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.