Thursday, October 30, 2008

I got back from Nicaragua about 4 days ago and have been desperately trying to collect myself before I head off to the countryside for a month to work on a farm, living with a new family. I leave in 3 days. I honestly don´t know what to say at this moment in time and I apologize to those who have been reading. This is a blog, and I´m supposed to write everything, but I know justice wouldn´t be done. As of this moment, I have a little over a month left here in Central America and I´m still not quite sure why I feel an emptiness inside. Don´t get me wrong, I´ve have some incredible experiences, made some unforgettable relationships, and been introduced to some life altering concepts and realities.... yet there´s still something missing. I love being here. I´ve said that before. Yet, i´m still just unsure exactly what needs to take place in my heart for me to feel ¨right¨. Maybe its cuz for the first time when i came back from Nicaragua, i missed home. Or maybe its perhaps i´m not quite sure what to make of my 5 day experience with my Nicaraguan family, who adored me with nothing but a self-less love and unending generosity. And at the same time, i have so much invested here with my family in San Jose that I´m not terribly excited to leave them for a whole month to go live out in the campo with another family. I know it will be good, but like i told my parents in an email, I feel like my heart is being torn into pieces and those pieces are being left here and there, and with these people that i long to know. In the same breath, not being fluent in Spanish seems to prevent me from really having the time of experience I wanted in the first place, seemingly because so much of what goes on here seems to depend on my ability to understand and communicate.

I would try and tell you about Nicaragua, but i won´t. I´ll wait til another day, perhaps in person. I love you all. I am so blessed to be here. Sometimes and many times I wish it were easier and not so much of a challenge, but I suppose that´s not the point. Thanks for your prayers, thoughts, and comments. I may not have any more chances to blog until Cuba in December, but til then, I´ll do my best.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


It´s been almost 2 weeks since my last post. I apologize to those who have been faithfully reading. I probably won´t have many opportunities to post in the next while, but i´ll do my best to keep the line open. I´ll cut to the chase. I leave for Nicaragua on Monday for about 2 weeks, with the purpose in mind to rip open my heart and catch everything I see, hear, taste, smell, touch... everything I experience as I share life with people who have nothing. Nothing. Afterwards, we return to San José for about a week, and then we embark upon our concentrations, where I´ll be living in the campo for almost 4 weeks, in a community of about 20 families, about an hour away from the nearest civilized town. The mother is severely ill with cancer and has 2 kids. I´ll be working on a farm, mainly of naturally grown crops such as yuca, corn, etc. as well as cutting down trees illegally. That will be the month of November. After that, we return to our families in San José one last time for about 4 days, and then hopefully, my concentration travels to Cuba for 10 days and then we return to Miami in earlier December. Stop this train. Life is running fast.

We finally finished our Core Seminar as well as our 6 week long Language course yesterday. The last 2 weeks of class proved to be just about as overwhelming as you can get. I´m just glad the ¨stuff¨is over. But that also means the chunk of life here in San Jose with our families is over as well. In the same breath as being ready to experience what lies ahead in Nicaragua and beyond, I´m sincerely torn about having to leave my family here. Just when life with them begins to settle, when relationships become more than the words misspoken, misunderstood, and lost in translation, I´m required to leave. Once again, this reality is an aspect of this life I´ve experience before and it isn´t fair. When your heart is taught to love, yet it doesn´t take into account that your time is limited, your actual presence is only temporary. Sometimes it feels like a cruel joke. I guess that´s what you get in this life. Know that nothing stays the same. Yet somehow, everytime the heart is pierced, it runs back to the Place where trust and ¨confianza¨ remain. Sometimes hindsight can only bring purpose. But I am so grateful to be here. As high as the heights and as low as the lows have been, I am here, in this moment. For life is a life of moments. And He is loyal.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

¡Saprissa ganó!

I got sick for the first time. Nothing big, but just enough to make me think I may have caught some Caribbean-tired-and-more-tired sickness. Saturday night, I went to a real life, legitimate, once in a lifetime opportunity, Central American fútbol game. One word. Epic. Okay… maybe two words. Epic and rowdy. Let me explain. Prior to the game, I was patted down by a member of the fuerza publica (the police) for anything made of a hard substance; loose change, cell phones, cameras, pencils, rocks, whatever…. apparently they’ve had trouble in the past because overimpassioned fans have thrown objects at opposing teams’ players and have drawn blood on separate occasions, especially with the loose change. So basically, all you can take inside the stadium is your ticket (oh yeah, one of our classmates got his front pocket picked). So of course, we bought the cheapest tickets possible, thus our reward was standing in the most incredibly enthusiastic, marijuana smoking, anthem singing, rowdy section. I couldn´t have hoped for more. Throughout the course of the game, I heard and involuntarily memorized just about every Spanish swear word as well as a some Saprissa fight songs that filled the night with variety and unrelenting passion. Ten seconds after one song would subside, a new one would commence, more than often accompanied with drum blasts and bleacher bounding. Meanwhile, about every 30 seconds, our entire section would flip off the opposing teams´ players and fan section clear across the stadium. At one point in the game, dozens of Saprissa fans shot off about 6 rounds of roman candles and an allotment of different fireworks. Just because. I don’t know how they managed to smuggle them through police patdown, but they did. A lot of them did. We also threw hundreds of paper rolls, which turn into streamers once thrown into the air, onto the opposing team´s goal before the game started. Yeah... epic. En resumen (in summary), we thoroughly experienced 2 hours of genuine Costa Rican culture, donning Saprissa jerseys we bought for 6 bucks right before the game. Immediately after, only our rowdy section was required to wait for 45 minutes inside the stadium until all the opposing teams’ fans exited. Knife and rage fights break out routinely after games such as this, so apparently this was a new precautionary tactic. Nice. Besides inhaling marijuana smoke all game while being ill in the pouring rain, it was definitely “vale la pena”. Definitely worth the pain.

Love yáll.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Chasing Lions

Here are a few more pictures for the visually starved. The ones you see of me with the funky hat are from this last Monday, the 15th, which is the equivalent to our Fourth of July celebration. ¨El quince de setiembre¨is the official day of independence for Costa Rica. We watched the ¨desfiles¨ or parades of kids from the local colegios drum their hearts out for about 2 hours... band after band after band of kids drumming. Yeah. Anywho, the top one is of me, my classmate Rachel from Wheaton College, her mama Lorena who is quite hilarious, and of course mi hermana Carmen. The lower of the two is me, mi papa Don Mario, and Carmen. We decided to make a quick ¨trueque¨of styles... I rocked his hat for about half an hour as he proudly wore my youthful lid for awhile. It made for a good picture. The other two are from a while back, mi mama and Carmen at the church after the service and the other is of some street art right outside the Museo de Los Niños. There it is...

My apologies for not being prompt in keeping this thing updated. It´s been a hell of a week, if i may. I guess we should back up to last weekend. For our first trip together as a group outside of San Jóse, we made the journey last Friday cross country (all 2 1/2 hours worth) to the port city of Limón. The main focus of the trip was to explore the relationship between racism, discrimination, and poverty which was to be elaborated upon in an essay, which we turned in two days ago. Our primary task was to conduct at least 3 interviews with ciudadanos of Limón, especially those from African descent, which Limón has about 50% of the Afro population in Costa Rica. However, the excursion definitely was not all work and no play. I mean c´mon people, we´re in Costa Rica :) So following a rather busy and tiring Friday, we made for the beach on Saturday and spent most of the day body surfing the waves and soaking up the sun. It was a much needed and much appreciated mental rest (for the most part) from the constant grind of thinking, doing, living, and being in a whole new world where everything is a process. It was nice to just ¨be¨for a while. Both nights in Limón, many of us went out dancing, which turned out to be quite an experience. Not only is dancing fun, it´s seems to be a necessity life in Latin culture if you´re gonna be a well-rounded individual. I brushed up, with a little help from my friends, on my mad salsa skills, a little merengue, and of course just some straight up crunk with a reggatone twist. It was tight. No, i didn´t take any pictures, but we all seemed to agree we need to go back. Definitely one of the highlights so far.

Upon returning to reality once again, the week suddenly began with independence festivities on Monday. Tuesday we all went to the US Embassy and got the US perspective on CAFTA, a free trade policy between certain Latin American countries and the US which most Costa Ricans have no support for. Extremely boring, yet somehow mildly interesting simultaneously. Moving on... Thursday we had the pleasure of hearing from Oton Solís, the Costa Rican presidential candidate who was narrowly defeated during the last election and is projected to win next time around. He came and spoke to us for about 2 hours about the Latin American perspective regarding CAFTA. Great man with strong, competent convictions about the state of his country. Definitely would make a fine president, especially in Costa Rica. This week also contained our daily, 4 hour Spanish classes as well as the brutal task of knocking out two rather lengthy essays regarding poverty, race, and Costa Rica culture, both due during these last two days of the week. Let´s just say TGIF.

Other than that, the same old struggles remain. Speaking and trying to converse in another language is hard. Really hard. Most of the time, it´s impossible to understand mi mama. She speaks at an ungodly rate as it is, and if that isn´t challenge enough, sounds as though she constantly has pudding in her mouth. Every few days I have stretches of comprehension with her, but most of the time it takes a few attempts to get her gyst. Breakthroughs. Walls. Dark tunnels. Open fields with flowers... sometimes. I sincerely love my family and we have already had some epic times together... haha, epic times. But it´s definitely clear that this is one long roller coaster. And I know we´ve just barely conquered the first big dropoff. There´s many more to come, this I know. My best attempt to describe my current state might be this... I´m in a straight-jacket, my mouth is covered by duct tape, my ears have too much wax in them, and my feet are in a gunny sack. And i´m trying to punch, yell, comprehend, and run all at the same time... and I can´t. One word might narrow it even a bit more. Paralysis. Sometimes, this word defines my state of being. But, sooner or later, I´m confident one thing will break free, and i´ll find some feeling again. Another noose will be loosened, and then another, and another.... As cloudy as it may seem sometimes, I still can see the brightness of another Reality in it all. I´m fighting to get free... but I´m not fighting alone.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Finally, I found my inner photographer and started to snap a few pictures here and there. These take forever to load, so I´m starting with just a few. The first two are of mis padres, Dona Albertina and Don Mario, aka Mami y Papa. This is our house in the barrio Moravia, about 40 minutes by bus outside of downtown San Jose. The other is taken from the vantage point of my morning ¨parada¨ or bus stop, where I wait with Don Mario every morning at 6:30 am. Beautiful place. Here´s another of Carmen and I at the Museo Para Los Ninos, from our family outing on Sunday afternoon... and finally, one of my older brother Mario with his fiance. I found out today that he was born with a club foot too. I´m the first person he´s met to have the same problem/specialty. Destiny?

Thank you all for your comments and love...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Roma no fue construido en un dia

Every morning I wake up and reality seems to push the reset button as I re-learn how to exist in another world. I wake up and realize I can´t speak the same way I did in my dream. I wake up and come to grips with a world that seems limited to my capacity to speak.

We started our 5 week long Spanish class this Monday, all 46 of us split into 15 or so different classes, 3 or 4 students to one professor, based on the verbal skill level we exhibited in our interview. After 3 days of class, I can definitely say the excitement of vast and immediate improvement because of our baller Costa Rican professors has worn off. Not to say I´m not learning, it´s just difficult to accept the reality that this desire to speak another language effectively is going to take a lot of time and effort.

Yes, for three months, I have a new family. I can hardly understand mi mama, but every once in a while I surprise her with clarity in comprehension and I seem to make her smile more than what her normal quota would be. Don Mario reminds me in stature of Albert Eistein and is one big child at heart. ¨Pura Vida¨ is his life philosophy and his rendition of the Costa Rican national anthem and our shared appreciation for Popeye proves my theory. Carmen, my 22 year old sister, is a ¨sweety,¨ if I may. I feel most comfortable talking to her in my broken Spanish... probably because she meets my feeble attempts with a smile and a nod. Her stuffed bear didn´t have a name, so I took the liberty and named it ¨Georgy Porgy¨. She found that hysterical. I plan to reimburse her for giving me a new anthology of Spanish music by making her a CD of classic, epic, tasteful American music, all carefully plotted of course, according to her musical tastes. Marito is the youth pastor of the church we go to and I told him he has the hair of Jesus. Apparently no one had told him that before:) He´s a good man. I have yet to connect with Alexis, mainly because he retreats to his the dungeon of the computer room immediately after all meals and encounters. His time is coming :)

While walking home in the pouring rain, I realized a definite struggle inside my heart. A struggle to find a place to set my feet and jump off the cliffs I pass by every day. You´d think being here, in and of itself, would be large cliff to fall from. And it was. But now I feel the strain of needing... of wanting desperately to keep falling, not just settling for another soft bed to land. I know I´m only here for a few months, however it seems like we´ve already been here for a lifetime and that we will have another lifetime to make up our dang minds. I´m coming to a point and I know I need to make this experience black and white asap. I can´t sit on the fence anymore with my thoughts, with my anxieties, with my inadequecies, with my affection, and most of all with my heart. I need to let go, swallow all the pride I have left and jump.... again. Again and again and again... Holding onto nothing while falling upwards into the open sky that I knew somehow this short season would be like. I understand something needs to change. And it can change in an instant. Yet its in those moments of change that make it a journey. The strain of it all is overwhelming at times. Overwhelming in a totally new way, a way I´ve never known before. Nothing comes easy. Yes. Rome was not built in a day. (thanks Beth...:)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Es realidad

I´m here. It´s different. It´s beautiful. It´s hard. It´s surreal. But as I sit here in the comfortable confines of a rather posh, downtown San Jose internet cafe, typing and thinking in English as a torrential downpour waits for me outside, I realize that I like the rain. With all disregard to the discomfort we feel when we get soaked to the bone, we always appreciate the feeling of being dry once again. Without the rain, we wouldn´t know life in contrast. We wouldn´t know balance. We wouldn´t love wet and dry. Costa Rica is wet. It´s shocking the amount of wet I feel right now, but I know I´ll learn to be in it... each moment. Bring it on.
I´ll be honest, I´m exhausted and the thoughts of a safe, familiar place like home with a language and culture that I actually comprehend sounds.... amazing. However, I know I actually want to be here, and see the otherside... eventually.
Last night was my first night with a new family. While watching CSI Miami in Spanish, I chatted to the best of my ability with Don Mario, Doña Albertina, y Carmen, all the while wishing I could just let them know already what was really inside wanting to get out. I now understand the tremendous frustration and awkwardness the people of Babel felt following God´s practical joke on humanity. It sucks being human yet not being able, in many cases, to understand or be understood by another human being, no matter how hard you try. Not to say that I didn´t communicate at all. On the contrary, I had many successful, however small, conversations with my new family members and their friends, but it definitely is a new sensation of frustration. Yeah... but it´s good. Tis´good. And I´m glad. If it wasn´t hard, I don´t know if I would like it. It it wasn´t a challenge, I probably wouldn´t be here.
Today we explored the city and were nicely interrogated in an interview setting regarding our limited Spanish abilities. I´ve been ready to fall asleep all day, assuming getting up at 5:30 had nothing to do with the fatigue:) But my 30 minutes is about up.... so stayed tuned to higher levels of energy, thought processing, clarity, and course, claro que si, pictures as well. Amor a ustedes.