Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Children Running Amuck

Our time is almost over as volunteers in Costa Rica, and we can tell.  Everything that we do has a bittersweet tinge.  We can’t help but be excited about the next step in our lives, yet it is going to be heart wrenching to say goodbye (especially to our 2nd grade class).

Last Sunday we had a pizza party at our house with our second graders-- no small feat.  It took organizing transportation to our house, 25 miles south of their hometown, countless calls from their worried little minds to our cell phone, and a whole block of cheese to pull this “little ditty” off.  But, oh did we have a good time.

Down to the last minute we really didn’t know how many of them would come or when they would show, but they were all waiting at the bus stop about an hour ahead of schedule with the energy equivalent of five Snickers Bars and a Coke.  The whole bus station was filled with a chorus of “MRS. SAVAGE” as Jenn came into sight, and it’s a wonder she remained standing as they stampeded in for the group hug.  As we hadn’t started the dough rising soon enough, Jenn took them directly to the beach to kill some time and dodge the potential torrent of threatening rain.  Without a way to contact each other, I was left tending the oven’s fire still wondering if anyone had actually made it to the party.

From ten past two until four o‘clock, the whole of the jungle was graced with the squeals of Denskel, Shiwai’s howler monkey imitations, and the general clamor and screams of 8 year olds away from their parents.  The kids made five oddly-shaped pizzas and ooed and ahhed as we placed them one by one in the clay oven*.  The kids wanted pizzas with only cheese and ham on them, but we managed to convince them that garlic, oregano, and cilantro are critical ingredients on a pizza and they just can‘t see them usually. Yummm.

 * Note:  I tried a new strategy of leaving the coals in the oven as we cooked the pizzas since they cook best at very high temperatures.  The resulting pizzas were spectacular and I will be implementing this strategy in the future.  Ah, delectable pizzas.

During this time, I came to realize the implications of having children in the house, and how far from “child proof” our house is.  I can at least take some praise for storing away all of my cutting, spearing, and filleting devices, but I did fail in securing our hammocks sufficiently since I didn’t know they would be used as swings.  Don’t worry, only one child went away with a bruised tail bone.  The only other casualty was a broken screen, but I fixed that one and our landlord will never know…unless he’s reading this (sorry Sebastien).

A couple of great quotes from the kids that are worth mentioning:

Translated from Spanish:
“Mrs. Savage, I don’t mean to be rude, but when we get to your house can I borrow your bathroom?” -Yuliana (Jenn busted up laughing and reassured her that she could, of course, use the bathroom without being rude.)

“What are we going to do when they leave? We won’t have English, we won’t have a Star Student of the week…I mean, no other teacher has ever invited us over to their house.” -Argelyn, Yuliana, and Aaliyah lamenting our departure, after which we received a toast for being the best teachers ever.

Practicing their English:
“I comb my hair in front of the mirror.”-Denskel exclaimed as he toured our home with a pause in the bathroom. (We’ve been learning this phrase in class recently….so proud!)

“Can I have some more pizza hut please?”-Argelyn (Accidentally adding on “hut” to the end.)

In the end, a good time was had by all.
For more pictures, go to:Pizza Party Pictures

The other event that we recently were involved in was the dedication of the church that we helped build at the beginning of our time in Costa Rica.  What a great reunion this turned out to be.  A number of our friends that helped build the church made the trek from the US back to San Jose for the event.  “Shout outs” to Carol and Dave Matheson, and Steve Walker.  Like always, we imposed ourselves on the Baits (Thank you guys for being our adopted parents down here.) and got to spend the weekend with Jim and Sara Wiegner, former missionaries in Costa Rica and elsewhere.  There was also a group in town from the Great Rivers Region of Illinois.
Jenn's first official translating job.  Pastor Olman was
very appreciative.
I'm supervising Jenn's work.  This wasn't staged.
The Alajualita Baptist Church is now a dedicated building that needs a lot of work and prayer in its next step of becoming a blessing to the community.  The church body, as of now, consists of about 15 people, but there were around 150 people at the dedication.  It was wonderful to see the building so full, and we hope that the church will begin to fill its chairs as it reaches out to the families around.

For more pictures of the church dedication: Alajuelita Church Dedication

Well, here goes the end of the trip, which brings a number of visitors.  Nick and Donna Bowers are visiting this Friday through Tuesday, and Jenn’s Dad and brothers arrive on Monday for a week-long visit. (Yes, we will be attempting to cook a turkey in our clay oven assuming customs doesn‘t flag the frozen turkey in their suitcase.)  Then, we are flying out of Costa Rica into Boise, Idaho on December 2nd.  There will be a welcome home party for us at my Mom-in-law’s home on Sunday the 4th at 2pm.  If you have been following our blog we would love to see you there.  Find it on Facebook or drop us an email for an address.  We will for sure have at least one more post on the blog as a conclusion/reflection.  Thank you for your continued support.
The dedication service.

Chris and Jenn Savage

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Making our final 33 DAYS count!

Representing the Oregon Ducks! We listen to the games
on the radio online and sport our Duck flag (a recent bday gift).
It’s official. We have our tickets and we’re going “home.” It’s actually strange to think about the States being home once again after getting accustomed to calling Costa Rica home for the past year. Nevertheless, we are going home and there we will stay unless God rocks our world in some unforeseen way down the road. We’ll finish up the school year, say goodbye to all of the friends we’ve made here, and fly out on December 2nd. It will undoubtedly taste bitter-sweet. 

Among the many things we’ve learned here, it has come to our attention that we belong to the slightly smaller category of people in the world who actually enjoy change. We thoroughly enjoy an adventure while it lasts yet also look forward to the next season of life when it draws near. In the case of our adventure here it’s been just about perfect length-wise. We’re to the point where aspects of living in the United States are sounding quite enticing! Driving, having our own things rather than storing them in boxes, pushing a button on a microwave to heat something up, washing clothes with a washer and dryer, and being rid of mold and its putrid smell are all things that make me smile. 

That being said, it’ll also be really hard to part with our jungle home here with its views of monkeys, toucans, and gorgeous vegetation, and say adios to our affectionate students. It’s really hard to think about saying goodbye for forever…and help them to understand that we really need to go back and get jobs. The whole rejoining the real world thing.
Sid the sloth who dropped in on us in our front yard
one evening. Lovely surprise guest!
The whole bunch ripened at about the same time. Needless to say,
our freezer is full and we're prepped for smoothies!
Handsome Birthday Boy, celebrating in Nicaragua.
We recently had Jeff and Janet (Christopher’s parents) visit us for a week. We had a wonderful time showing them the beautiful countryside and celebrating both Christopher and Jeff’s birthdays. We even taught our 2nd graders a special birthday song that Christopher grew up singing in his family, and they surprised Jeff with it as he walked into the classroom to meet them on his birthday. They were excited, he was delightfully surprised, and I was proud of them. It was just lovely for all. : ) 
Happy Birthday Happy, Happy Birthday!
This is your happy day!
In the meantime, we’re looking forward to having our 2nd graders over for a pizza/beach party at our home in Cahuita. This will be their prize after earning 10 stars for good behavior in class, and also a way to make some last memories before we leave. Argelyn was so excited that her mom said she could come, that she called my cell phone last night to tell me the great news. Chris got quite the kick out of that and decided that while he’ll stick to teaching high school, he admits that elementary students do the cutest things. : )

Those same dear students who make us laugh and provide us with so many fun quotes can also make me question my choice to make teaching a career. Despite all of the positive feedback I receive, the rough days seem to overshadow it and force me to question my future once more. After a day such as this I was reminded just how good God is and how much He cares about each one of us. He used the medium of music to grab my attention and a song spoke right to my soul in a way that addressed my fears and dreams at the same time. I was reaffirmed and encouraged in a way that will carry me through the next time I struggle to be confident in my abilities.

This year abroad has been a cake walk in many ways. If you were to ask any of our visitors over the course of the last 7 months about our life here, they would likely tell you about the dream we’re living. In all reality, they are right; we get to spend all of our time together, we only volunteer 3-4 days a week, we’re living in a tropical destination, and our schedule is loose enough to allow for us to act on whims or even just stay home for the day. Yet there’s always more to the story, isn’t there? Living here for the year meant putting our life in the States and several dreams on hold. Our friends are already sampling their career jobs, some are starting families, and even others are looking to buy their first homes. All of these things are still very much attainable, but require more patience of us, since we find ourselves one or two years behind in what might have been our 5-year plan (plan quiquenal) had we not taken this year off. And that’s just the States’ side of things. 

While in Costa Rica we’ve run into several emotional and physical road blocks, whether it be working with the people here (who haven’t always been the friendliest in our experience), being singled out just because we’re white (and we’ll never fit in here), or dealing with people who see us simply as dollar signs. (I don’t think reasoning with them about the fact that we’re volunteers and only depleting our savings, which by the way, are all going to their country, would change their minds about anything.) We’ve dedicated our time and money to serving Costa Rica and its youth for a year, yet we’ve rarely felt appreciated by the people here. A previous colleague with more experience under her belt once told us that we’d have to get used to it, as she’d volunteered for a couple of years and once struggled with the lack of support and thanks also. Her advise to reevaluate our motives and purpose of being here was very helpful and life giving. We no longer expect affirmation but rather receive our payback via the relationships with our students and listening to the English they’re now speaking. Overall, it’s probably better that we’ve gotten accustomed to finding rewards in our work alone, independent of people’s praise.

Reflecting on the above, we’ve absolutely treasured this year of experience here and all of the adventure and learning that came along with it. It just wouldn’t be fair to only describe the good and portray our life here as skipping through a field of daisies (after all, it would more likely be strolling along a white sandy beach). So we write this in order that you may know a few more of our thoughts, experiences, and hearts. 
Thank you for sharing in our adventure.
Jenn and Chris

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Eight and a half months in.  We’ve been living in Costa Rica for quite a length of time now, and it shows in everything that we’ve learned.  We’ve discovered that Jenn is an incredible teacher and she desperately wants her own classroom to teach in.  I learned that I am called to teach and that my gifts lie with older kids, or adolescents.  And above these, we’ve discovered our calling as a couple; in short, we are going to be light and life to people around us (if you want to know more about our thoughts here, we’d love to share them with you via email).  These three things warrant this trip, let alone the rest of our newly found knowledge.  

Considering these things, we are beginning to get a bit antsy to return to the States and begin this next adventure.  But, we are continually encouraging each other to live here, in the present, now.  So, the last 3 weeks have brought some interesting adventures. 

Jenn continues to explore new Caribbean recipes, with plans to try Rondon (from the English ‘run down’), a mixture of fish, coconut milk and any available starch.  Ceviche is also on the menu.  Both of these require fish, which is a new item on our budget menu since I picked up a new hobby; spear fishing.  Whenever possible, I take my homemade spear and sling and scour the underwater rocks for hiding fish.  I’ve been successful on a number of occasions, including a lobster dinner one night.  What fun!

Chris w/his new buds, Abie & Nathan Reed
We’ve had a number of visitors lately and one more to come.  The Reeds, a family attending language school in San Jose in preparation for mission work in Bolivia, spent last weekend in our town.  We had them over for breakfast and spent much of Friday with them.  This morning we said goodbye to a group of four George Fox University students awaiting the start of their study abroad program in San Jose.  They spent a week at our place so that they could experience the jungle and beach before they hit the big city.  One day they rode with us into our school to help our students learn some English.  They studied with them and played a thrilling game of BINGO.  Ever since then, all we hear is, "Why aren't your friends here?" "When will they be coming back?"  Apparently we aren't cool enough anymore.  They were a delight to have and we hope that they left blessed and in high spirits.  Tonight, we will be picking up Micah Baits to stay the weekend with us while the famous Gary and Mylinda head to the States for a conference.  Looks like he’s just going to have to join us for the U of O Duck football game radio broadcast Saturday night!
Dana, Amy, Shawnte, and Brandon with our 2nd graders.
Micah and Jenn will also be leading the worship time at church on Sunday. Hopefully they can liven things up and introduce the congregation to some different praise songs. If all else fails, they’ll at least succeed at providing rest for the volunteer pastor who heads this up every week, in addition to his sermon. Volunteers have been lacking in other areas of the church recently, especially during the Sunday School time. This is actually an answer to prayer, because it implies that there are actually children who show up! So, Jenn has plugged into this open spot for the last couple of weeks and plans to continue to do so. It’s the best when we see kids on the beach who point her out saying, “Hey, she’s the girl from church!” We now ask for prayer that this time on Sunday with the kids is revamped so they’ll continue to keep coming and even learn something about Jesus while they’re there.
Jenn still tutors Danie twice a week, a really bright 6 yr. old.
At the school, things are going very well.  The kids are speaking more and more English everyday.  On Thursday, we went on a field trip with them to the mayor’s office to see the workings of the city.  The offices there are quite dilapidated but are air conditioned, at least.  As we were leaving, we met the president of the city (whatever that means), got our picture taken, and were apparently going to end up on television here.  Cool.  Also, I’ve finally built a website for the school to help them raise funds.  It took time, but here it is www.cebauca.com.  Please take a look at it and share the site with your friends.  Maybe, just maybe, we can raise the funds to make the school presentable and marketable.  They are doing such a wonderful thing there, and I’m sure that Jenn and I will continue to promote the school and support it ourselves once we’ve returned to the States!
Assuming the role of judges, they decided that Chris was
guilty of murdering Mrs. Savage!
God is good.  

Thank you for your support and prayers.  Please be praying for my Aunt Cindy that she has a speedy recovery, and give praise for the miracle that she has already been discharged from the hospital!  Praise God!

Chris and Jenn Savage

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Beyond Blessed

We both had the honor of being in the wedding party.
It was so much fun to be united with close friends.

It’s been quite some time since our last blog and we’ve done a lot within that month! Here’s a little recap: We flew back to Oregon for Papa’s memorial and our friends’ wedding. It was a great trip and we packed in as much as possible in the short week we were there. The whole week was rather surreal after having been out of the country for 8 months and unaccustomed to the extravagance in the States. It also spoiled us to be surrounded by friends and family once again. That little taste made our return in December sound quite appealing. : ) However, we are enjoying our life here and the beauty that surrounds us in Cahuita. We will live in the present and the future will be here soon enough!

Upon returning to CR we were accompanied by my mom, our first long-awaited visitor! Having my mom here for the last 2 weeks gave us the opportunity to see Limon (and the surrounding towns) through new eyes, once again.  We assumed the roles of tour guides and realized in the process that we need to take advantage of where we live a little more. She marveled over the details that are now normal to us, so we re-experienced them with her. My mom also documented sights that we’ve failed to capture, yet portray a very accurate picture of where we live. Therefore, I’ll include some of them for you to see, a more complete picture of our life, portrayed through my mom’s eyes/camera lens.

This is our solo means of transportation. For better or for worse.

This is the bus stop that we sometimes wait at just down from the school. (This time we were placated with ice creams from the guy down the road while we waited.)

It’s very odd to buy things from someone’s gated front door, isn’t it? Hmmmm….well this is our favorite ice cream joint near our school. If his inside door is open, then he’s home and selling; if it’s closed, then we’re out of luck.

The weeks that my mom spent here were a blast, accompanied by terrific weather. Thank goodness for this, because half of what’s to do around here involves being outside in nature.

This is one teeter totter. Just one. Packed with as many students as possible. It’s new to the “playground;” the playground consisted of nothing until this came recently, along with some old tires made into swings.

Every morning at school my mom was welcomed to the 2nd grade class with a, “Welcome Miss Tammy.” At the end of the 2 weeks when I told them she was leaving, they jumped out of their desks to envelope her in a huge bear hug, all the while telling her not to go. We teach such adorable children…we will surely miss them when we have to say our good byes at the end of their school year.

We took mom to a place known for their fried chicken. I hadn’t realized how odd the building was before when we’d been there, but as mom pointed out, there’s essentially only one wall. The rest are just bars, keeping it well ventilated, but also giving the impression that you’re in jail.

Mom’s first experience of a “Soda” (their term for restaurants) was a positive one, where we ordered her a “Casado.” Beef, rice, beans, sweet plantains, mashed potatoes (though not common), and a cabbage salad.

While we were eating, a car passed by with a loudspeaker on it, announcing, or rather blaring, anything and everything. This is a common form of advertising here, and it makes us so thankful that the USA has noise laws. : )

Punta Uva is one of the prettier beaches where the water is often calm enough to snorkel in. This was the first time we went snorkeling with fins and our underwater camera.

Chris was certainly in his element during this outing.
Chris is in the process of perfecting the art of getting coconuts or pipas (green coconuts) down from the palm trees. He was eventually successful. Twice.

After 8 months, we are still amazed at all of the types of fruit here. This was a new one to us, and we’re still not sure what the name is, but it tastes like a cross between a mango and a guanabana. Yum!

We are so blessed to have such a great spot to watch the sun set every evening. We will miss running on Playa Negra when we return to the paved streets of Corvallis.

This past weekend we said good bye to my mom after spending some wonderful time with her, and hello to our 2nd wedding anniversary! We decided to go big this year and take a trip to a Caribbean destination, somewhere warm, full of character, yet not too expensive. Luckily for us, this was only 15 kilometers down the road in the little surfing town of Puerto Viejo!

This past year of marriage has held so many extremes and new experiences  (working 3 jobs between the 2 of us, hardly seeing each other, moving out of the silo, moving to Costa Rica, helping to build a church, committing to volunteer teaching positions, and spending nearly every moment together) and it seems to have flown by. We were asked recently how this time abroad has affected our marriage and whether we would recommend it to other newlywed couples. Our answer? We would ABSOLUTELY recommend it to others. This year abroad has been such a blessing for our relationship. We learned how to truly live together, since we’re rarely apart, yet still give each other space and independence. We’ve become experts on each other and find ourselves even more in love today than we were yesterday. It’s been a testimony to just how amazing God is to have brought us together. This time abroad serving and exploring together has only brought us closer, so much so, that we’ll likely go through withdrawals when we return to the States and have to work “normal people jobs/schedules.”

We’re so blessed to have friends and family like you, keeping up on our adventure and praying for us. Thank you once again for your support.

Dios les bendiga!
-The Savages

Friday, July 15, 2011

Halfway Through

Biking in Granada

Chicken bus
The Savage Expedition of Unknown Length is now “of Known Length.” We’ll be heading back to the States once the school year is over here in early December. The plan at this point is for Jenn to begin looking for teaching jobs and for me to begin work on my Master’s degree at OSU in Science Education (I can’t believe I’m going to be a beaver…). So, we’re now beyond the halfway mark of our trip. Wow. It feels like this time is going so quickly. I know that many people will be very happy to have us back home knowing that we’re “safe” again (special shout out to our grandparents), but will we have been here long enough to affect change? Sigh. That is always a hard question. Please be praying for us that people that we interact with see Christ in us and through the work that we do.

Since our last blog it has been a bit tumultuous. My beloved Papa, Dave Iman, died of a heart attack. When Jenn and I heard the news we quickly made the decision for me to fly back to Oregon to be with my Grammy and family. Time stood still while the family was together, and it has been hard for our family. His celebration of life service will be held on July 30th; at the same time in which Jenn and I were already planning on being in the States. So, time quickly marches on to when we will be leaving once more. Jenn spent that time with the Baits in Costa Rica wishing for me to be back in her arms.

Laguna de Apoyo
600 feet deep!
Cacao drink...it's like chocolate milk.
After I returned from the States we had a short few days before Jenn’s tourist visa would expire. This time, we had planned a trip to Nicaragua. So, we embarked on an adventure which coincided with our school’s three week vacation time; a perfect time for some exploring. It took about 11 hours on a couple of buses to get from our home to Granada, Nicaragua, a small colonial town on the edge of the great Lake Nicaragua. We had as long or as short as we wanted for this trip, but once we saw this little city we decided to stay for some time. We loved the cheap street foods ($1.80-2.50 for most meals) and the beautiful architecture around the town. Our adventures there included zip-lining, drinking beverages out of bags, kayaking in a beautiful crater lake, touring the colonial churches, biking around the city, and visiting the nearby city of Masaya (very much less developed than in Costa Rica which we‘re used to). We then took a ferry to Ometepe, an island in Lake Nicaragua made of two huge volcanoes. The buses around the island are known as Chicken Buses. Why are they called that you may wonder? No other reason except that there are frequently people on them that are traveling with chickens. We made our way to a small hostel on a farm in the hills and left from there on a trek up Volcan Maderas. We hiked a very rough, tough four thousand feet up, then down into the crater for a quick dip in the lagoon and then returned slipping down the mountain in a total of 6.5 hours. At some point I received bites on my ankle from some poisonous insect and spent the next couple days walking with careful step. We also made our way to San Juan del Sur, a small beach town on the Pacific side. It was beautiful, but very California beach-esk so we left there the next day and spent some time with our wonderful friends the Baits at their home in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Main cathedral

I’m making progress with my Spanish speaking, but while we were on Ometepe, I meant to tell a lady that I had already paid and instead told her that I had already hit her coworker. “Oh, don’t worry, I already punched her!!” I didn’t realize what I’d said until Jenn bust up laughing once we were out of earshot.

Jenn had a number of firsts;:first time ever jumping off a rope swing, first time zip-lining, and her first time sleeping under a mosquito net!

Zip lining at Volcan Mombacho

Arriving back at our home in Cahuita after almost two weeks was interesting. An uninhabited house in the Jungle doesn’t stay uninhabited. We were welcomed home by tons of resident spiders, frogs, and a HUGE grasshopper! Jenn was less than thrilled and many a loud scream could have been heard had anyone been around. So, I engaged in creature battles for a decent while. But, we are now back and roasting at our home in Cahuita recovering from some sour stomachs (we paid the price for the excellent street food) and finding plenty of ways to stay busy around here until school starts back up.

Thank you for checking up on what we’ve been up to.

Volcan Concepcion on Isla Ometepe
Chris and Jenn Savage
Thankfully this was outside NOT inside our house.