Friday, November 30, 2007

Just Another Crazy Week...

Our week has been crazy, but what else is new? It seems like LIFE is crazy since we hit the mission field!
  • We decided to venture out and attempt to take Costa Rican buses to another town in the country. We had to catch the bus to downtown (.60 cents), then change buses to another town (.50 cents), then change buses to get to our final destination town ($1)... so for a little more than $2 each, we rode the bus out to the country to visit a town that is famous for the artisans who paint the famous coffee ox carts of Costa Rica. The town was nice and seeing all of the painted ox carts was great, but perhaps the best part was the adventure of taking all those buses and figuring out that we could spend the whole day speaking spanish and actually get to where we were going! Hallelujah! Small victories every day...

  • On Sunday, we attended the annual Ox Cart Parade in downtown San Jose. There were over 350+ carts and almost 1000 oxen in the parade. Ox carts were originally used to transport coffee from the plantations to the ports. The oxen and the carts were the only feasible way to move heavy coffee crops over the mountains and the soft ground. During the parade, Sarah was asked by several oxen drivers to pose with them and their animals. One cart asked her to ride with them in the parade... she rode for a good half mile or so before Billy got her back out of the cart!

  • We have been able to tune in a Denver network channel this week, so we have been able to see a couple of holiday children's shows (Grinch, Shrek Holiday special, Charlie Brown Christmas, Polar Express). It's nice to have a little piece of USA Christmas culture in our week. We are missing our house and our Christmas decorations, family & friends right now. We used to have to juggle our schedules and make decisions about which Christmas parties and holiday events we were going to attend - now we don't have ANY parties or invitations to juggle. It's a different holiday this year...

  • We are nearing the end of this trimester of language school. This fact brings with it the stresses of exams and wrapping up loose ends. We have several big tests (oral and written) next week and our brains are past full. All of the information is in there, it just isn't organized properly and we can't seem to recall it at will - yet.

  • I cried in class again today... go figure! I've about decided that I'm not ever going to speak using pronombres, complimento directos o indirectos. I'm just going to say everything the "long way" because it is easier and doesn't make my head hurt or force me to break down into tears.

  • Thank goodness we have nothing to do this weekend (well, except homework and studying). We all need a break. Sarah is nursing a bad cold and needs to have some down time. I think we all need to sleep in for once. I'm personally looking forward to drinking coffee on the back porch tomorrow morning!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

We did it! A Thanksgiving Success

We did it! We managed to cook our turkey in our half-sized oven and it was fabulous! Billy did a really good job. The Ticos (Costa Ricans) all said that they don’t like turkey because it is always tough and doesn’t have a good flavor, but they loved Billy’s turkey. Several came to the table and asked how to cook it… what is in it, what spices, etc. One Tico lady at our table asked him to teach her how to make one for Christmas! And one of the professors at school came into the kitchen at the end and asked to take some home to share, because she had never had good turkey before. Yea, Billy!!! And special thanks to Emeril for posting a great recipe on the internet that had relatively easy-to-find ingredients.

As for the rest of the dinner… the students from Mount Vernon College did a great job. They were each responsible for bringing a dish to the dinner. Mind you, this was EVERYONE’S first time cooking alone – this is usually Mom’s job (I heard that a lot today). We had scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes, dressing (Ohio style, not cornbread dressing), corn, green beans, turkey, gravy, yeast rolls, and three kinds of pie – pumpkin, pecan, and apple. All of the kids invited their Costa Rican host families and their professors from the institute, so it was a big sharing of culture and food.

It was a big day for Lizbeth, too… we invited her to attend with our family and she hadn’t ever had turkey before – hadn’t even seen one. She spent the morning being amazed at the cooking process in our kitchen and saying, “Huele rico!” (Smells good!). She made a huge plate of food, bigger than anything I’ve ever seen her eat at lunch with us – she eats like a bird – and she ate all of it! She was stuffed and tired when she left. We explained to her that in The United States, you have to take a nap after eating Thanksgiving dinner… it’s a tradition. She laughed and said that sounded good to her!

I have to admit, I did miss my mom’s cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, corn casserole, and pink pineapple salad. But it was a very nice Thanksgiving, even without those traditional foods. We even managed to come home with leftover turkey and mashed potatoes and Ohio bread stuffing.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone back home in the USA! Know that you are loved and missed and we are so thankful for you. Much love!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

More Thanksgiving...

Well, we were able to buy a turkey. To the tune of $32 dollars, we bought a turkey and it is in the refridgerator attempting to slowly thaw. It takes up the ENTIRE oven, so anything else that we cook will be made Wednesday night or Thursday in the microwave. Literally, my oven is tiny and this turkey takes up the whole thing. The next trick is going to be finding a pan to put the bird in! I own a small cake pan and a pyrex lasagna dish. We will be treking out Monday and Tuesday to try to find a bigger pan or one of those foil pans. We'll see...

Billy and Sarah spent quite a while on the internet trying to find out exactly how to cook a turkey. Remember, turkey cooking has always been Billy's job since we always had a cajun fried turkey. But this year, without the turkey frier and the peanut oil and the injection spices, we will have to be "traditional" and attempt to do this the old-fashioned way. All Sarah seemed to learn from this research project was that for some very strange reason (to a 4 year old) meat needs to "rest" after you cook it. She is wondering why meat needs a nap... she even asked about the chicken we ate last night... "shouldn't it take a rest first?"

I couldn't find cornmeal at the store. I'm hoping that Maiz Masa is close enough. I'm going to try to make cornbread dressing with it. Again, we'll see... I still have to go to another market to get celery. The one stalk that they had at the market yesterday was as limp as spaghetti and I just couldn't make myself buy it. Hopefully, we'll find some tomorrow when we are looking for a foil pan.

Are you pronouncing "doomsday" over this Thanksgiving yet? I'm getting concerned...

We officially have classes all week... we don't get Thanksgiving off. I have made an executive decision though- I'm going to skip. I'm staying home and cooking and watching the parades on TV (if I can get the Denver television channel to come in on Thursday). I know that isn't very responsible of me, the veteran teacher and mother of 3, deciding to skip school. But I think I need an American mental health day. And I'm trying to figure out how to foster my "Martha Stewart" side while living in my "National Geographic" lifestyle. Thursday should be a big adventure... I'll let you know.

By the way, we watched Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on YouTube. It just wouldn't be right to miss out on Charlie Brown!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thanksgiving traditions, food, etc...

A secondary school student from the USA wrote and asked us about the Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions in this country. Her Spanish class is learning about traditions in other spanish-speaking countries.

Well, Thanksgiving is totally a USA holiday, so there aren't any traditions here for that. They are aware that we have a holiday for Thanksgiving, but they don't really understand what it is all about. In fact, we have school on Thanksgiving. No holiday for us, even though 98% of the students in our language institute are Americans. Today in my Conversation class, we talked about foods and traditions... I can tell you some things I learned about that.
1. They aren't big on eating turkey here. The main reason is because there just aren't many turkeys! In the States, we actually have turkey farms and grow turkeys for eating, but they just don't do that here. Any turkeys that happen to be in the stores are imported from the USA and they are only bought by "gringos".
2. Pumpkin is a vegetable and is not cooked in pie (in Costa Rica). They make soup with it, if they eat it at all. Most people cannot afford a pumpkin... they are about $10 each for one the size of a small soccer ball!!! They don't have canned pumpkin here, so you can't buy it in a can to make pie. We did hear of a store that specializes in American import foods and you can get canned pumpkin there, but it is expensive. Guess we won't be having pumpkin pie this year! They certainly don’t carve pumpkins here (Halloween). In fact, one of my teachers thought that we were crazy even talking about carving a pumpkin… “why would you waste a perfectly good vegetable like that? Don’t you know it makes a luxurious soup that is only enjoyed by the rich?!” Our friend, Lizbeth, saw the pictures of my sister and her kids in the pumpkin patch and just didn’t understand why you would pose your children for a photo with food and hay?!
3. Can't buy cranberry sauce, either. They don't even know what a cranberry is.
4. I asked about where I could buy a duck (to eat, not as a pet)since they aren't big on eating turkey here. My teacher acted like I had just said, "I would like to eat your kitten, since you won't give me a turkey." She was appalled that anyone would eat a duck. Evidently, ducks are only for swimming in the pond at the park, not ever for eating. Sorry... guess we'll stick to chicken.
5. No one here has ever seen or heard of cornbread, so dressing/stuffing is not normal here. I think I can get cornmeal at the store and make my cornbread from scratch and actually make dressing/stuffing.
6. Another note on the turkey... my teacher asked me to explain to her how you would cook a turkey. I told her that you can bake it in the oven (which is impossible here because ovens are tiny) or you can fry them (Cajun-style). This was intriguing to her, in a bizarre way, and she asked to know more. That is where the conversation got out of hand and became something out of a horror movie... trying to explain in Spanish about injecting the turkey with spices using a giant syringe (her eyes got big and frightened), then dropping the turkey in boiling oil in a giant pot over a flame/burner in the backyard... if you think about it, this sounds much like a really bad scarey movie!

As for Christmas, I don't know a whole lot about the customs and traditions here for Christmas yet. I know that most people already have their houses decorated and their trees up... it is kind-of a November 1st thing to put up your Christmas decorations. Santa has been in the mall for a couple of weeks already (by the way, Santa speaks Spanish... go figure!). The Costa Ricans are BIG on decorating for Christmas. I know that they give gifts and they eat a big Christmas dinner, but you can't do gifts or dinner until midnight on Christmas Eve. Other than that, I don't know much yet. I'll fill you in when I know more.

Just a side note on food... a missionary friend received a package of sunflower seeds in the mail from home. This is one of his favorite snack foods and he was very excited to receive them. He was eating them in class and our teacher saw him and asked to see what he was eating. Upon looking at the package and the contents, our teacher looked at our friend (with a very disturbed look on his face) and said, "These are for birds. Why are you eating these?" Makes me wonder about the foods we eat and take for granted... I wonder how other cultures see us and our eating habits? Hmmmm.......???????

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Mission trip to San Carlos / Quesada

We have just returned from a mission trip. Isn’t that a hoot?! Missionaries in the field go on mission trips – go figure! What was really different and really neat about this particular mission team is that we are all full-time missionaries to Latin American countries, all with different callings and talents but with the same heart for missions. It was great! Where we are usually the leaders of separate short term teams, we were now a team of leaders all coming together as one short term team. It was really wonderful to watch everyone mesh their callings and their gifts, their talents and trainings into one team effort.

We worked in Quesada / San Carlos, Costa Rica. We held a children’s ministry for 50+ children (age 2-9), a youth ministry for 40+ youth (age 10-18), and a women’s ministry. We had a team of nine missionaries who went out into the community for door-to-door evangelism. And we spent some time in a local boy’s home, cleaning up their grounds, teaching a bible lesson, and just hanging out with them in fellowship. It was a great short term mission effort.

Billy and I were amazed again at how God has divine appointments in our life that we know nothing about. The camp we stayed in is heavily affiliated with The Mission Society (we had no idea) and the camp director, 89 year old Rev. Marion Woods, is a huge cheerleader for missions and The Mission Society. We are so blessed to have met him and even more blessed to be asked to lead the next mission effort in this area in the Spring of 2008. The current leaders are graduating from the Language Institute and have asked us to step into their shoes. We are honored to take on this charge.

So we return from our mission for the weekend, tired and rejuvenated at the same time. We had a great time with great people. We stayed up LATE into the night, talking about missions and visions and our passions for service (an adult slumber party for missionaries :). We ate too many snacks, we played jokes on each other, we practiced our spanish, we vied for our place in the shower line-up… it was a great time!