Today, we visited the waterfall, Aguas Blancas, in Valle Nuevo National Park. The safari ride there was a little rough but it was definitely worth it. We started with a hike to the top of the mountain, took some pictures, and returned to the pool at the bottom to swim. Only about half of us took the plunge because the water was pretty cold. After our adventure, we drove to El Divino Niño, an outdoor chapel on top of a mountain, and learned about its history from the creator, Antonio Camilo. His story was really inspirational. When we got back to our hotel, we walked over to the Politecnico school to continue our English tutoring after a nice weekend break. Then, as always, we ate dinner and held our nightly meeting, passing the Torch for Líder Del Día on to Hugo.
Today was a busy day. After walking the steep hike up the mountain, I think most of us learned that even though it was hot and we were tired, it’s worth it to endure the challenge and push ourselves to the top. The view was amazing and many of us got to take the time to visit with people we hadn’t really had conversations with before. It taught us that adventures aren’t just about getting to the destination (even though it was absolutely breathtaking), they’re about enjoying the journey as well. What surprised me the most today was how motivated everyone was. It was a long morning, and when English classes finally rolled around, everyone was really tired. However, I didn’t hear many complaints and somehow we conjured up the energy to inspire our students and be the best teachers we could be. I was also really proud of everyone for staying quiet and respecting those who wanted to pray, and I appreciate those of us who got off the bus at the bottom of the hill to El Divino Niño, so that it wouldn’t be too heavy carrying people to the top. I would say I was pretty loud today and successfully kept everyone’s attention, so that was definitely a plus for me. I like to think I motivated the group and kept the energy high. The most inspiring person I met today was Antonio Camino. His story about how he went through a tremendous amount of health problems, became religious through his struggles, and built a monument to dedicate to “El Divino Niño” was absolutely incredible. Overall, I thought being Líder Del Día was pretty fun; people listened to me more than usual and I felt very respected from being in charge. I learned that I actually really like being at the front of a group when I am comfortable enough around the people I’m with. Our little group of 18 is like a family for me, so I don’t have to be shy or nervous around anyone. Today was just another day of laughing, getting to know each other, and becoming aware of the world we live in. Hope everyone is doing well back in California. See you soon 🙂
Adventure day was busy, but amazing. During the safari ride, Felix, our program coordinator, told us about how farmers live in the valley that is now Valle Nuevo National Park and how they are being pushed out of their homes by the government into new houses that are being built for them. Once they move into the houses, these “conservation refugees” (which Julian taught us about tonight) will not have any jobs or ways to earn a living. That surprised me because I had never thought of the people who used to live in places that are now national parks.
On a happier note, I was also surprised by how much fun all of us had during our day out because even the people who dislike exercise enjoyed themselves. I am very proud of all the physical exercise that we all participated in, which sounds kind of weird, but is true because no one backed out of the hike at Aguas Blancas and no one gave up when we were walking up to El Divino Niño. At El Divino Niño, we listened to Antonio Camilo talk about his past and how, through his difficult times, he found his faith. It was inspiring, listening to his passion for his faith and why he built the monument. Altogether, it was an incredible day that I enjoyed immensely. As Líder Del Día, I was nervous because I had never been in an official leadership role before. Fortunately, although it was a busy day, I found the experience very rewarding. I learned that I can accomplish a lot if I have the confidence. Ultimately, this was a fantastic day that I will always cherish. I hope everything back home is great.