A Weekly Journal Chronicling My Life
As It Intersects With The Garbage Dump Community Near La Ceiba, Honduras

Monday, November 26, 2007

Happy Holidays: Parte Tres

Greetings once again from Nepal! Remember how last week I shared with you that an ice-age had suddenly descended upon us so that now when I step out of my house I am bundled up like Nanook of the North? Well, winter is still here and will be for the next two months but a curious thought struck me the other day: In wintertime many Gringos head to Central American beaches to escape snow, ice and pending FBI investigations – here I am hiding out in San Jose, Costa Rica freezing my tail off…maybe I should go to the beach as well. As luck would have it our school saw fit to give us Friday off last week (they seem to give us a lot of Fridays off, not that I’m complaining). Anyways, some friends and I took advantage and gallivanted off to Jaco for a 2-day frolic on the beach. What a difference a little elevation makes! As our bus descended from the mountains the air got that unmistakable beach feel to it, salty, sticky and warm, and I began to wonder why the founders of my school didn’t have the foresight to locate our institution on the beach-front. Poor planning I suspect…or perhaps the media duped them as well. I’m sure we would learn Spanish at much quicker pace if we could hear the breakers pounding the sand all day long. I don’t want to go into too much detail lest I become a stumbling block and cause you all to sin with fits of jealousy, but I will say that the weekend was wonderful. We enjoyed the sun and warm temperatures, two things we haven’t experienced too much of in San Jose, and we stayed in a nice little hostel for $12.00 a night. I couldn’t have asked for more. One quick note of interest before I move on; I am repeatedly impressed with the openness of Latins. A businessman from Chile stayed in the same hostel and decided to befriend us; he chatted with us most of the night and the next day surfed with us at the beach. What really left an impression on me was the interaction that he and Alejandra, my Tica friend, shared. They had no sooner exchanged greetings and they began to banter like old friends – this went on for two days. Their familiarity with each other seemed a little strange but at the same time appealing to a Gringo that’s used to exchanging quiet pleasantries but nothing more with total strangers. When it came time to leave, Ricardo the Chilean businessman had his hired van drive us back into town so that we wouldn’t have to pay for a taxi. For some reason I get the feeling that this type of thing occurs a lot in Latin America – I like it.
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!Feliz Accion de Gracias!...that’s Happy Thanksgiving in Tico talk. I hope you all had a lovely holiday – I know I did, you cannot begin to fathom the thanksgiving I felt whilst sitting in Grammar Class and learning the Imperfect Past Tense. This year I’m thankful I didn’t shoot myself trying to learn the difference between perfect and imperfect past action. My Grandmother inquired the other day if Ticos celebrate Thanksgiving; while I wish that were true, it turns out that the scope and force of Abraham Lincoln’s edicts ended at the Texas border. Thus I spent my Thanksgiving morning sitting in school wishing the Puritans had had the wisdom to steer their ship a little farther south – I’ll bet the Narragansett Indians felt the same way. Not to worry though, The Brubakers (the other Mennonite family here at my school), and a few other families invited me over to have a turkey dinner in the afternoon. It couldn’t be beat…we did have a minor mishap when we attempted to dispose of the holiday trash at the bottom of a cliff, but that was quickly cleared up by a seeing-eye dog and Officer Obie….oh wait, that’s Arlo’s story. Seriously though, the food was absolutely delicious; with my steady diet of rice and beans I had forgotten how much I loved turkey, potatoes and pumpkin pie. As all good Americans did, we gorged ourselves, watched the Cowboys/Jets game and played cards over coffee and more pie. It felt strange to be engaging in a tradition that up until now I’ve only ever shared with my family, almost a little forced. At the same time though it felt very natural; we all wanted to be with our families but couldn’t, thus this was an attempt to keep each other company and make the passage of the holiday a little easier. All in all, I must say it was a good first holiday away from home, even if I wasn’t able to listen to Alice’s Restaurant on the radio.
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3 quick stories about mi Mam`a:
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Florita gave me the finger the other day…it was all I could do to keep from falling out my chair in a fit of laughter. She didn’t intend the finger or its implied message for me, rather she was telling a story and in that my Spanish hasn’t progressed to the level of understanding cuss words, she felt obliged to act out her thoughts – a sort of cursing charade. Try to imagine your grandmother giving you the finger over lunch; that’s what this looked like – very out of place, but very funny.
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She also mentioned at lunch the other day that Fidel Castro is now 92 years old…no she wasn’t using the finger in reference to him – although she might like to. I could tell from the way she was trilling her “r’s” extra-long that she feels very strongly about our friend from Cuba. She does not like that man and I think if ever the two were to meet she would give him a piece of her mind and then fix him some arroz con pollo and cafĂ©. Incidentally, she thinks Hugo Chavez is insane and was quite proud of the King of Spain when he put Chavez in his place.
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It seems that the complaints of a wife know no cultural boundaries. My Pap`a had a day off of work the other day and as all good husbands do, he spent the whole day tinkering on his car and touching up the paint job. We were sitting at breakfast and she whispered to me as he walked past, eager to get to work on his ride, that if they could, Costa Rican men would spend all day rubbing their cars down with a cloth. “They just stand there every Saturday morning rubbing away at their cars.”, The look of disgust on her face could have stopped traffic. I tried to lift her spirits a little by assuring her that it isn’t just Ticos that are obsessed with their cars but Gringos too. I told her that for many men in the U.S. their car is like their girlfriend – she pointed out the window at Orlando and said “for him it’s like his 1st wife…wife number 2 does all the work but when was the last he wiped me down with a cloth?” ……I don’t know.
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For three months I have been blessed. While people around me at school have been dropping like flies, I haven’t even had a hint of illness. Nada! I’m not sure what I can attribute this to, except for that fact that perhaps Flora’s putting a little something extra in her rice and beans. Who knows? Unfortunately though, I think my OCD and proclivity for self-diagnosis got the better of me the other week – I was convinced I had scabies. I went to bed one Friday night and it felt as though my skin was crawling, I itched all over my body and I barely slept at all that night. I woke up that Saturday without feeling any relief and so I began to consider the possibilities of what might be afflicting me. After contemplating for a good hour I happened upon a memory where a friend mentioned that she got scabies once in Costa Rica and that she itched like crazy. Thus, over the course of the next few days I convinced myself that tiny bugs were burrowing into my skin and delighting themselves in torturing me – never mind the fact that I had none of the tell-tale signs of scabies other than some serious itching. My OCD tendencies didn’t help the situation, I dwelt on it, tried to place where they might have come from, examined my body on an hourly basis to check for burrows and imagined what life might be like for a mite – it basically consumed my weekend. It wasn’t until Tuesday that I was finally able to see our school’s doctor, by which time I had worked myself into a veritable frenzy. He took one look at me and told me that I had a mild allergic reaction to something, nothing more and with a dismissive wave of his hand he told me to stop self-diagnosing….done. Of course I then began to peruse the origins of my allergic reaction; perhaps it was whatever Flora has been adding to her rice and beans to keep me healthy. I walked out of the doctor’s in high spirits; it felt good to know that hundreds of little pets hadn’t found a home in my skin – and that my friends could now stop avoiding me.
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Flora lives to serve, she waits on me hand and foot and I feel very undeserving of it all… but not so much so that I’m going to do anything to stop it. However, on Sundays she takes a much needed break and leaves the task of finding and preparing food to us 4 men. It’s kind of an “every person for themselves” situation so I’ve made McDonald’s my Sunday supper tradition. It may strike you as strange that I would be blogging about McDonald’s but I find it to be a very different experience here in Costa Rica. The building itself is a two-story affair and it’s very nicely furnished, nicer than most Mc Donald’s you find in the States. The menu is essentially the same although there are certain items like platanos and The McNifica that aren’t available back home. The clientele though are what fascinate me the most. In the U.S. fast-food is the great leveler, everyone eats there; young, old, rich, poor, the village idiot and Bill Gates. Here however, McDonald’s is dining for the upper crust – meals are a little pricey so only wealthy Ticos can afford to eat a number 2 super-sized. On Sunday nights especially, McDonald’s becomes a hangout for young lovers; they swamp the place, take all the seats and sit there for hours staring into each other’s eyes and feeding the each other fries. I think most kids in the U.S., except for those that live in the boonies of Western PA, would never make McDonalds their restaurant of choice for a hot date. I know this isn’t the hardest hitting of news pieces but I thought you might find it interesting how different an icon like the “Golden Arches” can be when transplanted to a different culture.
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La Carpio photos for the week:
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Lapiz feigning danger...







...not a candid shot...








...Maycol cooling off...







...the cutest girl in La Carpio!
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That about does it for this week, I hope you’re finding this weekly exercise interesting – I know I am. If you think I breeze over certain topics, or if you think I’m not covering something that you’d like to know about, drop me a line and give suggestions. I’d love to have more ideas for blog topics. Come back next week to read about my trip to Talamanca, the end of AMCA and a lesson in Spanish Phonetics. Peace!
- Matt

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"It's always Winter and never Christmas..."

Hello friends, welcome back. November has arrived and I feel as though a cruel trick has been played upon me. Ask your typical, uncultured Gringo what they think the climate of Costa Rica might be at any given moment and they’ll probably respond with some paradisiacal forecast in the neighborhood of sunny, breezy and warm with a chance of laziness. Basically, most North Americans assume that Costa Rica is a year-round tropical Elysian Fields; something from the pages of Swiss Family Robinson – of course without the tree-house and ostrich races. I must admit that I was living under this same delusion prior to my arrival here, but in that I have never been accused of being self-critical, I blame the media. It’s the Medias’ fault that I packed too few sweaters and wool socks! That’s right I said sweaters and wool – it’s downright cold here. I realize that nothing is ever good enough for me (wait is that self-criticism?) but honestly, no sooner were the monsoons shut-off then the North Wind came howling out of Siberia and blasted us with an almost icy chill. Most mornings my Mam`a and I hover over our oatmeal and coffee and fondly recall the halcyon days of October when we were blessed with warm weather and flooding. I tried to explain all of this to my father, I told him we had begun burning the furniture to heat the house but he just laughed and called me a dirty liar – the Media have obviously gotten to him as well. Anyway, I want to talk to the joker who duped me into studying language in Narnia – I’m expecting Mr. Tumnus to clip clop down the street any day now – ok maybe it’s not exactly Narnia, we at least are allowed to celebrate Christmas here…
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…in all seriousness it just got a little chilly here, it’s winter after all – but when you’re used to sun and warm temperatures, a 10 degree drop in the mercury feels downright cold-frontish. Thankfully the rain has all but ceased, what we do get seems to be a very fine drizzle that Ticos call pelo de gatto (cat hair).
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I mentioned in a previous post that my Mam`a shared a Tico maxim with me the other week when she mentioned that on Mondays, the chickens are so tired that they refuse to lay eggs. I can’t help but think that the local fowl might have a tad more energy if they didn’t insist on waking up at 3 a.m. and announcing to the world what early risers they are. I know I have a slight penchant for embellishment but I am not exaggerating when I say that there have been nights when as I was going to bed the local roosters were crowing their little hearts out – proud as peacocks that were up while the rest of the world was trying to sleep. My favorite of course is when I am trying to catch an afternoon siesta and two or more roosters decide to have a crowing competition; as if dueling for 3 hours each morning isn’t good enough. Someone had better teach them the German maxim of “pride goeth before a fall” because if they keep it up they’re gonna lose their lives. What strikes me as so funny about all of this is that it’s not as though I reside in Green Acres. I live in a very vibrant, very crowded city – yet people still insist on raising chickens, turkeys and goats in their tiny yards. As recently as 20 years ago many families in San Jose kept Oxen for heavy transportation and a very few still do. Can you imagine raising a horse in West Philadelphia? I guess I’m not in PA anymore.
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So I don’t mind telling you that if you happen to get Telemundo in your cable package you might just see me on the Latin American version of Dancing with the Stars (I realize I am not yet a “star” in any sort of capacity but I’m working on that). Ok, so maybe after 3 weeks my dancing hasn’t progressed that much but I have learned a lot. There’s a group of us Gringos from the language school that go together every Tuesday night to this tiny dance studio in Desamparados. The place is always packed and always roasting (even in wintertime) – at the end of 2 hours we are usually soaked with sweat. Our teacher is a very nice girl who knows a lot about dancing and not a lot about English, so we Gringos are usually a little behind the rest of the class – that and we don’t have the natural rhythm that Ticos and Nicaraguans do. Thus far we’ve learned the basic steps to the Bolero, Salsa, Meringue and Cumbia which is the Colombian version of Swing. I apologize that I don’t have any pictures to accompany this paragraph but it’s awfully difficult to get a good shot off whilst I’m twirling my partner like a top. My mother (the U.S. version), informed me that when I return to the States I am obligated to teach her and my Aunt the dance moves I’ve learned. I am touched by her eagerness to learn and her confidence in my ability to Salsa like a Latin but I do not think she realizes that there is no way I would ever dance these types of dances with my mother. I cannot begin to fathom shaking my hips with Kathy the way I do with Maria. My Tico Mam`a on the other hand gave me a word of caution about this whole dancing business – she’s a Baptist and thus has a natural aversion to all things rhythmic – funny, the same could be said about most Mennonites. She said that dancing can be a beautiful thing but that it can sometimes be too trashy – she looked at me and said “Make sure you dance beautifully”...point taken.
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I realize that the content of my more recent posts might lead some to believe that my sole purpose for residing in Costa Rica has been to observe life here and respond with pithy, half-witted blog entries. While that is indeed an enviable life I doubt my friends and family back home would be very pleased to learn that they were supporting me so that I could sit around and write about Benny Hinn, Rain and Chickens. No, no, I am here after all to attend language school… and boy do I have some witty observations and pithy remarks about that place. I’ll start with my grammar teacher, Francisco – this man is a riot. Spanish grammar is no easy affair, the rules can be very confusing and learning them is often very stressful. We were warned during our orientation in August that some students might cry during class, that we might cry during class – ugh, feelings. Anyways, Fran manages his class in such a way that the stress level is almost nonexistent. He has a gift for using humor to convey the meaning of even the most confusing of rules. The other week we were studying intransitive verbs, one of which means that there is an excessive amount of something. Ex. “A Bill Gates le sobra dinero” or “Me sobran las novias” (Bill Gates has an overabundance of money/I have an overabundance of girlfriends…one of those statements is false). The class wasn’t quite getting the concept so he drew a hand with six fingers on it, used the verb in a phrase and drove the concept home. This week we’ve been learning how to conjugate verbs in the past tense, by watching “Merry Christmas Mr. Bean”; very unorthodox I know, but it keeps things light. Actually, I think Francisco was just in the Christmas mood and wanted to watch his favorite movie de Navidad.
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Last week was “Spiritual Emphasis Week” at our school. Normally chapel is held twice a week but during our spiritual marathon we had chapel twice a day, every day. Our speakers were a husband and wife team from Doylestown, PA so right away I liked them…then I found out they were Presbyterians so right away I didn’t like them. Just kidding, it was actually a very good series of sermons – it focused on our need for repentance and an ability to experience grace (imagine that, a Calvinist preaching about repentance and grace). Both topics were refreshing though, grace is something that I always need more of. The speakers also gave me new insights into the way I so often ask forgiveness from those that I’ve wronged. Too often I want the situation resolved, so I apologize, admit my responsibility and promise to not repeat the action; I essentially gloss over the feelings of others and the sin in the situation to make myself feel better and to restore relationship between myself and the person I’ve wronged. Rarely do I go to the person and really inquire as to how I harmed them and then try to work with them to discern the root causes of my sin – the latter obviously takes a lot more work and self-examination. I appreciated the speakers’ ability to open my eyes to my method of seeking forgiveness and to point to a more Godly, Christ-centered way. Thank the Lord for Calvinists…did I just say that?
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I have one more little tidbit from language school before I wrap this up. Two Fridays ago our school hosted “Culture Day”; no, this was not the same as “Encounter of Cultures Day”. Rather, Culture Day was a chance for the teachers to take a break from listening to our horrendous pronunciation of Spanish and instead teach us about Costa Rican customs. All of the students that didn’t skip out on school were divided into teams and each team had to race from classroom to classroom, listen to brief explanations about the different aspects of Tico culture and then decipher a clue as to the location of their next room. It was a competition of sorts, and I was paired with the only other Mennonite couple at our school. For those of you who know little about Mennonites, know this: if ever you are given the option of playing a game with or against a Menno, choose to play with. By and large we are a kind, passive bunch but when we play games the gloves come off and we can be some of the most competitive and heartless people you’ve ever encountered - games and competitions are for winning. Needless to say, once the whistle blew to start our race the quiet little Mennonites were transformed. The wife was like a house-afire, she barely listened to the cultural presentations. She just found the clue, deciphered it and then gave it to me and made me run with it to the next room so as to secure our team’s place in line. It was a very stressful hour but my team took third place – not entirely satisfactory to the little Mennonite lady, but I was too tired to care. My prize was a very famous, Spanish children’s book – which I cannot yet entirely understand. It was a very fun and much needed diversion from the monotony of school-life.
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As mentioned last week, I’m going to start posting a montage of photos from La Carpio in each entry. If you’re clueless as to the significance of La Carpio scroll down and read my prior post. Obviously I won’t always just post photos; hopefully as my Spanish improves I’ll be able to bring you stories from the children as well. Anyways, as promised here are this week’s shots:
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Alright, that’s it for this entry – more to come next week. If you return you can be sure to read about my experiences with Public Transportation, my need to flee the country and the Costa Rican gourmet dining that is McDonald’s. Blessings to you. Peace!
- Matt

Monday, November 5, 2007

Happy Holidays: Parte Dos

Hola dear friends, what a week it has been, an emotional rollercoaster of sorts – in a good way though. I have a lot to talk about so I won’t waste space with idle chatter (that’s the efficient German in me, not the relationship-oriented Latin), but I did want to take a moment and wish you the Happiest of Holidays. That’s right, just like in the U.S. the Christmas frenzy hath commenced; some stores have been decked out in full yuletide ornamentation since mid-October and I’ve heard rumor that Santa Claus has setup shop in some of the larger department stores in town. I was walking through my neighborhood the other day and happened to notice that some families have already erected Christmas Trees; good grief – it’s not even mid-November yet. The locals tell me that it is only going to get more intense, by the time December rolls around the revelry should be at a fevered pitch; apparently San Jose is going to be one big party at Christmas-time. It should be interesting to watch – I’ll keep you posted.
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Let’s start with something light and easy…I have some un-confessed sin that I need to repent of – I covet and I mean covet the cars here. I’m in love with them and I want one… or five, in the worst way. This desire of course runs counter to everything Mennonites believe in and isn’t terribly becoming of a missionary either, but I can’t help it. The cars here are amazing – not in a technologically advanced or luxurious sort of way, but amazing in that they’re novelties, i.e. Pablo just drove that canary yellow T-bird out of a film from 1973. There are certain cars here that you could never find back home, probably because they’re death traps, but that minor detail has not diminished my love for them or stalled my machinations for obtaining one. These cars are in my mind, quintessentially Latin American – boxy, old, dull-colored and rugged; what more could you want. My favorites thus far are the Land Rovers (1970’s style), old 80’s-style muscle-cars, boxy little sedans that look European and of course VW busses and bugs. It’s interesting too, because I’m told that the very cars that I love, these gems from a by-gone era are the very cars that Ticos are embarrassed to drive. I am not exaggerating when I say that outward appearance is everything in Tico culture – you may not have hot water in your house but you do have a BMW; what are your neighbors going to see? Most Ticos look down their noses at old Land Rovers or VW’s; they would much prefer to drive Honda Civics or Dodge Neons…ugh. They think these modern cars denote wealth and status – I think they’re eyesores. Anyway, if someday you see me driving a ’73 Yute you’ll know where it came from.
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Thanks to an almost sudden stoppage of rain my SCUBA class was able to get to the beach to finish our course last weekend. Back in September our school offered a SCUBA course and since my work in Honduras will put me in close proximity to the second-largest barrier reef in the world, I decided to get certified. I won’t bore you with details like the layout of my hotel room or the size of the boat that we dove from but I will tell you that SCUBA is like nothing I have ever experienced before. It’s an incredible feeling to know that you are 50 feet underwater, able to stay there for almost an hour and swim within inches of exotic fish, sting rays and eels. It opened up a world that I never thought I would see first-hand. Folks I assure you, God is truly a master artist; the range of life down there is breathtaking, which is not good because rule number one in SCUBA is to never stop breathing. While riding in the boat on Sunday with the wind in my hair and the salty sea spray flying up in my face I realized that if I weren’t involved in this whole missions thing I could easily see myself becoming an expatriate and living the life of a beach bum somewhere – giving dive tours, eating fresh pineapple and sleeping in a hammock. If I weren’t a Christian I think I might pursue that life…… anyway, I can’t wait to dive again.
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I write a lot about my mam`a, she’s an endless source of material believe me. A few friends though have requested that I post a photograph in order to assist their developing mental image of her. As requested, here is the photo, though I will say that my Mam`a, Flora Mora is her name, was none too pleased that I took a candid shot of her - she prefers to look her Sunday-best when posing for the camera. I told her I was going to post it on the internet and a look of agony shot across her face. I tried to assuage her fears by telling her she looked lovely in the photo but I don’t think she believed me.
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Speaking of old Flora, she had me dying laughing the other day with her thoughts on death (the play on words while humorous, was entirely unintentional). In Costa Rica when a person of status dies their rich relatives shell out some serious money and have their obituary aired on television right after the 12 o’clock news. This daily exercise in the macabre is set to the theme song from the movie The Mission, a very sad tune – it’s all a very sappy and showy affair. Anyways, I asked my mam`a about it at lunch the other day, she explained what it was and then proceeded to tell me that it was stupid waste of money. She said rich people like to have their dead relatives’ obituaries aired on television in order to impress other rich people. This then segued into her thoughts on funerals; she thinks death in general is an unnecessarily expensive affair – the flowers, coffin, reception… all a total waste of money. Flowers especially, she cannot understand why people send flowers to dead people, she said (en Espanol) “Why would I want flowers if I’m dead, I can’t enjoy them, their just gonna rot – that’s hundreds of dollars down the drain”. She would much prefer cremation, with no fanfare, no flowers and a potluck dinner to wrap it all up. She’s a very pragmatic woman. She also told me about her anniversary, another thing that she thinks people waste too much money on. She’s 56 and was married to Orlando when she was 20 and he was 21 – in all those years they have never celebrated their anniversary with more than a nice dinner at a restaurant. It wasn’t for lack of planning though – when they first got married they agreed to forego a honeymoon and subsequent anniversary celebrations and instead put that money toward a big vacation to celebrate their 25th. They saved a little bit each year and their 25th wedding anniversary finally rolled around. They were all set to vacation in the Caribbean but 1 month before they were to leave, Orlando was hit by a car and had to go to the hospital – the hospital visit and subsequent treatment wiped out their vacation savings so they never got to go. I was nearly in tears after hearing this story but Flora, jolly as ever, looked at me and said, “after that we agreed never to save for another vacation again – we don’t want anything else bad to happen to Orlando, instead we are saving for a dryer – Happy Anniversary.” She thought it was a real hoot.
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In my last post I mentioned that I started working with a mission in the community of La Carpio but I wanted to wait until this week to write about it. I wasn’t sure what I could write about after just one visit, I’m not sure what to write about after two visits. It has become the highlight of my week and emotionally draining all at once – I think and pray about it a lot. I’ll do my best to describe my observations but I feel at a loss for words. La Carpio is a community of Nicaraguan immigrants living in and around the municipal dump of San Jose – as I am sure you can imagine the poverty-level is staggering and as always it’s the children that suffer the worst. When I first heard that we were going to visit a dump I mentally pictured mountains of trash with a few huts scattered about – I could not have been more wrong. The dump is actually a landfill, most of the time it looks as though it’s a very rural village, but when it rains the hills turn to mud and the walking paths reveal the thick layers of trash that lie underfoot. The village itself is built on top of the landfill with material salvaged from it; homes are made out of rusty sheets of metal or rough-hewn wood and are usually no bigger than one or two tiny rooms. Material possessions are either scavenged from the dump or bought from cheap retailers in the city. I’m told that in Costa Rica if a person squats undisturbed on a piece of land for at least 2 years it becomes nearly impossible to legally evict them, even if that land is government owned. That’s exactly what happened in La Carpio; Nicaraguans, social outcasts and too poor to live anywhere else, moved into the vicinity of the municipal dump, built a makeshift community and eventually gained control of the land. The government initially did nothing because they were happy that the unwanted Nicaraguans had segregated themselves – now they find themselves saddled with a massive, growing community that is in need of every kind of social service imaginable. Our mission work in La Carpio focuses on children; we walk through the streets and invite them to a little gym that was built by a mission organization. Once we get there we supervise games, read Bible stories to them, sing songs, do arts and crafts and give them a snack. It doesn’t sound like much; honestly it doesn’t feel like much, each time I have left feeling like we didn’t accomplish a whole lot. I have had to step back and realize that we are doing things with these kids that they wouldn’t be able to experience otherwise, we are building relationships with them and showing them genuine love – God is using us in ways that may seem insignificant but are actually quite impactful. It’s hard to describe everything that I’ve observed there, I feel as though my words don’t do it justice. Photos help and I think I will post a weekly La Carpio montage, but it’s the interaction with the kids that gives me the most to think about. I see young children and early adolescents with so much potential, they’re bright, warm and full of life – I know they have dreams about what their life might be like someday and I know that for many of them their life will be one of struggle, pain and poverty. For someone that likes to have a plan of action and clear-cut goals for solving problems this is a difficult place to visit – I feel so helpless, I have already become much attached to a few kids and I want to help them but I don’t know how. Please be praying for the children of La Carpio, a life of crime and drugs is easy to fall into there, pray that God protects them.
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Before wrapping this up I wanted to mention that I am now able to cook rice 501 different ways, I never dreamed that rice could go with so many different dishes. I never dreamed that I would actually enjoy rice with those many different dishes. I have discovered that it is the mainstay in Tico cooking, other things may come and go but rice is a fixture. We have it every meal, and with everything you can imagine. Some nights we have chicken noodle soup with a plate of rice (add it to the leftover broth and you have a second bowl of soup). We eat rice with beans, with fried noodles, with fried cauliflower, eggs, lentils, potatoes, tuna fish, plantains; the list is endless but my favorite is arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), it is to die for. Incidentally, my least favorite is rice with spaghetti; it is not to die for.
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Well that about does it for this entry, it was a tad long I know, I’ll try not to experience so much next week. Although I do foresee us talking about my teacher Francisco, the local chickens and my Salsa/Meringue classes in the next post. Peace!

- Matt