5.11.2009

May I introduce you to Coka the coke-head?

This morning we missed the 9am bus as we headed to San Isidro for Discipulas. It sucks to miss the 9 o'clock bus because instead of stopping in the center of town the 9:15 bus goes a different route which drops us about 6 blocks down-hill from the taxi stand. This was a guarantee that we would arrive late and we would arrive sweaty. Our Monday morning bible study starts at 9:30 and we didn't step off the bus until about 9:36, so we were kinda in a hurry to up the hill and get a taxi. There was coffee and sweet bread up there. Needless to say, we were ready to haul ass as soon as we stepped off the bus.

Then we met "Coka". He hopped off right before us, carrying his usual two backpacks. Neither Lindsey nor I had ever talked with him before, but we had both seen him regularly on the bus. He has a lame tribal arm band, likes to sit one seat back from the door, and like I said, is always with those two full backpacks. He has a douchey vibe, but as I had never even heard him speak until today, I had come to no such conclusion about his character. As it turns out, a vibe can be a very reliable thing...

So Linds and I jumped off the bus ready to conquer the hill at break neck speed and claim our slow drip cream and sugar caffeine infused pots of gold. But this guy, he saw us just behind him so he slowed down to make conversation. I think I have mentioned how....um....forward... the men here can be, so it wasn't all that unusual to have some strange dude approach us. He started with the usual array of small talk questions - What's your name? Where are you going? Where are you from? Do you live here? - and the usual blanket statements - My name is ____. I lived in New Jersey. You are very beautiful (of course I never find this one boring or uninspired). We continued up the hill as we talked, but I noticed Lindsey was walking slower now. Then our new friend asked if we needed any marijuana. He asked in Spanish and then said, in English, "djoo no - som 'weed'?", like we might not understand what he meant by "marijuana".
"Uh....no thank you."
Then he offered us some coke, djoo no, like cocaine? Again, nope, we're good, thanks anyway. He continued to walk with us, offering us drugs or whatever, and we were walking really slowly now because Lindsey kept hanging back farther and farther. I wanted coffee and was more than happy to walk along with this creepy pot slinging bus jockey to get to it. But Lindsey had noticed an important detail long before me. My little buddy Coka was carrying a knife in his hand. I didn't know this until he pointed it at us, sort of waiving it back and forth casually. In that moment, I was 100% sure that we were about to be robbed. But, no, he was just showing us his knife. I asked him what it was for and without saying a word, he just turned it around and poked it into his belly a few times as if to say, "Well, duuuuhh!! It's for stabbing people!" Silly me.

That's when it became clear that this conversation needed to come to an end. Lindsey already had the right idea, so I joined her in a laboriously slow ascent toward the taxis. We nearly stopped altogether to admire a small child walking with her grandmother. Until, finally, the guy decided to move on. We did, however, see him once more as we passed by him in town. He called out that he was there to serve us if we needed anything - boy aren't we the luckiest.

I will not be missing the 9 am bus any time soon. I'd prefer to keep my distance from the knife wielding dope dealer. And, it totally sucks to get to bible study all hot and sweaty from hiking 6 blocks up into town to get a cab. Nothing kills my first-sip-of-coffee moment than a trickle of sweat running down my back.






5.06.2009

Normal people......not like me.

Lindsey and I spent a full 5 hours at the precario yesterday. We did "kidsclub" in the morning with our friends DavĂ­d and Adrianita. The kids made balloon faces (most of which popped immediately), played Limbo with a broom handle and a glaring lack of music - we did try singing the limbo song by shouting "lalaLAlalalaLA,lalalaLAlaLAlala..." but it was mostly annoying and embarrassing so we gave it up. And Adri talked with the kids about the true boundless love of God, reading from 1Corinthians 13.

Then Steve brought Tom out with a bunch of supplies to work on the little bathroom that they are building. I never knew how happy seeing a freshly mounted toilet could make me. It is going to be so awesome to have a bathroom for the kids to use, especially as rainy season is returning. Steve had a lot of work waiting for him back in San Isidro so he took off and Lindsey and I stayed to keep the kids out of the room as Tom worked and to help him with Spanish if he needed it. We were playing and talking with the kids outside when the rain started. Unable to enter the clubhouse - because of saws and drills and other potential agents of gruesome injury - we huddled together under the extended roof of the little shack.

We encouraged the kids to run home, afraid that their Moms might get worried or mad that they had stayed out in the down pour, but none left. A few of the older boys insisted on playing in the rain, climbing up on the back of my car and throwing their skinny little arms out wide to collect raindrops. But, none of them went home and none of their Moms came looking for them. So we sat on the little porch and talked. It was really cool. We usually have such a big group to manage, and activities to get through, so this was the first time I have had an extended period of time to just hang out with any of them. They love to practice the 11 or so English words that they all know, "Halow, Ow ar djew? My naym ees ______. Wat ees djour naym?" And they love to teach us things about where they live. Yesterday, we learned that you can eat the little green clovers that grow in clumpy piles in the mud. Yes, they eat weeds *shudder*. And the weeds taste like lemons. For real. They also taught me a few jokes, mostly word play, which I pretended to understand and helped the kids to pull them on Tom. "Hey Tom, say 'moto'.", which he would he would do, then the kids would chime in with the rest of the joke (something to do with eating boogers in the bathtub.....I think) and they would howl with laughter. Actually we would all laugh, me and the kids and Tom -who was such a good sport about everything.

Then we talked about what it's like to fly in a plane, and whether or not all gringos are millionaires, and Lindsey and I spoke to them in fast paced English every once in a while which they found fascinating. And we took a lot of pictures. They love the camera from both sides, eager to be photographed and even more eager to play photographer. While we did all of this we munched on lip-puckering lemony clover leaves and tried to stay dry. But mostly, we talked about the US. The boys asked about the military (which Costa Rica doesn't have) and the girls asked what the houses are like, and what kind of food we eat, and then we all had a little chat about Steve whom they call "El gigante barbado" (the bearded giant, hahaha). I told them that he only speaks Chinese which they believed a little too easily. And we chatted about my boys, all of whom have come out to the precario with me at one time or another. They are intrigued by gringo life, and by the differences and similarities in our cultures and they have so many questions. Sometimes these chats help to clear up some common (or not-so-common) misconceptions:

"Hey teacher. Do all of the people in the states look like you?"

~"What do you mean?"

"Do they have white skin and blonde hair and eyes like yours?"

~"No, not at all. There is every type of person you can imagine in the states. People with every color of eye and hair and skin -both light and dark."

*looking at each other with expressions of complete shock and disbelief* "REALLY?!?! There are NORMAL people in the states???"

~"Um....yeah. There are normal people there..... not like me...." *heavy sigh*


You can view the pics of our day here:













5.05.2009

Oh Captain My Captain....

A couple of days ago, I was sitting on the couch facebooking and youtubing and generally blowing a mountain of time doing nothing. Stephen got home early from school, grabbed a bowl of cereal, picked up the remote and proceeded to flip through our 96 (mostly Spanish) cable channels. He settled on channel 9 - Discovery - nice. They were showing back to back episodes of Deadliest Catch, a show that follows the captains and crews of Alaskan crab fishing boats. As indicated by the shows title, it is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world as the crews work tirelessly to make a living hauling Alaskan King Crab in from the icy Bering Sea.

I wasn't really paying any attention. I'm not all that into reality TV, and to be honest, the show is not all that interesting. Yes, it's cold and wet and dangerous. Yes, there's tension between the greenhorns and the old mariners. Yes, their lives and livelihoods depend upon wether or not they can fill their boats with crab. Lots of drama, lots of arguing, lots of salt water - We get it already. So anyway, I wasn't really watching because, you know, you've seen it once you've seen it 100 times. And stalking my not-so-close-friends on Facebook had me so riveted that Deadliest Catch wasn't even a blip on my radar. But then Stephen turned it way up and said, "Oh, he's gonna die......he is totally gonna die! Oh, jeez, oh jeez! He has no hope"

This got my attention. I looked up to see that a deckhand had been swept off of a boat and into the freezing water. Cameramen follow as the crew of the nearby TimeBandit see the fisherman disappear from his boat into the whitecaps and they frantically set about to pull him from the water. The captain of the TimeBandit edges his boat as near as he can while the crew scrambles, pulling on protective gear, throwing themselves onto the deck, fighting against ropes and knots and the elements of nature to cast a lifesaver to the man, to jump in if need be, and ultimately to save his life. They finally drag the poor guy out, close to dead from hypothermia, sputtering from his near drowning and literally begging for his life. He's thanking everybody around him as he strips out of wet clothes, they wrap him in a blanket and bring him into the warm galley. It was all very exciting.

*sidenote* I haven't been sleeping well for the past few months. I can fall asleep....but not stay asleep. Which pretty much sucks. I usually wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning with some random thought. "I wonder if Kathy can buy pecans in Alaska?" or "Maybe I should put the towels on the second shelf and the sheets on the top shelf." I mean stupid stuff really, but there I am, awake in the middle of almost every night thinking about switching shampoo or renting a movie or googling some odd fact.

So, the last couple of nights I've awakened (*not surprisingly - see "sidenote"*) to thoughts of the man overboard and the captain and the crew that saved him. There was this moment, a few seconds really, where the captain of the ship comes down to see how the guy is. He is still dripping wet and shivering from cold and the captain stoops down and leans in to tell him how happy he is that he is alive. They embrace, and as the captain hugs him, pats him, hugs him again, the man finally begins to cry. He cries out, "You saved my f-ing life! You saved my f-ing life! You saved my f-ing life!" Again and again he says it as he clings to the captain, burying his face in the other mans chest and crying out in his gratitude. All of this lasts less than a minute. Two gruff sailors unable to contain their gratefulness for the life that was saved. The man is left to warm up and the captain returns to his post with a visible sigh of relief.

I'm guessing that it's not as moving as I think, but for whatever reason, the whole scene has sort of stuck with me. It reminds me of who I want to be. The man was right to thank the Captain for saving him. It was His careful maneuvering that made the rescue possible. It was the crew in His service, using the tools and training that He had provided that pulled him from the sea. A crew that acted with honor and sacrifice to see him into the boat. Every man on the ship that day did his job, no matter how seemingly small. They were selfless and courageous. No one was jealous of another mans role or took on more than his own. They served their Captain and their fellow man. I want to be like that.

It just occurred to me that I could have simply referred you to the video clip. You should totally watch it. Seriously, I am fully aware that I'm reading into it, but still when I watch it I am moved:


Do you feel me?