CR Part 5: The Vacation!

If you’ve missed my other recaps of my 3 week mission trip to Costa Rica, check out what I ate there, the mission work I did, and the adventure trips!

On the final Saturday of our mission work, we all woke up, ate breakfast with the Sisters, and packed up our bags. Before we knew it we were saying goodbye to our classmates who were heading home, then boarding our own bus and heading back to Manuel Antonio for our 5 day vacation!

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Twelve of us stayed in our house and piled on the bus, plus our professor who was headed to Nicaragua on Monday and needed a place to stay for a night. It was an easy 2.5 hour drive, which we all mainly slept and enjoyed the views – it was a long and exhausting 2 weeks of work and we were thrilled for a bit of a break. Some views from our drive…

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And we before we knew it, we were pulling up to our home for the next few days.. Villas Oasis!

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So that fence and stuff is the reflection of the opposite side… I had to look at this picture for awhile to decipher how the fence was right there.

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A mural on the back of our garage

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Our outdoor hang out area: grill, hammocks, picnic table

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Our pool area

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IMG_5742 Our view from the top of the lookout

 

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Our look out

Needless to say, we were all pumped about how incredible our place was! We took no time at all to claim our rooms, head to the store for some beers, and go relax poolside! It was the birthday of the professor who was staying with us on that Saturday, so we decided to throw a little party to celebrate! The other group of our class that was staying down the street came over to help us celebrate and drink the tons of sangria that we made. It ended up being a great night of laughs, reflection, crying, and memories.

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Sunday was pretty chill. We were all hung over from Saturday so we opted to just hang out by the pool all day and then venture out for a gorgeous happy hour with a view of the sunset!

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I’m pretty sure I was asleep by 9 or 10 on Sunday night, along with a few others. I read in bed for a bit then passed out…

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Monday was our beach day! We took a (long) walk to Playa Biesanz, over a ton of hills and through the woods to finally hit our destination:

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And then a wedding happened….

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And then some selfies and some touristy pics…

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We ate tacos and drank beer…

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We hung out with stray dogs…

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We went white water rafting!

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Then I came home…

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And cuddled with B….

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So there’s that!

Thinking Out Loud

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Okay, so, I can’t type that title without rocking out to Ed Sheeran in my head. Anyone else? No. Still love that song. Can’t get enough of it. ANYWAYS… Now back to your regularly scheduled blogging (Taking a break from the CR posts):

1. I hope you enjoyed reading about my Costa Rican journey – I still have my vacation and my emotional write up to give you. I struggled typing it up, because it’s a lot to type when you’re out of the country for 3 weeks. And because I didn’t want it to really be over. And because I was reminiscing with every word I wrote about how amazing it was.

2. I have been studying for at least 8-10 hours a day, every day, since the Saturday I got back from Costa Rica. I’m exhausted. I’m over it. I honestly just don’t care anymore. But I have to keep going. Just keep swimming, right? I honestly want nothing more than to go sleep when I get home from studying and getting up at 5am is the hardest thing ever.

3. I am coaching lacrosse again! I loved it so much last year and the girls asked if I was coming back, so I decided to do it. I haven’t been able to be around as much as I was last year, but once comps are over I should be able to be there more! We have a young team this year since we graduated 14 seniors, and we have a lot of athleticism. Things are looking up for the future!

4. This weekend is reunion weekend! Since I can’t afford to not study for an entire weekend, I am just heading up to Baltimore on Saturday to meet up with all of my college best friends! I haven’t seen all of them together since last summer, I think! It will definitely be a night to remember… er, or that I won’t remember? We shall see… ;-)

5. I am planning my graduation party and my mom is more excited about it than I am. Maybe the studying is getting to me, but I just don’t have the energy to care about anything at this point. I have a week and a half until comps and that is my sole focus. I made a “Honey-Do-List” for my parents to get started on until I can help out. My estimate: none of it gets done until after comps when I have more time to help.

6. I met up with one of my best friends Sarah last weekend for lunch and it was perfect. A much needed study break and catch up date with her! I am in her wedding in August so we had a great time chatting about wedding plans, my trip, her starting a new job (!), and me graduating. So many huge things happening! We went to Uncle Julio’s, always a favorite of mine. I enjoyed the veggie fajitas and Corona, it definitely hit the spot after a long morning of studying. (Sorry, I suck at taking pictures lately.)

7. With studying, comes coffee. With coffee comes addiction. And I’m there. I’m pretty sure one cup does nothing for me at this point and I need another one to get me to focus and wake up. I know, that’s not good. But it’s not stopping until after comps, so I’ll just embrace it for the time being. This isn’t good for my trying to savor every last bit of Costa Rican coffee that I have.. my supply is dwindling.

8. I feel like I’m floating through life right now. I’m on cruise control, I’m going through the motions of things. Sometimes I drive to school and forget how I got there, as in I don’t remember the drive. Lack of sleep? Yes. Lots of stress? Yes. Lots of anxiety? Yes. I’m trying to focus on every day as a new day. And focus on being where I am in the moment. (Usually, staring at a piece of paper with words on it, wondering what exactly I have know from the paper to pass my comps.)

Eight seems to be a good place to stop, since I don’t have much else to chat about. My life is pretty terribly boring right now – studying isn’t fun you guys. It’s actually terrible. Tomorrow (or when I actually finish it…) I’ll put up my vacation post in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Then I’ll just have one more post for you about CR! Happy Thursday :)

Oh yeah… I signed up for my next half marathon! I was supposed to be studying, instead, I signed up for the Baltimore Half in October! I’ve been itching for a race, and I’ve run one every year the past 3 years… So I couldn’t not run one this year. That’s all!

Tuesday Tunes

Taking a break from Costa Rica posts – I have two more for you, I promise… But it’s been awhile since I’ve posted a Tuesday Tunes, so here we are! I have so many songs that I am seriously loving right now and can’t get enough of. I did the month free version of the Spotify Premium for when I was in Costa Rica and it was such a great decision. I loved having access to all the songs. It was also perfect for our bus ride karaoke that we would do every, single, bus, ride. I’m talking, best hits from the 90’s and 00’s, blasting and singing our faces off. So much fun.

But here are some songs that I’m loving lately… One more chill one and some more upbeat!

CR Part 4: The Fun!

We had 2 and a half adventure days planned for us during our time down in Costa Rica. We spent one evening in downtown San Jose, the following day was spent zip-lining and at hot springs, and the final day of the trip was spent at the beach. Here’s a (BRIEF) recap of all of those things! And I’m about to photo dump like whoa – so be ready.

San Jose

Saturday night, after a half day of work, we headed down to San Jose. We took a tour of the city, which started at the Church – which was incredible. The architecture was amazing, everything was hand painted, the stained-glass windows were beautiful. The rest of the tour took us around to different parks, landmarks and buildings. We passed the President’s work place, the local school, a many different historical landmarks. We ended the day at a market where we got a ton of souvenirs! And then finished up with dinner, but most importantly, the most delicious sangria ever!

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The church

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Street art was very common

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The school

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The “Yellow” House, where the President of CR works

 

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Hard to see, but that wall looking thing to the right is a piece of the Berlin Wall given to Costa Rica

 

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A few of the goodies I got at the market… handmade wooden crafts are the specialty in CR – I got 2 mugs, a hot pan holder, three headbands, and a purse from the market!

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Sunday morning, we travelled about 2 hours to get to our zip-lining destination. It was absolutely incredible. It was raining the entire time, but none of us minded. It added a bit to the authenticity of zip-lining in the cloud forest. There were 18 different lines of all different lengths. The final one was the longest and we descended on our stomachs – “Superman” style, over a large valley and literally, through the clouds. (See below). A highlight was definitely the Tarzan Swing… some of us got some major height!

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The whole crew!

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This was where we started our Superman descend… you can’t see the end.

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Woo!

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When in Costa Rica: Tarzan through the cloud forest ✔️ #MUDPT15CR (Video props to @laforie 👍)

A video posted by Samantha⚓️ (@samrose15) on

Baldi Hot Springs

After zip-lining, we gathered back on the buses and took an hour drive up the mountains to Baldi Hot Springs! Oh my goodness, guys… this place was absolutely incredible. Again, it was raining off and on the whole time but again, none of cared whatsoever. We were in volcanic hot springs, in Costa Rica, drinking alcoholic beverages with our best friends. What could be better?!?! After we had lunch, we hurriedly got into our suits and in to the waters. There were 25 different mineral pools with temperatures ranging widely from the 80s to the 150s. We got about 5 hours to ourselves in this place then finished the evening with dinner at the same place where we had lunch. It was the most incredible day and we got to truly experience two things that are Costa Rican in nature – zip lining and volcanic hot springs!

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The 360 view from lunch looked like this.

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Multiple pools had walk-up bars that we took full advantage of

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This pic is for the background – there are three additional pools, all a different temperature up in the back there. We were next to the bar here, shocker.

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The crew!

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Again hanging out at the bar :)

Manuel Antonio Beach

On the final day of the trip, we took off on the 3 hour trip to Manuel Antonio Beach! We had a few pit stops along the way… One to see the crocs in their natural habitat…

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And before we knew it, we were handed our ticket to get in to the National park!

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We drank some coconut water…

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And fully embraced the clear blue waters of the Pacific Ocean!

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We encountered a TON of monkeys. And no joke, they steal EVERYTHING. The picture below is hilarious… Four monkeys eating a bag of “Munchies” after a husband got his family’s entire bag of snacks grabbed away from him. (I overheard the wife yelling at him and asking how it had happened…) The raccoons also were nasty little things and would walk right up and steal your entire bag if you weren’t watching.

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The beach day ended with drinks and tequila shots at a local bar outside the park 

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Other Fun:

We found out that D.C. United would be playing down the street against the local Alajuela team and we had to go. They were playing each other in the CONCACAF Champions League.

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And there ya have it! All of the fun with a ton of pictures (and that’s not even a quarter of all the ones I have). I think I only have two more posts to recap my trip: one about vacation, and one summing up how the mission trip went from a personal stand point, rather than just telling you what we did.

CR Part 3: Precarios Screening

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The final two work days of our trip -Wednesday and Thursday, we split in to two groups and headed to two different communities to perform health screenings on the individuals within the communities. These communities are sometimes referred to as the Precarios.

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Precarios translates in to “precarious” in English, which means “uncertain, dangerously likely to fall or collapse, dependent on chance.” Going in to this day, I know there was a lot of fear and anxiety about what to expect in this setting throughout the class; we only knew what we assumed about the community (i.e. dangerous). I think many of us were surprised at how different it was than what we expected. The people did not hesitate to let us in their homes to ask a few questions, they came to us at the church to ask us questions, and they saw our scrubs and immediately knew that we meant good things.

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The first day was spent walking through the communities, knocking on doors and yelling “UPE!” (the common greeting for this community), and asking the families if anyone had a need for a health screen by physical therapy students. Each group of 4 had a translator and a member of the community who knew the families well. We also began to get a feel for the church that we were going to be performing the screening in, allowing us to set up our specific areas prior to heading out. We had to leave the community by 4 every day, for safety reasons I believe, but we were all thrilled with that because it meant we had a little extra free time when we got back to the convent to work out, grab a drink, or take a nap before dinner.

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Thursday was the actually health screen. Our group at Guarari ended up screening 43 patients and found multiple ailments that these individuals may not have ever known about due to the lack of health care access that they have. I was in the vital signs area, so I was just checking blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, height and weight of each individual before they went to get checked out by my classmates.

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Our vital signs station

We actually ended up having a good amount of free time because taking vitals doesn’t take very long. Because our classmates didn’t want help with doing any of the actually musculoskeletal screens, we resorted to playing with all of the children that were brought along…

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The picture below is probably one of my favorites of the entire trip. The children were fascinated by our scrubs and kept referring to us as “la doctora”, the doctor. I decided to sit on the stage and have one of the children use my stethoscope to listen to my heart. Soon enough, I had a line of kids waiting for their turn to listen to each other’s hearts. It was amazing to see their little faces light up when they heard the beating. (Don’t worry, I had an alcohol swab that I was using to clean off the ear pieces.)

IMG_5952My classmates who were doing the musculoskeletal screen ended up finding a few different diagnoses: a torn ACL ligament, a sprained MCL, a town meniscus, multiple postural dysfunctions, and a woman who had a potential serious heart condition, whom we referred to a hospital.

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After the people were diagnosed and had a few tests performed on them, they went over to the last station with Lauren and Kristin where they were given exercises with pictures to perform in order to help whatever ailment they presented with.

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This screening was another eye opening experience for our class. We realized just how much these people needed this health care, because most of these individuals wouldn’t have received any care otherwise. It was a great way to end our mission trip work!

The next post will chat about our adventure days – zip lining, hot springs, and Manuel Antonio beach!

CR Part 2: Working at Manos Abiertas

If you’ve missed any previous posts, check out the food I ate while in CR and Part 1 of my journey. 

The first Wednesday of the trip started our time in different facilities around Alajuela. About 16 of us were staying at Manos Abiertas (me included) to work in the hospital portion with the children; the other classmates were split in to three groups: one working at a skilled nursing facility, one group traveling to Tres Rio at the Manos Abiertas up there, and one group splitting time between an adult day care center, a center for young mothers abandoned by families (ages 13 and up), and two other facilities in the area.

I will obviously only be talking about the Manos Abiertas Alajuela group, since that’s where I was placed. If you want to check out what happened at the other groups – head over to the MU blog that I kept throughout the trip!

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Team Pam: the Manos group!

You got a brief history about Manos in the previous post, so I won’t bore you with that. But instead of working with the residents in the adult houses, we were mainly in the hospital portion of Manos, with the children. Because this was not the first year that Marymount has been at Manos, our faculty had a set plan of what needed to be done during our time there. I really wish I could have taken pictures of some of our work, but unfortunately we were not able to take pictures of the residents. Here is what the PT gym looked like:

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And the view from the window:

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The facility was very nice and we had plentiful supplies to work with the children. However we had difficulty finding supplies for our main tasks: positioning. Positioning, in PT terminology, consists of basically what it sounds like: placing the patients in optimal positions while they are not moving. Many of the children were fully dependent or had minimal postural control. Additionally, because many have neurological disorders, spasticity and increased tone was very common. This basically means that their muscles tighten up to an extent that they remain positioned in tight positions and it is very hard to break the tone. In order to prevent skin breakdown and other negative effects of high tone and poor positioning, our goal was to go to every patient and use pillows, bolsters, foam, towels, sheets and everything we could get our hands on to educate the caregivers on how to best position the patients to reduce the risk of these negative effects. The PT at Manos then came around and took pictures of how they were positioned in bed (on their sides and on their backs), and the pictures were going to be put up bedside so that the caregivers could see the optimal position every time they put them in the beds. This task took up mostly all of Thursday and Friday.

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Saturday morning, Monday and Tuesday focused mainly on positioning in the wheelchairs. Similar with the positioning in bed, we observed each individual’s natural posturing in the wheelchairs on Saturday and began work Monday and Tuesday on adjusting everything. This is where we had to get very creative. We had minimal supplies readily available to us to help promote the positioning that we wanted. We ended up, somehow, with a large piece of foam. We’re talking 6 inches thick and about 8×5 feet. We used a butcher knife to cut it and used paper to measure wheelchair seats and arm rests. We learned we can be mighty resourceful – that’s for sure! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend work on the second Monday of the trip (when most of the wheelchair positioning got done), because I was sick. Because the children are so vulnerable to getting sick, we were not allowed in the hospital if we showed any signs of an illness. A few of us caught a little bug while down there which put a big downer on the trip, but we all knew it was for all of ours safety to stay behind.

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We had a really good system down of working with the children while their chairs would get worked on. So while most of the men used the tools to take apart chairs and put them back together and contrast a new sitting support system, a few others would be doing exercises on the low mats with the children: working to reduce tone, working to increase postural stability, working to improve neck control. It was extremely rewarding working with these children and recognizing how much of an impact our work had on them in such a short amount of time. One thing that a lot of us struggled with is the fact that we know that these children would probably be much higher functioning if they were in the States. Because of where Costa Rican health care is in relation to where we are in the States, the children aren’t getting the sensory stimulation and PT that they need to thrive. In the short amount of time that we were with these children, I had a patient (whom I fell head over heels in love with and cried on multiple occasions while working with him) who improved his head control and showed improved postural stability after just 2-3 sessions of simple exercises. The Sisters and caregivers at Manos are incredible people. They are inspiring, compassionate, loving women and they care more about these residents and children than you could ever imagine. They provide them with the best care that they are able to give and they are so open to learning from us and from others who come in to help which is amazing. It just shook me when I realized the life that most of the children could have if they could receive this type of care and physical therapy every day.

Back tracking a bit– I skipped over our day at Manos on Wednesday because we were not with the children in the hospital, we were with the residents of the adult houses for day 3, the final day, of the camp that they we were running with them (the field trips included). It was one of my favorite days of the trip. Again, we couldn’t take any pictures which is very unfortunate to you all as I try my best to explain what we did all day.

The day started with a special mass. For this mass, we helped get each of the residents dressed in their “Sunday’s best”, and helped the Sisters and caregivers with putting make up and jewelry on the residents. This was amazing for us to see. It showed us that a little bit of make up can make anyone feel beautiful and that beauty is an international language. It was incredible to see how excited the residents got over a few swipes of eye shadow and lipstick and a new necklace. It also gave us a million idea in our heads of more things that we can donate to Manos when we get back to the states.

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At the mass, a classmate joined the guitarist and played along solely by listening and watching him play. No sheet music needed.

 

Following the mass, we headed over to the stage/play area/field. Its a basketball court with a stage at the end, covered for shade, next to a small soccer field. That is where we spent the majority of the rest of our day. We had a potato sack race with the residents that were able to participate, we had a tug of war contest, and most importantly, we had a water balloon fight. This water balloon fight turned in to a water bucket fight, which turned in to “Let’s just bring the hose out and spray EVERYONE”. It was so much fun. The residents were all cracking up at watching the Sisters splash everyone, the residents themselves were getting soaked, the Sisters were chasing us around the field trying to get us with the buckets. I even got schooled in soccer by one of the Sisters. (She’s like, 30, not 80, and she was good.) Following lunch, the day ended with a huge fiesta! The residents got all dressed up again and we brought them back to the covered area for a big party! A DJ came and was playing a lot of fun music to dance to and we really got a chance to see each of the resident’s personalities come out. My classmates and I were just switching off dancing with everyone, getting dressed up in props that were brought out (i.e. big clown bow ties and hats) and enjoying the evening. We all agreed that although we really didn’t do any “PT”, just our being there and being with the residents, dancing with them, showing them attention really brought out their personalities and we saw a side of them that we hadn’t seen the previous days. My wish for them would be that that could happen on a weekly basis.

Overall, my time at Manos was incredible. It was heart warming, it was eye opening, it was a learning experience, it was a blessing. I wouldn’t change my time with those kids and adults for anything and I am so, incredibly blessed that I got to experience that with some of my best friends and colleagues.

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Our final day at Manos

Our final day, the Sisters threw us a breakfast party with eggs, bread, and coffee. It was their way to give thanks to us for all of the work that we did. It was so sweet and generous. I hope that in my professional career that  I can show half of the compassion and love for my patients as the Sisters do for the residents of Manos Abiertas. 

 

CR Part 1: Manos Field Trips

While I had a ton of fun while down in Costa Rica, it wasn’t all play. Our purpose was to care for orphaned and less fortunate individuals, providing them with health care that they wouldn’t typically receive without our being there. I’ll try to briefly cover most of what we did and I will separate the mission portion in to 3 different posts. This post will focus on the Manos Abiertas field trips during our first 2.5 days down there. The other posts will focus on our main work at Manos over a week period and the health screening that we did in the Precarios. So here we go!

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Manos Abiertas is a residence and hospital for children and adults who were unwanted by their families due to cognitive and physical impairments. It is currently run by some incredible women who have devoted themselves to God and to their work with these individuals in need. Here is a brief history on the facility and how it got started. About 24 years ago in the midst of the HIV uprise, two teenagers wanted to do something to help the increasing numbers of homeless women (and eventually men, too), so they began bringing them food. Others turned away from them while these two young women were determined to make a better life for these people. Soon enough, people got word and more homeless people in need came to receive food and help. Those in the community had heard about their efforts as well, and the two women were offered a house to keep these people in. Over the years, with the help of donations and the community, it was converted in to the orphanage for handicapped children and adults that it is now. The two Sister’s values that they started this facility with continue to thrive today through the inspirational Sisters now working here.

Our first task when we got to CR was to take the adult residents on two field trip days. Sunday evening, we each met our residents that we would be spending the next 2 days with. We were each paired up with residents, some of us with two classmates per resident, if they were more dependent. Sunday night’s meet and greet gave us an opportunity to figure out what kind of supplies (toys, games, sensory objects, etc.) or help we would need in order to optimally care for our individual resident. Monday was our first trip to a Hot Springs about 3 hours away (yes, 3 hours, on a bus.) But at least the scenery was enjoyable…

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Once we spotted Volcano Arenal, we knew were close by; this was the Volcano that the Hot Springs feed off of!

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Due to preference of the Sisters and for privacy reasons, we were not allowed to take pictures with the residents of Manos. This was unfortunate for those of us who were staying there for most of the 2 weeks to work (me), because we couldn’t capture the incredible moments that happened like some of our other classmates were able to do at other facilities. But we, obviously, respected this and did not take pictures. But here are a few pictures I snapped of the hot springs, before the residents got there (I was in a smaller bus with just classmates).

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Now, when you think hot springs, you probably think: “Oh, they’re just going swimming and playing!” Okay, yes, we were just swimming. But think of it more like you’re going swimming with 40 full-grown toddlers who cannot communicate and have a tendency of running off if you stray too far from them. It was exhausting. This day was a little rough towards the end of the day – but that’s for another day’s post. Overall, it was a challenging day for our entire class but we learned that when we work together, we can accomplish anything that we are faced with.

Day two of the field trip was to a local park where there was a basketball court (shaded under a covering, thank goodness – the Costa Rican sun is HOT), a field area with trees for shade, and a swimming pool. Most of this day was spent interacting more one on one with our residents and trying to engage them in activities.

Learning how to communicate with my resident was one of the hardest parts for me these first two days. She was completely non-verbal, showed no inclination of being interested in what we were doing, enjoyed wandering off from the group, put anything and everything in to her mouth, and followed commands maybe 15% of the time. I’m pretty sure I had my hand in her mouth at least 25 times a day trying to fish out whatever she put in there – rubber bands, sticks, chips from the ground, leaves, shirts, whatever. While it was extremely frustrating for me, it also gave me a huge new-found respect for 24 hour caregivers, as well as for the Sisters at Manos. This also allowed me to test myself – to see what I could pull out of my case of knowledge to try to engage this woman more. I tried just about everything: soccer balls, painting, coloring, textured items, music, you name it. But she really just enjoyed walking around and observing others. So that’s what we did. We held hands and walked around and eventually worked on a nature/art project that the Sister’s had asked us to do with the residents. It was a rewarding day for all of us. Even though I was frustrated most of the day because I didn’t know if I was making an impact at all, looking at the big picture I realized that my spending time one on one with this woman is probably the most attention she has received in months.

Many of the residents that we were working with (like mine) are non-verbal and have cognitive impairments that limited our ways of communicating with them. However, despite this and despite the additional language barrier, I, and many classmates, were amazed at how well we connected with the residents. Many of us formed strong bonds with our residents just in those two days. After the second field trip day, many of my classmates had to say tearful goodbyes to their residents – as the next day began our work in different facilities.  Although we couldn’t talk to them and find out what exactly was going through their minds, using body language, smiles and enthusiasm, we were able to detect how much we were changing their lives. More importantly, we saw how much they were changing ours, as well.

Check back in tomorrow for a recap on the week and a half spent at Manos Abiertas working with the children in the hospital.