Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The vacation of all vacations.

I am burnt. Again. It pretty much is the story of my life...but it is the result of a fun couple of days. Yesterday and today we had our staff vacation, out at Playa Tambor, at Hotel Barcelo. It was another all-inclusive resort...and the best end to the craziest summer.

So here's the photos to tell the story.

We left yesterday morning, bright and early (or dark, and early) at 4:30am...

By 6am, we had a flat tire...

But we were soon back on the road and headed out about three hours away, to take a ferry ride (which reminded me SO much of BC Ferries that I was looking for the "Queen of Coquitlam" signs...). Here's the dock where we came into on the other side. Definitely doesn't resemble BC ferry terminals...
We got to the resort at about 9:30...and so they let us in early. Knowing that we only had about 24 hours, we made the most of it. Some took dance lessons...

There was boogie boarding...

The boys...well, they were boys...

And the girls...well, they were girls...

Again, girls...

And then late at night we discovered that the resort had a bit of an infestion of raccoons. They came right up to us, completely unafraid of people...and we discussed the many ways we could dispose of them.

This vacation was bittersweet. We had a blast together (there's many activities and fun moments that I don't have captured through photos...), but it also signalled the end of our summer, and the many good-byes to friends that some of us didn't even know 5 weeks ago, but now know more than maybe we even wish to. Living together does that. Stressful circumstances do that. Serving God together does that. It's been a blast. I've been especially blessed to have been able to work with three friends this year that were on staff last year as well. The first is Julia, my girl...
And Chad, my very reliable, dependable friend...
And Nate, whom I appreciate for his humour and his age...and his willingness to do anything.
And here is my other favourite. Carmelinda amazes me always, and I'm excited to return next summer and see what she is like at "almost 8".
It is hard to believe that my time here is coming to an end. I will be flying back to Seattle on Thursday, staying with family for the night and then back to Abbotsford by Friday night. I want to say thanks to all who have been faithful in checking this thing, and who have offered up prayers and written encouragement to me. I appreciate you all very much.

I leave you for now with the randomness that is Costa Rica. Here's what we encountered in Heredia's Central Park on Sunday....storm troopers...
Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Darth...um...whatever his name is. (I'm obviously not the biggest Star Wars fan)... I have no idea what was going on. But Darth Vader came in later and made a grand entrance. I can't promise such randomness when I return home...but I'll try my best to keep you all updated.

Pura Vida Summer Staff 2007

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The last days...

We are done!

The family group left this morning at 4am. I was fast asleep in my bed. We said our goodbyes last night. I think that although I was pretty exhausted this week just with it being the last week of many weeks in a row, I really enjoyed working with the families. Families are very different from working with youth, different pros and cons, and things tend to go a lot slower paced, but the kids are precious and it's fun to see how adults are impacted by these experiences. (We are never to old to learn...)

As for us staff? Today we relax. Tonight we have a time of debrief as staff about the summer and our experiences, and to pray for each other.

Then tomorrow we go to another resort! We will be leaving bright and early at 4:30 am and travelling four hours to spend one night. But I'm sure it will all be worth it. We'll come back Tuesday night, and Wednesday will be my "wrap-up" day. And then Thursday, I fly back to Seattle. I can hardly believe how quickly this summer has flown. I am mixed in how I feel about returning (as always at this point). I am ready to see friends and family, and be back in Canada, but also wish I could be here, with these friends, these experiences, and in the Latin culture.

I will be back.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

tales of a soccer mom...wannabe...and the day when I was robbed in Costa Rica.

Working with families is night and day from working with youth, folks.

We've been having fun with the Family group this week...but I have to admit that I'm finding it hard to roll out of bed these days...and by 9, I'm wiped, and ready to be back in bed. I've mostly been working with the kids these last few days - helping drive them all around. It's hilarious...I've never felt more like a soccer mom. Loading, unloading and reloading 9 kids, 3 adults (at least) and a ton of stuff. Cleaning scrapes, drying tears, encouraging to keep going, blowing bubbles, telling stories. It's been fun, but I definitely have noticed the difference from the youth and from this!!

Here's some pictures to show you the joy of working with the kids...
It's been awesome having the kids doing servant evangelism - one of the favorites is for them to hand out pop outside of the grocery store right by the church.
Here is Gavin, who will be four tomorrow, showing how he lures in the strangers.
And here he is in action...
After all that, sometimes the kids actually just want to do the "real work" - here is Sarah and I loading dirt, while Jaden is helping out.I also have a story to share. Yesterday was the first time I've ever been robbed in Costa Rica. I had taken the kids and adults to a school in a very poor area, so that they could hand out pencils and notebooks. I told them that I would stay with the van so that nothing got taken. But I also left my window and the passenger side window open, because it was a rather hot morning, and I didn't want to suffocate. So here I am, sitting in the van, listening to the radio, and watching around me...observing...when I look to the left for two seconds, the same time when I see a hand reach in the passenger side window and grab the bag that was sitting right next to me...which didn't belong to me, but one of the moms. I see that the bag is now running down the street, along with four guys, probably between the ages of 18 and 20. So what do I do? Yell my lungs off, start the van, and start driving. What I was gonna do when I found them? I have no idea...but I just started going.

I drove past the kids, and saw the mom whose bag was taken, yelling at her, "what was in your bag? It just got taken!"...and then I proceeded to drive around the block looking for these four guys.

Now, I need to preface this and say that sometimes when people come to Costa Rica, they come with fears. Fears of safety, fears of the unknown, fears that that come with change that is out of their control. This mom, is one of those people. She lives her life as a nervous person. Yesterday morning, she had JUST started to feel like she was happy that she was here in Costa Rica, and that she could enjoy her time here this week. As soon as these guys took that bag, I thought, "NO! Not her bag. Anyone's bag but her's!"

She came into the van, pulled her two children together, and proceeded to sob. I felt awful. Not only did I feel responsible that her bag was taken...I felt like everything that she had progressed in during the few days had been taken away in that one action. She now was saying over and over, "I want to go home, I want to go home." It was an awful experience.

Now, I had to drive this van back to the church, full of children, scared as to why this one mom was crying, and not understanding that bad things just happen in life. I got back to the church, dropped them all off...and had to go back to another very poor area to pick up the guys who were working on a house. One of the other moms accompanied me, as I didn't know exactly where the house was.

So, we got to the neighbourhood, parked and locked the van, and then walked down some rickety steps into a tin-shack neighbourhood. We were forgetting exactly where to go...so I offered to stay in the main park area (which means dirt area used to congregate and play soccer) while Lesley went on ahead to find the group. As I was standing there, I was mad. I was so frustrated, so angry, so bitter that these guys would have the audacity to take a bag practically out of my hands...and that that bag would belong to someone who couldn't let that go, and saw it as a personal attack. She had been handing out presents for these children, and others took her own possessions. In this one action, she had decided she didn't want to be in Costa Rica, no longer loved the people of Costa Rica, and was convinced that all possible safety had been taken away from her.

While I was standing there, fuming, I looked over to my right, and saw two little boys sitting against a wall, smiling at me. One was probably just about 3, and the other not much older, 4 maybe 5. The 3 year old grinned at me, and motioned to me, saying in Spanish "come here!" I smiled, "me?" I replied. "Yeah, come here, come play!" I started running towards him, and he started to play with me, "come get me!" Next thing I know, he's running towards me, grabs my knees in a huge hug, and then motions for me to pick him up. So I pick this little guy up, and he starts saying, "You know my name? Guess my name! My name is Eliazar!" He was so loving, so enthusiastic, so willing to love and be loved. All my bitterness dissolved. All my anger melted. How could I remain so angry when a child was teaching me what joy meant?

God blessed that situation. Today, I'm pleased to say, that that mom found a lesson. She realized that her reaction was inappropriate, and decided that it was time to stand up and try again. She recognized that material possessions come and go. She brought her kids out again (she hadn't let them leave the church yesterday after all of this), and started opening her heart to the people of Costa Rica again.

Yesterday in all of this, we knew, we just knew, that God knew who's bag had been taken. There was a purpose there...a lesson to be learned...

And in the end? Four teenage guys got a Spanish Bible, some Christian childrens music, and an inhaler. Oh, and a new backpack.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


So the second to last group of the summer is here - Mount Joy Mennonite from Pennsylvania. I cannot believe that we are flying through this so quickly. Our last group comes on Saturday - a family missions trip, so it will look quite different. Carmelinda is excited, as DeLynn has put her "in charge" of the kids that are coming. I'm excited for them to do ministry - 3 through 11 years old, handing out pop to strangers, and washing taxis windows.

I went and hung out with my host family Tuesday night...seeing as it's probably the last time I get to see them. They were commenting on how quickly time has flown for me being here this summer - everyone I talk to agrees - I will be home in 2 weeks!

To be honest...I think I'm getting ready to head back. Pray for me that I keep my head in this right now, because I'm starting to check out a little bit. I keep picturing beautiful summer afternoons at the beach, eating cherries and plums, and then having a late night walk (and it still being light out!!). Although I love my summers here...they are completely different from summers at home, and so I'm starting to miss it.

I have a couple of prayer requests as well. One of our staff members, Casey, has developed shingles this last week. She's in a lot of pain, and having to pull back to get the rest she needs. Pray for her!

Also, I received news last week that my Aunt Flo, back home in Mission, had a mini-stroke, and is currently in the hospital, trying to get back to normal. She cannot sit up, or walk, as she experienced paralysis on one side. Please be praying for her - this is a scary thing, and the scarier part is not knowing if another stroke is coming. It is hard to be so far away when I know that this is all going on back home...and adds to the part of me that is "checking out".

Monday, July 16, 2007

La Tabla

I am so blessed that I got to go experience a few days in La Tabla again this year. La Tabla is definitely one of my favorite places to go and bring groups in Costa Rica - because it pushes people out of their comfort zones...some very far!

La Tabla is a very poor, very drug-infested area, and has some of the most beautiful people living within its self-made borders. Here's some pics for you to enjoy...

Firstly, here's Lesley (fellow Canadian and staff member) and I looking pretty beautiful after a couple days without showers...
This is Andrea, whom I got to play with lots last year as well as this year. She is one of my favorites, and I can say that because none of them are looking at this page. And even if they are...they can't understand what I've written.
Here is Chad (my fellow staff and friend) translating for James (also Canadian, and happens to be married to that pretty girl Lesley). We were very proud of Chad for stepping up and translating so much - it was his first time and he did us proud. (Seriously, Chad, you did!)
Here is Andrea's littlest bro...Johnny hanging out with Andrew (who is actually the littlest bro of one of our staff members, Jon). I took this picture, and then showed it to little Johnny...who laughed his head off at it.
Nail polish and eye makeup were a huge hit with the little girls of La Tabla...they would get their nails done and then show each other...and then continue to blow bubbles and attack each other with balloon swords. It was beautiful.
That's about it for now...I'm going to try and get some video up here...and will get some more pics of the area when the others come back and I can steal their pictures!

Friday, July 13, 2007

on being sick and mute

So this last week has been pretty hard. I don't have too much exciting news to tell, because I spent last Saturday and Sunday in bed. Monday I tried working, and had to return to bed. Tuesday I drove around Heredia with Gloria, buying all the food that we needed for the group coming - which was actually a lot of fun - and by the end of that night, I had lost my voice.

So...50 youth arrived on Wednesday, and I met them at the airport...and whispered directions. It really was very frustrating for me, but I can see how funny it is too. All of Wednesday, and part of yesterday, I had no voice. I realized how much I depend on my voice...and on myself. I am a very independent person. Losing my voice meant that I had to give over lots of responsibility - and ask others to help me - which was hard for me to do. But...life is all about learning and growing, and I truly believe that God wanted me to re-learn some of the lessons I may have forgotten over time. (Or ignored).

Today...today is better. I have a voice - it's not normal, but it's there. But for those of you that remember my "bronchitis stage" during our fourth-year of college, my cough is back.

BUT...tomorrow, I'm going back to La Tabla. I was there last year, with a team, and it was an awesome experience. I asked DeLynn if I could join one of the teams for a few days. I will have pictures and stories for you all later!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The glass half empty.

I have had a hard week. I'll be honest with you. This idea of overlapping teams is no picnic (and I think we're learning the hard way). So we started off with a bang...103 youth...and then added another 54 on Wednesday. The staff returned Wednesday night from working with the 103, to leave for a hotel for the night...while the remaining 4 of us took on the 54.

It was going well...Wednesday night at 3am, I woke, convinced that the ceiling was going to cave in because it was raining so hard. We have a "skylight" in our room...basically a piece of plastic in place of tin, in order that our room was not so cave-like...and I could see the lightning through that plastic. It basically was tropical storm weather....and the next day the 103 were supposed to have vacation..white water rafting and canopy tour in the jungle. Little did we know that 24 hours of rain had led to major flooding. So much flooding, in fact, that the river was too high for rafting, and the bridge that led to the place where the canopy tour ended, was covered in water. So here we are - at the base, 2 hours away from the 103 (who had 3 of our staff with them) - doing training for 54...and DeLynn is on the phone every break that he has, talking with our staff out there...trying to coordinate and figure out what's gonna happen. In the meantime, it had been raining so much here as well, that our water became contaminated. It was all pretty much a nightmare.

Our staff came back that morning from the hotel, still wanting to hang out and re-connect with each other. They missed each other, which was great, but being "in charge" I knew all that needed to get done, and knew that they needed to start connecting with the youth that were already here. I felt like the glass was very much half empty that day. I was very stressed, and very tired from having tried to run interference - and then I had to call the staff together to give my "call to arms" and almost didn't make it through the meeting without a few tears on my part. I fully recognize that we can't do this alone. In order to do this summer well, in order to keep our sanity, and our health...we need to be in the grasp of God first and foremost, and secondly, we need each other. Our family of 20 needs to keep short accounts, needs to look out for each other, needs to be pro-active in seeing that which needs to get done...and ultimately...our own selfishness cannot be a major factor here. The "I've already cleaned the bathroom this week" attitude....well....it goes no where but downhill.

Why am I telling you all this? I really don't know. I guess because I'm trying to find that tough balance of being gracious and getting the job done.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to those days where you could just show up and enjoy the ride...and not be in charge of the ride, not having to ensure that everyone fits on the ride, that the ride runs smoothly, and that the ride is fun. Leadership can be a beautiful monster.

I guess I'm debriefing with you. And realizing that this is only week #2.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Happy Canada Day!

I hope that everyone had a happy Canada Day! We here in Costa Rica sang "Oh Canada" this morning for our American friends, all 70 of them. I am proud to say that Rob and I are no longer the only Canadians here...our friend Andrew Stanley (who's actually American, but has lived in Canada for many years), along with James and Lesley Willms have joined our Canadian crew. We're still very outnumbered...but that's ok. They can laugh at the way we say "drama" and "pasta"...but we have each other.