This month, I celebrate the completion of my first year as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica.
It’s true what they say in the Peace Corps, that days pass by slowly but the months fly by.
How is it rainy season again already?
Reaching this point in my service is not only rewarding, but it brings me a sense of stability and comfort.
Before I left for the Peace Corps, 27 months felt like forever. But to really integrate into a new culture and community and work on sustainable long-term projects, all while learning a new language, it’s hardly enough time.
Now, different from a year ago, and even different from six months ago, I finally feel grounded; like I’ve found my place in my community and have a greater understanding for my host country and how things work (ahem, coffee is priority and meetings start at least an hour late).
In the whirlwind of all this, over the past six months I’ve experienced the ups and downs of working at a grass-roots level, transitioned in my role as a PCV, and even had some time to travel around the country (and Nicaragua!).
So here it is:
19 things I’ve done during months 6-12 as a PCV:
1. I continued to teach English at the local escuela but now also teach entrepreneurship classes.
When you greet someone in Costa Rica, you kiss on the cheek. In class, we learned to shake hands like Americans and it was just the funniest thing ever.
2. I worked four 15-hour days in November during one very rainy weekend-long event helping my partner women’s group in their kitchen in San Vito.
3. I stuck around my community for Christmas and had some volunteers come stay with me to celebrate A Very Campo Christmas. Besides missing the snow and my family, we had a pretty good time.
4. I visited the indigenous community of Boruca for the New Year’s Celebration, El Juego de Los Diablitos. It was intense.
….and now I have to figure out how to get this huge mask home…
5. I experienced my first summer in Fila Naranjo. It was humid, hot during the day, cold at night, and very dusty. But I was all about the sunny afternoons and muggy nights. Wisconsin weather, anyone?
6. I visited the indigenous reserve, La Casona, where the native Ngäbe people live and where a fellow volunteer served for two years.
7. I joined the Voluntary Advisory Council (VAC), a group of elected regional representatives responsible for advocating for volunteer interests, facilitating communication between volunteers and PC staff, and coordinating events and apparel.
8. I stayed living with my host family but recently started cooking all my own meals. It’s been a huge improvement to my overall happiness and well-being. There was just a lot of rice and oil going on in my diet ya know?
which leads to my next point…
10. I visited Nicaragua for 2 perfect weeks. It was a dreamy adventure.
11. My mom came to visit. Thanks Ma!
…We went to La Fortuna and hiked Cerro Chato, saw the La Fortuna Waterfall, and relaxed for a day at the Bali Hotsprings (hubba hubba).
Swim up bar? Yes please.
…We went to Uvita and walked to the Cola de Ballena and drank fresh pipas.
…And we went to Manuel Antonio where we snorkeled and met up with a fellow PCV to hike the Reto MAE, a challenging but beautiful coastal trail.
12. I shunned running after my marathon last September and started a uhhh.. paleo/I can’t afford weights so I use rocks weightlifting routine.
13. I attended my first Costa Rican wedding. It was long but lovely.
14. I’ve continued with my World Wise Schools project; an optional program for PCVs to participate that connects classrooms in the United States with classrooms in host countries to learn more about each other’s culture. I facilitate correspondence between a classroom from the middle school I attended in Wisconsin with a high school classroom near my community. And, they get to practice their Spanish and English. So far, the students have loved it!
15. I visited the famous hot springs near my community. They were more like anticlimactic-lukewarm-not-even-bath-water-warm springs.
16. The women’s group and I applied for and received our first ever grant for the kitchen in San Vito. With the grant, we were able to build a shelf to help us organize our materials and purchase new kitchen equipment, including a rice maker, a stove, and a freezer, which has improved our efficiency and organization tremendously. Thank you World Connect!
17. My host dad pure pressured me into killing a chicken. Never again.
18. I visited El Parque de Amistad (The Park of Friendship), a park that extends across the Costa Rica / Panama border.
19. I partnered with a fellow volunteer on a Let Girls Learn initiative. In July, we will be hosting a Camp GLOW, an empowerment camp for high school girls. Stay tuned for updates in the coming months!
At the midpoint of my service, I am thrilled to have made it here in one piece, especially with the roller coaster of emotions that I faced (that every volunteer faces) during my first year of service. But at the same time, this is when the countdown begins. And in some ways, it’s stressful anticipating the final chapter.
They say the second year of service goes by faster. So while there will be moments when I’m eager to finish and moments when I am absolutely loving my service, I am going to try hard to relish every last minute of my final year as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica.
So here’s to May; the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end.