Saturday, September 17, 2011

Independence Day and More!

Family and Friends!

Yesterday (September 15th) marked the 190th year that Costa Rica has officially been an independent nation.  In 1821, they gained independence from the Spanish Crown along with Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.  The spanish king Ferdinand VII was dethroned, and the colonies took advantage of the opportunity and started their move toward complete autonomy.  In Costa Rica and my site Agua Buena de Coto Brus independence day is a time to celebrate and recognize some of the Costa Rican traditions of their ancestors.  People wear typical Costa Rican dress and there are typical dances and parades.  I was able to stay in my site and capture the full experience of the Costa Rican independence day.  I wrote a small poem to try to capture the moment the best that I can in words:

Noble Patria tu Hermosa Bandera 

La Hermosa Bandera waves gentley in the vista
The sun touches the colors from above the crista
Blue, the sky that covers all of creation
Red, the blood that spilled for foundation
White, the hope for peace for many generations
Noble Patria tu Hermosa Bandera

They pass through the streets to give salutation
To the day that marks the start of the small nation 
1821 marks the year they became fully independent
The spanish crown, no longer they were dependent 
Noble Patria tu Hermosa Bandera

El dia de la independencia, the significance to you?
Don Luis Diego, La Libertad, to say and to do
Doña Julia, La Paz, living free of war and conflict
Don Danny, Las mujeres bonitas, that make life fun
They stand together, singing under the Costa Rican sun
Noble Patria tu hermosa bandera     

  • Noble Patria tu Hermosa Bandera-  The national anthem of Costa Rica that was written in 1853 by Manuel María Guitérrez.  English translation: Noble homeland, your beautiful flag.
  • La Hermosa Bandera (The Beautiful Flag)- The flag of Costa Rica was created in 1848 by the wife of the then president, Pacifica Fernández.  She was inspired by the 1848 revolution in France and used their tricolor.  The blue represents the sky that covers Costa Rica; the red represents the blood that was spilled in defense of the country; the white represents the peace and happiness.  The Costa Rican Coat of Arms is located in the red stripe. 

  • They pass through the streets...- This represents the traditional parades that Costa Rica has every independence day to celebrate.  Each school and high school has a drum line that plays a beat and the women usually do a traditional behind the drum line.
  • In the last stanza, I asked some of my friends what Independence Day meant specifically to them.  Some of the answers were serious and others they made a joke.  Luis Diego said la libertad (freedom), Julia said La Paz (Peace) and finally one of my friends that has a good sense of humor said las mujeres bonitas (the beautiful women) haha.
Here are some pictures from the day:

The night of the 14th celebration


My friend Danny and his wife, Jenny (also my friend)

Parade on the 15th

Drummers from the high school

Singing the Anthem
It was a fun celebration, the parade wasn't that exciting or interesting, but it was still fun to talk to the people about the history of Costa Rica and its traditions.   

Everything else has been going very well at my site.  I am still busy with classes and I am also working a lot more with the small Micro-Finance organization in my community.  They have a new treasurer and she doesn't know too much about the position so I am giving her accounting classes twice a week.  It has been really satisfying because after each class she tells me that she feels a lot more confident with her abilities.  In the next month, I plan to give a speech to all the shareholders in the organization to try to motivate them to buy more stock so we can have more capital to lend to the community and raise our profits.  The dividends per stock are really low right now so new people are not investing so it is hard to give out loans with little capital.  Hopefully, we can grow the organization and it can provide even more value to the community.  

I hope all is well stateside, I think of everyone often!




Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ruminations on recent happenings

Hello Family and Friends,

It has been an epoch since I have updated my blog but after much talk to family and friends, I realized that more people read this thing than I actually imagined.  So I thank everyone who has their own busy lives but takes time to read a jotting or two about my journey.  It was inspirational when I talked to one particular person and he started to read what I had written on my blog verbatim.  So, dear reader, an update follows by a truly inspired and thankful updater... :) 

I have been busy with classes, meetings and basketball camp.  It is nice to be busy with different things to do and projects to undertake.  It is also nice that (as I hear from other volunteers) my classes aren't shrinking and they are doing the opposite by growing.  Unfortunately, I have had to turn a few excited students down when they requested to be in my English class because there was not enough desks for everyone.  As you will see in a picture, the classroom is completely full with students and people had to sit in chairs that don't have a desk attachment.  We are looking for another facility but it is hard to find because there is night class at the high-school and that is the only other option.  The computer class is going very well too.  Whenever I see the little students in the street, they always greet me with excitement, sometimes too much excitement.
Taking unit 2 test.  As you can see we are over-capacity


Computer class at the elementary school

Working hard or hardly working?

I also started a basketball camp for high school students that has been an unexpected success.  I asked many people in town what they thought of the idea and most people said that basketball is not popular enough to have a camp.  I still continued to try to pursue the idea though.  I went to the high school and gave a little speech about the camp starting and hung up fliers around the school.  Twenty people showed up to the camp!  I was happy that so many people wanted a different option than soccer.  The first part of the camp we have drills and I teach them some rules that they might not know.  The last part we scrimmage and we usually have three to four teams, the winner always stays.  I am the referee and I stop the scrimmage at times to teach.  It is a fun thing for them to do.  Some high schoolers want to start a team with 7 guys and travel around the country playing different teams in Costa Rica.  They still need more practice and drills before this though.

I have traveled to in these days and have been able to see some cool things.  I went home for 2 weeks at the beginning of July and it was a true joy to see all my family and friends during these weeks.  Thank you to everyone for making it so special.  This past weekend, I traveled to Volcano Barú in the northern part of Panama with a family from my site.  The whole family is in my english class: Edwin (the father), Sol (the mother), Steven (17 years) and Emanuel (13 years).  The father is owns a transport company that delivers things between Panama and Costa Rica.  He distributes products for a company called American Flower and transports flowers and plants between their two locations (one in Alajuela which is by the capital of Costa Rica , San Jose and the other in Volcan, Panama right by the Volcan Baru in nothern Panama) or to ports to have the plants exported (mostly to Japan).

The story of American Flower is interesting, I will summarize it.  In the 60's Mike Thomas (yes same last name) came to Costa Rica from Florida to look to a better place to grow his flowers and plants.  He didn't know any Spanish but was able to meet some Ticos and learn spanish and start up his business.  He had three sons: all of them born in Costa Rica and all work the company.  One of them works and the company in Volcan (the town we stayed at in Panama), Tony Thomas.  He was born in Costa Rica but went to college at Texas A & M.     He was a really nice guy and knows english and spanish perfectly.  He looks like an American but is actually Costa Rican.  It was interesting to talk to him and about his life experiences living in Costa Rica and running a business that at times has been in a very competitive market.  They were interesting people and made the trip an enjoyable experience.

In these days, I have been trying to write more poetry.  I feel poetry (even though I am still not good at writing it) is something special that ordinary prose can't express.  So I wrote a little Rondeau, a 15 line poem about our trip to Volcano Baru:

Volcán Barú
Barú the destination that we voyaged,
Erupted with force years ago that ravaged
No more is the force active within,
It sits in silence like the reposed Bolboan
Scarce heard among the Guaymí village

Living their lives as She watches from above,
Fighting to gain another's wife with a shove
Quiet! Let them not see us as we peek
Barú the destination.

We feast as the sun shows its face
On Hojaldres, Tasajo and Torrejitos at a place
Nourishing the body of millions for generation
From Torrijos to Noriega, leaders of the nation
And Gringos, always omnipresent at the base
Barú the destination.

Barú- Volcano in Northern Panama.  The highest point in Panama.  There was a large eruption in 550 AD but it hasn't erupted since and most believe it is inactive.

Balboan/ Balboa- Refers to the Spanish conquistador of Panama Vasco Núnez de Balboa.  He came in 1513.

Guaymí-an indigenous tribe that lives in various villages surrounding Volcano Barú.

Fighting to gain another's wife- Is a reference to the tradition by the Guaymian people that if a man wants another man's wife, they have a fist fight and the winner gets the prize of the woman....until another man challenges him.  Apparently this is still a tradition among the people, two different sources told me this.  We saw a fight one night, one man knocked the other down after a nice left hook and after the he helped his opponent from the ground, that man was declared the winner of the "prize."  

Holjadres- A type of fried puff bread of Arabian descent that Panamanians eat for breakfast    

Tasajo- Dried, smoked pork that Panamanians eat for breakfast 

Torrejitos- A fresh corn fritter also is eaten for breakfast.

Torrijos- Omar Torrijos, maximum leader of Panama (dictator but a progressive one if that exists).  Signed, with Jimmy Carter, the Torrijos-Carter Treaties that eventually gave Panama control of the canal.  Killed in a plane crash in 1981 (some say the CIA did it after Reagan was elected.)

Noriega- Manuel Noriega, military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989.  When the US invaded in 1989, he was removed from power.  Exiled in France.

Gringos- Spanish term for people from the United States. Somewhat vulgar but everyone uses it so one needs to get use to it.  Americans have had a long historical presence in Panamanian affairs since the canal was started in 1904.

I hope you enjoyed the poem, even though I don't too much about poetry and I haven't written much in the past I hope to continue to learn, read and write more.

Here are some photos from the trip:

Breakfast!! Holjaldre (top center) Tasajo (left center)

The Zuniga/Ovares Family. Costa Ricans dont smile in photos

Mi Jardin in Boquete.  The shah of Iran visited this garden once.

Eating at a buffet in David, Panama

Ping-Pong at the house where we stayed in Volcan, Panama.

The "fight" between the two Gymians

Barú dominating the background

 I hope all is well stateside, I think of everyone often and I miss and love you all.  PURA VIDA!




Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Climbing Mount Chirripó

This past weekend myself and three of my Peace Corps friends (Andrew, John, Jonathan) decided to undertake the daunting task of climbing the highest mountain in Costa Rica, Mount Chirripó.  Our group had two weeks of Inter-service training (IST) in San Jose and decided it was time that we enjoyed the beauty that Costa Rica has to offer.

Cerro Chirripó has an altitude of 3,820 (12,530) meters above sea level and forms a part of Parque Internacional la amistad de Costa Rica.  It is the 38th highest peak in the world.  It does not compare to the Rockies in Colorado that I enjoyed so much climbing as a child but the hike is still very grueling.  

We arrived in a quaint little town of 305 called San Gerardo de Rivas on friday afternoon.  It was a beautiful day, there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  We didn't have reservations so we immediately went to the Park Ranger office.  A very helpful park ranger named Jose helped us plan our upcoming adventure.  We decided that we would get up early saturday morning (4 am) and start the ascension.  We would ascend 15 km to base crestones (the base camp), stay overnight and then the next morning ascend the last 5 km to the summit and watch the sunrise over the Caribbean sea.  Almost everything went as planned.

We got up as planned the next morning and had a hearty man's breakfast of Gallo Pinto, Eggs, Tortillas ,Natilla (kinda like a sour cream) and of course a cup of coffee.  After feeling completely satiated, we decided it was time to make the ascent.  With about 10-15 kilos of weight on our backs filled with sleeping bags, warm clothes, food (mostly tuna) and 2 liters of water, we started to climb.  The lady at the hotel told us that the 2km walk from the hotel to the trailhead was a good way to "warm-up" the body.  And yes it was a good way to warm-up...if you are Sir Edmund Hillary or some other expert climber!!!  Nevertheless, we made it to the trailhead and we took a picture by the 0 KM mark.  We had to pass by 15 more of the KM marks throughout the day.  

The first KM we ran into a problem.  Andrew, a fellow PVC, felt as thought he was starting to develop a blister on his foot.  We stopped and he was able to bandage it up but unfortunately the blister would continue to get worse and prevented him from reaching the summit.  He made it 15 KM and practically tore off all the skin, one of the worst blisters I have seen.  It is impressive that he was able to make it to base crestones.  

The next seven KM were fine and we ended up splitting into two groups.  Jonathan and I were in the front group and John and Andrew were behind us.  We planned that we would eat lunch at KM 7 before the big ascension of 8 and 9.   The park ranger warned us beforehand that the hardest KMs of the trek were KM 8,9 and 13,  We had to bring all of our food in our bags.  We didnt have a stove so it had to either be canned or perishable food.  Our diet consisted of tuna, trail mix and fruit.  We ate a pretty hearty lunch and then decided to ascend the 8th and 9th KM.  

It was a steep incline going up KM 8 and 9.  The sights and sounds of our surroundings distracted our minds from our heavy breathing: birds chirping, hummingbirds fluttering, trees being swallowed by mist and sharp cliffs leading to vast valleys.  It was a breathtaking two KMs (pun intended).  

KMs 10-12 were different than the previous KMs.  By KM 10, we were out of the canopy and there were no more tall trees.  The vegetation was also different.  There was less green and it looked a lot like the Southwest US but with more shrubs.  My friend, who had studied in Spain, said this landscape reminded him of the arid landscapes around Madrid.  Right when the we left the canopy, the rain came and it was an aguacera (downpour).  We were about 3000 meters above sea level so not only was it pouring rain but it was also extremely cold.

And then we finally made it to the homestretch, 1.5 KM to base crestones.  This 1.5 KM was not just another couple KM, it was the hardest stretch of the trail.  We filled up our water bottles at before we started  and we were off.  As we ascended it became colder and colder and the air became thiner and thiner.  We knew we were almost at the base camp so that gave us motivation to continue hiking.  Finally, we came upon a steep cliff jetting down into a small valley (valley of the rabbits/ valle de los conejos) and there was the base crestones.  We checked-in and were ready for some more nourishment.

We made it to the base at about 3:00 pm and the sun was covered by the clouds.  With no sun the temperature was close to freezing, and we had to put on all the clothes we carried up in order to stay warm.  There was no snow, but the next morning we saw ice.  We had a dinner that included tuna (again), avocado, cheese, bean spread and heart of palm.  During dinner we met a french man and his american wife.  They were on a biking adventure and are planning to bike all the way to Patagonia.  They told us they prefer to go mountain hiking and decided to have to quick detour in order to climb Chirripo.

After dinner it was bed time because we planned to wake up at 3:00 and be on the top by 5:00 to watch the sun rise.  It was extremely cold in our room during the night.  The tile floor was so cold it was hard to walk on it bare-foot for more than a minute.  I rented a sleeping bag from the hotel we stayed at in San Gerardo but it did not cover my body entirely.  It was not a good night sleep.  Nonetheless, we awoke as planned at 3:00 am and the four sleep-deprived PCVs headed for the summit.

Unfortunately, my friend had acquired a blister the day before and it was too painful for him to continue to the summit.  He decided to return to the base.  We continued and about 30 minutes into our trek, we realized that  we were on the wrong path heading the opposite direction of Chirripó.  We were upset that we didn't plan and find the trailhead the day before.  We made it back to base camp and it was about an hour detour.  We found the correct trailhead and started hiking the right way this time.  It was still completely dark and we had to use our headlights to find our way.  

Just when the sun was popping over the horizon, we climbed to over a ledge and there before us, powerful and majestic and previously not visible, was the summit of Chirripó.  From this distance, we could see a tiny bluish speck waving in the distance; it was the Costa Rican flag on top of the summit.  We kept moving with little rest to avoid getting chilled.  A half an hour later, we were standing on the highest point in Costa Rica. 


San Gerardo de Rivas



Tuesday, March 1, 2011

50 years and counting.....

Today is the 50th birthday of the Peace Corps.  Fifty years ago today, JFK signed the executive order 10924 that officially started the Peace Corps.  Prior to signing this order, he first devised the idea of the Peace Corps at the University of Michigan a few months earlier.  It was in october and he arrived in Ann Arbor during the evening. It was deep in the thick of the presidential election and JFK was fighting hard against Vice President Richard Nixon. Upon arriving, JFK was slated to retire to his room, grab a few hours of well-earned sleep, and then begin a train tour of Michigan. When his vehicle pulled up to the University throngs of students were waiting to hear their Democratic nominee speak. Many had been waiting for hours, the steps were swarming with those hopeful of catching a glimpse, and Kennedy knew he had to address the crowd. Instead of giving a quick speech in order to rally votes in his favor, Kennedy decided to ask:

"How many of you who are going to be doctors are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers: how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world? On your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one year or two years in the service, but on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country, I think will depend the answer whether a free society can compete. I think it can. And I think Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far greater than we’ve ever made in past."

It is a great honor and privilege that I am serving in the Peace Corps during this worldwide celebration.  I have read many great stories and adventures from the returned volunteers and feel like I am living those same adventures right now!  It is crazy to think that I have been here almost five months; everything goes by so fast when you are enjoying every second of it.  The sun never sets on the Peace Corps and every one of the 77 countries is holding some type of celebration today.  Costa Rica has a celebration, but unfortunately I am unable to go due to a demanding work schedule this week.  If San Jose was closer to my site, I might have decided to take a night out.  

Here's to 50 years and many more....

Obama's Presidential Proclamation

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Highlights from the first month!!

Family and Friends,

It has been an exciting and busy first month in Agua Buena!  I have had the opportunity to get to know many people in my community, attend many community organizational meetings, be a special guest at an english class, help the micro-finance (ECC) organization with bookkeeping and do an extraordinary amount of  mountain bike riding!  I am also happy to say that my spanish has been greatly improving and I feel more comfortable everyday reading, writing and speaking.  Without further a due, I am going to write about a few of the highlights from my past month:

1. Preparing the traditional Costa Rican christmas food, Tamales.  This step-by-step process has been perfected by my host mother, Yolanda, who is quite a skilled chef.  Basically, a tamale is a dish made of Masa (starchy dough, corn-based) which is steamed or boiled in a plantain leaf wrapper.  It can be filled with many different meats, veggies, rice or beans.  We filled ours with rice, green pepper, yellow squash, onion and a piece of chicken.  Once who have put all the ingredients on the leaf, you have to tightly wrap it so the contents do not fall out.  After that, place the tamale in boiling water or steam it in order to cook it.  Then, Enjoy!  Just a side note (bc i am a hypochondriac), I dont know how healthy these delicious snacks are, I saw my host mom put two sticks of butter in the Masa mix!

Preparing, back-breaking work

2. A new pleasure of mine is mountain bike riding.  There is really nothing like riding your bike through fresh mountain air to clear your head.  At times, all the spanish can give me "information overload" and it is nice to have a physical outlet.  I started riding the bike shop owner where I bought my bike.  His name is Danny and he has a group of friends that he goes out with 3 to 4 times a week.  Danny is an expert and can ride on the most difficult paths.  Being the quixotic person that I am, I told Danny the first time we rode that I want to start with the most difficult trail.  Well, that was a mistake.  This trail had potholes, loose gravel, wet mud and  thick grass; it was not the trail for a beginner to start.  I fell off the bike a few times but was not seriously injured.  Now, I have been riding the more novice trails and have been building up my endurance and stamina.  Some day I will return to that trail and conquer it.
My new mountain bike
3. I have been working hard on my diagnostic of Agua Buena.  This report needs to include the history, economy, jobs, youth activities, etc. of the community.  It is a very helpful way of integrating into the community.  Thus far, my favorite interview has been with a gentleman named Gabriel.  He gave me the complete history of Agua Buena.  Being the history lover that I am, we had a great conversation that lasted 2 hours.  I will not bore you with the details.

4. While going to Neilly on a bus to meet a fellow PCV, I met a english teacher from Neilly that invited me to be a special guest in his class.  Being that I do not have very much experience in the teaching field, I accepted his offer without hesitation.  I said I would prepare the lesson plan and that is what i did.  The class was mostly a younger crowd and their spanish level was novice low or medium.  I wanted them have a little taste of American culture so I wrote a simple biography on Barack Obama.  In class, they read it out-loud and then we discussed Obama and how he was viewed around the world.  My plan finished a bit early, so for the future I always need to be prepared with extra material.

5. I have also been fortunate to be able to travel around my region (south zone or Puntarenas) and see much of the natural beauty of Costa Rica.  Only about a 10 min walk from my residence, there is a beautiful, cliff waterfall; I call it the "Miniature Niagara."  This past weekend I traveled with a friend to the Osa Peninsula on the Pacific side of Costa Rica.  It was nice to get away for a few days and to also see a lot of flora and fauna.  We were taking a hike by a river and all of a sudden we saw a scaly, green head pop out of the water.  We jumped back a little bit and took a closer look at the river; there were about 5 to 6 pairs of sinister eyes looking at us.  These were all fresh water crocodiles (cocodrilos) and they looked hungary, so we got the hell out of there!!!
Miniature Niagara

Crocodile infested river, proceed with caution

6. I am looking forward to next weekend because there is a big PC get together in San Jose for the Super Bowl.  In the morning, there is a flag football game and I am hoping my team comes ready to play.  Tico 21 must represent its athletic superiority!!  In the evening, we are all going to the local hotspot, Hooters, for some overpriced American food and fun!  It will be nice to see all my buddies and see how there journey is going thus far.

Well, that is all I have for you right now.  I am going to try to keep this thing updated more regularly, but honestly there wasn't too much to report on.  I want to make a shout out to both my grandmas, Arlue Thomas and Elaire Dykins, they both had birthdays this month.  They are very special ladies in my life, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!  

For the rest of you that have actually read this far, I hope this note finds you well!

Pura Vida,

Elliot Nix

    Tuesday, December 21, 2010

    More Pics (previous blog cont.)

    Here are some pics I forgot to add in the previous blog.  I have one more from the swearing-in ceremony at the US embassy:
    The Gentle Giants and Ambassador Anne Andrew

    Pictures from the end-of-training-family-party, yes all one word:

    Half of my host family: Rosa, Yensi, Me, Eduardo

    Cooking the meat

    The Grill-masters

    My return to AMERICA

    Family and friends,

    I am officially a Peace Corps volunteer!  Yes, I am officially apart of the world Peace Corps network; I am one of the volunteers currently serving in one of the 77 countries Peace Corps serves throughout the world.  I am proud to be a part of the Peace Corps family, especially the Peace Corps Costa Rican family.  I feel privileged and honored to be among such a fine group of PCVs; I believe Tico 21 will have a sustainable impact on Costa Rica and its wonderful people. 

    My group and I (Tico 21) had the privilege of swearing-in this past Friday at the US embassy in Ezcasu, San Jose.  It was nice to step back onto US soil.  I wanted to pull a Homer Simpson and start jumping across the line of demarcation, “now I’m in America, now I’m in Costa Rica; now I’m in America, now I’m in Costa Rica.”  However, I think the large, US marines would not have thought very highly of such an action.  I behaved myself and the ceremony went smoothly.  Each of us were able to invite two host-family members from our training community.  I invited my host-brother Eduardo and my host-mother Rosa.  They seemed to enjoy the festivities, as did the rest of the group. 

    The main speaker at the ceremony was the US ambassador to Costa Rica, Anne Andrew.  President Obama and the senate appointed Andrew as Ambassador in December 2009 to Costa Rica.  Before serving as Ambassador she worked for a corporate environmental/energy law practice.  She does not know Spanish very well (which is strange to me) but she tried her best to do some of the speech in Spanish.  Even though it was broken Spanish, it was a nice deed because the host-families only know Spanish.  Otherwise, the English part of the speech was very thoughtful. 

    After the speeches, every PCV had the opportunity to receive a certificate.  We all walked up to the stage and shook the Ambassador’s hand and the Country Director’s hand.  My exchange of words with the Ambassador went like this:

    Me: Ambassador, Thank you for your kind words.
    Ambassador Andrews: You’re welcome, Where are you from?
    Me: Minnesota
    Ambassador Andrews: Wow, did you hear about all the snow they got?
    Me: Yes
    The entire audience: (laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh)
    Ambassador Andrews: I bet you feel lucky to be in Costa Rica!
    Me: Yes, I really do!
    The entire audience: (laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh)

    At the time, I was confused and I didn’t know why the audience was laughing, I thought I had done something wrong or silly.  I found out later that it was because there was such an extreme height difference between myself and the Ambassador.  Apparently extreme height difference is humorous in Costa Rica.  Here are some pics of the event:
     Andrew Wood (New York), Ken Farrell (Iowa), Barton Rode (California, Spain, Africa), Me

    Andrew, Maria (Training Director), Me

    San Gabriel Training Group: Me, Megan (Wisconsin), Marie (Conn.), Andrew

    The logistic badasses: Christian, Me, Harold

    The entire CED group

    John Foss (Vermont) and I wrapping ourselves in glory

    "I did not have sexual relations with that woman..."

    CED Training coordinators (Luis, Vinyela) and me

    Right now, I am at my site in Agua Buena, Coto Brus, Puntarenas.  Here are some pics of my community:

    Rio Agua Buena

    Park in front of my house

    Catholic Chruch

    The sign for the women's group I will be working with. "Tortilla Factory, 100% Pure Corn, United Women"


    Bull Fighting Plaza

    The basketball court that was turned into a Bola (soccer on hard wood floor) court

    Soccer Plaza

    The medical clinic, financed by the Gov.

    Red Cross


    Colegio (High School)

    Raging River

    The community is beautiful and I am lucky to be here.  That being said, this is the thought that comes to my mind most often right now, “oh god, here we go, what do I do now?”  This ambiguity does not frighten me though, I know from talking with other volunteers that 99% feel anxious when they first arrive at their site.  It is something that only time and lots of hard-work can heal.

    The first months, my main objective is to complete a diagnostic of the community and continue to improve my Spanish level.  The diagnostic is called the CAT and I am expected to complete the entire diagnostic in Spanish (should be about 50 to 60 pages).  It seems like a lot of work but it is a great tool to integrate into the community.  One of the components of the CAT is to learn more about the history, culture and people in the community.  The only way to do that is to have long conversations in Spanish with sometimes people you meet for the first time.  I heard it is a very useful tool for PCVs.

    Other than the CAT, I am expected to: spend time with my host family; introduce myself to any community members that currently work on issues related to community development in and near the community; observe English or ICT classes; explore the possibilities of teaching English to groups such as: youth out of school, high-school students, adults; attend social functions; attend social functions like church, birthdays, baby showers; create a community map with micro-enterprises, associations and cooperatives.  There will be plenty of things to do the first months, it is just that I have to find the motivation to do all these things.  No one is going to come to me unless I have successfully integrated and gained their trust.  This part of my service is extremely important.

    I am also very close to buying a mountain bike!  I am very lucky with my site because there are some dirt roads in the mountains where I can ride.  CoopaBuena (the sister city of Agua Buena) has a bike shop and I went to talk to the owner yesterday.  Peace Corps provides you with 70,000 (about $140) for the purchase of a bike.  The owner offered me a pretty nice mountain bike, and in addition, he said he would install shocks and a higher seat for 80,000 ($160).  I would have to make up the 10 mil (only $20) difference, but I think it is worth it.  I am going to price shop a little more and then make a decision as soon as possible. I look forward to a lot of mountain biking the next two years.  Don’t worry Mom, the PC requires that I wear a helmet at all times J.

    Christmas, the New Year, and my birthday are around the corner and it is going to be hard to not be at home for the first time.  I am use to be not having much time at home because of college basketball, but I am not use to not being at home at all.  Family, PLEASE take a lot of pictures of the festivities; I want to see everything,  every little event documented!  These will be important for me to see!

    I wish everyone and their families a safe and happy holiday season!

    Pura Vida,