Thursday, November 3, 2011

Rough and Tumble [October]

Wow, as I write this I realize just how rough October has been for us. We have had our fair share of struggle, both due to internal and external factors. We have had to deal with how our reactions can effect a situation and sometimes make it worse that it actually is. We have had to deal with institutions working against us (or not working at all). We've had the emotional stress of spending time with 130 of our peers (always a good time, but emotionally draining and stressful).

We've also had small successes. We've lead fun workshops for pre-school and kindergarten students. We've read stories with students. We've seen improvements in students that have been struggling this year. We've laughed, played and truly enjoyed life here.

Unfortunately, those highs just didn't come often enough this month. As much as we tried, doors kept getting shut as we approached them. But, as the saying goes, "when a door closes, a window opens," right? And with this sentiment we head into November. A time that will bring us a vacation with our parents, the end of programs we have been working on all year and more planning for the future (both short and long term.).

The further we get into our Peace Corps service the more we experience the highs and lows that come with service in a foreign country. Those highs and lows have changed over the course of time, but now we find that little things that didn't bother us before are more apt to bother us now. The little things that used to make us happy still make us happy, but the euphoria doesn't last for quite as long. This is our reality. This is our life. It is no longer a whimsical idea of saving the world.

And, on that note (sorry that it is such a heavy one), here is a look into our experiences during October.

October 1

Went for my long run this morning. After yesterday this added exertion really knocked me out. After breakfast I blissfully napped until lunch.

We learned a lot and even got to touch a bat!

We had a great walk back to the house. We played a couple of rounds of Bananagrams before heading to bed.

* Bat fact from a four or five year old: Bats eat babies but not suckers. [not really a fact, but oh so cute]
* Bat fact: Some bats grow to have a wingspan of SIX feet. [really a fact, stay away from the Philippines]

October 2

It was a little strange to be in a house without the radio blasting. We cherished every moment of it! [Thanks Rebecca for hosting us on this bat and Bananagrams filled adventure!]

October 3

We now have white boards, reusable alphabet boards, and boards with grids, either for unassisted alphabet practice or math.

After lunch we discovered that Chris' backpack had been stolen. He went to talk to M's family and a short while later her brother-in-law came by with the bag. The bike pump was there but his dictionary, 501, the chalk bag (our favorite), and notebooks were gone. [M is a community member that lives a life of addiction. She frequently steals in an effort to support her addiction. This is why Chris immediately went to talk to her family (she was also at our house about 30 minutes before we noticed the backpack was missing.).]

While we were eating dinner Maria brought in the chalk bag. Someone in the community recognized that it was ours when it was being sold and returned it to us. Also, someone supposedly has Chris' books. An overwhelming community effort in retrieving our belongings.

October 5

Hopefully the rest of the school year isn't as dysfunctional as this week has been.

After lunch the cole had a soccer tournament. Chris had been asked to play on the professors' team so we went for the festivities. The guys are pretty awesome players; the girls are catty and vicious. The professors won their first game, but lost their second. Chris mostly tried to stay out of the way and avoid injury. Still, his foot became reacquainted with the joys of being stepped on by cleats.

We had delicious stove top beer bread pizza for dinner.

October 6

Strange day. I guess that makes it normal in the grand scope of things.

The meeting was mostly frustrating with talk of policy and such, but still no one would say anything that answered the question of what we could do. Chris finally confronted the lady to find out what she was really trying to say. In the end we found out that we cannot build. We can however make improvements to the structure that is already there. Now it's up to CRUSA to tell us if we can amend our proposal.

We came home and made root beer floats. Sometimes you just need to do things like that.

October 7

Chris went to Puerto without his wallet. He ended up walking about 5k toward home before one of our student's parents offered him a ride back home.

October 8

In news pertaining to our futures we have officially been accepted to WNMU; no more conditional acceptance for us. Woo hoo. Now on to the Fellow's application.

October 9

Darn it, my foot hurts. I felt it last weekend after the long runs, but today it made me stop after about 9km.

Today we lucked out, the rain held off until our clothes were inside and about 99% of them were dry! That's a pretty big change from the last couple of weeks - a welcome one too! [of course it wasn't a completely sunny venture, the washer stopped working on the last load so sheets and towels were finished by hand today]

I made egg and cheese empanadas for breakfast and now Chris is working his kitchen magic. I tried to figure out what might be going on with his numerous containers and pots, but all he'll tell me is that he's making dinner. Whatever it is, it smells yummy! [he made soy burgers on corn cake buns with sweet potato/carrot mash and homemade baked beans on the side]

October 10

I somehow ended up babysitting Liseth during lunch. Integration complete. However, when there are other things that I should be doing and I unknowingly agree to babysit it is kind of annoying. Rafa asked me if I was planning on leaving during lunch, which is a pretty common question. I said no, which is my usual response. He relied good, that means you can watch the baby (Liseth, she really isn't a baby, she's 5). I love her to death and she is probably my best friend in town, but it was unexpected and threw me off - we did enjoy a playing games on the iPod, doing card tricks and talking about Santa.

I didn't realize how late it was and we were supposed to have a meeting with Student Government at 2:20. The beans didn't finish cooking until around 2:30. And it was pouring. I didn't go to the meeting. Chris was out at the cole and I figured he would understand. He got home around 3, the meeting didn't happen. No one showed up.

When I got home Zaida and crew were at the house. She told me I looked chubby. While statements like this are a cultural norm here, it is one that will never make sense to me and that I don't think I will ever be able to accept. It drives me crazy. Especially when it happens right after I come home from exercise class.

October 11

Seven months, that's all. Can we make it?

October 12

I think this week is making me anxious. Not the best of feelings.

I want to be doing big things and can't. I want to be running, teaching, playing outside. It's all just a little out of reach right now. Next week puts us at 7 [months]. I hate that I always seem to be counting down. I know that New Mexico won't be all rainbows and butterflies, but at least there will be work, we'll have our on place, we'll be leading our own lives. We'll have deserts, rocks, mountains and water.

Until then, we have La Colonia.

October 14

We had our first hand washing workshop at 8am and the second at 1pm. We had a total of 39 kiddos and they all finished the session with nice, clean hands. Most of the kinder kids remembered information from last year and all of the kids were super excited. I'm glad we were able to do it again.

It's exciting when they get the right answers without help, but their behaviors are frustrating. I know why Nelly has trouble with them in class.

October 15

We had a nice long talk with Maria and Rafa after dinner tonight. It's nice when that happens.

Lessons learned from this conversation:
* [North] Americans eat fast food
* The Japanese are smarter than Americans (they invent everything)
* Ticos are behind the times
* In Costa Rica a ranch is where you drink guaro, a field is where agriculture takes place (both livestock and produce)
* If we want American food, we should visit Grecia

This conversation also included Rafa explaining to Maria that Americans like pumpkin pie, he went on to describe the recipe that was used at the restaurant that he used to work at. Maria's response was guacala (that's gross).

October 16

Maria and Rafa were gone for most of the day so we turned the radio off. Chris worked at the table and I read on the porch. It was nice and quiet. One day we'll control our own music, have our own washer (and DRYER!), have desks to work at and comfy couches and chairs to sit and read in.

October 17

I had 6 for class tonight. It was nice, especially since I wasn't expecting anyone to show up. I had some newbies and some regulars. There was good energy. That always seems to happen when I'm about to leave town.

October 18

We were excited to get into town so that we could spend the late morning/early afternoon at the rock gym. Unfortunately when we got there we were told that they wouldn't open the gym until 1. With events starting at 2:30 we decided to wait for later in the week.

We had lunch with Kevin and Joe, it was really nice to catch up with them.

Sweets with Steve, pizza party and trivia night. We had a nice evening. Our team fought back from a disappointing first round to be tied for first after the final. Unfortunately we lost the tie breaker.

October 19

After lunch we had the craft and bake sale. We got a couple of items for our future home. A painted half-gourd from Joe's community and a print from one of the other volunteer's women's group. We also enjoyed mint chocolate brownies by Steve - DELICIOUS!

They wrapped up with a performance of Thriller, led by Steve. I wonder, how many other country directors know the Thriller dance?

October 21

We're home!

Chris got new running shoes this morning. It's always nice to stop in at Talamanca and catch up with Fidelia. She was such a help before Irazu and she always remembers us when we stop in now.

We got back to Puerto in time for lunch and were disappointed to find that Pizzeria Mana is closed and cleaned out. Maybe we'll discover that they have simply relocated again or maybe this time they are gone for good.

October 23

Laundry day with a broken washing machine means work! I washed and Chris hung things up to dry. All in all it didn't take much longer than doing two loads in the machine, but I imagine that if these clothes are caught in a rainstorm they are going to get all sudsy!

We ran this morning. Chris did the Malinche loop and I did Coyol. My foot started hurting at about 6km. I'll try to at least do maintenance running up until the marathon.

October 25

Chris brought From Head to Toe to grupo this afternoon and the kids were super excited about reading. They may not know their letters, yet they can read.

Aerobics was great tonight. Susuana and I were the last to arrive at 5, though we are usually the first ones there. We started shortly after 5 and there were 10 women there! They were all spread out - we used half of the planchel (court). Having so many people gave me an energy boost which was much needed with today's heat. We were practically melting.

October 26

I washed clothes this morning. I must say that it's not too bad when we don't have a week's worth of laundry piled up. It's slightly meditative. As an added bonus the sun was out today and with the exception on one pair of socks everything is dry and put away! It seems like it has been months since that has happened.

October 27

We had a good trip into the office today. We talked with Amanda about just about every concern that we have had during service (on a general level)... It was refreshing to have this conversation with someone other than each other and to gain a new perspective.

We stopped by medical and also chatted with Morgan for a bit. With a bag full of books and Halloween treats from Christine in hand we ventured out into the city and ended up at Vishnu for lunch. We had excellent veggie burgers and were ready to head to the bus stop just as the rain picked it up a notch. We made it to our bus soaked from head to toe thanks to poor drainage and cars sending sprays of water right at us.

We made it home safely, glad to be able to take our wet clothes off but sad that we had eaten all of our candy on the bus ride home.

October 28

It's so nice to have the house to ourselves! Happiness is not needing to hear Christian talk radio (and remember, it's in Spanish) blaring throughout the house prior to 7am. It's even happier when there isn't any music blaring in the house all day long!

It's great to get a taste of what life on our own will be like (I guess it's really more of a reminder of what life was like on our own). I think we sometimes forget how important some really basic things are to us. We've got seven months left to embrace the good parts of living with Maria and Rafa as we know that we will miss them. But it is helpful to have these moments of having the house to ourselves!

October 29

Chris left nice and early for a long run (he returned 6.5 hours later!).

On the way home I stopped to talk with Yuli and stayed at the shop for about 30 minutes. It was one of those moments of 'yes, I really can speak Spanish!' It happens so infrequently that I sometimes forget.

Snippet of my conversation with Yuli:

Y: How old are you?
Me: 29
Y: And you still don't have kids?
Me: No, maybe one day.
Y: I'm 28 and I have 2. I win. But, it's not a contest.
Me: silence
Y: You know Miguela. She has 5 kids and she's 26. She beat me. But, it's not a contest.
Me: silence
Y: And my sister-in-law, she's 24 and she has 2 kids. She beat me too. But, it's not a contest.
Me: No, it's not.
Y: Are you going to have kids some day?
Me: I don't know. We need to have a house first and jobs, you know...
Y: Yeah, that's smart. But really, are you going to have kids?...

I guess I should be happy that this is the conversation I deal with. For single volunteers it is more along the lines of do you have a boyfriend, when are you going to get married, have you met my cousin/brother/nephew/neighbor, ect. No match making for me, just questions about kids.

October 30

We started thinking a little more seriously about our future this afternoon and all of the steps that are going to go into moving stuff from two states to one (one that we have never even visited before). We've got a lot of work ahead of us. Seven months sounds like a long time, but we've seen how quickly these first 20 have gone.

October 31

Happy Halloween. This evening I had the image of us dressed up like giant bananas running around the banana fields scaring the workers. It was pretty amusing until I thought about the fact that the banana workers use big, sharp machetes - that was scary and not amusing. Still, the thought made me smile.

Talked to Orlando this morning and it looks like we'll have a big recreational activity with sixth graders the day or two right after we return from vacation. Yay, work!

1 comment:

Kevin said...

You two always seem to be thinking a few steps ahead in life, while the rest of us are pulling inspiration from the puddles in your footprints. Keep up the good fight. You're making a difference here, especially as examples for your fellow CYFers.

I hope Steve's visit and Almond Joy cake leave a bright spot in your future months, as well as Chamisa's visit.

Much Love, Kevin