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.

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Nicaragua Itinerary: A Perfect 2 Weeks

Last month, I went to Nicaragua.

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Granada at sunset.

It was increíble. .

It had everything I love when I’m traveling–colorful and historic cities, vibrant markets flowing with local fruits and vegetables, kind and welcoming people, budget-traveler friendliness, the mountains (well volcanoes) and the beach.

What more do ya need?

In just two weeks, I visited three cities, swam in two lakes, escaped to an island, hiked to the top of a volcano, and even made it to the ocean.

Nicaragua, a country booming with character, history, and landscapes for days, will have you wondering which part of the country you should explore on your next vacation.

Well wonder no more. Because I’ve got you covered. If you’re looking to… Continue reading

#FoodFriday: The Best Gallo Pinto (Costa Rica Rice & Beans)

When I was just 13-years-old, I got my first job working at an Italian Restaurant right down the street from our home in cute little downtown Delafield, Wisconsin.

Coming from a family with a lot of people and not a lot of money, I always wanted a job so I could have my own cash in my own pocket; even if that meant working after school, on the weekends, and in between basketball and track practices.

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Too many kids not enough monayyy
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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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#FoodFriday: Make Your Own Kombucha

I distinctly remember the first time I ever tried kombucha.

It was five years ago while I was living in Wisconsin. I was in the grocery store and was immediately sold on the look of the Synergy bottle that promised to reawaken, rebirth, repurpose, and redefine.

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When I got to the car, I twisted the top off, took my first sip and spit it out without hesitation. It tasted rancid and vinegary…like it was some sort of tea that had turned so bad it had started to ferment (I guess there’s some truth to the fermentation part).

I don’t know how or when my hate turned to love but it did. Over time I grew what some people might call an unhealthy obsession with kombucha.  I had a kind of “ah-ha” moment when I realized that the vinegary taste and carbonation were natural and suppose to be there. It was like accepting the moldy flavor of blue cheese. Or maybe overtime I just grew a strong affection for all things fermented and vinegary. It’s a mystery.

If you’ve never heard of this kombucha stuff, let me fill you in.

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What’s It like Living on a Peace Corps Volunteer Budget?

Let’s talk about that chedda.

No, I’m not talking about cheese, even though you know I’d like to be (since I’m from Wisconsin and all), I’m talking about money.

Or as we say here in Costa Rica, la plata. The silver. That cash money monaayyyy.  

You could probably guess with a title like “volunteer” that PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers) don’t make a ton of money. It’s true. We’re all broke. Continue reading

El Juego de Los Diablitos

El Juego de Los Diablitos
The Game of the Little Devils

If you follow me on Instagram, then you probably saw that I did something a little different to celebrate the new year this year.

To bring in 2017, I went to El Juego de los Diablitos festival in Boruca. Continue reading

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

#FoodFriday: Easy Raw Carrot Cake Energy Balls

 

When I first got to my site in Fila Naranjo, I was really trying to work on this whole “integration” thing. I went to church with my host family, I played soccer on Wednesday nights, I worked on a farm, I cooked side-by-side with women in the community kitchen, and I ate everything my host mom cooked for me.

I mean, everything.

Piles of rice, bowls of beans, breads, fried foods, sugar-filled juices, empanadas…all of it. Continue reading