The SALEM team got together a few weeks ago for a short hike and breakfast at Casa del Arbol in Mindo. The 12 of us are rarely all in the same room together. Our jobs, responsibilities and schedules make it so there is a constant flow of SALEM team members in and out at the center, but rarely do we get to kick back and enjoy each other’s company.
The hike up the San Lorenzo ridge was filled with laughter and jokes as we trekked towards our breakfast. At the top of the ridge sits Casa del Arbol, a small reserve and birdwatching platform. We arrived and observed a few species of hummingbirds and smaller birds. Johana and Patty attended to Maira, who hit her head on a branch. Sebas and Edwin goofed around and took photos of the birds. Jonas, Marcela and Sulema set the table for breakfast. Lady, Fernanda, Silvana and Molly sat on the deck, dreaming of coffee and patacones. As we ate breakfast, the harmony and happiness of the group was as palpable as the fresh fruit and cheese on our plates.
The SALEM team works every day to support the children of Mindo and their families. We practice and model important life skills like nonviolent communication, recognizing and observing our emotions, conflict management, commitment, honesty, and patience. We support children and women in violent situations, teach mothers how to care for themselves while they care for their children, cook and clean for those that visit us at the center, and make math and reading understandable and enjoyable for struggling students. It takes a lot of strength and energy to provide these services. It was time we took a day to reflect, relax, and connect with each other.
After breakfast the adventure began as we climbed a 30 meter ladder to the famous tree house. Tucked away almost out of sight, this beautiful cabin in the sky was enchanting and terrifying. Climbing up in groups of 4, we shrieked and shivered as we got further and further away from the ground. Jonas loved scaring us on the ladder by swinging it back and forth. Edwin and Sebas made videos on their phones, giving hilarious commentary at every moment. Johana connected to her virtual university class “Audit of Social Environmental Impacts” on her phone.
Sulema took us on a hike on the trails within the reserve. Down, down we went – only to lose our guide, finding our way to the top on our own! That’s when the seed collecting began. We found palm seeds that are the perfect size for use as one of the Montessori math tools that the guides use at SALEM. Scouring the ground for seeds, we eventually hiked back down the ridge and returned to our afternoon activities. The sun burned hot as we resumed our roles, a bit more refreshed and ready to give our best to the kids and families at the SALEM Center.