Wednesday, April 30, 2008

From Dulles to Costa Rica...the Adventure Begins

I slept during most of the 4 hour and 15 minute flight from Dulles to San Salvador, El Salvador. They did feed us a very tasty breakfast on the flight, which I did wake up for. ;D The walk between terminals in El Salvador was the usual "feels like 5 miles" distance, but the wait at the gate wasn't long. The armed police with drug dogs sniffing everyone's carry-on luggage just added some good old Central American charm to the scene.

The flight from El Salvador to San Jose was roughly 1 hour, and I slept on it as well. sleep Monday night, and I'd been awake at Dulles all night Tuesday night. I did stop to pray for the elderly lady seated next to me. As we were taking off, she was praying the rosary and had a look of terror on her face. I felt sorry for her!

Once I landed at the San Jose aeropuerto things continued to flow uneventfully. My luggage showed up...on time...with me...Whoo Hoo!!!! I was, of course, assailed by the 500 taxi drivers and van drivers wanting to take me to my destination, but at close to $20 for that versus the $1 for el autobus (the bus), I opted for the bus. I'd say I'm on a "shoe string budget", but I think it's more like a "string budget." I don't even have the "shoe" part of it right now...but that's another tale for another day!

Ah, the stories that come from my travels!

So, anyway, I took el autobus from the aeropuerto and got off "somewhere" downtown San Jose. Many of the streets are not marked, and no one seemed to even know what road we were on. Literally EVERYONE I asked gave me different directions! After over an hour of walking, I finally gave in to hunger and thirst and stopped at this little tiny restaurante that had un servicio for clientes. (Public restrooms aren't as easy to come by here!)

I ordered pintos con queso...what should have been pretty normal, and un hamburgesa. And they gave me a choice of two juices of some unknown variety (both tasty). Well, the Taco Bell pintos with cheese and Costa Rica's are two entirely different things! The cheese was fried, and on the side. And the pintos were small black beans mixed in with rice...Still very yummy, but not what my North American brain was thinking of. It was all actually muy bueno though!

At least I didn't order the perro con queso...cause as far as I know, perro means dog... I pass on Rover this go round!

I did finally find the hostel. Certainly not on the beatten turista path, but not hard to find once I figured out the street naming convention! I did figure out that all that razor wire I passed was because of the jail and courthouse nearby! I don't think most tourists walk down this end of Avenida 6. The security at the hostel is fantastic, and once you come through the locked gate and up the stairs to the reception, it's like a piece of heaven on earth. Here's a short video from the hostel:

Oh, had to throw in a picture of Frankie (on the right) and L.C. (on the left) going at it in a "game" of foosball. This is one of the pics for the children's book we're making from this trip...

Thoughts from Dulles...

I'm sitting at Dulles International Airport right now, where I've been for the last 2-1/2 hours. Well, I'm not actually sitting, more like stretched out across my backpack on the floor in the line that is quickly forming at the baggage check-in. When I got here at 10pm, I was the only person in sight other than airport staff. Now people are arriving pretty quickly.

I had a great bus ride up to DC from Roanoke. On the first bus I sat next to a lady named Teresa. She was a divorced mom of 6 who was enjoying a new career in the medical profession. She'd spent 22 years of marriage as a homemaker. She'd been somewhat isolated, and hadn't even gotten a driver's license before her marriage ended. Her enthusiasm over her new career was refreshing. We talked all the way from Roanoke to Lynchburg, at which time I settled into a semi-comatose state after my night of no sleep. (How can one plan a trip for 5 months and STILL be so unprepared when it was time to leave?) I woke up before we got to Charlottesville, we talked a little more, and then it was time to change buses.

On the next bus I had a seat to myself, as there weren't as many people on board. I napped most of the way from Charlottesville to Union Station in DC...Actually, I guess I roused up about 30-40 miles outside of Washington.

The last part of the trip, from Fredericksburg to Union Station I conversed on and off with the bus driver about city traffic, commuters, and the fact that I was going WAY out of the way by going to Dulles via Union Station. Oh, well! I'll learn for next time. About 30 minutes out I sent a text message to Aleena, my "adopted daughter" and Zip's best friend for the whole time we've lived in Virginia. I was hoping to hook up for a glass of tea or something, but she surprised me by offering to pick me up and take me to the airport.

It was really good to see her, and to meet her friend Amy who'd ridden with her. Aleena (who is from Pakistan) treated us to dinner (which Amy and I tried to stop her from doing) at a great Pakistani Restaurant called Shalimar just a few miles from the airport. The food was fantastic, and I ate too much! We laughed and talked and had a great visit. Amy treated us to juice from the market next door to the restaurant, and then we went in search of ice cream...but, alas, too late! =( Ben & Jerry's had just closed...on free cone day no less!


OK, it's 03:20 AM as I'm sitting here writing this. We (the whole crowd of Latinos and one lone gringa!) finally got to check our bags just after 2AM...I made it through the x-ray machine with only having to take off my shoes and empty my pockets, so I considered it to be a pretty uneventful check-in. I've got about an hour and 20 minutes before they start boarding. I have an aisle seat (my preference) on both flights today, and I'm very happy about that. I believe I'm right behind the bulkhead from the partial diagram that I saw online.

I think I'm beginning to feel the, "WHAT am I doing?" feeling...that same one I had in Ireland when I got to the airport and was sitting at the bus stop trying to find the right bus to take. Oh well, comfort zone? What comfort zone? I don't remember anywhere in the Bible where it says to only do things that DON'T stretch us and cause us to grow. On the contrary, that's the only way we do grow. And I always love a good challenge!

One thing I do want to know...I waited until 24 days before leaving to START to study Spanish...for WHAT REASON?!? Sometime I just amaze myself! "I really should have..." Never mind. ...Hindsight, it's great, isn't it!

Lest you get the wrong idea, I haven't lost my enthusiasm for this trip! On the contrary, I'm more excited now than I have been. And I guess part of it IS the opportunity to stretch myself past any perceived comfort zone. And it's the thrill of adventure, too!

Sometime I think about how many times God spoke to people in the Bible and told them to do things that, in the natural, didn't make sense. You know, like, "Hey, Abram! I want you to pack up your family and go to the land that I'll show you!" "Uhm, OK, God. Where we going?" "Oh, you just head in that direction, and I'll tell you where to turn just before you get there." "Dude, God, how am I going to explain that to my family?" "You just tell them you're doing what I told you to do." "But, they're going to think I'm crazy, God!" "That's OK. They'll be've got faith. And one day I'm going to base an entire nation on that faith, and your obedience to me." (OK, so I used a little bit of literary license there...that's my version of how the conversation may have gone!) =)

Well, they're going to start boarding soon, so I'm going to turn of the computer and get ready. I'll finish my update later today, and get this posted once I get to San Jose, Costa Rica.

PS, for those who are following my two "traveling companions", L.C. (a purple stuffed hippo) and Frankie (Troy's little stuffed ferret) they are doing fine! We're doing a children's series/book with pictures of the two stuffed compadres as they go on this South American adventure. It's for my grand babies to read and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A South American Adventure: The Preparation Before the Journey

Well, it's time to blow the dust off of The Chronicles, and do a little more writing.

I'm not the stereo-typical "Adventuress"...Laura Croft and I don't have much in common, except for a love for adventure! But though I may not "look" the part, I do however claim the title. In the past I've roamed around Ireland and Scotland by myself, wandered the back roads of Puerto Rico, been stranded in the Everglades in a raft, and backpacked 700 miles on the Appalachian Trail...a good part of it solo. So it shouldn't be surprising, for those who know me, that two days from now I will be on a Greyhound bus on the way up to Washington, DC. And two days from tomorrow I'll be on a plane on my way to Central and South America. My excitement has been mounting, and the long awaited departure has come up amazingly quickly.

I've been planning this adventure for 6 months. Seems like a long time, doesn't it? But there's a lot to consider when you're going off the beaten path, especially in a foreign country! The video above provides an introduction to my trip. Since I've had a number of people ask me what I'm packing, I've included a description of the choice of gear, and what some of the considerations were in choosing it. When you have to carry everything you need to live for 3-1/2 weeks on your back, you want every bit of that 60-lbs of gear to be useful and necessary.

First a little background. When I originally started planning this trip it was going to be a business trip to Ecuador. I was going to look at land...which I'm still planning on doing, and I was going to take an import/export tour to look at products to import into the States for resale. I bought my ticket in December for only $579 round-trip, which included a 2-night layover in San Jose, Costa Rica on the way to Ecuador and a 3-night layover in Lima, Peru on the way back. Without the 2 layovers, it would have been just under $500.

At the beginning of the year, as I was praying over my businesses that I already have, I felt that the Lord was telling me not to expand into something else right now (i.e. the import business) but to focus on what I already had going. I didn't have a problem with that, but that did change the course of my trip. I still felt that I was supposed to go, and began praying for clear direction. It was at that time that one of the dreams that has been on my heart to do for right at 25 years resurfaced.

Long ago, not too long after I go saved, I had read about the Huaorani indigenous people in Ecuador. If you've watched the movie The End of the Spear then you've heard about them. Anyway, for years it's been my dream to go to the Rainforest and spend some time with them. As that dream resurfaced and began to form itself into solid plans, my excitement has mounted. This is Number 2 of one of the major "have-held-onto-them-for-years" dreams that God has brought/ is bringing to pass. The first was last year when I was able to be a part of a mission team to Uganda.

I've been asked, "What are you going to do there?" Well, I'm going to spend time with the people. Hopefully work along side them. Hunt with them. Cook with them. Learn about them. Others have asked me, "Is this a mission trip?" Well, I guess that would depend on YOUR definition of a mission trip. If your question is, "Are you going to go preach to them?", then the answer is no. BUT, the Holy Ghost and I ARE going there together...and HE has a mission in mind, so as far as I'm concerned it IS a mission trip. It's just not what you typically think of as a mission trip.

My Pastor has been teaching a series called Evangelism by Fire for the last several weeks. It is a series that was birthed out of one of our Saturday Night Corporate Prayer meetings. It's been an awesome series (which you can listen to by going to and clicking on The Media Room link in the left nav bar). In the series, Pastor made the point that Fire was used in the Word to represent the Presence of God (the Pillar of Fire by night for Moses and the Children of Israel, the cloven tongues of Fire on the Day of Pentecost, etc.). [You can check out Pastor's blog to get some great nuggets from his teaching.]

What his point was is that it is the Presence of God in our lives that draws people to God, not how many tracts we pass out or how many people we "witness to." If we abide in God, and allow His Presence to flow in and through us, people will be naturally attracted...without us waving Bibles in their faces telling them to repent or they'll go to hell! Remember, the Gospel is the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ...telling people to "turn or burn" just don't sound good to me! =)

Having said all that, let me back up and say this...I'm going to experience live with them for a short learn about show God's love by just being me. Anyway, I've got to get up in 3 hours for church, so I'm going to shut up now! I hope you'll enjoy yourself as you follow along with my adventure. There's a lot more planned that I haven't had time to mention. Until next time...