26 June, 2014

I got back from Costa Rica on sunday. We spent a week in Tamarindo working at Capilla del Calvario de Villareal (Calvary Chapel Villa Real). There were seven of us total: Amy, Christina, Haley, James, Jared, Vanessa, and me. We left early monday morning, had a five-hour layover in Houston, TX, and made it to Liberia, Costa Rica around 8:00 that night.

On tuesday, wednesday, and thursday morning, we worked at the church. We pulled weeds, helped with landscaping, and turned over the fallow ground in preparation for planting grass seed. I also did some filing and painting. The work wasn't very difficult, but it was so incredibly hot and humid that we constantly needed breaks. But we seemed to get a lot of work done. I hope it was a blessing to them.

We ate our lunches at the home of Don Victor, one of the church's elders. Lunch usually consisted of rice, beans, some type of meat, plantains, and a fresh fruit juice. It sounds plain, but everything was extremely flavorful. It was delicious, especially after a morning of working in the heat.

After lunch, we usually headed back to our hotel for a rest and maybe some swimming or a shower. We got smoothies most days for 1,200 mil colones, or about $2.40. I discovered my new favorite fruit: the guanabana! It's called soursop in other cultures and I'd heard of it before because it's thought to be able to cure cancer. This was the first time I'd tried it and I loved it! Jared and I have been trying to describe what it tastes like and have compared it to all sorts of things: coconut, pineapple, strawberry, lemon; and it's really creamy. I had it every day in smoothies, as ice cream, or as juice. I'm going to try to find it at home because I loved it so much!

On tuesday, wednesday, and thursday afternoons we went back to the church to help with their children's ministry. We played games with the kids, gave them guitar lessons and english lessons, and did a little skit with them about the battle of Jericho. It was really fun and the kids were adorable!

In the evenings, we went back to Tamarindo for dinner. We usually got ice cream and went swimming. We also had a few nights of worship and prayer.

On friday morning, Costa Rica played Italy in the World Cup. We went over to Don Victor's house to watch it along with a lot of people from the church. There were nearly 20 people gathered around the tv. Costa Rica scored one goal and when they did, everyone went crazy cheering, singing, hugging, and jumping up and down. It was as if they'd all just won the lottery! Costa Rica won the game, which means they've made it through to the second round for the first time in twenty-four years. People were cheering and celebrating all day and all night. It was definitely an experience I'll never forget!

On thursday and friday after lunch, we walked around a couple neighborhoods inviting people to church and asking if they need any prayer. It was difficult because of the language barrier, so I let the spanish speakers do most of the talking. Everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming, and most said they'd attend the church.

After that, all of our work was done. We worked hard, then we played hard. We spent about six hours in the pool on friday evening. We all got pretty silly and had a lot of fun. On saturday morning, Corey and Eddie (from the church in Villareal) took us to a beach called "Little Hawaii." We drove for about a half hour and parked in the jungle. We then went down a little pathway that eventually turned into a walkway of wooden planks surrounded by a marsh. The gray spindly branches grew up above the bridge, leaving an archway to walk through, It was unlike anything I've ever seen before. The walkway went for quite awhile, then ended in a grove of trees on the edge of the beach. We walked along the beach toward a good spot to sit where the waves were good for surfing. We had to cross the deep, rushing outlet of a river, which just added to the adventure. A few of us got smoothies from a nearby resort. We stayed at the beach for a couple hours, playing in the waves and surfing. It was gorgeous with white sand and turquoise water.

After the beach, we went back to the hotel and hung out in the pool for a couple more hours. We had a sunset dinner on the beach with all of our friends from the church. We ate banana cream pie to celebrate Amy's 30th birthday! After dinner we (of course) went back into the pool.

We left early on sunday morning, had an eight-hour layover in Houston, and finally made it home to San Diego around 9:00pm. Nothing really glamorous happened, but we worked hard, tried to serve the church, and overall had a great trip. My least favorite parts were the heat, humidity, and bugs. My favorite parts were playing the with kids, experiencing the World Cup excitement, and spending time with the rest of the team. Thank you all for keeping us in your prayers! Pura vida!

15 June, 2014

Tomorrow I embark on another journey. This one is not a vacation, but a mission trip to Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Our team of seven will be serving alongside Calvary Chapel Villa Real. Our goal is to bless Pastor Phil McKay and his wife Rebecca, and to help serve their church in any way possible. Please keep our team in prayer as we seek to serve God and the people of Tamarindo in this way. Pray that the Lord will fill us with His Spirit. Pray that God will use us and work through us to bless the people of Costa Rica. Pray that hearts will be moved and lives will be transformed. We know God has called each of us to go on this trip and we trust that He is going to do incredible things! So pray and stay tuned!

Days 21 & 22

We spent some time shopping in Edinburgh, taking advantage of our last opportunity to visit some British stores. We ate lunch at a Scottish comfort food diner called Mums. We then drove to Glasgow where we caught our one-hour flight back to Dublin. By the time our flight got in it was almost 8:00pm. We ate dinner at a Thai restaurant in Malahide Village, an area on the shore with a ton of restaurants. By the time we finished dinner, it was pretty late and we were all tired from the trip, so we went to our B&B and went straight to bed.

In the morning, we ate breakfast at our B&B, then went straight to the airport. We stayed closed to the airport on purpose, so the drive was only five minutes. We flew from Dublin to Philly, where we had a two-hour layover. We said goodbye to Kevin, who flew in to LAX, and my parents and I took our flight home to San Diego. It was a gorgeous trip, but a long one and by day 22, I was sick, tired, and glad to be home.

Day 20

We spent this day in Edinburgh. It's a gorgeous city with beautiful old buildings everywhere you look. We started off at Edinburgh Castle, which was old and beautiful, just like the castle we visited the day before. The best part of this castle was a well curated exhibit about the crown jewels of Scotland, which had been lost for hundreds of years. It ended with our own glimpse of the jewels.

We then visited the camera obscura, which was the highlight of my day. It's located at the top of an 8-story building and was built in the 1800s. It uses a small mirror to reflect an image of the city through three lenses on to a table in the center of a dark room. The mirror can be turned, offering 360-degree views of the city below. It was amazing! The rest of the museum was filled with all sorts of weird things: holograms, optical illusions, zoetropes, a mirror maze, and much more. It was a lot of fun and made us all feel like kids again.

After getting lunch, we walked to a cozy used book store. We spent a little while browsing and I bought an old copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. My parents went off to do some touristy things, so Kevin and I went into a few little shops before making our way to Elephant House. It's the busy coffee shop where J. K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book. Kevin and I got coffee and a snack, then sat down to read our books. The shop was packed with Harry Potter fans and people were constantly taking pictures. My favorite part was the bathroom. Harry Potter lovers had scribbled comments all over the walls. One person wrote on the toilet seat, "JK's toilet! She once sat here!" and another fan wrote in response, "OMG!!!" Overall, I really enjoyed Edinburgh and would love the chance to spend some more time there!

Day 19

We ate breakfast at our castle-manor-house-hotel, then headed into town to an old used book shop we had seen the night before. The store was amazing! It had previously been a large church, but was now completely full of books. It had a large wood-burning fireplace in the middle and a spiral staircase leading upstairs to more books and a cafe. It also had a lot of vintage prints of various things including castles, fairies, story book illustrations, and botanical prints. We spent several hours there and could have browsed even longer.

We then headed toward Edinburgh with plans to stop by Stirling Castle on the way. We got a little bit lost, but finally made it. At the castle, we saw a woman re-creating one of the beautiful tapestries that would have hung in the castle. We saw the palace and the chapel and the great banqueting hall. Its amazing to imagine what life would have been like for the kings and queens living there thousands of years ago.

14 June, 2014

Day 18

We took our time in the morning with eating breakfast, packing up, and saying goodbye to Gilbert and George (the two donkeys). We then drove a few hours to Loch Ness, stopping again on the way to take some more photos of Eileen Donan Castle. When we got to Loch Ness, we went to the Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Centre. The museum gave a good history of the situation and really left it up to you to decide if you believe in Nessy or not. I was amazed to learn about the many efforts to patrol and monitor the loch in search of her. I was also interested to learn that Loch Ness holds enough water to cover all the people in the world three times over. No wonder its been so difficult to search the entire thing! We spent a little while gazing out in search of her, but to no avail. Maybe next time...

We got lunch in Inverness and then spent some time shopping. It seemed like a really awesome little city and I wish we would have been able to spend some more time there. We stayed at Bunchrew House, which my Mom described as a castle-manor-house-thing. And that's exactly what it was: a large castle-shaped pink house. We decided to have a leisurely evening playing board games in the lounge. Then I headed to bed early, as I was feeling pretty sick.

Day 17

This day, we took a 2 1/2 hour hike up to a famous rock formation called The Old Man of Storr. The entire hike was beautiful and offered views of the mountains, water, and nearby islands. Standing between the cliffside and the 535-meter tall "old man rock" left me in awe.

"The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness."
- John Piper

After our hike, we drove around the Trottenish Peninsula, enjoying the stunning views. We then got dinner and spent some time relaxing at the farm, tired after two days of hiking.

Day 16

We ate a hearty breakfast in our little shepherd huts, then set off on an hour drive through hillsides, mountains, and valleys, past waterfalls, cliffs, and grazing sheep to the trailhead for the fairy pools. We met a nice gentleman in the parking lot who let us use some of his midge repellant. Everyone we talked to was really concerned about the midges, tiny flying bugs that swarm and bite. However, I only got one bite the entire time and it barely hurt. It was much less painful than a mosquito bite, so I'm not too sure what the big deal is. Nevertheless, we all put on some repellant and were ready to hit the trail. We hiked up a valley alongside a rocky riverbed filled with a crystal-clear river. Along the way are tons of waterfalls and several beautiful clear blue pools, one with an underwater archway. The entire hike was stunning. Unfortunately, I was starting to come down with a bad cold so, after about two hours of hiking, Dad and I headed back to the car while Mom and Kevin continued on.

After hiking, we drove back to the shepherd huts to take a nap before dinner. When we got out of the car, Kevin noticed a hissing noise: a hole in one of the tires. Luckily, he was able to get it plugged and we didn't have any more problems with it.

10 June, 2014

Day 15

In the morning, we walked around the tiny town of Luss. It's a small picturesque village of quaint thatched-roofed cottages with beautiful flourishing gardens. My Mom loved it; Kevin was bored; my Dad disappeared, taking photos in an old church cemetery. The tension between my parents' desire for scenic activities and Kevin's need for adventure usually resolves in my favor with a good balance between the two. So after going in a few shops, we began our journey toward the Isle of Skye.

The drive rendered Scotland just as I'd remembered it. We travelled on a tiny road at the bottom of vast valleys dwarfed by beautiful mountainsides. I visited the area as a birthday trip in october of 2009 and thought it to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. I was now filled with excitement to share the experience with my family. We made our way through "Rest and Be Well" Pass, past Eileen Donan Castle, over the bridge, on to the Isle of Skye, and to our home for the next three days: a homestead complete with cats, dogs, ducks, chickens, donkeys, and two small "shepherd huts." Each hut was just big enough to fit a bed, a sink, and a small wood-burning fireplace. My parents stayed in one and Kevin and I stayed in the other, with just enough room for him to sleep on the floor. It was a really nice change from the hotels we'd been in and an experience we'll never forget!