Friday afternoon we celebrated Cora's 67th birthday with cake and a special pork chop meal prepared by Noylin.

Calle Neptuno

The Graber Millers are living in a 40-year-old building on Neptuno, about a dozen blocks from where SST students will live. In the first photo, Niles is standing on the street eight floors below the Graber Miller balcony, which is facing the street, one story down from the top of the large blue building. Neptuno is a busy one-way street much like many others in Centro Habana, with private cars, taxis, buses, bicycles and other forms of transportation regularly zipping down the road. Many of the private cars and taxis -- although only for use by Cuban passengers, generally -- are U.S. automobiles from the 1940s and 1950s.

Goshen students coming soon

In just over a week, 20 Goshen College students and a fellow traveler from Carnegie Mellon University will head for Cuba for their three-month SST experience in Havana and Cardenas. They will arrive the morning of Thursday, April 29, head for the Presbyterian Center for their first Cuban lunch, rest, have their initial orientation, and then finish the first day with dinner at a local restaurant.

To help with the students' orientation, four-year-old Simon Graber Miller is pointing to the map of Cuba and saying, "Here's where you will live." The Graber Millers have spent several mornings walking the neighborhood around the Presbyterian Center where students will stay during their first weeks in Cuba. Several key green-space plazas and grocery stores are within a five-minute walk of the center, and Barrio Chino (Chinatown) is just around the corner.

The Graber Millers anxiously await the arrival of the 21 SSTers.

Fri, 30 Apr 2004

Safe arrival in Cuba

All 21 Cuba SSTers arrived safely in Havana Thursday morning, tired after a full night's travel but grateful to be on site and motivated to begin exploring the city.

After a rather incredible luncheon spread at the Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana, where the students will stay during their weeks in the capital, students had their first orientation session. Rev. Hector Mendez, pastor of the church, and his daughter Suecia welcomed the group and gave them some basic guidelines for living at the Center.

SST leaders Keith and Ann Graber Miller continued the orientation by providing some basic survival information, and then Keith took the group on a walk through the area surrounding the Center. We identified places to buy peso bread, outdoor fruit markets, plazas for relaxing and taking a break from the group, the nearby Catholic Church, dollar stores for basic soaps and shampoos, and booths where phone cards are available. We also walked past the Capitolio and on down into Habana Vieja (Old Havana), pausing at a bookstore before dispersing to allow for individual explorations for several hours.

Eating out... with "the five heroes"

Thursday evening the group took a bus to El Palenque, a restaurant located in the Playa neighborhood of Havana. A number of group members ordered the restaurant's specialty, roast pork, and then finished off the meal with chocolate or strawberry ice cream.

After the meal, one of the restaurant hosts showed the group El Palenque's wall honoring "the five Cuban heroes," five men arrested in Miami by U.S. authorities after being accused of "conspiracy to commit espionage." The five had been seeking to infiltrate anti-Castro groups based in the U.S. Posters and billboards of the men are posted all around Cuba, and the arrests and imprisonments are an ongoing point of tension between the two countries, even though most U.S. citizens are unaware of the conflict.


Friday morning the group continued with their orientation at the Center, then took a 2 1/2-hour driving tour of the city, simply to get the lay of the land. They began the journey at La Maqueta, a small-scale, three-dimensional model of the city, and finished at the Plaza de Armas. Friday evening's plans were for dinner at a rooftop restaurant in Habana Vieja, with a view of Havana Bay. The group planned to finish the night off by going across the bay to the fort, where cannons are fired, re-enacting the closing of the city gates, each evening at 9 p.m.

The weekend will include many hours of free exploration time, participation in the annual May Day festivities at the Plaza de la Revolucion, an opportunity to visit the Graber Miller apartment, an evening party with Presbyterian young people in a private home, and church with the Presbyterians Sunday morning. Regular language classes and cultural lectures will begin Monday.

All are healthy and adjusting well to being in Cuba, and the Graber Millers are thrilled with the stimulation and energy the group brings.

Mon, 3 May 2004

City tour

After a several-hour orientation, Cuban SSTers took a 2 1/2-hour bus ride around Havana Friday afternoon. Among the stops was The Maqueta, an 88-square-meter, 3-dimensional model of the city of Havana and its suburbs, with every home and building represented. Here Jeff, Drew, Jason, Mark, Adam, and Sean listen as our guide, Alberto, talks about the city's expansion. (Please click on any of the photos for an enlargement.)

We also spent time at the Plaza de la Revolucion, where preparations were underway for the following day's May Day celebration. Sarah and Charlee take turns posing in front of the enormous metal sculpture of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, one of the greatest heroes of Cuba's 1959 Revolution. The sculpture is on the Ministry of Interior building, which Che once headed. The entire group, except for Will who was wandering elsewhere at the moment, also took time to pose in front of the well-known symbol.

Tue, 4 May 2004

Dinner and the Fortaleza

Friday evening the group had dinner at the rooftop El Mirador restaurant, then took a bus under the Havana Bay to the fort on the other side for the nightly enactment of the shooting of the cannon.

Nicole listens to the Cuban band that played before and during our dinner. In the second photo, Angela enjoys the evening air, with the fortress in the distance across the bay. Behind Drew, Elizabeth, Sarah and others one can see the hotel where Jimmy Carter stayed on his visit to the island several years ago.

At the fortress, we visited the Che Guevara Museum, housed in the office he established for himself after the Revolution. We also enjoyed the sunset over the Havana Bay. Melody, Charlee, Angela, and Alyssa share a moment on the fortress wall, with Havana in the background.

May Day

Cuban media reported that a million people (including most of the Cuban SSTers) attended the annual May Day celebration Saturday at the Plaza de la Revolucion. Cars traversed the city at 5 a.m., urging people to make the journey to the plaza for the event, which commemorates the Hay Market Riots of May 1886. The riots erupted at the McCormick Reaper Works in Chicago during an assembly of strikers, and a group of socialist organizers tried to respond the following day with a rally.

Many countries, though not the U.S. of course, now celebrate May 1 as Labor Day. Cuba even has schools and streets named for los martires de Chicago. Sean Kauffman took the rally photo above during the several-hour speech by Fidel Castro. Castro spoke at length about the U.S. fight against terrorism, calling for more peaceful means of resolving the struggle.

Later, at the Graber Miller apartment, Sean told stories about his day at the rally while Jason, Nicole, Will, Catie, and Israel listened. That afternoon Angela was showing off the rock that has had more SST experience than any individual SSTer. GC student Steve Schrock found the rock on a mountain in Chengdu Province, China, in Fall 2002 (when the Graber Millers were SST directors there). Since then the rock has traveled with SSTers to both Germany and Dominican Republic, and now it is staying in Cuba.

Dance with Presbyterian young adults

Each Saturday SSTers will meet with young people from the First Presbyterian Church, where they are staying during their weeks in Havana. Their first gathering with the Presbyterians was a dance party at a beautiful, Spanish-style home. In the first photo, Sean, Adam, and Jacob talk with hosts Elier and Michael. Charlee and her dance partner, Javier, enjoy a rousing dance move during one Cuban song. Will and Indira lead the way in a slower song. The blurred photo gives a sense of the movement in one group dance which involved most of the SSTers, led by a different Javier. The next morning, the entire group and the Graber Millers worshipped with the Presbyterians.

Beginning of classes

Monday morning SSTers began what will be their routine for the next five weeks -- morning Spanish classes and afternoon lectures. Here Spanish language teacher Ana Margarita Arguelles asks a question while her colleagues Maira Perez and Xiomara Zotolongo look on. Students started the day with oral examinations in groups of five, so here Jacob, Jesse, Angela, Melody, and Mark await their grilling.

In the afternoon the group walked to the U.S. Interest Section building along the Caribbean coast. James Land of the Interest Section (the embassy-like office in Cuba) spoke briefly about U.S.-Cuban relations, then responded to dozens of questions over the next two hours. Students asked many thoughtful questions about the blockade or embargo; about Cuba's "five heroes" convicted of spying in Miami; about U.S. hopes for "transition toward democracy" in Cuba; about the history of the two countries' relationship; about differential policies toward other nations with whom the U.S. has human rights or economic diagreements; and about hopes for reconciliation between Cuba and the U.S. It was a challenging and stimulating way to begin these weeks of academic study of Cuba's history, politics, economics, and culture. All of the remaining lectures will be by Cuban nationals.

Mon, 10 May 2004

Casa Goshen, baseball, and singing

Other events last week included our regular Wednesday evening Casa Goshen time, where 21 students and five Graber Millers gather in the 10-by-18 living/dining room of the Graber Miller apartment. Last week we celebrated birthdays for Keith (May 8) and Jesse (May 9, on Mother's Day). In the photo, Jacob, Melody, Nicole, Drew, Angela, and Sarah converse and eat after the group meeting at Casa Goshen.

On Saturday the group went to a baseball diamond in a suburb of Havana to watch the First Presbyterian Church's baseball team practice, and then to their late-morning game at a nearby sports arena. In the second photo, during the practice one of the Presbyterian young people, Norman, is chatting with some of our students in the stands.

After the team had practiced for awhile, SSTers were invited to take their turn at bat or in the field. In the third photo, Kimberleetakes a swing. Although not pictured, Will managed to hit a homerun, with a shot deep into the tall grass near the stadium's fence.

During their free time at the Presbyterian Center, students frequently have been singing from the one hymnal the SST unit owns. After hearing students singing one night, Rev. Hector Mendez invited the group to sing for the Mother's Day morning service. In the final photo, the group sings "Guide My Feet," with all but Adam (who took the photograph) participating.

Concert by Presbyterian young people

Last Thursday evening the Presbyterian young people prepared a concert especially for the SST group, though a number of other church members attended as well. The church has both a wonderful adult choir and a young adult choir, and both sing regularly during worship services. Here the young people perform for the group a more contemporary praise song, only one part of their broad repertoire. After the concert, Jacob, Sean, and Israel talk with their Cuban friend Michael, one of the Presbyterian young people who did not participate in the concert. In the third photo, music minister Elier jokes with Michael and others, including Jeff, Jacob, Israel, and Sean. In the fourth photo, Erin and Kimberlee thank one of the other young adults from the church for the concert.

La Lima agricultural project

After visiting the museums, the group took a bus to La Lima Agricultural Project, located on the outskirts of Havana. The five hectares of fertile land used to be a recreational area for wealthy families; after the Revolution it had eventually become a garbage dump. In 1985 a group of community leaders asked if they could have the land for an organic farming project, and were given permission to do so. Now they grow enough fruits and vegetables for their families (more than 40 families have plots there), plus enough to supply two day-care centers and other community organizations with food.

In the first photo above, La Lima leaders Georgina Perez, Miriam Lahera, and Banilda Ferrer, with translator Vladimir, speak to SSTers about the project. Following the tour, Georgina and her associates gave the students freshly picked and cut fruits from the farm. Mark and Catie were glad to heap their plates with the delicious fruits. Later, Mark accepted a kiss and an almond tree from Georgina, which he then planted in the farm's "forest of peace" with the help of Charlee, Alyssa, Georgina, and Banilda. Before the planting, Georgina offered her hopes for peace between the U.S. and Cuba and between other countries of the world. The group also saw the trees planted by the 2002 and 2003 groups in the same garden.

Museum day

Last week Cuba SSTers continued their regular schedule of Spanish classes in the mornings and lectures in the afternoons. Tuesday afternoon the Graber Millers' friend Carlos spoke about his life before and after the Revolution, his perceptions of Cuba's economy and politics, and his perceptions about the U.S. Thursday afternoon Gladys Hernandez spoke on the Cuban economy, including what is called the "Special Period," which began after the fall of the Soviet Union and the loss of significant subsidies to Cuba.

Friday was Museum Day, which began with a group tour of the Museum of the Revolution. The museum is housed in the former presidential palace, last occupied by the dictator Batista before Fidel Castro's 1959 Revolution. In the first photo above, our guide Alberto points to the upper level of the museum's grand staircase where bullet holes in the marble withness to university students' attempts to overthrow Batista several years before Fidel's movement was successful.

In the second photo, Will poses underneath the painted and chandeliered ceiling in the museum's Hall of Mirrors, which is still often used for graduations and wedding receptions. Drew, who looks just a little like revolutionary hero Che Guevara, stands in front of the glass-encased Granma, the yacht Castro and his companions took from Mexico to Cuba at the beginning of the Revolution. Rachel, Melody, Angela, and Erin are pictured looking at some of the other vehicles housed at the museum -- cars used by the revolutionaries, machinery used against the U.S. during the Bay of Pigs invasion, and a U.S. spy plane shot down early in the 1960s.

After seeing the Museum of the Revolution, students had the opportunity to visit another museum of their choice. Most students chose to visit the nearby Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, which illustrates well why Cuban art is admired around the world.

Wed, 12 May 2004

President Bush proposes tightening Cuban embargo

In the past week, U.S. President George Bush approved several measures to further tighten the U.S. embargo on the island, and Cuba has responded by restricting sales of non-essential goods in the "dollar stores". (See the links below for news coverage).

Within hours after Cuba announced its new restrictions, our students were at a dance that we'd previously organized with a group of University of Havana students. What a great group of folks this was. We required our students to meet and then introduce one of their Cuban counterparts in Spanish. (In the picture Alyssa, Jason, Jeff, Sean, Mark, Sarah, Jacob, and Nicole interact with new University of Havana friends). The conversations were deeper than they are in some cross-cultural settings, and we finished by asking everyone present to say one word about how they felt after the evening's events. Words included such things as hopeful, expectant, encouraged, delighted, and so on, all of which ran counter to what was happening at the national level between our countries.


Mon, 17 May 2004

Cubans respond to U.S. measures

Throughout the past week, Cuban SSTers were keenly aware of their hosts' responses to measures announced the previous week by the Bush Administration. The new measures, emerging out of a presidential commission on Cuba, are aimed at squeezing the island's economy and pushing out Castro. The U.S. policy actions include restrictions on money transfers and family visits, increased efforts to transmit anti-Castro radio and television to Cuba, and appointment of a U.S. coordinator to plan a transaction from socialism to capitalism in Cuba. The U.S. will be spending $59 million over the next two years to help promote the goal of a democratic Cuba.

Cubans we meet seem collectively angered, distressed, or confused about the new measures. Although they are aware that the announcements allowed Cuban government officials to rally the country to the Cuban cause (there is much propaganda flying both ways across the 90 miles that separate Cuba from the U.S. mainland), there is also some genuine fear. The last time Cubans heard U.S. officials talking about "regime change" elsewhere in the world, bombs followed. Such an event is unlikely here, but Cubans we encounter seem to resist, more than anything else, the idea of any sort of U.S. intervention in their affairs.

The Cuban government shocked Cubans Tuesday by suddenly ceasing most of the dollar sales islanders have come to count on due to the scarcity of many products in Cuban pesos. Cubans, and SSTers, can still purchase food and personal hygiene products, but nearly all other items (shaving goods, pots and pans, clothing) have been pulled from the inventory or roped off in dollar stores. The hope is that Cubans will then spend their dollars only on essential items needed for living. For many Cubans, the curtailment of goods reminded them of the early years of what is known as the "Special Period," immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union, which had heavily subsidized the Cuban economy.

Many students watched or observed a march through Cuban streets Friday morning to protest the U.S. actions. Nearly 1.2 million people participated in the demonstration, which stretched from Habana Vieja up through the Vedado section of the city, snaking its way through miles of streets over a period of about six hours.

In the photos above, a view from the Graber Miller apartment Friday morning shows dozens of buses lining Neptuno Street, and in the distance marchers crossing over Infanta Avenue. On one of our field trips last week, Jesse stood near a man wearing a shirt similar to placards we've seen throughout the week. In rough translation, the shirt says, "Down with the genocidal blockade! Cease the terrorism against Cuba! Liberate the five heroes that defend their people from death!"

Despite the heated rhetoric, at no point have we felt the slightest personal threat from these demonstrations. The official media have always made a strong and explicit distinction between the U.S. people and the actions of the U.S. government. Tourism is so important for the Cuban economy that the government bends over backwards to see that all foreigners are treated well.

Fiesta with university students

At Monday evening's party with University of Havana students, held at a private home in Marianao, each Goshen student met and then introduced a Cuban student, and vice versa, with each introducer speaking in his or her second language. In the photos, Angela shares a moment with her new friend Anay, diving almost immediately into a conversation about relationships. Jacob talks with Enrique and his spouse, who live at the house we were borrowing for the evening, while Enrique's fluffy-eared dog pokes its head through the porch banisters. Rachel talks with Meg prior to introducing her to the larger group. And, after dark, students dance with the Cubans to salsa and international music. The next day, the phone at the Presbyterian Center rang repeatedly as the university students called SSTers to arrange times to meet with them.

Racism, Cuban health care, and Santeria

Monday afternoon's lecture was by author Daisy Rubiera Castillo, who spoke on racism in Cuba and the attempt of the Revolution to eliminate racism. Such an effort has worked, for the most part, regarding institutionalized racism, she said, but some informal, social racism, especially from families and older generations, continues. In the photo, Daisy's husband Anibal Arguelles Mederos, a researcher on Afro-Cuban religions, responds to one of the students' questions after the lecture, while Will, Sean, Drew, Kimberlee, Jesse, and Elizabeth look on as Vladimir translates.

Tuesday's lecture and field trip covered the health care system in Cuba. Elizabeth, Melody, Alyssa, and Rachel pay attention while Doctora Cecilia speaks about preventative health care on the island.

We spent Thursday afternoon hearing about Santería, an Afro-Cuban religion, and visited the Museum of the Yoruba Association, where our lecturer, a Protestant who studies Afro-Cuban religions, talked as Rachel, Jesse, Elizabeth, and Jason listen.

Afro-Cuban religions such as Santería came, in germinal form, with African slaves in the 16th to the 19th centuries. With as many believers as the Roman Catholic Church in Cuba, Santería draws its support from all walks of life. The names of African gods/saints from Santería pop up frequently in salsa and rumba tunes, and Santería "priests" operate out of their apartments, giving useful advice to believers through a system of divination based on seashells, stones, and other artifacts.

On Wednesday night at Casa Goshen, where we share information, sing, and process our learnings from the previous week, we also celebrated Kimberlee's birthday with cookies, milk, and orange juice. Kimberlee's mother had sent along a cookie packet that provided one cookie for everyone, and we then supplemented that delicacy (thanks, Mom Rohrer) with local cookies.

Ferry to Regla

Following our lecture on Santería, a dozen SSTers joined Keith Graber Miller on an optional side trip to the Church of the Black Virgin in Regla.

To get to Regla, one of the key sites for Santería worship, required a trip across the Havana Bay by the workers' ferry, which costs 20 centavos (less than 1 cent U.S.) per person. In the first photo, Jesse and Elizabeth hold onto the bar as the ferry crosses Havana Bay. After the visit to the church, the group took a walk through Regla and then waited for the ferry to return them to Old Havana so they could walk back to the Presbyterian Center. In the second photo, Elizabeth, Nicole, Jason, and Jesse wait outside the ferry terminal. Across the sidewalk, Adam and Charlee pass the time with their new friend.

Okantomi dance performance

The final phase of Santería Day was a performance by the Okantomí dance group. The dancers performed traditional Santería dances used in the religion's rituals as well as salsa and other numbers from the Cuban and Haitian traditions. In the first photo (click on any photo to enlarge it), Rachel and Elizabeth sing Simon and Garfunkel tunes as they await the bus for the Okantomí Performance.

The evening performance was quite interactive, with many SSTers getting pulled onto the dance floor at one time or another. Here Israel shares a rare moment on the dance platform with one of the dancers. In the other two photos, first Jacob finds himself with his arm around one of the dancers in the stands, much to Mark's surprise and delight. Soon Mark discovers himself in the same position after Jacob leaves for a dance on the floor. Hey, don't these guys have novias back home?

A day at the beach with Presbyterian young adults

Cuban SSTers spent the entire day Saturday with about 15 Presbyterian young adults at the Santa Maria beach at Playas del Este. In the first photo, Jeff chats with Javier, Sondra, and other friends while the waves lap around them. In the second photo, Elizabeth snacks on a sandwich while Rachel reads a novel. Michael, one of the groups' new Cuban friends, is in the background. In the third photo, Jason, Sean, Michael, and Emma await the next move in a rousing game of beach handball.

Later in the day, Elizabeth took a moment to chat with Sondra and Kathy. In the process Elizabeth discovered that Sondra is a schoolteacher, and that she'll be able to provide some resources for her SST project on Cuban folk tunes for children. In the fifth photo above, no, no one lost a contact. That's just Jacob, Jeff, Mark, Kimberlee, Will, and Jason burying Sarah and Charlee in the sand. Sarah and Charlee remained under the sand, except for their heads, for about 15 minutes. In the final photo, Israel reads The New Yorker on the beach, a journal brought down by Jesse and passed around the group.

Sun, 23 May 2004

Visit to a Cuban "sidatorio"

Thursday afternoon, the group took a field trip to a sidatorio in Santiago de Las Vegas, southwest of Havana. The sidatorio was established in 1986 as the first AIDS sanitorium in Cuba (SIDA is the Spanish acronymn for AIDS). Now the facility houses 300 HIV-positive people, or people with AIDS, usually only for several months while they learn how to care for themselves and others. In the first photo, psychologist Alberto Loy speaks with students about AIDS in Cuba, and about the preventative work of the sanitorium, while Alberto Gonzalez translates.

Some residents at the sanitorium stay, by choice, for longer periods. Those who live long-term at the facility end up working on the grounds, which were taken over by the Cuban government after the previous owner of the farm, a relative of the dictator Batista, fled just after the Cuban revolution in 1959. In the second photo, Adam takes a photo of one couple who have lived at the sanitorum since 1998.

In the final photo, Catie and Alyssa pose near the front of the Chapel of Saint Lazarus, which is near the sidatorio. Each year thousands of Cubans make a pilgrimage to this chapel after receiving healing for various infirmities, or while praying for healing.

Cuban government, Anabaptism, and Spanish

Lectures this week were wide-ranging, beginning with a Monday afternoon session at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center about the relationship between church and state in Cuba. Speaker Daisy Rojas told about several key turning points in the 1980s and 1990s in terms of the Cuban government's responses to, and openness to, the church.

Tuesday afternoon we traveled to the National Assembly to hear about the Cuban government from Julio Espinoza (first photo above). Espinoza, clearly disturbed by the Bush Administration's tightening of the embargo noose on Cuba, spoke with immense passion. Given the intensity of the meeting and our diverse reactions, the group spent time processing the lecture and our responses on the bus ride home.

On Wednesday afternoon a local Brethren in Christ leader and Cuba's representative to Mennonite World Conference, spoke to the group about the history of Anabaptists in Cuba (second photo).

Students also continued their regular Spanish classes throughout the week. In the third photo, Ana Margaretha Arguelles teaches the intermediate Spanish class while Drew, Charlee, Kimberlee, and Catie listen.

Mon, 24 May 2004

Casa Goshen -- Erin's birthday

At Casa Goshen last Wednesday, we celebrated Erin's 21st birthday. Milk and an Oreo-like cookie were the treat of the evening in honor of Erin.

The meeting was also the beginning of group processing of the possible departure from Cuba, which may be necessitated because of the Cuban government's denial of our visa extensions, which prior to the increase of U.S.-Cuban tensions had been promised. After the meeting, students -- including Nicole and Will in this moment on the couch -- were caught up in rapt discussions about what a possible transition from Cuba might mean. Most clearly expressed a deep desire to remain in Cuba, which we all hope will be possible.

Four days with families

Students returned Sunday afternoon from a Cuba SST first -- three nights and four days with families in a small village on the outskirts of Havana. Students stayed, usually in pairs, in the homes of families from one of a handful of Anabaptist-related churches, or from other evangelical churches in the area. They worshipped with the Anabaptist congregation Thursday evening, presented a musical program to the church Saturday evening, and also sang during the worship service Sunday morning.

The experience helped students get a sense for what homestays are like, too. In the photos above, Elizabeth and Melody stand with their Cuban mother and grandmother; Nicole and Alyssa pose with their mom; Jeff, Drew, Charlee, and Erin are surrounded by members of their families, who share a split house; and Jacob, Catie, and Rachel pose with members of their family.

Triple the fun

After spending the weekend doing acrobatics, talking with, and rolling around on the floor with his 6-year-old triplet brothers, Jason left part of his heart in Cuba. Other students also enjoyed visiting Jason's home to play with the siblings. Pictured here on the back stoop of the family home are Jason with his three brothers. David, Daniel and Dayron. In the second photo, Jeff and Daniel show their remarkable prowess in doing the splits. In the third photo, Jason, Jeff, and Drew share swing-pushing responsibilities.

Cuba SST unit will move to Costa Rica

The Goshen College SST office has received notice that the Cuban government will not renew student visas, which expire near the end of this week. The reason for non-renewal appears to be related to political rhetoric between U.S. and Cuban governments. Unit leaders Keith and Ann Graber Miller met unsuccessfully with Cuban officials to see if anything could be done to maintain the unit.

Read a longer account in this Goshen College press release.

The Cuban SST unit will relocate to Costa Rica on Thursday, May 27, for their service assignments. This possibility was discussed with parents at the end of last week when it became evident that there was a potential problem in renewing student visas. We have called parents and answered any questions they might have.

Sun, 30 May 2004

Departure from Cuba

With 72 hours notice, the Cuba SST group needed to depart from Cuba Thursday, May 27, because the Cuban government had refused to extend our visas beyond last week. Prior to our arrival in Cuba in late April, the government had promised the routine extensions. The extreme tension between Cuba and the United States, with the Bush Administration's recent release of a presidential commission report on regime change in Cuba, was the primary factor behind our early departure. Cuban officials apparently are nervous about having North Americans in the country for extended periods, and in ways which immerse them in the culture, during a time of what they see as verbal, if not literal, warfare. We were deeply saddened to leave a country that we have grown to love, and the many friends we have made over the past four weeks. It was an emotional goodbye for group members and faculty leaders.

In the photo above, the Cuba SST group poses for a final photo outside the First Presbyterian Church of Havana on the last evening we were in Cuba. In the second photo, Adam, Sarah, Sean, Drew, and Israel wait at a table in the airport before we checked in for our flight to San Salvador, where we spent an hour before boarding another flight for San Jose, our new home.

The group spent Sunday morning singing, praying, and processing the departure from Cuba.

Transition to San Jose, Costa Rica

In what was a relatively flawless move across the Caribbean, the group arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, around 2:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon. At the airport Beth and Dave Martin Birky, former SST leaders in Costa Rica and faculty and adjunct faculty members at Goshen College, greeted the Cuba Rica SST group, as we've taken to calling ourselves. The Martin Birkys were the leaders of the last Costa Rica SST unit in Summer 2001. Because they had left the country gracefully, they still had many contacts when they returned, serendipitously, for Beth to do continuing research on women's organizations in Costa Rica. Given their timing in the country, Dave and Beth were able to arrange, in conversation with leaders Keith and Ann Graber Miller, a tentative schedule for the Cuba Rica's first week in Costa Rica. They also booked housing at a marvelous facility, the Universidad Biblico Latinoamericana, located in an eastern suburb of San Jose. The seminary campus is only five years old, and provides lots of greenspace for outdoor exercise and relaxation, laundry facilities, and pleasant dormitory rooms for the group´s first 10 days in Costa Rica.

In the photo at left above, Dave speaks to the Cuba Rica SSTers within several hours after their arrival in San Jose. Both Beth and Dave provided the initial hour of Costa Rica orientation for students before the Martin Birkys needed to leave the following morning for Goshen. We were grateful for their orientation and for their extensive preliminary work that allowed the transition to Costa Rica to happen so smoothly in such a short time.

Friday morning the group rested while Keith, Will, Charlee and Jacob went to the bank to get some usable cash (colones, in this case), borrowing enough colones from a former Mennonite Central Committee worker to get a taxi into town. During that time, Ann worked with a local assistant to begin calling service locations and families. In the afternoon, the group traveled across San Jose to Conversa, the language training institute, where they had a brief lesson in Costa Rican Spanish and did initial language testing. On the way back, they took public buses, traversing the city in a downpour. In the second photo, Adam and Charlee pose under an umbrella while waiting for a bus. Everyone was entirely soaked by the time we arrived back on campus.

Beth and Dave also hooked Keith and Ann up with a number of their former contacts in Costa Rica, allowing the Graber Millers to quickly move into arranging for service assignments. Service assignments are scheduled to begin already Sunday, June 6, and students will have the opportunity to help determine where they will be located and what their work will be.

Irazu volcano field trip

Universidad Biblico Latinoamericana employees, mainly former Mennonite Central Committee volunteer Jeanne McGinnis, helped to arrange for the first week's lectures and field trips. Already on Saturday we took a full-day field trip to the Irazu volcano and other key sites around the central plateau surrounding San Jose.

In the first photo above, Jeff poses above the volcano's water-filled crater. In the second photo, Rachel, Jacob, Jesse, and Elizabeth take a moment's rest while walking back from the volcano. And in the final photo, the group poses for its first collective picture in Costa Rica -- on a precipice, living on the edge -- a metaphor for our past tumultuous week.

Lankester Gardens

After our trip to the volcano, we stopped by the beautiful and restful Lankester Gardens, a botanical garden now run by the University of San Jose. In the first photo, Jesse examines some of the orchids in the gardens. Lankester boasts half of the 1,600 different species of orchids found in Costa Rica. In the second photo, Melody and Charlee pose beside a waterfall at the gardens. In the third photo, Jeff holds Simon on his shoulders during part of the tour of the gardens, giving Simon's parents a break.

Two important churches

We stopped at two amazing churches on our Saturday fieldtrip. The first was the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Cartago, lined entirely in its interior with carefully painted wood. In the first photo, Nicole and Erin pose outside the front of the church.

The second church we visited was the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, or rather the ruins of the church. The structure was built between 1681 and 1693 on the site of what was the first long-term Spanish settlement in Costa Rica. The building was abandoned in 1833, but still retains much of its grandeur. In the second photo above, Melody poses in front of the church. In the third photo, Mia and Simon crouch beneath an arch at the Lankester Gardens that was built to mimic, in miniature fashion, the ancient church's facade.

In the final photo we see the effects on the way back to the seminary of this being just our second day in Costa Rica!

We look forward to a week of learning more about Costa Rican culture, with lectures on women's issues, the economy, biodiversity, and Latin American liberation theology, and with a Wednesday field trip to a banana plantation. Even though it isn't what the Cuba SST group had planned, life is definitely good in Costa Rica, and we have much to learn in this rich place.

Sun, 6 Jun 2004

Life on the Universidad Biblica Latinoamericana Campus

Students thoroughly enjoyed the 10 days at Universidad Biblica Latinoamericana, which provided more greenspaces than they had seen in weeks and many opportunities to talk with seminary students from across Central America.

In the first photo, Jesse and Liz enjoy a moment in the sun, with a backdrop of mountains, while waiting for the lecture session to begin Friday morning. In the second and third photos, Elizabeth and Nicole talk, on different days, with Moises, a Nicaraguan seminary student who befriended several members of the group. In the final photo, Adam and Simon pose together after Simon´s evening shower and hairstying in the form of Adam´s regular doo.

Lectures on free trade, women, biodiversity, and the economy

Throughout the past week, "Cuba Rica" SSTers had lectures and field trips related to Costa Rican social issues, economy, and history. Nidia Fonseca, pictured in the first photo, started us off Monday morning with a lecture on Costa Rica´s social and economic situation and its impact on women. Tuesday morning the group visited the Gold Museum in downtown San Jose. The museum has the world´s premiere collection of pre-Columbian gold, and presents beautifully the history of the indigenous people in Costa Rica in the centuries before European explorers arrived on their shores.

On Wednesday the group took a two-hour drive to a banana plantation where we learned about troubling labor practices related to harvesting bananas and saw banana packaging plants. Roy May, an ethics professor at the Universidad Biblica Latinoamericana, was our guide and lecturer for the field trip. In the second photo he talks with a group of students including Sean, Adam, Sarah, Israel, and Mark. Behind us a cropdusting plane dropped chemicals onto the plantations while workers below continued harvesting bananas.

Thursday morning we heard about Latin American liberation theology from Victorio Oria, and on Friday morning we had a stimulating lecture from activist Ariane Grau regarding the current free trade agreement being considered by Central American countries. Grau described the agreement as a "death sentence" for Costa Rican agriculture. A number of organizations are seeking to educate Costa Rican farm workers about the devastating impact the current free trade agreement (referred to here as TLC) will have on Costa Rica.

In the third and fourth photos, Jason reads during a break between portions of the lecture Friday morning, and Nicole poses for a shot with the student dormitory in the background.

Preparing to leave for service assignments

Students prepared for their service assignments during the last several days in San Jose. At the end of Spanish classes on Friday afternoon, as shown in the first photo, Steve Hansen and Dave Kaufman of Conversa Language Training Institute talked with SSTers about dynamics of living with Costa Rican families. On Friday and Saturday some members of the group went out to purchase rubber boots and mosquito nets, and others sought out tastes they might miss while living out in the countryside. In the second photo, Mark, Will, Sean, and Jason dig into one-pound hamburgers (literally, they included a stack of four quarter-pound burgers) on the Saturday before departure. While some of the men were dining on burgers, the women, all pictured in the third photo, had a delectable Chinese meal in downtown San Jose Saturday noon.

Students head for service in rural Costa Rica

All 21 "Cuba Rica" students left the Universidad Biblica Latinoamericana Sunday for their service assignments scattered across the country. Departures went fairly flawlessly, with Keith taking the various pairings and groupings to their bus terminals or taxi stations to send them off to towns including:

  • Paso Canoas (Adam),
  • Monteverde (Rachel),
  • Las Caletas on the Peninsula de Osa (Sarah and Jason),
  • San Rafael de Guatuso (Mark and Melody),
  • Turrialba (Charlee and Jeff),
  • Santiago de Puriscal (Catie and Elizabeth),
  • Salitrales (Jacob and Nicole),
  • Santa Ana (Alyssa, Drew, and Kimberlee),
  • San Ramon (Jesse, Angela, and Erin), and,
  • Buenos Aires (Sean, Israel, and Will).

Work assignments include caring for children in an orphanage and daycare center; teaching at neighborhood schools; working for Habitat for Humanity; doing ceramics with local potters; doing biological conservation work in a forest; working with drug-addicted teens; working on horse ranches; and working on organic farms. All of the students reported in Sunday evening to say they had made it safely to their families and work sites.

In the photos above, students sing during their final Casa Goshen night on the seminary campus. The event was a further time of bonding for a group that has grown remarkably close during the events of the past two weeks. In the second photo, a small group of students including Elizabeth, Angela, Sean, Will, Kimberlee and Melody have their last group breakfast, for now at least, on the seminary campus. By breakfast time, two groups of students already had left for their sites, beginning at 4 a.m. that morning. In the third photo, Will, Israel, and Sean wait for their bus to Buenos Aires. In the final photo, Jesse, Angela and Erin point to the sign for San Ramon, where they were headed. Both groups will be doing Habitat for Humanity work, building concrete block houses.

Students will remain at their service assignments for a full six weeks, returning to San Jose Saturday, July 17, for Spanish and other testing, debriefing, and reorientation. The Graber Millers are feeling like sudden "empty nesters" after living alongside their charges over the past six weeks. While students are out on service, the Graber Millers will continue living on the seminary campus, which they´ll use as home base for their frequent forays out into the Costa Rican countryside to see students at their work sites.

Those interesting in sending letters (no packages please) to students may do so at the address below. Keith and Ann will hand-deliver mail when they go to visit students at their sites.

    Universidad de Goshen
    c/o Universidad Biblica Latinoamericana
    Apartado 901-1000
    San Jose, COSTA RICA.

Mon, 14 Jun 2004

Life back home in San Jose

The Graber Miller family spent most of the past week on the seminary campus, where they continue to live in the casita only a few yards from the student dormitory. The small house, pictured in the first photo above, is named the House of a Million Women since the seminary collected the names of nearly a million women around the world, and then gathered donations of $1 or more from the women to build the seminary campus.

In the second photo, Keith, Ann, Niles, Mia, and Simon pose near the grove of bamboo trees in the center of campus, a favorite play site for the Graber Miller children. In the final photo, security guard Francisco holds up playmates Mia and Simon. Mia and Simon visit Francisco regularly at his guard house, drawing him pictures and luring him outside to play.

This week Ann and Keith and their children will begin visiting the student service locations, spending time with each student individually, taking the two or three or more students in each location out to a meal, reading their journals, and meeting their families. Monday through Wednesday they will be in the Santa Ana/Puriscal region just west of San Jose, and Thursday and Friday they will be in Turrialba.

San Rafael and vicinity

Seven students are placed within a few kilometers of each other, and quite near San Jose, though they rarely have the chance to see each other. Drew, Kimberlee, and Alyssa, pictured in the first photo, all have assignments in Santa Ana, and Nicole and Jacob, pictured in the second photo, also are living in Santa Ana and working nearby. Jacob, Nicole, and Drew all have adjoining houses, Alyssa lives relatively near them, and Kimberlee lives across town. Moreover, in their host families Jacob, Nicole, Drew and Alyssa are all first cousins, and Kimberlee is their niece. Small world.

Jacob and Nicole initially thought they would be working on a horse ranch and cattle farm, but both ended up working at a stable with some 50 horses. Competitions take place at the stable on weekends. Nicole reports that no one speaks English at their worksite, so they are speaking Spanish a good deal.

Drew started off working with ceramics in the morning and at a school in the afternoon, but after several days he decided to work only at the school until winter break comes (it is "winter" in Costa Rica) in early July. At that point he may return to the ceramics workshop to continue his service assignment. Drew is at the school about 11 hours a day.

Alyssa has four young siblings, and works at a medical clinic near her home. Kimberlee is further removed from her aunts and uncles than she would like, but she is enjoying her family and some aspects of her work at a school. She´s presently trying to write a script for a school play, in Spanish, and will have only five or six rehearsals with her charges before they present the play at the school. She also may be working some with an English language school.

Catie and Elizabeth, pictured in the third photo, are in Puriscal, several kilometers further southwest of Santa Ana. Although they haven´t seen their nearby SST friends in the past week, they are enjoying their families and work. Catie works with a school and kindergarten, and Elizabeth is also at a school in the mornings and works with an organic flower business in the afternoons.

Schools in San Rafael de Guatuso

Mark and Melody are enjoying their assignments in San Rafael de Guatuso (often called either San Rafel or just Guatuso), about five hours northwest of San Jose. Melody works at the Center for Education and Nutrition, assisting various teachers with their work, getting snacks and lunches together with the children, singing songs with them, and playing. Mark is working in a school.

An orphanage in Turrialba

Charlee and Jeff are working together at an orphanage in Turrialba, a town to the east of San Jose. Although their work assignment has been challenging, they have enjoyed their families and are learning considerably more Spanish. They report that their town is very hot, but that it is gorgeous in the valley and there are many rivers nearby.

Conservation project on the Peninsula de Osa

Sarah and Jason, pictured with their new working boots on (the parasol and skirt are not a required part of their working gear), are living in the location to which it is most difficult to travel. To get to their tiny village of Las Caletas on the Peninsula de Osa, on the southern coast of Costa Rica, they traveled six hours by bus, one-half hour by taxi, and then 1 1/2 hours by mud boat. One of them is living in a small home right on the beach, and the other lives 20 minutes into the jungle, where they work each day on a biological conservation project.

Serving solo

Two students are the only SSTers in their towns -- Rachel in Monteverde and Adam in Paso Canoas. When her family has work, Rachel is helping cultivate a plot at an organic farm an hour and a half walk from Monteverde. When she´s bored, she attends lectures at the Monteverde Institute. She has three siblings, and is enjoying life in the family and in her beautiful, misty town located in the mountains about five hours northwest of San Jose.

Adam is located in a small town right on the border of Panama and just off the Panamerican Highway, which cuts through Central America. His initial assignment of working with drug-addicted teens did not pan out, so after briefly working with troubled highschoolers in a school setting, he is now teaching math to third-graders in the school where his host mother teaches. Adam also is enjoying his family.

Habitat for Humanity assignments

All 21 SSTers in the Cuba Rica group spent the last week in their service assignments scattered around the country, living with host families and working alongside nationals in various schools and other organizations.

Six members of the group are working with Habitat for Humanity, doing the hard labor of hauling around concrete blocks and wheelbarrows of cement.

In the first photo, Will and Sean hold up Israel, their partner on service. The three are in Buenos Aires, a pineapple-growing town at the base of the mountains in the south-central part of Costa Rica.

The other Habitat workers are Erin, Angela and Jesse, whose Habitat location of San Ramon is about an hour west of San Jose. The threesome posed with their biceps exposed so there would be a record of their musculature both "before" and then "after" their house-building assignments.

Angela and Erin reported that on their first day they walked 45 minutes across town to their worksite, then began leveling dirt and digging a septic tank, then hauling dirt in wheelbarrows down a steep hill. All three San Ramoners are enjoying family life; Jesse´s family even seems to believe that he speaks fluent Spanish(!)

Sun, 20 Jun 2004

Jeff and Charlee at the orphanage

In Turrialba, Jeff and Charlee work at an orphanage and, for the next two weeks, at a school across the road from the orphanage. Some of the children from the orphanage also attend the school on some days. In the first photo above, Jeff and Charlee hold Alexandra and Jaquelin, respectively. In the second photo, they swing Jasmin, Jaquelin, and Manfred, along with Mia, Simon, and Niles, on the outdoor equipment at the orphanage. In the third photo, Jeff holds baby Alexandra, the 9-month-old baby whom both SSTers adore.

Charlee and Jeff with their families

Charlee and Jeff are in Turrialba, about 1 1/2 hours outside of San Jose the opposite direction from the Santa Ana SSTers. The drive to their location is amazingly picturesque as you wind through the mountains, sometimes catching a glimpse of the Caribbean coast. In the photos above, Charlee poses with her mother Lorena, 17-year-old sister Jenifer, and 4-year-old brother Mario Andres. Her father and older brother were not at home that evening. In the second photo, Jeff relaxes on the couch with his family, including father Luis and mother Flor Maria, 24-year-old sister Shirley, and 9-year-old sister Paula. In the final photo above, Charlee and Jeff pose under a tree at the restaurant they went to with the Graber Millers Friday noon.

Catie and Elizabeth in Puriscal

Because some Costa Rican maps are flawed, with Puriscal placed in the wrong place or absent from the maps entirely, we all thought Catie and Elizabeth would be living nearer the Santa Ana SSTers than they are. It´s actually a good 45-minute drive through mountain peaks with majestic vistas from Santa Ana to Puriscal, where Catie and Elizabeth are happily ensconced. Both women are working at daycare centers in the morning, but the two centers are about a 25-minute walk apart. On most afternoons Elizabeth works for Don Eduardo, a local organic flower grower, and Catie has now joined Elizabeth at the flower farm two days a week.

Pictured above are Elizabeth with some of her daycare charges on "horse day" at the daycare. In the second photo Catie is greeted by some of the children from her daycare center in town. In the final photo, Elizabeth poses with her mom, Miriam, on their back lawn, which has a tremendous view of the rolling hills.

Alyssa, Drew, and Kimberlee in Santa Ana

Alyssa, Drew, and Kimberlee all are kept busy with school and clinic responsibilities. On the days the Graber Millers were visiting, Kimberlee was in transition between jobs at two schools. In the smaller, country school to which she shifted, she is teaching English and playing with the elementary students.

Alyssa enjoys her work at a clinic, where she is able to put her nursing skills to practice. She works with a physician and two nurses, including Eduardo, pictured at the right in the first photo above. Each morning she travels with Eduardo to homes to measure patients and do blood pressure checks. In the afternoons she helps see patients at a clinic that is just around the corner from the homes of Drew, Nicole, and Jacob.

Drew puts in 11-hour days at his school, ironically named Andres Bello (Drew´s real name is Andrew/Andres, and Bello means "beautiful"), as shown in the photo above. In the third photo, Drew works with one of his students, Marco.

The final photo above shows all five of the Santa Ana SSTers lounging in the outdoor day bed at the Graber Millers´ hotel last Monday evening.

Nicole and Jacob in Santa Ana

The Graber Millers visited the five Santa Ana SSTers Monday through Wednesday of last week. Nicole and Jacob live in houses adjacent to each other and to Drew, and in the same town as Alyssa and Kimberlee. Jacob and Nicole are continuing their work at a stable, not a ranch, just outside of Santa Ana. They spend all day cleaning horse saddles (see Nicole in the first photo above with her work partner Pablo), grooming horses, or preparing horses so their owners can ride them. In the second photo above, Nicole shows one of the horses to Mia and Niles, with Ann in the background. In the third photo, Jacob stands next to one of his charges with his work partner Nelson. In the final photo, Jacob is pictured with his family, minus one sister and the young man who lives at the house. Pictured are his parents Carl and Elia and 20-year-old sister Flavia.

Reports from Buenos Aires, Guatuso, and Paso Canoas

On Saturday morning in San Jose, Sean and Will reported that they and fellow SSTer Israel, who chose not to go to the beach Friday, are working hard on Habitat for Humanity homes in Buenos Aires. They, as well as Jason and Sarah, are the only SSTers without easy access to e-mail. Sean has 17-year-old and 12-year-old brothers, 15-year-old and 9-month-old sisters, and a 16-year-old family friend who lives in his home. Will has three sisters, ages 15, 10, and 7, as well as a 17-year-old family friend who lives in his household. Israel has at least five children in his home, plus many other children, including his nieces and nephews, around him. All three of the SSTers live in three-bedroom, concrete block Habitat for Humanity homes. Israel walks about a half hour to work each day, picking up Sean and then Will along the way. The first week the men dug a 6-by-6-by-6 septic tank hole in the sticky clay. On most days they dig or mix and pour concrete, working alongside three Costa Ricans. You´ll need to ask Will about the evening his family played with an enormous, wild iguana in their home.

Adam sent an e-mail note around to other SSTers, explaining how he came to be teaching third-grade math at an elementary school in Paso Canoas, on the Panamanian border. He also teaches Spanish to some of the same students for about seven hours each week. Adam is almost fully recovered from what seems to have been a bed bug incident.

Melody writes from San Rafael de Guatuso, where she is stationed with Mark, that she went to a birthday party and a pig butchering last week, and played bingo with local families at the school. Her work in the school setting continues to go well. When at home, she sometimes plays UNO and Chinese checkers with her brother and neighbors. The Graber Millers will be visiting Melody and Mark this Thursday and Friday.

Weekend gathering in San Jose

Nine of the 21 Cuba Rica SSTers returned to the seminary campus in San Jose over the weekend. After a trip to the beach with some fellow Habitat for Humanity workers, Will and Sean found themselves stranded away from Buenos Aires for the night, but they made it to San Jose at midnight Friday and joined the Graber Millers on campus. Saturday afternoon seven students and Jeff´s brother, Luisca, came into the city from Santa Ana and Turrialba to see the Cuba-Costa Rica soccer game, which held special meaning for this year´s SSTers. After tying 2-2 last week on Cuba´s home field, the teams tied once again in Costa Rica 1-1.

Pictured above over breakfast at the Graber Miller apartment are the soccer fans, including Kimberlee, Jacob, Jeff, Alyssa, Luisca, Nicole, and Charlee. Drew was out of the room at the time of the photo.

From Monday through Friday, June 21-25, the Graber Miller family will be on the road visiting students in the northwestern part of the country. They´ll see Erin, Angela, and Jesse in San Ramon, Rachel in Monteverde, and Melody and Mark in San Rafael de Guatuso.

Sat, 26 Jun 2004

Melody and Mark at their worksites

Melody has been working each day at the Center for Education and Nutrition in San Rafael de Guatuso, about five km from her home. She generally catches a ride with her parents or other friends, and sometimes rides a bus back to her home. Last week was a special week honoring Costa Rican children, so the center planned different activities each day. Above, Melody poses with Claudia as they wait for a bus to take them and others to a private club for the morning.

Service plans changed for both Melody and Mark soon after arriving. During his first days in San Rafael de Guatuso Mark assisted a North American group in their construction of a church. Now he works most days at a medical clinic, sometimes helping with patients, sometimes folding bandages (as in the photo above), and sometimes working on the computer. Beginning this week he also plans to begin working two mornings each week at the daycare where Melody also works.

Melody and MarkÂ’s Families in San Rafael de Guatuso

From Monteverde the Graber Miller family took a four-hour journey to San Rafael de Guatuso, driving northwest to Tilarán, then around Lake Arenal, then north to Guatuso. Many of the roads along that trail still seem to be more appropriate for ox carts than motor vehicles, but the views were again spectacular.

Melody and Mark both love their families and their town, which has the feel of a Costa Rican cowboy village, smaller than most of the other towns where students are living. Melody actual lives about five kilometers outside of Guatuso in El Edén de Guatuso. In the first photo above, Melody poses with her mother Rita and her 9-year-old brother Mauricio. After work Melody spends many hours playing with Mauricio and other neighborhood children, serving as a "kid magnet," her mother said. MelodyÂ’s family has taken her to a pig butchering, and this weekend sheÂ’ll attend a Costa Rican wedding. Her parents also plan to take her to the reservation for indigenous people near her home.

In the second photo Mark poses with some of the many children who live in his home. Among them are Faviola (12), Joel (3), Josep (7), Joselin (7), Gladis (mom), and John (8 months). MarkÂ’s dad and several other children and teenagers come and go in the household, which also serves as the office for the familyÂ’s cabin hotel rooms. MarkÂ’s family took him to Volcano Arenal one weekend, and plans to take him to the Nicaraguan border and the beach this coming weekend.

Rachel's Grand Adventure in Monteverde

Except for Jason and Sarah in Las Caletas, Rachel has the most remote location of the Cuba Rica SSTers. Getting near RachelÂ’s town requires a 4 1/2 -hour trip from San Jose, the last third of that on bumpy, rocky roads passable only in four-wheel-drive vehicles. The views along the ride leading to Monteverde are incredible, among some of grandest views in the world, we suspect, overlooking layers of hills and mountains out to the coast and beyond.

Monteverde was founded in 1951 by a group of 44 North American Quakers, most from Alabama, who as conscientious objectors refused to register for the draft. They reforested the largely deforested area, beginning a process that led to the establishment of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. They also decided to found a cheese factory since cheese was the only realistic product that could be stored and moved to market without spoiling along a muddy oxcart trail. The Monteverde Cheese Factory still provides much of the cheese for Costa Ricans, and makes excellent milkshakes to boot.

Once in Monteverde, visitors are required to drive or walk another seven kilometers down even worse roads, far into the countryside valley beneath Monteverde. From the road, the village in which Rachel lives, San Luis, is not actually an identifiable village at all, but a few houses scattered along several kilometers down in the valley. RachelÂ’s family moved into their new home just four months ago after farming the land from a distance over the last number of years. In the first photo above, Rachel poses with Olier (dad), Kaelor (9), Kevin (13), Marta (16), and Marielos (mom). Rachel spends many hours with her family, and she also has met several U.S. university students and graduate students in the area. One graduate student, Susannah, has many mutual friends and acquaintances from RachelÂ’s childhood days on a collective organic farm in Vermont.

In the second photo, Rachel poses in front of the view just outside her home. In the immediate background is the familyÂ’s several-acre plot, which Rachel helps cultivate as part of her service work. In the distance Rachel can see the bay separating the Costa Rican mainland from the thumb-like peninsula on the eastern side of Costa Rica.

RachelÂ’s familyÂ’s farm is part of Finca La Bella Anna Krehbiel, named after a prominent Quaker woman. The farm includes plots for 24 families, and is part of a land reform project initiated by the Monteverde Institute. The land, some of which was previously owned by the parents and grandparents of the 24 families living there now, was obtained from a sometimes ruthless landlord and lender who once had possession of much of the San Luis valley area. RachelÂ’s parents are activists with the Finca La Bella project, and articulate spokespeople for land reform of this sort.

Another major component of RachelÂ’s service is to interview most of the 24 families for a website project for the farm. To do the computer and web portions of the project, Rachel walks 1 1/2 hours up the hill to Monteverde, and 1 1/2 hours back, about three times each week.

In the final photo above, Rachel poses in front of a rainbow – more brilliant and iridescent in color than any of us had ever seen – that arched its way down into the valley above her home. We spotted the rainbow while driving back to Rachel’s home in the late afternoon Wednesday. The rainforest area is home to many exotic birds and other plant and animal life. One afternoon we saw a wild sloth hanging balled up in a tree, and Rachel has seen a wild toucan near her farm plot. (Elizabeth also spotted a toucan in her back yard in Puriscal). In Monteverde we also heard frequently the bizarre, bonk-like, metallic screech of the three-wattled bellbird, an endangered species whose call carries for almost two miles.

Habitat for Humanity work in San Ramon

Work for the San Ramon Habitat folks is grueling, but satisfying. In their first few days on service, they dug a septic tank and hauled the dirt in a wheelbarrow down a steep hill. When the Graber Millers visited last week, they were beginning work on a new home, pouring the footer and then putting up the initial blocks for the houseÂ’s walls. The worksite was just a few minutes from JesseÂ’s home, which meant Erin and Angela needed to walk 45 minutes to the site in San Juan, just outside San Ramon.

In the first photo, Jesse helps drop a concrete block over re-rod for the foundation of the house. Erin and Angela can be seen in the background. In the second photo, Angela dumps cement into the blocks to provide a firmer foundation and wall.

HabitatÂ’s supervisor for volunteers in San Ramon, Wilfredo, said Erin, Jesse, and Angela were different (in a good sense, we think!) from many volunteers who have worked with Habitat there in the past. He also praised their strength and ability to work hard without complaining, and expressed amazement that they had not worked in construction before.

Erin, Angela, and Jesse in San Ramon

Jesse, Angela, and Erin are having a delightful experience in San Ramon, loving their families and their work and enjoying their interaction with each other. In the photos above, Angela poses with her entire family including Yeimmy (mom), Andres, Carolina, and Adrian (dad). In the second photo, Erin stands outside her home with Jimmy, Floribeth (mom), Carolina, and Maureen. Three of her other siblings and her dad were away at the time of the photo. Erin lives upstairs in the family home, sleeping in a room adjacent to two other “brothers,” both of whom are Habitat workers from England. In the third photo, Jesse poses with his brother Jonathan and his mother Grace. His dad and his 16-year-old brother were not present for the photo.

Erin and Angela live just around the corner from each other, and Jesse lives a 45-minute walk across town. Sometimes their Habitat worksite is nearer the womenÂ’s homes, and sometimes it is nearer JesseÂ’s home. Generally the three work together each day, along with several Costa Rican nationals--"Ticos"--and several volunteers from outside of the country.

"Cuba Rica" update: coining a term?

Although the Cuba/Costa Rica group thought it had coined the term "Cuba Rica," SSTers in San Ramon discovered that at least one restaurant came up with the term long ago. Erin, Jesse, and Angela, who are working with Habitat for Humanity in San Ramon, an hour and a half northwest of San Jose, came across the Pizza Cuba-Rica restaurant. The eatery is owned by a Cuban family now living in Costa Rica.

Last week the Graber Millers visited the San Ramon threesome as well as Rachel in Monteverde and Melody and Mark in San Rafael de Guatuso (see reports below), as well as a brief stop with the Santa Ana SSTers. This week Keith and Niles will be on the Peninsula de Osa visiting Sarah and Jason in Las Caletas; in Paso Canoas visiting Adam; and in Buenos Aires visiting Israel, Sean, and Will. Because of the difficulty of the travel, Ann chose to stay back in San Jose with Mia and Simon, though she regretted not being able to see the students on this trip.

Thu, 8 Jul 2004

Israel, Sean, and William's work with Habitat

Israel, Sean, and William are one of two Habitat for Humanity SST crews. The other group – Erin, Jesse, and Angela – is located in San Ramon an hour outside of San Jose. As for all Habitat SSTers, the men in Buenos Aires work hard and long five and sometimes six days each week. In the first photo above, they pose in front of their first project, digging a 6-by-6-by-6 septic tank hole through the clay, then laying block along all four sides. In the background is the nearly completed house. That house is just 50 meters from Jason’s home. In the second photo, they pose in front of another Habitat home they have worked on during their four weeks in Buenos Aires. The three men are known as hard workers among the Habitat volunteers. Although they had assistance from a group from Florida during one week and for some days from a woman from England, most of the time they have worked only alongside other Costa Ricans.

During the past week, Sean, Israel, and William also enjoyed the downtown fair-like fiesta for Buenos AiresÂ’ patron saint, Saint Peter. The festival just finished up this past weekend after a 12-day run. Next weekend the threesome plans to visit Sarah and Jason on Peninsula de Osa, which is relatively near their town.

Family life in Buenos Aires

The final stop on the journey last week was in Buenos Aires, located in the midst of Del Monte pineapple fields at the base of the mountains in southeastern Costa Rica. Israel, Sean, and William are living within 30 minutes of each other in the sprawling town, and working with Habitat for Humanity. All three of the SSTers live in homes previously constructed by Habitat.

In the first photo above, Israel poses with a small portion of his family, the only people home that day. In the photo are Estefani (14), Sebastian (9), and Edixon (3). IsraelÂ’s mother was at work in the pineapple packing plant, and his brothers Julio Cesar (5) and Eric (19) were away as well. He also has two older sisters who live away from the home but who come by frequently with many other nieces and nephews.

In the second photo, Sean poses with his mother Ana Maria, sister Claricel (16), who is holding his youngest sister, his cousin Veronica (16), and his brother Billi Francisco (12). SeanÂ’s family is from the indigenous Bri Bri tribal group, whose primary settlement we visited on a drive up into the mountains rising behind Buenos Aires. Missing from the photo are brother Jose (17) and father Feliciano. In the final photo, William sits on the couch with his family members, including Ivania (7), Laticia (Mom), Juan Carlos (Dad), and Erika (10). Not pictured is his oldest sister, Maria Cruz.

Adam in Paso Canoas

The second stop in last week’s journey was at Adam’s home in Paso Canoas, located precisely on the border between Costa Rica and Panama. Both Costa Ricans and Panamanians can freely come and go in the village, which is located in the "no-person’s land" between the two countries, so the village is filled with small shops selling duty-free goods. One guide book unfortunately describes Paso Canoas as an “ugly, stinky town.” Though the description may be apt for the downtown, border-crossing area, Adam’s barrio in the eastern outskirts has all the charm of any rural Central American village.

In the first photo above, Adam poses with his mother Odillié and brothers Marvin (16), Brainer (12), and Josué (4). His mother is expecting again in two months, but Adam will miss the birth by a few weeks. They live in a home clustered near AdamÂ’s motherÂ’s extended family, and just a short walk from the school where he teaches.

AdamÂ’s primary work has been at the nearby elementary school, where he teaches third-grade math and serves as an aide on other subjects for the class. In the second photo above, Adam poses with his third-grade charges, who were more than happy to shorten their day with a photo opportunity. In the third photo, Adam pulled out his camera for several photos, and was immediately surrounded by throngs of third-graders wanting to squeeze in.

Desiring to get outside of Paso Canoas, we took a Thursday morning trip into the countryside, coming across a man from the Kuna tribal group selling molas (a form of replique on fabric used for Kuna womenÂ’s blouses), jewelry, and other handcrafted items, some of which can be seen in the final photo. The art objects were made by our new Kuna friendÂ’s family members.

Service in Las Caletas

Jason and Sarah’s service in Las Caletas includes a variety of activities, in addition to simply relating to their families and members of the community. They are helping biological conservationists Pablo and Lucia monitor the population of macaws, taking a three-hour walk each Monday morning to record where they see clusters of the birds. They also are tracking the development of mango seeds – some of which have just fallen to the ground, some of which have been nibbled on by monkeys, and some of which have been eaten by and passed through monkeys – to determine which germinate better. Their primary work for the past several weeks has been teaching English a couple of hours a day at the small school between Jason’s home and the beach.

In the first photo above, Jason and Sarah can be seen with their charges beyond the gate and sign announcing the school. The school has about 15 students, some of whom walk or ride horses for as much as 1 1/2 hours to get there each morning. The second and third photos are different angles on Jason and Sarah as they work with Victor and Frankie using English cards. The two boys were the only children to show up for school that day; the teacher, who brings the boat in from Sierpe each Monday, had not shown up for the entire week, so the students stopped coming as well.

Sarah and Jason also are teaching English to adults at 3 p.m. each afternoon, helping them learn terms that will help in their work with the eco-tourists who come to the region.

Riding horses through the jungle

On the morning after Keith and Niles arrived, Jason and Sarah trekked with them the 1 1/2-hour walk to Drake, where we bought fruit and vegetables for their families and tried unsuccessfully to use the townÂ’s one public phone, which was not working because the lines had been ruined by rain. We had lunch at a forest lodge along the way back, then began a 3 1/2-hour horse ride through the jungle and along the beach. In the first photo above, Jason sits atop his horse, while Niles is in the background. On the journey we rode past cappuccino (white-faced) monkeys clambering through the mangrove trees and saw and heard macaws. During their time in Las Caletas, Jason and Sarah also have seen boa constrictors, several types of poisonous snakes, tarantulas, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, a three-toed sloth, a crocodile, toucans, the tracks of a jungle cat, and various other jungle creatures.

We rode horses down to Rio Claro (Clear River), where we borrowed a boat from a tent-dweller named Ricardo so we could row down to the waterfall. In the second photo, Jason and Sarah can be seen in the boat as we head down Rio Claro. At the base of the falls we saw the famous “Jesus Lizard,” which walks/runs on water. We also swam in the river itself before heading back through the jungle and along the beach toward home. That evening Jason, Keith, and Niles all had dinner up in the jungle-surrounded home of Sarah, then spent the night with her before heading back down the slippery slopes to the beach.

Adventure to Las Caletas on the Osa Peninsula

The trip to Las Caletas on Osa Peninsula, where Jason and Sarah live, is a remarkable adventure. After the beautiful but grueling drive or bus ride from San Jose to Sierpe, visitors take a flat-bottomed boat for a 1 3/4-hour ride down the Sierpe River, cutting through the mangrove-lined, jungle waterways for 45 minutes before breaking out into the Pacific. The boat then rises and falls dramatically through the ocean waves, taking another hourÂ’s journey about two kilometers offshore around the north and west sides of the peninsula. Locals say during some seasons visitors can see whales and dolphins on this leg of the journey.

After making the long journey, Keith and Niles were dropped off on the beach several hundred yards from Jason and SarahÂ’s school. The Central American jungle rises up beyond about 15 meters of beach. JasonÂ’s home is only about 100 meters from the beach, and SarahÂ’s is buried deeper in the jungle.

In the first photo above, Jason poses with his family in front of their home, which is located just behind the school where Jason and Sarah teach English on many days. His family includes Eliza (Mom), Elmer (Dad), and 9-year-old brother Gabriel, as well as an older brother and sister-in-law and three nephews who live next door. Jason has his own bedroom adjacent to the front porch in the wood-frame house. In the second photo, Jason sits on his porch with his Dad and two of the students at the school, Victor, and Frankie. The two boys leave home at 5:30 a.m., riding horses the 1 1/2 hours to the school.

In the third photo, Sarah makes arrangements with her brother-in-law, Walter, for four horses for us to ride the following afternoon. Also in the photo are SarahÂ’s sister Flor, her niece Yendri (on the horse), and her niece Francini (being held by Walter). In the background is the soccer field where Jason plays soccer each day in the late afternoon with all of the local children, teens, and adults (about a dozen people in all). Sarah sometimes joins in on the soccer, but only when she is able to stay overnight with JasonÂ’s family since walking home after dark is not advisable.

In the final photo above, Sarah poses outside her home up in the jungled mountainside above JasonÂ’s home with her father Domingo, mother Esperanza, and brother Daniel. The walk up and downhill to SarahÂ’s home is almost impossible in the pouring rain. Sarah makes the 25-minute walk up and down the muddy hills each morning and late afternoon. Keith, who walked most of the way in stocking feet since no boots would fit him, was covered head-to-toe in soggy red earth by the time he arrived. His admiration for SarahÂ’s stamina and determination increased dramatically!

Reports from Monteverde and Guatuso

Melody reports from San Rafael de Guatuso that she enjoyed the wedding she went to last Saturday, though the dance was cancelled because a storm knocked out the electricity. A week ago she said they experienced both the coldest and the hottest days in Guatuso. Since schools are closing down for their winter break this week and next, both Melody and Mark will be working with neighborhood children during the days, and Melody also will help do some redecorating and preparing for classes that will begin after she leaves Guatuso. At times she also has been helping a high schooler with his English homework.

From Monteverde, Rachel writes that she works with her family on the farm cooperative on some mornings. She also said: “In the afternoons or sometimes late mornings too, I interview the parceleros (families who have plots of land on the farm cooperative) to write up brief profiles of them and their farming practices and what they produce on their parcel. Eventually, the profiles will be on the Finca La Bella website for future volunteers and students to have an introduction to the farm before they come. So I have a nice variety to my day and my work feels meaningful, especially because each day, I know a couple more families on the farm.”

Rachel continues, “The farm has a lot of interesting dynamics because it’s a combination of land reform, sustainability, and intentional community to some degree, and so various families have different visions and reasons for being part of the project. It’s interesting and hopeful to see how determined they are to get themselves organized as a group considering the level of conflict that they face, but they have a lot of challenges ahead of them. ... My parents are both involved in the leadership of the farm (my dad is on the board of the farm association, and my mom initiated with two other women a women’s craft cooperative among the women on the farm) and are good sources when I have questions about the community here and the issues the farm faces. It feels just right to be here ... I could hardly have imagined a forced removal from a country ending up so well, I think.”

Completion of visits to students

Niles and Keith spent Monday through Friday of last week seeing the six students in the southern provinces, completing the round of SST site visits with stops on Peninsula de Osa, in Paso Canoas, and in Buenos Aires. Ann, Mia, and Simon stayed back on campus for the week given the complexity and difficulty of the travel.

Students were healthy and in good spirits, as Peninsula de Osa SSTers Jason and Sarah indicate above in their skirt photo on the beach in front of their school and JasonÂ’s home. For their departure-for-service photo, the two took a skirt-and-boot photo back on campus in San Jose, and they wanted to repeat the scene in their new surroundings. Jason and Sarah have no access to phone or email at their site, so when Keith and Niles arrived, it was the first they had heard anything at all about other SSTers on service. They were thrilled, too, to receive a number of letters from friends and family members back home.

On Friday night Jeff, Charlee, and CharleeÂ’s sister Jenniffer came into San Jose and stayed overnight with Ann and Keith, then Charlee and Jenniffer left the next morning for the beach with the Santa Ana SSTers. Other SSTers are making plans to visit each other. In the photo above, Charlee and Jenniffer have breakfast with Simon and Mia Saturday morning.

During the coming week Ann and Keith will make very brief stops in Santa Ana, Puriscal, and Turrialba to visit SSTers once more before the end of the term.

Mon, 12 Jul 2004

Developments in Santa Ana

Both Drew and Kimberlee lost their regular service assignments when their schools went on “winter break” beginning last week, so they are trying to busy themselves with learning how to cook Costa Rican style, with the help of Drew’s mother. Jacob and Nicole still work each day at the horse stable, and Alyssa continues working at the medical clinic, where she is getting good hands-on experience for her nursing profession.

Catie and Elizabeth in Puriscal

Because of the winter break from their school assignments, Catie and Elizabeth added additional service at another flower nursery to their schedules. The day we visited they were working near their auntÂ’s home, repotting tiny seedlings for later planting in the ground. The two women, who didnÂ’t know each other before SST but have developed a warm friendship and excellent working partnership, posed behind ElizabethÂ’s house for the second photo above. In the third photo, Elizabeth, Simon, and Mia play with ElizabethÂ’s puppy while ElizabethÂ’s mother Miriam watches.

Final Days at the Turrialba Orphanage

Charlee and Jeff are in their final days at the orphanage several kilometers from their home in Turrialba. The day we visited Charlee was feeding Alexandra, the nine-month-old baby that both Charlee and Jeff enjoy. In the second photo, Jeff is pictured with Nicole, a two-year-old who is the newest addition to the orphanage, having arrived the day before we visited. Several of the children Jeff and Charlee have learned to know have been adopted into families since they arrived.

Final revisits to students' service sites

Last week the Graber Millers made their final visits to Cuba Rica SSTersÂ’ service locations, visiting the fivesome in Santa Ana, Catie and Elizabeth in Puriscal, and Jeff and Charlee in Turrialba. Several other students also reported in or sent in photos about their service work.

All of the SSTers who were working at least part-time with daycares and schools lost a portion of their service assignment when all schools in Costa Rica went on “winter break” for two weeks beginning last week. Most have shifted into other meaningful involvements, including simply spending extra time with their families.

Over the weekend Melody came to San Jose with her family and stopped by at the seminary to pick up mail for her and Mark. In the first photo above, Melody chats with Keith Sunday evening in the Graber Miller apartment. Last Tuesday she and Mark went with friend Gustavo (from MarkÂ’s family church) and MarkÂ’s aunt Karen to Rio Celeste, a waterfall and hot water springs. Wednesday Melody went to a cattle auction with her family, and Thursday she went to Cańo Negro to see her little brotherÂ’s other fatherÂ’s farm. During the week Mark also had a chance to go to the beaches in Guanacaste with his family. Next week Melody will return to part-time work at the daycare she worked at previously, decorating and preparing for the return of students from their break. She also spends some afternoons helping tutor a neighborhood university student in English.

Rachel continues working on her service project, developing a website for the farm families involved with Finca la Bella. For the project, she is working alongside her new friend Melissa, a photographer who sent along the second and third photos above of Rachel doing an interview with one of the farmers and posing with her notepad in front of the Finca la Bella gate.

Jesse, Erin, and Angela continue working hard with Habitat for Humanity in San Ramon, as is seen in the last photo above.

Wrapping things up soon
Students will return from their service assignments throughout the day Saturday, then spend six days on campus before leaving for home on Friday morning, July 23. They will have three different language tests (two written, one oral) and an exam on Cuban and Costa Rican cultures. All students will have individual interviews with the Graber Millers next week as well, and theyÂ’ll have time to process their SST experience with each other before heading out.

Mon, 19 Jul 2004

More campus activities

Israel, Jesse, Jacob, and Mark kicked a flattened soccer ball around part of Sunday afternoon, with Simon and Mia watching as well. Sarah took a turn at the piano in the chapel, where we both eat and have our Casa Goshen meetings. Group members are enjoying getting reacquainted after the six weeks apart, and they also are anxious to see their friends and family members back home.

Relaxation back on the seminary campus

After returning to campus Saturday morning, Jacob submitted himself to a rather impressive hour-long haircut by Drew. Those who know and love Jacob shouldn’t worry – the moustache was gone by the next morning. Catie and Alyssa enjoyed catching up with each other on the seminary groups (second photo), until they were approached by Spiderman (third photo), who has made daily appearances on the seminary campus over the last six weeks, sometimes appearing alongside Francisco, the campus security guard, who was occasionally dressed in Spiderman gear as well. In the final photo above, Nicole and Kim finish up part of Kim’s SST project as Will, Sean, Mark, and Jason play a game of cards and Israel watches.

The return, and a week of processing

All 21 Cuba Rica SSTers returned from their service assignments by Saturday evening, with a growing Welcoming Committee greeting each person who came through the seminary gates. Saturday afternoon and evening were times for informal storytelling. Sunday morning we had our penultimate Casa Goshen time, with each person giving an insight they had gleaned from the past three months, either about themselves or their vocations or their host cultures. We also drew visual images that represented some aspect of our SST experience. In the first two photos above, group members Kim, Jason, Nicole and Will and then Angela, Elizabeth and Jeff share their visual images.

Sunday evening we went together to a surprisingly avant-garde Festival of Dance event at the Teatro Popular Melico Salazar in downtown San José. In the third photo above, Jesse, Jacob, and Elizabeth chat as the group waits for the public bus to take us to the dance event.

Monday morning we took three Spanish exams and an exam on Cuban and Costa Rican history and culture. The remainder of the week will be spent giving project reports, doing individual interviews with the Graber Millers, and participating in other reorientation activities.

We'll be seeing you soon in Indiana!

The Cuba Rica SSTers will leave the seminary campus at 10:15 a.m. Friday morning, then depart from the San Jose airport at 2:30 p.m. After stopovers in San Salvador and, ironically, Havana, weÂ’ll arrive in Toronto around 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Jesse, Adam, and Drew will depart from the group in Toronto, but the remaining 18 students and the Graber Miller family will take a bus back to Goshen College. We hope to arrive sometime between 9 and 11 a.m. Saturday morning.

In the photo above, SSTers posed for their final group shot before heading off to a dance event Sunday evening. The photo is actually the only one taken all term which includes the entire group as well as the entire Graber Miller family.

International Education Office
Kevin Koch
+1 (574) 535-7346