lunes, 23 de abril de 2012

It's Already April!

 For summer break I had facilitated two computer courses which were great successes and got a chance to know a lot of really great people in doing so.  I got my neighbor kids together to play futbol and taught them some baseball which was especially fun.  I went rock climbing in San Geronimo de Cachi at my friend Mo's site.  I spent a bunch of time with friends in San Jose and had a really great summer.  

School started again and its been great working with one new teacher and actually getting time to work with one from last year.  I've had a lot of fun with the students and made time to stay late in Guaitil to work with the 4th-6th graders there more.  We worked hard on a grant application this summer to raise funds for a computer lab.  We won the Kids to Kids grant and are now waiting for the School Board to have a bingo in order to raise its community contribution.  We're all really excited to "Bring Google to Guaitil" as we so cleverly called the project, hehe, and hope to bring all of our hard work to fruition within the next couple months.

I've finished my fourth computer class (and will do a few more once we get the new computer lab up and running) and am now teaching a class for 11th and 12th graders studying for their final English exams that they all have to present in order to graduate.  It's been really fun working with a more advanced group.  They understand most of what they read although don't speak it nearly as well.  It would be interesting to get a chance to teach a conversation class with them but their last year is the toughest of all.

In March I climbed to Cerro Chirripo which is the highest peak in Costa Rica.  It was absolutely beautiful and pretty trying.  I had a blast spending so much time hiking with my volunteer friends and seeing the most incredible views!

We had an environmental conference that we got a chance to take three high school students to which was absolutely incredible.  All of the kids had so much fun.  None of my kids know how to swim but two of them actually swam in the open see off of the tour boat we went out on, and they both learned how to surf!  It was so incredible for them to get a chance to feel so comfortable in the water!  I've been meaning to do a swim camp for about a year now and never made it happen, but when Dad comes to visit in June I really want to get it done!  So many kids around here always say, "I know how to swim in rivers, but not the ocean."  So I'm really excited to see them actually swimming and not just bouncing around in the water!  I'll leave you with this "concise" update. 

Love and miss you all!


martes, 22 de noviembre de 2011


At least once a week I tell myself I need to update my blog.  Everyday I come home tired and consider it, but it's usually my first time of the day to get online and need to check my e-mails, do some more work stuff and catch up on facebook.  This has been about 7 pm lately when I finally get online.  The upside to all of this is that I've been really busy. 

I'm going to try and be brief about everything in order to mention it all, and hopefully will get on more.  Today, I'm going to go to receive the recycling truck!  We've weighed most of what we have and so far and we have over 13,000 kilograms of reciclable materials.  That's more than one ton!  This is at least 700 kilograms that's not being taken to the county dump, and 600 kilograms that's not being burned according to the town's solid waste capabilities.  I could not be more stoked with the outcome at these two schools.   Plus, the one director I've had a chance to talk to about it says that she would love to continue the program next year even though the municipality will be sending trucks out.  This way the school will continue getting funds rather than the company that will be coming out.  Plus, they can continue to use it for their Bandera Azul programs and continue the environmental education aspect of it!  Woot!

I started a computer course in one town.  I've been pretty busy so wasn't planning on it until January but one friend heard that I have been trained to facilitate Intel courses and asked to organize it and that we start immediately.  So three times a week from 3-5 pm I facilitate this course.   Some women in the group had never even touched a computer before so it's really amazing how much they've learned, even the more advanced students.  And it looks like we'll be able to finish the 5 week course before I go home for the holidays which is great!

I have two high school groups that I'm working with.  They're both pretty small but I know that they've all gained a lot from them.  The first is an environmental group taking part in a Peace Corps program called Alianza Liderazgo del Ambiente.  There are several workshops involving different aspects of the environment such as water, earth, biodiversity, etc.  At the end the kids have to submit a multimedia project discussing the situation of the environment in their communities and make an action plan of what we can do to improve it. Then, we have the opportunity to take two students to the conference in Bahia Ballena to present the project with most expenses covered.  It's a really great program but I'm having trouble working with the end of the year school schedule. 

The second high school group is called Voces Valerosas.  This is an all girls group in which there are numerous workshops on topics ranging from female leadership, to economic justice and human rights.  It's another really great program thought up by Peace Corps volunteers in which the girls express themselves and the situations they find here in their communities through art.  They write poems or stories, do collages and draw pictures.  At the end we submit their pieces to the committee that chooses the pieces to include in the magazine of the pieces submitted from girls all over the countries in these same groups.  Then, we also have the opportunity to take two girls to the conference in San Jose where they can meet other PC volunteers and girls just like them.  I've learned so much from these girls.  Even if we don't finish out the workshops due to scheduling conflicts I'm so happy to see what they've learned, especially which girls decided to join the group. 

Lastly, I have my kids soccer group that meets on Saturday mornings and we train them.  Most of them are just starting out with it so they have a lot of room to improve to beat the other local teams but they've made a ton of progress and they really appreciate the weekly practices.  I had found a coach for them but he's a director at a school and has been really busy lately so I've been taking over.  But we try to make sure someone's there every weekend. 

There's more in my personal life to include but I'll leave it for another day.  I'll just leave you with this.  I have some great friends.  I'm living with my friend Marilu although she nor her daughters spend much time here.  They stay at Mari's mom's house because she's been a little sick and take care of the house for her.  So I'm basically living alone and really enjoying it.  And right when I've had too much time alone they show up and we hang out and play around which is perfect.  I'm still dancing almost once a week.  Family back home... get ready for a dance class.  I'm not kidding.  Mom, I'm offering up your house for a family dance class, haha.  I'll be home three weeks from tomorrow and am so excited to see all of you!!! 

Love yous. 


P.S.  My camera died so I'm sorry for the lack of color in this post. 

martes, 4 de octubre de 2011

Rio Celeste - September 2011

My friend Becca and I decided to go visit Anna in her site located right outside of the national park Rio Celeste.  It took me 12 hours of catching five different buses, and getting my wallet and cell phone stolen to get there.  But Becca graciously lent me money for the weekend and to get back home so I tried not to stress it because, well it happens.  I have learned my lesson to have as much confidence as I always do with the world.

We arrived in Anna's site at about 530 and met some of her students playing bingo with English vocabulary on her front porch.  It's such a cool site and made me remember the only problem with my house, I don't feel right inviting people over very much.  So I'm moving into a house on my own some time soon.  But am very sad to be leaving my host-mom Dona Odili, although I'll only be a ten minute walk away and have already been offered veggie burgers every time I come back to visit her which will probably be once a week if her delicious bean burgers are involved!  She has definitely learned the way to my heart, haha!

After her class left we worked on making dinner and drinks.  Anna's house is so PC plus some comfy couches!  So we sat around chatting for a few hours until bedtime.  As volunteers do, we naturally woke up between 530 and 6 and got ready for the park!  Anna's friend drove us up to the park and we started our gorgeous walk through the misty forest. While we climbed up the hills of this beautiful rain forested volcano it was perfectly warm out.  I so appreciate not feeling a chill to my bones when I can!  The trails have parts that are nearly paved with rocks with some shortcuts going straight uphill in muddy messes that one not very skilled in climbing muddy roads could slip back on, but we live here so we've learned the art of wobbly legs climbing up muddy hills.  I've only fallen once, haha! 

We stopped to admire the wonders of the park.  The trees so tall with vines hanging that seemed right out of Avatar and the floating islands.  As we walked along the trails we ate what look like Avatar fruit even.  There were crazy flowers that I couldn't have imagined. At lunchtime we spotted a gerbil that came out to say hi a couple times and scuttle back into the brush.  After climbing up a very steep hill we found a turtle that I admire entirely for it's amazing skill of climbing this same hill we had just struggled our way up.  It was also very far from the water.  On our way out Anna and I stepped right over a light green 6 foot long, but very thin snake.  Becca however did see it and we got delayed a few minutes until it stopped hissing at us and went on its way before she would pass the spot on the trail where we found it.

We spent about six hours in the park.  We walked up to this gorgeous waterfall where the water is light blue and swam.  I LOVE swimming every chance I get.  I swam at the high powered waterfall for a little while never getting very close because of the strong current.  I sometimes really wish I had places I could swim near me but then remember that usually requires a place that is much hotter than where I live so I accept just swimming once every couple months.  We hiked up to the "tenidores.'  This is where the river with normal clear water has volcanic chemicals flowing out turning the river light blue.  It really is a cool site.

We then spent two hours in the hot springs, taking the occasional dip into the colder parts of the river.  We joked with all of the other visitors taking quick dips in that it's the only hot water we get, although it's not really as much of a joke as reality for us.  We rubbed rocks together and gave our selves mud masks leaving our skin super soft.  When we finally decided to leave I felt just as if I had left a spa.  But of course the feeling faded after about ten minutes of hiking back to town. But it was a leisurely walk through a gorgeous forest and one can never complain about such things.

 When we finally stepped out from under the park's thick canopy it was mid-afternoon with the sun glaring and slightly cloudy. It took us an extra hour to get back to Anna's site with the most amazing views of the volcanos and mountains around us.  All of the hills covered with forested areas, fruit farms or ranches.  Honestly, this most incredible day of hiking and rivers, another yummy dinner and chatting with friends til we knocked out made up for long ten hour trip home the next morning.  A day in that park made my month and can't wait to find others just like it in this paradise of a country I get to work in.

miércoles, 31 de agosto de 2011

First Box of Books!

About an hour after getting off the phone with Allegra she called me back to say that she had received a package of books that she had packed for herself months before back home.  She explained that they were books she had gotten from a friend's garage sale and wasn't sure how much use I would be able to find them.  I quickly contacted several people who enter San Jose regularly to see if they could stop by the Peace Corps office in the coming days to pick up this package for me.  I recently became friends with a motorcycle messenger that lives near me and he did me the amazing favor of bringing the books straight to my door only a couple days after I got the phone call!

Saturday morning was like my first Christmas morning of the year.  I sat there pealing off the price stickers and glancing through the books.  It turned out to be a small enough box that I could have brought back with me no problem but saved me a trip.  I separated them into age range and decided which I would give to each school.  I was literally glowing all day that my initial push for books came through SO QUICKLY!  The school that I'm teaching at by myself til the teacher comes back from maternity leave has gotten a chance to watch English learning videos on my iPad and seemed to enjoy story-time with these books just as much!  One of my personal favorites being Eric Carle's From Head to Toe because the photos are great and it's a fun way to practice body parts while teaching "I can do it!"  I've found so many older students who don't know what the word "can" means.  I'm teaching it to the young-ins from the start.  That and FUN! 

I've spoken to Dad about progress on a large scale book drive and am just so excited. The kids really enjoy reading with me and I'm so in love with the book I'm reading now that it pushes me more to make reading fun here.  Oh man, just had an idea although it might cost me a pretty penny.  READ posters!!!  Off to finish my book on this gorgeous day that I don't have classes on since my teacher has yet another workshop.  Oowee, READ POSTERS!  I'm so excited!

Recycling Project - Pushing Along

All four of the schools I've chosen to start working with on recycling have started receiving recyclables.  I was taking a tour of the University of Costa Rica when I got a phone call from a student asking me about some details of the program.  I was confused at first and learned that the final school had started receiving without even letting me know.  I literally jumped up and down in the middle of the campus because they had taken the initiative without me.  I mean I had already done workshops with all of their students and some community members but it's still so impressive!  

Yesterday I attended a personnel meeting the school had.  The director had invited me to, well I wasn't quite sure but went anyways.  I thought I would have about ten minutes and it turned into over an hour of talking about recycling with the teachers.  We discussed all of the ins and outs of the program and we learned more about the county working on starting a recycling program.  Everyone asked me questions and the one who has recycled for a couple years added some amazing insight on building a recycling culture here.  It was inspiring.  

Then, Don Victor brought in a box full of tetrabrik milk cartons all clean and flattened.  He was concerned that community members weren't bringing the materials in the same manner and showed us one mom's handy work with this beautiful box.  It was hilarious as all of the teachers and I marveled at the 60+ milk cartons that fit into this tiny box.  Next, he showed me the recycling they have already received and we decided I would head back on Friday to work with the sixth graders on organizing it all.  This is one way to get the word out to the community to bring stuff in already flattened.  Two teachers offered to work with me so that we can figure out the quirks of the organizing process.  

This school doesn't have recycling bins yet and we're figuring out how to work around that.  I got to thinking yesterday.  It would be so much easier if I just had a ton of funds easily at my disposal and a car that I could buy and pick up these bins for each of the schools.  But realized yesterday that the director delegating a job to one of the teachers to stay in contact with the person donating them and working with him to get them to the school gives this teacher ownership of the program.  The same for the teachers working with me this Friday.  Some even had great ideas for making props with the students for Independence Day out of recyclable materials!  We worked together for about 90 minutes on how to get word out to the community that recycling is here and how best to do it.  Just like the playground in my town that's never used.  If you don't actively involve the town in a program it won't succeed.  But of course I've had to have a ton of patience for word to get around about this program!  But it is, and I couldn't be happier.

Not only was it beautiful out, and I've had a great few weeks but I just left so inspired by all of the progress they had made on their own and was so thankful for the chance to finally brainstorm with the teachers.  I headed into Acosta to run some errands, sat in the park arranging some stuff for other projects and life and caught the bus to the school I work at on Tuesdays.  I got a chance to work with the afternoon students which is rare and we had an amazing time reading Dr. Seuss.  It feels like fall here and I couldn't feel giddier.

miércoles, 24 de agosto de 2011


So I’ve mentioned reading Dr. Seuss to our students lately and it’s going great.  We haven’t exactly installed it as a weekly thing but it’s a process of course.  I love to see the cool third graders not want to join the circle and then get absorbed by the cool pictures and reading out loud the minute they do.  It got me to remember how great story-time is.  Plus, scanning for pages with vocabulary we’re showing for the first time in a Dr. Seuss book is incredibly easy.  And since the stories are so scattered there’s no need for sequence and we can just pick and choose applicable pages.  

Talking to Jess yesterday we marveled at how awesome the world of Dr. Seuss is and I realized that sending books overseas is way too expensive to ask of my friends in family so I’ve been waiting patiently for someone to come and visit me and just bring a suitcase worth of books.  But today I figured I’d start in country.  So in between classes I e-mailed my boss for advice on organizations in country he might know of that donates books.   Then, I got a call and text from the Peace Corps Regional TEFL Advisor for Latin America and the Pacific Islands who gave me tons of great advice.

Allegra explained that USPS has an international M-Bag that ships media mail for relatively inexpensive overseas.  Finding that this program was actually continued after it had been discontinued for several years I am now super pumped to bring books to my schools!  I’m hoping that Dad will run the book drive for me.  Basically, we’re looking for English learning books.  Kids’ books are great, and easy and young-teenage novels as well.  And Spanish books are welcomed too!  Preferably lightly used and not out-dated.  We’re not looking for outdated computer manuals or anything.  

I’m so excited and have literally just been planning this for about two hours so it’s in the very beginning steps but I’m hoping all of you help out!  

Going for a walk now in the rain because if not I’ll never exercise!  Three days now of cold rain in the afternoon – Rainy season in Costa Rica Woot!

viernes, 29 de julio de 2011

Hydroponics Course

Some women in my community had expressed concern in starting a hydroponics garden a few months ago so I started to research the process online.  I had mostly found information on large scale farming and growing with the plants floating in water.   It seemed a very complicated process.  However, about a month ago I heard that the 70 person town next to me was going to have a three day course.

So this week I went to teach in the morning and left at 11 to catch the bus to my town and walk a km to this course.  The first two days were theory which I had already read a lot about.  The main difference is a huge one though.  The class was taught by an engineer from the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia (MAG), which is the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. Hydroponics is the growing of plants outside of soil.  He focused more on growing plants in solid substratum rather than water.  The best part about taking this course was learning how to make it happen here in rural Costa Rica and on a budget.  So the idea is that we build our containers out of stuff we have such as wood.

The most expensive materials will turn out to be the black plastic which protects the vegetables from bacteria and other growths.  Then ,we can use river rocks/sand, coconut fiber, or rice/coffee shells, most of which are inexpensive and can be used for several years.  It turns out the nutrient concentrates that we add to the water does not cost that much.

I'm in the beginning stages of how this class can benefit me.  I'm going to start growing a few things on my own here at home.  I haven't decided to just do one pot or to go all out and make one out of bamboo.  I've found a decent place to put it where it can get a lot of sun but I'm worried about the rains now in the rainy season.  Otherwise, I'm hoping to start a community garden but what looks more likely is a school garden that the school can use for its own veggies.  Plus it's a great tool to use for charlas on eating healthy, growing organically, and growing hydroponic vegetables that I'm hoping to do with the students at my elementary school.

I really enjoyed meeting new people from this town.  It was an interesting dynamic having half farmers and half house-wives there.  We even built our own container yesterday and learned how to  make the mixture to use as the solid substratum.  We have another charla scheduled to learn how to make plant extracts to use to naturally fight bacterias and other pests.  And we're going to take a tour to several different farms already growing hydroponic vegetables from small to big.  I'm excited to work with these farmers and learn from them.  They make up a large majority of my neighbors so it's really great to be able to relate to them more.  I'm excited to start growing tomatoes and peppers!  Mmm... I think it's lunch time!