01 October 2010

The Last Day in Paradise

Today was our last full day in Costa Rica. It was also our last day at our volunteer placements. As we mentioned before, Scott volunteered at a transitory HIV home and I volunteered at a special education school working with the music teacher. Both of our placements loved us, in fact as we were talking at dinner tonight the staff called us “pioneers” having been here only two weeks but making such a difference. Of course, we didn’t feel like we did much.

Scott helped with the physical therapy of patients at the home. All of the doctors (psychology, medicine, dentist, and physical therapists) are volunteers from the community. There are only a few full time staff at the HIV home: the director, a nurse, housekeeper, and cook. Most of the CCS volunteers that are sent to this placement are assigned to help with cleaning. However, Scott only had to clean for 30 minutes total during his two weeks work there. We found out, at the end of our stay, that this was because Scott could speak and understand Spanish so well. Other volunteers had a difficult time communicating, and were thus given easier tasks because of the lack of staff help. Scott not only helped the physical therapist, but on Fridays when the physical therapists do not volunteer, Scott worked with individual patients as his own boss.

I felt like I hadn’t done too much to help the music teacher at the special education school, but knew that just by being there I had made a difference. When I would come to the school in the mornings, I would help distribute instruments (maracas and claves), smile and play along, and help some of the kids to move to the music when there wasn’t a para. There were also times that there weren’t classes, and I just sat around feeling unuseful. That was until yesterday. When I arrived in Costa Rica I was told that I would need to participate in a concert the school was having. I downloaded and prepared a classical piano piece, and at the last minute made up a song by changed the words to the teacher’s welcome song for class about my volunteer experience at the school. Two children diagnosed with disabilities that required them to be in wheel chairs also played the piano. The music teacher had taught them to play in G Major by using shapes on the keys and sheet music. I was the final act, and then the teacher told me I needed to make a speech, which is of course when I started to get teary. Then I sang my song, with the teacher playing the guitar as he normally does in class. The crowd laughed and cried, and applauded. Probably the best response I’ve ever gotten at a concert! Even more so today, my teacher told me that the concert was a big success with the teachers and students. Because the students saw that two other students had played with me, they feel less shy and more motivated to practice for more concerts.

We are sad to leave Costa Rica and the work which we’ve only started, but we are also anxious to get back to our ever exciting life in the States.

What we’ll miss from Costa Rica:
- Beans and Rice, it’s true!
- The people are so nice here and greet you off the bat as a friend or even family
- Falling asleep to a stream of rain hitting the roof
- The CCS Staff (we would go into this more, except it’s already a long post)
- Being so aware of international affairs
- Game nights with the late- night security guard (Jenga tonight!)
- The adorable children at the special education school (They love each other so much and laugh all the time!)
- The horse across the street that reminds me of Young Frankenstein

What I will not miss - Having to put toilet paper in the waste basket and sleeping in bunk beds... that's it!