Shacks and a Mall

Monday, March 01, 2010
San Pedro, Costa Rica
This morning was our day of orientation and the first in our volunteer placement. We had breakfast at 7 am and then walked to Maximo Nivel, our headquarters when we are here. We went over some things, filled out paperwork and went on a walking tour. Some of us went to a "soda" (cafe) for lunch. I order a casado with chicken, and it was actually very good! Casados are very popular in Costa Rica.

After lunch, Ananth and I got a ride to our volunteer project, "Los Ninos de la Casa ."  The best way to describe it is that it's an after-school community center. Accept, it's unlike any community center I've ever seen. The center itself is clean and in nice shape. But the houses around the center are literally "shacks" and huts. The crazy thing about this is that right next to these shacks is a HUGE mall. HUGE. There's a fence in the mall parking lot, and below the fence is where the housing starts. I mean....really?!? Of all places to build, why there? And from what I understand, the local businesses don't provide much support for the center.

The kids come to this center after school. We helped serve food and "frescas" (drinks). For some of these kids, it's the only food they get. Some of the older kids take care of their younger siblings. I tried talking to some of them. Asked them their names, how old they were, asked them to guess my age, asked them if they liked school, etc. Then we went outside to play. Many of the kids took off and went home. Others just wanted our attention, or piggy-back rides, or race with us .

After some of that, I went back in the center and colored with some of them.   I never thought my lovely skill of making "bubble" letters would come in handy some day. The cool thing about this is that the kids help me with my Spanish, and I help them with English. We practiced our colors. I'd hold up a blue crayon and say "azul. En Ingles?" and they would have to say the English word.

It was a great experience, and I'm excited to go back tomorrow afternoon. I must wear tennies, as my Clark sandals didn't help on the stony and rocky roads in the school area. I also will not wear my best clothes, as a little girl spilled some "fresca" on my white shirt. They're kids, will happen.

After dinner with the group at the house, some of us went out for some drinks. I had a delicious strawberry daiquiri and a shot of guaro (local "moonshine"). I must admit it was pretty nasty!

Now I'm tired, but looking forward to tomorrow.

More tomorrow...Hasta luego!
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