Tuesday, March 31, 2009


This is a picture of me and some of the single students at ILE jumping in front of the Catholic Church in Cartago that holds the patron saint of Costa Rica. Cool . . .

Pineapple juice, thunderstorms, Easter baskets and new vocabulary.

These are the things that my day has consisted of. I am struck by the many different kinds of juices I drink here, most of them fresh and homemade. My favorites are jugos de fresa, mora, y pina - or strawberry, blackberry and pineapple. Although I also drink mango, papaya, cas, watermelon, guava and passion fruit juices. Yum.

Today was hot and sunny all morning, then after lunch someone decided it was a better day for a thunderstorm. Crazy how quickly the weather can change here. Actually, I'm grateful for the rain because it has cooled things down considerably.

One of the best things about being in Costa Rica is getting mail and packages from home! Today I received my Easter Basket (of sorts) from mom and grandma! I am so not ready to be an adult who has to give up Easter Baskets and Christmas stockings, and May-Day baskets! Of course my fellow classmates where excited about my Easter basket as well, especially when I opened the big bag of Starburst Jelly Beans! They are half gone already, shame on me. This is the first Easter I will have spent away from home (like every other holiday this year I suppose), but I'm really thankful that being absent did not mean that candy would also be absent!

Today also consisted of learning Telephone Etiquette vocabulary. How valuable! This is so basic, yet it has never been taught to me before. I am grateful that my lenguaje teacher, Eugenia, is willing to take time to go over basic and daily vocabulary with us. Who cares if I can lead a bible study in Spanish if I can't answer the phone properly!

Monday, March 30, 2009


I was struck today about how I've transitioned into life here in Costa Rica, and how even in the midst of difficult days, God was faithful to provide for my every need. I've come to love it here, something I had decided not to do before I arrived, and there is a part of me that will grieve to leave, even with all the anticipation of arriving at the place it has taken me nearly two years to get to. I tried really hard not to enjoy people too much, and to not get too involved. Unfortunately God created me with a desire to love people and be involved in their lives, so my plan did not work out too well. But as always, God's perfect plan is better than mine, and it will be far better for me to grieve the loss of new friendships and this unique culture, than to shake the dust of Costa Rica from my feet. Praise God for these people, and this culture. I feel like I've "learned" a lot of lessons here. God has given me insight into how He created me, and has nurtured me through healing different areas of my life that were broken. He has allowed me to experience Him in some very unique ways, and He has forced me to trust Him when I try to look for provision in other places.

Sometimes it's funny to me how much I love the Latin culture. Sometimes I wish that God had created me differently, so that I would fit in more easily here. I know that there will be aspects of this culture that I will bring home with me at the end of my ministry, and I realize that there will always be a little Latina inside of me. But something unique that God has done in the midst of being here, is open my eyes to the blessing of being exactly who He created me to be: a gringa. I will probably never speak Spanish with a flawless accent, and no matter how tan I get, my green eyes will always give me away. But these things ultimately do not matter because in spite of being a gringa, God has blessed me with this chance to live and serve in Latin America. What a gracious and awesome God!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Culture Day

Every trimester the staff at ILE put on a culture day for the students. Classes are canceled and in their places are workshops and activities directed toward helping the students to better understand Tico culture. Last Monday was Culture Day for this trimester, and it was a nice change from a normal Monday routine. Unfortunately I've been having problems with my internet over the last week, and I haven't been able to upload pictures and video until now.

Culture Day was a blast. It was hilarious seeing these posed and proper Tico professors singing mariachi and dancing in the Chapel, as well as two of the three men teachers cooking in the kitchen. Actually it was a wonderful chance for us to get past the professional barrier and experience more of the lives of our professors. The day began with a bilingual presentation of what the day was going to offer, followed by the choice of two of four workshops. This trimester the workshops that were offered were: Recycling & Home Remedies, Music & Dance, Tico Cooking, and Sports & Games. I attended Music & Dance and Tico cooking. Check out these videos of Culture Day!



Monday, March 23, 2009

Rafting the Rio Pacuare

Saturday of this past weekend, I went on nearly my final paseo here in Costa Rica. I was super excited when I saw that there would be a chance to go White Water Rafting here, for it is something I've always wanted to do, but have never before had the opportunity.
So at 6:00am our small group of 17 students loaded up into a van and drove the hour and a half out from San Jose to the Pacuare River located in the midst of the Native Indian National Park. After a quick breakfast of the ever famous Gallo Pinto with Scrambled Eggs at a road-side restaurant, we arrived at the river bank and went through the basic safety measures of rafting. You know - what to do if you lose a paddle, if your instructor should fall out of the raft, if you would get trapped under the raft . . . basic things :)
Actually, we didn't have any of these problems, Gracias a Dios, and had a really pleasant trip. It was rather cool and cloudy, and the water was a cool 65 degrees which made it a somewhat chillier trip than we all anticipated. We were on the river for approx. 4 hours and traveled 18 miles of lever 3 and 4 rapids. For those of you like me who have had no prior rafting knowledge, the hardest and most dangerous rapids are rated level 5's. So we were doing pretty well!
It was so much fun, and for me it was quite possibly my favorite trip I've taken so far. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, but I do hope that there will be more opportunities in the future to do more rafting.
We arrived at the end of our journey around 2:30 in the afternoon, and after a quick change and a short drive, we arrived back at the road-side restaurant to enjoy a delicious lunch of carribean chicken and rice and beans! Once we had eaten, we said our goodbyes to the river guides and hopped back in the van for the hour and a half ride back home. The majority of us conked out as soon as we started moving and slept most of the way home.
We arrived back in San Jose around 6:30 and the rest of the evening was super tranquilo. After a hot shower, and a hot dinner, I settled into my room to get enjoy a VH1 rerun of Sleepless in Seattle. But I am ashamed to tell you that I was so exhausted that I fell asleep with the remote in hand at 9:00 and slept solidly until 10:00 the next morning. Rafting is one of the best workouts I've ever had!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Birthday parties and Bible studies

A few weeks ago, my host family celebrated the first birthday of their daughter, granddaughter, and niece. I was so blessed to be able to join the family in the celebration, and had even emailed a friend from home to send me some of the cutest little baby shoes from her children's boutique "Scout". I am still very fascinated by the importance place on the first birthday here. The majority of guests were adults, but the theme was still that of a child (Costa Rican cartoon characters). Check out this short video of the birthday song being sung in Spanish, and of my super cute host-niece!


Also, I can't remember if I shared with you all that I was starting a new Bible study with a group of women at the school. It's a Beth Moore study on the Book of Esther, and I'm pretty excited about it for a couple of reasons. The first being, that I've only ever viewed this book as a book of history. I've never seen any practical application from it other than following the example of a woman of faith. I'm really looking forward to studying the culture behind the history, the meaning of names and all that is hidden within the text. Secondly, I'm excited because this is the first opportunity I've had to study the scriptures with women from different seasons of life. The ages of the women range from 21-65 and I'm thrilled to have the chance to glean wisdom from these women that have more life and faith experience than me.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


This is what I had for dinner tonight with my Tico family. Enjoy.


Another Sunday Experience

So for my second blog of the day:
This morning my mom, Josefa, invited me to go with her and Alfredo (my tico dad) to the Ferria (What we know as a "Farmer's Market") to buy all of their vegetables for the week. I jumped at the chance both to spend more time with my parents and to experience another aspect of "everyday life" here in San Jose. We arrived in the heat of traffic around 11:30 this morning and came upon the largest Ferria I have yet seen. It spanned an entire square block with rows and rows of vendors selling every kind of fruit, vegetable, meat, juice and lottery ticket. As soon as we got there I was regretting my decision to leave my camera behind.
Right away we came upon a booth selling Pipas. Alfredo turned to me and asked me if I would like one. I had no idea what a Pipa was, so of course my response was "Sure!" I've learned that it is better to error on the side of trying everything, than on the side of missing out on what could be the most delightful party of the taste buds. The Pipa was a round green object, slightly smaller than a bowling ball. Upon hearing that I would like one, the vendor took one of the Pipas from his stack and whipped out a machete. He then whacked off the top, put a straw in it, and handed it to me. I looked at my dad with wide eyes and he just laughed and said, "Pipa es muy rica" - Coconut milk is very delicious. Indeed it was. I then proceeded to follow my parents around the super crowded Ferria holding a giant coconut with a straw thinking "I just need some plastic swords with fruit, a couple of mini-umbrellas and a lawn chair, and I would have it made!". It was a very fascinating experience to watch my parents haggle over the price of tomatoes, pineapples, cabbage, blackberries, and potatoes. My dad would stop every few booths and point to some new fruit that I had never seen before and slowly pronounce the name until I said it correctly. They are so patient with me :)
I hope in the next couple of weeks I will have the chance to go with them again so that I can get some video of the exaggerated farmer's market to share with you all.


So I want to tell you all about the art festival that I went to yesterday, but I'm afraid I'm going to borrow someone else's words in order to give you the full picture:
"Every year the Municipality of San Jose takes on its calling to turn the city into the cultural capital of the country by organizing a series of festivals related to the arts, culture and music. This weekend is [was] the biggest festival so far this year that will be hosted by the Municipality: the Festival de Verano Transitarte. The schedule for the 3-day event is truly packed and is a great opportunity for anyone in the city to get out, enjoy some fresh air and some great entertainment, all for free!
The event will be spread out over four large plazas all within a block of each other in the center of San Jose. The Parque Morazan, home to the Templo de Musica and in front of the Holiday Inn where all the concerts will be hosted is just two blocks north of the Plaza de la Cultura where the National Theater can be found. This is the largest of all the venues and will be hosting artisans who will set up shop, as well as theater and dance performances.” - Written by Claire Saylor

Abby, Stephanie, Kathleen and I met up with our new friends Andres, Yoji and Albin downtown to enjoy the festivities. It was such a wonderful atmosphere to really experience and enjoy a different side of Latin Culture. This exhibition displaced a very non-traditional side of Costa Rican culture, in fact, as I looked around at the crowds I thought to myself, "Oh my gosh, the 80's have finally hit Latin America". It was hilarious, all of the teenagers and young adults were decked out in Emo-80's punk/hardcore rock attire and the music and art fell right into place. The highlight for me was spending time with our Tico friends because they willingly provide a safe environment to practice Spanish. They are patient, and correct our mistakes, but are also willing to laugh at us when we make fools of ourselves! After about 3 hours at the park we decided to go to another Tica friend's house to watch a movie, and I was once again reminded that going anywhere, or doing anything in Costa Rica is a process. First we took a bus back to Andres's house in order to pick up the cars, then we drove to the video store to collectively choose a movie for the evening. Next we hit up the Auto-Mac (what we in the States would refer to as the McDonald's Drive-Thru) to grab some tasty BigMac's for dinner before going on the la casa de Maria Jose. It was 10:00pm by the time we all arrived at Maria's house, and instead of watching the movie we had brought (Australia - which is apparently 3 hours long), we settled down and just hung out, talking in Spanish and laughing a lot.

These are the moments that I appreciate the most about being here, and they are a reminder of why I am doing what I am doing. My heart is a relational one, and feels deeply for people. I am an extrovert that thrives on being around people, and speaking Spanish in this context allows me to relax and not worry so much about making mistakes. With school being my main focus here, and my "main" group of friends being gringos, it has been easy to forget why I'm going on the mission field at all. But then these moments of fellowship arise, and I am stirred deep within my soul. I am reminded of the way the Lord created my heart to be passionate about the Latino people. And I am glad to be exactly where I am.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What I missed telling you . . .

This past week was uncommonly busy, and I've now just realized that I have not updated you all since last Sunday. I apologize. So here is the rundown of what I missed telling you . . .

My week was filled with class as usual, but with 2 extra assignments that required I prepare and teach a total of 80 min. in Spanish. The first assignment was basically a short research project over "Los Emo" or the Emo culture in the US and in Costa Rica. This presentation was 20min long, but took a lot of prep time outside of class. The second assignment required that I teach for an hour over a controversial topic. Obviously this presentation took a lot more time to prepare, and I found myself regressing back to my college days of late nights and anxious stomach syndrome as I hurried to put together the finishing touches just in time to present to my class Friday morning. I had chosen to discuss the North American Greek System, and through in my own experiences of being in a Sorority and seeing God open doors to minister there.
Beyond a little extra homework, the week was filled with my normal Monday night aerobics class and my normal Tuesday afternoon dance class. Except this week I was given the opportunity to attend two extra dance classes for free - so of course I just couldn't turn down that offer! These aerobics and dance classes have become the highlight of my week. For me I am constantly fighting frustration and insecurity as I am consistently inadequate in this culture and language, and these classes provided me and hour and a half each week to experience the joy of something I am adequate in. I have come to love learning the dances that make up this culture I am entering into, and have been blessed by excelling in them.
Wednesday was the first day of the Beth Moore Bible study on Esther that I have decided to join along with a group of women at the Institute. I am so excited about this study not only because it is gives me more structured time in the Word, but also because this is the first time I have had the opportunity to study the scriptures with a group of women for all seasons of Life. What a blessing to be able to glean wisdom these women that love the Lord with all their hearts and souls.

After having been out-of-town for the past two weekends, I am glad to find myself at home this weekend with few plans to keep me running. Last night was one of the best night's rest I've had in awhile, and it was glorious to be able to sleep in this morning. This morning and afternoon I have been enjoying the sunshine in my backyard, working through my "homework" for Bible study and reading the third book of Francine Rivers "Mark of the Lion" series. Later this afternoon and evening I will be going downtown with some friends from school to attend an Art Festival. I have loved taking advantage of the opportunities to experience the culture here in Costa Rica, and am looking forward to checking out Tico art.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The valuable lessons we learn

Back on the school side of things, this past week was an interesting week of classes and material. My Lenguaje class is focused on speaking the language in various contexts, and our weeks are filled with various presentations of current events, biographies, bible studies and personal presentations. This past week, I gave a 10min. devotional over Psalm 119:9-16, which went really well. The atmosphere of this class is so relaxed that it is easy to speak in Spanish and risk making mistakes. I have so enjoyed this class because it has given me the opportunity to speak on a many different topics, which has been oh so helpful in learning practical and necessary conversational skills. This link will give you the video of my estudio biblico from last week:


A new part of our week's curriculum now includes giving an hour-long presentation every other Friday. There are four students total in my class, so two will go one week and the other two will go the next. This past Friday, my friends Beth and Jake took their turns presenting. The above picture is my class: Jake is the super tall man in the back, then from left to right are: Ronnie Garcia, myself, Beth Florea, and my teacher Eugenia. We are all holding stuffed animals in this picture because for his presentation, Jake decided to teach us all how to give CPR. This of course was all in Spanish, and was even more hilarious because mid-way through his presentation he pulled out stuffed animals so we could all practice in a more hands-on manner! After practicing for a few min. Jake asked each of us to recount to him (in Spanish) the different procedures for adults, children, babies and pets. Yes pets. As disgusting as that sounds, it is possible to give CPR to an animal. Gross. The next two videos are from his presentation. The first is Ronnie recounting how to give CPR to an adult. I realize that most of you won't be able to understand what he is saying, but you have got to watch the whole thing just because it is so funny! The second video is Jake explaining the Heimlich Maneuver using Ronnie as his "dummy".




Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Today we have begun learning "gestos" in my Lenguaje class. I knew coming to Costa Rica I would mean that I would be learning Spanish. What I didn't know is that there is a whole language of gestures that goes with it! Class was hilarious today as we sat in our seats practicing all sorts of hilarious movements each to signify hilarious things. For example if you wanted to say:

?Que Pasa? (What's happening): opening the hands and raising the shoulders and hands simultaneously.

Comer (to eat): palm close to and facing the mouth, moving fingers towards it.

Tomar (to drink): with thumb and little finger extended, moving hand in front of mouth.

And my personal favorite,
?Bailamos? (Let's dance): making circles with the index finger in an upward motion.

It was kind of like playing charades in class today as we learned signs for "thief", "to have influence", "someone is listening", and even "to go to the bathroom". Since learning these signs, it has been so interesting to observe those around me and realize that their many gestures actually have meaning. I suppose we are not so different in the United States in how we use our hands to help us explain things, to add meaning and intensity to a story, or even show affection.

On a different note: each week in Lenguaje we have a series of assignments for each day that we prepare for our topic of discussion. For example, on Monday's we speak about our weekends - strengthening our ability to speak in the past tense; on Tuesday's we have to bring a current event to discuss, and provide a list of new vocabulary words; etc. For Thursday we have to prepare a short devotional in Spanish to share with the class. This week I chose to cover Psalm 119:9-16. After explaining my assignment to my host mom, and explaining how it is helpful for me to practice out-loud to myself, she told me to practice with her after I had prepared. I was so excited to have her offer to help me, and even though I was a little nervous sharing my short presentation with her, she listened and encouraged me well and in love corrected my mistakes. It has been so helpful, even though it has been awkward at times, to live with a Tico family. I'm finding that it is too easy to surround myself with North Americans, so I am grateful for the blessing of a family that has been willing to share their lives with me.

Monday, March 2, 2009

There and Back Again

Once again I apologize for not having updated my blog in a week. Once again I found myself gallivanting across Costa Rica on another weekend paseo. As we are now half-way through the trimester we were given a three-day weekend that would be the equivalent to a spring break, so another weekend paseo was in order. This past weekend I jumped on a bus with about 50 other students from the institute and made the 4 hour trip to the beautiful beaches of Manuel Antonio.

"One of the most popular national parks in the country, Manuel Antonio is also one of the smallest, covering fewer than 1,680 acres. Its several neatly perfect small beaches are connected by trails that meander through the rainforest. The mountains surrounding the beaches quickly rise as you head inland from the water; however, the park was created to preserve not its beautiful beaches but its forests, home to endangered squirrel monkeys, three-toed sloths, purple and orange crabs, and hundreds of other species of birds, mammals and plants." -Frommer's: Costa Rica 2009

While I did not get to see any sloths, the weekend was full of sunshine and new friends, as the group was mostly made up of young families. In fact there were only 4 singles on the entire trip, and I spent a lot of time helping out the Garcia family with their four kids under the age of four. This was the same family that I babysat for on Valentine's Day. I really enjoyed spending time with the Garcia's as well as a few other families that I had not previously known. The weekend was a nice combination of beach time and hotel time, people time and alone time. We had gorgeous weather, and I came home a lovely shade of pink. In spite of these tender sunburns, I was so thankful to have had a few days to get out of the crazy city of San Jose, and relax with a good book and a good couple of friends.

This week marks the beginning of the second half of my time in Costa Rica at the Institute, and we have already jumped back into the swing of our intensive studies. Because I tested into a higher class than most first trimester students, we have moved quickly through the first trimester grammar curriculum and have begun the grammar established for second trimester students. This is a bonus for me, because it means that I will get to cover two-thirds of the grammar book in one trimester, and will hopefully be more equipped to begin the ministry in Peru.

March is looking to be a busy month, with a women's retreat coming up this next weekend, the birthday of my host niece, a day trip white-water rafting, and the start of a new weekly Bible study. The woman of the school will be starting Beth Moore's study on Esther this next week, and I am excited to be included, for the first time, in a study with women from every season of life. I'm looking forward to gleaning from their hearts and life experiences over the course of these next two months.