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.

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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

#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…

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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

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

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

#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
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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

#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