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No entiendo - From the I-understand-nothing to my new home

At the end of the last year it was clear for me: I am going to Costa Rica on the next year! With VISIONEERS, I found an organization, which send volunteers to Costa Rica under the program of Weltwärts.

And now I was sitting in a small row of seats in a full and briskly warm bus, on the way from Puerto Limon, the Costa Rican town on the Caribbean coast, to the village of Turrialba with the same name of the volcano and I just decided after three months of Volunteering work here to put a couple of words on paper. The air stood here on this bus, as long as this one is stopped, because the road near Puerto Limon is always crowded.

In fact, there is the largest port of Costa Rica in this city and many goods are shipped from there.

I also knew of such a traffic disaster here in Costa Rica from the Valle Central, the central elevation in the interior of the country. The Valle Central is home to over 70% of the country's population and traffic is therefore chaotic. The streets here were crowded with cars, buses and big trucks, some looks of about as you couldn’t drive two meters away, others were just as new, and mopeds were squeezing through the rows of vehicles.

Men and women walked around, sold sweet and salty banana chips and extol their goods. Later I could see out the window more are rural houses, more forest and green mountains of the jungle. Located near the equator, between two oceans, Costa Rica is very hot and humid, an ideal environment for the rainforest and its inhabitants.

But this article is not about Costa Rica, the country, it should be about my mission as a volunteer here. And this mission began in Germany with the preparation seminars. After that, on March 24, I reached San José, the capital of Costa Rica.

The first days or also in the last preparatory days and the two-week Spanish course, remained very positive in my memory. The first stress initiating nervousness on me was vanished upon I got out of the plane.

In my first game of soccer in football-world Latin America, I played with a pair of shoes to trash. The knowledge already collected in Germany was once more sharpened and polished; the first impressions of the culture, which we were still able to experience together as a group, were particularly significant. We had excursions in San José, immersed for instance in the cradle of the biggest market, and looked cultural dances in the Parque de Diversion.

You want to know more about the first days and the Spanish course and ask yourself what is behind this picture? Then I can give you the very entertaining contribution from the volunteer Henno, there are some laughter in it!

With "perfect" Spanish skills, which I had after the Spanish course, I went to my place of employment, the Asociación Comunidad Familiar Misionera. I arrived during the Easter week at the project site in Limon2000 and had a surprisingly few free days. So I could get acclimatized in my home for the coming year and get to know my host family. While I had previously thought that I would come to a family with Isabel, another volunteer with a foreign experience, my mentor, with whom I had a nice first day in my new home (We bought among other things the necessary fan ! Without that I would not sleep here) that I went into another family.

The people in charge thought it was necessary that the groups have to be open minded and create a unity through Spanish (these crooks!). My host family, consisted of my host Mother and my 14-year-old host Sister who speak only Spanish. This, of course, led to many misunderstandings and funny situations. At the beginning a little bit shy, my host sister had quickly turned out to be a true natural talent in pantomime in order to learn me something. At the dining table, I always had a lot to laugh, whether I just understood what was said or not. Just as this situation was a new one for me, it was also for my family. The Maravilla family (in English: The Marvelous Family) did their first experiences in volunteering field with me. My host Mother was a talented cook and, to my delight, she was happy to prepare traditional Costa Rican dishes. In the meantime, I had witnessed a couple of days where the money was scarce in the family, but this had never been due to the quantity of food rather because of the variety. Such as: rice and beans...

In the long preparation and the free Easter days, the motivation grew at last more and more energetic. What a disappointment I experienced then on the first working days! On the first working day, I got to know the people in charge of the job and I realized that the people in charge had probably taken note of the fact that volunteers from the world would come, but not much happened. In other words, it was a little bit stressed and relaxed in the place of employment and so I found the responsible persons when it was for my work plan or at least a project-related activity (nice first impressions of the work of the Pura Vida culture). Together with Isabel and the driving support of her host family, who had ample experience with volunteers from abroad, we had gradually filled our weeks with tasks.

During the first three weeks, I got to know all three of my future areas of activity, the actual project site and church in Limon2000, a nearby high school and a nearby primary school. In these primary schools, the Asociación Comunidad Familiar Misionera supports the classes with practical input. With members of the project and volunteers like me, activities were carried out and animated. After a few friendly words had been exchanged with the Director, voluntary activity began really, that means the workdays began. Since that time, I had been supporting the teaching staff at schools in the English classes. With the teachers, Isabel and I, we worked together to test and deepen the theoretical knowledge taught by the teachers.

The group of people with whom we were cooperating, includes a further volunteer, the good Chris, from whom experience you can listen here, numerous teachers at the two schools and the responsible for the place of employment. However, the largest group of people I worked with were the students in the English classes of the schools and the English course in Limon2000.

These pupils and adults, who helped me in the lessons at the schools, or the two others and I offered an English course directly at the camp, had welcomed us very warmly, with great interest and with open arms. Above all, young pupils were interested in the question of possible hurdles, of cultural or linguistic nature.

Cooperation with the teachers and the responsible people for the place of work makes the different cultures more effective. There were sometimes small hurdles to overcome, but the handling was always friendly and frank. Only in the case of discipline or very pronounced pride could one scandalize and as a volunteer I dealt with my Job, emphatically to find a pleasant way for all.

The different teachers wanted different interests in the teaching of Isabel and me, which brought variety into my activities. So I had to think for some classes an activity based on what the teacher taught; in other classes I worked together with the teachers or activities, which I should actively support with my English mainly my pronunciation.

In addition, there was a certain individual help in the preparation of exams or events (for example for an English spelling competition). These supporting activities in the schools were supplemented by an English course at the employment center of my recipient organization. There, we, the two other volunteers and I, were conversational English for the community members of Limon2000. When I wrote back to this exciting first time, I would like to say that I had to come to Costa Rica with a great interest in languages, and the project and the activities as supporters in English conversational classes had turned out to be very interesting. I'm looking forward to the next weeks. At the schools, some activities and Isabel are going on, and I get week-by-week more room for action, now that the teachers know us. Also follow in July the ten-day summer holidays and I will make excursions with my family. What exciting times! But at the moment I can reach the Turrialba, which I already know. Here I will now disembark friends again and also the smoking volcano.

To the next time!

Yours Patrick

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