Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hello all! I am alive and SAFE! The picture makes me laugh because I drink SO much coffee here...and I just miss my kool-aid! :)

I guess the last time I posted I was leaving in a week. I cannot even fathom that I have only been here a week! The first couple of days here were a little intense! Let me just start by telling you about my travels from St. Louis to Costa Rica. I arrived at the airport about 4:00 am thanks to the lovely Blair Cullison. From there I found my way to the Air Tran check in and pre-weighed my bags in the case that they were over. Sadly, one bag was over 1 lb and I had to give my precious leather bag back to Blair to take home. As I got back in line I met with a man from Ghana who was also waiting for his turn to check in. As I stood there talking to him I learned that he was an aspiring pastor that was trying to get his feet in the door. Leave it to the Lord to have me talking about my faith not even 5 minutes into my trip! I was able to tell him about my beliefs and we had this amazing, in-depth, and fully loving conversation for about an hour. Unfortunately, Air Tran didn’t open their check-in’s until about 5:00 am. When I gave her my flight information, name, and I.D., she looked at me like I was crazy. My paper said 6:05 am Air Tran to Miami but she had no information of this. There was no flight to Miami at 6, or that day, there was no ticket with my name on it, and she pretty much told me that I was out of luck. I then made my way to a booth where I could quickly talk to Cheap-O Air or check my mail again....computer= dead. Of course, my luck didn’t come with me to the airport this day. I went to the AA desk and begged this woman to look up the flight information for me. Finally, she found me (as I was desperately praying at the counter) and actually, I got free baggage through to Costa Rica! I was already living the “Pura Vida”...or so I thought. As I got to security it was about 5:15 and my flight boarded at 5:30. Well, I beeped before my bags even went through. Well, I beeped again...and again, and just once again. I think I literally only had my dress on (tights, socks, jewelry, cardigan were all off) and I was still freaking beeping. So, they had me take out everything from my bags (a backpack and carry-on) for “procedure”. I had literally 8 buckets to myself. One for electronics, one for jewelry, one for clothes, one for make-up, one for liquids, one for shoes, one for my backpack alone, and lastly, one for my carry-on. God- willing they let me through. I “quickly” SHOVED everything back into my backpack and tried to run with this huge carry-on through the airport. I literally didn’t even have time to sit down at my gate because they were calling my boarding group. The day was easily in God’s hands because if one more thing went wrong, I would have been in St. Louis, better yet, Hillsboro for the next 4 months! After the flight the days become a blur. I got to Miami with no sleep and met up with Nicole, one of the sweetest girls I have ever met. Thankfully she had not slept either and we were delusional from pretty much 9:00 am-8:00 pm when our flight left! With a little help from Starbucks and friends we made it through and arrived in Costa Rica about 11:00 pm that night. Finally, we went to a retreat center for the first night. By the time we arrived, I had not slept for over 40 hours and was thoroughly struggling. Of course, I was not used to the dogs barking endlessly outside my window and literally didn’t get any sleep again that night! I still had to wake up early and go through training to meet my family. I met my family, we came to the house, and unpacked all of my stuff. I was literally falling asleep at the table and they let me sleep for 12 hours that night! :) This has actually become a normal habit for me...sleeping 10 hours a night! hahaha. Now that you have a long overview of my first few hours in CR, let me tell you about the big things....

Family: I have a mom, Mayela,58 who is great! She reminds me so much of my mom, just a bit older. On my paper it said that my mom was an “ama de casa” which means pretty much a stay at home mom. Actually, she raises dogs and paints so beautifully! My dad, Carlos, 61, has his own dry cleaning business and reminds me of my grandpa! He is the sweetest old man with such a great heart! My mamí and papí here have 4 kids, Catilla, Carla, Juan Carlos, and Carolina. Catilla is in her 40’s and lives with her husband and little girl. Carla is actually hosting another student from my program and lives very close to my house. Both Juan Carlos, 22 and Carolina, 20 live in the house with me. They’re both awesome but they both work and go to school all the time so our schedules clash quite a bit. I have hung out with Juan Carlos a lot this week though and I already consider him to be like a real brother! I seriously love my family here!

School: We have two different schools that we attend, LASP and ICADS. LASP is twice a week in the mornings from 8-11/12 and ICADS is everyday from 1:30-4:30. LASP is about a 10 minute walk from my house, which is nice. ICADS is about an hour and 15 minutes from my house. I have made the walk a few times but I can tell you that in the rain, it’s not the nicest walk in the world! This chunk of studying only lasts 5 weeks, which leads me to my next part. 

Schedule: I’m starting in classes and hanging out with family for the first five weeks. My days a jammed packed and I literally have about an hour (if I’m lucky) to just relax everyday. During these five weeks I will be traveling to a volcano (this weekend), Limón (next weekend), and possibly doing a little bit of white water rafting in the following weekends! After these five weeks I will head to Nicaragua for a rough 2 weeks in the deep forest! As I attempt to re-cooperate from Nicaragua I will possibly be going to Venezuela or Guatemala or possibly just Putareñas to check out the nicest beaches in CR while also partaking in a bit of zip-lining! After this I start my intensive Language and Literature class for two weeks in preparation for my internship! As of right now, we do not know where we will be placed but it will be in Costa Rica somewhere. It could be 10 hours away or it could be only 2 hours. I know that I will be working in a school somewhere everyday for a month. For this time, I’ll be with a different family, studying completely different things, with no english, and trying to become a real tica. After this, we come back together for about 2 days and leave for Panama. I have decided not to take the track that is going to Cuba because I found a better opportunity (in my mind) with the advanced track. I am going to live with an indigenous tribe on a remote island in Panama. Their second language is Spanish and we will be learning another language to communicate! They do not live in actual houses, or have showers, or even real houses. I think that this trip will actually be even more difficult that Nicaragua and it it literally ending hours before I come back to Miami! Then, back to Miami for a little debriefing and then home in time to hangout before Christmas!

Food: If you know me at all, you know that I really am kind of a picky eater. Well that went out the window day one. If you do not accept food from your mamí or say that you do not like it, that it quite offensive. I have totally sucked it up. I mix foods, I eat beans, I eat all meats...I literally can take down just about anything. I have definitely found a lot of things that I love and a few things that I just down-right hate. My mamí is so good about giving me food that she knows I will love and she always tells me that she can “toma la verdad” which means handle the truth, haha! The other night was the first time I couldn’t finish what she gave me. After I came home from school she gave me a fruit and put a lemon mayonnaise allll over it. I told her I would give it a try but I literally failed to eat even half of the fruit. She said it was fine and thinks that it is funny that I do not like the fruit, because she doesn’t either! Also, I love arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) and it just happens to be my papí’s favorite meal!

Weather: OH BOY. I thought it was the “rainy season” but it is more like the Monsoon season. It doesn’t just rain “a bit” in the afternoons, it POURS and POURS for hours and hours. I actually love the rain but I was overwhelmed by how much it actually rains here!

Culture: I cannot even begin to tell you how different it is. Shoes all the time, showers at night, everything is luke- warm (drinks, showers- if even, food), and us gringos stick out like sore thumbs. I cannot even start to tell you about all the differences, instead I’ll leave it up to you to ask all about my time here!

Fun Stories: Well, there are so many...and this “blog” is already like 3583 Heyen papers so I’ll keep them short and to the point.

1) I was able to go to church with my friend Nicole and her brother last Friday. I was overwhelmed with how devoted the children were! Two boys really stuck out in the group. There was a little boy, maybe 8 or so, who prayed through the whole service, was able to answer every question about the biblical story and verses, and even prayed over his friends at the end. How AMAZING is that?! That kid literally had the heart the size of Costa Rica and I was able to witness it. There was also a mentally handicapped boy who was trying with all of his heart to praise like the others. This was so inspiring to me because he didn’t at all understand why they were praying or why they were raising their hands in praise but he wanted to do it and be a part of it!

2) After my time spent at the church it was a little late so Nicole’s mom, Rosa, called a taxi (a friend of hers) to come and get me and take me home. Long story short....the taxi was pirated, which is illegal in CR. Also, during our orientation, they pushed and pushed at us that taking a taxi alone was bad and to NOT NOT NOT take a pirated taxi. Well, I was literally pushed in because it was a friend of hers and I didn’t even know where I was going. God- willing I made it home (with a bit of time spent getting lost) and when I arrived all I saw was my papí standing, shaking his head in his pajama, saying “oh, una pirata...una pirata. ¡Oh Dios mío!” which means a pirated taxi, oh dear Lord! Either way, I’m safe and home with mi familia ahora!

3) This weekend on Saturday, I was all ready to go out with my brother (showered, makeup, hair done) and my nephew came in and asked me to help with the community service at the park next door. I quickly changed into work clothes and put my freshly done hair in a pony tail and went to work. My job was to dig up a tree stump, but that’s not all I dug up. I ended up hitting a snake’s home...and I met the mother, father, and child. After a bit of a freak-out my mom moved me to wheel-barreling. I thought this would be better until daddy snake decided to take the ride with me to the woods. I dumped the ENTIRE wheel barrel over and freaked out...again. I would love to say that my story was over here, but it is not even close. As I walked further helping my mom pick up the stuff I bent over to be greeted by a yellowish, redish, orangish, SNAKE. The minute my mother laid eyes on that thing she SCREAMS “CORRE, CORRE YAMI, CORRE!” This mean, run, Jamie, run, and do it FAST. Well, it was a poisonous snake, of course. Man, if this isn’t conquering my fears, I don’t know what will!

So that's my life! I'm busy and I love it all, crazy, fun, and scary!

Even though I can’t eat what I want, even though my hair always looks horrible, even though the humidity runs my make-up off in a matter of minutes, even though I can’t communicate perfectly, and even though I miss my family, I wouldn’t change a thing about my trip. I am in LOVE with what I am doing and the Lord is already using me in ways that I never thought possible. I am truly blessed and so thankful I am able to be here. Again, I cannot believe that I have literally only been in this country a week!

God Bless and miss and love you all!