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Last blog post!! July 8, 2013

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I’m writing this from the airport–mi ultima hora en Costa Rica! Overlooking a gorgeous mountain nonetheless, beautiful. 

Things I have learned while traveling–
Reverse culture shock is real. And it’s hard. For me, harder than culture shock! I think it will be better this year, but last year it was quite crippling. I think the more integrated in a culture and less of a tourist you are, the realer the shock. I’m going to miss my friends and the time I had here, but I felt more like I was a tourist than I was living here, probably because of all the traveling I did! 
I’ve developed myself as a leader more. It’s always an ongoing process but I feel comfortable traveling alone, taking charge of situations. It can be stressful planning things because it’s on you if things go wrong, but it can be good to do because sometimes you do it better than others.
There’s no place like home! Traveling abroad is fantastic, and I don’t have any huge attachment to my hometown anymore. But home is where your heart is, or where your friends and family are, and I don’t know if living abroad would be worth not being with all my loved ones. Although it’s still something I’d want to do, at least for a few years! 
There is no country more beautiful than Costa Rica. Bold statement, and it may not be true, but I think it is, or at least top 5. Seriously. Volcanoes, the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, awesome food, waterfalls, mountains, easy to understand Spanish, rain forests, kayaking, parasailing, surfing, sloths, and the nicest people you will meet. It has been a dream. 

Hasta luego Costa rica, el país mas hermosa, ya te extraño y espero que nos veamos  pronto 

Costa Rica and Culture, Americanizaton and Societal Observations June 17, 2013

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Hola Chinita! China! China! I hear this everyday in the streets. At first it irked me, because I wasn’t expecting it. Before I left last summer to Ghana, I knew that I would get called “obruni” or told “Nee-how” in some of the bigger cities because I looked it up beforehand and so I didn’t mind it, but I didn’t expect it in Costa Rica because it’s quite Americanized.  But now I go with the flow, and it goes to show that expectations really do color how you interpret things. Me and the other Asian girl on the trip have been told it’s not disrespectful, just part of the culture here and not to mind it and now it’s whatever.

Poverty. There are some homeless people here like in the States. We also planted trees near a river that was across from the “dangerous” part of Costa Rica, and it was quite shocking. There was basura everywhere and shacks that were of terrible condition. We were told by the police that were protecting us while we planted trees that that part of Costa Rica is where a lot of immigrants live and a lot of drug trafficking happens. My host brother said that drug trafficking is definitely quite a problem in all of Central America, thanks to Colombia. And in Nicaragua, I felt really guilty sitting on the street with other Americans/tourists, enjoying my $.30 helado while women and men were roaming the streets trying to sell packs of gum or bracelets for less than a $1 to make money for the day. My main focuses of interest in international affairs are human rights and international development, and poverty and violence are the two things that really get me. I’d definitely be interested in coming back to Nicaragua to work for an NGO to help alleviate it, and I already got in contact with a couple while I was there.

American Influence. In Nicaragua, American tourism/tourism in general has been pretty good for touristy places. They need to really work on their crime though, or people won’t want to come! And in Costa Rica, tourism is also quite big, as well as calling centers. Many people after they graduate from university work in calling centers of MNCs. Some people don’t like that the culture here is so Americanized, others don’t mind it so much and think of Americans as quite friendly. One of the other interns, a French girl, really liked how the American tourists were always so friendly, always asking “Where are you from? How are you doing” which I think isn’t totally unique to American culture but we do tend to be pretty friendly. So plus 1 for the U.S. in that regard!

Expat community. There are tons of Americans living here, teaching English or working at or owning hostels. It’s really a great, great place to live, just absolutely gorgeous, but I guess my only thing is that I feel like I’m quite ambitious and while Costa Rica is wonderful, I want to live a life of impact and not just bum around at the beach all day. Maybe a year or 2 in Costa Rica, yes, but not my entire life.

Nicaraguan Immigration. Because Nicaragua is poor, there are a lot of immigrants from Nicaragua, and there tends to be some discrimination against them and vice versa. Nicaraguans don’t like Costa Ricans before they think they discriminate against them, and many Costa Ricans don’t like that the Nicaraguans are uneducated, put a lot of trash in the streets, etc. I was expecting Nicaragua to be really dangerous and roughed up because of all the things I heard about them from here, but I met so many nice and gracious people with the same sweet manners as the Costa Ricans. A girl did get her purse stolen, because she was swimming in the ocean at 3am on her way back from the bar (not safe anywhere!). She had to go to Managua to get a new passport at the French embassy, but had like no money, so the cab driver helped drive her around and took care of her for free. It’s a shame that it’s always a select few bad people that tarnish the reputation of others.

No Army! Costa Rica is quite known for not having any army. My host brother said, however, in WW2 the government declared war on Germany, which is kind of hilarious, because they didn’t have an army then either. Guns are also hard to come by here, so if you’re robbed and someone brandishes a gun at you it’s probably a fake. But yeah, my host brother said it’s all good with not having an army because they’re buds with the U.S. which I thought was hilarious and true. And the French student I’m also working with said that the French army always goes where the U.S. wants them to go because they’re scared if they’re ever attacked that the U.S. won’t help them, which I also found absolutely hilarious.

June 17, 2013 June 17, 2013

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Today I did arts and crafts with and got plenty of hugs and kisses from adorable children, had a delicious free lunch provided by the school we were teaching at, and then had a smoothie and came home to my host family’s home and took a nap. It’s a hard life here in Costa Rica, y’all. Seriously.

I want to go ahead and dedicate a whole post to travelling for anyone who’s looking to come to Costa Rica. Here’s a list of the places I’ve been to:

Monteverde. Literal translation = green mountain, this place is kind of a tourist area. Like, default language is English here tourist area. In Monteverde, you can walk on canopy bridges for $30, go horseback riding, rappelling down waterfalls, ziplining for about $40, go on a night hike to see SLOTHS and snakes and tarantulas, go to a butterfly garden, and more! Camino Verde is a really great hostel to stay at if you come, at 14 bucks at night, with a pancake breakfast included and awesome staff. Take a bus here because the road is treacherous and I would not feel safe driving myself. Oh, and it’s really expensive.

Puerto Viejo. Super hippie beach town on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, where dreadlocks roam free and reggae plays nonstop. Prices are cheap, hostels are dirty, and you can rent bikes for $5 a day which I really recommend. I think there’s also some really cool yoga hostels/hotels that sound awesome to check out. Lots of bars and cheap drinks.

Volcan Poas. Active volcano and easy day trip from San Jose, not my favorite place ever but got “see a volcano” checked off my bucket list! 7$ or so entrance fee and maybe a $5 bus ride.

Rio Celeste. A waterfall/river that has some sort of chemicals in it that make it turn a really stunning blue. A must go, but during DRY SEASON. Our hike was miserable because it started pouring and we were hiking up a mountain that turned into a mudslide at like a 85 degree slope. But it was so worth it, and so beautiful, and there are some hot springs too that you can swim in too. Bring tennis shoes and a change of clothes, definitely.

La Plaza de la Democracia. This is a bunch of shops in San Jose, near the Museo Nacional, that’s really perfect for getting souvenirs. Hammocks, handmade jewelry, wooden crafts, they’ve got it all here and it’s really awesome. Ask people where the Museo Nacional is, they’ll know that better than La Plaza.

San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. This has been my favorite place so far! I really love Nicaragua and would love to travel there more. San Juan Del Sur is a really cool surf town on the Pacific side, it’s small and laidback and slightly touristy. I stayed at Yajure Surf Hostel, which was great to meet other people, relatively clean, quite safe, and has a pool and plenty of hammocks. The owner too is super chill, and you can take surf lessons for about $30 or rent a board for $10. I took tons of naps in the hammocks which was so perfect. Oh, and I was terrible at surfing. Like, shrieking in fear whenever I caught a wave/swallowing gallons of water terrible, but I’ve never had so much fun sucking at something so badly! To get here, take the Tica bus from San Jose, get off in Rivas, take a bus/taxi to San Juan Del Sur. You can exchange any cash you have when you get to the border from any of the people there holding cash in their hands; they won’t rip you off. The bus costs $70-80 roundtrip, including border taxes. And it’s only like 5 or 6 hours.

Other travel tips:

  • When you get lost (because you will) and ask for directions, 100 metros = about a block.
  • For Spanish speakers, the people here generally use “usted” and almost never “tu” except for maybe the young people. “Vos” is used instead of “tu,” and it’s conjugated like “vos querres” instead of “tu quieres.” “Con gusto” is also used instead of “de nada,” and “mucho gusto” is said when you meet someone. The Spanish is pretty easy to understand for Americans, but if you’ve heard mostly Argentinian or Spain spanish you might have trouble.
  • Pura vida is not really a thing, but tuanes is
  • Food you need to try: platanos maduros, gallo pinto, casados, and all the fresh juice and smoothies! At the “sodas” which means like super casual restaurant. You can get some good cheap Tico food too in Mercado Central in San Jose.
  • Bring lots of cash, credit card isn’t accepted in a lot of places.
  • If you’re travelling during U.S. summer, it’s the wet season here. The best time would be to go during July or maybe late June if you come during the summer, as it tends to be drier briefly before the rain picks up again.
  • Use buses because they’re awesome and cabs are expensive. You can pick up a free bus schedule too in San Jose, just ask around.
  • Don’t go wandering around in San Jose at night, and stay away from the “red zone” especially.
  • Stay in hostels! But bank on paying $10 or more in them, because anything less than that is going to be super gross. But yeah, meeting people from all over the world has been my favorite part of this trip. I’ve met Germans, French people, Israelis, Americans from all over the states, Brazilians, Argentinians, and people from small little Carribean islands that I’ve never even heard of before.
  • WEAR SUNSCREEN AT THE BEACH. Even on cloudy days I’ve gotten burned because the UV index is so high.
  • Bring hand sanitizer and maybe packets of tissues with you because quite often there isn’t toilet paper/soap in bathrooms. McDonalds bathrooms also will be your BFF.
  • Tap water in San Jose is safe, be careful with it though in beach towns.

But to finish, Costa Rica has literally been The Dream. I definitely plan to travel to all the countries in Central America one day, because it’s quite easy to do and it’s just awesome here, absolutely zero homesickness. I really, really, really don’t want to leave! :(

-Trisha

Week 2 June 1, 2013

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Hello again from Costa Rica! Week 2 has definitely been more challenging.

Aside from traveling alone in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language well, learning about sustainability initiatives, improving my spanish like crazy, and learning how to budget while traveling (hahaha… ha, ha.), I am also gaining some really invaluable leadership experience as well. A lot of the other interns are struggling with the project, as it is sometimes a little disorganized and we are somewhat lost as to what our day to day activities are because of the language barrier.

For example, this past week we were told we would either be handing out surveys to businesses to do market research on whether they recycle or not or we would be weighing materials and discerning what percentage of it was plastic or paper, etc. We were under the impression we were done with actual sorting of materials, and so I wore a cute dress and sandals to work expecting to hand out surveys. But then we ended up sorting through trash again, which we had to do first in order to weigh the materials and gather the percentages, and we never handed out surveys. And that day the trash wasn’t separated from the recyclables, so there was food and toilet paper and dirt and all in it. I wasn’t thrilled, but I was okay with it since it was only a few bags of trash and I recognized I maybe should’ve asked for clarification earlier, but some of the interns were very visibly upset. While I was unhappy that others were acting unprofessionally/overly negatively, I tried to coax them through it, saying it was almost done and soon work would be over and we would get to go have fun in San Jose and explore like usual. But it was not enough and we still got a stern talking to the next day by the project manager, who gave us a really great and sobering speech about being able to communicate our problems with her, recognizing that if we act as if tasks are beneath us, we are disrespecting the plant and people who have to work there everyday. It was tough to hear, as one of my biggest fears is ever being an arrogant American in a foreign country, but it was a much needed reality check. We are here to work, not play. And also, side note, this is the type of thing refugees or immigrants face every single day. I helped so many refugees with masters degrees or college degrees apply for jobs at Moe’s or doing retail that they were sadly, even probably underqualified for because of the language barrier. And so they would end up working as janitors or on factory lines or as housekeepers. So yes, while we are college students from world class institutions, in we had to move to a foreign country this may well be the type of work we would have to do. After working at the International Rescue Committee, I now think twice when I walk by a janitor, and sometimes I hear bits of Swahili, and I think about whether they are an immigrant who wanted to find a better life for the children or a refugee escaping war. This is the world we live in. /endrant.

I am realizing how important expectations and communication are when working in teams. In Ghana, we had daily debriefings in which we talked about our hi’s and low’s of the day. We were told not to ‘suffer in silence’–if you’re having a health issue or a problem with the work, say it. And we were told to always, always be positive, and to recognize that things ran on “Ghana maybe time”–maybe the meeting with the community members will happen at 2pm like we planned, maybe it will happen at 5pm because it is thunder storming and it’s part of the culture to quit all work during the rain. (And Ghana maybe time really worked for me, as I sometimes struggle with punctuality and remembering appointments!) Also in other nonprofits I’ve worked for, we were always told on our first day that is important to be flexible. This is a thing with a lot of NGO’s and nonprofits and travel in general, things change day to day and you have to go with the flow and it’s why I want to work and live abroad: I love experiencing new things everyday and I don’t like monotonous routines and I don’t mind being flexible. I think with some of the other students coming in and only having travelled maybe in first world countries and expecting, since it’s Costa Rica, endless beaches and rafting and waterfalls, expectations have not been met, while of course in Ghana, we all expected the worst and that we’d be roughing it because it’s Africa and Africa’s scary, amirite?

Whether you enjoy yourself in a foreign country is almost completely up to you. Yes, we all have breaking points, we all have bad days, and we all really learn about ourselves when we travel and what we can and cannot handle. But in the end you must recognize that you cannot control other people, or even a lot of situations, but you can control how yourself and your attitude and behavior. 

I also skyped with my boyfriend for advice since he once spent a year traveling in a van across America with other Americans and Ugandans for an NGO, and he told me to be patient and empathetic as others have not had the same volunteer experience as I have or been in a hot climate like this or just are more particular and structured and that this is AOK. It’s true, you need to not only be understanding of the culture that you’re in, but also with the people that you are travelling with who may have more trouble adjusting. You never know when you’ll be that person who just is homesick or sunburnt or just plain angry.

Sorry for the text heavy posts, I keep forgetting my camera! I’ll get some pics soon. :)

Trisha

Pura Vida! May 21, 2013

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Hola de la hermosa Costa Rica! What an eventful first few days I have had.

My name is Trisha, I’m a rising 3 year International Affairs and Spanish major, and I am on a 2 month work abroad program with AIESEC in beautiful Costa Rica, which will be my second work abroad trip. Work abroad is definitely something I recommend anyone who is looking to be more immersed in the culture. It’s also generally a lot cheaper than study abroad, as you are either getting paid or just paying for your food or housing. Of course, there are downsides as well, as you don’t get to be with your Tech friends or get a lot of class credit and it can sometimes be very overwhelming, but I really think it’s something more people should really consider doing that think they can’t afford an international experience!

Anyway, for this summer I wanted to go somewhere in Latin America to practice my Spanish, and was considering other countries like Peru and Argentina. But I had heard wonderful things about Costa Rica from friends and so decided on here like a month ago, and here I am!

I started out my trip with a direct flight from Atlanta to San Jose this past Sunday , which was a really nice short trip compared to the 20 hour or so ordeal with crazy layovers and food poisoning I had last summer on my way to and back from Ghana. My host family picked me up and took me to their home in Heredia, a town to the north of San Jose. Yesterday, I went to our first meeting at the University of Costa Rica, which has a campus that is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. Like huge bamboo forests and students reading underneath the shady trees and natural creeks just running between the buildings, no big deal. It was just really cool to see that the campus was built around the natural landscape, instead of the other way around. I met the other interns–there are 2 other Americans who speak limited Spanish, a French girl who speaks limited Spanish and English, and an Argentian who speaks no English. Together we make an interesting bunch and speak a lot of Spanglish! (I actually keep accidentally typing in Spanish as I try to write this, it’s kind of frustrating!)

I am working on a project called World Town Keepers, which is to basically educate people on sustainability and learn more about sustainability initiatives ourselves. International development is my passion, but I also believe that the environment should not suffer at the expense of development. It’s so interesting to be in a place where eco-tourism is such a big thing, and to see conscious efforts to maintain the many rivers, oceans, volcanoes, forests, and other natural features Costa Rica has to offer. Here, the economy and the environment are somewhat tied together due to the tourism industry being so big, and I think it’s very helpful for both.

Today was our first day actually working on the project. We met up in San Jose (all the other interns are spread out among different host families) in la Plaza de la Cultura and then went to the Municipilidad de Reciclaje de San Jose to learn about their recycling initiatives. Here in Costa Rica, recycling plants are privately owned. We then sorted through some trash which was definitely not the most glamorous thing i’ve done! So much respect to the men and women that do this on the daily, but I learned a lot more about the different types of plastic and that you should ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS wash your recyclables before you recycle them! Seriously, it’s gross for the people who sort them if you don’t!

I have a lot of confidence in traveling to foreign countries alone that’s really based on nothing except for maybe American arrogance. Take a bus ride to San Jose on public transportation to a place I’ve never been to with my limited Spanish abilities? No problem, and nevermind that the one time I took MARTA I was totally bewildered and that I rely on my GPS and Google Maps for like, everything. This blind confidence is generally good for keeping my calm, and I handled everything pretty well today, but when I was trying to go back to my host family tonight I got seriously lost! There are not street signs in most of Costa Rica, only in San Jose, and so I find myself writing directions like “turn left at the blue house” or “turn right at the old hospital” and it’s seriously confusing. I stopped at a shop to use their telephone, however, and they were super helpful about it and eager to practice their English with me. I really like it here so far. It feels like this awesome, perfect middle ground between the U.S. and Ghana. Like, there are toilets and showers and people have a decent standard of living unlike Ghana, but people are very family oriented and giving and have time to help you unlike the United States. Seriously, everyone is so nice. My host mother, for example, is the sweetest woman. She’s a former teacher who is very involved with charity, recycles religiously, and has been giving a homeless man breakfast and coffee every morning for years. She also met an elderly woman when she was in her 20s who had been abandoned by her family for not being kind to them as they were growing up, and took her under her wing and the woman came over for breakfast every sunday for 16 years. Obviously, there are kind people in the States as well, but it just feels like everyone here is a lot more open and trusting. I’m in love.

July 5, 2012 July 6, 2012

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I’m reading The Alchemist and realizing I need to take a step back before school starts to figure out how everything’s affected me, figure out how I feel about NGOs, and love, and Africa, and travel. And life, and everything, pretty much.

Mole national park is incredible. After our bus ride from hell we crashed in our hostel room, and then we woke up in the morning to the sound of… monkeys? We ran outside and there were baboons just chilling outside our door, eating the plants. We went on a walking safari this morning, and saw warthogs, to which of course we immediately said, “Like Pumba!” and the guide replied, “Yes, like Pumba.” Then, we saw elephants, oh my goodness! Our guide told us there used to be an elephant that was super friendly and named “People’s Friend” and used to drink from the pool at the hotel.

ImageI then a nice night with the other interns. Ate ramen with cheese, fine dining right there, for dinner.  And then I just looked at the stars, standing in the parking lot of Mole, neck craned upwards. Goodness. A man on a motorcycle was watching me, then came over and asked if I was admiring the stars. He had studied tourism at Cape Coast, and loved working at Mole. He was wearing a rad striped shirt, just like the one I bought for my boyfriend Stuy. I asked him if he had ever left Ghana and he said no, and told he thought there would be no place better for him, which I thought was really beautiful. And right now Ghana feels, for sure, like the best place in the world and my heart aches already to leave it. Oh my.

July 4, 2012 July 4, 2012

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I ran out of internet credit while on the trip so am uploading now what I wrote in a journal instead.

What a day. 2 days ago we started our road trip to Mole National Park, while some members of the GB staff went on a roadtrip to Lake Chad. We went to Kumasi and had a fun dinner together at a restaurant of the sketchiest quality–found a piece of tile in our rice. Then, we went to the market in Kumasi, and I have really come to loathe these market trips, haha. People touching you because you look different, and it’s so hot and there are so many different smells and things to see. I saw the most interesting animal heads, stuffed little lizards and some sort of wolf, and those made me sneeze, haha. Then, we got back in the bus and headed up to Mole. We stopped by a monkey sanctuary and I got to feed monkeys, which was pretty much the highlight of my life.

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And then we got back on the bus for what should’ve been a 6 hour, but somehow turned into like a 13 hour bus ride because the roads were so muddy. There was a very scary moment when our bus started sliding back off of the road but we accelerated through! Then, I got really sick on the side of the road. My stomach’s not loving the food for sure. Oh Ghana. But it’s like right when you want to leave, it pulls you back in. Just a surreal moment on our bus ride of hell as night hit. Bonding with one of the interns, listening to Arcade Fire, looking up at the stars, a whole new set of constellations, watching the clouds, the green, the thatched huts, the red dirt road. Driving so fast, zooming, racing, swerving around potholes, my butt coming out of the seat, the wheels skidding in the mud. This is Africa, and I love it.

Can a skinny chicken lay eggs? June 24, 2012

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I think I’ve hit my low point (or at least I hope I have) while in Ghana. It’s been emotional for sure. We’ve been going into communities and talking to people about their financial situations, and it’s difficult because there’s just not a ton of economic opportunity. Micro finance is kind of really depressing. Telling a woman, so far in debt, that she needs to pay back 367 cedis a week when she only makes 50 cedis a week is hard. Telling a man that he will not be able to send his children to secondary school based on the income he is making currently sucks. And feeling powerless to help is even worse.

I’ve been trying to think about what I want to implement in the short time I have here, and I have so many  ideas, it’s difficult to choose what needs to be a priority.

It’s tough to look at the big picture when you build these relationships with people. You don’t want to say, it’s alright, this bank that I’m helping develop should be flourishing in twenty years and poor people will be able to take out loans without the crippling interest that keeps them in a vicious debt cycle. You want it to work now, for the grandmother of 5 who has just invited you into her home and talked to you for two hours, pulled out her best chair, and shared what little she has with you.

I’ve been trying to think of what I want to leave this place with, what I want to have gained. At first I thought optimism–as a naturally optimistic person, I’ve kind of been depressed these past few days and it’s very difficult to look at the situation in an optimistic light. And then I considered peace–but I shouldn’t leave with peace, because the things I’ve learned, they are unsettling, and leaving with peace is living in denial. And so I hope to leave with hope, for a better future, and I’m going to do everything I can to leave behind a program that I can have hope in.

June 19, 2012

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Today was the first day I felt overwhelmed. The tropics are a little exhausting. We visited the communities and looked at their sources of water. Ekomfi Ekotsi has a running river near it that they use for drinking, bathing etc. Orion, the director, drank from it and got three parasites. While the adults have drank from it their whole lives and become immune to it, most of the children in the community have trouble with diarrhea and other illnesses. We checked out the community development fund that Global Brigades helped install, and then visited the Mankessim market. I don’t enjoy shopping for long periods of time in the States as is, so shopping in the market was not my favorite thing in the world… the amount of people, the goods being sold, the people talking about you, the horns honking, the powerful smells of fish and food. I bought some local peanut butter and some fabric to take to the seamstress. I wish I had pictures, but many Ghanaians don’t like having their picture taken at the market, and we were drawing enough attention as is. Everyone was staring, but not with the curious eyes and friendly smiles of the people in the villages that Global Brigades has been working in and building relationships with for a year, but with mistrust—what are these abruni doing here? And one of the other interns became ill. I was glad when I got home.

Over dinner, I finally met and talked forever with Claire and William, the coordinators of microfinance for Global Brigades. This was most definitely the most exciting part of the day. The bank Global Brigades has developed here is very different than the microfinance initiatives I’ve read about in Bangladesh and India and Rwanda. And it’s very new, and it’s very overwhelming because it works with so little capital. There were no initial grants to provide a cushion for the bank, aside from small $100 donations from students, which is pretty much nothing. I’m very unsure of what economic opportunities exist in this community. They seem to be scarce, or at least quite modest. And the competition is incredibly intense, as I’ve seen in the market. I went to 4 fabric stalls today, all within perhaps a half mile of each other. How large can the economic gains be when you borrow money to expand your fabric shop when there are three other right next door? Most of the economics majors that have come in to visit from other schools have left very discouraged, and I’m still trying to process how to tailor microfinance so that it fits into this community. Claire has been here for over a year, and studied Development Studies at Berkeley while William grew up in the Eastern region of Ghana and studied Mathematics & Statistics at the University of Accra. Their enthusiasm and energy truly excites me—especially William’s. As I was asking them questions and processing facts in my head I could see him becoming impatient—what are your ideas? What do you want to achieve as an intern? He was so eager for my input, and it made me realize I really am helping form and build an NGO that is only 9 or 10 years old, and has only been in Ghana for a year and a half, and that has expanded and grown so quickly due to demand and the hard, after hours work of Ghanaians and Americans alike.

Other news: I washed some clothes Ghana style AKA huddled over a bucket with powdered soap today, and I have maybe my first sunburn, ever. (I’m Southeast Asian, so a sunburn is kind of foreign to me, haha). And I’m really really sweaty, constantly. That’s about it.

Loving every minute and learning a ton. So thankful for Fleet to help me go on this amazing opportunity.

Trisha

Akwaaba! Welcome to my country. June 18, 2012

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I don’t really have words to describe what it is like here, but I will try.

First of all, I LOVE it. I’m ridiculously excited every single minute of every single day and don’t really know when it’s going to rub off. in Biffkrum, in the Central Region of Ghana, just outside of Mankessim. Here, it is rainy season, and it’s very green and lush.

I’m here in Ghana as a microfinance intern for the NGO Global Brigades, the world’s largest student led international development organization. It started back in ’03 o4 ’04 in Honduras when a Honduran nonprofit wanted to provide medical services for people in a community in the mountains that were isolated from health care. The nonprofit works by sending university students on 7 to 10 day trips that they pay for themselves to provide medical services. In 2007, these services spread to encompass a more holistic approach, and now students from multiple disciplines come provide dental relief, microfinance expertise, etc.

Yesterday, the village we are working in, Ekumfi Ekotso, welcomed us with an opening ceremony, which they do whenever they have a large group of foreign visitors. It was an absolutely incredible, unforgettable experience. We walked through the village dancing to music. Children came up to us and grabbed at our hands and danced with us. I spoke to them in the few words of Fante that I’m picking up—wo ho fre den? What is your name?  Wo ho te den? How are you? Afterwards, we listened to speeches from the different chiefs (fun fact: the co-founder of Global Brigades Ghana, Orion, is the chief of development in the village now.) And we were made to dance in front of everyone, and I embarrassed myself wholeheartedly… videos to come.

Today, I went door to door with my translator, Janet, who is absolutely a gem and wants to be a high school Fante teacher and another intern asking the community members what they want from us. I talked to many elderly people, and they all had like 8+ children—incredible! It seemed that the adults were most interested in obtaining machines to make farming easier. Most everyone in the village is a subsistence farmer grows cassava and maize. The children and teenagers, on the other hand, would love a secondary school in the community that is cheaper. I also visited the community bank today in the village we are working in, Ekumfi Ekotso. The bank is volunteer based and has around 400 villagers who have accounts there, and it’s my job to help strengthen it and develop it further during the time I am here. My mind is absolutely teeming with ideas, and I can’t wait to start on my work.

The intern house we are staying in is nice in comparison to the homes we are staying in. I am pretty much just always sweating, but we do have running water. The power goes out often and we had to push the van out of a pothole in the road today, haha, but I am just in love with every single adventure and loving every single minute!

Me ma wo ah jo. Good night!

Ama Trisha

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