First of all, before I start my (very long) blog post to update you on what’s been happening for me here in Costa Rica, I want to strongly urge all to listen to Fr. Paul Scalia’s homily from the Holy Funeral Mass for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Here’s a link (the homily starts around 1:05:00):
Watch it with your family, with your spouse, with your significant other, with your children, with a friend, with someone who isn’t Catholic, with someone who is Catholic: just watch it! It is a beautiful witness to and focus on the life of the Church, the way that loving God should not and cannot be separated from public life, and the priority that Christ deserves in every moment, in our life and after our death.
Okay, now that I’ve noted that, let’s get started with my adventures these last few weeks.
Reminder: These three weeks, from February 6-28, I have no morning classes! Our SOL program classes are run in intensive month-long periods of 45 credit hours, each three weeks long. I started in the very top level available for Spanish learning, so here I am, with an open module and time to rest and travel. So rest and travel I’ve done! (But more traveling than resting, because as far as I know, I am never again going to have this much time in Costa Rica.) But never fear school officials and parents alike: I still have two classes with locals, one on Monday and the other on Tuesday. These are not just wild weeks devoid of learning and self-betterment!
A week ago Friday (February 12th), I left Heredia at the lovely hour of 6:30 am on a bus for San Jose. (Actually a lovely hour because the sun wasn’t up all the way yet and the lights of the city could be seen from my street, with the crescent moon and a bright star above the mountains in the back ground.) Because of the stop and go traffic that plagues the commute into the capital every day, lots of time was spent standing, and falling, and trying to regain composure while not taking out all nearby passengers with my hiking backpack. (Thank you, Phineas, for that awesome and super useful gift. This hiking backpack has proven perfect for short trips and adventures. You the real MVP!) We got to San Jose, exited the bus, and started looking for the next bus station…which we found after five minutes of unsure walking and an eleven minute long traffic-interrupted taxi ride that should have lasted only three minutes. We got to the station by 7:56 (YIKES), got on the bus, and it left moments later. (Thank You, God, for getting us there on time. All credit goes to His providence and Holy Will. Thanks for always giving me chances to trust You). From there, we had a six hour bus ride to Brasilito, with a bathroom and food stop about half way through. Before I took this first excursion to the beach, I neither realized nor appreciated how wonderful the climate in Heredia is. We live in what is called the Central Highlands, which means that though the sun is super powerful (because of Costa Rica’s proximity to the equator), the temperature stays below super-hot, and, once the sun goes down, it can actually get pretty cool at night. However, mountain girl that I am, I refuse to admit that it has been cold here yet. My host dad will walk around in shorts and a t-shirt at night saying how cold it is and I have two responses to that (thanks Mom and Dad): If you’re cold, put on some more clothes! Also, this is not cold: it may be chilly, but cold it is not. (No worries, in giving these responses, I’ve been much more respectful, although my host mom laughed when I told my host dad that if he’s cold, he could put on a sweater.)
Anyways! Upon arrival to Brasilito and locating our hotel, we checked in, bought some groceries, and took a swim in the pool.
Then we made our way down to the beach where it was high tide and then came back and made dinner. (Spaghetti with tomato sauce – thanks Abbie!)
The next morning, we made ourselves some breakfast and some food for the day, and then set off for Conchal. Brasilito is a one-street town, and at the end of that short street, there was Playa Brasilito! The water was at low tide, so we walked down towards Conchal, stopping to admire/take some pictures on these rocks. Then we went over a loma (little hill), and suddenly we could see Playa Conchal! It was beautiful: blue water, white sands, shells (or at least shell pieces). We walked down a ways and set up shop.
That night, we went horseback riding. What a blessing to have gone with this special group of girls. I just want to give a shout out to Emily Shorougian, Abbie Vickers, and Meagan Lamb. I appreciate y’alls friendship in a huge way. I’m so happy we have this weekend in our book of recuerdos, and that we were able to share so much joy and love!
When we got home to our hotel, I asked about Mass for Sunday and we learned that the only Catholic Church in town had Mass on Saturday nights at 5pm – so we’d missed it. I was worried because, of course, I needed to get to Mass! But God, as always, took incredibly good care of me. Not for a moment did I feel hopeless about getting to celebrate the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Emily stayed by the pool with me to use the WiFi to help me search for Catholic Churches with a Sunday Mass, while Meagan and Abbie went to make dinner. Meagan let me use her international phone to leave a message for a priest, and then another parish, and then call the bishop of (somewhere?) in Costa Rica. The bishop was incredibly kind and patient, even though he didn’t know the Mass times for the churches nearby me because I wasn’t in his diocese. Later, the first priest I called contacted Meagan back and told us that there was a Mass in Tamarindo at 10am (among others).
My friends, being the good friends and understanding Christians that they are, accompanied me the next morning to Tamarindo (an expensive taxi ride, $20 each way), so that I could go and celebrate Mass. I feel very blessed that they were so willing. Tamarindo is 19.6 km (12.2 miles) away from Brasilito, so it was a bit of a commitment for them to come with me, but they did it.
Once again, God went beyond my request for help, and not only was the Mass a beautiful, intimate celebration with locals and tourists alike, but the priest was a holy and kind soul. Originally from Illinois, he came to Costa Rica to learn Spanish and later decided to stay and minister to the people here. He’s in a good place, too, because Tamarindo gets a lot of tourists and is known to be a party-town. This combination means that it gets a lot of traffic, but also that sex tourism is a major issue. Both the tourists and the locals need a holy and accessible minister of God. After Mass, I was able to receive the Sacrament of Confession in English, and as always, I was filled with joy and thankfulness for God’s mercy. Celebrating Mass in Spanish is something very special because it reminds me of the universality and the beauty of our Church. I am learning the responses and am blessed to have been given a Missal with the Sunday readings from my home parish of San Francisco de Asis. I have been to Confession in Spanish here, and while I know the same graces were given to me through God’s priest, being able to Confess in English and being absolutely sure I understood all the penance and advice given me was a blessing I had not realized I was yearning for.
As I was leaving the Church, I felt that although I was saying good bye to this priest, I will see him again in Heaven, if God’s mercy and justice grant that we will both get there. I know, at least, that I can meet him again each time I celebrate the Eucharist with the universal Church, and that I can send him my heartfelt thanks by keeping him in my prayers. If you like, please do too! His name is Fr. Jeffry Moore.
After Mass, we went back to Brasilito, and being thoroughly tired from all our time in the sun on Saturday, we lounged around by the pool, me nursing my sunburn in the shade.
That night, we ate at a local soda, which is a sort of restaurant. Hmm, how to describe a soda? They are small, local kitchens/restaurants that you can find all over Costa Rica, and the meals are pretty cheap and always delicious. Sunday brought the best meal yet:
After that deliciousness, we took some sunset pictures, bought cookies and ice cream, and went back to the pool for our last swim. The staff at our hotel were awesome: 10/10 would recommend.
We then headed back to Heredia on Monday to get our week going again.
I’ll add a separate post to tell you about this past weekend! There’s still a lot to say 🙂
Also, just because it was at the top doesn’t mean you get to forget about it after that overflow of information and story time. Here’s the link again to Justice Scalia’s Funeral Mass:
God bless you all! You are LOVED