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Guess Who's Coming to Breakfast?

Greetings and salutations my dear readers, it seems an eternity since last we chatted but the calendar says that it’s been just 9 days; what a busy little beaver I have been. This past week was spent exploring points beyond San Jose and attending to the obligations of daily life – as much as possible I attempted to document all of this with my camera. This has however left me with a plethora of pictures and topics from which to write about; you cannot begin to imagine the mental anguish I have endured as a result. Another jewel in my Heavenly crown I am sure. Anyway, I attempted to glean from my list the most interesting and noteworthy of topics, hold on tight boys and girls ‘cuz this little entry is gonna jump around.
On the last Saturday of September I and a group of friends set out for a hidden little farming community called Orosi Valley. A Tico friend of ours has a friend whose grandfather owns an orange plantation there. In very Latin fashion however, there was some miscommunication, lateness and a change of plans. We never actually got to see the plantation; the grandfather forgot we were coming, and our new friend Laura forgot her keys to the place. Instead we trudged around Orosi village in the rain – it was wonderful. The architecture, the tight-knit community feel, and the beauty of the landscape made the three hour journey there completely worthwhile. We visited a 400 year old Catholic Church, in which there are works of art, religious articles and very frightening life-size statues of Jesus, Mary and the Saints that were all brought over from Spain in the early 1600’s. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to photograph the inside of the church but I assure you it was other-worldly. The architecture was ancient and all handcrafted from wood and gold, there was no electricity so it was very dark inside, and the statues were some of the most terrifying things that I have ever seen in my life; some of them donned real human hair and Jesus was clothed in a red velvet dress. After leaving the Church we walked around the village awhile just taking in the beauty, we stopped at a market and the owner knew instantly that we were Gringos. It must be a gift these people have, because I really feel like as long as I don’t open my mouth I am indistinguishable from many, many Ticos. I guess I am wrong – which would be a first. We ended our time in Orosi with lunch at an open air soda (a very tiny, local restaurant). The place was essentially a large wooden structure with no doors, and windows where the walls should be, with a kitchen and a bar attached to it. I was a little wary at first, the menu was but one page and my only options were fish, fish and fish – I hate fish. I got the Sea Bass and it was unbelievable, the best fish I have ever eaten. On our way home we changed buses in Cartago, the oldest city in the country, and I got a picture of a very beautiful Catholic Church. It was a very long day, 14 hours in all, but very worth it.
I think I’ve mentioned before that it rains here – a lot. All through September weather patterns consisted of sun in the morning, with a light breeze and cool temperatures, and rain through part of the afternoon. It was actually very nice, the rain usually would start around 1:00 or 2:00 and end around 6:00. I therefore never really felt guilty for lying down and taking a long siesta after lunch – rain justifies sleep as we all know. Furthermore, I could go out in the late evening and not worry about having to wear my Jenny (a massive poncho). It was a nice little arrangement that God and I had. Unfortunately, those halcyon days of mindless bliss are over. We’re now in the thick of the rainy season and you can never really tell when it will rain – it might be on your way to school, it might be all morning, it could rain all day, or it could just threaten to rain all day and then clear up by evening. While writing this, it has down poured 3 separate times. I take my Jenny and my umbrella everywhere – I am counting the days until mid-November when all of this will pass. Pray that I don’t use the October weather as an excuse to sleep all day.
My mam’a informed me the other day that I am a piece of bread. I cocked my head sideways and gave her a look that said “you’ve been drinking”. She however persisted and very calmly told me a second time that I was a piece of bread. I didn’t know what to make of this new found discovery and so I avoided butter and all forms of marmalade until a Tico friend informed me that in Costa Rica, to be referred to as bread is very complimentary; the English equivalent of dumpling or sugarplum. I like that – I fancy myself rather tasty, something along the lines of banana or potato. You have my permission to incorporate this little term of endearment into your lexicon – just don’t get carried away and begin referring to people as loafs of bread, they might not appreciate that.
In my last entry I wrote a bit about CAFTA/TLC and mentioned that the country would be voting on a referendum in early October. Well, early October arrived much quicker than I expected and the country is voting today (Sunday the 7th). Earlier this week a teacher of mine informed me that this was the third biggest political event in the history of the country; it ranks right behind their independence and civil war. I was a tad incredulous but she assured me that she has never seen this country so politically active; not even presidential elections are as important as this. She’s not lying about the political activity; posters, graffiti, bumper stickers, and community debates are everywhere. Little children sport TLC t-shirts, homes fly NO TLC flags, ads run on television non-stop and communities hold rallies on the weekends. It’s overwhelming but you can tell it’s authentic, not like our staged, made-for-TV events hosted by Republicans and Democrats. A classmate of mine asked our teacher, Francisco, how he would be voting, he said that he and his friends believe TLC is bad for Costa Rica but they will all probably vote for it because they don’t want the U.S. to be upset with them. My mam’a mentioned the same thing over lunch a week ago – she was worried that if the country rejected TLC, the U.S. would be upset and not as friendly to them. I have to admit that I can’t understand this line of thinking, probably because I’m a citizen of the United States; it’s amazing though that people take into consideration the desires of the U.S. before casting their vote.
Elections here are held on Sundays because that is the only day most people don’t work. The polling places are at the local schools – I stopped by one this afternoon hoping to vote but they took one look at me and said no Gringos allowed. In the U.S. polling places are very quiet, campaigners are only allowed within a certain distance of the entrance; the whole ordeal is a very private affair. In Costa Rica it’s a party, everyone’s mixed together, the campaigners are right in the middle of the activity. There are no lines, just a large, shuffling sea of people, there are food vendors and arts and crafts; it’s a real community event. It’s actually a lot of fun. The U.S. should look into to something similar to increase voter turnout – a balloon animal and a hotdog for showing up to vote – people would turn out in droves. The election results should be announced tonight so I’ll fill you in on the aftermath in my next post.
I wanted to briefly mention that Benny Hinn and I have breakfast together every morning. I stumble out of my room each day and there is my mam’a fixing me a glorious meal and on the tele in the kitchen is Benny Hinn preaching to an audience of thousands – in Spanish of course. My mam’a thinks he’s wonderful and gets a little upset if he’s not on. Now that I’ve watched his show for 35 days straight, I can’t help but ask a few questions. First of all, who are those thousands of people that pack out his events? I’ve never met anyone that’s gone to one but he’s been doing this for 30 years and they seem to be very well-attended. Second question, why does he only wear pajama-like suits that are completely white or completely black? It’s kind of a creepy look. Lastly, who are those 8 large men that are always seated behind him off to his left? Are they there for moral support? Are they his handlers? Do they actually do anything? As young men did they aspire to grow up some day and sit off and to the left of Benny Hinn? These are the queries I ponder at 6 in the morning.
It turns out my mam’a is quite the little Chatty Cathy, which is funny because my real mother’s name is Kathy too. Coincidence? Yes. This woman can talk for hours, and she usually does, she just looks for conversation. Sometimes, if I’m in my room and no one else is around she just starts talking to herself or just randomly thanks God. One day during breakfast there was an awkward silence so she just filled it with a “!Gracias a Dios!”. She gets me at lunch each day – we no sooner bless the food and she’s out of the gate like a thoroughbred. She talks about the weather, the neighbors, TLC, snow, Christmas, bread, trampy women on the television, God, politicians and fruit – anything that pops into her head really. It’s good though, because it forces me to really use Spanish – she can’t speak any English. The funniest though is when she gets on the phone, she says “Hallo” and then shouts into the phone talking a mile a minute without pausing and doesn’t stop until she hangs up. I can only assume that the person on the other end is either, deaf, doing the same thing, or does not speak the entire length of the call.
I wanted to take a moment and mention a few prayer requests that I have. Please pray for a family that lives across the street from us. Their son was playing soccer last weekend and died from a heart attack – he was just 17 and in excellent health. Pray for comfort and healing for the family. Pray too for TLC, regardless of the outcome, Costa Rica will have a tough road ahead of it – pray for wisdom for the country’s leaders. Pray for the relationships that I am forming with Latins here – it is so easy for miscommunication and hurt feelings to occur, pray that God bridges the language barrier. Lastly, pray that I connect with a church somewhere; I have visited many places and need to find a community to become a part of. Thank you.
Well that about does it for this week; before I go I should like mention that Notre Dame won their first game this past weekend by beating UCLA. The Fight is Back…..oh were that true. Come back next week and read about my SCUBA adventures, the election results for TLC, the local rat-dogs that I loathe and how to conjugate the verb Estar. Peace.
P.S. – This is what my mailbox at school looks like, this is how you can fill it.
Instituto de Lengua Espanola
Matt Keiser
Apartado 100-2350
San Jose, Costa Rica
America Central

- Matt


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