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May. 16th, 2011



Just a quick update.  I am winding down my two years here in the rural campo of Costa Rica and saying goodbye to good friends (and taking a jubilee of pictures).   But, in the meantime, I have my sights set on the future.  Starting on May 31st I will be living and working in the capital, San José as a Volunteer Coordinator, with a specific focus on Environmental initiatives among volunteers.  Now, what exactly that will look like in terms of work, I'm not quite sure.  It's a new post they've created (just for me!)  What I do know is that I will be turning in the rural lifestyle of waking up to roosters to the city lifestyle of waking up to cars and buses passing by.  I will have a real 9 to 5 job, although I won't get paid like it -- I'll still get paid like a volunteer, that is: very little.  I'll keep you updated on my adventures (and some past ones, like the Copa Indigina, which I've been unable to upload photos of from here.)  Until then...

Pura Vida


Mar. 21st, 2011


Contrary to what some of you may believe, I do still think about this blog from time to time, even though I may have forgotten about it for a long long (long) time. I guess I find my life pretty normal now, even though it may be very different from what it used to be in the U.S. Some of it may be that, after two years living in Costa Rica, some things that may have stuck out before as odd or interesting have become normal and commonplace. For example, after my family came to visit my site they all commented on a moment in when a guy drove up on a motorcycle without a helmet and with a baby riding with him. I didn’t even bat an eye. I didn’t even flinch. It didn’t even register that might be weird because I see it daily. Nonetheless, I thought I should revive this blog and breathe some life into it. 


With less than three months left in our sites, every volunteer in my group faces a definite case of senioritis. Most of our larger projects are winding down or are completed and most of our thoughts have moved on towards things post Peace Corps. In these last months it can be very hard to start something new. I spent a large part of last year working with the local school. Only problem was that I spent most of last year teaching English at the school. I don’t enjoy teaching English. It’s difficult and a struggle and I am absolutely terrible at it. Just because you know a language does not mean that you are in any way qualified to teach it. I learned that the through a very long and painful process. So, instead of beating my head against the wall trying to teach English, I decided to teach something else – P.E. 


I was watching the news when I learned a rather startling fact: six out of every ten Costa Ricans is overweight or obese. That’s a large number. (I’m not sure what the statistics are for the United States. I’m sure you can Wikipedia it.) So, in a moment of inspiration, I asked the Director/only teacher at the school if he would give me 45 minutes once a week to teach P.E. It’s nothing special. We stretch. We warm up. We do push-ups (which they hate). We do another exercise, which I love, called “Soy Estrella!” (I’m a star!) in which you have to bend down, place your hands next to your feet, and then jump as high as you can into the air making a star shape and yelling “Soy Estrella!!!” I don’t know if the kids like the exercise, but they do like yelling that phrase. After that, we play a game. Sharks and minnows has been a big hit, mostly just because everyone wants to be a shark. Kickball didn’t go over so well as they couldn’t grasp the idea of three outs and forcing outs at a base. Ultimate (with a ball instead of a Frisbee) also didn’t go over well, even though I think it is shockingly similar to soccer. Nonetheless, I keep at it week after week. This week: freeze tag.

Jan. 31st, 2011


When you ask many volunteers what was the best trip they took (or the one trip they wish they had taken) most answer Corcovado, and for good reason. Parque Nacional Corcovado located on the Osa Peninsula in the southern part of the country. Due to its isolation and designation as a government protected area since 1975 it hosts the largest population of scarlet macaws in Costa Rica among other endangered species such as Barid’s Tapir (a sort of a mix between a pig and an elephant), jaguars, and pumas among others. National Geographic once dubbed Corcovado the most biologically intense place on Earth.   With this in mind, it had always been on my list to do before leaving and so my friends Dan, Leif, Angelo, and myself set off into the rainforest to go exploring. 


A trip through this national park is a bit challenging to say the least. The main ranger station, La Sirena, is located in the heart of the park and holds dormitories and space for camping. You can even pay for meals there if you want but, since the four of us are poor Peace Corps Volunteers, we decided to hike in our own food as a cheaper option. The first day we woke up in the town of La Palma (located to the north of the park) at 5 am and took a trip in the back of a covered truck on bumpy roads to reach the first ranger station – Los Patos. The truck had to do at least 10 to 15 river crossings and we weren’t able to reach the station until about 7 in the morning. After signing in there we set off into the muddy, damp, and cool rainforest. The trek from Los Patos to La Sirena took us 8.5 hours and we were making very good time. Due to recent rains the trails were very muddy and slippery, especially at the beginning where it was more mountainous. The day was spent spotting wildlife such as scarlet macaws, spider monkeys, and white face monkeys (these last ones were only noticed after they threw some feces at Leif…). We also got to see frogs, enormous caterpillars, and other insects that prompted all of us to spray on more bug repellant. This hike was gorgeous but exhausting. At times it was difficult to figure out the way the trail was supposed to go, but we eventually found our way after reflecting on why early Spanish explorers called the rainforest el infierno verde, or the green hell, as it is really easy to get lost. At 3:30 we broke out of the rainforest to find the La Sirena ranger station in a clearing like the Others’ village in LOST. It was a bit of a shock to see a runway and a whole wooden complex in the middle of the rainforest, especially after having been enveloped by it for the whole day.


Since all of us had decided to buy refried beans and tortillas (especially me) in order to make bean burritos to eat, we all woke up the next day frightening off any local wildlife with our own birdsongs and animal smells. We spent the day exploring local trails around the station and got to see more monkeys, a slew of birds (including one with a big yellow beak and many flightless ones), and even almost got attacked. At one point we were walking through the forest when we smelled something like bad onions which is a sure sign of a chancho de monte, or peccaries (like wild pigs) and so followed some tracks to a tree where, looking up, we found a pack of spider monkeys. At first we all whipped out our cameras to take photos but soon realized, probably due to the grunts and advances from the monkeys, that we were too close. The moment quickly turned from “don’t scare them away” to “I think we should scare them away now”. We all turned tail and quickly scurried out of there and snapped photos from a respectable distance. In the afternoon we took it easy and played hearts before setting out at high tide to a local river. There, only about a ten minute hike from the station, we were able to see bull shark fins cutting through the water. This was definitely a highlight of the trip. At high tide bull sharks apparently swim into the river to feed on the fish found there before swimming back out to ocean. It was a pretty crazy sight to see that fin slicing its way back out to sea. 


The next day was our hike out and we had to coordinate our effort with the low tide to cross a different river on the way out. We got there at low tide but were not told where to cross the river so decided, by my foolish suggestion, to cross at the ocean. Apparently there was a spot a bit further up the river where the water only came up to your calves but we struggled across with water that was up to my chest, and I’m a pretty tall guy. We soon spotted another peccary and followed it as it trotted down the trail for a good 100 yards before veering off to go hang out with his peccary friends. The trail traveled along the beach or in the forest close by, but never out of earshot, of the ocean. In total, this trip took us a good 7 hours or so and we got to see coati (which is like a bigger, cuter, raccoon), a small anteater, and a bunch of crabs. A group not ten to fifteen minutes in front of us actually got to see 2 pumas and they had the same moment we had with the spider monkeys. Their guide said he hadn’t seen pumas in the park for 2 years. They were really REALLY lucky. We were all not so secretly jealous. Later on we did get to see some cougars but, as Angelo quickly pointed out, they were from Belgium. This hike was my favorite part of the trip as the beaches were absolutely gorgeous and it was impossible not to reflect that most of the country’s beaches looked similar not 50 to 100 years ago.

On finished our hike and taking a quick rest at the last ranger station, La Leona, we hiked the extra 3km on the beach to the town of Carate. There the local “bus” (that is, back of a truck) normally leaves at 4 in the afternoon. We were fortunate enough to get there at 2:30 to find a smaller truck willing to take us back, for the same fee as the bus. The only catch was that two of us had to sit in the back on top of the trash he was carrying out. Pulling the short straws Angelo and I sat in the back on the trash bags and, after the 7 hours hike we just finished, didn’t really notice much difference in smell. Arriving back in La Palma we finally got to eat some hot food, take a good shower, and get a good night’s rest. 


With that we split up the next day back to our sites but all of us went back with the great memories from Corcovado. It was the best trip I’ve taken in my time here in Costa Rica by far. 

Jan. 10th, 2011


Starting at the beginning of 2010 I started working with a group of youth in town to identify and address needs specific to that population. After analyzing the situation in town and coming up with a list of possible projects to address communal needs, the group settled on addressing the lack of activities for youth in town. As such, the group started working towards the construction of a playground in town. After a lot of hard work and ups and downs we started to work on a grant application from the CR-USA foundation. This foundation is one that was left over after USAID left Costa Rica about ten years ago or so to continue to give out grants and financial assistance to projects helping to foster relationships between the United States and Costa Rica. Peace Corps Costa Rica volunteers have the unique opportunity in working with their communities to tap into these funds for communal projects. Unfortunately the original youth group dissolved but other town leaders stepped in to keep the project alive. 


Eventually the application was complete and submitted to the foundation. They got back to us really quick: our project was approved! Part of the final process was going with a community counterpart to sign the official papers for the donation and I got to go with the president of the town council that hadn’t been to San José, the capital, in decades. It was interesting to see his reaction to being in the city and how he was suddenly looking to me on how to maneuver around. We even got to sit down and have lunch at a place he’s never eaten before – McDonald’s. Finally, after signing all of the papers and getting the money we were able to contact the construction company who came out and built the playground right across the street from the soccer field. 


All in all, a long process, but one that turned out better than I thought it would. We now have a playground that wasn’t there before and, barring rain, there are kids playing on it daily. Too bad I’m (way) too big to play on it myself. I tried to go through the tunnel and got stuck for a good five minutes. Some adults in town have even commented that we need to buy another, larger one for the parents so that they can play too.




Pura Vida!



Jan. 4th, 2011


Like I mentioned in a previous post, I spent a lot of my time this past year working at the local elementary school. In coming up with extracurricular activities I tried to do things that the students normally don’t get a chance to do in class (like Origami or Music). Thus, I started play practice once a week based on a classic Central American folktale that is extremely well known in Costa Rica called La Llorona, or The Cryer or The Weeper. In the weekly “rehearsals” I tried to focus not so much on the acting or the finished product, but on teamwork and working together to achieve a common end. Now if I was entirely successful in achieving that goal is up for debate, but we did have a good time acting out the story once a week, and that’s got to count for something, right?


The story has many different variations but all have the same basic premise to them. I took three or four different versions and combined them into one which turned out something like this: A rural girl works in the summer house and on the farm of a wealthy family from the city. One summer the family comes out to visit and is impressed at how much the girl has grown and her work ethic.   Because of this they invite her to come to work in their house in the city, San José, where she meets the son of the family and they fall in love. Soon the girl becomes pregnant and when the family becomes aware of this they become furious, fire the girl from her job, and expel her back to the country. There the girl’s mother also becomes angry and refuses to have the child ruin her family’s good name. Thus, the mother hides her daughter for her entire pregnancy. When the child is born the mother forces her daughter to thrown the newborn into the river where it quickly drowns. Realizing her mistake, the girl also throws herself into the river to look for her child and drowns. Now, so the story goes, the girl can be heard screaming and crying at night by rivers searching for her lost child. 


I know what you’re thinking: it’s a really happy story and probably one that should not be taught to children. Well, as a disclaimer, I didn’t teach it to them. They already knew it. I just made them act it out on a weekly basis. And they loved it.


P.S. What follows is the script that I came up with in Spanish if you’re at all interested. It could probably use a little proofreading, but the basic ideas are there. 


Escena 1: El campo por la noche

(Los tres campesinos están sentados alrededor de un fuego)

Narrador – En las altas horas de la noche, cuando todo parece dormido, por el río una voz lastimera llama la atención de los viajeros.

Campesino 1 – ¡Que cansado que estoy!

Campesino 2 – Yo también. ¡Que calor que hizo hoy!

Campesino 3 – Por lo menos encontramos este río para refrescarnos.

Narrador – De repente, los viajeros escuchan un grito y sollozos.

(La Llorona, escondida, grita y solloza)

Campesino 1 – ¡Que fue eso!

Campesino 2 – No sé, pero me sentí un escalofrió terrible.

Campesino 3 – (después de una pausa) Yo sé que fue.

Campesinos 1 y 2 (juntos) – ¡En serio! ¡Que fue! ¡Cuentanos!

Campesino 3 – Es una historia bien triste, pero se les contaré. Se dice que...


Escena 2: El campo en el pasado, por la casa del Patrón

Narrador – Se dice que antes vivía una muchacha, la muchacha más bonita del pueblo.

(Entra La Llorona)

La Llorona – ¡Que lindo que es vivir y trabajar en el campo!

Narrador – Ella trabajaba en la finca de un Patrón rico que vivía en San José. 

La Llorona – Me encanta trabajar aquí en la tranquilidad, rodeada de la naturaleza.

(Un pájaro canta)

Narrador – Un verano, vinieron la esposa del Patrón y sus tres hijas. 

(Entra Patrona y tres Hijas)

Patrona – ¡Que viaje tan largo! ¡Por fin llegamos!

Hija 1 – ¡Que montón de barro hay aquí en el campo! 

Hija 2 – ¡El barro me está ensuciando toda la ropa!

Hija 3 – ¿Quién es esa muchacha?

Patrona – ¡No puede ser! ¿No eres la hija del lechero?

La Llorona – Así es. 

Patrona – ¡Como has crecido! ¡Y tan bonita!

La Llorona – (ruborizándose) Gracias.

Narrador – Las tres hijas se pusieron celosas a ver la belleza de esa muchacha y la pusieron a trabajar.

Hija 1 – ¡Tráigame agua!

(La Llorona la trae trae un vaso de agua)

Hija 2 – ¡Prepáreme el baño!

(La Llorona la trae jabón, un paño, y un cepillo)

Hija 3 – ¿Dónde está la comida?

(La Llorona la trae comida)

Patrona – Muchacha, ven acá. He notado que trabajas bien dura. ¿Cómo te parece trabajar en mi casa en San José?

Narrador – La muchacha pensó sobre la oferta.

La Llorona – Tendría que vivir muy lejos de mi familia...

Patrona – Pero, podría conocer la capital y la vida de la ciudad.

La Llorona – Sí, sería bonita, pero no estoy segura...

Patrona – Le pagaré doble lo que ganas ahora.

La Llorona – Ok. Espero que sea una experiencia buena para mi. 

Patrona – Sí, la será. Te aseguro.


Escena 3: San José, Casa del Patrón

(Entra la Llorona, barriendo)

Narrador – La patrona llevó la muchacha a San José para vivir y trabajar. Rápidamente, le conoció        al hijo del Patrón. 

(Entra el Hijo del Patrón, estudiando un libro. El no la vi y los dos se chocaron)

Hijo – Ay, ¡perdón!

La Llorona – No se preocupe.

Hijo – No te conozco. ¿Quién eres?

La Llorona – Trabajo para su madre.

Hijo – Ah, ¿eres la muchacha que ella trajo del campo?

La Llorona – Así es.

Hijo – Tienes los ojos más bonitos que he visto.

La Llorona – (ruborizándose) Gracias.

Hijo – ¿Quiere salir conmigo esta noche a cenar y bailar?

La Llorona – ¡Sí! Sería bien divertido.

(Los dos salen juntos)

Narrador – Ella se enamoró de él y por pocas semanas sintió que iba a ser madre. Ella lo contó al          hijo del Patrón, pero él se alejó de ella.

(Entra Patrón, Hijo del Patrón, y La Llorona)

Patrón – ¡Muchacha!

La Llorona – ¿Qué es?

Patrón – Hijo, ¿esta es la muchacha?

Hijo – (avergonzado) Sí, ella es.

Patrón – Muchacha, ¿es cierto que estás embarazada?

La Llorona – Sí

Patrón – ¿Del hijo mio?

La Llorona – Sí

Patrón – ¡No puede ser! ¡Jamas! ¡Mi primer nieto no será de una cochina campesina! ¡Te expulso de mi casa!

(La Llorona, llorando, sale)


Escena 4: En el campo, la casa de la Madre de La Llorona.

Narrador – La muchacha regresó a la casa de su madre en el campo, llena de trizteza.

(La Madre está cocinando cuando La Llorona entra llorando)

Madre – ¿Qué pasó mi hija? ¿Que pasó en la capital?

La Llorona – Me enamoré de un muchacho.

Madre – ¿Y por eso está llorando?

La Llorona – Yo salí con él y ya estoy...estoy...

Madre – ¡No puede ser! ¿Estás embarazada?

(La Llorona sigue llorando con sollozos.)

Madre – ¡Que gran error que has hecho! ¡La reputación de esta familia no será manchada con sus      equivocaciones! ¡Salga de mi casa!

La Llorona – ¡No Mamá!

Madre – ¡Entonces lo va a vender cuando nazca!

La Llorona – ¡No Mamá!

Madre – Entonces vas a hacer lo siguiente...


Escena 5: Río

(La Llorona entra con su bebé en una canasta llorando)

Narrador – Después de darse la luz a su bebé, durante una noche de luna llena, la muchacha se acercó al río para realizar el plan de su madre.

(La Llorona toma la canasta en sus manos y la tira al río. El bebé llora y llora y después se ahogó.)

Narrador – Su bebé se ahogó en el río y, después de darse cuenta de lo que hizo, la muchacha se        volvió loca.

La Llorona – ¡Que he hecho! ¿Dónde está mi bebé? ¿Dónde está?

Narrador – La muchacha se tiró al río también para buscar su bebé.

La Llorona – ¡Mi bebé! ¡Mi bebé! ¿Dónde está?

Narrador – Así, buscando su bebé perdido, la muchacha también se ahogó. Esta muchacha es la que se llama “La Llorona”.


Escena 6: El campo por la noche

(Los tres campesinos están sentados alrededor del fuego)

Campesino 1 – ¡Que historia tan triste!

Campesino 2 – ¿Y cómo termina?

Campesino 3 – Se dice que todavía se puede escuchar La Llorona por las noches así con una luna          llena.

(La Llorona, escondida, grita y solloza)

Campesino 1 – Pero solo es un cuento, nada más, ¿no?

Campesino 3 – Quien sabe.

(La Llorona, todavía escondida, sigue gritando) 

Campesino 2 – ¿No les parece que esos gritos fueron más cercanos?

(Todos los campesinos se ponen a escuchar. Después La Llorona entra)

La Llorona – (gritando) ¿Dónde está mi bebé? ¿Dónde está?

Dec. 27th, 2010


During this past school year I worked a lot at the school. [The school year in Costa Rica runs from February through November and we are now, during December and January, in summer vacation] One of the big things I did was work on extracurricular activities. We painted a world map, had English classes, started a small band, and even rehearsed a play based on a classic folktale (more details to come in future posts!)   But one of my favorite activities was teaching the students about Origami and how with a simple piece of paper and a few folds you can make a whole lot of cool things. We made a bunch of different things including paper airplanes (the kids favorite), penguins, dinosaurs, a parakeet, a dove, a little box, and even how to make a little envelope out of a letter (the girls loved this one, the little gossipers). It was difficult at times explaining how to do the folds (en español!) and working with a group that ranged from 7 year-olds to 13 year-olds but in the end we were ultimately (most of the time) successful. 


Photos! (The day we made Dinosaurs and doves)

Note the sad sad attempt at a beard on my part (mostly just being too lazy to shave) and how I’m rocking shoes – a very rare sight in town. Also note how I’m at least a head taller than even the teacher and now most of the students think all Americans are as freakishly tall as me. Little do they know I’m even freakishly tall in the U.S.

Nov. 13th, 2010

(no subject)

As weird as it sounds, sometimes I forget that I'm living in a foreign country.      After almost a year and a half of living and working in the same community, forming routines and doing things repeatedly, I have to step back and remind myself of what I'm doing. When we all first got here, there were things everyday that would stick out and remind us we were living in a foreign country. But something that would have drawn my attention when I first got here now doesn't even elicit a second glance. But there are plenty of things that still stick out and remind me that I'm living in Costa Rica (beyond the crazy lack of classroom management and the still baffling to me grown-man-yelps). 


Most volunteers (as long as you don't live in a city) are surrounded by nature just by the very fact of living in Costa Rica. A lot of volunteers have a lot more wildlife than I might, and get to see sloths, monkeys, and colorful poison-dart frogs on a regular basis. I do not. I do have toucans from time to time (and some even stopped to say hi in my back yard this last week!), but I recently got to see something I would dare say that few volunteers get to see – a flock of green macaws. While scarlet macaws are their more colorful and famous cousins, the green macaw is much more rare and very much endangered due to large deforestation. According so some sources (i.e. my Lonely Planet guidebook) there are only around 200 green macaws in the entire country, with only an estimated 30 mating pairs left. I live on a (supposed) biological corridor connecting large biological reserves and national parks and had heard that green macaws are known to be seen in the region. For a year and a half I had heard this and never actually seen one until two weeks ago when a flock took up residence in a tree near the center of town. The green macaw is noted for it remarkably green feathers and blue tipped wingtips. It is very easy to tell when they are around as they make an incredible amount of noise whenever they are flying (maybe a reason why they are endangered...) and always fly in pairs. I have been able to see, luckily, pairs fly overhead repeatedly, the full wingspan of one green macaw just before is landed on a branch, and saw 6 circle overhead yesterday as I was running. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but honk honk.  

Pura Vida



Oct. 25th, 2010

20 questions.

In our English class we play a lot of games. I recently introduced the classic game of “20 Questions”. The students, all three of them (all third grade girls), loved it. We now have to play it at least once a class period, if not more. It's gotten to the point where it becomes a prize at the end of class – “Whoever wins this game of memory about body parts gets to lead 20 questions!” 


Normally the students choose something simple. Not so in our last class.


“Is is a person, animal, or thing?”

“A thing.”


Simple enough. Usually they choose a classroom object – a pen, a backpack, an eraser.


“Is it something found in the classroom right now?”


“Is it something that is used everyday?”

It can be, yes.


Okay. Now we're getting somewhere.


“Is it smaller than a desk?”


“Is it smaller than this book?”



Now the girls are shouting out final answers.


“A pencil? Pencil sharpener? Bottle of glue?”

No, no, and no.

“Is it something someone can wear?”



Whoa. This is new. They've never chosen some article of clothing before. 


“A watch? A hair tie? Glasses?”

No, no, and no.


The girls use up the rest of their 20 questions and they still haven't guess what it is.


“What is it then?!” they yell. 


After a pause and a slight smile we hear the object she chose:


Hilo”, she says. 


If you look up hilo in a dictionary, it will tell you that it means “string”. Not so when referring to clothing. Hilo in that sense means “thong”. Awesome. And from the mind of a 9 year old girl.


Maybe I need to find a new game for us to play.

Oct. 18th, 2010


There are some things while being a Peace Corps volunteer you realize you used to take for granted. Privacy and walls that go all the way to the ceiling, for one. Or not having to rely on public transportation anytime I want to go somewhere, for another. But one thing that I never really thought would be a problem was my name. I mean, Kyle isn't that terribly difficult, is it? Apparently, for a Spanish speaker, yes it is. I can't tell you how many times I've had the following conversation:

“What's your name?”


“Oh...and in Spanish?”


“Uh-huh,” they nod, and then hopefully, “and in Spanish?”


One of the problems with my name is that, as far as I know, there exists no translation of my name into Spanish. When a Spanish speaker reads my name they don't read Kyle, they read KEY-lay. Even when I spell it for Spanish pronunciation (Cáel) people still say it with an emphasis on the wrong syllable: kyEL. If only I could get someone here to say my name correctly. And then my year-old host cousin, Josué, ran by screaming and throwing (read breaking) a toy across the room. An idea hit me – long term change always starts with the youth and they are oh so impressionable. 


I knew my goal was difficult, but not impossible, and that I would have to put in the work to achieve results. I worked daily, pointing at myself and repeating my name to Josué every time I saw him. Although this sounds odd, isn't this what everyone does anyways with babies? It is truly bizarre to watch a baby walk around a room babbling to himself and everyone pointing to themselves and saying their name as he passes by. Even the baby if makes a noise that's a hint of a whiff of that person's name people lose it. “Did you hear that! He said my name! MY name!” they exclaim grinning from ear to ear. “Ummm...whatever that noise was, I don't think it came out of his mouth. Hey, what's that smell?” I for one was not going to settle for a smattering or random noises pass for my name. If I just wanted someone to say my name somewhat close, but not quite, to what it actually is I would have settled with the status-quo. For example, there's a man in town who, even after a year and half of knowing me still pronounces my name “Karl”. There are words in Spanish that are closer to my name than Karl (caber for example, or caer). I was not going to give up until Josué got it right. Absolutely 100 percent right.


Then one day it happened. Josué entered the house screaming as he always does, but something felt different that day. The clouds parted for a moment and a ray of sunshine came through the window. Josué saw me and stopped. Our eyes met. The wind stopped blowing, the birds stopped singing, and even the motos were quiet for a moment (a true rarity). It was as if the world took and breath to listen with me. Josué stared at me, smiled, and took a big breath. Then the windows shook as he screamed at the top of his lungs “KYLE!!!” My eyes lit up and I think that you had looked close enough in that moment you would have seen a tear in my eye. “Josué!” “KYLE!!!” “JOSUÉ!” “KYLE!!!” Success!


Now whenever we see each other we have the same conversation with each other, saying our names back and forth over and over again in celebration. Now if only Josué could just teach everyone else how to say it as well, but I'm realistic. I may not change the world in Peace Corps, but at the very least I taught a child how to say my name correctly. If that's not cultural exchange, I don't know what is.   

Pura Vida


Sep. 24th, 2010

Torchas, Faroles, y Independencia

Last Wednesday, September 15th, the majority of central american countries celebrated their independence from Spain when the Spanish colony under Guatemala declared independence.  This declaration of independence spanned the present countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.  Officially the news didn't reach Costa Rica until mid October on horseback back in 1821 and after a series of political events, was eventually ofically recognized as its own country by Spain in 1850.  To celebrate their Independence, a torch signifying the news passing from Guatemala to Costa Rica is ran through all the central american countries involved in the declaration and then, on the 14th of September, the torch is run all over the country in between schools.  Thus, this last week, I walked to the neighboring town, witnessed the passing of the torch from their schoolchildren to ours, and ran with the kids back to our town to light the torch at the school.  (My town is at the end of the line, there aren't any more towns past mine on the road so we didn't get to pass it off to anybody). 

Then, that night, all the children in town gather at the school with homemade lanterns they've made out of construction paper and transparent paper, each one decorated with national symbols and lit on the inside by a candle.  The whole group takes to the street and does a parade around the town with their lanterns singing national songs and celebrating independence.  Last year, I walked with them and watched everyone else with their faroles.  This year, I planned ahead and took part and made my own lantern which aren't as easy to make as I had thought. 

On the 15th of September, all the schoolchildren gather at the school for a small assembly where they review the history of their independence from Spain and important figures in the process.  Finally, at the end of it, the school band I helped create got to march around town banging on their drums and shaking their maracas, all made out of recycled materials.  It was, to put it simply, really fun. 

Here are some pictures!

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