Saturday, August 8, 2009

meet the family

So now that I have reached my last week with YouthWorks, I figured it was about time to introduce you to the people I have worked and lived with for the past three months.

(Brad, me, Sara, Johnny)

(Sara, Brad, Matt, me)

Chicago 1 & 2!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

beefy lessons

Every week I have the splendid opportunity to brown about 35-50 pounds of beef for our sloppy joe and taco meals. Let me tell you this has not been one of my favorite parts of the summer, especially since the meat we buy is 27% fat making for endless amounts of grease. I’ve figured that by the end of the summer I will have spent at least 40 hours browning beef. Let me tell you, this has not been a highlight of my summer. However the amount of time I have spent in the kitchen in this manner has provided space for some good thoughts and lessons. So I thought I would share with you a few...

Beefy lessons

•Never buy beef that is 27% fat. If you must wear an apron to avoid lots of grease stains.
•Turn up the music and sing it out. As much as I disliked the meat days, it many times provided me with a chance to escape—not having to worry about anyone else being around, turning up the music of the hour, and singing.
•It’s all about perspective. I’m an introvert, so many times browning the meat would give me space to take a step back from whatever else was going on around me to get some perspective and clarity on things.
•Don’t take yourself out mentally. I am a pro at this; as my mom says I’m my own worst enemy. It helps to identify when those negative thought cycles start and shut them down before there is a chance to take yourself out with negative thoughts.
•Talk to God out loud.
•In the words of our generation, 'just dance, gonna be okay, da-da-doo-mm-da.' But really, it's a release, just dance it out.
•Don’t use a metal spatula on a non-stick pan; it will scratch up the stuff that makes it non-stick.
•Put a fan in your kitchen. Standing over an oven for hours can get a bit toasty.
•Don’t give people the space to do it alone. I hated the fact that I had both of the meat meals, yet one of the most encouraging things is when one of my fellow staff members would come in and ask if I needed help with anything. Though often the answer would be no, just the notion that someone is there and ready to help provides a huge source of encouragement.
•If you are cooking for masses of people, get someone else to do the dishes. I’m so glad that we had students on site to take care of the dishes after dinner.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


This weekend I had some of my highschool small group girls from Upland come and visit. It was great to see them and see them experience a bit of Chicago—we ate at Giordano’s, went along the lake front, Navy Pier, Millennium Park, and the absurdity known as Macy’s.

Over the past three years I’ve been a volunteer at Upland Community Church’s youth group, and it’s been an amazing experience to see how much change can happen over the course of three years. As the girls were driving away I remembered the beginning of the school year with our small group. God brought an incredible co-leader, Carie, to lead with me, but when we saw the groups of girls in our group we wondered how in the world is this going to work out?

It was an odd mix of girls, and the first months or so were rough. Yet as I watched them drive away this weekend I was left in awe of God’s faithfulness. It’s incredible how far we’ve come since last September. The girls have accepted each other, vulnerability has happened, and they have grown together.

Being involved with the youth at UCC is one of the most difficult and rewarding things that I have done. As I am getting ready to enter into my fourth year with these students I can’t help but see how faithful God has been.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

three little words

No, I’m not talking about the words I love you, though those can be important words too. What I’m talking about is probably less common, but in many ways I see as equally important.

Most of us have all had done our time if not lived our whole lives in a variety of Christian communities. In my experiences in such places, especially at Taylor and now here at YouthWorks, there’s a desire, an expectation, at times perhaps an obligation that we are to have meaningful interactions with everyone. That’s understandable; we all have a desire to connect with others and have deep relationships. Yet this expectation seems to also cause some damage.

It’s typical that when we are trying to get to know someone we try to find some common ground and there is nothing wrong with that. Perhaps it’s something like a shared liking of a sport or the outdoors or places we’ve been; we always try to find that common group. While this can be a good thing and helps us start down that road to meaningful interactions and deep-felt relationships, it can also be a great downfall (or so it seems to me).

I think a lot of times we carry this mentality over into deeper, more personal sides, of relationships too, and this is where I think that it can become harmful. Just because we are both trying to follow Jesus and maybe even have similar life experiences does not mean that we can fully understand what a person is going through. It seems that that attempt to find that common ground is brought to the table when we know someone who is experiencing something difficult. And it is without a doubt that we have all experienced difficult times in life, but to try to find a common ground amidst someone’s struggles can be more hurtful than caring. The thing is I don’t think people in Christian circles even realize that they are doing this.

I had a conversation with a dear friend Adam last night about this very topic. It is very easy for us to identify with someone else’s pain, frustration, or perhaps fears. Yet when we say the words I understand, it is as if we are minimalizing their experience. It can easily come across as I’ve been there and done that and really it’s not that big of a deal, all the while this may be the world that this person is experiencing and dealing with in the present.

There are times to seek that common ground, but far too often we are overly eager to find that. It has been my experience that in times of frustration, pain, and fear the most comforting of words can be I don’t understand or I can’t imagine. Those three little words are the ones that carry the most significance.

It’s not so much that we are looking for people who have dealt with those same issues that we may be facing, but rather I think we want someone to validate. The most meaningful relationship that I have had with others are the ones in which we admit that perhaps we can’t fully understand what the other is experiencing, yet we choose to be there, validate them, and offer our input only when appropriate. There’s a vulnerability in admitting that. This is not letting us off the chain and saying that because we don't understand we don't have to listen. No, perhaps the best thing we can do is listen, affirm, and be silent.

I think our world , us, and those around us are in need of a lot more I don’t understands rather than our advice and life stories. But then again those are just my thoughts and ramblings.

This has been a great frustration of my summer, so if you’ve read all of this I am impressed. thanks for reading along

Friday, July 17, 2009

hard times in middletown

Okay, I will confess it—I am a documentary nerd. I love documentaries. They have to be a worthwhile topic, but I consider this interest a good thing, all for the betterment of my education, right? Go ahead, make fun of me; the girls of 1EO already do.

Anyways, to the point of this… I subscribe to the American RadioWorks podcast and would encourage you to do the same. They put out some interesting stuff. Recently they finished their program called “Hard Times in Middletown” that focuses on Mucie, IN (a town that is pretty close to Taylor).

Here’s the deal: if you are a Taylor student I would encourage you to listen to this. It is well worth your time and will give you some good insight into a lot of things that are occurring in the Taylor region.

So go and listen. You will be better for it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

working it out

Due to our 90 hour work week with YouthWorks every week, there’s not a lot of time to work out which can be a difficult thing for me. I really do love it when I am able to get out and run during the week; unfortunately this job has us up at 6:30 or earlier and going till midnight or often later. But I’ve created somewhat of a plan to deal with this.

Every Monday I go to our ministry site, Casa Central, to hang out with Spanish-speaking senior citizens. Not only is it a blast to be able to hang out with these people, hear all of their crazy stories, and speak Spanish, but they have an aerobics class every Monday. There’s nothing like marching in place and doing ab workouts to 80’s music re-recorded to have the same rhythm with 70 and 80 year-olds. I love it.

On top of that every Wednesday I have karate classes. I kid you not! Wednesdays I’m at a kid’s club all day where they bring in a karate instructor for three hours. It’s hilarious to watch as the instructor tries to get 5-13 year olds to all focus and do what he says. Every Wednesday afternoon I get to come home and show the boys (that being Brad and Johnny) what amazing karate skills I learned that day.
I’m going to be a karate master by the end of the summer.

Changing up the workout routine…got to love it.

stretching it out before karate class

Saturday, July 11, 2009

the city

There’s an exhilarating feeling that comes with living in the city—all of the people, diversity, the accessibility of everything, the adventure, there’s always something new and it is never boring. I’ve really enjoyed living in Chicago, especially in Humboldt Park (got to love speaking in Spanish).

Yet while the exciting aspects of the city still remain, many of the harsh realities also became more vivid than ever this week. One of our staff members was sitting out on our stoop one evening as was robbed at gunpoint. He wasn’t walking around the streets, or even the sidewalks, he was just on our stoop! Needless to say, sleep was low and emotions were extremely high this week. YouthWorks was quick to respond in putting our site as a top priority crisis, but there’s not a lot that can be said or done in a situation like this.

Within a day the neighborhood and community that I had felt so comfortable in faded away. I’ve passed the crack house down the street more than ten dozen times, but suddenly it seemed real. The drunks and high folk that walk the streets stood out all the more. Every door that the participants left propped open became an opportunity for something to happen. The gang signs graffitied on the walls seemed to be everywhere. Sentiments of security had vanished all within a matter of 30 minutes.

We managed to make it through the week down a staff member and with many cups of coffee and much grace. Now I’m left with these conflicting feelings, and it is so easy to let fear creep in. I was talking with Sara, one of our staff members and my boss, and she was talking about how there’s a voice that just keeps saying throw in the towel. It’s not safe; you’ve gone through too much; just leave. It is an easy lie to believe, and one that I think the church and Christians have fallen for many times. But that can’t be an option; we can’t live dominated by fear.

So right now we’re learning what it looks like to stay. To see and be fully aware of both side of the city, yet decide to stay and have a presence.

please be praying for our staff as one of us has left, a new has joined though we're not sure for how long, and we've been hit hard throughout this whole week.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

i choose the city

I got this from a friend, and thought I would share. It's by Dr. Francis DuBose, a seminary professor of urban ministry and missiologist.

I Choose the City by Francis DuBose

I choose the city…
Not simply to live in it,
to see it,
to hear it;
But to touch it;
yes, to embrace it,
to hold it,

To feel the wild glory of its
pulsating soul,

To move over its wide,
hurried broadways,

To stand stilled and sobered
at the nowhere of its dead-end streets,

To be trapped with it in its
pain and problems,

To be at once chilled by its ill
and covered with its confetti.

I choose the city because I choose God,
Because I choose humanity,
Because I choose the divine-human

The struggle which will be won
Not in the serene path through
meadow and wood,
among the bees and birds, and flowers,

But in the city street
Made by the hand of man
Through the gift of God–
Main Street: the final battle field,
The scene of the ultimate struggle,
Where man chooses right
Because he is free to choose wrong.

Babylon, dirty and daring–
Babylon, yes–
Babylon today–

The New Jerusalem!

Francis DuBose, Mystic on Main Street, Chapel Hill, NC: Professional Press, 1993, pp. 78, 79.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

the norm

This week is our third group of participants on site out of eight. Already I am feeling the drain of doing the same thing continuously for eight weeks in a row. It’s a little different too, because unlike camps, the students that come to our sites already have adult leaders with them—we’re just here to iron out the details, get them plugged in, and try to steer them in the right direction.

Tonight I felt that drain unlike any other. For the first time in a long time I had some time to think. We had an hour before club (our nightly church service type thing), and Brad and I had finished setting up the chapel. So while Brad was chillin and playing guitar, I got to think and be.

The summer has been an immense challenge and I’m not even half way through it. After the semester abroad I feel as if I’m still making cultural adjustments especially moving back into an extremely Christian environment. As I sat there wrestling with God and my own thoughts, there was a great feeling of purpose and meaninglessness. I have no idea why I’m here or why YouthWorks is here or the 70-80 participants that come every week. And it’s with those doubts that I entered into our club time.

But for some reason last night, God decided to make it clear to me that he is at work here. To make a long story short there ended up being three students crying, adult leaders saying that they had some of the best conversation in church group time following, and our neighbors who came to sit in for the evening said that was exactly what they needed to hear. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these are signs of greatness or that making people cry is the perfect symbol of spiritual growth or challenge, but all of that served as a sign that there was something going on. That for some reason God is using what we’re doing though many times it feels pointless. That feeling is fleeting, but I’m learning that for this summer it will be something that I have to trust.

I still don’t know how or why I am here or how God is working through this thing called YouthWorks, but he is and for some reason I’m here in the middle of it. Thank you, God, that you can use people like me.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

the real world: chicago

First of all I’ll apologize for being terrible at posting anything these past few weeks. Now that we have our third group of students, things are slowing down, so you can expect more updates.

So last week I was talking with our area director, Jason, who has been working at YouthWorks for the past 10 years in a variety of roles. Jokingly he said that working for YouthWorks is kind of like The Real World, that being the MTV show (thought I would clarify), but it did have some validity to it especially during the first three weeks.

Let’s just take a look at this for a minute…

“This is the true story [yep, we’re living in a true story this summer]… of seven strangers [well, there’s only four of us, but for a week we did have nine people]…picked to live in a house [in this case a small apartment]…work together [check]…and have their lives taped [so we have a video crew whose coming this week—no joke. plus when you have 70+ high school students watching you, you might as well have your life taped]…to find out what happens…when people stop being polite and start being real [we like to think that we can have both of those and still love each other]…The Real World: Chicago.”

Yep, you get randomly placed to live in a city you don’t know with three or more strangers for three months while trying to somehow work together to lead short term high school mission trips every week. All that to say, I’m so grateful for my team this summer—they’re amazing! At first I was a bit worried about how things would work out and how we’d all fit together, but now that we celebrated our one month anniversary together this weekend, I couldn’t imagine being with another group of people. Life is never boring with Sara, Matt, and Brad.

Friday, June 19, 2009


As a coffee-drinking, outdoor-loving daydreamer, I’ve found a place that would make many six-year-olds jealous.

I have my own playground.

I know reading this, you are all pretty jealous, but truly this is a great thing. The school that our apartment is attached to and where the participants stay has its own playground. It makes a perfect escape to steal away for a cup of coffee, swing on the swings, or get lost is a good book. And to continue in my childlikeness I’ve been reading the original Peter Pan book. If you haven’t read this you’re missing out; that’s all I have to say.

I'll share more about our first week of programming later, but right now I'll continue pretending that I am six.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

the invasion

After a week of training and two weeks of preparation, we finally have students on our site! Sunday afternoon was the kickoff for our summer of mission trips in the Humboldt Park area with 50 students from all over. I cannot even begin to explain how exciting it is to have students and to be able to see the purpose of the past three weeks.

Yesterday, Monday, was the first full day of programming. I got wake up at 5:30 to make breakfast, and later got to lead a work crew to an organization called Casa Central. It was phenomenal! I spent the majority of the day playing bingo and dominos, dancing, making arts and crafts, and chatting in Spanish with senior citizens (all who are in this facility are Hispanic, the majority Puerto Rican). It's so good to be talking in Spanish again.

As a part of my position, I lead and organize all of the evening activities. So later that night I took a group of 50 students on the EL down to Millennium Park, and the amazing part is that it couldn’t have gone any better! Our system of getting students on the train and then walking to the park worked surprisingly well, and all of the students were all on time. We even got back to the site a half an hour early—it was truly incredible.

These first few days have been a bit hectic and rest is scarce, but we’re getting things figured out. Fortunately this is a small week of programming (only 50 people as opposed to the typical75), which has been a huge help. On top of that we have another YouthWorks team at our site to help kick off the first week before we both have to run our own independent sites. What makes it even better is that one of the staff members on the other site is a Taylor person; it has been good to have someone around who I am used to seeing outside of YouthWorks.

Week 1: two days down, three to go.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

settling in

We’ve been here in Humboldt Park for a week now and I finally feel like I can say I’ve settled in. Actually this feeling occurred in a matter of minutes that happened five minutes ago. What was that defining moment?

I found my local coffee shop. I think everyone finds comfort in one place or another, and for me it’s Saturday mornings in a coffee shop. For the past two years in Upland, it was every Saturday at Paynes; in Costa Rica, Entre Pan; and now in Chicago, Atlas Café. Its artsy, internationally themed, has free wireless and good coffee, a three block walk from where I'm staying, and I’m loving it.

Saturday mornings you’ll know where to find me.

Monday, June 1, 2009

here we go

Okay, I’ve gotten my break from blogging in, and now I’m back at it.

So you might just be wondering how much can happen in just one month. The answer to that question is a whole heapin’ ton. In the past month or so I’ve been in 3 countries, 7 states, and slept in 12 different beds—a bit ridiculous, I know.
But I’ve finally made it to my summer home.

A few days ago we drove down to southern Chicago, where I’ll be for the summer. I’m here with a team of three others in the Humboldt Part area and will be leading week long high school mission trips in the area throughout all of the summer. It’ll be an adventure for sure. So here we go again…

Monday, April 27, 2009

kuna yala in pictures

right now there's not enough time for words.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

1 week notice

here´s my 1 weeks notice.

tomorrow we´re saying goodbye to Costa Rica, and flying to Panama. then monday we'll be making our way to the Kuna Yala islands to live with the Kunas for a week.

so, there will be nothing now here until our return.

hasta luego.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


So you may be wondering why I haven’t been updating this thing lately. Let me explain:
•Internet access in Grecia was extremely limited
•Many times the site would be blocked for some reason
•Grecia was amazing, and we spent a ton of time just hanging out with our friends and families

There’s my reasons.


My three week stay in the region of Grecia is now complete. For dinner last night I ate a pira, the food that everyone here talks about. Considering all that’s on a pira, I can’t believe I ate one, especially a whole one. Then again I had only eaten breakfast at 7:30am and it was 6pm.

But here is Costa Rica they seem to like weird (for us) food combinations, and the pira is the perfect example. If you know be well you should be amazed and proud that I ate this all based on this description:

Nestled in between two huge bread buns first there are two tacos. You have to understand that these are Latin American tacos—not what we think of in the States—that are for us something along the lines of a taquito. In between the tacos is a piece of chicharon, which is a bit like sausage. On top of the bulk there’s a tomato, catsup, and a head of shredded cabbage. And that is a pira.

Like I said, you should be proud that I ate it and a whole one nevertheless.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

and so it begins

Leaving for Grecia they gave us a calendar outlining the rest of the semester, and though it’s helpful to know when assignments are due having the calendar has been a terrible thing. Seeing there is only a month left in our semester is a hard thing not to dwell on. The majority of us love it here in Grecia, but we’re all hitting that low point of the semester—the point where you want to give up, stop caring, and call it quits. I think this happens as the end of every semester draws near, but it’s even stronger when you know it means that you’ll get to go back to a place where you can finally let your hair down after walking ion cultural pins and needles for three months.

On top or that I’m trying to start planning the conference that I will be in charge of next year (you can look at this year’s conference at I’m constantly having to research and maintain communication with those back at Taylor, which is hard when you only have internet access 2-3 days a week. It’s a stressful thing to have to start while you’re overseas.

With all that said, I think we are now facing our biggest challenge of the semester: not mentally or emotionally checking out because it’s the end of the semester. But avoiding this is getting harder and harder. Fortunately we’re all going through it in some degree or another, so we help catch each other when someone’s starting to go down that track.

Friday, April 3, 2009

what is going on in the world?

I’m sure there’s been many times in the history of the humanity that people have asked this question—times of crisis, war, injustice, change. I too have found myself arriving at this question. My reason: World Cup Qualifiers.

Let’s just examine the facts: Last night Mexico lost to Honduras 3-1. The US tying El Salvador was ridiculous. Though the US is still in 1st place for the region, Mexico is in 4th!

But really, I love soccer and the fact that the qualifier games have started makes me ridiculously excited. Since I’ve been here we’ve watched a good number of the games (yet none with the US or Mexico unfortunately), and I’ve since noticed a difference in the styles of the game. It seems to me that in our Western or European style of futbol things are a bit more organized. There’s a plan; the attacks/plays/whatever you want to call them develop from the back and lead to a goal. You can see it coming; it’s a process. Passes are crisp and highly intentional; they reach their destination. You get to see all the little parts come together paving the way to the ultimate climax, the goal—it’s a work of art that is made over time.

Then there’s the Latin American style, or so it seems to be to me. Instead of something that builds, it is all about the moment of magic, like waiting for a firework. Riskier moves are taken, and ball possession isn’t maintained for long periods of time. But eventually after hundreds of seemingly sloppy moves and passes there’s a connection. It’s so creative and free flowing that, even after the 10 replays, you’re still amazed at how it happened. Yet to get that moment you have to watch the 100 or messy moves that were made before.

After watching a good number of the firework games, I’m feeling ready to head back to the US to watch some western style games—I miss it. The form of the game really is different.

Now that I’ve probably officially bored anyone who’s not interested in soccer or possibly everyone I’ll finish by saying if you haven’t been a fan of soccer in the past, now is the best time to start. The World Cup is right around the corner (South Africa 2010), and the world has already begun to watch. Consider it an act of global engagement!

Friday, March 27, 2009

my stomach was not made for this

My stomach was not made for this. This is one of the phrases that I think I’ll always remember about my semester abroad. Actually it’s not what you think; the majority of the food here is amazing, but on the other hand the amount that’s given to you is way too much. Let’s look at some examples:

San Jose family—they’re pretty good about letting my serve myself my own portion sizes, however I always get harassed for not eating enough. It’s a battle to make sure that they understand that you like their food; it’s just that if you eat another bit you just might explode. Then again there’s always the time when my mom just scoops more food onto my plate, as I try to fake a smile.

Nicaragua—Nicaragua was a bit different. In orientation we were warned, ‘you have to eat everything they give you [to avoid a major offence].’ There was no option here. Some families had had LASP students in the past and knew that gringos didn’t eat that much, but not my family. In fact I had the hovering mom who would watch to make sure I ate and liked everything. Here was my secret for surviving: skirts are great for hiding food, especially if they have pockets. I became a pro at hiding tortillas, bananos [this is not a spelling error], and the waxy vegetable in my skirts. Yet there was one thing that you couldn’t get around—the rice jello. Fortunately my family couldn’t afford it, so I only had it once at a neighbor’s house.

Grecia—when I thought they gave us a lot of food in San Jose, I was wrong—it doesn’t even compare to Grecia. Every day we have cafecito around 4, which consist of coffee (I’m all for that), a sandwich, some sort of bread, and sometimes something else. This amount of food during cafecito is what I would eat for a normal meal. But then around 7 we have a full blow dinner too. Fortunately I’ve figured that if I only eat crackers for lunch and only eat a sandwich at cafecito, I can make it through most of my food at dinner.

Spanish class in Grecia—the other two days of the week, when we don’t have work, we have Spanish class. We already arrive with full stomachs after a massive breakfast. Then at 10 we have a snack, which would be the equivalent of my lunch. Still an hour and a half later we have a massive lunch. Don’t forget there’s still cafecito and dinner when you get home too. Allowing our stomachs to survive Spanish class has become a team effort. For the snack time we all try to take something different, so it looks like a bit of everything was eaten. Then at lunch we figure out who likes what, and literally sit there eating off each other’s plates. For example, I’ll eat some of Brady’s salad, Brady will eat some of my potatoes, and Melissa will eat some of my rice. Katie also came up with another brilliant method to make it look like we eat more—cut your food into smaller pieces. Generally it’s a secret for anorexics, but it works well for us too.

If we all come back 20 pounds heavier you will know why—the LASP 20. I think we’re all looking forward to being able to have the choice to not eat. But by we’ve all become expert food smugglers. And who knows, maybe these tips can help you when you’re having to eat way too much food in Latin America.

holy gertrude!

I don’t think that I wrote about this earlier, but I’ve moved cities yet again. For the next three weeks I will be living with a family in the Grecia area, have classes two days a week, and work at a high school the other three days of the week.

We’ve only been here three days, but I think that this is going to be the best part of the semester. My family lives in a little town called Santo Gertrudis (aka Holy Gertrude, I think it’s hilarious). I am loving being with this family. My sisters are seven and three, and as cute as can be; we spend a lot of time playing and doing ridiculous things. Both of my parents are very relaxed and easy going, which is a great change (the opposite of my family in San Jose). The area itself is gorgeous, and the way of life is so much more laid back than that of San Jose.

Time will tell about life in Grecia, but right now it seems to be pretty good.

so close...

Today was so incredibly close to being one of the highlights of my time with my family in San Jose. Why you ask? First let me give a little background information.

My bedroom in our house is right next to the wash/laundry room, also home to our two dogs. Bonita is a cute little, floppy black thing, but then there’s the other, Pookie. Pookie is one of those little white dogs that always seems to have some dog body fluid staining his fur and that likes to bark. Every morning at 5am I don’t need to set my alarm clock because Pookie will promptly start yipping and crying is that high pitched howling. The thing is that I’m the only room close to Pookie, so it really doesn’t matter to anyone else. So there you have the history.

Today, like many days, my tico dad took Bonita and Pookie out and left them on their little leashes that are nailed into the ground. I was walking back to the house and saw that the neighborhood police, a neighbor, and my mom we all on our porch. I soon discovered that Pookie had escaped. I’m not going to lie, I was a little excited about this. I’ve actually thought about what would happen if I accidently let Pookie out of the house one day. It wouldn’t be a bad thing—he could join a group of dogs that roam the neighborhood and be able to run free. So you could say that I’m trying to look out for the best intentions of Pookie.

After half an hour I was ready to officially celebrate the escape, but it all came to a crashing halt. There was a knock on our door, and there was Caesar, our neighborhood police guy, and Pookie. I thought Caesar was supposed to be on my side after all the times he tries to hit on me. I should have called his phone number that he gave me the first day (see ‘can i have yo numba’).

That is how today was so close to being a tremendous highlight, but no, the prodigal dog had to return—lucky me.

Some of you might be reading this thinking that I’m a horrible person for having such thoughts, but really, I do like animals. I won’t try to free your dog because I think it is annoying. It’s just Pookie, really.

Friday, March 20, 2009

can i have yo numba?

So now that we’ve been here in Latin America for a little more than two months now, I’ve been able to make a few observations—observations about things like cultural values, cues, differences, all that good stuff.

Let me share with you one of my favorite observations.
What is the number one question that I’ve been asked by men of all ages here?

Do you have a boyfriend?

Upon an answer of no to that first question a bit of small talk will ensue ultimately leading to the question, “can I have your number?” When you try to explain that you don’t know it, they are all too willing to give you theirs.

After a few months of this, I’ve come up with my solution. I’m just going to start making up crazy stories when they ask:

¿Tiene un novio? [Do you have a boyfriend]
No, en realidad tengo tres—dos en Estados Unidos, un de Costa Rica porque necesitaba alguien para comprar cena para mí. [No, acutally I have three—two in the States, and one from Costa Rica because I needed someone to buy me dinner]

There you have it, my new response. We’ll see how they respond to that one.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

a prayer

Dear God,

I am so afraid to open my clench fists!

Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?

Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?

Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me.

And what you want to give me is love – unconditional, everlasting love.


a prayer from Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

beautiful and tragic

Spending time in the campo, I was a bit surprised at the way of life there. I expected it to be a lot harder, but it was actually a bit relaxing. We would wake up at 4.30am every morning and my dad and sisters would milk the cows and make sure all the animals were fed. My sisters went to school from 8-1:30. During the day my dad would work for a little while, come back to the house, rest for a long time, do a little more work, and be done for the day. And it was practically the same routine for my mom except in the house.

Life was easy and simple. There was one choice of food, no electricity, three pairs of clothes for everyone, and an outhouse out back. Much of the day was spent on the porch simply being. It was a very restful and natural way of life. Something beautiful.

However we came to know that this simple and beautiful way of life is also the most tragic. Back in the US we have surrounded ourselves with buffers—health insurance, saving accounts, grocery stores. But there in the campo there are no buffers; life is tragic. Children in my community die of fever. In another community that a group was at, a five-year-old fell and literally had a hole in his head—a sizable piece missing. They simply cleaned it out and used some of our Neosporin to fill the hole and stuck a bandaid on it. If a disease spreads through the farm animals the families are left with nothing.

Their life is simple and beautiful, but so very tragic. But which is better? Living this simpler life is more natural and closer to the reality probably. However it is the buffers that we have created that often give us a safety net to prolong the inevitable many times.

Which is better?
I haven’t decided.

a bit of a summary

I’m back once again. Sitting here writing on an English keyboard I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten so used to typing on a Spanish keyboard that it’s now hard to type on an English keyboard—wow.

We made it back from Nicaragua, and it was undoubtedly two weeks that were well spent. The first three days we were in the capital, Managua. It’s an interesting place for a capital, because it’s not at all what you would expect. Back in its day, Managua used to a bustling metropolitan area, but after the earthquake in the early 70’s most of the city was destroyed and has not recovered since. Many places throughout the city literally felt like a ghost town. While we were in the city we had some amazing speakers including a woman presidential candidate and was a top general in the revolution, got to see some remarkable sites, go to a protest site made up of shanty town, and surprisingly have some time to relax.

After a few days calm in Managua the real adventure was ready to begin; it was time for the campo. Leaving a 4am, my group took a 7 hour bus ride from the capital to a town called Rama. From there we took a long boat for about 45 minutes down a river, follow by a 45 minute walk and hour on horse. When the man who was on the other horse, who I later found out was my dad, opened the door I had made it to my house in the campo. I spent the next week living there in the community of Concha 2. Most of my days were spent on the porch playing with my three-year-old-cute-as-all-get-out brother, going to school with my sisters (10 and 12), going to church, or doing absolutely nothing. We slept on the floor making every night a sleepover with my sisters, cooked on an open fire in the house (no electricity), took care of the farm animals, ate rice and beans for every meal, let the sun dictate when we slept, and enjoyed a much better pace of life.

After a week in the campo all the small groups that were spread all throughout the country met in the city of Granada for a few days of reflection and recuperation. We were all pretty worn out for life in the campo, but I know I wouldn’t replace it for anything. It is a moving experience. Granada was a perfect place to recover and process. It’s an old city right off Lake Nicaragua with all of the old buildings brightly painted and cobblestone streets—I loved it along with everyone else in the group.

On the way back from Nicaragua I was dropped off, and went to the beach at Tamarindo with some friends for a couple of days. Now I’m burnt and looking like a lobster, but it was great.

So that’s a bit of what we did in Nicaragua. It’s a hard experience to describe, however I’ll try to share a few thoughts later. For now here’s some pictures from the trip...

Saturday, February 28, 2009

2 weeks, one backpack

We’re packing everything we need for two weeks into one backpack.

Monday at 6.30am we’re meeting at the bus station to make the 11 hour trip to Nicaragua. I’m excited and nervous all at once, but I think the excitement outweighs everything else.

Lately, as a part of Core Seminar, we’ve been Nicaragua’s history and how the US has constantly sought to hinder it. If you don’t know anything about the history there I would recommend looking it up—it’s a worthwhile endeavor. It’s a sad and troublesome history.

The first few days are going to filled with “charlas” (talks/interviews), so that we can hear more of the story and learn about the reality of today in Nicaragua. Then we’ll be splitting up into small groups of 4-5 and travel to every corner of the country to live with rural families living in poverty.

I am excited! I don’t think this trip could have come at a better time.

So due to the fact that we won’t have internet access for two weeks, you can expect to see nothing new here for the next two weeks. See you all in March!

orange juice and the 80's

There are many days here that are hard—especially with my Tica family. But I am learning how important the little things are.

A lot of times on the buses in between Spanish songs there will be a song in English from the 80’s. It’s so ridiculous, but just hearing a familiar song makes the day so much better. Today I got to sit in a little street side café, drink orange juice, and listen to songs like “Uptown Girl” and “Living on a Prayer.”

The 80’s and orange juice—a great combination to brighten your day.

john stam

I you haven’t been able to figure it out yet, I really like stories—probably more than you would think. I’ve written papers on and studied the psychology and spirituality of stories. We’re people of story, and I love that. All that to say that’s why I end up writing about people so much; I love their stories. So here goes an attempt to share another story.

Today for Core Seminar we had John Stam come and visit us. This guy is nothing short of amazing. I was made fun of, because my eyes were glued on him the whole time, I talked to him during the break, laughed at every one of his little jokes and puns, and had an endless amount of questions during the Q&A time.

John is an 80 year old missionary and dreamer whose lived in Latin America for the past 60 or so years. He’s lead Bible studies for Sandinista revolutionaries of the Nicaraguan Contra War, knows more about Latin American history then any North American that I’ve ever met, seen how the US has repeatedly stirred up and initiated wars, revolutions, conflicts, and near genocides throughout Latin and South America; spent late nights talking with Fidel Castro about Jesus, and so much more. I told you this guy is amazing.

I want to live a life as full as this guy.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

everyone needs a girl's night

We’ve entered into the final push of the semester. After next week it’s all downhill, but as for now it’s been a bit stressful. Something that’s made it a bit more difficult for me is my family (tico family that is). This has been the first major wall that I’ve hit since I’ve been here.

A lot of the other students have had a hard time with their families, because they do nothing. Mine is the extreme opposite. There is never a quiet, not-busy, down moment with my family. I’m grateful to have an active family, but it can be tiring. Whenever I’m home, even in my room with the door shut, one of my parents will find some reason literally every 10 minutes to come, knock on my door, and get me. So it’s pretty hard to find alone time. The majority of the time I’m not really talked to, I’m just talked at. My dad likes to explain everything, and I mean everything. This is a tortilla. You can buy torillas in the store. This is how you fold and eat a tortilla. This is a thermos. You put hot food in it like this…you get the picture. Thanks for listening to my little vent.

Yesterday we had our final presentation for our Spanish class. As we were waiting to go in before the panel, one of the girls in my class had the idea of going over to her house afterwards for a girl’s night. So after the presentations Liz, Lindsay, and myself walked back to Lindsay’s house. We played with her little siblings (little kids refresh me), ate PB&J and ice cream, had good conversation (we are girls, of course), and watched Momma Mia. It was a great night, and I felt/feel so refreshed.

Praise God for girl’s nights, PB&J, ridiculous movies, and friends.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Before coming on this trip, I remember having a conversation with one of my close friends, Jamie. I was trying to explain to her what was going through my head as I was getting ready to come here, but, as is common with me, I couldn’t find the right words to express what was in my mind. I couldn’t think of a better way to express what I was thinking other than saying I need something of my own again.

Once I got here I was trying to explain this same feeling to another dear friend, and finally was able to come up with a word to describe it—reclaiming.

Today I got to sit in a circle with my peers at LASP as we all got to share a part of our spiritual journey. When it was my turn to share, I shared this thought about reclaiming. The past year and a half or so have been rough and have taken a heavy toll on me. In coming here I, in some ways, feel like I’m getting a fresh start. A time to step back from the norm and rediscover, reclaim.

I think that may be my word for the semester.

spanish thoughts

Every Thursday, during our Core Seminar time, we meet in smaller groups to help process all that is going on. This past week my group was with Javier, a LASP professor who is a Tico. Thus our conversation had to be in Spanish.

It was phenomenal. As we were discussing I found that I wasn’t actually thinking about what I was speaking or working on translating in my head, I was just speaking. I can’t even begin to explain how excited that makes me. It’s the same story with Spanish class. This past week we had in depth, great conversations about the essence and purpose of humanity, sexuality, poverty, racism, and theology in Spanish. I even translated Tozer’s thoughts into Spanish! This new found fluency is ridiculously exciting.

As we closed our time on Thursday, Javier shared with us how amazing it was to have a group of young people from the typically dominating culture and world power discussing major issues such as poverty, economics, and sustainable development in a language that is not their own. He said that seeing that was extremely powerful. I agree.

vamos, vamos ticos...

Walking through the streets of San Jose throughout the day, it didn’t feel normal. People were extra friendly and jolly. Half of the crowds were dressed in red too.

It was the day of the World Cup qualifying game between Costa Rica and Honduras.

I met my sister’s boyfriend and his friends in front McDonald’s in La Plaza de la Cultura, and we were on our way. Every five minutes someone would pat me on the back or say something, because I was wearing my Costa Rica jersey. The streets were extra busy. At the bus stop there was a line that went on forever and was carefully guarded by police. When someone in a blue and white (Honduras) jersey walked by, chaos would erupt.

As we walked into the stadium I was a bit nervous, because I had been told by some classmates that the section that I was sitting in had the reputation of being insane to say the least. Before entering we had to put our coins in our shoes—they don’t allow anything in the stadium, including coins, because people would through them at the players on the field. Two hours before the game, half of the stadium was already filled with people on their feet singing and chanting. Many times the actual infrastructure of our section would sway and move with the crowd.

When the Honduran players were being announced, the announcer would say their first name, but it was impossible to catch the last name because it was drowned out with the Tico’s shouting ‘perra’ or bitch. Once the game started the energy in the stadium was out of control, in some ways literally—police having to break up/prevent fights, lots of middle fingers given and strong words said. But the best part was when Costa Rica scored (twice). It didn’t matter who you were surrounded by, everyone got a hug.

The game was an amazing experience. In many ways it was like what you see on the TV about Latin American soccer games. And did I mention that we won, 2-0? I’ll leave you with two victory songs…

Ole, ole, ole, ole, Ticos, Ticos!
Vamos, vamos Ticos. ¡Esa noche se ganará!


Do you ever see a person that just based upon their presence you think I want to be this person’s friend? Well, I had one of those encounters this past Tuesday. During our Core Seminar time we took a little field trip to an organic finka (farm).

When the young owner of the farm greeted us with is two year old son, I couldn’t stop think I want to know this guy. As he gave us a tour of his modest farm, he explained that he used to own the surrounding land and grew a monoculture coffee that required many pesticides. One day he said that it just dawned on him that organic growing was the way to go, so he shut down the cash crop to begin an organic farm that would be more environmentally friendly.

Now he wakes up at 4:30am every day to begin his work and doesn’t get to sleep until 11pm typically. Rodric’s wife works in San Jose, so he has to later take his daughter to school and pick her up too. Then he comes back and does the farming while watching his two year old. The work is hard and laborious, but he’s committed to doing it.

The thing was that Rodric was truly glowing. He loves what he’s doing. He explained how making the choice to go organic and working on the farm all day is an act of worship for him. Pointing to San Jose, he said that he couldn’t imagine every having to work down there.

I hope I can love my job as much as Rodric does one day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"The peace
is not the duty of any one man
nor the task of any single country.
The peace
is a responsibility
shared by all humanity and all the nations."

-Oscar Arias, the President of Costa Rica

in the moment

Lately I’ve been thinking about what it looks like to live in the present. I’m very much a person who tends to dwell either in past or worry/think about the future. My mind likes to meander, and only a small percent of it lives in the present.

So I’ve been trying and praying that this will begin to change, and coming to Costa Rica has undoubtedly aided that process. The majority of the time I have no idea what will happen within the next hour, and it is hard to dote on the past when everything around you is so new. It’s been a fast learning process, but I feel like I’m finally starting to get it a bit.

I’m enjoying the little things so much more by choosing to live in the present. It’s so much more peaceful. I suppose it really comes down to trusting God, and believing that he truly is who he says he is.

Tozer was on to something—what you think about when you think about God is the most important thing about you.

LASP meets Groome

Here at LASP, we have a student lead, fellowship/chapel-like time every Wednesday, and I’m a part of the group of five who plans it. The thing is everyone else is there to sing or play guitar. So most of the time it ends up being me who gets to come up with the idea for the ‘lesson or non-singing time.’ Actually it’s kind of been fun. I feel like I’m getting to teach the other four a little bit of what I study at Taylor.

This past week LASP was introduced to Groome and his 5 movements. I got to lead a discussion on one of my favorite passages Luke 4, when Jesus makes his proclamation in the synagogue. We found the generative themes, named, booked it, made it ours, and applied—it was great.

I love being able to tangibly apply what I’ve learned through my classes at Taylor; it’s a good feeling.

brought back to life

Good news—my computer has seemingly come back to life!
I’m hoping it will hold up for the rest of the semester now.

soccer games

This past weekend a group of us went to the province of Cortago to play soccer against some local teams. That probably sounds like a ridiculous thought—a bunch of gringos from the US playing ticos—but it was so much fun!

The first game was all of us girls against their team. We lost, but I’m proud to say that I got a header goal off of a corner kick. The second game was a co-ed game, but the gringo team had all the girls who hadn’t ever played before since those of us who play of have played played in the first game. We were disappointed that we couldn’t play again, but then came our glory moment—the tico team asked Katie, Julia, and myself to play with them! It was a blast to be able to play with them. I love being in a country that loves soccer.

On another soccer note, tonight I’m going to a World Cup qualifier game—Costa Rica vs. Honduras. But I’ll share more on that after the game.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I forgot to post this earlier...

Programa de estudios latioamericanos
Melesa McEwan
Apod. 54-2070
Sabanilla, San Jose
Costa Rica

Friday, February 6, 2009

i'm back

I´m back to posting on this thing again, but you may be wondering why it´s been so long...

Well, other than our limited internet access, it just so happens that my computer decided that it would be a good time to play dead. And it´s still being dead.

The great part about it all is that a few days before I had been praying that God would take away any distractions or hinderances to my time here. Yet still these past few days since the computer died have been some of the best and most joyful days that I´ve had since being here. Funny how that all works out.

we love ice cream, yes we do

During class yesterday we were having a brief review of the future tense, so our professor asked us what we were going to do tonight. We decided to make up a story about going to the grocery store and having a party in isle seven. Nearly every sentence ended with the phrase “…y comerémos helado (and we’ll eat ice cream).” So it just so happened that in the process we convinced our teacher that we’d go get ice cream during class the next day.

And the best part was that we did. We escaped Spanish class, and ate the famous POPS ice cream. My favorite--dulce de leche.

Moral of the story, just keep talking about ice cream and eventually you’ll convince someone.


I don´t know if you know Karin Case, but if not you should. Karin is one of the other Taylor people here, and it has been such a blessing to have her here. She is such an encouragement, and it´s great to have someone who you share more of a history with then the people that you´ve known for the past 3 weeks.

All this to say, if you don´t know Karin you should.

speaking peace

This weekend we got the chance to go on a group trip to the poorest province of Costa Rica, Limon. The history of Limon is a sad one filled with racism and inequalites, but in our visit there was one place that didn´t seem so dampered by it´s surrounding conditions.

It was that catholic church. On Sunday half of us went to a service that I was anticipating to be dry, empty, and boring. Yet it ended up being the complete opposite of all of those. It was suprisingly refreshing. The service undoubtedly had the flow of mass, but there was a depth and significance to it. The singers were all singing in their own key, but it didn´t matter because they were worshipping. Everything that was done was cnetered around scripture, and we even got to sing Oh, how I love Jesus. I think my favorite part of the service has to be the ‘say hello to your neighbor time’ (you know that time when everyone in church turns around to greet each other). Well they took this time to speak peace to everyone. So literally every one in the service (granted it was only 30 people) greeted eachother with the work peace.

There was something special about that. Maybe we should start speaking peace to others more often.

night out with Austin and Annie

I´m an introvert. Big groups, especially when I don´t know the people, can drain me if they go on for long periods of time. So coming to Costa Rica with 47 strangers has been a bit draining during this first few weeks.

But this past Thursday was absolutely refreshing. After our Spanish class in the afternoon, I knew I needed some time to chill before going home, so I started walking around San José. There I ran into Austin and Annie, two LASP students who go to Gordon. So it soon became the three of us trying to escape for a while and enjoy a night out on the town.

It was just what I needed. Annie and Austin are great, and I´m excited to get to know them more.

Monday, January 26, 2009

million dollar question, Palmares pt. 2

Out of the 43 students in the LASP this semester, I’m the only one who’s actually been to Costa Rica before. The last time I was here was in 2002 with a group of students from my church. It was one of those trips where you learn some random drama to convey the story of Jesus and go around the country talking to people and what not—drive by evangelism.

In the short time that we’ve been here we’ve already come across one of these drive by evangelism groups—once in the streets of San José and then more recently at Palmares. They’re method is to go around handing out $1,000,000 dollar bill look-alikes with a track about the “million dollar question” printed on the back. And they don’t hold back—its fire, brimstone, and all.

As I’ve been seeing this groups and familiar places from six years ago, it’s been a bit weird to think that I was one of those groups who came to Costa Rica to do the same thing (minus the whole fire and brimstone threatening, hopefully). So lately I’ve been thinking about the North American church’s approach to missions. More specifically short term missions, since I’ve had the chance to go on many trips and especially since I will be leading short term missions trips for high school students this summer.

I don’t think I’ve ever been much of a fan of this type of drive by evangelism, even on the trips that I have been on with the church—it’s just made me uneasy. I remember going to an unnamed Christian conference for high school students about evangelism and walking out of several of the session. So this thought has been bouncing around in my head for a while. We’re going to these places on mission trips without trying to understand the culture or what would best serve the people. Rather we’re good at coming up with a quick’n’easy—you’re in, share the gospel, and are out—type of trip. We see it as our mission to share or even bring Jesus to these people—and it’s all going to happen in 3 days.

While these short term evangelistic mission trips bug me a bit, what has been more difficult to think about is that I know this exact type of trip has played a significant role in my life in setting me on the direction that I’m heading. I can’t say that they’re a bad thing. Then I remembered the most recent trip to Jordan. I wouldn’t really call it a mission trip. Yes, we had a mission, but it wasn’t so much to share Jesus, but rather to listen to the stories of refugees and how Jesus is at work in Jordan.

So as I’ve been thinking about my mission trip experiences, leading short term trips this summer, and writing a paper on globalization in missions, I think I’m starting to come to some half-thought conclusions. What if we started looking at our mission trips as listening trips? What if we began to acknowledge and be honest that in a two week trip, we are generally not going to convert the country (hey, not saying it couldn’t happen, but…)? I think there’s something special and important first about story and second about listening.

Maybe more people would be interested in us if we were to first listen to them.

But then again, that’s just a half-thought.

torro, torro, Palmares pt. 1

This weekend a group of about 15 of us got to go to Palmares. Palmares is the biggest festival of the year in all of Costa Rica and is a pretty big deal. So we signed up to go, not quite knowing what to expect other than being told that we would get to see a bull fight. After the three hour bus ride there we divided up into smaller groups to explore the festival and town.

As we walked about, we quickly learned that it wasn’t quite the festival that we were expecting. Yes, there were things like carnival rides, little tents selling random things, and the greasiest of food that you can imagine, but one thing seemed to be missing—tons of people. Seeing all of the huge tent-like structures with massive stages, lights, and all the works, we concluded that Palmares was the summer party scene. It was a pretty funny place to be for a bunch of gringo Christian students. So we spent the morning and early afternoon wondering around and what not.

By 3 o’clock it was time for what we really came for—the bull fight. We had no idea what to expect, and I know I was nervous about what I was about to see. Sitting in the stadium you could soak in the energy and excitement of everyone there. The men started to flood onto the arena floor. Sooner than later the bull was release and it was hilarious. Costa Rican bull fighting isn’t really bull fighting—it’s more like 50 men in circular arena trying to run from this bull. For the most part no one got hit. But still there were a few, and I (along with the rest of my female counter parts) could barely watch (note—it really wasn’t that violent, the bull would hit them and the other men would help get the bull away from the man who was hit). This lasted in many variations for three hours.

By the time we left the arena, it was early evening and we soon discovered a bit of why people come to Palmares. The smell of beer was everywhere and music was blaring from all the various clubs. So we wondered around for another hour. This time we stood out even more—gringos, fully clothed, sober (I’ll finish my thoughts on this in another post). Then it was time to take the bus back to San José, and eventually home, making for one very long day.

typical week

So perhaps you’re wondering what a typical day here in Costa Rica looks like for a LASP student. Well, let me give you the run down:

Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays
5:30am—wake up and go for a run
6ish—get ready for the day
6:45—help mom make breakfast and eat
7:45—head out to the bus stop to catch a ride on the 8am bus into San José
9:00—arrive in San José
Free time until 12:15pm to find a place to use the internet, buy something if needed, do homework
12:15pm—catch a bus to Curribat
1:00—Spanish class at ICADS till 4:30
4:45— Mondays—PWS (praise and worship service) coordinators meeting at TCBY
Wednesdays—PWS at ICADS
Fridays—time to hang out with friends in San José, Curribat, or where ever
5:45—catch a bus back into San José
6:15—another bus to get back home in El Carmen de Guadalupe
8:00ish—arrive home after a many times 2 hour bus ride
8:15 & after—eat dinner, hang out with sisters if possible, do homework

Tuesdays, Thursdays
5:45am—wake up
6:30—help mom make breakfast and eat
7:15—catch a bus headed towards San José
7:45—get off the bus close to the LASP offices
8:00—start Core Seminar base
12pm—finish Core Seminar, eat lunch, and a bit of time to talk with friends or meet with faculty
1:10—find a group of 4 people to grab a taxi with over to ICADS
1:30—Spanish class at ICADS
4:45—take the bus back to San José or go to the internet cafe across the street
Eventually take another bus back to Carmen, eat dinner, do homework, etc.
10-11ish—go to bed absolutely exhausted

this is for class!?

Goodnight, am I in the right study abroad program! My classes are amazing! Granted, right now I only have two classes, but I’m enjoying them both. The class other than my Spanish class is what we call core seminar. It’s the only time that all 43 of the LASP students are together.

The purpose of the Core Seminar is Latin American Studies, but it’s great because we’re getting it through the lens of the kingdom of God (or at least that the way I see it). We get to discuss and learn more about things like US foreign policy, the history that has lead Latin & South America to the place that it is in, the effects of globalization, poverty, inequality, the effects of colonialism and neocolonialism, sustainable development, social movements, and the church. On top of that it’s not just being taught to us by gringo professors, but also by locals.

I cannot wait!

Monday, January 19, 2009

what they won't tell you

After just 6 days here in Costa Rica it's cleat that there are certain things that you will never hear about in any Spanish education. So here’s a list of just a few of the many things that they won’t tell you in your high school or college Spanish class:

  • You should stop using the “tu” (you) form when you’re talking with people. The reality is your Spanish is probably so horrible that you should always use the “usted” (formal you) form, because you’ll be needed to show respect to everyone.
  • They won’t teach you how to not get ripped off by a taxi driver who will (1) round up the cost of your trip or (2) take the long way since you don’t know your way around town.
  • Remember all the words you learn for street, avenue, different directions, etc.? You can forget them, because they’re not important. You will only need to be able to recognize and know significant landmarks to get around. Don’t even try asking someone what street you’re on.
  • It’s better to try to communicate rather than focusing on having perfect grammar.
  • When in doubt just start talking in Spanish about anything…that way, though people will still know and think you’re a gringo, they will know that you know at least a little something making you less likely to be taken advantage of.
  • Always say hello to everyone; it’s rude not to.
  • When you hear the word “soque” when you’re in the showing it does not mean to spend more time soaking up the water. It means “hurry up!” (I had a friend who had to learn this one her first morning).
  • Whenever there is anything good just say “que linda.” It will cover all bases—how cute, lovely, pretty, awesome…everything.
  • Always compliment, even if all you can say is “que rico, que bueno.”
  • Become a good actor, because hand gestures are always helpful!
  • Just keep talking. It’s better to talk and say nothing of importance than not talk at all.

There you have it; just a handful of the things that you won’t learn in Spanish class.

Warning—this does not mean you should not take Spanish classes or that they are not useful!

bring the funk

We’ve reached the end of our orientation week, and today is the first day of real classes. Here in the Latin American Studies Program they have quite a bit different idea of what orientation looks like than you would think. Let me explain.

Orientation week means that during the first morning, with all of us students in a big room, our professors ask us what type of cultural questions we have before we meet and leave with our families. After about 20 questions are asked, like what is the proper way to greet someone, is it rude if I do this or that, Don Trevor (one of our profs) says, “Great, these are all great questions that show that you’re thinking about the various differences, so why don’t you work on finding those answers this week?” Yep, that was it. Then we drew the names of our family in a lottery system. An hour later we were on our separate ways with our new families.

The next day we rode the buses from our various neighborhoods into the center of San Jose, La Plaza de Cultura. My mom told me it would be important for me to memorize the various bus routes, because I will be taking it to my various classes every day. Once all the students were gathered in the Plaza, we were given a list of things to do before 5pm (we met at 7am) and were let loose in the city in our groups of three students. It was quite the adventure.

Friday, the last day of orientation, we met in the LASP offices where we will be having our Base Seminar class. After the previous days of hasty orientation filled with important information, Don Trevor told us there was one other important aspect of the program…we like to “bring the funk” and have lots of fun.

So, in the words of Don Trevor, it is time to bring the funk and get into the routine of classes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

sisters, sisters

I made it!

We got into Costa Rica last night, and met our host families this afternoon. I now have three sisters around my age, which makes me oober excited! My family is great, and I can´t wait to get to know them better (especially as my Spanish gets better).

It´s been quite the adventure all ready. From the get go at orientation today we were told ¨we expect you to fail¨--comforting words. Seeing that we were all eager to jump into the culture, the staff asked if we had any questions. After ten minutes of people shouting out cultural questions, we were told that those were good questions and that we would have to fingure them out ourselves. No here we go with no cultural advise--let the apologies begin!

Well, I´m cutting this short for multiple reasons: it´s dinner time, my dad just got home, I´m using a dial up connection, and typing on a Spanish keyboard is more difficult than you would think! I´ll write more when I have a chance to go to an internet cafe!

Monday, January 12, 2009

and we're off!

It’s finally here—time to leave for Costa Rica!

This will be short, because it’s getting late and I have an early morning flight. I’ll be leaving from Denver and getting into Costa Rica around 10pm. Right now the excitement outweighs every other thought.

So here we go, the start to a new adventure.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


One of my favorite things has to be rediscovering something you love. Like catching up with a friend you haven’t seen in ages, picking up a favorite book, going back to something you started, or just being reminded of why you’re doing what you’re doing.

All that to say, I had one of those moments this week. On the way to my early morning CPR training, I witnessed an amazing Colorado Springs’ sunrise. I am very much a morning person, and being out of school and out of a routine I have greatly missed the goodness of early morning and sunrise. But not this Friday. I left time to take the longer route that runs alongside Garden of the Gods at the foot of Pikes Peak. It was nothing short of spectacular. There is something about the stillness of the morning that is so refreshing and humbling. I was re-introduced to that this Friday. Waking up to such a visible display of God's glory has to be one of my favorite things rediscovered.

Thank you, God, for rediscovery and that you always bring morning.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Right now I’m in the midst of lots of the last minute preparation stuff for Costa Rica. After listening to the health department lady give me a lecture on not traveling by myself or consuming alcohol on the airplane, I got updated on all my shots. Out of all the shots that I’ve ever had do you know which one is the worst? You think it would be something like yellow fever or typhoid, but no, my arm is still aching from the flu shot! Now that is ridiculous. That may have very well been my first and last flu shot.

Today I spent an hour at the department of motor vehicles trying to figure out what to do when your license expires when you’re out of the country. And did I mention that I’m trying to work on remembering 5 years of Spanish? Yeah, I should have started reviewing earlier as I’m beginning to realize the effects of not having any Spanish for a year and a half.

Nevertheless, the thought of being gone for the semester finally feels tangible. It is insight and beginning to be something that my mind can comprehend. As all the details begin to fall into place I can’t but help to get all the more excited. So here we go…one week left!

Friday, January 2, 2009

best of 08

It is 2009, and that in itself seems to me a crazy thought.

Yesterday I had an interview for a possible summer job/practicum with a ministry called YouthWorks. As I went through the process of sharing my story and all of the ups and downs, my interviewer, in response and understanding, kept uttering the phrase, “oh life.” Looking back on 2008, I find myself muttering that same phrase, oh life. But I want to take a chance to reflect on some of the highlights. There have been some remarkable, unforgettable moments filled with adventure, laughter, joy, and growth.
So here it goes (in no order whatsoever):

  • entering Taylor’s boat regatta, because we thought it sounded funny, and being shocked when we actually won
  • going to Jordan for spring break with a group of Taylor students to distribute food boxes, but more importantly, listen to the stories of refugees
  • two words—Shady Shake. This was my summer apartment in Upland which included four different colors of shag carpet, a 2’x 2’ shower, a cat named Milfred, wood paneling, spider friends, bee buddies, and a porch on which many nights were spent with coffee, conversation or a good book. Bottom line: it was cheap and my first time living by myself
  • a fall semester that brought much healing and insight
  • spending the summer in Upland to hang out with high school students…sleepovers, making cheesecake and cookies from scratch, McDonald’s sweet tea runs, bible study, soccer games, worship nights, dance parties with the Spice Girls, a couple of us college kids leading youth group, Fun in the Son, watching movies, the best kind of conversations, open gyms, long walks, and a ton more
  • j-term baking extravaganza 2008: baking in every dorm’s kitchen during –term with KP
  • some of the best conversations with Goeke, Swils, Kathy, Kari, and Katie W
  • attempting to make rice with Meagan. warning, don’t ever follow Google instructions on how to cook rice…
  • spending Easter on Mt. Nebo and floating in the Dead Sea watching the sun set over Jerusalem
  • spending five days camping out for Cornerstone music festival with a group of our high school students
  • who would have ever thought that the technology illiterate girl would work a 40hr job with computers? yep, I worked for Taylor’s IT Client Services this summer
  • many miles were put on Clint (my car)—taking students for a poverty exposure trip to Akron, driving seven hours with three high school boys to Cornerstone, chipotle opening in Fort Wayne, the 20 hour drive home…the list goes on…
  • my third year leading Bible study with a group of high school girls with an amazing new co-leader, Carie
  • playing in our Upland softball tournament with Skip Trudeau and Ed Meadors
  • taking off our heals and dancing in the rain with Kristen pretending that we couldn't find the car
  • breadstick Tuesdays after Teaching and Learning with Liz
  • classes that I loved—Psychological & Educational Foundations for CE, Hebrew Prophets, Teaching and Learning Strategies, World Religions, International Social Work
  • becoming a Saturday morning regular at Payne’s, our local coffee shop, to a point where I walk in they instantly start making the Irish Coffee
  • putting on a great National Student Leadership Conference with the Leadership Development cabinet
  • thinking a lot about the combination of social work and the church
  • writing and finishing papers I never thought I could write
  • learning and studying about things that make me tick—culture, ministry, social work, religions, people, God
  • exploring the concept and importance of story
  • staring a discipleship group with a few of my high school girls and having the opportunity to see how so many of the students have changed over the past three years

There you have it; some of my favorite and unforgettable moments of 2008.
2009 is getting ready to have a big start…Costa Rica!