My town

My town
Thw view from the top. Literally. I climbed a big hill to get this photo.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Accomplishments

In my main town San Cristóbal
- Two nights a week I taught English
- I held two Clothing sales with the kindergarten teacher to build game tables and ping pong tables for the school.
- Helped the town parties and school events.
- A new water tank was funded and built with help from you all.
- A new water well was solicited
- Funds for the unpaved roads were raised.
- I led a group called Powerful Girls for fifth and six grade girls to help empower them.
- Art themed classes related to domestic classes were taught and then a regional event held with other volunteers.
- Art classes once a week in the school

In my small town Alfombra
- Two nights a week I taught English
- I led a group called Powerful Girls for fifth and six grade girls to help empower them.
- I solicited and received two World Teach volunteers to teach English in my smaller schools
- I have supported the Women’s group and with them we have done numerous courses in different themes (candles, small businesses, piñatas, purses, undergarments…) and held fiestas for the first time in their town in ten years.
- I helped in a lot of BINGOS
- With the Women’s Group we wrote a money proposal and with the money built a kitchen, bathrooms and repaired the community building.
- We formed a local development committee.

In Other Towns
- A week long Basketball Camp, San Isidro
- A youth field day, San Isidro
- Supported Children’s Welfare activities, San Isidro
- Worked with DINADECO the local government development group in charge of small community development
- Organized donations for two orphanages, San Isidro
- Helped a school solicit funds to build a new school classroom.

I also made many contacts and helped to find resources.
- Comité Tutelar, youth
- DINADECO,community development
- The Municipality for streets and sidewalks
- AyA, water
- Costa Rican Boy Scouts
- Womens group resources
- English
- Funding
- Phone lines for five towns.
- Got signatures for town petitions
- Translated documents and letters
- Helped people set up email
- Learned Spanish

Of course I am forgetting things and this doesn’t help to understand what I have been doing for the past two years, but hey, it’s a quick list.

Lastly, I have read a lot of books, eaten a lot of food, had great experiences, and made amazing relationships.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Recycling Paper, Not as easy as it looks

I am a hippie, a hippie with style. I am also some what of an environmentalist. Due to these qualities that I possess I have not intentionally thrown away a piece of paper while I have been in Peace Corps. I have saved everything from receipts to old English tests. Now over the two years I have accumulated quite a bit of paper. Two boxes stuffed full to be exact. That does not include magazines, newspaper, or boxes/packing envelopes. I knew I wanted to recycle this paper just never found a place that accepted paper. Then I got the bright idea I would recycle the paper myself.

The first step in recycling paper would be to shred it. That would be easy if I were not in the middle of nowhere in a country that has no shredders. So, five hours later, the first box was shredded. (If I were smart I would I have shred the paper throughout the years as I put it into the box. That would have been helpful.) Then it had to sit in water. This part wasn’t so bad. I am not sure if you know the process for making recycled paper, but it appears to be easy. I disagree. First I had to find nylon stockings, then fabric. I burnt out one blender trying to make the pulp and moved on to a hand mixer, which works much better. Then the ever so slow process of drying the paper began. I was using an old screen door, hangers with nylons over them, and pieces of screen.

My first pieces came out more like cardboard and they did not want to dry. Then, after three weeks, different recipe mixtures, and many many trips outside to lay the paper to dry, it seemed I had not made a dent in the gallon tub filled with shredded paper. Not to mention I still had another box filled with paper ready to soak. I decided it was time to clean my house. The shredded wet paper went outside to dry. The last pulpy mixture was poured onto a screen, and the other box will just have to go to town (Where, after two years of looking I finally found a place that will accept paper to recycle. It only happens once a month so I am giving the paper to the English teacher to bring for me once I am gone. I hope she doesn’t just burn the paper. That was what I was trying to avoid these past two years. ).

Now, the moral of my story; if you’re going to recycle two years worth of saved paper, maybe prepare a little better and give yourself two years worth of time.

What I have learned about recycling paper in Costa Rica and the things I still need to learn. Newsprint does not like to break down. Envelopes have too much glue to shred nicely. A hand mixer works much better than a blender. Having the correct materials can be very helpful. The sun is wonderful and humidity is not. Making the paper thin is difficult. Drying the paper can take days. And for some reason ants really like the pulp. This leads me to believe there may be sugar in children’s glue. Makes sense why kids like to eat it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Peace Corps Experience. The after thoughts (A little before it’s over)

This has been an overall positive learning experience. After 26 months I am ready to move on. I signed up knowing it would only be for 27 months so I leave with no large regrets and little sadness.

The memories I have here and the relationships I have made will stay with me forever. To be completely honest I think the locals have become more attached to me then I have to them. I have so much to look forward to and continue doing that, right now, I don’t foresee much sadness and looking back. This does not mean I will forget the people nor want to return to visit. It just means I am ready to move forward.

With that being said, here is a snip piece from my journal: “I am so looking forward to a time of privacy. When you aren’t starred at in your own home by workers, when you aren’t followed by eyes as you leave your house, and you don’t have to report your every move to neighbors or anyone who asks”.

Writing from still within the country and not having reflected back in the States these are my thoughts about the culture. I often tell myself to take big deep breaths. It has been very frustrating living in Costa Rica. I feel one can give so much and it will never be enough. This doesn’t mean a few people don’t appreciate my work and efforts, however, sometimes there actions don’t show this. No I do not have a husband or children, but that doesn’t mean I like walking an hour to a meeting that no one shows up for or is cancelled and no one called to inform me.

The constant harassment from men and cold shoulder from women can get very tiring. This doesn’t happen nearly as much once you are integrated into a town. However, the moment you go anywhere else you are just another non trustworthy foreigner. This allows you to get cut in front of in lines, treated coldly, and receive all imaginable forms of disgusting come-ons from older men. The young ones generally just stare.

Now after being so negative I need to try to comment on the positive. Once a person knows you they can be very generous. They welcome you to there home and constantly want to feed you and have you over again. You can never be there long enough, and even though tiring, it is a rather nice sentiment. Just be careful not to reveal any secrets. I have found secrecy and privacy is very hard to come by.

In the last two years I have changed for the better and worse. Learned a great deal about myself and recognized more changes I need to make to be the best Victoria I can be.

My greatest accomplishments in my service have not been the three infrastructure projects, or the educational activities I have done with the children. Neither has it been working with the women’s group or school. It hasn’t even been the relationships I have made with people which I previously thought as my greatest accomplishment. To be honest, my greatest accomplishment during my Peace Corp Service has been the personal growth and discoveries I was able to make.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Eavesdropping on the bus:

Convo as follows, a little improvised
a. Wow, it’s really hot.
b. Yes, it is.
a. So, where you from?
b. _____________
a. Really, I have family there.
b. Who is your family?
a. That’s my neighbor
b. You’re a far way from home.
a. Yeah, lots of buses
b. Does ___________ have electricity yet?
a. Oh, yeah, we’ve had it for 7 years now.
b. No, can’t be. I was there a few years ago.
a. We’ve had it for at least five!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Is it Culture, Craziness, or my Naivety?

Maybe I haven’t been exposed to enough cultures. Maybe I have been sheltered in the eight different places I have lived. Or possibly I surround myself with a certain type of people so I have never been exposed to this lifestyle / mentality before. I do not want to put the blame on small town Costa Ricans just because I have never been surrounded by something like this before. However, it is new to me and something I am not very fond of. Costa Ricans seems to accept it as part of life. They gossip about it everyday and speak badly about the people behind their backs, but for the most part, they accept it. If they didn’t accept it, don’t you think they would do something to change it?

Now I know you are wondering what on earth I am talking about. However, I don’t know of a proper word. Infidelity only describes part of it. Fatherhood, motherhood, and out of wedlock births are only another part. If you add all these up, combine parts, and multiply the lies, then maybe you can begin to paint a small picture. The best way to explain it is to describe it. I’ll start with one I can partly, only partly, I mean a really small part, justify in my head. Now pay attention, it gets confusing. It took me almost two years to finally figure this one out.

A husband (Man 1) beats his wife (Woman 1). The wife leaves him. * This is the part I get. Especially in a country where the woman 99% of the time NEVER leave the men* She starts seeing a man (Man 2) who caught his wife (Woman 2) in bed with another man. Woman 2 goes off with this bed man. Neither Man 2 nor Woman 2 raises their kid and he has to live with his grandparents occasionally seeing his dad and never his mom. Later, Woman 1 leaves Man 2 to get back together with her husband Man 1. He actually changed, and because he is the rightful husband in the eyes of the Catholic Church and she loves him, they make it work. Now Man 2’s family views Woman 1 as a horrible person because she went back with her husband. They don’t view Woman 2 as a horrible person and allow her to go to her son’s graduation even though Man 2, their son, can’t be in the same room as her because he pictures her in bed with another man. Man 2 does not go to his son’s graduation for this reason. I know it’s confusing. That’s why it took me awhile to figure out.

Then, I find out that Man 1 may have fathered a child before he got married. That’s not so bad. The sad part is that people don’t know who the father is so they gossip. I hear this once a day about a different person. “They say so-and-so (the woman’s husband) is not the child’s father, but rather so-and-so (another woman’s husband). Then they talk about how the kid even looks like the other man. I know I don’t have kids but wouldn’t you want to know who your Childs father is? Also, don’t the children wonder why they look like another man that’s not their dad? The even sadder thing is that people are not discreet when talking. These children and youth hear things.

I could list a dozen more examples of spouses swapping spouses in secrecy, husbands going after their wives sisters, men leaving their wives and 8 children for their neighbor and going to live in the town next door, and men fathering kids outside their marriages. Just yesterday I asked why there was a strange car and man outside the church. He was waiting for his young girlfriend in my town so his wife 20 minutes away wouldn’t see them. If everyone in my town knows, don’t you think his wife does too?
Now, I don’t want to spread the gossip or speak badly about others. I feel bad even writing this entry. However, at the same time it is part of what I am experiencing here. I just don’t understand, and haven’t for awhile so I want to talk it out. These stories are coming from just my three small towns. Maybe it’s different in other places or less severe. I know some things happen from other volunteers stories. That is why I wonder if it is a question of culture. Maybe this is part of the Costa Rican culture, and I am pushing my white, suburban American, middle class values on them. Maybe it’s a question of morals. I value family, faithfulness, and honesty. Maybe in the newer generations of Costa Rica they have lost these values. I know the old generation still values them. However my generation and my parent’s generation here in my small towns do not. The last thought I have is about religion. Almost all of the families I am speaking of are Catholic, or say they are Catholic. Catholicism does not recognize divorce. Many couples I believe would get divorced if they could afford it, and wouldn’t be ostracized by other church members. Also, if you repent right before you die, you are saved and go to heaven. Who cares how you live your life as long as you recognize you were bad before you die.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September 9th

What on earth is Kids Day? I guess it is like Mothers Day or Fathers Day, but honestly what is the point? Why do children who only go to school three hours a day four days a week need a special day just for them? In a culture with very high rates of diabetes personally I do not feel children should be given cake, ice-cream, and candy as well as the day off from classes. Shouldn’t we be celebrating the teachers? Also, small schools that can barely buy supplies, and just got a computer that is a month later out of ink, should not be spending money on such foolish activities. Than the children have the nerve to ask for a gift (because they are used to it), and parents with kids not in the school have the nerve to tell the teachers they need to buy another cake. Somehow I feel this may be unique for my town. They want to get as much as they can for as little as they can from anyone.

Than I calmed myself down and got to thinking. Is there a “Kids Day” in the States and I forgot about it? No, that can’t be. Field Day popped in my mind but I just can’t compare them. Field Day is organized, with food from the cafeteria and I can’t remember gifts. The thought of gifts reminded me of BINGO put on by the PTA. Did everyone get a gift or just the winners? Were there snacks? Did my parents have to buy my BINGO card or make a prize donation? So many questions but the one thing I know is that it was at night and not the teachers’ responsibility.

So, I did what any normal modern day age girl would do. I looked it up on the internet. Just kidding! I wrote a note on a post it (that my friends had to bring me from the states) to look it up once I took the bus to internet. So, with no internet I started asking around. Why on earth does this day exist? I found out that every school does it different, but some form of extra special food, no classes, and a gift are involved. I also got more specific reasons. I still plan to look it up online, but here is what I have so far:
- The teachers invented the day to give themselves another day where they don’t have to teach.
- Back when families didn’t celebrate Christmas with gifts and families were very poor it was the only method for children to receive a toy or gift.
- Communism

Now I know your thinking, Victoria, come on, there just kids, let them have their one day. But it’s not like that. They have plenty. There is “Kids Day” “Happy Day” when school is almost over, the before vacation party, and a formal graduation party. I think they are okay. Especially considering the amount of class time they receive and a continuation rate of less than 30% of sixth graders going to high school. Not to mention the school management group always being low on funds, I think they should maybe rethink this day.

Than I was talking to another volunteer friend and she yelled at me. Apparently I am the only one who does not like this day. I think this is just another reason why my town is different. She pointed out that a lot of kids do a lot of work with their parents in the house or fields and deserve a day. Another volunteer said well, why not? They need to know hey are special and have rights too. That is a very good point. Maybe if they turned half the day into educational things for kids on their rights and resources and the other half play time I would feel better about this. Possibly it is just because I was rubbed wrong when the kids asked for gifts and a mother told the teacher she needed to buy another cake. Now that I am at internet I will look into the historical reason to have this day and get back to you all. Maybe.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Would you like to help my school?

Hello friends and family and anyone reading this.

I am sorry your weather may be turning cold but this is great news for me. Why, because you may not need some of your old summer clothes. Also, you may be doing some in between season changing of closet. So….

If you have clothes that:

* You don’t want
* Don’t fit anymore
* Think are ugly
* Think are tacky
* Are really old
* Are from your children who are now 28
* You are moving
* You just want to downsize


* You want to help out a small poor school in a small town in Costa Rica

Please send your clothes to my post office box in Costa Rica.

Now I don’t want to take away from the needy of our states and I know there will be local coat drives for the winter. Also, to keep expenses down for you all I am not asking for your closet. If you could fill one small box, or more if you don’t mind the postage fee, with ANY TYPE of warm weather or rain clothing that would be great. Costa Ricans LOVE clothes from the states.

The school will be using the clothes to sell, very cheaply, and the money will then go to help buy much needed material for the school. Like tables, books, paper and art supplies. Very cheaply like a dollar or two so even the poorest family can buy them. They do clothing fundraisers about once a year and did them before I got here. It is part of their culture. With your help we can make it even better this year.

Please send your donation of any style of clothes to:
Victoria Leibman
Apartado 913-8OOO
Perez Zeledon, SanJose
San Isidro, 119O1
Postmarked by September 21st please.

Tank you bunches and tell everyone you know!
Victoria, the teachers at my school, and all 64 of my kiddies.