Thursday, July 15, 2010

So long, farewell...

Thank you so much for your prayers and support during finals… as far as I know, they went really well! I can hardly believe that I will be on an airplane only 48 hours from now! CRAZY! These past two months have been full of adventure, challenges, changes, and BEAUTIFUL memories that I know I will treasure forever. Here are a few examples that I’d love to share with you.
1. I have seen monkeys, dolphins, lizards, iguanas, a sloth and a stingray in their natural habitats. How cool is God, with creatures like THOSE walking (slash swimming slash slithering) around?
2. I now enjoy my mid-afternoon coffee (I was surprised, too).
3. I have had a dream in Spanish and thoughts have started occurring to me in the language.
4. I have become MUCH more comfortable dancing…this is a big accomplishment, because I am pretty sure that I de-planed with two left feet two months ago!
5. I have experienced the evidence of the beauty of my Savior in His creation over and over again, in the taste of salt in the Pacific, in the sun streaming down to the rainforest floor, in the sound of little lizards in the night…and, most importantly, in new ways in my own life.
Thank you all so much for accompanying me on my own “Great Adventure” in this beautiful country… I will write to you all one more time from my OWN homeland very shortly!
! Gracias por todo el apoyo y amor!
Costa Rica Chica

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Stars and Stripes Forever

Hi friends!

This will be brief due to the fact that I have five final exams in the next two days, but I had some things I just couldn’t wait to share with you!

First, the beach was AMAZING! It was just what everyone needed to relax a little before finishing up academically. Swimming, dancing, eating LOTS of American food (it is an area with a LOT of tourists…the hotel catering service is aware of this fact and capitalizes on it J), and bonding as a group were all on the menu. Also, I had my first dream IN SPANISH! This was incredibly exciting…now I can just sleep instead of study! On second thought…. J

Fourth of July here was an amazing testament to the strength of American patriotism—I celebrated with 2,500 other Americans and their immediate families at a special picnic. There was cotton candy, hot dogs, square dancing, bounce houses, ice cream, popcorn, antique cars and even an Uncle Sam! Hearing so much English was a little bit strange, yet refreshing! Previously, I had been afraid that, as a girl with a patriotic heart from birth (Cross into the Blue! Aim high! GO AIR FORCE!), this day would be difficult in another country. On the contrary: my love of my roots was re-affirmed, as it has been continually throughout this experience. I love Costa Rica, but living here has certainly given me a greater since of pride in my own country.

On the prayer note, I am really struggling with something right now and your prayers would be VERY much appreciated: we are split into two classes on the trip: advanced and intermediate. I am in the intermediate group. We have 5 classes a day, and the only main difference in the two groups is in the grammar class, but the groups are separated all day long to make class size smaller (there are like 12 in each class). Yesterday in our literature class, the professor told us how much more intelligent the other class is. I can feel myself getting upset as I write this…it is very difficult to feel judged in that way while trying to learn something totally new. Another professor said something similar to the other class, and I know that it is very trivial, but I am having a rough time of dealing with it. The issue is not about intelligence: the students in my class have all only had the first 5 semesters of college level Spanish. The other class is more advanced by nature; they have all taken more classes, one is a native speaker, and several are Spanish majors. Please pray that I keep this logic in mind and go into the exams with a humble attitude accompanied by a sense of confidence in the ability that He has given me to understand this new language and to understand that people say things without thinking in Spanish, too!

I am very excited to see you all VERY soon! Thank you again for your support!

Love from Costa Rica and “hasta pronto”!

Costa Rica Chica

Thursday, June 24, 2010

So, though, before and about

I find myself more and more comfortable with my second language on almost a daily basis. I am taking the above four words as evidence of this. When I am talking to my host parents, I ALWAYS say “so” and “though” in English! I know these words in Spanish; I am not sure where that knowledge gets lost in between my brain and my mouth, but I have a suspicion that it is behind my left molar. In the beginning, I pre-scripted everything before I said it. Now, I am doing that less and less, which is probably why “Spanglish” is being produced. I have taught my host family these two words in English so that my sentences don’t sound so much like this to them: “I don’t really think we’ll end up going to the park, whovilleopoly.” Or “Snoozlephone that is why the water was cold this morning!” They are so incredibly patient with me, though, and are VERY helpful with pronunciation. How funny I must look to outsiders when I am at a clothing store with my host mom saying “Jer-sey. Jer-sey. Jersey!” over and over again as she coaches me through it!

Now, this problem does not limit itself to the Spanish language. If I am speaking a sentence in English to one of the other students, I seem to always say “before” and “about” in Spanish. Friends, I apologize in advance for the craziness that I will likely speak on returning! Hopefully my ability to communicate effectively is not impaired too much…! If so, we can try charades. I am a fan.

Also on the language note, I was able to understand probably about 85% of Toy Story 3! This is such a God thing – He has held my hand through this language learning process in a way that made it seem much less like pulling teeth! And, as evidence, I have the comprehension ability of the small children that the movie was targeted for! It was so cute—I HIGHLY recommend it. If not seeing in 3-D is an option, I’d vote for that because the 3-D part was not worth paying extra money for (here it is only in 3-D, though). There was a little kid sitting behind me who will make a great sports commentator one day. Normally, this probably would have been irritating, but it was actually quite helpful. If I didn’t understand what had just happened completely, or if I didn’t know the word to refer to some object in the scene, there was a good chance that he would say it and I would have a second chance to catch it!

That is all from this language-scrambled part of the world for the moment! I hope that you are all having a lovely day, and once again, thank you for your prayers. He’s holding me so close here, and I know I have amazing family and friends who are laying me before Him regularly.
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

Pensando en ti,
Costa Rica Chica

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Hola friends!

This week has been full of excitement, and it is only Wednesday! On Sunday I went to a different church—this one was in the capital and was so amazing. They are a big body, so big that they now meet in a tent outside until their new building is finished! Of course, this made me think of my church family at home and our new building. I miss you all very much, but it is awesome to witness Him working here, too! How cool! Also, we sang Mighty to Save! It was awesome! The sermon was about daddies, and I certainly missed mine (and still do!). However, I got to talk to him on the phone for a while and that was so good. Attention internet world: I have the best parents in the world!

Monday I went out shopping with one of my friends and had some ice cream under the Golden Arches – some things are universal! ☺ Yesterday my host family took me to see the baby whose party I went to again. She is so sweet! I find myself afraid to talk to her too much, though: she is just learning how to speak and I don’t think I can be of much assistance! However, hugs are bilingual and can’t be mispronounced! ☺

Yesterday my host dad said something very interesting. He wants to learn to speak English because he wants to be able to help tourists who are lost here. “How sad it is to watch them be so confused and to be completely unable to communicate, unable to help. We can’t connect like that.” I feel like there was some deeper truth there, deeper than just language differences. Jesus came here to “speak our language,” to connect, and to really LIVE with us. The Creator of the Universe came HERE and lived our language, so we wouldn’t have to be unconnected, looking and not finding. Wow. Please join me in rejoicing in THAT!

Today I will be going to see Toy Story 3 in Spanish! I am very excited about this! Also, it is 2 for 1 day at the theater, so I am getting a good deal! ☺ Jaco is on the agenda for this weekend – it is our first beach experience here and I am looking forward to it! I will be sure to post pictures here upon my return!

My presentation went well on Monday; thank you very much for your prayers!

Love from Central America,
Costa Rica Chica

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Coffee, Anyone?

The smell wafted through the air. Warm in my hand, the beverage was the rich color of the Costa Rican soil. Looking at it one more time and attempting to pretend like I thought I would like it, I took a sip. Coffee!
No, I am still not a fan, but I did manage to drink a whole glass (sample sized, naturally!). I think it flows through the blood of the Costa Ricans, so I am so glad that today I got to experience a coffee plantation! It was huge, but not very active as it is not currently time for coffee harvest.
We had a tour guide explain the entire process, from planting the coffee tree to using its wood in Costa Rican furniture. I bought a bracelet made out of coffee beans, which now has me frequently putting my wrist up to my nose (I love the smell, just not the taste). It was so cool to learn all about the harvest and production! Also, nearly 70% of the coffee that they produce is sold to… (drum roll)…Starbucks!
Last week I fought my biggest battle yet with homesickness; it was difficult but God is totally with me here and I have been blessed with an AMAZING family in “Los Estados” that has been able to talk to me almost every night, which helps so much! Also, my “family” here is SO great – I am almost always home in the evenings because I love just sitting at home with them! We visit, laugh, and watch the news and soap operas. This ritual has been extremely helpful in my Spanish education: they answer all my crazy vocabulary questions and I learn so much!
On Friday they took me to the fruit market in town with them. It was SO BIG! They have about 150 tables set up under a huge metal roof and people come every week to buy and sell fruits and veggies! It was so neat. My host mom bought 12 bananas for less than 80 cents! I tried to explain to her that fruit was more expensive in the US, but she kept shaking her head like she couldn’t even believe it! So funny!
I have a big presentation in my history and culture class on Monday during which my conversation and grammar teachers will be present and listening for pronunciation and grammar errors. Your prayers for that are most definitely appreciated! Also, please thank Him for the community I have here! People who love Him and who love me are definitely present, that has been SO good! I love the way He sets that up!
Thankful for all of you!
~Costa Rica Chica

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Two weeks...TONS of memories!

Hey wonderful friends!

I did not type this out ahead of time, so it may be brief, but I wanted to make sure that you all had a glimpse into the recent happenings in this tropical nation!

Last week was the trip to the Indian reservation and I cannot even begin to describe how amazing it was! We were able to interact so much with the children; it was fantastic to be awarded that tiny glimpse into their lives! There is a school on the reservation, and it has students in K-12. We slept under a mosquito net, climbed trees, led a class one day (that was a surprise, fun, but a bit challenging!), and ran a “store” to give out the aide that we brought from the States. So cool!

The week before I got to visit the actual rainforest and see it three different ways! Monteverde was amazing (I am really lost for adequate adjectives, sorry), and seeing God’s creation up close in a virgin rainforest was…wow! We walked through during the day and then returned for a night tour. Kid you not: I saw a spider whose body (legs not included) was about the size of a golf ball! EWW! The guide said he was harmless…I have my doubts. He was big enough to be a pet! The next day, we took a “bridge tour” and saw everything from above – that was such an incredible experience!

Between these two adventures were my midterms (hard to believe we are already at the halfway point!). I had five and have the results back for four of them: 3 As and 1 B. Praise God – all of these exams were entirely in Spanish! I am so excited that He helped me concentrate through them despite all the potentially distracting things here!

Another thing to praise Him for: while on the reservation, one of the students from the group wanted to talk about my Jesus – SOOOO cool! I cannot share too many details, but please join me in rejoicing in the open door! In the way of other prayers, prayers for strength of body (I am always tired; I think it is because my brain is in overdrive) would be greatly appreciated!

I am very excited to share ALL of my pictures with you all when I return (along with a big plate of “platanos” – a personal favorite which my host mom has promised to teach me how to prepare), but here is another sneak peek: these are from Monteverde and the reservation.

With the One,
Costa Rica Chica

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

“Una Muñeca” in their midst

This new nickname comes from the birthday celebration I attended on Sunday for my host family’s niece, Abigail, who just turned one (this was a fantastic time: I LOVED it!). Translated, it means doll, which I am nearly 100% sure is a combined reference to my hair and my pale skin…hehehe! I like it, though. I feel like part of the family.

These past three days have been HUGE! On Saturday the whole group went to tour an active volcano; we were able to stand over the crater and look into it (and smell the sulfur…that part wasn’t as cool)! It was so neat! LOTS of pictures were involved!

Sunday morning found me in attendance at Centro Cristiano Vida Nueva (New Life Christian Center). Three other students went along and we all were placed in a Sunday school class with the youth group. Their classroom was on a patio outside overlooking the majesty that is this place – it was so neat to fellowship with the body in another language! I was able to understand more of the lesson than I had anticipated. After church was the birthday party, complete with Costa Rican music and Minnie Mouse decorations! So fun!

Today I ran errands around town with my host parents, which marks our first real outing. Afterwards, they bought me ice cream at this adorable (and delicious!) place on the square. My host dad and I then proceeded to take sides on which was better: ice cream or coffee. Considering I am in a country whose main export is coffee, I feel the winner of this little debate is clear!

After the errands in town were finished, they drove me out to their son-in-law’s farm (he lives next door to us but owns land far away). We were bringing fruit seeds that we had dried to be planted. On the way, they pointed out coffee plants and sugar cane; it was cool to see those things in real life!

When we arrived at the farm, we were greeted by a man who I was introduced to as the worker of the land. He planted the seeds and visited with us with a smile (he knows my host parents very well already). Then, they took me for a little walk around their farm, during which I couldn’t help but notice little eyes staring at us. His family was observing the tour from their makeshift home that is located on the edge of the property. Two little faces peered out from behind walls of scrap metal.

Friends, I was hit immediately with a realization about how very, VERY blessed we are. You are sitting right now in a room that is likely air conditioned while looking at the screen of some electronic device that likely isn’t necessary wearing nice clothes with full knowledge of the existence of your next meal. I am not trying to preach from a soap box, but not realizing this often enough is something I am definitely guilty of. And yet it points out something incredibly real; if your joy is found in your possessions, good luck finding it. I ask only that you join with me in this prayer, first praying that I would be fearless enough to pray it fervently. My desire is that my eyes would be continually opened to a new awareness of the needs around us. My desire is that I would have a heart that is readily responsive to His leading. My desire is that I would love in a way that strives to mimic the way I have been Loved (He’s so beyond legit).

~Costa Rica Chica

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My favorite classroom isn't on the university's campus...

I am liking my classes very much, and doing well thus far (9/10 on my first quiz!), but the best things I’ve learned have not taken place inside the classroom. I’ve compiled a bit of a list, I hope you find it as …umm….educational as I have! :)

1. When riding a zip line through the jungle, going fast may be fun, but knowing how (and, perhaps more importantly, when) to use the brakes is also a good thing (unless you prefer to get extremely close to trees). Luckily, there was an able-bodied guide on the platform where I learned this little lesson. Also, that zip line was so much fun! I sang His praise will flying over His creation – how cool is that?!?!?! That was over this past weekend, and I was also able to see monkeys in their natural habitat and ride a horse! So fun!

2. Don’t wear body spray in an area known for its jungles. Hahaha. You might think I would have been more insightful than that…but I have about 10 bug bites to prove otherwise. Thanks mom for the Benadryl stick! It works wonders!

3. If you are trying to leave the impression that Americans are less of a consumerist culture than foreign nations assume, your best bet is to avoid a conversion about Black Friday. However, this remains one of my very favorite conversations I have had with my host parents. Both their eyes got HUGE: “The stores open how early?” It was so fun! They laugh with me a lot over various things, not limited to the way I ask a million questions while we watch our evening soap opera together. I have really bonded with them and they are so great!

4. Wearing a skirt to mass is not only not necessary, it is not advisable. Turns out, kneeling while in a skirt is a bit of a trick (I was the only one not wearing jeans or dress pants)! In other news, my first ever mass was last night (yep, on a Tuesday) and I went with my host mom. She was so patient with my complete lack of awareness, and I am excited to go to worship with her more often and learn more about this part of their culture.

Hope that was insightful! Thank you again for your prayers (I really cannot say that enough, but I am going to continue to try. Please continue to pray for focus in school as there is SO much here that is distracting. Also, please pray that our group will be able to be of service and show His kind of love (there are several of us on the trip that are in to spreading it around! Praise Him for community!) when we go to bring aid to an indigenous people group in two weeks. I will update again soon!

¡Hasta luego!

Costa Rica Chica
About the pictures: The umbrella is the essential Costa Rican accessory! That is one cool tree, so I thought I'd get a hug from it! And I don't have time to flip that one on my limited internet time (so sorry! Tilt your head a little...a little more...just right!), but I swam in that waterfall! It was so cool!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

¡Soy (casi) Tica!

“I am (almost!) Costa Rican!” Well, that might be a bit of a stretch, but I am significantly closer than I was 4 days ago! I cannot even hope to describe how amazing it has been: SO much has happened in such a short period of time!

I will start with the beginning (and proceed to get a song from the Sound of Music flowing through your minds!): when I arrived, my host mom and her granddaughter (who is an English major here!) came to get me at the airport. It was fairly late in the evening, so we didn’t really visit much, but I think the granddaughter had a phenomenal grasp of my nervousness (as a foreign language student herself) and so she spoke very slowly and clearly to me. I was able to talk about my family in “Los Estados” (who I miss VERY much) with my family here. Though it is unlikely that I will see their granddaughter again, she was SUCH a blessing that first evening! I went to bed less apprehensive because both of my host parents are amazing! In fact, when I told my host dad that I was nervous about the first day of school here, he said “You have nothing to be nervous about. You are smart and you understand a lot now.” Thanks to God for those words of affirmation – in Spanish!

School that first day was nothing too stressful, although today marked the true beginning of classes. It was difficult, but I know that I will improve so quickly because of it! Immersion is already showing its benefits; I am much more confident in my Spanish (not that I mess up less, just that I am less timid!). I am not allowed to speak any English, except on the phone with my parents (which has only happened for one brief time, unfortunately). To all whom I promised a “Skype date” – as my internet access is extremely limited (blog posts will be “copy-and-paste” and posted from the home of a friend who has internet access or from school between classes), I am not sure when it will work out but thank you very much for your patience! I miss you all very much! Also, I visited the post office yesterday and I am now fully prepared (and extremely excited!) to write to you!

I am already in love with this country (don’t worry dad – I am not engaged to a citizen!) and it has been less than a week! The weather is amazing; hot but sunny! Every afternoon from one to three I am blessed by the sound of a cooling rain which comes like a breath of fresh air to bring relief from the heat. They say this is normal; it will likely happen every day! I love it! My host home is extremely secure: I am currently equipped with a key ring that holds together like 5 different keys!

God is so present here (as always, I know)! I am not usually a “nature girl,” but anyone who sees this environment cannot help but see the truth in Psalm 19:1-4. Even now as I write, that glorious downpour is flowing like His mercy from the heavens, rushing down to meet with a thirsty land. What a “God thing”!

The other students on the trip are great; those that live in my neighborhood and I already have plans to go to lunch tomorrow in town and browse around all of the shops. Speaking of food—WOW! My host mom is an AMAZING cook; I have eaten so many yummy things already! She refuses to accept the possibility that one dish would be enough; I think my breakfast yesterday had 3 courses! To all those who may have been worried that I would return emaciated: no way!

As far as the things that I would love for you to lay at the feet of my First Love, first and foremost PRAISE HIM! So much of these first few days have been clear testaments of His love for me and it is a truly beautiful thing. I have a comfort that I know would not be afforded without Him. I am truly having a GREAT time! Also, please pray that I don’t become unnecessarily stressed by school, but that I am able to remain academically focused as I am taking a full semester of credit while I am here.

Thanks so much for your prayers and sweet comments! I leave you with the motto of my home for the next two months:

¡Pura Vida!

~Costa Rica Chica

Thursday, May 13, 2010

El principio

Excited. Scared. Nervous. Thrilled. Blessed. Apprehensive. The previous words do a fairly good job of expressing my current range of feeling. I will be, in less than 3 days, boarding a plane that will start me off on what I am sure will prove to be a GREAT adventure!

My packing experience has, thus far, gone rather smoothly. Everything (well, nearly everything) I need is scattered about the living room floor, and it seems that it will be well within the limits set by the airline. I am not sure how I managed to pack and have extra room; as a "what if...(fill in extremely unlikely circumstance here)...?" packer, this is a huge accomplishment!

Also, I received an unexpected blessing for which I am extremely grateful: I was put into contact with the young lady who had my host family on the trip last summer! She has told me about them and about their home and routines. She truly loved them and her excitement for me was evident. Praise God for that reassurance!

I am currently praying about an immunization I have to receive tomorrow as it is likely that it will leave me feeling less-than-my-best for a bit. Also, as before, please pray that my ability to communicate in Spanish would be surprisingly greater than I expected. This is the aspect that has me the most nervous, but also the most excited for chances to improve and challenge myself! He is so faithful, though, and I know that He will give me the words to say (in the language I need to say them!). His love is greater than my uncertainty about these coming months; I know He's "got it"!

Thanks so much for your love, prayers, and support! I will miss you all greatly but I am so excited to be sharing my adventures with you through this blog! My next post will be from...COSTA RICA! :)

~Costa Rica Chica

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Hi friends!

Welcome to my blog! Ha! That seems strange... I suppose I will get used to it soon! :)

I am so very excited to be leaving for Costa Rica in only twelve short days, and I would love to share my adventures with you. I don't know what this summer holds, but I know that the One who does has great plans for me and I feel so blessed that included in those is this trip!

I am currently feeling, admittedly, a bit nervous, but also so very excited! We had our last meeting as a group before our departure last Sunday. Receiving the piece of paper that described my host family was so exciting: I will be living in the "nicer" neighborhood with a couple whose two adult children no longer live in the house. My host mom is a homemaker...hopefully this parallel will make me miss home a little bit less! Most excitingly, I found out that I will be living in the same neighborhood as a new friend from the group, Cathy. Cathy and I are both in Campus Christian Fellowship, and we are excited to "church shop" in Costa Rica (as well as actual shopping, I am sure! :) ) The fact that she will be close to my house is so reassuring and exciting!

I will likely post again prior to my departure. Your prayers are envied--specifically, please pray that I will continue to be filled with His peace that gives me the confidence to walk boldly through doors He has opened.

¡Te abraza mucho!
~Costa Rica Chica