Monday, August 17, 2009

Our last week is here and we do nottttt want to leave:( As much as we love home, we are absolutely in love with this country and the people we have met while here. We have decided to put everything we have into our placements this week so when we say goodbye we will know we have done everything we could do. It is going to be so hard to leave these people that we have come to love and who will continue to need our help. More on our placements and goodbyes later this week….
On a lighter note this weekend was spent in Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side. While every weekend in Costa Rica has been awesome, we have come to the conclusion that this was our favorite place. The town has a very Caribbean vibe and it felt like we were in an entirely different country. The town is full of funky restaurants and people with dreadlocks riding cruiser bikes. We stayed at a “Hammock Hotel” which was a very costly $5 a night. We slept in a hammock thirty feet from the water with people from all over the world. It was pretty cool:). We spent Saturday in Cahuita National Park on the beach where we we woken up from a nice nap by the terrifying noise Howler Monkey’s make when they become territorial. (Click on the link below for a Youtube video of it). On Sunday we relaxed in small pools created by the coral reef. We will forever refer to this spot as our “happy place”….

Pictures Below- Brittney couldn't resist putting up another picture of her kids, Caitlin and Britt enjoyin life on the beach, a pic of us in our "happy place", loungin in our beds/hammocks, and a picture of us earlier this week outside a Museum in San Jose (the capital of Costa Rica).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Week 3!!!

Caitlin: Finally I was able to take pictures at Hogar de Esperanza, the HIV/AIDs clinic I have been working at Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This experience has been truly eye opening. All of the residents are really great and I have had an awesome time getting to know them, but reality struck today when I went back to work and found out one of the residents passed away on Saturday. I did not get a chance to get to know him because he had been really sick for a long time and had been in and out of the hospital since I arrived. However, it was hard to see the other residents and how they were reacting to their loss. Most of the residents are still fairly active and my job is to create activities to keep them busy. Right now we are making decorations for Mother’s Day, because they are having a party with a couple other HIV homes in the area this Saturday. Here are some pics

This is Angie! Angie always greets me with a huge smile and a kiss. She always jokes around with the other residents and brings a lot of energy to the home.

This is Antonio and I with two of our decorations for the Mother's Day party.

This is Daniel. He has been giving me Spanish lessons almost every day. He is actually really strict and won't let me move on until I can say each word correctly. He is a really good teacher :)

Brittney- My placement at Los Patitos gets better everyday. I have become much better at planning activities and improvising projects or learning activities with few supplies. The kids are so awesome and I am pretty attached to them; I cannot let myself think about leaving. Now having spent three weeks in Flory’s house I am beginning to feel like family. Flory took me on a walk, just the two of us, and ever since our relationship has been much closer. When we went on our walk I thought she asked me if she could try on my shoe, which was sort of weird but I gave it too her. She then proceeded to ask for the other one and give me hers. I was extremely confused, she speaks no English, and thought she wanted to trade shoes and was going to keep mine. After walking for a half an hour in Dona Flory’s shoes, literally, I had big blisters and realized why she wanted to switch (Flory is a smart lady). As the day went on I became increasingly worried that she was going to keep them but when my ride came she ran from the kitchen and gave me my shoes back along with a bracelet to show her appreciation. The bracelet is simple, but for people who have very little it was an incredibly kind gesture and made me feel silly for thinking she was going to take my shoes. Anyways enough about shoes…On Thursday I began working at a school with the English teacher, which I will continue doing 2 days a week. The school is in a drug infested area and the teacher told me she lives a few blocks away but cannot walk to school because it is unsafe. The kids are wilddd but so freaking cute it is not even fair. It is nice to see another side of education in Costa Rica as well as work with slightly older kids. Pictures will come soon.
When I brought my camera to Patitos two of the girls ran to their house next door and got dressed up.

Below is a video of my Dona dancing. Everyone is obsessed with Michael Jackson here and after I showed her my moon walking skills she decided to show me hers:)

Our weekend was spent in the beautiful Manuel Antonio which is a place on the Pacific side of Costa Rica where the Rainforest meets the Ocean. It was absolutely gorgeous. We spent Saturday in the National Park exploring the area and seeing all sorts of animals including, monkeys, sloths, deer, iguana, toucans, and raccoons (one of which stole the food out of our bag while we were swimming). We went hiking and ran into a family of monkeys, and relaxed for a while on the beach. We snorkeled on Sunday and spent the rest of the day trying to get back to Cartago. Our bus ride took six hours and we were standing almost the entire time. Every time we would get to a stop we would think there was no possible way another person could fit in the bus and somehow the bus driver would cram in 5 more people. The Costa Rican attitude has gotten to us though and we spent most of the bus ride laughing at how ridiculous the situation was and how incredibly swollen our feet were.
Smiling on the crowded bus, Brittney snorkeling, and the two of us climbing to a cool tree in Manuel Antonio.


Last weekend we traveled to Jaco and Playa Hermosa on the Central Pacific Coast. We went to the ISA World Games which is one of the biggest international surf tournaments in the world! The very quaint beach town was packed with people from all over the world and there were very few English speaking people. It was really cool to see each countries pride during the tournament. When a team member was competing, the rest of the surfers gathered around their country flag at the water’s edge and cheered and chanted until the round was over. The weekend was really relaxing and we spent most of our time lounging on the beach or laying in hammocks tied between palm trees. Pura Vida!

Brit and Caitlin with some Australian surfer who was muy guapo!

After a long, wild bus ride home to Cartago that consisted of a very car sick Caitlin and Brit sitting next to a very creepy man who found it appropriate to smoke two joints out the window of the bus during the ride, we readjusted and began our third week at work. On Wednesday we had another exciting excursion. This week we explored the Arosi Valley which is home to many coffee and plantain plantations and the oldest church in Costa Rica. After Brit’s epic picture on the river rocks from last week’s excursion, Caitlin decided it was her turn. We spotted an enormous, picturesque rainforest tree that was screaming “Climb me Caitlin!” After getting to a great spot for a photo that was about 10 feet up. Caitlin found out she was covered in biting ants. Panic stricken, she tries to climb down, slips and falls out of the tree and landed straight on her butt with her legs in the lake. Have no fear. WE GOT THE PICTURE!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Week 2 in Costa Rica!

Brittney being hardcore again... and the two of us hanging out in the rainforest.

We cannot believe that almost two weeks have gone by! It is all going so fast. After an awesome weekend we were thrown back in to the "real" costa rica where no one speaks english and everybody stares when they see an American. It was incredibly refreshing to be back in our home in Cartago and we are begining to get the hang of things. We have finally figured out how to have a semi warm shower, which was a big acomplishment. We went to a kickboxing class with a woman we swear is named Olga and she kicked our butts. We also attended spin and our weekly dance class with Fabian:) After our hike in the Rainforest we have concluded that we have never seen so much green in our life, which means a lot coming from people who live in Seattle. While all the activities are great fun, they are slightly overshadowed by our awesome volunteer work. This week we began to really forge relationships with the people at our placements and are already dreading saying goodbye in a 3 weeks...

Brittney- This week I continued to work with pre-school age kids in the slums and it gets more and more fun as the kids open up. They are so loving and cute that it is hard to ever get mad at them, in fact, Dona Flory (the woman in charge) told me that I need to be much stricter with them! The challenges of the week were trying to keep the kids happy when they didn't have any food for lunch, trying to teach english during a rainstorm (the roof has many holes), and of course trying to understand what anyone is saying. I leave and my mind hurts from thinking so hard haha. The highlights of the week were teaching the kids all the shapes and colors in english, and now we are working on animals. The children are so eager to learn, it is weird to have kids ask to learn. Another highlight was having the kids imagine they were on a island with dinosaurs for HOURS. They have the wildest imaginations. Next week I will continue at Dona Flory's on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday but on Tuesday and Thursday I am going to an actual school to teach English. I am excited to experience another aspect of volunteering. The other highlight of my week was discovering that my hair wasn't incredibly greasy because of the bad water pressure in Costa Rican showers but rather because I brought two conditioners...

Kimberly and Yesley posing for the camera

Photograph by a six year old... oh well the kids are cuter anyways

Picture of me and Rosa, when we took a walk to nearby park.
Caitlin: So far I have only been able to take pictures at San Rafiel Community Center for the elderly. I work here Tuesday and Thursday and upon arrival I had no idea what to expect from this placement. I kind of thought I would be purely creating activities to entertain a huge group of old folks.. And boy was I wrong. I spend most of my time assisting the physical therapist and I have developed relationships with so many of the residents. So many of them inspire me with their positive attitudes and hard work. One individual in particular has made a HUGE impact on me and I dare say he has changed my life. Here is the story of Milton: Milton had a stroke 8 years ago which caused paralysis on the left side of his body and two hip replacements. He has been in a wheelchair since. 11 months ago the PT proposed the idea to Milton that he should start trying to walk again. It took 10 months of convincing and doing exersizes to build up muscle in his legs to get him to try. When I arrived last Tuesday, Milton was struggling with walking between parallel bars, by Thursday he was walking around the room with a walker, this Tuesday he made it up 6 stairs, and today he walked around the room with only a cane. The PT told us Milton comes in every single day and works harder than any other resident. I am not suppose to pick favorites, but Milton is definitely my favorite. Besides his hard work he has a one of a kind personality, I think he actually tries not to smile but cant help it when I walk in and say "HOLA MILTON!" in my very american accent. Today, the physical therapist told me Milton never says more than one line at a time, but today he talked to me for a good 5 min (I dont think he understands I dont speak Spanish). Our conversation included him asking me if I had a boyfriend, me saying no, him pointing to himself, then him telling me sorry, but he is too old for me. Haha. Then he continued with a more serious tone. The stroke effected his speech as well, but the part the PT could understand was that Milton was telling me to be grateful for everything I have and my good health and to enjoy my life because it is just beginning...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

We spent the weekend in Arenal and it was absolutly amazing to say the least. Everything is SO green and beautiful. The highlight of our weekend was going waterfall repelling/cayoning. It was REALLY awesome although we have both agreed that we have never been that wet in our life. We also visited a hot springs as well as a discotheque where we worked on our salsa moves. We stayed at a cool hostel in a stinky room and met a lot of people. Overall the weekend was a success but we were happy to come back to Cartago and begin volunteering again.

In the beautiful rainforest in Arenal and The Basillica- a famous church blocks away from our homebase.

At Volcan Irazu
Left- Brittney repelling a waterfall- no big deal
Below- Caitlin hiking in the Rainforest- she is hardcore.

We couldn't stop smiling:)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Our First 5 days!

Cooking class with Dona Olga
Caitlin enjoying the scenery

A typical street in Costa Rica- notice the dogs

At the highest point in Costa Rica

We arrived in Costa Rica on Sunday and have done so much already. We spent Sunday night getting to know the other volunteers and getting settled into the house. The house has the atmosphere of summer camp with bunk beds and people singing songs in unison. Monday morning we went on a tour of Cartago. The city is a little different than we expected... A few things that caught our attention were that all of the houses and buildings are fenced in and all of the windows have bars covering them (sounds creepy, but it's not), there are dogs EVERYWHERE (the dogs are accompanied by their droppings all over the sidewalks) and there are not any street signs which results in addresses being something like "100 meter north of the fancy house, then 50 meters west past the horse statue, across the bridge...etc" we have yet to find out exactly how their mail system works. The weather is cooler than we expected which is a nice surprise, and the food is way more delicious than we imagined.

Caitlin: I am working in the HIV clinic MWF and in an elderly community center TTh. At the HIV home I have helped with cleaning projects for half the day, and then activities for the patients the other half. At the elderly community center I get to assist the physical therapist and entertain the residents. My first day I got to dance with two old men which I later found out were flirting with me in Spanish. I could take this as creepy, but rather look at it as a compliment! Today was my second day at the home and when I walked in and said "Hola Donas" to all the women and they got huge smiles and said "HOLA!" followed by about 20 kisses on the cheek. I love them all!

Brittney: I have been working at Los Patitios which is a safe place for children in the slums to go while their mothers are working, since they don't really have access to a formal school. I have been teaching the children english and planning activities to keep them entertained. When I arrived I was greeted by 12 or so children running at me saying, "hello teacher". The children are amazing and so eager to learn and thankfull for any supplies I bring. They can get excited about a chewed up broken crayon. It is a lot of work keeping them busy, since nothing is planned, which I have come to find is sort of the Costa Rican way, but it is very rewarding.

We work from 7:30 am to 12:30 everyday then have the rest of the day to explore. So far we have taken 2 Spanish classes, a salsa dancing class and cooking class at our home base, then decided to join a local gym which offers spin classes in Spanish (of course). Yesterday we went on an excursion to the top of "Volcan Irazu" which is the biggest volcano in Costa Rica. Today on an excursion through the city, we stopped at the most famous church in Costa Rica and joined in on the custom of drinking holy water, however we did not crawl there like many of the Ticos. In the past week we have come to realize Costa Rica was the perfect place for us to volunteer because of the loving people, the beautiful scenery and not to mention the endless supply of delicious, fresh coffee! Stay tuned for next week including our weekend adventure to Arenal...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thank You Sponsors!

Hi Everyone,

We would like to thank all of the people who sponsored our expedition to Costa Rica. We created this blog so you can all follow our trip and see how your donations have impacted the Tico's (term for natives of Costa Rica). We leave this coming Saturday, July 18th, and will be there until August 22. We are going to try to update this blog every week with pictures and a brief message of what we have been up to, so stay tuned!

Thanks Again,

Caitlin and Brittney