Letters from the Field, Part 1
To The Most Embarrassing Moments Team,
I have had some mishaps in my life, so I would like to add to your collection.
Oh wait. I think I mis-addressed this letter. It should read:
To my Beloved Friend,
I have heard that you were not doing so well. I am so sorry to hear that. I know that sorrow and suffering can be a real trial and it can get so lonesome carrying the burden and the pain. Oh, I know we roll the burden over to Jesus, and He is all sufficient, it does get lonesome all the same at times. I was sitting around thinking the other day of my time in Costa Rica. John and I had some mighty good times there and some pretty powerful times serving Jesus. However, in the between times, I had quite a few mishaps. Since it says in Proverbs 15:13
A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.
I thought I would send a few stories along to laugh with you – or laugh at myself. It seems that no matter how hard I tried, I got myself into some very interesting scrapes. A lot of them revolved around food for whatever reason. Which is odd, come to think of it, because when we first got there we lived with a family. It was really when we moved out on our own that things started happening. We were there to go to language school. The goal was to become fluent in Spanish. A lofty goal, to be sure, since my vocabulary list was two words – taco, bano. Really. Well, we entered an usual program that the school offered because we wanted to be with the people much as possible. Therefore, we took the Faro course. This meant that we were out on a route 3-4 times a week with a memorized Spanish script on subjects that we were to converse on with the people we had asked to help us on our route. I took a bus from our little house near the school to San Jose, the capital, then I walked about ten minutes and grabbed another bus to the town of Tibas which was about 45 minutes away. All by myself. I wanted to go where no other American student had gone. Let’s just say I got my wish, or prayer for that matter. I really was the crazy American girl. But I loved every minute of it. Well, except maybe for the times when I made myself the laughing stock of Tibas.
Every day that I went on my route, I would leave right after lunch, around 1 in the afternoon. Since we were there during the rainy season, it would rain just about every day. You would think I would remember that fact. Every day it rained. At about 2 in the afternoon. Well to get along with my story, I would take the bus, but I always forgot my umbrella, and in Costa Rica the umbrellas are something to be reckoned with. They are huge. Every single time I was in Tibas, I got poured on. Have you ever seen Central American rain showers? They are torrential. The best memory I have of my usual down pour was when I was trying to get to the bus stop after my time in Tibas. It was late, wet and I was getting cold and hungry. Oh, something really different in Costa Rica, their curbs on the side of the road are about 2-3 feet high because of all the rain. Well, on this particular afternoon, I was wearing all white. Trekking my way to the bus stop, I was not paying much attention to anything. But the bus driver was. He saw his target and took aim. He plowed through the very deep water at the curb and just drenched me. Oh, I am sure every single person on that bus is still laughing. The gringo now looks like a drenched rat. Let’s just say that white clothes and dirty, muddy street water don’t mix.
Because we wanted to be with the people as much as possible, we went to a church where there were no other gringos. We loved that church. We got involved and had a wonderful time. Being the hospitable person that I am I wanted to have the pastor over for an American dinner. I decided to make chili. We had only been living on our own for a short time so I was getting used to the shopping thing. Very different in a foreign country. Well, little did I know that their spices are different than what we have here in America. The pastor was as polite as possible but he never was able to choke down that chili. You have heard of 4-alarm, 5-alarm etc.? Well, this one was off the charts. It was so hot, it was uneatable. Completely. Here I was, the little wife, making dinner for our pastor, and he couldn’t eat a thing. We tried everything, but nothing worked. He went home hungry. And my pride went in my pocket.
Or there was the time when our dear friends wanted to help me out with my script for my Faro route. We had made some very good Christian friends that we hung out with. This particular week I was learning about hobbies and past times. I had written out my script, my ayudante (helper) had approved it, I recorded on my tape recorder and I was in the process of memorizing it. My friends wanted me to try it out. So I asked them about their hobbies and I shared mine – baking cookies. Well, there was a slight hitch in my Spanish. When I said my little speech, my friends went into uncontrollable spasms of laughter. After a very long time they confessed the problem. Two words are very similar in Spanish. "To bake", hornear and "urinate", urinar. You can guess what I was doing with my cookies. Oh, I was the talk of the neighborhood for weeks.
To demonstrate my hobby, I decided at Christmastime I would bake different kinds of cookies for the people on my route. I
had a great time getting that together. Our little place was right along the route for the bus that would go into San Jose. Normally I would catch it further up, but for whatever reason, I decided to try closer to home. I had a huge bag full of wrapped cookies and goodies. I felt like Santa Claus. While I waited I hummed and sang my favorite Christmas songs. I love Christmas and I was excited to share a tradition with my new friends. It was right after lunch and very sunny this particular day. As I waited, I noticed that many buses came by, but they were all too full. Not one would stop to pick me up. Undeterred, I walked up to the busier street to catch the bus at my normal stop. But to no avail. Even there, the buses passed right on by. My singing had long since stopped, and my humming was getting few and far between. By the time 2 hours had gone by, I was a very grumpy Santa Claus. I trudged on home and was so sorry for myself. John came home and found me this way. He was sorry for my plight, but really was not able to help too much since we did not own a car, a phone, or anything. He did what was the best thing. He let me cry on his shoulder. Then, on the next day, he helped me pack up my goodies again so I could go to Tibas. This time it was much more successful and I enjoyed spending time telling my route friends about Christmas traditions in America.
Speaking of buses, I am sure all the dead and need-to-be-buried buses end up in Costa Rica. Or at least it was that way when we were there. The way to hail a bus in Costa Rica is to stick out your hand, and wave a little to the ground. I got quite proficient at it. On this particular day, I was in my accustomed spot along the busier street. It was busy, busy. But, I was ready. Most of the buses that passed by were very full with not an inch to spare. But I had waited long enough. I knew I was brave. I could handle the way I had seen others ride the bus. So when the next bus came along, I jumped on. I was hanging on the door with half my body sticking out the bus and going 50 mph. The only thing between me and the fast moving ground was clenched fingers on the glass door. Getting inside the bus after a few miles was really not any better. I finally was able to make my way in the bus and find a seat. As I recovered from my last escapade, I looked down at my feet. There were no floor boards where I was sitting. The street was zipping by right under my feet. I was sending up prayers as fast as the bus was going. It was a ride of a life time. So, when we were in the Grand Canyon this last June and riding the shuttle, I was an old pro. All that bus riding in Central America really paid off.
I’ll share one more story before I wrap it up. I know you are laughing at my expense, but that’s ok. What are friends for anyway? Well, this one again involves food. I was a relatively young cook. We had only been married about 3 years when we went and while I enjoyed cooking, I was definitely still a newbie. The markets in other countries are fascinating to me. They are the very heart of the community. Living and breathing. The colors are so vibrant and the smells so pungent and invigorating. On this day in particular I wanted some chicken. I was at the downtown market and went to the meat stall. I had been there before, and I knew enough Spanish to get what I needed. Or so I thought. I really dislike handling raw meat. I still do. It really is mind over matter for me. So, I did not want my chicken, pollo, to come the way I had seen it before. I wanted mine cleaned and packaged like we had back home. I tried to make my point. Some where along the way I think it got mixed up because the butcher was gone for a very long time. He had a suspicious grin on his face when he handed me my pollo. I had asked for a chicken without a neck. I had assumed that the feet would be cut off and it would be cleaned and plucked. When I got home, I unwrapped my chicken. There it was with the longest neck in the century. I let out a blood curdling scream. I was a city girl. Now, a chicken neck is not screaming material normally, but this day it caught me off guard. I had asked for a chicken without the neck. And here she was with her neck still attached!! It was gross! Double gross! I did the best thing I could think of. I went to my neighbors next door and asked her to cut off the neck. She came, with a grin and her butcher knife and did the neighborly thing. The part that got me? She wanted to take home the prized neck because she wanted to make soup out of it!!! Just when I thought I was learning something, God had other things in store for me.
So, why did I share these stories? Because sometimes in the midst of our suffering it is good to laugh. There are times when the times are tough. Just plain hard. I have found that when I can think of something else and enjoy a good laugh it helps me to remember that God is good. It helps me to remember that life is happening all around me and it can be fun and enjoyable. While I am not a citizen of this world, I do live in it now. There can be joy. Jesus said in John10:10
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
So, go ahead. Laugh. Even if you laugh at me. It’s ok. Laughter is the best medicine after all.