Sunday, November 27, 2005

Acción de Gracias

"Acción de Gracias" is what they call "Thanksgiving" here even though they don't actually celebrate it. Those of you that refer to the day as "El Día de Gracias" are, in a word, wrong. :)

The VAC retreat was held at a boyscout camp in the mountains above Cartago, Southeast of San José. It was COLD. It wasn't just Costa Rica cold either, it was freezing-see-your-breath-cold. I was very THANKFUL that I decided to bring my sleeping bag because I was the only one that was not hording blankets like jailhouse cigarettes. It was actually a nice break from the increasingly hotter weather in Puntarenas and was the first time it actually felt like the holiday season.

The conference was a lot of fun. I got to hang out with people I havn't seen since training and met other PCV's I havn't had a chance to get to know yet. I learned that although I have found a host of small insects and reptiles in my room, it could definately be worse. One guy said he has trouble sleeping because the rats scurrying around his room at night are quite loud. He did say that he does have a little game he plays with them, when they run accross his chest he pulls the sheets tight and catapults them across the room. Now that would be something to see.

There was an "American Idol" style talent show on Wed night that was a riot. There was singing and dancing and an incredible impression of Simon, the "rude" judge (I've never seen the show but I understand he did quite well.) A group of Tico 13ers won with a powerful display of, if not talent then, creativity including a a guitar, a human beatbox, a guy doing yoga and headstands, two guys throwing verse, and two guys waving a blanket. They were called "Funky Shannon and the Magic Carpet." I think it was definately something you have to see to appreciate.

Thanksgiving dinner included the staples, turkey, stuffing (never as good as home), potatoes, cranberry sauce (shipped from the states) and salad. We had a bonfire afterwards, sang campfire songs and roasted 'smores. (Those of us who could still move anyways.) It was the most fun you could have in Costa Rica for Thanksgiving. As hard as it is to be away from home, it really reasserted my reasons for being here. There are a lot of incredible people here doing incredible things. This Thanksgiving, we were reminded that there are a lot of people in the world who don't have a fraction of what we do and that even though it feels like we are removed from most of it, what we carry with us, what we do, and what we stand for is beautiful.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

La Fortuna

El Cinco reunited in La Fortuna this weekend. La Fortuna is the closest town to Volcan Arenal the volcano that has been errupting for the last few years. It was a pretty good time although we learned quickly that there is definately a tourism industry here and you have to pay to do anything. We were able to talk our hotel guy into a cheap tour of the volcano and a short hike. We were also able to swim in the thermal waters. There are a number of resorts set up but you have to pay $25+ to get into them, so we swam in the river next to the parking lot. It was perfect. I feel sorry for the saps that pay. Of coarse, we had to deal with Scott's uninvited skinny dipping, but I guess you get what you pay for...

We also ran into a Peace Corps Volunteer from Nicarague and ended up hanging out with her one night. It was really cool to get perspective on what PC is like in other countries. We also have someone to stay with when we travel in Nicaragua.

We got back to San Jose last night and Maria and I opted to stay in a hostel rather than the usual hotel down town. Good call. The hostel is much nicer than the hotel, has free coffee and internet, the ambiance is incredible, and we saved a buck. Doesn't get much better than that.

This afternoon we are headed to the VAC retreat. We are excited that the weather is "cold." The temperature has dropped down to 20 degrees C (68 degrees F) so we are bundled up.

Happy Turkey Day all!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Costa Rica Small Animal Zoo a.k.a Kelley's room

Last night I went into my room and discoved a new roommate. He was actually smaller and less creepy than the last house guest but he still had to go. He was a little frog. I am not sure how he got in there. I was able to snap a photo before I coaxed him out of my room with a manilla folder. Sorry, Dara, no standing on the bed but I still couldn't bring myself to touch him. He was quite the jumper though.

I am working on getting some ground work done so that I can start some projects after the holidays. I have been told over and over that NO ONE works here until about February. So I have decided it is vital to my assimilation process that I hold out and take it easy for a couple more months. I did get a lead today though. I attended an AIDS (SIDA) charla and found out that of the 2000 residents in my barrio, there are 32 diagnosed cases of SIDA. So, I spoke with the presenters and they seemed really excited that I am here and willing to help out. Sounds like fun. In the least, sounds like a great health topic that will most likely be riddled with political overtones. My "especialidad!"

Friday I am headed to check out the volcanos. The Jack man gave me strict instructions to send home pictures of lava. Specifically from INSIDE the volcano. That sounds rather uncomfortable so I think he will have to settle for pictures from a "reasonable distance."

Tuesday is our VAC conference at a boy scout camp outside of San José. It is suppose to be cold so I am thinking it may just drop down into the low 60's. I will probably freeze. The other day as I caught a chill from the air conditioning, I starting thinking that my re-acclimation process when I get home may be kind of heinous. Anyway, I will be out in the jungle for Turkey Day and I'm not sure I will have communication access so Happy Turkey Day to all!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Moving right along...

Well, in a surprising twist... I was actually kinda, sorta busy there for a while. Looks like it might even carry into next week. Let me pause here a momment and explain that though I have things to do, meetings and workshops to attend, I am lost and confused approximately 85% of the time. So, to say the least, not so much has changed.

I did present my first Charla. The good news is that, with the possible exception of them throwing rotten things at me, I can't see it getting much worse so there is no where to go but up. They basically looked at me like I was from another planet, clammed up during questions and talked among themselves during the presentation. So, all in all, they are exactly the same as 5th graders in the states. Yehaw!

I did think of a "culture" thing that I thought would be fun to share. I'm not sure I am ever going to get used to this one, but in Costa Rica it is perfectly acceptable for cell phones not only to be turned on but to ring, be answered and have a conversation during any sort of meeting. I have even been at a workshop where the speaker interupted their own presentation to anwer the phone. Very, very interesting.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Big Spider... HUGE!

Well, I had my first run in with icky wildlife. There was a huge spider in my room last night. My family assured me that it is friendly and only eats other insects. So I guess the most danger I was in was that I nearly took (another) digger and fell off my bed trying to avoid the spider. It was really, really big... and hairy.

Today I had three meetings scheduled with my PANI office. So, what happened was that I showed at the office and found out that two of the three had been cancelled. All except for the last one of coarse. For future reference, it is always best to call and confirm all meetings. Just because you havn't received a cancelation notice/call does not mean the meeting is still going to happen. Oh, Ticos...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Tick, Tock

Things are still moving pretty slowly here. It's getting better though. I actually have some things to do this week. I actually have my first charla or workshop on Thursday. I am doing a self-esteem charla with 50 6th graders. I'm a little nervous and may be wishing for a return of my days of boredom, but it'll be fine.

Other than that, not a whole lot to report. There is an All-Volunteer conference at the end of the month in San Jose that I will be going to. It is scheduled over the Thanksgiving holiday so we will even get to eat turkey. I'm looing forward to it. I will also be visiting La Fortuna the weekend before that and checking out Volcan Arenal. That should be pretty exciting.

I did get a flu shot last Friday. That was pretty exciting stuff. My first ever. I'm sure there is a shortage back there again. So I feel good that I took the dose that could have gone to a young child or old person that really needs it. I don't really believe in them anyway, but I wasn't asked either... just injected. I guess that's all for now...

Oh... I almost forgot. The Esteban relationship did not survive the move. It was fun, but now it's done. I guess the deal-breaker for me was that he LOVES Vanilla Ice and thinks that Eric Clapton sucks. That's just not gonna fly in my world. So... if you were worried that I would never come home due to meeting a man (Pa-lease!) you can rest assured.

I thought that I would start sharing some of the weird cultural stuff that goes on down here that is really hard to adjust to. The problem is that I am drawing a blank right now and can't think of much. I must be overdosing on the air conditioning. I guess one thing is that I generally go months between meals that I eat with a fork. I eat most of my meals out of a bowl with a spoon. That includes any meats or things that need to be cut (read: torn).

I will try to come up with something better for the next entry...