Monday, October 31, 2005

Meeting Maria

Well, I have had quite the logistical adventure in the last week. Maria and I had planned to meet in Cahuita to get away and have some "girl time." We were supposed to go on Thur. but I had to put off until Friday because my PANI office scheduled a meeting and gave me one day notice. I tried to reschedule but as the meeting was my Bienvenidos Party (Welcome) I kind of looked like an asshole trying to reschedule. So I cussed and cried and then moved on with rescheduling. Then Thursday afternoon, PC called a "Stand Firm" due to Huricane Beta coming our way. That means we are not allowed to leave our sites. More cussing, crying and broken-heartedly trying to reschedule with Maria. The rescheduling takes on a whole new meeting with Maria because there is only one phone in her town and the people whose house it is in are kind of snooty. She also has no access to cell phones, pagers or email.

So, Fri monrning I am taking my time wondering what the hell I am going to do with myself all weekend. 8 am Maria calls says the hurricane shifted North and we can go. 8:15 I am packed and out the door. 2 taxi's, 3 buses and 6 hours later we are in Cahuita. The place we end up staying is beautiful and perfect. The weather is perfect. We hiked in Cahuita National Park and saw monkeys and even a baby. (I will post pictures on Friday.) Anyway, I think I will be able to make it through the next three weeks until we go to the Volcanos and the weeklong Thanksgiving VAC conference.

On Sunday, before heading back to Puntarenas, I welcomed Lisa and Kevin for their honeymoon. It was wonderful to see her and fun to show them some of San Jose. I also got a wonderful package from friends and family back home that should sustain me and keep some of the homesickness at bay for a while.

Now, it's back to the grindstone. (HA!) I wondered into the school and am trying to figure out what I am going to do here. The wheels are turning very, very slowly. I figure at some point things will start to fall into place. Veteran volunteers say that is what Year Two is for.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Surviving Wilma

Well, with all of the weather excitement going on around here, I finally have a story to tell. Not really that exciting but, as weather goes, the really exciting stuff seems to be pretty devestating as well so I think I'll stick with boring. Anyway, I was in San José on Friday and barely caught a bus back to Puntarenas. It is generally a 2 hour ride but this one stretched out more than a bit due to excessive rains. Although we are generally geographically sheltered from the brunt of the hurricanes, we sometimes catch the tail end of them and get a lot of rain. As in, "¡Que lluvia!" It's a good thing I can swim. The bus drops me off about 1/2 mile from my house. I have to walk across an airstrip. (I thought it was abandoned but I was informed that every once in a while a plane lands there. I will keep an eye out.) The airstrip resembled what we call in English a "river." There was really only about 4 inches of water so it was more wading than swimming but I thought it would make a better story. Either way, I was soaked by the time I got home.

As drainage is generally a problem even when we are not experiencing hurricane-inspired rains, the streets also resembled rivers, as did our kitchen. There were a few inches in the house, but it was isolated and I only had to put down a few newspapers to absorb the moisture in my room. My tico dad informed me that raising the floor in the house would be a good summer Peace Corps project. So, I should have something to do in just a few more months. It was worse in other parts of the country though. A part of the Pan American Interstate washed away in the Southern part of the country. ¡Que torta!

Other than that it has been pretty "tranquilo" around here. You may be interested to know that Costa Rica has qualified for the World Cup. That was a big day. For those of you who are American; The World Cup is the world championship of Soccer. Soccer is the game with the black and white ball that you kick. It is a very popular sport everywhere else in the world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Another one rides the bus

I am back from my weekend "paseo". Nothing too exciting to report, although I did watch a French film with Spanish subtitles and understood it. Yeah!! Other than that the visit with Zoey went well. We mostly hung out and caught up. Her site is gorgeous. She is in the middle of coffee country, so lots of rolling, green, green hills. The bus ride back was pretty exciting. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get on the bus because it was a holiday and the office was closed so I couldn't buy a ticket. When I got to the stop there were about 25 people waiting for the bus and only about 10 of them had tickets. But... this is Costa Rica. We all got on. There were about 7 of us that didn't have seats, but I was just glad to be moving. I figured standing on the bus was better than standing at the bus stop. The only problem was that at the next towns, there were people with tickets so we ended up doing a lot of shuffling and about 15-20 of us ended up standing in the aisles. I am sure it was all up to code. :) So the big lesson I learned is that there is no Spanish translation for "The bus is full, you cannot get on."

Friday, October 14, 2005

Carnage and Moral Decay

Well, I've nearly made it through week two. Only 102 weeks to go, but who's counting? It's not that I'm ready to leave, it's just that I have an incredible amount of free time in which to calculate such things.

Making some progress... I was able to go to the Albergues (residential centers) this week. It was fun. There is a little girl there that is going to be incredibly hard not to adopt when I leave, but I guess I have two years to get attached to her before I leave. Yeah! The albergue was very similar to those we have in the states. As in that the experienced staff is over-worked, under-paid, under-appreciated and when they quit they are replaced by employees that meet the bare minimum requirement... they possess a pulse. I guess I can't criticize too much as that is how I got my start, but it did seem to be a precipitating factor in arriving at the albergue to discover one of the kids on the roof, refusing to come down. My co-volunteer André eventually talked him down but ended up in a wrestling match and the police had to be called. Traumatization all around.

The other exciting thing that happened this week is that I took a digger getting off the bus Wednesday night. I have a HUGE scrape and welt on my right shin. It was pretty cool. I actually have pictures because, yup you guessed it, I have lots of time in which to take digital fotos from multiple angles of my battle wounds. I'll try to get those posted ASAP as I am sure you are all chomping at the bit to see some carnage. :)

I'm taking a break and going to San José and San Marco this weekend. It is a 3 day weekend for "el día de la cultura." Esteban has dengue so I may not spend too much time in San José as that doesn't sound like much fun. My friend Zoey is in San Marco so I will initiate the series of PCV site visits. That's about it for me...

Monday, October 10, 2005

What to do....

Well, after the initial excitement of nearly being eaten by one dog and passing out watching another lose his testies... the rest of the week was pretty, damn dull. As in... how do I fill my time between naps? I was warned about this repeatedly, but it still is a toughie. Basically, we are sent to our sites with these instructions: "Go do good, Do-Gooder!"

So.... here I am. I'm going to go hang out at the Albergue (Residential Center for kids removed from homes) this afternoon and maybe do some shopping. I am going to buy peanutbutter. I wasn't a big peanutbutter eater in the states but I think it's going to happen for me here.

It's raining. It does that a lot here. Oh... here's a fun and exciting fact about living at sea level: When the water table rises, as it is wont to do as it is not very far down to begin with and it rains a lot, the toilets don't flush. Yup, stuff just sort of hangs around and waits for dryer conditions. That's pretty cool. :)

Well, I'm off! I've got this this Spanish...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Oh, Peace Corps....

I guess one of the best things about my "job" is that you never know what the day is going to bring. Yesterday morning I woke up wondering what in the hell I was going to do with myself for the next 12-14 hours before I was back in bed. Little did I know.

I happened across a group of people that called themselves (roughly translated)the 'Organization for Saving the Animals of Puntarenas.' Apparently their main project is castrating pets and strays at a massive discount for marginal barrios. I'd heard of these campaigns before, and there are many people who think efforts should be focused on people before animals, but as I wake nearly nightly to the sounds of mangy, half-starved canines viciously tearing one another apart, the idea pro-people project.

The doctors volunteer their time as do their assistants. Many of the volunteers are from the local University as every student is required to complete 30 hours of community service to earn their degree. I think this is great! So, I stop at the booth and ask for some info about the group and the minute I mention that "I am a volunteer for....¨" I am whisked away to help out. I don't have anything better to do so I play along. I end up in the 'operating room' which consists of a folding table in what seems to have been someones office just hours before. When I go in, a small cat is sprawled out and tied to the table while the doctor performs the opperation. I am introduced all around with the expectation that I learn to assist the opperation. Boy Howdy! So, I hang out, watching the opperation, chuckling to myself about the turn my day has taken. I watch a cat get her tubes tied and a dog get clipped. The doctor was working on the second cat when I passed out.

Yup... I must have turned green or started to swoon or something, cuz the last thing I remember the doctor's eyes got really big and he was saying "Aye! Ella, Ella!" and people literally got up from the operating table to take me out of the room. I fell to one knee trying to get out of the room, but managed to make it to a little couch in the next room dragging my shredded dignity behind me. At least I keep telling myself there were shreds left. So, I guess there is no future for me in Veterinary Medicine. Sorry Dara.

So that was Day 2.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Day One

Let me just assure you that as much fun as moving normally is, it is even more fun to do when you have to carry (or drag) everything you own. Even more fun when you do it in the rain! Thus begins my Puntarenas adventure... A little known fact about Puntarenas; it is probably the only city in Costa Rica whose main national bus station is eerily taxi-free. Generally I have to weave through over anxious taxi drivers to get out of a bus station, but not here. So I got to drag my 80+lb. suitcase through the rainy streets of Puntarenas, after dark, in the rain. Some guy ran out from a bar and offered to help me. He offered in English, too. (I'm not sure what gave me away.) All ended well. I got a taxi and got "home."

This morning I went for a run. Due to the rains last night, there's a ton of standing water everywhere, including the path I was on between the abandoned airstrip and the main road. These are wonderful conditions to breed Dengue-carrying mosquitos but less fun to run through. As I was calf deep in water, trying to walk on plants and watching a million bugs fly up to bite me, I started to think that this too, may be something that could be used to identify me as a foreigner. My suspicions were confirmed when a tica passed me on her bike and looked at me as if to say, "Que pinche gringa." I responded with something witty like "Sure is wet, ain't it?"

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my family has a very protective dog that nearly wets himself trying to jump over the back fence to, assumably, rip me to pieces. I say "assumably" because I went into the kitchen by myself this morning and the back gate was not locked and "Binky" came tearing out, barking and growling. I had only a broom to defend myself and I held him at bay for about .03 seconds when he broke free and began foroutiously licking my hand. To say the least, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that his bark is, in fact, worse than his bite. I then thought of doing laundry as I was curiously in need of a change of clothes.

I spent the rest of the morning, getting settled, doing laundry, etc. I then caught the bus into Puntarenas to run some errands, which brings us up to date in hour 31 of my Peace Corps Service.

Pura Vida

Saturday, October 01, 2005

730 Days and counting...

The swearing in ceremony seemed to take on the air of a graduation or wedding as we all posed and smiled and looked like Botox had been slipped into our vaccination regime. The Ambassador's home is massive and elaborate. The ambassador has not yet arrived so he/she was not at the ceremony. The Charge d'Affairs is a RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer). We chose Constance and Mike to speak at the ceremony to represent us. Constance delivered a beautiful and very moving speach. She is from New Orleans and was able to go home for 5 days after the floods. When she returned, she was invited to a party at a discotech in San José on a night when all the benefits from the evening were donated to relief efforts in New Orleans. She said the experience has defined her service as an exchange rather than a gift.

My first full day as a volunteer. We stayed in San José last night to celebrate the end of training and the beginning of our volunteer service. Tomorrow we disperse to our sites. We stayed out late and got up early, reunited for breakfast and coffee to gorge ourselves on the chisme (gossip) from the previous night knowing the picking will be slim for quite a while. Saying goodbye to everyone this morning seemed to hasten the reality of our futures. We've had three months to bond and rely on one another and now we are setting out alone. That's a lot of reality over coffee. We said our goodbyes with reluctance and excitements and set off to pack our things.

Here we go...