Mexico: Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, and Sayulita

Even after living almost two years in Costa Rica I still have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. Not only am I fulfilling my dream of being a Peace Corps Volunteer, I’m living in one of the most beautiful places in the entire world!

…even though it’s either just dumping rain or the sun is boiling off my tender skin.

Since being in Costa Rica, I’ve not only had the chance to explore places in country like Tortuguero and La Casona, I also went to Nicaragua and just last month, took an 18-day trip to Mexico.

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On my way to Mexico!

It was glorious…y muy barato (very cheap) for all you money savers out there.

Or other PCVs that make downwards of $500 per month…hehe. Continue reading

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75% Completed: Months 12-18 as a PCV

I’m not going to lie May feels like FOREVER ago.

I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing but for the sake of optimism I’m going to say that it’s good. A LOT has happened since May, so maybe that’s why…

I remember when I was just a trainee back in pre-service training and one of my favorite training sessions was when the veteran volunteers would come talk to us about their experiences. We were just little buoyant nuggets full of hope and determination and SO eager to know the real deal with being a PCV.

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Back in the PST days…so young and full of life.

We were always loaded with questions. After a while, I noticed this recurring theme of volunteers telling us how the second year of service was so different from the first and ohhh the second year really flies by because you’re just so busy and yadda yadda yadda.

I brushed it off until my mid-service crisis hit me like a bag of bricks and I was deep down in the dumps. I was feeling useless in site and the women’s group I worked with was just a complete hot mess. Things truly felt like they were getting worse by the day and the little work that I did have to do in my tiny community of 200 was slowly slipping away.

I was nervous because all I had lined up for this amazing “Year 2” were two Camp GLOWs (young female leadership camps), which I was working on with another volunteer. While I was super excited for those to happen, my squeaky clean calendar post-July left me feeling nervous and frankly, a little terrified…

What was I to do in Fila Naranjo for another 12 months? Continue reading

#FoodFriday: A Purple Smoothie Bowl That Will Blow Your Pants Off (Literally)

Yup, that’s right. This smoothie bowl is packed full of a rainbow’s-worth of healthy goodness and enough fiber to give you the bowel movement of your dreams.

You see here in the Peace Corps, we deal with a lot of panza (belly) issues. Whether it’s a parasite that’s found it’s way into the potable water from last night’s big rain storm or some questionable greasy street food that’s been sitting out too long (I see you empanada and chicharron lovers), we, the proud Peace Corps Volunteers of Costa Rica, have all been there.

And by there I mean on the toilet…for a long time.

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Seeing Costa Rica: Tortuguero, Land of the Turtles

Since arriving in Costa Rica, I had always wanted to visit Tortuguero. So when my friend said she was going last month, I didn’t hesitate to invite myself along.

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Off we go to Tortuguero!

Tortuguero is located on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica and is famous for for its long serene beaches that are nesting grounds for sea turtles. Basically in my mind, Tortuguero translates to “Land of the Turtles.”

YES, TURTLES. GIANT TURTLES. BABY TURTLES. MEDIUM TURTLES. SMALL TURTLES. ALL THE CUTE TORTUGAS.

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I knew that Tortuguero would be one of my favorite spots in Costa Rica from the moment we stepped off the boat. Since there are no roads to Tortuguero you have to arrive via boat or airplane (baller status) and different from a lot of other popular destinations in Costa Rica, Tortuguero has a more laid-back, island-y, hippy kinda vibe. A lot of the businesses were small and locally-owned and it just felt a little more rústico y rural. Continue reading

What’s Peace Corps Like in Peru?

Meet my friend Steve. Steve is a Community Economic Development Volunteer in Peru. I met Steve out in Lake Tahoe, California where we both worked in similar positions that focused on community and regional development (I had a lakeside office, Steve did not). During winters, we played together on a broomball team, which is a ridiculous and fairly dangerous hockey-like ice sport that I will most likely never play again in my life. Today, Steve is going to tell us what it’s like living and working in Peru as a PCV.


 

When and where do you serve in the Peace Corps? Did you get to pick your country?

Currently, I serve in Motupe, Lambayeque, Peru. Motupe is an urban center, like a suburb of our department Lambayeque’s capital city. We grow the most delicious and juicy mangoes, along with other types of agriculture. I began my service in July, 2016 and will finish in July, 2018 (9 more months to go!).

Continue reading

Strengthening Communities through Women’s Groups in Costa Rica

Women’s groups in Costa Rica are kind of a big deal.

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In rural and urban communities throughout the country, women work together in groups on long-term projects to provide their families with additional income and also have work to do outside of their primary roles as ama de casa.

Projects differ from community to community but generally tend to be textile, food/cooking, or agricultural based.

Here are some examples of women’s group’s projects: Continue reading

Tropical Storm Depression #16, Nate Hits Costa Rica

Late last week, Tropical Storm Depression #16 Nate passed through Costa Rica.

While the nonstop rain and heavy winds began on Wednesday, October 4, the storm passed through on Thursday, October 5, leaving 22 people dead and thousands without homes, running water, electricity, and cell phone service.

If you remember last year in November, Costa Rica was hit by Hurricane Otto, but damage was mostly seen in northern Costa Rica, where many communities and homes were flooded from rain water.

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This year, damage was much more widespread and in fact worse than when an actual hurricane hit last year. Roads, bridges, and homes throughout the country have been severely damaged, especially in southern Costa Rica.

From San Vito, the nearest city to my site, there are two routes leading out into the open world. This is now one of them.

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#FoodFriday: The Fruits & Flavors of Fila Naranjo (Part 3)

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve had a random, never-seen-before, questionable looking fruit shoved in my face, but last night it happened again.

It was almost as if Carlos went out of his way to find me and ask me if I had ever had a zapote before.

“A za what?” I said

His eyes lit with excitement as he realized he would be the one to serve this gringa her first zapote ever.

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And for good reason because it was so tasty. It was this tender, not-too-sweet fruit that tasted expensive and classy JUST like a fig yet soft and hearty like a cooked squash. I truly thought that I had seen and tasted all that there is to offer in Fila Naranjo after 16 months of living here, but this land is still full of surprises.

 

Mamón Chino
aka Rambutan aka some sort of cousin of the Lychee

IMG_3835 Continue reading

Seeing Costa Rica: Playa Hermosa

When I first thought about living in a new country for an entire two years, especially a smaller place like Costa Rica, it seemed like it would be oh-so-easy to see and explore every region, city, and pueblo.

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Well I was WRONG.

Between community work, meetings, trainings, and out-of-country vacations, it’s actually been a little difficult to visit all the places in Costa Rica that I have on my list.

As PCVs, we accrue 2 vacation days per month and are allowed 3 OOC nights (out of community) per month. Those 5 days might sound like a lot but the the majority of us save vacation days for trips home or with family and friends and try to use those OOC nights to scramble around the country when we’re not working in our communities.

And, with basically having one foot in Panama, it makes it extra difficult for me to get to places that aren’t in my region, like northern Costa Rica where the heat is hawt and the beaches are bumpin’. Continue reading