Letter From the Field

by David William Duesing
Peace Corps Volunteer

Professor Brancaforte,

Season’s greetings from Costa Rica! I hope this email finds you well, and that the fall semester and winter break have treated you well!

I just wanted to write you to keep in touch, see how things are going with you and let you know about where life has taken me since graduation. I graduated in May, and only about two months later I left the good old USA for Costa Rica to begin my adventure in the Peace Corps! I started my service with three months of training in San José (the capital), which consisted of a lot of Spanish lessons and learning how to work in social work / youth development. Then at the beginning of October I was officially sworn in (at the US embassy, no less!) as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Since the swearing in ceremony I’ve been living and working in my official site, Cervantes. It’s a rural, agricultural town in the mountains of the central valley of the country, and the views of the mountains in the area are absolutely gorgeous. I really can’t express how blessed I feel to have received not only Costa Rica as my country of service, but also my quaint little town of Cervantes. I also lucked out in that this corner of the country happens to be coffee country, so the coffee is as delicious as it is omnipresent here, which is heaven for me.

It’s funny how different my experience is from the stereotypical image of a Peace Corps volunteer living in the African savannah, getting water from a well and having to sleep under a mosquito net for fear of catching some weird, exotic disease. No, just the opposite. My life is pretty “Posh Corps” here in Costa Rica. I even went shopping at Walmart on Black Friday. But at the same time I live in a town with no street names and in a house with no hot water or working fridge, so there are some rough elements to my service here, but it’s nothing too hard. I also have fairly good access to internet, which has helped keep me connected to family and friends in the US, which helps keep any feelings of homesickness at bay.

Overall I feel like I’ve been beyond lucky throughout my Peace Corps experience so far. All of the Peace Corps staff and the other volunteers are all great people (there are about 100 of us in the country right now), and my host family has really taken me in as a member of their family. I even got to spend Christmas with them, although it was much different that what I'm used to as we jammed into a truckbed and drove for an hour to go swimming in a river in the middle of nowhere, but it was certainly an experience nonetheless!

In general, Costa Ricans are an incredibly friendly people; I really don’t think I’ve to met a rude Costa Rican yet. Then of course there’s the natural beauty that the country has to offer, from beaches and mountains (I can even see a volcano from my house) to exotic animals. I’ve yet to see any monkeys but I have seen sloths, dolphins and toucans! I’m glad I’ll be spending two years here, I feel like the country has so much to offer that I couldn’t do in all in less time than that.

About my job, I work in the Youth Development sector, so I mostly work in the elementary and high schools in my town. The Costa Rican academic year ends in late November, so I haven’t had too much time to start any of my own projects, but I help out with the counselors and English teachers almost everyday. I’m also working on a diagnostic of my community to help assess what problems the town (especially the kids) face and prioritize those issues. The idea is that as of the next school year, beginning in February, I’ll start groups and clubs in the two schools to provide extracurricular activities for students, and help give workshops and presentations that all revolve around improving life skills for youth – leaderships skills, working in teams, self-esteem, alternatives to drug/alcohol consumption, sexual education, gender equality, and other things of that nature. In general the job is very open-opened, but things come together a little bit more every day.

In Tulane news, I’ve actually become a member of the (fledgling) Tulane Alumni club of Costa Rica, so I’ve been able to keep in touch with the Tulane community a bit through that. I was also able to meet a recent Tulane Law grad, Matthew Graham, through the club. I’m toying with the idea of going to law school post-Peace Corps, so it’s been nice getting to know Matt since he works in international law. I’ve also only completed about 6 months out of my 27 months of service, so I don’t really need to worry too much about my future right now, but at the same time I really can’t help but think about the next step.

And in German news, I went on vacation to the a beach close to the Panamanian border a couple weeks ago and ran into more Germans that I've probably seen in the last five years combined! They were everywhere! I got to practice my German some, but it's definitely evident that when my brain goes into foreign language mode, it tends to want to speak Spanish. But in any case, I was pleasantly surprised that I had an opportunity to speak German here in Costa Rica.

In any case, I just wanted to write you to keep you up to date on my post-graduation whereabouts and send you some season’s greetings from Costa Rica. I hope everything is going well with you back in New Orleans, and that everything at Tulane is still going well! And a belated frohe Weihnachten, and un-belated frohes neues!

Liebe Grüsse,

David William Duesing
Peace Corps Volunteer
Costa Rica - Tico 26