Saturday, 30 June 2012

First Pictures of V Day...

Fieldbase is buzzing...
They have!
Their 'hotels' await...
Picking up a few pointers...
Splatches and her new pals

Bienvenidos Venturers!

They're here!!!!

At 7.30am this morning a bus full of backpacks, suitcases and 10 weeks' worth of belongings pulled up outside Fieldbase, and as we were busy unpacking, 6 huge buses full of their owners, A.K.A. our intrepid (ad)Venturers arrived! The drums came out again to wake them from any slumber they had managed to get on their transit from San Jose and we gave them a fitting welcoming ceremony - we're so excited to finally have them all here!

And (I know the parents and guardians out there will want to know this!), they are all very well and have been VERY well fed on gallo pinto, plantain and have now been assigned into their hotels and resorts (some ironically named tents) where they will be staying while they're here at Fieldbase.

A day of training and admin to come now, and we'll give you an update on this and some photos on as soon as I get my photographers back from taking all their I.D. pictures!

Please feel free to leave comments for all, and please state who the message is for - they will be passed on as soon as we get a free moment - a very busy day to come!

Pura Vida y Deaca!

Raleigh Expedition 12G and 12H are go!

Friday, 29 June 2012

Pura Vida Mae! The HCVs arrive...

At approximately 12.40pm this afternoon, 20 eager Venturers from Costa Rica and Nicaragua approached Fieldbase to a massive welcome of whoops and cheers from the VMs...which were quickly beaten by even louder, whoops and cheers from the aforementioned Ticos and Nicas! Led by Keiner, the lively group introduced us to some of the songs and dances they have been putting together during induction (to the beat of Josué's drum) and made us feel more than a little underprepared!

We soon had the opportunity to show off some of our own dance moves though as Keiner introduced us one by one into the middle of a human circle to perform our own 'signature shapes' - as you can see from these pics we hadn't had much time to put them together...

Keiner then helped the groups to settle in with a tour of Fieldbase and some games while we polished up our Spanish to continue our 'Spanish only day' - the pinnacle of which was a 'Can't Cook, Won't Cook' competition to rustle up empanadas and gallo pinto! Everyone was quite literally 'cooking on gas' as Araceli (our amazing FB cook) showed us how to make these local delicacies and then we all split into 6 teams, each with a mixture of VMs and HCVs.

Competition was hotting up as time went on, especially over the 'creativity' section - leaves and flowers were plucked from the garden to jazz up the empanadas - there were even a few pyrotechnics added in for good measure (in the form of birthday cake candles)!

After deliberating, cogitating and digesting (with only a little bit of wincing), los jueces (the judges) Eli, Keiner and Istvan named the winners, who received a bar of chocolate each - to sit nicely on top of the empanadas and copious amouints of gallo pinto served at dinner!

So a fantastic day at Fieldbase courtesy of our latest additions to the expedition team - here's to the arrival of 120 more tomorrow!

¡Pura Vida!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Getting Ready to Host the Hosts...

Keiner, our Costa Rican HCV Programme Manager, has been working very hard over the past few months managing the HCV programme and gathering up an excited group of Host Country Venturers for Expedition 12G/H! There will be 14 Costa Rican Venturers and 6 Nicaraguan Venturers arriving tomorrow, which all us VMs are incessantly busy preparing for, making the place ship shape for our Tico and Nica friends. They’ve been through a lot of their inductions already and are arriving a day early from the other Venturers to get settled in and allow us VMs to practice our Spanish and learn a bit about local ways.

Our Keiner, HCV Programme Manager
Today at Fieldbase we’ve had our final sessions on sustainable development and now officially finished our VM training! Tomorrow we have a last Q&A session to make sure we can speak fully with confidence to the Venturers when they arrive about constructing a basha village and using different tools, erecting tents and operating tricky trangias. Just shows how much we’ve picked up in the last few weeks – it’s flown quicker than Concorde after 2 double espressos... 

We’re all fully geared up for what’s going to be an amazing, life-changing expedition for one and all. Can’t blimmin’ wait (and we don’t really have to!).

Pura Vida!
Leanne and Mau

Antes de la llegada…

Keiner, nuestro coordinador para los HCV’s ha estado trabajando muy duro durante los últimos meses organizando y coordinando la convocatoria de los HCV’s que estarán con nosotros en la expedición 12G/H! A partir de mañana estarán con nosotros 14 participantes de Costa Rica y 6 de Nicaragua, esta noticia nos tiene a los VM’s emocionados y con mucho trabajo por hacer para tener la mejor bienvenida a nuestros amigos Ticos y Nicas. Ellos han pasado ya, por una serie de preparaciones y capacitaciones que los han preparado para su llegada un día antes del resto de “venturers”, con el objetivo de conocer a los VM’s acá en FieldBase, pasar un rato excelente juntos y poder practicar nuestro español con ellos antes de la llegada del resto de la expedición.

Hoy en FieldBase tuvimos nuestras sesiones finales de desarrollo sostenible y ahora oficialmente hemos terminado nuestra preparación como VM’s. Mañana tendremos nuestra sesión final de preguntas y respuestas para estar completamente preparados y confiados para explicar a los “venturers” todo lo relacionado a la construcción de las “basha Village”, uso de herramientas, levantamiento de tiendas y manipulación de “trangias” 

En fin, estamos completamente preparados y a la expectativa de lo que pasara en esta increíble expedición que esta pronta a comenzar, estamos seguros que será una experiencia que recordaremos de por vida. 

Pura Vida!
Mau y Leanne


We played a new game last night which we soon discovered will be an AWESOME way to spend free time out on Project - Mafia - a 'murder mystery' game played with cards. Unfortunately, our professor Pedro got rather frustrated when, despite his best efforts, the majority of the group failed to master the rules and a shambolic 'game' ensued!
We soon got to grips with it though and are looking forward to playing it with the Venturers!

20 HCV Venturers arrive with us at Fieldbase tomorrow and the rest on Saturday - bring it on!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Delta Skelter!

Delta Groups - our 5 weekers – will all be working on some really great projects in Costa Rica in Phase 1, and their heads have finally emerged from their laptops after writing up their PPV reports to give me the lowdown...

Delta 1 will start in Playa Hermosa and half way through the phase will swap with Delta 2 who will have been in Carara – two completely contrasting projects that give each group a superb experience of two different environments.

Carara, with its howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys and strangler trees, is set to be a real jungle experience for our volunteers. The project is to improve the tourist paths that have become waterlogged by installing drainage systems, and the Venturers and PMs will be setting up a jungle camp in the middle of the park among the orchids, iguanas and other general wildlife. ‘I’m a Celeb’ eat your heart out! The PMs met up with Oscar, one of the friendly rangers and planned out the project that will bring more tourism into the area.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle...
In stark contrast, Playa Hermosa is a stunning beach paradise with crystal blue waters – however don’t be fooled into taking a dip - it’s a dangerous beauty with some nasty riptides! There are 3 main aspects to this project which the guys planned out on their PPVs. The first is some nocturnal turtle action – walking up and up down the beach, looking for turtle tracks of females laying their eggs in a trance-like state. Eggs can be consumed by prey or stolen by poachers, so to make sure the little mites inside get a chance, the eggs are collected and transferred to a hatchery, building which is the second part of the project. The third is to reforest some of the local area. A very exciting project that Raleigh has been involved with for a few years.

The Chirripo lot, Delta 3 and 4, all travelled together to this remote area before splitting into two to the schools they’ll be working on in Duchari and Tamiju. The area is so remote that they could only be driven part of the way and dropped off at the foot of a clay road to begin a 5 hour trek to their project sites!

Delta 3 went to Duchari, where they will be building a brand new school. The school there at the moment is quite old and dilapidated, but will be turned into a canteen to tag onto the new one they’ll be building from local timber in 2 and a half weeks! The group met the teachers, checked out the materials they’ll be using, played hide and seek with some of the kids and stayed at the Health Centre. A lot of the children travel for miles (like our lot did) just to have their daily lessons, so giving them a brand new, exciting place to do this will be a brilliant and rewarding experience.

Delta 4 went to Tamiju, and were greeted by a large group of the local children and teachers they’ll be building a new school for. The current one is in a serious state of disrepair, so this much needed project will give their community a real boost – which was obvious from their faces when our PMs arrived! They met the maestro de oblas (the foreman) of the build and planned out the job, and ate cornbread with the locals, delicious apparently!

So, just a few days until the Venturers arrive and we can get back out to the places we’ve seen a little taster of – there’s going to be a lot of hard work but seeing the difference we’re making will be worth every single aching muscle!

Monday, 25 June 2012

We've got a cunning plan...

So, the PPVers have returned from their projects! The last couple of days have entailed groups of weary-and-smelly-but-happy groups bursting through to the door greeted by big hugs, then spilling their stories of meeting rangers, jumping off piers and planning jungle camps. Thousands of miles have been covered between the groups and we’re all getting excited about getting stuck in once the Venturers arrive.

Here’s a rundown of the Alpha group Project Planning Visits (Delta to follow!)

Alpha 1 PMs took a practice walk of days 4 to 6 of the Coast to Coast Trek, starting at El Barbilla National Park in Costa Rica,walking through the jungle into a beautiful valley where they stayed with the indigenous community there, eating an amazing local breakfast of rice and beans while watching the sun rise. Jealous, moi? They then drove through days 7, 8, 9 and 10 of the route, finishing around the Tepanti area, visiting Pejibaye. A mere snippet of what will be an amazing trek, taking everyone who walks it on an amazing physical and emotional journey they'll remember forever.

Coast to Coast sunrise
Alpha 2 took a bus up to Nicaragua to walk the end of the Miratombo trek, and straight away started hiking up to the top of Volcan Cerro, a new and unique volcano that is made of black sand. They then went onto Volcan El Hoyo, part of The Hole, a huge natural sink hole made up of several volcanic structures – and then finished off by heading towards Cerra Asososca and down to the Laguna, which is the end point of the trek. A trek full of ups and downs , quite literally, and the group will be staying with various indigenous families and in community centres with a bit of glamping thrown in for good measure!

Alpha 3 (i.e. we!) went to Volcan Tenorio National Park and were completely wowed by the stunning Rio Celeste waterfall and turquoise waters – jaw-droppingly beautiful. After playing football with the rangers and site workers on Day 1 (in hiking boots!), we started the next day on the work site, planning the work for the Venturers to do – carrying materials, restoring tourist trails, building the staircase to the waterfall and perhaps helping to create a rockery garden by the ranger station.  We also planned out where we would set up Jungle Camp - a basha village 1.5km from the waterfall which the Venturers will build when they arrive. Mucho exciting, and the rangers and workers were fantastic, so we're really looking forward to working there!

Cascada de Rio Celeste

Kickabout with the rangers
Alpha 4 took a 2 hour bus followed by speedboat to stunning San Lucas island and the new National Wildlife Refuge – transformed from an old converted Alcatraz-style prison into a diverse eco paradise.  They planned out the work they and the Venturers will be doing - working on the paths and welcome area to make them more accessible and attractive to tourists, thus generating much-needed income to keep the park alive and free from poachers. They also met some new friends in the form of noisy howler monkeys and brightly coloured crabs, but luckily they didn’t meet the local sting-rays when they leapt off the pier into the sea!

San Lucas Island
Sonal and Lottie making plans...
Alpha 5 headed on a short journey (!) to the north of Nicaragua to a tiny remote area called Achuapa – one of the poorest areas in Nica that was devastated by Hurricane Mitch 13 years ago.  After a 7km uphill trek, they found the village and scoped out the project which is to build a gravity water feed system, providing clean safe water to 66 families in the area – fulfilling one of the key UN Millenium Development Goals. They also visited the Co-operative La Paz Silva and met the secretary to discuss how they would work together on the project. Some amazing coffee and amazing views over the valley softened the 7km trek back again!

Alpha 6 went on an equally short journey to Las Lagunetas in Nicaragua – and as soon as they arrived (after around 13 hours on the road!) they met Edwin and Sylvia from U.C.A. Miraflor, the project partners. Sylvia heralds from the community benefitting from the project, which is to build a brand new pre-school, so it’s very close to home for her – in fact the PMs stayed with Sylvia’s mum so it got even closer! The Venturers will be doing similar home stays, and have ‘chickens dropping from trees onto the tin roof’ to look forward to as an alarm to wake them up at 5pm (apparently!).  After sorting out materials, working hours and visiting the school to a warm welcome, they started the long journey home.

The groups are just choosing their best pics, so more to come!

We can’t wait for the Venturers to get here so we can get cracking...a few more days of training and cleaning before the big arrival day. Good luck guys with your final preparations – y hasta pronto!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Same Difference!

Since all of us arrived for our Raleigh expedition, we’ve all been walking around wide-eyed and trying to absorb and blend into the way of life around here in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Or have we?

Before we headed out to see the projects we will be working on, the visitors amongst us we had a fairly blinkered experience of the culture of the countries – observing the people of San Jose and Turrialba, tipping our cap and saying ‘Hola’ to the local farmers, speaking with our fellow Costa Rican and Nicaraguan PMs and chatting with Don Martin, our substitute padre. 
When we had our session during induction regarding cultural awareness, and the differences in gender roles, time perception, importance of family, appearance and the like, we took away a lot of what was said and tried to relate it to our experiences, but without fully grasping or understanding how we tend to measure people against ourselves, and how actually there is no right way or wrong way - things just are as they are.

After going out into the big wide world, visiting the local communities we will be working with, chatting to project partners and the locals of the area(s), the differences between our cultures were much more obvious but as they say (sorry to use a cliche), it's all part of life's rich tapestry. Language was a bit of a barrier for me but I found that a huge smile, a willingness to listen and learn, and a bit of hard work mean the same thing in every language.

We have to accept and let be what will be, even if it isn’t done ‘our way’. In the process we will all learn a little about the others’ culture, which can only be a brilliant thing!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Alpha and Delta Groups Are Go!

The Project Groups and PM Project Allocations for Phase 1 have been revealed! A drumroll echoed around the terrace at Fieldbase as the groups were announced, everyone thrilled with their allocation.

Some have already trotted off to their projects to conduct a planning visit to ensure everything’s in place for when the Venturers arrive, and some are leaving tomorrow. Fieldbase will be quiet for those left behind, for a few days at least - am sure they'll be grateful for the peace and quiet!

Raleigh 12G/H - the Fieldbase and PM team!
Alpha group projects will be running from 4th – 23rd July and Delta Group projects from 3rd to 21st July.

Alpha 1 –The Coast to Coast Trek (Adventure)
PMs – Carlton and Mau
This is an amazing, all terrain trek that crosses the entire country of Costa Rica from Caribbean to Pacific Coast, starting close to the port of Limon, and ending at the beautiful Playa Palo Seco – which I’m sure will be a sight for sore eyes (or feet)!

Alpha 2 – Miratombo Trek (Adventure)
PMs – Franz, Jason and Emma F
This relatively new trek starts in the Miraflor reserve and covers multiple terrains such as Estanzuela waterfall and wildlife reserve, remote rural communities, the Momatombo volcano, Volcan Hoyo and Cerro Negro before finishing in the crystal waters of the Asososca crater lake. It will be an amazing experience for any VM and Venturer lucky enough to get this project.

Alpha 3 – Volcan Tenorio (Environmental)
PMs – Amy and Neil with Leanne joining as PM for week 1
Volcan Tenorio is one of the most biodiverse national parks in the country which is popular with tourists. The project intends to draw in even more tourism to the area by helping to build staircases down to the Rio Celeste Waterfall and to repair the access trail. The Rio Celeste was voted the world’s best waterfall in 2011 – a truly stunning setting for a brilliant project!

Alpha 4 – San Lucas (Environmental)
PMs – Lottie and Sonal
San Lucas is one of Costa Rica’s newest wildlife reserves on an island that 20 years ago housed a famous Alcatraz-style prison. The VMs and Venturers will arrive on a boat and then work to clear the trail system on the island, help with the renovations of the buildings & repair the island infrastructure. A beautiful setting and a very exciting project that’s brand new to Raleigh!

Alpha 5 – Achuapa – El Pajarito (Community)
PMs – Andy, Emma S and Stephanie
El Pajarito is a small community near to Achuapa in Northern Nicaragua, and the community is often without access to clean, safe water. The main purpose of this project is to build a gravity water feed system, and the  VMs and Venturers will be staying with families in the area, enjoying breakfasts of gallo pinto and drinking lots of coffee!

Alpha 6 – Miraflor - Las Lagunetas (Community)
PMs – Istvan, Ed and Carina
On this project, the PMs and Venturers will be building a preschool in the community of Las Lagunetas found at the centre of the Miraflor wildlife reserve. There is currently no pre-school in the area and the children are unable to receive a pre-school education so this project will improve th lives of many generations to come. Great stuff.

Delta 1 and Delta 2 – Carara / Playa Hermosa (Environmental)
PMs – Tom and Louise, Fran and Rebecca
Delta 1 and 2 are both splitting their time on the Phase between the Carara project and the Playa Hermosa project so they get to see the best of two worlds in one Phase!
Carara is one of the most biodiverse national parks in the country with a high number of tourists visiting each year. The park authorities have asked Raleigh to build a new access trail to the Lago Meandrico to increase tourism even further and benefit the area as a whole.
Playa Hermosa is a stunning beach in the Central Pacific area of Costa Rica, famous for its turtles which lay their eggs here each year. The group will be preparing nurseries for the turtles, helping monitor the turtles and planting trees to restore the biodiversity of the area.

Delta 3 – Chirripo – Duchari (Community)
PMs – Silvia, Lucy and Christina G
This is a fantastic schools project for the indigenous people of Duchari in Chirripo, a very remote area which sits on the Caribbean slope of the Talamanca mountain range, home to around 4,000 Cabecar indigenous people. The primary school there requires a new classroom and the volunteers will help build this, benefitting many generations to come!

Delta 4 – Chirripo – Tamiju (Community)
PMs – Adri, Martin and Ly Anh
Not far from Duchari is Tamiju, and a very similar school project will be undertaken there, and like Duchari, all the volunteers will be staying with local families who are benefitting from the project, fully immersing themselves into the indigenous way of life.

Good luck on the planning visits guys (oh yeah, that includes me!) – we’ll fill you in when we’re back!

Jungle Camp continued...

Jungle Camp Day 2

Our group rose before the sun at 4am to the sounds of the montezuma bird (if you heard one, you'd realise we didn't have much choice in that matter!) in order to have a ‘head start’ on getting the camp packed up to leave at 6. However, we all soon learned that time goes pretty quickly when you have to make a meal from nothing, clean up and pack up your it was quite an achievement for us all to leave for the river crossing at 6.10am!

We arrived at the river as the sun was still emerging over the hills – some relishing the thought of getting wet and wild, some slightly nervous of the soggy saga ahead (I personally was in Camp Damp to begin with). Nevertheless, everyone was in brilliant spirits as we were talked through water safety and learning the different techniques to ‘get to the other side’ – but no chickens, or roads, here. The ‘huddle’ technique won out when we applied our newly acquired knowledge to the art of river crossing (and meant that team bonding got well underway, especially when combined with trying to discreetly get changed afterwards – and failing!). All excellent fun.

Once the foot powder had been applied, we were ready once again for the off on another leg of the trek – TO THE JUNGLE.

Now when we arrived in the lush wilderness in the treetops, I might not have been alone in thinking ‘basha’ was the name of a member of N-Dubz. However a few hours of intense training on jungle survival later and we could all build our own ‘basha bed’ or ‘basha hammock’ from bamboo, tarp and a stretcher - who needs IKEA?!  

While we were constructing our cradles we also made a few friends, some of whom let’s just say ‘left a lasting impression’ (Fieldbase, even today, being an episode of the ‘Itchy and Scratchy show’)...

An equally early finish ensued that evening after a scrummy rations meal, our weary bodies (from carrying our own kit, group kit and jungle camp kit up a HUGE hill) calling out for our self-constructed beds!

Jungle Camp Day 3

Another 4am start, and and after some delicious porridge a bit of a stretching and massage session was needed for our backpack weary postures, here Krisztina is the lucky recipient of Fran's healing hands.

We also needed to wake up for our tools training and the walk back to Fieldbase for clean-up. So at 6am we donned our packs once again (by now a mere extension of our bodies) and went off to learn a bit of carpentry, building and how to safely use large garden and earth clearing tools to be used on the projects, which the venturers will also learn when we arrive. We can safely now say that we could dig a hole or mix some cement with full confidence!

Then a last trek back to Fieldbase. Even though we had all had immense fun, we were extremely happy to see the white bricks and Raleigh logo as we approached! No rest for the wicked though as they say - as soon as we got back we were scrubbing the group kit, making sure it's all ready for the Project Planning visits and for when the Venturers arrive.

We've all learned some brilliant hard skills, bonded even more as a team and put our bodies through their paces and we're all dead proud of ourselves. 

Well done to the whole Jungle Crew!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Just call us Bear Grylls.

Now by most peoples’ standards, this couldn’t be further from being my nickname. Being the type of gal who rarely leaves the house without make-up and had (note the past tense) a shiny, unworn pair of walking boots, you could hardly say I was ‘outdoorsy’. But after Raleigh jungle camp, even the most urban(e) of us VMs feel that little bit closer to Mr Bear’s mentality – drop us in a jungle and we could not only survive, we could thrive! Well, we feel like that today anyway, so let us bask in our at-one-with-nature-ness...let me recap (in sections!) on our extreme al fresco experience!

Day 1
The first half of Jungle Camp Launch Day entailed earning map reading and navigation, then packing our bags to near capacity with personal kit and then having to reassess after seeing the amount of group kit we had to carry. Once we had gaffa taped and bungee corded additional items to the fronts of our packs, and said goodbye to Splatches the dog, we were ready for the off!

A hike up the hill with our 20kg-plus backpacks soon had us all sweltering in the blazing sun, and by the time we reached our location for risk assessment training a few of us were a lovely shade of scarlet. Our setting was a bridge across a beautiful valley – but being an old railway bridge, it was a great place to train practically on how to assess and control risk and make a decision on whether to proceed in certain situations. The outcome was of course to take a different route! At Raleigh, we have a huge Health and Safety focus, so our VMs and Venturers (and their families) can rest assured that everything we do is considered with the utmost care.

Once that training was over we really were on our own – groups of 6 or 7 went off as we all hollered ‘hasta manana’ to our compadres.

Off we trekked to our campsites, the clouds already rolling in...a few of us managed to pitch our tents and radio into Fieldbase before the rain started to pour. And boy did it pour. Luckily my group (Whisky 1) had the saviour of a sheltered area to cook in, some groups not so lucky! But heck, we weren’t on Jungle Camp for an easy ride! 

After a delicious supper of pasta and tinned tuna, and a review of the day, we retired to bed – at 7.30pm! It goes dark at 6pm here in Costa Rica, all year round, and the 5am start meant none of us felt like losers to have retired before Corrie had started back home!

Day 1 accomplished. Day 2 update to follow...

We've seen the light!

This refers not only to the lightbulb moment when most of us decided to join Raleigh on an expedition (best decision we ever made!) but also to this technique of light painting photography tried out by one of our VMs, Christina.

A slow shutter speed, sitting very still, a headtorch and some backwards handwriting created this beaut. Simply illuminating!

First rule of Jungle Camp - no-one talks about Jungle Camp...

We're back.
We're scrubbed.
We're reflecting, recovering, recouping and rebooting.
We're all well!
An amazing experience for which there are few words. I'll find some later on to update you all!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Jungle is Massive...

The rucksacks are packed. The clothes we’ll be in for 3 days are donned. The sneaky chocolate bars are stuffed in pockets. 

Off we go to Jungle Camp. Three days of intense practical training on survival in the jungle, risk assessment, constructing basha hammocks and sleeping in very close proximity to 3 people who haven’t washed for a couple of days.

For the reasons stated above, and more besides, it’s gonna be tough. The 5 groups - Whisky 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 - are all nervously but excitedly anticipating all the challenges that face us, and looking forward to some team bonding around the campfire (or at least the trangia), and learning some hard(core) skills to pay the bills, like Bear Grylls.

Trangias, tents, treks and teambuilding...bring it on!

Happy Father's Day!

A big shout out to all the dads out there...
Happy Father's Day!

If you're one of our VMs' dads, sorry we can't be there and we love and miss you lots.

Worry not about us though, we have a substitute dad looking after us whilst in Costa Rica - Don Martin, who is our saviour at Fieldbase - like most of you, he can turn his hand to anything and is the font of all information and facts.

(We'll be nice to you today. It's your day.)


Saturday, 16 June 2012

Health and Safety - it's the skit!

Day Two of intensive VM training, and this morning Ross and Pedro had the unenviable task of trying to jazz up our Health and Safety training – resulting in the first skits of the expedition so far (cue a few groans from those who’d been on previous expeditions and/or already been put through their acting paces during the assessment weekends...)

For those who don’t know, a Raleigh ‘skit’ is where we present a certain subject through the medium of dance, song, acting, dressing up and generally plunging oneself head first into shame. The general rule with these is that it’s actually cool to be as uncool as possible! A tentative approach is not advised – the best tactic is to grin and bear it, don a wig and gesticulate with zeal and Stephanie here...

The Staffroom dressing up box came out (obviously) while we ‘expressed’ certain subjects as ‘Wildlife’ (resulting in Adri, one of our Costa Rican PMs wearing a two tone slinky ballgown and mask while masquerading as a snake), Transport (featuring a bus made from a bench with pan lid wheels), and Safety on Project (with a backing track of ‘YMCA’, obvs)...

We’re looking forward to many more skits during induction and on expedition – especially being able to tell the Venturers it’s their turn to act up – while we watch in amusement!

 Keep an eye out for some videos turning up on here - no-one can escape, mwah ha ha ha ha...
*evil cackle*

(And unfortunately, I think that also means us VMs...)

Friday, 15 June 2012

Advance Week ends, and a new era begins - bienvenidos PMs!

Last night, the Advance Team at Fieldbase had our final evening of peace and quiet - AKA our last evening of 'rattling around the place'! Not only were we getting used to the fact we had to share our space which we have got used to swinging a large cat around, we were also reflecting on what's been an absolutely belting week. To help with this reflection, the Photographers put on a slideshow of some of the shots and videos they've taken of induction (with a feature embarrassing moment of myself) which I'll try to put up tomorrow!

At 0730am the next (ie this) morning, after an excitedly short sleep and an hour of intense cleaning, marquee erecting and getting the place ship shape, we welcomed a bus full of giddy (and slightly jetlagged) Project Managers, emerging out of the dust of the farm road towards the office, after a night on the floor of a school in San Jose and a 4.45 start! Their red eyes were wide however as they took in the gorgeous surroundings of the farm and the amazing base we have here in CATIE.

Hugs, handshakes and chest-bumps were exchanged - some people being reunited after the development weekends - and there were a few minutes for chit chat before the most amazing (and much needed) breakfast of gallo pinto was served up to the troops - om nom NOM.

After breakfast, a quick tour of Fieldbase, then it was straight down to the CATIE pool for cooling down and swim assessments - we don't mess about here! The schedule we've got for the next 2 weeks is pretty breakneck, just so we can get all of our training done before the arrival of the Venturers. So the first step for the PMs was them getting their kit off (no time for airs and graces either!) and showing us what they've got in an aquatic sense, followed by a quick 10 mins of splashing around just for fun.

Once people had showered (some for the first time since the previous morning - and previous country!) we took them straight back to Fieldbase for a delicious lunch and some admin, before heading straight into the next training session - comms and radio training. Cue many funny messages such as 'Hello Zero, Hello Zero, this is Alpha 4, Serial Charlie, we would like to have a massive party tonight please...'

Dinner was served at 6pm and then at 1900 hours, Ross delivered a presentation on the projects, resulting in gasps, whispers of 'I want THAT one!' and muchos excitement at the locations, people and tasks that await us in 2 weeks' time. Who is going on which project though is up for grabs and won't be revealed until next week. We'll just have to wait!

We'll just have to wait for the party too. After an intense day, at the current time of 2130 hours, most people have headed off to bed ready for the 7am start tomorrow (6.30 for the brekkie makers, me included!) so this is me, signing off, after the most intense but best day yet.

Hasta manana...zzzzzzzzzzzzzz....