Quick update

Since I wrote so much about Costa Rican food in my last post, I thought I would share a picture from lunch:

Arroz, frijoles, ensalda, yucca, pollo, plantain frites y pine jugo!

It is our last night here in Orosi, so crazy! Our next adventure is hiking Mt. Chirripo. This is just a quick update, but you can read more about it here: http://www.sangerardocostarica.com/activities/chirripo-national-park/

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T-3

T-3 days

That’s right, we officially leave Orosi, orientation and each other on Sunday. Things at Otiac have definitely been slowing down a bit, although my brain is still on information overdrive from the past 3 weeks. I hope to retain at least 25% of everything I learned here, and to keep my binder and insiders guide with me at all times for the next year.

Today was absolutely gorgeous here, hot and sunny with a lovely breeze (sorry family and friends in New England!) Kai and I just went for a great 4 mile run around the valley,and now I have some time just to relax. I will probably run to the store to get some school materials for the first week (apparently as a primary school teacher you can’t ever have enough contact paper, markers, flash cards, crossword puzzles, images…) and start thinking about my lesson plan for that. It’s a lot to think about, but it’s also very exciting. Maybe I’ll love teaching, maybe I’ll hate it.. Either way I’m going to learn a lot about the profession and myself.

I have been surprisingly LOVING having gallo pinto for breakfast here, they  eat it for all 3 meals, but breakfast might be my favorite . Gallo pinto is a tico spin on the typical arroz con frijoles, basically rice and beans with Costa Rican spices like cilantro, chili and onions and tomatoes thrown in. We had this the other day with scrambled eggs and fresh avocado and it was just incredible! Some days we will also have fresh bananas (not to be confused with plantains which are muy rico fried, but no bueno fresh) and fresh papaya from our backyard. SO much better than my normal bagel 🙂

I could go on and on, but basically I am falling in love with Costa Rican cuisine. I heard that some past volunteers have made cookbooks with recipes and pictures of them and their community making the food. I think I might try to do that as well, perhaps they will make good Christmas gifts for friends and family next year?

In addition to the great food, Orosi has lots of coffee fields here and the cafe is so good. It’s very different here, it doesn’t taste as bitter and strong, but it’s still very flavorful and I find that I don’t even require azucar nor leche in it (though some cinnamon, if available is always welcome). We have cafe con desayano y tres cafecitos todos los dias! Mucho cafe! I’m trying to cut it down a little bit, to avoid acquiring a more serious caffeine addiction during my year here.

You just have to watch out how much you eat here, if you finish your plate your host mom will be sure to feed you more than twice the amount the next time (Ross has certainly be finding this out the hard way)

Enough about food: One thing I’m still really missing here is my yoga. I think I have a better chance of finding somewhere in La Fortuna to do it, but I would love to be able to keep it up everyday. Does anyone have any great advice about how to do yoga on your own? I have been taking classes reguarliy for a few years now, but still don’t feel confident doing it on my own (and don’t feel like I get the same benefits) Are there any great podcasts to download? YouTube videos? Something? I haven’t had a ton of time to do research so if anyone could send links and/or suggestions that would be absolutely wonderful!!!  Feel free to send them here or email them to me at peterson.meganj@gmail.com.

A year’s worth of underwear…

Packing up our entire apartment while simultaneously packing for a year abroad in Costa Rica was one of the more challenging experiences in my life. I have a difficult time packing for an overnight or weekend trip to places I’m familiar with, never mind packing for a YEAR for a country I’ve never even been to. Since I’ve lived through it and still have clean underwear to speak of almost one month in, I thought I’d give some advice:

-No matter where you go, bring your most comfortable, favorite pair of jeans with you. It has been colder than anticipated in Orosi, especially in the evenings and these are warm enough and remind me or home.

-Don’t bring high heels. I didn’t, and I’m glad because they take up too much room and really aren’t necessary here, a nice pair of strappy sandals will do just as well at any dress-up occasion.

-Ladies, bring bras that go well with everything, and aren’t too noticeable (lacy, colorful, etc). Whites and neutral colors might be boring, but they go under all T-shirts, dresses and tank-tops, and just like undies, these are  hung up to dry in visible areas (no dryers here)- you don’t need any additional chisme going around town!

-Bring two piece suits you can mix and match. Solid colored tops and bottoms with designs (or vice versa) can mix things up and keep you from getting bored with the same old suit.

-Bring lots of scarfs and jewelry. They take up virtually no room in your suitcase or backpack and weigh nothing. My family was great and got me a bunch of this stuff for xmas before I left, and I’ve been wearing these accessories everyday here (thanks guys :)- love you!) It’s amazing how a pair of great earrings can take an outfit from school to salsa dancing attire with no wardrobe changes necessary.

-Don’t waste you time with a lot of makeup/product unless you are really good at applying without a mirror and/or if you don’t mind putting it on at a bus stop, on a bus. It’s also constantly either hot, rainy or hot and rainy here, and I’m not a fan of streaks.

The one things I wish I had brought was a warmer sweatshirt or long sleeved shirt, because some days have been cooler/rainier here. It is also important to point out you can certainly buy things here. If you want the typical American brands it will be more expensive (and you’ll probably need to make a trip into San Jose) but if you are okay with the basics in your small town it will be really cheap! This goes for clothes, toiletries, medications and more.

So about the year’s worth of underwear, I’m still not sure. I’ll get back to you about that next January 🙂

 

 

Food for thought.

Although certainly homesick, I am really loving a lot of things about this country and it’s culture. One of those things is the sllooowweer lifestyle. Yes, we are busy almost all day everyday in orientation, but the whole town and country has a more relaxed vibe about it. Sometimes it’s annoying and not as efficient, but it also makes me feel less crazy/anxious/stressed out on a daily basis.

 

As much as I am here to absorb a lot of this wonderful country, I am also here to educate them about my culture. Another volunteer brought this up during orientation, and it wasn’t something I’d even thought about before, but who am I to impose this different language/lifestyle on them? Maybe they are happy speaking only Spanish and working in the coffee fields and living in their small towns and eating the fresh food that is available here in their homes every evening rather than going out to fancy restaurants. To promote a faster paced lifestyle more dependent on financial status and career advancement seems almost backwards here. Succeed in the tourism career and make more money so you can work more (like me) and see your family, friends and loved ones less (like me) and buy more and more things that you don’t need (like me). More money, more problems right?

But the truth of it is, they WANT us here and they want to learn English. And we are not here to impose anything, but rather to set an example of something different. It does make me a little nervous to think that this gorgeous green country could some day be taken over by large resorts and wealthy tourists who care more about money than the land and the people (everyone saw Avatar, right?) But we are not here for that, we are merely volunteers here to provide education which if anything is more of a tool for them to use as they wish. If they want to go into the tourism industry, or need to to support their families, we are helping with that.

Knowledge is a very powerful thing, and for a small country with no military it can be their greatest asset and protection against being taken advantage of.

 

La Dulce Vida

This past weekend was incredible, like seriously, just what I needed. I think I may have mentioned this on here briefly, but last week I was sick. Like really, really sick. It lasted about 3 days total, but 24 hours of it may have been the most painful 24 hours of my life. I couldn’t move, eat, drink or sleep. Despite me not doing anything, my body was doing a lot (fever, insane uncontrollable shaking, vomiting, etc. etc.) I am only writing this because I am now feeling great (thank you Cipro and the MGH Dr. who prescribed it for me!) It was a pretty low point and obviously I just wanted to be home and OUT of this country that I was pretty convinced was killing me in a very slow, painful way. I’m very glad I had Ross to help, and pre-filled prescriptions from the states, otherwise I’m pretty sure I would have had to made a trip to el hospital in San Jose via BUS (which if you have been on a bus to San Jose, you would know would definitely have killed me in my state). I almost published a blog entitled “Yo estoy ENFERMA“, but decided I should hold off on publishing anything until I had a clearer mind, or at least until I had held in liquids for more than 30 seconds at a time.

I am not only feeling better, but thriving. The really bad 24 hours was last Tuesday, one week from tomorrow. I missed one day of classes and practicum, which isn’t bad considering how serious it was. I made a slow recovery over the rest of the week and made it through classes and all my obligations in Orosi the rest of the week (even Salsa night!)

Then Friday evening we headed to the Puerto Viejo, and everything just got better. There was palm trees, and warm ocean breezes and soft sand and music and dancing and sunshine and drinks and everything you could ask for on a holiday. I NEEDED that, complete relaxation after a really tough week, mentally, emotionally and definitely physically. The two days flew by, but the benefits will last awhile. I have a painful sunburn (regardless of the amount of sunblock I applied, it is January and I am basically on top of the equator here but other than that I feel incredible- and Ross is worse than I am). It was a great bonding experience for the group, to be able to go out and just have fun,fun,fun for the entire weekend.

It also reminded me of how insanely beautiful and diverse this country is. The Province of Limon is sososo different than Orosi, as is La Fortuna. I’m going to try to enjoy and absorb as much as Orosi this next week as possible, because I really don’t know if we’ll be back here this year. So many crazy beautiful places to see, so little time!!!!

 

I do have to write a bit more about La Fortuna, but I might wait until we get back there (and I’ll have a full 11 months there). I started to get sick there, so I think my memory is not accurate. I do remember loving the house, our host family (especially our host mom!) and the community but I was feeling really bad, unable to remember any Spanish and it was uncharacteristically rainy and cold (we couldn’t even see the Arenal Volcano, and it is literally in our back yard.) One great thing I do remember, Ross and I have our own bedroom AND bathroom. This is a HUGE perk in CR!!!! And another perk:

 

Chocolate empanadas are really, really good.

I’m loving that so many people are following the blog, thank you for all your comments! We haven’t had much free time (or any at all) to reach out to everyone individually, so please know it’s so great to hear from you. Also know,  due to popular demand, I will force Ross to write at least a few guest posts on here.

Last night we went to another volunteer’s host family’s fiesta; Costa Ricans certainly know how to fiesta! There were about 40 people there, and there was tons of food, drinks. We did a cheers (salut) with some sort of yummy local beverage, it reminded me of rice pudding in liquid form, milky, creamy, cinnamony, rummy and delicious. I also wouldn’t be surprised if there were actually rice in it, since there is rice in absolutely everything here. Since I’m just getting over some tummy trouble, I could only take a sip and eat the rice but it was perfect! The host mom also made a HUGE cake (more than enough for all 40 people) that said “Bienvenidos” so nice! We also had a huge dance  party on the front veranda with about half the population of Orosi.

It’s good we got some dance practice last night, because tonight we have salsa dancing at the Otiac for the volunteers and families, very exciting! We will also get to eat the empanadas we learned to make from scratch today (Queso, Queso y frijoles, y CHOCOLATE EMPANADAS- muy rico!) Ross already hurt one girl’s foot playing futbol the other night, so everybody better watch their toes on the dance floor tonight!

We have one more day this week of Spanish, and practicum, and charlas  and then our whole group is taking a weekend mini-holiday to the Caribbean (Puerto Viajo). I think we are all really looking forward to a little R&R on the beach for a few days. Don’t worry, between the 20 of us we have enough sunblock and bug spray to cover the entire country.

About Practicum: We have been teaching English to the local Orosi children from grades 1-6 all week. It was really scary intimidating at first, especially having no formal teaching experience,  and I have so much more respect for teachers and their lesson planning and the energy they put into their classes everyday. Ross and I have taught both 2nd and 5th graders and we have learned a lot about teaching. In one way I feel a little  overwhelmed knowing that I’ll be doing this in Zeta Trece 5 days a week for 5-7 hours a day, but I know that the more you do it the easier it gets (even the 4th day was so much better than the 1st  )

If there are any teachers out there reading this who have any great advice for two novices, please send it our way! Gracias!

Costa Rica Primero Blog!

Buenas Dias! I’ve been feeling mucho pressure to write this first blog post from Costa Rica. It has been exactly one week since I’ve arrived in this amazing country, and I have absolutely no idea how to sum up the whole experience. I have a feeling I won’t be anywhere close to being able to do that until this whole, crazy, beautiful experience is behind me. Please excuse me if my sentences aren’t exactly coherent, after intense Spanish classes everyday and only listening to and speaking Spanish most of the time I’m kind of in limbo between the two languages at the moment and tend to add an extra “o” onto English worlds recently 🙂
Orientation is in a town called Orosi, not far from San Jose. The whole town kind of feels like a Latin American Disney world so far, and I almost can’t believe it’s real. The ticos are as friendly and tranquillo as promised, although living with a host family for the first time has been interesting for me and Ross (and everyone else in our group). The language barrier is a huge part of this, along with figuring out how to get hot water for showering (it’s rocket possible here, but it’s as difficult as rocket science) and getting used to your Tico mom washing your underwear and eating Gallo Pinto for breakfast (and sometimes lunch AND dinner) actually our host family has been trying to keep us happy with typical American fare for many meals, which is unfortunate seeing as though that is french fries, chicken fingers, mac n’ cheese and coca cola 🙂
Luckily, the running here has been incredible (to negate all the “American” food I’ve been eating here) Orosi is set in a valley surrounded by mountains and volcanoes on all sides, and the other WorldTeach volunteers are great motivators J Our running groups have been around 4-10 people each day after school. Speaking of school, we are in it from 8-5pm Monday-Friday. It’s A LOT of work, but  I am learning a lot and I have a feeling it will be so worth it and even during this busy month we still have our weekends. This weekend Ross and I are traveling to our site in La Fortuna, where will be living from February-December. The weekend after that our whole group is planning a vacation to a beach on the Caribbean.. Can’t wait!!!!
We also did a great hike last Sunday in the mountains here in Orosi. Our guide was a mountain man named Nano. I think he’s pretty famous and has been featured in a few travel magazines, and he’s certainly one of the more interesting people I’ve ever met, so if you find yourself in Orosi looking for some adventure look him up!
I’m actually off to dinner at my temporary Orosi home, then out for homework (and maybe some cervezas) with the other volunteers (did I mention beer here is only $1,000 colones, or > $2 USD. Hasta Luego!!!!!