Saturday, November 15, 2014


"Mike, this boy has a question for you." I honestly had no idea what was going to come next. I looked down and saw this little 5th grader named Dylan looking up at me. In simple words, as directly as possible he began to speak (in Spanish), "I have a question. When are we going to start a Chicos?" Immediately my heart melted. These boys really want this. They're ready; and so am I!

Chicas de Promesa

Even before we knew we were going to be working with missionary Mary Mahon, we knew about her ministry to girls in the community of Linda Vista called Chicas de Promesa and were planning on assisting her with this ministry. This short video explains about Chicas.

While we are moved by this need and the impact of this ministry and have been praying over this need and ministry for a couple of years now, it was another burden of Mary's with which God began burdening my heart: the boys of this same community.

"We're Abused Too"

Earlier this week, Mary had been sharing a little about Chicas with a missions team visiting from the States. While I had heard everything she was sharing before, one thing she said really jumped out at me this time. She was sharing about how a boy came up to her once and said something along the lines of, "What about a club for the boys; we're abused at home too." There is a need for the boys. There is a need for Chicos. They deserve better too!


I have known in my heart for some time that a big component of my ministry here in Costa Rica would center around starting a Chicos program. And Dylan's sweet, simple question was just the impetus I needed to take the next step into turning this dream into a reality. I want to share with you the three things that I told Dylan in response to his question:
  1. Soon - We would like to start something in January just before the kids return to school.
  2. Pray - I told him to keep praying that God would provide all we need to get this going.
  3. The last thing that I told him was that I would put his picture online and ask that my friends from the States would pray with us. So here is a picture of Dylan and me.

Prayer Specifics

The thing I am asking for most right now is prayer. Here are some ways you can be praying:
  • We would like to do a weeklong "launch" of the Chicos program this January. Please pray that God would give us wisdom as we organize this weeklong event with curriculum, speakers, topics, etc.
  • We also need to have a structured plan for curriculum, speakers, topics, etc. moving forward.
  • Property - There's a piece of property that we have our eye on which we think would be perfect for this ministry. We are praying that God show us clearly if this is His will and make the property available and allow us to purchase it if it is.
  • Team members - we will need other people with a heart for these boys to come alongside us as we look to impact this community.
There are obviously other ways we can be praying. And we need to be praying for the boys in this community. Here's another picture from the other day with Dylan and a couple other boys. The one in the middle asked me about Chicos too. Let this photo serve as a reminder to pray for the boys in this community.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Not Perfection, but Progression

Between moving, some missions opportunities and nearly a week of training in Panama, my schedule has been pretty hectic since finishing my time at language school in August. But as Polly ramps up for her 2nd and final trimester of language school, my schedule momentarily ramps down for enough time to write a blog.

Language learning is obviously a critical element of the work we will be doing in Costa Rica. Without the language we cannot communicate. And most of what we do is communication. So I'm sure some people are wondering how my 8 month investment in intensive language learning went. Can I speak Spanish? Admit it, you know you were wondering that. So let me unpack the answer for you a little bit here by comparing where I came from to where I am today.

When we arrived in Costa Rica...
  • None of the 3 of us Browns (it's easy to forget there were only 3 of us when we got here) had any ability to speak Spanish.
  • We lived off of our Spanish-speaking friends to interpret for us.
  • I knew very few words and didn't pronounce them well.
  • I sat in church services picking up a few words here and there that were similar to French and thus at times understanding the title or big overarching theme but really understanding none of the substance of the service. My friend and youth pastor at my church would give me the quick 1 minute recap after service.
  • I would get into a cab, say the destination to the best of my ability and hope for the best. I even had to call a Spanish-speaking friend once to tell the taxi driver where to take me.
  • I would hope that store clerks wouldn't ask me a question.
  • I tried to use as much English as I could with the teachers at language school.
Now, 8 months later...
  • The 3 of us Browns (Jonah still doesn't speak anything) all speak Spanish to some degree. Genevieve is fluent for a 3 year old according to every tico who knows her, I can carry a conversation pretty well and Polly (who is a trimester behind me due to Jonah's birth) has taken huge strides in her ability to communicate lately.
  • We are the Spanish-speaking friends who interpret for the new language school students.
  • I know a LOT more words and pronounce them least well enough that I'm generally understood without having to repeat myself.
  • I sit in church services and miss a few words here and there but understand almost all of it, now having the ability to take notes. I interpreted the service for a new student a couple weeks ago and gave the quick recap after service.
  • I use complete sentences to tell the taxi driver where I'm going, can give further explanation if they don't know the destination and at times even just direct them along the way.
  • I ask store clerks questions.
  • I look forward to using my Spanish with teachers and locals.
So, am I fluent?

No. I'm far from perfect and have a long way to go. But I can hold conversations with people, ask and answer complex questions and even do an interview for a local online newspaper. Say what? That's right. My first ever Spanish quote has been documented in this article. Of course, I didn't have the opportunity Genevieve had to meet and hold a Spanish conversation with the president, but then again, she's more fluent than I am. Don't believe me? Check this story out:

We left Jonah's blanket at the hotel in Panama back in March. They still had it so I went to the desk to pick it up last week. On the way, I realized that I couldn't remember the word for blanket. Thankfully Genevieve was with me. "Hey Genevieve, how do you say 'blanket' in Spanish?" Genevieve, without hesitation, replies, "Cobija." Naturally, she was right.

So, while I'm not there yet and clearly still make mistakes, I am progressing. As is Polly. That's all we can ask for. Of course, Genevieve is already there. It's almost unfair...almost.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Raising Third Culture Kids

"I'm pretty sure that only a TCK (third culture kid) would ask if their parent was giving them dirty water to drink. It was white grape juice."

This was a Facebook status from a friend who served as a missionary in an African country. It's absolutely hilarious...and completely believable. And it inspired this blog.

What is a TCK?

Third culture kids are kids who are raised in a culture that is not the same as their parents' culture. They don't really fit in the parents' culture because they have been raised apart from it. A problem exists because:
  • They don't really fit in the culture where they're raised because it's not their own
  • They in many ways are being raised separate from many of the customs and traditions
Thus it's like they have a culture all their own...a third culture. The International Society of Missionary Kids (ISMK) uses a green chameleon in the middle of a half blue/half yellow flag to give image to this thought.

4th of July

The reason this is appropriate to discuss is because we are preparing to celebrate the 4th of July tomorrow, the United States of America's Independence Day, in another country. A country my daughter references and has some memories of but really doesn't know. A country my son does not know at all.

Thankfully, there will be a picnic tomorrow to celebrate the day. It will include Nathan's hot dogs and cotton candy and games for the kids and other 4th-y things. We will be going, and giving Genevieve the biggest dose of American culture she's had since January and Jonah his first experience.

How I know my daughter is a TCK

I thought it would be nice to share a few personal examples:
  1. I told Genevieve about the special picnic we're going to tomorrow. I told her there would be a lot other people from the States there and that everyone will be speaking English. Her reaction:
    • She thinks it's silly that everyone will be speaking English
    • She informed me that she is in fact "Costa Rican"
  2. We stayed in a hotel in Panama this past weekend. After using the potty I informed her that she could throw the toilet paper in the toilet instead of the trash. She was confused by this and wondering why. Instead of explaining that this is normal in the States, I just told her that it was a special hotel with a special toilet. We'll cross the bridge of re-training her once we return to the States.
  3. She thinks that a plastic Rubbermaid container is a legitimate alternative to a bathtub.
  4. Genevieve corrects us when we pronounce some English words which are the same in Spanish without a Spanish accent.
The reality is that she is already learning a lot of things as her normal which are different from Polly's and my normal. In the end, this will make her a more well-rounded individual. In the interim, it will undoubtedly provide more fun, funny stories.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

No Hablo Español...

Without question, the most challenging aspect of moving to San José, Costa Rica has been the language. We came with essentially zero Spanish knowledge. Even though I've felt pretty good about my progression since we've arrived, there are moments when I wonder if I will ever really grasp the language. I had one of those moments on Friday night.

No comprendo.

I have connected very well with my church Dimensión Cristiana and with the people there. In fact, most of my tico friends are from that church. And I love having the opportunity to attend the Friday night small group for jóvenes called Huellas (25+). When my friend Ben and I arrived on Friday night, everyone was in a circle and they had just begun going around and having everyone share something God did in their lives during the past week.

As people were sharing, I couldn't help but feel inadequate because I could only understand bits and pieces of what was being said. This is generally the case for me in group settings or when someone's preaching (if I can't ask for clarification). I understand the overall topic and gist of what's being said, but miss much of the substance. It made me feel less capable to share. A part of me didn't want to have a turn. But another part of me did want to.

No sé la idioma.

When I was given the opportunity, I began with the following qualifier:
Esto es muy difícil para mi, porque no hablo español. (This is very difficult for me, because I don't speak Spanish.)
I then went on to share for around 5 minutes or so...all in Spanish. I even said, "No sé la idioma." ("I don't know the language.") twice during my time of sharing. Sharing, which as I mentioned was all in Spanish. Sharing, which was being understood by all the Spanish-speakers in the room. Sharing, which dealt with how God gave me three opportunities to share my faith (to a small extent) with Spanish-speakers in Spanish during the past week.

(For the record, I was incorrect as "idioma" is masculine and I should have said "el idioma" but I am far from perfect.)


I was so encouraged by my friends, especially after the small group had concluded. A number of people encouraged me by telling me that my Spanish is good. My friend Adrián was the one who pointed out the comical irony of my multiple references to not speaking the the language...along with the entirety of my sharing. In hindsight I have come a long way. Yes, I know that I still have a long way to go (probably a lifetime) but I have also come so far. And to deny that would be to deny God's favor in allowing me to come a long way.

That encouragement was continued today when my taxi driver commented on my Spanish. I didn't fish for any of these compliments. But I really did need them. I needed to know that I am making progress.

The message within the message.

While I was sharing on Friday night, a thought hit me that I hadn't thought of previously. I needed the Holy Spirit's guidance just as much when sharing my faith in English as I do now in Spanish. It's just that since language is a weakness for me now, it's easier to recognize. I think I really needed to hear that.

Through God's strength, I will continue to grow in my ability to communicate in Spanish. It's hard to believe at times now because I know where I'm at. But looking at where He's already taken me in 5 months, I am reminded that He is able!

Friday, February 21, 2014

How a Hen Came to Symbolize the Faithfulness of God

After another 2 1/2 hours of painting, I finished the hen I had been working on at the local pottery place. I mentioned in my last blog that I chose the piece because it had special meaning to me. I wanted to take this opportunity to share why through a short but powerful story.

A story of God's Faithfulness

My mom comes from humble beginnings, having grown up in Mississippi with her dad, mom and three siblings. Saying they did not have a lot of money is an understatement. In fact, money was so tight that for a period of 4 or 5 years (until she was in 2nd grade), her family lived in a school bus.

One day, my mom and her sister walked outside the school bus to a special surprise, a chicken in the yard. They told their mom who thought they must have been wrong. But they weren't. It was in fact a chicken.

That chicken, Speckles, became a bit of a family friend. She would dance to music with my mom and aunt and would even sit on my nana's shoulders. As much as she was a friend, she played a more significant role as an incredible blessing.

For the entire time that Speckles stayed around, she laid enough eggs to feed my mom's family every day. For a family without much money or means to get food, the arrival of a hen who provided eggs every day was a welcome sight and a huge miracle.

One day, after months and months of providing friendship and food for my mom and her family, Speckles was nowhere to be found. She left as quietly as she had come.

A symbol of God's faithfulness

My mom has had a porcelain hen sitting in her house for more than half my life. In our family it has come to symbolize God's faithfulness. We grew up believing in and experiences God's faithfulness.

Polly and I have adopted it as a symbol of the same for our little (growing) family too. The same God Who provided eggs for a poor Mississippi family in the 1960s through Speckles the hen will continue to provide the needs of our family, whether in Costa Rica or wherever we may be.

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:25-26 ESV)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Patiently Making Beautiful Things

Polly and I went to a local pottery place last Friday. It's one of those places where you can buy a piece of pre-made pottery and paint it yourself. I found a piece that I instantly fell in love with because of its deep meaning. While I will share about the significance of that piece in my next blog, I wanted to share a valuable lesson I was reminded of.

More work than expected

Polly and I spent 1 1/2 hours painting. During that time, I completed a base coat of black. It was a bit tedious as I had to ensure that I didn't miss any crevices. There was still much work to be done.

I went back by myself on Monday. The owner told me that I was going to dry brush the rest of the piece. After teaching me the technique, I got to work. I just kept going over the same areas again and again until it was just right. I spent 2 hours and got about half of the piece done with the dry brushing. This means that I have about 2 hours of painting left until I'm finished.

There's a part of me that wishes I could have just slathered some paint on the piece and be done. But if I had done that:
  1. It would not look as nice as it could
  2. I would not appreciate it as much as I do
It takes patience to get things right. Patience can be difficult but it also helps us develop an appreciation and intimacy for that which we are waiting. This is true of all things in life. While I can be impatient, I recognize the need to be patient and give proper time and attention to certain things.

Poco a poco

In Spanish, this means "little by little." This is the motto of our language school. While we wish we could just suddenly acquire the language with no effort or energy, we recognize that if we did:
  1. It would not be as good as it could be
  2. We would not appreciate the language as much as we do
It is so satisfying when we grasp something new that we learn. I came to Costa Rica with essentially no Spanish knowledge. I didn't know grammar rules or very much vocabulary at all. Yesterday, I set up a Duolingo account to help me practice. To start, it had me take a placement test. It advanced me past 28 skills (which each include numerous lessons). That was a huge encouragement to me.

We are a work in progress

God created me. God created you. And what's amazing is that God isn't finished with us. He is constantly working on us, reshaping us and perfecting us for His glory. It was/is our own sin that caused/causes us to need to be worked on in the first place, but in His love, grace and mercy, He patiently works on us.

Paul writes in Philippians 1:6, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." What a great promise for those who are in Christ Jesus!

This is great news to me! I'm so happy that God was/is will to be patient with me because I need all the patience I can get. And I'm so happy that God is patient with the Ticos, to whom He has called us to work.

This idea brings to mind a song by one of my favorite bands Gungor called "Beautiful Things"

Monday, February 10, 2014

Finally Getting My Hands Dirty (Literally)

Our main focus during our first 7+ months in Costa Rica is language (Spanish) and culture training. We are currently residing at a language and culture school called Cincel, which is where all Assemblies of God missionaries going to Spanish-speaking countries come to in order to accomplish that task. We are currently joined by missionaries who will be going to the following countries following their graduation from Cincel:
  • México
  • El Salvador
  • Nicaragua
  • Venezuela
  • Ecuador
Everyone here understands the importance of the training we're receiving but everyone also has the itch to be more hands-on with other ministry opportunities. This is why we all jumped at the chance to help a local missionary with a task.

It just so happened that the missionary was John Musacchio, the missionary we are working with during our entire time in Costa Rica. More specifically, the task was to help with painting, sheet rocking and landscaping at the Latin America ChildCare school in Los Cuadros (the Blocks), a poor area of San José. That's right, the same school in the same area we've been talking about for so long now. I was so excited to be able to pour a little effort into a place that has so much of my heart!

The kids returned to school today (after their "summer" break, which really happens in the winter since it's the non-rainy season). I wish I could have seen their sweet faces. Anyway, here are some pictures from our day on Saturday:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Strange Looks and Light-hearted Laughter

I told you there would be more opportunities for laughing at my expense as I continue to acclimate to my new surroundings with a language I do not know.

The set-up.

Polly and I opted to visit the church right next door this morning instead of the church we have been attending.

Still far from understanding the language, I depend on understanding a few words here and there and following context clues to know what to do when in such settings. So this morning I followed clues to know when:
  • to sit or stand during worship
  • to eat the bread and drink the juice during communion
  • to bring forward my offering
I knew it was the time for the offering for two reasons:
  1. I understood a few words the pastor said
  2. I noticed the ushers handing out envelopes
At this church, they have ushers standing in the front with baskets and people bring their offering forward. This is not a foreign concept to me as I have been in a couple churches in the U.S. that operate similarly. So when I saw people leaving their seats and walking forward, I took my queue and began making my way.

Along the way, I noticed a couple strange looks coming my way. Being a gringo in a Latin American country, I get that look on occasion so I thought nothing of it and pressed on. After depositing my offering in a basket, I made my way back toward my seat.

The punch-line.

I couldn't help but notice the fellow missionaries I was with (including my wife) laughing. My perception meter spiked yet again. I must have done something wrong. But to be honest, I still didn't know what it was. So when I got back to my seat, I asked Polly what was so funny. 

While I did well to perceive that it was time for the offering, I apparently missed a very important part of the call to come forward. The pastor had called the women to come forward first! I hadn't even noticed. I was the only man among hundreds of women making their way to the front. That explained the funny looks and the laughter from my friends.

The moral.

What else could I do but laugh along with them. It was pretty funny. I can only imagine what was going through the Ticos' minds when they saw me walking toward the front.

A veteran missionary once told me that a sense of humor is an important characteristic for a missionary to have. I believe this is true for any high-stress profession/ministry. There are many serious, stressful moments. Being able to have some light-hearted laughter is critical.

And part of that sense of humor must include the ability to laugh at ourselves. There was a time in my life when I was more sensitive and would have been bothered by people laughing at me. Not now. Now, I just laugh along with them. Because usually it's pretty funny.

This is a good thing too. Because I have a feeling that this isn't the last time I'll give myself a reason to laugh at myself.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Turning Frustration into Motivation

Nearly one month into life in Costa Rica, I feel pretty well acclimated to my surroundings and feel pretty comfortable in my new home. To state it another way: I am getting by just fine.

Getting around

I can make my way around the city without many issues:
  • I can walk to a number of stores, malls and the downtown area.
  • If I don't feel like walking to certain locations, I feel comfortable riding the bus (though I've only taken a few and do not have the whole system down yet).
  • When I don't feel like walking or working through the bus system, I enter taxis with complete confidence that I will get to where I am going.

Whether in a taxi or at a store, I have learned some of the more important Spanish words and phrases I need to know to get by. I am not afraid to make mistakes or work my way through things so eventually things work out okay.

Put to the test

I was put to the test yesterday. I sprained my ankle a few weeks ago after falling pretty hard while running. It's been taking longer to heal than I had anticipated, so I finally went to the doctor to make sure there is no structural damage.

After some friends guided me to a doctor's office, I was on my own. Thankfully the doctor spoke enough English to get through the appointment without much hassle. She ended by telling me in Spanish that the next appointment will be completely in Spanish (with a smile).

After that, I got into a taxi and communicated well enough to get me across town to the place where I needed to get my X-ray. I managed to follow the Spanish directions well enough to have the X-rays taken and then had the consultation in English. (My ankle is okay, by the way).

Finally, I got into a taxi and made my way back home.

I did all of this without any real complication. Some may consider that a success. To a degree it is. But it also left me frustrated.

The frustration

As I said in the beginning, I can get by here without any real issues. But I don't want to "get by." Back home in the States I don't merely "get by." I'm educated and communicate without any complication whatsoever. Here, I do my best to simply "get by."

I would be lying if I said this didn't frustrate me. It frustrates me a lot. We all have things that frustrate us in life. The key is not in the frustration, however. The key is what we do with that frustration.

Poco a Poco

I have determined to allow this frustration to be a motivation for me to push myself hard to learn the language. I will not take my learning lightly. I will continue to force myself into situations that require me to progress in my Spanish. I'm taking my doctor's challenge seriously. Next time I go there I will have my consultation using mostly Spanish.

We have a saying at the language school: poco a poco (little by little). I will not wake up tomorrow fluent in Spanish. But little by little I will learn. And I will take my learning seriously. I will be fluent sooner than later. I will do more than simply "get by."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Laughing is Cross-Cultural

I have heard many funny stories over the years of things people have said and done when learning a new language and culture. Polly and I knew that we would be creating a number of our own while in Costa Rica, especially while at language school. I want to share these stories with you so you can laugh along with us.

How do you say three-hole punch?

Polly, Genevieve and I had to go shopping yesterday for some necessities. We asked "the girls" (the simple term for the three single girls that live in the apartment right next to ours at the language school) if they needed anything. They asked if we could keep an eye out for a three-hole punch. No problem, right?

Well, you would think I would have at least done the work of determining the spanish word for three-hole punch before I left the house, but I did not. Neither did I have access to the internet where I was. I hoped beyond all hope that I would just find it without having to ask a single question. You know as well as I did that there was no chance it would be that easy.

What was I to do? I didn't even know enough words to throw something together. Then, the lightbulb went on. I found a spanish-english dictionary on one of the shelves. I picked out two easy-to-pronounce words, one for hole and one for punch. I knew that it wouldn't be the right word but I hoped it would get my idea across.

I went up to the first employee I saw and began...
Perdon. Yo no hablo bien el español. (With full hand-motions going) Tiene un hoyo poncho para, dos, tres.
The employee looked right at me and said,
Do you need one-hole, two-hole or three-hole punch?
Yep, he spoke english (not all that common here). I couldn't help but laugh. In case you ever need to know, it's called a "perforadora" in spanish.

Why would you like to return this?

Genevieve received two of the same gifts for her birthday. One of our friends gave us the receipt so we could return it. I had already successfully returned some stuff to one store here but forgot the word I used and it took 20-30 minutes. We went to the service desk and received the question we weren't prepared for, "Porque."

What do we tell them when we don't speak the language. In Polly's mind, she thought about the fact that Genevieve got two of them for her birthday. How could she say that though? She simply replied, "dos." The women looked at us like saying "two" by itself simply would not suffice.

I finally came up with the best I had, (pointing at Genevieve) Ella tiene la mismo (yes, I know that's not grammatically correct, but it's what came to mind). That apparently worked well enough because we were able to exchange it after all.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Home, Sweet Home

Where is home? It’s amazing how differently people will answer that question. Depending on the circumstances, you may think of “home” as:
  • Where you grew up.
  • Where you have settled down and started a family of your own.
  • A confusing word without an easy answer.
Missionary kids (MKs) typically fall into the third option above. The general term for kids who grow up in a culture that is different from the one they were born in is “third culture kids.” The reason for this is that they never really fully belong to their “passport” culture OR the new culture they’ve entered (they are not native).

This is the reality that Genevieve is and will continue to cope with. She is American but growing up in Costa Rica. She is not now, nor will she ever be, truly Tico. But she will be spending significant developmental years in Costa Rica learning the Tico culture, which will make it difficult for her to integrate back into American culture.

Two weeks into our time in Costa Rica, Genevieve is celebrating her 3rd birthday today. This has caused some of these realities and challenges to surface.

There’s no place like home.

Since we only have a shower and no tub in our apartment, we have been bathing Genevieve in one of the bins we used to travel here. While Polly was giving her a bath recently, Genevieve asked to see the drain. When Polly showed her, the following conversation ensued:

Genevieve: That’s not the same as the drain at our house.
Polly: This is our house.
Genevieve: But I don’t see Sheesha and Kaykay.

Back in the States, we lived with a family including the two children Sheesha and Kaykay. How could this be home if they aren’t here? That was her logic.

When we were talking about her upcoming birthday, she asked if all her friends were going to come for her birthday. When asked which friends, she said, “Sean.” (her cousin). She started listing a few other friends from back home in the States.

There have been a few other examples that have made us a little sad.

Home is where the heart is.

We were told some time ago that on the mission field, missionaries are more like family than simply friends. It has not taken long for us to see this truth play out, especially with Genevieve.

All the other missionaries at Cincel have been so loving and caring toward Genevieve. She is the only toddler here so she gets quite a bit of attention from everyone. In turn, she calls them all by auntie and uncle. And she knows all their names.

We have invited all her aunties and uncles over for cupcakes to celebrate Genevieve’s birthday tonight. They are all so excited to come.

Last night, when I asked Genevieve who she wanted to pray for special, she began to list all of her Cincel aunties and uncles one by one. She loves them.

Nobody will replace her aunties and uncles from back home in the States. But it’s not about replacing them; it’s about gaining new ones. New ones she loves and who love her back. She is truly blessed.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

La Gracia de Dios

It was one week ago today that Polly, Genevieve and I boarded a plane and moved our lives to San Jose, Costa Rica. We have slowly but surely been adjusting to life in our new context. But before we get too far removed from our travel day, I wanted to share with you the favor God showed us that day (after all our anxieties about it)

What do you do with over 20 pieces of luggage?

I don't know the most pieces of luggage you have ever traveled with at one time, but for us this trip brought a record. We had:

  • 9 plastic bins, zip-tied shut
  • 5 duffle bags
  • 5 suitcases (including 3 carry-ons)
  • 3 personal bags
  • 1 stroller
  • 1 car seat

That's a lot of stuff. Have you ever thought through the practical side of how you handle that much luggage at an airport? I hadn't prior to our arrival at the airport. A few components combined to make this go smoothly.

1. The kind employees of Jet Blue sectioned off an area for us to put our luggage while Polly and Genevieve waited in the line.

2. We had friends and family there to help us bring the luggage to that area and tag it all for us.

Excess baggage gets expensive

Jet Blues policy for baggage fees is:

  • 1st bag free
  • 2nd bag - $40
  • 3rd+ bag - $75
The very nice woman helping us at the desk spoke with her supervisor and had them eliminate $225 of these fees. A penny saved is a penny earned.

Dragging her kicking and screaming

Genevieve got upset when took her carry-on from her as we worked our way into the security line because she was holding the people behind us up. Polly was literally dragging her kicking and screaming through the line. While this may seem inconvenient, it did cause an employee to put us in the fast line bypassing everyone. We made it through security with no issues.

Oversized carry-ons

When we arrived at the gate I asked about our carry-ons. They were oversized, but they gate checked them at no cost. That's another $150 we saved (though they didn't arrive in Costa Rica until the following day).


There were quite a few people ahead of us in line once we arrived in San Jose. Thankfully, this culture loves and looks after pregnant women. They moved us to the fast lane again and we received our tourist visas in the matter of minutes.

Time to get the luggage

How were we going to get all that luggage from the conveyor belt through customs? Thankfully, they had Skycap guys waiting at the ready to help for a tip. They even waited with our luggage while we filed the paperwork for our 2 gate-checked bags that didn't make it with us.


The guy wanted to go through all the plastic bins. But after opening one, he accepted the fact that it really was household items. He told us to take the rest. We weren't held back for very long at all.

That day will serve as a reminder to us of God's favor when we face difficult days here. God really drove this point home to us on Sunday when John Musacchio preached on God's favor. God is so good!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Breaking News: Life is Different in Costa Rica

Okay, so it's not really breaking news. It should come as no surprise to you that life is different here in San Jose, Costa Rica than it was in the States. There are many things that are different for many different reasons. I thought you might appreciate it if I shared some random, not-so-obvious ones (for example, the fact that they speak a different language should be an obvious one) with you:

Gates and locks and barbed wire oh my

I carry a key ring with 5 keys on it. And I don't even have a car. We have:
  • 2 keys to enter and exit our front entrance (a wooden door and a gate)
  • 2 keys to enter and exit our back entrance (a wooden door and a gate)
  • 1 key to enter and exit the gates around Cincel's property
This means that we have to unlock and re-lock at least 3 locks every time we leave or return home. And this is not just because we're Americans living in Costa Rica. Everyone around here has gates and most also have barbed wire around their properties.

We have plumbing and toilet paper, but...

...we cannot flush it here. Toilet paper goes in the trash.

Addresses are a little more complex

In the States, addresses consist of a street name and street number, but that is not how addresses work here. While they recently started putting up signs with street names, none of the locals know them and it's not how addresses are given. Addresses consist of directions based on distances, descriptions and landmarks. When I take a taxi home, here is the address I give the driver:
Carretera a Zapote, de la Sede Lechera 250 metros norte, 100 oeste y 100 sur, edificio color crema a la par de un play.
While we have a post office box for mail, this is also the address that goes on any package sent through FedEx. It's not merely directions, it's our address!

What's the date today?

They don't write the date the same here as how we write it back home. Back home we write it as month, day, year. Here we write it as day, month, year. Today in Costa Rica the date is 13/1/14. This is hard to remember when filling out paperwork.

My pockets are heavier and make more noise

The currency in Costa Rica is colones. Many things cost 1 mil or more, which works out because 1 mil ($2) is the lowest denomination of bank notes. Everything lower is coins. As a result, coins are used a lot more often here. Basically, imagine if we only had coins instead of bills for $1 in the States. Imagine how much more change you would carry. This is our new reality.

There is a lot of newness here, but we love and embrace these changes. They are part of our new normal.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

4 Reasons Costa Rica Will Get Me Back In Shape

I recently posted about my weight loss a few years back and how I have done well to maintain it. While this is true, I did put on 5+ lbs this past holiday season. But only three full days into life in Costa Rica, I'm convinced I will get back in shape in no time. Here's why:

Food is too expensive to waste.

It didn't take long for us to realize that the grocery store is going to be an expensive trip each week. On a couple of occasions, I thought about grabbing a quick snack beyond my normally scheduled snacks. On each occasion, I remembered my grocery bill and walk away from the cupboard. I guess it's the one positive to come from the high prices.

Unlike in the U.S., it IS cheap to be healthy.

Polly, Genevieve and I all enjoy eating fruits and vegetables. But back home, produce makes up about half our grocery bill. It's just so expensive. Not here though. We went to the open market yesterday and got fresh, delicious produce at much cheaper prices. We couldn't believe it. In Costa Rica, junk food is actually more expensive than produce.

We walk everywhere.

We have money in our budget to buy a car so at some point we will have one. But for now, we walk anywhere that's within a couple miles. For everything else, we take buses or taxis. Even when we do get a car, with the gas prices being as high as they are, I see no reason to stop walking. Plus, it's a great way to become acquainted with our new home.

I found running buddies.

I didn't think I was going to get to keep running in Costa Rica. I didn't know how safe it would be or if there was anywhere good to run. Thankfully, a missionary who has already been here for a trimester of language school (and in the past) is a runner and already has a bunch of routes to run. And another one of the new students is also a runner. We have already run twice. And the good (or bad, depending on how you look at it) news is that there are LOTS of hills around here.

Yep, I'm pretty sure I'll be back in shape in no time. This brings me joy.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

6 Non-Missions Related Things I Can't Wait to Do in Costa Rica

In one week, we will be leaving for Costa Rica for 3 years. While we will be busy with language training and missions work during our time there, we will also be taking some time to enjoy the country itself. This is especially exciting for us because we love being out in nature and there is no shortage of outdoor activities to do in Costa Rica. Here are the 6 things I've already been talking and thinking about.

Zip Lining / Canopy Tour

Whitewater Rafting

Volcano Hike

Chasing Waterfalls

Just Beach-y

Sport Fishing

These are all random pictures I took off the internet. In the spirit of making new year's resolutions, I resolve that by the time we return to the States I will write a blog that will include personal photos of me enjoying each of these activities in some way.