Family Vacay, COS, and My Parasite

February has been busy busy busy! Which, after spending most of December and January in my site, has been a glorious gift.

I think it’s normal to feel like January is a never-ending month but this year, it felt especially long. I didn’t have much going on in my community and furthermore, didn’t have any trips, trainings, or meetings planned to break up the weeks. I was just counting the days until early February when my entire family was to come visit Costa Rica. I’m serious. I would get out of bed every morning and throw a big ol’ X on the previous day and watch the numbers slowlyyyy count down one by one. And ya know what? Some months are just like that when you’re in the Peace Corps and that’s OK.

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Come early February, this girl was STOKED. I packed my bags and headed to San Jose to await the arrival of my family members, who were flying in from Wisconsin and my brother and his wife, who were flying in all the way from Ukraine. It was to be our first out-of-Wisconsin family vacation EV-ER.

We spent a week up north in Tamarindo at a be-a-utiful house that catered to our enormous rowdy group — hanging poolside, making homemade piña coladas, and playing games and laughing our faces off every night. Time, different from the previous weeks in January, flew by in the blink of an eye until they were gone.

But it wasn’t long until they were sending me ridiculous pictures from the airport.

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My brother’s head fits that hole perfectly.

Thankfully, I had my COS (Close of Service) Conference in San Jose the following week so the post-trip depression didn’t hit me as hard as it usually does.

COS is the last get-together that volunteers have before their final months in country to wrap up loose ends, fill out paperwork, and prepare for the end of service. Since we are able to choose from a few different COS dates (the dates that we will actually depart Costa Rica) it was the last time that many of us would see each other.

Reflecting on our service and putting the Tico 31 puzzle together.

At our conference, we learned about post-service benefits and reviewed the process of leaving our communities, saying goodbye to our host families, friends, and work partners, and transitioning out of our roles as PCVs. At the end of our conference, we all received cute little succulent plants and talked about a person in our community who has helped us grow. The succulents, which we took back to our communities, would be planted with this person as a gesture of appreciation and love. Of course, I planted my succulent with my host mother, Cristina.

Tico 31 with their succulents (left) and my host mom and me (right)

On the last night of the conference, our Country Director kindly hosted dinner at her home, where we played games and ate delicious vegetarian burritos. It brought me back to the beginning of my service when we were all bonding and sharing experiences as a big group of 40 volunteers. After laughing about a photo a group of us took two years ago at our Site Assignment Day, we decided to try to recreate it.

A little sloppier but we still got it.

During COS, we also had medical appointments to ensure we are in tip-top shape before leaving service. As part of this process, we had to deliver 3 poo samples three days in a row, between 8-10am every morning (I was going hard on the coffee). Without going into details, the samples were collected and reviewed for parasites or other abnormalities. There was less than a handful of people with parasites and of course, I was one of them.

The parasite that I have is called blastocystis and I SWEAR it’s been the cause of the digestive issues I’ve been having over the past year. These guys survive on carbohydrates and sugars and then, produce a toxic alcohol which causes inflammation, bloating, and a bunch of other nasty problems — again, I won’t go into details.

Tomorrow, I start an antibiotic along with an intense diet/cleanse where I will be consuming a ton of raw garlic and ginger to try to rid my body of this parasite. Hopefully, it will work but I’ve heard these little buggers are difficult hard to defeat. I read on one blog that when they feel like they’re under attack they’ll run and hide in your colon, which is why a lot of people use an enema to get rid of them. GROSS. Unfortunately, this means I’ll have to deliver more poo samples before leaving the country. Stay tuned for an update on my parasite guy!

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My antibiotic, Metronidazol

With less than two months left until my COS date, April 20, the next few weeks will be a whirlwind of wrapping up projects in my site, meetings, and visiting friends. It feels crazy and surreal but I’m excited to be starting the next chapter of my vida.

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A sunset, to not end on parasites and poo samples
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