"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' "
Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Ferry

Alright, I've been on that ferry so many times now that it barely phases me, but Sunday's ferry ride to get here was like a party boat or something.  The boat departed at 9 am so every vehicle and person had to be  situated well before this time.  This means at quarter till 9 people were cracking open the cans of beer.  No thank you.

One of the crew members on the boat had either partaken(?) in a few early morning beers himself or was just having fun on the job while entertaining others. Check him out in the video.

And yes, the water was very pretty, and since I'm visiting I allowed myself to be a "tourist" and take a few water pictures. 
Oh my goodness the boat was rocking so much (actually not from the "party") that I felt like I couldn't walk and kept bumping into people. Trying to take a panoramic turned out even more disastrous. I'll share that just for a laugh.

There were not visible waves like that in the water...

Mountains in the distance

Selfie just because Kelsey hates that word!

And then here's some of the "fun" on the landing of the ferry on the other side. Lots of little vendors. Coconut water? You got it? Snow cone? Coming right up!

And I love that this sign greets me every time in Paquera where the ferry lands:

Translation: Jesus Christ is the lord of Paquera. Welcome.

And thennnnn when I got to the home where I'm staying at, I turned around to see my little tica sister with this:

Translation: Welcome

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A descansar.

After spending four hours on the bus to and from San Jose, the last thing I willingly wanted to do was take the 6 hour bus ride to Cóbano the next day. And with all that traffic, who knows what time I would have needed a cab to take me to the bus station downtown and how much that would have set me back. So Mamá Tica and I decided that it would be best if I stayed until Sunday and took the 6 am bus because there shouldn't be a traffic problem before 6 am on a Sunday. 

So on Saturday I stayed in. How boring of me to sit inside a house in Costa Rica when I could be out and about. Well it's just good bonding time with Mamá Tica and I love her family. I helped her prep for a fruit cake or more like a dozen fruit cakes. I must have chopped 1,000 almonds and pecans. Now the fruit is soaking in rum...
Raisins, plums (in prune form), and the typical candied fruits that you see in a fruit cake.

The walnuts were easy. Didn't even need to use a knife. Especially not one that large. 

Those almonds on the other hand, definitely demanded the large, sharp knife. Next time I visit, I am going to bring a package of sliced almonds. 

We had some more good conversation while we prepped, but I was more focused on not slicing my finger off.

Later I did some translating for her and we wrapped some presents. 

That afternoon, her granddaughter, who is equally sweet as Lilliana, thoughtful, intelligent, polite... Came over with her mom and step-dad and she was all excited about the tall brown boots and matching brown shoulder bag so she brought that in to show it off. They had gone to Price Smart which is a membership club like Sams or Costco.

Here's María Fernanda and I by the tree.

May I just brag on her for a moment? She is 16, and graduates high school this Thursday and has already been accepted into the University of Costa Rica where she wants to study to be a pediatrician. Why? Because she loves children so much. Anyways, she's a pretty awesome person inside and out. 

Later that night after I reorganized my suitcase, I just watched tv with Mamá Tica. That means the two of us laying on her bed with the dog cuddled up by me and the cat near to Mamá Tica. It just seemed so normal laying there and watching tv with her in our pjs. Something I do with my own mom. I just think it's pretty cool the relationship we have when the placements for the host families were "random." God certainly blessed me with that one.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

El piti.

That means the horn. 
I was so tired of hearing horns honking when no car or bus had anywhere to go. But I got to listen to it and enjoy the smell of exhaust for a nice 4 hours yesterday.

Yesterday I decided to go to San José. Mamá Tica lives in Heredia so by car San José can be 30 mins and by bus it can be 45 mins to 1 hour, depending on how many stops it makes. Yesterday I feel the bus did more stopping than going. It took TWO HOURS for the bus to get to San José because there was rediculous traffic like I had never seen before. Apparently the drivers had never seen it before either the way they were just stopped at any angle in an intersection honking away at the cars in front of them who had no place to move to.

Anywho, I had a pleasant walk from Mamá Tica's house to downtown Heredia to catch the bus. I took my old route that I used to take to school and had to stop by Intercultura.

Coming up on the school from the back side.

Then I stopped by in front for a little "selfie." Hard to think that was nearly 3 years ago when I studied abroad!

My next stop was to be Cosechas, my favorite smoothie shop. We would go there most everyday for our lunch breaks.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that Cosechas has moved right next door to the school. That's convenient for all parties involved. 

I got a banana-papaya-orange smoothie made with all fresh fruit and no sugar. Just delish. And cheap too. 

So I continued along towards the center of heredia where I could pick up a bus to San José. As I had seen the previous day, there was a feria going on: a few carnival rides, a lot of food for sale, and many vendors selling mostly handmade goods. 

I was not aware that they are candied apples in Costa Rica but I like the way these were done up. (Churros in the background to the left.)

This vendor had a wall FULL of handmade leather sandals. I have accumulated 3 such pairs over the years so I did not even enter.

Some beautiful hand painted pottery.

Ah, and for anyone who likes woodworking, aren't these gorgeous?

Good thing I didn't have more money and that I couldn't bring large items back with me easily, or I probably would have bought more than I should have. 
I can't show pictures of what I did buy because they will be Christmas gifts, but I found some beautiful items.

So why even go to San José after this market right here in Heredia? Well, I was in search of one thing in particular, which I didn't find at this Heredian Market. If there was any hopes of me finding it, that would be in my favorite Artisan Market in San José. 

A little frazzled after that 2 hour bus ride, I headed down Avenida Central, because I know the market is right between Avenida Central and Avenida Segunda. I also know that it is between Calle 13 and Calle 15. I spent a good 45 minutes literally walking in circles finding Calle 12 and 14, but no 13 and 15.
I was ready to walk to the bus and just go back to Heridoa empty handed, but after that two hour bus ride I needed something to show for myself.

Then it occurred to me: I needed to be on the OTHER side (be it north or south) of the main intersection of Avenida Central and Calle Central in order to find the ODD numbered calles. After that I found the market, right where it should be: between calles 13 and 15.

It doesn't look so exciting from the outside but there are some beautiful handmade items inside, and nice vendors who bargain with you. 

After I found everything else on my Christmas shopping list, I headed straight back to the bus stop. 

I know I've probably said it before somewhere in this blog, but I love the fact that the busses are LINED up ready to be filled. Once the first in line is full, it drives away, and people start filling up the next. So much better than having to wait EVERY TWO HOURS on a dusty road for a bus that may not even come in Cóbano and Montezuma.

Ah and before I sign out, here are aome of the pretty Christmas decorations I saw in the city of San José yesterday:

Probably my favorite.

I saw many more decorations but I guess I just looked instead of taking pictures. I did see this church 3 or 4 times when I was first walking in circles and I thought it a architecture was impressive:

Then I had a 1 hour and 50 minute bus ride back to Heredia, but there were Chriatmas lights hanging over the streets. (Not easy to take pictures of from a bus) The Coca-Cola distribution center was nicely decorated and so was the Pozuelo cookie factory.

We even passed this one row of houses that all had blue lights on their homes and on their trees. I honestly didn't know people put lights up outside here, so I thought that was cool. 

And that's the end of my story because I'm leaving here at 5:30 am to catch a 6 am bus to Cóbano....why am I not wanting to go there now?!

Friday, December 6, 2013


Mamá Tica and I have had a good time so far. Yesterday she invited me and we went to a bible study/ prayer hour (that lasted 2 hours) and people kept asking if I was her daughter! She responded with the Spanish equivalent of "my adopted daughter.

Afterwards we all had coffee and bread and the people closest to me at the table asked how we knew each other so that was explained and they asked where I was from. I said the United States. They responded "but your Spanish is so good!" They expected me to be mute, but I have already gotten a handful of compliments in various places about how well I speak Spanish (thank you to all my teachers!)

And then one lady asked if my hair was natural or if I dyed it. I said it's naturally brown and she was so shocked bc she thought all Americans were blonde--apparently all the Americans she had met were blonde.

It made me chuckle on the inside, but she's not really that naive when you think about it. Many ticos have never been out of Costa Rica, and I'm assuming she's one of those. All ticos have the same color hair (unless it is dyed), so why wouldn't Americans all have the same color hair?!

And...this is the view from Mamá Tica's neighborhood:
Just look at those mountains.

Goodnight world. I've had a long and exhausting day which I will write about tomorrow. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Home again.

I've probably written this same blog entry the last time I spent time with Mamá Tica, and if not, I should have. I just love being here because I feel at home. She tells "mi casa es su casa" (my house is your house) and she truly means it. 
This woman is literally like a second mom to me, the way she cares for me. And I feel right at home here. It's funny there's an American student she's hosting right across the hall from me. That was me just a few years ago. Most from my study abroad group unfortunately haven't stayed in contact with their host families, or if they have it's been an email here or there. I can't even count how many times I've been back to visit Mama Tica.  And the difference in staying in contact is not to root toot my own horn, I'm just trying to emphasize how grateful I am to have been placed with this loving woman in 2011.

This trip is different. Sometimes I just pop in and spend the night after flying into Costa Rica and sometimes it was a night before flying back to the United States. But she's never made me feel like a burden. She always has a bed for me. This time, like I said, is not just a drop-in. We discussed this in my last visit to see her in September. She invited me to spend some time with her around Christmas time. I've never been at her house in December, but here I am. And without the stress of having to wake up and drive an hour to catch a 6 am bus the next morning for a 6 hour bus-ferry-bus trip all to signify that your vacation has truly ended and it's back to work.
No, this time I'm just "paseando." Going with the flow, no time constraints. Don't even know when I'm going to take that dreaded 6 hour trip to Cóbano. That's the joy of it: I'm actually on vacation. 

So I did see Christmas in Costa Rica last year while I was living in Cóbano with a host family. I loved all her unique hand-made beachy decorations. I wasn't sure what to expect in a city home such as Mamá Tica's, but she has every nook and cranny decorated. A real tree, too! I could have helped decorate it, but I napped through that--go figure! It's just all so pretty.

The holly lights up at night!

Oh hey there, Gia!

Somebody is getting a gato for Christmas! 

So that's just a few, there's just too much to take pictures of everything! 

I got a good night's sleep and as she does every time, without fail, Mamá Tica had my breakfast ready and waiting for me when I woke up. And it's always in "my spot" every time I visit. I say "my spot" because it is the seat that I sat at for breakfast and dinner for the summer that I lived here. Just look at this:
I certainly did not need all of that rice and didn't even touch the bread, but boy have I missed me some gallo pinto. (And Lilliana's pinto is the best)

That is all for tonight. Buenas noches y que Dios les bendiga. (Good night and may God bless you.)


Not even remotely what I intended to write about...

Well, if anyone actually follows this blog anymore, you have probably come to either one of two conclusions: a) I’ve lost interest in blogging or b) the paisley boots are no longer in Costa Rica.

Well unlike the normal standardized test, both options a and b are correct.  Yes, I have been in the United States for about two months, and I was ashamed. The last thing I wanted to write about and relive was the heartbreaking and painful decision I made to move back to the United States. 

I had many backwards blogs I could go back and write about from things I had never gotten around from posting, and that was what I intended.  What I didn’t realize was how emotionally challenging that would be for me.  Just to think about my students brought tears to my eyes; actually looking at them through pictures and writing out of them was something I just wasn’t ready for.  Just this past week did I finally feel ready/ strong enough to skype with my class.  It was such a beautiful thing.  When the call ended I just cried, but tears of joy this time because there is so much love.

What I didn’t tell them during our skype call is that they would actually be seeing me within a week.  I’m not really one for surprises, but when I left Costa at the end of September I told myself that if it felt right, I wanted to come back in December to finish the year off and see my students graduate.

I had actually decided against the trip for a while, but then, with some guidance, realized how important this trip could be to me: it could provide me with the closure I seem to need after moving back to the USA.  Let me make one thing clear, although the decision I made to not finish the year (I am NOT a quitter), came after much prayer, thought, tears, and pastoral advice.  I honestly didn’t see this coming.  I simply took a week off after my birthday to meet up with a church group from Jacksonville to do mission work in San Ramón.  I didn’t know why I was there other than the arrangements had been made about 9 months earlier and I always follow through.  Well, little did I know what God had in the works for me that week—how heavy God would lay it on my heart that week that it was time to move on, I couldn’t push through 4 more months to please others (students, parents, and fellow staff), but I really had to listen to my heart, and what I, Morgan Hill, needed.  Let me tell you it was really hard to convince myself that my needs were more important than those of others especially when I knew that my decision to move would disappoint others, but it becomes vital to your own well being—there comes a point where I could no longer put myself on the backburner.  Let me just say one thing, as hard as it was to make and follow through with my decision, I can truthfully say that I am 100% content with what I did- I don’t regret it at all.  Not to say it was easy, because it’s still not easy to cope, but I know that it was right- this was the right thing for me.

Wow! I certainly didn’t mean to go off on that tangent. But I guess I kind of had to explain why I was returning to Costa Rica.  I’m here for 11 days.  The first part of those I am spending with my wonderful Mamá Tica whom I was blessed to be placed to live in her home during the summer of 2011 when I studied abroad here in Heredia, Costa Rica.  We have stayed in contact and although my place of work was about 6 hours from her home, we’ve still been able to see each other every now and then even if it’s just for coffee.  So I am spending the first part of my 11 days just relaxing and reminiscing in her home, which is so beautifully decorated for Christmas by the way.  Then I will make the dreaded 6 hour bus trip down to Cóbano…. that’s where the “fun” comes in.  Only the staff of the school knows I’m coming.  The students have no idea.  I’m going to surprise them by showing up at school on Monday, and then be there to help with their graduation on Friday.

Friday, September 6, 2013

This Day in History

Today marks one year since my nightmare that was actually a reality—the 7.6 earthquake in my home away from home. Many of the 365 days that followed hosted seismic activity as well.  Several of my coworkers asked me this morning if I remembered what day today was…  Of course.  I don’t think I will ever forget such a day. (At least remembering the anniversary of the 7.6 quake will help me remember my dad’s birthday forever and ever, since they are one in the same.)

I have had some impending sense of doom in the past week knowing that the anniversary was soon approaching.  I felt as if the day would somehow repeat itself, and the ground would roll beneath me once again. Maybe it would be worse this time.

Well, no, we did not have a repeat of last year’s horror, but there was seismic activity in the early morning hours of the day.  Apparently there was a 6.0 quake, but its effect was not widespread.  I actually slept through it!

Let me just say that I am so glad that it is now one year later, and I don’t have to live through the fear that I felt for far too long after September 5, 2012.

You can read my original post about the earthquake here. There are also pictures.  I still hate looking at the pictures...