Monday, February 20, 2012

A surprising end...which is really just another beginning

What a crazy month it has been!  During the week and a half after the retreat, I worked in the daycare at Casa María and the Albergue San Gabriel where two of my housemates work.  I enjoyed playing with the children and talking with parents.  Unfortunately, I got sick with the flu halfway through the second week which kept me home in bed for a couple of days.  I had been planning to take vacation the first week of February to go spend some time in Guatemala with Mom and Dad and to visit the communities in Sololá supported by my hometown church, St. Mary’s, and the Catholic diocese of Spokane.  So still feeling sick I got on a plane and flew to Guatemala.  I spent the 9 days trying to see and experience as much as I could while having to share my time with letting my body rest and fight being sick.  Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my 9 days in Guatemala, met many wonderful and inspiring people (including two amazingly healthy and positive 80 and 90-year-old nuns), and learned immensely about life in these rural Guatemalan villages.  I was able to stay in the highlands in a small village called Santa Caterina Ixtahuacan, the Sisters of Charity house in Novillero, Panajachel on Lake Atitlán, and Antigua.  In addition, we side-tripped to several other villages to visit schools, businesses, or programs supported by people in the Spokane diocese.  Some villages were harder to reach than others… I quickly became accustomed to riding on curving, bumpy, hilly, dirt roads.  Haha!  We even visited Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, an orphanage in Chimaltenango, where my friend Kristina is working for the year.  Throughout my entire time in Guatemala I couldn’t stop thinking how beautiful are the land and people of this country!  I truly wish I could have stayed longer.
The day after I arrived back to Costa Rica, I walked over to the CEN-CENAI daycare in Moravia for my very first day of work at my new job.  When I got there the director sat me down and told me that she was so sorry, but her boss did not grant her permission to allow me to work at the daycare.  She said she really wanted me to work in the daycare, especially to share my English and environmental knowledge, but that her boss had tightened up regulations this year concerning who could work in these governmental institutions.  Utterly shocked, I walked back home and told my directors and community that the job had fallen through.  Meanwhile, I was still feeling very sick and needing to rest most of the day.  Within that same week, I actually ended up in the emergency room again.  This time I was told I had a sinus infection, had an IV hooked up, and sent home with lots of medications.
After many conversations with my community, family, and directors along with a good amount of prayer and contemplation, I decided that it was time for me to go back home to Washington State.  The main reason for returning home was my health, and what triggered the decision was no job.  From the very first week that I arrived in Costa Rica, I began battling various health issues.  I had severe allergies which even affected me when I was taking a strong daily allergy medication.  My body seemed to be extra susceptible to foreign bacteria as I got sick many times and ended up needing to see the doctors one time when it was particularly prolonged.  These health issues affected my daily life, and at their worst had me in bed missing out on certain activities or work days.  With no set job and realizing how sick I had been throughout my six months in Costa Rica, I felt that the best choice for me was to take the opportunity to go home and get healthy.
All of this happened so quickly—within one week.  At the end of the week, I was on a plane to the United States.  I had only been taking my new sinusitis medications for a couple of days, and I was still feeling very sick.  When I arrived home, I slept and slept and slept in a comfortable bed and quiet home, with warm water in the sink, no mold growing by my bed, and good drinkable water from the tap.  I’ve been home for one week now—just resting, sleeping, and eating well.  I am feeling better though still nowhere near normal.  The fact that my recovery is slow has been extremely frustrating for me as I am so ready to get going and moving again…sometimes I feel that patience with myself is harder than with others.  I do miss my community, the people with whom I was working, and of course the natural beauty of Costa Rica.
Honestly, I am sad to have left the FrancisCorps program and Costa Rica earlier than expected, but at the same time I feel so blessed to have spent six months in the program working in Costa Rica.  Despite the challenges I faced with my health and in my workplace, I loved the experience! My experience in FC gave me a whole new perspective from which to view the world, expanded my spirituality, taught me the meaning of strength/perseverance, and will be integral in shaping my future.  The focus on service, spirituality, and community is what really stands out to me.  I feel I positively influenced many of the girls that I was able to work with, and I will always remember my time with them.  Through my work I learned immensely about myself, others, tico culture, and the way in which institutions can be both constructive and dysfunctional.  Also, the opportunity to volunteer quite a bit in the daycare at Casa María and the Albergue, the work sites of two of my housemates, furthered my experience; I was able to serve different populations, make connections with more people, and gain insight into how these other sites functioned.  Learning about Franciscan spirituality, witnessing it in practice by the friars, and being on retreat was interesting, inspiring, fruitful, and reinvigorating.  Community life—sharing daily meals, activities, and prayers taught me how to live in, build up, give to, receive from, share with, learn from, and value each member in my community while at the same time build relationships on deep levels.  I am extremely grateful for the support and time shared with my community of four lovely ladies, the Franciscan friars in Moravia, my program directors in Syracuse, New York, all of my friends in Costa Rica, and of course the people with whom I worked for letting me be a part of their lives for a short time.
My time volunteering with FrancisCorps in Costa Rica has left me with all sorts of memories that I will never forget along with marks, thoughts and feelings that will continue to develop and contribute to shaping my future! 
Thank you to all of my family and friends who supported me and have made this experience possible :)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A New Year

Well needless to say, a lot has happened since my last blog post.  I finished up the school year helping in the principle's office at Casa Maria's high school until December 15th.  Mainly, I was organizing and collecting data to help with the selection process of students for the new school year which starts in February.  My other four housemates left to go back to the U.S. on December 17th.  I used the next three days to relax, read, run, clean the house, and get ready for Juli, Kevin, Isabel, and Luke to come stay with me here!

They arrived on December 20th after a red-eye flight.  Fray Jorge, Roy, and I met them at the airport then came back to the friary for a delicious typical tico breakfast...thanks Fray Jorge!  After a couple of days at my house touring Moravia and visiting the Children's Museum in San Jose, we headed to La Fortuna which is located next to the Arenal Volcano for Christmas. I absolutely loved spending Christmas with them and getting to share in Isa and Luke's excitement.  It was such a blessing to be able to share this special time and travel in Costa Rica with Juli's family. The day after Christmas, we headed to a gorgeous beach on the Nicoya Peninsula called Playa Carrillo.  It looks just like a postcard-- lined with coconut trees and no development on the beach at all. We spent our days there playing in the water and sand, swimming in the little pool at our Bed & Breakfast, eating good food, and watching the sunsets.  When the time came for Juli, Kevin, Isa, and Luke to leave, it was of course hard to say goodbye.  They had all loved the trip and were even using some of the typical Costa Rican sayings like 'Pura vida!' which literally means 'Pure life' but is used to mean 'Everything is great!'.  I wished they could have all just stayed here with me in Costa Rica :)

However, I was not lacking in company for long. The same day that Juli's family flew back to Washington, Mom and Dad came to visit me!  We went to a few beautiful beaches and also up to a cloud forest called Monteverde, which was on top of the mountains and brimming with all sorts of plants and life.  At Monteverde we got our fair share of rain and cold, but it was more than compensated for at the beach in the sun and heat!  After the trip, Mom and Dad flew to Guatemala to take an intensive language class.

Right away, it was time for our re-orientation retreat for the program.  Our director and sub-director from the U.S. came to lead the retreat.  It was a great retreat at the friary in Alajuela again.  After the retreat, we were surprized with a quick trip to La Fortuna where we bathed in a thermal hot springs and walked on hanging bridges in the forest. What a treat!

This past week I worked at the daycare at Casa Maria.  I have a big change to look forward to beginning in Febuary.  I will be starting work at a daycare in Moravia near my house called CEN-CENAI.  It is a goverment run daycare that serves an extremely low-income neighborhood.  The reason for the change in my job is to have more daily interaction with those I serve and be in a better work environment.  I am so excited to begin this new position and work with the kids in this daycare who are ages 2-6.