Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Note: written on the plane (with some tears) on the way home on Dec. 6.

I hate goodbyes. During our first summer of mission teams, I cried every time a team left. Now I’ve learned to not get too attached and to be thankful for facebook to keep us in touch. But after living with 22 other people for four months, getting attached was going to happen. We’ve laughed, cried, complained, trekked through mud with three days worth of clothes on our back and become a sort of a family. We know things about each other that just don’t come up in normal interactions. We’re most certainly a dysfunctional family, but we all know each other’s crazy sides and love each other anyway.

Last night we went out to dinner at a super yummy Mexican place and spent some time talking about our favorite parts of the program, reliving funny times and sharing sweet stories. Some things were funny, some made me tear up, realizing how much I’m going to miss everyone in our OTS family. We were extremely blessed all get along, quirks and all…I know I’ve made friends that will last a life time.  

As I was trying to fall asleep last night I kept wondering if I’d taken advantage of all the opportunities God gave me to show love. I know I didn’t, and for a while that made me feel guilty as I realized how many times I’ve been selfish, how often I’ve been a bad friend, but then I realized that I was leaving Him out of the equation. I fail because I’m human, but he can take my feeble attempts at love and use them to bring himself glory in unexpected ways. I pray that my actions throughout the program showed Christ’s love and that in some way, that points to the immense majesty and love of God.

So goodbyes are hard, but coming home is sweet. I’m privileged enough to go to school with seven of the amazing people from this trip; I’m excited to spend time with them next semester. Everyone else had better come and visit!

Friday, November 25, 2011

My week in pictures

Here are some picture from research and Thanksgiving! Unfortunately, none of us brought our cameras to the first day of research and the second day the dentist was sick, so no pictures of the actual data collecting or of kids
The portable dental exam table, light and tool kit!

Packing up and erasing identifying information from our exam sheets

The dental exam sheet filled out by the dentist's assistant

Filling out surveys

It wouldn't be a Costa Rican research day without some wild animal

Our research team at the school (minus the dentist and our wonderful TA)

More organizing


We were instructed to spell know "D-U-C-K"

Actually spelling Duke

Delicious brownies that made Thanksgiving a little more like home.
All of us dressed up in real people clothes with make-up and brushed hair!

Thanksgiving...jungle style

Things I'm thankful for...silly and serious: 
  • The ability to bake brownies for Thanksgiving...even if it means getting soaked in the rain to get them to dinner
  • The fact that I will be home in 11 days and can bake in a clean kitchen with everything I need...and not get rained on
  • Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pies prepared by wonderful professors and TAs
  • White table cloths that made Thanksgiving dinner festive
  • Spending Thanksgiving with 22 of my newest friends who have become like family
  • Closing out Thanksgiving day playing a hilarious game of charades
  • Getting 71 kids on our first day of research so that we have enough data even though the dentist was sick yesterday
  • A wonderful family that I have missed very much...can't wait to watch Duke basketball with them on Dec. 7!
  • That they let me run off to Durham two days after I get home to see my boyfriend and best friends 
  • A God who loves me with steadfast love and who has forever proven His love for me at the cross
  • A boyfriend who loves me very much and who has helped us grow closer to Christ even while we've been apart from each other
  • Friends who always lift me up in prayer, encourage me and let me be silly
  •  Listening to Christmas music while curled up in sweats doing stats on research 
  • The amazing friendships I've made here; I'm ready to go home, but I know I'm going to miss everyone here
  • Living on West campus in the new Keohane next year
  • Chiky chips...amazing Costa Rican cookies  
  • Getting dressed up for Thanksgiving dinner including makeup and straight hair 
  • The internet that lets me stay in touch with everyone I love (and lets me online shop from afar.)
Pictures of our fancy dinner will come soon! My camera has decided to not work, so I'm waiting for other people to post them on facebook.  

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Finishing up!

After a long week of bus trips (including two break downs and standing in the rain with our luggage), two days of studying for finals, and then six hours of finals, we finally have a day off. We haven't had a lazy Saturday all semester, so I'm kind of unsure as to what to do with myself! Thus far, I slept until 10:30, watched a movie in bed, kept up with the Duke/GT game, did some online shopping and had a brief meeting with our professor about our upcoming research project!

Speaking of, I'm really excited to start on Wednesday! Our group of four is looking into adolescent dental health here in Coto Brus. We'll be going to the high school and doing dental exams on 6th-8th graders as well as asking them some questions about their dental habits. We're trying to see whether there is a correlation between age and dental health or gender and dental health. (If you want to read our super exciting 14 page research proposal, I can email it to you.) We'll be in the schools Wednesday and Thursday, then crunch numbers and doing some analysis before we present our results to the community on Nov. 30. After that we have a few days to write our research papers before we head back to San Jose. It's hard to believe that in just 17 days I'll be home! While this trip has been great and I'll be sorry to leave the great friends I have here, I am ready for Christmas season back in the U.S. with people I love!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Oh the places you'll go...

I believe that phrase was originally written by Dr. Seuss, however it feels very applicable to the past week of my life!

Last Saturday we left San Jose and headed to another biological station called La Selva. It is a much bigger station, with more researchers living onsite and more groups living and working here. It was funny—when we arrived there was another group of American students here and we were all quite taken aback. We’re used to being the only ones around! It is much hotter, stickier and buggier here. I’m currently sitting under a fan in shorts and tank top in an attempt to stay cool. I will not even try to count the bug bites…more on that later.

Dengue—yep it’s mosquito transmitted and I have mosquito bites. Let’s hope I don’t have Dengue too! Wednesday we went into Sarapiqui, a nearby town to help the local EBAIS with their Dengue education programs. There have been recent outbreaks, so we were working to make sure that people are taking necessary precautions to protect their families—bed nets, screens, no standing water where mosquitoes can breed. We also educated people about the warning signs of Dengue including Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, which is common the second time a person is infected and can be fatal. We went house to house, filling out short surveys, talking to people and giving out educational material. We helped people identify and dump out any containers with standing water and also collected any mosquito larvae we saw.  When we got back to La Selva we looked at that larvae under a microscope, unfortunately identifying most of it as the larvae of the Dengue carrying mosquito.

Thursday, we headed out on another field trip to the Dole banana plantation. We sat in the POURING rain for an hour and half, briefly walked around part of the plantation and then were done. Needless to say, not my favorite field trip. To add to the discomfort of being wet, our next endeavor was a four-hour bus ride to Kekoldi—a Bribri indigenous community where we spent the night. Actually, let me rephrase that…it was a four hour bus ride to the base of the mountain that we walked straight up for an hour (with a backpack full of clothes, mosquito nets and other supplies) to get to Kekoldi! Fortunately, by the time we got there, it had stopped raining and the sun had come out…it was still pretty muddy though!

The hike was worth it though…we stayed in a beautiful tree-house like structure, made hot chocolate from freshly roasted and ground cacao beans and had Nutella for breakfast. The showers were questionable, however, so we rationalized not utilizing them by taking a swim at the bottom of a gorgeous waterfall. Only problem with that is that a 1.5 hour hike straight downhill to the waterfall = an even longer hike straight back uphill. Needless to say, we were gross…we had also only brought one change of clothes, so we stayed gross until we hiked back down to our bus where we had a change of clothes. (With a brief stop at an iguana farm on the way back down.)

Once we were feeling semi-human again, it was time for another bus trip to another Bribri territory. There, we learned more about the culture, visited a small chocolate production center run by the women’s association and talked to the Awapa (shamans) in their traditional conical houses. It was an exhausting few days with lots of “we would like to welcome you” and “we are so thankful for your hospitality” and “thank you so much for coming” and “thank you so much for having us.” (everyone had to say their bit!) If you’re a little bewildered by all the traveling and where it means I was all week, don’t worry! I still am. Unfortunately, indigenous territories and/or towns are not well marked on googlemaps, so I’m still lost. For now, enjoy these pictures:

Our gear for the hike up the mountain--including mosquito nets
So excited to hike!

Separating cacao shell from the cacao....I failed and dumped most of it on the ground.

In the boat on the way to Cachabri

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lists's been almost 3 weeks since I posted! A lot has happened in those 3 weeks--midterms, break with my mom and aunt and a tough week back in San Jose.

I know this is a departure from my usual pictures and week summary, but I just wanted to share what's actually going on in my life. While break was just that--an awesome, refreshing time--it made it hard to come back here to San Jose. Due to a scheduling mix-up, I wound up having to leave Guanacaste a day before my mom and aunt, which upset me more than it probably should have. Being with my mom made it seem like I should be going home with her. Facing 6 more weeks of being away was hard. Even back in San Jose with my super sweet host family, I was feeling very alone. This week on the whole has been tough--we've had long field trips, long lectures and cold food (because the field trips went too long). I got sick on Thursday and felt under the weather today. Even being back together with my friends from the program, I've been feeling alone. The problem with living in the city without transportation is that it's hard to get together with friends--public transport is only safe until a certain hour, it's a bummer to go out in the rain and taxis can be expensive.

God's been using this alone time and hard week to teach me things though. At the beginning of the week, when i was really missing home and Duke, I read a post from my friend Bethany, who's in Ecuador.. You can check it out here if you want: Live In Joy. She's been having a rough semester too, but she decided to make lists of reasons to be joyful. I stole that idea and this week have been keeping a list of things that God says I am, based on what I read every morning. I just read through them tonight and went back to her blog post. So I thought I'd copy not only her title, but also make a few lists of my own.

Things I'm thankful for
1. Friends who are vulnerable and thus encouraging
2. My relationship with my mom--I'm privileged to have her as a a friend.
3. Great friends here who take care of me when I'm feeling under the weather.
4. A very sweet host mom who made me tea and fed me saltines last night.
5. Skype, gchat and itunes that let me talk to friends back home and keep up on Summit sermons.

God says I am:
1. Redeemed because of His great love (Ephesians 2:4)
2. Forgiven for His name's sake (1 John 2:12)
3. His child (1 John 3:1)
4. Heard by the Most High (Psalm 77)
5. The recipiennt of an imperishable undefiled and unfading inheritance (1 Peter 1)

Monday, October 10, 2011

From Rica to Nica and back again!

Note: written on a bus somewhere between the Nicaraguan border and Arenal. 
It’s been another whirlwind week! It’s only taken me half a semester to realize that all of our weeks are whirlwinds.

On Tuesday we left home sweet Las Cruces and headed to San Jose. We stayed at the same hotel as we did on the way in, and eagerly ate dinner at the most American place we could find (Pizza Hut for me!) Then we had a bit of time to work on group projects. I’ve learned that writing a 12 page paper with 7 people is harder than writing a 12 page paper by myself. We have sooooo many group projects here. For example just this week we had our mini research project (8 people), a market observation and write-up (5 people) and our long-term research proposal (4 people). Trying to coordinate all of that, especially when different groups are meeting at different times can definitely be a challenge!

Anyway, Wednesday, after only 4 hours of sleep (that sounds more like Duke than anything else), we boarded our bus to Nicaragua. There was much loading and unloading as we all realized last minute that we needed to keep out clinic appropriate, as in not my pj pants, clothes for once we got to Nica. We managed to get on the road by 4:00, and were at the border by 8:00. It took a while to cross, but definitely not as long as it could have. We entertained ourselves with mind games…like “how many agoudi?”

After crossing the border, we ate lunch at a kind of sketchy Chinese place, but everyone survived without food poisoning. We wandered around town for a bit and then changed clothes and headed to Nicaraguan clinic so that we could compare it to what we’d seen in Costa Rica. I won’t bore you with the details, but I will say that I was shocked at how politicized everything has become in the last few years since I was here last. The president’s logo, font, colors and face are all over everything…even health care forms, educational literature and hospital buildings. It’s an election year, which I’m sure exacerbates that, but still…he’s everywhere.

Our time in Nicaragua was a little more relaxed than in Costa Rica. We stayed at a very nice hotel in Granada—it had a beautiful pool, comfy beds and big, non-lumpy pillows which made me very happy. We were able to do more touristy things, too. Our trip included a visit to the craft market in Masaya (which I’ve been to 5 times now), a visit to Volcan Masaya (also for the fifth time, and after writing an entire semester’s worth of essays and editorials about it) and a boat ride on Lake Nicaragua—something new! We got to see monkeys on the boat ride, which was lots of fun, but I got a bit sunburned! 

Sunday was our day off, and I spent a lot of it working. Our TV got American football though, so that was on in the background, making it feel a little more like fall. Sunday evening, Allison, Bre and I went to mass at a gorgeous church in the downtown square and then got ice cream for dinner on the way back. My eating habits have severely deteriorated in Nicaragua—there’s a bigger risk of getting food poisoning and you can’t drink the water, so safe things to eat are bread products, chips, ice cream and soda. There weren’t a whole lot of vegetables this week. We did, however, find a Greek place for lunch on Sunday and I got my hummus fix!

Now we’re on our way back to Costa Rica and I have to start thinking in Colones again instead of Cordobas. This week we have a couple of classes, but mostly we’re studying for midterms (which happen on Friday) and finishing our research proposals. Then we have Saturday off, and on Sunday, my mom and Aunt Sarah come to visit! I can’t wait to have a week off relaxing and exploring Costa Rica!