Monday, 24 March 2014

Feliz Navidad

So the first Christmas in my entire life away from my family & friends!! Oh god it did not feel like Christmas at all.. Palm trees, Sun and beaches... Ehhh??

Hogar Sol
Putting up Christmas trees and decorating Hogar Sol with fake snowman and reindeers was strange but drawing pictures for the kids to colour in of snow and stockings while I was sat in 30c heat was pure head blagging! Especially when kids asked me what was snow like? The atmosphere leading up to Christmas was really nice for the children going to the cinemas, parties and MacDonald's and the amount of families and schools that actually bring gifts and sweets for the children is so kind and thoughtful! On the 24th though was just like a normal day to the kids which was a little sad but being in the house everyday suppose its their routine. Trust me if I wasn't in a host family they would all of been coming with me home!!

My Host Family
My Costa Rican family was amazing because they involved us (Me & Salome) in everything from making the traditional food, Tamales, which to me looked like packages of drugs, to going on family trips were my host mum had grown up. It was nice as of course been a Latin family there was 100s of them which makes a big difference to home. Here they actually celebrate Christmas on the 24th December and then 25th is kind of like our boxing day so it was so strange for me to get my head round that 25th wasn't really a big deal here. It was nice though because I had time to Skype with all my friends and family at home and then stream Elf.. A must on Christmas day! It was very emotional that day, no pig in blankets and the fact that I was so far away from home it was upsetting but having such an amazing family here that feeling was short-lived. The fact that I didn't touch a drop of alcohol this year must of been a first for me because normally by 11 I've cracked open the Champers it was nice to wake up without a hangover.

Yo y Los Ninos

Well its been almost 5 months since I first stepped through the old rusty gates to my new place of work for the next 9 months and already its been a battle of mixed emotions. I have tackled a lot things that I thought that I was uncapable of for a start, being able to hold a baby properly and not like I was carrying a handbag (which is how for the first few days I did).

Los Guidos
Well I'm not going to lie from the first glimpse of the area and place we was going to be working for the next 10 months we had defo drawn the short straw! Hell yeah did they have a good website designer that knew how to Photoshop to perfection! We had been told not to speak English on the streets and wait inside the shop for the bus and be careful! Haha WTF?? Corrugated steel houses, rats, stray animals everywhere, people walking round with machetes in their belt.. oh yes the first day we shit ourselves! But of course every experience is how you make it right? 5 months on we have local bus drivers that actually sit and wait for me and Fran to come, locals that stand and talk to us in the street and a few of the strays that of course been the sucker I am, I save them some of my dinner. I know that the place we work isn't the best and you need to have your whit's about you but I wouldn't change any of it.

For all the people that know me well, you know just how rubbish I am when it comes to babies, throw me seven 5 year olds and I'm winning but one baby and I'm on the floor kicking and screaming. When we was told that for the majority of our time here in Costa Rica we (me & Francesca) would be responsible for making exercise and stimulation for the babies, I am not going to lie I was not happy! But I suppose when you can only say 'Hola!' in Spanish you cant really argue so I just gave it a shot.

The first day that we was officially left to our own devices haha I think we had a melt down screaming and running round after one toddler while the 3 others glared at us thinking who are these two Muppets?

After one week everything kind of become a routine, feed the babies their breakfast, clean yourself up and the baby that has a face full of banana and spit :) set up the obstacle course (as I like to call it) with crawling mats, and stuffed shapes. Let the children try to crawl or walk through it! Bounce the children on exercise balls and swings. Roll around and let them get as mucky as possible ha.. Show them objects, let them feel each one, dancing and massage.

The other children
Although it isn't our job to look after the rest of the children that are aged 3-10 years, the place is quiet a small house that in total houses 16 children all together and even though they come and go due to school and in house classes I have still managed to bond with them, Its very hard not to as they really are all amazing kids that have their own specialities. When you hear the stories of some of the children that I work with and just see how they can stand there with a smile on their face it is truly inspiring and heart braking all at the same time.

Up and Down
Haha the children's moods.. of course every child has good days and bad days but I tell you when there is 16 of them screaming, fighting and trying to annoy you that's when I miss England lol! We are very lucky because it doesn't seem to happen a lot and when it does we have taught the children about respect and discipline and oh yes.. the naughty corner!

What an amazing little girl.. When arriving on a morning tired and hot thinking I want my bed, then you spot this 6 month old angel that would give you the biggest smile and suddenly you are ready!! She was the only girl in the group of 4 babies that we had to look after and she was the cutest thing ever. Very smart in just 4 months we had her crawling, walking and clapping.Christmas time was so hard for me and Fran due to the fact she was leaving we had bonded with her everyday however the fact she was going home to her mum was amazing. When the car came to pick her up the tias let us give her one last hug and kiss before she left. Knowing that I would never see this girl again hurt me so much that I couldn't hold back the tears, tears of joy that finally she would have a normal life but tears of sadness knowing that she wasn't there to greet us on a morning with that amazing smile. When she left I remember me and Fran looking at each other and hugging and then all the kids came over hugging us and I just thought to myself SHIT!! How am I going to say goodbye in July?

Like a second Home
So far working with the children has been a roller-coaster but we have all been sat on that ride together as a team, the kids understand us we understand the kids. Its amazing how far we have come morning... feed the kids breakfast, help out getting them dressed, set out the equipment, chase the kids, teach the babies to walk & talk, help out with setting up the classrooms, feed the lunch, clean up, brush the teeth, bed for babies, play with the kids, teach one of them dancing (haha he loves my dance moves) help prepare the kids for school and lunch, read, finish art displays, look after all the kids, sing wonderwall to the kids!!!! It all comes so naturally now that it amazes me how rubbish I was with babies at the start. It amazing to see how far the kids themselves have come too Vincent is finally walking, Johan is running round repeating every word you say and Emilio has mastered walking and not running into things. I can actually say that I am so proud of my little mates I cannot wait for the months ahead to see how far they come.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Sun, Sea & Settling in...

Okay... I have been so busy that I completely forgot about updating this bad boy. As its been so long and I have a lot of things to write.

Puerto Viejo- The Caribbean Coast
Road trip!!! So seen as Penny had done nothing but nagged about going to the Caribbean carnival in Limon, even though all the Tico's, nickname for Costa Ricans- don't ask why, had informed us that this is a very rough carnival and there would be a lot of trouble, we decided to go. Hell we're from Yorkshire after all, it will only be like a sunny version of the Huddersfield Caribbean carnival.

Elsie the American short term volunteer decided that if we went she wasn't taking a bus, so we all chipped in and hired a car for the weekend. 7 us cramped into a tiny people carrier and began the 6 hour journey to Puerto Viejo, were we would be staying 45 minutes away from the carnival itself.
After blasting a bit of Oasis out for 40 minutes I was out for count.

When we drove through Limon we decided to have a sneak peak of the start of the carnival as I think only me and Penny was down for a bit of danger. Well after locking all the doors and putting my hood up so my blonde hair didn't highlight the fact we was tourists I still don't think any of us felt safe: Smashed glass on the floor, people off their faces, police stood in lines shouting and full blown fights in the streets, and the carnival wasn't officially starting until the morning. Ha-ha Penny soon changed her mind and decided we relaxed on the beach all weekend.

Walaba Hostel
One Word to describe this place... WOW!! The hostel itself was open air and had hammock's splashed all over it. The over grown plants and palm trees really set the scene. We had arrived in Paradise. We was all in the main part of the hostel however I wanted to be in the private rooms... They were only tree houses! The host was a yoga teacher from Holland so it was quite nice when he told us that everyone spoke English due to the amount of tourists they get every year. We was also informed by the locals that there was a private beach that not many tourists go to as to get to it you had to treck through the jungle. So all in bikinis and flip flops, why not? How hard can it be? Well of course I kept thinking out loud " Argh was that a snake? Did something move? I think this is a trap, we are going to get kidnapped" Ha-ha of course I was everyone's favourite person at that point. When finally hearing the funky beats of the Reggae music blasting from nowhere we knew we had arrived. It was like something from a movie that in words I couldn't describe how beautiful this place was.. White sand, clear turquoise sea, palm trees and plants scattered about all over, a bar placed in the middle of the beach serving the finest passion fruit margarita's. I never wanted to leave..

One of the locals had told us that night there would be a reggae that would be packed, so off we went to Johnny's Place, I actually felt like I was at a club in Huddersfield, all the girls grinding on guys, everyone high and enjoying the beats of the music. After about 4 hours it was crazy obviously they don't have capacity laws like they do in England it was so crowded that people had to stand down the street. At the end of the night we had been speaking to one of the local "badmans" and he seemed to have a soft spot for our Pennita... A good job really because we had to walk into the local town to get a taxi and I know that if he hadn't of come with us, we would of been stranded and robbed. Fun times.

Jaco.. Like a Posh version of Blackpool
So Jaco is the closed beach to the centre of San Jose were I am living & normally were most volunteers start off going to. Well now I know why... There is a lot of nightlife in Jaco and unlike the other places we had been at previous weekends you could tell that it was made for tourists, excursions, surf tournaments and a lot of drinking going on. When arriving on the beach we all looked at each other and laughed it was poor black sand and green coloured water, oh how we had been spoilt in the other beaches we had been to. We couldn't have everything and been English I was just happy that they were bars that stayed opened passed 4 in the morning.

Surf Tournament
Well it wasn't what I expected as it was basically like show and tell rather than a competition but the atmosphere was amazing, people dancing on the beach drinking and watching as the sun set. Bliss!
Orange pub, right next to our hostel at 10pm til midnight served free drinks to girls ha! ONIT Me and Laura ended up dancing on the tables and trying to take over the place. Winner!! When coming home we had found a cockroach, Malcolm I named him, and me and Francesca found him absolutely hilarious.. Too many vodkas!

Halloween- ACI party!!
Well what a let down... First of all no one noes how to party on Halloween like English people & second of all WTF!! Haha after 1 hour at the party I decided to learn some Spanish insults while Penny swanned off to the next bar, I told one of the locals I was off to find Penny, and they said that she had gone into a very unsafe bar and that I shouldn't go.. Well 10 men here matched in dressed as a playing card Joker and demanded the doorman released my friend. They pissed themselves and let me go find her, she was stood on a chair telling the tallest man id ever seen that he was very rude and needed to learn some manners haha! How on earth did they pick a pair like us to volunteer, I never know! So we decided to make the most of the night, necked a few shots and took to the dance floor... CHA CHA SLIDE!!! you what... I know this dance! Well let me tell you the Costa Rican cha cha slide is nothing like ours! I think that I stood on people toes, knocked one guy nearly on the floor and fell on the floor laughing! Okayy Penny lets try a bit of salsa, turned into a Joker & a Leopard doing a retarded version of dirty dancing and Waltz.. Was defo time to leave!! They did not look happy.

San Pedro...OMG!!
So me and Penny decided to go round San Pedro for the night, a nice town next to Guadalupe, where I live, took us until 10:30 to get ready as neither of us could be arsed, had a couple of vodkas and fled to the nightclub. On arrival you got a free drink and we decided to get a lot of tequila! We met some nice people and I danced a bit of salsa! After that everything's a blur... I tried to sleep in the bush, and was sick a lot.. NO MORE TEQUILA AND RUM FOR ME!!

Cerro Danta
So my brightest idea yet.. Lets go to the mountains on a nature reserve, it will be fun! Well to me a nature reserve is like tropical world in Leeds, I was thinking maybe a bit more exotic and some nice sun. Ha-ha how wrong I was... To get to the effing place you had to walk an hour up hill through mud, stones and log bridges.. Not to mention a slippery bridge that looked like it had just come out of "I'm a celebrity get me out of here" We all managed it and took pictures of the gorgeous views of the jungle. We had to take a stop as me and Francesca was desperate for toilet, luckily a lady with about 13 dogs that lived in a shed let us borrow her toilet, when going in she immediately rang someone and locked the door behind us.. Okay my instincts of been kidnapped immediately kicked in and I started ragging at the door.. it automatically locks itself.. PHEW!! When arriving to where we was starting our tour, 30 minutes late we had to rush to get round. Okay wipe off the sweat now time for the fun bit. Wrong again it starts wanging it down and the tour wasn't a tour it was basically just climbing through the jungle.. No safety paths nothing!! I think I managed to fall 6 times, fell in sinking mud loosing my shoe and having to get it pulled out for me, some of the time the hill was that steep you had a better chance to climb up the tree and jump! Everyone behind was screaming, everyone in front was screaming and me and Fran just couldn't stop laughing, I think that's why we fell so much! It was the hardest nature tour I've ever done, I didn't even have time to take photos. Wedging yourself between branches because there was a 15 cm path from you and a 20ft drop. What a feeling eh? At one point I decided that after falling on my bum down a 2 metre drop it was actually easier to fall then try and treck like the professional's. So of course me and Fran crawled, shuffled and jumped our way through the jungle stating 'if I sit on a snake Fran I hope it bites me so we can get out of here' Surely now the worst part was done had about 15 minutes left until we reached the end... A piece of rope going from one tree to another  half a mile down.. What's that for? Ill tell you what it was for... To cling on for your dear life.. hold on and jump!!! When coming to the end we was told there would be a beautiful waterfall which would make the hike worth while.. No waterfall!! Vinico then decided to tell us it was only a 5 minute treck from where we started... So Yes we risked falling from cliffs and getting eaten for nothing! I wanted to kill him. Off we go down the steepest drop I have ever climbed down in my life swinging on bamboo, holding each others hands and thinking thank god im not scared of heights. When arriving to the waterfall it was like a dream a private pool. it was worth the 6 hour death walk to get there. So when arriving back into San Jose me and Fran decided it was our first and last treck, we was covered from head to toe in mud, half asleep and sat on a bus, like been back at Leeds fest, but no Eminem to make it worth while!!

Friends along the Way..
Well so far volunteering in an organisation you meet so many different people from all over the world that I never thought I would become close to. I have a second family that have made my experience 100% more worth while. When I was first told I got the place in Costa Rica I didn't really know if I could to it on my own, I have always done everything with friends or family. I'm not going to lie I papped myself thinking that for 10 months I'd be a loner, that couldn't speak Spanish. When I met Penny and was told that she was the person I would be travelling with, I was so excited she was the type of lass I would bump into on a night out and have a 2 hour long convo in the toilets like I'd known her all my life. What a better match! When arriving I met so many different people that have shared these amazing places and memories with, some of who will be with me my whole time here and others that have already gone home or moved to different countries, it is so hard getting to no someone and then in the same breath saying bye! But I know that I have made friends for life and cannot wait for one big hell of a reunion!!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Goodbye England, Hola Costa Rica!

So this is my first ever blog... Be patient with me hopefully I will get better :)

Goodbye England, Hola Costa Rica:

Finally after months of confusion and waiting, the day had arrived, were me and Penny would pack our life into a tiny (23kg) suitcase to our new home for the next 10 months. Due to the changes and holdups we were pretty much arriving with a lucky dip to our accommodation, project and lifestyle.

Due to this I was just happy with the fact I had Penny to hold my hand all the way there lol. Saying goodbye to the family was so hard and emotional as it was, but leaving my pets was 20x harder.

So boarding passes at the ready.... Deep breath... Here we go!!

The flight from London to Miami was probably the hardest as the first flight delayed and made us have to run like mad, panicking as the gate was just about to close.

10 hours on a flight with Penny stressing about the turbulence.. Argghhhh headphone in!!
A couple of beers later she was loving the bouncing plane lol. To me the flight didn't take that long as I think I slept most of the way and having 2 seats to myself was so comfy. However our bad luck didn't seem to fail us and after a emotional journey it slapped us straight back in the face. When we arrived to pick up our luggage up and declare it at customs, it was no where to be seen!! Penny stood there so peacefully hoping that 2 very distinctive English suitcases would just happen to come passed as I ran around the caracole frantically thinking that I would never see my GHD's again. Luckily for us there was 7 people off our flight that had the same issue so the baggage control manager cared a bit more and advised us to get on our next flight and ask at the San Jose airport if they still did not show.

Due to the stress and the fact that I had advised Penny earlier that morning that 40% of baggage that is lost on a flight never gets found, the final flight was silent, for us anyway. When stepping off the third and final plane the humidity hit us, all I kept thinking was thank god I didn't pack a mirror in my hand luggage lol. The luggage still wasn't with us although the receptionist for American Airlines had told us that the luggage was not lost, it was just left in London and smiled! WHAT?? 2 days without any clothes! Shoot me now.

When we had had our passports checked 60 billion times we now had to find a man of some description that would have our names wrote on a board, I felt a bit like I was in a movie to be honest. Antoine, a fellow volunteer from France, who has been living in Costa Rica for 6 months started asking us allsorts of questions about our flight and what we would be doing for the next couple of days, I honestly think his first impression was that I was been rude as my brain didn't even function to answer him. When we exited the airport a family was stood waiting for Penny and I was told to follow Antoine to a taxi, I think this for us was the worst part as we had been informed that we would live together in a flat.

I think it was around 11pm (6am in England) when I finally arrived to my new home and my nervous started kicking in as I opened the front door. There stood my host mother, Flory a wonderful Costa Rican lady and gave me a huge hug and spoke to me in Spanish and broken  English. Also there was another volunteer that had been living in her house for the passed 6 weeks and would be here with me for the next 10 months, Salome, a lovely Swiss girl that automatically put me at ease. After that everything is a blarrr as I got to my bedroom and passed out Zzzzzz!

The Morning After the Night Before:

So... No time for jetlag to kick in, a tour of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica in which I would spend the next 10 months living and working in. My first thought was of San Jose was that it would be full of wild animals, bugs and lots of trees, how you would picture a typical city in a rainforest. I was shocked when it was just like a smaller, run down version of Leeds, and a few gorgeous palm trees stuck here and there. A trip to the ACI (a non profit organisation) office to meet and greet all the lovely staff that will be guiding us during our stay. A few hours later, head filled with so much information on health, safety, places, classes & projects. I was ready for bed. The next week as pretty much the same as the first, meeting and Spanish classes at the office and trips in and out of the centre on my own getting used to the public transport system.

A Cocktail of Emotions:

So its been 2 weeks since me and Penny arrived in Costa Rica and although she lives 2 hours away from me we have managed to keep in touch and help each other through homesickness. All the volunteers we have met along the way that have been here 6 weeks have said the first 2 weeks are the hardest, due to culture shock, missing families, learning the language and trying to settle in the new life as a Tica. (Not so easy for me with pale complexion, blonde hair and blue eyes) My host family are amazing and have treat me like a part of the family, which has been a big help. I am finally getting used to the uneven pavements and after tripping and falling about 8 times I take a lot more precautions when I walk. The early mornings and early nights are becoming the normal to me, due to the robberies at night, you take a taxi home after dark! Me and my skin still aren't liking the humidity but hopefully that will come in time. The weekends have so far been jam packed and I have seen Costa Rica for the beauty it really is outside of the capital. Amazing beaches, gorgeous views, giant animals, friendly people and not to mention the best cocktails I have ever tasted.

Today was my first day at my project with a lovely Italian volunteer Francesca at a children's shelter named Holgar Sol. It is in quite a deprived area of the central valley and when arriving I was quite sad at the massive difference in which I felt I was entering a completely different country. When arriving the kids were immediately happy to make some new friends and cuddled grabbed and asked so many questions. We was shown around and told that we would be looking after the babies first. I have never been one to be the best with anything from 3 and under however I am looking forward to learning, helping, improving and to help put a smile on children's faces.

Watch this space..

Hasta Luego xx