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I´m back.

El 25 de Julio (wrote this a while ago...many sorries)

 

Happy One Month to myself.  And to all others in Tico 17! (our official traininggroupof35 name). damn. It was one month ago I left to join the Peace Corps, one month ago I left my familiar life in the States, and I will proclaim right now that just about nothing has happened the way I was expecting it to (and I mean this in a very positive way, in case you were wondering):

 

I wasn’t expecting: my family to be so cool: so similar to my family in the States, in the sense that we do everything possible together (and want to), or that mi madre – Vanessa – is one of the most strong, proactive, talented (holy guitar and holy VOICE), and pro-feminine women I know (gringos included), or that I can sit and watch the lion king 5 times in a row with Eduardo without pulling my hair out, or that I can spend 3 hours making pan (bread) and talking about life with Vanessa.

 

I wasn’t expecting training to be like this. I was expecting (I think, though I’m not even so sure what I was expecting) more class time, less interaction time, more technical training (business plan writing, etc. etc.) and I certainly wasn’t expecting to meet up with all 35 of us at least once a week to receive general training (9 hours of sitting=crazy. But absolutely useful).

 

I certainly wasn’t expecting to so deeply respect and develop close friendships with the other trainees as I have. There are truly some exceptional people in this group; people with whom I hope to remain friends and can envision relying on for mutual support throughout the two years.  These people will always know what it is like to be a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica, and we will always be able to relate to each other on at least that level.

 

I also wasn’t expecting to have such a fire lit under my bum.  I am only one month into training and I just want to START! The five of us living in Tarbaca have already identified numerous projects on which we would like to work; as we’ve gotten to know people and the community we’ve seen the needs and desires of the people and have been brainstorming a concoction of ideas. For example, Friday the 17th we have planned this “Noche de la Amistad” for the community. I will fill you in with details later…

 

(by the way, I realize most of you aren’t even aware of what I am here to do! So I’ll tell: The day I got to staging in Miami they informed us they’d changed the name of our program (leaving it basically the same, but with minor adjustments with which I agree) to Community Economic Development (CED). We have spent the past month being filled in on exactly what pertains to this program, and - as far as I am aware - it means that we are here not only to work with small businesses (women’s groups, microempresas, microlending, etc .etc) but that we are also to work with teaching English (EFL) and developing computer and business skills amongst those in our community as a way to create the best sustainability as possible…I love this program; I love the emphasis not only on sustainable development, but the Peace Corps’ definition of “development”: there is not the slightest mentioning of development in the negative sense in which I learned about it in the States; we are here to augment the community’s natural and ideological resources to create sustainable development, aiming that in 2+ years whatever we achieve will benefit the individuals of the community as well as the community as a whole and will be able to maintain its form well after we are gone. I am really supposed to be here).

 

SO, life here is (obviously) pretty flippin’ awesome, and I’m feeling pretty excited and proud that I chose to take this step as the next one in my life. I can already envision some of the ways in which I will change during two years (and hence my view of the world will be altered) and I can only be thankful for that already.

 

As for all you back home, know that I do think about you, EVEN IF I never email, never call, never even write in my blog. Web access has been limited to once a week, if that, and I am just (as you all know me) living in my own lovely little life. However, that is not to say that I don’t miss you and love each of you dearly. I talk about and think about you all (you’re famous here in C.R!) all the time. And I want to thank you all – excuse my moment of nostalgia – for supporting me, each one of you, because I wouldn’t be here doing what I’ve always wanted to without all of your love and support. Muchisimas gracias. Hasta pronto…

 


It´s ME!

Entry I wrote a few weeks ago (sorry for the delay in posting):

As I sit here in La Cafeteria Organica, which has quickly become my favorite locale (“hot spot” if you will) in my lil ol’ pueblito of Tarbaca (pop. not many) drinking a CAPPUCCINO, I have just made my very first gringa amongst ticos faux pas (pretty good for this already being my 8th day here) – I assume that I can plug my computer into the outlet in the wall. I know that sounds like nothing, especially if you could see this place: it’s a huge, modern, organic coffee shop. I mean, I use my laptop in every café in the US I’ve ever been to, why not here? By all means, they have cappuccino; shouldn’t be a problem, right? WRONG. To first give myself the benefit of the doubt, I must say that at least I thought about it beforehand and asked ; I asked my favorite barista David (probably the only redheaded Costa Rican in all of the land, and I love him for his individuality…and his sweet smile) if it’d be a problem.  His answer was at first a look of confusion, and then – as all ticos are overly accommodating and nice – a reply of “sure, if you’re not going to use it for too long of a time.” 

 

Automatically, my mind switched to “tica mode” (my expression for when I catch myself thinking like a Costa Rican already): “WTF were you thinking, Kirst? You haven’t even investigated how much electricity costs here, nor have you seen anyone else use a computer in all of the country (you’re a rich gringa, remember!) NOR would you even want to whip out a computer in front of people with whom you are trying to integrate. 
 

Moral of the story: despite the Cafeteria Organica appearing as a “normal”, “modern” coffee shop, I needed to remember that I am in Tarbaca, Costa Rica, Peace Corps, not Marblehead, MA, “rich” life. Phew. Good learning experience from the first faux pas. I’ll be more careful from now on with my actions/desires. Guess I’m glad I am blessed with the ability to overanalyze. ;)

 

 

 

So…aqui estoy (here I am). Many apologies for my tardiness in blogging; life is just a tad bit…shall we say: PeaceCorpslovin’filled.

 

I’m really doing it; I’m really here, and it’s going really well.

 

I live in my little Tarbaca pueblito with a most incredible family: Vanessa (35) – the local school teacher who is quite the pistol; her husband Jorge (45), a construction worker in San Jose (‘bout 45 min from here); Jazmin (13) who teaches me everything I ever need to know about Costa Rican culture and the Spanish language alike; and Eduardo (7) who is arguably the most precious child I have yet to meet. [More to come on the fam…]

 

(for those interested): My daily routine includes: waking up at 6:30, breakfast of either gallo pinto (rice, beans, eggs – the c.r. staple) or cereal (I’m lucky…cereal is not normal), Spanish class with 3 of the other 4 trainees (of a group of 35) who also live in Tarbaca, lunch at noon (HUGE meal – lunch is big with us, and dinner small – kinda like Spain), then either go back to more Spanish class, one-on-one lessons, or it’s time for a trip to a local town to hang out/use internet/explore Costa Rica/see the other 30 peeps who I spent 7 days with before we were split into 8 communities. Those times are precious: time to explore, get to know the bus system, talk to random ticos, love life…

 

And after that it’s FAM time (‘bout 6-9pm): we play cards (“el tonto” every night – it’s pretty much like Memory and Eduardo LOVES it) or we play “futbol” in the house with whatever we can find: a used glowstick, a plastic golf ball thing, or the other night a mini Furby toy-kinda-animal was utilized (kinda hurt my foot to kick the beak, though :) or talk habla talk habla talk talk talk about life – Costa Rica, USA, both, all, everything. My, how intelligent and smart and wonderful my fam is. I love family time. Love it. I was treated as a member of the Barrantes Segura family from the very beginning. 8 days and I’m a tica. Holy crap. Good start for the next 2+ years.

 

Love you all.


What I've discovered in the past week: there's nothing like hanging out with just about every one of your dear friends from college before leaving for two years. Nothing like that to cement the fact that: yes, although you are leaving for two years, it is only two years and these friendships will be around for pretty much ever. Special, no? I think yes.

The [roadtripmania] itinerary was: New Haven, CT; Philly;  DC; Harrisonburg (times2); Charlottesville; Bethesda, MD; and NYC. One night each place.

And my car only died once! (good story, inquire within)

En serio though, how refreshing to discover that each of your friends is doing really well - whether we're talkin' job-related, location, money, significant other, general happiness, or all of the above. Of course, there's the typical, strange newness to the whole after college process, but what I respected so much is that each of my friends is doing something headed in the direction that suits them most. Love them.

And you know what' freakin' CRAAAZY?! (at least to me)... Pretty soon I'll have this entire new part of life - the Peace Corps chapter - with new friends, new people, new experiences to add to the repertoire. 

Whoa.

But like I've said many times before: I'll never forget.
Thanks again to all who made that trip possible (and SO MUCH DAMN FUN)

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loveit.

Obsessed:

www.thingsaregood.com

Check it out. It's my homepage now, rather than gmail or even jmu.edu...it keeps life in perspective ;)

upDATE

Amazing: I got a letter.  The Peace Corps speaks.

[finally]

Despite the fact that somehow I was under the impression that 6 weeks before my departure date I would receive a full packing list from the Peace Corps (boy, am I naive), receiving a letter 4 weeks prior that contained no such information (and simply pointed to the publication I already have - and my common sense - for packing pointers) was really completely fine with me - because I did learn that I will be staging in Miami, rather than D.C. which is cool. Hot to hotter.

Most importantly, however, I simply must point out the NUMBER of times that the letter stated something like "now, please make sure you are committed to doing this", "are you ready?", "stop now if you can't handle stress/don't like other people/cultures/places" (hah, not really, but it certainly felt like it since I couldn't help but think: "Nahhhhh, I was just kidding when I applied; I've been waiting a year and a half and I think I'll back out now." ;)

Bureaucracy rules.

It occurred to me while reading: yup, this is going to happen. And it's going to happen in less than a month. "Mmmmmhmmmmm" I thought.

This exciting, ensuing feeling gave me a flashback to a question that my dad asked a few days earlier: "What do you think it will be like when you forget your first word in English?" Now that is even cooler to think about. I wonder what the word will be. I hope it's a swear. Or some other negative verbiage. I could do with less of those in my [English] vocabulary :)



May. 23rd, 2007

Innnnteresting, from http://www.soyouwanna.com/site/syws/peacecorps/peacecorps.html.

"Ahhhhh, the Peace Corps. Meandering through a rural village in an exotic place where no one speaks your language. Palm trees and romantic monsoons. Elephants and water
buffaloes lumbering past your front porch. Grass huts and smiling children looking up at you adoringly.

These are probably the stereotypical images that come to your mind when you think of the Peace Corps. Well here's a reality check: what appears to be adoration in those children's eyes may simply be a look of amusement, as in, "Who's that freak with the ugly sandals?" Also, there's as much chance that you'll find yourself in the urban center of Kazakhstan as in a grass hut in
Fiji. Two potentially equally rewarding, but vastly differing environments."

When I originally applied for the Peace Corps I thought I'd be running naked (barefoot, I mean of course) in Africa, teaching English or somethin' of the like. However, since accepting the invitation to serve in Costa Rica, my mindset has been completely altered to the fact that I could be developing computer skills or actually working in an office. Insane. 

...I also love the conversation: "Where are you going/what are you doing?" because I always reply: "I'm off to Costa Rica, but where I'll be living and what I'll be doing is a complete mystery...


Still got that nostalgia bug

Oh, Boston. ("love that dirty water, ladadeedadaaaa") What a day...

Oh, wandering Boston - so European. I'm not sure why I've yet to meander around the streets of Beantown til now, but today - after 22+ years - I made a point to just go...

First, however, how I came to wander is even more important: I met up at my favorite lil coffee shop on Newbury street with my friends from JMU [Lauren] Gniaz who is leaving tomorrow for Australia for the summer (= won't see her til she comes and visits me in C.R. ;) and our mutual friend Kirsten. We each have JMU in common, so naturally we talked mutual love for the Dukes, friends, life, etc. with such ease. These girls are just wonderful; we talked four straight hours and probably could have gone til Gniaz would have been late to Logan tomorrow, but we put our foot down. :)

Needless to say, after saying the difficult goodbye I decided home was just not where I needed to go yet. So I just walked...Newbury St. to the Common, past the mandolin and banjo-playing duet, the vacant swan boats; crossed the street and met Larry - a lawyer from Minneapolis - who was intrigued by my GuluGulu tee shirt, with whom I walked to Faneuil Hall, talked life and then parted; got some ice cream and nestled myself down on a little stoop outside Cheers and watched the Sox kick the Yankees butts on the BIG screen that was just screaming "WATCH ME, SOX FAN"; met some more cool people from New Brunswick, and just enjoyed life.

What a day. I was back in Europe - the feeling, the adventure, the people! All I wanted.

To top it off - like I needed more of a positive, happy feeling - as I finally made myself walk toward the T stop, I tuned my iPod to the "nostalgia" playlist I so adore (and hardly listen to for fear of deeply - and painfully - wishing for those memories the music create to translate into present reality). Instead, I began to bask in those intense, happy memories and accept them as just that: memories. Memories that make me who I am today. 

Music is so powerful:

"Heaven's not a place you go when you die, it's that moment in life when you actually feel alive - so live for the moment now "

It still hits a nerve; it doesn't matter how long it's been or how independent I have become. 

But one thing that's changed: I would have to alter the lyrics (sorry, Spill Canvas): "those moments in life" there are so many moments where a person can feel alive.

mmmmmmmmmmmmm


Famfamfamfamilyyy

Want a glimpse into the intricacies and adoration amongst my family? Yes? Then all you need is to sing these lyrics to the tune of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" aloud (if no, just hum to yourself):

Corinne, Corinne, Corinne and Josh
Finally tied the knot
They're married, they're married, they're married, they're married
And this is all they've got

Ahh, sarcasm mixed with love.

In explanation (because of course one is needed here), Cori(nne) is my cousin who just married Josh (a fantastic dude) this past weekend and in tradition, my crazy dad, cousin Nick (and Em and I, I must - without shame - admit) ingeniously created this adaptation to perform at the party. Fantastic, eh

Yup.

The first of these performances - my cousin Meg's wedding four years ago - included sombreros and lil banjo-type instruments; the second - cousin Sara and Dan - was Mellancamp's "Jack and Diane"; my dad's = something I can't even remember; and then this one. Oh, and a lot of alcohol.

Some people throw bouquets, some lift people up on chairs, some smush cake in each others faces, but we SING, baby.

Loveit. Adore them. Would do anything for them. It's the quirks that make people "perfect". 

Man, will I miss these people.  But hey, my family is used to not only one of it's members being away for long periods of time, but those long periods of time usually pertain to the [guess!] Peace Corps: My cousin Meg was in Cote d'Ivoire ten years ago and my aunt Betsey just returned a year ago from the Ukraine. Guess they've learned to deal.

But have I?

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What a strange time this is.

Seriously. Preparing - mentally, physically, cosmically (why not??) - for something as life altering/big/whateveryouwanttocallit as the Peace Corps is so bizarre to me. Sure, I've dealt with big changes in life before, but none of them seem to hold to same candle to how I'm feeling about the Peace Corps...

I've gone through stages. Weird, intense stages, each of which I have learned something (however small) from:

A. The WOOHOO I'VE JUST GRADUATED AND NOTHING CAN TOUCH ME stage: life was good, amazing, perhaps. I was off to Europe on a crazy adventure, I fell in love with Paris, almost decided not to come home in order to pursue my life[22year]long goal of f&@*ing off and doing whatever the f I wanted. Scratch that, reality check, enter stage B:

B. The oh man, I'm living at home again stage: I was afraid. Afraid afraid. Who wanted to come back to the Marblehood after four years of distancing yourself?

C. The hmmm, was I wrong and there really are quite amazing things going on here stage. Started working at the Gulu, Jack Tar, met some pretty outstanding people, got to travel a bunch, was challenged, learned some damn good lessons, and hung out [hopefully] enough with family to make up for the past four years and the ensuing two years away (never going to happen, by the way...I could spent every minute of the day with my fam)...

D. The Kirsty actually seriously questioned the Peace Corps stage (for about two seconds). I don't know, the nostalgia of Paris came back to me, I wasn't sure, I was scared...?? Guess you have to mention that stage.

E. The Euphoric, 100% ready stage. Get me outta here. And not because I don't love it here, I really do, but because I'm ready to do something crazy and new.

To finally...

F. The strange, sad, intense feelings that go along with preparation stage. This is where I am right now. I feel like I should be doing something Peace Corps related every minute of the day. I sleep less, toss a lot, read a lot, go for walks, want extra time with friends, though it's easier to retreat into myself. I get nostalgic about those things I won't have in a few months. 

Is this normal?!?!

I hope. All part of getting ready. Any advice for dear ol' me?


Still in that introspective mood...

I've really been quite thoughtful lately. This blog has surficed as my journal, (which sadly has received quite the shaft as of late), but I am so content writing my thoughts here; I don't even care who reads it but it feels good to get some of this *stuff* out into the open, whatever that "open" may be.

I think the cause for such introspection nowadays is how I'm wired to deal (or not deal) with change. I feel like my whole life I've been running. Not purposely, only running to follow those natural growth paths we experience as we "grow up": gymnastics, friends, family, high school, college, Europe, back in Marblehead, Peace Corps...

I have recently realized just how incredibly nostalgic I feel about all those parts of my life. I watch a gymnastics meet and a feeling of such comfort and familiarity comes flowing back, I think about a powder puff practice from high school and want to go right back; even the slightest thought of JMU sends me almost to tears. Not sad tears, but tears for how happy a time it was, how I miss all my dear friends, and for acknowledgement of just how much I grew during those four years. 

It's amazing to me that this time living back at home for almost a year has also turned into one of those to-be-nostalgic periods of my life. As my grandma would say: "Just another chapter in our lives" - and it has been, it's been wonderful.

However, I gotta admit that it'd be nice to live more in the present. Not in the past, not in what the Peace Corps or life after will bring; I want to be present now. All the time (or as often as possible). The reason this is so important to me is that I sometimes have trouble thinking about what I've "left behind"; with pain I sometimes miss those things that have had such a gargantuous impact on my life. I fear losing touch with the people I love the most, forgetting those times in my life I have cherished so. 

Maybe I'm naive, or maybe I am just feeling the pressures of moving to another country for two years, who knows, but I can't be blamed for absolutely adoring those people and experiences who've made me who I am today, can I?

Nope. But I can be strong and keep those people and experiences in my heart so as to positively influence the direction of my life.

I think a Sandlot "ForEVer" is appropriate here.