Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Day in the Life – Our first month at our site

It’s 6:18 pm and it is 85 degrees and practically 100 percent humidity here.  We’ve gotten used to the tiny ants inside our room, but the ones outside in the lawn bite hard, which defies their minuteness.  We bought a fan, but we use it sparingly as we’re sensitive to the electricity use which our host “mother” has to pay.  We go to sleep with a mosquito net and usually take a shower before we go to bed to make it easier to withstand the heat.
The sound of rain outside is soothing, they call it “pelo de gato” or cat’s hair, as the rain is soft and fine.  At times, it can rain really heavily, but so far we’ve had little rain since arriving although we’re located in a tropical rainforest  and it historically rains the entire month of May and the beginning of June.   The rain usually drops the temperature a degree or two, which can really make a difference when you’re trying to get to sleep at night.

Our morning routine usually includes a walk and some exercises using a combination of resistance bands and a yoga mat along with a 30-40 minute walk.  Afterward, we eat breakfast with our host mother which usually combines rice, beans and eggs and sometimes meat although this morning we had tamales with chicken and a sausage in a bun.  A lot of the food we eat here comes from our host families or a neighbor’s farm, the majority of which is grown organically.  It has given me a new definition of “eating local” since a lot of the produce and/or meat only travels a kilometer or less to get from farm to table.

One of my favorite pastimes here is to sit on the front porch and read a book.  Although it is still, if you pay attention there is always movement, a bird flying by and just about grazing the ground, a butterfly fluttering in the wind, the sounds of the barking of the neighbors’ dogs as they talk to each other over the distances and the sounds of bicycle tires passing on the dirt road as a child rides by to go to school.

When it gets too hot and we’re not working, we usually take a trip to the beach or take a dip in one of the creeks (or criques in Spanglish) or small rivers here.  If we can’t find water to escape the heat, I’ll take the shade and a nice cool wind.  ¡Qué rico! (How wonderful!)  We pass the time chatting with neighbors, playing fútbol with our host mother’s nephews or visiting one of the neighboring towns to get a better understanding of the geography and diversity of the region.

In our first three months we have been tasked with writing a community diagnostic, which underscores both the strengths and the challenges of the community which we will eventually present to various community organizations.  Given these challenges and strengths and the skills which we possess as volunteers we will prioritize projects and collaborate with our community to tackle some of the pressing issues.  Much of our time thus far has been spent in interviewing people of all ages, gender and background, making community maps and seasonal calendars to better know the community resources and times of local holidays, harvests and times when people are either busy or available and getting to know our counterpart agencies and personnel.

So far, we’re slowly getting accustomed to our life here, although a call home or an email from a friend makes us a little homesick.  But we’ve been here in Costa Rica for now over 3 months and we’re starting to feel like we’re actually really doing this – finally realizing the dream which began more than a year and a half ago (in November 2009) when we first decided to apply to be Peace Corps volunteers.

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