Today marks the day that I have officially been in site for one month, whoo! I surprise myself by saying that time has actually gone by pretty fast. **knock on wood**
Like I’m sure many Peace Corps Volunteers can attest to, the first few weeks of arriving at site can be kind of [insert emotionally overwhelming synonym here]. You’ve left your new friends, the busy training schedule, and that cozy life you just built for yourself over the past three months during pre-service training only to wake up alone in an unfamiliar place surrounded by flying insects, people, and a language that you don’t really know. It’s a big change.
For Community Economic Development Volunteers, the first 3 months in site are supposed to be spent assessing and getting to know your community. This was the part of Peace Corps that always terrified me. The first few months of arriving in site that are solely for integrating. Nothing to really do, nowhere to really go. Just integrate. I felt like this part of my service was going to be a huge challenge for me because I’m the kind of person who works best with structure and purpose. When I have a lot to do, I get a lot done. When I have a deadline, I meet it. Wake me up at 7am and fill that schedule like a tall glass of water on a hot hot day.
Surprisingly, I’ve found the free time refreshing. For the first time in a long time, I’m not tied down to a calendar, a regular job, or a recurring routine. I can make my own schedule and do all the things I used to say I didn’t have time for (hello books and instruments) and challenge myself to make the most out of this once in a lifetime experience.
So, what have I been doing the past month?
I run. I’ve been running a lot. I run almost every morning or try to workout everyday. On days that I don’t workout or have work to do my mind starts to wander to the dark side and the days draaag. Right now running is a really important part of my life and mental sanity.
I play the ukulele. I wanted to learn a new hobby and occupy my free time while I was here so I brought a ukulele. I’ve become fairly obsessed with playing (estoy totalmente enganchado!) and I’ve even learned a few songs since getting to site. It’s easy to pick up and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new hobby or challenge. PCV or not!
I hang out with kids. Kids are my best friends right now because they’re willing to listen to my sloooowww Spanish without judgement. And, they’re enthusiastic about teaching me new words and telling me stories, even when I don’t understand. I didn’t believe it when everyone told us during training that kids would be our greatest resource but it’s true, they really are.
I study Spanish. Spanish is still a challenge for me and the main reason I get sad or frustrated sometimes. It can be difficult finding people who have patience and empathy for someone learning a new language let alone find people who want to have a conversation. It’s been a humbling experience to say the least! Outside of talking to people, I try to spend time learning new vocabulary and grammar.
I talk with my host mom. My host mom is the sweetest lady EVER. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body and loves to talk about anything and everything. In the mornings and afternoons I help her around the house, cook, and just spend time with her talking.
I drink coffee. I drink coffee in the morning, in the afternoon and with dinner. Some say it’s a problem. I say it’s a passion. Around 2pm every day all the people of Costa Rica stop what they’re doing and join friends or family for cafecito = coffee and some sort of bread treat (empanadaaass). It’s the best time of the day.
I work. My project partner is a group of women (Asocición de Mujeres de Fila Naranjo) who recently just finished paying off a loan for a beautiful finca (farm) that they bought in Fila Naranjo. The finca has tons of potential. We are trying to turn it into a rural tourism destination but it still needs a lot of work. On Tuesdays and Fridays I work at the finca clearing brush, trails, planting new plants and helping to beautify the farm. On Saturdays, we travel to a feria (like a farmer’s market) where we make and serve breakfasts and lunches from a kitchen to raise money for the association and generate an income for the women.
After completing my first month as a PCV, I feel grateful that I’ve finally started this long anticipated 2-year journey! A month ago, I felt excited, nervous, and scared. I was excited for the new adventures and unknowns, nervous to live in a foreign place and communicate in a foreign language, and scared that doubt would fill my mind and I would discover that this journey, this life, wasn’t for me.
Now here I am a month later, every day feeling more and more at home in this beautiful place, in this beautiful country full of new friendships and discoveries. I don’t know if there will ever come a day over the next 2 years where I don’t feel excited, nervous, scared, or have a moment of doubt, but today I feel strong. I’m taking things one day at a time and it feels good.
I’m looking forward to seeing what Month 2 brings. Pura Vida!