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!