Week one in Costa Rica: done and done. What a big change it has been to be here…. I mean pretty much in. Such a big change in fact, that the only way to fully and truly explain it to you all is the tried and true list form.
2. In Colombia the exchange rate for money was 1,850 pesos per dollar. In Costa Rica it is 510 colones per dollar. Therefore 5,000 Colombian pesos was like $3 and 5,000 colones is like $6. And that is totally throwing me for a loop. The small coins that were worth less than a quarter in Colombia (that accumulated in my backpack like pennies at home) are now worth $1 (and my bad habits of misplacing/hording/disregarding this change could become a real money drain.)
3. In Colombia I was one of 3 people who was outside jogging (and wearing running shorts). In Costa Rica you see Ticos and Americans alike– running, walking, jogging, etc. at all times of the day… in running shorts shorter than mine (men and women).
4. In Colombia I had to travel over an hour to the orphanage but the grocery store/malls/metro/etc. was just across the street. In Costa Rica I can walk to the orphanage but the grocery store is a car ride ot bus ride away.
5. In Colombia the only fastfood restaurants and chains that I remember seeing were: dominos, mcdonalds and an occassional subway. In Costa Rica I even saw a Walmart today (enough said).
6. The orphanage that I am working at is unlike any that I have been to before. It takes a village to raise a child…. and this place has really brought that philosophy home. It is actually called an Aldea (which means village), it consists of 8 casitas (little houses for those of you not so spanishly inclined) in which 5-12 kids live. The caregivers, called tias (that means aunts) live there too. Thats right, they live there. There are always at least 2 in each house. They live there 24/7 and work 11 days then get 3 days off. They are responsible for all the typical mom stuff– they take kids to drs appointments, cook, (don’t have to clean though because there are other auxiliary staff to do that– brilliant idea in my opinion in that it frees them up to actually spend time the with kids), help with homework, deal with behavioral issues and so on and so on. Each of the casitas are totally self-sufficient with a kitchen, living room, bedrooms, bathrooms- a real deal family home.
And this layout really makes the whole vibe totally different. It feels like a neighborhood. You see all the kids play outside together in the playground, basketball courts, swimming pool, open space between the houses. Then at meal-times they all “run home” to their respective houses and eat. They just seem more adjusted, comfortable, protected. And this is a challenging population. Over 50% of the kids here have moderate to severe delays (cognitive, physical, speech etc.) and other medical conditions requiring extra care. But because of the structure, the involvement and commitment of the staff and tias, this place really seems to be working.
It has already been a great learning experience for me to see this alternative organizational framework. I am sure there will be LOTS of stories and updates. Sadly, this blog post will not be accompanied by photos because I seem to have accidentally lost my camera (I believe it is sitting in one of the over 6000 red taxis of San Jose). Dang, almost made it the whole trip without a really-dumb-absent-minded-keely-moment. But it appears it has arrived. So until I make it to the mall (see #4) or Walmart (see#5) I will give you all some well deserved visuals of this beautiful country.
That is definitely the one thing the two places have in common: beautiful, green, sunny, tree-y, mountain-y, flower filled, gorgeous countries. I am excited for lots of exploring.