martes, 19 de julio de 2011

Let the Vacation Begin

I know I haven’t updated in over a week but that’s because there’s just been so much going on I didn’t have much time!
Last week was our trip to Montezuma where it rained most of the time, which was fine with me because I was still feeling sick so I just stayed inside working on my paper and rested. 

Friday- The program ended. Woah.
My family arrived in Costa Rica. No way.
Eldredge family vacation summer 2011 has begun!

We spent the first two nights in Monte de la Cruz in a hotel 2 km down the mountain from where my university is so they got to see all aspects of my life in CR.
Saturday night for dinner my host family had us over for dinner. I was the translator which was fun but difficult because people would talk at the same time or tell long stories and I would get confused at what I was translating but overall it was fun. I learned that its hard for the translator to eat dinner when she’s always talking! Haha But seriously, it was great to see my two families meet and have them all be so loving get along so well, despite the language barrier.

Sunday morning we left for Puerto Viejo. We have a little bungalow we’re staying in, which is really cool. It doesn’t have air conditioning, it just opens up to outside and has lots of fans. It’s a very fun experience! I love being without TV to distract us and we only have internet when we’re in the restaurant/bar/game area so we’re pretty free of technology. We’ve been playing lots of cards since that is the only game we really have access to (cards are easy to pack!) and that has been very relaxing since you don’t need to think super hard to play Tens and Twos or Kings Corner. We’ve been trying to play Nertz but for that you need two decks of cards that are different and we have two matching big decks and two matching little decks so its been impossible but hilarious as we keep trying to find ways to do it!

We spent a few hours at the beach yesterday and somehow I got burnt. I reapplied sunscreen so many times but somehow I’m the only one who turned pink! Oh well!
Today the plan is beach again then visiting the town of Puerto Viejo and tomorrow a canopy tour is on the schedule (so hiking and zip lining). Thursday morning we head back to San Jose to be next to the airport for our flight that leaves early early early in the morning on Friday.

I think this is my last update so thanks for being patient with me as I tried out this blogging thing this summer! :)


domingo, 10 de julio de 2011

Escaping Nicaragua

Wednesday was a very long day. We started it off with a visit to the Cultural Museum of Nicaragua. Unfortunately this museum lacked the four things one hopes for in a museum: (1) air conditioning (2) benches (3) an interesting tour guide (we’re pretty sure ours was hung over) and (4) toilet paper, soap, and paper towels in the bathrooms. Although we tried none of us caught anything that was going on and could only manage to stare blankly at the few artifacts around us. After the hour long tour we went upstairs to have a ‘chat’ with a man who I think was the director of the museum but am not completely sure. He encouraged us to move our chairs into a circle to encourage conversation, telling us how much he prefers conversation to lecture. He then proceeded to talk at us for 30 minutes after which he begged us for questions claiming he really wanted to start a discussion. After each question he talked for at least 15 minutes. 5 minutes before we had to go one of our students asked him a question which he spent over 20 minutes responding to until, after many attempts, our professor was finally able to cut him off more or less politely. I’ve never liked Profe more than in that moment!
After the museum we had lunch at the same place we had eaten at on Sunday, which was very exciting for all of us because the food was not sketch at all and the building had air conditioning. We were all in heaven!
The afternoon was filled with college things. We visited a university and got to have a chat with the students. It was really interesting to hear how things are different in our countries and learn from each other a bit. It was also just a fantastic experience to interact with the people. It feels like we barely got to speak to anyone on this trip so it was great to use our Spanish skills while also making connections with other people around our age. The only frustrating part was that they really struggled to understand the basic premise of Wheaton. It’s so different from anything they are used to. They seemed to think we are being exclusive, keeping non-Christians from a good education. Part of the problem was I don’t think they fully grasped how many colleges there are in the States, since there are not nearly as many in Nicaragua. They also didn’t fully grasp the community we strive to create and how most non-Christians (heck even many Christians) don’t want to live by our Community Covenant. It was difficult because we weren’t expecting to have this talk so we weren’t prepared to defend our college. Unfortunately I think they got a skewed view of what Wheaton College is. At the end of our discussion Freddy (one of our planners/guides) gave us a speech about how can we be light among light as “just something to think about”. It was very frustrating because he seemed to be looking down upon us and our university and we didn’t get a chance to defend ourselves. I fully understand his point but I also know that Wheaton College is exploding with ministry opportunities while also ministering to its own people. Just because someone has accepted Christ doesn’t mean he or she does not still need to be ministered to. So that was my little rant… sorry about that I guess I’m just pretty protective of my university. It doesn’t have it all together but it does have some things right and I love it.
Anyways, after our chat and a quick tour of the campus we stopped at a little snack shop on campus to grab a drink and chat more with the students. That’s when it happened. Out of nowhere a storm hit. It was unreal watching it come in. We could literally see it coming towards us and people begin screaming and running for shelter. It was hilarious! Luckily our snack shop had a roof so we were all safe and got to watch in amazement as the rain continued to pour. The unfortunate thing was that we ended up stuck in that spot for a half hour while we waited for the rain to stop and/or our bus to find us. This, as well as the crazy traffic we hit when the bus finally did find us, put us behind on our schedule. We showed up 45 minutes late to dinner.
Dinner was pretty funky Wednesday night. Instead of eating at the hotel, which is what we usually do, we went to a typical Salvadorian restaurant for pupusas. A pupusa is a corn tortilla type thing that they fill with meats or beans and fry. That is a really poor description but it’s the best I’ve got. I had mine with beans, cheese and sausage type things while some other people just had beans or had chicken. After you get the little patties you put something that looks like coleslaw but has a more tangy taste on top. It looks really sketch but tastes pretty good! Overall it was definitely a good experience.
The frustrating thing was it took a long time after each order was placed for them to make them, since they make them fresh and its just a few ladies doing it. It wouldn’t have been so bad but after our first round we waited, thinking we were done and waiting for the Quiroa family to finish (they eat like central Americans- always taking their time). After 10 minutes of waiting we figured out we could order seconds so a bunch of the guys wanted to do that. Basically that made us take another half hour to finish up eating.
It wouldn’t have been so bad except I had made a skype date with Sam for 8 thinking there was no way we could get back later than that from dinner that starts at 6. Plus, if you remember, it was Wednesday and that means 9-9:15 Party. We got back at 8:50 and I was rushing to get a hold of Sam while also setting up the party. Jessie and Jacob helped a ton and I already had worked on a lot of the decorations in advance so it was pretty easy to set it all up but still quite comical.
The party was definitely a success. Every single student on the trip came and most stayed for the whole time. I was surprised that they all humored me and came but I think they were pretty curious what the crazy girl was talking about. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves though. We had Christmas music playing as well as clips from the movie Elf.  We had a giant bag of “Christmas candy” that we found at the party store plus red and green balloons that people could blow up. Why balloons? Because the lame party store didn’t have any red and green streamers or other decorations so balloons were the only option! It was a goofy fun touch!
The hit of the party though was the ornament decorating. Everyone got to decorate ornaments and tape them onto the Christmas tree Jacob cut out of the green paper we bought. The funny thing was, to save time Jacob cut one half of the tree and traced it to cut the other side of the tree. Unfortunately he didn’t flip it over when he traced it so we had matching halves. It made for a very interesting tree- way better than a normal one would’ve been! I’ll put pictures on facebook so you can all bask in the awesomeness.
After the party I was finally able to talk to Sam which was good and then I got to go to bed. I was exhausted!

            Our last full day in Nicaragua- YAY!!! The week was long but it still went by fast (just like this whole summer). In the morning we met with 4 Nicaraguans from the dump who are fighting against big companies for basically poisoning their workers. All of them are sick with some kind of cancer because of the chemicals used at the plant they worked at. Two of them had worked at the plant for 14 years and two for more than 20. They all started working between the ages of 14 and 16 and would often work from 7am to 10 pm in the factories and farms. The chemicals used on the fruit (mostly bananas) have been banned in the US for about 50 years because its so dangerous and harmful to humans. That doesn’t stop these huge corporations (many of them from the US-ever eaten a Dole banana?) from using it in Nicaragua and other poor countries though. I mean really, who cares if a few Nicas die when there is a profit to be made? I’m not sure if I’ve ever been more disgusted to admit I’m a United States citizen. Way to go US, you win again and none of us ever know at what cost. We’ve really done a number on Central America and the majority of us have no clue.
            We were supposed to do something else at the same place after our talk but it didn’t work out so we came up with plan B- another mall. This mall (my third in Nicaragua) was pretty nice but I didn’t have the energy to pretend to shop for a half an hour so I just sat on a bench and worked on writing my blog update to you guys. We were supposed to meet at the entrance at 11 so I packed up my stuff and headed down there with the group. The Quiroa family wasn’t there yet but we’ve come to assume they’ll always be 10 minutes later than the time they tell us so we weren’t too concerned. It was a pretty nice place to wait since there was actually a breeze going through that section and it had a few benches to sit on. One student was with the Quiroa family but the other 14 of us were all there on time, chillin’ while we waited for our professor to return. After 20 minutes I started to get upset. I like to think of myself as a fairly patient person but this trip has taught me that I still need to work on that, a lot. If you guys could be praying for me this last week of the program to be patient with our professor and his family that would be much appreciated.
            At the mall we said goodbye to Raquel who had been with us since we crossed the border. She might be the single sweetest person I know. She was probably in her mid twenties and always had the biggest smile on her face and you can’t help but smile to when you look at her. Throughout the week I had commented on a bracelet she was wearing and she said she made it herself. She also always had funky earrings, which she made herself too. Since she knew I liked them she brought me a bracelet just like hers and when we were saying goodbye in the mall she took the earrings out of her ears and gave them to me to remember her by. I almost cried I was so touched. I will never forget her kindness.
            We went back to Granada and checked into a new hotel for our last night in Nicaragua. Granada is closer to the border and its where our bus driver lives so it just makes sense. Plus the hotel there is in a safer area so we were able to go out on our own. We had the whole afternoon and evening free which was so exciting! It felt like we’d been go-go-going all week and never had time to decide what we wanted to do.
            A group of us went to find the Cacao Museum we had seen last time we were in the area but hadn’t been able to go to. It was beautiful and smelled fantastic! A woman explained the basic history of chocolate and how its made, which was very interesting. We each got to try some tea made from the shell of the cacao seed and it was actually really delicious! There was a workshop where you could make your own chocolate that sounded really interesting but it was kind of expensive and took two hours so we just settled for our little adventure and went back to the hotel satisfied.
            After hanging out in someone’s room for a bit and having some alone time (where I worked on this blog again) we met up again for dinner. We decided to go back to the Museum because it was a cute little restaurant too and after being there we were all craving the chocolate crepes we had heard about. We had to go there first since it closed at 6:30 so we enjoyed our crepes then went to a pizza place for “second dinner”. We really just wanted to place an order for delivery but somehow it got all mixed up and they had us sit at a table for a half hour while we waited to take our pizzas back to the hotel. There was a nice breeze in the restaurant though and we were with fun people so the wait wasn’t too bad!
            After pizza we all just ended up hanging by the pool. It was so nice to dip my feet in after a long day in my tennis shoes! It was definitely a great bonding time for us. We all ended up sharing photos of our siblings so we finally got to put a face to the names we’d been hearing for the past month and a half. It was really cool because there is one boy on our trip who kind of keeps to himself and can be a little snotty/standoffish to the rest of us but I got to have a long conversation with him. I just kept asking questions about his family (he is one of 9 kids so there were many to ask) and we were able to have a really nice talk.

Friday-Homeward Bound
            Friday at 7:08 we departed from Granada toward San Rafael! It was a beautiful thing… :) It took us about an hour and a half to reach the border then we spent 2 hours doing border things. At about 8 I started to have to pee so the wait was extra killer for me. When we finally got to the Costa Rican side I paid 25 cents to use a restroom and it was glorious! Haha
            We hit some major traffic in Costa Rica and barely moved for about an hour and a half. It wasn’t so bad for me though- I was glad for a break from the bumpy drive! Plus by that point I had joined Jessie in reading the last Twilight book. I had tried to sleep but kept getting woken up so I decided to read the end again over her shoulder. It was nice because its easy to read and it drew us in so we weren’t focused on how long it was taking to get back.
            We got to our houses around 6:30, which was a pretty reasonable time. My family asked me lots of questions about the trip and was pretty excited to have me back. Montserrat and her family were over when I got there and stayed for dinner. Plus Montse stayed the night because she spent the weekend with us (the schools are on winter break right now so she doesn’t have a lot of studying to do).

Saturday- Achoo!
            I woke up Saturday feeling sick… awesome. It just a cold, which I’m pretty sure came from the intense change of climate I had in Granada. It was so hot in Nicaragua but Thursday night I was right under the air conditioner and was freezing all night. Plus I was worn out from the trip so basically I’m not surprised that I got sick.
            I probably should have stayed in bed and rested on Saturday but my family was going on a trip that they wanted to take me on and I felt like I should go. I’m glad I went because we had a good time but by the end of it I was pretty miserable. They made me take a rest after we got back, which I was very relieved at because I don’t think I could’ve done anything else. I couldn’t sleep but put my earbuds in and listened to Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors which was so relaxing in my dark room! I could tell I was really tired because I didn’t move at all for an hour, which usually I can’t do.
            But I guess I should explain the things we did during the day that helped wear me out. The reason we went out in the first place was that my host parents needed to drop off some supplies they were donating to a rehab center their church is connected with (it’s a little over an hour away). It was kind of awkward to go there because I felt like an intruder since we didn’t stay long enough for me to do anything other than look around. It would have been cool to hear more about it but it was fun enough seeing my host parents get all excited about the mission being done there and greet everyone with big smiles.
            Next we went to see the big church in that town because it has Costa Rica’s “Little Black Virgin” (like the Virgin of Guadalupe but in CR- basically every Latin American country has one). It was cool to see, definitely a different experience than anything I’ve ever really done. We had to wait in line to see the apparition, which was in a small black stone. We also saw the fountain that the people say is blessed but we didn’t go very close because I think my mom was a little skeptical of that. They were selling bottles right before you enter so people could take some of the blessed water home. Very new for me.
            It was only 10:30 by the end of our time at the church so we ended up driving another 45 minutes to the nearby volcano. We didn’t spend much time there, just walked around a little and took some pictures. It was very different from the other volcanoes I’ve seen here. Apparently its usually raining up there but it wasn’t when we were there and there were barely any clouds at all so we could see everything clearly. It was pretty cold though- my body was so confused since now I’m used to Nicaragua temperatures of blazing hot every day!
            So that was basically my day. That night I hung out with Montse and she really enjoyed playing with my computer. She had a little too much energy for my sickly self though so after awhile I had to retreat to my room for a little peace and packing. Its so strange that I’m already packing up to leave- I just got here! The time with my host family has flown by and I’m sad to say goodbye. They have taken such good care of me and its strange to think I’ll probably never see them again.

Sunday- a day of rest
            I was supposed to go on an outing with my family all day on Sunday. I woke up at 5 because the plan was to leave the house at 5:45 and I knew there was no way I could do it. I really wanted to go, especially since I knew how excited my parents were to take me on the trip (it was with a group from their church to a parade on the beach, apparently they go almost every year). I knew it was better to stay though because I didn’t want to bring the celebration down and since we were taking a bus with the group instead of driving individually I wouldn’t have a way to come home early if I was feeling awful.
            I’m so glad I stayed. I went back to bed for another 4 hours then got up, had a leisurely breakfast and finished up my packing. As soon as I hopped into the shower the phone started ringing off the hook and then someone was at the gate. Lilo (our dog) was barking and whomever it was called out her name and then mine. I was so confused because I didn’t recognize the male voice but they obviously knew I was the only one home with Lilo. I got out of the shower and wearing only my towel went to check it out (looking through the window sneakily trying to see who it was without them seeing me). Then I heard Jessie’s voice and it all made sense. Apparently my parents had gotten worried because they called and I didn’t answer so they called Jessie’s mom. It was a pretty hilarious moment when I answered the door in my towel and they suddenly understood why I hadn’t picked up the phone!
     Now I'm at Jessie's house using her internet to work on my paper. I'm already way past the page minimum now I just need to fine tune it and I am so ready to cross that whopper off of my to do list! :)

Hope all is going well in the states!
With love,

jueves, 7 de julio de 2011

The Missing S and Other Nicaraguan Tragedies

            So… Nicaragua. We’ve been here for about 5 days now and we’re all ready to go back. We’ve heard over and over again that “Costa Rica es diferente” and now we see how true that is, CR is way different than what we’ve experienced here. One thing is, Nicaraguans don’t pronounce the s at the end of words. This makes all the words blur together. Its hard to explain but its like they don’t fully close their mouth ever and end a word so everything just gets muddled up. Its very soothing to listen to, a little too soothing when you’re exhausted and sitting in a stagnant suffocating hot room. It has been a struggle to pay attention when receiving lectures from Nicaraguans, but more on that later.
            Monday- Granada
Not sure how much you know about Nicaraguan geography but we’ve been staying in the capitol, Managua. On Monday we went to visit another major city, Granada. In the morning we went on a boat ride in Lake Nicaragua, the biggest lake in Central America. There were lots of beautiful views but the lake itself was filthy. It is so contaminated it was a brownish green color- not pretty. The worst thing was we saw multiple people swimming/fishing in the water. Everything in me cringes at the thought of letting that water touch my skin but I guess its no big deal for them.
After lunch in the city we were given 3 hours to just walk around the city. It was a little frustrating because I was exhausted and not feeling well. I think I caught some kind of bug from the water or something. We have all been trying to be super careful but sometimes it still gets ya. Anyways, we looked around at the street vendors but didn’t see anything we wanted, walked around looking at the architecture (it’s the oldest city in Nicaragua).  Four of us decided to cave in and pay to take a horse drawn carriage tour around the city. We got to hear a lot more about the history of the city (it has a lot to do with William Walker). Making conversation with the driver I asked if it’s difficult to learn to drive the horses and he said “no, wanna try?” (except in Spanish) and I was like “uh, yeah!” So I drove the carriage the rest of the way! It was fun; the horses basically already knew where they were going so I mostly just had to let them lead but I would steer them away from potholes so I was pretty proud of myself!

Tuesday- the good day
            Tuesday was the best day. We spent our morning in the dump and let me tell you it was disgusting. There was trash everywhere and little kids flocked to us. I think at one point all of us had a kid in our arms as we toured their home. Mine was a little girl in a dirty pink skirt named Cassandra. She was 8 years old. When she saw the water bottle of one of the boys she pointed and asked for it and when he gave it to her she drank for a good 30 seconds without stopping, as though she hadn’t had anything to drink in quite some time. It is unbelievably hot in Nicaragua and the dump was possibly the hottest place, despite the fact that it had already rained that morning which usually cools things down.
            In stark contrast, we went straight to our second mall in Nicaragua right after seeing some of the worst poverty I’ve ever seen. This was a really nice mall too, apparently it was to show us the difference of life in Nicaragua but it just made most of us go numb. As we were sitting in the mall I decided to plan the 9-9:15 Party. I’d been thinking of having one and I just decided that if I wanted to have a fun time in Nicaragua I needed to stop complaining about what we’re doing and make the fun myself. Jessie, Hannah, Nathan and I went to the party store we had seen earlier and bought supplies for our Christmas in July themed party.
We picked that theme because for some reason there are Christmas decorations all over here. We think its because there is an election coming up and Daniel Ortega (the current president) wants everyone to remember that Nicaragua is a “Christian” nation (because then no one can start a smear campaign calling him a Marxist). There is tons of propaganda like that here- its insane. There are billboards, posters and bumper stickers all supporting Daniel, not to mention all the graffiti. “Viva Daniel” “Viva la revolución” and “FSLN” (his political party) are everywhere.
After the mall and then lunch came my favorite part of the day, if not the trip in general. We went to the Villa Esperanza (hope) which is a ministry that reaches out to the girls in the dump that we had visited earlier that day. It was shockingly beautiful. They have about 20 girls living with them now who have all had difficult lives living in the dump. Many have experienced sexual abuse and some have had to deal with other tragedies as well. For example, a pair of sisters there lost their father to AIDS and their mother is slowly dying of the disease as well.
The Villa is currently attempting to become self-sufficient so they have chickens that the girls look after as well as a garden and fish that they grow for food. All the girls have chores as well as schooling that they must do. Its not an easy life for them, as the Villa is attempting to prepare them for what won’t be an easy life when they are out in the real world, but it is much better than where they came from. It was hard to know that they could only help 20 girls now. Even though I know that makes a huge difference, its hard not to think about all the other girls left in the high risk situations. But I know that the program works on reaching out to the families of the girls and the community in general, in partnership with the local church there, so they are doing a lot of good, even if its not in huge leaps and bounds.
The Villa has a set of rooms that they rent out to guests to bring in some money. Apparently, our original plan was to stay there, which would have involved a lot of mission work as their guests usually work with the girls as well as other programs in the surrounding neighborhood. Unfortunately, another group already took the week of our trip. It was so frustrating to know what the trip could have been. We all thought that we were going to be doing mission work here, that is what Profe told us, but instead we haven’t done anything except learn about all the problems here. It was nice to know that he had the same idea as us but so annoying to know that his lack of follow through caused us to need the inferior “plan b”. I’m just taking comfort in the fact that the next group that does this trip, when it is better planned, will be able to do all the mission work we had hoped to do. Its sad to just watch the poverty and pain and then walk on, without doing anything to help.

This is all I have time for now, but when I return from dinner I will try to finish up Wednesday and today!
love and God's blessings to you,

lunes, 4 de julio de 2011


Saturday 6 am- meet at the Parque Central ready to head out for Nicaragua. There’s a challenge. My padre Tico refused to let Jessie and I walk the 8 minute walk with our stuff so he drove us there and stayed until boys from our group showed up even though it was nice and bright out and not at all sketchy. Then we were met by a pleasant surprise when the bus showed up and it was not the tiny little thing we’d been squeezing into for our other excursions but instead a really nice bus with big comfortable seats and even a few extras. I wish I could make you understand what a blessing it was to be in that bus. The other bus handles the bumps in the road so terribly that it makes me sick but I was comfortable (as much as one can be on a bus ride in Costa Rica) so all was well!
                  I had the exciting experience of walking across the CR/Nicaragua border, which felt super sketch but wasn’t too excruciating of a process. Then we had another 3 hours of driving in Nicaragua to get to Managua where our “hotel” is. We passed the time quickly though as Jessie was reading Eclipse (the third book in the Twilight series) and I reread most of it over her shoulder. It’s a pretty easy book so it’s not hard to read on a bus.
                  Our hotel is… interesting. I’ll try to remember to take some pictures and put them on facebook so you can fully understand what I mean. When we first walk in its super hot and muggy as it now is every day when we enter after being gone because they shut the air off when we’re not in it. Then we noticed that our room was super dark. Where everyone else had two bulbs in their light we only had one. This brought about the fiasco of them trying to put in a new bulb, which ended up not working. Eventually we got another bulb that is less bright than the first but still an improvement since now the two are working together. Our room is still kinda dark but its doable. Then there’s the bathroom… oh goodness. There is a lovely black splash stain on the floor around the toilet and the shower floor was still actively wet when we showed up. I have not walked barefoot in that room and I do not plan to-yuck! We also have some special friends who live on the roof of our bathroom who scurry around and make fun noises for us. We have named them Jiminy Cricket and Patricia.
                  Overall Emily (my roommate for this week) and I are just trying to enjoy our time here even though our room is without a doubt the worst of everyone’s. Oh well! Its certainly an experience.

Sunday was fun although it was a pretty long day. We started off the day with two masses at two different Christian Base Community churches. It was very interesting to see the differences in those churches even from the churches I went to with my host parents in CR, not to mention my churches in the US. We were so lost at the first service because they didn’t have the words to the bulletin printed in the song, it was quite comical.
After church we went to a really yummy restaurant for lunch where we were actually able to eat our fill! We eat breakfast and dinner at the hotel and get very small portions. It’s a bummer but not a huge deal! I just feel bad for some of the guys on our trip…
After lunch we walked around Historic Managua for a bit, which was nice but very warm and very dirty. Nicaragua is a country with a high temperature and a lot of trash. Makes me miss Costa Rica- a lot! After the site seeing we went to a mall where we got an hour and a half to explore and chill. It was loud and crowded- nothing like Paseo de los Flores, our favorite mall in Heredia. Although we were able to buy fairly good-sized water bottles for 50 cents there so that was a win.
That’s another unfortunate thing about Nicaragua- the undrinkable water. I’ve never really had to deal with unhealthy water before and its not fun. It’s hard to remember not to rinse my toothbrush with water from the sink and we’re always suspicious when we eat out that they cleaned everything with purified water. I’m not feeling well now and really hoping its just my stomach being weird and not that I got a virus from something I ate. Please be praying for all of us that we can stay healthy here.

Monday has definitely been a full day! We spent the day in Granada, the other big city about 45 minutes away. In the morning we took a boat ride through Lake Nicaragua (which is really contaminated) and saw some beautiful views. In the afternoon we went to central Granada and had 3 hours to walk around. I was exhausted but still managed to have a good time. We just walked around checking out the merchandise in people were selling along the park and said “no gracias” a million times to all the people who came up to us selling something.
Emily, Mike, Elisabeth and I took a carriage tour around the city which ended up being really cool. Our guide was very nice and explained the historical significance of all the buildings we’d been looking at. Plus, he let me drive the horses- it was super cool!
Now I’m back at the hotel, showered and waiting for dinner, hoping its something appetizing. Only three more days left in Nicaragua then another full day of travel back to the beautiful Costa Rica! Hooray! Its definitely an experience here but I’ll be glad to get back “home” to San Rafa. 

I hope you are all enjoying your 4th of July's wherever you are!
Love from Nicaragua,

viernes, 1 de julio de 2011

Where did June go?

Wow its been a long while since I’ve been able to update! Its been a busy week with not a lot of spare time! I’ll explain it all as I continue…

We got to choose what we did in the morning before heading out. We could stay at the hotel, find a tour we want to go on, or go on a canopy hanging bridges tour with our professor. It was a tough call but I ended up staying at the hotel and was so glad I did. I just didn’t have the energy to walk around all morning and I felt like I had a million other things I could do. I ended up hanging out with Elisabeth and we both silently did work. I finished my book for Quiroa’s class and wrote up my review of it plus was able to get other odds and ends done I’d been meaning to do. It was fantastic- I really needed that time to rest and get some things finished!
In theory the point of our weekend excursions is to give us a chance to relax but since my family is so chill the trips are actually more tiring for me! I share a room with two other girls so naturally we stay up later than I do at home and then we always have to get up early for breakfast- even earlier than I do for school every day. Plus we are always trying to get the most out of our visit so I wear myself out doing the activities. Throw in a bumpy ride in a crowded bus and I come back to San Rafa feeling sick!

Since it’s our last week of official classes we began our mini-proyecto presentations this week. In the morning we got to go an animal shelter nearby the university where we got to play with the kittens and walk the dogs as volunteers. We named all the kittens and they were precious! I wanted to take my little one (I named her Felicity because feliz is happy in Spanish) home with me because she was unbelievable precious and kept coming up to snuggle me!
      After the shelter we went to Heredia so my group could do our presentation on the university there. It was somewhat frustrating to me because my group was not really interested in doing it well, mostly in just getting it done. I was kind of on the same wavelength but I got really frustrated when I felt like we were straying from the plan and just trying to get it over with and Profe could tell. I got more and more agitated as the morning went on because I wasn’t feeling well and things were just piling up. At lunch I was able to cool down because we ate at a cute little Soda (restaurante) in the center of the campus. It was cool to see where the Costa Rican students all hang out plus I ate with Jessie and Jacob and made them only talk about happy things to distract me from my frustrations. We ended up talking about our favorite things about our siblings, which was obviously a very happy topic so that calmed me down!
      After lunch we headed into San Jose- a more than 40-minute bus ride- to go to a museum, which turned out to be closed on Mondays. It was a bummer but actually worked out in our favor since we were able to go to the artisan market and shop around, which we’d been wanting to do. I found some funky rings and a colorful headband for cheep so I consider it a success!

      Since we didn’t go to the university on Monday we had double grammar class on Tuesday. It was fun because usually we’re split up into two groups and trade off between grammar and culture class but since it was all grammar we were all together. It was not fun because we didn’t really learn anything. Its hard because we’re studying the subjunctive right now which is really difficult to understand how to use. Its even more complicated because our professor, who did her thesis on the subjunctive, always seems to contradict herself. The problem is we have all learned rules to follow for the use of the subjunctive but in real life it’s not always that logical. Very confusing when you’re trying to learn it! I really wish we could have started studying it earlier because it feels like its that part of the language that is always done last so we never get to spend much time on it- and it’s the most complicated. It has been really fun though to watch everyone get better at using the forms in everyday life!

We had all day grammar again which ended up being taken up completely by everyone sharing their neighborhood projects. When you have 15 students and each one talks for 5-10 minutes you use up time pretty quick! It was interesting to hear about where people have been living here and how that compares to their home in the US but after the 7th person it all starts to sound the same. During the second hour I ended up translating the lyrics to “Aaron’s Party” into Spanish just to stay awake. It was actually pretty challenging and great practice for my Spanish skills so I think I’m going to try to do stuff like that more often!
      In the afternoon we had our final for Theology. It was actually pretty simple, I knew all of the information it was just a lot of writing to do, especially in Spanish. Plus my stomach wasn’t feeling too hot so that was an added bonus. I was so relieved when I finished. It’s nice to have something like that done, although I still don’t believe we could already be that far along in the program.
      After the final a few of us snuggled into the couches and watched Twilight. SO FUNNY! I was thrilled to be relaxing and finally be sharing the hilarity with my fellow students. We watched the movie until the students started showing up for English class, which was pretty relaxed this week as always. We did the hokey pokey, played a travel version of Monopoly, and everyone talked about where they are from. Its always fun to see the Costa Ricans, they’re really nice people and we always have a good time.

      We had the pleasure of finishing up our mini-proyectos on Thursday, which actually wasn’t that bad. We went to two parks and a funky little museum and were able to finish up around noon. All three were in San José though and just going back and forth takes a lot out of you. On the way back we found a cute little smoothie place in Heredia where we got lunch. I was so happy with my cheap but delicious sandwich and smoothie!

sábado, 25 de junio de 2011

Birthday Festivities

Thursday was a day of surprise birthday celebrations. Lis (one of the girls on our trip) baked a cake for me and the Quiroas (the family of our professor from Wheaton) bought pan dulce. They brought it out after lunch with a candle (the only ones they had were real candles like the kind you put on a mantle!) for me to blow out!

After we enjoyed all the yummy food they told me there was another surprise I had to wait for and spent 10 minutes trying to throw a rope up over one of the beams. The surprise was a piñata that Amanda had bought at a market in Heredia. They put a scarf over my eyes, gave me a stick, and had me go at it. It was tough because they kept pulling on the rope on the other end so it would move plus we were kind of close to a wall so I hit that once on accident and left a mark! Overall it was a really fun time and we all enjoyed the candy that came out when it finally broke! :)

In the afternoon Lis and I had our massages- what better birthday present is there? Jessie’s host mom works planning the schedules of a massage school close by so she hooked us up with free massages from the students who are learning. It was awesome! Neither of us had ever had a massage before so it was a fun experience to share. Definitely something I’ll never forget!

Then we had spaghetti and garlic bread for dinner… does it get any better?

Friday: (The actual birthday)
            My host family is so sweet. Friday morning they made a giant breakfast with bananas, pineapple, gallo pinto (the breakfast version of rice and beans), scrambled eggs (with chopped up tomato and pepper mixed in), sausages wrapped in tortillas, tamales (some sort of potato thing wrapped in a tortilla thing- really yummy), plus some little ham wraps and a big glass of OJ. They decorated the table and even got me a little cake! It was a nice surprise! Plus they invited Jessie to come over to join us so that made it even more special.
            After breakfast Jessie and I left for this weekend’s excursion, which meant almost 4 hours on a bus- woo! We tried to read but the roads are so bumpy that you can only read for a bit then you have to take a break. But with lots of fun people around us the trip can be fun.
            We went to a resort for the afternoon near Volcán Arenal that had about 30 small pools. We only explored a few of them but the majority were hot springs- some too hot to even dip your toes into! It was fun to just hang out in the warm water and chill. I laid out and read my book for class for a bit but since it has been so cloudy this weekend I didn’t get much sun. :( oh well!
            After dinner we checked into our actual hotel and got cleaned up. Then some of the boys came over and we had a movie night. We also broke into the little cake that my parents had bought me and suggested I take along (because there was no way we could eat it after that huge breakfast!) We watched Tangled (in Spanish of course) and it was really fun.

            This morning we got up at 6:30 so we could have breakfast and be ready for zip lining. That was a great experience- such amazing views! I think my favorite part was just how fast we went- I love feeling the wind rush past me. We also did something called the Tarzan Swing, which was intense! They hook you up and have you lean off the platform while they’re holding you from your harness in back then they just let you go and you plummet down and swing back and forth. So epic!
            After the zip lining we had a few hours to just chill at the hotel, which was pretty refreshing. I was able to get some more of my book read and just catch up on little things I’d been meaning to do. We were all getting pretty testy after lunch though, when we went on a boat trip on a lake near the volcano. It just wasn’t what any of us wanted to do so we had a pretty bad attitude about it. If you guys could be praying for me to have patience and overall just a better attitude that would be great! It just gets so frustrating for me sometimes since our professor’s management style is so loosy-goosy so we never know what is going on-the opposite of how I like to run things.
            Now I suppose I will force myself to do some more homework… who ever thought it was a good idea to take classes in the summer? :P


jueves, 23 de junio de 2011

Livin’ la Vida Loca

As I begin writing up this next section of my update I am struck by the contrast in my past few days. Let me just start and you’ll see…

Both Monday and Tuesday I went over to Jessie’s house in the evening while my parents were at la Reza. Jessie’s grandmother died last week and apparently it is a tradition in the Catholic Church here to hold prayer services in your house for 7 or 9 days after. So every day this past week family and friends have come to Jessie’s house for a mini-service and then a small dinner. Since our mom’s are cousins my parents have been going this week so I just walked over with them and went upstairs to get out of the way.

I didn’t have much to do online Tusday, I mostly just wanted internet access because I was waiting for an important email- more on that later. Anyway, we were struggling to get work done when Jessie’s host sister (who is also an exchange student but has been here for 6 months and her classes at the university just finished) popped her head in and asked if we wanted to go into Heredia to get ice cream. Since we weren’t being productive we went even though it was 7 and we hadn’t had dinner. It was fun taking the bus and hanging out at “Pops”-a popular ice cream shop. I got raspberry and it was so good! It was nice to just hang out on a Tuesday night. Sometimes I forget it is summer break because I rarely leave my house when I get back from school. It was good to just take a break from that and remember to enjoy myself. I’m not at Wheaton College right now- I don’t need to spend every waking moment studying! I’m in Costa Rica and I’m here to experience! :)

After returning I had dinner (at 9:15 which is actually not super strange here!) and had a nice conversation with my host mom about how grateful we both are that the other lives out her faith. It’s always nice to be affirmed in my time with this family. I wish I had more time with them!!!

Here’s where things get crazy… Wednesday Jessie and I had permission to skip our morning classes so we could go visit The Refuge in La Carpio for our papers. I’m writing my paper on violence against women in Costa Rica and Jessie is writing hers on the machista culture and how having a female president has affected that. Everyone needs to do three interviews with Costa Ricans for their papers and these interviews can be with people in your field or just with everyday people you interact with. I’ve talked with my host parents and that was very interesting but I really wanted to talk to people who are actually involved in this field, since I know it exists in Costa Rica. Quiroa helped hook me up with The Refuge and I was able to go visit.

Let me tell you first about our long morning then we’ll get to the meat of the day. It took us about 2 hours to get to La Carpio. We left our houses at 7 and missed the first bus out of our neighborhood literally by seconds so we waited for the next one, which came by 7:30- then we were off to Heredia! That’s only a 15-minute bus ride but once we got into Heredia we spent about a half hour wandering around looking for the bus stop to San Jose. The problem was the first people we asked (who were actually police officers so you’d think they know what they’re saying) pointed us in the wrong direction! We finally found it and we were pretty sure we were on the right bus. We knew the next bus we needed to take would be near the Hospital México and this bus was supposed to take us near there. Apparently it doesn’t stop there- or if it does it passes it first and comes back in a loop. We weren’t sure but when we saw the sign for the Hospital and the bus wasn’t stopping or turning for it we pulled the chord and started to get up and the driver let us off in the middle of the road. It was soooo funny because he just stopped and was looking at us like “so do you wanna get off or not?”

All of that turned out to be such a God thing because we ended up being right next to a bus stop going to La Carpio and when we got on the bus the women I had been contacting was sitting right next to us! She figured out who we were and introduced herself. Because she was with us she was able to take us directly to the Refuge- which was perfect because we’re pretty sure if that hadn’t happened we wouldn’t have gotten off at the correct stop. It was so amazing to see the way we were taken care of! That trip could have been really dangerous but it turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve had here! I’m so glad I went- I learned way more that morning than I ever could have in class. It was like I was seeing in real life all of the things I had read in articles and books while preparing my paper. It was a real education in the topic!

Alright, now the meat of the story: The Refuge is a school for girls who haven’t been able to continue their education and a home for girls who are not safe at theirs. They estimate that basically 100% of the girls have been abused in some way although most of them have specifically experienced sexual abuse in their lives, usually from someone they are close to.

We had the opportunity to walk around the facility and check it out as well as spend about 45 minutes interviewing Marcielos, the woman who started the program. It was amazing to hear her talk about what they do and how difficult it can be sometimes. The Refuge never could’ve come into place without all of the missionaries (long and short term), churches (particularly one from Canada- what?), and volunteers from the community helping to construct the building they use (which has classrooms, bedrooms, a small kitchen and a few offices), keep it up (there are beautiful verses and inspirational sayings painted on the walls), have the materials for classes (they try to pay for half the cost of the books the girls need so its not so difficult for them) and the food for lunch (which she said somehow they have managed to serve every day except one in the past 10 years). 

It was an amazing mission to visit and I only regret that I didn’t have any time to actually get involved there. We were only able to stay for a little over an hour and I felt bad that we were taking up their time and not giving anything back. But who knows, maybe someday I’ll be able to go back and spend more time there volunteering. I would love to work with a program like that- even though at times it would be very difficult and quite depressing.

So that’s basically what I’ve been doing these past two days! Well also yesterday I went back to school in the afternoon for Theology class and stayed for English class which as always is fun- despite the fact that I don’t get home until 8:30! Overall a long day but some great experiences! But yeah, do you see what i'm talking about about how different my days were? From an ice cream run to real poverty and abuse of young girls- woah... así es la vida (such is life)

lunes, 20 de junio de 2011

Arroz y Frijoles

Arroz y Frijoles (rice and beans) is the title of this post because we eat that every day here. You haven't eaten if you didn't have rice and beans. This post is full of daily activities and just a regular weekend living in San Rafa so I feel like the mundane title fits perfectly! 

            Some of us decided it was time for some relaxation so we decided to spend the afternoon just hanging out and observing at the mall in Heredia. A few things we discovered:
1)     Clothes are expensive in Costa Rica
2)    80% of Costa Rican clothing stores have a counterpart in the US, they sell the same things but have a slightly different name
3)    Ticos (another name for Costa Ricans) have 4 kinds of clothing stores: athletic, fancy, urban, and intimates
4)    It is not uncommon to hear English music in the stores or see English words on all of the products being sold
5)    McDonalds and Subway are both rip offs here- $5 6”? no thank you!

Overall it was a great experience. I considered it a success from the start because one of the first things I did was achieve one of my goals for my time here- buy Harry Potter in Spanish! It was so tempting to buy more than one but that’s a lot of dough to throw down so I bought the first one and Nathan bought the fifth one and we decided we could always share when we get back to school.
When I got back from the mall I watched TV with my host parents. It was fun because I finally got to watch some shows made by Costa Ricans. Other than the nightly news and morning show I have only seen shows from the US dubbed/ with subtitles or shows from Mexico or other Spanish speaking countries. One of the shows we watched was called “1/2 Docena” which means half dozen in Spanish. It was a comedy show that was actually pretty funny. It was made up of lots of little skits and used lots of witty jokes and word play. A fun way to end my night! :)

Jessie and I had decided the night before that Saturday morning we would run some errands around San Rafa. So at 10:30 we set off for the post office, as we both had some post cards to mail. To our surprise the post office here is closed on Saturdays! Close to the post office is a movie rental place that we were going to check out to see if they had X-Men (because we saw the new one in theaters the day before and now really wanted to see the others again). To our surprise the movie place was also closed. We knew of another place a little farther away so we walked the extra 5 minutes to get to the other store, which we discovered wasn’t open until noon on Saturdays. Laughing at our comedy of errors, we headed home and decided to try again at 2 when it would be open. It was pouring at two so we decided to wait until 3 hoping the rain would mellow out by then… it didn’t but we decided to go anyway! We walked to the store where we discovered that you need your passport number to start an account so we had to walk back to our houses for a passport! On our way back the third time we discovered that the closer one was open and had X-Men! It was a success-finally!
At night Jessie and I went with my parents to church- a different church than the one we had visited two weeks prior. This church was also Catholic but of the group my parents are a part of so it was more interactive. They did communion by walking around to each individual so Jessie and I felt unbelievably uncomfortable when we had to tell the guy no. We were the only ones- other than the young children- who didn’t take communion. We were like “no seriously guys we love Jesus too its just that we’re not baptized Catholic!” sups awk…

            My parents took Jessie and I to see a place that is owned by their church group because its up in the mountain and really beautiful. The drive was cool because we saw a different part of the country than we have before. Plus, I think they were pretty proud to show us around this beautiful place that they go to often.
            After the little adventure we had, we hung out with Jacob and Nathan. We bought some pan dulce and went to watch X-Men at Jessie’s house. We watched it in Spanish with Spanish subtitles and it wasn’t difficult to understand. Now we really need to watch the next two because they are much better made! Its really fun watching movies in Spanish because you learn new vocab words and its just exciting to know that you know what’s going on, even thought its not in English! :)

            I know it sounds like I’m only goofing off here but let the record show that I also worked on my paper this weekend! I’m writing it about the mistreatment of women here in Costa Rica- a really interesting topic but kind of depressing/angering. I’m about four pages in right now. It’s a big deal to have started, I feel like getting started is half the battle! I still have more to do but it’s not as daunting now that I am a few pages in. It is supposed to be 5-10 pages long and I still have to do an interview with someone in this field here, which I am currently setting up and I think will be really interesting.

Today: (Monday)
            I had class in the morning then after lunch went with two guys to la Una (short for Universidad) in Heredia. We were doing research for a presentation, next week we have to take the rest of the class to show them around our site. It was cool to see the national university; it’s a lot bigger than Wheaton but still smaller than you might think a national university might be!
            Now I’m just working on homework at Jessie’s house because she has internet… woo!

Hope everyone is having a great week!

viernes, 17 de junio de 2011

Ingles y/or Spanish

I'm trying to be better about more updates with less info each so here's another update for y'all!
         With the extra class in the afternoon and English class at night, Wednesdays are long days. Nevertheless, I really enjoy the interactions we have with the people each week. The students know English fairly well, como 300 level about so its not difficult to communicate with them. Their homework assignment for this week was that they bring something to demonstrate for the class and teach us how to do. One taught us how to tango and used my to demonstrate. That was pretty fun!
         We led the class by ourselves this week because the director of the university was busy. It was a snap and I think we all enjoyed ourselves. I am very glad to have had this opportunity to experience an English class in a Spanish speaking country.

         After class the girls (no boys allowed!) went to Heredia for a shopping trip. We walked around looking for a thrift store that Amanda had been to with her host mom. It took us awhie to find it but we found lots of cool shops along the way!
         For dinner we had a professora from Whitworth visit our house. I got to play the translator since she only spoke a little bit of Spanish and my host-parents don’t speak any English. It was actually easier than I thought it would be, although it was confusing to switch back and forth between the languages! Sometimes I’d start speaking Spanish to the professor on accident! Overall it was a really great experience and I was really glad I had the opportunity to do it!

miércoles, 15 de junio de 2011

Starting the week off rough

Okay here I go again! I’ll finish out my description of my weekend and the beginning of this week.

Saturday Night:
            After dinner we had a “noche de las chicas” (girls night) because there are only 5 girls in our group. We turned on the TV in our hotel room and ended up watching part of Kung-Fu Panda in Spanish while we painted our nails and had Oreos and milk. You can definitely find Oreos at every grocery store here but it makes sense because people don’t really make their own cookies here. They cook a lot but cookies are usually store bought.

            After breakfast on Sunday all of us students went on a boat ride. It was optional and I kind of didn’t want to go because I was so exhausted but since everyone else was going I wasn’t going to sit in the hotel room alone all day so I decided to go. It was nice but we were all so tired from all the activities and the sun that we spent most of the ride laying down. (I only took one picture on the boat but others took some and tagged me in them if you have any desire to check it out)
            After about an hour and a half of the boat trip we stopped so we could snorkel. I have snorkeled before in Jamaica but this was different because the driver of the boat came out with us and brought some crackers with him. “The fish love me” he told me and within seconds 30 fish were swimming all around us! It was amazing. I put my hand out and he dropped cracker on it and the fish were freakin out all around me! It was crazy because they were swimming right in front of me- I didn’t even need my goggles.
            I was feeling pretty sun sick and a little seasick so after seeing the fish I headed back to the boat with a few of the guys and we just laid out, trying not to upset our stomachs which was quite a task considering how much the boat was rockin.
            We had lunch on the boat so when we got back to the hotel we were basically ready to go. We gathered up our stuff, some of us took a quick shower near the pool and changed into clean clothes for the three-hour ride back. (The only clothes I had clean that wouldn’t be too tight on my sunburned legs were my lime green tie dye boxers which I paired with my pink and purple tie dye wife beater… ew! It was a pretty obnoxious combo!)
            Most of our group fell asleep on the bus but it was too bumpy for me to sleep so I watched The Italian Job with Jacob, who was sitting next to me- neither of us had seen it before so that was nice. We borrowed Nathan’s iTouch because it had movies loaded on it so we had to trade off holding it every 10 minutes! It was a pretty ridiculous experience.
            When I got home it was so nice to shower and finally get all the sand off of me that I couldn’t escape at the hotel. My parents had gone on a trip that day as well so we were all exhausted and went to bed at 9- I know I’m a lame college student but I love sleep!

            My goal for this week is to speak Spanish more than English. We’re all starting to realize how little time we have here in Costa Rica and how important it is for us to take advantage of every opportunity we have to speak Spanish here. It easy when we’re all together to switch to English but there are a few people in the group who are really good at staying in Spanish so I’m trying to follow their example.
            At night I was feeling kind of nauseous. I think it was a mix of sun-sickness and exhaustion. My host parents were very caring and took great care of me. I ended up going to bed at 7 because I just didn’t want to do anything but sleep. I felt bad that I was sick because I was complicating for them what was already a pretty sucky day.
            The aunt of my host-mom died Monday morning. She had been in the hospital for about three weeks and everyone knew it was coming but it was still sad. She was the mom of the host-mom of Jessie, the girl from our trip who lives right next to me, so that has been a strange situation for her to go through.
            My host-mom had to go to the funeral for her aunt in the morning and to top it all off I found out before I went to the University that their daughter had a miscarriage. She is 33 years old and has been married for two years now. Apparently last year the same thing happened, she got pregnant and after about a month lost the baby. I knew they were worried that it would happen again so it was so sad when I found out it had. They all have a great attitude during this difficult time though. They are trusting that God has a plan, even though it is not at all what they would have wanted in this moment. If you think of it, this family could really use your prayers right now.