Did you know my brother Jacob served in the Peace Corps too?
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.
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.
As the Costa Rican winter comes to an end, so does coffee picking season.
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.
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.
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 →
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?
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
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.
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 →
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 (cause I guess I’m part of the group now too). Last week, we had a community raffle and the prize was a live pig.
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. Continue reading →