Monday, February 14, 2011

Layers of Sound

Every morning I wake up to the sound of howler monkeys screaming from the mountains a few kilometers away. I can hear different kinds of birds singing and chirping. Dogs barking and roosters crowing. Ah, so peaceful. Then the rest of Bribri starts moving. I hear the loud trucks roar through the center of town where I live. The semis carrying loads up into the mountains are so loud my bed shakes. The businesses start opening, and one by one, the metal doors creak open. The reggeton rooting from the local barbershop pulsates through the walls. The buses buzzing, then honking as they come and go to take people to and from town. People screaming and laughing. The man that walks around with two little red coolers selling sea turtle eggs, yelling out “Huevos! Huevos de tortuga!!!”

Then I bring my attention to my room. I listen to my own breath. Deep inhale, long exhale. I focus on the constant humming of my fan. I hear the pitter patter of the rats in the walls. The yelps of the geckos that have also taken residence in the corners of my walls. I stretch and listen to the many voices in my own mind, then hone in on my Higher Self’s voice and meditate, grateful for another day of life and the ability to hear, smell, taste, see, breath, and feel.

I head downstairs with my laundry and wash outside in the backyard, now further from the sounds of the town and closer to the many birds, the water, the trees. I not only hear all the layers, I see the beautiful colors of the guanabana tree, the cas tree, the water apple tree. The reds, yellows, greens, blues of the birds that fly back and forth. The brilliant yellows, reds, purples, and greens of the flowers. And the sun is so bright. I am excited to have running water and lots of sunlight. Makes for a perfect day for laundry.

This is a typical morning in Bribri.

my jeans after washing them
my view from the backyard that overlooks Rio Sixaola
good sun = dry jeans in about 2-3 hours!!!!
it's the little things like water and sun that make me happy
where the washing happens.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!

Written Thanksgiving Day, posted November 30th...

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S. Here in Costa Rica, it is a regular day. So, last night I pulled out my blank thank you cards and got to writing. I wrote a pile of thank you notes to people in my community that have helped me out and that I am thankful for. They may not have known what Thanksgiving was, but they will today. This is my own way to celebrate.

I am grateful to have all of your love and support. I am grateful for serving in the Peace Corps, in Costa freakin Rica!!! Tomorrow, 17 of us volunteers will be going to Jaco (a beach town) to relax a few days and attempt to make Thanksgiving dinner.


  • I am busy doing projects!!!! I started a group with about 18 teens. The idea is they become leaders in the community. They are learning about how to tackle issues such as HIV AIDS, sexuality, environment, team building, drugs, recreation, and fundraising. I am excited every time the kiddos show up! They keep showing up!!! We are doing our first event as the group Esperanza (Esperanza means hope, the name they came up with) on December 1st to observe International AIDS Day. We are working on hosting a youth camp early next year here in Talamanca... stay tuned.
  • I will be teaching English in the elementary school for a few weeks beginning next week.
  • My girls group, Voces Valerosas, is going well. They love to meet and are also part of the Esperanza group.
  • Just started a few workshops on the environment. I am learning a lot myself about the environment. It’s such and important issue. Sad to see how conserving beautiful Costa Rica is not part of Costa Rican culture. There is a lot of work being done with organizations to bring awareness and make changes.
  • I have discovered you can pop pork rinds just like you pop popcorn in the microwave. This is an interesting and tasty invention. It comes in a bag just like microwave popcorn and comes in regular or BBQ flavor.
  • Last weekend at an event for children the police put on, I watched an old lady dive in for some candy when the piñata busted. On her way to the dive, she first pushed her grandson in the chaos, then pushed a little boy over so she could get first dibs on the candy. This lady also cut in the KIDS line with her grandson to get an ice cream cone. LOL!!!! Someone had to tell her, “Ma’am, this event is for children. You cannot stand in line for an ice cream cone”.
  • I miss my camera dearly. There are so many things I want to take pictures of!
  • Can you believe I have been in country for almost 9 months!!!?!?!?!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tico 20er Love til the End

I have been in country for a little over seven months. I have been in my site for almost 5 months. This is usually the point of service many volunteers question why we are here, if we are even useful, and if it would make more sense to be in the States. So far, 3 of the 17 from my program have, at some point and for varying reasons, decided to return to the States. We are now down to 14 of us Children, Youth, & Family volunteers from Tico 20. It sometimes feels a little like one of those reality shows where you can ring the bell to quit the challenge and go home. And every time someone “rings the bell” to go home, it shakes things up for the rest of us. Each time one of us has made that decision to return home, I can’t help it: I do a quick re-evaluation of “well, why am I here?” ...And depending on the mood sometimes I feel like I am 100% in the right place, but other times I have a longing to get on that flight with my fellow parting volunteer...

My fellow volunteers I came in with (Tico 20) are a valuable, integral, lifeline to my existence as a Peace Corps volunteer. Who else can truly appreciate and understand exactly what I am going through better than a Tico 20er? When I share my woes with friends and family back home I get great supportive “hang in theres” or protective “just come home, you don’t have to deal with all of that”. All of which is great; but only my Tico 20ers feel what I am feeling. This is such a unique experience, no matter how much I try to describe it, only my Tico 20ers laugh with me, cry with me, or gripe with me in true understanding. So, when another one of us makes that last trip to the Peace Corps office and decides to leave Peace Corps.... we feel it too. We understand why they are leaving, we wish they stayed, sometimes we wish we were them. But, at the end of the day, I am Tico 20 and I am here to stay. I hope life works out in a way that I can finish my service. Just when you think you know what’s next, life happens.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


This is in Colinas Verdes, Alajuela, Costa Rica
Colinas Verdes means green hills. :)
These are Manzana de Agua or Water Apples
This is my awesome counterpart and myself before the high school senior dinner.
Dinner in Tortuguero at Patty & Tony's house: Homeade Guac & fresh pineapple
Donna in Tortuguero
Donna & Jeff in Tortuguero. That's the Tortuguero National Park behind us right before sunset.
Jeff at sunset with the canal in the background
My fellow Peace Corps Volunteers! Love them
Patty & Donna chatting as usual
Add Image Hanging out on the beach in Tortuguero

Woah. I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I last updated my blog... Here’s what’s been going on:

  • I completed the CAT (Community Assessment Tool). Well, I completed the first draft.
  • The U.S. military came to this area of Costa Rica to do some humanitarian work. I introduced myself to a few marines helping rebuild part of Bribri’s Cencenai (child nutrition center). It’s curious our military was here. There were mixed reactions from my community. Some appreciated all the gifts, medical attention, and volunteer work. Others were skeptical of why the US military was really here. Costa Rica does not have military and is quite against it. So, many don’t think so highly of “war people” coming in to their space.
  • We had our In Service Training at the end of August. It was fabulous. Peace Corps got a really good deal with the Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Jose and we were able to stay there for the entire week. It was great seeing all my fellow volunteers I came in with (Tico 20) and share experiences, hear stories, and catch up. It was the first time we’d all seen eachother since swear in in May. Loved the nice beds, hot water, food, hot tub, and gym!
  • I moved out of my host family’s house and into my own place at the very end of August. SWEET! I got special permission to move out early due to my living situation and level of integration. I feel grateful to have my own space in the center of town for a good price. I eat my meals at my counterpart’s house so I get a good balance of family life and living on my own.
  • My camera got stolen from my room (when I was living with my host family) so I am sad I can’t capture a lot of cool moments with my camera and share with you .
  • My boyfriend Jeff came to visit for 10 days in September. Awesome! He got to see my site, how I live, and what I do everyday. We hiked with some friends from my community to see the waterfalls in the mountains (just an hour’s walk from my town). We went to Manzanillo, a nearby beach. And we went to visit some volunteers serving in Tortuguero. We had to take a 3 hr boat ride to get there. Absolutely beautiful. Saw crocs, all kinds of birds, caymans, monkeys, sloths, giant SEA TURTLES, baby sea turtles running for their lives to the sea. Also learned about the flip side of tourism in Tortuguero and issues the children and families live with.
  • September 15th is Costa Rican Independence Day. Bribri and surrounding towns had a parade in Bribri. Fun times.
  • The water still goes out a lot, but at on a more regular schedule: 7pm to 6am.
  • I wash my clothes by hand in the pila now that I live on my own. Good time to reflect, work out the arms, and have me time.
  • I’ve started working out in the mornings with a few teens in my community. I am introducing yoga to them. They think it’s pretty funny, but try it out with me...and I think they just might like it. :)
  • Finally started a few projects in the community: La Bandera Azul is a project already in place at the schools on a national level -- the principal asked me to work with the kids on presenting a play, art, and poetry with a Global Warming theme. Turned out wonderfully.
  • I noticed most of the kids at the school had a cold and sniffles and were walking around with a small towell to wipe their noses or using their hands. Then, I ended up with a cold (a pretty nasty one).... which leads me to the next project! Celebrating Global Handwashing Day on October 15th!!!!!!
  • I started a series of workshops Peace Corps Costa Rica has called Voces Valerosas. It’s designed for female teens. Love it.
  • Will start an English class soon at the school and with adults.
  • Working on an activity center for the high school... a much bigger, long term project that will require the community to dedicate to it. We’ll see how it goes.

Overall, I’m feeling more motivated, integrated, and settled. Looking forward to two of my friends coming to visit me in November. I will be hosting a trainee from the new wave of volunteers PC is bringing in October. I joined a committee and will be helping out with some sessions at the pre service training for trainees in October and November.

Oh, and I am coming to the States in December!!!!!! Texas here I come.

Friends, thank you soooooo much for the care packages you’ve been sending me. I feel grateful and get super excited when I open up a package. I have the cards and notes you send me hanging up in my room.

Hugs to all! Love you!

Pura Vida

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bullet points...

Aug 14, 2010

for pics of Bribri:

Journal entry: I am grateful for life. I am here and alive and well. Not only do I have the gift of life, I am living a life full of love, of joy, of freedom, of abundance, of friendships, of very good health, of travel, of wisdom, of dreams, of good memories, of safety, of grace, of family, and of laughter. Thank you Universe. Thank you.

  • I am back to my exercise routine in the mornings. Going to try to build muscle to make up for the weight I´m losing.
  • Still tired of eating beans and rice.
  • Interestingly enough, although I am absolutely surrounded by banana fields, it´s pretty challenging to buy bananas around here...
  • August 15th is Mother´s Day in Costa Rica. I got a little something for all of the mamas that have helped me settle into Bribri.
  • We didn´t have phone, cell phone, or internet access for a week due to the fire earlier this month in Limón at ICE. That meant no way to call 911 in case of an emergency and no way to use ATMs or buy things with credit cards.
  • I am slowly but surely getting over my fear of spiders... I watched an entire episode about a guy that got bitten by a huge hairy spider. I was jumpy but I did it. AND, I continue to kill spiders in my room. Still working through my fear of the big, hairy ones...
  • The water goes out A LOT in this town. A LOT. They say it is because too many people have moved into this area, but other people say it´s due to some kind of corruption with the municipalidad. Whoever is responsible, it´s annoying not having water. Those of you in the States, be grateful you just turn on the tap and hardly think about if there is enough or whether or not you can drink it.
  • Unwanted visitors that have entered my room include but are not limited to: Spiders, huge june bugs, a variety of mosquitos, chickens, big toads, huge roaches, large beetles, a bat, bugs I cannot identify, kiddos from the neighborhood. There is also a family of big mice, maybe rats that live in the ceiling above me and make a lot of racket at night.
  • I rode a horse last weekend at a friend´s ranch --- almost worth the thirty something chiggar bites I got all over my body because of it.
  • I went camping last month at a beach called Manzanillo with my counterpart Miriam and her family (she has 9 siblings, tons of brother & sister in laws, and nephews & nieces). Tons o fun. I even slept in a tent!
  • I have had a few “ready to pack my bag and go home” moments, but am determined to press on. I am SOOO looking forward to our In Service Training at the end of this month in which I will meet up with all my peers for a whole week in San Jose to catch up on how we´re all doing.
  • Potential projects I forsee are building an activity or rec center for the youth in town, awareness of children´s rights for children, parents, and service providers, community service activities involving children and youth, a women´s group, Chicas poderosas or Voces valerosas, a soccer league (no I don´t play but I´ll support it), some kind of self run fitness or exercise group

A day in the life...

August 4, 2010

Quirky things I´m probably taking for granted that are in fact amusing... A day in the life of my Peace Corps days thus far:

Regular bike ride into to town... I see what looks like a freakin´coral snake in the middle of the road right in front of the local elementary school. I have just got to confirm, so I

U-turn and approach cautiously. As I am leaning over to look, a man on a bike drives by and says in Spanish, “Yep. That´s a coral snake, sweetie”. Yep, it sure is. It´s dead of course, but I still find this intriguing--- a coral snake! Those are poisonous and it was in the middle of the road I ride down everyday... in front of the school...

Next, I decide to stop by the super and grab a liquid yogurt. In walks 6 or 7 clearly American tourists so they could buy bottled water (which is funny because you can totally drink the water here). They were quite a spectacle with their water bottles, shorts with tall socks and hiking boots (everyone around here just wears sandals or flip flops. it´s hot), big toursity hats, and as usual, raggedy holy shirts and shorts. I am tickled because I now understand why Costa Ricans think Americans are dirty and don´t bathe. LOL. (I have had to explain to many a Costa Rican that we Americans do bathe daily even though some of us Americans opt for the... outdoorsy look. They are not convinced, however). I decide not to introduce myself to the foriegners because my sole purpose in Peace Corps right now is to integrate into the community and they would not help the cause, so I get on my bike and blend right in with the Costa Ricans. Keep it moving.

I roll my bike on to the PANI office so I can get some work done on my community assessment that´s due in 3 weeks to Peace Corps. There´s nowhere for me to work since a shipment of office furniture is taking up all the offices and the hall. So, I crash the social worker´s office to share some space with her. She doesn´t mind at all. I´m working on my laptop sharing Janet Jackson number one hits with her (goal 2 of Peace Corps) and she casually grabs a long knife to jimmy the lock to her own file cabinet! I love it. She grabs a paperclip and the knife and is going to work on that lock to break it open. I am cracking up and she looks at me like, “What? This is normal.” She does this on a daily basis because they never had a key to the file cabinet to begin with and this knife paperclip routine was the maintenance guy’s solution. And so it is.

Today I am unconnected to my cell phone, land line phones, and the internet. It hasn’t been working all day. I think to myself -- Not so bad for me. I can survive a day without it. But, as it turns out, everyone in at least the entire county of Talamanca and part of Limon has no cell phone signal, the land line phones are dead, and the internet is down! That is a LOT of people without access. The cause: a fire at ICE’s main network headquarters in Limon... ICE is Costa Rica’s electric company and is the only provider for electric, phone, cell phones, and internet in the country. And so, if there is an emergency, dios guarde (god forbid), the only communication is radio through the taxi drivers per the announcement on the news!!!!

And it’s only 1:45 in the afternoon. So I will jam on with the social worker to Janet Jackson.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Uggghhh, sometimes.

In Manzanillo, partly cloudy, no rain, perfect
We found in the backyard. It has red wings
The nearby beach of Manzanillo
View of the mountains and banana fields when I jog
Cool looking bug in the dining room....
Check out this nocturnal butterfly in my room!!!
University Earth in Guapiles
with youth leaders on the way to a youth congress

July 8, 2010

I really miss “me time”. Like being in my own place with no one to pound on the bathroom door, ask me what I’m doing, ask me where I’m going, who I’m going with, and whether or not I should go (like I asked for their opinion in the first place) kind of me time. Even little kids ask you. “Where are you going? Why? Where did you just come from? Who were you with?” It’s such an exhausting inquisition if you’re just trying to make it into town or back home or into your room. I would love to be able to walk in and say hello to everyone, go to the bathroom and pee, then to my room to take my shoes off, THEN when I’ve had a minute, share with people how my day was -- how I want to share it. On the street too, the same interrogation occurs. I’ve started asking people who ask me all these questions the same questions, in hopes to curb the onslaught of inquiries. It works sometimes. For the most part, people mean well or don’t mean anything at all by asking all these questions. It’s just part of the culture- how you greet one another. I get that. So, I try to go with their flow. Usually, if I can get past being annoyed, I can have a decent conversation and learn a thing or two. One interesting observation is that women ask women, boys and girls ask women, men ask women.... Not so much do you see women ask men and get a real response from men.

Which leads me to the next observation. Lots of men here (at least in my community) are recklessly, blatantly, openly flirting with women and girls that are NOT their partner. Many of these men are not just flirting but pursuing them just the same and have affairs, lots of affairs. It is so commonly accepted that the men here step out on their wives, girlfriends, etc. And it is just astounding to me. I have had so many married men hit on me, whistle at me, damn near proposition me --- and sure enough, they are married with kids. Of course, when they are walking down the street the next day with their wife and kids they have nothing to say, but as soon as she turns away, there they go. Men are free to go out after work to the local bars, to play soccer, to hang out without “permission” while women are usually stuck at home with their children. Women have little to no social network, recreational activities, or positive outlet. And God forbid, they do get out and do something --- they either have to take all their kids with them (because of course the man can’t watch them) or they go by themselves but are constantly being called on their cell phones by their husbands. Now if a wife or girlfriend were to step out on their man, it is unforgiveable. She’s the town whore, a zorra, a prostitute. What a double standard. And this is reinforced by men AND women. It starts here when they are children. Little boys are told “you’re not a man unless you have a lot of women, and if you turn a woman down, you’re a homosexual”. Of course, there are exceptions. Not ALL men cheat (although if you were to ask any woman here, they would say all men cheat). Not ALL women are in an oppressive role. But it’s pretty overwhelmingly so. Ironically, Costa Rica has elected their first female president.

Whew. Vent session. What else has been going on? Well, I ate sea turtle last weekend. My host dad’s mother is a great cook and brought sea turtle swearing up and down it was the best food ever. I think they noticed my apprehension and responded, “Oh it’s completely legal to eat sea turtle. This isn’t the illegal kind.” Yeah right. I took a bite to be polite, but still felt bad. And for those who are wondering, it tasted like cow meat with a tinge of seafoodness and coconut.

I’ve been working on my Community Assessment that’s due to Peace Corps at the end of August. It’s pretty tedious. But I think there are some great projects and lots of work to be done here in Bribri.

I’ve had more ups and downs. Some days, I feel so grateful and right on time to be here and other days I feel like packing up and going home. They say that’s normal, especially the first few months. It helps that I have a lot of support from a few families here in town and can contact my fellow volunteers so easily with cell phones. They help me get through the homesickness. I try to exercise almost everyday. My ankle started swelling up so I can’t run as much. I roll on my bike as my main mode of transportation. I journal everyday which helps me keep my center. Just finished reading Infidel by Ayaan HIrshi Ali. Great book.

Love you all!!!!!!!