This weekend was quite interesting. The past several days have been focused on preparing for the next batch of girls to arrive. We still are waiting to find out when, but each day we prepare as if they are arriving tomorrow. Any government organization will be slow and Pani (CPS) is no different. Between working on daily activities for the girls to house wide behavior protocols, we all have been busy trying to be more prepared than we were for the first set of girls.
The pair of teachers that joined us for the week were incredibly helpful. They brought great ideas and helped act as fresh set of eyes facilitating conversation between the director and volunteers. Along with their knowledge, they also brought several computers for the safe house which we will use a lot in the upcoming weeks working with Math, Language, and Typing programs. I was able to feel like I was on vacation at times as I accompanied them to several local waterfalls and
springs allowing myself to feel like a tourist
(although way cooler as we went to all the local spots hidden from the Lonely
Planet guidebooks). Before they left, we finished the weekend with a trip to
Jaco may be a party beach town, but we did not go there for surfing, drinking, and sex. We went on an exploratory mission to learn more about the prostitution that is occurring all over
Costa Rica. Jaco is famous for its
prostitutes, and we went there to learn more about the sex industry and the
children that are involved.
Our first stop was to the OIJ which is the Costa Rica FBI. We wanted to introduce ourselves and establish a connection between our organization and the law enforcement community. When child prostitutes are found, they are treated as victims. Sadly, there are not many options for these girls. Our safe house is a place where they can get the help they need to survive after such as difficult childhood. Hopefully OIJ can use our facilities when they come across underage girls. The OIJ were very informative. We learned about how prostitution works, the hot spots in the city, and why it was so difficult to make arrests. It is hard for create a case against the pimps who traffic young children. When the Costa Rican investigation teams ask questions, local massage parlors turn into legitimate businesses, and everyone somehow seems to have a license and be of age. Sadly, 80% of the Johns are American, and traffickers seem to clam up when Costa Ricans are asking questions. We decided that as foreigners, I and the other male teacher would try to learn more about the prostitution business and the trafficking of young girls.
We went to four of the six main prostitution bars. It was appalling to watch as the bars were filled with men all looking for the same thing, sex. From older pot bellied men to young bachelor parties it was strange to know that everyone in the bar had the same idea and motive. The first bar that we went to had around 25 to 30 men and no women as everyone was just waiting for the prostitutes to arrive. Talking to different groups of guys and overhearing conversations made me ashamed of being a male (remember not all guys are bad). The women were objects and were to be used without any thought. It was difficult hearing how the other guys would talk about the girls. During the night, we talked to several prostitutes, first learning about how the business worked and then trying to find more information about them and their lives. Prices ranged from 140-80 dollars an hour and girls were very direct in their solicitation. The youngest that we talked to was 22 and the oldest was 26, and we did not find any underage girls inside of the bars (outside and in massage parlors is a different story). At one of the bars, a prostitute even showed me picture of her children (the first of which she had at the age of 16). Most girls came in to Jaco for the weekend, but several had been around the world including the
(possibly due to trafficking). It was interesting to talk to these women but by
the end of the night I was quite tired of pretending to be a scum bag and had
all the information that I needed. Luckily the other volunteer and I were able
to finish the night at a “normal” bar, dancing and trying to forget about the
strange other world that was all around us.
Costa Rica is everywhere and it was
interesting to experience first hand. It is important to understand what is
happening and why we must protect the children that get caught out in this