It’s been a long time.

I haven’t written in forever. (It’s been about a month and a half, actually.)

There are a couple reasons I haven’t written in a while. For one thing, I started writing for the Odyssey, which has been fun, but has taken up some writing time. More than that, though, I feel like right now I’m just in the middle of a lot of things. Thoughts, feelings, experiences.

And it’s much more pleasant to write about confusing things in the past tense than in the present.

Really, so many things are so much less of a struggle, are less confusing, now than they were at the beginning of my time here.

I was just telling Luke this morning that I’m starting to love it here. I love the loud street by which I wait for the bus every morning. I love the mountains I get to see as I ride that bus to the UCR. I love the U’s campus and the tons of tiny cafés I get to try when I’m here. I love the wonderful friends I’ve made here and the amazing experiences I’ve gotten to have. I (most days) love the Spanish that I’m learning to use more and more easily.

I think that most of the internal conflicts I am having right now are a little bit deeper, a little bit more real life, a little bit more difficult to write about – simply because I’m not really sure what to write.

But I started this blog with the intention of being transparent, of being candid, if you will. So I’m going to try.

I think mostly God and I are just wrestling with a lot right now. About Him, and His will, especially in light of all the suffering there is in the world. I’m struggling with looking at the way I’m going to choose to live my life after college. I’m struggling with why God lets things happen, why He gives some people so much and others so little. And I’m kind of just warring with Him on who’s going to control my life when I get back to the states and beyond – Him, or me?

This is big stuff, but it is in no way unique to my life. It’s not something that makes me special, it just makes me human. These are things that every one of us struggles with on some level – what am I going to do with my life? How is my life going to matter? What role will money play in the decisions I make? Is it better to seek adventure or security? And for those of us who follow Jesus – how can I glorify Him? Do I want to do the things I want to do in and with my life because of my faith in Jesus, or because of my lack of faith in Him?

I’ve been avoiding writing because I haven’t had answers. I haven’t had, if you will, a conclusion to these questions I’ve been asking. But after a lot of time thinking, and praying, I’m reminded that really, none of us do. So, if my reader(s, hopefully) were looking for a quick and easy wrap up to this post, there isn’t one. All I have to say is that if anyone reading this has ever felt any of the things I’ve just written about, well, he/she is definitely not the only one.

I live here now (kind of)

Okay, okay, I know. I don’t actually live here. Not by any means, not by any stretch of the imagination, no way no how. I’ve only been here for two months, I’m staying in someone else’s house, and I don’t have any kind of job.

BUT – I realized something today.

I haven’t written in a while, because I haven’t felt like I have had a ton to write about. I’ve been going to class, I’ve found a church to attend, I’ve visited some small groups, I hang out with my friends and study for tests and watch Netflix sometimes. I go to coffee shops to do homework, I look for new places to eat lunch, and sometimes I listen to music on the bus.

It occurred to me today, while self-shaming over not writing anything for a while, that the fact that I don’t feel like I have too much to write about is kind of a good thing. It means I’m settling in here, because my everyday routine feels, well, just that – routine. Not the bad kind of routine where you feel bogged down and stuck, but the good kind where you start to feel kind of comfortable and settled. It’s cool to realize that I’m making this experience, this tiny bit of time spent in another culture, a real part of my life. It makes me happy to find out that being here feels kind of normal. It kind of feels a little bit like home.

So today, I’m happy. I woke up and ate breakfast. I came to the university, went to the library, and wrote a paper. Next I’m gonna go print that paper off and go to class. It’s normal, everyday life stuff, but I’m doing it in Costa Rica and in Spanish and while there are many times I have no idea what’s going on, those are slowly starting to be outweighed by the times that I DO know what’s going on.

It sounds like a silly thing to write about or be excited about, but today, it’s a happy victory. I’m comfortable. I like it here. I live here now (kind of).

 

A Poem with Two Titles

I stare, blankly.

You do, too.

But you’re the one waiting for words.

While I am here,

waiting for anything else.

A distraction, please.

An earthquake, anything.

A reason, any reason, to escape.

But you wait, and there is no escape.

Not for me.

Your innocent eyes,

they look at me.

Perhaps I led you (incorrectly)

to believe that I wanted this,

was ready for this.

However, I am not.

If this was my fault,

if I misled you,

I am sorry.

Can we just forget?

Forget you asked?

I’m already acting as if I didn’t hear you.

If you do too,

maybe this moment can just end

in a relatively painless manner for all parties involved.

  • The Experience of Being Called on in a Class Taught in a Language You Don’t Really Know but Would Like to Appear to Know  /alternatively/ The Unwanted and Unexpected Marriage Proposal 

Una Mes(cla) de Cosas

I (kind of) accidentally haven’t written in almost 3 weeks.

Oops.

Once classes started, I seemed to have less time for everything except schoolwork. In lieu of a 10 page blog post, and in the style of Luke Ferguson, I’ll try to keep everything as short and concise as possible by sharing 10 things I’ve learned so far while in Costa Rica:

  1. University is difficult. The University of Costa Rica (UCR) is the best school in Central America, and it has earned that title for a reason. The amount of reading I’m given in each class, to complete outside of class, would be a lot in English. In Spanish, it’s a little terrifying.
  2. Talk to strangers. The other day I heard two people on the bus talking in English about Jesus. Based on that alone, I introduced myself and found a new English-speaking Bible study to go to on Sunday nights. Additionally, through them I met the director of Latin American missions for Cru and got to shadow her at the Cru regional office for a day. All because I talked to some strangers (but actually all because God is good and very, very cool).
  3. Don’t be afraid to try new things Forget that – It’s okay to be afraid to try new things, but try them anyway. Basically, don’t let fear win.That’s kind of my mantra some days, and it’s sometimes difficult for me. But, this past week I tried something new and stayed in hostels while my friends and I went to the beach (we had a week off from class). I also visited a national park by the sea, went to a wildlife rescue center, and got to chill on the beach and eat a bunch of coconuts. And I got to have some really cool conversations with some incredible people.

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    One of the beaches I visited this week.
  4. Language is a means to an end, not the end itself. I’ve been able to meet so many people from literally all over the world. I’m learning in a whole new way that communication is a powerful thing, and language is only a tool that we use to be able to communicate. Also, pretty much every other nation teaches their inhabitants to speak multiple languages. I kind of already knew this, but have never experienced it as fully as I have here. None of my international friends think speaking another language is as mystical and impossible as I still think some days.
  5. Find Christian friends and community. This is the first time in my life that I haven’t lived in Columbia, South Carolina. God showed me pretty quickly that Christian community is something to be sought after immediately and vigilantly. I’ve been blessed to find a really cool church (through some cool new friends) and some awesome Christians to help me do life better for Jesus here.
  6. It’s okay to accept help. Sometimes I have to ask for it and accept it, much more than in the states. I can either get upset or embarrassed about that, or I can accept it and remember it . There are times when I am the one who has the opportunity to give help instead of receive it, and I want to remember to give that help as graciously as my friends here have given it to me.
  7. Cultural differences can be difficult. Living in another culture means that I won’t always understand what’s going on. I won’t always get the joke, and I won’t always know the appropriate response to a comment. This is kind of similar to #6 above. People give me grace when I just don’t know what’s going on. And I don’t have to stress when I don’t know, because people are kind and willing to explain things to me, even when it takes time. Something else I can remember for the future, when I’m the one whose comfortable in the culture and someone else might not be.
  8. Luke 12:48 – From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded. I have been given resources and opportunities in my life that some people will never have. And those resources and opportunities combined give me yet another opportunity – the opportunity to give. I want to give my knowledge, my education, life, my everything, for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of helping others physically and emotionally and spiritually. And God has blessed me in so many ways with an ability to do just that.
  9. There is so much need in this world. This sounds naive to say. “But Becca,” you may say, “haven’t you seen that really touching documentary that came out last year about poor people/orphans/clean water initiatives/etc.?” And if you’re thinking that, you have a point. I should always understand that there is need in the world. It’s just that I think that for the first time, during my time here, people in other situations are becoming less “other.” I’m no longer able to say in my mind, “Other people struggle in this way. The others. Far away. Not me.” Those “other” people are people I see everyday, people who are my friends, people my friends know. And I cannot turn a blind eye to that. “Other” people aren’t really that “other” to me right now. I don’t think I know quite how to say this well, but hopefully with time I’ll be able to communicate it better.
  10. Nothing good in life is incredibly easy. My time here has been challenging. Most days have at least one overwhelmingly difficult moment. But, above all, my time here has been beautiful and amazing and fun and thought-changing. I’ve already been able to think and to do things that I never even knew I hadn’t thought or done before I came here. It’s only been one month, and I’m already absolutely, tremendously,  100% glad I came.

*The title is kind of a pun because “mes” is the Spanish word for month and “mezcla” is the Spanish word for mixture. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Pura Vida (Como Relajarse)

Well. I’ve been here a week and a half now. Since the last time I posted, I have (almost) completed my student VISA and (not quite) figured out all of my classes. I’ve also taken more buses than I’ve ever used in my life, been lost more times than I can count, and eaten yucca fries at McDonald’s.

But of course, of everything I’ve done, the best and most exciting thing I’ve done is make new friends.

I’ve met a number of awesome people through the study abroad program. The majority of us here at UCR came by ourselves or in small groups. None of us are with a program – we all came straight from our universities. We came here from Japan, China, Korea, Spain, Germany, France, Holland, Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, the U.S., and more. And, we all came here needing community. It’s been cool to get to know people from all over the world – to see how different we are, and how similar we are, all at once. My new friends are teaching me a lot. They’re teaching me about their countries, their cultures, their languages, and (most importantly, and with the most difficulty) they’re teaching me how to relax.

The culture here is much more relaxed than the U.S. And, people who come here often come here because they’re attracted to the extremely laid-back culture. And for those of you who know me well, you probably know that I am not always the best at being incredibly, well, laid-back. And my friends here have already (in less than a week) noticed the same thing.

At least once a day, I am advised by someone, “Necesitas relejarte!” (“You need to relax!”) or, “Pura viiidaaa!” (“Pure life!,” aka Costa Rican for “You need to relax!”). It’s definitely been an experience so far. In a new culture, with a new language, in a new place – I’m learning every single day that I am not in control. And the advice that I’m most often given about this is to just slow down, take a deep breath, and … relax.

This is not easy for me. But I’m trying. And in a week and I have, I think I’m learning. Some. Slowly. So slowly.

And when I take a deep breath, when I finally stop and relax about whatever it is that’s making me feel so stressed I’m about to explode (i.e. the class you signed up for does not exist, rent is more than you thought, there is no bus route to that location), I’m reminded almost immediately of this little thing I say that I believe…

God is in control.

And when I stress, when I freak out, when I can’t relax – it doesn’t change a thing. It doesn’t make me any more in control. It doesn’t help me learn the language faster or resolve a situation more easily. And in the end, whether I’m here or I’m in the U.S., I’m not the one who’s in control anyway, no matter how I feel.

And I don’t want to just flippantly say, “God’s in control.” I want to really know it. I want to believe that, all the time, even when it’s super hard. And even after just a little over a week in this country, it’s starting to look like I’m going to have lots of opportunities to learn.

PSA – Thanks to every person in my life, here in Costa Rica and in the U.S., who has prayed for me, provided something for me, helped me calm down, and/or done anything for me. There are so many of you! I couldn’t be doing this without you guys. God is using so many people right now to teach and to help me, and I am overwhelmed and thankful. So, so thankful.

 

 

Small Victories

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A giant tile flower lives on the front of the General Studies building at UCR

I’m in Costa Rica!!!

It’s still crazy to think about it. It’s also crazy to think that I will be here for the next five months. Before I left, my sister Rachel and I were talking about how that’s too long to even really be able to comprehend as a trip. That’s a whole semester. It’s a journey, it’s my life. This is where I live now – just for a little while.

My past three days have been a whirlwind. There have been bad things – challenges with the university, challenges with my VISA, and challenges with communication (many, many of these). However, there have also been good things – I love my host family, I have wonderful friends back home who want to keep in touch with me (and I with them!), and I actually do know how to speak Spanish. Not only am I able to get around, but I’m able to have meaningful conversations. I have been able to see, through the challenges that I’ve been facing, that I am able to rise to the occasion. I can figure out orientation issues! I can figure out how to find a store! I can figure out how to take the bus! I can do it! And realizing that I am capable has probably been my biggest victory so far.

And, more and more since I’ve gotten here, I am stopping to celebrate those little victories. This morning, I had a conversation about the weather and the price of bus fare with a woman at the bus stop. She understood me, and I understood her. Go me! Also this morning, I figured out how to take the bus to Starbucks. Hooray! I am a woman of valor! (that’s for you guys, Bible study.) In Columbia, none of these things would be causes for celebration. In my everyday life I would be bummed if a five minute conversation or finding my university was the crowning achievement of my day. But here, dang it, I am gonna get excited when I do something right. Because even in three days I’ve felt like a bumbling idiot more times than I care to admit.

So today, that’s the moral of my story and my lesson for myself. I’m gonna celebrate those small victories like crazy. And hopefully, if you want to, you can take a minute to do the same.

 

 

 

 

Goodbye y Hola

In just a few short days that seem to be flying by, I’ll be leaving the United States to study at the University of Costa Rica in San Jose, Costa Rica for almost five months.

I’ve been preparing for this for quite some time, but it still seems crazy that I’m about to begin an adventure that, so far, has only existed in the abstract.

Last summer I kept a blog while I was in Boston working for NAMB. It was a fun and easy way for me to share the highlights of my experience with anyone who cared to read. I want this blog to be a similar resource for anyone interested in what I’m doing in Costa Rica.

I have a few goals for my time there:

  1. Get better at Spanish. I can speak it now, but not quickly. Hopefully that can change.
  2. Pass my classes – which will all be in Spanish, so that’ll be somewhat of a challenge.
  3. Learn about Central American, specifically Costa Rican, missions.  I’m hoping to volunteer with some missionaries while I am there, and I’d like to sit down with a number of ministry workers and find out more about their lives and their work.
  4. Spend lots of quality time with Jesus. Being abroad will give me a great opportunity to slow down from my normal schedule, evaluate my life, and get to know my Lord a little better.

I have two main goals for this blog, too:

  1. Honestly share my experiences – the good and the bad.
  2. Hopefully, point people to Christ with the experiences I have and the way I relay them here.

That’s pretty much it for now. As always, thanks for reading, and prayers are always much appreciated.