More than a vacation

Published: July 11th 2005
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Church was interesting. It´s beautiful inside, with chandeliers and frescoes on the wall. It is not like the traditional Catholic environment. A random street dog ran back and forth through the church a couple of times…only in Costa Rica.
Yes, they took the sacrament and the priest gave the homily. We even knelt to pray. But it was also mixed with a more laid-back contemporary feel. The music was amazing. They played classical and acoustic guitars. I loved listening to their songs, because it was bright and uplifting. It mad me smile. Sadly, the only part I could join in was the “Alleluias.” I felt like Mr. Bean. Jaja, not really.
It was almost comical, when the family squeezed into the row. It was the dad, the mom, me, Mati, and Jorge (su novio). In a small row. Our shoulders scrunched up against each other. The cold breeze permeated the room, and my mom crossed her arms so that it would protect me from the wind. It was the first time I felt cold. We stood up various times. One time, I had difficulty standing and I fell back slightly, and pushed the whole row back. Just a little embarrassing. Mati giggled.
The priest sermon was understandable, surprisingly. He was talking about parables, and how Jesus spoke in that way so we could relate to it. We have ears, but don´t hear. We have eyes but don´t see.
We went to Patri´s house to celebrate my Tica mom´s birthday. I really liked meeting my dad´s sisters. They are so kind, and remind me of my family back at home. One of them invited me to their house to take coffee. She commented how loud they were and laughed a lot. I told her, don´t worry, I´m used to it. Hehe, she has no idea…
Oh man, bread can never go out of style here! I´d be surprised if they ever heard of the Atkins diet, and if that would even be possible to do. But boy, is the bread good. They had roast beef sandwiches. 80 percent of it was bread. They had rolls in the middle of the table that kind of tasted like hopia (Filipino pastry). As if that wasn´t enough bread, they laid out white bread with natilla (their version of sour cream, but salty). Or was it mayonnaise, which by the way, they like to put on everything. Like tacos. I can´t look at their tacos, as I was traumatized the first weekend. Plus, they had more white bread sitting on the counter.
I like how children are valued here, too. Patri (my parents´ other daughter) has two kids, Luis Carlos and Susana. They are two of the most well-behaved, comely children I have ever met. They are always smiling, and I saw the boy, age 11 washing dishes. Amazing. The kids´opinions matter, which I think is neat. They can sit at the table and join in the conversation, or even monopolize it. Of course, they play here, too. Fútbol!
I don´t know if it´s just my family, but people are very concerned about appearances. I don´t mean necessarily in a vain, obsessive way. Just an observation. The ladies like to color their hair when it begins to turn gray. Guys have really nice hands, according to Jen. They take care of their nails well and I see my mom glance down at her nails a lot. Perhaps, it´s a habit because I find myself doing it too now. My sisters take very good care of their faces, and they look in the mirror for long periods of time. Also, it is a social standard to look nice when going out in public. People, in fact, dress like they´re going out to dance, when they´re casually walking around in a mall. It would be a disgrace to go to class in your pajamas. Not necessarily a norm in the U.S., but maybe not so much considered a barbarity compared to here.
I actually went home early this weekend, on Saturday night. Just to experience the day of relaxation, Sunday. Actually, I have a mountain of homework. This past weekend, we traveled to the Caribbean coast. The last of our adventurous excursions. I wanted to go to this place because of what I learned about it in class. Close to and within Limón, there is great diversity. Asians, Afrocubanos, Franceses, etc... I like it. They have a busy night life. However busy, it is very laid back. Reggae clubs. It was fun watching people dance. They looked like they were doing a lot of “wave dancing.”
Everyone seemed to be moving in slow motion.
The beaches were breath-taking. I can say without hesitation that the Caribbean beaches are the most beautiful. Sin embargo, the coast is very very very hot and sweltering. Sultry, dare I say. I´m not gonna lie. It is crazy. I thought I was going to melt. The water made it all better, though. I liked to go to the area without rocks (because they kind of hurt) and feel the coolness of the water. Then, a wave of warm water would rush over me, as the wind blew it over the rocks.
Jen and I were sitting on a log watching the sunset. I could have sat there forever. My content state of mind faded as a man with a pipe approached us. He spoke in English. Not surprisingly, the majority of the people on the coast spoke in English. I was disappointed. Anyway, the man stared at me intently, as if he had a purpose. As if there were no one else but me. He said we were all friends. It is time to have fun and relax. There are Japanese, Egyptians, Costa Ricans…and the list goes on, but we´re all friends in God. He was there to be friends, and not to take advantage of anyone, he said. So we sat there and listened for about five minutes, with no idea where he was going with all of this. I felt uncomfortable. Luckily, we saw the bus that the second group of friends were arriving in, and excused ourselves. I wonder if that guy was normal…
I prayed for him, because I was thinking that God loves him. He made him. Just as He loves and made me.
Flashback to the past week…
I sat among my classmates in Culture of Central America class. Tears rolled down my a father said he would take his son home to his wife. The boy was dead. I couldn´t understand how anyone could shoot at children. Women. Men. People. And kill them. It was during political upheaval in the late 1900s in El Salvador. During a civil war. Many times, religion is intertwined with the conflict because it relates with the people and politics. The conflict was the military against the organizations. It was really the military against the people. There still is conflict there. It is representative of many Latin American countries, because of the poverty. I shook my head agitatedly, as Monsignor Romero said, “We´re humans! For goodness sake. WE´RE HUMAN BEINGS!” It was while they were torturing a man to confess that he was part of the guerrillas. I don´t understand it all. How politics and economical motivations could blind, disconnect someone enough from humanity to shoot blindly. With no hesitance.
It makes me think about how I live. That I live. Almost in naivety and ignorance of the world around me. I live in a bubble, unaware of the violence people live in day in and day out. There are people in this world who have never lived to see a day of peace. Where they don´t have to worry about being shot. Where they don´t have to worry about going out and thinking they might not live today. For them, it is impossible to take life for granted. I know violence and death exists (obviously), but particularly that day, after that, I wasn´t the same. I couldn´t help but talk to God and ask Him, “Why?”
I think about London and all of those acts of terrorism. The Holocaust…Slavery…There has to be reason to it all.
It was not by chance that that night of the act, I was reading C.S. Lewis. I think my answer came.
To let you know, this book is about a devil writing to a novice demon. It´s a look into the mind of the devil, which is not pretty. I like to take the opportunity to learn from it.
p. 23 Screwtape Letters
“We may hope for a good deal of cruelty and unchastity. But, if we are not careful, we shall see thousands turning in this turbulation to the Enemy, while tens of thousands who do not go so far as that will nevertheless have their attention diverted from themselves to values and causes which they believe to be higher than the self.”

p.24 Screwtape Letters
For a “long period of diffuse suffering:”
“The Enemy´s human partisans have all been plainly told by Him that suffering is an essential part of what he calls Redemption; so that faith which is destroyed by a war of a pestilence cannot really have been worth the trouble of destroying.”
Even just by watching that movie, it had drawn me close to God. Of course there is evil in this world because of the Fall of Man and our curse. But I know that there is justice in a messed up world, because there is a God. With an awesome plan. And He doesn´t let bad things happen in vain. Of course, it was our fault, but He pulls us out of it, and makes something amazing of it.
It was so interesting, telling my Tico parents about my movie thoughts. My mom randomly said, “Yaneec, quiere ser una misionera?” I was caught off guard. A missionary? I responded by saying I will listen to Him, wherever He wants me to go, I will go. She told me to remember her once I become a missionary. That she was the one to suggest it. I found it endearing…almost mysterious.
At the beginning of this trip, I felt absolutely estranged from God. Just as I already felt strange being in a different country. Perhaps because I was not safe. Away from my comfort zone. Away from my place of refuge-in my living room, where I usually pray. Where I am shouldn´t affect my relationship with God! Why was I feeling that way? Was my relationship that weak, that my place of comfort was what my relationship was based on?
As time passed, and as I look back, I have definitely grown mentally and spiritually here. I love talking to God. A passion in me has rekindled, instead of the monotony of sitting in one place, at the same time. I can walk along the streets and talk to my Best Friend. To commune with and enjoy Him. To laugh with Him. Cry with Him. Experience Him in others. The other day, my mom said, He speaks to us through the flowers. Es la verdad.
I think this trip is meant for more than I expected.

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11th July 2005

Perhaps this trip is worth more than expected...
Janice, thank you for sharing your experiences! Thank you for your transparency and for your grasp of truth. I praise God that you are able to see the struggle and sacrifice of the people there. I am grateful that you are in situations where you are loving and living with people. These things are not easy to do. You remind me of similar experiences I have had in experiencing other cultures, whether overseas or here in Chicago. To experience diversity in cutlures and perspectives can be to experience the vastness of God. I marvel at the thoughts that pour from your mind, at the ways in which you interpret the reality there. i am excited that you believe in experiences leading and interweaving and culminating to another experience. I don't know what the next season for you will are certainly different now than you were before you left...what I do know, is that when you keep walking with your Best Friend, you will know what the next season is, and you will know His Will. I am currently developing a new school for Social Justice, which will open to 100 freshman this fall. It is so exciting! I will tell you more later. Love and Peace and Blessings and Favor, angela
11th July 2005

Hi, my dear! Wow . . . you're coming home in about a week. Are you sad? Excited? A little bit of both? :} Well, I've loved reading all about your adventures and seeing all the pictures. I missed you sooo much when I came home, but . . . like I said, I hope to see you soon. I want to hear all about Costa Rica in person. :)
11th July 2005

I am very proud of you...
12th July 2005

You're really learning so much
Janice, your experiences there have added a whole new dimension in your life. What a privilege! We wanted you to learn, enjoy, and grow in the knowledge of Him through this study abroad program. God has answered those requests. As I read these journals, it is evident that your faith is growing. Thanks for sharing the pictures, interesting informations, and above all, your heart.We can't wait to have you back home. Love and miss
13th July 2005

more than a vacation
Hey hey Yaneec..just love the scenery, they seem too bright and colorful - tropical. I thought you were not going to the Carib coast! Glad you decided to go - now you can compare that with that of the Pacific. We're bracing ne:anticipating for your return, we noticed you lost some weight and tan, but your posts are very informative, reflective and incisive - I wonder where you got that from. :) Come home soon and re-load. Stay cool. Luv ya!
13th July 2005

Hey Janice
Hey janice, wow sounds like God is showing you a lot. I can't imagine what you are going through. I miss you a lot, and I hope that you can share with me more of your experience when you get back

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