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Memoirs of Costa Rica

October 8, 2006

Journal Entries from my time in Costa Rica // Summer 2005

July 3rd

Costa Rica es muy bonita!

We have arrived safely…we flew into Liberia and then took a four hour bus ride (rough roads indeed…I had some air on a few of the bumps and talk about trusting the Lord to arrive safely!) to Monteverde where we will be staying for the next two weeks. We will then head to Flamingo for a week and will finish off that week with a long weekend in Nicaragua. We will then travel to Heredia where we will spend the last two weeks.

I am taking two education classes (EPSY 484 and EPSY 320) and we have four hours of Spanish class each day…it’s not called ¨study abroad for nothing! Tomorrow we will be going to a butterfly farm and this weekend we will visit Arenal (a volcano)…

…out of my window and beyond the delicate pink display of curtains is an array of laundry lines strung out across the yard as well as what appears to be the end of their (my host family) yard and the onset of a wild field fading into the cloud forest…

…I love this culture already. The simplicity awakens my soul and gives me desires for a more simple life. I am staying in the little girl’s room, Valerie, and her only possessions include her bed and her standing/portable closet. My mind ventures to think of such simplicity in my own life but can only picture the mounds of items I own. In a culture where material items are not given much value, I am humbled to say I have had the curse of materialism in America….

…Last night I arrived to an empty home so I used the key Maureen (the mother)gave me. Shortly afterwards, Edward (Maureen’s brother) and Valerie showed up on the moped. I was cheerfully greeted by Valerie (8 yrs old) who has taken a liking to me. She is such a
precious girl and I do believe I am becoming attached. She playfully pulled Ricky, the tiger, (a beanie baby I gave her as a gift) out of her backpack saying, ¨He had a wonderful day! ¨…she joined me in my room as I strung out my homework across the bed. Glad to help, she offered her services. I could not pass up such a kind heart so I dreamed up a way for her to aid me in my studies…

…my time here is helping me to be even more dependent on Him who cares for us. ¨And all of you is more than enough…¨ the words to that song echoed in my ears as I realize that Jesus is all I need. Today I was rereading some passages and I was particularly
challenged by the passage from Acts 20:22-24. What a statement of faith!…

…I have a feeling I will be learning a lot about this culture, about the mysteries of life–maybe even the things that matter such as family, friends, and faith as I follow my Lord–and probably more particulars about myself, no doubt….

July 4th

A spectacular display of green, lush plant life

Insects too numerous to count, however, beautiful and intriguing

Gentle afternoon showers cleanse the land

Rolling hills, pastures of green

A coast line so gorgeous even the natives appreciate it

Rugged roads make for an adventurous journey…full of pot holes and such

Humble homes inhabit the land

Laundry strung out across the yard

Simple lives but big hearts

The beat of Tico music lives in the soul

Rhythm that makes you move

Locals dance, work, relax

Gallo Pinto to complete your day

Crickets and frogs sing in harmony late into the night

A Rain Forest of beauty, mystery, life

Cows graze and horses frolic through the fields

Exotic fruit explodes in your mouth

Smokey hills

Roads fade into the fog

Breathtaking views of a land so luscious

A land of wonder unfolds…

Since I have been here I have been waking around five in the morning. I love being up early (well, once I am actually awake)—just God and me. What sweet time it is to reflect, call upon his name, journal, and meditate on His word. There is something so peaceful about early mornings, something so divine and powerful. I find that some of my best times with the Lord are during sunrises as there is a closeness felt which carries on throughout my day. Taking me to the mindset of being Christ-centered, my days prove more fulfilled… I am learning more and more that I must be completely dependent on Him—with everything!

Everything is so beautiful here—so different from the Texas terrain. I have always dreamed of being in the jungle. I spoke with my mom before boarding the plane, and she reminded me of when she first met me, “Denny, I remember you talking about going to the Rain Forest and wanting to travel. You always dreamed of this even when you were a lot younger. It’s like your dreams have come true!” Joyfully, I can say God has blessed me beyond belief and is unraveling the adventure of what we call life. A story unfolds as I trust Him in my ventures—I know that as I seek His kingdom and stay close to His side, no moment will be dull. Even in my trials I will be able to rejoice for He has given me a greater faith and a greater hope of what is yet to come.

I am so thankful that I remembered to bring song sheets with me so that I can offer up sweet praises to the Lord as I rise in the morning. The sun is just beginning to peek through the clouds and over the hills and the breeze echoes across the land resembling the sound of crashing waves. I begin humming and then softly sing a tune to the Lord, hoping not to wake the household.

The houses here are so tiny and cute, but practical. Everything these people own is practical (for the most part). My family’s home consists of three bedrooms, one bathroom and a kitchen/living/dining room. When you walk in the house you enter the main room where there is a table, a T.V., a phone and radio, a refrigerator, a stove, and a sink. That is all. The bathroom is on the far end and my room is next to it. The other tow bedrooms are in line with my bedroom. So simple, so complete. That is all you need to live by.

The song that touched me the most this morning was “Enough” by Chris Tomlin, Louie Giglio:

All of you is more than enough for

All of me for every thirst and

Every need you satisfy me

With your love and all I have in you

Is more than enough

You are my supply, my breath of life,

Still more awesome than I know

You are my reward worth living for

Still more awesome than I know

You’re my sacrifice of greatest price

Still more awesome than I know

You’re my coming King, you’re everything

Still more awesome than I know…

Jesus is more than enough…the more I realize this the more I am content and satisfied, filled with joy, and at peace…

How true are the words to this song! So many times we try to cling to other things we think we need—not until you are put in a situation where nothing is available to you do you realize that Jesus is all you need—He is everything and to be dependent on Him is what is important. I realize that I need to quit depending on myself (even for simple things) and falling into self-righteousness— I need to quit relying on others or even money because everyone will eventually fail you in some way and putting expectations on people is not fair to either you or them. Ultimately God is our provider so we must depend on him for everything—including money! It is so good to be reminded of these things DAILY!

I had quite the experience of riding home on a four-wheeler with my host family once they picked me up from the CPI school. I was surprised to find that they only own a four-wheeler and a moped. We tied down all of my things on the back with bungee cords and then I rode with Maureen. Apparently, this is what she drives to work, to visit the farm where her family lives, and any other place she needs to go. I still haven’t figured out what she does when it rains.

Today is my first day of class—Edward has already hung clothes up on the line to dry before the afternoon rains and I can hear the soft movement of Maureen at work in the kitchen, preparing breakfast.

There were no fireworks or loud explosions…no BBQs…no parties… no big gatherings… no celebration… fourth of July here in Costa Rica is just an ordinary day, so I silently celebrated my country’s independence…haha, not really—I am in C.R! I forgot it was even July 4th until we started talking about it in Spanish class.

Spanish classes were intense but pleasant. I was placed in the 2nd Spanish class with Casey, Kendra, and Brian. I would say that 75% of the time in class is conversation and the other 25% is learning grammer/vocab/playing a game/ reading a passage. The focus here is comprehension through speaking and listening. I find it funny that in the states the focus is comprehension through reading and writing, leaving the students with a language they can neither use nor understand when spoken to (at least until the upper level Spanish classes). Immersion is most definitely the best way to learn a language.

July 6th

Wednesday already! Today I will be traveling to the Butterfly Garden with my class for a cultural experience.

Last night my walk home was dark as I had attempted to take out my flashlight only to find that the batteries were dead. In my experience, flashlights work best with batteries that are not dead…so I managed with the light glow from the moon coming through a clearing in the trees. Along the way I stopped periodically to look up at the magnificent sky. Here I feel as if I am closer to the stars; they seem to be bigger and greater in number. Being in rural country cuts down on outside light at night, providing clearance for the heavenlies.

My humble home was filled with joyful people last night. Valerie’s cousin came for a visit and the two were goofing around just as any children would. Maureen had dinner prepared and she had waited for me to return before she ate anything. We sat down together and I practiced my Spanish with her. I am beginning to hold conversation much better and with more confidence.

Later Maureen’s sister arrived and stayed the night with her son. …I love that family is truly cherished here in C.R. There is a community and they all take care of each other. (Of course these are generalizations). Maureen lives an hour away from her parents which is unusual considering that the children normally live with their parents until they are married, but I can see that the level of independence in the younger generation starting to develop.

Everyone here is friendly and welcoming—something they take pride in. Some of the men are too friendly but you have to take it as a grain of salt…mostly I just pray for them that the spirit of lust would leave.

I find it interesting to see that the people here place little value on animals. The value is given to people alone, I suppose. Maybe it is a financial situation that keeps the people from giving the animals special care. Dogs run rampant and many are left to starve. Those who own dogs pay little attention. As we walked around yesterday we picked up a straggler. This little dog persisted to follow us around, for we had paid a notice to him. The animals here are not keen to attention, so when we pet him and gave him the least bit of attention, he stuck like glue. Charles told me not to spoil him too much because he would be heartbroken when we left.

It is interesting to be in rural country where insects are accepted and not thought of as utterly disgusting. Sure, they are not wanted but what are you to do when the whole land is infested? Last night I came to the table for dinner and was repulsed to find a cockroach nibbling at the edge of my dinner. Disgusted, I silently wiped him away and cut off the part of my food he had found tasty. I did not say anything because I did not want to cause a scene or induce embarrassment. So, I shrugged it off and ate the rest of my food. I must become immune to bugs in this country. Luckily the cockroaches are smaller in Monteverde because it is cooler here. …other than the cockroaches, I think I am fairing pretty well…I think insects are fascinating creatures so I really don’t mind all that much…just the cockroaches…

Maureen was explaining to me this morning of how the doctors only accept twenty people per day so her sister had to wake at four in the morning in order to travel and be one of the first twenty people to see the doctor. Any people after that are sent away.

July 7th

This morning we are hiking out to see a waterfall. Professor Goetz was kind enough to let us go on the hike and have class at night instead. Flexibility is a virtue you must have in this country…

A night drizzle turned into a summer shower as I proceeded to make my way home last night. When I left in the morning without my rain jacket I knew I would end up wet…so I returned home damp but in good spirits.

Yesterday we went to the Butterfly Garden…Sebastian was our guide who was hilarious and had a more than healthy interest in the mating habits of insects; he insisted on informing us of the sexual behavior of each insect he spoke about. However, it did keep things interesting.

I detest cockroaches but after his spiel, I find that I have more respect for them. Don’t get me wrong—they still creep me out but they have some notable qualities. For example, what other animal spends two hours a day cleaning itself? (At least this certain type of cockroach he was talking about) They are very resilient, living through atomic bombs…if put in a microwave for a few seconds they will come out just fine. If you put them in the freezer and leave them for several days “they’ll just think they had a free trip to Canada,” in the words of Sebastian. If you cut their heads off they can live up to ten days and can still mate and lay eggs. If it weren’t for not being able to eat they’d probably live longer than ten days! Okay, so notable qualities, but all the more reason to gross me out!

The preying mantice mates and then the female eats the head of the male so she can have protein for the babies. Many of the insects he told us about mate up to several days and one was even recorded to mate for something ridiculous like 72 days! Beetles are the insects with the most different types. Male beetles will fight for up to several days over a female. The queen ant of the colony of soldier ants can live up to twenty years and she can be as big as two inches! Butterflies land with their wings closed and they spin their cocoon (only it’s not called a cocoon but I forgot the word). Butterflies are very promiscuous and mate with many males and the one with the largest protein is the one the female chooses, disposing of the other male’s genetic make-up. Some species of butterfly, the male closes the end of the female’s abdomen so she can no longer mate and has to use his sperm. Moths land with their wings open and they build their cocoon out of materials such as sticks.

July 8th

Today the air sits heavier than usual and my roaring ocean is not audible. However, the birds sing away as the sun rises. I hope the sun comes out to break up the cloud coverage because we are going horseback riding today.

Yesterday we hiked to the waterfall at 7am. The trail was splendid…the vegetation here in C.R. is so diverse and breathtaking. The flowers are so vibrant and so different from ones I have ever seen. There is one that our guide said we could eat and it tastes sort of like a peach…it is very good.

I can hear the goose honking away, making a ruckus. Everyday on my way to school I pass this gang of little dogs that think they are real bad. I ignore them and eventually they trail off and give-up trying to intimidate me. There is on yard I pass with the goose I was speaking of. If anything—that creature is more frightening than the dogs and it’s behind a fence! It acts as through it were going to take a flying leap over the fence and attack with no mercy. I wonder if there are baby geese somewhere in the yard he is protecting… He is big and white and I’ve named him Henry. To the left I pass a small fenced field with two cows that always seem to put me at ease. They have Tico blood as they always are relaxed and graze on the grass. I feel like Fern from Charlotte’s Webb, passing through the farm. Now that’s a book I really loved!

Maureen comes home late in the night and one night there was quite a storm. I stayed up until I knew she had arrived okay, while everyone else thought nothing of it. When she returned I greeted her at the door and she was just fine. She took off her rain boots, rain pants and coat. She knew what she was doing…silly how I forget this is daily life for them. She said she is used to doing this. The lights on the streets had gone out so all she had was the little headlight on her four-wheeler…

On one of our hikes we encountered an all too friendly creature that appeared to be a Nat of some sort, but we soon discovered that it had a thirst for blood. There was no immediate itching sensation but rather the bug discretely sucked your blood leaving nothing more than a red dot. If it was allowed to suck long enough blood would start rolling down your leg or wherever it was feasting. It looks as if I were pricked with needles in several locations on my legs and arms. Throughout the day the marks became redder all around and by the morning I had little welts all over that itched real bad. Sounds exciting, huh?

Yesterday morning I was watching the news with my mama Tica and apparently London had seven explosions killing 50+ people and I’m sure that the number will only grow by tomorrow. They think it might be affiliated with Alkaida but they do not know as of now. This world is so fallen and I know that it is only going to continue to go down hill until our Lord returns…

July 9th

Last night we all went out to the city and to Bar Amigos. Personally, that is not my style. I don’t like big crowds especially when everyone is drinking and smoking. However, I enjoyed the music which always seems to have an amazing beat here with the Latin American roots. I love watching the Ticos dance who all have an innate ability to move their body in ways I have never been able to.

For the most part Ticos are smaller than the typical American. I wonder if it has anything to do with the type of foods they eat and the proportions…possibly we can contribute our grand size to all the hormones in the food and the amount we consume…which is seemingly much more than what the Tico eats.

I am finally back home after a four to five hour drive through the Costa Rican country side. I think it is funny that on one of our journeys of only 14 miles it took us 2.5 hours because the roads are so terrible! ….No words can express how beautiful the land is. A lot of the terrain we covered was open, green rolling hills. According to Percy, our tour guide, it is because at one point the Ticos cut down most of their forests to have land for cattle. Well, Argentina took over the cow industry and left Costa Rican economy in shambles because they no longer had the forests to fall back on. I imagine much of the land we saw was still without many trees from when they were all cut down. Now C. R. is famous for having many of its forests preserved as they have been allowing the forests to grow again.

July 11th

“The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all of his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” John 10:3-5

I hope that I am that sheep who knows the Lord’s voice and runs away from those who try to lead me astray.

“‘They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ After they prayed, the place was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” Acts 4:28-31

May I be filled with the spirit and speak the word of God boldly, without doubt or timidity.

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees in the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.” Psalm 96:11-13

July 12th

I heard Edward wake this morning at 2am for work at 3. (He works at the Cheese Factory) I continued to sleep until 5 when I naturally woke. Maureen was already up and about. She had worked until 10 last night and now she had to go to work at 7 today. I don’t know how they do it…I guess you do what you have to do.

I have been coming down with a cold so my voice is very groggy…yesterday I went to the pharmacy to buy some Tylenol sinus in hopes that it may knock out this cold. Everyone here is sick…probably because we have been sharing food and drinks.

The pharmacy is a little different here in that all the medicine is behind the counter so you must ask for anything that you want. The medicine, such as Tylenol sinus, only comes in individual packages of two tablets so I had to buy a couple packets. Usually I do not take medicine but being in a foreign country I thought I should probably just fight the cold as fast as possible.

Friday morning several of us had the opportunity to go horseback riding…what an incredible experience! One of my dreams/mini life goals came true….well sort of. I have always wanted to run a horse through an open field away from civilization. Our tour guide proved very laidback, his boss was not there, and we were a small group…so….he allowed us to run the horses several times through the open terrain. Walk, canter, gallop, run…I believe we only experienced a canter and Cameron and I got to a gallop (because our horses tried to race the guide!)…all through the hills and jungles of Costa Rica for 2.5 hours! Maybe one day I will get the courage to actually run a horse through an open field, perhaps.

My horse was walking up the hill until Julie took off and all the horses followed. My horse increased his speed until the ride was much smoother and my body was going with the rhythm of the horse’s strides. We came up over the hill to see the horizon and the mountains for miles…Indiana Jones-ish…

I love the personalities of horses. They are each so distinct. For some reason I always get the horse with a fiery attitude. Several times my horse cut-off other horses, nudged them, grunted, went off the trail to eat…he was definitely an independent, much like myself I suppose in terms of being independent…only I hope I am not quite so aggressive as the horse. My horse even tried to race the guide; however, the guide put him back in his place.

Saturday our group left at 7:30 for Arenol. It was a 4-5 hour drive. The roads were even worse than before. Maureen said those are some of the worst roads in C.R. They may have been bad but the view was worth it.

Percy is hilarious. He is a 40 year old man with the looks of a 25 year old and the heart and excitement of a 12 year old! Our excursions would not be the same without him in all honesty. He has been doing this for ten or eleven years and he still gets overly excited when he spots a sloth! The whole tour bus stops and we all run off the bus to take photos of the sloths, the monkeys, the toucans, or whatever else Percy spots.

“As the Bus Rolls”:

(This little side note is taken while riding the bus, listening to Percy fill our minds with interesting facts about Costa Rica and its inhabitants) SLOTH: This particular creature sleeps for an unusually long time of 20 hours per day. That’s right…20 hours leaving only 4 hours for it to eat and move and use the bathroom. This animal has interesting habits; for example, every two weeks the sloth walks down the tree, poops 22- 25% of it’s weight, and then covers it up and crawls back up the tree. He does not poop from up above because then his predators (which is almost everything…) would know where to locate him and he is so slow moving he wouldn’t stand a chance. Scientists have found up to 100 different types of insects living on the sloth that eat the algae off of his fur. As Percy says, “It is the perfect symbiotic relationship.” Something strange…the sloth’s heartbeat slows down when it is scared (verses speeding up). Its heartbeat is usually only 13-20 beats a minute so when it slows down to 7-10 beats it can be very dangerous. Percy told us about one tour guide who made the hawk whistle sound 5x trying to get the sloth to move for the tourists and the sloth fell out of the tree and died…yah, you read right–the sloth just died (sad, but if you are like me you probably let out a slight chuckle…lol) …so Percy would only whistle one time to get the sloth to move. The sloth will face his chest toward the sun to accelerate his metabolism because it is so slow. 80% of the problems with sloths dying is from them climbing the power lines…C.R. has special guards they place on the support/ground wires to keep them from climbing.

(These are the “special guards”)

“As the Bus Rolls”:

Congo/Howler Monkeys: Interestingly enough, the alpha male is not the leader—the females are. (This is the same in elephants and rhinoceroses) …the bus ride was too bumpy to copy anything else down and I don’t remember it all enough to write it down with accuracy…

The fruit here is incredibly amazing—especially the pineapple! I have been eating more fruit than usual since I have been here. CPI offers a typical Tico snack and fruit at 3pm everyday during our break from Spanish class. I load up my plate at least twice sometimes three times depending on if I have eaten lunch or not.

–Costa Rica is the #1 pineapple producer.

We arrived in Arenol around noon or so and had lunch at the restaurant with a clear view of the volcano. I had garlic chicken and a natural fruit drink. Percy told us that we were lucky to see the whole volcano because many times that he gives tours the people never see the top of the volcano (even when they are there for days). …We were eating and Percy looked up to Arenol and stood up quickly with great excitement, “Quick, get your cameras…the clouds are clearing! Omgosh! Oh! It’s so beautiful!” Sure enough, the wind blew the clouds through, clearing out the sky which allowed us to view the entire volcano…breathtaking sight I’d have to say.

We went into town for a short while to get ice-cream and look around. I tried cactus ice-cream….and it was actually quite tasty. While we were in town walking around Kameron and I kept commenting on how surreal it was to walk down the street with a giant volcano in the background. I kept reminding myself that it was not just a backdrop…honestly, I didn’t’ have to remind myself—the volcano did that as it had small eruptions every so often, releasing a puff of smoke.

We checked into the hotel and then headed for the base of the volcano. While we were there you could hear and see the boulders, the size of cars, tumbling down the side of Arenol. Percy would say, “Shh…listen…,” and hold out his arms to silence us. Sure enough you could here the rumbling life of the massive volcano and the low tumbling sound of the rocks as they rolled down the steep slope.

Percy took us into the jungle where we saw many monkeys, leaf-cutter ants and lots of vegetation. There was one plant I now forget the name of, that the natives have used in the past to poison people. It is untraceable and all you have to do is mix some of it with food or coffee. We also saw the very sensitive plants, called Mimosa, that close up when you touch them.

I have found that Costa Rica not only has abolished their army, but in general, they are not very concerned about safety. I have realized how paranoid we all are, as Americans, having rules and laws and regulations for everything…The only times that I have had to sign my life away when I’ve done something here is pretty much only when an American is working the place. I am sure that suing people is not the problem that it is in America. While I was watching the news one night there had been breaking news about how one of the Costa Rican burned down. Apparently there are not fire detectors or fire extinguishers in the hospitals. In American that would break a fire safety regulation or something… well, the example I was getting to….we all relaxed in the hot springs for about 4 hours. While we were there a huge storm blew in and the rain poured down, lightening and thunder included. There were no lifeguards and no one ever had anyone get out of the water. At one point I just decided to smoothly make my way to a dryer area, leaving the water, where I could guarantee my life and I ended up having a lovely conversation with a tour guide from Holland. She had quite an interesting life and conveniently one of the four languages she spoke included English. I love meeting new people and hearing their story.

The next morning we headed for another hike after are typical buffet breakfast at the hotel. There were 600 stairs to walk down and that’s right, 600 back up!—the ultimate stair stepper on steroids but with a great view. Along the way we spotted a really big lizard and a huge spider that appeared to be a banana spider, only Percy assured us it was not. Leaping up on the side of the cliff, Percy took off his shirt, and proceeded to capture the spider. Everyone was in shock…but eased up once he assured us it was not poisonous. The spider covered his whole hand and was just beautiful.

This waterfall was much bigger than the other one we visited. There are two types of waterfalls. One is called the Cascada which rolls down the side of the rocks and is usually much smaller in size. The other is the Catarata which is bigger and just falls over the edge. I had the pleasure of viewing both types. I find it interesting that in C.R. the two types of waterfalls are distinguished but in America we just call them all waterfalls, regardless.

So powerful

Mist in the air

Wind roaring

Blowing hair

Waves crashing into the shore

Captivated by the force

Mesmerized by the continuous sound of thundering water

Glasses spotted with water

Ice cold water lapping the sides of rocks,

Cooling my feet

Rhythm of nature echoes

Whispers from the Heavens

For lunch I had Tilapia which to my surprise was brought out as a whole fish…it was delicious to say the least. My dad would have loved it!

I came home to Edward and Cindy, Valerie’s babysitter. They were all watching Pasion, which is the popular soap in C.R….it is very dramatic and far-fetched but I suppose it helps me practice my Spanish anyhow.

July 13th

One thing I have found annoying about this culture is that fact that the Ticos are never forward and will lie to you before they will offend you. In America we are very forward and so naturally I find it offensive when someone keeps the truth from me and lies…especially when it is about something so petty. I personally have not experienced this yet, but my friend Nury has been dealing with this. The room she has been staying in is infested with these bugs that I would describe as giant fleas. They can hop and at night they eat Nury alive. She wakes up with huge welts all over her body. They have infested her bed. She has told her host family twice and they keep telling her they will do something and finally they let her switch rooms, but then the number of bugs only increased. Finally, she had to move to a different host family because of the problem. Alyn told be about her host family when she was in C.R. Their hot water heater was broken and they kept telling her they were going to fix it and never did. Instead of just telling the truth and saying they couldn’t have it fixed they would continue to lie. We have encountered this same cultural habit a couple of other times. I appreciate honesty so much more than people pleasing. I appreciate their kindness but I find honesty to be a greater virtue in many of these situations. I cannot justify lying nor do I think they can.

July 15th

Eyes in disbelief as they scan the canopy of the Cloud Forest…a walk through the canopy along suspended bridges…monkeys at eye level, butterflies, birds, and an opening to the sky…we experience the Sky Walk…

School is starting to pick up…we have finished two weeks so far and we received our topic for our project. We are to research the cultural aspects of courting/dating, marriage, and child rearing. This topic will correlate with our Child Development class.

From what I have already observed here in Monteverde, dating and marriage is in a sad state. Everyone cheats on everyone and there is no such thing as commitment to one person. My Spanish teacher told us that the women will say, “Soy casada.” (which Ser is used for permanent things) The men will say, “Estoy casada.” (Estar is used for temporary conditions)…how awful is that?…

So apparently Americans have a bad reputation here in Monteverde. After talking with several Spanish teachers and a few mama Ticas, I have concluded that many people in this small town have a skewed view of Americans. Maureen and my Spanish teachers informed me that Americans do not shower and smell really bad. Maureen said that every American that has ever stayed with her smells really bad. She said she was really surprised when I took a shower the first night. Edward had even said something to her out of surprise. The last student who stayed with her did not take a shower the whole week he was there. Another lady was there for two weeks and only took one shower on the Saturday between the two weeks. Maureen said that they would all make jokes in Spanish about how bad she smelled. When she took off her shoes the whole house would fill with the foul smell and even Valerie would call her mom at work sometimes and say, “Mommy, another day without a shower…” Maureen said that the lady came to her at the end of the two weeks, telling her she had some bugs in her hair. She ended up having a really bad case of lice….well, I don’t know about anyone else, but this is not the typical American. I personally was disgusted by this account and assured Maureen that most Americans are not this way. In America I think we emphasize cleanliness to an extreme degree. We have cleaners for everything! We pride ourselves on our cleanliness…it really surprised me because I thought that the people who cannot afford to shower a lot would surely not have the money to travel to C.R. so that ruled out those people….who knows….maybe the lady looked at Monteverde as camping so she didn’t shower…but she had access to a shower…you’ve got me…

Sadly, my time here in Monteverde has come to an end. We loaded up the four-wheeler and headed for Las Palmeras (our meeting place) where we would leave for Flamingo on the Pacific coast.

Goodbyes are always hard for me…(heck, who are they not hard for?)…One day I hope to return to C.R. and will most definitely want to visit my sweet family here in Monteverde. Maybe one day I will have the opportunity to serve in ministry here or perhaps teach English…who knows where the Lord will lead…prayer is a must…

July 21st

It has been a while since I have had time to capture my thoughts on paper. I can be rather longwinded so I find it hard to fit-in enough time to really put my thoughts into writing. But when I do it is the most pleasant thing- such a release as if there had been a build-up. I have found journaling to be quite therapeutic.

Tonight I sleep in a log cabin out in the forests of Costa Rica. The rain is softly pitter-pattering on the tin roof—a soothing rhythm, gently blanketing the night. There is not light but the soft glow from my lamp and a light creeping through the white shear lace curtains clothing the window.

The temperature in Flamingo was much hotter than Monteverde. It seemed to be a breeding ground for mosquitoes as well, and we all served as live bait. I could have bathed in bug spray and would have still found myself with a few Rambos swarming around me, looking for a smooth patch of skin to land on and plump up with some fresh blood. They were ruthless, I tell you, ruthless. I think I counted 20 bites on one leg alone with the concentration around my ankles and feet from when we would eat—they’d attack under the table. I ended up wearing long sleeves and pants to dinner and breakfast every day.

July 22nd

I dreamed of Gorillas in the Mist this morning. Across the rolling hills and through the clouded forest the sound of the howler monkeys could be heard for miles. The sun was beginning to peek over the hills and through the clouds into my window. The low grumble of the howlers was so movie-esk I could hardly believe I was really awake. A flock of birds came roaring through, singing happily about. In the midst of the base howlers and the soprano birds I could hear an alto frog on off beats every few seconds or so. It was so beautiful—the orchestra of nature.

Yesterday I had a near death experience…if I were a cat I’d probably be half way through my nine lives. This was probably comparable to the summer I was sucked under a boat a few years ago… I will just say, God has really been looking out for me throughout my lifetime…We were on our way to the hotel and in the rain our bus unexpectedly hit an inverted speed bump going about 50 (since this was a “smoother” road we could go faster) causing everyone and everything to go flying—especially those in the far back, such as myself.

It all happened so fast yet at the same time it seemed like slow motion. Professor Goetz dented the ceiling panel with his head as he flew through the air. I broke/cracked the air conditioner fixture with my head as I was thrown into the air with a jolt. Jane landed on her chest on the seat in front of her and in the midst of singing Juanes, Alicia and Michelle went flying. Alicia yelled out and thought she had broken her back. Julie, who was sitting in the front, said we all yelling and after the bus stopped we were all holding some part of our body: Dr. Goetz and I, our heads; Jane, her chest; Alicia, her back—and we were all moaning in pain. Alicia recalls play by play: “Dyanne was yelling, ‘Where are my glasses? Where are my glasses? Don’t step on them!’ Jane found them, fortunately without harm, in the seat beside her (which was in front of Dyanne). Dyanne sat down and realized she had cracked the air fixture with her head, causing Dr. Goetz to look up and notice he had dented the ceiling panel. Dr. Goetz then said, “Oh great, now I only have one brain cell left.” Every laughed at his dry sense of humor…And then Mrs. Goetz saw the cracked fixture and replied, “Wow, Earn, someone has a harder head than you.” When we all looked to the front of the bus after it had happened, Ralpha, our bus-driver, was already off the bus checking his baby. No one even came to check on us in the back…for all they knew, we could have broken our necks, jammed our spines, or cracked our heads open….

Because Dr. Goetz and I were sitting on raised seats (the back row is higher than all the others allowing you to have a panoramic view of everything), we were sitting much closer to the ceiling causing us to smash into it with our heads. We are very blessed to walk away with minor injuries. All I ended up with has a headache and sore head. Today my neck is slightly sore, probably from some weird form of whiplash or something.

July 23rd

We are waiting on the bus to cross the border over to Nicaragua. We are in the “duty free” area after passing through the departure process in Costa Rica. We arrived with no one at the station land the woman Percy was talking to took forever. A rush of people came and the line backed up within a few minutes. The lady said everyone had to get off the bus and wait in line (the SSI group did not have to get off the bus). Percy was not very happy so he rushed us off the bus and devised a way for us to skip the line. He would take two people at a time through the building to the other side where people were entering the room to leave Nicaragua and enter Costa Rica. We were blessed to not have a long line for people entering C.R. We made our way until everyone had essentially skipped the hour wait. The only way we didn’t get caught was because a second line was opened allowing us to not take up the whole line inside making sure the cops could still let people inside a few at a time. This probably sounds very confusing but let’s just say it was a little shady to say the least. However, we made it into Nicaragua with little or no problems.

It was a very interesting process. I watched as several people would pay off officials to let them cross the border—that’s real reassuring let me tell you. People were selling all kinds of junk items, trading currencies, and of course there were beggars. Quite a sad sight all in all.

(Nicaragua) 16 cordobas = 1 dollar (U.S.)

July 24th

Poverty labels this country…the cost of things here is ridiculously cheap (for Americans anyhow). I feel as if I am ripping them off every time I buy something. We went to the local’s market today which proved to be an adventure. ….loud, dirty, crowded, smells you cannot determine, and the atmosphere of need in more than one way…the market place…

The bus rolls along side the curb and comes to a halt, immediately swarmed by eager children selling pottery, gum, and watches of all sorts, while others helplessly ask for one Cordoba. The faces are telling and leave me with a sickened stomach. I neither want to pity these people nor ignore them, but what is there to do? …so I pray and offer my smiles and love.

Today I watched Percy purposefully drop a five piece Cordoba on the ground next to his chair for the little boy to pick up. The child realized his instant moment of blessing and grabbed the Cordoba with a swiftness of an eagle shoving it in to his pocket, walking away with great composure and a brilliant joy radiating about him. My heart skipped a beat, touched by this gesture…oh how I want to reach out to these children.

Some of these people here are very sweet and others are quite bitter. Poverty seems to breed one or the other—it wears on people and each person responds differently. …I cannot experience such poverty and not be affected in a personal way. There are so many things I am processing right now and pondering as I witness such intense poverty.

My mind is boggled to think that I could come to such a country and see, first hand, the poverty and still be content, enjoying our daily outings. By all means, this does not sit well with me and I have been more to myself than usual. Much of my time I spend praying and thinking through things.

It is wild to think that these people were in the midst of civil war about 20 years ago. No wonder people have been hardened and made bitter. The sweetness of life has been sucked out—leaving a country in shambles…but some contain a hope for recovery. The flashy American tourists is not something I take pride in—rather I wish I could speak fluently and live among the people—relating to their fears, pains, and struggles. I am challenged by the hardships these people face daily.

When I see a child walking around every day—day after day—selling little items, I cannot even imagine the monotony of such work, the heat, sore feet, tired soul and spirit, a mind needing to be challenged intellectually, the walls put up, the longing for love…

I want to be an advocate…I want to be a helper… I want to share the love of Christ and His truth.

We have been eating breakfast at this eclectic little restaurant/coffee house that an American woman opened up here in Nicaragua. To help street kids she volunteers her time to teach the kids how to create art work. She then sells their work in her restaurant allowing 75% of the money to go towards the children’s education and the other 25% toward the art supplies. The art keeps them off of the streets after school and the profit keeps them in school.

I really admire what she is doing for the children there…I am inspired to start something like that one day and God willing, I will.

In Nicaragua we ventured to the Messiah Volcano which has several crater—one of which is active (the Santiago crater). The land is barren on the volcano other than some grass and shrubs…almost eerie. The Santiago crater is 1 Km in diameter and is covered in natural gases such as sulfur which reeked of rotten eggs. The gas hovered over the crater and slowly made its way up into the atmosphere. When we came back down the volcano the gases cleared and there was a beautiful view of the entire crater. The layers of rocks/minerals were visible and I could see down into the crater where the magma was flowing not too much further down below.

We are on the bus right now and it is already pitch black out at 6:23p.m. I am using my very fashionable head flashlight so that I can see. Writing is another adventure, however, almost impossible on these roads. I have been taking advantage of the time we are in traffic and driving much slower. I am beginning to become a little queasy. I think I’ll take a ginger root tablet and watch out the front window for a while.

I can’t get the faces of those people out of my head. …The children, the parents with babies, the old men and women…the one lady who was emaciated. Her legs were the size of my arms and her cheeks were sucking in.

The ginger root seems to be helping…I really do enjoy the bus rides—they are so relaxing…I can look out the window and day dream, pray, and ponder the deeper things. Latino music plays in the background and the soft buzz of everyone is in my ears. Juanes has been a favorite to listen to. We have probably played his CD more than enough.

The Nicaraguan culture seems to be more rural than Costa Rica. There is more manual labor and the number of cows and horses is much greater. Where there are fewer vehicles there are more bicycles. I also witnessed the stereotypical people carrying things on their heads. In this country the poverty is also much more evident. Something interesting that I found: I never felt the unwanted male attention in Nicaragua as I did in C.R. I didn’t feel the strong spirit of lust over the men here in Nicaragua as I did in C.R.

July 26th

Last night we arrived in San Juaquine after the sun had gone down. The city was lit up like any other city I have visited in the states. The pace of the people is more rapid here, although, I’m sure they still have the innate Tico time in their blood (and nothing can compare to the rat race some cities in America are living). There are so many cars which seem to honk their horns at any moving object at any given moment (it seems to be a common form of communication for these people). Lots of cement and buildings…not my style for sure…I’m a country girl I suppose. There is a part of me that feels at home here only because I grew up in the suburbs of a big city and that is what I am familiar with; however, a greater part of me longs for the countryside just as it always did when I was younger. That desire to escape and be free in the nature has never left me and I believe it never will.

I can honestly say that I enjoyed my Monteverde room much more. Here, I feel like I am in a prison cell all cooped up with not windows. My room is a branch off of the kitchen. A wall and a door have been added to create a room for hosting students.

It’s a nice, quaint little home and through the course of my stay I realize that I’ll grow fond of my room in time. I seem to adapt well to my new surroundings, making new places my home fairly quick.

Just as my Monteverde home, every room in the house is so transparent, allowing every conversation and noise to be heard by all.

This morning I woke with a chill due to the lack of covers. I neither have a real blanket nor sheet. I was given a decorative pillow and a mattress covered in one sheet. Nonetheless, I can use them and make do. Last night I covered up with my jacket, putting my feet in the hood and letting the rest lay over my legs. Maybe I will ask for a blanket today. The beds here in Costa Rica have little padding and when I lay down I can almost feel the springs—which usually I do when I first sit down while my weight is concentrated in one area only. …this is not the best for my back which has been aching sense I’ve been here in C.R. but I know that I’ll be okay.

My room is pitch black and no one is up. I had heard the older son’s alarm go off at 4:30am but he never woke up. I woke at 5am—I could not hear the song bird, not the wind rushing through the hills. No, I am in the city now and could only make out the sound of zooming cars, airplanes passing overhead and the sound of bombs going off for the San Juaquine celebration today. There was no softness of sunlight rising in my room or the cool breeze hitting my face. I am in the city now. My room has no windows so I must accept what I have with a grateful heart.

In general, the people here are much more chatty and talkative. They are not quite so reserved and they seem to live at a more rapid pace. Last night the mother scarfed down her food, making the comment that she always eats very fast. The physical size of the people seems to be, overall, bigger. It is especially evident in the men. I wonder if it is because there is more fast food here or if it is because some of the people are not native Ticos. I really am not sure of the cause.

July 27th

Our group has been passing around sickness since we have been here. In Monteverde many of us came down with flu-like/cold symptoms and in Flamingo many people were throwing up. Nicaragua gave us a parasite I believe. We all came down with “constipated diarrhea” for lack of better terms (which would prove to stay with us for the next 3-4 weeks, giving us stomach cramps as well).

July 28th

Tuesday night I accompanied my Tico Family as they supported their oldest son at his futbol game, which proved exciting to watch. Families and friends were lined up around the fence to partake in the evening’s futbol game between the two high school teams. Attendance tot he game was not very significant because many people were gathering to the fireworks display for the big day in San Joaquin. We did not stay the whole game and left early to see the fireworks.

The event was much like a fireworks display in a small town in the U.S. Many couples came, families, and friends. There were a lot of young people there and the traffic was terrible. The fireworks were beautiful or as my mama Tica says, “Que linda!” Everyone there was so thrilled by the display but not any more than I was.

July 29th

The Cabecar people…beautiful people with something so mysteriously intriguing about them. They seem to be very peaceful and simple, yet there is something exceedingly complicated and complex about them.

In the past, a question I often asked myself when thinking about existence and the corruption of society was whether or not man was evil from the beginning or eventually corrupted by society through learned behavior. At the time, I never considered the fact that if society corrupts man essentially man must be corrupt because society is made up of men. I also did not consider the fact that man is hopeless without a Savior. Humans are innately evil since the Fall. Born with a rebellious, selfish heart, we cannot know anything in its purity except through the sinless one. This leads me to acknowledge the experiment posed by the old hippie lady who claims responsibility for the Cabecar Tribe.

She has addressed the evil of materialism while neither giving a cause nor an answer to the assumed problem. She posed the question of whether or not she can introduce the Cabecar people to material items without the loss of their “spirituality” nor the acquirement of an unruly demon of materialism.

Upon the moment of her question I responded immediately in the silence of my thoughts with an absolute “impossible” due to the fall of mankind, for no one can stand before God with clean hands except through the blood of Christ. Of course her experiment is doomed from the beginning. Man is corrupt and that does not exclude an indigenous tribe. They too will face the evils within.

Our journey led us across a river that came up just over my knees. The other side of the river opened up to a flat bank that stretched out for the length of a football field or more in depth. The ground was blanketed in brilliant colored rocks…my favorite were the yellow and green rocks which glowed so proudly.

Once we passed through the ground covered in rocks, we trudged through trails of mud….more mud than you can imagine! We trailed through the banana fields which seemed to suffocate you while they trapped the air… up a steep incline and across another field where we came to yet another trail of mud that proceeded up another steep hill. Past the fence and beyond the stream…a stagnate pool of water with a meadow on the other side. We cleared the meadow and up a little more, we finally reached the Cabecar tribe. Covered in mud, a broken shoe, a recovered shoe, a lost shoe, dirty pants, and bodies bathed in perspiration, we made our way into the humble abode of the Cabecar people.

Many of the things I imagined proved to be accurate but I found the Cabecar people to be quite a different experience than what I had expected.

I anticipated many more members of the tribe than what I did see and none of them were wearing the traditional dress. However, we did witness a few women breast-feeding their children right there in the open. This is typical behavior observed among many tribes. There is no shame because it is a natural part of child rearing.

The people had several displays for us. One presentation, two women and a child demonstrated how they care for their children. It was interesting to find that they carry their young either in the front or on their back until the child is quite old–even while they clean and do the daily chores. We Americans found it to be extremely hard to perform such tasks as they do and with a child or two on their backs!

I was surprised to see that there were not really a lot of huts and there were not a lot of people there. I had failed to pick-up on the fact that the people in the tribe are spread out with some up to 1-2 hours walking distance…one man even walked two days to reach the site we were at! The location we walked to had a large hut for all of us and a building for school. There was one other building being built as well.

The father of the head of the tribe was there. He was sort of like a medicine man/ witch doctor/ wizard. He is who the people go to when they need healing. He says that no one else has this gift and they do not know what they’re going to do once he dies. I believe that since they are integrating modern medicines and practices that they have already begun to wean themselves from such practices. If he does not pass on his “insight and knowledge” then the tribe may eventually rely completely on conventional methods of medicine and healing once he dies.

The Cabecar culture has no running water and they must walk very far to get things that they need.

It is sad to see that these people are losing their mother tongue as they have all learned Spanish. Their language is fading and Spanish is becoming the prominent language. It is a hard thing to come into a culture and preserve certain aspects without keeping them in the dark. However, I do see culture as an evolving thing and believe that some change is not only good but necessary for the survival of a people group.

July 30th

I have definitely found the Caribbean to be more “free” than other parts of Costa Rica. Some of the people walk around without shirts and shoes on a daily basis. …I suppose there is a Jamaican influence and the atmosphere of a surfer’s life abounds.

There is a greater concentration of black people here and many have the Jamaican/Bahamas look to them with dreadlocks and an easy-going demeanor. I have not found them to be necessarily friendly. In fact, many of the people I met had a tendency to be more stand-offish. They do not talk much, at least to me, and keep to themselves. I think that there is a spirit of prodigious here.

Limon has a distinct feel to it–different from other parts of Costa Rica. Many aspects of the culture remain but many things are very different as well. It is kind of a hard thing to explain and I don’t think I could do an adequate job of doing so.

July 31st

It has rained a lot in Limon. I don’t know if it usually rains this much or not but most of the time we have been here the rain continued to fall. The rain makes me tired and I suppose today is the first day I have really felt the desire to return home.

August 2nd

Luz returned from her walk to Cartago. She left around 4pm yesterday and has returned today around 2 pm. Quite a journey she had, walking the whole way! She said that it was great but very tiring. I wish I could have gone to witness this pilgrimage to the Basilica.

I find it interesting that so many people go to the Basilica when fewer and fewer people identify with Catholicism. Do they go out of obligation or desire? Perhaps another act of good works they believe will give them salvation. …Ephesians 2:8-10 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Today we visited Cafe Britt… a very comical and interesting experience. I’d have to say, it was the touristiest thing we’ve done yet, but I enjoyed it none-the-less. The people were hilarious and really had a way with their audience–they could really capture your attention. The translations were great too, not making the performance seem long or broken; rather it flowed smoothly without being redundant.

After visiting Cafe Britt, I can now appreciate good coffee to a greater extent. I never realized that so much work went into processing one simple coffee bean. They are quite complex little beans indeed!

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