Jennifer Keller (Costa Rica 1985-87)

Monday, November 21
5:45 pm

1st WEEK:
One day before the day! I’m scared but excited. It’s all over and today we got our passport and ticket. Seems more real now and I feel sort of sad. This will all be so hard. Please write soon so I get mail soon there.

I’ll describe a typical day: I wake up at 3:00 am with howling wolves (dogs) outside my window. (Did I tell you I got bit by a dog? I am now receiving rabies shots in the arm, which is really gross.) Then at 5 am the roosters start up. Damn things really do say cockle doodle doo. I can’t believe it. Then at 6:30 am the mother get up and “wakes” me, but I’ve been up for hours. I eat a huge breakfast of rice and beans and go to school down the road at 7:30.

Well you might be one of the few people to receive one of those letters a PCV writes when he or she is depressed and wondering what the hell he or she is doing in this stupid predicament of a foreign country. Most of my letters are cheery as hell, but today I’m down. It’s the last day of my site visit, where they dumped us off for two weeks, so tomorrow I get to go back to Santa Ana, to see my family and get my mail. Today I only left the house once, for a short ten-minute walk to the post office. So my body feels sleep logged and hurts. You know how it is. I finally understand the expression, “Bored to tears.” I just can’t imagine what I’m going to do here for 2 years. It looks like Nevada, for god’s sake.

1st YEAR:
Want to know a funny story? You know I painstakingly made that display on literacy methods? Well, I waited for 1-2 months to get a reaction from anybody on that stupid exhibit. No one, not one teacher, student, supervisor, has said a word. But finally yesterday I saw that one of the envelopes I left for people to leave a note requesting more info was bulging a bit, so I excitedly ran over to get the note. Ha! It was a rubber. That about sums it up.

I think that overall this Peace Corps experience has been by far the most lastingly lonely time I’ve ever had. It’s hard to explain. Except that I’m tired of being lonely. I have been at various times in my life but never for so long, so relentlessly. Living overseas is hard – and it gets harder, not easier, the longer you go. Although you make more friends and feel more comfortable, you also become more homesick and make more cultural mistakes. Today is brilliantly sunny and hot and breezy. Perfect beach day. It hasn’t rained in a week.

God, I was so stupid last year. I made so many mistakes, but they were all so inevitable. I just did not have the skills or knowledge, so I had to learn the hard way. And there’s so much to learn, its crazy. So many techniques, methods, philosophies, plus how the educational system works here, plus the mentality of the Costa Rican rural student. How to form a project from an idea, for example, is just one of the many detailed things you have to know, taking into account “development strategy.” It’s overwhelming. You know, its amazing more of us didn’t quit. I knew we were going into the field unprepared, but I didn’t know how unprepared. They left us to sink or swim.

Today was my big meeting. It went really well. I think they feel much better about teaching adults, as now I feel better about them. WE played a few games and it was a good time. I can’t believe 2 years have passed already. If you would have asked me a year ago, I never thought I could have done this. No matter what else happens in my life, I will always feel proud of this.

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