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