Two weeks in Costa Rica have passed…
Where to begin.
Well, things one quickly learns in Costa Rica…
1. Everyone speaks Spanish (Somehow this had taken awhile to sink into Danielle’s brain)
2. Costa Ricans are friendly. You will be greeted by a kissed, talked to very closely, and touched on the arm or back or hand or face constantly. We learned in my one class that the average a Costa Rican touches the person they are conversing with is every 3 seconds. I have come to believe it from experiencing it, and they warn that when we return we will act the same way to our friends and family in America…so watch out J
3. Showers….if you want a “warm” shower you only turn the spicket on very low where there is just a long drip coming out of the shower head. But usually most showers are cold.
4. Barbed wire is around every house. Doesn’t sound too charming, but at least my house is purple
5. They do not flush their toilet paper. Trash can.
6. Rice. Beans. Soup. Bread. Papaya and Mangos. My food daily.
7. Honking comes in many forms : to say hello, to warn people if light is going to turn green, to let someone pass you, to like a flower, to see a girl, to see an American, to agree that the person is listening to good music.
8. They can dance.
9. Time means nothing to them. I learned in class that America is a monochronic culture. Here I live in a polychronic culture.
10. Costa Ricans are ticos and ticas. I am a gringa. I get it a lot.
11. I can’t hold a monkey in Costa Rica.
….I am learning a lot. And becoming more and more thankful to see the power of prayer in my life from loved ones back at home. Though I get frustrated at time when I don’t see my specific purpose here, I feel God extending His grace and I feel your prayers. Which is something beautiful to experience. It makes me wonder what the world would be like if we prayed for everyone, everywhere, the same way we did for people that were far away from us or were sick/in danger/or were happily sitting on a park bench. I believe we would be encouraged greatly.
…God has given me so much grace in the language. In times of frustration, 4 hours of class, and broken sentences with “come se dice” coming out of my mouth every minute, God is there, full of grace. I love my homestay family. (Marta, who is divorced with one older son who takes care of her parents who are 81 and 84) Though they don’t know English (Marta just a little), we can laugh until our stomachs hurt and grin over confused faces. Even when I called Marta a pig by accident and told her that I have friends back at home that ride goats (instead of horses) she was ready to laugh, pat my head, and snap her fingers shouting “quetorta” (which still don’t know what that means but us girls think it means nonsense/silliness J ) Either way, I enjoy being around the table with people who I rest in knowing that we don’t need to be friends to speak the same language, we just need patience and love towards one another…which is what all healthy relationships need. And what Jesus gives to me everyday even when I choose not to give it back to Him.
My days are long, getting up at 6:30 am and coming back to the house at 7pm or 8 pm. It is a 15 minute walk from my house, crossing a large freeway. My first walk to school I literally thought every car was going to hit me. They were driving so fast that I was afraid they wouldn’t see me crossing. Then I remembered I am a gringa and EVERYONE here notices a gringa. I stay at the school all day long because it is not safe to walk and travel back and forth. I will talk more about safety once I am home, but all I will say in this post is to please pray for safety. Safety for Americans. Safety for Costa Ricans. And a change of heart over the people that deal with selfishness, violence, stealing, and harm. My heart hurts for them.
I have Spanish 8-12 every morning. The book is in Spanish. My teacher speaks Spanish. And we must speak in Spanish. The class is killing me and my brain is so fried everyday, but it is excellent practice and will be over in 4 weeks. Though I will miss growing in learning the language, I think it will be more healthy for me to have my morning free to learn Spanish not in a classroom, but with my host family and people within this culture. Plus it means more sleep for Danielle..Which is what Danielle needs presently J
Then my other classes are 2 hours every class, every other day. Here’s the breakdown:
Intercultural Communication: My professor is Johnny Depp. Looks, walks, dresses, and acts like him. He doesn’t believe in copyright so he photocopied our book so we didn’t have to pay. He is from Costa Rica but speaks English. He has traveled everywhere. Our class is so diverse and we talk about stereotypes, cultural barriers, and very debatable topics. We sit in a circle.
Ecological Photography: A photography class that teaches you the basics, but then you take pictures of animals and nature. I love my professor for this course. He is the one that asked for me to tutor his daughter in English and I am very excited. Very down to Earth. One of our fieldtrips he claims on a good day, after we get up at 4:30 and climb the highest mountain here, we can see both oceans J
Tropical Marine Biology: On my first day of class I sat beside a friend that had insect tattoos (They were pretty sweet) and on my other side a botanist and in front of me a girl staying on longer to help with hatching sea turtles. When I had to introduce myself there was an awkward silence after saying “Biblical and Religious Studies with a minor in Sociology”. I am surrounded by scientists. BUT the class so far is super interesting. It’s about the ocean and I love the ocean! We will be snorkeling in the Caribbean..which I am so pumped about J
Other than going to class that is my life Monday through Friday. Yes there are salsa, cooking, and yoga classes but right now I can’t squeeze them into my day, especially with 4 hours of Spanish and then Spanish homework and papers every night. I hope to do them though after this month.
The weekends….are the best. I’ve only had one but am about to enter my 2nd and already am so excited. Last weekend we went to Manuel Antonio and we had a blast. We salsa-ed in the rain, climbed the mountain to go inside a restaurant/bar that is inside a real, old airplane from the war, tanned (well BURNT) on the beach, saw so many animals, and the best part: surfed.
I learned how to surf and I loved it. I have ALWAYS wanted to but always was reluctant to have someone teach me because I knew they would have to be really patient and willing to save my life. But when a professor here asked me to go surfing and promised to teach me, I couldn’t turn down the offer. And I am so glad I didn’t. I want to live on a surfboard. But I would want to not “turtle” (terminology for all you surfers) and be able to have gills. Okay, I want to pretty much be a mermaid. Though it took lots of practice, I was finally able to stand and the feeling…..I felt like Peter walking on water. There are moments in my life where I try to “breathe in the moment”, something I learned in Europe. I don’t do it often, only really precious times to me that if my memory was ever erased I would want to cling to those moments. I had one when I was waiting for a wave, on my surfboard, staring into the ocean and trees and thinking, “I am surfing in Costa Rica.” And I don’t think it was the sun that warmed me at that moment, I think it was God smiling at me.
I can’t have a blog post without talking about the people I have met here. I am blessed beyond measure to meet so many types of people. I would be lying if I said I never get frustrated or annoyed with the people I have come into contact with, but I am realizing that each person has something to teach me and I hope to teach them. In all honestly, I am not surrounded by many Christians. It’s perfect because my heart yearns and beats and seeks those who aren’t (because I know Jesus does that and He lives in me, so that makes sense). But it’s also hard because I have always struggled with balancing my witness to others. I NEVER want to shove the gospel down someone’s throat or condemn/judge someone (I have talked and still meeting people who hate Christianity because this is all they have seen of it ) but I also never want to remain passive, too “go with the flow, idc what you do” because Jesus isn’t like that. He is the opposite of sin and despises it because He is good. Hence I despise sin (the sin I and others commit). But that is something that is hard to communicate to others. So prayers are needed for me to grow and find wisdom in how to reach out to people the way Jesus knows they need reached. I always say not everyone was saved by Billy Graham. Some people probably went to his events and walked out still not accepting Jesus as their Savior. And if people were saved at his events, he wasn’t the one that saved them. But everyone is saved by Jesus. And He knows the hearts of people and He knows what will bring the lost to Him. So if we seek Him, we shall find wisdom in how to seek the lost. I need to draw closer to Him, that is for sure. Pray for me and these lovely people. I see their pain, hurt, and darkness and I so badly want them to walk in light and love. I see the good in them.
I realize this is the longest post ever, but I would like to close with a thought from a scene in one of my favorite movies, 500 days of summer. I want those reading to realize that my experience here thus far has not been perfect. I have been frustrated, discouraged, and felt lost. I had an idea coming in on what I thought this experience would be. But I should have known God usually doesn’t work this way J But He does promise to walk with us in the fire. I feel like I am going through a time of refinement. He slowly is beginning to reveal things to me that I didn’t realize about myself. Parts of myself that I need to grow in. But also is showing me through blessings how much He delights and loves me. I have prayed and thought about how to tell people about my struggles and hardships here and I’ve decided that a lot of that cannot be blogged. However, I can give you an idea of what I expected and what is reality in Costa Rica, which stems from the scene in 500 Days of Summer. I have my own personal list but I will summarize for your eyes sake: I thought this culture would a perfect, fun, colorful, Costan Rican culture where I felt like I was on Spring Break and had no cares in the world. I would meet all sorts of people, I would quickly love on them and they would seek my Jesus light, and we would live in harmony. But the reality is we live in a world that is not perfect and cannot satisfy. BUT there are pieces of heaven and every good thing we see…comes from Jesus. And He does want me to be light and He does want me to love because He gives me those things daily. And I will not lose faith that people will come to Christ. I may just be a planter here but I won’t lose faith in His ability to use me, a vessel for Him. Though there is a lot of bad, it is as Dr. Ayers would say “why don’t more bad things happen?” And as my dear friend C.S. Lewis would say “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
Jesus is showing me that there is no place on this earth that is perfect. That can fully satisfy. And that the place He brings us to is not because that’s what we want, but it’s what we need. However, the more we grow in Him, our wants will align with our needs. It’s the beauty of being in the vine. His wants are our wants because we want what He wants which are good, pure things. That’s confusing so read it again. And again if you didn’t get it. Okay, perfect. Now you know what I have been learning and growing in most of my life.
As I face hardships in Costa Rica, it makes me thankful for what I do have in America. In America, I can walk around with an iphone. Stop and take a picture of a beautiful sunset and not think twice I just got out an expensive piece of equipment, let alone own one. I can walk around by myself. I can hear what people are saying. I know where things are located. If I get lost or plans fall through, I can pick up phone and call someone. I have 3 meals a day and usually have the choice of what to eat. If I want to make plans I can. If I want to paint alone in my room, no problem. I can wear my clothes and dress up and not worry about getting attention. But here…..I don’t have those comforts. The only thing I walk around with is a wallet that has paper copies of my ID, no credit card, only a bit of colones (their currency), and now a cheap “tico” phone that reminds me of my 7th grade phone. I haven’t been able to take pictures of san jose or around the area because they would get stolen quickly. I have to watch very closely what I wear. I can’t walk alone by myself. At night I have to take the shuttle or taxi just to get to my home 15 minutes away. I miss chocolate and have to eat whatever is before me, though it is not the “slice of pizza” I had in mind. I can’t go off and paint. I can’t just call a friend. I have to be constantly watching, planning, aware.
I use to really be discouraged in these things. But yesterday Olivia and I were able to talk through until I discovered an important truth: my joy is not meant to be rooted in these things. I never realized how much joy I drew from things in America. God wants us to delight in good things, but doesn’t want us to be rooted in them because He knows they aren’t fulfilling and eternal. He wants us to see joy..He wants us to seek Him. The Lord is calling me to find joy in Him. Not the things in America. Not the things here. But in Him. While abiding in Him I will then grow in joy in Him and things in his creation, people, places, blessings, etc. He is bringing to surface that I need to be sanctified more in my joy. (Sanctified: being closer to Jesus. Being more like Him. Who is He? He is love. Joy. Patience. Kindness. All those good things. People want those things. They want to be loved. They want to be treated kindly. So sanctification is a good thing, not a big scary theological term).
I would have never realized this in America. It is taking Costa Rica for me to see this. To realize that my joy is does not come from being independent and earthly treasures. But being dependent on Him and finding my identity in Him. My heart hums often of the joy I have found in Him. Now the Lord wants to turn that hum into a song. And with the rhythm of salsa in Costa Rica, my song of joy is destined to turn into a dance.
“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them bythe truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”
1 Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.(B)
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;(C)
apart from you I have no good thing.”(D)
3 I say of the holy people(E) who are in the land,(F)
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
4 Those who run after other gods(G) will suffer(H) more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
or take up their names(I) on my lips.
5 Lord, you alone are my portion(J) and my cup;(K)
you make my lot(L) secure.
6 The boundary lines(M) have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.(N)
7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;(O)
even at night(P) my heart instructs me.
8 I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand,(Q) I will not be shaken.(R)
9 Therefore my heart is glad(S) and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,(T)
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,(U)
nor will you let your faithful[b] one(V) see decay.(W)
11 You make known to me the path of life;(X)
you will fill me with joy in your presence,(Y)
with eternal pleasures(Z) at your right hand.(AA)