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.