Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Life as of late.

   It has been far too long between blog posts: for that, I apologize.

       We've had a pretty crazy last couple of weeks. Last week was spiritual emphasis week here at the language institute. They fly a speaker in and we have two sessions every day of the week in addition to our normal classes. Though it's a huge blessing, it also means that Suzy and I have to prepare music for all 10 sessions. Now, we do delegate, so not all of them were led by us-- but I did play and/or sing in 8 of the 10. Not to mention coordinating, making slides, and practicing. The speaker was really solid, it was nice not having any tests, homework, or reports that week, and it was a joy to lead the student body in worship with such frequency, in spite of the time commitment.

      This past weekend we spent a full day with some Costa Rican friends: a couple from our church and friends of theirs who live in a tiny mountain town nearby. We left first thing in the morning and made a two hour drive east to an outdoor ministry site called La Cumbre. La Cumbre is quite similar in many ways to El Refugio, where we'll be serving in Ecuador. They've got a gorgeous piece of property with a winding river running straight through the middle of the grounds. They have high and low ropes course activities, a soccer field, a covered basketball court/gym, indoor housing for 100 some people, and beautiful common areas. It's a gorgeous place.

The full group of us that went to La Cumbre
     The reason we went was because the couple from the small mountain town are very involved in a smaller, new church, and they have a desire to see the population of youth grow in the church. When we first met them, we told them about what we'll be doing in Ecuador, and they loved the sound of it-- they just wished there was something like that here in Costa Rica. We were pleased to tell them about La Cumbre! Though we hadn't been ourselves, we'd heard of it from connections through El Refugio and through the language school here.

The Leap of Faith
     We had a great time out there being shown the grounds, eating, watching some youth doing activities that they offer, and even participating ourselves! I did a high ropes element called 'The Leap of Faith.' I had to climb up a rope ladder to a platform and once at the top, leap towards a hanging bar. The bar seems just out of reach, and though you're harnessed in and connected to a rope, there's certainly a degree of fear in leaping into thin air, hoping your hands will be able to reach/ grasp the bar in front of you. I won't elaborate on it any more, but the spiritual parallels and implications are numerous.

       Aside from that, we've continued to teach our weekly Saturday group of youth who are learning to play and lead worship music, I've continued having my weekly conversations with men in the community, and Kaia continues to grow and be sweeter and sweeter every day!

         Today is Halloween. Hurricane Sandy hit the Eats Coast this week. The presidential election is next week (we sent our absentee ballots in yesterday!). The Yankees aren't in the World Series.  Lucasfilm is now owned by Disney. It rains quite hard here just about every day now. Thanksgiving is in 3 weeks and a day. In just over 7 weeks Christmas will be here-- and in just over 6 weeks we'll be flying to Ecuador! Changes, big events, busyness, and much ahead of us. God is good, through it all!


Babysitting for other students-- as a result, Kaia gets a play-date with some other girls! 

Beautiful sunset from our friend's apartment

Monday, October 8, 2012

Home sweet home...

When I lived in Ecuador in 2005, I spent most of my 8 months in the kitchen with 4 wonderful women, Maria, Esperanza, Kenya, and Magdalena. They were the cooks for an after school program that was sponsored by Compassion International. The project was located at a church in a poor neighborhood called Carmen Bajo and there about 50-70 elementary school aged kids that participated in the program. Everyday these women would conjure up some of the yummiest food I ever ate while living in Ecuador. I was always amazed by these womens' ability to turn rice and vegetables (occasionally chicken) into a feast. My love for cooking started in that kitchen with those women and I will always be grateful for the time I was able to spend with them.

Me with Esperanza and her two daughters back in 2005.

This last Sunday I was reminded of many good memories with my Ecuadorian cooking friends because I once again found myself as the student learning from another skilled latina cook. Every week our church here in Costa Rica offers a post-service snack. The food ranges from different typical costa rican dishes to chinese fried rice to tacos (costa rican style), and sometimes even ice cream. Every once in awhile they serve up hot, delicious, freshly made cheese or bean empanadas. They are very tasty and I had decided that I would love to learn to make them.

They may not look like much, but they are packed with flavor!!

Two weeks ago I shared this thought with the Pastor's wife at our church and she set me up with Ethel. A dear woman who is known as a very good cook within our congregation. We were put in charge of making the post-service snack and we spent the majority of the church service whipping up these tasty treats and I felt right at home in the kitchen with her. It was so fun to watch her skilled hands work swiftly to make these delicious treats and now I will be able to carry on her legacy even when we move to Ecuador!

Ethel preparing the dough.

When it comes to any kind of dough, it's especially helpful to have a practiced cook teaching you. Here's the dough ready for making the empanadas.

This is genius. Jim and I always wondered how they got their empanadas to be the exact same size! We were convinced they had to be factory made, but they are not. To make the empanada, you take a golf ball size piece of dough and put in this contraption.

They come out looking like this every time! 
So much easier than rolling out each one with a rolling pin...

Then you fill it with cheese, 
fold it over and put it in the fry pan.

I'm thinking this empanada press-dealy 
would make a great souvenir of our time here...

But if you don't have one, Ethel showed me how to make a perfectly formed 
empanada without it. I was blown away by how quickly and evenly she formed that disc. 
I personally stuck with the press so that it wouldn't be SO obvious which empanadas were 
made by the gringa and which were made by Ethel.

The finished product, ready to serve to 
hungry members of the congregation.

I'm sorry I didn't meet Ethel sooner, but I do hope to continue to deepen our relationship over the next ten weeks. She is such a sweet woman and I look forward to pursuing similar relationships with women in Ecuador, too...ones that will be able to last a long time and build up from the passion for cooking that God has laid on our hearts!!


                Ethel and I in the kitchen at church...          ...and of course, Kaia helped us, too!