In our family, Boppa (my dad) is known for his generosity — it is one of his hallmark traits — so it is fitting that the money he gave to his grandson would be used in the same way. Before coming to Costa RIca, Boppa gave each of our kids $20 to buy souvenirs. Last night we went to dinner at a little cafe that had a tiny gift shop attached to it featuring local artisans. There was a ring that Kenna was admiring. Hudson found me and said, “I want to use my money to buy Kenna the ring that she likes.” Now, Kenna had not spent her money yet and could have bought the ring herself, and I told Hudson that, but that did not matter to him. The cost of the ring? Exactly $20 — the entire sum of his money. He slyly snuck the ring up to the counter and purchased it, then stuck it in his pocket. The huge smile on his face lit up the whole room. When we got in the car, he couldn’t stand it any longer and he popped out the ring and gave it to his sister. There wasn’t any sadness that he had spent all of his money and wouldn’t be able to pick something out for himself, it was just complete joy in making someone else happy. Hudson is the collector in our family, translation- “pack rat,” so souvenirs are right up his alley. This made the sacrifice even more significant.
Now here is the amazing thing about generosity…. generosity begets generosity. When someone is on the receiving end of generosity, it spurs him or her on to do the same. Kenna, seeing the great sacrifice Hud made for her, bought HIM the trinket box with a tree frog on it that he had been admiring. He was equally surprised that she had bought that for him, and there were hugs all around!
“God loves a cheerful giver.” Why? Because it shows that people are more important than things. I believe He was proud of Hudson’s little decision, because it is evidence of the generous heart that He is building into him. It is truly not a work of parenting, but completely the footprints of God on Hudson’s little life.
I remember thinking at the end of my year in Costa Rica that I should have been born a Latin woman. I lived with 4 generations of women in the same household, and the other family members lived in houses next door, or just own the street. The way these people view FAMILY just feeds my soul. It’s hard to explain, but family isn’t just a part of their life, it IS their life, and it is as natural as breathing. This trip I watched as sisters shared financial and household responsibilities, as daughters took full time care of elderly mothers in the home, as sons provided for entire extended families, as daughters helped their mother cook for us every night, as 19 & 21 year old nephews hung out with their aunts and uncles, and as older cousins took the initiative to care for their younger cousins without a second thought. They eat together, they work together, they play together, and they hang out every weekend. Elsa explained to me that her house is always full, and her table is routinely shared by many. Proximity has a lot to do with it. If they didn’t live within a stone’s throw they couldn’t share life quite like they do. What a beautiful and fulfilling part of their culture. I know this is changing for the people of Costa Rica, though. I spoke to many who said they had an uncle, a cousin, or sibling who left for the United States because they couldn’t find work in their country. I pray that this part of their culture is preserved. They may not have all that we do as far as material resources go, but they have something special… unity and close knit families who weave a tapestry of life day by day, moment by moment. For this girl who would love to live on a family compound, it is a dream .
I haven’t had access to the internet, but I’m finally able to blog today! I wrote this entry 3 days in. Hope it gives you a little taste of our first days here Blogging is not easy from the IPAD, but here’s my go at it!
The flight here went well. We went through Phoenix and were able to arrive on the same day. The kids did great – and Stetson had plenty of snacks, so he was happy.
The excitement started when no one was there to pick us up at the airport. We got our luggage, which always feels like a circus in itself getting through immigration. Several people were staring at me and laughing as I walked through looking like a coat tree, with luggage hanging from every limb. We walked outside and in the same breath that I took in the humid, hot air, I had taxi drivers swarming our little band. One guy in particular was incredibly persistent and wouldn’t leave me alone. He kept wanting to “help” me move from one place to another and I was insistent that he not touch our luggage. “No worry lady, no worry,” he kept saying. I knew there would be times that I didn’t feel safe with the kids, I just didn’t know I’d feel that way the second I walked out of the airport. My phone battery was dead, and I tried to use the extra phone we brought for Kenna to carry, but it wouldn’t work. We sat there for 45 min. wondering if anyone would pick us up, but at last a gentleman arrived carrying a crumpled sign that said “Gilbert.” He was very apologetic and explained rapidly (in Spanish), that the driver’s car broke down and would not be able to pick us up. Just then a different taxi driver arrived on the scene, and the gentleman told me he hired him to take us to Turrialba (a 2 hour drive). Thankfully, this taxi driver seemed legitimate and I felt good about him taking us. We exchanged some money at the airport and left for Turrialba.
The kids were exhausted and quickly fell asleep. I, however, was on the edge of my seat. I had forgotten how Latinos drive! We swerved in and out of traffic, crossed solid yellow lines to pass other cars, and careened down the mountain into Turrialba valley. I prayed several times and kept saying, “God, you are with us, so I don’t need to be afraid.” I breathed a huge sigh of relief when we arrived, but it was only the beginning of needing to hold onto that prayer for the night. He pulled off the main road once we got into town and stopped next to this “house” that was set right in the middle of a row of small tiendas. I hesitantly got out of the car and as I helped the kids out, I realized that we were still on the main highway, and I yanked the kids out of the street as a large truck whizzed past (the cars slow for no one here). The señora of the home was very kind. She showed us to our room, which was basically a garage that she had converted into a room. There were 4 cots lined up next to a garage door. We changed into our pajamas and gathered on the beds. The trucks continued to whiz by every couple of minutes and a party with loud Latin music, beer drinking, and loud yells broke out right outside the garage. Several times something or someone hit the garage and scared the kids. In harmony, each child started crying. What broke my heart the most, was that they were each trying to be brave and not cry, but the tears streamed down their faces. As we tried to process it all, they expressed that they just felt very unsafe and uncomfortable, and most of all, missed their daddy, who is security and safety to them. This was a hard moment for me, because I felt the same way! We did the only thing we could do –we sat in a circle and prayed. I looked each one in the eye and told them that we were safe and that God was with us. Kenna called me over to her bed and whispered, “Mom, what if you die and we are left here?” I again assured her that though definitely uncomfortable, it was safe.
The kids finally fell asleep around 1am, I never did. The party lasted until about 3am and the trucks continued all night. I sent some pretty desperate texts to Erik, who called and woke the U.S. program coordinator up on Sunday morning. They found us a new home and it is the biggest relief to me. I was ready to move out to La Suiza to Elsa’s house (the host family I stayed) and bag the whole language school. In the morning I was able to think more clearly, and we pressed on. I’m glad we did, because the place where we are now is perfect. It is a 5 min. walk to the school, it is away from the night scene of town, and the señora is the quintessential hostess and Latina. She is constantly grabbing Stetson in a bear hug and says, “Ahhh que lindo. Es como un muñeco.” She also has a cat, and the boys spend much of their time there trying to find “Tito.”
Yesterday we took a taxi to Elsa’s house out to La Suiza. She now lives with her family just up the hill from Doña Eva’s house where I lived. It was a happy reunion — 17 years!!!! We both got teary as we hugged each other. Her daughters, Milagro and Paulina, are precious, and they quickly latched onto Kenna and were off playing with her within minutes. Elsa has a nephew who is Dawson’s age, so he quickly got a soccer game going and showed the boys the pet turtle (that’s all Dawson needed to feel good about being there). Elsa has proven to be quite the business woman over the years. She used part of her land to grow Christmas trees, the Costa Rican kind I guess, sold them, then used that money to build a house on the land that she now rents for extra income. With the lease money, they bought a used car and some land in the mountains where Miguel (her husband), is slowly building a small cabin. When Erik arrives, we will go there and stay overnight. Elsa continues to work hard, teaching 7am-5pm every day in the school. After being with them, Kenna said, “I can see why you liked living with them, Mom.”
For lunch, they butchered one of their chickens, and we had quite a feast. What a kind act, as they don’t have meat like that very much, only on special occasions. Afterwards, we went to the river (where I spent hours and hours that year running for my sanity), and the kids played all afternoon. Of course, throughout the day, I was visited by all of the family members. I loved seeing each one of them!!! Doña Eva, the Grandma, still has a bad leg, and now cannot see, so her daughter, Patricia, takes care of her full time, never leaving her alone. We, of course, had cafe and their typical late afternoon galletas, then squeezed into their car, and Miguel took us back to Turrialba. We tried to find dinner, but I couldn’t find a place, and it started getting dark, so we grabbed mangos and bread from a tienda and had that for dinner back at the house. The kids would just assume live on mangoes here — they are INCREDIBLE! We all fell asleep early and had the best night’s sleep we’ve ever had!
Today language school began at 8am. The teachers already said the boys are quick, quick, quick, especially Dawson, which I’m assuming is from the Rosetta Stone they’ve been doing. Kenna now says she wishes she had done more before coming. She, of all of them, is trying the hardest to communicate with the people in Spanish. Hudson just yells Spanish words at random, which is what I expected. Dawson says the right Spanish, but says is quietly, again, what I expected. And Stetson, well, he talks to the cat in Spanish, but that’s about it…oh, and he says “por favor” and “gracias” because if he doesn’t, he doesn’t get to eat the food, and we all know he’s motivated by food, so I’m using it to my advantage!
So, all that to say, we are finally getting our sea legs down here. It’s proving to be the adventure we came in search of….. and we’re all happy about settling in.
Sent from my iPad
“You are crazy!” and “I’d never do THAT,” have been comments that I’ve received over the last few weeks as I’ve shared with people about an upcoming trip I’m taking with my family. I’ve also heard, “That is amazing!” and “I’d love to do something similar!” A little background: I am going with my children to a language school in very rural Costa Rica where we will stay with a host-family without my husband (for a week). He will then fly down and join us, and we’ll spend some time traveling through the rain forests — ziplining through canopies, and dodging coral snakes as we hike to waterfalls and in proximity of an active volcano. It definitely falls under the heading of “Adventure Vacation.” The main reason we’re going is to see the host-family that I stayed with for a year 17 years ago (I taught in the schools). I can hardly wait to see these people from a tiny mountain town who were my adopted family that year and who continue to be near and dear to my heart. The comments that I’ve received have me thinking about the concept of RISK.