Wednesday, December 27, 2006

El Salvador

I made it. Más o menos 20 hours in a bus and voila! Whole other country. Whole other world would probably be a better description. I am again finding that my vacations from my Peace Corps life seem more like what I thought my Peace Corps life would be like. It's kinda throwing me into a quandry.

Hope everyone had a good Christmas. Mine was very, very mellow. Carlos' family really doesn't celebrate x-mas with much fanfare, so we didn't do much of anything. They do their family thing on New Years so will have more to report later. We did distribute toys to the kids in the neighborhood so that was pretty cool. I got some pictures I will try to get posted soon. It was much harder to snap candids as they don't tend to get a lot of gringos here so I stuck out and the weird thing I kept pointing at people got a couple looks to. When I showed the kids the photos of themselves they burst into giggles, which was actually more foto worthy than the actual picture. The kids also loved the toys of course. Without a doubt they were the only ones they got this year.

Other than that I have been running around with my friend Carlos. The first night I was in town I helped him and some of his friends coordinate a romantic dinner to help him win back his girlfriend. Poor guy needed all the help he could get. It was looking to be hit or miss there for a while, but she was no match for the Mariachis. It was quite a show. Mission accomplished.

Last night I hung out with another friend, Alejandro, that I actually met on the bus ride the last time I came up here. He is actually one of the very, very few small business owners in El Salvador. He showed me around the city. San Salvador is a very interesting city. There are a number of architectually beautiful buildings and parks in the center but extroaordinarily bad government has buried them behind poverty and delinquincy. It's really a shame. There are also an incredible amount of Gringo stores. All the fast food, of course, but also a lot of malls and big name American stores. I actually saw a 9 West store. It is a very interesting place. The contrast between the haves and have nots is overwhelming. Hopefully one day El Sal will be able to reclaim their cultural landmarks and heritage.

Anyhoo... that's all I have to report for now. I am here until the 3rd. I am not sure I will be able to write before then. Internet is definately more challenging here. Hope everyone has a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

On my way....

I am in San Jose. I am headed to El Salvador on the bus at 3 a.m. I am hoping to stay awake until then so I can sleep as much as possible in a bus. I am already fading though so I don't know how well that plan is going to work.

Anyhoo.... Hope everyone has a Happy ChrismaKwanzaHannukka!

Monday, December 18, 2006


I have a new part-time roommate. It is a cat. I was going to say that I got a cat... but I didn't really get one. There was no effort whatsoever exerted in the aquisition, much like all my other critter roommates. It officially belongs to a neighbor but hangs out at my house. I decided to let it stay because I figured it may help fend off the rats. For those of you that have witnessed my apathy for animals this may be surprising. However, I have found that the cat and I have come to an mutual understanding of tolerance if, and only if, acknowledgement is unavoidable. The cat is also bi-lingual, meaning that it disregards me in English as well as Spanish. It has actually brought me some peace of mind in that I now can assure myself that it is just the cat making strange noises at night.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Semana de talleres

Wow! Where has time gone? I just finished up a whirl-wind week and things do not seem to be slowing down at all. I went to two workshops this week. The first one was about physical punishment for kids. It lasted two days and was a collosal waste of time, I kept having . But there were about 6 other fvolunteers fromt he vicinity that came into Puntarenas to share in the mind-numbing glory so we hung out at my house to recover. Priya, who is Indian-American made some incredible Chicken Curry for us at my house which made up for the fact that she broke my key off in my door that morning. All is forgiven. :)

The second workshop was with the local women's office and was about HIV/AIDS. It was a little crazy but night and day better than the first one. I made some good contacts for the workshop I am putting together for early March. So hopefully all will go well.

Yesterday, a fellow PCV, Brandon came down from Liberia with a friend that is visiting him. We took the Playa Naranjo Ferry (a.k.a. Booze Cruise) and had a great time living up the PCV lifestyle. Today is Friday and I spent the day trying to get caught up, if not ahead. I am headed to El Salvador on Wednesday to spend the holidays there. I will be back on the 3rd of January. Hopefully at some point I will have email access but communication is much more difficult there. My phone will also not be of any use so for those of you who call me from time to time (both of you) no need to bother for a while.

It was really an exhausting week. The family I hang out with in my barrio didn't see me at all and nearly sent out a search party. I wasn't even able to make my dance or exercize classes so I feel like a perezosa. I was able to get some work done but it feels like it was lost in the black-hole of downtime in captivity. Oh well.

I will be in San Jose on Tuesday so hopefully I will have time for one last post before I go.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Christmas Tamales

I spent most of last Friday afternoon making Christmas tomales with my "little old ladies" that I teach aerobics to. They were making them to sell and we ended up making about 200 tomales. They were so excited that I was helping them and learning to make tomales so that I could make them back in the states and/or for my Tico husband. They couldn't seem to decide which outcome they would rather see but had a great time debating the two.

It was a lot of fun and the tomales turned out ricisimo. Here's what I learned....

First you roast the banana leaves

Then you cook some stuff....

The tomales are masa (corn meal dough stuff), rice (no lack of carbs here), potatos, carrots, green peppers, pork, and chayote (a tropical vegitable) rolled in plantain leaves.

Then tied with love by little old ladies (Emphasis on the little, I don't think that either of them hit 5')

That's it!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Que torta

The rats have carried off my toothpaste.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Día del Pavo

Thanksgiving 2006 has officially been declared a "raging success." Gracias a Zoey. We spent the holiday in a lodge like rental just outside of San Marcos del Terrazu, South of San Jose. We had everything... turkey (2), stuffing, sweet potatoes, hummus and pretzle jello. We stuffed ourselves shamelessly. We played games, we chortled, we drank. It was a thoroughly enjoyable time. I even got the pictures uploaded and sent out. I am quite possibly one of the best foto sharers in the Peace Corps. :)

Anyhoo... hope Turkey Day for all back home was good. Love you and miss you all. Next year, I'll eat, drink and play games with you. Si Díos quiere.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Saturday Morning

I wake up this morning at about 6:30 and go for a run. In another month it will be way too late in the day to do this without risking a heat stroke. But this morning is slightly cloudy so I am able to run for just over forty five minutes with only the usual rivers of sweat. I get back to my house and realize I have nothing whatsoever to eat for breakfast so I wait about 20 minutes for the sweat to quit sreaming and walk to the conejo to buy a couple of things. On the way I great Carlos' grandfather who is retired from whatever he worked at and now spends his days telling his neighbors that it is "a pleasure to greet you." At the market, I have avocados, tomatos, cream cheese and natilla. (I was going to buy some tuna because I have found that the conejo is the only place in town were I could buy a can of tuna in water for under $1, never mind that I live 2 miles from a cannery, but they aren't carrying it anymore. Salada yo.)

I say "Hi" to the butcher who is also my only remaining English student. I was all set for a nice breakfast. I get to the counter after about a 15 minute wait in line and the guy tells me the credit card machine is down. I don't have enough cash so again; Salada yo. I walk to a bakery on the corner that I walk by at least twice a day but have never been into. No reason really, just havn't. The guy is really excited that I am there. He asks me how long I have been in Costa Rica and if I like it. He calls me Reina and mi Amor about fifteen times in the three minutes that I am there. I walk down to the pulperia passing nasty bar owner who implies that he likes what he sees. At the pulperia I ask about some natilla, a yogurt like dairy product that I initially hated but have aquired a taste for. It costs 300 colones and I only have 200. Julian tells me I can bring the other 100 later. I head home and greet my neighbor who has about half a dozen roosters tied to pegs in the park. Funny they never seem to have hens.

I go home, make toast and organic coffee I bought at the AVC that was grown by another volunteers community. I dip my toast in natilla, only 2/3 paid for, read a September issue of The Economist that has been passed, and will continue to be passed, from one volunteer to another. I drink my coffee. I eat my breakfast. I read my magazine.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

¡Que Barbaridad!

Apparently I wasn't the only one that lost my right to vote this year. Although I do have to say that the reasoning behind mine was much more legitimate, assuming of course that there was reasoning. A nice reminder that, although we put ourselves as the world leaders of democracy, we still got some kinks to work out.

Anyhoo... since I didn't get to vote, I am going to scold: I am also sorely disapointed in the results, specifically that Musgrave and Tancredo were re-elected and that Amendment 46 passed and Referendum 1 didn't. Unfortunately, intolerance and discrimination continue to reign....

Overall... shameful and humbling results on many levels.

Nationally though, the picture is much better. So I just may make it back to US soil... Maybe.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Raise your Voice

Well, it's election day. This is my opportunity to remind all of you that you don't have to travel halfway around the world to make a difference. The least you can do is vote. Unfortunately, this election cycle I have been stripped of my right to vote as my absentee ballot did not arrive. I am sure it is some kind of conservative conspiracy. :)

Anyhoo... get out there and VOTE. You might also take a moment while doing so to appreciate all the first world conveniences that make doing so, so darn easy.

Also... on a personal note. You should also be sure to vote correctly. If the laws in Colorado scream ignorance and intolerance, I may not come back.

Friday, November 03, 2006


The All Volunteer Conference is officially over but I am still in San Jose. The conference was really amazing. I got to know my fellow volunteers better and am newly inspired by the work that they are doing. I have to say that the people I have met through the Peace Corps, as a group, are some of the most amazing people I have ever had the pleasure to know. (Besides, of course, my lovely blog-reading public.) We also had our Halloweeen party, we were the Black Eyed Peas... get it? it was fun... I will send pictures soon. My computer is acting up so I am going to keep this short. Hope all are well.

Friday, October 27, 2006

"Falling on my head like a tragedy..."

Well, the rains have finally hit. It has been pretty dry here, but the last week or so has been quite rainy. I must explain here that it is not rainy like it is back home. The biggest difference being that there is not that fresh clean smell after a shower. Here, it POURS rain. As in water-comes-into-the-house-and-destroys-furniture rain. As in streets-become-rivers-rain. As in smells-like-ass rain. What happens is that all the stuff that had been sitting around as aesthetic polution, trash, feces, rotting fruit, etc. begins to float and due to some magical scientific chemical process begins to smell... so as I said, that last description is not an exageration.

It has given me a very clear picture of the devestation that floods cause, not by the initial water damage but by the influx of diseases that follow. People are getting sick. There is talk of Dengue. (Of course, there is always talk of Dengue.) It's subtle, it's not an epidemic, it's just what happens when it rains. We had just a couple of strong days of rain, I can't imagine, although now I have a better idea, what it would be like if it were really flooding.

Anyhoo, I am headed to the AVC (All-Volunteer Conference) next week. We are all getting together for halloween this year. Should be interesting. Sure to be cold. Well, cold for Costa Rica. We will all bundle up. This year should be particularly freezing as now that I have become accostomed to living on the sun, if the temp drops below 80 I start to shiver.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Another Holiday

I came into San Jose last night. I was actually suppose to go to visit another PCV in Ostional on the Guanacaste coast and watch the turtles come in to lay their eggs, but she ended up with Dengue (which I thought was very inconsiderate). So I came in to San Jose and we watched a movie and I harrassed her for getting Dengue.

We watched an Inconvenient Truth. I was pretty shocked that it was being shown here since we generally only get the no-brainer movies but it is here and we watched it. It was really quite good and I highly recommend that everyone go see it. Two things occurred to me as I was watching it: One, that if the sea level rises 20 feet... there will be no more Puntarenas. So I would be S.O.L. Two, probably the most "world-saving" good deed I have done in all of this is that I have not driven a car and have been completely dependent on public transportation for over a year now. I don't think I even have to mention that I don't even mess with adjusting a thermostat. :)

Anyhoo... watch it. It's good and then do your part. Even Byron is on board. :)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Que Pereza

I find myself running around like crazy but I really can't identify anything I have actually gotten done. What happened to my Pura Vida lifestyle? I have had a hard time getting back into work since I got back from MST. I am still busy though I just don't have any idea what I have been doing. But it seems like the days keep passing and the list of things I have NOT accomplished gets bigger and bigger. So... life seems a lot like life here.

The big news on the block is that I have a new site mate. Marianne has moved into El Roble which is where Andre was. It is about a 15 minute bus ride from my barrio. It is kind of nice to have someone I can hang out with and we don't have to check out tits. Although we have already made a pact that we can't follow up every tedious and pointless meetings with an afternoon of drinking. Just the really tedious and pointless ones. That should keep us down to no more than once a week.

I am hoping to have something quasi productive to report soon. ALthough it is October and the holiday season is coming up which means that it is really time to start slowing down. :) What a life!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

There's the official story and then there's the truth....

Quick update....

I made it through MST (Mid-Service Training) It was a little early, October 1 is my official anniversary date. The year did seem to fly by and everyone says the second goes by even quicker. I will let you know. Anyhoo, training went well. It was nice to hang in luxury again. Although it has made it much harder to come back. It is amazing how quickly you get re-accustomed to not having to pick bugs off of you.

Speaking of which...

I ended up having to go back into San José yesterday to get x-rays on my toe cuz I jammed it big time. It is actually not that big of a deal, nothing is broken and the official diagnosis is "ugly". I have pictures... you will see. I know you are all probably wondering how this could have happened. Well, the official story is that I was attacked by a band of 40 thieves. A struggle ensued wherein I had to fight them off with my Jackie Chan-esque fighting technique. In the struggle, I suffered a sprained big toe. Yup... that's the official story.

The truth is that I got into the shower and when I turned on the water I startled a mouse that had apparently been hanging out in the shower curtain. He ran across my foot, I jumped and came down on top of my big toe. Little bastard! I am hoping that this will even out my rodent karma after tossing the rat over the fence.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

3rd World Living Lesson #184

Have you ever tried to burn a pile of tropically-moist leaves and grass? It takes a good amount of lighter fluid and produces a significant amount of smoke which naturally wafts directly into the house.

I happened to have some lighter fluid lying around as I mistakingly assumed that "alcohol multi-uso" was the Spanish translation for "rubbing alcohol" and not "lighter fluid." To say the least, my new earrings are sterile.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Web links

In addition to Tom's rural Costa Rica website project that includes tourism opportunities to see the "real" Costa Rica, I also posted a link to a website for a coffee co-op that Zoey has been working with. You can order coffee online that is environment and humanitarian friendly. It is also really, really good coffee.

Check them out and support the cause! :)

Poop on a bus

Here's a little something they didn't mention in the brochure...

I complete my first year of service at the end of the month. Which means that I will be in San Jose next weekend for Mid-Service Training (MST). Basically this entails those of us that have survived the first year (25 of 32) get together and try to figure out how to report what we have accomplished... as in... how do you justify the fact that your biggest accomplishment so far has been learning to point with your lips. The other fun part is that we will be hit with a barrage of medical exams and consultations to make sure that we are still alive and, relatively, well. These tests do include three consecutive days of getting a stool sample analyzed. The kicker is that you have to get the sample to the lab within 4 hours of its creation. As fun as that is normally... let me just tell you that it makes navagating transportation that much more fun.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Campo exchange

Quick update. We finished up in San Jose with the Cadena (PCV newsletter). All went well; good reviews from the director and no "revisions for content" required. I thought you all might be interested; a fellow PCV and Cadena editor, Tom, has set up a website for the women's group he is working with. The address is It is in English as well for those of you who are Spanish impaired. There is also a really great pig picture. :) I will put a link up on the right side of the blog.

Anyhoo... I am back in my site and although I am missing the bourgeois living I did at the hotel in San Jose I am happy to be back in dance classes. I am actually teaching my instructor to do Country Western dancing. It is quite amusing. Mostly because I don't know it very well and in order to describe the the Country Western "technique" I have been referring to many farm animals. As in: "Stiffen your arms and elbows like a chicken" and "walk like you you've been on a horse for two days." The hardest part is explaining to him that there is no hip motion. It's a ton of fun though. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Barrio Silvestre

You don’t have to be a PCV for long before you discover that there are certain aspects of Peace Crops life that are indisputably distinct from your former existence. My “Treaty with Urban Wildlife,” as I have come to refer to it, is a good example. It runs something like this: Spiders are welcome in the house although physical contact is highly discouraged. Webs are left in tact except when erected in high traffic areas. Cockroaches are prohibited within the house and trespassers are swept outside. The occasional toads that wander in from the rain and are gently escorted to the nearest exit. The presence of mice and ants is also banned but compliance is erratic at best and negotiations continue. I am rather proud of my harmonious co-existence with the barrio creatures. I sometimes think of myself as the “Ghetto Goodall.” I am significantly less interactive and amorous with my wildlife subjects than the renowned primatologist but I am living with nature… sort of.
However, in the past few weeks, rodent treaty negotiations have intensified and are putting into question my “Goodall” status. Gnawed masa bags and nocturnal scampering escalated negotiations to full combat operations. I had resorted to setting out poison after my efforts of dissuasion and bartering had gone unheeded. The poison was only out a short time before my Buddhist sensibilities began to get the best of me. (Interestingly enough, my Buddhist sensibilities have not evolved to the point of vegetarianism, although I have developed a personal policy of not condoning the killing of any creature I am not personally willing to eat.) I finally decided that I did not want to be responsible for the karmic repercussions of destroying a living creature, even if it is a vile living creature. All illusions of having avoided butchery come to a halt when I walk onto my back patio and discover a dead rat lying under my sink precisely where I place my right foot to brush my teeth. My immediate reaction is a jerky, disjointed spastic dance. Once that is accomplished, I reassess the situation. It holds that there is a dead rat under my sink precisely where I put my right foot to brush my teeth.
I live alone, so this is not a problem I can ignore and hope it goes away. At some point I am going to have to brush my teeth. What exactly is the Standard Operating Procedure for rodent carcass removal? I check the PCV Handbook and find no answers. I figure my best bet is to burn it with the trash. Cremation sounds karmically acceptable; ashes to ashes, blah, blah, blah… I need a shovel to transport the corpse from beneath my sink to the trash pile. I look around and I’ve got nothing at all shovel-like. Then it hits me…BAM! I am a woman living alone in a machista culture. I so don’t have to deal with this. Granted… I don’t have a father, brother, husband or boyfriend BUT no importa, I can borrow my neighbor’s. Suddenly tolerating all of Fat, Nasty Bar Owner’s catcalls will pay off. I go next door and with all of the innocence and feminine docility I can muster I ask how one goes about removing a dead rat from under a sink. The marido takes the bait.
I show him the carcass and he exclaims, “¡Hue’pucha! ¡Qué grandota!” He kinda makes a face and I can tell that he really has no desire to remove my rat carcass either and is probably wishing “que no me hubiera dejado el tren.” He looks around, and then, apparently not finding whatever he is looking for he picks up the rat by the tail and holds it away from himself exactly as if he were holding a dead rat by the tail. I am thinking about rodent diseases and am about to remind him to wash his hands when he swings the thing down and then tosses it like a horseshoe over the concrete wall and into the neighbor’s yard. I stand, mouth agape, and as I watch it tumbling through the air head-over-tail over head-over-tail and then disappearing from my life forever I can’t help but feel like my entire plan has backfired.
Okay, let’s make the best of this situation. What I have now is an opportunity to teach, to challenge the status quo and instill higher values. That’s what I’m here for anyways, isn’t it? I ready myself to explain that “out of site” is not “out of mind,” that we need to work together as a community to solve these pressing concerns, that environmental and sanitation issues especially require collaboration and cooperation. We can’t just toss our problems into our neighbor’s yards and expect that we won’t experience repercussions. I take a deep breath and say:
Well…. it was implied.

Herein lies the problem, somewhere between intention and execution. Apparently all that first world, liberal-educated indignation with which I watched the rat fly over the wall was significantly overshadowed by a stark sense of relief. In reality, my number one priority was removing the carnage from my dental hygiene staging area. Punto.
Puro Peace Corps. We arrive full of bright-eyed idealism. There are answers. Take my hand. I’ll show you. We’ll do it together. We begin and there is buy in. There is energy. There is excitement. There is cafecito. Then it starts to crumble. There are obstacles. There is conflict. There are excuses. There is pereza. We think we’ve failed. We think we’ve failed because we have failed. The problem is not failure. Human beings are a flawed species. Our collective failure and frustration are born not from our inability to realize the Utopia we’ve imagined but from trying to escape the fallibility of the human condition. One day one may travel thousands of miles from home to “make the world a better place,” and the next toss a dead rat into a neighbor’s yard.
In regard to a treaty with the untamed human barrio creature…negotiations continue and are conducted, as often as humanly possible, with patience and compassion.

(The above is the article I wrote for La Cadena, the CR volunteer newsletter.)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Sounds like...

Although I live alone, I really live "alone" in that I share a wall with my neighbors. The wall is concrete which is nice except that it stops about a foot before it meets the ceiling. Thus... although I am the only one in MY house, I can HEAR my neighbors. I hear them talk. I hear them fart. I hear their TV/alarmclock at 5 am. I hear baby coo. I hear dad play with baby. I hear mom sing. I hear baby cough and cry. I hear mom and dad yelling and hitting each other. I hear things being thrown and breaking. I hear mom crying. I hear their lives.

From outside the house: I hear trucks going by. I hear thunder. I hear evangelical preaching and blaring music. I hear the fan running in the house next door. I hear dogs bark. I hear roosters crow. I hear dogs bark and roosters crow all night long. I hear crickets and birds and frogs and geckos sing. I hear mice and rats scampering. I hear rain on my tin roof so loud it drowns out everything else.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

You can't make this stuff up!

One of the great things about my barrio is that alot of the Puntarenas panhandlers live there. So we all kinda commute into "work" together. There's Lady-In-Wheel-Chair-With-Kid, One-Legged-Guy, and Crazy-Lady-That-Hits-People, to name a few. Today on the way in I sat next to the transvestite begger. We have a history of serial eye-contact and the occassional "adios" so I thought I would take the next step and ask his/her name. That's how I met Shakira.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Photo Highlights....

Good Morning

I got up this morning and took the 4am bus to San Jose. It was early and relatively uneventful except that some poor kid got sick and threw up. It wasn't actually that bad as far as puking on a bus goes cuz it didn't smell and he managed to keep it all in a plastic bag. The rough part was that his mother was about 3 rows behind him and kept yelling at him and asking him why he didn't tell anyone he was throwing up. I felt bad for the kid more for the mother than for the sickness. Other than that, pretty uneventful, thankfully. I am planning on spending the weekend in San Jose. Tomorrow morning I am doing a project presentation to the newbees. Tonight I am going salsa dancing and tomorrow drunken debauchery.... it's a full weekend.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A few thoughts on sustainability....

I decided first thing this week to start focusing more on sustainable projects. "Sustainable," in this case, meaning "finding someone to do my work for me." So I went to the University and am trying to get hooked up with the financial aid department. Here, all students that receive financial aid have to complete community service hours, which I think is a great idea. So I am hoping to get someone or a couple of someones to help me with some projects. "Help," in this case, meaning "do it for me." So far it looks promising. Luckily I have a contact there that is a Philosophy professor. He also asked that I come back and give some charlas to his classes about my work and the Peace Corps.

I had meant to spend most of this month in my site, but will be headed to San Jose this weekend to attend a project fair with the new group. Other than that things are rolling along just like normal... me trying to get out of work. :)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Bye Bye Down Time

Time is speeding by and I feel like I am running all over the place. I just finished up the trainee visit. It was fun but we were busy. I feel like I need a week to relax but that is not going to happen for a while. I have a week full of PC office staff visits and then a two day training to attend with the local women's organization. I now have 6 different women's groups I am doing groups with. It is keeping me on my toes but I really like it. I am actually trying to figure out how to get out of the program I have at the school. I have realized that I really like working with kids less and less. Too bad I am in the "youth" program. Oh well. I think I am going to try and find a college student that needs community service credit to take over the group and then I get extra points for sustainability as well.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Can you sing the Barney song in Spanish?

I spent the weekend trying to keep 60 hormone racked teenagers from procreating. One of the boys still ended up with a hickey but so far there are no indications that that the conference produced offspring.

I was able to fill all four spots and took 3 girls and 1 boy to the camp. It was a last-minute frenzy to get them all there. I didn't have all four confirmed until the Thursday afternoon. We left at 8 am Friday morning. The camp was in the mountains of Heredia North of San Jose. We spent four days and three nights emmerced in teenage drama. I was assigned a group so I and a principal from Lìmon were in charge of eight girls. I ended up loaning away nearly all of my clothes at one port or another because although we had advised, insisted, and even demanded they bring warm clothes for high altitude cold, rainy weather, most of the kids brought shorts and skimpy tank tops. I think for the most part, they just have no concept for the idea of cold. Where a lot of the kids are from, you remedy getting a chill by putting on a t-shirt.

The camp was emceed by a local company and they were really amazing. We did all the camp stuff: sang songs about chickens and boogers, clapped and chanted, danced, hugged, cried, had bonfires and s'mores, hiked through rain and mud, had a talent show. It was utterly exhausting but the kids ate it up. On the last day, I got up at 5:30 a.m. and didn't get to bed until nearly 1 a.m. the next morning. When I finally got home in the middle of a downpour, I collapsed in my hammock and went to bed at 8 p.m.

It was really an incredible experience for the kids though. Not just getting to go to a new part of the country that they have never seen and most likely will never see again. The day to day lives of many of these kids is racked with a miriad of third world social problems and broken dreams. The opportunity to participate in the insanity of being a normal hormone racked teen-ager is as foreign to many of them as if they had camped on the moon. The kids started crying Sunday afternoon because they knew they would have to say goodbye Monday morning.

Unfortunately, this may have been the last youth conference for a long while. Peace Corps has limited camps to one per year period. Last year, the Youth program hosted two, splitting the boys and girls, and the Rural program hosted a Women's camp. Now with the new Micro-development program, we will have three programs fighting over the chance to host one camp. Burreaucracies want measureable results and it's tough to prove that kids didn't get pregnant or start taking drugs, or drop out of school because they spent a weekend in the mountains and realized that another reality was possible.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

La tecnica de gato montes

Two down, one to go. I got through the community activities. They went pretty well although I had to scale back pretty massively for multiple logistical reasons. The kids really liked them though and keep asking me when we are going to do them again. I am working on that....

Yesterday and last night I hosted a group of 9 trainees in my barrio. It went pretty well. I hung out last night with a friend of mine that has been organizing the dance classes. We went out with her son and nephew and caught crabs on the beach. It was so fun. I didn't actually catch any, I mostly ran around screaming and laughing. I did witness her son perform a very interesting technique for catching a crab that involves springing on it like a cat. I laughed so hard my face hurt.

This weekend I am taking, hopefully, four teenagers to a camp near San Jose. I am still struggling to get the kids to confirm they can go but I am hoping that it will all work out in the end. Vamos a ver.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I was in Puerto Viejo over the weekend with Maria and Zoey. We had a great time, didn't do a whole lot besides hang out on the beach and in coffee shops (and bars) but there was an abundance of good conversation and overall enjoyment. That is always welcome.

I celebrated the 4th on a bus and arrived just in time to give my English class. The class is going pretty well and I think my students are even learning something. I taught them how to say "This sucks!" to carry them through the frustrating parts. I am suppose to start another one next month and I am not sure how I am going to work that since I have less and less time to spare.

I am busy now planning for camp activities that I am going to do in my barrio next week. I started making preparations more than a little too late so I am having to scale back quite a bit. It also doesn't help that Peace Corps as an organization is becoming more and more beauracratic and less and less willing to support volunteers. That is super frustrating, not because I am not used to being expected to do more with less but that I expected better from them. Of coarse we will take it. We will continue on because we believe in the work more than we are willing to protest a system that is conter-productive. That and we are one part humanitarian, two parts masochistic. "Ho-hum," say the social workers...

I will be also hosting a group of trainees on the 17th. The new group arrived at the end of last month. I still havn't met any of them but I expect to eventually. I am trying to find houses for them to stay in and it is proving more difficult than I had anticipated. I am sure it will work out somehow. It always seems to. Besides... I think it is kind of exciting to wait til the last minute and go through the panic of impending failure.

On the bright side... my camp activities have been integrated into being partially sponsored by the newly formed Sports Association. I pretty much had to bribe my former "host brother" to invite me to the meetings but he finally did. (He is a politician and, I believe, would rather keep any advances in his name.) They have had a total of 3 meetings and I have been to 2. At first I was leary and wondered how they would accept me, since it took so much for me to be invited in the first place and then I was the only girl in the middle of a bunch of "machisto" guys. They talked about how they wished more women would join and how they felt like when people think of sports, they only think soccer. I offered to incorporate them into my camp activities and they thought about it and talked about it and then their eyes got a spark. They quick organized to meet on Sunday to clean the park really well, marking a new era, a new beginning. They held their daughters in their laps, and gently stroked their hair, "We can start something" they said.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I gots da' fever!

No...not dengue... DANCE FEVER! I found dance classes in my barrio. I went last weekend and sweat like a human faucet. I never knew so much sweat could come from one person. I would have been really embarrassed except that everyone else was dumping buckets as well. So I just sucked it up.

I am hoping to continue. The classes are kind of expensive and actually a little out of my league ($2/hour, 4 hours/weekend) but I am working on a trade with the instructor. He teaches me to dance, I teach him to speak English. We'll see how it goes. We are also, very much like in the states, short on male partners. I am hoping to do some recruiting to earn my keep as well. I don't know why guys don't learn to dance, it is the best way to get the girl....

Project wise I am working on planning a camp for the upcoming "Vacación de Quince Días" (two week vacation). I am hoping to get it paid for by local businesses. There is a fertilizer factory dumping polution in to the community so I thought it would be nice for them to put up some "plata" so I can teach the children about the evils of fertilizer factories. Needless to say my solicitation letter will be de-emphasizing this portion of the activities.

This weekend I am headed to the Carribean side. I am going to go to Puerto Viejo with Maria and Zoey to celebrate the 4th. Most of the celebrating will be done early, and I don't expect fireworks. I will be commemorating the independence of my country by spending long hours on a bus and then teaching English in a foreign country.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Fun facts....

Did you know that I have 5 nieces and nephews and exactly 0 school pictures of any of them.

(How's that for subtle?)

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Okay... a little more research and I found out that there IS treatment for kids 15-18 it is just that they still have to go to San José to get it. The not so great news being that the social worker at the Puntarenas hospital didn't know this. That says a lot too. And... handing out condoms on the street corner would go over about as well as someone handing out "Plan B" on a street corner in the Bible Belt. Condoms aren't even available in the pulperias and even if they were, it is doubtful that anyone would buy them because of the chisme (gossip) factor. Then there is the whole issue of knowing how to use them correctly.... on and on it goes.

I have been bombarded all of a sudden with a billion things to do. I am planning a camp for the kids in the barrio for the second week of July. They have a school vacation for a couple of weeks. I also just signed on with the social worker and psychologist at the school to start some groups with the 5th and 6th graders in which I will be discussing certain delicate topics including sexuality. (Yes, fifth graders are having sex. They do it in the states too, so if you have a fifth or sixth grader you better get on talking to them about it.) I am also hoping to run a coordinated program with their parents so that they will a)not freak out about what I will be talking about in the groups and b)be more educated about the things their kids are facing. I am kind of excited about it and I hope that it will work. The part with the kids is pretty much a go. I am hoping to get the parents involved although I may be pulling my hair out in a few weeks.

A new group of volunteers will arrive in country next week. Not only are we not the new kids anymore, but the next group will be Youth volunteers and I will be hosting them for a tour of the barrio and then later will have a trainee hang with me for a couple of days. I am pretty excited about it.

My English class is coming along. I don't know if they are really learning any more English, but it is fun and I am meeting more people in the barrio. It is really exhausting to be working in both languages. I get to a point sometimes where nobody understands me in English or Spanish. Fun times.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

VIH/SIDA Adventures

I received an email from my buddy Aaron (shout out to the Junction) with questions about my projects and I thought I would answer them publically so all could enjoy and maybe encourage others to ask cuz life is getting to be a lot like life and doesn't seem quite so much like an adventure anymore and I'm not sure what you want to hear about. Way to be a trend setter Aaron!

Anyway, I am going to start with my VIH/SIDA (HIV/AIDS) project. The whole thing started months ago when I attended a informational charla at my school. Among other things I found out that there were 29 current SIDA patients in my barrio alone. Generally when you are talking about HIV/AIDS, at least in Costa Rica, they have what they call the "rule of nine." That means that for every single diagnosed case there are most likely 9 people that have the disease that have not been diagnosed. There are 3000 people in my barrio, so taking this into consideration the HIV/AIDS rate is about 1 in 10. That is really, really high and really, really scary. General consciousness regarding the disease is practically non-existant. For example, I mentioned that I was working on an HIV/AIDS project to a barrio resident and he said, "That is so sad that they have that disease in Africa." So to say the least, an education program is lacking.

As far as my program and projects go. I have ALOT of liberty to work on projects that the community needs and/or wants. This is really great because I have the freedom to work on an HIV/AIDS project even though it may not directly fall under "Children, Youth and Families." Of coarse, being thrown into a foreign community and being told "Okay Do-Gooder; Go do good," was a little disorienting. But now I have got my feet under me more or less and am rolling.

I am currently trying to get some local institutional body to take up a project. I keep running into more and more "here and there" organizations that have small projects. I am hoping that at some point we will be able to form some sort of committee or association that will focus primarily on education and prevention. Ideally this will be sponsored or within an existing institution so that it will maybe stick around for a while. Not that it would be guaranteed even then. But, since the goal is sustainability....

The local hospital has an HIV/AIDS clinic that treats a massive population within a huge geographical area. Right now they are treating aproximately 175 patients. It is important to note that the hospital only treats adults age 18 and up. There is a children's hospital in San José that treats children, ages 0-15. If you are paying attention you might notice that there is a three year age gap, 15-18. If you happen to be a young person in this age group with HIV/AIDS, or basically any ailment the local clinic can't treat, you are salado. (That is means "S.O.L." in Spanish.) Right now I am primary working with the hospital. One plus in Costa Rica is that all HIV/AIDS treatment is provided under the national health care, so pharmeceutical treatment is actually available. The down side being that the lack of HIV/AIDS consciousness is pretty much across the board. Confidentiality really doesn't exist here so many people don't get tested because of the stigma. It is not uncommon for patient's to be discriminated against including losing their jobs, friends, etc. There are even cases when their families toss them out of the house. So there is quite a bit of social pressure to remain ignorant.

Currently the education branch of the HIV/AIDS clinic is ran by the nurse. Sometimes the doctor helps out. Two major problems with this; the first being that if they are giving charlas in schools, they are not treating patients; and the second being that they focus primarily on the physical health end of the disease and do not address the social factors that play a huge role in prevention, seeking treatment and living with the disease. So we are trying to work on that. Then there is the church; Costa Rica's officially a Catholic country... Need I say more?

I have found pockets of people and organizations currently working on this. Hopefully we can get something going. Fortunately and also unfortunately, there is only so long that they can ignore this disease before there is a major catastrophy and they are MADE to pay attention. So I guess there is some hope.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

By popular demand...

Okay... I guess it has been a while since I blogged. Part of the problem is that I have been somewhat busy and that things here are starting to feel a lot like life in general and a lot less like exciting adventures. The other part is that I am receiving less and less feedback so I wasn't sure if anyone was still paying attention. For those of you that emailed, thanks and for those of you that don't "shame on you!" Okay... enough chastising.

I FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY got my cell phone. It only took a month and massive international interventions. Not really, but I got my phone so I will be able to be in contact with the world again.

All of a sudden I have quite a few projects going on as well. Things that I had hoped to start months ago are suddenly coming to pass. Wonders never cease. I am starting an English class Tuesday night and an exercise class for "older" women on Wednesday. I have found a group of high school kids that I am going to start working with, that I am pretty excited about. I have also been doing quite a bit with the AIDS clinic and I am hoping to continue to do so in the future.

I gave a charla to AIDS patients and their families a couple weeks ago that went really well It felt good to be counseling again (somewhat). You don't realize how much you miss contributing and being a part of something productive until you do it again. It's like, "oh yeah, I remember this.... working... it's kinda nice." So things are coming along.

I spent last week in San Jose working on the Cadena. The issue turned out really well. We had quite a bit of volunteer contributions. This issue is our biggest yet. It was kind of nice to be in San Jose and out of the heat a bit. It is like a different world when I go there... sometimes it is a 20 degree temperature difference. (Not exaggerating).

I came back yesterday and Maria, her brother and his girlfriend stayed at my house. It was really nice. We made dinner, drank some beer, and talked. They didn't even mind having to sleep on the floor with me. Or at least they didn't tell me they minded so much. I have new neighbors that are quite loud so I am less excited about that. I share a wall with then that misses meeting the ceiling by about four inches so there is literally very little to block sounds like conversations, television/radio(which must always be played loud enough to deafen children and small animals) and, of coarse, bodily functions. But, así­ es la vida.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Big News...

The big news this week is that I got my hammock hung. I now have two places to sit in my house. I am still sleeping on the floor but things are coming along. I also have new roommates... I havn't seen the spider in a while, which is not a bad thing. There are small, medium and one very large toad that hops into the house from time to time. I also have a little mouse that has decided to hang out with me. I am not really thrilled about this addition since he likes to run around on my counter. I plugged the hole he was getting onto the counter through and I am hoping that will keep him out. We'll see what happens, I really don't want to resort to drastic measures.

I am still without a phone. I have been denied a cellular line. I am tyring to see if I can get someone to let me get a line in their name. I have actually had a couple of offers but I think they are offering more than a phone line and I really don't want to confuse anyone.

I suddenly have quite a bit going on. I have two (possibly 3) groups of parents I am working with, two programs in the school, I gave a charla to HIV/AIDS patients this morning and my old lady aerobics class may actually take off after all. I am also starting and English class next week. The last week of the month I am going to be in San Jose working on the Cadena. I've also read 5 books inthe last two weeks, so there has still been some down time.

I guess the REALLY big news is that it is now winter. One day it was a billion degrees and the next day it started raining. So I am hauling around the umbrella (which keeps me dry above the neck) and tromping through puddles. My shower has turned into a mosquito incubator and I am hoping not to get dengue.

All in all things are things and slowly but surely days are days and life is life.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Back to (Tico) reality

I spent the last week vacationing with Mom and was able to partake in a good deal of pampering but now I am back to reality... or at least tico reality. It is always hard to readjust after a vacation and this time is no exception. Monday the 8th was a holiday for the change of government, for those of you who missed the news flash, Oscar Arias was elected to be president again. He was president before but the Costa Rican constitution does not allow for presidents to succeed themselves so very seldom does any one individual hold office twice. He is actually pretty well known internationally, mostly for having won the Nobel Peace Prize. We'll see how he does this time around.

So I bought a cell phone over the weekend and went in to the ICE (Costa Rican Institution of electrcity) office to activate an account... no such luck. Apparently I need further proof that I am a resident than what I had. I'm n ot sure if they are going to give me an account at all. We will see. Maybe one good thing that CAFTA will bring is cellular service, I don't know if it will make up for the "other stuff", but after sitting in a government office for two hours and leaving empty handed, oppression of human rights and a massive upsurge in poverty seems like a small price to pay for a little technological convenience.

I also found out that my best friend at my PANI office was fired over the weekend. Not for anything she did but because someone else wanted her job and they were better connected. Así es la vida.

Anyway, hope all is well. I don't think I will be near a computer tomorrow so Happy Birthday (early) Lisa. Welcome to 30!!! It is a lot like the 20s only less insanity. Theoretically at least. Anyway, I have found it to be quite nice. Pull up a chair and make yourself at home; the alternative is infinately less appealing.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Sol y Arena

I made it home again safe and sound. I kind of hit the ground running, figuratively and somewhat literally as well. I can't believe I've been back a week already. I have been working on my community analysis and it is taking over my life. Lots has happened this week. Sadly, last Thursday I went to Constance's site to help her pack to send her back to New Orleans. I am really bummed, I will miss her a lot. She has been quite the trooper but the forces of the universe have made it quite clear that she is not suppose to be here and it is time for her to go home. I wish her lots of luck and am certain she will find her place.

On Saturday, I ran the Sol y Arena. It was incredible... grueling. It is a 10K run on the beach. I ran from the Hospital in El Roble to the tourist street in Puntarenas. They have to do it at low tide so this year it was at 3p. It is was incredibly hot and humid but I was able to run the whole thing. My time was about 1 hour 9 min. It is the longest and furthest I have ever run. I was beyond exhausted when I finally got to the end and was nearly in tears when I found out that they didn't have water... just sport drinks. I should have known better and should have prepared better, but my support staff was on a plane to New Orleans. Anyway, I survived!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

From Nicaragua

Wow... my week in El Sal went by really fast. I am now in Palacaguina, Nicaragua visiting another Peace Corps Volunteer. I have only been in town a few hours so there is not too much to report. I came here via the King Quality bus, which is basically a koosh greyhound. It is air conditioned to below freezing and serve meals. I actually went to El Sal on the Tica Bus which is the other koosh line, but they were sold out of tickets. Fortunately, I was able to get this ticket to Nicaragua, unfortunately, there are no seats available to go back to Costa Rica so I will be piecing together over-crowded, un-air conditioned, chicken buses back to Puntarenas. It should be an adventure...

On Wednesday we met up with (another) Carlos in Santa Ana and then met Cecilia a little further North in Anacahuia. I met Carlos and Cecilia in Costa Rica on the Cocotales tour. It was really neat to see them again. Cecelia said that Carlos had told her I was coming but that she didn't believe it. She kept grabbing my arm as if to feel that I was really there. We hiked to Lago Azul. It is a lake that formed in the crater of an extinct volcano. We picniced and played soccer. It was an incredibly beautiful experience and utterly exhausting.

We went to the Playa del Sol on Thursday and went to a concert. It was a lot of fun, we all crashed at Carlos' friends house and slept on hammocks in the front yard. El Salvador is very interesting in that their civil war ended only 15 years ago and since then there has been an incredible boom in franchise stores and restaurants. It is kind of a surreal experience to be here among McDonalds, Texaco stations, Office Depot, and even PriceSmart (basically Sam's Club). Everything is very familiar, yet foreign at the same time. There are very, very few Salvadoran companies meaning that most capital and wealth leaves the country or concentrates itself among the elite. The American Influence here is striking, the main government party (ARENA) is heavily, heavily, (have I emphasized "heavily" yet?)influenced by the American Government. Add to that the fact that reparations from the U.S. account for more than 15% (2004 statistic)of the countries GNP. Everyone I met had at least 2 siblings living in the U.S. It was interesting to be here while the protests for immigration rights were occuring in the states. There is a much, much bigger picture out there.

I got some incredible pictures of some of the Semana Santa activities in El Espino. I will upload pictures as soon as I am able. I wasn't able to get pictures of the procession cuz I left my camera in the house, but take my word for it, it was pretty cool. I will try to do better next year.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Greetings from El Salvador

I made it to El Sal about midnight Friday night. I caught the bus just outside of Puntarenas at about 4:30 am. We made good time and were only about 3 hours behind schedule. Most of the delays came trying to cross the borders, there are three between here and Costa Rica. I was able to sit by the window for a small part of the journey and it is striking how different Costa Rica is from the rest of Central America, even through a bus window. The poverty is much more apparent and is not hidden from tourists the way it is in Costa Rica.

El Espino, the town I am staying in, is still struggling with many social problems all of which stem from or in the least are amplified by the extreme poverty that is El Salvador. My friend Carlos is deeply dedicated to improving conditions here and spends 90 percent of his time working in, about and for the community. He is very passionate about his work and is motivated by a dep love for his country and his community. It is very inspiring to be around him. He is also a lot of fun and "ornery as all get out."

El Espino, as well as all of El Salvador, is currently suffering from a massive gang problem. It is complicated by a lot of factors including the palpable absence of working age adults/parents, the deportation of gang members from the states, massive unemployment, lack of social services and, again, poverty. The poeple here live with violence and the threat of violence every minute of every day. Salvadorans have become quite accustomed to having guards with rifles patrolling everywhere; restaurants, parking lots, etc. I still have the privilege of noticing. In the three days I have been here, I have attended the viewing of a young girl that died from a bacterial infection, played soccer with kids in the "park" (the space between the highway and the pillars of the overpass), and greeted the local gang kids. I'm back to bucket baths and outhouses. (Carlos' family is actually one of the fortunate families that has access to potable water for a few hours every other day.) To tell the truth, my vacation from Peace Corps feels morelike "Peace Corps" than my Peace Corps experience. Not that there aren't problems in Costa Rica... there most certainly are, but I find myself wondering if I couldn't be more useful here. I believe everything happens for a reason, and that I am where I am suppose to be, but I can't help but think that El Sal may be in my future...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Settling in...

My Casita

This is the back yard which conveniently holds my bathroom sink

The living room, including fridge and one chair

I am sleeping on the floor and having surprisingly few problems with it

My roommate :)

Well... things have been moving right along here. I have been adopted by two different families which is actually quite nice. One is in Puntarenas and have a kiosk where they sell souvenirs to tourists. They are extremely generous to me even though I have much more than they do. I am teaching their oldest son English. They are lots of fun... the younger ones call me "tia" (aunt) and cry when I leave. The other family is in San Jose. The mom is a retired Sociology professor and the dad teaches Anthropology/History. They are a tremendous help in my technical and social issues vocabulary. They are also incredibly generous in allowing me floor space when I need a place to crash in San Jose. I feel so loved.

I am frantically trying to get ready to go to El Salvador AND gather information for the community analysis that I have to write. My priorities are obviously in that order as I have had months to get info for the analysis and am waiting til I have just three weeks before it is due and am spending one of those weeks on vacation. I am justifying it with the thoght that I will be practicing my Spanish the entire time I am gone so it can almost, technically be considered "working on it."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Big News for the casita

Looks like I have found a frige! This is very exciting news as for the past month or so I have been without. I will finally be able to enjoy refreshing ice water. And in the heat here, it is sorely, sorely missed. Plus, no more wilting cilantro. I want to cry I am so excited.

All I have to do now is find a way to transport it. I am going to go ahead and rule out the bus. I would also like to avoid a taxi but here I know significantly less people with trucks.

Other exciting news. I have been working on my first quarter work report and my Community Assessment Tool (CAT). The work report is your typical bureaucratic fun paperwork. The CAT is a whole other animal (punn intended). It is a description off the community including all characteristics, services, social problems etc. It is even more fun since I have to do both in Spanish. I guess I can't complain too much, I am a sociologist and that is pretty much what we do.

I am headed to El Salvador in about three weeks for Easter to visit friends I met when I was there two years ago. I am very excited. It has been quite a long time. I will also be visiting some people I met here that live there. I will also spend Easter weekend in Nicaragua with a fellow Peace Corps volunteer that I met down here. I had given up on being able to get ahold of her cuz Mike D. lost her email address when we hung out with her. Luckily though, another volunteer has left service and is traveling in Nicaragua and happened to run into her. Sometimes the world is quite small. So, I am excited to do some more traveling. And I will only have to spend about 48 hours in a bus round trip. ¡Que dicha! :)

Friday, March 17, 2006

I'm bored... I think I will try to get somewhere on time

I read in the paper on Tue that there was a speaker at the university in San Jose 6p Thursday night. It was a Nicaraguan journalist speaking about Power and Politics in Central American Literature. So I decide, what the hey, I havn't battled the traffic gods in a while.
I had a workshop at the school that was suppose to be done at 2. I figured, if I could make the 3p bus I could get there relatively on time. I get done with the workshop at 2:45. I haul ass home, change clothes, and leave. Miraculously I find a cab on the corner as if it were waiting for me. We head to the bus stop and pull in right behind the bus I have to catch. I get my ticket and get in line for the bus. It is nearly full and I am thinking…”If I can’t get on this bus, I may as well not go.” The guy in front of me says “there’s no more room” and squeezes past me to get off the bus. I think I see a spot behind a big guy with an even bigger suitcase. And I got the absolute last spot on the bus. By this time, I am thinking that things have really just worked out in a place where things never work out unless “Díos quiere” (God wants) so, I figure, I am destined to be on this bus.
I get into San José at about 5:30 and traffic is insane. I have to get to the other end of town, so I get off the bus and proceed to walk/run through rush-hour crowds to the other side of the center to get a cab that won’t have to sit in traffic. I catch a cab and get to the lecture about a half-hour late. The room is packed but I am able to get a seat. Then reality set in and I realize that my Spanish is not quite good enough to keep up. Actually, since I was sitting by the door I was privy to a hallway noise which included the audio for the English class which drowned out the soft-speaking author and was super distracting for me to concentrate on Spanish. I also realized that I am at the point where I know enough Spanish that I get the gist of pretty much everything. I also know enough to realize that I don’t know enough to understand the subtleties and imagery of the language, you know, all the “good stuff” that makes learning another language worth the effort. Being an student of literature, I realize that that is pretty much what literature is. Still totally worth it.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ain't technology cool....

Can you see me? I am waving...,-84.840031&spn=0.039054,0.085831&t=k

(you have to cut and paste the link into your browser...)

I live on the "bump" on the right directly below the word "map"

Friday, March 10, 2006

Qué lejos está mi tierra

Things are starting to roll. I had busy and even quasi-productive week. I am sure you were all aware that Wednesday March 8th was International Women's Day. How did you celebrate? I helped the local women's organization plan some activities for Wed evening and even read a poem. Very few people showed up which was luckily for me, not so much for the women of the Puntarenas. The following is the poem I read, followed by the English translation for those of you who are Spanish impaired...

Qué lejos está mi tierra,
y sin embargo qué cerca,
o es que esiste un territorio,
donde las sangres se mesclan.

Tanta distancia y camino
las diferentes banderas,
y la pobreza es la misma,
las mismas mujeres esperan.

Yo quiero romper mi mapa,
formar el mapa de todos,
mestizas, negras, blancas,
trazado codo con codo.

Yo quiero romper la vida,
cómo cambiarla quisiera,
ayúdame, compañera;
ayúdame, no demore,
que una gota con ser poco,
con otra se hace aquacero.

How far is my country
yet how close
or is it that there exists a land
where blood mixes.

So far and the road so long,
the different flags,
and the poverty is the same,
the same women wait.

I want to tear my map
create one map for all
Mestizas, Blacks, Whites
drawn arm in arm.

I want to tear life,
to make it what we wish,
help me, friend
help me, without hesitation
One drop is little
with another begins a downpour.

-Daniel Viglietti

Monday, February 27, 2006


Things have actually been pretty busy. Well, I have at least been out of my site quite a bit. I have actually been out of my site as much as I was in last month. OOpps. Last week I was in San Jose working on the Cadena, the volunteer newsletter. I think it turned out pretty well but it was a little FUBAR'd organizationally and I had to take down another volunteer. Luckily she is leaving country within the next month so I won't have to deal with her again. It was a good reminder that incompetance and self-centrism is a human characteristic and not a cultural one.

Last weekend we had our VAC meeting and the volunteers for our region got together and went camping on the beach. It was beautiful!!! We had to hike to the beach and it was pretty secluded except for a few fishermen. I should have some pictures within the month to share.

Now, I am thinking that after five months in my site, it might be time to get some projects rolling. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

La Casita and Carriari

I sent everone off on Tuesday and then headed back to Puntarenas. I spent the afternoon moving into my "casita". I am sleeping on the floor (Thank God I thought to bring my sleeping pad), I don't yet have chairs, a frige, or a place to cook, but... I LOVE IT!!!! At least, all the time I have spent in it, which hasn't been much.

I caught the 4am San Jose bus on Wed morning to go on a community tour organized by a university group. The tour was actually for a group of Salvadorans but they let me tag along. It was really an incredible trip. It was a lot different that what I have been doing as it involved zero tourists and a lot of 3rd world poverty.

The trip has had me thinking and is fanning the embers of my activist/revolutionary spirit. As the only Gringo in attendance, it was hard to hear that a good deal of the suffering has been affected by the medling and/or indifference of of other Gringos. We've known that on an abstract level, but it is different in person. I listened with compassion and humanity. The only time I felt shame was when someone told me that every other gringo they have told these things to has left the room and refused to listen. At one part of the tour, we all introduced ourselves and said what we bring to the group. When it was my turn, I said that I brought humility and friendship and that I hoped to be a voice. I later realized that I don't need to be a voice. They have their own voices, their own stories, they are not mine to retell. What I should have said, what I will say next time, is that I will do my best to teach my countrymen to hear.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

19 buses, 11 taxis, 4 horses, 2 ferries, and a TON of walking....

Emily, Nicole and Chris are on their way back to the states now. We had a great time and were able to catch up on nearly every moment we have missed since I left. Chris really enjoyed that part. :)

We were in La Fortuna saw a cloud shaped volcano as well as a couple of sparks of lava. We ziplined (upside down!) through the jungle, saw a frog wearing blue-jeans, rode (fiesty) horses, saw a waterfall and swam in thermal waters in a down pour. Lest I forget the best part... we drank lattes. :)

It rained a lot in La Fortuna but luckily the weather cooperated and I was able to show them that it generally hovers around a billion degrees in my site. We went to my school, played hangman with the English class and taught them about the transportation system in the US and the 2 car minimum. We also ate ceviche which is wonderful.

We treked to Mal Pais and they got a taste of the nether regions of Costa Rica where a lack of telephone or internet service is offset by an abundance of sun and dust. The beach was beautiful and was not overshadowed (excuse the punn) by the massive sunburns inflicted on newbee flesh. Well, it didn't overshadow for me as the cancer tan that I have aquired at least saved me from burning, Emily and Chris may think otherwise. We also ate falafel and kept ourselves busy sweeping big ants and milipedes out of the cabina.

Back in San Jose, we hit the Mercado and froze to death in the much cooler weather. THen, before you know it, it was time to go and they have gone and I am back to work. The problem with vacations is that they tend to end...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

End of Summer (Vacation) Camp

The week flew by as I have imagined busy weeks are wont to do. We held our end of vacation camp on Tue, Wed and Thur. Tuesday started out pretty disapointing as not one person from my barrio showed up to participate. To say the least I was more than a little discouraged. Tuesday was soccer in El Roble, Andre's site. We split the kids up and went through some fundamental drills and were immediately reminded that a) Tico kids are not predisposed to listening and/or following directions and b)multiply that by ten for socio-economic level. It was pretty out of control, but somehow ended up well. The kids got metals and were generally happy.

Tuesday was my day. I hosted a Beach Day at the (Crack)Beach by my barrio. My neighbor and her son came and I was able to recruit a couple more on the walk to the beach. (The kid I "recruited" and I have a fun game we play... he sees me and asks me for "one dollar" and I respond "Oh, you want to give me a dollar? Thanks!" He was quite confused the first time we did this, but now thinks it's pretty funny. Or maybe I'm the one that thinks it's funny.) Anyway... the kids played in the waves and Constance and I tried to keep them from being carried out to sea. Our concern was not appreciated as gringos seem to over-supervise in nearly every aspect of life. We had the kids build communities out of sand and had a contest for the best one. We included a trash pickup in the contest and were pleasantly surprised when the kids actually jumped up and filled 9 or 10 bags with trash. We didn't make a dent in the landscape of litter but we figured it was the effort that counted. Then, we had a snack and the kids immediately dropped their wrappers to the ground. Baby steps...

Thursday we headed to Miramar for Scott's hike. Andre and I had our hands full trying to coordinate transporting 25 people on the public bus. I can't say it enough... transportation is always an adventure. The hike was hot, long and gorgeous. We played games and the kids got metals for winning the races. We had lunch and then walked back to catch the bus. It was a long, tiring day, but was a lot of fun and all the kids seemed to enjoy it. In the very least, they were a little more "tranquilo" on the bus ride back.

So... nothing like following up a quasi-gruelling two week run of activity like a vacation; Emily, Nicole and Chris arrive tonight!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Climbing through snakes and waterfalls

I guess it has been a while since I last wrote. I've been kinda busy getting things situated for our "end of summer" camp. We kick it off tomorrow. I am also trying to move this week. Wed is the first but I am putting it off till Friday when the camp is over. (This is the part where I don't mention the fact that Thur night is the final episode of Project Runway and I HAVE TO find out who wins....TV is EVIL!)

I went hiking on Saturday in Miramar. Miramar is Scott's site and it is only about 45 min from mine but Sat was the first day I made it up there. It is gorgeous!! I also did my first chimney climb (jargon?). Pretty proud of myself. I am more than a little afraid of being exposed to heights and my upper body-body strength is not great, but being stubborn and prideful, there was no way I was going to be the girl that had to go around. The two Tico guys we went with said they were impressed and that I am only like the 5th girl that has been able to do that. So... I made the top 5. :) There was a very refreshing (cold) pool at the bottom of the waterfall for swimming. It was awesome! I also saw my first snake. There was debate as to whether or not it was poisonous. I chose not to get bit so I didn't have to worry about it. I am trying to get some pictures uploaded. If you see them, it worked, if not... I'll keep trying.

Saturday Emily, Nicole and Chris arrive. I am pretty excited. I have been working quasi-daily for almost 3 weeks now, so it is time for a vacation. :)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Post B-day Update

Well, this entry is coming a little late. My post b-day blog entry was waylayed by my post b-day recovery session. For those of you paying attention that implies a very good birthday. Pretty mellow. We went to dinner, good food (Tico-Mexican), bad margarita (can't have it all), followed by Cuba Libres (Rum and Coke) and hanging in the koosh hotel apartment that Peace Corps provided for IST.

Back in the site, I have actually got some projects on the verge of existance. I met with the director of the health clinic this morning and will be meeting with the senior group on Wednesday to get my geriatric aerobics classes rolling. I am also working on putting together a camp with Scott and Andre for the kids in our barrios and the albergue kids. So... actually starting to get a little busy. That means that I may put in about 8 hours this week. Phew!... may need to hire a personal assistant.

On to the weather... The weather in Puntarenas is hot and humid with a 99% chance of excessive perspiration.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Other Voices

Hey all... I wanted to post this link to a piece that Macho (aka Adam) sent to his hometown newspaper. He is a great kid and has an incredible outlook on just about everything. I thought you might like to hear a story from here, but from a little different perspective.


I am putting this pictures into the "Good Idea In Theory" category. Peace Corps equips us with safety equipment which in theory, protects us from injuries and such. However, in practise, this same safety gear screams "Rob Me! I'm a Gringa" or "When not on my bike, I enjoy riding the short bus."

My meeting went pretty well. Luckily the local pastor brought his youth group so it ended up being more than just me and pigeons as I had thought it would be. So, I should be starting some classes with the church group here in the next couple of weeks. I will also start an excersize class with a group of seniors. So that should be fun.

I am in San Jose this week for our In-Service Training. I have two option on getting to San Jose early. The first requires catching the 5 am indirect bus from the highway by my barrio. As it is indirect, I end up getting to San Jose at about 7:45am. The other option is catching the 6am direct bus from Puntarenas which gets to San Jose at 8am. It would totally be worth the 15 minutes later to catch an extra hour of sleep but, since I have to catch the bus in Puntarenas, I end up having to catch the 5 am barrio bus anyways.... so 5am standing by the highway. It is pretty exciting. The only rough part is that it is so dark I have a hard time recognizing my bus before it goes by. Travel is definately never boring...

So, I'm here til Friday. Good hotel (PC is paying). Should be good.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Yin and Yang

It has come to my attention that although pictures tell a thousand words, they are only telling part of the story. There are a number of things that volunteers say when they describe what it is like to be in the Peace Corps. One of these is that PC amplifies everything. The highs are higher, the lows are lower, the vices are exponential. A lot of the pictures that I take are of the highs and I feel I must throw out a disclaimer that I am having the time of my life, but some days those times seem to come few and far between.

Most of my days are very non-picture-worthy. I am still struggling to learn Spanish which means that the simplest of conversations are taxing for me. I used to be articulate and talk about “important” things artfully, now I talk about the weather a lot.

Costa Rica is kind of an exceptional place. Most people think of the beaches and volcanoes and tourist destinations. That is definitely here and it is spectacular. However, it is still the third world. The poverty here is, at times, overwhelming. It’s not as bad here as many, many other places in the world, but it is still here and often gets overlooked because it’s “not as bad as….” In December, my school hosted a 6th grade graduation in which two of the girls were pregnant. I can’t look at middle-aged gringos without wondering if they are here to have sex with children. Men cheating on their wives is so common that in some places doctors describe Chlamydia as a disease that “occurs naturally in some women.” Costa Rica has one of the lowest instances of HIV/AIDS in Latin America, yet 10% of my barrio is infected. The majority of the children that I am working with will continue the cycle that they were born into whether it be violence, addiction, hate, bitterness and/or apathy.

To say that the world-view is very different here is a massive understatement. I have discovered that there are a very few precious people that have the capacity to understand that their perception of the world is not universal. This is not a cultural or socio-economic trait; it is as prevalent in the states as it is here. They are the ones that are quickest with criticism and/or advice. I am assumed to be too stupid, too stubborn, too selfish, too gringa, too something to do what seems so obvious to those with their black and white world view.

At times I am overwhelmingly homesick. I daydream about using a kitchen that is not crawling with ants. I doubt I’ve had one truly sanitary meal since I’ve gotten here. I struggle daily to stay healthy; in every sense of the word. I miss quiet. I miss anonymous. Some days I swear I am going to pummel the next person that plows into me and doesn’t say a word. I miss family and friends. While I am gone my nieces and nephews will grow into wholly different people. My friends that were childless when I left will be parents of toddlers. My parents and grandparents will age and may slip from me. I live for messages from home: email, snail-mail, calls, postcards, blog-posts.

I want for this journal to be as realistic as possible. (Although I will be the first to admit that there is a fair amount of selective storytelling and artful exaggeration.) I love what I am doing. I’m not looking for pity or advice and especially not accolades or charges of altruism. I’m just telling this part of the story.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Feliz Nuevo Año

Happy New Year everyone. Quick update: spent New Year's in Cahuita with Maria and a 21 year old local. Good news: standards are still in tact and Maria and I rang in the New Year toasting (hoping) for better prospects in '06. Spent most of New Years day traveling. Holiday travel is even more exciting here since the buses barely run. I mean that both in the literal (bus died four times on the road between Limón and San José) and figurative (there were only about four internal buses running in San José) sense of the word. I finally made it back to my site at around 7pm.

I got some wonderful Christimas packages. Thank you family and friends. I will be trying to stretch them into the new year as far as I can.

On the home front, I am hosting a community meeting next week to officially introduce myself. I even made flyers with my pictures on it which I am sure will haunt me for the next 21 months. In the very least, I am hoping that when I run by in the mornings, people can say, "Ah, there goes that gringa" instead of "Who's that gringa?" Baby steps.

I am working on moving out of the house with the family and into a "cabina" out back. The PC rule is that all volunteers have to live with a family for the first year. My aptitude at finding loop-holes has not failed me and as long as I am in the same "yard" as a family, it counts as living with them. I am really excited even though it will not be unlike camping in that I will be sleeping, cooking, reading, etc. on the ground. I will also make a (hopefully) smooth transition into manually scrubbing my clothes and living without refrigeration. That should be fun. But, I do get to control my rice intake. Yeah! The big move should happen in February. I will keep you posted on contact information. It should all be the same except for the phone number, which I won't have.