Tuesday, March 23, 2010


So far 2010 has been a pretty good year. It also will bring a lot of changes for me as I will end my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in May and will start business school in August. So here is a brief look at what I have been up to so far this year:

Business schools

I started the year working on the last minute details for my applications to 3 business schools: Georgetown, Michigan and Duke. It took a lot of soul-searching and reflecting on my time as a PCV and what I have gained from my experience. Ultimately, I have decided that I am interested in social entrepreneurship (or social business, as Mohammed Yunus discusses in his insightful book, Creating a World Without Poverty). I am really excited about studying and ultimately working in this field, which I believe is the best way to improve the lives of the world's impoverished population.

I have spent the last few weeks conducting interviews with the three schools (2 over skype, and one in person with an alum) and figuring out financial aid, scholarships etc. I found out on the same day that I was denied admission to Duke but was accepted to Michigan!!!! Now I am just waiting to hear from Georgetown, and to see if Yale accepts me off the waitlist. I'm not really sure what my first pick is, especially since I haven't had a chance to visit any of the schools…but I am very excited about being accepted to Michigan.

Improving educational opportunities for the youngest members of Cristo Rey

In the last few months I have worked on two projects to help the young kids gain more educational opportunities. First, I just found out that the development association received a grant from the National Development Agency of almost $14,000 to build a kindergarten classroom at the school. We submitted the proposal at the end of December, and the money was deposited last week. This classroom is a big need of the community, as there are currently 11 kids in the kindergarten and they currently have class in the cafeteria, on the dirty floor with the bigger kids coming in to eat, interrupting class. The teachers worked really hard to get all of the documents needed for the proposal, and we are all really excited to have a new classroom soon. I just really hope that I am able to see a finished product by May. I think construction starts this week!

The other educational project, was an idea of the Comite Tutelar, after I asked them what they would do if we received a $500 donation from the organization Kids to Kids. They decided that they would like to buy education material for the youngest kids of the community, to promote reading, cooperation, learning and fine motor skills at an early age. We presented the project "Creative Corner in Cristo Rey" in December and received the money in mid-February. With the help of my parents, I went on a shopping spree and bought 4 small tables and 16 small chairs, along with many wooden puzzles, plastic building blocks, 27 books, a chalkboard, foam letters and numbers and some art supplies. It was so fun to see my colleagues and friends of the Comite Tutelar open the bags of goodies and have their eyes light up as they talk about how they are going to work with the kids. So, last week we showcased the items at the monthly distribution of free powdered milk to all kids aged 1-6 in the community, through a government nutrition program. Lidiana started out by sitting all the kids in a circle and reading them a book, something that most of them have never experienced in their short lives. Then we arranged the tables and set out the puzzles and mayhem began. It was so great seeing the kids' eyes light up, and the smiles on their faces as they played together and put the pieces together etc. This was a great success and a program that will last for a long time, and make a huge difference in these kids' lives. Thank you very much Kids to Kids! (Here is the website if you want to know more: http://www.kidstokids.org/projects/project.php?project=263)

Quality time with Mom and Dad

My parents arrived in Costa Rica on February 1st to spend another month getting to know the country (you may recall that they spent 2 months here last year). We spent the first two weeks driving all around the south and to the Caribbean coast, seeing a lot of Costa Rica. We spent time on the beach, in national parks, seeing quetzals, monkeys, toucans and much more. It was so nice to see so much of Southern Costa Rica without having to spend 15 hours on the bus to get there…I really love rental cars!

Then I brought my parents to Los Chiles and my site, to help out with a Bingo that the youth group was putting on to raise money. They really got to know my host family much better, and experience what my daily life is like in my town. It was so great to share this with them and they were good sports putting up with the heat, dust, and lots of errands I made them run. They also got to practice their Spanish as lots of the kids in town would start long conversations with them, not caring whether or not my parents could understand. As I mentioned earlier, they also helped me (with the use of the car) to select and transport all of the stuff for the little kids. It was fun having them here and sharing Costa Rican culture and cuisine with them.


At the end of January my group of volunteers had our Close of Service conference in a nice hotel in San Jose. It consisted of three days of discussing all that we have to do before leaving Costa Rica; paperwork, medical appointments etc. Then we talked about job and educational opportunities after PC. However, best of all was getting to be all together (all 45 of us) for probably the last time and enjoying eachother's company. I really can't believe that I am almost done. Two years have flown by! We reflected a bit about our service at the conference, and overall I have had a great time and have learned a lot from living in a rural, poor town of 300 people close to the Nicaraguan border. Which leads me to my final point…

Enhancing the relationships I have made

These past few months I have spent a lot of quality time with my host family, William, Isa, Gabi, Noemi and Daniela, and the extended family, which includes 30+ people. One event that brought me even closer to everyone was the illness and eventual death of Ronulfo Lara, the father of my friend (and host mom's sister-in-law) Flor. I went a lot with my host mom to spend time with Ronulfo and his 7 grown kids and their families before he died. I became much closer to the entire Lara family as we all painfully watched Ronulfo die of intestinal cancer. It was a sad but very memorable experience that I know will stick with me for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

¡Feliz año nuevo¡

Happy New Year Everyone!

Well, with the start of the new year, I have been thinking about all the changes that will bring this year. I can´t believe that I only have a little more than 4 months left! Two years ago, I though that 2010 was such a long ways a way. How fast time flies when you are having fun.

Things in my site are going really well. I have been busy working with my counterpart, the local development association, on applying for 2 grants. We submitted a proposal to build a kindergarten classroom in mid december and this week we should be submitting a proposal to buy equipment for the community center and kitchen. Both projects would make a huge difference in the community and I am really proud of the association for finally getting their act together and submitting these projects.

I have been most proud of the Comite Tutelar, who have come up with many new ideas to work with the kids in the community for this coming year. They have already been very successful, and have many more to come.

I had a nice, relaxing Christmas in my site with my host family. I am really thankful for them and appreciate that they embraced me as another member of the family from the get-go. It is going to be really hard to leave them in a few months, but I tell them all the time that I will call them on Skype!

So, these next few months I will be wrapping things up in my site, hoping that all of my projects are sustainable and will smoothly continue after I am gone. I also plan to travel around a bit and see some more of Costa Rica. At the end of January we have our Close of Service conference where we will talk about life after Peace Corps...

Speaking of which, my plan is to get an MBA starting in August of 2010. I am still submitting applications to schools and won´t find out their decisions until March. I am keeping my fingers crossed that atleast one school will accept me.

I am really excited about returning home in May and hopefully I will get to see many of you. If all goes as planned, I will just be hanging out all summer, relaxing before going back to school. I also plan to visit Jordan and Chris in Paris for awhile!

I hope that everyone had a great New Year and I look forward to hearing what 2010 holds for you!

Love, Kelsey

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Tamales, Tamales and more Tamales

My yummy cinnamon rolls before adding the frosting.

The whole family loves Legos!!!!!

A Christmas tradition in Costa Rica is to make pork tamales, and my family lived up to the tradition by making this yummy treat on Christmas Day. However first, I brought a bit of my family's tradition to Costa Rica by making a yummy Christmas morning breakfast of cinnamon rolls and giving out presents. It was a lot of fun sharing Christmas morning with my host family.

Then we went to the grandparent's house and made lots of tamales. In this case, pictures are better than words:

The corn meal cooking until it becomes thick in consistency.

My host grandma with all of the banana leaves.

Adding all the ingredients.

Rolling the tamale.

I am very proud of my tamale making skills!!!!

My host mom tying two tamales together.

A nice action shot.

My host uncle roasting the banana leaves, because we ran out!

Ready to be steamed! (only a small portion of what we made)

My other host grandma making a different type of tamale.

Grinding the cheese to make a 3rd type of sweet tamale. The are my host dad's aunt and brother and sister, Lucia, Licho and Analive.

Yummy tamale!!!!!

End of school year activities

The month of December is busy at the school, as it is the end of the school year. I was proud to attend the graduation activities, and witness my host brother, Gabriel, graduate from 6th grade. Next year he is off to high school!

I also finished with Chicas Poderosas and we had a party and I handed out certificates for completing the course. The next two months will be pretty quiet around here, without school in session. Also, many people in the community go south to pick coffee during the vacation.

Also, every year a wealthy man who owns a farm in my town, but lives outside of San Jose, throws a Christmas party with high school students from San Jose, for all the kids in the community. It is a great experience for them and have a look…

Grupo de Jovenes

Isa, Lidiana and Flor, the three core members of the Comite Tutelar.

Some of the youth.

One of the ideas of the Comite Tutelar, the group I helped form to build the playground and work with the children of the community, was to get the youth together and see if they would like to form a group. Our first Actividad Juvenil was on October 3rd and it was a great success with over 30 kids in attendance. We invited all of the youth aged 12 to 18 to the meeting, and over 90% of them came. We played some warm-up games, had a snack, and discussed their desires and thoughts on forming a group. In that meeting we learned that yes they would like to meet regularly, and that their first goal is to take a trip somewhere – either the zoo or the amusement park.

Since then, we have been meeting every few weeks. We still play games and we even elected a President, Vicepresident etc. to lead the group. Our next big project is to throw a Bingo on Valentine's Day. It should be fun!

On December 12th, we had a special meeting to celebrate the holidays. I made chocolate cookies and we worked on an art project. Everyone was really focused and into constructing their star. Here are the results:

Cristo Rey Day

The last Sunday in November marks Cristo Rey day in the Catholic Church. The church here always has a special mass, which includes first communions. It is the one day of the year when I go to mass, along with everyone else in the community.

Enjoy some photos!!!!


It has been corn season here for over a month. Almost everyone in my community plants at least a little bit of corn for personal consumption, while others plant fields full to sell. Lucky for me, my entire extended family has planted corn, and at different times, so there is always plenty to go around.

The most popular way to prepare corn is in chorreadas, or corn pancakes. But people also make corn bread, tamales and boil corn on the cob. One afternoon I ate corn in all four forms; I was in heaven! I LOVE chorreadas and can't believe that we don't have them in the US. It is probably more work than we are used to in the land of fast food J

Here is the process of making chorreadas with accompanying pictures.

My host mom and brother, Gabriel grinding the corn.

Cutting the corn off of the cob.

More grinding the corn.

After being grinded and ready to cook, just add sugar

Yummy chorreadas!!!!