Sunday, September 28, 2008

Big First Week

I promised that I would write a long entry about what I’ve been doing so far, and here it is!

I’m staying with a “tico” (Costa Rican) family. My mama tica’s name is Janira and my papa tico’s name is Fernando. Their English is about as good as the average American’s Spanish: “hello”, “goodbye”, and “no problem”. So from the time I wake up in the morning to the time I go to bed, I’m communicating in Spanish. My tico parents had three children who all died of a degenerative disease of the throat/neck. They have been through some very hard times, but when they pray at mealtimes they have nothing but thanks for God for all He has given them. This is a common theme here: the people have suffered more hardships than anyone I’ve met before, but they’re also more grateful to God and more generous than anyone I’ve met. I think when people live in poverty their desperation for everything in life gives rise to a stronger faith in God and a more accurate understanding of what is really important in life.

The project I work at has three foster homes for abandoned children, a daycare/school for poor children in the community, a church, and an adult education center. They are in the process of building a large multipurpose building which will house professional offices (to provide medical/legal/other services to the community) and an indoor soccer field (the best way to attract anyone here). My job as an intern is to help with teams from the U.S. who come down to volunteer in construction and in the daycare. Right now there is a team here from Tennessee. They arrived Saturday and left early this morning. I worked in construction alongside them, giving them tips and translating directions from the tico workers. Yesterday I had to translate several prayers and parting messages between the ticos and the team. These kinds of translations always make me nervous because there is a lot of meaning behind what the people want to say to each other and I don’t want to mess it up! I’m much more relaxed translating “Katie needs a hammer” or “It’s time for lunch”.

Speaking of lunch, while the teams are here, my mama tica comes to the project every day to make a big lunch for the ticos and the team, about 40 people in total. She is a phenomenal cook! I’m hoping to learn from her while I’m here. Everyone who found out that I get to stay at her house was so jealous. Last night for dinner we ate pan fried fish, yucca root (?), black beans, rice, and a variation on pico de gallo. I haven’t had any frozen food since I’ve been here, and she goes shopping every morning for what she needs for that day. There is freshly chopped cilantro, onion, and garlic in almost everything. I’ve learned to eat what is put in front of me because it’s always good. I heard they eat chicken hearts where one of the other interns stays, but I haven’t encountered anything like that yet.

This seems like a good place to list interesting things about living in Costa Rica. They eat rice and beans with almost every meal. Their dish soap is a crumbly solid and they scrape the sponge across it to use it. They don’t refrigerate eggs, milk, or cheese but nothing spoils. They think it’s freezing here right now because it’s “winter” but it’s really like 75 during the day and 40 something at night. My mama tica is always telling me to put on a sweater. Sounds familiar… (mom). It has rained every day so far. Mornings are cloudless but by 3pm it’s pouring. They very seldom use the oven – everything is cooked on the stove top. Right now even though I’m almost the same longitude as the East coast, we’re on Mountain Time in the U.S. The sun comes up SUPER early and I end up waking up at 5:30 or so because it’s already so bright in my west-facing window. They love American music. I woke up today with one of our neighbors blasting “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi while he washed his car. It must have been a mix CD because the next song was “I’m a Barbie Girl”. I never said they only liked good American music…

The people here worry a lot less than people do in the U.S. They love to laugh and joke and embarrass each other in funny ways. You can almost never get a straight story out of anyone here. Especially the high school and college age boys are much more “squirrely” than Americans. They’re ALL class clowns, they ALL do physical comedy and tackle each other, mimic each other, and pretend that they’re in the video game “Mortal Kombat”. I just know my mom wouldn’t be able to watch them horse around because you really think someone’s going to get hurt. This general attitude is with the adults too. My mama tica actually gets offended when I put on my seatbelt in the car. She’s also so excited that I brought my driver’s license because it means I can legally drive here. I’m not sure if she’s joking when she tells me I’m going to have to drive her around. Sarcasm doesn’t always translate.

I really had a wonderful time with the team from Tennessee. They were from a church called Love and Truth. They were mostly adults: some were carpenters and one was an electrician who helped with the new building. I got to know the women the most. One of them is Kate’s mom. (Kate has been an intern here since January, the last time I was here). Another one also has a daughter who interned at the Project several years ago. They were all so nice to work with, and such hard workers with great attitudes. I learned some new songs with hand motions like “Peach of a Savior” and “The Beaver Dance”. The ticos were especially fascinated by our strange songs. There were also four young girls: two eleven-year-olds, one ten-year-old, and one eighteen-year-old on the team. They made me laugh so much. They always had huge smiles on their faces and called me “Miss Julie” with their southern accents. If they didn’t hear something that I said, they’d say “Ma’am?” They’d always have to get hugs from me in the morning and when their bus dropped me off at my house they’d sing a farewell song to me. The three youngest are on a dance team at the church and they performed for everyone Friday night during the sendoff activity. I am really going to miss the whole team!

This week I’m going to get things organized for tutoring high school students in Math and maybe English. My responsibilities aren’t fully defined for when there are no teams from the U.S. but I’m confident they’ll find something to keep me busy!
Last night Briand and I went to dinner at Jonathan and Amy’s house. They are a missionary couple from the U.S. who previously lived in India as missionaries. They’re really nice and they have the cutest baby ever! They also invited me over every Saturday from now on to watch college football! They’re huge Georgia fans, but I’ll put up with their SEC talk if I get to see and talk football with someone.

I uploaded photos to a picassa album. It is located at:
Just copy and paste it into your internet browser window thingy. Let me know if it doesn't work and I'll ask someone smart!

That’s all for now! I miss you all and I hope to update again soon, especially about things that God has been showing me and teaching me. Pray that I can be more outgoing and brave with my Spanish.

<3 Julie


Parker said...

First! I'll have some actual comments to leave you after I finish schoolwork ;)

Praying for you,

Jonathan said...

Parker! I can never beat you to be the first to comment and I even knew this post was coming. At least I can leave an actual comment, and I don't have schoolwork haha. In all seriousness, Parker keep plugging away at school. It's nice when you get a job and know that all of your hard work paid off in the end.

Julie, I feel shocked that you didn't know "Mortal Combat" is actually spelled with a K, duh. Mortal Kombat. And no, this is not my only comment, but that's all I'm going to leave on here.

Laura Ann. said...

I love you!!!

I was so excited to see that you had posted an update. Your whole experience sounds amazing! I hope Chris and I are able to go on a mission trip together some time in the future.

Have fun and let the Holy Spirit rock your socks off!

Amy said...

Thanks for the update, Julie! Glad things are going so well. Your tica mom sounds wonderful - what a blessing! We continue to pray that God uses you in a mighty way....sounds like he already has!
Take care! Amy Kutz