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

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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

#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.

img_6613 Continue reading

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

Tropical Storm Otto Hits Costa Rica

This past Thursday, Costa Rica and Nicaragua were hit by Tropical Storm Otto.

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The storm made landfall on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast at 1pm on Thanksgiving Day as a Category 2 hurricane but quickly lost strength and was downgraded to a tropical storm. According to the US National Hurricane Center, at it’s strongest, Otto had winds of up to 110mph.

While the central and southern regions of Costa Rica were not terribly affected by the storm (except for excessive rain and flooding in some areas), the northern region has been severely damaged. 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

#FoodFriday: What’s In a Tamale?

 

What’s in a name? That which we call a Tamale… 

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We’ve all heard of tamales before. And if you haven’t well I guess you haven’t been to the freezer section in Trader Joe’s.

But I’m not here to talk about that frozen, pop in the microwave, dinner-for-one garbage. Today, we’re going to talk about the real deal. Cream of the crop. Pick of the litter. Best of the best.

I’m talkin’

Cooked over a fire in the mountains of Costa Rica…

With cilantro, peppers, and papas from the vivero (greenhouse)…

And free-range chicken from the neighbor…

Wrapped in freshly cut leaves from platano trees…

And maiz from…well, ok it’s from the store. Whatever. It’s the good brand though.

Continue reading

Celebrating Language through Costa Rica English Festivals

It’s English Festival season!

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Not as exciting as pumpkin spice season (Starbucks, I’ll see you in October) but it’s still an important time here in Costa Rica.

For students in Costa Rica, English is a fundamental skill that can serve as a stepping stone for higher paying jobs, travel, study, and international opportunities. It’s especially important here because Costa Rica’s economy is largely based on tourism with the majority of tourists coming from English speaking countries.

Point is, learn yo English.

So what’s an English Festival? 
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