August 30th. I wish Pentecostals would be more clear.

Today was interesting. My host brother and I went with his church to Escazu. Sort of in the mountains. I thought it would be super sweet. Little did I know what I was in for. I was told to bring a camera and expected good food at the end.

We left the house balls early for a saturday=8AM. Then we went to the church. Apparently we were supposed to leave at 8:30, but in Tico time that means 9:30. We left at 9:30 after about an hour of sitting around wishing I felt more conifdent. I find that I have the hardest time communicating with younger Ticos because they talk so fast and use slang all the time. The professors at school are so easy to understand. I don´t get it. Sigh.

Anyway we got on this huge van and drove to Escazu, which takes about an hour or so. The young Tico folks listen to the most annoying spanish music I have ever heard. After about 2 hours in a van I just wanted to break their stupid cell phones and start singing a better song very very loudly. As you can tell I am a bit put off. I think that this is because I am experiencing culture shock. I want to learn spanish better, but sometimes I get so frustrated and lonely not being able to communicate at the top of my game with these folks. Moreover I was hungry, carsick, and tired of their shitty music. Plus I am told that having culture shock makes you fatigued. Well. It´s true. I am fatigued.

On with the tale. We got to Escazu. Then the kids who until then were just strangely face-painted got out of the car and started to be mimes. They seemed to enjoy it. I did not. We passed out flyers for this food thing that a guy at the church who is very kind was throwing to raise money. Then we played music and little kids came and danced with us. God bless those little Ticos. They kept me sane. There was this one little boy who had a look on his face that said “what in the hell is going on?”…he went back to his mom soon. Other little kids seemed to enjoy themselves when we played this game similar to monkey in the middle but it was based on a “conejo” or “rabbit”. So then the mime looking people (I have photos, but I forgot my camera in the house) mimed something with Jesus…it was hard to get.

It rained a lot so I think our display was cut short. Then we sat in the panaderia that gave us electricity for awhile. Then we drove to the place where I thought there would be food. WRONG. We sat some more, the mimes did another mime in which people who smoked and played cards were clearly implicated as leading others away from the Lord…and then we left. There was food there. I saw it. We didn´t eat any of it. I was under the impression that we would get lunch there. In reality it meant that there was no lunch.

Then we drove back to Sabanillas where I live. It took a long time, The van was too hot, and I was hungry. The fumes from the exhaust thingers on big trucks seeped into the van adding to my discomfort. You know me. I get angry when I am hungry. I was angry most of the way back. I got home, ate some bread, and came here. Boy O Boy. Man O Man O Chevitts. I need some more food before I face another two hours of possibly not fun at “oculto de Jovenes” at church this evening. Seriously.

Maybe I should be more enthusiastic about my brothers and sisters in the Lord´s attempts to communicate the gospel. Although that would be faking. I wasn´t impressed, but it´s entirely possible that the Lord´s work got done anyway. I think I would be happier if I had more food in my stomach….or if Pentecostals would be clear…or if I could speak spanish better. Seeing as how it´s day three or so…I am not too worried. I am hungry though.

August 29th. Syllabus Day.

Boatswain’s log. August 29th.

 

I attended my first day of school today….Well more or less school. It was like the first day of class in college where you get all your syllabi and have to sit and listen to boring talks for a long time. It was like that except way scarier. I’ll get there.

 

I started out the day with breakfast at home (gallopinto (beans and rice), eggs, fried cheese, and pineapple). Then my brothers walked me to school. Really really close to home. About 10 minutes max.

 

Buildings in Costa Rica come with a surefire security system of walls, barbed windows, and razor wire. Sometimes with a security guard. School was no different. It’s a nice building filled with nice people, which is something you may not have guessed from the outside.

 

Our entire program rode a bus into the boondocks of San Jose in order to do a bonding exercise of some kind. We dialogued about culture in an empty field and played this game where half the people in the group were in one culture and the other half were in another. My culture was patriarchical and so we obeyed the patriarch and let him win card games and talked a lot about males in our family. It was funny. We ran out of things to say eventually and by the end I was saying things like “my son is made out of steel.” It was fun. The other culture was based on trading and it was kind lame. Ours was more fun. We also did some sort of skit thing where we told the other group our “essence”. My group pretended to be different parts of Costa Rica and I was the tour guide (with the voice of Steve Erwin). It was funny, or so I’m told.

 

The culture exercise made me think. What are we to do as followers of Christ when we encounter something culturally that isn’t Christ-like? Not to say we jump the gun right away or don’t try to take time to understand it, but is it something that we sit by and allow our foreign brothers in Christ to do? Or do we say something? I haven’t seen anything like this here, but I wonder. Does the bible say one thing? Or does it say many things. I think that the author and God had a point in writing it. How is it that we have so many confusing doctrines based on the same text? People can justify anything using the bible if they take it in the wrong context, so where do we draw the line? How do we let the holy spirit tell US as believers what God is saying? Or rather when do we start trying? It seems like we mostly let just a few people figure things out and then we accept them. Well balls. I want to read the bible, not be told how to read the bible. I’ll have to sort that out.

 

On with the day. We ate lunch (courtesy of my host mother) it was really good. I think lots of people are jealous because of the quality of food I receive. It’s good. After this we were jawed at for awhile by the people about things we needed to do. We were told lots and lots of things all at once. We were told about the syllabus, our Spanish assignments, our research paper topics, the progressive no-english-challenge, and the fun things we can do via Andres (who by the way is the youngest City councilman elected in the history of costa Rica. This guy is smooth. He’s what my professor Javier calls a “Galan” which is like a coqueto (flirt) but in a way smoother way.) Andres is all about us experiencing Costa Rica. I think he’s going to help us start a 5 man soccer team. There are people interested. I’m totally going to call keeper ahead of time. Super cool.

I got to pick my research topic. I took “Christians and Violence: Reflections on Oscar Romero.” I’ve thought about this before, but it was the only one that reminded me of liberation theology at all and that was what I really wanted to study. I’m happy with my topic, though it’s likely to make me into more of a pacifist. Not a bad thing.

Needless to say, all this information stressed the heck out of me. I like doing things and when we’re forced to sit and wait while things pile up…It irks me.

 

We did this survey that asked our opinions on lots of things relating to latin America. I was negative about things…If our class is full of neoliberalists, I am going to be pissing people off left and right. Neoliberalism is this idea that the only way to make countries “modern” is by making them into a laissez faire economy without regulation in which all their economic interests are privatized. Completely absurd economic theory.

 

Soon afterwards though we got to hear about our concentration. Latin American Studies is the bomb. First of all we have Natalie. Natalie is this awesome Costa Rican woman who makes great jokes and refuses to take any shit off whiny American students. It’s incredible. She shuts people down like it’s her job…and it kind of is. Plus, she’s funny.

 

Secondly we have Javier. Javier is a judge in Costa Rica and the man is really really funny. He is very easy to get along with and is serious about us learning things. He told us that when we separate off into our concentrations we (the LAS folks) go to different parts of Costa Rica for about 3 weeks. We get to do some project in the middle of a community…by ourselves. No other Americans. We’re rollin’ solo. We have options like working in the fields with campesinos, or working at an orphanage, or really whatever we can think of that they can organize. There’s a country full of choices. All I’ve got to do is say what I’d like, but I really want what Jesus wants. I’m going to ask Him. You could do that too…

 

After class I went to my family’s church. It’s huge. They’ve got internet radio and internet TV programs. I was a quick guest on my brother’s program. My first time on TV. There was a Tico guy there who was a professional breakdancer that they interviewed, everyone was really nice. Afterwards we stopped by the pastor’s house so my brother Alonso could hang out with his friends that were there. The pastor’s daughter is this sassy girl named Jamie. She was making French toast, but I didn’t think that it looked good.

 

I experienced my first “tico time” moment. We told my host mom that we’d be back at 7 for dinner. We were really back at 730ish. If I did that at home my mom would be very feisty. Liliana seemed to know that we meant that. I could get used to this sort of time table.

 

Tomorrow my brothers and I are going to a church festival in Escaszu. Which is way up in the mountains. I was told that I should take photos. Get ready for some good ones…if they actually upload. I haven’t tried it yet. I was also told that they killed a pig for the occasion. Sounds good to me.

August 28th. A day of exploration.

Boatswain’s Log. August 28th. Note: Photos are coming. Be patient.

 

There’s an episode of Band of Brothers called Day of Days. I think it’s the one after they invade Normandy. At the end of the day the main character says to himself something like “It was surely a day of days.” I could say the same about today.

 

I’m gonna give you a bit of a time based account so you’ve got an idea.

 

5:15AM: I wake up. It hurts a bit, but I got more than 6 hours of sleep. Victory I say. After a light breakfast of bread with jam of the guyava fruit (tasty) and some tea and a fried egg my host family and I struck out via the autobus for downtown San Jose. To ride the bus it costs 185 colones. 1 dollar is worth (today at least) 547 colones. So if you do the math, it’s about 40 cents to ride the bus. Things here are a bit cheaper. Anyhow we took the bus to downtown and it was sunny.

 

7:00AM: Once downtown we began our experience. After impressing my classmates with their size my brothers headed off to help my host mom shop. With my group of five other “machos” otherwise known as “gringos” I began doing a list of things that we were given. I bought a paper which kicks the crap out of US papers. Costa Ricans or as they like to be called (“Ticos”) have great news. Seriously. My family turned on the news this morning and there was a story about some kid cutting an orange with a HUGE KNIFE. It was 6AM and the good stuff was coming out. The paper was really informative as well. I could actually read it. Hmmm…cool.

 

8:00AM: My group and I discover that the city doesn’t start at quite the same time as our journey. Lots of stuff is closed. Banks aren’t open and so we can’t exchange money, the tourist center isn’t open and so we can’t get a good map. SIGH. We sat in a “food mall” to get our bearings. As we meandered through the mostly closed streets we realized that the city is very conveniently laid out (or rather we discovered that by about 1 PM). The streets have a system that I’ve forgotten, but really. It’s nice. I wish Seattle was that way.

 

8:30AM: We get a map. We exchange US currency for colones at the bank and press onward. We also saw 2 catholic churches. One was a frikkin fancy place. The other was more homey. The first had electric “candles” to light for donations while the second had real candles. However, they were both open and available to the public with services at 8:30AM…Impressive.

 

10ish AM: We journeyed to a bus stop that would take us to the San Pedro mall. Don’t go to the mall, aside from the international calling card I bought there for 3 thousand colones (about 6 dollars) it’s an irritatingly westernized place with little in the way of value for the serious experiencer of Latin America. Which I hope I am. On the way to the mall I tried a new fruit a “mamochino”. A mamochino is a bizarre and semi-spiky fruit that tastes like an orange and a lemon…however, it looks eerily like a human eyeball. After the mall we headed to ICADS (the language institute that we will be learning Spanish at). ICADS is in Cudillabat by the indoor club. Cudillabat is a neighborhood.

 

12:00PM: Language interview at ICADS. After lunch (made by wonderful host mother Liliana) and kibitzing with fellow LASP folks (Latin American Studies Program, it’s the name of what I am doing) I had my language interview. I surprised myself with how well I speak Spanish. I’m not perfect, but this was the second time in 2 days that I have been complimented on it. I think that the level I tested into was a good one.

 

1:00PM: We struck out for downtown again for our coffee date with the assistant director Trevor. Foxy Costa Rican girls noticeably appear out of thin air. Your guess is as good as mine as to why they waited so long.

 

2:00PM: We met him at the proposed location. It took us awhile to find it. In the process it started raining like we were in Costa Rica during winter. Oops. In the winter it rains ALL THE TIME here. I won’t be as tan as I thought, but I will certainly be wetter. Hurrah. At coffee with Trevor I was gifted with a free piece of flan and a “mora en leche”. Think blackberry milkshake without the icecream. Think very thin milkshake. It’s tasty. We were wicked tired. We’d been up for 9 hours at this point. Most of you were probably still in the “waking up stage”…said the presumptuous Chauncey. After talking with Trevor and getting a few of our questions answered we headed off to find an internet Café in which I responded to a lengthy email from my parents fretting about my existence or lack there of.

 

3:30: Andrew Brauer (a friend of mine from school and the program) and I realize we need shampoo. I have some now, but as of 3 o’clock today it was a need. We and the girls who were in our group left the café to find shampoo, the post office, the Mercado central (the central market. Like Pike’s place in Seattle except wetter. Oh yes. Wetter than Seattle.) and an umbrella. I wanted all four of these…some of us only wanted one. Oh well.

 

4:30:  I acquire an umbrella that is too small and had a crappy handle, shampoo, and the knowledge of the location of the post office, the Mercado central, and that Costa Rican cars don’t like to stop. Andrew almost got tagged. I was next to him. I think I would have been okay. Don’t fret Mama. We have accomplished our mission and my host mom came to pick me up. We now head home. I wish someone was here to say “Someone’s had a big day.” Like people say to little kids at the end of playing all day.

 

5ish: I come home and eat crackers and tea with Liliana and Oscar and chat about Costa Rica and having students live in their home. Then it’s nap time. Instead I blog.

 

Highlights:

 

1) New fruit.

 

2) Creepy guy on street hits on one of the girls in my group. This is common. What isn’t common is the dirty thing he said. I won’t translate it for you, but some of you will get it. He shambles by with the words “Como se vaya puta?”. Dirty, but an experiential highlight.

 

3) Getting to tell my parents for a second time that I’m alive. My host parents made me call last night. I was going to do it today, but they insisted.

 

4) San Jose is a great city. I have first hand knowledge.

5) Not so much a highlight as a thing of interest. Costa Ricans eat an odd cheese. It’s very damp…it’s good, but damp. Like wet mozerella.

 

6) The evidence of God’s hand in putting me with my family. We’re huge as a team. My host brothers and I could intimidate most people if we wanted to.

 

I’ve been craving some time with Jesus. I actually find it easier to pray for people in America when I’m not there with them during the day, but I hope to have a few minutes with him after my nap. Which starts now.

 

PS: I wish the people in my group wanted to speak Spanish more. I find myself desiring less and less with each passing day to speak English

August 27th. First Day in new land.

Again, I am posting after the fact, thus the “boatswain´s” log.

Boatswain’s log August 27th

 

It’s only been a day or so, but lots has happened.

 

After about 9 hours of travel or so I am finally in Costa Rica at the home of my host family. My host mom is called Liliana, my host dad is Oscar, and my host brothers are Juan Carlos (18) and Jose Alonso (20). They’re pretty great. I was super pumped to find out that I had host brothers and they’re lots of fun to be around. Very lively guys. My host mom is wonderful. She gave me treats and a refreshing drink when I got into the house this afternoon. The drink is called “cas”. It’s made with sugar, ice, and a strange little green fruit all blended together. My host dad is a taxi driver and he’s very funny.

 

I live in an area called Sabanilla. It’s totally walking distance from where I’ll be going to class. Sweet awesome. There are 2 banks nearby for me to change money at. Also there are grocery stores and a pharmacy nearby too. It’s a convenient location. I need to learn how to say “convenient” in Spanish. Nonetheless, my family seems fairly impressed that I can speak Spanish at least decently well. I wish I was better though. They’re pumped about this mac I’m using too. I may leave it behind and pay You-sef 20$…

 

My host family calls me Diego because my full name is Chauncey Diego Francisco Handy and Chauncey is too hard for them to say. So we went with Diego. I don’t mind being Diego.

 

Diego was EXTREMELY tired last night, almost to the point of tears. I needed to stop moving and relax. I got time to sleep, but tomorrow morning at 5:15 my day starts so I can get to get to my “finding the way in San Jose” training. I feel bad because one of my host brothers will have to ride the bus into town with me, but not too bad. If he didn’t come I’d be likely to be shanked or robbed. It’s true.

 

My host family is Pentecostal and it seems like they mostly hang out with neighbors and people from church. Everyone that I’ve met thus far seems to be incredibly kind and welcoming. I’m excited to go to church with them.

 

I’ve got my own room here with plenty of space for everything. My host mom said to say “Desde Costa Rica…Pura Vida!” So there it is. For those of you who lack the Spanish comprehension that means “from Costa Rica…Pure Life!” I guess so. Pure Life seems to come with Spanish that is spoken really really fast. I think I’ll catch on soonish, but at the moment it’s a tad overwhelming. I would love to be able to sleep for more than 6 hours. Maybe it’s an unreasonable dream.

 

Costa Rica itself is very pretty. I am in a valley surrounded by mountains. Green mountains. When I got here it was dark and this morning the sun came out. It’s supposed to rain the whole time I’m here (joy). I came during the rainy season. The sky looked the same as it does in Bellingham. Who knew? I guess for some reason I thought that the sky would be different. Nope. Not different at all.

 

It’s way warmer and a bit more humid here than in other places. On the bus ride from the airport I almost got sick. I smelled terrible. I was sweaty and I’d be traveling for A LONG TIME. Then we got in a bus on the way to our inbetween location. A warm bus. Which quickly became a humid bus. Which then led to me feeling sickly. I didn’t throw up though.

 

This morning we went through briefing about Costa Rica with my program. We talked about our host families. We were all super pumped to meet them…then we had to wait for four hours. We were still pumped then, but a bit more worn out. The program has an interesting philosophy. More or less it’s “Learn from experience.” Attempts to ask questions have been met with no answers or a “yes” when something doesn’t necessitate a yes or no. I mostly enjoyed that. I like the idea of figuring it out. Especially tomorrow. We get to figure it out tomorrow in the Downtown. I think it will go okay. We start at 7AM at the “Teatro Nacional”. Hurray for adventures.

 

I am experiencing a bit of homesickness. Nothing extreme, but really though. I didn’t quite expect this. I didn’t think that I’d be getting homesick at all. I guess that going halfway to the south pole (mostly) makes being homesick a bit easy. I’m praying for you all as I think about you.

 

The people in my program are nice. It’ll be fun to spend time with them as I continue to be here. The guy who is in charge of my concentration in the program is named Javier. He’s a lawyer who is really kind and very funny. He complimented my Spanish this morning. That was nice. I really won’t be spending that much time with the people in my class. As it turns out living with people means you talk to them a lot. So high five there.

 

I paused from writing to eat dinner with the host fam. It was rice with chicken and some cooked vegetables. I’m going to have to seek some fresh vegetables at the market tomorrow. I got spoilt by my parents’ ginormous garden at home.

 

Funny story. Today in class we were supposed to say our favorite Spanish word. I told the class that one of mine was “gigante”. It means gigantic. People laughed because…I’m a big guy.

 

Night in Costa Rica is odd. Music is playing, people are still outside, and there’s weird new birds hanging about. They’re only new because I’ve never seen/heard them before. Well. Bedtime. 5AM wakeup time. Yay…but really though because I get to explore a bit of a new country.

August 26th. The journey begins.

For the record when I write on days that I do not post, I title the entries “Boatswain´s log”. That is my rank. So…here we are.

Boatswain’s Log…Stardate August 26th

 

6PM: Currently my sweaty, smelly and overall tired body is sitting on the floor in Miami international airport after roughly 12 hours of traveling. A few more to go. Here’s how it broke down.

 

10:30ish in the PM August 25th: I arrive in Seattle and check in at the convenient E-ticket station. After saying goodbye to the parents and receiving lots of “advice” I struck out into the terminal. Almost immediately upon entering the terminal I met someone I knew. I’ve been told I know a lot of people…It’s true. My friend Ryan Jorgensen from high school appeared from nowhere with a characteristic greeting. I’ll spare you the details just in case you sensitive sorts might get offended…well. No. I won’t. deal with it. Ryan Jorgensen greeted me with a friendly “what the fuck?” It was good to see him. Sometimes it’s refreshing when people drop the F-Bomb. This was one of those times.

 

Ryan quickly headed off to Boston and I was alone yet again for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes of watching the crappy CNN broadcast on the democratic national convention (in which the broadcast repeated twice) I saw another person I know. My friend Jessica Sherrow appeared. Coincidentally she was headed to Costa Rica too. Only for a couple of weeks to work with animals. She was on stand-by and managed to get on the same plane as me. I also met my friend Nicole from School (also going to study abroad) and we all sat together. A woman sitting near me kept looking over when new people I knew would appear. I said, “I just keep seeing people I know.” She responded with “…and they’re all beautiful girls.” To this I responded: “It’s a tough life.”

 

12:25AM: I board the first of 3 planes I will ride today. I tried to sleep, but mostly it resembled hating life for about 3 hours or so. I woke up a lot and it was not pleasant. I think I got a headache afterwards. I doubt that Nicole or Jessica faired better.

 

7:00AM Central time (5AM real time): I get to Houston. It felt like I was hit by a bus, punched in the face, and shanked in prison while I was sleeping. Okay…maybe a tad of exaggeration, but really…I didn’t feel spiffy. I proceeded to eat some of the food I’d brought and bought a chocolate milk. At some point Nicole abandoned Jessica and I for a different earlier plane to Miami. Jessica and I went to where I thought the gate for my flight was and taking my sister’s advice I set an alarm and took a nap while Jessica guarded me…or mostly read smutty gossip magazines. Apparently Lindsey Lohan is a lesbian now. Not too shocking. I guess after all the cocaine and partying lesbianism is just the next logical step for a celebrity aspiring to be the next Paris Hilton.

 

Time out for thoughts on Houston International Airport. People speaks Spanish there more than in Seattle. They have ridiculous modern art that sucks (giant guitars and a room surrounded by TVs featuring disconcerting music and photos of flowers). The chocolate milk is reasonably priced, but the juice is crappy or non-existent.

 

10:30 Am ish: Flight to Miami goes. Oh wait. The gate changed 3 fricking times. It was in E so I walked there. Then it was in C so I walked back. Then it was in a different C gate. By the end I felt like a mixture of action hero, traveler, and football player: always ready to move. This plane ride was nice. Relaxing. I slept a lot. I listened to Music. Exit row seating. Always ask for it, lots of leg room. I drank ginger ale and orange juice. I looked out the window. I got a free sandwich…that was made for oompa-loompas. But hey. Free sandwich. Upon arrival this little latin-American boy looked up at me like I was a giant beast or ominous mountain that he didn’t quite know what to do with. His mom remarked in Spanish that it was because he was so tall. I responded in Spanish that he shouldn’t worry…he’d grow.

 

Miami is interesting. Way warmer than other places I’ve been. Also, surprisingly enough Miami is located in the middle of swamp. It appears that most of florida that I saw from the window of the plane is swamp. Everyone lives in a giant bog. Hurray for dampness I guess.

 

It took me awhile to find my group but as I did it turned out that there were lots of nice people. I played a few games of spades and went and bought an egg bagel thing with a guy from Tennessee named Matt. He’s pretty legit. I am wondering about Spanish fluency though. I wish we’d speak in Spanish all the time. If it carries on like this…lots of people are going to be ditched by me in hopes of achieving a greater fluency.

 

I used my passport for the first time today. Not as cool as it seems in James Bond films.

 

It’s nice that I’ve had people with me the whole time that I connect with. It hasn’t felt like I’m journeying on my own or anything. Which I guess is cool. Not as American and independent as perhaps I would have liked, but I’m almost in costa Rica. No complaints. Jesus has kept me alive and well thus far. I’m sure he’ll keep it up.

 

Time to get on the plane for costa Rica now. Carry on.

Good News

Hey. I´m alive.

I´m in Costa Rica and our mission today is to explore the city of San Jose. Just a quick catch up. There will be more to come. I´m writing blog stuff every day, so there will be a lot of posting dated as of several days ago.

MY host family is great. I think I´m going to lose weight here. Not huge helpings.

Classes start monday. 3 hours of spanish every day and then core class every other day.

Anyhow, missing you all. More to come. Stay tuned.