Watching My Dharma Unfold

 He asked if I remembered how to milk her from 7 years ago. I said "Yes, but I'll just watch you this morning". 

He asked if I remembered how to milk her from 7 years ago. I said "Yes, but I'll just watch you this morning". 

 Finally the little calf's turn to milk.

Finally the little calf's turn to milk.

 We dedicated this mural to Chuy, the boy would passed away while we were staying in the community. 

We dedicated this mural to Chuy, the boy would passed away while we were staying in the community. 

In 2009, when I was volunteering in Aguas Buenas, a 4 year old little boy died. It was the first dead body I ever saw. We were walking to the center of the village to continue building the community kitchen when I saw his little blue body lying on the road while a group of women sobbed and shrieked. He and his grandmother were out walking when he choked on the pit of a popular Costa Rican fruit. The grandmother had no idea what to do. For days the village was shut down to honor the boy's death. I went to the wake with my host family. What felt like hundreds of people flooded the tiny village, spending days on end with the mourning family. May he continue to Rest In Peace.


This event, while difficult to comprehend and hard to process, is one of the main reasons I chose to volunteer again in this country. This time around instead of mixing concrete and laying a foundation, I opted to provide medical assistance. Health Education, particularly preventative health education is lacking here. This time around I taught Yoga and worked in the clinic pharmacy. In the future I would really like to offer CPR and Heimlich classes. Health tutorials truly do save lives. Educating about the difference between immediate drowning and secondary drowning. Empowering communities by offering tools for family health. This is just the beginning. I feel called to work deeply in this part of the world, sharing resources and shining light on what is so often brushed under the table. It does seem like a grand task. I get overwhelmed at the thought. But if I can touch one family, one village, offer guidance and support, I feel my life has purpose. I don't know how it will all work. In this moment the details are unimportant. What's most important is to remember this feeling. When I'm stuck in the mundane of everyday life, I must remember my greater purpose. I must remember these people. I must remember gratitude, humility, and the way the universe shows me exactly what I need to do, at the pace that I can handle. I am joining an army of culturally sensitive, warm-hearted, holistic health workers. Seemingly random events have purpose. I am exactly where I need to be. 

Almost 7 Years Later, I Returned To My First Host Family

 Fields upon fields of fruit trees and coffee beans in Rural Costa Rica

Fields upon fields of fruit trees and coffee beans in Rural Costa Rica

 I drove right through the clouds!

I drove right through the clouds!

 Sergio, Marcelo, Geovanny, and Me. 2016. 

Sergio, Marcelo, Geovanny, and Me. 2016. 

When I was 17 I took my first trip to Costa Rica with a service organization, Global Routes. Deep in the mountains of Central Costa Rica, we were placed in twos with local families. I was stayed with the sweetest, funniest family. The boys were 10, 11, & 13. We spent hours playing card games, eating mangos straight from the tree and looking up inappropriate words in the Spanish-English Dictionary. Unable to contact them since, I showed up on their doorstep last week. Rural Costa Rica has very little signage so I really surprised myself by making it back there. It was so wonderful to embrace after all these years. My Spanish has improved, and the boys now 16, 17 & 19 have social media and a broader view of the world. Geovanny, the 19 year old attends University in San Jose and is studying Computer Science, I'm such a proud big "hermana"! The parents look almost exactly the same and welcomed me with food, offered me a bed and encouraged me to come back soon. It's such an amazing feeling to have family in other countries. Gracias Geovanny y Yancy por todo!

For The First Time In My Life, I Picked Up Hitchhikers

While driving down the coast by myself, I saw two women around my age and this 7-month old baby girl on the side of the road. Their story brought tears to my eyes. Their house in Nicaragua burned down last week. They left the rest of the kids with their Mom and started the journey to Panama where they have more family. They made it about halfway through Costa Rica by bus until they got kicked off because they couldn't pay the rest of the way. They had been walking in 90 degree weather on the side of the highway determined to make it to familia in Panama. Once in my rental car I asked if they wanted my leftover tuna fish and crackers, they scarfed it down so quickly and said it was the first food they'd eaten in 3 days, that they had been sleeping on the street and praying. The baby was so glazed over and couldn't smile. The mom wasn't producing very much milk due to not eating or drinking water. They had run out of diapers, tampons, water, everything. I had been feeling lonely in the car before I saw them, so we became fast friends. I took them to the market to buy some necessities and then treated them to iced coffees and pizza (it was the first time they had seen iced coffee). The baby came alive with yogurt, water, and music. We spent over an hour together talking about men, our favorite foods, and hardships. We wished each other well, they called me an angel, and we went our separate ways. May they be blessed. May I never take anything for granted. May I share the blessings I was born with. Sisters support sisters. Everywhere.

My Week at FIMRC: Foundation for International Medical Relief for Children

 I bonded with this Nicaraguan Mom of twins in the waiting area. She explained how tandem nursing works and we chatted about the challenges that come with every new stage. 

I bonded with this Nicaraguan Mom of twins in the waiting area. She explained how tandem nursing works and we chatted about the challenges that come with every new stage. 

One week down! My work at the clinic is finished, for now. I enjoyed my time volunteering with the Foundation for International Medical Relief for Children so much, that I am dreaming about making this an annual trip!

My favorite task at the clinic was definitely working the pharmacy. I received prescriptions from the young and fun Costa Rican doctor. Then I would write the dosage instructions on a post-it note for the patient. Depending on what they needed, Tylenol, Cough Syrup, Ointment, Baby supplies, etc. I would prepare the exact amount for them. Certain medicines we had a lot of (such as Acetaminophen and Benadryl), while others we had to use sparingly. The patients almost never received the full bottle of a medicine; so I would measure out liquids and count pills and transfer them into Ziploc bags or small containers. Once I had all the medicine for that family I would find them in the waiting room and in Spanish give them the dosage directions. For example; “Hola, tiene dos medicines. Ibuprofen para usted, una tableta cada 8 horas por 7 dias. Dexetrol para el bebe, dos gotas para los ojos por 5 dias. Tiene preguntas? Some of the medications were very hard to pronounce so I was happy to have the universal language of smiling and laughing.

The patients were SO grateful. Some hugged me, some looked like they could start crying because they had been in so much pain. They receive the treatment and medications from the clinic completely for free. While Costa Rica has national healthcare, the immigrants don’t get access. 90% of the patients I saw were Nicaraguan. Many of the children were malnourished, living with gastrointestinal disorders and/or parasites.

The case that was most shocking to me was a 4 year old boy who looked barely 18 months- 2 years old. He was way more emotional and irritable than your average tot and was clearly underdeveloped. We gave out a lot of vitamins and encouraged patients to continue coming for preventative care in addition to acute care.  I am impressed with the multifaceted approach of the clinic, showing patients that health extends beyond the physical body.

Inhalamos, Exhalamos :: Yoga & Twerking In Spanglish

What an experience! My first attempt at teaching Yoga to a Spanish speaking crowd. The group consisted of fellow American volunteers and about seven mentally and physically disabled adults. Usually, the resident psychologist leads Art or Dance Therapy, but she was home sick. Luckily, I had the help of Dayan, the lovely volunteer coordinator. He is from Costa Rica and already had a wonderful rapport with the group.  Much like instructing Yoga to kindergarteners, there was quite a lot of fooling around, giggling, and questioning. I called upon many of my Yoga teaching tricks and made up a bunch along the way. Instead of saying that we were getting our “wiggle worms” out by shaking out each individual limb, I lead by example and counted down from 10 in Spanish. They really loved this activated release and said they felt both heat and calm in their bodies. 

I thought it would be fun to bring attention to our lungs and how to breathe deeply by blowing up a yellow balloon.  As soon as I started letting the air out, loud farting-like noises expelled. Cue giggle fits and confusion about making sounds as we exhale. After several sun salutations, guerrero (warrior) poses, and learning how to stand tall like arboles (trees), I started to lose enthusiasm, especially with my lack of Spanish teaching vocabulary. Fellow Beyonce lover, Dayan put on Single Ladies and we fused Yoga with expressive-Zumba-esque dancing.  This is when the real fun began for me. We loosened our hips, practiced whipping our hands back 'n forth, and showed off booty dropping skills.  My nervousness melted away as we used Conga lines to practice good posture and laughed at everyone's approach to twerking. 

After more than an hour of vigorous movement with splashes of shoulder stretches and attention to the breath, everyone was raving about "Joga" and said their bodies and cabezas (minds) felt great. We cooled down by drawing our favorite yoga poses. At varying levels of mental intelligence, the participants poured their newfound creative movement onto paper. Almost all were proud to show off their work, ranging from dancing trees, colorful scribbles, ocean waves, warrior stick figures, and the Sun waving down to the Yoga students.  While this class was drastically different from every other class I've taught in the past, I could not be happier with the natural progression and deep presence from all of the participants. Until next time, Casa Club!

I'm Off To Costa Rica with 100lbs. Of Baggage...

Thanks to YOU! Over half of the weight I'm carrying I will be donating to Project Alajuelita, a medical clinic primarily serving Mothers and Children in Costa Rica.  After paying for my plane ticket and program fee to volunteer for one week with the wonderful non-profit, Foundation for International Medical Relief for Children, I extended the offer to contribute supplies solely to my Facebook community. I am blown away by the response... Local Moms, friends from college, Yoga students, and people I don't even know sent donations and money. In addition to the supplies, I am so grateful to have received verbal and emotional support from you all. Going on a solo trip to Latin America (especially in the middle of a CDC health crisis) is definitely anxiety producing. I would not have the confidence and sense of purpose starting this journey if it weren't for your kind gestures, words of encouragement, and strengthening embraces. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Stay tuned here to follow my 3-week journey :) Glad to have you along for the ride!