Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Yes... there is some actual work going on

Okay... beyond all the mugging excitement, I have actually been getting some work done. I gave three charlas to Tico 15ers on Monday. Yesterday I had a meeting with a doctor at the children's hospital that works in the AIDS clinic. It was really interesting, a little depressing, but a good opportunity for project colaborations. The most disturbing thing I found out is that the hospital only places HIV positive kids in PANI foster homes if there is absolutely no other alternatives. The education level for PANI workers regarding AIDS issues is abysmal. The doctor told me that they had actually treated PANI babies for mal-nutrician because the caretakers didn't feed them because they were afraid they would get the disease. So... to say the least there is a need for education campaigns.

Luckily... I am currently working on an education workshop for PANI workers. I will be saying more about this later and asking for your help with it so... be sure to watch for that.

Today, I will finish up in San Jose by giving another charla to 15ers about Love and Logic parenting/discipline techniques. Love and Logic is a parenting curriculum that I used to use when I worked in the treatment centers in the states. They generously donated the curriculum to me to use here.

Anyhoo.... that's what I'm up to lately. Later today I will be headed back to my barrio and tomorrow I'm headed to the OIJ (Tico FBI) to report my mugging. Let the good times roll!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

As long as we are keepin' it real...

I debated about whether or not I should post this blog as it will probably get some hearts started, but to stay true to my honesty policy I guess I had better fess up. I was catching the 4am bus to San Jose Monday morning to do trainings for another Tico group and I was mugged by two guys with a machete crossing the runway between my barrio and the main road where I catch the bus. Not something I am anxious to repeat, but all ended well. They got my wallet but I got to keep my camera and my laptop. Lost my Peace Corps ID and my Colorado Driver's license but nothing irreplaceable just inconvenient. Today I am going to go the the bank and see how many days it will take me to get a new bank card. Anyhoo... life goes on.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A quick rebuttal then back to the fluff....

One of my favorite things about the blog format is that I get to write about my experiences and then from a distance of thousands of miles, people can tell me how I didn't actually experience what I think I did. But, I guess I chose this format and I must live with those consequences.

Here's the thing... this is part of MY Peace Corps experience. All of it. The beautiful stuff as well as the devestating. Read the disclaimer. When all of this is said and done, if I end up in frigic climate working out of a cubical somewhere gazing at a tropical screensaver, I may be tempted to romantacize also. Romance isn't real. This experience is. I'm trying to be as true as I can be.

I know it is tough to swallow but working for the biggest bureaucracy on the planet is not a little slice of heaven everyday. But I believe in what I am doing. I believe in the Peace Corps. I believe in the Peace Corps acknowledging that it is imperfect and, at times, can be the poster-child for futility and personality defects. Assume whatever you need to to be able to sleep at night, but at the end of the day the reality is that a great volunteer was sent home.

I would hope that anyone reading this who is thinking about joining the Peace Corps will do so. It has been, the most significant experience of my life. In fact, I am hoping to be able to extend my service to a third year (in El Salvador). I also hope that if you do, that you are able to appreciate it for what it is and what it will be... real.

Friday, January 12, 2007

No Tolerance for Zero Tolerance

This week we've lost a volunteer. Saturday, Mike Q. is leaving on a jet plane. This is nothing less than tragic. Actually, I believe 'ironic' would be a better describer. Mike was faced with 'administrative separation' for not calling Peace Corps to tell them that he would be out of his site. He was working in San Jose, and simply forgot to call in. It's something I, in my gnat-like attention span and attention to detail, have done more than once. Peace Corps found out and he was given the option to quit or be fired. So he had 24 hours to pack his things, say goodbye to his community and get out of the country. There is a policy, of course. The new policy is 'zero tolerance' and he is being made an example of. Anytime subjectivity is removed from punishments, it always seems to fall on the people that deserve it the least.

People need to call in. It's a safety thing. And yes, there are plenty of people that are screwing around, vacationing more than they are working, and there needs to be consequences. Those people are better (luckier) at not getting caught.

Mike was an excellent volunteer. His heart was in his work. He was doing great things. He, in many ways, embodied what a Peace Corps Volunteer should be. With zero tolerance, none of that matters. I am about to start a series of workshops teaching parents how to administer appropriate consequences to their children so that the message is not lost in the punishment. Maybe I should start with the office. The message we are getting is that as long as we are physically in our sites, it really doesn't matter if we are doing anything else or not. If our work performance is irrelevant in keeping our jobs... what does that say?

Mike will be fine. He is meant to be elsewhere. He'll move on from this and do great things...somewhere else. It's our loss. It's the loss of his community. Of course, if there were no injustice in the world, we would be out of a job.

Anyhoo, good luck Mike! You will be missed. Your absence will devastate Costa Rica's datability potential. :)


I have been staying at the koosh hotel in San Jose which means that I have had access to Denver news channels. Looks pretty damn cold there. Part of me wishes I were there to enjoy the snow, although it is a frigid 72 degrees here in San Jose and I am COLD so I'm not sure I could survive the cold front.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Back in the Port

Here's a couple photo highlights from the El Sal trip. It was really a great time. It gets harder and harder to leave everytime I go. It kinda put my post service plans up in the air again. Anyhoo... we'll see where I end up.

Kids from El Espino waiting for the toys to be handed out. I tried to be incognito with the camera so I could snap some candids... I failed miserably. :)

The Salvadoran New Year's tradition is to eat Chompipe (Turkey) for New Year's Eve and then all day the next day. We bought the turkey's live. This is me sizing it up before he hits the oven. To say the least, there are not a lot of turkey's that see the new year in El Salvador.

This is me and the guys: René, Chus, me, Carlos.

Fireworks are also a big New Year's tradition. Needless to say the burn unit at the local hospital keeps pretty busy. Sparklers and colors are fun but I would like to beat the guy that invented the loud ones. My ears are still ringing.

Made it back to Puntarenas about 10 pm Wednesday night. Spent most of yesterday reclaiming my house from the spiders and other critters. Was not very excited to find a mouse carcass under my stove. Other than that, all is well. Things are cleaned up and back to normal.

Maria stayed the night with me last night with her brother and sister. I made my first attempt at Indian cooking and made Curry Garbonzo beans and Palaak Paneer. The Paneer turned out a little funky but still tasted good. The garbonzos were a hit, I must admit. Anyhoo, all is well. Trying to get back in the swing, but not having a lot of luck motivating myself as I am headed to San Jose next week to work on the Cadena.