Monday, March 28, 2011

The first weekend in Ixtapaluca

The last 3 days have been a sweet whirlwind. This morning was my first opportunity to sit with a cup of coffee and soak it all in, in a rocking chair on our front stoop.

We lived in Costa Rica almost 5 months and barely had a conversation with a neighbor. It is an understatement to say our time here, in even just 3 days, has been a night and day experience. I didnt even start to unpack until last night. We arrived into Mexico City Thursday night around 10:30. Almost didn't make the connecting flight..had a customs back-up and we literally sprinted with our carry-ons to the gate. We were picked up by Rod, his 10 year old son Daniel and David Gomez, another missionary guy here.

We were in the astro van by 11:15 and looking for a taco stand by 11:45. Time is a very loose concept here. We were up by 8:15 the next morning for 8:30 prayer ... got there a little late, but in just enough time to receive prayer cards with facts about other countries. I prayed for China and Matt prayed for Somalia. A jumbalaya of English, Spanish and very simple sentence structures. I'm over sweating prayers though... God understands and the effort alone has to be edifying to the hearers. We were teaching English to a group of 12, by 10:30 (with an age range of 6-45). We taught in a cube sized room with a pull up door, pre made hand outs and white board. By noon, we were in a cumbi (van sized taxis that have routes through the smaller towns to larger landmarks) with Daniel as our guide, on our way to the Soriana to pick up groceries and things for the house, a cellphone with minutes...

We got back around 4, unloaded the shopping bags and were off to basketball with the community kids a few blocks away by 5:30. Matt helped a few of the men in the church with facilitating 2 hours of basketball, while I sat with Claudia and Noe, a couple whose kids were playing. We talked for majority of the time, until the sun went down.

The church anniversary was this Sunday so Saturday was a busy time. I had a handful of women in my kitchen most of the day cooking about 30lbs of meat and another 5 lbs of chile salsa for marinating. (Rosa, Iris, Chi...) I cannot even begin to paint the transpiration between women, cooking for 5 hours around a table...while the meat cooked, we house hopped, had coffee, went to the corner store for snacks, talked about marriage and the gospel (my how those two things go hand in hand). At some point, I think around 10 that evening, I choreographed a praise dance for the service the next morning.

The service is at 10. However, there were some sound and tent difficulties so, I think we probably started around 11 or something. No one cared, and when I think about it, I don't even remember feeling antsy. 45 minutes of band worship, 30 minutes of prayer, scripture readings and testimonial time. 4o minute sermon and 20 mins. of special music and dance toward the end. We brought in tables and chairs under the tent and everyone ate and listened to more worship until the cool of the early evening set in. Makes church back home feel like a 30 sec. advertising spot.

My host family from 4 summers back came to the service about midway through. The beauty is that apparently they have not been to church since the Sunday I left them in 2007. Good to see them back. Matt and I spent the rest of the evening with them. Our spot for coffee, their spot for catch-up and Quincenera videos (mi hermanitas son grande ahora!) then we went to the mall and bought icecream and all 6 of us shared a foot long subway sandwich. I don't know when we got home, but literally 5 minutes later we were in Rod's car for tacos.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Costa Rica has come to a close. It would be dishonest to say time has flown, there were moments time crept, but in fairness and retrospect, we lived it up. We hit Panama, Cuba, Nicaragua for weeks at a time. We traveled to the Pacific and Caribbean sides of Costa Rica and more importantly, we felt the faithfulness of God with us in our provision, our relationships and in our marriage.

I was reminded the vast body of believers and our one spirit, the sad realities of capitalism and the inevitable class system that results, the importance of family and community above money and status. I had a chance to reflect on 3 years of work, reevaluate my gifts and talents and (re)pursue journalism. Among many others... my Spanish has improved as well.

We leave for Ixtapaluca, Mexico this Thursday. We will arrive in around 10:30 pm. Rod Fry will pick us up. Looking forward to seeing him and the family and the community from when I did short term missions there 3 years ago. Were packing, trying to cook the last bits of ingredients in the cupboards, meeting up with friends and saying goodbyes...Our church prayed over us this past Sunday and we have had dinner almost every night with different people. It is a good, closing feeling to have.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Che Guevara and Loving well

Matt and I watched a documentary on Ernesto Che Guevara last night, called "Motorcycle Diaries." In the early 50's, Che traveled across South and Central America before his final year in medical school. He traveled mostly on foot and first hand experienced the injustice of political and social oppression toward the millions of indigenous Indians who had, at one time, built and sustained their land with dignity and care, prior to the Spanish colonization. Take Machu Picchu for example. In Costa Rica, even now, there are Indian reservations, similar to that of the U.S., who are scraping to preserve their native languages, customs and traditions, with marginalized governmental assistance, and many reserves without electricity and running water.

Che eventually moved to Cuba and is most renowned for his role in the Cuban communist revolution, but his passion and fire for indigenous justice and equally dispersed wealth set all of Latin America ablaze. He was murdered, with the help of North America's CIA in the late 60s in Bolivia.

I couldn't help but admire how well Che loved. He gave up his potential wealthy and comfortable life for the most outrageous hope: world revolution against capitalism, for the sake of justice. I am sure it is justifiable to argue his tactics, maybe even argue his political logic, but I do believe his love is inarguable. At least the love portrayed in the documentary.

He loved like Jesus, sitting with the leper, listening to the widow, giving of his monetary gains to those with less. He even had disciples-if you can call guerilla attack groups that (?). I cried countless times, not because I idolize Che, but because I idolize his love. That kind of love is Jesus love, and I too often feel like I cheapen it. I keep more than I give. I give of my time when it is convenient...

Shame on me, on us, that our standards are so low. When we went to Cuba we would often see Fidel and Che's face next to one another. I wonder if Che would be disgraced by that now, if he could see that the revolution has left Cuba in probably a worse off state. The revolution is 52 years old, and the country looks like it froze in 1959, the same cars, same buildings, same streets, poverty, dictatorship and religious oppression. We praise the spirit of Mother Theresa, but have little desire to be her. We put Che's face on our t-shirts and wear it to the mall.

Friday, March 18, 2011


We returned from Nicaragua last night. We did day-anda-half hops between Granada, Isla Ometepe and San Juan del Sur. Traveled with Filip from Belgium. For so many places in a short time, it was a rather low key trip. More sites than adventure. All in all, it was very different than Costa Rica, that was a surprise. The people looked different, more poor, yet even the more friendly, slower pace, the heat was 2x stronger, everyday hit 90+ in the sun, easy.

The night before we left, Matt caught a super bad stomach bug, stayed up all night. I think our yogurt went bad, but we are not sure. I thought we were going to have to call off the trip but Matt was feeling bearably better at our alarm the morning of, so we zipped up our backpacks and called a cab to the Tica bus station and met Filip. We were on the road by 6:15 and with a little sleep and gingerale Matt was feeling good to go by lunch time. Granada has beautiful colonial work everywhere, the original craftsmanship has been barely altered. Made for some gorgeous pics. They have a main drag dedicated to tourism. Cheap hotels, hostels, restaurants of all kinds and a market in the central park.

Isla Ometepe is a 75 minute bus ride and 45 minute ferry from Granada. Simple and poor but hands down the most safest place we have been in Latin America. There is little to no violence towards foreigners and theft is always done in secret.

We completed a 4 hour hike on Volcano Conception but otherwise, we were drinking Tona and watching the sunset, or talking with our New York bred, witty hostel owners Robert and Simone in the open air cafe, sipping cafe con leche and breathing in the excessive second hand smoke between both Filip and Robert. Robert and Simone had been in Ometepe for 5 years, prior to that the Dominican Republic running a pizza shop and prior to that Europe. Made for some interesting stories and views. They were very thoughtful, they only took cash and the 1 atm in town was broken. There was a supermarket credit card machine as back up, but there was a 15% tax so Simone let us run up a tab of at least $100 in wait for the atm to be fixed. Robert and I are 2 pics below.

San Juan del Sur was our final stop and we met a young taxi driver who drove us their directly for cheap, bypassing the planned 3 hour bus ride, without air condition, in 90 degree plus weather. Our driver was relentless in blaming US government for Nicaragua's high gas prices and the toll it was taking on his taxi business, as well as talking about my Spanish to Filip in the front seat because he thought I couldn't follow what he was saying, but all in all, he drove us there safely and he connected us with a decent hotel in town... We put our bags down and headed straight to the beach...Back to the border the next morning around 10. We went through immigration and then literally walked across the border and bought a ticket for a noon bus back to San Jose. We got in around 7pm.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunamis, Japan and Me

About a week before first coming to Costa Rica I received an email from a friend concerned that Matt and I had already left and were caught in the midst of rain landslides in San Jose. 17 had been reported dead at that point. My friend was relieved to know we were safe, and I was worried that the landslides would still be an issue when we arrived. I prayed for the families affected, but I never cried.

I had a friend once who found their only younger brother shot to death in the street. I wrote a poem shortly after the tragedy and the last line went a little like, "...I wish this was on some other news station, in some other town, in some other family so I wouldn't have to care..."

My point is, I have, and maybe others too have, this internal war where I wish I could sincerely care about lives lost and endangered in other places around the world, but my humanity kicks in and unless my own life is at stake, or it affects my inner ring, my sympathy is just a feeling I conjure up and it passes almost instantly. I can't even bring myself to text $10 to the cause in Japan because I don't like putting my credit card information out in the open.

Libya, Egypt, Japan, Haiti... are distant concerns to me compared to the newscaster who just said Latin America is in the danger zone for aftermath earthquakes and Tsunamis. Everything in me screams for the safety and preservation of myself, my safety, my comfort, my peace of mind.

My own heart proves my ugliness, no matter how I mask it with scattered compassion. This must be why "No greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend" because that is an act with God written all over it. You can't do it without true love.

With as much as I possibly can, safe, miles away with no hint of real understanding about an earthquake or Tsunami, I ask that God would save lives and souls through the tragedy in Japan.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Family Visit

Short and sweet. My family came in for 4 days and it was a whirl, but a good whirl. Lots of laughs, stories, rain forest, sites and good food. Our neighbor let us borrow his 83' landcruiser for transportation too. The first day was just Danelle and Gordon and we went ziplining in San Luis, North of San Jose. My parents came in late that night to join us all... We all got up bright and early and headed out to the Rainforest for hiking and a gondola ride through the tree tops. Saturday we went to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. We saw monkeys, tropical birds, butterflies, snakes and jaguars!

We had church on Sunday, guys/girls separate. My dad took the guys to a near by park and my mom and sister and I skyped my younger sis in from the states and we had church in the hotel lobby together. (My parents stayed with us, and my sister and bro in law were in a hotel downtown). We surprised my mom with a massage in the hotel spa after. She almost choked on her gasp she was so surprised, lol. We caught our last tour Sunday late afternoon in Heredia, at the Britt Coffee Plantation and then finished the night off with tacos back at the apartment... and my Dad's favorite you tube videos that he plays for his seminary classes :).

I felt like we had just picked everyone up when we dropped them off at the airport to leave. Nothing like having someone else see your world abroad. Somehow it makes it more real...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Driving and Last day of class

In exactly one week, we will have lived in Costa Rica for 4 months. I don't think anything has made me feel more Costa Rican than sitting in the passenger side of an 83 Landrover on a test run to the airport in prep for my family's visit. Fickle power steering, a 4 speed manual and a two way road with no divider markings really does test a good driver. Matt passed. Though, I feel like we lost some days off of our lives from gas pollution.

Today was my final day of classes. Surreal. The last 2 weeks I have been in private lessons 4 hours a day, 8-12. My teacher, Marianella, was a God send. She is not a Christian, but she had lesson plans from a missionary group she taught once. The first hour of our lessons were focused on bible vocab, phrases and dissecting the use of future and subjunctive in bible commands. We had some interesting discussions. She is one of 29 real, tried and true vegans in Costa Rica. She said that stat is concrete, and they are a community, that 29. She has strong convictions around the preservation of life, and has had time to put that into perspective as she has struggled with a severe and rare lung/asthmatic disease putting her in and out of hospitals for long periods of time through out Latin America. Nela is super tiny, quiet and she has this sorprano type voice with just enough scratch to it to keep me from saying it is high pitched. She is very sensible, punctual and wouldn't let me move onto the next part of the lesson until I could consistently use it correctly for an hour. Which, left me studying the use of "se" for about 3 days straight.

She told me in all her 8 years of teaching, she has taught many missionaries and Christians, but never once has she had a discussion about Gods view on animals and Vegan life until me. She said she was going to read more to see what the bible says about God's view on animals, souls and what is acceptable and not. (When she told me, I started praising God in my heart that I never told her I do not care too much for animals at all) She would often pause class for about 5 seconds to point out the National bird that would visit our window sill. At least 3 times she reminded me that even though it is ugly, it has a sweet singing voice. I pulled up a photo of the bird on google and drew it. I gave it to her this afternoon right before I left with a thank you note. I felt like I was 6 when I handed it to her, I don't know why.

My sister and brother and law come in at 1 this morning. Its 10:30pm. Matt and I are drinking coffee in prep. We have reservations for zipling a good 5 hours from then in San Luis CR. Around 10 tomorrow my parents fly in. I printed out our schedule for the next 4 days. Ziplining, Waterfalls, Rainforest hiking, Dinner reservations...