What a difference a couple of weeks make. The fact that we know that our stay in San Jose is more than a week or two forces us to create routines. For the most part, we dislike the use of the word “routine” but figure it is a fact of life. If you want to get things done, a routine is part of making things happen. San Jose sits on the eastern border of the central time zone, therefore the day begins quite early. Like most in this city, our day begins around 5:30 de la manana. Surprisingly, this early wake up call has not been that difficult to adjust to. Kerry and I have settled into our classes. Last week was our first full week. We both have 4 hours of classes per day followed by an hour or two of homework. Those couple of hours of homework do not include the time that we spend walking around with our flashcards. Nouns and verbs are a big part of our life. The “Tico’s” (local CR’s) in our neighborhood are used to seeing the Gringo’s walking around talking to themselves while holding little white cards. Conversation becomes a little bit easier each day. My grammar teacher has taken great care and time to make sure that we know that although grammar is important, language comes from the street. I continue to make visits to Frank’s store to converse with he and his assistant. Last Thursday, I had just walked into his shop when the building began to shake. Kene (his assistant) and I made a quick exit into the street. Within minutes dozens of adjacent store owners and customers were in the street speaking speed Spanish. I could not understand a word anyone was saying. Comprehension was not really necessary, as I knew what had just happened and could now tell how on edge some people feel. The fact that Haiti has been razed by a big one justifies the locals emotions. Please pray for those who have lost loved ones or have been injured. Earthquakes in CR are actually quite common. We have been told that on average, 100 mini quakes occur each month. Most are never felt. Gracias a Dios!
This past weekend we had the opportunity to “get out of town.” Several of you may know Dr. Andrew Patterson whom I worked with in Durango. Jennifer is Andrew’s sister. She works with the organization Globe Aware, (www.globeaware.com), which brings in 1-week volunteer/vacation service trips to a variety of needed settings. Andrew and Elizabeth set up introductions for us over the computer and we took it from there. We met for a quick bite to eat at a nearby restaurant and immediately connected. To no surprise Jennifer is a great person, much like Andrew. Plans were made for us to join her on a trip to the village where she lives and works. La Sur de Turrubares is a village of roughly 40 inhabitants. Not only were we looking forward to getting out of town, but we were excited about getting to know Jennifer and her friends in the village. Our plan was to relax, hang with the locals and practice our spanish. The journey would include a couple of bus rides, a couple of taxis and of course walking. The total travel time to the La Sur would take us roughly 4 hours. We traveled to a town west of San Jose called Oritina. Once there, we were to meet with a few locals from the village who were in Oritina to purchase gifts for a birthday party. Few vehicles are owned by the villagers, therefore those who are traveling to and from the village make sure to communicate with others so that the expense of the shuttle can be shared by many. It is not uncommon for those who are journeying to and from the village to spend a little time looking around for those that might need a lift. When we arrived in Oritina it took only a matter of minutes before Jennifer recognized someone from the village that would be sharing the shuttle. It was as if they were long lost sisters. One and a half hours after leaving the pavement we rolled into La Sur. The driver turns off the engine and it was dark. With visual cues absent, our ears take over. Levi comments ” the sounds are hurting my ears”. A chorus of insects and frogs sing to us as we stand in the dark. So different from the car alarms, busses and people shouting outside our new home in San Jose.
It has been a long day and we are all tired and hungry. A quick tour of our newly renovated cabin is given before we head out for dinner. As expected, there are no restaurants in this village and it is customary for visitors to take meals in the locals homes. We have one picky eater with us and two who know too much about what can happen when one eats food that has not been adequately prepared. “In for an ounce, in for a pound” at this point. No way that a family of five is going to show up,not eat and not be noticed. The cultural do’s and don’ts was echoing in our heads. The families that we ate with were extremely poor financially, yet were willing to share what little they had with us. Beans, rice, vegetables and surprisingly meat as well as a big bowl of pasta filled our plates. I am guessing that that bowl of pasta was sort or a “just in case “ dish for the gringos. Wanting to show respect and to fit in, I had made up my mind that I would eat whatever was placed in front of me. The pasta gave me comfort in knowing that Luke would eat on this night.
We woke early, had coffee and headed on down the road. An encounter with a farmer on our early morning walk landed us in his barn milking his cows. Possibly something was lost in translation while we were standing in the road pretending to understand what he had in mind. Most of what I had learned at that point was nouns pertaining to the house and school and a few verbs. My noun and verb flash cards did not include words like: ” to milk”, “udder”, “watch out”, or “pull harder”. I am thinking that now we might be a little bit ahead of our classmates. Jennifer found us an hour and a half after we had left the cabin. She informed us that some of the villagers were worried about us. The remainder of the weekend was spent swimming, attending a birthday party and plenty of socializing with the locals. Who would of ever thought that when the game of Uno was being played in a spanish speaking country that it would then be called One?? Lunch and dinners were taken at two other homes. Saturday night’s dinner was with a family that lived a little bit outside of town. Our journey to the house took us over a small suspension bridge and up a winding hillside on some pretty nice single track. The meals were very good and the company in which we ate made them all very special. We shared as many stories as we could with our hosts about our family, our purpose in Central America and Durango. The moments of frustration associated with our bad spanish is only momentary, while the laughter that it produces is priceless and will last a lifetime. We think of you guys often and wish that you could be here to see some of this stuff first hand.