New Posts

I've written a couple new posts for our ministry blog (Disciples of All Nations), so if you're interested in reading them, please click on the link at the top of the page.

The kids are also finishing up their first blog entry since arriving, so be sure to check out their blog (Mini Missionary Adventures, in my links) for their thoughts on Costa Rica.


New Experiences

This week has been chalk full of new experiences for each member of the family. Here's a break down of our first week:

Monday: Flight to Costa Rica via Atlanta. The kids' first plane rides. After our arrival and a bit of a rest, we embarked upon our first trip to a Costa Rican Walmart. It is very similar to it's American counterpart. However, here there is really no rhyme or reason for the placement of the goods in the store. Clothes are right next to the food court (that alone is different -- there is a huge food court with several different American fast-food restaurant options inside), next to batteries, next to electronics, next to towels, next to hardware. And the sugar is not in the baking aisle. Unless you go there often enough to become familiar with the store (and due to the high costs, we will not -- there's another difference; Walmart here has more department store prices than American Walmarts), it's best to just start at one end and work your way to the other.

Tuesday: Our big brother took us to a couple stores, one kind of like a Home Depot (I don't remember the name), and the other a small neighborhood grocery. After lunch, he took Troy and another couple shopping at the Price Mart (like a Sam's Club). I got a little bit of unpacking completed. Had our first taste of Costa Rica pineapple (sooooo good!) and baby bananas.

Wednesday: Our first trip to Parque Copa, where most of the missionaries hang out. It is absolutely beautiful! The view from that park is nothing like anything we've seen before. We learned a very hard lesson, however. Due to our proximity to the equator and/or the altitude (I'm not really sure), it is essential to apply sunblock whenever you plan to go outside. After spending the morning walking around and then about an hour hanging out at the park, we came home burnt to a crisp! Quite a bit of the unpacking was completed.

Thursday: Troy went with our Mexico City teammate, Jonny, back to Walmart. Hiring a cab and getting around is a bit easier for Troy, as he was formerly fluent in Spanish. Much of his conversational Spanish is beginning to come back. In the afternoon, he and the kids walked through the area around our house, peeking in and out of the shops and picking up some more groceries and supplies. I was thrilled when they surprised me with a teapot and later, some flowers. They also brought home some of the most delicious bread I have ever tasted, fresh from a local bread shop.

Friday: We walked several blocks to the Jumbo (imagine a Kroger) for our groceries. What an experience! I was surprised by how many American brands there were, and most of the produce was at least recognizable. It is still disconcerting for me to have people speak to me in rapid-fire Spanish, expecting me to answer. I'm sure my eyes glaze over and there must be a most vacant expression there. The day when I can understand and respond back to them will be a most welcome day. I've gotten very familiar with the phrase "no comprendo - no habla espanol." I'm also not accustomed to hearing salsa music played over the grocery store's sound system, nor am I accustomed to seeing a man from the store walking around with a microphone, announcing what I can only assume are the specials. (You'd think after my experiences with the singing meat-market guy at Kroger, this would be old hat.) Perhaps the absolute strangest thing that happened occurred before our excursion to the grocery store. I was checking email in the living room, with the front door open to let in air (we have a screen door). The front gate was locked and dead-bolted, so I wasn't concerned about people walking in. When I looked up, however, I noticed this older man walk slowly past the left side of our gate and then stop at the door in the gate, look up at our house, and just stare at the house. He didn't knock or try to come in. He just stared. Then, after several minutes, he moved slowly on. Folks have told me not to be concerned, that it happens. It just was very weird. In Jackson if someone so obviously "cases" your house, it's never a good thing. Perhaps my proudest moment yesterday, however, came just after the old man walked on. Another man came to the gate and knocked on it, clearly wanting something. Knowing that Troy was upstairs finishing getting dressed, I yelled out the open door, "una momento!" and raced up the stairs. I was about half-way upstairs before realizing what I'd said. Without any forethought at all, my brain conjured this simple Spanish phrase, and it shot out my mouth before I could think twice about it. (I probably should've added "por favor", but again, there was no rational thought put into it.)

Saturday (today): We've had a big day already. This morning, we walked to a farmer's market with our big brother and his family for our fresh produce for the week. At the park, tables snaked back and forth up a hill, some covered with tents, some not. On the tables were all kinds of fruits, most recognizable. Thankfully, Mark had given us a sheet listing all the English names of the fruits and vegetables with their Spanish translations (including articles -- I'd have no idea if something is "el" or "la" otherwise). There were so many to choose from! Corn. Red beans. Black beans. Green beans. Onions. Garlic. Ginger. Celery. Lettuce. Tomatoes. Pineapple. Apples. Strawberries. Cherries. Mangoes. Watermelon. Carrots. Potatoes. All kinds! We settled on the necessary vegetables (potatoes, onion, garlic, beans) and decided that we'd alternate which fruits we buy each week. This week we bought strawberries, apples, peaches, and plums. We already have some watermelon and a pineapple, so we didn't guy those. Next week we want to try mango, grapes and cherries. There were also little fruits called King Kong Boogers (!). I haven't the foggiest what those taste like, or what they are most similar to. They are small, lightweight, and have a bunch of seeds inside. If you shake them, you can hear the seeds rattle. There's also a fruit that looks like a sea anemone on the outside. You cut it open and inside is a single fruit that looks like a large grape. It is soooo slimy! The texture is almost impossible to get past, but if you can, they are actually quite good. Next week we'll try to bring our camera to the market and get some pictures. This afternoon, we're meeting our teammates, Jonny & Gemma, and their family at Parque Bosque and taking taxis over to a "mall" for some hang-out time. For supper, we'll eat at one of the American fast-food restaurant options in the mall food court.

Tomorrow, we'll be worshiping for the first time in Costa Rica. I'm not sure yet where we'll head, or with whom. We're hoping to find a restaurant nearby where we can sample some Costa Rican cuisine after church. Monday is our last free day before orientation. And then the week after next, school officially beings.

Many new experiences await.


Raw Emotion

(We have officially arrived in Costa Rica! If you have not yet read the extremely detailed account I wrote of our journey here, head on over to our ministry blog and read it. The link is included in my reading list. There's also a list of 25 things that are different about living in Costa Rica.)

We've mostly been in a honeymoon phase with regard to life here. But life in a foreign country is not always rosy. I want to be upbeat and positive about my time here, as we are guests in the country. However, I also feel that it's important to be real. Adapting to another culture is not an easy thing. You realize that those things that you take for granted, or that you thought were not important to you are incredibly important. Some days you can go with the flow and adjust to doing things differently. Some days you can't. This is one of those days for me.

The last time we moved, 8 years ago, I made a list of all the household items we'd need to buy. Then, we loaded everyone in the car and headed to Walmart. Within one--or at most, two--trips, everything on that list had been purchased for a reasonable amount of money. A couple days after the big move, I had our house mostly established (this does not mean I had the boxes unpacked. Far from it).

So this is the expectation I had in my head as I prepared to make a home for my family here in San Jose. I sat down upon our arrival and began a list of items we needed to buy for the house. Some items were already furnished. But some were not. Or, there were not enough for our family. I made a master list and expected to be able to purchase everything on that list within a day or two. After all, they have a Walmart here, and we were planning on going to it Monday evening. What I didn't count on was that Walmart is the pricier option here. There are far cheaper places to get household or food items. That one-stop shopping I've grown accustomed to at home is not how things are done here.

Here we are, three days and five trips to various stores (including two Walmart runs) later, and I still don't have everything checked off my list. And because we do not have a car, trips must be made when someone with a car can give us a ride, or, as in this morning's case, you must hire a taxi or two to ferry you and your stuff to and from the store. You can't just put the kids in the car, drive to the Walmart, get the items you need, and then drive straight home. I suppose if we had a car, this process would be easier. But then again, we'd still be driving to several different stores to buy what we need. Now my husband, on the other hand, is loving this! He's enraptured by the thought of having to walk to the hardware store, the bread store, the meat store, the pharmacy, and the general grocery. He loves it! He'd much rather walk, take buses, or taxis than have other missionaries drive us around.

With regard to our house, Troy will tell you that the "home establishing" process is mostly finished. He'd say that we have most of what we need. And he's right. A lady, however, would look around and notice the lack of pictures on the wall. Flowers or knick-knacks on the tables. Bedspreads on the bed. Fluffy rugs on the floor. None of these are things we brought with us from home. Everyone always encouraged me to bring our special pictures and knick-knacks--those items that make home "home". But all of our pictures are puzzles I'd glued together and framed. I doubt they'd have traveled well, and as this is a short term, I didn't want to risk it. Aside from a few things, I really don't have any cherished knick-knacks. Candles are far more important to me, but again, I didn't think they'd travel well.

I know that everybody has bad days. Today apparently was mine. It didn't help matters that I forgot about applying sunblock on any of us yesterday before visiting the park and was horribly sunburned. And as I was wearing my sunglasses, besides the overall lobsterish complexion, I have raccoon eyes. It's not pretty, and serves as a rather painful lesson on the importance of daily application of sunblock. Especially with my fair skin. And especially given how much closer to the Equator we are.

I promise to keep these pity-parties to a minimum. It just didn't seem realistic for me to always seem to be upbeat and positive in my posts. I wanted them to be real. To show some raw emotion, both positively and negatively.

EDITED TO ADD: Now, a few hours later, I'm doing much better emotionally. Troy and the kids did some exploring around our area this afternoon, so I finished the dishes, put on my "Pride and Prejudice" soundtrack, and just enjoyed the strains of that soothing music mixed with the sounds of a gentle rain. When they arrived home, they surprised me with a teapot. Now I can make hot tea without having to heat it over the stove in a pan. I was surprised that having a teapot was that big a deal to me, but it was. And then after reading this post, my darling husband and oldest son dashed down the street and came back with an enormous bouquet of fresh flowers they bought at a flower shop down the street. I am blessed with a sweet family who believe it is important to cheer me up when I'm feeling down.



I'm not sure why it's taken this long to really sink in that we are actually leaving the country in only twelve days. But it has. 
Until today. 
Why today? We received the email confirmation that our airplane tickets to Costa Rica have been BOOKED! Paid for! We're flying out of Jackson on Monday, August 20 (I feel the need to say it again -- in only TWELVE days) at 6 AM. Okay, so that part's not too great. It means that we'll have to be at the airport before even the sun wakes up. After about an hour long flight, and then another hour/ hour-and-a-half layover in Atlanta (that part I'm not real thrilled about, either. I wish it were a tad longer, truth be told. The idea of racing through an unfamiliar airport with six carry-ons, six backpacks, and four children whose first airplane flights will have only been that morning, frantically trying to find our correct gate, have time for everyone to use the bathroom, and then get on the plane, is not a welcome one), we should arrive in San Jose, Costa Rica just before lunch time. That part is amazing. Provided that it doesn't take too long for us to get six carry-ons, six backpacks, seven footlockers, six suitcases, and six people through customs, we should have plenty of time to settle into our new house. (This is, of course, assuming that all of our luggage arrives with us in Costa Rica. I don't like to make assumptions, especially when luggage and airports are involved. But in this case, I choose to trust that God will have it covered. As He's taken care of everything else so far.) 
We leave the country in twelve days. 
Twelve days
It's finally real.