Monday, February 23, 2009

What's your idea of 'romantic'?

I'll tell you what my host parents' idea of romantic is . . . karaoke! That's right! When I arrived back at my house on Saturday night, after spending an evening with Cathi, Kerri and Anna Duggan (which involved, brownies, ice cream and Princess Diaries 2), I was greeted by melodic if somewhat off-pitch music. It was loud and clearly coming from the backyard, so I assumed that my host parents were having another one of their weekend parties with friends. They often host get-togethers with neighbors and friends to watch their telenovelas, but on this particular night when I peered through the kitchen window, I noticed that there was nobody to be seen. Thus I assumed the music was chosen and played by Josefa and Alfredo. After settling into my room, I really began to notice that the woman's voice on the CD sounded so much like Josefa, and after listening a bit longer, I decided that it couldn't have been any one else! Pretty soon, a man started singing (whom I assumed to be Alfredo), and from that point on the two passed the microphone back and forth. As a result, I had to conclude that yes indeed, Josefa and Alfredo were expressing their love by singing Karaoke to each other. How romantic.

Can anyone top that? I submit that they cannot.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Anyone care for a video?

Hey all!
I've finally gotten my video of our Canopy Tour from Monteverde to upload to youtube! Sorry for the delay, but I hope ya'll enjoy it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Psalm 73:25-28

This is the passage the Lord brought before me in a time of discouragement today:

"Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire
besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my
and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near
I have made the Sovereign Lord
my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

This was encouragement for me. I hope and pray it will be an encouragement for you as well. God Bless.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Not every day is a special day

Today has been a good day. It has also been a normal day. As I continue on living life here in Costa Rica, I'm realizing that not every day has to be a fantastic, all out special, got-to-share-an-amazing-story day. I think that I've given myself some unspoken pressure with this blog to keep people up to date with amazing adventures and hilarious stories. And while I definitely want to use this blog to do that, I'm understanding that uneventful days are wonderful to share as well.
So here goes . . .

I went to school today! I went to my classes and learned about how the majority of Latinos hate confrontation and will go as long as they can without facing someone. I also took a mock test over reflexive verbs (sooooooo much easier to understand than pronouns!), and ate a delicious plate of chicken, rice and beans and potatoes for lunch. This afternoon some of the girls from school and I decided to go see a movie. Interesting fact: everything takes a long time here. The process of going to the movie took an amazing total of 5 hours. We met at the school at 2:30 and took two different buses to the TerraMall and got there by 3:30 which gave us plenty of time to get to our 4:00 movie. Leaving TerraMall at 6:30, we took our two buses back home arriving at 7:30. It's funny to me how simple things like going to a movie can be back at home. I imagined getting in my car, driving 10min. to watch a 2-hour movie, and then driving 10min. back home again. One amazing thing about Costa Rica is that my eyes have been opened to all of the MANY things I took for granted at home, but never realized. I'll go ahead and give you a quick/short list so you can understand where I'm coming from.

Things I miss the most:
1. Carpet
2. Being able to walk around bare-foot in the house (can't do it because there is no carpet anywhere here. The only time I'm bare-foot is when I'm in bed.)
3. Homemade chocolate chip cookies
4. Peace of mind when I walk around by myself
5. Bathtubs

These are small and unimportant things that are definitely not necessities of life, and one can easily do without them. But they are still comforts of home that I definitely took for granted. Moral of the story? - Be very thankful next time you return home from a long walk in the park, and immediately take off your shoes while grabbing a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie on your way up carpeted stairs to enjoy a most glorious bubble bath.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Spiritual Emphasis Week

Is it funny to anyone else that I have to remind myself that I'm at attending a Christian school? This is a first for me, and when events such as 'Spiritual Emphasis Week' pop up on the school calendar, I have to remind myself that I'm not at UNL anymore! Yes, this week is officially Spiritual Emphasis Week, and in celebration, our teachers are forbidden to assign any homework or exams this week. Hurray! This week the student body is being served by a visiting team from New York State who has come to care for needed upkeep of the buildings and grounds, as well as to pour spiritual meat into the lives of the students. Our gust speaker for the week is a man who attended ILE with his family seven years ago and has since been laboring to a remote Mayan population in Guatemala. This week he will be taking us through the book of Nehemiah, and although Mark took us through a series on the book not that long ago, I'm looking forward to gaining new insight from the text.

This morning he(I'm ashamed to admit I've forgotten our speakers' name), reminded us that we as missionaries, like Nehemiah, have received a special calling from God. But he also emphasized that while our calling may be special, it is by no means superior. I was so encouraged that he began his talk this way, for there are too many that over-spiritualize the life and calling of missionaries.
I'm looking forward to sharing with you as I learn more about Nehemiah, and how God may speak to me through this book. Please pray that He would reveal himself to me this week, and that my ears and eyes and heart would be open and ready for his Spirit to fill me.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

February the 14th

El dia de los amores,also known as Valentine's Day, is celebrated with great fervor here in Costa Rica. Also celebrated today is la amistad, or friendship, which is a refreshing twist to the holiday. Friends are encouraged to go out and celebrate as well as couples.

I on the other hand spent the day with these adorable faces. These are the children of my classmate Ronnie, and his wife Amanda. Together with their live-in nanny Abby (who is my age), they handle four children under the age of four: Mika, Ally, Mia and Ruthie. Since my Valentine's day plans were non-existent, I decided to go and help out Abbey for the day so that Ronnie could take his beautiful bride out on a date. We had so much fun building train tracks, reading books, going to the park and taking showers. The twins, Ally and Mia, were as cute as could be in matching pink outfits with pink shoes. It was also really nice to spend some girl time with Abby, since she spends quite a bit of her time with the kids.

Now I'm back at home enjoying a good bowl of cereal and a good book! Overall it has been a wonderful V-Day, and I hope you all enjoyed the same.

Friday, February 13, 2009

When you see God at work

I want to share with you how I was able to see God working this week.

Coming up in March is a weekend women's retreat for ILE students and staff. This retreat is a 24hour get away for the women to get away and relax, to spend time in fellowship, worship, and to be encouraged. The cost of the retreat is $90 US dollars, which is pretty expensive for what most Tico's can afford, therefore there are not many teachers that are financially able to attend, and this includes my lenguaje teacher, Eugenia. Last week on of my classmates approached me about how she thought that Eu would love to go to the retreat but would never be able to afford it. So we decided that together we would cover the cost of her ticket to go, and we informed Sheila, the woman at the school who was heading up the event. The next day, Sheila approached Elizabeth and I and told us that she had talked to Eu and told her that two of her students really wanted her to go to the retreat and already paid her way. Sheila explained to us how Eu's eyes filled with tears and exclaimed that this was an answer to prayer! Eu has felt like an outsider around all of the other teachers, and has been praying for opportunities for bonding in fellowship. Praise God for speaking to Elizabeth's heart, and for allowing us this opportunity to serve our sister in Christ. I am excited to spend more personal time with Eu, and see how God will encourage and uplift her during our get away!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Road Trip

Okay all, I apologize that I haven't sent any updates your way for awhile. I got back from my trip on Sunday and have spent the last two days trying to upload video onto my blog and it hasn't been working. So agian, I'm sorry, and here is my update. Finally.

Monteverde translates as "green mountain," and that's exactly what we found at the end of the steep and windy rutted dirt road that our bus took to get there. Due to a three-day weekend, myself and 10 other students from ILE decided to take our first "paseo" into the mountains of Costa Rica. Monteverde is Costa Rica's most internationally recognized ecotourism destination, and it was only a 5-hour bus ride from San Jose.
We met at 5:00am on Friday to make it to the downtown bus station for our 6:30 bus. In Costa Rica, they oversell the bus, so there were people packed into the isle for the entire five hours. Fortunately we all had seats. We arrived at 12:30 after having to stop several times to move fallen trees off of the road, and immediately checked into our hostel. This was my first hostel experience, and I had a blast with the other students. Apart from communal bathrooms, the place was pretty sweet, decked out with hammocks and a kitchen. We ended up cooking more meals than we ate out! Check out this video of the hostel:

There is a lot that you can do in Monteverde, both for free and for a price, but since the weather was so crummy, we spent more time together in the hostel than we did out doing things. But, the one thing that we all had our hearts set on, was going on a Canopy Tour. That's right, we wanted to risk our lives zipping through the rainforest canopy and over valleys and rivers! And it was AMAZING! It was probably the coolest thing I've ever done. Some of the cables were between 500-700 meters long, and went between two mountains. The most amazing cable went out into a valley, and because of the wind, rain and sunshine combo, we zipped ourselves right through a rainbow. It was incredible. I could go on and on about what a unique and utterly exhilarating experience it was, but I'll just let you check it out when I get my video posted (it's not working at the moment, so I'm afraid that pictures will have to suffice).
Beyond that the weekend was very tranquilo, and we left Monteverde at 6:30am on Sunday to return to San Jose. Arriving on time at 12:30, I was able to get back to my host family and relax a little bit before finishing up my homework assignments for the weekend, and preparing for the week ahead. The trip, even though it didn't go the way we originally intended, what a complete success, and I'm very glad that I went.

This week has been pretty normal. Class as usual, and Tico life as usual. Overall life has worked itself into a very nice flow. I'm spending more time with my host family, and learning more and more about the culture and the language everyday. God continues to open my eyes to the work he is doing in my own life, and I try to give myself as a canvas to his artistic design. It's my hope and prayer that God will use this time in Costa Rica to continually mold and shape me into the woman I need to become in order to have holy and effective ministry in Peru. And I believe he's already started :)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Out of Town

Just wanted to let you know that I'm fine, but will be out of town for the weekend. I'll update you all when I get home! God Bless.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Psalm 32:7

I want to share with you a first-hand account of how I experienced God change something that was intended for evil, and made it good.

Yesterday morning, on my way to church, I was assaulted by a man in a blue security shirt. He was carrying a gun and wanted money and a cell phone, but thankfully I had neither, for that morning all I had put in my purse was my bible and sunglasses. I was alone on the street when the man passed by me, turned around, and grabbed hold of me. Having seen his shirt I had assumed that he was security for the area, and was supposed to be there. I do not write this to place fear in your hearts, but to allow you to see how God’s presence and protection was made clear to me. In the moment I was scared in my heart, but I was also very consciously unafraid. I felt God with me, and I knew that he would provide a way out. Once the man realized I had nothing of value, he hesitated, only for a moment. But in that moment God sent a taxi down the street and allowed for a window to escape. In the time that followed I have spent hours going over things in my head, wondering what I should have done differently, and how this will change my perception in the future. I want to encourage you all to see how the Lord used this evil intent for good. I feel no resentment toward this man, I feel no bitterness toward God for allowing this to happen, and in this moment I am not controlled by fear.

I went to bed exhausted last night and slept through my alarm and first class this morning. Once I awoke, I laid there for awhile wondering how I was going to make in through six hours of class, having to explain to everyone, in Spanish, how my weekend was. I decided not to go at all. Instead I went to see Sheila, the school’s counselor, and was able to have a healthy grieving period for how my safety and body had been violated, as well as give a report that would later be passed on to the police. We then together went to the women’s prayer hour which meets on Mondays, and ten women laid their hands on me and prayed for healing, for protection, for truth to replace the lies of evil, and for the Lord to use this for his glory. Together we prayed for this man’s heart to be softened toward the gospel, and that he would find something greater than what he was looking for in my purse. I was blessed by these women, who lifted me up as the body should, and who came along side me in encouragement and love.

I did not go to class today, as my body was over the shock period, and was catching up with my mind. I left school at 11:00 feeling exhausted and spent. I was thankful that I wasn’t expected to scoot right off to grammar class, but was allowed to go home. I slept for two and a half hours. I spent the rest day in quiet solitude, going back and forth between processing and working. Sheila warned me that because my physical boundaries were betrayed by that man’s touch, it would take longer for me to psychologically process and heal. She warned me that for awhile, I may feel up one day and be down in tears the next. I was fascinated by how much the body and the mind are connected, and how both react to stressful situations. I am thankful to have had a place to go for healing today, one more way that God made himself known to me.

I will take continued prayer over the next few weeks, as I continue to live life normally here. This of course means walking everywhere, and being in circumstances where I have to walk alone. Pray against the bondage of fear, and that God would continue to use this situation for his ultimate glory. Pray also for the continued safety of the Students at ILE (Instituto de Lengua Espanola), as we are all in the same boat here. Thank you all for your love and concern.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Two birthdays, One weekend

This was the weekend of birthdays!

My Tico brother, Ariel, turned 23 today. But the celebration was last night. Josefa (my mom) told me yesterday morning about the party they were having, a BBQ with "carne asada", but I didn't realize that I had been invited. I have been spending my Saturdays with the Duggan family which has become my weekly siesta from culture. I had been at their house for most of the day, and was dropped off around 9:30.
As soon as I walked in the door, Josefa took me to the backyard up to the casita, and began introducing me to all of Ariel's friends. I was seated in a stool and given a coke, and immediately two thoughts flashed through my mind: 1) I should have showered today, if only I had realized the party was tonight. and 2) Why didn't I shower today? Looking cute is a big confidence booster when you are the Gringa who speaks bad Spanish. Physical appearance is a big deal here, and I did not have my party clothes on. Oh well.
I spent a good portion of the evening sitting quietly and observing those around me. Ariel's friends were very welcoming and asked me questions and offered me food. I was thankful, especially since I haven't learned party etiquette yet, and I didn't know if I was expected to stay the entire evening. I was thankful for a guy named Andres, who engaged me in conversation and encouraged me through my many mistakes. He speaks wonderful English, but graciously allowed me to practice conversing in Spanish. Everyone stayed until around midnight, then started heading out. I thought the party was over. I thought wrong. As we all filed through the house, Josefa asked me if I was going with them to the discotec. Oh boy. She really encouraged me to go, and I found myself in a car with four of the people I had just met a couple of hours earlier, and off we went to the discotec. It was actually a lot of fun. A couple of the girls either appreciated the fact that I was trying really hard not to be a social looser, or maybe they just felt sorry for me, either way they were kindly "showing me the ropes" of the discotec, and I appreciated their help.
At about 3:00am, part of the group was headed off to another club, and Andres told Ariel that they would take me home. I was in bed by 3:30, laughing to myself that I just experienced my first very typical birthday celebration for young adults in Latin America. It was fun to have been included, but what I was most excited about was the fact that I'm finally feeling a level of personal and intimate comfort with my Tico family, a comfort that allows me to engage in their lives, more as a daughter and less of a boarder.

Today was the birthday of the daughter of the niece of Josefa. She was turning one, and the party was a Disney Princess themed family reunion. Josefa asked if I had planes today, and invited me to go with the family. I eagerly agreed thinking that this was an opportunity where they are inviting me into their personal lives, and there was no way I was going to pass up the offer. There were probably 50+ people at the party, all related. There were hot dogs, snow cones, balloons, a clown show, it was amazing. Josefa and Alfredo introduced me to the birthday girl's family, who then took me around to meet everyone else. And I mean everyone else. Think "My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding", because that is what it felt like. And one Tio kept informing me of which men were married and which men were single. Unfortunately Tio Raul was there, and he must have taken a liking to me because he followed me around for most of the party, and then asked if he could call me sometime. AWKWARD!!! I had dropped the word "novio" several times during our conversations, but apparently the hits weren't taken.
Overall it had been a very fun afternoon, and I was thankful to have been able to experience another aspect of Tico culture: the family. I enjoyed many conversations with cousins, grandmothers, aunts and proud uncles, and the weather was amazingly perfect!

This has been one of the more eventful weekends I've spent here, and it was a nice change from staying in the house and studying. I am interested to see what other opportunities will come up, to spend more time with the family, and hopefully get to know them a little better.