Friday, March 2, 2007

Proyecto Asis

Proyecto Asis was our home base for two days, after we left San Jose. A not-for-profit organization, Asis is located in a rural area of the province of Alajuela on its own private ecological reserve. The staff and volunteers have been working on social and ecological projects in rural communities in the San Carlos area for ten years, and also offer Spanish instruction and volunteer programs. They also work as a rescue center for injured wild animals and participate in rural construction projects.

Alvaro del Castillo Vega is the Director of Proyecto Asis, which operates on land that his family owns and has donated to the organization. Alvaro is pictured below along with Perla, a white-lipped peccary who was rescued by the organization.

Alvaro organized our homestays with families in the local community, as well as our volunteer day with Amureci, a women-owned business. We also spent a day doing volunteer work at Asis -- working in the greenhouse on a rainforest reforestation effort, building a new cement walkway, and clearing an area for a new classroom. Here are some shots of the Womderful Women in action. (My job was to haul buckets of water to water the saplings growing in the greenhouse -- great bicep workout!)

We also spent some time walking around the grounds, learning about the plants and animals on site. We made special friends with Nena, a rescued baby howler monkey. Nena accompanied us on our walk around the grounds, sitting on my shoulder with her tail wrapped around my neck. My "necklace" was a bit warm for a hot day!

Janet and Betsey also took turns befriending Nena -- though only Betsey provoked a yawn!

Asis was my first real experience in the rainforest. I was fascinated by the animals, plants and flowers we saw. The red banana plants were everywhere, and well over six feet tall. Alvaro explained that they arn't for human consumption; once the bananas ripen, they split open and provide food for the birds.

The cayman who came crawling out of the pond with water lilies on his back was rather amusing:

We also took a half-day of Spanish lessons while at Asis, and learned some phrases that provided helpful with our hoemstay families ("May I help wash the dishes?" "You're a wonderful cook!" "Thank you for your hospitality.") Poor Fernando was conscripted to be the teacher of the beginners' class. It was his first day working at Asis, and Spanish lessons to a bunch of crazy American women weren't in his actual job description. He was a good sport, though.

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