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.

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