Thursday, January 27, 2011

Somewhat Ironic

Coffee Fields of Costa Rica

This has been a very busy week.  Mostly wonderful, but one particularly very unfortunate event...

Work on the church has continued and is pluggin' right along.  We find ourselves out at that site 4-5 days a week lately. While the last group was here (they left on Tuesday morning) we accomplished the completion of the concrete floor, the plingaring of multiple walls (a process of flinging concrete on the walls), new walls installed, and the moving of many piles of sand, rock, and concrete bags.  Why are we doing all of that there can be a church in the middle of Alajualita, a fairly rough neighborhood in need of some TLC.

We were finally able to be a part of the candle making ministry at La Guacima.  This ministry is run by Mylinda Baits, with minimal leadership, in hopes that the ladies there will take it on as their own.  That area is a target area for sex trade prostitute recruits, and a thing such as a candle business can be enough to keep some from that terrible outcome.  It gives purpose and a new skill.  The candles are then sold for a minimum donation of $10 and the proceeds are split: 1/3 to the ladies, 1/3 to the supplies, and 1/3 to the church where they make the candles.  I continued on with my puppet house building project and will finish the next time we go out there.
Jenn helping to make the candles
We went to the baptism of a friend that we have made here, Caryn Schmid.  It was absolutely wonderful as we hung out at an awesome river and had lunch with everyone.
Congratulations Caryn (and thanks to Gary and Mylinda for officiating (is that the right word?))!!
On to the not-so-hot news.  Jenn and I saved up for nice DSLR camera that would take spectacular pictures to remember our experience.  In our last posting we mentioned helping out someone in need.  Well, apparently a guy on a bus decided that he was going to force us to give him our camera (apparently he was in need).  We were on our way back from our first trip to the Pacific coast (fun trip by the way...and very warm water) when the bus came to a stop and I immediately knew something was wrong.  I stood up to see our bag being pulled out of the bus by said guy.  I grabbed the bag at the last second, he looked and me and said, "Lo Siento," and he left the bus.  I had just saved our bag full of a wallet, cell phone, keys, mask and snorkels, and ipods.  Jenn and I quickly discovered that the top of the bag had been opened and our Christmas gift to one another, our camera, was gone.  Sigh, sometimes things are too good to last, or something philosophical like that.  In memory our dear camera, please observe the last pictures that she captured (quite nice ones at that)...

Poas Volcano, Costa Rica

At the butterfly gardens!

Two three toed sloths...seriously lazy creatures!

I LOVE THE TROPICS...yes, I was this close.

This is our new friend, Lt. Snottlenose

Yes, these frogs actually exist.
We went to a couple of the more touristy places in Costa Rica.  The Poas Volcano, and the Waterfall Gardens.  Both were fantastic, and we recommend them to anyone heading this direction...

New things we've learned:

1. Noise pollution laws in the States are actually in place for a reason.

2. Carpet is not something they do here.

3. Going on jogs = always running huge hills.

4. Many times greetings include God: Como esta? Bien, gracias a Dios.  or: Hasta manana! Si Dios quiere.
    (How are you? Good, thanks be to God)      (See you tomorrow. Lord willing)


6. Everyone goes to the beach in the late afternoon, because it is too hot in the middle of the day.

7. Gary Baits loves playing games...ESPECIALLY when he wins.

8. Vendors sell things everywhere, on sidewalks, walking around on beaches, at stoplights between lanes.  And, most of the time they are things that make sense, like food items, or touristy stuff.  But, they also sell weird things like socks, remote controls, pens, and coloring books.

Our plan is still to move over to the Limon area (we have our eye on a little town called Cahuita).  This weekend we'll be meeting the pastor of the church that we'd work with over there.  Maybe then we'll have a bit of an idea of what we may do there.  But for now, we continue to help out the Baits with their ministries whenever we can.  Thank you to all for your support in this trip.  It is amazing to see God working in and through us.  

Until next time,

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What we are learning...

There is a concept that we have been contemplating a bit since we've been here; one that I would venture to guess is shared by many of those in the US.  It is simply that there are poor people in this world, and we wonder how to deal with them.  Well, what does it mean to be poor?  Is it the inability to buy things that you want? Things you need? 

I know it has been said before, but we're now seeing it for ourselves; many people with a lot of money are much poorer than the "poor" that we meet here in Costa Rica.  Actually, many of those we meet seem to be much happier than people I know in the States that have all they could want.  Really, the word "poor" to us is taking on a new meaning.  We pray that we will see the poor not as poor, but people just like any other that need love and friendship.  Let us not judge others based on their color, lifestyle, class, or $worth!!

I encourage you to contemplate your financial situation for a moment.  Give thanks to God for what you have, but remember that money is for the things we need.  Beyond that, it will not increase the fullness of life you have.  

So, what can you do about it?  
Homework assignment: Find someone in need and help them to meet one of their needs.  We cannot learn to help those in need unless we get to know them first. Give something that you have away to those that you meet so that they can experience some of the gifts that you have been given.  If you do happen to do this, We'd like to hear about it (it isn't boasting, because I'm asking), it would be very encouraging.  Email us at

As for recent happenings, 
1. I'm building a puppet house at the church in La Guacima that also doubles as a preschool (The last one was poorly built and fell over quickly, but the kids loved it!)

2. We're still working on the church in Alajuelita (which you've seen previous pictures of).  The floor is complete, and we're currently working on mudding the walls, painting, digging ditches, and the like.  We've quickly grown to love the people there.

3.  We got to go to our first Costa Rican Futbol (Soccer) game.  To see the highlights of the game just check it out below.
  It was an awesome cultural experience.  Lets just say they are a bit MORE into sports than people in the States.  INTENSE as in they must clear the streets of one teams fans before releasing the others after the game so that the fights stay at a minimum.

4. We visited the Central Market in downtown San Jose!  It is spectacular!  We'll try and get a video posted soon!  

Jenn painting at the church/preschool in La Guacima


Jenn's big hole she dug! Yeah!
Thank you all for your love and support!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

One week later = officially Ticos!

It's officially been a week since we've been here! Yet, it feels like we've been here much longer, and at the same time like we just left the States. It's been great so far meeting lots of people (Ticos as they call themselves), trying new foods, being immersed in a new culture with new customs, being adopted into the family by the Baits, surviving the crazy narrow and pot-hole roads and the insane driving (I thought Spain driving was crazy but at least they had lines on the road), speaking Spanish all the time, etc. It's been a surprisingly easy transition due to the awesome circumstances, but I will say that Christopher has had to adjust even more to the Spanish language factor. His mind is exhausted at the end of each day after continually being bombarded with new vocab and attempting to decipher Spanish conversations. He's picking things up very quickly and continually receives compliments on his newly-learned Spanish.
In addition to the new skills we're learning when it comes to construction, painting, or cooking at the work site, we've also discovered the following 6 items that we'd like to share with you:
1. There's a greater difference between hotels and motels here. Motel=brothel. Hotel=what we normally think of a hotel/motel in the States. Be careful when booking a night's stay!
2.People do not have the right of way here, and it's obvious that the cars do. Don't expect cars to stop or even slow down if you are crossing the street, because they surely won't and you'll be hit if you don't jump out of the way. Talk about something to adjust to!
3. Dogs are EVERYWHERE. And they are only too happy to have an excuse to follow you when you take a dog walking with you. (I may be rather quick to observe this since they terrify me in this situation. Bad experiences you know.)
4. Many of the stores have guards posted outside watching the cars to ensure they aren't tampered with/broken into (paid by the grocery store) but then there will randomly be guards other places, and often self appointed. For example, if you park at the outdoor market (la feria) there will likely be a guy standing near the parked cars and it's just a given thing that you will tip him when you leave for the "protection" he provided for you.
5. Cafecito is a daily occurance between lunch and dinner, so around 3. They LOVE their coffee here and I'm the odd man out for not wanting to drink their very strong, hot coffee on a hot afternoon. Instead they they serve me fresco, which is great with me. Coffee is served with some sort of snack, like bread, cookies, crackers, or even tamales. There isn't a shortage of food here to say the least.
6. There are stop signs at every intersection even if there's a stoplight. I kept thinking Gary was blowing through them but little did I know they are just there in case the power goes out and I just couldn't see the lights from the back middle seat.

Why 6 things? Because that's all I could think of at the moment. :)

Well, as of late we've continued to be at work at the church in Alajuelita and we were joined by 
the group on Monday from Illinois. The church has already come a long way with over half of the concrete floor being poured, the walls painted with plaster bond, and half the walls covered with their first layer of concrete stuff (really technical I know). We also finished building walls to divide Sunday school classrooms, which are being used as "dorms" for the group staying there this week, so we set up bunk beds for them.
Constructing one of four wall pieces.
Beds for the group
Putting up the walls/dividers.
Yesterday was the first day we didn't work at either church since being here. We decided it was time to explore on our own, so we caught the bus for the first time and headed to the walking street in San Jose. It's pretty great b/c cars can't drive down the center and there are tons of shops, parks, people, and restaurants. There's also an awesome market called El Mercado Central. It's a very confusing maze of vendors, pet shops, and little restaurants. It's huge though, inside, and quite the site. We ate an authentic Costa Rican lunch here, followed up by this delicious type of ice cream. Then that evening we went to the movie theatre in the mall with Micah and Gary since it was half off night. The guys decided we should wear weird hats and make fools out of ourselves just for fun...this is not a Costa Rican kind of thing to do. Appearance is much more important to them and they wouldn't find this entertaining. We did however. :)
Pescado Entero (whole fish) that is battered and fried.
I know it looks weird, but it was great!
Wearing the funny hats (before giving them to the kids
for dress up) in the waiting area befor the movie.
Micah, Chris, and Gary...before we switched the hats around.

Today we went to La Guacima with the intention of making candles, which is one of the ministries Mylinda heads up there to provide local women with a past time and also some extra income. However, several of the women were sick, so we painted, fixed the play structure, started building a little play house/puppet show structure, and cleaned the yard up some. We hold our plans lightly, as Mylinda says.
Painting the Sunday school classroom for the youngest children.
Painting the room used for the Preschool and for Sunday school.
Building the kid's play house and puppet show structure
 based on what we learned the past few days.
Tomorrow it's into the kitchen for me as Guis is going to teach me how to make some Costa Rican dishes and more work in Alajuelita. Thanks so much again for all of your prayers and support. It's quite the opportunity to be here and be available to people and the needs here. Oh, we also have an address now! If you'd like just send us an email; we'd love to hear from you via snail mail.

Dios te bendiga!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What is espiderman?

The Baits' House. Where we're staying!!

Alright, we're settling in. We're learning things about this place left and right. Things that need to be known about Costa Rica
1. There aren't any street about confusing.
2. All directions are based around where the Catholic church and park are located. For example, a house's address might be:
150 meters East of the Catholic church
Black Gate with bamboo fence
3. Any English word starting with an "S" becomes "ES." For example, spiderman is said espiderman.
4. San Jose is actually a providence in the center of another 6 provinces that, together, make up the city. We haven't even been in the capital city yet, and the airport doesn't even fly into it even though it's called San Jose Airport.
5. Since there isn't any snow here, kids slide down steep hills at the parks on "tobogans" aka...pieces of cardboard and plastic.
6. The water out of the tap is most likely okay to drink.
7. No TP in the toilet
8. You can't touch your head to the shower head or you'll get an electrical shock (Jenn found out the hard way).

We've been doing a lot since we've been here. It already feels like it has been at least a week. We spent half of a day painting a church/school's playground. This was the same place that we had our first Costa Rican Tamales!! Oh joy, were they good! Before we came, we heard that the food here is bland...on the contrary!! It is great! Gallo Pinto, quesadillas, talapia, and Taco Bell!

We're gearing up for a group from the States to be here. Seven people from Illinois will be arriving tomorrow during the Oregon vs. Auburn game (Mylinda will pick them up, cause none of us are leaving the game)! Jenn and I will be the veterans here and help them with whatever they need. Then another group shows up the following Monday.

Last night we went to Micah's youthgroup, an English speaking youthgroup. The youth leaders that they recently had moved back to the States on home assignment. Consequently, we are being prodded to pray about whether we are to be the next youth leaders. We don't think this is what we are called to do while here, but if you all can be praying that we are wise in discernment that would be wonderful!!! God will guide us!

Church today Espanol and long...but, it was really a blessing. Actually, Mylinda did the translating during the sermon (very helpful). She was so into Spanish in her head that she kept calling Moses, "Moises." Once again, everyone was so warm and welcoming!!


Guis and Jenn playing a sweet dice game.
The neighborhood playground we painted.
Supplies for the church floor we will be putting in this next week.

More hard work a head of us.

More Supplies

Unloading the cement.

At the feria (a bunch of local farmers selling all of their stuff for really cheap)!! Spectacular...Jenn is eating a sample of the pineapple to see if it was good to buy.

Fresh FOOD!
Thanks for reading!!

Mr. Savage

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Glimpse of what's to come

Church site in Alajuelita


The day finally came!! It's so hard to believe that we've actually begun our adventure...yet we've made it through three flights and two countries; we spent the afternoon speaking Spanish to friends we've just made; there are gates surrounding everything, not b/c it's dangerous but b/c it's seen as a sign of security and even the churches have gated walls; we're sitting on the couch at the Baits' home after tossing our bags in our room to be unpacked later; and there's currently a sea of lights from San Jose out the window (beautiful). Yes, I think we've arrived.

However, let's back up a bit to the adventure it was to get here. After the first flight we caught a glimpse of what this time here might be like, meeting new people, making connections, and offering ourselves to assist in whatever needed.

Making connections: Our first connection was made with the flight attendant when she began talking to us about our trip (naturally, as we were seated in row 1...), and we came to find out that she too is a Christian who volunteered at TeenMania for a year and decided to pursue her job as a flight attendant after a mission trip to South America. By the end of the flight she'd given us her email, asked for the address to our blog, and revealed to us that the best beverage to have on a flight is: cranapple and ginger ale!Needless to say, she was right and 3 flights later we've had our fair share of the concoction.

Helping Others: Upon arriving in Denver we only had 30 minutes to get off the plane, claim carry-ons from under the small plane, and walk to the opposite end of the terminal-from gate 60 to 18. Weeeellll, there was an elderly woman who had been through a long day of ups and downs traveling and was about ready to break down. The flight attendant found out what flight she was on and directed her to us to show her the way and get her to the gate on time. Long story short, Joyce made it to our connecting flight and is likely reunited with her family in time for a funeral by now. However small this little interaction was, these sorts of things can add so much meaning to 30 minutes in the day.

Meeting New People: Costa Rica. We've now met our gracious hosts: Gary and Mylinda, as well as their son Micah. We've also met the pastor and his wife of the church that is under construction, and another couple from the States that just arrived yesterday and is volunteering at the same site. Oh, and we met the neighbor to the church, some construction workers, a neighbor from down the street, get the picture. :) Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming; we're excited to continue to work with them after our glimpse today- we got off the plane headed straight to the church building site and worked for 3ish hours. Shortly after arriving, Chris mentioned to me that he feels so at home already in this town/setting/environment. My impression? Well, I don't know that I'd go quite that far but it's only been an afternoon. Give me a day at least! :)

Thank you so much for all of the prayers sent our way. Our trip was unbelievably smooth on all accounts and we can only thank God for orchestrating it all.

Tearing up some more random block.
Mylinda and I put together a "closet" for the other volunteer couple,
Dave and Carol, we met today.
Olman (pastor), Gary, and Dave looking over plans for the church.
This is the area that will be the sanctuary.

Olman and Chris will Mancha.
Chris started working right away!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Final Moments!

So, we've said most of our goodbyes over the past 2 weeks.  It's an interesting feeling to say goodbye for an extended period of time.  I'm not going to claim that I like it, but it is curious...I now have snapshots of those moments in my mind, and it really shows that people care for us.  I will remember those moments of final goodbyes for a very long time! We love you all!  Thank you for the sweet support for this trip you have given us!

There are so many last minute details to finish insurance (since we're leaving our car in Idaho), cell phones, health insurance, rechargeable batteries for our camera and UV water sterilizer (such a COOL thing), and a multitude of other random stuff!

There are also a number of things that have not resolved themselves by this time, so we throw our hands up and figure we'll have to deal with them over the can contact us on our skype account (thesavageexpedition).

Please be praying for our trip...We'll leave you with some pictures of our final time in the USA.

 Jenn's Mom and Grandma
 The Savage and Judish family
 Love you Grammy and Papa!
Bash Bros and Significant others!  Goodbye all!
 The Savage, Judish, and Iman family
 Saying Goodbye to the Savage Silo

So, here goes...we leave at 4:56PM TOMORROW (the 5th)!!!