Family Vacay, COS, and My Parasite

February has been busy busy busy! Which, after spending most of December and January in my site, has been a glorious gift.

I think it’s normal to feel like January is a never-ending month but this year, it felt especially long. I didn’t have much going on in my community and furthermore, didn’t have any trips, trainings, or meetings planned to break up the weeks. I was just counting the days until early February when my entire family was to come visit Costa Rica. I’m serious. I would get out of bed every morning and throw a big ol’ X on the previous day and watch the numbers slowlyyyy count down one by one. And ya know what? Some months are just like that when you’re in the Peace Corps and that’s OK.

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Come early February, this girl was STOKED. I packed my bags and headed to San Jose to await the arrival of my family members, who were flying in from Wisconsin and my brother and his wife, who were flying in all the way from Ukraine. It was to be our first out-of-Wisconsin family vacation EV-ER. Continue reading

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What’s Peace Corps Like in Guatemala?

Over five years ago Jeanne served as a Youth Development Volunteer in Guatemala. Today, she shares her experience with us and the incredible projects she worked on in her community!

When and where did you serve in the Peace Corps? Did you get to pick your country?

I served in Nebaj, Guatemala from 2011-2013.

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From 2011-2013, I served in northwestern Guatemala in the picturesque Maya Ixil town of Santa Maria. At that time, you could not pick your country, and were instead “worldwide available”. However, since I was in the application process for over 2 years (applied first with my husband and then on my own), my recruiter and I got to know each other really well! So, when it came time to nominate me on my own as an infamous SWOS (serving without a spouse) candidate, he gave me the choice of a region, and I picked Latin America.
Continue reading

Christmas In Fila Naranjo: Round Two

On December 26, 2016 I woke up with such a relief – I had made it through my very first Christmas away from home. I remember reassuring myself that my second year of service would be different; I would make it home to spend the holidays with friends and family. I would break out my winter boots, frolic in the snow, and snuggle up next to the fire with my favorite dog, Maple, and a massive cup of hot cocoa while the holiday tunes rang out in the background. Oh how glorious it would be.

My cute little Maple waiting for me back in Wisconsin. She’s all grown up!

But, when the final quarter of my Peace Corps service began filling up with new projects, community invitations and events, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to swing a trip home in December. After accepting that I would be spending Christmas again in my site – a rural community of 200 people – I did my best to do it right this time around. Continue reading

A Night of Terror Featuring Ants, Scorpions & Other Bichos

I’d like to think that I’ve been pretty positive about my overall Peace Corps experience. Even during the challenging times and moments of loneliness and frustration while living in rural Costa Rica, I have always gone to bed feeling humbled and grateful.

But after last night’s events, I need some space TO VENT.

Growing up on a farm, I’m no stranger to bugs, critters, and wildlife. As a teen, I even spent years living in a house infested with earwigs. They were everywhere.

But since moving to Costa Rica, life with insects has gotten intimate on a whole new level.

I have found multiple scorpions in and around my bed…

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Came back to my room only to find a swarm of termites seeping out of the wooden ceiling and waterfalling down onto my belongings, bed, and clothing… Continue reading

Skipping Out on Catholic Mass

Tonight, there is misa at 6pm and I will not be attending.

La Misa (Mass) is held every Sunday morning and the first Wednesday night of every month in the community Catholic church.

…and tonight for some reason.

Well really whenever someone’s feeling like they want go to church, they’ll gather the troops and make it happen.

When I first got to Fila Naranjo, I was going to church every Sunday morning for an hour and a half. Since my community is 99.99% Catholic, I thought that it would be a good way to integrate, meet people, and develop connections for future projects in my site.

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Well, that didn’t really happen. Sure I saw people that I would usually never see during the week, but after church was let out not one sad soul was interested in talking to this gringa about anything.

Not one! Continue reading

Teaching in a Rural Escuela

When Peace Corps Volunteers arrive at site, the first thing they do is panic.

After that step is complete, many of us find ourselves working in local escuelas y colegios (elementary schools and high schools) as a way to integrate into our communities and do something besides taking long walks, eating, emotional eating, reading, and misinterpreting everything our host families say.

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As a Community Economic Development (CED) Volunteer, those first few months can be especially tough because we’re constantly battling the assumption that we are here to teach English.

I repeat, we are not here to teach English. Unless it’s to, for example, adults, and seen as an employability and community development building skill.

Even that’s a stretch for me… (psssst I don’t like teaching English). Continue reading

#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

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