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I wanted to start this blog post with the words “My first few days in Costa Rica have been____,” but after about 10 minutes with a thesaurus I realized that there truly wasn’t one word that encompassed my experience. It has been exciting, overwhelming, terrifying, comforting, and so much more.
My first day was a whirlwind around San Jose. The woman I am staying with (Mi Mama Tica) took me to pick up her sister, nephew, and granddaughter and we drove around looking for my office, ran errands, went to the mall, spent time in multiple houses, and had a big family dinner. I imagine my eyes were the size as golf balls as I tried to absorb every sight (and word of Spanish) that I could. I went to bed that night completely exhausted, but with a happy heart knowing that not only has a room in Costa Rica, but a family that came with it as well.
My first few days with the Special Olympics of Costa Rica (SOCR) brought similar emotions. They are patient, friendly, and more than welcoming. The people I am working with specifically, the directors of the Healthy Communities and Healthy Athletes Programs, have made me feel very at home in the office and have helped me navigate a new city in a new country.
My project, as it stood when began this journey, is to help connect Special Olympic Athletes with medical conditions to doctors in Costa Rica who are informed on how to work with people with intellectual disabilities. I hope to do this by both working with SO athletes to understand their needs and barriers to care as well as contacting doctors and acting as a liaison and advocate for the athletes. While it is still too early to tell, it appears that my plans may not play out exactly as I imagined. SOCR is having funding problems with the Costa Rican government and they are extremely understaffed and need lots of help in lots of different areas. I spent my first few days doing everything from reviewing medical records, filing consent sheets, and moving boxes and planks of wood. Tomorrow I will meet with my directors to review my experience with Health Programming with the Special Olympics North Carolina and discuss my trajectory for the summer. I am incredibly excited, and I look forward to being able help these people who have already made me feel so welcome in any way I can.