The Fun Stuff

It’s no secret that we are all working hard right now.  The kids are busy with school.  Eliana is enjoying the challenge of 6th grade, but isn’t crazy about the official feel of tests and report cards.  Elijah was promoted to 4th because he had already mastered the material scheduled for the 3rd grade (his age appropriate class).  He loves it, and never missed a beat academically.  Matt just spent the evening working on a science project with him, and I spent the day untangling dollars and colones in our Quicken records.  Before the bell rings for class in the morning, we have a date with the Spanish indicative past tense verb conjugations–the three regular varieties and the 7 categories of irregulars.  Every week we learn more about how to navigate the culture, the language, and the city of San Jose.  All of this is building our family’s ability to do life here well and serve at the Home of Life come June.

But in the midst of the effort, we have been having some fun, too.  Our sloped driveway has proven to be a huge blessing for the E’s to romp in and chase balls around.  Sometimes we even borrow the neighbor’s beagle.  Matt recently got some new rope to rehang a hammock-swing that was left here by a previous family.  The kids delight in being pendulums.  I am thankful for the ample space to dry clothes and my game of racing-the-weather—I play hard to win that one, but it’s nice to have a dryer on my defensive line.  We have taken some walks around the neighborhood to enjoy the little front gardens and the feel of the tight-packed houses.  I’ve laughed my way through three Junie B. Jones books in Spanish and am going to try La Telaraña de Carlota (Charlotte’s Web) next.  Our Dominion cards are back into circulation and we even got in a round of Settlers of Catan this weekend at a language student family game night.  Balancing the work with some play is necessary to avoid burn out.  There is never a shortage of things needing our attention, but we can tackle them better with some joy tucked in between the layers.

A while back we were able to visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens, the Costa Rican equivalent of the Henry Doorly Zoo.  While the animals on display were significantly fewer, the rain forest exhibit was out of this world.  We thought after hearing about many of the challenges involved in living abroad, you might like to see some of the fun things, too.

Wonderful and Difficult

Four nights ago, we flew back  into Omaha, NE, drove through the straight, flat, clearly marked streets, and stepped into our generously large home.  The house and our minivan were immaculate, thanks to the amazing global workers who enjoyed a sabbatical rest here while we were away.  I say “were” because we do have three children, after all,  who are reconnecting with their toy kingdoms after 5 weeks of enjoying people, bugs, sticks, playground equipment, scooters, and sloped sidewalks.

It is wonderful to be home.  Air conditioning eases away the local heat wave and neighborly noises, both human and creature.  We have enough space in our home to entertain kids in the basement and still be able to accommodate nappers in the upstairs bedrooms.  Anointed worship and teaching at Lifegate fills our hearts, along with hugs from so many loved ones in our church family.  Knowing the language, I can banter with a stranger in Wal-Mart about which garlic to buy in the produce section.  Sale prices on meat and dairy here in the prairie suddenly seem wonderfully reasonable.  In Atenas, Costa Rica, cheddar is $8/lb., boneless skinless chicken breast is $4/lb., bacon is $10/lb (pity my husband, folks), and milk is $4 a gallon.  I have two chest freezers and I know how to use them when good sales or garden harvests come along.  Our parents are each an easy 35 minute drive away, no Dramamine required.  The internet connection works from any spot in the house, at all hours of the day, without a trip to the front porch, trek to the escuelita up the hill, or sitting at the poolside concrete table and benches.  Okay, the poolside gig was pretty nice except for the parade of small ants venturing over myself and the computer.  Phone calls with friends make laundry duty a happy chore while shared language and culture make the flow of communication easy to navigate.

It is difficult to be home.  Life behind closed glass windows can feel a little small.  I miss listening for the call of the toucans (the Keel-Billed Toucan’s whisper song is what we heard) in the morning and the constant serenade of birds, bugs, and the occasional gecko chirps.  The mowers, weed-wackers, and assorted machine-shed noises are left behind unmourned, though.  I miss the mild weather that makes open windows and tiled, covered porches such a mainstay of Costa Rican homes.  I miss the glorious sounds of thunder and rain.  When I was in grade school, I loved to look at the geographical rainfall maps.  I would dream of living in the wettest areas.  Costa Rica, nestled in the skinny area between North and South America, is in one of those magical dark blue areas I longed for.  It logs an average of 80 inches a year, most of it between May and November.

I miss the simple delight in breezes and sunshine when laundry is on the line, and the victorious feeling of beating the afternoon rain by getting my clothes back under cover.   I want to hug the children at the Home, see their cheeky smiles, and have Eliana teach me half of their names again.  I have many kisses piled up to give to the right cheeks of the ladies who work so hard at the home, making a family for children who have lost theirs for a time.  I miss the new friends we made in other missionaries who call Atenas their home and gave us such a warm welcome.

It is wonderful to be back, and a little difficult, too.  Which just shows how blessed we are to be able to serve, love, and be loved in two special, yet different, places.