I am going back to Costa Rica July 7, 2012 to July 20, 2012!!! I am going with 6 other girls from Michigan State, 1 guy from Central Michigan and 1 person from Iowa. We are serving through a company called International Service Learning (ISL). We will be performing as physical therapist assistants to a physical therapist in several different urban and rural locations around Costa Rica. There is a portion of our trip where we do home visits. We will be able to work with people who are shut in their homes and need therapy for various reasons. Since we will be visiting their homes, we will be able to meet their families and learn their stories. It should be a culturally invigorating experience! Good for the spirit. The goal of this particular ISL trip (other than the obvious cultural experience) is to learn manual testing for soft tissue assessment and evaluation when x-ray and MRI testing is not available or accessible. It is an excellent triage method for determining what is injured and how serious the injury.
There will be a seminar on the first day of the trip that is given by the physical therapist. We will have 6 or more days of clinical work and a couple days of recreation. As far as lodging goes, we will be staying in basic hotels--no 5-star hotels--but that's all part of the true experience and I wouldn't have it any other way.
It sounds like a typical day consists of breakfast in the morning which is provided at the hotel, then loading the bus at 8am, arriving at 9am to begin our work day, volunteering until 2 or 3pm, then the site provides us with lunch. At night, we are on our own for searching out local restaurants for dinner. Some nights we will have to keep things professional and attend seminars related to therapy, the country, natural medicine, or a debriefing of what the medical team has accomplished for the day. But most nights we will have free. We will receive an evaluation at the end of the trip by the physical therapists we've worked with in order to request a reference letter for physical therapy schools back in the US.
To prepare, I must learn a small amount of Spanish. ISL has emailed us an Excel sheet of several medical questions and responses, including a physical examination sheet we must study and print out for the analysis of the patients--all in Spanish! I've been practicing my basic Spanish as well when it comes to traveling and ordering food, etc. There is an app called "Say Hi" that is awesome for translating. I have come up with a short introduction that I will give to the patients upon meeting them:
"Mi nombre es Samantha. He estado en Costa Rica una vez antes de. Tengo familia aqui en Costa Rica. Ellos viven en San Francisco. He visitado Volcan Irazu y Playa del Azucar. Ambos eran muy bonitas!"
"My name is Samantha. I have been to Costa Rica once before. I have family here in Costa Rica. They live in San Francisco. We visited Volcano Irazu and Sugar Beach. Both were very pretty!"
I have just puchased my stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, and otoscope--all of which are only recommended for the trip, but I need them anyway for my internship this fall at Garden City Hospital in the cardiology unit. I am going to purchase my scrubs tomorrow!
Other than that, I am trying to gather the various items I want to take with me to Costa Rica--known as Ticolandia in Spanish. One odd item I must bring is my own toilet paper! I didn't have to bring my own toilet paper last time I went to Costa Rica, but we were staying in tourist hot spots. This time, I will be traveling to some poor areas with the ISL team--in which we have been told there may be no toilet paper. I sincerely hope I do not forget to put a roll in my backpack those days! Otherwise, I won't be wearing those scrubs again! Haha!
It is monsoon season there, so I expect it will be quite rainy. Believe it or not, it is cooler there than it is here in Michigan--even though Costa Rica is closer to the equator and even though it is the summer. The days will be in the 70s and the nights in the 60s. Perfect! Although I've already been to Costa Rica, I still feel there is so much more to do and see! For example, I did not get to see the lava flow down Volcano Arenal at night--so that is a must. Another thing I must do is the zip-line through the rainforest--one of the main attractions in Costa Rica! My friend Amanda did the zip-line up in Traverse City, MI and she told me I absolutely have to do it! Plus, my 67-year-old grandma has already done it when she went to Costa Rica and she gave me the thumbs up as well! We will definitely go to a beach one of the days we are there, too. There has been hint on our itineraries of waterfalls and hot springs, as well! I know a couple people who are studying abroad in Costa Rica this summer, so I will contact them about cool places to go while we are in the city. I leave this Saturday! Wish me luck!
My hot pink stethoscope!
My vacuum-sealed roll of toilet paper. It looks so ridiculous. Hahaha!
P.S. A good packing tip is to buy the large Ziploc bags with a zipper, pack clothes into it, then sit on the bag and close the zipper. It shrinks your clothes into half the size they would have been. Then, you can donate twice as much stuff (including old clothes) because you'll have more room in your suitcase!