Friday, March 26, 2010
So you may be thinking, why am I writing about that? Well I have been trying very hard (especially since arriving in site) to stay in shape. And since there is nothing that would even resemble a gym here, I’ve had to go “old school” to do cardio. So I do sprints 3x a week on the relatively quiet street in front of the Catholic church. Flashbacks to track practice in high school and Mr. Dobry yelling at us are common. Normally there would be nothing noteworthy about this, but here in Costa Rica, of course, it’s a little different and there are lots of obstacles I have to confront in order to get my sprints in.
It starts before I even get out of bed. First, I have to fight with the weather. As I have said before, in Guatuso, if it’s not f’in hot, its raining…so I need to check the weather before I get ready to go. If its raining, well, I’m basically screwed…I tried to sprint once in the rain…it was not fun and basically not worth getting soaked. You try being out in the rain and then coming back home just to take a COLD shower. And if its not raining it will be pretty f’in hot by about 6 or 6:30am…so this means that I need to get my sprints in before that if I don’t want to faint from heat exhaustion. There is also a lot less traffic before 6am, which I will explain shortly. So my alarm goes off at 5am…I roll out of bed, fight with my mosquito net and find my flip flops. Then I turn on the light and look for cockroaches. Why, you ask? Well, not that long ago, there was one in my room while I was getting ready to run. The f*in thing hid all over the place so it took me like 45 minutes to kill it!!! And of course, by then it was after 6am…and I was so frustrated and mad that I didn’t even do my sprints. So cockroaches are the newest obstacles to my sprinting.
If it’s not raining and there are no cockroaches in my room, I’m good to go by 5:30/5:45am – perfect timing to get all my sprints in before the sun really comes up. But I’m still not in the clear. The street itself where I do sprints basically doesn’t have traffic, but it’s right in front of the main road/highway to the next closest city to the north. So, there’s a good amount of traffic that goes by and I also have to fight with that. First, there are a lot of fields out that way and so a good number of farm workers head out about the same time I am sprinting. So I get random cat calls from men on bikes or in the back of trucks…not so bad though, and I think by now a lot of them are used to seeing me so they don’t really say anything.
My other obstacle is all the trucks that go by as well since anything going north-south or south-north has to pass through Guatuso. I sprint from the dead-end side of the street to the opposite corner…however this intersection is the one that all the truck, cars, guys on bikes go through on their way to wherever. So I also have to time my sprints so I don’t end up “running into” a giant truck or, worse, a man on a bike. When I first started sprinting, I didn’t know this, so I didn’t pay attention if there was a truck coming or anything. Twice it happened that I freaked the crap out of a guy on a bike and another time a truck driver because they didn’t know if I was going to stop or not before the intersection. So they slammed on the brakes and then gave me weird/annoyed looks when I stopped before getting into the intersection. So timing is important.
My last obstacle to sprinting is something that is common all over Costa Rica: stray dogs. Costa Rica has a lot of them and Guatuso is no exception. Usually there aren’t that many where I sprint and the ones that are there don’t really bother me. But this past Wednesday I had to fight with a dog (I think he actually belongs to the church, so not really a stray) and that day he won. I woke up late so it was about 6am when I went out to sprint…and when I went out to the street there was random dog sitting in the middle of where I normally run. So I thought, no big deal…there’s another dog that sometimes hangs around there and he never even moves while I’m sprinting. So I do my first sprint fine, just a little off from my normal path because of the dog. But, while I am sprinting my second set, as I pass random dog, he leaps/jumps over at me. He doesn’t get close enough to bite me or anything like that, and it wasn’t an attack-type leap…just more of a curious what-are-you-doing thing. But of course it startles the crap out of me and I make this huge swerve in the middle of my sprint (I’m sure it looked really funny if anyone had been watching). Random dog totally messes up that sprint. So I think, ok, whatever, now he’ll go somewhere else….not a chance. He sits downs exactly where he was before and actually looks a me for a while, like he’s waiting for me to sprint again so he can play too. I do another sprint and thankfully don’t have to swerve or anything, but decide to call it a day anyway…it was “late” (lol almost 6:30am!) and I didn’t feel like fighting with random dog anymore…like I said, he won that battle.
These are the obstacles I confront 3 times a week when I go out to sprint. Thankfully, the other 3 days a week that I exercise, I can do so in my apartment so my only obstacles are getting out of bed and looking for cockroaches – a piece of cake basically. Considering all that, I think it’s almost a miracle I actually get my cardio in...
This week is Holy Week, or Semana Santa, here in Costa Rica it means VACATION!!! If not the whole week, at least starting Wednesday night, pretty much everyone is OUT. And there is no school all week for anyone so you know what that means lol...I will be at the beach Tuesday-Friday :D
Hope everyone has a joyous Easter (if you celebrate it) and otherwise have a great end of March/beginning of April!
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
My first adventure of 2010 was FINALLY going to Rio Celeste (“blue river”, though if you want to get technical, it would be “light blue river”)…basically everyone I have talked to in Guatuso has asked me if I have been to Rio Celeste, and when I would tell them no, they would be very incredulous and sometimes offer to take me themselves so I can finally experience one of the few tourist attractions the county of Guatuso has to offer… So, I finally went…me, my host mom, Jen from Upala, and friends of the family who have a truck. So since we went in early January, it was a cloudy morning, especially up in the mountains where we were going. And since it had been raining so much the past couple days, the trail to Rio Celeste was all mud lol it was very fun hiking uphill through puddles of mud. I was glad I wore my hiking boots! I can’t really describe the beauty of Rio Celeste…just look at the pictures on facebook….the water is a color I have never seen in a body of water….apparently no one knows why or how it changes color…just another mystery of nature I guess. But the trip was a lot of fun, we laughed a lot and I feel accomplished now that I have finally visited the famous Rio Celeste.
My second adventure was a trip to the beach with my host family…and when I say my host family, I mean the entire extended family on my mom’s side, which includes 9 brothers and sisters and all of their families, plus the grandparents, plus 2 other families, plus me and a couple other “random” people. I was a little nervous…especially because I thought we were ALL (there were 50 some people) staying in the same house the entire 5 days…..ummm…yeah…
Thankfully my fears were unfounded because we stayed in a compound-type place where everyone was spread out between 4 or 5 different cabinas (cabins). It was a really great trip, very relaxing and feel I grew a lot closer with my host family (and the extended fam). We spent a lot of time in the ocean, and one night we went out and had a crazy dance party with some gringos that were at the same bar that night...super fun!
The adventure has continued with finding and moving into my own apartment! It happened pretty quickly, though I had been thinking about it for a while. I found a nice little apartment next door to the family I am renting from...so far so good...though my first week I had to wage a war on the cockroaches...but I am slowing wearing them down....
My “End of Summer” Camp was also a success! We had a blast and I will hopefully be doing one again (with more adult help) come summer vacaction (mid-July for those wanting to plan donations...wink wink...)The pic to the right is me sprinting it out during the relay races we had for camp with the younger kids haha...I tied for second fastest...that's an accomplishment right there...
And now that the school year has begun again, I am back to work planning different projects and programs. I have a lot that I want/would like to do in both the high school and the elementary school…we’ll just have to see what works out and what doesn’t. My first project right now is a theatre workshop in the high school…I can’t believe I am attempting this haha…lets hope all those years in the drama club will pay off… the reason I want to do it is a) to give the kids another recreational option, increase their self-esteem, public speaking skills, etc but also b) because my region in CR is putting on a Arts Festival and I would like to bring a group from my high school to participate. The festival is a really cool idea that was actually started a few years ago by a group of Costa Rican artists…it basically consists of a series of workshops about peace and violence issues, plus learning an art technique (whatever form of art you want). Each volunteer facilitates the workshop in his or her community and then they all get together and have a big festival to share what they’ve learned and just have fun basically. So the plan is to bring my theatre group to the arts festival, which will be March 20th. Wish me luck!
So that’s mas o menos where I’m at right now…I hope all the snow is melting away up in PA…its sunny and pura vida here in Costa Rica…sending sunshine and warm vibes…
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Im settling in though, getting into a groove here…I have some regular projects going on now. My official counterpart, PANI, is sponsoring an art class in the elementary school and dance class at the high school so I am helping with both of those projects. I also have my English group at the elementary school….and its, well, I at least show up twice a week lets just say that. I have a group of about 6 students who are my “regulars” but they don’t really show up every time haha…it’s a work in progress. I also started a similar group in the high school with one of the English teachers…we’ve only had one meeting so far but there was a good turn-out…we'll see how it goes though.
Another project that is finally taking shape is a mural project with the six grade class from the elementary school. The teacher came to me with the idea of doing a mural on one of the walls of the school…the kids are pretty into it…though the main group pretty much just wants to paint a tribute to themselves haha…since sixth grade is the highest you go in elementary school here and next year they will be in high school, they want to leave their legacy as the best class in school history haha….I’m trying to gently help them understand that painting all 50 of their portraits on the school walls is not the idea. I went with a group of 7 of them yesterday to ask donations from local businesses so we can start painting next month (though we still don’t have a clear idea of what we’re going to paint). I was really unsure of how it was going to go, especially since the original idea was to go and ask for material donations – paint, brushes, etc. We ended up going to the majority of stores in the center (there are a lot) and asking for any contribution (material or money). And even though at first they were all shy and no one wanted to talk to any of the employees (which was really funny, me and a group of 7 six-graders standing around in a store…each one of them trying to get someone else to talk), as we went they got more confidence and wanted to go to every single store…they really got into it and I thankfully didn’t have to do all that much. In the end we collected in just 2hrs hopefully all the money we’ll need to buy all the materials, plus one of the hardware stores gave up a quart of paint and two brushes and another supermarket gave us two brushes. The best part is when we got back to the school, one of the teachers gave the kids money to buy paint thinner! All in all, it was really successful…I was happily surprised how well it went. Now all we have to do is figure out what we’re going to paint and where hahah. But at least we CAN now…we weren’t even sure if anyone was going to give us anything.
I also finally went back to the beach this month! A couple companeros and I went to a small beach town on the Caribbean coast called Cahuita. It was gorgeous…you almost felt like you were on a Caribbean island sometimes. The town was super-laid back and had a Rasta/hippie/backpacker vibe…we stayed in cabinas that looked out right to the ocean. We didn't do too much besides go to the beach...which was just what I needed. We did rent surf boards and TRIED to surf haha...well, lets just say that I definitely know surfing is not my niche. But it was fun, and I will probably try again at some point during my service.
I am NOT really looking forward to another Peace Corps conference the first week of November...its going to be at a campground, during rainy season, where it gets down to the 50s at night.....nough said. But at least it will be good seeing all the other volunteers for a few days.
I am learning to be patient, to live in the moment and that forcing myself to do things that make me uncomfortable (talking to people in Spanish for example) will help me alot in the long run. I am also taking a dance class...because, well, if you don't dance here it's a little strange so I need to learn me some steps haha....this week was my first class so I will keep everyone posted at to how Im progressing...
The only thing you need to know about Costa Rican weather: if its not raining, it's f*ing hot; if it's not f*ing hot, its raining. punto.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I´ve made some accomplishments the past 2 months: finished my CAT (woohoo!!), strengthened relationships, started (kinda) a couple projects, and most importantly.... rode a HORSE!!! There are pics on facebook for those who have not yet heard. Haha, it was probably the highlight of my time here so far...which is probably kinda sad but i dont care, i got to ride a horse! It was fun and I have a standing invitation from my host uncle to come to his farm whenever I want to ride their horses. I am planning on practicing a lot...I even joked with my program manager that, instead of a bike to get around, I want a horse lol. I am still looking into this as a possibility.
Workwise...now that I have finished my community assessment, my counterpart and i identified some projects to start, so its just a matter of coordinating and trying to meet, etc. Theres still alot of waiting and not exactly a whole lot to do...trying to be pacient about it all. I did start an English afterschool help at the elementary school (escuela). That has been going on for a couple weeks and has been pretty good....there arent a whole lot of kids and the older ones that have been coming are annoying cause all they want to do is gossip and make fun of each other (but, what do you expect from 12yr olds?). So its a work in progress. Im also working with one of the teachers from the high school (colegio) to start something similar there, though we wont start until october.
The first week of September was IST - in-service training, where all the volunteers from my group (tico 19) came together for a week of trainings and to share our first 3 months at site with one another. It was really great getting to see everyone again, especially those I hadnt seen since may. I also learned that I need to take time for myself now and then... I had been really stressed out about the CAT at the end of August and hadnt really left my site in over month...not a good thing to do. I realized that even if for just a night or two, I need to take time for myself every now and then so I dont get burned out.
I have made a resolution to update my blog more often, so hopefully i will be able to write more about life day to day in San Rafael.
Hope all is well at home....peace :)
Friday, June 26, 2009
May started with a trip to the beach!! ALL 50 Tico 19ers (my group of PC volunteers) went to Jaco beach to celebrate finally knowing our where our homes for the next two years would be. It was a nice, relaxing weekend, with nothing more to do or worry about than spending time at the beach with new friends (we all kinda avoided talking about the fact that we would soon be separated from each other once we moved to our new homes, spread all across the country). The rest of May flew by….rushing to get our homework and projects for training completed in time. Then, suddenly, it was counterpart day….the day we met our counterparts (haha, literal enough?) – the local person from our communities with whom we would be working most with…basically our official link to the community. So, I packed up ½ of my crap (how I actually accumulated things without really ever buying anything I still don’t know..), including the ton of books and papers issued by Peace Corps (oh, right, that’s how I ended up with twice the load I arrived in country with…) and made my way to San Jose to meet this mystery person along with my fellow Tico 19ers. My local counterpart is actually a member of the local police force…which I think is awesome…don´t have to worry about anyone messing with me! lol. So, we all got introduced to our counterparts and then headed together (along with the pile of stuff everyone brought, well, the trainees anyway) to the same retreat center we had stayed at when we first arrived in country. We spent the rest of the day in awkward workshops with our counterparts, to get to know each other and prepare for our site visits (which would be the next day) where we would meet our new homes for the first time (cue dramatic music).
So, without further ado, I will introduce you all (as best I can without any pictures – long story short, I still don’t have my camera battery charger) to San Rafael de Guatuso, Alajuela province,
So my site visit went well...I was on the local radio show...my counterpart has a weekly show and invited me, at first I thought just to see the station, etc, but no, I was definitely interviewed during his show. He was very excited to tell everyone about me and Peace Corps. Thankfully it was brief. There is also an indigenous reservation very close to Guatuso (thats actually where the name comes from) so I will hopefully be able to work with those communities as well. A short 10 days after my return to San Jose (sans pile of crap that I thankfully was able to leave at my new home) was Swearing In!!! The day I finally became a real Peace Corps volunteer. It was a beautiful, but surreal day for me. I had be thinking, dreaming, planning and anticipating this day ever since I learned what Peace Corps was. I almost felt detached from myself as we said the oath to defend the constitution of the United States of America at the Ambassador´s residence in San Jose. It really didnt feel real...and although I didn´t feel any different afterwards (or any more prepared haha) I knew that my real journey, my real adventure was just beginning.
Myself and the majority of my fellow CYFers spent the night out in San Jose before reality sunk in the next day and we started the tearful goodbyes. We told ourselves that it was only "see you later" and that we would only be a few hours by bus or a quick phone call away from each other. But it was still hard to say goodbye to the people I had become so close to. Sunday May 30th, 2009 I arrived in San Rafael de Guatuso to begin "working" as an offical Peace Corps Volunteer and representative of the USA (more or less). Almost a month later, I still cannot tell you definitively what I do or what my job is....thats part of what PC is, this undefined "thing" that works in mysterious ways without you even realizing it. Everyday that kids from the school say "adios!" (Costa Rican greeting) to me in the street, I know PC is doing its thing, and even I have no idea whats going to come from it.
Im still getting used to a lot of things: I think my Spanish has improved but people can still talk about me right in front of my face and usually I am none the wiser. The most frustrating thing is, though, when people are talking about me and I KNOW they are talking about me I just know exactly what they are saying so I can´t really respond in any clever way.....or sometimes in any way at all. But, poco a poco, Im learning. I haven´t needed to adjust to the heat, as most of you know haha though I am still unsure how I feel about Rainy Season - I am withholding judgment until we are smack in the middle of it (september ish) or my clothes grow mold (which current volunteers say WILL happen), whichever happens first.
About my days here...everyday is different, something I´ve always liked. Im trying to split the majority of my time between the elementary school and the high school. I also have meetings with PANI, my official counterpart, the clinic, Ministry of Health, and other organizations to get information regarding this looming thing called the CAT. I´ve also been trying to get to know the town more, be seen and talk to people...so sometimes just walking around or going to the grocery store is work for me. Like I said before: poco a poco...though Ive definitely been frustrated and have missed being at home, for the most part life is good here.
PURA VIDA as they would say here in CR
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
So this is from a looong time ago (end of April) cause I havent been able to get online long enough recently. Enjoy!
Always Have a Plan D
So I just got back from my tech visit to Perez Zeledon in the southern part of the country. I will apologize now for not having pictures….my camera battery died and I of course did not bring the charger with me to
Sunday was a day for relaxation, we went to the beach!!! Finally, I got to see Costa Rican beaches! And they definitely live up to all the hype. We went to Dominical, which is about an hour and half by bus…in reality it’s only about 45min-1 hour away but because you have to go through the mountains, the bus takes a lot longer.
Monday we had to get to work…we started out with a meeting at PANI (Patronato Nacional de la Infancia) which is basically like child protective services in the states and is the counterpart agency for CYF….all CYF volunteers work in some capacity with PANI. Then we went to Alex’s community, Cocori which is also outside of
Tuesday was a really busy day too: more stuff at the school in Cocori, more Spanish class, and our CYF training coordinator did a workshop on physical punishment to some parents from the school. It was a nice demonstration of how to use NFE (non-formal education – another one of those big PC things) because during tech week we have to give a NFE lesson to a group of students or adults in the community. We also got a tour of the dump in Cocori. I know, it sounds weird to visit a dump like it’s a tourist attraction but it was actually very interesting and educational. And the views from the dump are absolutely breath-taking, I can’t wait till I can post some pictures that others took. And right when you’re in the middle of the dump, its sooo quiet and peaceful, there’s just no noise (except for the stray dogs and vultures haha). There are also several addicts that live in the dump. More people come to the dump during the day to work – basically dig through the trash for copper, glass, etc to sell. Alex is friends with some of the guys who live there (I know, weird situation) so we got to talk to them for a little bit. They were really nice, I appreciated that they were willing to let a group of gringos into their homes basically to ask some questions. We didn’t stay long but it was still a powerful experience. It reminded me of the
Wednesday we spent with Farhat in Baidambu so we didn’t have to travel as much. We spent most of our time at the elementary school there too. Jen and I gave our NFE presentation to the 5th grade….which was interesting to say the least. First off, we thought we would be working with older kids (6th or 7th graders) so we planned a workshop (taller) on leadership. Had a great plan on paper too. So we get to the tech visit and find out we are actually working with the 5th grade…..still thought no big deal, it’ll still work, be fine, etc. So we start, and we were pretty confident in our plan. And we ask who knows what a leader is. àNOTE: all of this is in Spanish! So we start to try and find out what they know, and we pretty much get bashful blank stares from all 15 kids in the room. Great. But we persevere! We prod them and encourage them for an excruciating 5-10min till we kinda get the ball rolling on what we were hoping to discuss with them. So then we get into the activity we had planned: a blindfolded maze where one kid has to lead their partner through the maze using on words (you know, being a leader). Explaining the maze and getting the kids organized went pretty well. The actual activity was good too, except that since we didn’t have enough blindfolds, we just had them all close their eyes and most of them cheated, and the “leaders” tried to move the obstacles out of the way instead of guiding the other kid around it! Hahaha but apparently they liked it because about ½ of the class wanted to do it again! We didn’t have time but it was at least good to know they liked it. I was really worried that the kids would come away not having learned anything, but at the end, they were all able to write down one way they would be a leader that week and that was pretty much the point. So, overall, it was a success. The idea of having a
Thursday we got to play with the kids from the albergue (orphanage) at this large park. And then we went dancing! It was a lot of fun, though I was disappointed that they stopped playing salsa/merengue music like 1/2hr after we got there. And it was so cute, before I left on Friday, my host mom gave me bracelets a "rememberance" of them and told me how much she had enjoyed hosting me (it was their first time hosting an person from the US)....she even cried! It was so adorable, they are really sweet people. All in all a great trip, and it really prepared me for my service...I think I have alot better idea of what volunteer life is like.
Sorry the end of my post is rushed, I don´t have a lot of time left in the internet cafe....and I will try to post more recent happenings (like Site Assignment Day!!!) real soon....check facebook for the name of the town where ill be living for the next two years!
Almost there! Just about 2 weeks till I move to my site!!!
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Happy Belated Easter! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. Mine was very nice because we had off Thursday and Friday for Semana Santa (Holy Week). It was really nice to hang out with my family and relax. And I got to play a lot of Uno. My youngest brother found my cards and Uno cards and now the first thing he asks me when I come home is “Can we play?” and then he asks when we can play and if I have to do something else first he asks why we cant play first and then I go do what I have to. But its been really fun and its been a good way to integrate (integrate is another big thing for PC - to integrate into your family and community).
Easter Sunday I went to church with my family and afterwards there was a procession – complete with a band and a giant “float” of the risen Jesus (it was actually a statue on the back of a truck). There are a lot of processions here…on Friday I went to 2 and I’m sure there was one in almost every nearby town. The procession on Friday for Good Friday in
After church, I went with my family to a large park in the next town over and then we went out for pizza! Which was awesome because I had been really craving pizza the past couple of days! I think my host mom must have read my mind lol. And it was really good pizza too! It was a really good that unfortunately ended with a cockroach in my room hahah, but we won’t talk about that…
Also, on Saturday, a couple of us went to the house of another trainee and hung out with her family. We ended up teaching her parents how to play “Spoons” and everyone had a blast!
Training is going well….and good news…we’re already ½ way through! AND in just 3 weeks, I will know where my final site will be! So soon, I’ll know where I’ll be living for the next 2 years! Woohoo! Also, on Tuesday, we had our second Spanish language exam and I am happy to report that I have reached the level required to swear-in! I wasn’t really worried but it’s still nice to know I’m at the level I need to be. And, this Saturday is a dinner for all the volunteers in
I know I have been slacking with the pictures and I will try to post more (especially from my site visit) really soon! I will also try to take pictures of
PCT Nicole Noecker
Cuerpo de Paz
Apartado Postal 1266
1000 San Jose, Costa Rica