Phew!! What a trip!! I was in the province of Límon for four days visiting sites of current volunteers. It was a pretty good trip, saw a lot of stuff but was also totally exhausting! We stayed with three different families all three nights. We left on Monday and went to Bananito. It is a town that is actually owned by United Fruit or the Dole company. We referred to it as "Pleasantville" because it appears very suburban. All of the houses are the same. There is a soccer field, basketball courts, gym, etc. It is considered a rural site and is very picturesque. By that I mean that it is constructed as part of the tour given to gringos who want to see where bananas come from. Even a lot of the signs are in English. It is actually kinda creepy in that everything looks too perfect and you know that if you scratch the surface at all, it ain't so pretty.
The family I stayed with was very nice. My mom was what we call here a "chismosa." It's kind of like a "reporter." She sits on her porch and watches the goings one and then reports them to whoever will listen. I got updates on the comings and goings of everyone in town. We did N.F.E's (Non-Formal Education) with some of the kids. Basically, we played games with them andstumbledd through explanations in Spanish. We also watched a soccer and baseball game.
The second site we went to was in Límon Central. This site was much, much less picturesque. It is called Los Lidios and was originally a squatter town. It was built on a swamp so the mosquitoes were applenty. The house I stayed in was made out of plank boards and consisted of two rooms, one of which was divided by a hanging rug. I slept on the top bunk of a bunkbed which I shared with a colony of ants that feasted on me for most of the night. I'm not complaining though cuz the girl next door shared her's with a rat. My family was incredibly warm and hospitable. Límon has a significant Afro-Caribbean culture. My family actually spoke English in the house although it is a form of patoi, very similar to Jamaican English. I spoke Spanish most of the time because it was easier to understand.
We spent the day in the school and learned to make Beans and Rice, a very distict Caribbean dish. They also attempted to teach us to dance Carribé but quickly learned that we are very gringo. Some of us got our hair braided and we drank fresh coconut milk. It was my favorite site. The hospitality of the people far outshadowed their poverty.
The last site we went to was in Guacimo. It is about an hour drive from the coast back toward San José. By the time we got there we were all pretty exhausted and unfortunately were not nearly as excited to meet yet another family as they were to meet us. We were able to go out that night, have a couple of beers and sing Kareoke. To say the least, it was not pretty. I did get to salsa dance a little though so I was happy. The singing did not go so well, but it was fun.
We spent our last day in an "albergue" whish is basically a foster home. The main government agency that we work with is called PANI and it is the equivalent of Social Services in the states. Except that they are even more overworked that the caseworkers in the states. There are up to five people in each office and they serve a population of over 200,000. It is pretty out of control. The big issues they deal with are domestic violence, child abuse and the sexual exploitation of children. Kids that are removed from their homes for any of these reasons are placed in an albergue. They are set up to hold about 10 kids, the one we visited has 20 living there. I am hoping that there will be one near my permanent site as they need a lot of help.
We were back home Thursday afternoon and I couldn't have been happier. I had cafecito with my tica mom and spent the rest of the day reading a book. I did watch "The Exorcist" that night, not the wisest choice as I am really a big baby when it comes to scary movies, but I wanted to be social. So that's the extent of it. I have the weekend off and am going to learn to make tortillas tomorrow. Yeah!
I'll get some pictures sent out soon.