So after a year of relative convenience and ease in Northwest Arkansas, our first month in Costa Rica has been a challenge, mostly logistically.
We arrived to a broken microwave and missing desk as a result of our renters. No problem, we can get the microwave repaired and ask them to return the desk (still haven’t seen it). The aftermath of renting our home could have been so much worse.
After being in storage in a humid country, all our linens smelled terrible and required washing. Some were just a total loss. No problem, we’ll buy some new linens. We get unpacked and resettled in the house. Feels good to be home!
We get our phones working, start making contact with locals and reconnecting with people. One way we like to do that is having people over for dinner. One week in, our stovetop breaks, too (microwave still not repaired at that point). We get creative with making meals that only require an oven. It’s starting to feel a little like camping out, but hey, all these appliances are a luxury to begin with. Some people still cook over campfires after all. We start to wonder if we might be doing that in our backyard in another week. We are supposed to get the part to fix the stovetop in a week. It’s been three, and we still don’t have a working stove.
While waiting for our kitchen appliances to come back to life, we forge ahead and start car shopping (we sold our minibus when we went on furlough). Many cars don’t have the as-advertised mileage, some aren’t even in working order when we show up to see them (would it have been so hard to tell us before making the trip that it would be impossible to test drive the vehicle because the ignition is broken?), and some have clear problems we don’t want to inherit. Through patience and perseverance, we find the newest, lowest-mileage, and in-best-shape vehicle we can afford, with the help of our former pastor and current friend who is also a mechanic and car enthusiast. Praise God for His generous provision! We got a crazy good deal for what we bought, with older and much more used and abused vehicles asking the same price we paid for something much nicer.
We jump back into ministry, scheduling princess club, a Jobs for Life pilot with a prostitution recovery ministry, mothering/early-childhood-development workshops, a team from Nampa, Idaho the last week of July, and jumping back into tutoring, ESL and Saturday kids bible study. Life is good and we are glad to be back! These are our sweet spots, and we get to be in them with people we missed and love.
As soon as the team is here, Seth pulls his back helping unload suitcases. Then our washing machine breaks. You’ve got to be kidding me. The kids get to learn empathy for many of our Carpio friends who wash and wring by hand. That’s hard work and tough on your hands!
Jude has been struggling with ingrown toenails for some time, so we go to the doctor. We Uber across town, since Seth is with the team with the car. We get his prescription, it looks funny to me, and I ask the pharmacy person, “are you sure this is the concentrated version of this drug that the doctor ordered?” They assure me it is, so we pay and Uber it back home. Jude pulls it out of the bag, and it is vaginal cream. I’m super frustrated that they still gave us the wrong thing even after I asked. I decide to call and find out if they will exchange it before going over there (since traffic is terrible crossing town to go back and the receipt says no returns). While I’m on hold, my phone runs out of minutes and I get disconnected. I huff into Alden’s room and ask to borrow his phone to make the call. And I kid you not, I’m on hold and HIS phone runs out of minutes and I get disconnected again. I just stare at the phone for a little while, thinking “No way can something so simple be this hard.” [Long story shorter: Thankfully, they did make the exchange very graciously, in a country that is sometimes irrational about returns or exchanges. However, the process used up my whole afternoon.]
The team had lots of construction projects, street pedicures, and Mother’s Day pictures to do throughout this past week. On our first pedicure day, there is no water in La Carpio in the morning. Oh, did I mention the team was staying at the ministry center in La Carpio? No going to the bathroom, brushing teeth, or showering. And pretty hard to do pedicures with no water to wash feet. The men go to buy bottled water. Since everyone needs water, there isn’t any left in La Carpio, so they head out of the community to find some. Time to start pedicures comes and goes. Still no water. Bladders are about to explode. Finally, we ladies just circle up and pray. Again, God shows up. Before we were even done praying, we hear water running and starting to fill our holding tank! Personal hygiene is taken care of and pedicures are a hit for the rest of the morning.
On the same day, Seth’s and my phones stop having internet access for some unknown reason, even though we have purchased more minutes and are able to make calls just fine. I’m supposed to send a reminder about the pedicures, and can’t. I’m supposed to send individual messages to about 25 moms with appointments for Mother’s Day pictures with their kids that afternoon, and can’t. Thankfully, we had good pedicure traffic anyway, and later figure out how to use someone else’s phone as a hot spot temporarily and get the reminders out. People did show for their appointments and the pictures turned out so beautiful.
After a visit to the phone company to resolve the issue, our phones are still not behaving right (to this day), making communication between ourselves, with the team, and with ministry participants a challenge. But we learned how to make voice calls again instead of texting, reminding ourselves that we used to do this all the time before we could text. Wow, what a primitive concept.
The team was great, God was at work all week, they learned a ton and blessed many (including us), and they headed out this morning. Thankfully, we were able to go to the Hinton’s to do some laundry today, and Seth went to restock some groceries. Wait, why is our debit card being declined? He comes home to find out why we have no money, and it appears our card number has been hijacked and used over the weekend to buy $1400 worth of items all over the U.S.
An amazing end to an amazing month.
So much of this would not be a big deal if it happened in isolation, but the accumulation of it all in one short month has been a little much. I hope you have seen the opposition and frustration, but also the ways that God was with us along the way.
On the positive side:
Thanks for reading and journeying with us through the ups and downs of re-entry in Costa Rica. While we have had many challenges, we have also had many blessings.
On August 9, Seth and I fly to Houston with Alden, where he will start orientation at Rice University on August 12. On September 5, Annabel travels to Belfast, Ireland for a semester abroad this fall. And Jude and I re-start the homeschool engine with just he and I.
Please pray for us to get some of these silly broken things resolved so that life here can return to “normal crazy” instead of “ridiculous crazy,” and we can focus on ministry, the process for renewing our residency (which is always painful), and all the transitions for our family over the next month.
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Quote of the month
""At the margins is the only place the Church will have credibility."