Sunday, January 3, 2016

Beach Days and the Everyday

We don't want anyone to think that our life is without hardship or trials.  Although there have been several times, I will admit, in the past few months that I have looked at my family, the time we are able to spend together, and our surroundings and marveled at the blessed magnificence of it all.   However, our day to days are also full of the common complaints.  
"Today was disappointing."  "I was really bored."  "Not much interesting happened."  "I was so mad."    "Mom is making me write in my journal."
Have been common phrases that have prevailed enough for the kids to put them in writing.  

One place that was always a hit for everyone was Playa Hermosa.
We spent a lot of time digging holes, boogie boarding, and playing
in the waves.  We were scared that this boy was getting an awful
sunburn, but turns out he was just hot and sweaty.  Very hot!
Jump the hole, always a classic.
We rented a surfboard for only $10 one day.  Aaron makes a
fantastic surf instructor.  

Eli, ever the cautious one, would stand at the
edge of the waves in watchful contemplation.

We found a new fruit to try.  I can't remember or
pronounce the name of this delightful treat, but it
tasted a lot like kiwi and strawberries mixed together
with the texture of a peeled grape all wrapped around
an almond shaped pit.  You would pry at the firm hairy
outside and pop it open to enjoy.
Tessa, "Today we did our school work then went to the beach and I watched Dad, Maggie, and Max boogie board.  Then I did it.  I went on a huge wave and went like this (insert crazy wave scribble) I tried a new hairy fruit.  I felt epic the whole time."  November 3, 2015

We decided to purchase a van for our time in Costa Rica because car rentals here are insane!  This is primarily due to the excessive mandatory insurance.  After spending a fair amount of time on the road with Costa Ricans, as much as I don't like hefty insurance overages,  I've decided this is probably a really good idea.  The drivers here are laughably insane.  We decided on this beauty of a twelve passenger van.  Pro, everyone could sit without having to touch each other.  Con, we had habitual troubles with the radiator.  Pro, we could fit us and all our stuff inside.  Con, it did not have four wheel drive.  Which meant we spent about six days in the month of November stranded.  

The van did manage to slowly climb us up to the mountain valley that held the thriving agricultural community of San Isidro de General.  It was only supposed to take us about 45 minutes to get there but our poor van could not make it up the hill without taking several cool down breaks.  Consequently we made it in an hour and fifteen.

Max, "We went to our church.  It was a branch. (the name for a small congregation) but it was more like a twig.  There was about 50 people.  But they were very kind."

Tessa, "Today we went to church.  There were not many people in the branch.  But it was a very nice one to be in.  We got a wafer, oreo, and some chocolate with nuts.  I liked that part a lot!  They did a race for the prayer.  I liked it."

Maggie, "I got to Sunday School with some difficulty.  I couldn't understand a thing they said, really.  Then at the end we got Snickers for some reason.  Then in young women someone helped me translate and understand.  I had a lot of fun."  

The people at church were incredibly warm and friendly.  We learned that they actually have about 740 people that belong to the branch but not many of them come.  Those that do are exceptional.  I joined the kids for primary.  What an experience.  The first week there were about fifteen kids including our four.  They divided classes into one junior and one senior.  Eli, Jonah, and I went to the junior class where they enjoyed drinks, and treats.  Then they drew lots of pictures and cut out papers.  I kept wondering when the gospel instruction would be happening.  After some time they brought out classic gospel art pictures of scriptures stories like Joseph of Egypt, Moses, Daniel, ect.  I was mortified when they handed these to the kids to cut up.  There were no pictures on the walls, and we were cutting up the prophets!  The preserver in me was scrambling to discretely put Eli's cut pieces in my bag so we could at least use it as a puzzle later.  After class we joined the other kids for group instruction and singing time.  We couldn't understand much of what was being said, but they did give us a song book so we could read the new words to the tunes we already knew.  All the songs were played on a cd player.  The other thing that I took me by surprise was that the child to say the prayer was determined by a foot race.  When it was prayer time anyone who wanted to scrambled as fast as they could to the front.  Whoever got there first got to say the prayer, leaving the other competitors to amble back to their seats.  Because we couldn't really understand what was being said it always surprised me when kids suddenly started running to the front.  
There was a large Catholic church and a park in the very center
of town.  We visited it one week and found this sculpture of a
farmer and his wife plowing the ground with their brahma cattle.
I loved the woman with her big rubber boots and her hands to the
plow.  An excellent tribute to the agrarian roots that made this
valley thrive.
The car overheating was not the only problem.  We should have had four wheel drive to get up and down the road to our house, but we'd been told we would probably be okay without it and we couldn't find a SUV in Costa Rica that would fit our family.  Unfortunately it absolutely downpoured and the road that led to our house was rutted out and very steep.  One morning this lead to our van slipping into a ditch on the downhill side of the cliff.  Aaron called the road side assistance we purchased when we arrived in Costa Rica, but they informed us that tow trucks don't exist in this part of Costa Rica and we were on our own.  Max recorded the experience well.

"Today we went nowhere.  Instead when Dad accidentally got the car stuck on the mile long mudville of a road, me and Maggie watched as Mom and Dad tried to fish it out.  When we got our main road block, a 500 pound rock out of the way, we could successfully get our car out."

This was only possible with the help of a local who took pity on us, or just needed to get the road open again so he could drive by.  He and Aaron pushed the van away from the cliff in order to slide it back onto the road as I backed it down the mountain.  It left body imprints on the side of the van from them pushing on the side of the van, but it worked!  In total Aaron spent 4 hours digging and pushing the van to freedom, and 3 days stranded at our house before we could get up the mountain again.  The only saving grace was that our neighbor, who was having a party that weekend, and fearing that his friends also couldn't get up or down the mountain, blew away a huge chunk of the mountain side and used the rocks that fell to grade the road with a heavy duty tractor.  It was quite a spectacle and not a permit to be had.  If this were the USA, there would have been a team of engineers, and construction workers, and a sign saying  that this road project cost $20 million dollars and brings Washington jobs.  Here they just use dynamite and ingenuity.   We were sure to thank him for his generosity.  We were getting low on groceries.

Above you can see our coolant boiled out all over the road.  This was only one of the car troubles we had.  Aaron had taken the car to San Jose to be fixed and during the four hour drive the transmission completely seized up.  Luckily he was able to get a tow truck this time.  I was grateful that we had not all gone, or all of us would have been riding on the back of a tow truck.  Apparently passengers on the back of the tow truck is perfectly normal.    

Aaron insisted that the dealership give us a loaner car while they fixed ours.  This was great except it ended up leaking oil.  We noticed a pool of oil under the car just before we were leaving for church.  We were giving our friends Alex and Rosa a ride to San Isidro to visit their new grand baby.  Alex went to check the oil levels before we left and when he pulled the dipstick out the rest of the housing came out along with it.  We prayed that in the morning we would be able to make it out of our driveway, up the steep hill and down the 5 km of dirt road to a machine shop conveniently located at the bottom of a series of rough dirt roads.  (We felt this was well placed as the day before we saw a van with a split axel trying to limp down the hill to the shop as well.  The roads are not kind to vehicles here.)  We also prayed that once we made it their he would be able to fix the van as it was only a day before we needed to leave our place.  You may call it what you like, but for us it was a miracle!  Prayer works!  Early the next morning Aaron made it to the shop and the man was able to understand Aaron's meager Spanish and increasingly skillful charades enough to fix the van right then.  He worked on it for an two and a half hours.  At the end he charged $15 in labor and $28 in oil, and we were once again on our way.  
While Aaron was gone on car detail, the kids and
I tried to keep ourselves occupied stranded at
home.  This was a little game we called, Freezing
Rain of Refreshment.
Max, disappointed with the amount of education the boys were
ingesting, took matters into his own hands.  Here he is teaching
them out verbs, nouns, and sentence structure. 
At the end of a long day of school and beach time, the boys
zone out while Tessa texts.  The kids treasure texting with
everyone who would care to swap messages with them.
The main street in Dominical.  It is a major surfing hub on the
Pacific side, so I was surprised when I found dirt roads.
Max loved to relieve boredom by creating in
the kitchen.  His egg sandwiches were a big hit!
Jonah quote, "I'm boiling and hot!" heard at least five times a day.


  1. I just got all caught up on the fabulous adventures your family is having. Please tell Maggie that I wish she could have boxed up her sand nativity and sent it to me, I absolutely loved it! I love that your kids are so helpful with daily tasks and enjoy family time, like a game of skipbo or a trip to the beach. I'm seriously thinking our family needs a bit of "down" time like this.

    1. Rachelle! It's so good to hear from you again! Your comment put a huge grin on Maggie's face. Perhaps I've given the wrong impression, my kids are still far from eager to do things like dishes, and house cleaning, but they have come a long way. It's only taken two and a half months of complete detox and deprivation to get us there. :)