Saturday, November 28, 2009

Almost There!

From Jeff: We have just 4 more days of classes left! It is hard to believe that it is December when it is 79 degrees out with a light breeze blowing. Time seems to have flown by. As for our Spanish, I can only say that it has improved over the first day I arrived. I had to retell a story about a disobedient mouse today in class, using the past tense. I made it through okay, but I felt as though my head might explode at any moment. My level of speaking ability compares favorably with a 2 year old. I may have to get involved with a ministry to Spanish-speaking babies somewhere. Hopefully, the next trimester will see me improve to the level of a kindergarten student. Our last exam comes on Tuesday!! Then, hopefully we'll get our grades!!

From April: Boy, it's been a busy couple of weeks! Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. We spent it with our cousin Bill, who has lived here in Costa Rica for 16 years. He brought the turkey and it was wonderful! His girlfriend and her son came as well. It was a great night.
We had a three day weekend which was also nice. We were able to get some Christmas shopping done down town. I spent most of the weekend preparing for the Christmas party in La Carpio. I think I mentioned it before, but La Carpio is a Nicaraguan slum. It is built in around a trash dump in a old mine for cement material. (I don't know what exactly you put in cement but....) Now there are about 50,000 people living there. Most houses are of corrogated metal. The city doesn't recognize property rights there, so people build but never actually own the land. So, as you can imagine there is a lot of poverty and crime, but also a lot of great people just trying to survive.

The idea was to do a movie night on Thursday as a Christmas party. We were going to show the Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe and then present the gospel. Some popcorn and drinks and we were all set, right? That's what I thought. Well, a couple of churches in the states donated about $450 for gifts, which was awesome. Well, the woman in charge of the party wanted to decorate gift bags for the kids. Then she wanted to buy different gifts based on gender and age. So.... Friday night we decorated bags. Saturday, we shopped all day. Sunday, we decorated bags. Monday, I played for a Christmas Party at the school. Tuesday, we spent 7 hours in La Carpio decorating the room and making up the gift bags.

Ok, so here I am trying to survive the week of school with a grammar exam and a difficult subject to understand. I didn't have a great attitude about all the time preparing for the party. I was exausted and frustrated and hadn't spent any time with my family. I am sure you know what I mean. I was on the verge of tears every moment. I didn't even want to go the party.
I had told the girl in charge that I wasn't going but I don't think she heard me. So, when the email went out about the part, I was in charge of a couple games, so I went.

We had planned for 150 kids which is double what we normally have. When we pulled up the the gym on Thursday, there were about 400 kids! Word had gotten out that there were presents! Every plan we had made had to be changed. The movie was out. We couldn't use the room we had decorated. The kids could hardly fit in the gym and they would not quiet down enough to sing carols or hear any gospel presentation. Five of us had to go dump out all of the bags we had decorated and then sort everything into different boxes. The kids lined up down the street and we gave out one item to each kid. It took an hour and a half just to pass out presents. But, God was good and we had enough!

I don't know what exactly the moral to this story is. It was quite an experience. I just find it comical that the 25 hours spent planning for the party were all for nothing! Serves me right for having a bad attitude! Nothing went according to plan. But, I'll tell you one thing- everyone in that neighborhood knows that there is a place where people love God and love them. So hopefully, God will use this event to open doors for the full-time missionaries there. But, I did come home to a bouquet of gerber daises from Jeff. He was such a support this week.

Well, that's enough about that. We can't wait to see you all. Only one more week. It's so hard to believe! Love to you all.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Home Stretch

Three weeks to go and the heat is on! All of a sudden we are getting lots more homework! At the mid-term break we had meetings with all of our teachers to talk about each class and how it was going. I humbly requested more homework and it looks like I am finally getting my wish! Since we will only be here for two-thirds of the normal time, we had hoped we could move quickly so that we could complete most of the grammar. Spanish is not as easy as I once thought. Picking up vocabulary is the easiest part. Actually using it correctly in speech is decidedly not easy. There are so many different verb conjugations (endings of which there seems to be an infinite amount), words need to be in agreement according to their "gender" (casa bonito is incorrect- it should be casa bonita), indirect and direct pronouns appear before the verb (as opposed to after the verb in most English sentences), some verbs are reflexive requiring a pronoun to be inserted before the verb, and the list could go on. The encouraging part for us is that we should finish the trimester one-third of the way through the grammar for the next trimester.

Camden has been cleared to resume his normal life. We are thankful because he was driving us nuts being in the house all day not able to go do something! He does need to take one more test, but that should be the end of his little ordeal.

We visited a missionary friend named Roger Reeck in the hospital yesterday. Roger primarily serves in Honduras but travels all over doing training and lots of other stuff. Several years ago he showed up at our hotel in Managua and almost got a certain person with a passport photocopy out of the country. It was fun to catch up with him, though the circumstances weren't of his choosing. He fell and ruptured a tendon in his leg, had surgery, and will be in a full-leg cast for 2 months. He had just returned from Africa where he was bitten by a kind of fly that lays its eggs inside your skin. The eggs hatch and the little buggers start tunneling through your body. Remind me to not go to Africa.

April went on a walk today with our neighbor, Audrey, and past by a vendor selling scarves and knit hats. After all, it is 65 degrees here! It has been rather comical to see how bundled up many of the locals get. The sad part is that April seriously considered buying a set of them. I'm in heaven, though I still break a sweat on long walks! 5 degrees cooler would be perfect.

Friday, November 13, 2009

CAT Scans & Compliments

Wow! We've had quite the week! On Tuesday night, Camden tripped while playing soccer, crashed his abdomen into a bench, hit his head on the wall, and proceeded to vomit in the bathroom. Our neighbor, Charlie Leckie (who is a family practice doctor), checked him out and advised us to keep an eye on him. Camden ate pizza, said he felt fine, and went to bed. On Wednesday morning, he said he felt fine and went to school. We got a call Wednesday afternoon at about 2:10 saying that Camden had fainted during chapel and emergency services had been called. We rushed to the school and found him laying on the floor of the chapel in a daze. I rode with him to the hospital while April gathered up our other kids. She later joined me at the Clinica Biblica for what turned out to be a 5 hour saga. Several tests were administered on Camden, including blood & urine tests, a CAT scan, and an ultrasound for his abdomen. We found out that he wasn't pregnant and that he does have a brain. All the tests came back normal, so they let him return home with us. We weren't convinced the two incidents were related, but we wanted to make sure. By the way, if you are in need of an MRI or a CAT scan, plan a vacation to Costa Rica. The total cost of all our tests and doctors was $500. We have a friend, Nina, who has decided to get a full body check up. Not a bad idea considering the price. April is thinking of having my brain scanned to see if there is anything going on in there. The worst part of the whole deal for Camden is that he has been restricted from playing sports for 5 days.

While I was writing this blog, we experienced an earthquake!! Well, at least some serious tremors! Everything started shaking and the windows rattled as it lasted for about 10 seconds. It was pretty cool! However, I'd rather not experience anything more severe.

Lately, April has been kicking my tail in all of our classes, mostly because she studies more than I do, but also because I have been the victim of some unfortunate circumstances! We had an oral Phonetics test last week where I was the first person to take it (I volunteered to go first). I had to read about 30% more than everyone else, thereby giving me more to mess up! I scored an 80%, while April received an 85%. Oh well, those are the breaks. Then, today in Grammar class, our teacher, Maritza, comments on how much April has improved over the past 10 weeks. If this continues, April will soon have trouble getting her t-shirts to fit over her inflated head.

And, my favorite thing to happen this week: we've discovered an awesome Cantonese restaurant that serves food exactly like the food we loved while in Macau. The owner even speaks Cantonese (even though I can't speak much anymore). We have eaten Chinese 4 days this past week. It is soooooo good. We had beef bak choi today for lunch.

Today was 70 degrees and overcast with a little breeze blowing. April had to return home to put on socks, shoes, a sweatshirt and a jacket, as well as ordering a hot chocolate from Cosas. I thought it was the nicest weather since we arrived 2 months ago!

Well, gotta go. We are looking forward to being home for a while!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hitting the Wall

It took me longer than most, but I have finally hit the proverbial wall in trying to learn Spanish. Thankfully, I feel like I have busted through the wall for the most part. It was a tough week for me in my studies because I was glued to the World Series every night. The Phillies just couldn't get a big hit. Oh well. However, this has allowed April to pull ahead in our classes, much to my dismay. This week we learned direct and indirect objects and their pronoun substitutes. These are a little difficult to use when speaking because they come before the verb instead of after. For example: "Jeff gives the book to April" using pronouns becomes "I give it to her." In Spanish you would say "I her it give." Of course, this makes absolutely no sense to me. So, to actually use them I have to speak slower than a 2 year old which makes me feel about as smart as one, too. I want to go back to just butchering the language yet getting my point across. It was better for me not to know how incredibly wrong I was. Believe it or not, this actually has reinforced the topics from Spiritual Emphasis week. Most days, we don't have a clue as to how sinful we really are. When you realize how sinful you really are, it is quite humbling to know that God loves you anyways. It is easier to walk around in a bubble of "I'm doing pretty good" than to repent of our sin and try to walk in obedience.

It is 72 degrees and Maria is huddled on the couch under a blanket.

Camden and I went to see the Harlem Globetrotters perform a day after his birthday. They really put on a great show! The basketball wasn't that great, but the ball handling and the showmanship were really fun. One guy could spin the ball on his finger, transfer it to his bald head, and have the ball stop and balance on his head. That was pretty cool. The whole basketball team went so now they want to do the three man weave during a game. We had a junior high game on Thursday and we actually played pretty well. We lost 24-18, but that is a big improvement over our first game in which we lost by 41. It's hard to improve much only practicing 3 hours a week.

On Friday night, April and I got together with Pastor Eric and his wife Iris for dinner. We went to a Cantonese restaurant and it literally tasted like we were in Macau again. It was awesome! We had a great time practicing Spanish with Eric and Iris while enjoying some of the best food on earth. We rarely eat out (except for PriceSmart pizza once a week) so this was a real treat for us!

We are excited about things going on in Clare! We are praying for the FMSC event that is happening even as I write this blog! We are also excited about the baptism service! God is still at work in the lives of people!

Until next time...