Sunday, August 26, 2012

In Which I Lose my Wallet

I wanted the title of this post to be "In which I lose a wallet, my voice, and my sanity but rediscover friendship, music, and hope"... but that would've been much too long and even I would have been bored of reading by that point. But I shall explain each of these anyway, and if you get bored, feel free to never read this again. 

In truth, the story of the wallet is quite uninteresting, and is the least important. I was at the office of the Arbol de Vida Community on Monday night, dropped it on the ground, and now it is gone. The importance of this event is that in my wallet was $200 (rationing 50 per month, it was supposed to support me for the next 4 months), and my driver's license. Also, this was the first day of my first full week in Costa Rica, and after this event I jumped to the rational conclusion that this entire year was going to be just awful. But let us depart from this incident.

 My Voice: For all intensive purposes, I am mute and deaf. I speak little, understand precious little more, and am mostly completely lost whenever we have a meeting. I'm sure I pose an interesting picture: bewildered eyes beneath a furrowed brow in a generally spaced-out expression. What I have come to see, is the beauty of silence. Unless you become like a little child echoes in my soul much more frequently now. And it is true. Because I do not have much of an ability to speak or hear, there is much more silence around me. And in this silence, Christ is re-teaching me many things: not only how to speak to others and hear what they are saying, but how to pray to Him, how to listen to His voice. Also, the whole country of Costa Rica is probably benefiting from the fact that the voice of Catherine is much less heard. 
 My Sanity:there is not much to be said on this point. I have not truly lost my sanity, in fact I am probably more sane now than I was before I left. Who in their right mind goes on a Gap year anyway?

Friendship, Music, and Hope. There is much to be said here, but I shall not say it all. What I have rediscovered is that words are not necessary for friendship. If people can be so close with their pets, how much more so can we share with others? Language does create a barrier, but it is more of a picket fence at times than a full-blown wall. And music: that universal language. It makes more sense now why Paul and Silas sang songs of joy while they were in chains. Music is the voice that cries out to go beyond yourself and your situation. I have felt no closer to people here than when there was a piano, two guitars, a set of bongos, and several voices rising up together in harmony. We did not speak, because who needs words when there is song? No translation is needed when each note tells it's own story. And hope: esperanza, the song of my own heart. 'Esperar' means to wait, and it is used often, so daily I am being surrounded by hope. What joy there is in that. 

"Wait for the Lord. Be strong, take heart, and wait for the Lord" -Psalm 27:14

In Hope, 

Monday, August 20, 2012

... And Many Other Firsts

 Life is different in Costa Rica.
Because there are so many 'firsts', I thought it best to just write a list. Without further ado:
Since I have been in Costa Rica, it is the first time I have.....
-kissed so many strangers on the cheek
-listened to an entire homily and an entire talk and not understood anything
-watched a spanish-dubbed movie
-been mistaken for being older than I actually am (apparently I have aged 2 years in 5 days)
-played Wii and enjoyed it
-willfully woken up at 7am 
-gone 5 days without seeing another blonde (the streak was broken by a foreign exchange student from Germany)
-been welcomed into so many different homes
-taken a taxi
-spoken so little
-understood so little
-felt so little
-realized how blessed life is...
               In other words, I am a brechista (GAP-er), and I don't speak Spanish.
If there was a Gapper book of records, I'm sure I would break at least some of them.

Humility is the name of this game, and it is hard to play it well. But I am learning; learning many many things. May I repeat: I do not speak Spanish, and English is no one's first language. Spanish is intimidating because I fear not being understood. English is intimidating for the same reason.

Permit me to describe a conversation to you: it's not quite head-under-water, but it's not the kiddy pool either. It's more like that really uncomfortable stage where the water is right below your bottom lip, so if you move too much, you get a mouthful of water, and if you don't move at all, the waves will get in your mouth anyway, and you never really learned how to swim so you're treading water like a dog, and what you really want to do is either learn to swim or get out of the water, but neither are an immediate option, so you keep on doggy-paddling........Perhaps you taller folk have never experienced this, however, it's an analogy, and it's not perfect, but hopefully you catch my drift.

Now let me leave you with some hope.  The people in this community are so welcoming, and so so so kind. The last 'first time' that's listed is realizing how blessed life is. This could not be more true. There are many little and large blessings to be found here: red-orange sunsets, a baby falling asleep on my shoulder, learning a new word, thunderstorms, the smile of a new friend, fresh fruit, a song that I recognize, morning prayer.... The list goes on and on.

Again I repeat: Christ is here, in these people. I'm used to finding Him in words. Here I find Him everywhere.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you. -2 Corinthians 13:13


Thursday, August 16, 2012

The First Day

Although exhaustion threatens to knock me from my chair, I feel it is my duty to write a new post before the pell-mell of the year sets in. After two hours of 'sleep', I departed this morning from the comfort of the place that I have called home for the past 18 years and embarked into the unknown. This unknown included huge security lines, a two-hour long conversation with a complete stranger about everything ranging from books, to religion, to aerospace engineering, nearly missing my connecting flight, giving directions to another stranger about where and how to reach the mountains of Costa Rica by bus, and various existential thoughts about humanity (this final item is not so much the unknown as well-charted territory, but is worth noting).  After what I would consider a normal day of flying, I am finally outside the San Jose Airport. Every fear, worry, excitement, confidence, and doubt about the year, about what I was doing, and why I was doing it, culminated as I stood outside, breathing the humid Costa Rican air with my luggage piled in tumbling pyramids about me, and the hum of an unfamiliar dialect weaving in and out of my consciousness. And that is when the car pulled up, Dani Diaz holding a red star-shaped balloon in her hand and a huge smile on her face. It is marvelous how so many of our expectations, both good and bad, pale and dissolve in the clear light of reality. In that car ride home, the tour of the house and the general introductions that followed, I experienced the sweet taste of living in a moment and cherishing that moment. I could end there, but it gets better.
Despite the alternations between 'hola' and 'hello', the tendency to bite on the french word threatening to spill out because there isn't a spanish one to take its place, the frequent desire to even supplement latin into my mostly-english-spanglish, and the joyfully humbling fact that the 7-year-old, Sophia, has been assigned as my language buddy (she works on her english, I fumble a reply in Spanish, mostly consisting of cómo se dice...), my family has already welcomed me so well into their hearts and their homes. There is community here, there is laughter and joy here, there is life just as much here as anywhere else. Above all, God is here. He doesn't check out when we pass through customs, and although tomorrow is sure to bring it's own challenges, tonight brings sweetness, and comfort, and hope in Christ. 

Blessings from (finally) Costa Rica, 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Final Preparations

Just a quick update: I leave for Costa Rica this Thursday, August 16th, and will not be back in the States until Christmas time. It is amazing how fast this Summer has flown by, but how blessed it has been. I just came back from a week-long retreat: the School of the New Evangelization (SNE). It was a grace-filled week in which the Lord worked powerfully in my life, and through which I had the privilege of meeting 200 other Catholic missionaries who are on fire for their faith. I could not ask for a bigger blessing than this before leaving. With less than a week left, the magnitude of how much must be left behind (family, friends, culture, home, language etc..) is starting to sink in. But the Lord has shown me again and again that He will not be outdone in generosity, and the very first unravellings of His plan for my life this year are beginning to show.  I await my early morning flight and the adventures it will bring with slightly bated breath, but firm trust in the truth that God in His perfect love are the same no matter where I go.
Until then;
Catherine DeMarais