JumpStart & My Mini English Camp

In Costa Rica, the month of January sometimes feels like un mes de descanso (a month of rest). Coffee picking season has come to the end, children are on school vacations, and endless fiestas are still taking place throughout the country celebrating the new year…is it me or does January 1 feel like forever ago?

While many spend the month relaxing and recuperating, January is a very important month for many Peace Corps volunteers in Costa Rica who are working hard in their communities to facilitate JumpStart English Camps.

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Ed & Darrel’s Jumpstart English Camp Group

What is JumpStart? Continue reading

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#FoodFriday: A Purple Smoothie Bowl That Will Blow Your Pants Off (Literally)

Yup, that’s right. This smoothie bowl is packed full of a rainbow’s-worth of healthy goodness and enough fiber to give you the bowel movement of your dreams.

You see here in the Peace Corps, we deal with a lot of panza (belly) issues. Whether it’s a parasite that’s found it’s way into the potable water from last night’s big rain storm or some questionable greasy street food that’s been sitting out too long (I see you empanada and chicharron lovers), we, the proud Peace Corps Volunteers of Costa Rica, have all been there.

And by there I mean on the toilet…for a long time.

PicfxFile Continue reading

Seeing Costa Rica: Tortuguero, Land of the Turtles

Since arriving in Costa Rica, I had always wanted to visit Tortuguero. So when my friend said she was going last month, I didn’t hesitate to invite myself along.

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Off we go to Tortuguero!

Tortuguero is located on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica and is famous for for its long serene beaches that are nesting grounds for sea turtles. Basically in my mind, Tortuguero translates to “Land of the Turtles.”

YES, TURTLES. GIANT TURTLES. BABY TURTLES. MEDIUM TURTLES. SMALL TURTLES. ALL THE CUTE TORTUGAS.

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I knew that Tortuguero would be one of my favorite spots in Costa Rica from the moment we stepped off the boat. Since there are no roads to Tortuguero you have to arrive via boat or airplane (baller status) and different from a lot of other popular destinations in Costa Rica, Tortuguero has a more laid-back, island-y, hippy kinda vibe. A lot of the businesses were small and locally-owned and it just felt a little more rústico y rural. Continue reading

#FoodFriday: The Fruits & Flavors of Fila Naranjo (Part 3)

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve had a random, never-seen-before, questionable looking fruit shoved in my face, but last night it happened again.

It was almost as if Carlos went out of his way to find me and ask me if I had ever had a zapote before.

“A za what?” I said

His eyes lit with excitement as he realized he would be the one to serve this gringa her first zapote ever.

Zapote

 

And for good reason because it was so tasty. It was this tender, not-too-sweet fruit that tasted expensive and classy JUST like a fig yet soft and hearty like a cooked squash. I truly thought that I had seen and tasted all that there is to offer in Fila Naranjo after 16 months of living here, but this land is still full of surprises.

 

Mamón Chino
aka Rambutan aka some sort of cousin of the Lychee

IMG_3835 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

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: 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

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