A really interesting compare and contrast moment between school here and in the States was a field trip I recently went on with Suki to Poas volcano. This is the volcano behind our house. And yes, this is the same Poas that was erupting for much of April. But this was before all that. I was excited to chaperone because we’d never been to the volcano before and I wanted to check it out.
What I remember from field trips in the States was a near military-like control over where everyone was and when. The teacher was the leader, the class stuck together and parent chaperones had a certain number of kids assigned to them. What I experienced here was quite different.
We arrived to school in the morning to find parents and kids milling around in front of several buses. The teachers were all together in a little group. Eventually, the principal came out and told everyone to get on a bus. Everyone got on but I didn’t see any kind of roll taking to keep track of who was there. In general, kids stuck with their parents or chaperones their parents had arranged.
The note sent home from school mentioned packing a snack and that we’d return by 2. I had heard that Poas was colder than where we live so I packed long sleeve shirts for Suki and myself. As the bus climbed higher the clouds rolled across the road and rain drops started to fall. The temperature dropped and I started to suspect I might be unprepared for what was to come. When we arrived at our destination the entire group stood around in the misting rain waiting for our guide. Eventually someone from the park came to inform us that we were going to hiking for about an hour and a half to get to our destination! There was a general groan from the crowd and I looked at the mothers wearing flats with babies in arms. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one caught unprepared. After we were roughly divided into 4 groups of 25 we all set out.
Our friend and neighbor had asked me to chaperone her daughter. These two were my responsibility, regardless of what the rest of the group was doing.
As we walked the weather changed constantly. Sometimes it was raining, sometimes the sun came out, sometimes it was warm and other times I was literally shivering. The kids started out gamely enough but after we mostly arrived at our destination, everyone was pretty pooped.
I later learned that on this field trip, historically, the initial hour and a half hike was part of the drive in the bus. However, recent rains had apparently made parts of the road impassable to buses, thus the unexpected walk. The spot where the kids were sitting was supposed to be the start of the “hike”, a mere 15 minute walk. It was here that I learned that the purpose of the field trip was not so much to see Poas as to learn about water, in honor of Dia del Agua. Specifically, we were learning about where the water for our community came from and the importance of keeping it clean. Part of the field trip was to actually see the source. The path started out wide.
Then became narrower…
until we arrived at the literal source of all the water.
The guides lifted a hatch in this slab to show us water running through a channel beneath the ground. At this point most of the kids’ interested had waned and everyone was hungry. Still, it was pretty interesting.
Lunch was waiting for us on the other side of the hour and a half hike. Several mothers lobbied the guides to drive the majority of the kids back in the truck. Suki was only too happy to jump in.
Eventually, we made it back to the buses. The plan was to drive into the park to eat lunch at the volcano. True to life here, it wasn’t that simple. When we arrived at the entrance to the park there was a delay because the email granting the school free entrance had been sent to the other park entrance. Eventually, though, we rolled into the park and I finally got to see Poas volcano. Sort of. Because we had arrived so late in the day clouds were already covering the crater. All we could see was mist that looked like it went off into infinity. Suki found it utterly creepy. I’m thinking we need to come back early in the morning sometime.
So it was free-form, it lacked apparent organization and we encountered some obstacles. But the kids came home happy and everyone seemed to make it back, despite zero rollcall. Who’s to say if one way is better than the other? One thing is certain, it was an adventure.