Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"A thrill of hope! The weary world rejoices."

Today, I...

saw a different side of Carpio. Monday night I stayed with Carmen's family and last night I was at Lorena's. Both of these women cook for the Refuge and have been involved with Christ for the City since before my family was -- they have watched me grow up and are women that I strive to be like. They each have their own story that is far from being over. A little over a year ago, Lorena had tremendous healthy problems due to emotional overeating that lead to extreme obesity (she experienced the El Salvadorian civil war first hand; at twelve-years-old she witnessed a beheading and remembers falling asleep to the sound of gunshots). Because of Costa Rica's national health care, she was able to receive a free gastric bypass surgery and has lost over 150 pounds. This morning, I accompanied her on a daily hour-long walk. Living in Chicago, I love the rare occasions where I leave early enough to see the city awaken. The same goes for La Carpio.

Lorena's government ID before and after her procedure.

realized that I am here during the worst cold snap in recent Costa Rican memory. Today it dropped to a chilling 53.4 degrees fahrenheit. Everyone's whipping out their scarves and mittens. No joke.

learned what candied banana tastes like...yum!

smiled when I thought about our trip to the beach yesterday. Because of all the generous donations I received when raising support for my 9-month long trip, I was able to leave some money for other programs at the Refuge. I allocated a certain chunk for a day trip to the beach for the girls who passed their tests; they waited until I came to visit so I could go with them. We had a blast.

Tanya (5) and Zuyen (1) are the daughters of Ceci and Karen, two of my former students who passed their math exams.

We stopped to see the crocodiles in a river on the way over
(don't worry -- they were far from the beach!)


Ana Cecilia was raped by her step-father until she had Tanya when she was seventeen.
She said that having her daughter was the hardest and best decision of her life.

Although it was freezing in San Jose, the beach was gorgeous and warm.

That girl...

Mercedes is a sixteen-year-old who just learned how to read.
She had never seen the ocean and was literally shaking as she beheld it for the first time.

Lorena held her trembling hands in hers and said, "What do you think of it?"
Mercedes smiled and whispered, "It's just as I've always drawn it."

Yendry (far left) was a new student who had just begun as I was about to leave and has been doing very well academically. Carmen (middle) and Lorena (right) are the two cooks who I always talk about and love to infinity and beyond.

Our bus driver ignored my advice about saying "Uno, dos, tres!" when taking a picture.
This is the result.

- Hannah

PS The quote of the day comes from my favorite Christmas carol.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"No vamos a la iglesia, somos la iglesia."

Today, I...

saw my family's faces on skype -- Happy Birthday Papi! Good Henry story (there's a million of these): my brother found my dad's glasses and wrapped them up and gave them as a birthday present. When it comes to families, I REALLY lucked out. I've only been gone a week and I am far more homesick than I anticipated...Christmas does that to ya.

learned some more Spanish grammar from my host mom. Luckily seven months away from this place hasn't really affected my language skills, but I'm still extremely fortunate to have a teacher who lives with me (I've been saying that since my birth).

realized that this trip has been fantastic and I am so blessed to see people who mean so much to me, but I most likely will not be returning here for a while. This is not just because my travel has suddenly become a nightmare (because of a missed flight, my ticket had to be paid for twice...and then some), but also because I am looking for permanence. During my entire senior year of highschool, graduation was looming and I knew there was a ticking lock on my time with the people that I love. Going into my gap year, I knew I only had nine months to foster these relationships. Then I was back in Anacortes for the summer -- a single season -- and finally I landed in Chicago, a place that has no expiration date. Looking at the week I've spent here and the week I have left, I wouldn't change this trip for anything. I'm just realizing these short visits probably won't happen again. As I've said before, a huge part of my heart belongs in this place so I know I will return, but I've come to understand that Costa Rica is place where I live, not a place I visit.

smiled at the array of produce now in our kitchen that you can't find in the US!

- Hannah

PS Today's quote comes from my pastor's sermon (some of you had heard that he looks like Voldemort. It's true, but he has really great things to say). It means "We don't go to church, we are the church."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Most good things have been said far too many times and just need to be lived."

Today, I...

saw the premature throng of Costa Ricans anticipating the Festival de la Luz. This Christmas chaos is the country's Macy's parade. It took me nearly three hours to get home.

realized I did not miss this (yes, in my house):

learned that I'm becoming much more proficient at teaching. Today I was in charge of the Saturday craft and we quickly whipped up origami ornaments. I've taught these girls how to make cranes three times in my life, and today's activity took forty minutes less than usual.

smiled as I spent time with Don Horacio (an Argentian pastor who baptized my brother and came to visit Anacortes this summer), and later laughed with my extended host family around a feast of plantains, tortillas, fresh bread, cilantro-concentrated salad, and a bowl of canned fruit/jell-O/ice cream. I love it here.

- Hannah

PS Today's title is a quite by my man Shane Claiborne. Another one I love: "To refer to the Church as a building is to call people 2 x 4's."

Friday, December 10, 2010

"Roll away your stone, I'll roll away mine."

Today, I...

saw all the Christmas lights in San José. It made me remember this night:

realized that I had a ton of time to process things on the bus. Every day, I commuted an hour and a half to La Carpio and an hour and a half back. This was a great way to reflect, pray, and conjure up Harry Potter camp. I miss having those hours to myself.

learned that I just might be the only gringa on the planet who likes papaya.

smiled when I took some pre-wedding photos of Kimi and Jraul. It's so wonderful taking pictures of people who are so in love -- their faces are constantly glowing!

- Hannah

PS The title of this post is from the song "Roll Away Your Stone" by Mumford and Sons. Check it out if you haven't.

PPS When I was here as a seventh-grader, my father mentored a fifteen-year-old boy named Mario who now attends the University of Costa Rica on a full scholarship for mathematics. He took my spot teaching seventh grade algebra and every single one of his students passed their government exam. I offered to take pictures of him in his new element: skateboarding.