First three months completed in my new site. I am slowly but surely establishing my work and becoming a community member. I have a successful English class, which at least for the moment I am really enjoying (side note: historically I have not always enjoyed teaching English). I was introduced to a breathtakingly beautiful river, 10 minutes from my house, which is perfect for swimming or fishing. I continue to get to know the women in the women's group and have started an inventory project with them. I see familiar faces when I go on walks around town, and I'm pleased with the number of people who can greet me with my name. And most importantly, having a small toaster oven and blender has transformed my culinary life!
As for the holiday season, I enjoyed Christmas in site with my extended host family, and tried to recreate some home tradition (like cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning, stockings, and delivering Christmas cookies to my neighbors). On the 24th I attended a family party with singing, dancing, eating, fireworks and merriment. The music may have been cumbia and the food arroz con pollo but it was a wonderfully festive way to celebrate Christmas. On the 25th I exchanged a few small gifts with my host family, made (unsuccessfully) cinnamon rolls, and played English Christmas music on the computer.
A few days before Christmas I participated in the traditional pig killing and tamale making (I didn't kill the pig, but I did have to help carve the dead pig). We executed the entire process by hand, and it was a long process!! First the corn has to be peeled and cut off the cob, then cooked and passed through the grinder (twice!). Then we added the broth from the boiled meat, some pig lard, onions, garlic and cilantro. And cooked the masa until it was thick. The meat had to be boiled, taken off the bone and shredded into bite size pieces. The shredded meat was then seasoned. Rice had to be cooked, but not completely, it was a little crude when we added it to the tamale. Finally my family adds hard boiled eggs and potatoes, but those are only two of the many things that one can add to tamales. The banana leaves had to be cut down, cleaned up and ripped into appropriate size pieces. Finally the assembly! Two banana leaves, masa, rice, meat, potato, boiled egg, wrap the tamale and tie it up. Boil to cook and ta-da! Needless to say it took all day, but they were delicious.
For New Years I joined a group of 12 other volunteers in the West Coast of Costa Rica to explore some caves. It was not something I would have organized myself, (seeing as I am still irrationally frightened of the dark), but in the end I am very glad that I went. It was great to spend some time with other volunteers and the caves were impressive. I even convinced a few volunteers to join me on the way home for a beach stop off :-)
Now as school vacation almost comes to an end, I find my days filling up a little quicker and time passing by without my even noticing it. Moral of the story: I'm happy and life is good.