Sunday, April 26, 2009

T minus 24

Well, this is it. This will be my last post on Costa Rican soil. I've about finished saying my goodbyes and packing up my things. Cathi Duggan will be arriving here in about 30min to take me back to their house to spend my last night in CR. They have graciously offered to get up at the crack of dawn to take me to the airport for my 6:30am flight back to Dallas.
I won't bore you with more of the same about how much I will miss CR but I will share with you some of the things I have loved about this country. . .

My Host Family - has loved and cared for me well over the past four months. I have made a good friend in my Tico brother, who may even come to visit me in Peru. This family has opened their home and welcomed me with open arms should I ever return to Costa Rica, and they have shared of themselves to make me feel like part of the family.

My Random Relationships - Otero's (pizza parlor) has become like "Cheers". How cool to have become friends with the waiters and staff at a Latin pizza place! In addition to spending time with the friend of a friend of a friend (which happened a lot here), the random relationships seem to be the ones that I grieve to leave the most. Weird.

My new girlfriends - I believe the above picture pretty much sums it up. This is the first time that I have been blessed to walk a season of life with a group of people who all share the same passion for Latin Culture. It was such a valuable experience to see a random group of men and women bond over a simple love of people. We are all going off to different places, different Latin cultures with different ministries, but together we share a special unity in Christ because of our shared calling. Que dicha!

There is so much that I could say, but for the sake of time and not wanting to be in tears all day, I will leave you and my blogging of Costa Rica with this:

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." -Mother Teresa

Friday, April 24, 2009


“God called to him . . . And he said, ‘Here I am’ “. (Exodus 3:4)
I was reading today in “My Utmost For His Highest” by Oswald Chambers, about “readiness”. Chambers says that readiness means being prepared to do the smallest or the largest thing for God. He says that readiness means “having a right relationship to God and having the knowledge of where we are. We are so busy telling God where we would like to go. Yet the man or woman who is ready for God and His work is the one who receives the prize when the summons comes”.
I was thinking over these things as I am attempting to prepare leaving one Latin American culture in order to enter another one, as I come to my own state of readiness and willingness. Our chaplain at school quoted Queen Elizabeth II this week, saying “Grieving is the price one pays for having loved well”. I feel this to be true of me and my time in CR. Today my heart has been sad. We had a formal graduation ceremony this morning at ILE, and it was meaningful closer to this short season. But as I realized that these are all people whom I may not be blessed to see again this side of heaven, I grieved, for I truly love them well. Don’t you think it’s an interesting paradox that we love and grief go hand in hand, that you can’t really have one without having the other?
I have been quick to claim that I’m not ready to leave CR. I wonder what this says about the state of my heart’s readiness. I will leave CR because I have to, but can I still go before the Lord and say “here I am”? Can I still get to a place where I will experience joy in the midst of leaving? I think so. I think the Lord understands that I can’t help but to love people well, that I tend to find myself content where I am at in that moment due to the people He has placed around me.

So today I grieve, tomorrow I will celebrate, and the next day I will leave for “home”. I’m realizing that “Home is where the Heart is”, is not just a cheesy cliché :) For yester day my home was Nebraska, today it is Costa Rica and tomorrow it will be Peru.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I have five full days left in Costa Rica.
I'll take prayers this week.
I still hate goodbyes.
Enough said.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I am victorious!

I will have you know that I caught a cockroach today. Not just any cockroach, but a sneaky and mischievous cockroach that has been living in my room for the past month. He only liked to show himself for a few seconds before scurrying under the bed or behind the closet. It was really bothering to know that there was a cockroach in my room, but to not know where it was. Then, this morning, I caught the bug with it's pants down (not literally of course, because how crazy would it be if the cockroach living in my room also wore pants!), hanging out under the window blinds. I saw my chance, I took it. Success! With only my cunning wit and a plastic cup, I captured that hissing insect and banished him from my house. I don't step on cockroaches because of that disgusting crunch, but I released him into the wild (the sidewalk outside the front gate) in hopes that he will be able to re-acclimate to being a free animal yet again :)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lo que paso, paso.

This week has passed by so quickly that I'm a little worried about my last 8 days here. Yep, you read right, I only have 8 days left here in Costa Rica. Que lastima! I can't even believe that in one week I will be in Dallas and in two weeks I'll be in Lima. The craziest thing is that I'm just plain not ready to leave. I have fallen so in love with this country, this culture and these people that I know that I will grieve leaving. But I have come to be so thankful that it will hurt to leave. God has so blessed my time here and I'm grateful for all of the experiences I've had, for all of the people I've met, and for the time of intensive study.

This week has been interesting in another light because I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on the months spent here, and the regrets I've had, or the things I wish I would have done differently. Namely, I wish I would have been more bold, less shy, in pursing things here on my own. I met a professor this week that I wish I would have met my first week here. I'm going to a Spanish church tonight that I wish I would have started attending when I first arrived. I wish I would have initiated more with Ticos and my host family, and that I would have taken more risks in putting myself out there. Don't get me wrong. I've had an incredible four months here, but I think that it could have been even better if I would have been a little more extroverted from the start. Surprising? I can be completely timid in unknown situations and a room full of people I don't already know.

This week consisted of a final oral exam known as the "Eco" to place the level of my functional Spanish (I'll get the results back Monday), as well as a quiz and a test in grammar. My lenguaje class went to McDonald's on Wednesday morning to celebrate the completion of the trimester, and guess what I ordered? McPinto! Yes, Costa Rican McDonald's are proud to offer you rice and beans! Actually it was really delicious, and I was glad that I stuck with the norm here :) The McCafe's are super nice here as well and we all treated ourselves to fancy coffee at breakfast.
I've also been spending this week getting pictures of the people and places that I've spent the most time with/at. Our favorite waiter at Otero's the pizza parlor is named Edwin. We have nicknamed him "smiley" because he is always smiling when we come in to eat pizza. I've loved have Pizza Thursday's here, and that is definitely one thing I will miss when I leave.

I know this next week is going to be a week of "lasts" not altogether unlike my last week in the states. It will consist of a lot of picture taking and a lot of goodbyes, as is normal in life. I am so thankful for my time here and will be looking forward to the first opportunity to come back.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Potluck brunch, Eduardo, and Dominos = the most fabulous Easter Sunday

. . . After being picked up by Cathi an hour after arriving back in town, I settled into the Duggan home to enjoy what was left of Easter weekend. After a couple of games of "Clue", I showered and got myself cleaned up, and was fed "pizzadillas"(quesadillas filled with pizza makings) by Kerri the Duggan's 17 year-old daughter. Delicious, everyone should go home and make one right now. I was pretty exhausted from our travels the past few days, so I was pretty pathetic that night, especially after I had eaten. Brian informed me that all of the ReachGlobal staff working at Prometa (the online seminary), would be coming over the following morning at 6:30am for a sunrise service and brunch, so I was extra motivated to tuck myself in at 9:30pm. !Que rico dormir!

6:30 came quickly, and after I had given myself my one and only allowed snooze period, I got up and met everyone outside for the service. It was super informal, but perfect for the environment and life season I am in. I was thankful for an opportunity to worship with fellow Americans, as resurrection Sunday is not the emphasis of Holy Week here. After some worship (played by Brian and his son Ben) Becky Fernandez read to us the Easter story, and Bob gave a short message on the importance of knowing the Father.

And then came the food.
After we were done with our service, all the women rushed to the kitchen to put out egg casseroles, homemade breads, gayo pinto, fresh fruit, bacon and all sorts of amazing-ness for the mouth. It was quite the spread, and so greatly enjoyed by all. My friend Eduardo contributed a jar of homemade spicy pickled veggies, which he gave me a hard time for not trying. So I went back to grab a spoonful, and ate a slice of onion with my gayo pinto. It wasn't bad, so I got a little bolder and tried a thin slice of red pepper. Big mistake. I don't think I've ever experienced such an intense burning sensation all of the way down my throat. My eyes were tearing up, and of course Eduardo was on the floor making fun of me. After a few minutes I was starting to get a little worried because the burning sensation wasn't going away. I had to resort to milk and bread to end my agony. In the end, my sinuses were cleared, and Eduardo had a good laugh.

Everyone cleared out mid-morning except myself and Eduardo. We sat around out on the porch for awhile and just talked and relaxed and told stories, and tried to think of someone for Eduardo to marry. He is a complete bachelor in his later 40's, and is in need of a wife. We weren't getting too far though, because Eduardo has a hard time staying serious for any length of time :) We resulted to playing the greatest game I've played in a long time: Mexican Train. It's a form of dominos, but with some extra rules to spice it up. After about two hours I proudly won the game, and we took a break to enjoy Easter Dinner.

Cathi is a gourmet, and has protected her stores to provide a most delicious Easter Dinner. Roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, beans, corn casserole, and wild rice! It was like we were in the states enjoying the holiday with the family. Eduardo stayed for Dinner, and we were able to share in the blessings that the Lord had provided.

The rest of the day was spent talking to the folks and the BF, working a little bit with Brian, trying to get some stuff worked out before I leave Costa Rica, and a little bit of Food Network.
It was more than I could have asked for, and I was so thankful that I didn't have to spend the day alone in my room. I am grateful that God has blessed me with such wonderful friends and a surrogate family here. He has provided for every need, and blessed me abundantly. I hope that you all had a blessed Resurrection Sunday yourselves and were able to share in the joy of the knowledge that "He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!"

After another week of traveling . . . more or less.

Semana Santa also known as Holy Week, is a big deal down here in Latin American countries. Schools and businesses close for the week, and families pack up and head to the beach. And since we students are trying so hard to morph into Tico culture, we decided it would be good if we did the same :) We only had class on Monday and Tuesday of Semana Santa, so Wednesday a group of us took off for the beach like good little Ticos! Actually there was the necessity of renewing our Tourist Visas so that we would not be illegal for too long, so this aided somewhat in our decision to take off for the beautiful island of Bocas del Toro, located off the coast of Panama.

The Garcia's, armed with the four kids and Abby the nanny, along with 7 of the singles boarded a bus at 8:00am Wednesday morning and began the 10+ hour process of getting to Bocas. After bus rides, a border crossing, taxi rides, and water-taxi rides, we arrived at 6:30pm at our hotel, Tierraverde ( which was on the water, and totally decked out with hammocks, AC and continental breakfast! We were all so tired by that point that we sat in a local restaurant for two hours eating fish and chips and enjoying Panamanian juices.
The next two days were spent relaxing on the beach, and enjoying the scenery. White sand beaches, with crystal clear blue water, palm trees and crabs are the way to go! We spent time swimming with the kids, sun bathing on the dock, building sand castles, and taking naps under the palm trees. I think I put sunscreen on 5 times in a day, yet I was still a little pink by the time we left the islands. The trip was a complete success even though there were some bumps along the way . . .

Bump number 1 - we had gotten on our bus one stop early, before it reached the main stop to pick up the rest of the passengers. Once we stopped Amanda got off to take the twins to the bathroom one last time. Something about Costa Rica is that they over sell the buses, so that there are more passengers than seats. We came up against a pair of woman that would not take "these seats are already taken by my wife and child" from Ronnie, and we ended up losing two seats as a result. Ticos can get pretty feisty when it comes to bus trips.

Bump number 2 - these buses do not make unscheduled stops. It was a six hour bus ride with one 20 stop in Limon. When you've got a 4-year old on board you really have to get creative with he screams "potty"! Let's just say it was a good thing someone had an empty Gatorade bottle for Micah.

Bump number 3 - because this is the busiest travel season for the area, we had to give up one of our hotel rooms for the final night, and we all slept three to a bed . . . did someone say "spooning"?

Even in spite of these few mishaps, we all had the most wonderful time together. It was such a laid back and tranquilo time in Bocas, and a great last paseo for me.
Once we got back to San Jose on Saturday, I quickly changed out my dirty clothes for clean ones from my back pack, and went straight over to the Duggan's house to spend the remainder of Easter weekend with them . . .

Monday, April 6, 2009

Did someone say Tranquilo?

Today was a day of celebration, as it was my buddy Ronnie's 31st birthday, as well as a day of goodbyes, as I attended my last aerobics class with Mario at ZonaFitness - the gym I've be "diligent" to attend since being in Costa Rica.
After class today, some of us regrouped at the Garcia household to host an impromptu surprise party for Ronnie. It was a tranquilo environment of fellowship, laughter and rambunctious youngin's. After cake and ice cream we just enjoyed each others presence for the rest of the afternoon. I especially enjoyed playing with the Garcia kids (who's pictures I am shamelessly posting up and down my blog!), and we all got a big kick out of Ruthie (just one year old) after she got into the cake on her own!

After the party, Kathleen and Stephanie and I went to the gym for our last class with Mario. I am still surprised at all of the random places I have found friends here. Mario and I exchanged emails so that if I ever get back to Costa Rica, I can come to class again :) The guy has been teaching dance/aerobics for 25 years, and his class has been one of the highlights of each week. Most of you know how much I appreciate Randomness, and these random relationships are what made me fall in love with Costa Rica. I am definitely hoping for the chance to return and visit these lovely people again in the future, and hopefully at that point my Spanish will be flawless :)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Hat Full Of Sky

"Why do you go away?
So that you can come back.
So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors.
And the people there see you differently too.
Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving."

-Terry Prachett
"A Hat Full Of Sky"

Palm Sunday

"Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foul of a donkey." Zechariah 9:9

I was thinking this morning as I was sitting in my room reading my Bible and listening to the Beatles, about the Palm Sundays of my childhood and the ever present palm branches distributed amongst the sunday schoolers. I remember the reenactments back when the church was a lot smaller and we would have "Jesus" actually ride on a donkey through a parade of children wildly and excitedly waving their palm branches back and forth. It's funny to me now, how easy it was to get excited about Jesus back then. I've come to realize that "child-like faith" is truly a precious thing.
Now, Palm Sunday is like any other Sunday, except that it marks the start of Holy Week. We remember Jesus riding through the streets of Jerusalem, we remember the palms and the cloaks, and we read about the fulfillment of prophesy in Luke 19. But where is the excitement we once felt as children? Why didn't I wake up this morning shouting, "Hosanna! Glory in the highest!"

Here in Latin America, in the highly Catholic countries, the emphasis of Holy Week lies on Friday, on the crucifixion of Christ. Everything shuts down Friday and Saturday, but reopens again on Sunday. The focus is not placed on the resurrection. It's strange to be in a place where the Easter season is more of a formality than a celebration of remembrance. Yet being away from home, without family or a church to share in the joy of "He is risen, He's alive!" it is really easy to fall into that.

Being away from a "home church" environment for the first time in my life, I'm realizing that church is so much more than just getting fed a sermon once a week. It's this idea of community, of the body that is significant. I have been so blessed to have had real community for the majority of my life. Though it has changed and shifted over time, I've pretty much consistently had a group of believers that I was in fellowship with. Here, I am surrounded by fellow missionaries yet there lacks a unity that would tie us all together for genuine community, mainly due to the fact that we are all here for short amounts of time, and that few of us are actually staying on in Costa Rica.
I now have so much more appreciation for our brothers and sisters in places of the world, who are more or less alone in their faith. I heard a sermon once on how God created us to have a personal relationship with Jesus, but He never intended for it to be a private one. I want to encourage you all to remember and to pray for those of our faith who are forced to worship alone, especially during this Easter season. Pray for those missionaries and national believers in Asia, in the Middle East, and persecuted countries, that they would be encouraged to persevere in Christ.
I am really looking forward to once again being in a place that will allow me to truly develop community around me. Peru will be “home” for two years, and I long to really make it so. I hope and pray that the Lord will bless me with relationships that can be deeply developed. I hope to have fallen so in love with the people of Tarma that my heart will truly break when it comes time to leave. This is the community I desire. This is the “church” that I hope to once again attend.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Random Friends

For the past several weeks I have been attending a dance class that teaches many of the same Latin dances that we learned during culture day at the school. This has been one of my favorite activities here, not only because it is super fun, but because these classes have given me another opportunity to make some random friends. These dashing young men in the picture are (From left to right) Diego, Alex, and Walter - and all three are 15 years-old. It has become quite fun to get to know them, and learn from them as well. They have English homework that they will sometimes bring to class so that we can help them, and we in turn ask them our interview questions in Spanish. Diego and Alex have been renamed "Michael (as in Jackson) and Prince (as in the artist formerly known as . . .) by our instructor Javier, due to their own dance styles that they like to incorporate into the traditional salsa and merengue!
These boys remind me a lot of my dear Mexican sweetheart, Jose, that I've been able to develop a relationship with over the past 8 years. I think that Jose would get along really well with Diego and Alex. These boys have cracked me up more than once with their fake tears whenever the subject of our departure is brought up. Each week they ask us when we will come back to Costa Rica, and each week they try to get us to stay :)
Again, I have loved the random places that I've found new friends here in Costa Rica, and part of me is sad knowing that I will soon have to say goodbye to them.