Saturday, May 26, 2012

Friends in Costa Rica

        Finding friends is a big part of life. I remember one of the days from my first week of kindergarden when I was playing with those little, wooden interlocking train tracks and trains. I little boy named Aaron came over and started playing with them, too. Then he looked at me and asked, "Do you want to be friends?" I replied, "Okay!" At that point we proceeded to play with the trains together. When I got off the bus that afternoon I ran down our driveway, through the front door, straight to my mom and declared, "I made a friend today!!"

              It makes such a huge difference in life to be with people that you connect with, who care about you, and want to spend time with you. We've been really blessed to get to know several other couples here through the language school, but we've spent more significant time with two other families in particular. 

       Our incoming class was pretty small this trimester, so there was actually only one other married couple besides us: Jeremy and Sara. They have two daughters, Johanna (3) and Allison (1.5). We were pleasantly surprised to learn that Jeremy is going to be the Associate Pastor at EFC, an english-speaking church in Quito, Ecuador! Go figure. The cool thing is that Youth World has a lot of strong connections with EFC-- several Youth World missionaries attend there, Suzy went a few times when she was there in 2005, and the husband of Suzy's former roommate in Ecuador, Roberto Vivanco, is the Worship Pastor at the church. Small world, eh?

        We've had the chance to spend a couple of evenings with Jeremy and Sara and have really enjoyed getting to know them. It's also neat knowing that we'll essentially be serving in the same place, so our relationship with them can continue beyond Costa Rica! We've bonded on a couple of fronts thus far: 1) Jeremy lived in New York as well and is a Yankees fan-- just like us!  2) They enjoy playing games such as Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Carcasonne, and many others like these. For those of you who have never played any of those games, they're quite fun and we'd love to introduce you to any of them if the opportunity ever presented itself! And for those of you who have played any of them before, you know how enjoyable it is to have others to play with! 

      The other couple we've really connected with is Cody and Maria. Cody and Maria have a daughter, Isabela (7) and a son, Jake (8 months). They also had a daughter, Susanna, who went home to be with Jesus in February 2011. She was 4 at the time and had been battling stage 4 neuroblastoma cancer. Cody and Maria previously served in Haiti for 2 years and are now here so that Cody can study spanish (Maria is from Puerto Rico and Spanish is her first language). They plan to serve in Leon, Nicaragua and live right next door to us, so Suzy has taken advantage of speaking to Maria in spanish occasionally for additional practice while I'm at class. 
      We had dinner with Cody and Maria the other night and heard a bit more about their story and Susanna. It's incredible to see their response to such a heart-wrenching experience. Clearly they would love to still have Susanna here with them, but they remember her with such fondness and rejoice in the fact that she was so vocal about her love for Jesus and desire for others to know Him. For such a small child, she had a very mature understanding of what Christ did for us. We know that she is home with her Heavenly Father, and though they don't know why she had to go, they rest in God's hands, finding their place and strength in Him.

Jake: Cody & Maria's son
     So, we praise God for friends! There are others as well, but I thought I'd just highlight the 2 families we've connected with most deeply thus far. It's amazing to see how God leads His people, and we're privileged to know many who are answering His call to spread the Good News all around the world!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cooking in Costa Rica

There are many interesting and fun things about living in another country. Add a new baby to that mix and there's sure to be some sort of excitement every day!

Today, I'd like to share some more with you about the adventure of cooking in Costa Rica. As many of you know, I enjoy cooking quite a bit and it has been several months since I've had my own kitchen. In our last post, which you can see here, we posted some pictures of our apt. It's a pretty small kitchen and there's zero counter space, but it is mine for the time being and it is actually considered to be a good size kitchen by Tico standards (Tico = Costa Rican). All in all, it's been fun to get back into the swing of having my own kitchen.

But here's the thing. I love to cook, but I realized a couple things as I prepared for my first grocery shopping trip.

1. I usually cook with recipes and all of my cookbooks have been sent before us to Ecuador.

2. A couple days after we arrived in country Jim and I spent one evening brainstorming some ideas of meals that I could make. Of course, our minds went blank (conveniently), and most of the stuff we thought of were clearly U.S. style dishes in which meat is the main event. (For those of you that have never gone grocery shopping in Costa Rica, meat and cheese rather expensive and it is not in the local diet to have either during every meal).

3. In the midst of figuring out what types of dishes I could make, I also ran into a bit of a hiccup in realizing that our furnished apt. didn't include a stocked kitchen. Upon our arrival we had one cutting board and a cookie sheet. Therefore, the first items we bought for setting up our new little home included one pot, one pan, a baking dish, a large serving spoon, and a spatula.

So, the adventure begins. It seems that cooking and food preparation take a little bit longer here overall, and I know that I may get to a point where I feel like my one pot and one pan are not sufficient for our needs, but to be honest I'm kind of feeling up for the challenge of cooking with only the four items shown in the picture below. Also, Jim has poignantly pointed out that only having these four items is great for washing dishes (we have no dishwasher)!

Ok, so now that you've seen my tools, here are some of the dishes we've been able to make thus far....


I  also have a "Tasty Treats of 2012" album on my facebook page, so if you are interested in seeing this adventure continue I'll will upload additional photos here.

As they say here in Costa Rica - Buen provecho!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What is life like in Costa Rica?

      I figure some of you my be wondering what we are actually doing day to day in Costa Rica right now. Let me tell you a bit about a typical day.
Suzy in our apartment

       The day starts at about 6:30am. Suzy gets up to feed Kaia and I begin to prepare for the day. We have breakfast, do morning devotions, shower, and get ready for the day. I walk to the Instituto de Langua Espanola for my first class, starting at 7:30. That first class is grammar.
       Grammar is taught by Ana, a very upbeat Costa Rican woman who used to be a flight attendant and studied English in Michigan for a year before becoming a teacher. Grammar lasts for 2 hours. This is the only class where we can occasionally ask a question or converse in English-- all others are taught exclusively in spanish. Although, I'd say 75 - 85% of the grammar class is spoken entirely in Spanish. The title should be self-explanatory, but if not, we're currently focusing on conjugating verbs and learning how to properly build sentences.
        After Grammar is a break. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday I will often head home for a half hour and touch base with Suzy. Then it's back to class. On Tuesdays and Thursdays they have chapel on campus including a time of worship through song and sharing. There are two chaplains that share speaking as well as students who may share a testimony or brief message. It's a nice time to connect with the other students and to get re-focused and centered.

A picture taken on campus
       The second class of the day is entitled: language. This class is taught by a woman named Marta. She starts every class by having us read a few verses from the Bible in spanish. On Friday the verse we read was Philippians 4:6-7 -- "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." She always seems to choose verses that are very appropriate to what we're all going through! This class is basically designed to help beef up our vocabulary, practice speaking, and connect dots with grammar and phonetics.

        Which brings me to my next class: phonetics. Gaby teaches phonetics and this class is the one that comes easiest for me. We had a two week intensive phonetics course through our training with International Teams and it really set me up for success when it comes to accent. We speak a lot of spanish in phonetics and most of the time is spent repeating things over and over to get the sounds correct. It won't help us to know spanish much if we say everything with an American accent!

A view from the school
        We finish by about 12:30pm. On Mondays I meet with a tutor, Oscar, to go a bit more in depth and supplement what I'm learning in classes with additional material. I head home for lunch after classes are done, eat lunch with Suzy, and relieve her of Kaia. Suzy then meets with a tutor from about 1 - 3pm while I watch Kaia and get started with homework. I have homework from all three classes on a daily basis which usually takes a couple of hours. After completing my homework I'll continue to study to try and cement the new words and concepts in my mind.

       When Suzy gets back from tutoring we spend some time reading the Bible together and spend some awake time together with Kaia. Then it's time to prepare dinner, straighten up the apartment, and wind down for tomorrow. I'll let Suzy tell you more about what it's like eating/cooking here in a future blog post...

      So, things are going well, but we're not sitting around twiddling our thumbs! There's a lot to learn and soak in. We attended a local Costa Rican church today, which was a great experience, and grabbed lunch with a couple of other missionary families to celebrate Mother's Day! We're incredibly blessed to be around so many other strong believer's on a daily basis who also have a heart for the world and will be serving the Lord in many different countries!

 Until next week,


Friday, May 4, 2012


Well, today is our fifth day in Costa Rica and the last morning of orientation. Many of you have heard, we woke to our neighbor ringing our on Wednesday morning, who informed us that orientation started that morning and not on Thursday as we had thought! We recovered from that mishap well, though, and are really looking forward to getting in to our studies. Official classes start this Monday.

Jim and Kaia being studious during orientation.

She even took her regular naps!

Jim with the rest of the orientation group. 
(Our Big Brother, Jim Rice, led the session on Safety/Security; he did a great job1) 

In addition to the anticipation of classes, this weekend we have the privilege of attending International Team's International Leadership Forum (ILF) in Puntarenas, Costa Rica (the beach!!!). These leadership forums take place every few years all over the world and this year's happens to be taking place 1.5 hours away from us!

The ILF is a strategic gathering of International Teams (IT) leaders from 66 countries for leadership training, exuberant worship, and refreshing time with God. It is also a great occasion to connect and network with leaders from the IT global family. Three other couples from Youth World in Ecuador will be in attendance as well as several individuals from the US Home Office and another couple that went through truing with us that we came to know very well while living in Elgin, IL. 

The ILF started on Thursday, so we are joining the group today after we complete our orientation. We will be taking a public bus from San Jose to the coast. So, this afternoon we embark on a public transit adventure! Please pray that God would bless this gathering, that we would arrive safe without any issues, and that God would use this time to stretch and refine us.

Kaia getting ready for the beach.

We will not be bringing our computers with us, so we may be out of email contact for a few days. We look forward to sharing more with you upon our return!!