Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Brief distruption in regular programming...

We interrupt this 'day-of-the-week in the life of' series to bring you the following announcement:

Tomorrow, April 1st, we are heading back to Chirripo!!!

No, this isn't an April fools joke.

Can't wait to tell you all about when we return!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Disclaimer: Here, just like everywhere else in the world, average days don't really exist. Plus a million little things are happening all the time. So, maybe these posts are under reporting what we do in a day, but they do provide a framework for what our days 'look like'.

Back to post:

Ah, Mondays.

Sandwiched between my favoritests Sundays and Tuesdays, are Mondays.

But they're not to shabby either.

Mondays we rise to clean up what's left from the night before and get ready for a day out of the house. You see, if you leave even a crumb laying around the house, the-march-of-the-ants will be sure to follow. And ants are the best thing you could hope for to help you clean up crumby messes...

On Mondays we are usually on the early bus heading to Turrialba, the closest thing we've got to a city. Turrialba has all the amenities we need; a gringo food store, a bank that will actually accept our debit cards, locations to pay cell bills, and restaurants that have menus, not just rice and beans and whatever else they have on hand. Mind you, the restaurants in Turrialba pretty much only serve rice and beans with something else, but at least the option of 'something else' is written down.

The bus to Turrialba takes about 45 minutes. The views of the land and lives around you are just amazing. You pass through nicer areas and poorer areas, fields of sugar cane, coffee plantations, and men carrying machetes. You can often see the Volcan Turrialba too, smoking from it's new crater!

We go to the gym in Turrialba on Monday mornings (we used to go twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays, to train for Chirripo, but now that our major trips are done we've moved it down to once a week.) Going to the gym, as silly as it sounds to do in such a beautiful country, is such a stress reliever and health inducer! A friend of ours(originally from Canada)'s husband owns the gym and is a trainer. Over the past few months he's worked with us to get our knees, ankles, and minds in shape for Chirripo. (He's also the gentlemen that donated many of the chickens we brought to Chirripo!) We're continuing to go for the health aspects, and knowing we may actually be heading back to Chirripo yet. (More on that in a later post.) We're usually at the gym for an hour and a half.

Monday afternoons we have Spanish class... Usually focusing on areas we found we were lacking-in over the weekend. For example, the past participle and conditional tenses were lacking in my sentence structures when discussing "if" situations with the female youth. "If you had a significant other that was abusive, who would you talk to?" (Because this is not the same question as "If you have a significant other that is abusive, who do you talk to?") We either meet our Spanish teacher in Turrialba and host the class in town or her house, or we take the bus to Tuis (1 hour) to have class at the Christian Immersion Spanish Academy (CISA). Classes are 3 hours long.

I have to say, learning another language isn't always easy.

On the way home we usually take advantage of the fact we are near a bus stop and near a store, so we grab groceries to resupply the items the weekend ran us out of. These are usually big trips if we're in Turrialba. After getting home and making/having dinner, we settle in to do some much needed admin work: plan for the week ahead, return e-mails and write new ones, update time sheets and budgets, write reports, draft blog, etc. You would not believe the quantity of time this stuff takes!!! Especially so when large projects are approaching (STMs, Chirripo trips, ladies retreat, etc.) Admin work needs to be done nearly everyday of the week, but Mondays are the days we try to block off a few hours to ensure we keep up on it.

We often also use our Monday nights to reconnect with those in the community we couldn't do so with over the weekend. Because in a relationship based country, if you don't maintain relationships the entire system breaks down.

A little more on that note...
Often people will just come over (this is not restricted to Mondays, or evenings, or really have any restrictions at all). CR is much different than Canada in the fact that you don't really need to give people notice when you're coming over... Nor do they give you notice! And visits are usually long; be sure to be ready to make coffee or a meal at all times. Just ask Laura and Liz how long and 'schedule disrupting' these drop-in visits can be, but I'm sure they'll tell you that the hours spent talking to the people lead to deepened relatinoships and a greater understanding of the culture and community than could be gathered any other way. So around these parts, plans are alway subject to change depending on someone showing up on your doorstep. We've all but dropped the Northerner American way of operation, and yielded to the culture here. This process hasn't been the smoothest, but it has been an amazing lesson.

The nearest bus stop to our house.

Da bus... Usually with funky music playing.

The communities on the way to Turrialba.

Smokin' Turrialba Volcano

Maxi Bodge = Walmart in disguise. It's were we get our goods.

Admin mode!

Keeping up with those back home.

Saturday, March 27, 2010



My other 'favoritest' day of the week.

On Tuesday mornings I have Ana, our Spanish teacher, all to myself. I get three hours of instruction to learn, review, and ask any questions I want. Tom's much better at Spanish than I am, so 3 blissful hours of one-on-one is so amazing to have. Ana and I have become pretty good friends over these last few months.

There's usually a woman's meet Tuesday afternoons. Through these meets I've met a lot of women in the community, many mothers of the youth we work with too. We do a bible study, followed by an hour or two of coffee and chatting.

Tuesday evenings we run English classes from our home. I love these nights. We have students that range from neighborhood kids to one that comes all the way from the Chirripo mountains.
You can only imagine my delight when this past Tuesday the class morphed into English/Spanish/Cabecar lessons!! After an hour and a half or so of English, we get to relax a little more, play games, and eat some snacks.

Enjoy some Tuesday pics!

Ana and I!

The women's Christmas get together. Full house!

Tuesday night English class.

English, Spanish, Cabecar!

English class with Laura and Liz!

Friday, March 26, 2010


Sundays are of my favorite days here.

Sundays we get to sleep in (although we do have a house guest every Saturday night - who started coming for English classes, but has since began attending the mission services on Saturday nights too - but he rises way earlier, at 4:00am, to walk home, which takes 6 hours, before the heat of day. I leave some snacks out for him to take.)

Sundays we also get to have a bible study with the youth. Often, these studies are led by the youth, and it's very interesting to see the passages they pick to pick-over, and how they apply these to their lives. They have definitely been ministering to us, too.

Sundays we also get to just hang out with the youth after the bible study. When the studies are held at our house, the kids usually hang out until their parents start calling (although we try to have them home before this point). When we host them elsewhere, we're usually there all day.

Here are a few pictures from a Sunday a few weeks ago (when Ben was here).

They spent the morning making hockey sticks...

then hosted the study on a community member's porch

then it was hockey afternoon in Costa Rica!

This was the first time any of the kids have played hockey. They were quite concerned about playing 'soccer with sticks,' as it sounded dangerous.

But once they got into it, it didn't seem to matter any more!

And, because we are in Latin America, hockey was followed by a game of soccer!
It was great, many members of the community joined in.

Tom and Ben did a great job keeping up. I, on the other hand, stuck to photographing the event.... Someone had to do it! ;)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

More on Chirripo - Candice

3Note: If you're more of a video than a words person, scroll down to the bottom of this novel post and enjoy!

I have so many thoughts and things to say about Chirripo, our time there, and the impact of LEC-CR on the region I just don't know where to start!So I'll start with THANK YOU! Lakeshore, I'm not sure you will ever know the impact you, as a small community in Canada, have made on a small community in the Chirripo mountains. My word! When Laura and Liz arrived in Costa Rica on March 1st they brought the first load of supplies donated from our church to the indigenous community in Chirripo. Prior to Liz and Laura's visit, a congregation member asked us if there were any material goods that could be sent along with them as tangible blessings to the Chirripo people. We asked for shoes, boots, undergarments, and calculators... And, boy howdy, did they deliver!! Along with the actual solar panels, there was a huge suitcase full of the cutest rubber boots I've ever seen! Plus a mound of shoes, socks, etc. And when Ben came, he brought more!

Oh Lakeshore, there is just no way to express to you the joy from the shining faces of those that received them!! We were able to provide shoes to those who didn't have any, replace broken boots, provide changes of undergarments... Amazing. Just amazing. Images that won't leave my mind for a long time to come.

Oh, and the Solar Panel Project! My word, what a touching experience. When we arrived at Sinoli village, Tom went straight to work. The men joined him nd before you knew it, they strung up all the lights and tested the system and... We were able to experience the FIRST EVER WELL LIT CHURCH SERVICE that night!! The word of the lite-church had already spread to outreaching communities too, so we had a full house that night for the inauguration service.

The 'before' and 'after'
the lighting of the church!

Both the Latin and the Cabecar pastors preached on being the responsibility of Christians to be shining lights in the world. The situation was so tangible, the difference the system made to those that lived in this community so obvious, the experience so moving. Again, an experience that I won't forget. When we were asked to introduce ourselves Tom gave an moving impromptu speech to the congregation about their brothers and sisters in Christ that don't know them, and will probably never meet them, but love them and wanted to bless them.

The men spent the next day hooking in the solar part of the system (the first night was running off of pre-charged power) and had the battery charging and lights running of captured solar energy for the church service on the second night.

As for the chickens... Although the plan was far from perfect (and everyone knew it) the potential benefit to the families was huge and the excitement it instilled in those back home was priceless!! To make a long story short, in the end we took 11 chickens to the Sinoli community. The chickens, along with cages specifically designed and constructed for this project, were all donated from Tuis community members! People really believed in this project, and what a blessing and encouragement these donations were! Plus, because Ben Baldwin was so valiant and willing to take one for the team (literally), we didn't have to carry them to Sinoli ourselves. Instead, Ben carried his own (huge and heavy!) bag in order to free up a porter to carry the cage of chickens. How cool is he? Honestly! Thank you Ben, again, for saving us all from (additional) blisters and backaches!

Because 10 of the 11 donated chickens were slightly smaller than anticipated, we were not able to take the project to completion during our visit, but instead were able to provide one of the families with undernourished children with a full-grown-egg-laying nutrition machine, and the other 10 chicks will be cared for my the chief's family and distributed once fully grown.

Three nurses and myself (a nutritionist) undertook an anti-parasitic campaign, providing education sessions on infections and methods of prevention, as well as offered free anti-parasitic (de-worming) medication (donated by another church). At the clinic we also provided clinical nutrition assessments, and medical assessments. The anti-parasitic campaign was a huge success (thanks to the amazing education board Liz put together for me and 2 patient and interested community-leaders to translate from Spanish to Cabecar). We held education/de-wroming sessions at the health clinic and at the school (classroom to classroom), and then at church! This campaign was an amazing experience. It was just so obvious that some of these beautiful, little, under-nourished children had big-time infections (that are robbing them of the few nutrients they actually get in a day!) and I knew that this medication will help rid them and the education portion reached a considerable portion of the community.Thank each and every one of you for your support in prayers, encouraging words, and donations. The work that was done was amazing and we feel so blessed to have been the hands and feet of this Lakeshore project. Check out this video (3 mins and 45 seconds!) summarizing the trip. I hope it gives you a glimpse into the adventure we had.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thoughts from our short-term missionaries - Laura's Experience

I went to Costa Rica the week of March 1st. There is really so much to say! Here are just a few of my thoughts:

I had never been out of North America before. It was eye opening and challenging. I discovered very quickly that people there are very accepting and hospitable. One example of this is that Candice and Tom have a neighbour named Macha. She is like a mother to Tom and Candice there. She works very hard and is the one who often takes in students studying at the Spanish school. If you are lost somewhere in the nearby towns and tell a taxi to go to Macha’s house it will go. They know that’s where the foreigners go! She went out of her way to make us feel welcomed. She made us lunch one day and a native snack another day. She came over one night and shared some of her life story. I immediately liked her. I learned much from her is a short time. Another day Candice and I went to have coffee at Marta’s house, a local and a mother of some of Candice’s youth group girls. She went out of her way too to feed us and to show us her garden. She cut down sugar cane for me to try and I ate fruits right off her trees! You don’t do that in Montreal! I was able to meet her daughters for the first time that day and discovered that one of her daughters already owns her own business as a seamstress. It was a wonderful day and I enjoyed seeing how people live and work day to day.

I was given the task of planning the Bible studies for the young ladies retreat to the beach on the last day of our trip. I plan Bible studies all the time, but it is harder to do when you are trying to be culturally sensitive and say things that would be relevant to girls growing up in this very different culture. I have to admit it took me a while! It was very worth it in the end though being able to share with these girls and spend the day learning together. It was a 4.5 hour drive to the beach!  People don’t just go to the beach around there and many have never gone. It was helpful to discuss young women’s issues away from the men and be able to be very open and candid with each other. We had a great time too!!! It’s all about people.

We attended church on Saturday. Man do they ever know how to worship! The two man band sounded like a full 10 man team. Liz and I also helped with the Alpha course’s Holy Spirit week, we taught English as a second language and spent time with the youth group. I learned so much in just a week and know that I will not ever forget this experience. God protected us and taught me things about myself and other people that I could not have learned at home.


God Bless, 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Chirripo - From Ben's eyes

Hello Lakeshore or whoever may read this.

On March 10th 2010, a group of 4 Canadians, 3 Americans, and 6 Costa Ricans hiked out into the mountain region of Chirripo to a town called Sinoli to stay all day on the 11th and hike back on the 12th. Many in the group had done the arduous hike before but for some, it was their first experience. I was one of the people blessed enough to be on this team. Before the trip, people back home in Canada gave fair warning that the hike would be long and hard, but I thought, “It’s just walking, how hard could it possibly be?” I was mistaken; the trail was up, down and around. The trails were caked with mud and falling was an inevitability. Shoes wet from the rivers, clothes heavy with sweat, purely exhausted - I was loving every moment. Probably my favorite part of this hike was crossing the main river. As soon as we started to cross, the water was almost to our waist, waiting to pull one of us down stream. But everybody came together and helped each other across the river.

On the 6-hour hike, there are two things that are always present on your mind:
  1. The scenery with God’s wonder.
  2. That the native people in Chirripo have to do this hike throughout the week if not twice in one day.

Most of us weren’t even carrying our backpacks but hired native people to carry them for us – plus the medical supplies and materials used in the solar panel project were sent up a few days before, not to mention piles upon piles of rubber boots and shoes. But finally, about 1 kilometer from the main river, we all set our bags outside of a wood cabin that would hold the 13 of us for the next two nights.

The mountainside was beautiful, so beautiful in fact that every once in a while you could catch a native man or woman caught in awe of their homeland, looking out of the village into the valley. As soon as the team arrived in Sinoli, Tom went straight to work on setting up the lights in the church and working out the calculations for the solar panels to charge the battery. We managed on the first night to provide light for the evening service, which was being held because of our arrival. It was very interesting to view the service. I was tired from the hike and couldn’t understand any of it due to my inability in the Spanish and Cabecar language but it was an experience that will always remain in my heart. These people are praising God in their own tongue while God responds back in the same tongue and we are blessed enough to witness it.

I was informed during the service that on previous trips, the services were pitch black where you could not even see your own hand. It was then that I realized what a blessing these lights were to them so I would just like to thank everybody for helping make this a possibility for these people.

This experience of the Chirripo valley and its native inhabitants has shown me the worth of coming out to places like Costa Rica and serving the lord through the service of his people.

Friday, March 12, 2010


God gave us a great trip. All back safe and sound, all in one piece!

More soon.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Here comes Chirripo!

We're off early tomorrow morning to Chirripo! Ben, Tom, and I are part of a 13 person team that is going to install solar panels, provide medical care, implement a nutritional program, and undertake a construction project.

We appreciate your prayers for safety for the team and for the logistics of all projects we are planning to implement.

May God's will be done!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ben's Chicken

Liz and Laura are down here giving us all a hand... So great! And, they have a message to pass along for Ben and the rest of the Lakeshore community.