Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tis the season for cold showers!

Puerto Limon
We survived the move and we're not even homeless; this was quite a feat! Thank you for all of your prayers as we moved to Puerto Limon on the Pacific Coast and are now beginning a new chapter of our adventure in Costa Rica. The last few days have been a whirlwind and much has happened. Here are the highlights to catch you all up:

1. We're living in an apartment in the city of Puerto Limon until the end of March.

Our first solo shopping experience to fill the kitchen in our
apartment. Here we are highlighting the fact that many
things come in bags (sour cream, salt, spices, ketchup, mayo,etc)!

2. In April we will move into this awesome bungalow in Cahuita (about an hour south of Limon) and likely live there until we head back to the States.

3. We're teaching! Chris and I will teach together at a small private, Christian school. The principal of this school is also the pastor of a Baptist church a few blocks down from our apartment, which we're currently attending. At his school we will teach Science in English to 1st and 2nd grade, and we will also teach English to 2nd grade. Our schedule is three days a week, teaching for a few hours Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. We're very excited for this opportunity, especially as it will be a great experience the have under our belts before we look for teaching jobs in the States. If we can do this with the extra challenges of no curriculum and teaching in a different language than their native tongue, we think we'll be more equipped for later on.

4. We now have a better idea of a timeline for our adventure. The school year here begins next Monday (March) and finishes in November. Knowing this, we're planning on teaching until then and heading back in December to spend Christmas with family. Of course, nothing is set in stone here. We commonly repeat, "We hold our plans lightly," as things are often changing.

5. Our landlord, Roy, was a connection made for us by the pastor/principal, Miguel, and he's been extremely helpful since we arrived. He attends the Baptist church also and works in Tourism off and on. Due to this, it's as if we have our own private tour guide all of the time, and he's taken it upon himself to show us around town and connect us with all of "his people." He seriously knows about every other person he sees when walking down the street.

As for some of the things we've learned thus far...

FOOD: Thanks to Roy we now know: the best place to eat Pati, a typical food in Limon. Caribbean food is somewhat different than the food we ate in San Jose. It tends to be spicier, and they have a few meals that they are known for, like Pati and also rice and beans. This is pronounced in English, like it's all one word, "riceandbean." Typically it's served with marinated chicken, and it's quite delicious. There are trees laden with fruit all over the place. They have bananas and coconuts of course, but then they also have papaya, cocoa trees, and many other fruits that you won't find in the States. Of these new fruits to us, we've tried water apples (not too fantastic), and cacao (cocoa) seeds. Before they make chocolate with the fruit's seeds, you can suck on them to get the white substance surrounding them. It is delicious!! It's so sweet, it's as if you're eating a little bit of candy. Lucky for us, the bungalow in Cahuita is surrounded by cacao trees so we're excited at the prospect of getting our hands on some more of that fruit!

My favorite food here? Patacones! And I
made them myself for the first time on Sunday.

They speak Spanish here of course, but the native tongue of many is an English-based Creole, or Limonese Creole here. It's spoken with such a thick Jamaican accent that sometimes Chris and I look at each other and ask if the other understood a word of what was spoken. After being here a couple of days it doesn't take us off guard as much, but we have to listen carefully if we want to understand what they're saying. One example: "Whappin" means "What's happening?" There's a rhythm with which they speak and it's quite entertaining, but I'd definitely be showing my color, or lack thereof, if I tried to speak like them. :) Speaking of which, having white skin here makes us stand out even more than our height. In general people are taller here than in the Central Valley, but their skin is much darker. It's a melting pot in many ways over here because of Limon's history. (Christopher Columbus dropped anchor here, introducing Spanish settlers to Costa Rica, and then the railroad project brought many Jamaicans, introducing the English dialect.)

Yes, it is very hot. You won't find a bed here topped with more than a single, thin sheet because you do not need blankets here. It cools down ever so slightly during the nights, but not enough to always notice it. It's a mixture of high temperatures and high humidity, which justifies the cold showers. Even with the option of hot water last night, we both opted for cold showers because it's a reprieve from the heat and it lowers your body temperature to a more bearable level. Never really thought I would choose a cold shower, but then again, I never knew I'd be living in the Caribbean either. :)

Roy took us to one of the beaches last night, and as we were walking along and the sun was setting (not over the water for change) we had to pinch ourselves to make sure it was real. We're experiencing so many new aspects of God's creation and beauty, it hardly seems possible at times. We were thinking back to our life in the States just before we moved here, working to save up and not seeing each other nearly as much as needed. It makes us realize how blessed we are to have this opportunity to be here, volunteering in such different capacities, and all the while shoulder to shoulder. God is so good, so faithful, and so beautiful.

Pacific Coast Sunset, coming home from
Turtle Island on Valentine's Day
Dios te bendiga,

Sunday, February 13, 2011

This is a Call Out!

The church in Alajuelita under construction

We're now professionals at flinging mud on the walls!!
Hello to all!  A time of another transition is upon Jennifer and me.  We are about to leave our cozy little room in the house of the Baits to fly solo (if you will) on the Caribbean coast.  There we will be teaching in a school for tykes and volunteering at a couple of the local churches.  I'm sure we'll get into some ministries that we can't foresee; we'll let you know when we know.

But before we go, there's something we must ask.  

The church needs help!
We've grown close to the people at the church in the above picture, Alajuelita.  We've put a lot of time and work into the construction of the church building.  We've seen three groups come through and bring their labor and funds to help the construction continue.  This church is being built because there is need of a church in this poorer community of Costa Rica, and Jenn and I believe in what is happening there.  The thing is, now that all the groups have come and gone, the building fund will be diminished in about a week.  There are two Ticos (Costa Ricans) that are hired to build the church, Hugo (the foreman), and Uriel (His assistant); both of whom we've grown very close to.  We'd love to see the church construction continue, but to make that possible they need more funds.  

We've set up a link on the right side of this blog.  Please, if you feel inclined to do so, give what you can!  Every penny that you give will go to the building of the Alajuelita church!  To give you an idea, it costs...

$10 for a bag of cement (110 lbs)
$8 for a bag of plaster (95lbs)
$35 for a gallon of paint
$170 for a truckload of sand (used for basically everything...we've blown through about 4 of these since January
$370 for both Hugo and Uriel to work for a week (let's keep them going!)

Hugo plastering the walls!  THE FINAL STEP OF FINISHING THE
So far, it has taken 7 years to get this far in the building project.  This is not because construction takes that long, but because they've had to wait until there's money to continue.  Right now, they are in a working groove, and we'd love to see this thing to the end!  

Uriel working on the entrance steps
The interior with plastered walls and a floor!!
There has been incredible progress in the last month!  The floors are poured, the interior walls plastered, entrance steps completed, drain ditches dug, exterior walls splattered, and plenty of electrical work wired!  Windows, gates, and doors still need to be put in.  The church needs more seating.  Bathrooms need to be installed...the list goes on!

This community needs a church!
Thank you to all that have given their time and money to this church.  God has been and continues to be at work here.

Since being here I've been struggling to discover exactly where God wants us.  I'm always questioning if we're doing enough.  What I've found is that whenever I'm doing work with my hands building something for the church body, I can honestly say, "THIS is the right place to be!"  

Thank you all for reading this.  It means so much to us to see that you care.  

Mr. Christopher Savage

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sunny with a high of 75

It's been another beautiful week in San Ramon de Tres Rios (where we're living in our home stay with the Baits family); the morning just shouts potential when the sun is shining. We're especially appreciative of this summer weather when we hear about the freezing winter that most states are currently having. Sorry to all of you who this applies to...

This week we've been outside working once more at the church in Alajuelita in this lovely weather. Chris and I have become "pringa pros," spending all of our time splattering (pringando) the church walls with a mixture of sand, cement, and water. It's a very messy job since a portion of the mixture splatters back onto us (or anyone around). Instead of wearing hats to shield the sun, we wear them to shield our hair and faces from the cement. Needless to say, we leave the church much dirtier than we arrived.
Excitingly enough, the church is actually starting to look more like a normal building now! We've never been a part of such an elaborate process before and I definitely have a new appreciation of how these buildings here in Costa Rica come to be. Picture cinder block walls with tons of the sand, cement, water mixture inside and then splattered on the outsides. After smoothing and even more cement comes the plaster, which is what they're applying now. This step is making the church's appearance improve greatly and it looks like we now have walls. Eventually they will paint over this and ya esta. It'll be finished. This is a WAY simplified explanation of the process that we've been observing and learning to do over the last month, but now you know a little bit more about Tican construction.

Above Left: Chris is mixing up some of the material to splat on the walls. We do this countless times throughout the day. Above Right: See the light & dark gray on the wall behind me? That's what I was splatting (pringando) before I slipped down the rock pile.
This picture is for those of you from Illinois- Guis is working outside of the kitchen!!
For everone else, this is us being "pringa pros."
Plaster time! They're starting to look like walls vs. cement stucco.
We also spent part of an afternoon playing with the kids in a daycare across the street from the church. We were instant friends of course, and they were adorable! My favorite was the 6 year old who decided to quiz Chris nonstop. He would say a word in Spanish and expect Chris to answer in English. This was great practice for Chris as he was thinking of anything and everything to quiz him on. The next day as we were painting graffiti off the wall/fence around the church we hear, "Misioneros!!" (Missionaries) only to turn around and see a few of the kids smiling and waving through the fence around the daycare. Like I said, they were so great.
He also taught Chris some karate moves.

Other than working, last week we were able to relax a bit since there was a big Baptist conference that Gary and Mylinda were a part of, and because there wasn't a work group here. A few of our pastimes have included:
1. We went to a park one day that was beyond any park I'd ever been to. It was basically a rain forest hidden behind the main street, clad with a pool, tons of open space, pathways winding around awesome flowers and trees (and other plants that aren't found in the States) little playhouses for children, basketball courts, soccer fields, a zipline, etc. Truly an awesome find, and it only cost a little over a dollar to enter.
2. We've now gone to a couple of movies, and they're way cheaper here!! AND you get chairs that are more comfortable and recline/rock quite a bit for a movie chair. For example, Wednesdays are half off days, so we paid 1500 colones per ticket (approximately $3 each). As for regular days, well, you can do the math!
3. Ferias (like Saturday markets) are awesome. So much fruit and vegetables and for cheap prices. I've probably eaten more mangoes in the last month than in my whole life. DELICIOUS honestly. Other cheap produce here compared to the States: tomatoes, avocados, monkey brains (I'm not making this up, picture below), pineapple, and bananas. Not all produce is cheaper however. A tiny container of cherries could cost you $20, apples are expensive here, almonds and other fancy nuts are very costly, and potatoes are pricey so they substitute yuca which is much cheaper and has a similar texture.
4. This isn't a pastime, but we've walked around a couple of malls in order to go to the movies (the cinema is always in the mall instead of its own building) and the mannequins here are ridiculous! Completely disproportioned in certain areas and not always in a flattering way. Chris is currently quite fascinated by this and it has been the topic of conversation for the last week, so I think he'd want this shared with you.
5. Sometimes, or rather oftentimes, we spend our time at "home" catching up with people via skype, facebook, email etc. or reading. It's quite nice to have time to read leisurely rather than those books assigned from professors in college. Or we play games with the Baits: Banana Grams anyone?

Monkey Brains. You drink the juice and suck
on the seeds and they're quite tasty! Just nasty
to look at. You should've seen Chris' face!
Reflecting on Costa Rica however, the people are still one of my favorite aspects of living here. Everyday we're greeted by each person with a kiss on the cheek (not a real kiss, but by touching right cheeks and kissing the air) which is so much warmer than a wave or handshake in the States. Ticos are very hospitable and very sociable. If it's been a day or two since we've seen them, they'll probably tell us they've missed us or ask us what we've been up to. How could you not feel so loved?! We surely do, and we've even been offered multiple jobs, well, more like positions at a couple of places, but we're still planning to head over to the East Coast. We'll head over to the Coast in a couple of weeks, after we work with the next group that comes this Monday night. As for what exactly we'll be doing or where we'll be living, that still has to be decided. We have some ideas and leads, but we'll let you know once we know a little more!

As for the super exciting news...we're getting our camera back (in a way)!!! We have embraced the role as Robin Hood, as my best friend says. We give to the needy and take from the rich! More specifically, we purchased our camera on a credit card for the protection policy it offers. Since it was stolen within 90 days of purchasing it, the credit card company refunded our money for the camera, the case, and for the memory card! So, we have a camera on the way (prayerfully it'll arrive in time) with the next group who's coming! God is so good to us. We feel so thankful and so blessed. We didn't lose what we couldn't replace, because we'd downloaded the pictures from our memory card the night before it was stolen, and the camera was replaceable. Thank you for your sympathy in the process, and now feel free to rejoice with us. :)

Dios Te Bendiga,