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)