Monday, July 24, 2006

Home again

It's good to be home.

On Sunday afternoon, we celebrated our Tico Mom's birthday. Then we left for the airport to come home. The trip was quite uneventful.

The trip has helped develop my view of how cultures interact in appropriate Godly ways. Still in process . . . but these kinds of thoughts are on my road . . . I'm an American. I will always be an American. I need not be ashamed of or apologize for being an American (though some specific things I'd like to distance myself from). My friends in Costa Rica are Costa Rican. Will always be. Need not be ashamed of or apologize for being Costa Rican. We can experience and enjoy the differences without losing our unique distinctions and preferences.

God makes us each with certain cultural fingerprints (which are certainly dynamic, not static). Accepting people from different cultures, loving them, including them, etc. does not mean becoming like them. We should work to preserve the differences, but the beauty of each culture becomes more obvious when it is placed close the one next to it without melting into it.

There are good analogies in the artistic world. Blue is beautiful. But blue and yellow together are even more beautiful, especially if they stand side by side, without mixing. Two musical notes (or instruments) heard at the same time can be quite beautiful, and the beauty is enhanced by the difference preserved.

Enough theory, on to the practice.

Here is our Mamá Tica, Luz, and her three grandchildren, Tatiana, and Joanna holding Luis Javier.
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Luz's husband, Jorge, and their daughter, and her son.
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Carlos, 'Berto, and Tatiana drove us to the airport Sunday afternoon.
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Friday, July 21, 2006

Done with school

Ok, we just finished our last day of school. Honestly, I´m tired. Mi cabeza es llena. We´re flying back Sunday evening.

There is so much to say, but nothing comes to mind. I´d like to have a conversation. I´d like to talk with somebody who knows me.

(I could never have accomplished what I have without Katherine, and I love her so much, and I´m so glad we did this together. But I´m ready to have other friends, now, too. I´m ready to talk with other people. She feels the same way.)

I probably won´t post again until we´re back in Miami. I´ll need a little time to decompress and process before I can really evaluate the month well, but I can tell you that it was great, and helpful, and fun, and exciting, and lots of other mostly positive stuff, but I just can´t articulate much right now.

So, I´ll post some pictures.

Here we are at school today, the last day.
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Some pictures of El Parque de la Paz, where we run each morning.
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You can see Katherine in this picture.
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Here I am receiving my "certificate of participation" at the "graduation" from the school´s director.
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Monday, July 17, 2006


Well, we had lots of fun in Limón. It is a port town on the Caribbean coast. At sea level, Costa Rica is very hot and muggy. We stayed at the home of Ismael´s grandmother (Ismael is a good friend and co-worker of Katherine). This is not a tourist destination and we sure enjoyed seeing Costa Rica in this different light. There was plenty of good food. In the evening we sat with Ismael and his wife Karla on the porch and shared stories, pictures, and watched the neighborhood children play soccer in the street. It was a relaxing and fun evening.

About half of the population (I guess) is black and bilingual. The English is close to a Jamaican accent. Dangerous? No. In fact, the people leave their front doors open all day. In San José, by contrast, doors and gates are only unlocked during the time that someone is using them. Racism and classism seems to be alive and well in Costa Rica (see the previous blog entry), but should we expect anything different? In fact, this helps us to understand the injustice better in general.

We went to two beaches. Playa Bonita (literally, "Beautiful Beach") is in Limón, and the hangout of the locals. We played with Ismael and his two kids, Allison and Anfreny. Later we went to Parque Nacional Cahuita. While there, we saw two sloths, bright blue and orange crabs, and lots of small monkeys The photos didn´t turn out well. But it was great. Lots of fun.

Now for the pictures.

Here we are in front of the island where Christopher Columbus landed in 1502 and named the place, "Costa Rica."
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Our friends and "tour guides" Anfreny (in front), Ariel (on the left) and Ismael.
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At Playa Bonita
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Find the crab -- they were everywhere, but hid in their holes when we walked by.
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Snapped this picture on the way to school last week.
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Friday, July 14, 2006

Esta Fin de Semana


This weekend we are going to Limón on the Carribean coast. We will be staying with friends, Ismael and Karla, and their two kids. Katherine worked with Ismael for a while at the airport, but now he has returned to Costa Rica, his home.

This trip should be interesting. There has been much ado about it. As best as we can tell, there are still some significant racial tensions in Costa Rica, similar to those of the United States.

Culturally, Limón is far more Carribean than the rest of the country. In San José (indeed in all of our time thus far) we have seen almost no black people. Historically, Limón is a city of former slaves from Jamaica that were used to build much of the infrastructure of the country. Until about 40 years ago blacks were not allowed in the city of San José (the capital and largest city by far). Every time we tell someone our plans for the weekend, people say, "Be careful, ok?" or "Why would you want to go there?" Even the ticket agent at the bus station thought we were in the wrong line. In a country whose financial stability is heavily dependant upon tourism, there are no advertisements for Limón. We have not spoken to anyone who has been there. The students from this school typically go all over the country on weekends, but never to Limón. Some of this information has been difficult to come by because people seem reluctant to talk about why they might be concerned for us.

My guess -- these are well-intentioned people with strong roots of racism. Our Limónian friend Ismael (who is black) came to San José on Wednesday and he said that he thought San José was far more dangerous than Limón.

We´re looking forward to a great weekend. I think it will be fun.

I plan to take pictures and post them on Monday.

Esta fin de semana, Dios le compaña, y nosotros tambien.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Cultural Observations

Different cultures are different. When you cross cultures, some things are better, some are worse, some are just different. Many things that we think are obvious to everyone, or clearly based in reality are simply cultural / supersticious.

Of course the food is different. The fruits are cheaper, more available and tastier. Greater variety, too. We have discovered a new (to us) citrus fruit called cas. It´s great. Costa Rica is not really known for its food, and the food is pretty generically Latin, in my opinion. But it is good. Typical breakfast includes gallo pinto (literally, painted rooster). It is mostly beans and rice, with onions and other spices. You can get gallo pinto at McDonald´s during breakfast, but not for any other meal.

Every afternoon about 4:00, we have a small meal, cafecito. Coffee (or other drink), bread (or biscuits, or cookies, or cake) and butter. So, most everyone eats 4 meals a day. I like it.

The concept of health in Costa Rica is quite different than my own. For example, everyone must wear shoes inside the house. Katherine tried to step out of our bedroom without shoes or socks and she was immediately repremanded. Why? The floors are cold, and if your feet get cold, you will get sick. The floors are only slightly cold, not uncomfortable, really. But later we learned that no part of your skin should ever touch the floor because it is cold, and you might get sick. On the other hand, used toilet paper never goes in the toilet. It must be placed in a trash can near the toilet. The can may get changed once or twice a week. For me, this is a more significant health issue. But, that may be a cultural preferance after all.

Another interesting concept of the culture. About a third (I am guessing) of the homes in the neighborhoods stock certain disposable items and those families sell that item to whoever wants it. For example, if you want to get some ice cream, you just walk 4 houses down the street to the family that stocks ice cream, and you buy it. Or the next house that sells soda. Or one house sells notebook paper. Then, one family will have a whole bunch of stuff, and that will be their job. Like a 7-11, but only family members run the store, and it is connected to their house.

One more. Security. When we come home, we need to unlock the padlock on the gate to the completly enclosed patio. Then, we unlock the dead bolt on the same gate. After we pass through, we lock both locks again. Then, we go to the front door and unlock the outer door´s deadbolt, and then the inner door´s deadbolt. When we get inside, we lock both doors back. Four different locks to go inside. The garage has three different locks. The front door has 4 different locks. The bedrooms have deadbolt locks. The same is true for everyone in the country. Is this really more secure? I don´t know. I get the impression it is similar to the silliness of gated communities in the United States. The appearance of security without any actual increase in security.

Well, I could write a lot more on other cultural things -- maybe another time.