Mamón Chino

Welcome back to Costa Rica! Well, welcome back to me anyway. :) I am reminded of how different life is here and there and everywhere else around the world as I experience my home-away-from-home once again.

The biggest difference I have noticed? That it's summer in the States and winter here. WINTER. The sun goes down at 6 every evening (which is a constant all year since we're close to the equator), and it's cloudy and rainy always. Yuck. So I'm wearing my rainboots and scarves and carrying my umbrella and my new inhaler to avoid getting bronchitis again from the humidity and smog. I'll keep you posted on how that goes!

Alright, so another difference I am reminded of is the different food, specifically fruit. While visiting friends in the States, my friend Tiffany and I were comparing fruits of Costa Rica and of Indonesia, where she is currently living and teaching. She mentioned rambutan as being red and hairy and I made a connection to what we call mamón chino here in Costa Rica. Wikipedia confirms for me here that we were talking about the same fruit! Apparently it is an Asian fruit that has made it's way to Costa Rica.

So here's a quick lesson in what it is and how to eat it :)
Yup. Weird-looking, I know.
So to eat it, you have to break the peel with your thumbnail
and pull the two halves apart.
Then you see the grape-looking (or eyeball-looking) inside.
Put just the white inside part in your mouth
like this. Notice the red hairy peel is still in my hand.
Swish it around to take the white part off the seed. Don't swallow the seed!! It's just really big and would hurt going down.
Maybe keep it in your cheek for a couple seconds to enjoy the flavor fully.
and then spit the seed back into the peel.

I highly doubt you will find these in the States, but if you do, now you can educate whoever else is in the grocery store about what to do with these strange-looking fruits!

Illinois Fun

I had a good last week in Illinois, despite continuing health concerns and the occasional emotional breakdown about returning to Costa Rica :) (don't worry, I'll be fine!).

Kallie and I had a blast doing her senior portraits! I did Wes's photos when he was a senior, so Kallie and I continued the tradition. This is my personal favorite :). Two more years until I'll do Austin's!
David, Austin, Kallie, Erin, and I enjoyed a picnic at Johnson's Park. It was Austin's idea and a great one at that! I made patty melt sandwiches inspired by Steak and Shake's sourdough melt, and David brought amazing brownies with peanut butter frosting... we were in food heaven. Lunch was followed by a loooong game of Apples to Apples before us girls declared naptime while the boys wandered around the park. It was a great way to spend the afternoon.
and Erin in action with her Nikon. Our Nikons are friends :).
I found this photo on my camera, haha. Thanks Mom for capturing how well Austin and Kallie get along these days :).
My Costa Rican friend Yoji is now doing graduate work in St. Louis, so he came to Kewanee for a day.

and the night before I flew out of O´Hare, I joined Judson friends for a time of trading stories.

Front Row: Christina (I often stay with her and her husband at their apartment in Elgin), Sean (living in Michigan, graphic designer), me.

Back row: Marc (living in Venezuela, teacher, married to Amy), Dave (living in Indonesia, teacher, musician, married to Tiffany), Tiffany (one of my Judson roommates, living in Indonesia, teacher, artist, married to Dave), Amy (living  in Venezuela, teacher, married to Marc), Ian (living in Elgin, youth pastor), Aaron (living in Elgin, graphic designer, married to Maria who was in Nicaragua that day)

All in all, it was a good visit back to the States. Thank you to all who follow this blog, to family and friends, for opening your hearts and homes to me once again! I'm already excited to see you at Christmas :)

Sonshine Music Festival

While at home stateside, I ventured to Minnesota with the First Baptist youth group (and my family minus Wes) to take in the sights and sounds of the Sonshine music festival in Willmar. We tent-camped and sweat a lot :)
Kallie and I enjoying the morning trip to the Mississippi River.
Where the Mississippi starts! It was surreal to see the exact place where the looooong river begins.

The whole group! I think there were about 50 kids... crazy Justin (the youth pastor) taking lots of teenagers!!

Lisa trying not to get wet on our Mississippi River hike, haha.

an idea of our intense tent-camping, along with the other 20,000 Sonshine attendees

I had recently invested in henna powder, a common product of the Middle East to create stains on the skin that wash off in a few weeks. I enjoyed connecting with the teens by giving them ''temporary tattoos.'' Here Hannah wanted ''love and life pass very quickly'' in Spanish to remind her that she needs to live in the moment and not always worry about the future.

I think Justin (the youth pastor) spent a total of 30ish hours behind this wheel of the church's charter bus in our 7 days of travel. Thankfully, we made it home safely!!



I asked God for a job and He provided a job.

A few weeks ago, at Dimension Cristiana church, the pastor challenged us to think about this: that when God provides something we have asked for, why do we complain? Why are we ungrateful for the very thing that God provided when we asked? Pastor Dan explained that the Israelites did this over and over again in Old Testament history... praying for deliverance and then complaining when God actually delivered them. Praying for a leader and then complaining about Moses. Praying that God would act and then blaspheming Him by making golden idols.

I have thought about this a lot in the last few weeks. I asked for a job. God provided a job. Now I have to decide whether or not I am going to complain about it.

There's several factors that go into my temptation to complain:

 1) The job is in Costa Rica. My family and many of my friends are here in the States. I've learned over the last couple years that I really miss being part of my friends' and family's lives a lot.

 2) I won't have my best friend Trish to daily share life with.

 3) I am deeply exhausted from 6 months of ongoing illness and 2 years of teaching in a school that runs in crisis mode.

4) I have recently recognized a want (maybe a need?) to be part of a deep-rooted community. I don't have that communtiy in CR despite having been there 2 years as several good friends have come and gone during my two years there. It feels like any community I do become part of just disappears for the next school year. (Kim V., Erin, Tricia G, Laura, Judit, and Trish have all been young women I have connected with on a deeper level during the last two years and they are all no longer in Costa Rica). I am tired of starting over.

So the temptation to complain is great because I like to think my human logic is somehow broader than God's logic. Then I am reminded over and over again in His word that He is a lot bigger than me and has a plan that is bigger than just me. All my reasons fade away as I remember that His grace is sufficient for me, that He promised Paul  in 2 Corinthians (and us!) that His power is made perfect in our weaknesses. I have a lot of weaknesses here to work out, and God knows that. I also am reminded in Matthew 6 that my Heavenly Father knows what I need even before I know or think to ask. As I prepare to return to Costa Rica after a short month at home, I choose to dwell on these truths.

He provided a job, and He'll provide the rest.

Embarassingly Sick

(Is ''embarassingly'' a word?? I have been making up lots of English words lately.)

FINALLY Trish and I have answers about our illnesses over these last few months. Apparently the stress of work and the conditions we were living in made us more susceptible to ... mono and parasites. Not mono like ''monkey'' in Spanish, but mono as in the kissing disease. Trish is the one with mono and I'm the one with... (don't laugh please, this is kind of personal and I can't believe I'm posting it on the World Wide Web) ... a parasite. We were surprised and relieved with a diagnosis that brought answers for both of our physical ailments over the last 6 months.

So I'm taking more antibiotics (we have a love/hate relationship with antibiotics) and Trish is at home in Ohio resting a lot. Sounds fun, eh?

Dad says it takes as long to recover from being sick as you were actually sick... so maybe I'll be back to my normal self by... Christmas? Prayer for healing and for protection against getting another parasite when I go back is welcome :).


Time in the States!

While in the States, I have eaten lots of cheese! :) Well, I have done other things too, but that's definitely a highlight, lol. I have enjoyed catching up with high school friends (Rosie, Liz, Chelsea) and spending lazy afternoons with my siblings (Kallie and Austin!). Here's peeks at other fun things I've done:
Sarah and I met at Walton Island in Elgin to paint beads and take funny photos. We were college roommates our senior year and she's an art entrepreneur!! (possibly an art teacher this fall if the job possibility goes through!)
JeanaLe made pancakes for me in her and her husband Jason's cute apartment in West Dundee. They are headed to Bolivia in the fall to work with educational programs in the city! I am excited to hear more about their adventures through their blog.
I surprised the Gum kids one afternoon with Costa Rican coins (and their parents with coffee!). They were my neighbors my last year at Judson and I can't believe how much they have grown since I graduated!
Natalie and I enjoyed Jamba Juice while catching up about her art and teaching studies!
My friend Christina and I went to a Mehndi designer in Aurora for some henna art. Many of you have seen the the artwork on my hand and immediately asked (like my Grandma did :)), ''Is that real!!??'' No, it's fading quickly! But it was fun while it lasted.
My friends Chris and Christina and I also went blackberry picking behind a cemetery in Elgin. We were happy with the results!
My brother Austin and I drove to Bloomington to hang out with our cousin Collin for a day. He has grown a lot since I saw him as a newborn in December!!

So there's a good summary. This next week I am headed to Minnesota with the church youth group to the Sonshine musical festival. Hopefully I get enough sleep in between concerts and high school drama!!

Life Changes

We all know life changes, but for some reason when the change actually arrives, we're surprised and very uncomfortable. From the outside, it might not look like my life has changed very much in the last few weeks, but it certainly has! I finished my first teaching job and said goodbye to a staff of teachers, office help, and janitors that had become my community of friends and professional development. I said goodbye to my roommate and best friend of the last two years. While I will stay in touch with a few of these people, our relationships will change and we will grow apart... so I am growing and changing and ... feeling uncomfortable, haha.

For our goodbye, Trish and I sat in the airport at 6am on Tuesday, June 29th, and cried! I had never seen her cry before, and we were a mess. As we parted ways, many people were asking both of us if we were okay. All day, people were concerned about my puffy eyes and occassional tear sliding down my cheek.

Thankfully, God provided some surprises along the way that distracted me from my sadness and encouraged me that He still has a lot of adventures for me, with or without Trish. In the Newark airport, a guy asked me out for coffee while waiting for our next planes, and I didn't budget my time well and missed my flight!! So the following confusion of changing plane tickets and baggage claim and everything in between (I think I talked to at least 10 official-looking people before finally boarding another flight to Chicago!) made me laugh and take time to be thankful that God has everything under control even when I don't!! (And it was a great story to tell friends and family!)

When I go back to Costa Rica, I will be living with my brother, Wes, in my apartment for a couple weeks before he heads back to the States and a new roommate, Michelle, moves in. I begin my new teaching job on August 2nd, and from there, who knows?? Life is changing and open-ended right now! Thankfully, God has it under control, even when I don't.