Thursday, November 17, 2011

Giving Thanks

If you have been reading our blog then you know that October kind of threw us for a loop. It was a rough and tumble kind of month. Since then I have been trying to reflect daily on the positive events are going on at this point in our service. I remember being so excited when we reached our six month mark here in site and I am now a little shocked that this coming Monday will bring us to yet another six month mark in site, six months left. With this exercise in positive reflection, the realization that we really do not have much time left in La Colonia and the coming Thanksgiving holiday I have decided to share what I am thankful for (I'll admit, I have been inspired by our friend Rose (and procrastination) to create this post.).

I think that what we are most thankful for, here in Costa Rica, are the kids that we work with. They are faced with hardship every day and live in conditions that would be considered impoverished by most standards (at least in the United States) and yet their faces could light up the night sky. They are so full of joy and have boundless energy. We are blessed to work with them. Whether it be in an academic setting, at a recreational camp or just walking through town these kids are a constant reminder of why we decided to join Peace Corps. We wanted to make a difference. And while we may not be making the kind of a difference that we had once envisioned every time a child asks, "Do you remember when we ...?" we know that we are in deed making a difference. They make us smile and for that we are thankful.

A handful of the amazing kiddos that we work with

I am thankful for the women that I work with. I lead an aerobics class three nights each week and the women keep coming back, and they have started to bring their friends. They show up on time. They request songs for class. They laugh at me when I am still smiling after doing 20 Frankenstein toe touches. They shout with joy when a particularly challenging moment has passed. Their kids (yup, they show up too) weave in and out of the group getting their own exercise through play and keep us on our toes as we attempt to not trip over them. These women motivate me to do more, to meet their needs and to make working out fun. 

Teaching a group of women how to fuse plastics
I also work with one woman on an endless craft project. We get together most Saturdays to fuse plastics and create coin purses, little zippered pouches and totes. She lets me know if she is not going to be able to come for some reason. She is always pushing herself creatively and trying new things to make her bags better. She comes to me and tells me that she believes she can do anything now because I have taught her that she can. 

Some completed bags
We have been blessed with a school director that supports us fully in all that we want to do with the students. He gives us copies of keys to the spaces that we use most frequently. During school vacations we get the whole key ring in case we need to get into more than one classroom for camps. Whenever I see him he asks me how I am but really just looks at my face for the response. He tells me "I know you are happy because you are wearing your carita feliz (happy face) today." 

Origami camp at the school
We are thankful for a community counterpart who somehow finds time to meet with us almost weekly to talk about what we are doing and what we can do in the school. He is the school guidance counselor and squeezes about 60 hours of work into a 40 hour work week with constant interruptions from students and their families and still manages to smile (almost) constantly. He makes sure we get the permissions needed to do projects in classrooms and he signs our vacation requests. 

The culmination of a dramatization of Where the Wild Things Are with 3rd graders
Chris has been struggling with using the funds received from a grant that he wrote to improve the high school. While he always walks away from meetings feeling like things are moving in the right direction a wall always seems to pop up. Now he is thankful for a new high school director who has dealt with this same type of situation in the past. He has reached out to his contacts and checked the books twice and has pushed where Chris was unable to. We have now heard that construction will begin this Friday. Thanks be to God!

Ready to finish this guy and improve the rest of the high school
We are thankful for our fellow volunteers. While we tend to remain in our site about 99% of the time we know that we have peers who are going through the same situations that we are and that while physically distant we are emotionally close. We know that someone who can relate or help us out is just a phone call (or email) away. We are a part of a community here that cares about one another so much that recently over $1000 were raised in response to a fellow volunteers house burning down. For those of you fellow volunteer's who read our blog, thank you for being you. We really don't say it often enough.

The volunteers of Peace Corps Costa Rica, classes 20, 21 and 22
We are thankful for the friends that we have made in our community, for the support that they give us  and for the conversations that we have with them. While most of the really close friends that we initially made in site have since moved away there are still others that are always happy to have us stop by and chat for a little while. The family that we rent a room from engages us in crazy cultural conversations and gives us free food on occasion. These people make us feel at home in a place so far from home.

Maria and Rafa (our host parents) with one of our neighbors (she wasn't too happy)
There are the things that leave us giving thanks at the end of every day. We have power and water here. We have access to an ever growing library in the Peace Corps office. We have access to internet in our house. We have a roof over our head and all of the privacy that we want. We can buy peanut butter at our grocery store. 
Lots of water! Really though, we have running water too.
We are also thankful for the Peace Corps staff that keep things running and listen to our problems. They make us smile and help us understand the things that frustrate us. They have amazing life stories to share and treat us with respect.

The list really could go on. I have been doing a pretty good job of coming up with things that I am thankful for on a daily basis. I could keep you reading forever if I really wanted to, but I won't. Instead I will end with what I think we are most thankful for at this point in our lives. We are thankful for our friends and family that support us in the crazy adventures that we take on. More specifically, at this point in time we are thankful for our parents and the fact that they will be visiting us next week for the Thanksgiving holiday (yup, all four of them at the same time!). We are thankful that after 21 months of not seeing them we will be able to spend roughly two weeks with them, catching up, sharing our community, teaching them some of the crazy things that we have learned since our arrival and of course playing lots of games - Bananagrams, Amish Dice (thanks for teaching us Megon and Kevin!) and Canasta anyone?

With our moms and dads!
OK, I lied. I'm not quite done. We are thankful for each other. We frequently say that we don't know how all of the single volunteers do it. We are on the adventure together, we support one another, listen to one anothers' successes and struggles, we celebrate together and mourn together. We are blessed to have found one another and to be on this great big adventure (you know, life) together.

Celebrating 4 years (and a couple of weeks) of marriage at Chirripo National Park
And now we want to know, what are you thankful for? 


mom hall said...

I am so thankful that we'll get to see you in only 4 days and I'm also thankful that you two found each other. You are the perfect match. God bless you in all of your adventures!

aaron wk said...

best post EVAR!!

Dalene D. said...

I am thankful that fate let our paths cross and that I can call both Tarah and Chris my friends. I am also thankful for technology that lets me live a bit of adventure vicariously by reading their blogs! You both rock!