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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Almost There!

Ok, ok - I know, it's been more than a week since last I blogged (getting on 2 actually) but to be honest I have good, solid reasons for my lack of communication. Last week was perhaps the busiest I've had while living here in Costa Rica - Farewell Parties, Birthday Celebrations (I'm now 26), a Futbol Game & Graduation Ceremony. Couple that with the fact that I took a trip to Costa Rica's northern border this past weekend with a Tico friend and that I've been without internet since Friday and you can begin to understand my plight. I realize it sounds as though I'm whining and trying to justify my sinful ways but alas, that's what I do best. Anyway, this is it...this is my last week in Costa Rica, Sunday at 6:30 a.m. I fly for La Ceiba, Honduras to begin my life there. To be honest, I'm ready - I'm ready to say goodbye, to move on and start working. I've been slowly saying farewell to people for about 2 weeks now and I'm ready to be done. You can be praying for me though - I haven't yet bid farewell to the La Carpio boys or to my closest friends here and it's going to be tough. Pray also for my travel, I have to take three different planes and luggage is bound to get misplaced. Pray for safety, smooth travel and timely arrivals for persons and baggage.
So in that I have such limited internet access I'm going to make this a pictorial post with some side commentary; I hope this will suffice but I really am pressed for time.

Farewell @ Fresas Restaurant

Cameron, Ryan & Ale @ my Birthday...by way of Arabia (Cameron really is Arab)

Birthday Night in San Jose

Cafecito Party @ The Drum's with Antonio

MyFavorite Photo of Maycol

Scary Rhoda

Mateo Y Ale

Heath & Erin's Last Day at School - They'll be getting married in May and then living in Florida


Marching with the Honduran Flag (a rare display of patriotism)

Sonia & I singing in Spanish

Graduation Photo with Flora

The La Carpio Boys came to celebrate

Paseo a Cano Negro (Veracruz)

So my dear Tico friend Jeffrey invited my friend Joel & I to a wildlife refuge called Cano Negro, basically a stone's throw from Nicaragua. We left on Saturday morning and arrived in Veracruz (his hometown for 15 years) at 5 in the afternoon - we planned on leaving the next day and quickly realized that there would be absolutely no time to visit the refuge. Undaunted, we camped out a friend's restaurant and visited with Jeffrey's family (his older brother still lives there) - not at all what we expected from our trip but still worth the 15 hours worth of bus rides. To be honest it felt like a different world up there, life is much slower, the people more relaxed and easier with conversation in the landscape is pristine...it was by far my most unique and in a way, my most rewarding mini-trip in Costa Rica.

Upala Bus Station (30 minutes from Nicaragua)

Mateo y Joel

Veracruz Bus Station

Jeffrey trying to look tough

Jeffrey's little Cousin

Lincoln y Jeffrey

Look Out

Get Rich or Die Tryin'

The First Bus Ride Home

A Shot of the Arenal Volcano from the Bus

Well folks, that'll 'bout do it for this post...the next time we chat I'll be in Honduras !Que Miedo! To be sure I don't know when I'll again have internet access but I will do my best to blog immediately upon my arrival in La Ceiba. Blessings to you this week. Peace!


Friday, April 18, 2008

A Stay Of Execution...sort of.

So apparently Christmas comes a mite early in Costa Rica…no my neighbors haven’t started erecting Christmas Trees and Nativity Scenes; though I wouldn’t be surprised if we started seeing signs of yuletide cheer within the next month. What I mean is that Steve Shank, the Area Representative to the Americas for EMM, my boss and incidentally, a dead-ringer for Santa Claus, bestowed upon me quite a little gift the other night. As most of you are quite aware I’ve been bemoaning the fact that my time here in Costa Rica is rapidly drawing to a close and the feelings of sadness and hurriedness have been almost overwhelming. I’ve been struggling with how to end my time in school on the 25th, say goodbye to my family, Tico friends and the boys from La Carpio and find time to pack up my life here to be ready to fly on the 26th. Anyway, Steve was in the country on official EMM business last Friday and asked to have dinner with me – never one to pass up a free meal, I eagerly agreed…over Burger King Whoppers he asked what date I was planning on leaving for Honduras and I told him that I would be in the air the day after language school let out. He looked at me askance for a minute and then told me that was unacceptable and that I would need at least a week to say goodbye to people…leaving the day after school was simply not the Latin way. I about dropped my burger in my lap with delight – I had been hoping that something like this might be able to happen but in that my ticket dates were set back in August I had thought it would be impossible to change the flight without a hefty fee. Steve brushed aside the issue of fees with a wave of his hand and told me to email his assistant with the date that I wanted to fly and that everything would be alright. I was so happy I could have kissed him – I held back though. This now means that I will not be leaving for Honduras until the beginning of May – I realize it’s only a week but it feels like an eternity, I now feel much less rushed and pressured to say adios to everyone I know here in a matter of two days; I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is truly a blessing from God. More than just granting me a “stay” of sorts Shank also brought news of what’s happening in Honduras and the plans that are shaping up for me there. The church there is excited for my arrival (that’s a good feeling)…they’ve expressed surprise that someone would be interested in coming to help. They obviously don’t realize how much the work they’ve done there excites and energizes me. Moreover, it sounds as though EMM has some big plans for Honduras in terms of “At-Risk-Children Outreach” and it was made to sound as though I and my work in La Ceiba will be part of that; again, exciting stuff for me to think about. 2 years ago as I was considering this I had thought I would be working solo in remote La Ceiba, now suddenly I am part of something much, much bigger…amazing how God works. Anyway, to sum it all up, Steve got me pumped up to ship out for Hondie and made the leaving a little more bearable – he does his job well.
In other news I did, perhaps, the dumbest thing I’ve done in a long while. Last Friday night as I was awaiting the call of one Steve Shank to tell me the time and locale of our dinner, I got to looking at myself in the mirror. I do this from time to time, I’ll admit that I am slightly vain, but it was more out of boredom than anything else that I began to gaze longingly into my own face. It wasn’t long before I began to realize that my hair seemed awfully long (*note – since December, in a failed effort to look more Tico, I’ve kept my hair fairly short; thus my fans from the States who remember me with long, shaggy hair will have to readjust their conceptions of what Matthew Keiser means by “long hair”…essentially I’m saying that it was too long to work with). Now that the explanations are out of the way…so I was standing their pondering what to do about my hair (it was Friday Night after all with no chance of a haircut till Tuesday after school) when I decided that I would take a crack at cutting my own hair. It seemed perfectly simple enough, I had seen plenty of people do it to me before and I felt I had a good grasp on how to imitate their actions. Thus I wet down my hair, grabbed my dull pair of paper-cutting scissors and began to gather up bunches of hair between my pointer and middle fingers (this is how I’d seen it done anyway) and snip away. Even in the midst of doing this I knew it was a bad idea, I thought to myself “nothing good can come of this”…and nothing did. Nevertheless, I continued on, I couldn’t stop myself, I felt like one of those people who’d discovered that they couldn’t help but cover their body with tattoos of fire-breathing dragons, meaningless Chinese symbols and scenes from the Battle of the Bulge all because at some point in the past they had, on a dare, gotten a discreet little heart on their hip; I had a fever and the only cure was more clipping. I have to admit that I felt pretty good about how this affair was progressing; from the front at least it looked as though I was doing a good job. The whole thing came to screeching halt when I decided to grab a second mirror and check out how I’d done in the back…I was mortified. Not only had I butchered the neckline of my hair (it looked a weed-whacker had been used back there) but I had also managed to essentially shave a hole into the back of my head, WITH SCISSORS NO LESS!!! I almost cried, I didn’t know what to do, I had a patch of shaved hair amidst the rest of my normal length hair. I considered gluing it back on but instead waxed it up and tried to cover the whole mess by making all my hair stand on end. It didn’t work, my friends noticed immediately and I wasn’t able to get it fixed until my friend Shay the Barber from South Carolina was able to work on it on Tuesday. I now look almost exactly like I did in High School, haircut-wise that is. Lesson learned: never cut your hair in a fit of vanity.
Well, as part of the "End of my life in Costa Rica Celebration" (we've been celebrating for 3 weeks now) I took a trip with 3 other friends to a quiet little beach last weekend. Kelly, Cam and my Tico friend Jeffrey took the bus Saturday morning to Playa Hermosa. It was a long 2 1/2 hours but well worth it - the beach was not at all crowded, the weather was perfect and the room was cheap...so cheap that we decided to stay till Monday (no I didn't skip school, we had a holiday). It was very relaxing, very tranquil and just a good way to end my time here with some much loved friends.
Speaking of endings, I made my last trip to La Carpio yesterday. I had prepared myself to be bawlng uncontrollably into my friend Rhonda's arms but amazingly enough not a tear was shed. Laurie Drum made a 20 minute movie featuring all the kids from La Carpio so we watched that, ate popcorn and cake and said our goodbyes. It was certainly tough, there are some kids there that will forever be in my heart but I was able to let go without too much grief. Honestly, I think the thing that made everything easier was knowing that I would get to see Lapiz, Maycol, Roberto, etc. again over the course of the next 2 weeks. We're planning to hang out once or twice before I go. I think saying good bye to those guys will be much harder when the time comes, they've become like friends to me and it's gonna be rough leaving them. Ok, enough said for now about that, I don't feel like crying all over my keyboard.One last quick thought before I go, I completed my responsibilites involving Flat Stanley last week; I made some movies complied some pictures and made a replacment named Flaco Cesar. For those of you out there that never got to meet him in person (he was an incredible little guy) I've decided to post the shorter of the two videos so that you can get a feel for his adventures throughout Costa Rica...hope it functions.
Well folks, that'll about do it for this week, as I continue to wind down here I covet your prayers. I'm thankful and excited for what awaits me..be praying for my ending here and my transition into life in La Ceiba. Blessings to you this week. Peace!


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The End Is Near!!!

Hola Amigos and welcome back; I hope you're all in good health and good spirits, especially now that the weather has started to change for the warmer. Lest you think I'm gloating over the fact that I live in a tropical paradise take heart; the weather, within the last week, has made a surprise change on us. We’re now no longer blessed with idyllic temperatures, a light breeze and ne’er a cloud in the sky, on no dear friends we now find ourselves right back in the middle of the rainy season - it’s as if some cruel joke has played upon the entire country. What I mean is…it NEVER rains this early, Flora saw a drizzle back in February and thought the world was coming to an end, now we find ourselves in the middle of rainy season, daily 3-4 hour thunderstorms in the afternoons. This type of weather never occurs this early in the year. Needless to say, Flora has started marking off the days until Christ returns, she’s convinced it’ll be in 2008 “How couldn’t it, it’s raining in March/April?” That’s sound logic in my book. Anyway, much to my distress and discomfort I am once again planning my day around downpours, living in perpetual dampness and really just loving life. Suffice to say that the weather has given me a new earnestness to flee to Honduras.
Speaking of Honduras, I am 2 weeks away and counting and not really sure how to feel, what to feel, etcetera, etcetera. I’m a whirl of emotions…and for someone who hates emotions and feelings (they’re for the birds after all) that’s not fun. I’m ready to go, not even very nervous about going – I am ready to actually begin doing what I’ve been called to do, that’s exciting and exhilarating for me. At the same time I have come to love a large swath of people here…there are fellow missionaries and students here that I have come to rely on, love and view as family, there’s my Tica family that I’ve lived with for 8 months, there are the kids from La Carpio some of whom have become close friends and there are Tico friends that I love dearly. Coming in to this in August I could have never imagined how difficult it would be to leave this place. I had originally thought that I would come here, learn the language and get out…instead I ended up building a whole network of people that mean the world to me. What makes it even more difficult is knowing that there’s a good chance that I will never see some of these people again, at least until we all reach Heaven…and unfortunately since some of these people are Presbyterians there’s a good chance that I won’t see them even then. It’s tough, very sad for me and something I don’t like to think about, I just want to make sure my last two weeks here are spent meaningfully, that I end my time here with purpose and that I say goodbye to certain people in the right way….be praying for me.
So in other news I’m now a regular mountain climber. San Jose is surrounded, encircled as it were, by mountains…big ones. Affixed on the largest of the mountains are three man-made crosses…massive ones. There is a little cow path that leads to each cross, summiting with an amazing view of San Jose and the entire Central Valley; it’s a good 2 ½-3 hour hike up and not for the light of heart. Anyway, for the past two Saturdays my good friend Antonio the Nicaraguan has led a group of students up the mountain and I decided to accompany him…each time regretting it the next day. The first week we went we invited three La Carpio boys along with us, Lapiz, Maycol y Manuel – they literally ran circles around us slow-poke old people, we would no sooner sit down at one of the crosses to rest and they’d be off for the next stage. Needless to say, the next week we left them at home and our self-esteems were the better for it. Ah well, it made for some great exercise and some even greater pictures; I’m thinking of tackling Everest next week.
I took in my first Saprissa futbol game Wednesday….those of you with minds like steel traps will remember that back in January I took in a game but it was just the Costa Rican National Team playing Sweden. Saprissa however is like the Dallas Cowboys of Costa Rican Futbol; they’re really, really good and they know it. Wednesday night they played the Houston Dynamo (yes, as in Houston, Texas) for the semi-finals of a world-wide tournament…don’t ask me the name of it, I’m not that much of a fanatic. I went with a host of Gringos, many of whom felt obligated, out of some twisted sense of patriotism, to root for Houston – never mind the fact that none of them had ever heard of the Dynamo prior to this match – “it just felt like the American thing to do”. Good grief, well since Houston (or Texas for that matter) has never really held a special place in my heart, and since I valued my life (it’s not good to cheer for the opposing team in the midst of fanatical, drunken Saprissistas) I cheered my heart out for Saprissa. Incidentally they won; the U.S. can’t play futbol, big surprise.

So a funny thing happened on the way to San Jose…I was mistaken for a Tico – YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! At least until I opened my mouth. I was visiting the Gold Museum downtown and a guard in the museum came up and started making friendly banter with me. I chatted along for a while and eventually he moved away but with a slightly confused look on his face. About 5 mintues later he approached me again and said “you are Tico aren’t you?” I burst out laughing and said “No, no, no Soy Gringo”, he explained that I looked Tico (which is the first time anyone has ever said that, so there was a good chance he was drunk) but that I obviously didn’t talk quite like a Tico. I assured him that while I may look Latin I am in fact quite German – he seemed to be satisfied and shuffled off much less puzzled.
Two quick notes of Mennonite/Pennsylvania Dutch worth. The first is that I was sitting in class with Dixieana the Panther the other day and it came out somehow that I’m Mennonite. Dixieana stared at me for a while, winced her eyes and asked me (en Espanol) “just what is a Mennonite anyway?” I about fell out of my chair – the implied task set before was to explain the subtle doctrinal nuances of the great theological strain that is Anabaptism, tease out the differences between the modern Mennonite Church and the more Old Order Churches and to avoid erupting a debate over nonresistance/nonviolence….AND do it all in Spanish. I looked at her, chuckled and said “you know the Amish?...were a lot like them only less committed.” This seemed to satisfy her because she snapped "Que Feo Mateo" and commenced with the lesson. The other note is that I have nearly all of my friends down here hooked on Dutch Blitz, I’m talking addicted. Every Friday night for the past month we’ve gotten together at a friend’s house and played for hours. I’ve quickly become the most popular kid in school and it’s all because of my Dutch Blitz cards, me and my cards are the life of the party…I only hope the Hondurans like them as much as the dopey Gringo Missionaries do.
Well folks that about does it for this week, I know my entries may seem a mite shorter but that's...and that's because they are. I've been feeling crunched for time and topics, my mind is all a whirl and I having a hard time focusing. Por Favor, Perdoneme...I predict that the entries will begin to grow again once I arrive in Honduras. Blessings to you all this week. Peace!

- Matt