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Where Has the Time Gone?

Hello again dear friends, as the weeks slip by and Christmas rapidly approaches I can’t help but step back and take stock of the fact that I have lived in Costa Rica now for over three months. That’s incredible – the time here has flown by; I can vividly remember my first few days here as if they were only last week. The other day I was walking down one of the main streets in my neighborhood and I harkened back to the first time that I ventured out onto that particular street – it seemed so huge and confusing and just a little bit frightening – I remember telling myself that I would avoid this thoroughfare as much as possible. Now Quesada Duran and San Francisco (my neighborhoods) feel so small and familiar, I know the best vendors, the quickest shortcuts, many of my neighbors and the best pizza joint; funny how 3 months can change things. Even more amazingly, Language School is coming to a rapid close for the semester, 6 days of classes left – !Gracias a Dios! I’m thankful for my time there and I am indebted to my teachers for bringing me this far along but I don’t know that my head can take much more of it right now. The rules, the repetition, the frustration, it’s starting to get to me and so I am eagerly anticipating the 3 week break that we’re going to have in the middle of December. I’m not yet sure how I plan on using my vacation time but I’m told that San Jose is going to turn into one giant festival the week before Christmas – light festivals, parades, street fairs and bull fighting, schools close for a month and people celebrate; it should be an exciting time.
Speaking of Christmas, I got a little taste of home the other night. No, it wasn’t hot chocolate and cookies, although the thought of that makes me very hungry – it was the decking of the halls. What made it seem so familiar, so much like home, was that it progressed in exactly the same manner that it does with my family back in PA. My Mam`a lugged three large boxes of decorations up from the basement, shot us a look of grim determination and announced that it was time to decorate the house. The men in her life, her husband, two sons and myself, looked at each other in muted horror and then fled to our separate rooms as if our lives depended on it. Amazingly enough, Flora offered no word of protest; obviously this is part of the Mora Family Christmas tradition. As I hid under my bed hoping not to be noticed, I chuckled to myself at the thought of my own family and our decorating traditions. I envisioned my mother perched on a wicker chair in our living room stringing lights on the tree and possessing all the patience of a house-fly. Her patience of course worn thin by her four squawking children, all of them fighting over which ornaments they would be privileged to hang on the tree that year – some declaring that departed relatives had bequeathed them certain ornaments and as such if anyone else so much as looked at them, they would be sorry. I then panned to father, who, ever the encourager was sacked out in his favorite chair, watching football and beseeching my mother to hang his antique ornaments almost on-level with the Star so that his simian children wouldn’t mistake them for candy. These are the Christmas memories we hold on to.
I had my first experience in the jungle the other weekend – I was nearly eaten alive…by mosquitoes not jaguars. A small group of students from the language school trekked out to the rainforest in Talamanca to visit a Tico and his Gringa wife, both of whom were raised in Costa Rica and studied medicine at the Mayo Clinic. Upon leaving Med School they committed themselves to building a clinic on reservation land and ministering to and serving the Quebecker people group. The Quebeckers are an indigenous group that clings to an older way of living by hacking out an existence in the jungle and secluding themselves from much of the outside world. They mainly live on reservation land and while their lives, appearance and traditions are certainly distinct from Ticos, it’s not as though they have been untouched by time. Many have cars; they hang out in bars, grow coffee for a living and dress in a quasi-Western style. We met only one family of Quebeckers and they hardly acknowledged our presence, my Mam`a tells me they’re a shy and timid group of people. They were staying at the clinic because the mother was over her due-date and looked like she was ready to explode. The clinic itself is beautiful, made entirely of wood, something rare in a country of tile and poured concrete and it’s situated in a steep little valley beside the confluence of two rushing creeks. The wildlife, the pristine nature, the sparkling creeks, it was absolutely breathtaking to behold. The clinic was and continues to be constructed mainly by outside groups of workers – thus our weekend was not one of relaxation – we cleared walking paths, chopped firewood, sealed wood, built furniture, dug a drainage ditch and lined it with river rock. It felt good to be doing manual labor for the first time in ages. In the late afternoons we halted work and swam in the creek – in spite of its flood-stage waters. There was no electricity so in the evenings we played cards by lantern-light, as always I won at all costs, and then we retired by 8 or 9 – we got a lot of sleep. During my quiet time one morning I sat on a rock by the creek and reflected on the amazing story I was wrapped up in; I could hardly believe that I was in the middle of the jungle in Costa Rica, helping two brilliant doctors construct a clinic for a group of people that I had never heard of. I give the praise to God because never in my life would I have imagined that I would spend a weekend working in Talamanca and have the privilege to witness the beauty of that place. One other quick tidbit about our adventure there; the only bridge into the reservation land is falling apart and quite dangerous to cross, so we had to unload from our Land Rover, cross over on foot and then hope and pray as the good doctor drove ever so delicately across the rickety bridge. It was a little hairy but the pictures were pretty cool.
So it turns out that cockroaches are not the only bane that I have to contend with now…I saw my first rat the other night. I was watching an old, old movie about the life of Lady Jane Grey – she was Queen of England for nine days until her cousin, Bloody Mary, locked her in London Tower and then had her killed. Ok, I know, I have way too much time on my hands if I’m watching the life and times of Lady J. – but I assure you it was fascinating. Anyway, I was enraptured in the film when all of the sudden a rat – and I mean a RAT – leapt over my feet and bounded down the basement steps. I about wet myself. I can hear the chuckling taking place, I know you think I’m a wimp, but honestly this thing was huge, it could have passed for a large rabbit and it came out of nowhere. I sat there motionless for a little bit and then quickly scampered off to bed.
Boy oh boy, it has been a week of firsts – saw my first rat, visited my first jungle and I experienced my first earthquake. I was lying in bed the other day, attempting my ritual siesta when all of the sudden my bed began to shake, the whole house began to shake actually; not violently though, it was more of a gentle rolling – kind of fun actually. It didn’t last but more than 10 seconds and when it was finished I rolled over and went back to sleep; kind of an anticlimactic first in my opinion.
I felt a little homesick the other night. I went out to a very nice restaurant with two other friends, it was up in the mountains and overlooked all of San Jose – the view was beautiful. The restaurant was very fancy but surprisingly cheap, it came complete with an accompanist who played all the hits from 1955. During coffee and dessert the accompanist started to play “Misty” and I was immediately transported back to my friend’s house in Williamsport – our group of friends used to sit around her mother’s player piano and belt out oldies from the ‘40’s and ‘50’s, with “Misty” being one of our favorites. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that we started this tradition sometime during our college years. Needless to say, whilst belting out the song in the restaurant I started to get a little misty myself; I think that in that moment I was more homesick than I have been at any other time in these past three months. Fortunately, the accompanist took mercy on my broken heart and chose the “Can-Can” for his next selection – my friend’s mother didn’t own the player piano roll for that one.
Last week I mentioned that I was going to talk about the end of AMCA – remember that I teach ESL classes at the AMCA mission house. I’m not sure why I felt the need to let you know about the end of it – it’s not as though the house blew up or anything. Classes simply ended for the semester and will resume again in January. There, that’s it – not much to talk about eh? I suppose I could mention my experience there – ok I will. I enjoyed it thoroughly, I taught the advanced class and we spent much of our time simply conversing in English. It was through these conversations that I feel like I made 10 good friends – we shared about our lives and our dreams, we laughed at our mistakes and encouraged each other along the way (they laughed at and encouraged my Spanish not my English). I also feel as though I learned so much in the way of teaching ESL, it’s very different from teaching a regular English class; perhaps this time in Costa Rica is about preparing more than just my Spanish-speaking abilities…posiblemente.
La Carpio photos for the week:

Serious face...

...brotherly love...

...happy face...

...Antony with his prize.

A quick note about La Carpio: I have had the hardest time conversing with the kids there. I know grammar rules and conjugations but I haven’t been able to get them out of my head and into my mouth quick enough to really have a meaningful conversation with anyone there. However, last week for the first time I was able to freely communicate, whatever I wanted to say came out of my mouth in a more or less coherent way. I was so happy – it was like Christmas and my birthday all rolled into one, Praise God!
Ok, that does it for this week – I apologize for the randomness of my more recent posts, there’s a just a lot of little experiences that I want to share about. If you return next week you will find snippets about, Christmas in La Carpio, the end of school and lesson in Phonetics, that was supposed to be for this week but I ran out of room, my apologies. Blessings to you this week, Peace!

- Matt


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