What’s Peace Corps Like in Madagascar?

Did you know my brother Jacob served in the Peace Corps too?

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When I was in my last 2 years of college, Jacob was completing his service in the country of Madagascar, the small island off the southeastern coast of Africa.

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See that little purple guy over there on the right? That’s Madagascar.

Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking about how different our experiences have been so I asked him if he would share a little bit about his time in Madagascar.

He said yes! Phew. Like he had a choice. So I threw some interview questions at him and today, we’re going to relive his experiences.


 

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

I served in a small town called Befandriana-Nord in northern Madagascar from 2010-2012. I did not get to pick my country or have a say at all really. In fact I was originally assigned to Azerbaijan but was asked to change to Madagascar as the program there had recently re-opened, having previously closed due to a coup.

Continue reading

Hello Summer, Goodbye Coffee

As the Costa Rican winter comes to an end, so does coffee picking season.

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For a community like Fila Naranjo, coffee picking season is an important time of the year and for many families, it’s the only time of the year that they have a steady flow of income.

Coffee harvest is usually around 4-6 months, starting as early as September and lasting through January or February.

Usually this is a time when things in the community feel…dead. Both men and women head to their fincas (farms) and pick coffee all day. And I mean awwwllll day. People pick coffee from 8-12 hours every day in rain or blistering shine covering their entire bodies in jeans, long sleeve button up shirts, caps, bandannas, and boots to prevent sunburn and keep the zancudos (mosquitos) away. If it’s raining, they’ll cover their heads and bodies with plastic bags.

Can you imagine? Continue reading

My Project: A Rural Tourism Site

For all Peace Corps Volunteers (well technically “trainees”), Site Assignment Day is a big deal.

Site Assignment Day is a special day two months into PST (Pre-Service Training) where program teams assign volunteers their:

  • Peace Corps site for the next 2 years
  • The main project they’ll be working on
  • The local partner / counterpart they’ll be working with (generally the person who requested the Peace Corps Volunteer)

In case you’re not familiar with the 27-month Peace Corps commitment, it’s:

  • 3 months of Pre-Service Training (usually in the country’s capital)
  • 24 months as a Peace Corps Volunteer in assigned site
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Pre-Service Training Squad
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In-Site Squad

On April 22, 2016, I received my assignment:

  • Site: Fila Naranjo, Coto Brus, Puntarenas, Costa Rica
  • Partner: Ana Cedy Montero, President of the women’s group: Asociación de Mujeres Productoras de Fila Naranjo
  • Project: Development of a Rural Tourism Site

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A Costa Rican Campo Christmas

Over the past few weeks, the thought of being away from home — away from friends, family, snow, cheese, Christmas cookies, wine — all the things that are comforting to me during winter and Christmas, was a difficult truth to swallow.

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But now that Christmas has come and passed, I feel appreciative of the time I spent with new friends and family, under a hot hot Costa Rican sun, with 3 wonderful Peace Corps volunteers, endless Christmas art activities, too much karaoke, ridiculously priced cheddar cheese (I’m from Wisconsin, it was necessary), not-so-delicious red wine, and Christmas cookies (yes, we made it happen). Continue reading

On Being Ama de Casa

Ama de Casa is title widely used in Costa Rica to describe the role of the woman whose job is to stay at home and care for the house, the children, and oftentimes here, the grandchildren.


The word “ama” is a noun and translates to:

  • Lady of the house
  • Owner
  • Governess
  • Foster mother
  • Housewife
  • Housekeeper

I know…the dictionary literally put them in that order. It kinda goes downhill from lady of the house. Continue reading

¡Bienvenidos a Mi Casa!

 

Bienvenidos a mi casita!

In Spanish, when something is small an ita or ito is added to the end of it. So casita (from the word casa) means ¨little house.¨

Perrito (perro) = little dog
Abuelita (abuela) = little grandma
Carrito (carro) = little car
Papelito (papel) = little paper
Almuercito (almuerzo) = little lunch…just a lil lunch ya know, a lite meal, some small fare

Anyway, you get it. But it’s cute right? People love to throw the ito/ita on everything here. It’s also kind of like sugar-coating a request or adding affection to a word.

Puedo tener un frescito por favor? Can I get a little juice please?

Gah. I just love it.

Anyway, back to mi casita. Continue reading

Fiestas Patronales in Fila Naranjo

This past weekend the annual Fiestas patronales (Patronage Festivals) were hosted in Fila Naranjo.

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This was the first big celebration that’s happened in my community since I’ve been here so to say the least, I was pretty excited and intrigued to find out how Big Fila gets they party on.

So what is this fiesta anyway?! I know, you’re just dying to know. Continue reading

Monthly Update #2

Month 2 is here and gone! Not a ton has happened this last month but things have been busy enough in Fila Naranjo to keep me ocupada (and emotionally stable).

Courts for Kids

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During the last week of June I went to help a nearby volunteer with one of her projects working with Courts for Kids. Courts for Kids is a US-based nonprofit that partners with international organizations and communities to help disadvantaged areas build courts for outdoor sports.

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Along with some local community members and other Peace Corps Volunteers, a group of volunteer high school students from Louisiana came to help build the court. Continue reading

The Day I Saw a Pig Die

Se dicen que si alguien tiene el miedo cuando se está viendo un cerdo muere, el cerdo no va a morir en paz.  

They say that if someone is afraid when they are watching a pig die, the pig will not die peacefully.

This past Thursday, I watched a pig die. I watched it with fear in my heart and pain in my eyes and sure enough, that pig did not go peacefully. Call me superstitious but I think it was my fault.


I didn’t necessarily want to watch it but I felt like I should. The lifestyle here in the campo of southern Costa Rica is so heavily based on agriculture–coffee, livestock, sugar cane, produce–and killing animals for comida is something that happens every day. Everyone is accustomed to it, and it’s just the way we live here (c
ause I guess I’m part of the group now too). Last week, we had a community raffle and the prize was a live pig.

Continue reading

Monthly Update: #1

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.

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Adiós clase de Español

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 integrateContinue reading