Rόisín’s Diary, Monday 19 January

Just settled into bed after a very long but amazing day. Today was our first day of physical work! Feels so good to have made a start. We went up to the site which is a lovely little hilltop with an incredible view of Chinchuntepeque. When we first arrived it was covered with small trees and bushes so we spent the morning clearing it. I was really impressed with how much we all got done. We had most of it cleared by lunch time, minus the bigger trees which need pickaxe treatment. All the UK volunteers were pared up with a national… and their machete! Think they found it quite amusing how excited we all got over using machetes. Novelty soon wore off once the sun began to beat down. We even managed to make a start on the path too! Cleared it and begun making stone borders along the sides, already it’s starting to look great. Ricki had his speakers and everyone was dancing and singing, was so much fun. The work was tough, but because you can see immediate effects, you want to keep on doing more. I love this sort of work, outdoors, with loads of people… and AMAZING VIEWS. Halfway through Ana Maria appeared with a crate full of papaya and watermelon, perfect timing. It tasted amazing, just what we needed! Sitting there on the hilltop, with the sun, the view, my watermelon and machete; I was feeling very, very happy!

Rόisín and José prepare the mix for the walls foundations on our worksite.

After lunch we went to the office of our local partner organisation ADES (Asociación de Desarrollo Económico Social Santa Marta). They eased us into our first day of manual work with a half day. The office was a gorgeous, bright yellow building with a roofed seating area, surrounded by flowers and trees. Miles apart from a dull, grey London office. The best part was the photo on the wall of the main area. It was an enlarged photo of a group of armed female guerrilla fighters. Such a strong image. I thought it was such a fitting one as well to have in the ADES office. Also… female power, enough said. I was very impressed. The director gave us a charla (talk) which was really interesting. She spoke about how ADES started and the type of work it does. All started here in little Santa Marta. It has such a significant and impressive history. It’s so great to get to know ADES, an organisation dedicated to Santa Marta. I would love to work more with ADES, must talk to Ana Maria about it! She could throw in a good word!

The drive back home was beautiful. We watched the sunset over the mountains and it just looked incredible. It looked like a giant billboard, kept expecting a corner to peel off. It was too perfect! Haha. To top it all off, when we got back to Leti’s house she had pasteles ready and waiting. They were divine. I topped my usual record and had seven. They were so good, I feel no shame, good food deserves good appetites! All these tortillas, popusas, tamales and pasteles… I’ll end up going back to London twice the size!

Need to get to sleep, heading off to collect rocks tomorrow, I feel it will be the first of many rock chains judging by how much work we have to do! I can hear so many noises outside, my dogs, neighbours’ dog, someone else’s dog, hens, cows… I love all the noises. Thanking my lucky stars to be here!

Written by ICS volunteer Rόisín McGovern-Booth