Trip Start Aug 08, 2008
Trip End Oct 12, 2008

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Monday, September 1, 2008

I didn't get much of a chance to write about our accommodations yesterday afternoon, and while it might be better to postpone this entry until after orientation this morning, I had an hour to kill and was worried that after the staff got here, I wouldn't.

As it happens, all the other volunteers in the program at this time are women, ranging in age from 19-58, although most of us are in our twenties. Additionally, we're all starting together, which is nice; I've heard from one of the veteran CCS volunteers that you tend to bond most with the group with which you start. (There will be one other group starting before I leave.) We are in three rooms with two, four, and four in each, and they grouped us by length of stay, so I'm in the biggest room (with the biggest bathroom and closet) with a 4-weeker, a 6-weeker, and a 10-weeker (I'm a 5-weeker.) In my room, there are six bunk beds, so only one of the girls had to have a top bunk, and we all have lockers and individual lamps on our beds. The walk-in closet is inside the bathroom, which is actually pretty convenient. My only complaint thus far is the showers.

See, this is why I was too chicken to join the Peace Corps. One frigid shower on a temperate night and I have to whine about it on my blog. Waaaaaah! It was so cooooooooold!!! There were instructions for getting hot water, which I followed to the letter, but it didn't work. At breakfast this morning, some of the girls from the other rooms shared their tricks for getting warm, though not hot water (one girl managed to steam up her mirror, so that's hot enough for me) but it sounds like they were doing exactly what I did, and since none of the others in my room managed to pull it off, there may just be something wrong with our shower. With any luck, we'll get it fixed soon. Or I'll toughen up and stop being such a wuss, but where's the fun in that?

My Spanish skills have deteriorated embarrassingly. My ability to recall the past tense of verbs is hit-or-miss, and yesterday I forgot entirely the verb for "to teach" (it's "ensenar," for the record, with a tilde over the "n.") At least I remembered the word for "teacher" ("maestra") but it's humiliating to be telling someone you studied Spanish for six years and would like to teach English and then forget the frackin' word for teaching! Still, I think I'm probably one of the better Spanish-speakers in the program, and the house staff has been very forgiving. I just hope the kids at my placement don't think I'm an idiot.

We played Jenga with one of the night guards last night. He and one of the cooks were the only staff on duty when we arrived, but they both made a real effort to make us feel welcome. I exchanged blog addresses with two of the other volunteers, so we were sitting in the common room together reading each others' accounts of the day. It was kind of like that scene in the movie Clueless when Alicia Silverstone's character and whatsherface run into each other and walk a few paces together while still talking to each other on their cell phones. I thought it was funny, but then, I am immature like that.

The food has been good, too. Last night there was guacamole, salsa, chips, and rice with chicken and vegetables (and rice with just vegetables for the vegetarians), and this morning there were pancakes and fruit. I decided several weeks ago to take a hiatus from the vegan diet while I was here. For one thing, the factory farms that are the basis of my objection to eating animal products don't seem be the norm here. For another, since there are vegetarians but no other vegans in the program, I would be creating a whole new category of dietary restrictions for the cooks to worry about. Besides being an inconvenience for them, it would also be more wasteful than if I just ate what everyone else is eating, and environmental issues are half my reasons for going veg in the first place. I took only a small portion of the chicken and rice to test my stomach. While I can't say I particularly liked the taste or texture (though I've never much liked chicken anyway; I've always preferred beef) at least it didn't make me sick. I just hope it isn't too hard to go back. 

I asked Marta, the cook, what the word in Spanish was for pancakes. "Es igual," she replied, "pancakes." That got me thinking about the word "igual." It's obviously related to the English word "equal," but in Spanish, it's used more commonly to mean "the same." American bigots are fond of the "separate but equal" distinction, whether it's for black drinking fountains or gay civil unions. I wonder if that's one of those concepts that's difficult to translate, if the words for "equal" and "same" are the same.

I'm wearing the Crocs today, and one of the girls noticed and complimented me on them. That got all ten of us started on a discussion of weighing their practicality against their sheer ugliness. Looks like I have many kindred spirits here.
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