When I Dip You Dip We Dip: The Mid-Service Crisis

Sorry to burst your bubble so early on but this post doesn’t have anything to do with Freak Nasty.

There will be absolutely no discussion of twerking, bouncing, bumping, jigglin’, or getting low on the ground. This post is solely about the emotional struggles journey of a Peace Corps Volunteer.

That volunteer being me.

HI.

This last week our Tico #31 volunteer group completed a much anticipated Mid-Service Training (MST); a Peace Corps milestone that marks the halfway completion of the 2-year service.

Watch us here as we awkwardly, yet so symbolically jump from our first to second year of service. Continue reading

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#Food Friday: Chorreadas (Costa Rican Corn Pancakes)

I don’t want to fill all of your typical Wisconsinite stereotypes but it’s true.

I love beer.
I love cheese.
and I love corn.

They’re just all so delicious.

I’m sure that when you think of Wisconsin, things like craft beer, (crappy beer), cows, football, premium cheeses, and political inconsistency come to mind.

But what you might not know is Wisconsin is one of the top corn producing states in the nation.

Yup, I’m just a corn-fed girl in a corn-fed world. Continue reading

7 Spanish Songs to Kick Off Your Summer

With the abrupt end of my Costa Rican summer (rainy afternoons are in full swing now) and the blossoming warm weather in the places that I love like Colorado and Wisconsin, I feel like I should share a few songs that brought me happiness during the long, sunny, hot summer days here down here in my tropical paradise.

So here they are, the top 7 canciones en español from my summer 2017.

My #1 right now…

Continue reading

Hiking Cerro Chirripó

Last week I stood on the top of Cerro Chirripó, the highest point in Costa Rica.

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It. was. incredible.

At 12,530 feet, Chirripó is the highest mountain in Costa Rica, the 5th highest peak in Central America, and the 37th most prominent peak in the world.

Just a few behind Mount Everest…

Well more than a few but they’re on the same list which, yeah…I know.

Cerro Chirripó is located in Chirripó National Park in the southern region of Costa Rica. The main trailhead to the park is located in a small town called San Geraldo de Rivas, just 1.5 hours from the city of San Isidro and about 7-8 hours from my site.

I swear everything is 7-8 hours from my site.

For the past six months, I, along with a group of seven other volunteers, have been planning, anticipating, and training vigorously (ha just kiddin’) in preparation for our hike up Chirripó.

Between reserving park permits for eight people, overnight lodging at the bottom and top of the mountain, and pulling together the few pieces of cold-weather clothing I brought to this country, this three-day overnight trip took a bit of planning.

But that didn’t stop us, even though the days leading up to our departure were wet, rainy, and cold.

Our basic itinerary went something like this:
Day 1: Stay at the bottom of the mountain near the park entrance at Casa Mariposa
Day 2: Begin hike at 5:00am and arrive at Crestones Base Camp (11,155ft), 3.4 miles from the summit of mountain, at 12:30pm.
Day 3: Begin hike at 3:00am to arrive at the summit for sunrise at 5:00am. Leave Crestones Base Camp at 8:30am and arrive back at Casa Mariposa at 1pm. Continue reading

Celebrating One Year as a PCV

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!). Continue reading

A Costa Rican Wedding

Costa Rican social events are not for the fainthearted. They are looong. Just a few days ago on Monday I attended a local celebration for El Día del Trabajador (Labor Day) and it was from 8am-3pm.

In case you thought you had the whole day off, think again.

Local celebrations usually start with a few hours of mixing and mingling, 2-3 hours of people talking into microphones giving what feels like drawn-out unsolicited Oscar acceptance speeches and then afterwards, the sleepy audience is revived with a lunch (you guessed it, arroz con pollo) and a cafecito (coffee) and snack even before the afternoon meal is fully digested.

So when I got invited to my first wedding, I knew I had to prepare myself mentally.

Which I did not do by going to church that very same Sunday morning.

In Costa Rica, wedding ceremonies are held in the local church and the reception usually takes place at the family’s residence.

But this wedding was a little different. Continue reading

Visiting La Casona: An Indigenous Reserve

In less than one week, one of my closest PCV friends Evan will complete his service and leave Costa Rica.

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It’s a bittersweet thing. On one hand, I’m happy and excited for him to start the next chapter of his life and on the other, I’m selfishly sad to be losing a nearby neighbor and friend.

But as we say goodbye to Tico 29, the group of volunteers that will COS (close of service) in May, we welcome in a new group of Community Economic Development Volunteers, Tico 33, that will graduate from PST (pre-service training) and head to their respective sites in mid-May.

They have some big shoes to fill.

Shoes like Evan’s, a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) volunteer who spent the last two years working and living in the indigenous reserve La Casona.

La Casona is an indigenous community located in southern Costa Rica that was established just 2 generations ago by the father of the current cacique (chief). Continue reading

Semana Santa: Experiencing Holy Week in Costa Rica

Where I come from, I’ve learned to celebrate Easter Sunday by painting eggs and brunching hard.

Champagne mimosas, stacks of pancakes and mounds of crispy hash browns.

The best of the best Sundays with the family. That’s my Easter.

But here in Costa Rica, things are done a little bit differently this time of year. And there’s no hypothetical bunny hopping around leaving chocolate creme-filled eggs and plastic confetti grass everywhere.

On the note of folkloric creatures can I just say that instead of a tooth fairy, here, A RAT comes to leave money underneath children’s pillows after they’ve lost a tooth. How terrifying is that?!

I just had to get that out there. Anyway, back to Easter stuff.

In Costa Rica, we celebrate Semana Santa (semana = week, santa = holy/saint).

Archivo_000 (3)Semana Santa, also known as Holy Week, is a major Catholic holiday celebrated throughout the world that consists of parades, processions, and local community celebrations. The holiday starts on Palm Sunday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday. Continue reading

#FoodFriday: I Made Yogurt (And So Can You)!

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If there’s one thing just flowing in abundance in Fila Naranjo, it’s cows. Cows on cows on cows.

And well, of course, coffee. But besides coffee, ganado (livestock) and dairy products are the community’s biggest income generating activities.

Ganado, including pigs, chickens, and beef cattle are raised to be sold for their meat to local families and distributors.

Dairy products, mostly made from cow milk, are made into the 3 Costa Rican dairy staples: queso (cheese), natilla (sour cream) and leche (milk). Continue reading

10 Reasons You Should Join The Peace Corps

This May marks the one year anniversary and halfway mark into my two-year Peace Corps service (whoo!).

As I reflect on the ups and downs of my service, and the challenges I’ve faced not only in my host country, but also the challenges I, and many U.S. citizens and Peace Corps Volunteers around the world have faced in the wake of issues and changes on our own home front, I feel now, more than ever, is the time to encourage my friends, family, acquaintances, and blog readers to consider serving in the Peace Corps.

Today Americans are needed abroad.

We are needed abroad to represent the America that believes in equality, cultural acceptance, diversity, and a better future for all.

We are needed abroad to combat the messages of hate, violence, and intolerance that seem to consistently shadow our country in the news and media.

And today, more than ever, Americans are needed abroad to promote world peace and friendship and send a message of love and acceptance to our neighbors, and countries and people around the world.

So today, I give you 10 reasons why you should join The Peace Corps.

1. You want to make a lil’ difference in the world.

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Working with a local women’s group in my community.

Someone recently told me: “it’s impossible to make a change in the life of another or a community. You can however, make a difference.” Continue reading