Thursday, June 11, 2015

Hey look, it's Mexico.

Hello Friends, Family, and Curious Strangers,

¡Saludos de la Ciudad de México!

This is my first blog post from México. And I’m in my last week here. Nonetheless, I wanted to write to share how I’ve been blessed abundantly throughout this time, and maybe a few things I’ve learned.

I was sent to México City (really, a municipality outside the federal district called Tlanepantla) by the Evangelical Friends Mission. “Friends”, or Quakers, are known for practicing peace (non-violence), being open to current revelation by the Holy Spirit of GOD, and choosing to live simply.

A link about a Quaker:

I came primarily to learn—of the culture, of how the church works in their community, and of the reasons why México is the way it is. I also wanted to support a cause, so I’ve been volunteering in the Compassion International Mexico office. Compassion works to alleviate poverty by connecting through churches poor children in Mexico with generous sponsors in 1st world countries.

It is every sight, sound, rhythm, taste, smell, and feeling that you may experience here. Every moment is fully Mexican. The colorful square-ish homes, the tiendas (stores) and puestos de comida (food carts), the loud traffic, the broken sidewalks... and in smaller towns the rural peace of hot dust and savagely resilient brush, the cobbled streets, the houses in hacienda style, the asoteas (flat rooftops) where you can see for kilometers.

In the street there is music sounding from las casas (houses), las tiendas (stores), unabashedly cranked all the way up, filling the air with rhythms of banda, bachatas, reggaetón, and the occasional US pop.

La comida is flavored with chile y limón, cilantro y epazote, y canela (cinnamon) y chocolate. It is accompanied always by tortillas or tostadas, and aguas frescas or café. It is communal—we always share meals together. And it is made from scratch—everything in the house is freshly bought in the market and prepared with love, and you can also find countless puestos (kiosks) in la calle (street) selling Vitamin T (tacos, tortas, tlacoyos), fruta picada (chopped fruit), churros, y jugos (juices). All delicious.

Walking through the city there are parts that smell of carnitas (roasted pork tacos) or pan (bread), and others like Parque Chapultepec where you just keep inhaling as deeply as you can because the naturaleza (nature) smells so fresh and healthy. And, of course, one of the prices of “progress” is contamination of our natural world, and so there is plenty of that smell as well—here in the city.
When we have traveled through the Mexican countryside and various towns, I watch the landscapes pass by in wondrous delight. When I learned how to get around town on my own, a sense of independence and freedom. Upon seeing new sights, a new museum, Aztecan ruins, an excitement and stimulation in that student in me. In greeting friends in the church, Compassion, or home, a warm acceptance.

I suppose the best thing about being in any new place is experiencing wonderful things for the first time and then getting the chance to experience them again as you develop rhythms, favorites, and friendships.

I have been blessed to have met distinctly beautiful human beings in this time. The family that hosted me took me in as one of their own. The parents have impressed me with their love and consideration for one another, their mutual efforts to work, keep house, keep faith, keep strong their marriage, and continue supporting their grown children. The mother has a strength and perseverance that you couldn’t imagine—that I think stems out of love for her family and for GOD in each human being, and just stubbornness. And she is just a delight. She is a joyful spirit—singing and dancing through the house chores, laughing and cotorreando (joking around) when her family or friends are present sharing a meal—and she has an almost-limitless well of patience and understanding. This is Lety. I love her.

Her husband is also a truckload of fun—his jokes, his expressions—he can always make us laugh. I was very surprised when I first began to see how he and Lety run their house—that he helps, that he doesn’t demand things (like food), but rather asks favors, and that he is just as involved in the lives of his children as Lety. This is Toño. I love him too.

Through Lety and Toño I’ve met their friends—another married couple with grown daughters who are kind and wise—the woman made the effort to take me to various super interesting museums in D.F., including El Templo Mayor.

El Templo Mayor is the ruins of the principle temple of the Aztecas, and was said to be the center of the earth according to the position of the stars. It is where the Mexicas* [Meh-SHEE-kus] gathered to offer sacrifices to the gods, among other activities. You can enter the temple and walk among the ruins, which are incredibly preserved—serpents carved out of stone, and other designs with paint still intact after being covered with dirt and built over for hundreds of years. After you walk through the temple ruins, you enter the museum which presents more artifacts that were found in the excavation of the temple and an impressive exhibition of history throughout eight large themed rooms. It is really incredible. And the entrance fee is only $64MX pesos, which is like $4US dollars. AND, it is right in the middle of the city, which is just awesome that they preserved this area amidst grand buildings and modern shops.

I’ve also been invited into a group of older people from church to play basketball after the Sunday services. It is the best.

And Compassion International is just chock-full of awesome people, which make it really fun and worthwhile to be there.

And lastly, the “goodbyes” have been too many, really, but the “hellos” are worth them, maybe? I’ve met people from other towns, states, and churches, who have taught me various life lessons, and encouraged my soul.

For now, I sign off, as my computer is about to die and maybe not wake again... for a while.


*”Mexica” is nauhuatl (the indigenous language of the Aztecas) for “Azteca”. It is where we get the name of the country, México.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Christmas/New Year's Greeting from Ecuador

Hola Amigos y Familia,

Some of you have asked for an update, so I thought I'd send out a little Christmas/New Year's greeting.  Also, you all supported me so kindly and generously as I left and have kept me in mind, which I really appreciate, so you deserve to know what is going on here.

I have added photos to show the alegría and the belleza that exists here in Ecuador, and within this family.

Christmas is a busy season here.  You know, it's funny, I'm tired, and I feel like we've been running around everywhere, but really it has just been a continual party since like, the 20th. Crazy. 

This is the makeshift parilla that little Andrés manned for over an hour, grilling up all the meats for a feast...

So, the family owns a restaurant, and it is on the same property as their house, so when they have events, we get to help out in the kitchen and enjoy the happiness of the people in their party, the sobras (extra food), and of course, the music that is bumpin’ into the early morning.  This night, I got to help in the kitchen, preparing plates a little but mostly just washing dishes for hours... and it was so great to feel a part of the team.  I miss work like this.  A little victory.  [Also, as I went from having fun washing dishes to being tired and wanting the dirty glasses to stop coming, I thought of Gage, and how he literally washed (washes?) dishes all day. That’s strength, bud]

 On Christmas Eve we started the day by making little candy gift bags for all the employees of the family’s construction shop. Candy art. And snacking. It was great. Then we prepared the place for the employee appreciation lunch, and this time got to be served by the cocineros and enjoy the program. These are the plates they gave. A full plate of meat, and then you add yucca, salad, and salsas.  I still don’t understand how people can eat literally 5 portions of meat in one sitting... 

And then followed hours of karaoke with dancing throughout; I’m learning new dances here, and people are really gracious with me, which is great. There was a mariachi band, a gift exchange, and a bunch of happy but tipsy employees heading home with bags of candy.  

From there we went to aunt and uncle’s house where we put on more cumbia music in the car and danced in the street while we waited for dinner... so great. I thought of Kelly and Nick... parking lot dancing.  Then another Christmas feast, singing villancicos (religious Christmas songs), and more dancing. It was really beautiful to see how a family celebrates.
from left to right: Fausto y Euvenia, Fausto Jr. y Gisella, tío Cesar y Michelle.
Then on Christmas morning, we have bolones, jugo, y café  for breakfast (a bolon is green plantain and meat, cheese, or peanut butter mixed together and formed into a big ball. With peanut butter… so good. And jugo is juice… de guanabana).

From there, we packed our bags and headed to Quito, which is a beautiful drive. Every time we go from one city to the next there are gorgeous paisajes (views).  When we finally arrived, we ate lunch and then the parents dropped us kids off at the central park, and we walked around and played for a few hours, which was so refreshing.  It was really interesting to see the difference between Quito and Santo Domingo.  Quito, being the capital city, is much more developed.  It felt almost like California. And the people here love it because it is cleaner and prettier and has nicer stores and all this. Everyone here seems to be looking toward progress, toward development, toward higher technology and nicer clothes, toward conveniences. This is hard to see/accept. I’m not sure how to feel about it. As for me, I try to point out the beauty in the simple, in the natural, in the traditional and slower processes. I recently read this in The Voice of the Master:
“God has bestowed upon you intelligence and knowledge. Do not extinguish the lamp of Divine Grace and do not let the candle of wisdom die out in the darkness of lust and error. For a wise man approaches with his torch to light up the path of mankind”(62).

 It is hard to hold to my values and try to express them when I am one in a crowd. It is easier to try to blend in, or to quiet myself and these thoughts.

There is, though, still tradition preserved and appreciated in the food—people here still mostly cook at home and use what is locally abundant—plantains, yucca, limes, bananas, etc.—which is awesome.  Also, one last note from Quito—while we were out on Christmas, we ran into some tourists from Texas. Well, we walked by them, but I slowed down to listen to them speak American English. It was beautiful. I talked with them for a bit and all the while my heart was melting. I was thrown by how sweet it felt to be in the presence of people easily speaking my native tongue. I realized that for over a month I haven’t been able to speak with someone easily in my native tongue (besides a few Skype dates), and how that is such a comfort. A taste of home.

What else? From Quito, the two sisters and I traveled by bus to Riobamba, which is a city in la Sierra where Fausto’s relatives live. We were received warmly by his family.  He is one of 11 children, so there were always a lot of greetings whenever we arrived or left. So many besos. That night they had a mass in their home, led by two sisters that are about my age. The Catholic tradition is really beautiful.


So it was basically a family reunion for like 4 days, and we were hosted in various houses and they drove us around to see things—like Chimborazo, the mountain that everyone gets excited about because it has snow.  It was awesome to get to meet different members of his family and connect with them on various themes.  Also, the night of the big party, there was food, soccer, volleyball, singing of traditional banda nacional, and much dancing. So much dancing. So much fun. It was great. Here they mostly dance cumbia, but they really get down. Funnily, the older people seem to enjoy it the most.
The family Christmas celebration--train dancing. 
We continued the trip, meeting more family members and being generously hosted, and one day hiked/climbed up this mountain, which was actually pretty intense because of the altitude. This mountain is called Chimborazo, and Ecuatorianos love it because it usually has snow... which they hardly ever see. 
*Recommendation: if you’re going to a foreign country where they speak a different language, or if you speak a second language, learn the vocabulary for topics you really care about, that you feel really define you, so that you can share intelligently and comprehensively when the time comes.
A typical breakfast. Yumm:)
Gisella on Chimborazo

The next day we returned home to Santo Domingo by bus. This is Michelle, Fausto Jr. and Andrés sleeping on the bus. 

Lastly, I will share with you about New Year’s celebrations. On New Year’s Eve, we worked a ½ day at the almacén, and then headed over to Euvenia’s parent’s house, where the women and Andrés spent the afternoon in the kitchen preparing food, and the men sat outside drinking and waiting.  You know what they made? It makes me shudder thinking about it. It was like, all the innards of a lamb—the stomach, the liver, the intestine—in a soup with potatoes. Euvenia was kind and understanding enough to pretend that I had eaten my bowl of soup when I only swallowed one spoonful. But we also made yucca, aji, una ensalada, y maduros (ripe plantains), which I gladly ate.

Anyway, some of Euvenia’s brothers, and their wives and children came over and ate, and then we had an amp that we blasted music from in the street in front of the house, and this was on a truck bed, along with el Año Viejo. El Año Viejo (the old year) is a life-size figure of a person made of paper and tape and paint. The tradition is that every family makes or buys one of these and dresses them up like a member of the family, typically the father I think, and then at midnight they pour lighter fluid on it and burn it. The idea is that they are burning all the bad away, and this means a prosperous year of blessings for the elected Año Viejo. What you get are bonfires through all the streets in the dark night, along with fireworks and people abrazando (hugging) and wishing each other Feliz Año Nuevo! Paz y bendiciones! (Happy New Year! Peace and blessings!). It was pretty awesome.
Los Años Viejos

Oh, and the best part, we danced for hours.  It started raining, and we kept dancing. Also, I got up on the truck bed and started dancing, barefoot, as is my preference, because the sidewalk was slippery (and who doesn’t want to dance on a stage?), and soon everyone followed, even to the point of taking off their shoes (not everyone, but the sisters did). Little victory. And to add to the victory, this guy put on music that was like North American pop, and I got to dance like we do in the US, and they all laughed and made fun but soon they joined in and they loved it.
Andrés' boat and plane in the diluvio.

Right now is the rainy season, and it has been pouring tropical-flood-type rain here in the afternoons. So, of course, Andresito and I play with his lego boat and plane out on the patio where the water collects. Another day Fausto took us kids to a waterfall resort place, which was beautiful—the waterfall pours into a swimming hole, and there was a turco (like a sauna) warmed by burning eucalyptus leaves. But one of the coolest things about this place was the construction of all the buildings. I’m pretty sure it is all cob, or something similar. So of course, I got way too excited about the cob houses and tried to explain to the kids why these houses are so cool and how I want to build one with my friends in Oregon... it is our dream... environmentally friendly... etc.

My friends (los cocineros) on the roof cleaning.

Alright, that brings us mostly to this week. As of now, the kids are back in school, the parents back to work, I am back to preparing and teaching English classes, with more vigor than before, with more patience and diligence. We’re having fun, and I feel like they’re learning more, which is really encouraging.
Here, I have friends; not the solid friends with whom you share everything and know each other deeply, but friends nonetheless. Kind people to greet and laugh with. Interesting people. Mm. And I am grateful for this time. Although sometimes I wish things were different, I wouldn’t trade any of it. Even when a day is tainted by conflicts or time poorly spent, I see it as a day of growth, of experience. So, I am well. The family is mostly in good health, but they are going through a stressful and difficult season. If you pray, you can pray that GOD would use me as a light and warming peace here. That He would bring peace in this family. Every family has their struggles, and every family their moments of sweet comprehension.

I love and miss you all, and I hope you this letter finds you well. Thank you for your support, your interest in my little adventures. May the Good Lord bless you and keep you in this time of renewal.

Much love,

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tamarindo y otras pensamientos

Y ahora sobre este fin de semana- el 14 hasta el 16 de septiembre.  Era buenísima.  Viajamos a Tamarindo que es un pueblo de playa en el norte-oeste de Costa Rica, en Guancaste.  El viaje en bus otra vez era bueno, me enamoraba otra vez con el campo.

Ah, aquí hay una entrada en mi diario durante el viaje de bus:
Hoy, había unos desfiles en San Jose que pasaban por Verítas; fue bien chiva ver las bandas y disfraces de niños, y escuchar las canciónes que aprendían.  Después de la clase, salimos en autobús para Tamarindo.  Bekah, Raqi, Mateo, y yo nos divertimos con programas de televisión, comedía de Jim Gaffigan, y música.  Lleguemos en la noche al hotel Zulimar y con suerte Bekah, Raqi, y yo recibimos nuestra propia cuarto!  Y el hotel es buenísimo!  Tenemos tres camas, un baño completo, un balcón, y acceso a una piscina grande.  Y, todas las puertas son hechos de madera y tienen picturas tallados.  Nosotras tenemos una mujer fuerte con un león en nuestra puerta.  Se llama Mama Mucho.

Cenamos afuera y pedí un jugo de piña otra vez y era bien rico; lloraba un poco.  Pronto encontramos que Tamarindo está bien caro.  Se llaman TamaGringo porque es pueblo turístico.  Disfrutabamos de la piscina esa noche y decidimos no vale la pena salir para bailar.

El sábado, fuimos a la playa!  Y fue magnífico.  Disfrutabamos del calor del día y ¡surfeábamos!  Era magical.  Me gustó mucho solo flotar en la tabla de surf y sentir las olas...  lograba surfear las olas unas veces, no con mucho estilo, pero sentía maravilloso.

Aprendí hoy que causa mucho dolor poner aloe vera en una sarpullido (rash).  Jaja.

Oh, y esa noche mirabamos el ponerse del sol en la playa, y era increíble los colores con las nubes y los momentos compartidos con amigos.  Mientras mirar los cielos y el mar, escuchamos a una canción bien bonita que tiene título de Por Ti Volaré.

El domingo, mientras caminábamos en la playa hasta el sur, veía la arena más bonita que he visto en mi vida.  Fue completamenta compuesto de conchas- muchas rotos, pero muchas enteros.  Es la cosa fisicamente más lindísimo que he visto acá (*o quiza el campo..).  A mi me encantó esta playa en Tamarindo lo mejor.  Ahora estamos en el autobús, regresando a San Jose.  Miro las vistas del campo y quiero ir alla.  Quiero vivir alla por un tiempo; pero va a ser un tiempo para esto.  Un estación va a venir.

En la playa, todo estaba bien.  Comimos ensaladas deliciosos y batidos con yogur.  Y otra vez, el viaje en bus era bien divertido.  Duró 6 horas, pero fue mucho tiempo para jugar, pensar, y relajar.  Esta vez, cambiamos sientos un poquito y jugamos juegos tontos de 'improv' con los otros estudiantes en el bus que más o menos son mis amigos ahora.


y esta es una entrada del 11 de sep. :
Cosas bonitas de un día típico:
Hay una ventana en mi cuarto que siempre está abierta.  Hay estas cortinas- dos de encaje y dos suaves de color de durazno con volantes que puedo separar y atar para que entra la luz del día, o liberar para que tenga privacidad.  Esta lampara.  Esto cuarto.  Una sorpresa cada mañana y noche de comida rica.  La oportunidad hacer cualquier cosa, incluyendo dormir/tomar una siesta por la tarde.  Hay un parque bien cerca a mi casa; dos o tres cuadras con unas mesas de colores brillantes y unos árboles, uno que puedo subir. El tiempo cambia cada día.  Hoy hace mucho sol y siente maravillosa en mi piel.  La oportunidad de conversar sobre cualquier tema en clase por dos horas.  Las montañas en la distancia.  Los colores brillantes de las casas, tiendas, estructuras en los parques, y flores tropicales.

del 12 de sep. :
Algo que he aprendido: este concepto de Pura Vida no significa que aquí en Costa Rica todo está bien. Es solo una idea- una manera de pensar y caminar por la vida con gracia y amor, aceptando cada momento como viene, teniendo paciencia con personas y sistemas, y encontrando cosas bonitas en cada día y toda la gente.  Pura Vida es tener amigos, tomar siestas, comer juntos (*beber jugo de piña*).


And now about last weekend- the 14th-16th of September.  It was wonderful.  We traveled to Tamarindo which is a small beach town in the Northwest of Costa Rica (Guanacaste).  The bus ride was again, very good, and once again I fwas fauning over the countryside. 

Ah, here is an entry from the bus ride:
Today, there were parades in San Jose that passed by Verítas; it was really cool to see the bands and costumes of the kids, and to listen to the music they had learned.  After class, we left on the bus headed for Tamarindo.  Bekah, Raqi, Mateo and I entertained ourselves with TV shows, Jim Gaffigan comedy, and music.  We arrived in the evening at the hotel Zulimar and with luck Bekah, Raqi, and I received our own room again.   And the hotel is great.  We have three beds, a full bathroom, a balcony, and access to a big pool.  AND *the best part* is that all the wooden doors have beautiful carved pictures.  Our door has a strong woman and a lion.  We named her Mama Mucho.  She guards the entrance.

We ate out and I ordered another jugo de piña- it was delicious and I cried a little.  Soon we discovered that Tamarindo is really expensive.  They call is TamaGringo because it is a tourist town.  We enjoyed the pool that night and decided it wasn’t worth it (the $4 and smoke and sketchy atmosphere) to go out and dance.

Saturday we went to the beach!  And it was wonderful.  We enjoyed the heat of the day and we surfed!  It was magical.  I really just liked floating on the surfboard over the waves.  I caught a few waves and the feeling was amazing.  And it was tiring but in a way where I could do it all day.  I see how surfer beach bums can do that. 

I learned today that it is very painful to put aloe vera on a rash.. ha.

Oh, and that night we watched the sunset on the beach.  The colors with the clouds and the moments shared with friends were incredible.  While watching the heavens and the sea, we listened to a beautiful song called Por Ti Volaré (partially serenaded by Drew).

Sunday while walking on the beach towards the south, I saw the most beautiful sand I have ever seen in my life.  It was completely shells, and it was incredible.  It may be the physically beautiful thing I have seen here.  I loved the playa of Tamarindo the best.  Now we’re in the bus again, returning to San Jose.  I look out at the lovely countryside, the trees and hills and mountains, all so green, and I want to go there.  I want to live there for a while; but there will be a time for this.  A season will come.

On the beach, all is well.  We had delicious salads and smoothies.  And again, the bus trip was good fun.  It was a 6 hour trip, but there was a good amount of time to play, think, and relax.  This time, we switched seats a bit and played some silly improv games con the other students on the bus who are becoming my friends.
And this is an entry from September 11th:
Beautiful things of a typical day:
There is a window in my room that is always open.  There are these curtains- two of lace and two of soft peach fabric with ruffles- these I can tie up to let daylight in or free to provide privacy.  This lamp.  This room.  A surprise every morning and evening of rich food.  The opportunity to do anything, including to sleep or take a nap in the afternoon.  There is a park very close to my house; two or three blocks away, with brightly colored tables and a few trees- one of which I can climb.  My house is painted lavender.  The weather changes every day.  Today it is very sunny and it feels marvelous on my skin.  The opportunity to converse about any theme in class for two hours.  The mountains in the distance.  The bright colors of houses, stores, structures in parks, and tropical flowers.

From September 12th:
Something that I’ve learned: this concept of Pura Vida doesn’t mean that here in Costa Rica everything is good.  It is only an idea- a manner of thinking and walking through life with grace and love, accepting each moment as it comes, having patience with people and systems, and finding beautiful things in each day and all people.  Pura Vida is to have friends, to take naps, to eat together (*to drink jugo de piña*).

Un día típico, y bueno

Ahora, el 17 de septiembre, estoy sentada en mi cuarto lindo, tomando te de Yerba Mate, escuchando a la música latina de Alonso Núñez, después de tomar una siesta solo porque pensaba que sentiría buena acostarme en la cama por unos momentitos.  Y acaba de comer un mango- mi primero mango entero aquí en Costa Rica- y era riquísimo.  Hoy mi mamatica me preparó el desayuno perfecto para hoy porque le pedí: avena con un banano (que llevé a clase).  Y participé más en clase hoy, aunque estaba bien distraída por preocuparme por una amiga, y durante el descanso visité con un amigo que está en una otra clase, y también jugué Frisbee con mis amigos en la plazoleta e incluimos a ticos también por lanzar el Frisbee en su dirección.  Era muy divertido.  Y pasó rápida la clase, entonces después caminé con Mateo a unas tiendas chinos para comprar lo que faltaba para el almuerzo.  Preparé unos tacos de frijoles con salsa Lizano, espinaca, tomate, aguacate, zanahoria, y pepino, y los traje conmigo al club de conversación en la universidad.  Me gustó pasar un rato con tantos estudiantes de todos niveles en un ambiente más de diversión que lectura o clase. 
         Regresé con Raqi y Elizabet, una amiga nueva, y platicamos en español.  Me fascina hablar con personas que están aprendiendo el español y están a un nivel más bajo que yo, porque puedo ayudarles con vocabulario y con conjugar los verbos, y usar este habilidad que he aprendido. 
         Y acaba de jugar un poquito con mi hermanitico Cris, él levanta el ánimo de mí.  Ah, pues, todo este es decir que este es un día típico, y que ahora siento como tengo más fundación.  Yo se como comprar y preparar la comida que quiero, como pasar los descansos de clase, como cuidar por mi cuerpo y mis necesidades aquí.  Yo conozco unos amigos nuevos, y siento como mi habilidad de hablar y entender el español ha mejorado.  Siento positiva.

Right now, the 17th of September, I am sitting in my lovely room, sipping Yerba Mate tea, and listening to the latin music of Alonso Núñez.  This after taking a siesta just because I thought it would feel nice to lay down for a few moments.  And I just finished eating a mango- my first whole mango here in Costa Rica- and it was rich.  Today my mamatica prepared the perfect breakfast for me because I requested it: oatmeal and a banana (which I took to class).  I learned today that they grow two kinds of bananas here- las chiquititas y las de exportación (the small ones for local consumption and the larger ones mainly for exporting.  Today I had an ‘exporting’ banana, and it tasted just like they taste back in the USA.  Interesting.  I participated in class today, although I was mighty distracted in worry for a friend.  During our break I found a friend who’s in a different class, and also I played Frisbee with a few friends in the plazoleta of our school, and we included some ticos too by throwing the Frisbee in their direction... it was fun.  And class flew by after this break.  So I walked with Mateo to a few Chinese grocery stores to buy what I lacked in my lunch.  I made a couple tacos with beans with Lizano sauce, spinach, tomato, avocado, carrots, and cucumber, and I brought them with me to Club de Conversación at the university.  I enjoyed hanging out with students from all levels in an environment that felt more fun than lecture or class. 
            I returned home with Raqi and Elizabet, a new friend, and we chatted in Spanish.  Speaking with people who are learning Spanish and are at a lower level than I am fascinates me, because I love helping them with vocabulary and conjugating verbs, and just using this skill that I’ve developed.
            And just now, I was playing a little with my little brother-tico Cris, which is casi-always life-giving.  All this to say that this is a typical day, and now I feel like I have a better foundation.  I know how to buy and prepare the food I want, how to spend the breaks from class, how to care for my body and my needs here.  I have some new friends, and I feel like my ability to speak and understand Spanish has improved.  I feel positive.

Struggles and Successes

This is from emails I sent out to my mom last Thursday.  This is just honestly how I was feeling and still continue to feel sometimes here.

I'm trying to take things one day at a time, but I'm isolating myself a bit and just really struggling with being here more than physically.  I don't know if it is that life is slow here, or I still just feel unfamiliar, or I need church (I'm going tonight, God willing), or if I'm just whining, but I can't stop thinking about the other place.  About home and George Fox.  I'm having a hard time accepting it.  I am REALLY excited to come home.  I think I just thought it would be different.  I had high expectations..  I find myself thinking, "I should go to Mexico- that is the culture I love".  And maybe it's true, but I have a feeling I'm just looking for a grassier area.  I'm looking for peace.  And still, my family is great.  But I'm not spending much time with them, and I haven't really met any other locals, so at school it is just my professor (who sometimes bugs me with her patriotism and classifying and generalizing of people), and the other international students.  I haven't really tried to make local friends.

I thought this would be paradisiacal.. ha.  I don't think any place can be.  I think it is a state of mind and soul.  And I'm just getting bored.  I think about the 3+ months that I have left here, and it seems like a lot- overwhelming.  I almost want to quit and go home.  It's just really hard.  Have you heard this phrase: "When I feel bad, I decide to stop feeling bad and be awesome instead."?  I've been trying to employ that, or at least say it as a mantra "When I miss home, I stop missing home and be awesome, or experience something awesome here instead".  But it takes effort.  That is what I'm learning.  

Looking to the positive.  There are some really great people here.  I got to walk through the rain today and it was nice.  I whistled "if all the raindrops were lemon drops and gum drops...".  I had a fun conversation today with a girl I had previously judged/been intimidated by.  Edgar made me scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast.  Eyleen is feeling better.  Tomorrow vamos a la playa (we're going to Tamarindo) for the weekend.
I have to write and tell you that tonight the church service was wonderful.  It wasn't even so much the service as it was meeting Luis, who works for Verítas and attends this church.  He also leads a bible study with like 30 tico students each week that I want to go to.  And all in español.  =D  

I almost started crying when we entered the church today in hearing the voices of followers being lifted up to the heavens...  I have missed that so dearly.  The two girls from Fox went too, along with another girl I'm really growing to like and respect and girl and a boy that I just met.  But goodness, mom.  I can see potential for making tico friends through church.  There's this service on thursdays, the bible study on tuesdays, and Luis pointed out a church near my house that is supposed to be a lot of fun.  Anndd he has a bunch of Spanish Christian music he's willing to share.  It was like jumping in a lake- so refreshing and comforting to be with people of the same faith again.  It was the taste of something beautiful, and meeting Luis, having this connection and experience, is a shine of hope for these next 3 months.  Por fin!  

So this is just a testimony of how God answers prayers, and how hope comes in community.  Ah, lovely.

Puerto Viejo

Empezé esta entrada hace una semana, pues voy a terminarla, y también escribir sobre este fin de semana.  Ay, es mucho.

Hola!  Tengo tanto que quiero compartir!  Este fin de semana (7-9 de sep.) fue bien interesante.  Experimentaba muchas cosas nuevas, hice unas amigos nuevos, y todavía no estoy segura como siento sobre todo que vi.  Todo este es vago, pues voy a explicar. 

El viernes salimos en autobús para Puerto Viejo que es un pueblo en la costa sur-este de Costa Rica.  Pues, es el caribe, y allí es verano ahora.  Por eso, hacía mucho sol y calor, y no había lluvia.  Puerto Viejo tiene gran influencia afro-caribeño, pues había música de reggae y mucha gente con ‘dreads’ que andan en bicicleta y fuman pot y parecen tan chivas.  Es un pueblo pequeña, caminamos la calle principal varios veces.  Hay un mercado en la calle todos los días, es como una feria.  Una noche, mientras Raqi y yo caminábamos, conocimos a una mujer que nos llamaba Mami, y era bien amable.  Nos mostraba su trabajo- tallas de una fruta grande, y mucha joyería.  Cuando pasábamos otra vez por su carpa, compartimos el chocolate oscuro que compramos, y hablábamos un ratito más. 
         En Puerto Viejo, hay unos clubes y discotecas, y bailábamos en la playa afuera de una discoteca que se llama Johnny’s.  También, bailamos adentro una vez, y tocaban la música popular de los EEUU para todos los estadounidenses, y bailábamos como locos, que es nuestro costumbre.  Era magnífico.  Ustedes saben como a mi me fascina bailar.    Pues, bailamos la noche de viernes y sábado, y aunque no tomaba alcohol, bailaba con tanto entusiasmo que un muchacho de mi grupo me preguntó si me gusta tomar…  me reí. 
El sábado, busceamos, y al comenzar, no me gustó mucho, pero al salir del grupo un poquito, estar callada, y nadar suavemente y tranquila por la habitación de los peces, aprecia mucho la oportunidad de entrar su mundo, la bendición de estar con ellos y ver este mundo, este manera de vivir, que usualmente no puedo ver.  Yo se que pertenezco sobre la tierra, y ellos pertenecen en el mar, y por eso era lindísimo estar en su mundo por un ratito.  Esa noche, las chicas y yo (no podemos encontrar a Mateo) comimos en una restaurante que me sirvo un jugo de piña que me hizo llorar porque era tan riquisisisisisísima.  Nos divertimos mucho durante esa cena. 
         El domingo, desayunamos otra vez en una restaurante- gallo pinto con huevos, pan, y jugo (siempre hay tanto desayuno)- y fuimos a una playa se llama Punta Uva.  Esta playa fue la más bonita que había visto aquí en Costa Rica.  Había mucho sol (porque es verano en la costa este) y jugábamos Frisbee, caminábamos en el ‘slackline’, y muchos bañaban en el océano.  Yo estaba contenta quedarme seca.  Oh, y allí, Mateo subió una palma bien alta y obtuvo un coco. 
         Antes de salir de Puerto Viejo, las chicas, una mujer que es profesora aquí de Nueva York, y yo almorzamos en un restaurante que se llama Veronica’s Place.  Era bien decorado y bonito con plantas y colores brillantes, y nos sirvieron comida vegetariana y vegan.  Fue perfecto para el viaje largo.  Nos disfrutamos mucho la presencia de una a otra y el ambiente del restaurante. 
         Entonces, nos divertimos en el viaje de autobús, que duró como 4-5 horas.  Ahora, este no es mucho.  Los cuatro de nosotros compartíamos auriculares para la música (de Imaginar Dragonas y más) y bailábamos y cantábamos.  Y dormíamos y teníamos la oportunidad de salir del autobús para caminar un puente sobre el Río Sucio que era bien impresionante.  Me hizo recordar Deception Pass de Burlington, Washington.  Es bien grande y poderoso (y de color café), y también me hizo pensar en Dios y cuan grande es Él, y cuan bonita es su creación. 
         Ah, pues, la última cosa para este fin de semana que recuerdo es que Eyleen me preparó una cena perfecta esa noche: remolacha, brócoli, un huevo, papas, y arroz.
I started this entry a week ago, so I’m going to finish is and then write about this weekend.  Ay, it is a lot.

Hola!  I have so much I want to share!  Last weekend (sept. 7-9) was really interesting.  I experienced a lot of new things, made some new friends, and still am not sure how I feel about everything I saw.  This is all vague, so I’ll explain.
            Friday we left by bus for Puerto Viejo which is a beach town in the southeast of Costa Rica.  In the Caribbean, it is summer now.  Because of this, it was really sunny and warm, and it didn’t rain- not once.  Puerto Viejo has a grand afro-Caribbean influence, so there was reggae music and many people with dreads who rode bicycles and smoked pot and seemed really chill.  It is a small town- we walked the main drag many times.  There is a street market every day.  One night, as Raqi and I were walking along, we met a woman who called us ‘mami’ (which is what they call girls *papi is for boys), and she was really sweet.  She showed us her work which were carved pieces of some kind of large, dried fruit, and a lot of jewelry.  When we passed by her tent again we shared with her some dark chocolate we had bought, and talked a bit more.
            In Puerto Viejo, there are some clubs and discothèques, and we danced outside one that was literally just off the beach (so we danced on the sand and in the ocean a bit).  We also danced inside for a while as they played American pop for the people from the US.  We danced like crazies, as is custom for us.  It was magnificent.  You all know how I love to dance.  We danced both Friday and Saturday night, and although I didn’t drink at all, a muchacho from our group asked me if I liked to... I laughed.
            Saturday, we snorkled, and at first, I didn’t like it because I felt like I was invading the home of these fish, but after separating from the group a bit, being quiet, and swimming softly and calmly through the home of the fish, I really appreciated the opportunity to enter into their world- what a blessing to be with them and see this world, this way of living which I usually wouldn’t be able to see.  I know that I belong above the earth, and they belong in the sea, and for this it was beautiful to be in their world for a while.  That night, the girls and I (we couldn’t find Mateo) ate in a restaurant that served me the first jugo de piña (thick pineapple juice) that brought me to tears because it was just that incredibly sensational.  We really enjoyed ourselves at that meal.  The servers were on TicoTime, so as we waited (for nearly the whole meal) for our last set of silverware, we all took turns eating with the two sets.  Ha.
            Sunday we ate breakfast in a restaurant- gallo pinto with eggs, bread, and juice (there is always plenty of breakfast)- and we went to a beach called Punta Uva.  This playa was the most beautiful that I had seen in Costa Rica.  The sun shone all morning and we played Frisbee, we walked the slackline, and a good chunk of the group swam in the ocean.  I was content to stay dry.  Oh, and Mateo climbed a tall palm tree and got a coconut.
            Before leaving Puerto Viejo, the girls, a woman who is a professor here from New York, and I had lunch in a restaurant called Veronica’s Place.  It was beautifully decorated with plants and brilliant colors, and they served us vegetarian and vegan food.  It was perfect for the long trip ahead.  We really enjoyed the company and the ambiance of the crunchy restaurant.
            Then, we entertained ourselves on the bus ride of 4-5 hours.  Now, this isn’t much for me.  The four of us shared earphones to listen to music (Imagine Dragons and more) and we danced and sang.  And we slept and had the opportunity to get off the bus to walk a bridge over the Río Sucio (Dirty River) which was so impressive.  It reminded me of Deception Pass in Burlington, WA.  It is really large and powerful (and brown), and it also made me think of God and how big He is, and how beautiful is His Creation.
            Ah, so the last thing I remember about this weekend is that Eyleen prepared a perfect dinner for me that night: beets, brocolli, an egg, potatoes, and rice.

So it has been a lot to absorb: delicious food experiences, beautiful sights of the natural world, beautiful people everywhere, and wonderful fun in just celebrating life and independence and youth and newness.