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

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

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
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

Continue reading