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Funny Things November 30, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 11:55 pm
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I suppose it’s time for a conglomeration of funny moments that have happened recently. So here we go!

I’ll start with a funny story about Mack since he hasn’t made the blog lately. We bought our Christmas tree last week and decorated it with all kinds of odds and ends ornaments leftover from decorating the mission downstairs. One of the ornaments we found were little teddy bears and reindeers that are about 5 inches tall. Mack thinks every ornament on the tree is a toy planted there for him, but he is especially fond of the bears and reindeer. A few days ago, Pabel and Mauricio were working on the roof inside the apartment. I was working on my computer at the time but the distraction was too much, so I went downstairs and left Mack out with them. The next day, Pabel comes to tell us a little secret about the tree. He walks in the door and says that Mack got one of the “muñecas” (dolls) off the tree. Andrew points to one of them hanging up and Pabel says “No, not that one.” Andrew points to another one and Pabel says “No, not that one either” and then points inside the tree. Instead of telling us about the destroyed ornament the day before, Pabel and Mauricio stuffed it inside the tree. Andrew pulled out a teddy bear with his insides coming out and his leg detached. I just think its hilarious that they probably panicked when Mack grabbed it off the tree and took off running around the apartment with it, then hid it inside the tree so we wouldn’t know. Pabel must have had a guilty conscious or something. So now we leave it there so we can all remember it and laugh every time we see it.

It never ceases to amaze me at just how many people here don’t realize that Andrew and I are husband and wife. Mostly children don’t know this which is somewhat understandable. It’s not like we made some big announcement upon our arrival to let them know. But about a month ago, after being here for 3+ months already, Oscar asked me if Andrew and I were brother and sister. Oscar is probably 15 years old and I absolutely adore him. He’s an intelligent kid so I was quite surprised when he didn’t realize that we were married. At least he knows now!

Speaking of Oscar, he is always asking me to practice English which I am happy to do. He is so eager to learn it. The thing about countries outside of the US (or other English speaking countries) is that kids pick up English from a variety of places. American music and movies are the most popular in the world and so rest of the world wants to be a part of it all. So aside from formal training in the classroom, there are random words and phrases that get picked up all over the place. Just about a week ago, Oscar came up to me and said “what up my nigga?” My jaw dropped and my face must have reflected the sense of shock I was experiencing. Oscar took that to mean that he said it wrong. He then corrects himself to “oh wait, is it what up my negro?” No, no, no. NO MAS.

I think most people who have been here know Allison, our 5 year old princessa who loves to be the center of attention. Last week, we hosted a huge meeting here at mission for what’s called the Business Alliance of San Ramon. The group is compromised mostly of American expats who want to make this community a better place. I was coordinating the events for the day and planned for the preschool class to come in and sing a few songs. Laura told them the day before that they were going to be singing in a concert so they were quite excited. As Allison walks around the corner towards the church, she exclaims “Que monton de Gringos!” which translates to “What a mountain (ton) of Gringos!” She never ceases to make me smile. Allison went on to sing a solo of the days of the week and steal the show.

Marco and Stefren are two of my favorites in the preschool class, which is for ages 3-6. They are both 6 years old and absolute characters, for different reasons. Marco is sharp for his age and very well behaved. Stefren is not the brightest crayon in the box and likes to be the class clown. Opposites really do attract. One day while on the playground, they asked if they could play with the boxing headgear. At first I said no, but then I said what the heck, why not. Little boys are technically safer with protective headgear than without… right? So Marco gets his headgear on very quickly while Stefren is still working on his. With no warning whatsoever, Marco head butts Stefren who doesn’t even have his gear on straight and cannot see what’s coming. Stefren goes flying back, arms flailing, into the door he was standing near and almost falls down the steps. Now had he actually fallen, it wouldn’t have been funny. But I about died laughing, tears were streaming down my face because I was laughing so hard.. Luckily, some of the guys on the basketball court saw it too so we were able to enjoy this moment together.

Yohan. I think I could probably stop there for those of us who know Yohan. This kid is a trip, the same one who head butted me once when I got too close to his face in a staring contest two weeks ago. Recently, all of the kids have been making mud pies with dirt and water on the playground. They run to the water fountain, get a mouth full of water, come back to the play area, spit it out on the dirt and start mixing it with their hands. It’s quite disgusting, but perhaps a little innovative. So a few weeks back, Yohan would run get his water and as he was running back towards the play area, a few of the teenage guys would scream at him as he passed to scare him. He must have thought it was so funny because every time, he would spew his water everywhere. Finally, Yohan gets his water and sneaks around the entire perimeter of the playground thinking he’s outsmarted the teenagers and right then, one of them jumps out at him. Again, he spews the water all over the place.  Poor little guy didn’t get to make too many mud pies that day.

Speaking of Yohan, he was playing tag just the other day and as soon as he became “it”, he started pelvic thrusting around the playground to tag the next person. Only Yohan.

One day a while back, I was playing ping pong with Kenneth. I am not great a ping pong, but I was playing a 7 year old so I was feeling pretty good about myself. For some reason, I thought I would be so cool and totally slam the serve to him. The poor little guy never saw it coming. All of a sudden, wham! Right to the forehead. He just stood there stunned for a few moments. Now if I tried that shot a million times, I wouldn’t have been able to make it… but of course not trying, I nail the kid. He handled it so well and actually still wanted to play with me.

And lastly, I will leave you with this gem. I was on the playground with kids on the swings earlier today and Andrew is calling my name from afar. As he approaches, he is looking around the area as if he has lost something. When he gets close he asks “have you seen those 3 little kids I am supposed to be watching?” My first thought was that he is the interim director of recreation, a.k.a the playground guy, and all of these kids are the ones he’s supposed to be watching. Nonetheless, as he described to me what was happening and who the kids were, I realized they were in a classroom doing crafts with someone responsible supervising them. What a priceless question that was.

I admit, some of these are truly just funny to the people who witnessed them. But as I said when I started on this blogging adventure, this is Andrew and I recording our life here to look back on year’s from now and laugh, cry, and then laugh some more as we remember this experience!


What a Day November 22, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 12:01 am
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Some days are just worthy of blog posts solely devoted to the day’s events.

This morning, we decided to go first thing to the hospital to get Andrew’s stitches removed. Now Andrew and I had the same conversation more than once about how easy it is to remove stitches, so easy a caveman could do it. I showed him the tiny little scissors I had that would remove them so easily, and told him how I have even removed my own stitches before! But Andrew wasn’t having any of that. He was going to leave it to the same professionals he previously claimed were incompetent after they gave him no instructions on what to do with his wound in the first place. So we get to the hospital and after a very short wait, get called in. The nurse pulls each stitch up slightly with scissors and then cuts them off with a razor blade. As soon as we left the hospital, I told him he should have taken his chances with me versus the nurse with a razor blade… but at least it ended well.

After the hospital, we went with Jessica to find a Christmas tree for us. She starts by telling us this place is a little far away. We were passing all kinds of things. We saw cows running across the countryside, which I have never seen before. We saw a field of sheep, including a black one, which I have also never seen before. After 20 minutes of weaving in and through the mountainside, we pull up to a place that we would have never been able to find on our own. It was essentially a plant nursery with greenery everywhere. It seemed a bit odd to have Christmas trees in a place like this. Jessica asks the guy working there where the Christmas trees are and of course they are sold out. She asks where another Christmas tree place would be and its back to town and then even further on the opposite side of where we were coming from. After much driving, we pull up to another Christmas tree lot. Half the trees were Charlie Brown 3 foot tall trees, half were somewhat regular size. It didn’t look too promising. We kept walking and found another patch of trees that looked a little better. Of course no one was there to assist us so we called the number hand written on a sign. I suppose there was really nothing to stop us from just walking up, sawing down our tree, throwing it in the truck, and driving off. It was a little odd. Nonetheless, we bought our tree for 7,000 colones, or $14 and it was a done deal.

Meanwhile, today is the day that we decorated the mission for Christmas. Andrew and I worked on putting the greenery and lights on the stage upon our return from the Christmas tree adventure. This was a scene out of National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. We decided to use all white lights for the stage. Of course here, the “white” lights that go out on the strand are apparently replaced with whatever leftover color light bulbs there are. That makes for an interesting time. Andrew plugged the first strand in and all was well. Somewhere along the way of putting up the lights, they all begin flashing… all at different times in different sections. I could not stop laughing at Andrew as he stood there baffled by it all. After it was all said and done, the mission center looks quite fabulous… even with sporadic light show.

The whole day seemed to be going so smoothly. It was a comical day, which is par for the course here, but smooth. When we came upstairs for the day after the kids left, Felicia even surprisingly said that this has been a day where nothing at all has gone wrong. It’s Wednesday, which is discounted movie night so we decided to end the day going to see the new James Bond movie. Yesterday, I was talking with one of the teenage guys here who told me his middle name was Smith… which I didn’t believe for one second. So he said if he could prove it, we had to invite him over for dinner as a bet. I would have never imagined his middle name was legitimately Smith but today he brought his ID for me to see. It’s true. So we gave him the option to come to the movies with us instead since I lost the bet. He of course wanted to go. We all got to the movie theatre about 20 minutes early, bought our tickets, and got in line. We expected them to start taking our tickets about 10 minutes before the start time so we just stood there waiting. Time kept creeping by. Andrew said at one point that it sure would be awful if we were in line for something else. I told him that there weren’t any other showings later than ours on the theatre times website. People kept showing up and getting in line though, even well after the start time. Finally, 40 minutes after the movie was supposed to begin, I decided to go to the front desk and ask what the deal was. I asked the woman why the movie hadn’t started yet. She said it had. I asked why there was still a  long line if it had started. That’s when she tells me that we are in the line for the midnight showing of Twilight. Apparently, we needed to go to the front of the line and go on into our theatre, which would have been impossible to know since we saw no one else bypassing this crazy line. I came back to tell Andrew, Jaikel, and Felicia what the situation was… we all got a good laugh out of that one. There’s always next Wednesday!


ER November 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 5:40 pm
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We just posted a blog a few days ago about the flood in our apartment Tuesday night.  That makes the event that we’re getting ready to write about that much more ridiculous.  We’re going to make this a 3 part blog, with each person involved telling their perspective on this story.  I, Andrew, will be going first.  This past Wednesday morning Ashley had to go with Jessica to San Jose to shop for some items for the Christmas parties.  San Jose is about an hour away so they left at 8 AM.  At 9 AM Felicia and I went down to the playground to play with kids/make sure they don’t kill each other.  It was a slow morning, as only two kids were with me on the playground and the few others were up in the classrooms.  I was playing tag with Alma and Alex, two 6 year olds.  There is an area of the playground that is a jungle gym, which is mainly utilized by the younger children.  There are several platforms about 4 to 5 feet off the ground that the kids can climb up to, and there’s a slide on the other end for them to get down.  Underneath these platforms are open spaces that the kids can run through and play.  Being about 6 feet tall, if I want to follow the kids through these passageways I have to duck down.  I was chasing Alex through the passageway, which I’ve probably done hundreds of times in the past 4 months, as fast as I possibly could in a bent over position.  When I was almost out into the open air I thought I had plenty of room and raised up, hitting my head on the underside edge of one of the platforms.  I felt a sudden, very blunt pain and instantly knew the result wasn’t going to be good.  I was pretty stunned, so I fell to the ground once I got out of the passageway, and the kids started laughing as they thought I was playing around.  When I told them to back away and they saw the blood on my hand from reaching for my head, they knew I was no longer playing.  They started screaming “Sangre!” and ran up towards the classrooms in a panic.  I have to be honest that one of the first thoughts in my head was “I’m glad today is my off day from the gym, but I’m probably going to have to miss tomorrow…crap.”  Yeah I know, I’m obsessed.  Anyway, I got up and followed them, and met one of the volunteers Dylan outside of the classrooms.  I told him what happened, and upon seeing my head he ran to the kitchen to get a rag so I could apply pressure to my head.  I walked up toward the multipurpose room where several of the kids were playing foosball.  They all saw my bloody face and one of the older guys, Steven, started screaming for Laura, the head teacher.  Dylan came back with the rag and I sat down while everyone gathered around.  For those of you who know me well, you know this isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to putting holes in my head.  Even without seeing the wound I knew I needed to go to the hospital to get stitches.  Pastor Maiko came out of his office and told me to get in his car so we could go to the hospital.  I ran inside the apartment first to get some water and grab my wallet and passport.  Once I got in the car, I could look in the mirror and see the extent of my injuries.  I felt the most pain on top of my head (which I later realized was superficially cut and bruised) but saw a nice 1 1/2 inch gash in the top-middle of my forehead.  The cut slanted up and to the left, and it forked off once crossing into my hairline, making a nice little flap of skin with hair on it that was hanging off my head a little.  I don’t get queasy from seeing blood or mangled body parts, but seeing your own forehead like that is enough to make anyone uneasy.  I made a joke to Maiko that I looked like a walker (zombie), as The Walking Dead is one of our favorite shows and we had just watched it together the night before.  The hospital is only a 5 minute drive away from the mission, so that was good news.  I didn’t know what to expect at the hospital and I didn’t know how our insurance here was going to work.  Maiko called Ashley on the way and I got a chance to speak with her briefly so she could tell me our insurance cards were in the nightstand next to our bed.  We entered the lobby of the Emergency Room, which was actually just a tiny space followed by two parallel hallways.  The waiting room was through a doorway off one oft these hallways.  Maiko spoke to the man at the door briefly, and then told me to follow the man so he could leave me to retrieve our insurance cards.  I was instantly thinking “Don’t you dare leave me here alone!” but all that came out was “Uh…”  He told me again to follow the man, so I did, and Maiko left.  He took me to a room with three hospital beds in it, with only the first bed being occupied by an older man.  I was amazed that I walked in the ER and was immediately taken to a room.  In the United States I’ve never waited less than an hour to be seen in an ER.  I went to the second bed while a man (maybe a male nurse because I don’t think he was a doctor) and a woman began to clean the blood off my face and ask me what happened.  I explained to them the best I could and apologized for my mediocre Spanish.  After the initial cleaning they went back to working on the man next to me.  I couldn’t see exactly what they were doing but I think they were stitching up his right arm as all I could see was a pair of bloody scissors.  Right about this time I began praying.  “God, please don’t let these people stitch me up wrong and mess up my head.”  I didn’t know how qualified these people were but I was willing to bet the standards weren’t up to par with the doctors in the United States.  Even though I really wasn’t nervous, I realized I was in the middle of one of my worst nightmares… being alone in the Emergency Room of some tiny hospital in Latin America.  I had to wait about 30 minutes  before the medical staff turned their attention to me.  Sometime during the middle of that wait I was starting to wonder where Maiko was.  Thankfully, he walked in right before they started working on me.  Although I feel comfortable understanding the gist of what most people are telling me in most situations, I wanted to be crystal clear on what was happening with my cracked open head, and Maiko was the only way that would be possible.  The doctor came in to administer the shots of Novocaine  which was a real joy; sticking a needle in my throbbing forehead several times so that I wouldn’t feel any pain.  That kind of defeats the purpose of trying to eliminate pain.  Then the doctor covered my face with a towel and began to stitch.  He told me to let him know if I could feel pain as he was sewing in the first stitch.  Hmm…maybe that one was a fluke, let me see if the second one hurts too.  Yep, that pretty much feels like a needle being pushed through my skin.  I flagged him down and told him via Maiko that the Novocaine didn’t seem to have set in yet.  He gave me a few more shots, and finished off the rest of the stitches.  I received 6 stitches in my forehead, which brings my all-time head stitch count up to 20.  The male nurse put some antibiotic gel on the wound and tried to clean some of the blood out of my hair.  Whatever he used to clean my hair gave me quite an interesting hair style.  I would say it was a cross between Ace Ventura and Cameron Diaz from There’s Something About Mary.  The doctor didn’t tell me anything about post-procedure care, so I asked him two questions:  When can I shower, and when can I workout?  He responded with 3 hours, and 3 days, respectively.  I thought the shower answer sounded a little off, and I’m glad I researched it because I found out you shouldn’t get stitches wet at all for 24 to 48 hours.  Needless to say I didn’t shower 3 hours later.  I also went to the gym Friday night, so I didn’t listen to either piece of advice from the doctor.  Yea, I guess I’m hard headed, but that has seemed to work in my favor seeing how accident prone I am.

Felicia’s side! After realizing that Ashley was going to be gone for the day, I figured the most stressful part of my day would be having to prepare the craft for the preschoolers without her help.  Little did I know, things would get a little more crazy than just having to cut out a dozen or so ovals out of construction paper.  After Laura rounded up the preschool kids from the playground, we made our way to the preschool room, sat in a circle on the floor and started singing the routine songs about the days of the week, the months of the year, etc.  We made it about halfway through the months when we suddenly heard someone frantically screaming Laura’s name.  As she ran out of the room, I realized I was left, alone, in a room full of 10 to 12 preschoolers and I know little to no Spanish.  So, while attempting to keep the room under some sort of control, Dylan sprinted to the window and screamed, “Where’s Ashley?!”  Flustered, I responded that she was gone for the day and as he ran away, I could hear him screaming, “What do you mean she’s gone?!”  At that point, I figured something was seriously wrong and that Andrew was most likely involved.  I also figured that I should probably see what was going on and next thing I know, I see Andrew walking up from the playground, holding a towel to his head with blood streaming down his face.  Not really sure what to do, I tried to tell the kids to sit down and be quiet so I could hear what Andrew was saying.  Of course, I couldn’t really make out much but I could tell that he was talking really, really slow.  I watched as he got into Maiko’s car and took off to what I could guess was the hospital.  Still unsure of what happened, I was handed a phone with Jessica on the other line and was told to explain what was going on.  I tracked Dylan down, let him take care of that and made my way back to the preschool classroom to find Laura calmly singing songs with the kids again.  Needless to say, the ovals that I cut about an hour before, were turned into beautiful penguins during craft time.

Now it’s my turn (Ashley) to tell this crazy story! Jessica and I planned to go into San Jose early Wednesday morning to finish up buying some things for this year’s Christmas parties. We left just after 8:00 a.m. and weren’t planning on being back here until 1:00 p.m. or so as it takes over an hour to make it into the city and we had a couple of places we wanted to go to. As we are standing in the middle of this wholesale school/office supply store, Jessica looks down at her phone and sees a missed called from Maiko’s wife, Erika. We both thought that was odd since she just spoke to Erika, so Jessica said she thought she needed to call her back. When she got her on the line, I could tell something was wrong. Jessica then told me that Andrew had been in an accident and was on the way to the hospital. My heart sank and I began to panic… what kind of accident? Then she just told me he had a head injury and needed to go right away to the hospital with Maiko. She hung up and called Maiko immediately. He was on his way to the hospital with Andrew. I wanted to speak to Andrew right away. I asked him what happened and he briefly explained the playground incident. He was talking slower than normal and I asked if he was OK. Andrew’s response was that he just didn’t know. Of course I am panicking for real now. For Andrew to not say “Oh, I’m fine. No big deal!” had me thinking that maybe there was a serious problem. We were at least an hour away and then some because we were waiting for our items to be pulled from the warehouse. Neither of us had any idea how our insurance was going to work here, and of course the insurance cards were at the house. I explained where they were and how to find them assuming Maiko and Andrew would just turn around and get them since the hospital is less than 5 minutes away. After getting off the phone with him, I distinctly remember telling Jessica that Maiko better not leave him alone. Of course at this point, Maiko had already dropped him off at the hospital and went back to the mission to find the insurance cards, which I didn’t know until later. Jessica tried calling Laura for more information but no one had much else to say besides there was a lot of blood, he had a head injury and needed to get to the hospital right away. We ended up waiting at least another 20-30 minutes to get checked out and out of the store we were in. Who knew this store would have a 3 step check out process that would take forever and a day. On our drive back to San Ramon, Maiko calls back to tell us Andrew needed 6 stitches and it’s going to cost about $200, but at least Andrew could pay it with his credit card. Andrew never travels with cash, and neither does Maiko, so I was quite worried about how they would pay for it. So at least I was a little relieved there. When we made it back to the mission, it was just about lunchtime and Andrew was already home. That’s the fastest emergency room trip I have ever heard of. I walked through the door and Andrew’s hair is all jacked up, he looked like a crazy person. One of the first things he said to me was that his stitch count has gone up again. And though the thought had crossed my mind earlier, I wasn’t about to mention anything about working out when Andrew says that he is awfully disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to go to the gym for a day or two. Typical!

It’s a crazy life we live here, never a dull moment!


The Flood November 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 12:18 am
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Man, yesterday was an interesting day! This is a story that is only funny way after the fact…

On Tuesdays, Andrew and I work all day doing education/recreation activities downstairs. After the kids leave at 5:00, we usually get about an hour to relax and then head right back downstairs to do youth recreation time from 6:00 – 8:00. Yesterday was no different. We were are all downstairs with the kids having a good time playing random games. I believe sometime around 7:00, I came upstairs to use the bathroom. I was in and out quickly so I could get back downstairs, not really paying attention.

Around 7:45 or so, Felicia went upstairs to check her email and go to the bathroom. She noticed water in the hallway and thought it may be the washing machine, but then heard the toilet running. She ran downstairs to tell Andrew what had happened. At this point, I was standing outside collecting basketballs from the kids as they were getting ready to leave for the night while simultaneously talking to Jessica on the phones about our plans to go to San Jose today. One of the kids pointed up towards our bedroom. There was a stream of water flowing down. This was bad news. I stopped mid-sentence in my conversation with Jessica and said, “we’ve got a big problem here, I have to call you back!”

Now I had to get all these kids out of here… and they won’t hesitate to let you know that it’s only 7:50, not 8:00. As I am wrapping things up downstairs, Andrew comes running back down and tells me the apartment is flooded. It was hard to really imagine what he meant by “flooded” until I got up there myself. What a nightmare.

I walked inside and the water was flowing 2/3 the way down the hallway. As I made my way through the water in the hall, I quickly realized that two of the bedrooms, the bathrooms and the laundry area had over an inch of water throughout the entire space. Mack was slippin and slidin all over the place, curious as ever. We quickly put him in the first bedroom, the only one without any water in it yet. We made a wall of towels at the edge of the water down the hall so it wouldn’t go any further. Ronald, the guard, came to help along with Pabel, the maintenance guy. Pabel happened to be dropping off his car for the evening and Andrew asked him for some help. One of the teenage guys also came in to assist. Everyone was sweeping water to one area and Pabel was scooping it up in buckets to dump in the shower. I was grabbing things up off the floor as fast as I could. Water was everywhere. We had to move furniture all around the rooms and hallway to try and soak up all of it. We were flying through towels.

Meanwhile, the phone is ringing off the hook and I finally realized it’s probably Jessica calling back to make sure no one is headed to the hospital and nothing is on fire. I explained to her that there was water everywhere. She kind of laughed at first and then I said, “Jessica, you are not understanding me right now… I am standing in a lake of water inside the apartment. There is literally water in almost the entire apartment right now.” Needless to say, she let me off the phone real quick.

During the chaos, I said to Felicia multiple times “I just don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.” When in doubt, laugh. After such a long day with the kids and then this, if I had started to cry at any point, I wouldn’t have stopped. So we laughed. If you can imagine such a thing, all 6 of us were able to get the floors more or less free of water in about an hour. When we initially came upstairs to the mess, I thought it’d be an all night affair. After we finished getting everything cleaned up, Andrew and I were talking to Jaikel, the teenager who came to help us. We asked him how he would describe all of this and he answered “un desastre” (a disaster). Right, he was. We’re still not done washing all those towels!


Catch-up on Life November 10, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 12:15 am
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It’s time to play catch-up. I don’t necessarily have one thing in particular to write about tonight, but a variety of happenings around the mission here lately.

I have taken over the preschool program in the last month or so. Laura went on vacation and I covered for her… then she “gifted” me the program upon her return. Truth be told, I fell in love with the class the very first time I sat in on it during my first few weeks here, so I really do consider it a gift. The program is for children ages 3 to 6 twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Between the two classes, we have an average of over twenty children coming each day. One day, I am going to write a blog called Kids Say the Darnedest Things, Spanish version. There is no more precious age group than this one. We open each class with a simple prayer, it’s really all I am capable of in Spanish… but I tell myself it’s simple for the children’s sake. One day, I let a 5 year old named Allison pray for us, she wanted to so badly so I finally said yes. She began by thanking God for the day and ended with thanking God for the food we were about to eat. If only preschool class involved food in any way! I take that back. Just two days ago, we were making penguins in the shapes of squares to go review shapes. The tiniest little girl in the class, Nazareth, dips her little baby finger into the glue and slops a good bit of it right into her mouth. It must not have been too awful, she didn’t even flinch. The whole table looked quite confused when I told them that the glue doesn’t go in the mouth. Something amusing seems to happen everyday with the preschoolers. Just yesterday, I was having a staring contest with Yohan. You really have to know Yohan to appreciate this story, and if you have ever been to Bajo Tejares… you probably know the little devil I am talking about. He is a touch crazy to say the least. We were staring at each other, eyeball to eyeball, and he kept getting closer and closer. I really should have known better but just as he was about 2 inches from my face, he headbutts me right on the nose. It was quite the painful sensation and I’m probably lucky my nose isn’t broken from it. Lesson learned, never let Yohan get that close to your face.

Andrew has taken over the recreation aspect of the mission recently. He’s doing a phenomenal job with it as it’s no easy task. The children love him. I can always hear them yelling for Andrew to come play with them. There are 2 variations to his name these days, Handrew and Andreuss, the first with a very strong H sound in the beginning and the second sounds just like Dr. Seuss. Yesterday, after we came upstairs for the evening, Andrew tells us about an interesting encounter that day. He walked into the center and heard Julio, who is probably 12 years old, and a few guys all huddled around Julio looking at something. Andrew went over to see what they were staring at. Julio had one single hair on his nipple and they all thought it was the weirdest thing. Then suddenly they are all lifting their shirts up and beginning to examine their own body hair situation. Andrew told them that it was normal since he was getting older and showed him his own chest hair. As he walked away, he heard one of them say “hold still!” And just like that, Julio’s single hair was no more.

Last weekend, we got to experience the First Communion of some of the children of Bajo Tejares. It was really wonderful. The church is quite small but is beautifully landscaped. As Andrew and I walked up to the church, we immediately saw Valeria with her communion group. She was the one who invited us and was so excited to see us there. She looked stunning in her communion dress. We also saw Nicole, the sponsor child of Andrew’s mother there, also looking beautiful in her dress. Interestingly enough, Nicole is a pretty quiet little girl who didn’t have too much of a connection with either Andrew or myself before the communion. Since that day, she comes up to us every time she is here to give us a hug. And even though I didn’t recognize anyone else, a little girl recognized me and came running up to me asking if I could make sure to get a picture of her brother taking his first communion. A few days before the communion, I had asked how long it would likely take. The answer I received was about an hour. Why I didn’t immediately double that time in my head is still a mystery. I live in Latin America now, I need to get on Latin American time. Sure enough, sitting in a packed church on wooden pews with no air conditioning, easily an hour and a half into the totally Spanish service, I realize that this is obviously a 2+ hour venture. Good Lord in Heaven. Situations like that are the humorous part of living in this culture and afterwards, you just can’t help but laugh.

Tuesday was my 26th birthday and I very much enjoyed celebrating it here in Costa Rica. Mack’s birthday falls around mine and since he was a rescue puppy, we don’t know the exact date. So we call my birthdate his as well. The night before, I made Mack a birthday cake for the first time. It was made of peanut butter, honey, vanilla, shredded carrots, and flour. It smelled quite delicious. For lunch, the entire staff and volunteers went out to Aroma’s. We had a fun time. After lunch, we let Mack eat his birthday cake. Initially, he just kept licking the icing off of it. Then Andrew crumbled it up for him so he knew to eat it all. And with his hands covered in cake and peanut butter icing, rubbed them all over my face. How lovely. Andrew also brought me a beautiful flower arrangement of orange roses. Tons of people wished me a Happy Birthday throughout the day here at the mission. Later that evening, we watched the results from the election to end the day. That’s the only part of the day I wish had turned out differently!

We’ve been doing a lot of Christmas shopping recently to prepare for the parties coming up in December. Felicia and I will walk to various stores in town and carry all kinds of things back on foot. It’s a bit of a workout. Our last trip, we ended up carrying 14 bottles of shampoo and conditioner back… and 2 gallons of milk. That was a bit much. Andrew and I have made our first solo trip to the Wal-Mart, which I should note that we only know how to get to via the airport. By via the airport I mean we turn into the arrivals and departures area, drive through to the exit, get back on the highway going the opposite direction, and get off at the Wal- Mart. I’m sure there is an easier way, we just don’t know it yet. I’ve also been working relentlessly on the Christmas party lists so that we are ready for the parties. We will have around 400 people coming to the parties this year and each person will receive their own gift bag and goodies inside. It’s a lot of work, but somebody’s gotta do it!

Lastly, people ask us often how the Spanish is coming along. I feel like it’s our version of “are we there yet?” It’s hard to give an exact answer because learning a language is such an abstract thing to track, but others think we are doing well. At the last tween girls meeting, I was standing with a few girls and one of the girls turned to the other and asked if I spoke any Spanish. The response, without hesitation, was “Oh yes, Ashley speaks Spanish.” A few people on staff have told us they think we are doing very well for the short amount of time we have been here. After all, 4 months is not as much time as it seems when it comes to learning a new language. At this point, we can make our way through almost any conversation with a teenager or adult who is willing to explain things to us if we don’t understand or speak slower. We are also doing much better understanding the little kids since we are spending so much time with that age group. Sometimes I think of random words or phrases in English and am amazed that I could actually say the same thing in Spanish if I wanted to. Most recently, we have had one of my former high school small group girls (Felicia) staying with us and she doesn’t speak any Spanish. Whenever she wants to speak to someone else here or someone wants to say something to her, a translator is required. It still surprises me when I am able to translate anything for anyone. It’s crazy to me that I am capable of doing that at this point. Speaking of Felicia… she was outside playing with a child this morning when an American woman came up to her and asked her how she was doing. Felicia responded that she was doing very well. The American woman patted her on the shoulder and told her that her English was so good. We all laughed at that one. That is one thing I enjoy here, being the resident expert in English!


Holy Empanadas! November 2, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 12:49 am
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It has been far too long since my last blog post, but we have been quite busy here. We have 3 people on staff out for various reasons… a baby, a broken clavicle, and a stint in the hospital. What are the chances of all of that happening at once? We’ve had our very own Frankenstorm taking place. Nonetheless, tonight’s blog is about empanadas.

Two nights ago, Maga comes walking into the center on a mission. Youth rec was happening so Andrew and I were downstairs supervising the games. Maga tells me that she will be making empanadas the next day to raise money for a family in need. As we discuss the details a bit further, she tells Pastor Maiko and I who the family is. She also tells us that a nearby baker has donated some of the ingredients but she still needed a few things. I agreed to buy all the potatoes she needed and Maiko offered to talk to a few of the leaders in the church and take up a special offering. The next morning (yesterday), we went to the market and bought everything Maga still needed with the money collected. As we pulled out of the mission, the guard stopped us and let us know very quietly that he’d like to pitch in some money to help the family too. If I had to pick some of the poorest people in Bajo, this guard and his family would fall into the mix.

Now some background on the family and the situation. This family moved to Bajo Tejares from Limon, Costa Rica. The mother has three children, the two younger ones are named Jerry and Wen and they look like little black children. You can spot them out of a crowd here in a heartbeat. That’s because their father is actually from Limon which has a large Afro-Caribbean populations as this province is on the Caribbean coast. Apparently by coming here, they were in hiding from the father who is involved in drugs and said to be a very dangerous man. In any event, the family needed money fast to turn their power and water back on as their landlord was trying to kick them out. When the family first arrived, the children were extremely quiet. If you smiled at them, they would just look away. Jerry and Wen, in particular, just appeared to be broken and damaged. I hate even using those words to describe a child, but I can’t think of a better way. There was simply no joy in their eyes. I personally believe that all children deserve the chance to be mischievous. They deserve to be carefree and act like little devils from time to time. When I first met these little boys, that was my secret hope for them… that they would eventually feel so comfortable here at the mission that we’d lose sight of the damaged little boys that once walked through the gates and only see two precious little mischief makers.

It has been a slow process, but Jerry and Wen now adore Andrew. They have become so attached to him. One day I walked out to the playground and Jerry was standing there looking broken-hearted. I asked Andrew what was wrong with Jerry and he said that Jerry was upset with him because he couldn’t play with him just then. Though he was upset, Jerry continued to watch Andrew’s every move. Finally, Andrew walked over to Jerry and asked him to play. His face lit up and his mood immediately changed. It’s literally all he wanted is to play with Andrew. Each day, the boys run up to Andrew before they leave and give him a big hug.

So back to the empanadas… Maga began cooking in the morning with the expectation to have them ready by lunch. Of course, she was cooking tons of empanadas, so that was probably typical Latin American time estimation. I told Andrew we were all eating empanadas for lunch but they weren’t quite ready by then. I had to run an errand with Jessica after lunch but when we returned, the empanadas were finally ready! We started with 6, 2 for each of us (Andrew, me, and Felicia). Andrew is apparently not so great at picking out empanadas as his were almost all fried and little filling. Mine, however, were quite delicious. In fact after I ate my 2, I quickly realized I wanted more. Felicia and I walked outside to go to Maga’s house and saw someone down the hill walking off with the box of empanadas. We went after her. As it turns out, it was the mother of the family. She had walked into a house to sell some of the empanadas. We awkwardly waited in the street. When she walked out of the house, she laughed because she knew were waiting to buy more empanadas.

Yesterday afternoon, things were winding down and the center was about to close. Maga came back for the final sale of empanadas. I have never seen so many people, children and adults, buying up empanadas. I personally bought 2 more for dinner. Andrew bought 2 more for dinner. He also bought Kevin 2 empanadas for his birthday. That is a sweet side story that I have to share. Andrew bought the empanadas for Kevin and handed them to him. Kevin went to reach in his pocket to pay Andrew for them and Andrew told him that he had already paid for them and it was a small birthday present. Kevin looked so surprised and gave Andrew a big hug. This kid is 17 years old and doesn’t think too much of himself. He definitely needs a boost in self-esteem and more confidence in himself. Maybe that is why it surprised him so much for Andrew to want to give him a little something for his birthday. Speaking of birthdays, Felicia told me that it was Wen’s birthday that day too. I asked her which Wen and she responded “It’s empanada Wen’s birthday!” Just between us, we had bought 14 empanadas. As we finished up our final transaction, Jerry ran up to his mother and saw the money in her hands. He was jumping up and down and said excitedly, we have money! It was sad and cute to me all at the same time. Kids may not understand a lot about finances, but they feel the stress of what being poor is.

At the end of the day, we had all had our fair share of empanadas. Maga came by to tell me that we had raised about 45,000 colones which is around $90. She very specifically said “we” raised that money, and that is the best part of all of this. One of the things I love most about living here is the sense of community I get to experience day in and day out. Maybe none of us have very much to give, but we all have something. We can all do something. I think the key is to jump into action before you let your mind talk you out of it. It’s what we did.

I had an old song from the 60’s stuck in my head last night, maybe a little cheesy, but described my thoughts from the day pretty well and worth a listen every now and again…

Think of your fellow man
Lend him a helping hand
Put a little love in your heart
You see it’s getting late
Oh, please don’t hesitate
Put a little love in your heart

And the world will be a better place
And the world will be a better place
For you and me
You just wait and see