Monday, February 9, 2009

Still Alive and Well

Hi everyone, I apologize for the huge break in posting. One of my new year’s resolutions is to be more consistent – at least once a week.

To summarize the last 6 weeks, I spent a lot of great time with my family in Wisconsin, chatting, playing speed scrabble, and eating lots of foods I missed during the past 3 months. I also went to Massachusetts to visit Jon and I got to visit Heather and her family in New Hampshire and spend a day with Justine in downtown Boston.

Then on Jan 13 I came back to Costa Rica with my mom and our friend Heidi. We went to two very neat places in the country, Arenal Volcano, and Manuel Antonio National Park. It was so exciting for me because although I’ve been here for months I haven’t explored the biggest natural wonders that all of the tourists come to see. The Arenal Volcano area was beautiful but unfortunately we didn’t get to see the crater or lava because of rain and clouds the days we were there. We did go…. Ziplining! (my mom was a professional according to our guides), and we went on an amazing hanging bridges tour through the different forest levels. Our tour guide howled at the howler monkeys and they howled back at her! We also saw a tarantula, leaf-cutter ants, white-faced monkeys, a snake, a herd of raccoon-like creatures, and a lot of interesting trees and flowers.

Here is a picture of mom and me at our hotel in Arenal:

In Manuel Antonio we went snorkeling (Heidi is a big snorkeler and enjoys underwater photography). I was surprised that all you have to do is stick your face in the water to see beautiful bright fish and coral – nobody would ever know it was there just walking along the beach. We also went on hikes through the park and were surrounded by a whole family of white-faced monkeys passing through. Some of them were as close as a meter away from us. We also did a challenging hike down a very high steep bank to “playa escondida” the hidden beach. It was an adventure getting back up the bank at the end of the day, and most people had already left the park. Suddenly we heard howler monkeys right above us and we all jumped. Once we had recovered from the shock we tried to howl at them as our tour guide had done in Arenal. It worked! They howled right back at us! Heidi even took a video to prove it.

After our time of tourism we returned to the project so my mom could get to know my life and my environment here. We cooked meals for three different families – my host family (chicken in the oven!), Brian’s host family (classic north-American chili), and Steve and Georgiana (chicken casserole and raspberry oatmeal bars). The ticos were blown away by these fascinating flavors, and Steve and Georgiana invited mom and Heidi to stay permanently. During their visit we also spent some time with my students and stayed about an hour after church on Sunday to chat and meet all of the wonderful people in my life here.

Warning, I’m about to brag: My mom is a language genius. She learned Spanish so fast! She didn’t know more than 3 words coming into the country but by the end she could understand my mama tica and more or less communicate with her. She explained about her work, how she’s going to buy a condo, and how Mark is studying at Wisconsin. She used a dictionary a bit but she did it all without my help! For me, this is very promising. It means that my mom can move here WITH me someday! Horay!

Ok well I’m going to stop the update for now because half an update is better than none at all. Next post will include my trip to Panama for a women’s retreat and my weekend helping out at a “campamento” or Christian youth camp.

Thanks for reading, of there are any of you faithful people left!