Tuesday, August 28, 2012

First Day of Orientation and a Mini-Adventure

This morning was new student orientation for Sojourn Academy, the school the kids will be attending on the same grounds as the language school. We arrived at 9:40 for a tour of the grounds, then assembled in the chapel for the presentation. Cody, Tori, and Clayton all got to meet their teachers. As a seventh-grader, Tayler will have many teachers; we did not get to meet them all today. All of the teachers, however, are extremely friendly. Tomorrow begins our orientation sessions, and while we're attending ours, the kids will have a few more days of orientation material they will cover as well. School officially starts for them on Monday, and for us on Tuesday (one week from today).

After the morning's session, we decided to walk down to the bank and then on to a McDonald's located a little less than a mile from the school. Keep in mind that these are busy streets, some with sidewalks, but some not. When there aren't any sidewalks, we try to keep as far to the side of the road as we can, and try to walk single file (one of the adults leading, and the other bringing up the rear). However, as far as we tried to stay from the road, it didn't feel far enough this afternoon when a semi truck blew right past us.....WAY too close for comfort! In order to reach the McDonald's, we had to cross the busy round-about (imagine a game of Frogger), and then get across the street again to reach the golden arches.

McDonald's in San Jose is very similar to any McDonald's in the States except for a few differences. The ever-popular McCafe is not a regular menu option---but an entire little coffee shop within the McDonald's! You can buy pastries, and all types of flavored coffees. It's a regular Starbucks experience. The play place is upstairs (we didn't go there because there were a bunch of high-school aged Costa Rica kids). Chairs are grouped very closely together and it was a bit disconcerting to have two men sit down right next to us at a table when there were other tables open. I felt like I should be introducing myself and offering to share my fries. Something to get used to, I guess.

Following lunch, we raced across the street (another opportunity to play Frogger) to the Pecueno Mundo (Little World), a store specializing in a bunch of household items and assorted merchandise. We picked up almost everything else on our list that we needed for the house (lamps, fans, decorative elements, etc.) and saw a bunch of really pretty Asian jewelry boxes, baskets, and vases. Since none were essential to setting up our home, those remained at the store. We filled two shopping carts full of items, then headed outside to try and flag down a taxi to bring us home. An employee was especially helpful in assisting us in this process, and went so far as to call a taxi company for us. When the first driver arrived and saw how much stuff we had (which fit in the trunk of his taxi) plus the six of us, he called for another cab. The really nice thing about this driver is that he insisted upon waiting for the second taxi to arrive so that we could all go together--and refrained from starting the meter! (As there was at least a 10 minute wait, and since he had been so gracious to us, we did give him a nice tip. Usually, you don't tip the drivers, but in this instance, we felt it was appropriate.)

A taxi ride through town is an adventure in itself. Especially when there are left turns with no traffic light. In the States, you line up behind cars waiting to turn left and then patiently wait your turn. Not here! Sometimes, if the drivers (and the taxi drivers are particularly this way) think you're taking too long to turn, or you have missed too many opportunities, they will pull up alongside you--sometimes even two and three abreast!--all trying to turn into one lane! Eep! You just hang on and, at worst, close your eyes and say a prayer for safety. I have never in my life heard so much honking of horns. I thought it was bad in Jackson, but Jacksonians are tame compared to Costa Rican drivers and their horns!

I've gotten very good at saying "no habla Espanol", but I really do look forward to the day I'm able to communicate--at least somewhat--with the people here. For the most part they've been very friendly and most will go out of their way to help you (like the PM employee and the taxi). I am also extremely thankful for Troy's Spanish base. That has been a huge blessing.

Please continue to pray for us as we begin our orientation tomorrow and for the kids as they prepare for the start of school. There's lots more to come from Costa Rica!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Costa Rican Chinese Food

All week, we'd planned to find a restaurant where we could enjoy Costa Rican cuisine after church. When we'd last visited Mexico in 2008, one of the couples had a little Mexican sandwich shop they visited most Sundays after church. I really liked the idea of having a place we regularly went to on Sundays, giving us the opportunity to really get to know the owners and workers there. Relational evangelism is very effective in Latin American countries.

So after church, we came home and changed clothes, then set out on an adventure to find a Costa Rican restaurant. In hindsight, we should've done a bit of planning during the week to figure out just where the open restaurants where. Or, at the very least, we should've asked one of the two missionary couples we met at church. But we didn't. We were "winging it" for sure.

It had begun sprinkling on the way home from church, so we grabbed our umbrellas and began our trek. The sodas were not open. And on the street we selected, there were not a lot of options. There was an open-air bar/restaurant, but we weren't quite sure about that one. Was it more restaurant....or more bar?

Finally, we settled on a Costa Rican Chinese restaurant. That just seems like an oxymoron, doesn't it? Costa Rican Chinese food! About the only thing Chinese in the restaurant were the pictures on the wall and the food names. Even the food items themselves weren't anything like their American cousins. The sweet and sour chicken, for example, was very tasty. But it was not exactly like sweet and sour chicken I'm used to. (And don't get me started on the egg rolls!) Perhaps the best tasting dish was the kids' fried rice plate with chicken, onion, and pineapple. It was delicious! But again, we were a bit lost in translation, so we ended up ordering WAY more than we actually could eat. The nice thing about this is that we have leftovers for another meal.

We set out from our house, determined to have an adventure. And we definitely found one. Next week, I think we'll do a bit more homework ahead of time and have a few places scoped out. We are, after all, still on a quest to taste authentic Costa Rican cuisine. We've been here a week now and it has eluded us. Maybe next Sunday will finally be the day we get to sample some.

And if not, we know where we can get some good Costa Rican Chinese food.

Lost in Translation....But Where We Want to Be

Yesterday was our first worship service in Spanish. We visited a Spanish-speaking Nazarene church not far from Parque el Bosque, about a 15 minute walk from our house. Some missionary friends of ours (folks who also graduated from the same college we attended) referred us to the church and even specifically asked several people they knew to "watch out for" our family and help us feel welcomed. What a blessing!

In Latin America, things either start on time or on "Latin time" (which means things are a bit more laid back and schedules are not closely adhered to). We knew that church was scheduled to begin at 10, but we didn't know if that was the "scheduled time" or "Latin time", so we decided to arrive a bit early just in case. We needn't have worried. We could probably leave our house closer to 10 AM and still be on time. :-)

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by several church members, including the pastor. Greetings here are slightly different than they are at home. If you haven't seen folks in awhile at home, or are very close to them, you might hug. But usually a touch on the arm or handshake suffices. Not here! When people greet each other (even when meeting strangers for the first time, as we discovered yesterday!), you lean in and kiss each other on the cheek! I'd been notified of this on Saturday but had completely forgotten about it. So it was a bit of a surprise for me, and a bit awkward for the poor church members. We'll do better next week. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, which helped.

There is a very long worship service with lots of upbeat music and energetic clapping. I'm really not much of a clapper, so it will take some time for me to "loosen up" enough to really get into Latin worship. That's not to say my heart wasn't in it. Quite the contrary! I may not have understood the words, and most of the songs were foreign to me (we did sing two familiar songs. What a relief to be able to recognize the music! I could even sing along in English in my head), but the spirit of worship present in the church captured my heart nonetheless. At one point, it really occurred to me where we were standing and I instantly teared up. We have spent the last four years preparing for ministry in Mexico. And yesterday, we were actually in a place that would help us get there. As much as we love our home church, it is not Mexico. Our hearts have been drawn to Mexico since our first missions trip there. Costa Rica isn't Mexico, either. But we were worshiping in Spanish....like our brothers and sisters in the country of our heart.

All of our waiting has come to an end. We may not have understood everything said yesterday (although of course, Troy understands quite a bit as a former Spanish speaker, and can communicate amazingly well for someone whose Spanish is so rusty), but there was an overwhelming conviction that we are exactly where we need to be. Where God has placed us. And where we want to be.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

New Experiences

This week has been chalk full of new experiences for each member of the family. Here's a break down of our first week:

Monday: Flight to Costa Rica via Atlanta. The kids' first plane rides. After our arrival and a bit of a rest, we embarked upon our first trip to a Costa Rican Walmart. It is very similar to it's American counterpart. However, here there is really no rhyme or reason for the placement of the goods in the store. Clothes are right next to the food court (that alone is different -- there is a huge food court with several different American fast-food restaurant options inside), next to batteries, next to electronics, next to towels, next to hardware. And the sugar is not in the baking aisle. Unless you go there often enough to become familiar with the store (and due to the high costs, we will not -- there's another difference; Walmart here has more department store prices than American Walmarts), it's best to just start at one end and work your way to the other.

Tuesday: Our big brother took us to a couple stores, one kind of like a Home Depot (I don't remember the name), and the other a small neighborhood grocery. After lunch, he took Troy and another couple shopping at the Price Mart (like a Sam's Club). I got a little bit of unpacking completed. Had our first taste of Costa Rica pineapple (sooooo good!) and baby bananas.

Wednesday: Our first trip to Parque Copa, where most of the missionaries hang out. It is absolutely beautiful! The view from that park is nothing like anything we've seen before. We learned a very hard lesson, however. Due to our proximity to the equator and/or the altitude (I'm not really sure), it is essential to apply sunblock whenever you plan to go outside. After spending the morning walking around and then about an hour hanging out at the park, we came home burnt to a crisp! Quite a bit of the unpacking was completed.

Thursday: Troy went with our Mexico City teammate, Jonny, back to Walmart. Hiring a cab and getting around is a bit easier for Troy, as he was formerly fluent in Spanish. Much of his conversational Spanish is beginning to come back. In the afternoon, he and the kids walked through the area around our house, peeking in and out of the shops and picking up some more groceries and supplies. I was thrilled when they surprised me with a teapot and later, some flowers. They also brought home some of the most delicious bread I have ever tasted, fresh from a local bread shop.

Friday: We walked several blocks to the Jumbo (imagine a Kroger) for our groceries. What an experience! I was surprised by how many American brands there were, and most of the produce was at least recognizable. It is still disconcerting for me to have people speak to me in rapid-fire Spanish, expecting me to answer. I'm sure my eyes glaze over and there must be a most vacant expression there. The day when I can understand and respond back to them will be a most welcome day. I've gotten very familiar with the phrase "no comprendo - no habla espanol." I'm also not accustomed to hearing salsa music played over the grocery store's sound system, nor am I accustomed to seeing a man from the store walking around with a microphone, announcing what I can only assume are the specials. (You'd think after my experiences with the singing meat-market guy at Kroger, this would be old hat.) Perhaps the absolute strangest thing that happened occurred before our excursion to the grocery store. I was checking email in the living room, with the front door open to let in air (we have a screen door). The front gate was locked and dead-bolted, so I wasn't concerned about people walking in. When I looked up, however, I noticed this older man walk slowly past the left side of our gate and then stop at the door in the gate, look up at our house, and just stare at the house. He didn't knock or try to come in. He just stared. Then, after several minutes, he moved slowly on. Folks have told me not to be concerned, that it happens. It just was very weird. In Jackson if someone so obviously "cases" your house, it's never a good thing. Perhaps my proudest moment yesterday, however, came just after the old man walked on. Another man came to the gate and knocked on it, clearly wanting something. Knowing that Troy was upstairs finishing getting dressed, I yelled out the open door, "una momento!" and raced up the stairs. I was about half-way upstairs before realizing what I'd said. Without any forethought at all, my brain conjured this simple Spanish phrase, and it shot out my mouth before I could think twice about it. (I probably should've added "por favor", but again, there was no rational thought put into it.)

Saturday (today): We've had a big day already. This morning, we walked to a farmer's market with our big brother and his family for our fresh produce for the week. At the park, tables snaked back and forth up a hill, some covered with tents, some not. On the tables were all kinds of fruits, most recognizable. Thankfully, Mark had given us a sheet listing all the English names of the fruits and vegetables with their Spanish translations (including articles -- I'd have no idea if something is "el" or "la" otherwise). There were so many to choose from! Corn. Red beans. Black beans. Green beans. Onions. Garlic. Ginger. Celery. Lettuce. Tomatoes. Pineapple. Apples. Strawberries. Cherries. Mangoes. Watermelon. Carrots. Potatoes. All kinds! We settled on the necessary vegetables (potatoes, onion, garlic, beans) and decided that we'd alternate which fruits we buy each week. This week we bought strawberries, apples, peaches, and plums. We already have some watermelon and a pineapple, so we didn't guy those. Next week we want to try mango, grapes and cherries. There were also little fruits called King Kong Boogers (!). I haven't the foggiest what those taste like, or what they are most similar to. They are small, lightweight, and have a bunch of seeds inside. If you shake them, you can hear the seeds rattle. There's also a fruit that looks like a sea anemone on the outside. You cut it open and inside is a single fruit that looks like a large grape. It is soooo slimy! The texture is almost impossible to get past, but if you can, they are actually quite good. Next week we'll try to bring our camera to the market and get some pictures. This afternoon, we're meeting our teammates, Jonny & Gemma, and their family at Parque Bosque and taking taxis over to a "mall" for some hang-out time. For supper, we'll eat at one of the American fast-food restaurant options in the mall food court.

Tomorrow, we'll be worshiping for the first time in Costa Rica. I'm not sure yet where we'll head, or with whom. We're hoping to find a restaurant nearby where we can sample some Costa Rican cuisine after church. Monday is our last free day before orientation. And then the week after next, school officially beings.

Many new experiences await.

UPDATE: One of the strangest things I've seen since we arrived would most definitely be the live mannequins at the mall. In front of the stores are pedestals. And on them, dressed in merchandise from the store they are standing in front of, are people posing as mannequins! Some of them are so good they almost appear plastic. One guy held his pose--without blinking!--for the longest time! I cannot even begin to imagine the physical shape you have to be in to be able to hold poses like that!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


I'm thankful that wandering around the neighborhood is an exciting adventure for Troy. I vastly prefer the "one-stop" shopping you can find in the States, but that is not the way things are done here. You want some meat? Go to the little meat shop (some must be avoided at all costs--the trick is learning which ones are the good ones and which ones will, er, not agree with our American bodies). While you're out, you can get some freshly baked bread at a bread shop (and oh, is it good!). Need some tools our housewares? Go to the hardware store. Is it some toiletries you need, or a bill that needs to be paid? Stop by the pharmacy. And then for general groceries, there are markets in various sizes to accommodate your needs. All of these things are conveniently located right on the same main boulevard (you might just need to do a bit of walking to reach them). Oh, and fruit and veggies! If you want really fresh produce, go to the "farmer's market" in one of the local parks each Saturday! Obviously, this is profoundly different than what we are used to.

This morning, Troy shared a taxi with Jonny, our Mexico City teammate (we are blessed to be going through language school together!), and the two of them shopped at Walmart. Once at least one of us is more comfortable with Spanish, Jonny's wife, Gemma, and I plan to leave the Daddies at home with their respective kids to have our turn shopping sans children.

After lunch, he and the kids all decided to do a bit of exploring. They wanted to go to some of these shops and visit others along the busy street a few blocks from our house. They had great fun avoiding the periodic rain showers, stopping for Cokes, and discovering a heavenly-smelling bakery. They managed to lug home a couple 2.5 liters of soda, a small watermelon (!), another pineapple, a carton of milk....and a new teapot for me! I never imagined that having a teapot so that I could make hot tea would be that important to me. But to my great surprise, it has been. It's been the one item (besides fans) that has made it onto every single one of our shopping lists over the last couple days. Go figure.

I did not join the expedition because of the horrific sunburn I acquired yesterday at the park. (It looks bad. And it doesn't feel all that great, either.) Troy believes it's faded somewhat, so we are planning on venturing out again tomorrow morning in the search for one particular store.

And of course we will be sure to apply the sunblock. In liberal quantities.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"We're Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto!"

San Francisco de Dos Rios, the district where we live (kind of a suburb of San Jose) is definitely not the States. The views from the local parks here in Costa Rica alone are nothing like those from the local parks back home. Here is a list of some of the things that are different (not worse, just different).

1. Obviously, English is not the designated language.

2. You must dispose of used toilet paper in a trash can. Never flush it. Well, unless you don't mind clogged pipes.

3. You can actually drink the water here. This is not different than home (although the water actually tastes better here. Go figure), but it is different than in Mexico. We wouldn't dream of drinking the water there. At least not until we'd been living there for years and years and years.

4. You can develop a full-on sunburn in about 30 minutes. Ouch.

5. Running errands means you went to one (or at most, two) stores. Especially when you are without a car.

6. Everyone lives behind locked gates and bars. The flip side of that is that I have never in my life felt more safe.

7. No grass to mow!

8. You do not fill your sink and use a squirt of dish soap to wash dishes. You dab a wet sponge with this green goo (that's rather gritty in texture) and wipe your dishes clean with that before rinsing and stacking to dry.

9. Some things are more expensive. Like the $20 box fan that costs twice that here for the same fan.

10. The Walmart is more like a mini-mall with it's own food court (filled with American fast food restaurants!).

11. Fresh. Fruit. 'Nuff said.

12. "Gringo catchers". Imagine a manhole without the cover. Why you have to pay attention to where you are walking!

13. There is a rainy "season".

14. The scenery!

15. Costa Rican colones are really quite pretty, and are very colorful. (Not like the plain, somewhat ugly American dollars.)

16. "Raid" bug spray smells like "Mellow Yellow" soda. With a nicer smell than some air fresheners I've used in the States, I'm thinking of using it to freshen the air in our house. It can also serve to keep bugs away at the same time.

17. And speaking of soda, "soda" is a place to eat here, not a beverage.

18. Dora the Explorer speaks Spanish, but teaches kids English words. And her squirrel friend, Tico, speaks English. (So glad for those few words I've learned from Dora over the years.)

19. Watching cartoons in Spanish isn't as weird as watching other live-action shows that have been dubbed over. Especially when you know what the actors are actually supposed to sound like.

20. The sun comes up at 6 AM and sets at 6 PM. Year round. Makes sleeping in a challenge, but will help us all wake up on time for school.

21. In some stores, when you drive through the gate you get a ticket. Once you exit the store's gate, you return it.

22. Also in some stores, someone is posted at the door to inspect your purchases and make sure you're walking out with what you paid for. Or, if you walk into the store with other bags, you "check" them during your stay in the store. Cuts way down on the shoplifting this way.

23. Tico children never climb trees. Never. And they think we gringos are strange for allowing our children to do so.

24. There are no street addresses. You just have to be able to describe to someone how they can get to your house via distances and house colors.

25. Time is not "worshiped", as it often is in the States. Costa Rica (and Latin America in general) is very laid back.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Long-Awaited Day

Yesterday, August 20, we flew to San Jose, Costa Rica. So many amazing things happened--miracles, really--that I want to share. This will be a long post, so beware. Troy worked all through the night Sunday night and all the way up to about 3:15 AM Monday finalizing the packing. All told, there were seven pieces of luggage and seven totes.

While waiting for Troy to arrive at the hotel, the kids and I spent a few minutes praying together. How precious to hear my children praying for our future ministry here in Costa Rica. After a speedy shower, we headed to the airport in Jackson. Upon our arrival out front around 4:30 AM, we were greeted by a man from our home church who had come to see us off! We were so touched that he would get up that early just to say goodbye to our family! All of the pictures from this earliest stage of the journey were ones he took for us. I began the bag check-in process while Troy took the borrowed pickup over to the long-term parking area.

With great trepidation, I watched each piece of luggage as it was placed on the scale and weighed. 47 pounds....49 pounds....48 pounds....one was even 50 pounds (the allowed limit). My genius husband had packed each suitcase or tote in such a way to allow maximum usage without incurring over-the-limit fees. The man weighing all of the bags had just completed the process when Troy walked in. With dread, I asked the man helping us at the ticket counter how much we owed for the baggage. We had two extra pieces than we thought were allowed, so we figured the fees would be astronomical (we guess about $500). Imagine my shock and great surprise when he looked at me and stated, "Nothing." I stood there in complete shock, tears filling my eyes. I don't know how it came about, but somehow God worked a miracle there.

Aside from the GPS in one of the backpacks that completely threw off the TSA agents (they rescanned that thing at least 3-4 times. Why they didn't just open it an look through it, I'm not sure), security was a breeze. By the time we used the bathroom and arrived at our gate, we only had about a five minute wait before we were allowed to pre-board. Here's another instance of God going before us. Originally our seat assignments were not together and we were planning on asking to be switched. But when we printed out our boarding passes, ALL OF OUR SEATS WERE TOGETHER. We literally filled up an entire row--three on one side and three on the other! The gate attendant announced that they hadn't gotten the plane they were originally supposed to get, but ended up with a larger one. God's handiwork! The girls and I sat on one side of the aisle and Troy and the boys sat on the other. I think I'll let them share on their blog about what they thought of their first flights, but it was precious to hear their "ooohs!" and "aaahs!" throughout the experience.

I'd long been dreading the flight into and out of Atlanta because of all the horror stories I've heard of that particular airport. Plus, knowing that we literally had to go clear across the terminal to get to our next gate---in just over an hour---really sent me into a panic. We hustled as quickly as you can with small children pulling carry-on luggage and bogged down with heavy backpacks to the "train". After one of the girls were almost left behind (Troy realized what was about to happen and stepped out; the other passengers rallied around us and forcibly held open the doors so they could both quickly step in and yank the luggage behind them), we realized the hard way that those bars are placed there for a reason. Those trains start and stop in such a rush that those who weren't holding on careened into the wall or against fellow passengers. A dear woman grabbed onto Tori for me and said, "I've got her, Mama," to which I was extremely grateful. We arrived at our gate in plenty of time for our flight.

Once again, all of our seats were together---this time at the literal back of the plane. We settled into a longer plane ride, roughly 3 hours, and the kids enjoyed many more firsts: first time to use the headphones and watch an on-board movie, first time for plane snacks (our short flight from Jackson to Atlanta was too bumpy for snack service), and the first time to use the tiny plane bathrooms (well, that was a first for Mama as well, actually). It was so beautiful to look out the window at first the Florida keys and then the open Gulf water. About an hour into our flight, Troy and I looked at each other, both of us clearly overwhelmed emotionally. We were feeling a mixture of exhaustion, sheer joy, relief that all of the hard work of the summer was behind us, but at the same time, utter terror of the unknown. He said to me, "What did we just get ourselves into?" And I knew the sentiment, because it was exactly what I'd been feeling. It's one thing to say that we're called to minister in Mexico, or attend language school in Costa Rica. It's another thing to actually do it.

Once we arrived in San Jose, we waited until nearly everyone had deplaned before getting off. The first stop was through immigration. We snaked through the line, waiting about 20-30 minutes for our turn with an immigration official. Our paperwork was fine. Our passports were fine. But we didn't know our address. The thing is, there are no street address in Costa Rica. Here, "address" refers to which area or district you live in (we are in the San Francisco de dos Rios district.) I had printed out the paper our Big Brother sent us with this information on it, but it had gotten packed in one of the totes. Thankfully, Troy had a piece of paper with the information of a market near the language school on it and the official was able to discern about where we would be. After about 10-15 minutes spent trying to get that all figured out, she stamped our visas and cleared us through to the baggage area.

We were anxious to see if all of our luggage had arrived with us. At the Jackson airport, Troy had wrapped a bit of hot pink duct-tape around each of the handles on our suitcases. Turning the corner to the baggage area, there were several hot-pink suitcase handles grouped together off to the side, and two men were loading the seven totes onto a large cart. Troy finished rounding up the luggage and counted pieces. I counted pieces. The kids counted pieces. Our next miracle was that ALL PIECES OF CHECKED BAGGAGE ARRIVED WITH US IN COSTA RICA!

The next stop was customs, and I was dreading it. Sometimes they will wave you through. Sometimes they'll open a piece of luggage or two and then wave you through. But sometimes they'll insist upon opening every piece. Sometimes you won't pay any "duties" for your luggage. But sometimes they'll make you pay quite a lot. And there's no predicting how it will go. We had our backpacks and carry-ons, and the man pushed the rest of our luggage on the cart. At the security checkpoint, he handed the customs sheet we'd filled out on the plane to another man and unloaded each piece onto the conveyer. On the other side, he loaded it back onto the cart and off we went. I figured that it was just the first step in the customs process. So imagine my shock when we rounded a corner....and were outside the airport! Our last miracle of the day was that we MADE IT THROUGH CUSTOMS WITHOUT PAYING ANY DUTIES OR WITHOUT THEM OPENING A THING!

With everything that has happened this summer in preparing to get here, and then with everything that happened yesterday in actually arriving, it is quite clear to us that we are where we are supposed to be, at the time ordained by God. There are some things to get used to, of course. While many people speak at least broken English, this is most definitely a foreign culture with a foreign language. We've already discovered that you can get just about anything you want (including most brands from the States, and even most fast-food restaurants. We've seen places like Church's Chicken, Burger King, McDonald's, we ate Pizza Hut pizza for dinner last night, there's a Papa John's, Taco Bell, Subway, and many more--many of those options right inside the Walmart!), but it costs. A lot. A simple box fan that costs $20 in the States costs at least $40 here. A small package of Hershey's Kisses is between $6-$8. Spending more for basic necessities is just going to be something we have to get used to. At the same time, you can't put a price on the views we see from our second-floor balcony.

There will be so many other things to share with you throughout the next year. I wanted to include more pictures from yesterday, but for some reason, I can't get it to post more than one. So I'll upload them to our Photobucket account and share the link to that album so that anyone can see them.

Thank you for your prayers and support. You helped make this possible for us. And your continued prayers and support will enable us to thrive as we learn Spanish and adjust to living in a new culture.

There's so much more in store to come! And we're so thankful and blessed to have the privilege to serve God in this way.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012


I'm not sure why it's taken this long to really sink in that we are actually leaving the country in only twelve days. But it has. Until today. Why today? We received the email confirmation that our airplane tickets to Costa Rica have been BOOKED! Paid for! We're flying out of Jackson on Monday, August 20 (I feel the need to say it again -- in only TWELVE days) at 6 AM. Okay, so that part's not too great. It means that we'll have to be at the airport before even the sun wakes up. After about an hour long flight, and then another hour/ hour-and-a-half layover in Atlanta (that part I'm not real thrilled about, either. I wish it were a tad longer, truth be told. The idea of racing through an unfamiliar airport with six carry-ons, six backpacks, and four children whose first airplane flights will have only been that morning, frantically trying to find our correct gate, have time for everyone to use the bathroom, and then get on the plane, is not a welcome one), we should arrive in San Jose, Costa Rica just before lunch time. That part is amazing. Provided that it doesn't take too long for us to get six carry-ons, six backpacks, seven footlockers, six suitcases, and six people through customs, we should have plenty of time to settle into our new house. (This is, of course, assuming that all of our luggage arrives with us in Costa Rica. I don't like to make assumptions, especially when luggage and airports are involved. But in this case, I choose to trust that God will have it covered. As He's taken care of everything else so far.) We leave the country in twelve days. Twelve days! It's finally real.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Goodbye Betty Lou

I remember the first day Troy brought her home. Our tiny car just wasn't big enough for our growing family. But after a long night of searching, we just couldn't find anything we liked or could afford. The next morning, Troy received a phone call from the car dealership, telling him that they'd found a van they thought we'd like. Not expecting much, Troy pulled onto the lot. He took one look at a blue Chevy Astro van and heard God say to him, "That is your van." He bought it on the spot and brought it home. In no time at all, she became Betty Lou....just another member of our family. Yes, she's a vehicle. Yes, she's not a real person. But don't let any of us hear you saying that. She's as real to us as if she really were a living, breathing member of our family. We knew, however, that we couldn't keep her. And storing vehicles long term is just not a great idea. So we realized that we had to sell her. Upon our return from getting our visas last week, Troy began preparing her for sale. He labored over every inch of her, inside and out, to where she looked as good as new. Well, somewhat new. Then, this afternoon at about 1 PM, he marked on the windows in vehicle soap, "For sale", our asking price, and his phone number. Within THREE HOURS, she was sold. And not just sold. But sold for almost our entire asking price! (An aside: As the family hadn't yet had time to clean the windows, he's even just moments ago received a phone call asking if the van was for still for sale. He had to tell the caller, "The people you see driving the van are the ones who bought the van.") As quickly as she came into our lives, she left us. And we are so thankful for the eight years we had with her. Thank you, Betty Lou, for being part of our family all these years. And thank You, Lord, for Your amazing provision in not only providing an amazing van for our family all those years ago, but in helping us find a new family for her to go to so quickly. Thank you all for your prayers!