This past week 7 very brave souls took a journey that none of us will soon forget. OK, we were not that brave, but we did take a trip and we will not forget it anytime soon. The week is over and the scouting trip to Costa Rica is in the books and a new work is in the second phase of planning. Allow me to report what we have seen and done.
The scouting team consisted of Brian "McGyver" Steffy; Steve "Sparky" Kemp; Margarita Conchita Reeves; Never Ben Wright (aka Nervous Nellie, the food nazi, and blown gasket); Jill "Jewels the walking blond joke" Wright; Minor "Cinco minutos" Perez; and Terry "El Jefe" Reeves. With a team like this, you know anything but the ordinary would happen. I am proud to report we lived up to this reputation. We have come, conquered, and left our impressions everywhere. Gringo mania is now a commonly used expression in Costa Rica (at least in some circles).
Let me begin by stating the obvious: Costa Rica was well named. This country is the most beautiful place I have ever visited... and that includes west Tennessee. Ken Haab's popular word, "Lush," was used to the point of overuse. The vast array of flora and fauna was amazing. The dense jungles, rain forests, cloud forests, and desert-like vegetation was like a field study of biology. The mountains, volcanoes, canyons, vistas, plains, and coastline a study of geology and geography. The monkeys, birds, sloths, lizards, crocodiles, and insects was like a study in zoology. In other words, we were overwhelmed (very similar to many of the classes I took in college). In all honesty, words cannot describe what we saw.
Of course my main point of reference for comparison is Honduras. Which is not a fair comparison, but it was really the only one I had to work with for the trip. And for many of you that are reading this blog, it is the only point of reference you have, too. Since I have traveled all over Honduras I found myself comparing different towns, cities, areas, etc. with what I saw in Costa Rica. I constantly found myself (along with the others) saying things such as, "This reminds me of Choluteca... this reminds me of the road that we use to go out to Didasko... this reminds me of the road that leads out to Santa Ana... this reminds me of the intersection that we see when we enter Teguc from the Good Shepherd Children's Home... this neighborhood reminds me of Los Pinos...." Minor, who attends Freed-Hardeman and is from Costa Rica (and our guide / interpretor for the trip) has never been to Honduras. All of our references were driving him crazy...
When asked by Nervous Nellie Wright what the most obvious contrasts were between Honduras and Costa Rica, the team came up with a few things for the list. 1. The country is obviously better off financially. 2. The roads are greatly superior (I would even go on to say wonderful). They were well paved, striped, and had reflectors (known as cat eyes in Costa Rica because they are red). 3. The cars are nicer. And the buses. 4. The air is cleaner. 5. There is VERY little trash and litter anywhere. The country is very clean. 6. There is a lot of grass and it is well manicured and trimmed. 7. The people are better educated and therefore able to get better jobs. 8. The core family unit is much stronger. The male presence in the homes is obvious. 9. Traffic laws are actually obeyed! 10. There is a very strong middle class which makes the infrastucture more stable.
We found many similarities as well. 1. The natural beauty of the two countries are very much alike. 2. Both are very mountainous. 3. The foods are very similar: lots of beans and rice with chicken, beef, pork, and fish. Lots of fresh fruits. 4. Both are major exporters of pineapple, bananas, and coffee. 5. The people of both countries are very welcoming and American friendly. 6. Both countries operate on Latino time (starting and ending times seems to be a point of reference and is not to be taken literally). 7. The opportunity for evangelism is great. Both countries are very open and willing to study and learn. 8. Tegucigalpa and San Jose are both huge cities with lots of traffic congestion. And like Honduras, most of the Costa Rican population can be found in about 5 or 6 major cities. 9. Futbol is king (aka soccer). 10. American influences (resturants, grocery products, fashion, etc) are everywhere.
During the week we were here, we traveled about a bijillion kilometers. If you want to convert that into miles, it would be 1,200 miles, more or less (mas o menos). And most of that is driving up and over mountain after mountain, on winding and curving roads. I would have to use the power of square to calculate how many times I pushed the clutch in to change gears on the 15 passenger van we rented. I would also need a calculator to add up the number of 1 lane bridges we crossed. We saw the aftermath of several rock slides, toppled trees blocking the road, and road erosion, causing driving to become constant "We nearly met Jesus today" moments. Not that meeting Jesus is a bad thing... we just didn't want to be early arrivals.
We traveled to the southern part of Costa Rica, to the area of Perez Zeledon and Buenos Aires. This valley produces tons of pineapple and other fruits. We were able to see one of the 6 Indian reservations located in this area. Over 45,000 native Indians live in this area. We also traveled to the western Pacific coast to see Manuel Antonio National Park. We saw miles of Coconut farms in this area. Although hot as blazes, Choluteca still wins in the "heat index" competition! We also went to the very mountainous northern region where Arenal, a very active volcano, can be found. Coffee plantations line the hillsides and thermal hot springs can be found here. We also stayed in the central area of the country, just outside San Jose, where lots of factories, international business outsourcing centers, and huge shopping districts can be found.
The fellowship of the team came to an end on Tuesday when Brian was the first to go back to the States. Steve followed on Wednesday while Ben and Jill left Friday (today). Minor, Margaret and I leave Saturday. We were supposed to leave Friday but God blessed us with an extra day when we found out that our plane was overbooked. We bravely volunteered to stay and fly home tomorrow. In exchange for our kindness and sacrificial spirit, we were able to stay in a very nice hotel tonight with dinner and breakfast provided (and complimentary round trip tickets for a future flight of our choice). But, best of all, we were able to spend the entire day with Rodolfo (Rudy). Today was his day off from work so he took a 2 hour bus ride from Cartago to be with his Gringo papacita and mamacita. We even had time to have Rudy pull a phone prank on Nathan (although Nate claims he did not fall for the prank because he recognized Rudy's voice.... personally I do not buy it!).
My next posting will go into detail about the meeting we had with the missionary that is working in Buenos Aires and the planning sessions we had with him. As I close, I will use a phrase that is used in Costa Rica... Pura Vida!!!!! May God bless the efforts of this week as Torch makes plans to bring our 1st team to Costa Rica in May, 2011.