Costa Rica, week one

I found a moment, once again to blog. Here I am… a little over a week into my program. I am working a local tech school called INA (ee-nah). My students range from 18-22 and are very advanced in conversational english. I could not have asked for a better placement. I am, however struggling with this spanish keyboard… so excuse my lack of punctuation.

So far my days have been been a combination of volunteer work in the morning, lunch and then some sort of activity. The activities include: Spánish classes, Fieldtrips & lectures. Last week our fieldtrip was a hike to the Arenal Volcano, which was simply gorgeous. We also had a lecture where we learned all about the Costa Rican health care system. I will post more detailed information about this later (when I am not being charged by the minute to use internet).

My volunteer placement has been really good. I am helping the students with their conversational english. There is a teacher present who gives me activities to share with the students. For the most part, they just want to hear me talk. Which is pretty easy for me to do. I have managed to learn a lot about Costa Rica through the students, who are eager to share information about the history and lives of native Costa Ricans. They are very proud of their country, as they should be!

On Friday my students had a grammar test, so they did not need me. So I volunteered at a day center for seniors. It was actually really fun. The first thing I learned was that I dont have any idea how to speak spanish. It was a struggle to communicate, and no one spoke english. So I helped in the kitchen with the dishes, and then sat down to attempt a conversation. About thirty minutes in, we started to exercise by doing some salsa dancing. Costa Ricans of all ages can really move, they were shaking their hips and moving their feet with more rythm then I usually see at the average Boise dance club. Most the seniors are in pretty good health and come to the day center because their family works during the day. It gives them a place to stay active. Many come to the day center depressed, and leave happy and healthy. There is a team of nurses (who are actually interns from the university) who check their blood pressure and make sure everything is going as it should.

Today I volunteered at a nursing home. This was a bit different than the day center. They did not have as much staff available so volunteers are really important. The residents were all very old and in varying states of health. We started by saying hello to everyone and I introduced myself. Then we simply took them for a walk around the garden. Most were in wheelchairs, so I pushed them along, stopping to look at the flowers and point at the birds. You could really see the signs of past volunteers here. There were murals and patios that were created by past volunteers. Many of these seniors had been left at the nursing home by their family. In some cases, they were not good people because of alcohol (which is a huge problem in Costa Rica) or other reasons. Many had burned bridges with their family and friends and when they got too old to take care of themselves… they ended up at the nursing home. You could tell, just by looking around, who received visitors and who did not. I helped with the laundry and helped with lunch. Then said my goodbyes and headed back to homebase, feeling happy for helping where I could and also feeling a little sad.

Okay, now I need to share my weekend with you. It was so amazing. On Friday, we went to La Fortuna (near the volcano I mentioned earlier). We stayed the night at a little hostel which ended up being the front of this Tico families house. Proof that tourism is the leading industry in Costa Rica. The man who ran the hostel went by “Lava Lava Man”. He was a hoot! It only cost $5/person for the night and we got free internet plus some great insider info about the area. The next morning, we got up early and caught a bus to Monteverde. The bus took us to a boat, and the boat took us to a van (getting tired yet?). It was a really nice day, no rain and very few clouds. When we got up to Monteverde, we checked into a hotel that was simply adorable. Little cabins that were split into two rooms. Each room was furnished with bunk beds and a shower with HOT water! That afternoon we headed out to the forest to go zip line! That was simply amazing. There was a tarzan swing that knocked the wind out of me, and I would do it again in a heart beat.

On Sunday, we headed back to La Fortuna (van, boat, van… once again). In La Fortuna we rode horses. It was my first time on a horse and I was a little bit terrified. I told the guide I didnt know what I was doing, but he didnt seem worried… Next thing I knew I was trotting… then galloping. I thought I was going to fall off. We rode up a little hill and then got off the horses and started to hike. This was the first time I really felt like I was in the jungle. When we reached the end of the trail, there was a huge waterfall. We all jumped into the water and swam, took photos, and simply soaked in the beauty around us. It was incredible.

I need to go to my spanish class… stay tuned!

¡Adios!

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