Hola from Heredia, Costa Rica!
I arrived last night, around 10pm by plane. I met two of my SOLmates on the flight, and five more of them in the car ride to our host family homes. When I arrived to my familia tica, my papa tico had gone to bed, but my hermana tica (Costa Rican sister) and mama tica were awake, ready to greet me with an air kiss on the left cheek, a plate of fruta (fruit), and assurances that this, too, es my home (though they never actually said the typical “mi casa es su casa” phrase).
Today, we had an orientation, and we spoke mostly in English para asegurar que todos entiendan (to make sure that everyone understood) what the rules, safety tips, our goals, and general important information were! I learned the names of the other 34(?) students in my group, and we all got to know each other with the expected icebreakers, conversations, intention sharing, and the fact that we are all in an environment and situation very foreign to each and every one of us. We call each other SOLmates…get it? We’re with a program called Sol? But also…soulmates? (*wink*wink*nudge*nudge*)
So… my host family is awesome. They are very caring, loving, joyful, talkative, and just all-around kind people. I could go on, but one of the first things that I appreciated about my host dad is that he is always playing music. He just likes having things to listen to, and not because he cannot handle silence. So far, everything we have listened to has been in English! In the car, at breakfast, all this English (United States-ian) music, top 40s, random older stuff from the 70s, all of it. In the car on the way to my host mom’s mother’s house, where we celebrated the birthday of her brother who has Down’s Syndrome, the song “Love and Rain” came on. You know the one, by ELO.
(Actually, it’s okay if you don’t in fact “know the one” because I gave you the link, and also I had heard it maybe once or twice before today.)
The first line is, “It takes a lot of rain to make a flower grow/ Yes, it takes a lot of love and rain/ And it makes a lot of pain to see you stepping out…Never feel the same again for love and rain.”
So there it is. That’s what my time in Costa Rica is about. It was love that created the world, Divine Love, God’s Love, God. It is an act of love that gives each of us life. It is love and compassion that is required to make a child grow into a healthy adult. According to this song, it is love that is required to make a flower grow.
Then that line, “it makes a lot of pain to see you stepping out?” I guess my heart is singing this to me right now, because I am feeling a lot of pain missing all that is familiar, especially my cherished loved ones, but I am stepping out. I am living this life, maybe with nervousness, but not with fear. It is painful, and I can already feel the growth spurts making me change and expand beyond the usual “Erin” things that happen every day.
And it is rain, too, that makes things grow. Yes, the rain makes flowers grow, but the rain also comes symbolically, in those moments in our life that feel like a downpour of difficulties. Those downpours where everything is crashing in, where life is somehow not what we planned it would be for so long! Those downpours, funny enough, can happen in the sunniest of places, so near the equator, when I am being bombarded by a new culture, a new language, a new climate, a new family, a new set of life companions (for the next few months and hopefully after), a new way to communicate with loved ones at home, a new bed to sleep in, a new sun to get sunburnt by (not really a new sun but stronger rays for sure!!!!), a new car to ride in. All these things are stretching me far beyond the usual right now, and although I am not accustomed to it all in this moment, it is still good. Because God is the giver of only Good gifts. God is Good, all the time; and all the time; God is Good!
Today, in orientation, we talked about how we had to leave our comfort zones to be able to grow…to be “comfortable with the uncomfortable”. And right now, guys, I am uncomfortable! I don’t know how this world works yet, I will be safe and I will have all the help I need or could ever want, but let me tell you: it is NOT easy to be here! And at the same time, it’s the easiest thing. Because God wants me here. Because God created the story of my life, and He let me be an active participant in it, and together, with His blessing, we (He and I) ended up here. In Heredia. I am surrounded by strangers, but more than anything, I am surrounded by love. And so I am instead surrounded by possible friends! Penned in on all sides by the love of God-made-man who died on the Cross. This Divine Love follows me everywhere and I cannot shake it. God was here before me, He is here with me, and He will not leave when I leave. He is not present in this place because I am here; no, I am here because He was first. And where He is, I want to be!
My dear third grade teacher just posted on Facebook a picture of this verse from Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight.
I invite you into this journey with me, this pura vida adventure, where we are asked not to escape the normal, but instead to recognize the Sacred in the every moment. God is Love, and where Love is, there is God.
Please continue to pray for me, as often as you think of it. It is the God-given strength which is helping me to be, as one of my SOLmates described it, a “sponge” here in CR! I am soaking it up, and I am going to be full to bursting when I return.