Difference between pages "Eastern Caribbean" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica"

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{{Living_conditions_and_volunteer_lifestyles_by_country}}
|Countryname = Eastern Caribbean
 
|CountryCode = st
 
|status = [[ACTIVE]]
 
|Map = LocationOECS.PNG
 
|Welcomebooklink = http://www.peacecorps.gov/welcomebooks/lcwb538.pdf
 
|Region = [[The Caribbean]]
 
|CountryDirector = [[Kevin Carley]]
 
|Sectors = [[Grenada]]<br> ([[APCD]]: [[Franka Bernardine]])<br> [[Dominica]] <br>([[APCD]]: [[Patrick Henderson]])<br> [[St. Kitts & Nevis]] <br>([[APCD]]: [[Mavis Huggins]])<br>[[St. Vincent & The Grenadines]] <br>([[APCD]]: [[Cuthbert James]])<br>[[St. Lucia]] <br>([[APCD]]: [[Sharmon Jules]])
 
|ProgramDates = [[1961]] - [[Present]]
 
|CurrentlyServing = 139
 
|TotalVolunteers = 3555
 
|Languages = [[English]], [[Spanish]], [[English Creole]], [[French Creole (Kweyol)]], [[Island Carib]]
 
|Flag =
 
|stagingdate= Jan 27 2010
 
|stagingcity= Miami
 
}}
 
  
The Peace Corps currently operates in the countries of [[Antigua and Barbuda]], [[Dominica]], [[Grenada and Carriacou]], [[St. Lucia]], [[St. Vincent and the Grenadines]], and [[St. Kitts and Nevis]]. The countries of the Eastern Caribbean face special development challenges because of their small size and vulnerability to natural disasters. They are poised on the edge of technological innovation, yet hampered by a limited economy subject to any changes in the global economy. One such example is the island of Dominica. In 2005, it reported a 60 percent drop in exports, while remaining in the top third of the United Nations Development Index. Despite these complexities, there remains a natural beauty formed from the many rugged mountains, extensive rain forests, dynamic volcanoes, and lush vegetation found throughout the islands.
 
  
The islands are confronted with increased unemployment, growing drug trafficking, and periodic natural disasters such as hurricanes and volcanoes. Opportunities for youth are particularly limited. Economically, the Eastern Caribbean nations are sustained primarily by single cash crops or tourism. There is growth among communication and technology sectors in some areas.
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===Communications===
  
Peace Corps programs focus primarily on providing job skills training and health services to youth. In collaboration with government ministries and nongovernmental organizations, Peace Corps /Eastern Caribbean has integrated the following into its integrated community development program: information technology, disaster preparedness and mitigation, and HIV/AIDS education and prevention.
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====Mail====
  
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Airmail to and from Costa Rica takes one to two weeks.  Volunteers in more remote areas of the country have an additional delay. You can receive mail at the Peace Corps office both during training and as a Volunteer.
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The mailing address of the Peace Corps office is:
  
==Peace Corps History==
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“Your Name,” PCT
  
''Main article: [[History of the Peace Corps in the Eastern Caribbean]]''
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Cuerpo de Paz
  
The Peace Corps entered the Eastern Caribbean in 1961, when St. Lucia became one of the first countries in the world to receive Volunteers. Since then, approximately 3,300 Peace Corps Volunteers have served on various island nations in the region. Volunteers were initially assigned to education, agriculture, health, youth, and community development projects. The contributions of Volunteers in these areas have provided strong and consistent technical support to the Eastern Caribbean for more than 40 years. Basic human needs programming in the 1970s encouraged health, special education, preschool education, teacher training, forestry, fishery, and livestock extension projects. The 1980s were a period that focused on four projects: education, health, agriculture, and small enterprise development. At the beginning of the 1990s, education, environment, health, and youth initiatives were priorities. Peace Corps/Eastern Caribbean has made significant progress since January 1991 to establish project-based programming and to provide focus to the program. After concluding an assessment of the program in 1993, efforts focused on developing partnerships with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and moving steadily away from formal education into educational projects targeting at-risk youth.
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Apartado Postal 1266
  
Peace Corps Volunteers currently serve in six island nations in the Eastern Caribbean:
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1000 San José
# [[Antigua and Barbuda]]
 
# [[Dominica]]
 
# [[Grenada, Carriacou, and Petit Martinique]]
 
# [[St. Kitts and Nevis]]
 
# [[St. Lucia]], and
 
# [[St. Vincent and the Grenadines]]
 
  
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Costa Rica
  
  
  
==Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle==
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Once you have completed training, you will be responsible for sending the address of your new site to friends and family.  Most sites are near post offices, and Volunteers can rent a post office box or have mail delivered directly to their home.
  
''Main article: [[Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in the Eastern Caribbean]]''
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We discourage you from having people send you money, airline tickets, or other valuable items through the mail. Items mailed in “bubbled” manila envelopes have a better chance of arriving at your site without being delayed by customs. Larger packages have to go through customs and sometimes mysteriously disappear in transit. Retrieving packages from customs is time-consuming and often requires payment of duty fees.
  
During this time, you will begin to integrate links with your host community. Your associate Peace Corps director will identify proper housing for you. It is very likely that all homes will have running water and electricity. The houses will also be fully furnished and a few may include a television set with cable service. Volunteer sites can be as close as 15 minutes or as far as 90 minutes from the capital and the Peace Corps office.
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DHL, Federal Express, and other couriers have offices in Costa Rica. If your friends or relatives want to send you something by courier, they should send it to the Peace Corps office, for which a phone number and directions to a street address are usually required. The Peace Corps/Costa Rica office phone number is 011.506.231.4122; the fax number is 011.506.220.3275. The Peace Corps/Costa Rica office address and directions are: Mucho Gusta practicar deportes. soy de bilar.
  
==Training==
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“Your Name,” PCT
  
''Main article: [[Training in the Eastern Caribbean]]''
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Cuerpo de Paz
  
Pre-service training (PST) is seven weeks in length and begins with the arrival of a new group of trainees, once a year. Phase One of PST, the first three weeks, is conducted on St. Lucia, where Peace Corps/Eastern Caribbean headquarters is located.. Phase Two of PST takes place on the island nation of assignment and lasts four weeks. During the entire training period and for two weeks after swearing-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will live with a homestay family. Qualification for Peace Corps service is determined according to an established set of competencies and upon successful completion of PST. After seven weeks of PST, trainees are sworn-in as Volunteers and are expected to serve 24 months from that date.
 
  
Pre-service training in the Eastern Caribbean is a unique and challenging opportunity that requires your active and full participation. There are two interrelated goals. First, training is designed to provide you with the basic cross-cultural, technical, language, behavior norms, and health and personal safety skills necessary to live and work effectively as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Second, training is a mutual assessment process, whereby you will have the responsibility to assess whether Peace Corps service is the right thing for you at this point in your life. At the same time, Peace Corps staff will assess your suitability to provide the Eastern Caribbean with Volunteers who are effective and qualified.
 
  
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Del Banco Interfin en Sabana Norte, dos cuadras al oeste y una cuadra al sur. Diagonal a la residencia del embajador de España, frente al Parque Perú.
  
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San José, Costa Rica
  
==Health Care and Safety==
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====Telephones====
  
''Main article: [[Health care and safety in the Eastern Caribbean]]''
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International phone service to and from Costa Rica is good.  One can make direct calls to the United States at phone centers located throughout the country, using a calling card (e.g., from MCI, AT&T, Sprint, or the Costa Rican telephone company) or calling collect. During training, most of the host families that Volunteers live with have telephones; if they do not, there is likely to be a neighbor with a phone or a public phone nearby. Telephone service is more limited at a few rural sites. The Peace Corps issues a beeper to Volunteers who live with families that do not have phones.
  
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps/Eastern Caribbean maintains its own in-country health unit with three full-time medical officers. One, based on St. Lucia, is responsible for the medical needs of Peace Corps Volunteers on Dominica and St. Lucia. Another, based in St. Vincent and the Grenadines looks after Volunteers on St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as Grenada. The third, based on St. Kitts, takes care of Volunteers on Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis. The medical officers travel regularly to the island nations in their care. Consultant medical services are also available throughout the Eastern Caribbean. In addition, the Peace Corps has a well-organized system for moving seriously ill Volunteers to the continental United States or another appropriate site when necessary.
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Fax service is also available in most cities, usually at the local post office. The post office charges a fee for both sending and receiving faxes. LOL. Once you are at your assigned site, you can send a fax number to your friends and relatives for easier communication.  
  
The Peace Corps medical program emphasizes the preventive approach to disease rather than the curative mode. As a rule of thumb, good healthcare comes from good health maintenance. Health conditions in the Caribbean are good by international standards, but certain immunizations are required and must be kept current during your tour.  
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You do not need a cellular phone to carry out your work in Costa Rica. Most U.S. cellphones are not compatible with the cellular technology in Costa Rica, although there are plans to change this in the near future.  
  
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To reach you in an emergency, your family can call the Office of Special Services at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., at 800.424.8580 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              800.424.8580      end_of_the_skype_highlighting, extension 1470 (or 202.638.2574 during nonbusiness hours). The Office of Special Services will contact Peace Corps/Costa Rica as soon as possible to relay the information.
  
==Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues==
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====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
  
''Main article: [[Diversity and cross-cultural issues in the Eastern Caribbean]]''
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You will have access to computers and the Internet at the Volunteer resource center at the Peace Corps office in San José. Because these computers are shared among all Volunteers in-country, access depends on demand. In addition, Volunteers in the children, youth, and families project have limited access to computers at the local child welfare office. Bringing a personal computer to Costa Rica increases your risk of being a victim of theft. Nevertheless, some Volunteers bring laptop computers with them, which they find useful for work purposes, but access to the Internet may be limited.
  
In the Eastern Caribbean, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyles, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context very different from your own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics considered familiar and commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed.
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===Housing and Site Location===
  
The Caribbean people are well-known for their generous hospitality to foreigners. However, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to differences that you present. We will ask you to be supportive of one another.
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Currently, there are Volunteers in all parts of the country: the Central Valley, Limón on the Caribbean coast, Puntarenas on the Pacific coast, as far north as Los Chiles near the Nicaraguan border, and as far south as Paso Canoas on the Panama border. While sites vary in size, climate, and distance to downtown San José (from 20 minutes to eight hours by bus), each has been preselected by the Peace Corps in consultation with relevant host country agencies as being a community where a Volunteer will find plenty of work opportunities and support.  
  
To ease the transition and adapt to life in the Eastern Caribbean, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions will need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limits. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during your pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge will ultimately be your own.  
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Volunteers in the children, youth, and families project live in urban, semi-urban, or rural communities. While Volunteers in the community development and micro-enterprise development projects will live in rural/semi-rural communities.  Volunteers in urban sites usually have access via a short bus ride to services such as banks, post offices, and hospitals.  Volunteers in more rural areas have to take a longer bus ride to the nearest large town to mail letters or cash checks. Some sites are converted squatter settlements made up of a combination of tin and wood shacks, but most sites have recently built two- or three-room cement block buildings with corrugated steel roofs. All Volunteer houses have cold running water and electricity, and most have phones. In all communities, you will find a church, a school, and general stores (pulperías) that sell staples such as rice, black beans, tuna, soap, soft drinks, and snack food.  
  
* Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
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During training, you will live with a family selected by the training staff in one of several training communities. During your first year of service, you are also required to live with a family in your assigned community.  This promotes your integration into the community, increases your language skills, and helps ensure your safety. The families are recommended by community leaders and approved by your program manager. Requests to live independently during the second year are approved on a case-by-case basis.
* Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
 
* Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
 
* Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
 
* Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
 
* Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
 
* Possible Issues for Married Volunteers
 
  
==Frequently Asked Questions==
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The family you stay with, which is likely to include children, will probably have a home modest in size and comfort. While the Peace Corps requests that Volunteers be given their own room, you may find that its walls do not reach the ceiling or are very thin. It is important to remember that the concept of individual space in Costa Rica is different from that in America. While some Volunteers find living with a family frustrating at times, they also concede that it is an enriching way to experience a new culture and develop an awareness of its values.
  
{{Volunteersurvey2008
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While you will find most Costa Rican people to be kind and good, communities also have members with a variety of problems, including substance abuse and alcoholism, low income, single parenthood, child abuse, high unemployment, and delinquency. Therefore your safety is of major concern, and you will have to adjust and conform to different norms of behavior and take continual precautions to maximize your safety. (The Health Care and Safety chapter provides more information on this important issue.)
|H1r=  40
 
|H1s=  72
 
|H2r=  60
 
|H2s=  78
 
|H3r=  36
 
|H3s=  84.3
 
|H4r=  55
 
|H4s=  100
 
|H5r=  55
 
|H5s=  46
 
|H6r=  52
 
|H6s=  74.3
 
}}
 
  
''Main article: [[FAQs about Peace Corps in the Eastern Caribbean]]''
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===Living Allowance and Money Management===
  
* How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to the Eastern Caribbean?
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During pre-service training, the Peace Corps will open an electronic debit account (in colóns) for you at Banco Naciónal, to which you can gain access from any of the bank’s automated teller machines throughout the country.  (Most ATM cards from U.S. banks can also be used at local banks.) The debit card can also be used at most larger businesses.  The Peace Corps pays host families a set amount to cover your food, lodging, and laundry during training and deposits a small “walking-around allowance” in your account for other expenses.
* What is the electric current in the Eastern Caribbean?
 
* How much money should I bring?
 
* When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
 
* Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
 
* Do I need an international driver’s license?
 
* What should I bring as gifts for Caribbean friends and my host family?
 
* Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
 
* How can my family contact me in an emergency?
 
* Can I call home from any of the island nations?
 
* Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
 
* Will there be e-mail and Internet access?
 
  
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When you become a Volunteer, the Peace Corps will begin depositing a living allowance in your account every month, along with a one-time settling-in allowance (about $200) to purchase items to set up your home. The amount of the living allowance is based on an annual cost-of-living survey of current Volunteers and is intended to cover all of your essential expenses, i.e., rent, local travel, food, and entertainment. You will negotiate the rent you pay your host family using guidelines provided by the Peace Corps.
  
==Packing List==
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The Peace Corps encourages you to maintain a lifestyle similar to that of the people with whom you live and work, so you do not need to bring additional money. Nevertheless, many Volunteers bring at least one major credit card in case they need to make a major personal purchase or for out-ofcountry travel. If you choose to bring extra money, we
  
''Main article: [[Packing list for the Eastern Caribbean]]''
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recommend that you bring traveler’s checks or open a local bank account in dollars to minimize the risk of loss or theft.  There is also a safe at the Peace Corps office in which Volunteers can store cash, credit cards, traveler’s checks, and important documents.
  
There is no perfect packing list. You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later.
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You will also accrue $24 per month of Volunteer service for a vacation allowance, deposited monthly in your account in local currency. Some Volunteers regularly transfer their leave allowance into a dollar account to prevent losses resulting from devaluation of the local currency.
  
One essential item to bring is a shortwave battery-operated radio. We strongly encourage all Volunteers to keep a radio at home so that in the event of an emergency or hurricane you can be kept informed of the latest developments
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===Food and Diet===
  
You will need clothing for work, special occasions, and relaxation and fun. Bring clothes that are washable (although you can always have your nice clothes dry-cleaned, as this is available in the capital and main towns). For work, both men and women should stick to cotton and poly-cottons so you can dress to stay cool. Military-style clothing (i.e., camouflage or olive-green Army surplus items) is inappropriate for a Volunteer.  
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During training, your host family will prepare all of your meals. Once you are a Volunteer, you can arrange to have all or some of your meals with your host family or buy and prepare your own food.  
  
* For Work
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The availability of fresh fruits and vegetables depends on the season and the region. Costa Ricans tend to eat few green vegetables, favoring root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassavas, etc.). Volunteers sometimes comment on the lack of diversity in the local diet, which relies heavily on rice and beans and starchy foods fried in oil or lard. Many families do not eat a lot of meat because of its cost. Although almost any specialty food can be purchased at supermarkets in San José, these imported products are not part of the local diet and are well beyond the economic means of most host families.
* For Relaxation and Fun
 
* Shoes
 
* For Men
 
* For Women
 
* Miscellaneous
 
* Toiletries
 
* Photos
 
* Overnight Bag
 
  
==Peace Corps News==
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It is relatively easy for vegetarians to maintain their diet in Costa Rica, since rice and beans are the staple foods.  However, Costa Ricans often prepare their vegetables with meat or in meat broth, so you will have to make special arrangements to maintain a strictly vegetarian diet.
  
Current events relating to Peace Corps are also available by [[News | country of service]] or [[News by state|your home state]]
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===Transportation===
  
''The following is automatic RSS feed of Peace Corps news for this country.''<br><rss title=on desc=off>http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ned=us&scoring=n&q=%22peace+corps%22+%22eastern+caribbean%22&output=rss|charset=UTF-8|short|date=M d</rss>
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The country has an extensive road system of more than 18,600 miles (30,000&nbsp;km), although much of it is in disrepair. The main cities in the Central Valley are connected by paved, all-weather roads to the Caribbean and Pacific coasts and to the Pan American Highway, which goes to Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica’s neighbors to the north and south. Unfortunately, the rate of traffic-related fatalities is one of the highest per capita in the world.  
  
==Country Fund==
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Volunteers travel mostly by public bus. Costa Rica has an extensive and dependable bus system that operates in most of the country. The service is inexpensive and usually runs on a set schedule several times a day. In the San José metropolitan area, however, traffic jams often extend travel times.
  
Contributions to the [https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=538-CFD Eastern Caribbean Country Fund] will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in Eastern Caribbean. These projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, and youth programs.
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The Peace Corps recommends taking “official” taxis at night; the red cars with yellow triangles on the front doors are easily identifiable. Most fares within the San José area are determined by using the meter (called the María), but longer distances are usually set at a fixed rate.  
  
==See Also==
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Volunteers are not allowed to drive motorized vehicles except during an official vacation. Many Volunteers request and receive bicycles from the Peace Corps to facilitate travel around their sites. Volunteers who are issued a bicycle must receive safety training and wear a bicycle helmet provided by the Peace Corps. Volunteers are not allowed to drive or ride as a passenger on the bat mobile.
* [[Friends of the Eastern Caribbean]]
 
* [[List of resources for the Eastern Caribbean]]
 
* [[Pre-Departure Checklist]]
 
* [[Inspector General Reports]]
 
  
[[Category:Eastern Caribbean]] [[Category:The Caribbean]] [[Category:Country]]
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===Geography and Climate===
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There are two distinct seasons in Costa Rica, rainy and dry. In much of the country, the rainy season lasts from May to November, but parts of the Caribbean coast receive rain year-round. And when it rains, it really rains, with heavy afternoon downpours resulting in flooded or muddy streets. The driest months in San José are December through April. The southwestern plains and mountain slopes receive more rain, averaging only three dry months a year. Temperatures vary little between seasons—the main influence on temperature is altitude. San José, at almost 3,800 feet (1,150 meters), has temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The coasts and lowlands are much hotter, averaging 72 degrees at night and 86 degrees during the day.
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Training takes place in several communities in the Central Valley (near San José), so be prepared for warm days and cool nights. You will need a warm jacket or heavy sweater, especially during the rainy season, when the dampness and wind make it quite chilly. A blanket (easily purchased in Costa Rica) is necessary for sleeping even at lower altitudes.
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The climate in your future work site will depend on where you are located. You should be prepared for a location that is very hot, somewhat cooler, or anything in between.
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===Social Activities===
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Since your assignment will entail working with people, much of your “work” time will be spent socializing and getting to know community members by drinking a cafecito (coffee) with them. This time with community members is important to building the trust necessary to work effectively with them. The Peace Corps expects Volunteers to spend most evenings and weekends working or socializing in their community, except when they work in another community on integrated programming efforts. In fact, Volunteers may spend only one weekend night per month away from their site for non-workrelated reasons, unless they have requested vacation time.
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Most Volunteers celebrate birthdays, weddings, and holidays with their host families. Other activities depend on the size of the community. Smaller sites have activities at the community center, local school, soccer field, and churches. Larger communities may also have restaurants, a movie theater, a dance hall or disco, and special cultural activities. When you are in San José, you will find a variety of movie theaters, music and theater performances, art galleries, museums, and sports events. In addition, you are likely to discover places of incredible natural beauty close to your site and throughout the country.
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===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
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As a novelty in your community, you will be noticed, and your dress and behavior will be commented upon. Therefore, to minimize any unnecessary obstacles in your work and personal relations, you must respect local cultural norms. To help ensure that you serve as a positive role model by working in a professional and ethical manner, you will be asked to sign a copy of the code of behavior that governs the Peace Corps program in Costa Rica.
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Personal appearance delivers a message, whether intended or unintended. As in the United States, dressing appropriately in Costa Rica can enhance your credibility, since it reflects your respect for the customs and expectations of the people with whom you live and work. Inappropriate dress, like inappropriate behavior, is something that can set you unnecessarily apart from your community. Until you become well-known by Costa Ricans, your dress will be an important indicator to them. From the biggest city to the remotest village, you will be judged, especially initially, on your appearance.
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Costa Ricans dress very neatly and take great pride in looking good in public (i.e., clean with ironed clothes, polished shoes, and groomed hair), even on informal occasions. “Dressing down” as a personal statement does not occur to most people, since they are still struggling to better their lives. For example, it may be confusing and offensive to them to see a “rich” North American wear dirty gym shoes when dressier shoes are appropriate. A Volunteer who looks “young” can gain greater acceptance of his or her ideas by wearing the right outfit, which generally means wearing what Costa Ricans wear in the same situation. For example, in schools, Costa Rican women tend to wear skirts, dresses, or pressed pants and men tend to wear collared shirts with pants. When visiting with neighbors, however, you can wear casual clothes.  You are expected to observe these guidelines for dress during pre-service training as well.
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On the coast and in the big cities, shorts are acceptable for doing household projects and for recreational or sports activities. Shorts may not be worn at the Peace Corps office or in other professional settings (long culottes are acceptable for women). In hot areas, women often wear tank tops, sundresses, and dressy sandals for work.
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===Personal Safety===
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More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers, especially women, experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Costa Rica. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
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===Rewards and Frustrations===
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The Peace Corps is not for everyone. You will have to cope with the frustrations of working in a new culture with different norms and behaviors. You may be made fun of because of your difference from Costa Ricans. You must be willing to live with a family, even it makes you feel like a child again or makes you feel like you never leave your work. You will work with government employees who are often overworked and underappreciated. The work can be mentally and physically stressful because of Costa Rica’s complex social problems. Resources may be limited and facilities inadequate.
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You will need to find inner reserves of strength to continue your work with enthusiasm, new ideas, and much patience. In most cases, you will structure your own time. You must possess the self-confidence and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without always seeing immediate results.
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You will find that the key to satisfying work as a Peace Corps Volunteer is the ability to establish successful human relationships at all levels—with your host family, the community members with whom you work, counterpart agencies and school officials, and your fellow Volunteers. You can expect Costa Ricans to be friendly and interested in having you in their community. You will acquire a sense of accomplishment when small projects are made effective because of your efforts. In addition, acceptance into a foreign culture and acquisition of a second or even a third language are significant rewards. If you have the personal qualifications needed to meet the challenges of two years of service in Costa Rica, you will have a rewarding, enriching, and lasting experience. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have had a positive impact on other people’s lives while making much-needed contributions to the goals of Peace Corps/Costa Rica. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the rewards are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave Costa Rica feeling that they gained much more than they sacrificed during their service.
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[[Category:Costa Rica]]

Revision as of 20:58, 9 May 2013



Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in [[{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |8}}]]
As a Peace Corps Volunteers, you will have to adapt to conditions that may be dramatically different than you have ever experienced and modify lifestyle practices that you now take for granted. Even the most basic practices— talking, eating, using the bathroom, and sleeping — may take significantly different forms in the context of the host country. If you successfully adapt and integrate, you will in return be rewarded with a deep understanding of a new culture, the establishment of new and potentially lifelong relationships, and a profound sense of humanity.
  • [[Packing list for {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |8}}]]
  • [[Training in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |8}}]]
  • [[Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |8}}]]
  • [[Health care and safety in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |8}}]]
  • [[Diversity and cross-cultural issues in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |8}}]]
  • [[FAQs about Peace Corps in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |8}}]]
  • [[History of the Peace Corps in {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |8}}]]
See also:

Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles by Country Pre-Departure Checklist
Staging Timeline

For information see Welcomebooks

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[[Category:{{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |6}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |7}} {{#explode:Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Costa Rica| |8}}]]


Communications

Mail

Airmail to and from Costa Rica takes one to two weeks. Volunteers in more remote areas of the country have an additional delay. You can receive mail at the Peace Corps office both during training and as a Volunteer. The mailing address of the Peace Corps office is:

“Your Name,” PCT

Cuerpo de Paz

Apartado Postal 1266

1000 San José

Costa Rica


Once you have completed training, you will be responsible for sending the address of your new site to friends and family. Most sites are near post offices, and Volunteers can rent a post office box or have mail delivered directly to their home.

We discourage you from having people send you money, airline tickets, or other valuable items through the mail. Items mailed in “bubbled” manila envelopes have a better chance of arriving at your site without being delayed by customs. Larger packages have to go through customs and sometimes mysteriously disappear in transit. Retrieving packages from customs is time-consuming and often requires payment of duty fees.

DHL, Federal Express, and other couriers have offices in Costa Rica. If your friends or relatives want to send you something by courier, they should send it to the Peace Corps office, for which a phone number and directions to a street address are usually required. The Peace Corps/Costa Rica office phone number is 011.506.231.4122; the fax number is 011.506.220.3275. The Peace Corps/Costa Rica office address and directions are: Mucho Gusta practicar deportes. soy de bilar.

“Your Name,” PCT

Cuerpo de Paz


Del Banco Interfin en Sabana Norte, dos cuadras al oeste y una cuadra al sur. Diagonal a la residencia del embajador de España, frente al Parque Perú.

San José, Costa Rica

Telephones

International phone service to and from Costa Rica is good. One can make direct calls to the United States at phone centers located throughout the country, using a calling card (e.g., from MCI, AT&T, Sprint, or the Costa Rican telephone company) or calling collect. During training, most of the host families that Volunteers live with have telephones; if they do not, there is likely to be a neighbor with a phone or a public phone nearby. Telephone service is more limited at a few rural sites. The Peace Corps issues a beeper to Volunteers who live with families that do not have phones.

Fax service is also available in most cities, usually at the local post office. The post office charges a fee for both sending and receiving faxes. LOL. Once you are at your assigned site, you can send a fax number to your friends and relatives for easier communication.

You do not need a cellular phone to carry out your work in Costa Rica. Most U.S. cellphones are not compatible with the cellular technology in Costa Rica, although there are plans to change this in the near future.

To reach you in an emergency, your family can call the Office of Special Services at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., at 800.424.8580 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              800.424.8580      end_of_the_skype_highlighting, extension 1470 (or 202.638.2574 during nonbusiness hours). The Office of Special Services will contact Peace Corps/Costa Rica as soon as possible to relay the information.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

You will have access to computers and the Internet at the Volunteer resource center at the Peace Corps office in San José. Because these computers are shared among all Volunteers in-country, access depends on demand. In addition, Volunteers in the children, youth, and families project have limited access to computers at the local child welfare office. Bringing a personal computer to Costa Rica increases your risk of being a victim of theft. Nevertheless, some Volunteers bring laptop computers with them, which they find useful for work purposes, but access to the Internet may be limited.

Housing and Site Location

Currently, there are Volunteers in all parts of the country: the Central Valley, Limón on the Caribbean coast, Puntarenas on the Pacific coast, as far north as Los Chiles near the Nicaraguan border, and as far south as Paso Canoas on the Panama border. While sites vary in size, climate, and distance to downtown San José (from 20 minutes to eight hours by bus), each has been preselected by the Peace Corps in consultation with relevant host country agencies as being a community where a Volunteer will find plenty of work opportunities and support.

Volunteers in the children, youth, and families project live in urban, semi-urban, or rural communities. While Volunteers in the community development and micro-enterprise development projects will live in rural/semi-rural communities. Volunteers in urban sites usually have access via a short bus ride to services such as banks, post offices, and hospitals. Volunteers in more rural areas have to take a longer bus ride to the nearest large town to mail letters or cash checks. Some sites are converted squatter settlements made up of a combination of tin and wood shacks, but most sites have recently built two- or three-room cement block buildings with corrugated steel roofs. All Volunteer houses have cold running water and electricity, and most have phones. In all communities, you will find a church, a school, and general stores (pulperías) that sell staples such as rice, black beans, tuna, soap, soft drinks, and snack food.

During training, you will live with a family selected by the training staff in one of several training communities. During your first year of service, you are also required to live with a family in your assigned community. This promotes your integration into the community, increases your language skills, and helps ensure your safety. The families are recommended by community leaders and approved by your program manager. Requests to live independently during the second year are approved on a case-by-case basis.

The family you stay with, which is likely to include children, will probably have a home modest in size and comfort. While the Peace Corps requests that Volunteers be given their own room, you may find that its walls do not reach the ceiling or are very thin. It is important to remember that the concept of individual space in Costa Rica is different from that in America. While some Volunteers find living with a family frustrating at times, they also concede that it is an enriching way to experience a new culture and develop an awareness of its values.

While you will find most Costa Rican people to be kind and good, communities also have members with a variety of problems, including substance abuse and alcoholism, low income, single parenthood, child abuse, high unemployment, and delinquency. Therefore your safety is of major concern, and you will have to adjust and conform to different norms of behavior and take continual precautions to maximize your safety. (The Health Care and Safety chapter provides more information on this important issue.)

Living Allowance and Money Management

During pre-service training, the Peace Corps will open an electronic debit account (in colóns) for you at Banco Naciónal, to which you can gain access from any of the bank’s automated teller machines throughout the country. (Most ATM cards from U.S. banks can also be used at local banks.) The debit card can also be used at most larger businesses. The Peace Corps pays host families a set amount to cover your food, lodging, and laundry during training and deposits a small “walking-around allowance” in your account for other expenses.

When you become a Volunteer, the Peace Corps will begin depositing a living allowance in your account every month, along with a one-time settling-in allowance (about $200) to purchase items to set up your home. The amount of the living allowance is based on an annual cost-of-living survey of current Volunteers and is intended to cover all of your essential expenses, i.e., rent, local travel, food, and entertainment. You will negotiate the rent you pay your host family using guidelines provided by the Peace Corps.

The Peace Corps encourages you to maintain a lifestyle similar to that of the people with whom you live and work, so you do not need to bring additional money. Nevertheless, many Volunteers bring at least one major credit card in case they need to make a major personal purchase or for out-ofcountry travel. If you choose to bring extra money, we

recommend that you bring traveler’s checks or open a local bank account in dollars to minimize the risk of loss or theft. There is also a safe at the Peace Corps office in which Volunteers can store cash, credit cards, traveler’s checks, and important documents.

You will also accrue $24 per month of Volunteer service for a vacation allowance, deposited monthly in your account in local currency. Some Volunteers regularly transfer their leave allowance into a dollar account to prevent losses resulting from devaluation of the local currency.

Food and Diet

During training, your host family will prepare all of your meals. Once you are a Volunteer, you can arrange to have all or some of your meals with your host family or buy and prepare your own food.

The availability of fresh fruits and vegetables depends on the season and the region. Costa Ricans tend to eat few green vegetables, favoring root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassavas, etc.). Volunteers sometimes comment on the lack of diversity in the local diet, which relies heavily on rice and beans and starchy foods fried in oil or lard. Many families do not eat a lot of meat because of its cost. Although almost any specialty food can be purchased at supermarkets in San José, these imported products are not part of the local diet and are well beyond the economic means of most host families.

It is relatively easy for vegetarians to maintain their diet in Costa Rica, since rice and beans are the staple foods. However, Costa Ricans often prepare their vegetables with meat or in meat broth, so you will have to make special arrangements to maintain a strictly vegetarian diet.

Transportation

The country has an extensive road system of more than 18,600 miles (30,000 km), although much of it is in disrepair. The main cities in the Central Valley are connected by paved, all-weather roads to the Caribbean and Pacific coasts and to the Pan American Highway, which goes to Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica’s neighbors to the north and south. Unfortunately, the rate of traffic-related fatalities is one of the highest per capita in the world.

Volunteers travel mostly by public bus. Costa Rica has an extensive and dependable bus system that operates in most of the country. The service is inexpensive and usually runs on a set schedule several times a day. In the San José metropolitan area, however, traffic jams often extend travel times.

The Peace Corps recommends taking “official” taxis at night; the red cars with yellow triangles on the front doors are easily identifiable. Most fares within the San José area are determined by using the meter (called the María), but longer distances are usually set at a fixed rate.

Volunteers are not allowed to drive motorized vehicles except during an official vacation. Many Volunteers request and receive bicycles from the Peace Corps to facilitate travel around their sites. Volunteers who are issued a bicycle must receive safety training and wear a bicycle helmet provided by the Peace Corps. Volunteers are not allowed to drive or ride as a passenger on the bat mobile.

Geography and Climate

There are two distinct seasons in Costa Rica, rainy and dry. In much of the country, the rainy season lasts from May to November, but parts of the Caribbean coast receive rain year-round. And when it rains, it really rains, with heavy afternoon downpours resulting in flooded or muddy streets. The driest months in San José are December through April. The southwestern plains and mountain slopes receive more rain, averaging only three dry months a year. Temperatures vary little between seasons—the main influence on temperature is altitude. San José, at almost 3,800 feet (1,150 meters), has temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The coasts and lowlands are much hotter, averaging 72 degrees at night and 86 degrees during the day.

Training takes place in several communities in the Central Valley (near San José), so be prepared for warm days and cool nights. You will need a warm jacket or heavy sweater, especially during the rainy season, when the dampness and wind make it quite chilly. A blanket (easily purchased in Costa Rica) is necessary for sleeping even at lower altitudes.

The climate in your future work site will depend on where you are located. You should be prepared for a location that is very hot, somewhat cooler, or anything in between.

Social Activities

Since your assignment will entail working with people, much of your “work” time will be spent socializing and getting to know community members by drinking a cafecito (coffee) with them. This time with community members is important to building the trust necessary to work effectively with them. The Peace Corps expects Volunteers to spend most evenings and weekends working or socializing in their community, except when they work in another community on integrated programming efforts. In fact, Volunteers may spend only one weekend night per month away from their site for non-workrelated reasons, unless they have requested vacation time.

Most Volunteers celebrate birthdays, weddings, and holidays with their host families. Other activities depend on the size of the community. Smaller sites have activities at the community center, local school, soccer field, and churches. Larger communities may also have restaurants, a movie theater, a dance hall or disco, and special cultural activities. When you are in San José, you will find a variety of movie theaters, music and theater performances, art galleries, museums, and sports events. In addition, you are likely to discover places of incredible natural beauty close to your site and throughout the country.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

As a novelty in your community, you will be noticed, and your dress and behavior will be commented upon. Therefore, to minimize any unnecessary obstacles in your work and personal relations, you must respect local cultural norms. To help ensure that you serve as a positive role model by working in a professional and ethical manner, you will be asked to sign a copy of the code of behavior that governs the Peace Corps program in Costa Rica.

Personal appearance delivers a message, whether intended or unintended. As in the United States, dressing appropriately in Costa Rica can enhance your credibility, since it reflects your respect for the customs and expectations of the people with whom you live and work. Inappropriate dress, like inappropriate behavior, is something that can set you unnecessarily apart from your community. Until you become well-known by Costa Ricans, your dress will be an important indicator to them. From the biggest city to the remotest village, you will be judged, especially initially, on your appearance.

Costa Ricans dress very neatly and take great pride in looking good in public (i.e., clean with ironed clothes, polished shoes, and groomed hair), even on informal occasions. “Dressing down” as a personal statement does not occur to most people, since they are still struggling to better their lives. For example, it may be confusing and offensive to them to see a “rich” North American wear dirty gym shoes when dressier shoes are appropriate. A Volunteer who looks “young” can gain greater acceptance of his or her ideas by wearing the right outfit, which generally means wearing what Costa Ricans wear in the same situation. For example, in schools, Costa Rican women tend to wear skirts, dresses, or pressed pants and men tend to wear collared shirts with pants. When visiting with neighbors, however, you can wear casual clothes. You are expected to observe these guidelines for dress during pre-service training as well.

On the coast and in the big cities, shorts are acceptable for doing household projects and for recreational or sports activities. Shorts may not be worn at the Peace Corps office or in other professional settings (long culottes are acceptable for women). In hot areas, women often wear tank tops, sundresses, and dressy sandals for work.

Personal Safety

More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers, especially women, experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Costa Rica. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations

The Peace Corps is not for everyone. You will have to cope with the frustrations of working in a new culture with different norms and behaviors. You may be made fun of because of your difference from Costa Ricans. You must be willing to live with a family, even it makes you feel like a child again or makes you feel like you never leave your work. You will work with government employees who are often overworked and underappreciated. The work can be mentally and physically stressful because of Costa Rica’s complex social problems. Resources may be limited and facilities inadequate.

You will need to find inner reserves of strength to continue your work with enthusiasm, new ideas, and much patience. In most cases, you will structure your own time. You must possess the self-confidence and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without always seeing immediate results.

You will find that the key to satisfying work as a Peace Corps Volunteer is the ability to establish successful human relationships at all levels—with your host family, the community members with whom you work, counterpart agencies and school officials, and your fellow Volunteers. You can expect Costa Ricans to be friendly and interested in having you in their community. You will acquire a sense of accomplishment when small projects are made effective because of your efforts. In addition, acceptance into a foreign culture and acquisition of a second or even a third language are significant rewards. If you have the personal qualifications needed to meet the challenges of two years of service in Costa Rica, you will have a rewarding, enriching, and lasting experience. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have had a positive impact on other people’s lives while making much-needed contributions to the goals of Peace Corps/Costa Rica. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the rewards are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave Costa Rica feeling that they gained much more than they sacrificed during their service.