Friday, December 24, 2010

Arte y Aroma de Cafe

'Tis the season to pick coffee!
Coffee plant, with ripe red beans
The coffee bean in all is glorious stages
This blog post finds me back in California, while in my other home, San Cristobal Norte, the coffee season is in full gear. November and December were wonderful, if not jam packed with finishing up projects for 2010 and celebrating the holidays. 

This blog post will be short, as I know this time of year is filled with fiestas, family and food- but I wanted to post some photos of the coffee jewelry from Lies, the owner of Arte y Aroma de Cafe. 
Lies and her daughter Diana at a local craft fair

I have brought home a selection of the jewelry so please contact me if you are interested in purchasing this beautiful, aromatic jewelry! Or if you just have suggestions for improvement. 

 Makes for a great last minute gift- Happy Holidays to all!

Coffee Bean Wrap Around Bracelet- $7.00 

Semillas and Coffee Bean Wrap Around Bracelet  (detail)

Semillas Wrap Around Bracelet- $7.00

Coffee Bean Flowers Bracelet, with clasp- $7.00
Flower Bracelet (detail)

Coffee Bean Hemp Bracelet- $6.00

Coffee Bean Hoop Earrings- $7.00 

Semillas de San Pedro and Coffee Bean Necklace- $9.00

Variety of Bracelets 

Necklaces and Hemp Bracelets at craft fair

ISV Volunteers in San Cristobal Norte purchasing from Arte y Aroma de Cafe

Friday, November 5, 2010

Halloween Pan de Ayote

It is raining, and it has been raining non stop for five days. Part of our road was blocked in by a mudslide and yesterday we were trapped from both entrances to the community, without electricity or telephones. Nothing better than baking when its raining. Last night was oatmeal cookies- today I am making whole-wheat pizza! Recipe will be in the next blog post.

Nuestra Nacion, Eating oatmeal cookies and working on a "sopa de palabras" about business organization

Although the rain has stopped a few plans, the last few weeks have been wonderful. I have started a Junior Achievment program called Nuestra Nacion, where I am working with 5th and 6th graders to learn the basics to business organization and their options for employment. It is really fun working with kids, and thinking of posible activites-visiting a local business, starting a garden, movie days etc. I have the support of two really great women, Sidey and Mayela, from SACRIN, my counter-part and our local bank. We watched Ice Age 2 two Saturdays ago, and I will be leading a workshop the first week of December  so that everyone can take the course during school.
Presenting at the Asamblea of Sacrin
Last Satuday was our Asamblea at Sacrin, where financial results were discussed, the youth group was invited (from the Friday and Saturday youth Program with MAG and FAO) and I was given a space to talk about what I have been up to and what I plan to do in the next year. I put together a nice power point filled with pictures of the community members and tried to rally particpants for my excercise class (Wednesday was an all time low, 2 students! But I will blame this on the crazy rains).
Lies and her coffee jewelry!
 Sunday was a cultural event, organized by the Minestary of Culture to celebrate a local artisan. Lies, who I have been helping with her coffee jewelry, set up a stand and I have noticed quite a few people wearing coffee bean earrings and necklaces! Sunday was also Halloween- so although my town discouraged an organzied event, I got together with the girls from my soccer team under the excuse of just a little fiesta. Three sisters ended up making Halloween decorations, including a broom and witches hat, plus my pumkin bread and it really was Halloween! Also I had a wonderful visit from Micahela, a Peace Corps Trainee who helped with the festivities.
Micahela and me- Las Brujas

The team! Scary faces...

Dancing with the team at the Halloween party...
 Pan de Ayote (or PUMPKIN bread!)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour 
1 cup Ayote (or Pumpkin)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 1/4 sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all the ingredients together using a hand mixer. Place batter in pan and cook until golden brown on top (it took about 25 minutes in our oven, which doesnt have different temperatures and using a 9 inch round pan). Happy Halloween!!!

Before I head off to make the pizza, my host mom, Mayela Romero, is opening a tienda or clothing store in the house. She was fortunate enough to get a loan from Kiva Her page is not up yet but I will let you know when it is so you could possibly fund her loan. Although I am a bit nervous about what this means for my room- the shop is being built right outside- it has been exciting talking through her business plan, outlining her objectives and listening to her fears (not to mention seeing all the clothes!)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rapids and Rapido French Toast

El rio that ate my shoe.
A fellow Peace Corps Volunteer sent along an excerpt from a book titled "Callings" by Gregg Levoy. I read the three pages over breakfast and realized the importance of viewing my Peace Corps experience as a fluid one- there will be moments of distress, pain, failure etc. but the important thing is to remember that when each fourth step is a fall, I know why I am here, and get back up again.
Chile Dulce! Ready to plant in the next few days...
So, after watering my Chile Dulce, I set out on an adventure to climb la piedra mona. My first challenge came with the river corssing, where recent rains had amde the once easy to cross river...not so easy to cross. But I was feeling like this was my calling for the day, to be more adventurous, so I removed both shoes, and decided to chuck them to the other side of the river. My right shoe fell on the opposide shore, and rolled until it was half-way in the water, lodged between a rock and the "rapids". I laughed but proceed to throw my left shoe saftely across. Then I realized my shoe might be completly pushed away. Looking at the jump I had to make a second too long, I fell to the other side just as my right shoe got whisked down the river. Laughing and calling out to my shoe (yes, I was taking to my shoe), I tried to trample down river to save it. Alas, the vegetation was too overgrown and my shoe way too fast for me to save it. My first jump across the river and I loose a shoe- but instead of getting upset I relaxed (barefoot) and made it home with just one shoe.
Made it home with just one shoe!
Shoes aside, and on the positive side of things, My Tarbaca host family (who I lived with the first three months) came to visit over the weekend. Along with my current host family, we went trout fishing at the local trout farm and played some soccer. The Tarbaca family has a new Community Economic Development Volunteer, which is exciting to meet the next PC generation.
The Tarbaca kids getting goofy in San Cristobal Norte.
In other news, the youth group (Ventanilla Unica) has elected a junta or board, and are becoming more serious about taking leadership in the community. We are now in the second half of the course and each participant has to develop their own business idea. I have really been enjoying this section, as the youth often stop by or call for my help on their ideas. One student is working on a Security Guard business- he came up with some very convincing reasons why his business was important for himself, his family, the community and the country. He was also surprised to realize how large his possible market could be, and how low his overhead costs are (his father is already trained and with 30 years of experience under his belt). Lisbeth, another participant, is putting together her artisan goods and thinking aboutnew ways to market them to more tourists, exploring the possibility of an environmental spin and opening a small shop. Friday each student has to give a three minute pitch accompained by a poster board that I am really looking forward to.

In English class news, Tuesday was fashion focused, so I dressed up in one of my primas quincinera dresses to help spark interest. We ended up debated youth wearing piercings- the opinions were evenly split between the students.

Excercise class numbers are back up! Thanks to the break in the rain- if anyone has any old aerobics/excercise DVDs they would be much appreciated to add variety to the routine.

Lastly, I made some Rapido French Toast con Amor:

4 eggs
3/4 cup milk
Vanilla to your liking
Pinch of salt
Teaspoon of sugar
Bread of choice (my host uncle is now making whole wheat bread!!!)

Mix all the ingredients together with lots of amor, then add the bread to soak. Super soaked bread tastes better.

Serve with Guayaba jam.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mas Que-Que

Mujeres de San Cristobal Norte for the Independence Day Game

For Independence Day our soccer team was invited to play at the school as one of the community activities. We played 5 v 5 until a storm had everyone slipping and the Director called it off. Despite the rain it was a big success- our next soccer practice had over 20 women on the run-down synthetic field.

September 15 is celebrated in a variety of ways. San Cristobal Norte had a parade, a bingo and various games to mark the 189 years of Independence. Since Independence Day the celebrations have continued as Saturday marked my 24th Birthday, and quite possibly one of my best birthdays of all time. This is probably because my birthday included not one, not two but three birthday cakes. And perhaps a fourth at the end of this week…

Doña Blanca, Roxana and Birthday cake #1

I returned from spending the morning with my training host family, and passing by the Ferria of Asseri where I could once be found selling eggs, to party hop. The first birthday party was roasting marshmallows, cake, a beautiful sign and lots of chips and beans and rice…I was rushed from party #1 to party #2 where a group of our group of jovenes serenaded me and my "cousin" Karen. We had a bar-b-que (my host mom bar-b-qued pineapple, bell peppers and onion for me while everyone else enjoyed a recently killed pig), danced and ate MORE cake.

Birthday girls with the band at party #2.

Sunday was the election of the ADI or development association's board of directors. I was excited because 52 of the youth from the youth group I have been working with participated, and three were elected to the new junta. I got a chance to read results, count votes and give a quick pitch of the document I have put together with profiles of all the different community groups etc.

And Monday brought birthday cake #3 at SACRIN, the ECC that makes small loans to the community members (and where I spend most of my time).

Doña Mayela, Emilice and Birthday cake #3

The exercise group continues, although rain has the numbers down. But this week we had one free-style song where the group taught me a dance. I have also continued teaching Yoga to the senior citizens, and Friday they invited me along to a competition against 11 other adultos mayores groups for "the queen" of the senior citizens- Doña Blanca who threw me Birthday party #1 was the reina.

A few weeks ago I ran the Tamarindo half-marathon with some other Peace Corps Volunteers, and my host dad claims he caught me on the news waving… This coming week we have AVC, or All Volunteer Conference, where we will get the chance to meet all the volunteers in country, share stories and learn new things.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Things are good. Things are home-made hummus, fresh grown beets, hydroponic lettuce and home grown tomatoes good. And with whole wheat bread good. Better yet is sharing hummus with my tico family who has never before tried hummus. Let alone eaten carrots raw...My host mother is converted and wants to take the dip around town, having everyone try and guess the ingredients.

Plus in three months we will have chile dulce (bell peppers) to eat with the hummus, which I planted today along with onions. As my host dad says, "De semilla a plato" or "from seed to plate".HUMMUS

2 cups garbanzo beans
4 cloves garlic
lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup Tahini (a tough find in Costa Rica, but picked some up in the capital)
Salt to taste

Mix it all together in a blender, adding water to get the correct consitency. Go easy on the lemon as it can easily overpower the other flavors. Share and enjoy!

As this is my first update in awhile I will just give the highlights-

On Sunday August 1,2010 I walked more than 26 km from San Cristobal Norte to the Virgen de Los Angeles, Cartago. La Romeria is a pilgramige to La Basilica, that around 2,500,000 people from all over Costa Rica participate in. The final portion of the pilgramage is entering the church on your knees or rodillas to pay tribute to La Negrita. I walked with my host brother Juan Carlos, and we met up along the way with our extended family (we left last so we could run part of the way, and catch up with the others).

I have been working with Lies, a widow and mother of three children with her coffee jewelry business, Arte y Aroma de Cafe. We had our first success story as another group of 10 International Student Volunteers visited San Cristobal Norte to work on a road. She not only sold many pieces of her jewelry to volunteers from Scotland, England and the United States, but she also taught the volunteers how to make the jewerly. She admited that her confidence is building and she is excited to try and sell her goods to local tourist shops. We have been working on developing the product, basic accounting and marketing.
So along with working with the ISV volunteers, starting up English classes, starting a committee to build a gym and making delicious meals...I have started a garden! You will get to witness the growth over the months, and finally get a taste of a recipe but below is the first photo of my onions! YUM!

Monday, July 26, 2010


Mama Mayela, Daisy, Papa Edwin, Hermano Juan Carlos

I woke up this morning to the bright sol highlighting the piedra mona, or monkey rock, that sits high above San Cristobal Norte. Even now with the afternoon clouds spreading over the surrounding mountains I can still catch a glimpse of the piedra mona. As my current interviews show el paisaje or scenery is one of the draws of our pueblo, and makes me proud to call it home for the next two years.

The biggest change in the last couple of weeks has been the view from my bedroom window, I have moved from my first host family to a home in front of the plaza or soccer field. For reasons that I have woven into a concise story- the tranquilidad and paz that come with my new home and the opportunity to still visit my old host mom Dona Hilda- I am now living with Mayela, Edwin and Juan Carlos. A change that extends far beyond the beautiful vista and moments of peace- In my new home there is constant laughter, learning and a desire to work together to accomplish something special for the town. Not to mention I have a soccer and running buddy, and we often spend nights playing Bananagrams or discussing community issues.

I am currently prepping for my third exercise class, listening to the techno beats my friends so graciously lent me (they complained that they didn't agree with my American taste for hip hop- although I am saying goodbye to Kanye and Wale, I am keeping the Bob Marley) and imagining the crazy step moves I will be showcasing in a few hours. I have created the newest craze- YoPiZumBo- a combination of Yoga, Pilates, Zumba and Boxing. So far the class has been about 50 something women and the few brave boys (four nine year olds) working up a sweat in the salon communal.

I have also been leading "Las Estrellas" the Adultos Mayores group in yoga- so far we have worked up to 15 minutes of stretching and relaxation, and ended with them teaching me songs about the 1948 civil war and Jose Figueres Ferrer or "Pepe".

"Las Estrellas" dancing at el rancho

When I am not prepping for YoPiZumBo I am slowly working through interviewing local groups and organizations, and questioning town members about their views of the strengths and weaknesses of San Cristobal. All of this work will hopefully reveal what is most important to the town. As of now the surveys are displaying a need for more diversion for the youth, with the idea of a local gym and more sports activities.

Early morning cow milking with Mama Mayela y mi nuevo vecino, Cholo

The local womens soccer team has started up again (we are now moving into our fourth week of practice, with talks of a first game in two weeks) and we finally found a coach. The town is split between finding female soccer incredibly funny and supporting it 100%. Mayela, my host mom, found old photos from when she played, and 14 old uniforms have been uncovered (still intact but VERY moldy). The talent on the team ranges, but one woman is already talking about getting us a game at the famous Saprissa stadium- hopefully more than 6 women will show up at our next practice to make that dream a reality.

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of hosting Daisy, my first visitor from the states. It was amazing how seamlessly she fit into the community, tagging along on house visits, the youth course, and our local cultural festival. We also snuck away for a few days to enjoy the beach and sun in Guanacaste (Playa Tamarindo). A quick recipe to end this blog is one of my favorite refuels post soccer/running - Batido de Papaya- which Mayela makes with 1 cup milk, a healthy serving of papaya, ice cubes and sugar to taste. Blend it up and it should come the orange/pink shade of the beautiful sunset below!

Sunset Playa Tamarindo

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Doña Hilda´s Tamal Asado

At four on a chilly morning in San Cristobal Norte, Costa Rica, Doña Hilda and Don Geraldo woke up to feed wood into the mouth of our large outdoor oven. Barefooted I stepped out to observe, but was quickly sent back into my room to put shoes on, as walking barefoot in our house is next to streaking. With shoes on I was permitted to help heat the oven for the morning´s batch of Biscocho and Empanadas de Chivere. My host family would be recieving 30 volunteers from a church in Missourri, the start of their participation in rural tourism.

Along with the Biscocho (recipe to come in a future post) and Empanadas, my host mom prepared tortillas, cheese and Tamal Asado. Now put corn´s bad reputation aside, and you have one of my favorite coffee treats. I don´t have anything to compare it to, you will have to just make the correct conversions (find a wood burning oven) and try the Tamal Asado for yourself...ingredient for this post is CORN FLOUR. My host mom uses corn flour in many of her dishes and I would love to share a new recipe with her if anyone has any recipe´s using corn flour. Granted she makes the corn flour herself, but recipes using store bought corn flour are equally welcome.

Doña Hilda´s Tamal Asado

1 kilo corn flour (my host mom actually makes this from scratch...let me know if you want the recipe!)
1/2 kilo queso casero (fresh cheese from the cow´s milk)
2 cups natilla (also made fresh from the cow´s milk, similar to sour cream)
1 stick butter
4 liters milk
1 kilo sugar
1/2 kilo corn starch
1 spoonful salt

Mix the corn flour, cheese, natilla, butter, milk, sugar, cornstarch and salt in a large cooking pot over high heat. Stir constantly until boiling. Continue stiring until the mixture becomes difficult to churn.

Place platano leaves or wax paper on the bottom of two baking sheets. Pour the mixture into prepared pans. Next place the pans above the wood burning stove for about an hour. They can also be cooked inside a regular oven at low heat, until a crust is formed.

Let chill for an hour before enjoying. Tamal Asado is great served with a cup of Costa Rican café.

Now hopefully you have a fresh slice of Tamal Asado or at least a cup of coffee to enjoy as I update you on the locura of the last few weeks.

First and foremost on Friday May 21st, 2010, at Ambassador Anne Andrew´s house in San Jose, Costa Rica, 53 new Peace Corps Volunteers were sworn in, myself included. Check out the U.S. Embassy´s homepage for a little blurb about the morning Like all PC events, the morning passed quickly, but I couldn´t stop smiling as I looked over and saw my Tarbaca host-family all dressed up, my fellow volunteers, and the PC leaders, thinking this is it- very soon we will be dispersed to our sites, begining the work we´ve been talking about for the last three months.

The Sunday following swearing in Marta and Marvin (host parents from my training community Tarbaca) drove me to my new site, San Cristobal Norte. At first I was dissapointed that I was placed so close to San Jose and the training communities (we often talk about the other group, RCD´s training communities in our community development meeting and their pueblos participated in our fiesta de boyeros), but after more than two weeks here, I couldn´t be happier with my site or my location.

Fun and games with the training crew of Tarbaca. Elena, Carlitos, Davy y Don Geraldo.

Monday, my first day in my new home, started with a group of volunteers from Canada, who were working on a project with the municipality and community, building a road. Blake, the PC-volunteer before me, had set up for University aged volunteers to come work in San Cristobal Norte through ISV. Although it is nice having English speakers in the community I find myself talking to their families and the leaders instead. The first group has come and gone (I translated over 18 tear-filled goodbyes at their going away party) and the new group is here working on the road and a water tank. Following the road building, I headed to the weekly community bank meeting at SACRIN.

I am constantly impressed with my counterpart, SACRIN. In my second Monday meeting with the bank, we pulled up profiles of local community members on Kiva. Laura Sefura Brenes, has a fabrica attached to her house where she and her husband (and a team of about 6 women) make clothes. The meetings are long, often lasting from 4 until 8.30 pm, but we always break for tea and treats and chat about the local community events. Although I am still learning the vocabulary, I was quickly thrown into translating for the new volunteer group (University students from the US and India). It was challenging translating words into English that I had only just begun to understand in Spanish, but both parties (the board members of the bank and the volunteers) were satisfied, and I promised the bank after two years I would be an experta.

Although we are discouraged from starting any projects during the first three months, I have already had multiple community members approach me about their dreams of developing rural tourism. And as I mentioned at the start of the post, this sueño is already being realized by my host famliy. We spent last week preparing the food, and I translated two recipes into English to hand out to the church group that was passing through. Another group is coming this Friday and the following Friday, and my host mom earned enough to purchase a new microwave. She dreams of one day opening a place to stay, and teaching cooking classes to visitors (her dream includes attending my future English classes to speak to tourists).

Between the Bank, the volunteers, and the church group, I still have plenty of time for the required cafecitos... I´ve been running (or walking with one of my two walking buddies, one that walks uphill 2 km and one that walks down hill 3 km then uphill)- and it is on these runs and walks that I get the majority of my invitations. One invitation for lunch included delicious ceviche and a tour of the family´s gas producing system from pig excrements (more to come on this in a future post). It is always my informal chats with women of SCN that leave me the most contenta, from the toothless Doña Flor, who I sometimes dance with to the morning reggaton, to Juliette, a 16 year old who shares her dreams of University and supporting her parents.

Speaking of the youth in the community, another very exciting project is an 8 month course for jovenes that started two weeks ago. The profesor of the course comes in from Heredia for the night (and stays at our house) and teaches two courses, one from 5-9 on Friday and another from 9-12 on Saturday. The idea is that I am the permanent contact for the youth, and am really looking forward to getting to know them (right now we have over 75 jovenes between the two courses). The course is put on by two organizations, MAG and FAO and the curriculum focuses on empowering the youth to start their own businesses or continue school, ending with a variety of scholorships and funds for the youth that complete the course. The profesor is both dynamic and intelligent and I am excited to learn from his classroom management skills and see how my role in the course develops.

Lastly a little update on Church. Two Saturday´s ago I was presented to the congregation. I stood in front of about 200 community members while they clapped and the Padre declared that although I appeared very machita (blond) I could actually speak Spanish better than some of them (a joke, but one I appreciated).

Last weekend was the desfila, or parade of boyeros, bingo and a trampoline. I didn´t win anything in Bingo, but took away an invitation to a 70th wedding anniversary, a despedia party and a wedding.
Boyero, his yunta de bueys and his yunta de hijos.

Almost forgot that I have started informal English classes with the intermediate students that had classes with Blake. This Wednesday we will be practicing with the volunteers in town...

As my host mom would say, it has been nothing but carreras since I´ve arrived- but it´s nothing that a cup of coffee with milk fresh from one of our 10 cows (we keep purchasing cows) won´t fix. And yes, I have been perfecting my milking technique-
Juan Carlos and his ternero. Best part of the parade was sprinting 2 km downhill in the rain with Juan Carlos and Jose. I took 2nd place!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Anís and Ananías

Empanadas de Chiverre:

Anís and Ananías

In true tica fashion I am delivering this recipe for Empanadas de Chiverre late, late, late (my scribbled notes on how to make it are from April 1, 2010). I must admit that the only reason this is even being posted is a sore throat/head cold has my whole host family and me at home (last night was spent with five of us in bed coughing and watching Harry Potter IV).

My host-abuela makes amazing bread and pastries, including an empanada filled with miel de chiverre, a molasses/dulce sweetened and slow cooked fruit, similar to spaghetti squash. The ingredient for this post is the spice

Anís or Anise

, used in the dough. I am rather new to using anise, so please respond with any other ways you've included it in your cooking (or just any response will do)!

Empanadas de Chiverre

The measurements on this are estimates- it was more of a guess and check until the dough looked like dough

Chiverre or spaghetti squash

2 cups molasses (dulce)

2 cups flour (would love to try substituting with whole wheat flour…)

6 spoon fulls of sugar

1 stick of butter

1/2 cup Milk

2 Eggs

Pinch of Anise

Pinch of salt

For the miel de chiverre, cut and seed the chiverre. Cook the chiverre along with the molasses in a soup pot for about two hours. Directions are limited as my host-abuela always has the miel de chiverre on hand, and I get the feeling she's keeping the recipe a bit of un secreto. However, many websites give a simple recipe.

To make the dough: mix the flour, sugar and butter and mold it into the shape of a volcán and pour the eggs and milk into the hole. Mix with your hands until all dry ingredients are incorporated, adding more milk as necessary. Toss in the anise and salt, and continue kneading the dough.

When the dough is ready, separate into fist-size balls and flatten into pancakes. The miel de chiverre will go inside, and you can close the empanadas by pinching the outsides of the dough into half-moons. Here comes the tricky part: in the wood oven it took about 15 minutes for the empanadas to be finished, which should be about 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Now that something yummy is in the oven...

A major draw-back of being so delayed in my posts is that all the excitement and anticipation of the last weeks/months is lost. Two weeks ago we found out our site placements, drum roll please, I will be living in San Cristóbal Norte, a beautiful, hard-working mountain pueblo of 300 families in the central valley of Costa Rica.

Even though all the volunteer sites sound pura vida, I couldn’t imagine a better home for the next two years. I will be filling the spot of a previous Peace Corps volunteer, Blake, who also happened to live in my same training community, Tarbaca, two years ago. To stick with the theme of the blog I've composed a recipe for my new home:

San Cristóbal Norte

1 Ananías (the name of my counterpart, or main support, also the community bank president- not to be confused with anís previously used to cook empanadas de chiverre)

2 cups cold mountain air

2 short/easy bus rides from San Jose, Costa Rica (perfect for visitors!)

A whole bunch of coffee and chive farmers

1 beautiful, yellow catholic church in the center of town

2 Rural tourism organizations, bringing University volunteers from Australia, Canada and USA (I will begin helping them build a road and later a water tank as soon as I move to my site)

19 Intermediate-level English students, eager to continue classes

1 trout “sport” fishing farm- (another ingredient to pull blog readers to visit)

Mix the above ingredients with youth enthusiastic about young-business programs, library books waiting to be cataloged and a library waiting to be completed- two full Harry Potter sets in Spanish, but please contact me if you have any more Spanish/English books to add!, and arguably one of the strongest micro-banks in Costa Rica (retreats for other banks are often held in my town). Add general coaching for local micro-entrepreneurs, a potential girls soccer team and the most caring, considerate community and San Cristobal Norte is almost complete. Sprinkle the proximity to my current training-community host family and a strong focus on the environment and you have my perfect site!

Below are a handful of photos to elaborate:

My new host sister Marianna and me with chive fields in the background.

My new host dad, Don Geraldo (last host grandpa was also Don Geraldo, but story gets better- my new host dad used to date my old host grandma!) making some cheese...hoping it will be a real crowd-cheeser.

The volunteer I am replacing, Blake, his host mom and me in the local Bank/ECC, my counterpart. The first night I arrived was a going away dinner for Blake, combined with a welcome for me, all major organizations in the community were represented.

We visited my future site about a month ago for a technical visit, above is a photo of our group in front of a micro-entrepreneur's project of hydroponic lettuce. The same couple are looking to open a wood-museum in the future, a potential project!

Hiking in my new backyard! Although it is difficult to find flat ground to run on, the hills equal amazing views.

My host sister at the semana santa processions near Cartago. I have now visited my host-dad's family in Cartago a few times (most recently for a quincinera and wild amusement park) and am looking forward to having a second home there as it is less than 15 minutes from my new site.

My host sister Marianna (current Marianna, next host sister is Marianna 2) showing off her helado in the pulperia during semana santa

The PC volunteer who lived in my house two years ago, Kayla (who has since returned to the states), my host mom (one eye shut, she'd kill me if she knew this was the photo I posted), my host grandma, cousin and sister in the kitchen