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.