Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Another Vacation?

I gave my 9th grade English students an assignment last week to describe an event that didn’t turn out the way you thought it would. Little did I know I would have a prime example to share with them so soon.

One week ago today I had a meeting with the immigration office in Tela, and I found out I needed to leave the country within the week to renew my visa. The only rules – I must travel by airplane, I must be out of the country for at least three days, and I can’t go to any of the surrounding countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua). After a few hasty phone calls and emails, the amazing Young Adult Service Corps staff booked me on a flight to Costa Rica to leave that Friday. Lucky for me, fellow Honduras YASCer Claire also needed to leave the country by the end of the month. So within a few short days, we found ourselves on a flight to San Jose.
Getting on the plane

What I'm pretty sure is Lago de Nicaragua taken from the plane.
I have to say, I am absolutely amazed by the way so many people worked together with such little time to make this trip possible. With only three days’ notice, Yanick who works for church in New York was able to book our flights, and communicate our arrival with the Episcopal Church of Costa Rica. The Costa Rican church in turn arranged for a van to pick us up from the airport, helped us book bus tickets and a hotel room for a vacation paradise at the foot of a volcano, and got us on our way.A few hours later we arrived at Hotel El Silencio del Campo in La Fortuna at the base of the Arenal Volcano.

After the craziness of the week leading up to that day I was so happy to be in an amazingly comfortable hotel with a hot shower. To top it off, the hotel had natural hot spring pools. Claire and I had an amazing time lounging in the hot water discussing all sorts of things from what we miss the most from home to what have we learned about ourselves and God during our time abroad. We also enjoyed a wonderful hike through the rainforest. The funniest thing about our trip? We never even saw the volcano. It was raining so much the clouds were covering it the whole weekend.
Hot Springs

Believe it or not this is a ficus growing around another tree and slowly suffocating it. Crazy!

Claire and me in the rain forest

View of Arenal Lake, the largest man-made lake in Central America.

La cascada escondida - the hidden waterfall (and that's me!)


We also got to milk a cow, I guess I can check that off my bucket list :)
On Sunday we headed back to the Episcopal Church guest house. We had a great time hanging out with a young adult missionary from the States named Paul. He took us to a great place for dinner. The next morning, Claire and I took a bus downtown to do some exploring, and then Paul took us to see one of the church’s community projects. It was such a great experience for me. The Costa Rican church has put a lot of time and energy into creating what they call a daycare center. But it’s really much more than that. It’s a place where single moms can take their children from 6am to 6pm, giving them an opportunity to work or go back to school. I will definitely be posting more about this in a separate blog post. Afterwards, we got lunch and then headed to the airport.
Apparently this is what we would have seen if it wasn't raining (I found this poster in the airport).
You may be thinking this is the end, but this story doesn’t turn out exactly as expected. After waiting in the airport for a while, we were told our flight would be delayed an hour. As that time drew closer I began to get concerned about the fact that we weren’t boarding and the employees were talking on the phone with concerned looks on their faces. Come to find out, our plane was having mechanical issues, and the flight was cancelled. The airline put us up in a hotel and comped our dinner and breakfast before flying us out with another airline the next day. After several lines, a few hours of waiting in the airport, a 20 minute van drive, a 2 hour bus ride, and a short taxi ride, I finally made it home to Tela. It was really nice to sleep in my own bed last night, but I can’t really complain about an extra day of vacation in Costa Rica :)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Holiday Travels and Visitors!

¡Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! As Christmas approached in Tela, a lot of people asked me if I was going home. And a lot of people were surprised to find out I was staying here for the holidays. At first, I was worried about spending Christmas away from home. I was going to miss so much. I didn’t sing O Holy Night at the Christmas Eve service at St. Michael’s. I didn’t go to my grandpa’s house in my pajamas Christmas morning for breakfast and a gift exchange. I didn’t have turkey or ham for Christmas dinner. Was it hard to be away from home for Christmas? Did I miss my family and their traditions? Yes. But although I missed home, I was blessed to experience Christmas in a whole new way.

The Christmas celebration began with the lighting of the Christmas tree earlier in December (see my last blog post), and it just continued from there. On December 20th the school put on a play. The Christmas and Epiphany story was broken up into 12 scenes, each with different students and directed by different teachers. I got to co-direct the story of the angel appearing to the shepherds, and the shepherds going to see Jesus. It was a lot of fun!

Christmas vacation began the next day. In the morning I hopped on an early bus to San Pedro Sula to meet fellow YASCer Claire for a weekend trip to Lago de Yojoa, the largest lake in the country. It was a wonderful weekend of hiking, tubing down the river, cliff jumping into the lake, and just relaxing after the big push through finals and grading before break.

We left Lago de Yojoa on the 23rd, and after an interesting day of travel, we made it back to Tela and wrapped some presents for my friend and her two daughters who were coming over the next day. In Honduras, Christmas is celebrated on the 24th, and there is no ‘Christmas Eve’ as we have in the United States. But, being from the United States, Claire and I decided we would still have a traditional North American style Christmas dinner on the 25th.

On Honduran Christmas day, my friend and her daughters came over. We made tortillas, ate lunch and opened presents. The evening meant church and a potluck dinner. We sang some songs with familiar tunes, and had a delicious Christmas dinner, complete with tamales.

On North American Christmas day, we had roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, and steamed vegetables with a few friends. It was a lot of fun and really delicious. Shout out to Claire who made her first whole roasted chicken! I had grand plans of making a pumpkin pie until I realized I didn’t have a pie tin. I improvised and made a pumpkin cake instead, and it turned out pretty good!

The next day Claire and I rented a cab to take us back to San Pedro Sula. We dropped Claire off at her apartment, and picked up my parents from the airport! My parents and I have spent the last week exploring Tela and playing a lot of card games. It was so much fun for me to hang out with my parents and show them where I’ve been living. Plus, I was able to be with my dad to celebrate his birthday on the 31st. It was the first birthday he ever spent out of the country! Today, on the 5 month anniversary of my time in Honduras, and after a very short week together, I took my parents back to the airport. They are currently waiting in the Mexico City airport for their flight to San Diego.

This holiday season has been filled with lots of new experiences, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world! And now, as I look forward to a new year, I am excited to see what God has in store for me.