Monthly Archives: April 2014

Jumping off the deep end

I felt like I had just jumped off a huge cliff into freezing cold water. My pencil dive was so stiff I parachuted to the bottom of the water like sinking in quick sand: finding it nearly impossible to get back up to air. I can see the mirage of the sky and sun through my burning eyes but it is blurry beyond its reality. Finally my fingers feel the crisp air and next my head. I open my eyes to visuals of land and desperately gasp for the air I had lost.

This past week has made me appreciate that feeling of deeply longing for air and finally reaching it. The technical training, the friendships, the culture, and the passion I gained this past week have made the constant of drowning in ambiguity all that much more worth it.

The week started with apprehension of how my body would handle jumping back into action after a week laying on the bathroom floor, but surprisingly I ran into no problems. Hallelujah!

Some of the technical training consisted of analyzing several businesses ranging from restaurants to “empresio de creditos” to mercados, a whole day of junior achievement lessons with 6th graders, teaching English to 5th graders, and information technology classes. Mind you this is all being done in spanish. What a week!

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But what a refreshing week. What a gasp of air. Getting a glimpse into actual Peace Corps projects and Peace Corps life has answered a lot of questions. For instance, a big one many of us trainees have “what the heck am I doing here?” Seeing the relationships built between the volunteer and community members, seeing the eagerness children have to learn, seeing things that might be considered struggles to us but are just simple life to the native Costa Ricans. Although the glimpse into life looks intimidating, it looks inviting. At one point of my visit, I remember sitting on the porch having cafecito. It began to drizzle and the wind picked up a tiny bit. A sense of calmness, like a blanket, lay quietly over my body. I’ll never forget that feeling.

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The past week I really let any fear of training I had escape my mind. I didn’t care how many mistakes I made while speaking Spanish, I made each step with confidence (even if I wasn’t feeling confident), and I just had fun with everything. I decided these three things will be a guidance for my life as a peace corps volunteer. It definitely reminds me of living in Hawaii and coming to the realization that fear only exists if you want it to.

And I don’t want it to….

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I am so thankful for the wonderful week I spent in San Carlos. On top of that, when I got home, my host family told me we were going to Limon! It was only a day trip but it was such an amazing time.

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Not quite sure where I will find the energy to go back to grueling weeks of training after 2 weeks away from the training hub but each day down is another day closer to training being over! Annnnddd we have an exciting getaway to Manuel Antonio and Quepos this weekend with no work!!

I miss everyone and would love snail mail. It takes about 2 weeks to reach me and I only have a month left where mail will be easily delivered to me. Get to it! 🙂 xoxo

The not so fun part

This week has been pretty rough. I have a gnarly stomach virus and it has not been fun.

During the next two years I know when things get ugly, it’s going to be all about perseverance. Feeling down, sick, hurt, lonely – it’s all going to happen. I’m just going to have to let the pain seep in, accept it, fight it, and move on. Butttt it sounds easier than done, especially when you are unable to leave the bathroom that your host family of 6 shares and is located in the very middle of the house with walls thinner than paper machet.

Thankfully Costa Rica is pretty advanced in their medical care and the peace corps sets volunteers up with an amazing emergency plan. I tried waiting as long as I could before going to the hospital. One, because I didn’t want to be a baby, and two, because I was scared to leave the toilet.

Turns out, there’s a really bad virus going around. I was 1 of about 15 just that evening in that specific ER. Everyone was extremely sick; it was a disturbing scene. It made me feel a little at ease that I wasn’t just the weakling girl from Cali who couldn’t handle some flies in her food. (I wish I wasn’t joking). But nope, people born and raised here were more miserable than me.

After sitting with an IV in my hand and 3 liters of “suro” later, the doc said I was ready to go. My stomach still felt the same but I was completely out of it but thankfully no longer dehydrated. But my stomach!!!!! I got tons of medicine I couldn’t understand and that was that. After the first round of medicine I still don’t feel amazing but the peace corps nurse assures me I’ll be better by tomorrow. We leave on Monday for a week long intense technical training so I’m really hoping I can at least stomach a 4 hour, windy bus ride.

I keep telling myself this is my test. I’ve waited so long to be here in Costa Rica with the Peace Corps, and am going through this grueling training process, and then I get thrown this curveball of a gnarly stomach virus that just makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry. But I’m not going to. This morning I thought to myself, “of course this would happen to me.” I felt a little discouraged. Of course I would do anything to be sick in a familiar place with familiar faces and a familiar language but this is what I’ve chosen and as bad as my stomach hurts, I wouldn’t change it. Believe me at the worst moments of this past week I didn’t know what to do. But I’m here. And I’ll keep pushing.

I’m sure this is only a mere glimpse into what is really to come in the next 2 years. I’m sure there will be plenty more nights spent on the bathroom floor and more trips to get medicine that will ease the shooting stomach pains. But all I can do is brush it off. They weren’t lying when they said this is the toughest job you’ll ever love.

Ps sorry if you’re offended by any of the toilet talk. But I’m sure any PCV or PCT can appreciate it. During staging a returned peace core volunteer told us “every fart is a gamble.” We all blushed and laughed. But now we know the truth. Can initiation be over yet?!

I’ll post when I’m back from my trip next week. Miss and love you all. Send some positive vibes my way!

Aim

Lost in translation

I finally feel normal in a world that mostly consists of the Spanish native tongue. I say “mostly” quite loosely because when amongst my fellow volunteers, we tend to slip right back into English bro-slang. The first couple of weeks, at the end of the evenings, I felt drunk with confusion and barely had a moment for reflection. I couldn’t keep my mind from wondering to a place of escape during conversations in Spanish but became an expert at maintaining eye contact and chuckling with the group on cue. It was a frustrating feeling; being an ant in a world where spiders rule the grounds.

I feel like I’m starting all over. I’m back in kindergarten trying to remember a is for apple and b is for banana. Except in my case, its r is for “recursos” and s is for “sostenibilidad.” If only the vocabulary building was simply apples and bananas, but it’s that and so much more in order for me to have the specific training to be a business facilitator in my future community. Back to the basics it is. A struggle to get my point across. A struggle to exude confidence while frantically flipping through the weathered pages of my dictionary.

It’s interesting to think how much words and language impact our ability to be heard and to generate complex thoughts. One of my friends here is from China and speaks Mandarin, Korean, English, and is now learning Spanish. I asked him when he lays down at night and is drifting off what language his mind wanders in and he said “pictures.” How interesting, right?! I have such a new found respect for anyone who is speaking a second (or third) language as their primary language. It’s really a testament of your dedication to be heard and understood. Who do you want to be – an observer on the sidelines or the one scoring the goals?

The other night my host dad and I had a lengthy conversation about Costa Rican economics and the US’s perception of the value of a dollar. This conversation is in Spanish, where my vocabulary is nowhere near advanced and I’m trying to convey my knowledge and interest but it comes off so dry and simplistic. My concept of self and purpose were lost well beyond the means of translation. I went to bed tossing and turning because what I wanted to say was important and relevant to our conversation but it came off so robotic and basic. But I keep pushing.

Ultimately, learning is everything. One of our staff members said the other day, “learning is the most intimate act.” It’s a process done through the explanation and guiding of others, but such a personal journey. You get what you put in.

I spend so much of my time in the dark that I often make up stories. I am normally a person of inquiry – wanting to know life stories, but currently, my capacity to communicate is not delving much deeper than the peel of an orange. So I tend to make up the story behind the scar on the cheek, the sadness I see behind her eyes, and the tattered house I pass on my Camino every day.

It’s almost better to just be – living in a land of charades not digging into someone’s past but deciphering what we have together: a few simple sentences in Spanish together. I’m not swishing the paint brush story by story, experience by experience to create the gran dios person in front of me. Rather, I’m looking at the painting as a whole: as I see it. Avoiding curiosity of the paint. Going off the deep blues and violets of the moment. The vibrance of a conversation. Figuring out how we can understand each other right now versus comparing the stories of our past.

Going back to the basics of basically learning how to talk again has been probably some of the most challenging moments thus far. But at the same time, they’ve made me laugh, they’ve made me appreciative, and most of all they made me be creative. The basic fundamentals of learning have insured a sense of imagination into my mind that I never knew existed. I’ve also found a new element of the importance of living in the now. My Spanish level is best by using the present tense. Not a whole lot is talked about in past tense or future. It’s kept me living in the present and focusing on the now. Something I’ve struggled most of my life to do.

Something I am starting to grasp is that for many things I’m currently experiencing, and many parts of life, there is no direct translation. For every word I find myself racking my brain for the English meaning, I have to remember that not all Spanish words are going to come across translated for an English meaning. A meaning isn’t always going to be cut and dry. And life doesn’t come with a dictionary for translation.

As much of  a frustration it is that so much is lost in translation, it also is quite beautiful. It’s moments of reflection. Moments of carefully choosing how to convey a simple point. Appreciating the ability to hear and be heard. Communicating with limited resources of vocabulary but still running lengths in comprehension. Every day is a struggle. Tiny pieces of information fall through the thick cracks of translation, slipping into a black hole that i might never be able to recover, but that is just life in a foreign world – and you keep going.

A quick taste

Last weekend we were sent on “PCV site visits.” A quick taste into service that I am savoring in order to get through training!

All 42 of us were going to different parts amongst the country. It was a perfectly placed trip because I think all of us were starting to feel a little trapped in training. My friend and I were sent together to a town called Penas Blancas, which is in the province of San Jose, about 2 hours North of Panama and 1 hour from the Pacific Coast.

It was our first trip away and I can’t even explain how free the wind made me feel. I so badly wanted to stick my head out the window of the bus and wag my tail with excitement. If it wasn’t 5 in the morning and half asleep, it is quite possible that I would have.

I’m not sure if it was the obvious of our “gringoness” or the bus was really almost sold out but our seats were in the very back of the bus, smack dab in the middle. In middle school, these seats are where the cools kids sit, but in these travel busses, these are the “last resort” seats. Definitely not ideal for 2 girls who get a tad bit carsick. Anyways, we managed to phase in and out of sleep while trying to hold on tightly to our bags like Peace Corps had suggested in our safety trainings.

At first I was a little bummed because some of my “compuneros” were visiting other PCV’s at the beach where activities of “letting loose” were going to be involved. I envisioned them “finding their beaches” with ice cold coronas in hand while working on the perfect shade of bronze. Oh how I was envious! Training can be quite the grueling process. I can see how it is definitely needed to be a successful volunteer, but at times, I feel as though I am jailed. In reality, I think it is just difficult for us recent college grads, independent, thrill seekers to have an abundance of rules and restrictions for three months, but we are all adjusting.

Penas Blancas was a part of Costa Rica I am very thankful I got the opportunity to see. First off, the volunteer I visited was basically what I would call a “bad ass volunteer.” She had/is accomplishing so much as a volunteer. I ended up not staying with the volunteer and her host family, and instead went to the house where the next volunteer will be living. As badly as I wanted a translator and a surplus of answers to some questions that were brewing in my mind, I forced myself to get out of my comfort zone. ANNNDDD I had an amazing time and met such an amazing family.

The second day, us volunteers (2 in-training) went to “el rio” with a group of kids who the volunteer is working with to develop a scouts group. These kids age from about 8-20 and are male and female. The river was probably one of the best times I’ve had in a while. I wish I had a word to describe how these kids inspired me but I can’t think of it. It’s interesting because we don’t even speak the same language, but we connected in a way that really touched my heart. At their age, so many things can influence who you become. What road you take. Who you hang out. EVERYTHING. For me, that’s where I took the wrong turn. Hanging out with the wrong crowd and doing the wrong thing. On the other bank of the river that day, there were a group of boys partying. These kids that were sitting with us easily could have been those kids – smoking weed and drinking. But they were with us – laughing and talking about their futures.
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We played chicken fights, swam in the river, jumped off trees, and drank fresco and chatted on the rocks that were hot enough to fry eggs. It was so simple but I saw how much it was a foundation to these kid’s lives. Positivity to do good things and to know that possibilities of the future are endless. Such a perfect reminder of why I am here. Another little girl I met (6 years old) cried to me how she so badly wanted to visit the United States. We stood on my bed and she was pointing to all of the places on the map of places where she wanted to go. It made my heart melt. Her dreams were endless- I pictured her a captain of a boat, sailing around the world.
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I am so happy I got the opportunity to see the progress and accomplishments that were happening in the town. It was an inspiring weekend. It connected a lot of dots in the ambiguity of a PCV in training. There will be 2 years to “find my beach” right?!
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There are several concepts that I am trying to grasp in my head. I really wish I had more time to reflect on my experiences but days are pretty exhausting right now. For now, I know how happy my heart feels. How I feel like I could not be in more perfect of moments. Yesterday, I lay my head down in bed with the biggest smile. I can’t say things are completely comfortable, which they aren’t supposed to be – but they are exiting. They are inspiring. They are motivating. There are so many things I have taken for granted, but at the same time, so many things I now know I don’t even need; whether that be materialistic things or a way of thinking. A perspective is already shaping and I have only been here a month.

I will try and write more. I don’t have internet and sometimes when I get home from 10 hour days, talk with my family in Spanish, and then do homework, my mind is far beyond capability to write.

MISS & LOVE YOU ALL.

Stay young, wild & free

“Age is the matter of the mind, if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” – Mark Twain
^my grandpa sent me that quote and I believe it is true for the concept of time as well. Just LIVE! ☺