I’ll go back in a further entry and reflect a little on our application process and training experience, but the current news is that my wife and I are finally Peace Corps volunteers as we had our swearing in ceremony on Friday, May 13th at the house of the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica (see link for recording of swearing in ceremony http://www.livestream.com/usembassy/video?clipId=flv_b9ff1d1d-676b-4098-97a7-06a19ca0fecb=). Even after the lengthy application process and receiving our invitations to Costa Rica, we were still only “aspirants” until we met all the training pre-requisites in relation to language, security, technical, health and cultural integration.Very few Costa Rica Peace Corps volunteers from our group are actually located close to the beach. Not only did we win the lottery when we were chosen to serve our time in Costa Rica, but then they place us in one of the most beautiful places in the whole country just a stone’s throw away from more than a handful of stunning beaches and ocean scenery as well as lush tropical jungle and mountainous region inland.
In our first week here we met a young gentleman in the community who is a wood-working artisan as well as a farmer and fisherman, among other things. He offered to take us on a hike on his farm which has an overlook of our site where you can see all the way to the coast. As he used his machete to chop a path through the thick “mata”, he told us in English, “Welcome to the Jungle”. Turns out he’s a fan of Guns & Roses and rock music in general, but his utterance could not have been more appropriate. We encountered “hormigas valas” – huge ants more than an inch in length which can make you ill with fever if you’re bitten, a snake (luckily non-venomous), “cara blanca” monkeys, huge blue “chicharas” (cicadas) making all kinds of “bulla” or noise. We could also hear the distinct call of the howler monkeys in the distance.
On our return trip our guide chopped down a bunch of bananas from a tree and shook the group to make sure that all the ants and any other rodents had dispersed before carrying it with him telling us that one time his friend didn’t use the same precaution and was bitten by a venomous snake (same family as the rattle snake, but silent) and he had to carry his friend down the hill over his shoulder. If his friend used his own power to descend the hill, the venom in his blood would flow more quickly through his body and he’d have less of a chance to live. Turns out they made it to the street below and another friend was able to take the injured friend to the hospital on his bike. After a two day stay in the hospital with a dose of anti-venom and antibiotics he was fine.
We're living in an area with plenty of cultural diversity: indigenous, Afro-Caribbean, Ticos (what they call Costa Ricans here), Nicaraguans, Panamanians, Europeans, and North Americans. In addition, the county we live in is among the poorest in Costa Rica although unfortunately there are not many volunteers. We feel very fortunate to be serving here as coming from the Bay Area we really were accustomed to diversity and certainly like the idea of being placed in a region that needs our assistance. Also, it fit perfectly with our Peace Corps preference for region which was the following regions in this order: Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean.
Some highlights from our first week include saving a sloth "perezoso or more colloquially cúcula in Spanish" http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradypus_tridactylus from the street with one of my co-workers as it was trying to cross a busy street. I grabbed a big log and he used his gloves to help it onto the log and then we moved it off the road and to a tree where it could safely climb to its safety. We've seen howler monkeys (or "congos") http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alouatta_palliata and white-faced capuchin monkeys ("cara blancas") http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cebus_capucinus.
We've also seen both the Strawberry Poison Dart Frog http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strawberry_Poison-dart_Frog and the Green and Black Poison Dart Frog as well http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_and_Black_Poison_Dart_Frog. We've also seen an Oropel which is a venemous snake in a National Park nearby (luckily off the trail) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WecCixv3W6g.
There's so much more to tell and I'd like to post some pictures soon, but I'd like to publish this today, so forgive me if this is short. Thanks for your patience and I will try to update this blog weekly so you can keep track of what we are doing.