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. 


martes, 14 de junio de 2011

Una Adventura

So, my second update… It took me longer than I had planned to post a second time in this blog. Who knew being a blogger was so time intensive?

I think I’ll keep going in my day by day summary of my week- its easier for me to keep it straight in my head!

After class a few of us stayed at the University to help with an English class. There were maybe 8 people who came, all neighbors or friends of the university, and 5 of us helping our professor so it was really chill. We helped plan the activities and had a blast watching them learn. It was really refreshing to have the tables turned- finally we were the ones who knew what we were saying!

After class a dance instructor came to the university to teach us some moves. It was pretty hilarious watching everyone try horribly to do what the teacher did so well! Some of the guys, who as you know are supposed to be leading, had no clue what was going on while others were loving it and really knew what they were doing.

            We met at 7 to leave for Jacó- our first excursion! During our voyage on the bus it was so sunny, we were so excited to get to the beach! When we got there it was dark and rainy… and the beach was awful! The tides are so rough and the beach was mostly rocks so it was too painful to spend time in the water. Jacob and I ended up making a mermaid with the limited sand we had available to us. After lunch we convinced Profe to take us to a different beach and that was a lot nicer so we spent the afternoon playing in the waves and trying to body surf. Despite the clouds and the sunscreen I put on in the morning my back got burnt after spending so much time bent over working on my sand creation. The sun here is unbelievably powerful.

            Our hotel was very close to the Parque Manuel Antonio where we spent our whole day on Saturday. We took a tour through the park, which was kind of jungle-ish. We saw tons of beautiful flowers, strange insects, mischievous monkeys, lazy sloths, and even a toucan. After the tour we spent about two hours on the most beautiful beach. I spent most of my time laying out in the sand which was fun because the waves would come up often to where we were laying and attack us.
            I got pretty burnt on my legs because I didn’t reapply sunscreen as often as I should have. Whoops… Also, we all learned that we need to get better about drinking water when we’re in the sun. I drink multiple nalgeens each day at the university but it was more difficult to remember to drink when we’re on the beach. I think we all got sun sick.

I’m running low on battery now so I’ll stop here and finish up when I can!
Hope life in the United States is going fantastically! :)


martes, 7 de junio de 2011

Life in Costa Rica

Buenos Días!

As of yesterday I have been in Costa Rica for two whole weeks… so crazy! And I only have six and a half left---this summer is going to go by so quickly! So many things have happened in these two weeks that I thought a blog would be the easiest way to keep everyone posted… I’m going try to not blabber too much and just some up a few highlights of my past week so as not to bore you with too much detail! Haha

Tuesday and Wednesday:
·      we stay late in the afternoon for our Latin American Theology class- its amazing! I’m learning so much and I really enjoy the professor.
·      We were afraid at first all our classes together would be an impossible amount of work but our professors talked and cut it down to a manageable level- Praise God! The last thing I want to do while trying to experience CR is hours of homework every night!

·      We watched “a ojos cerrados” for our class- a movie about Costa Rican life that is 100% Costa Rican made and really good! It was cool to make all the connections to life here.
·      Half our group went to the mall in Heredia (about 20 minutes from my house) to buy books for class and watch the new Pirates movie. It was super cheap even though it was in 3D (the subtitles shot out at us! Haha) and it was strange to think so many people here go to see a movie that isn’t even in their native language! It was neat to read the subtitles and see how it was translated- with all the pirate lingo it was pretty tricky!

·      I spent the day with Montserrat (my 10 year old God-sister) and we had a blast playing cards, watching TV, and walking around the neighborhood.
·      Someone’s host mom arranged for us to have a bus to go to a club to dance. Only 3 of us girls went and 6 of the guys! It was really fun, even though we left at 9:20- the time I’m usually getting ready for bed here (I know I’m lame…) and didn’t get back until 3am. We all looked pretty foolish trying to dance to the Latin music and but we all tried our best. I danced one on one with each of the guys plus a Costa Rican that came with us and a 50 something man who was there with his family! I definitely learned a lot from them but since the songs never ended it got a little awkward! Luckily the boys were watching me and came to my rescue! The dancing was fast paced and by the end of the night even all of us were dripping sweat and having a blast! It was a great work out!

·      Went with 5 other students into San Jose (the capital) to visit some cultural sites for one of our classes. It was off and on raining all afternoon (like it does every afternoon!) so it was kind of “glumpy” as one of my friends named it (because it was gloomy and we were grumpy). None of us really like the big city- we much more prefer Heredia or our little San Rafael.
·      I had an actively hot shower- the first since I got to my host-house! It was the most beautiful surprise! J

·      A few of us helped planting small trees and flowers as well as putting in a little path in our local park. It looks great, even though we weren’t able to go all the way around the park like they wanted. It was a classic Costa Rican venture- Jessie and I got there at 8 and didn’t get started until 9- when others finally showed up. It was organized well enough but we didn’t have very many shovels so we were often slowed down, which really doesn’t matter to a Costa Rican, whose slogan is “tranquilla!” which basically means chill/don’t worry. A great reminder for me! :)
·      At night we watched the Costa Rica-Cuba soccer game- CR WON! It was 5-0 and my host dad was flipping out at every goal! Haha

I’m really enjoying the people here and making some friends from our trip. My host parents continue to take fantastic care of me and are overall really interesting people! I’m getting lots of sleep (except for Friday night…) and am actually a little bit ahead on my homework after a weekend without Internet access to distract me!

I hope everything is going as well with you all in the States! :)

All my love,