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Several years ago (March 2004), Ryan (“Cory” on the cover of Trouble with Treasure) and I were invited to spend a couple of weeks with the indigenous missionary/pastor our church supported at the time. Ryan, age 12, and I were guests of Pastor Erick Cordero, his wife, Blanca, and their two children, Erick age 14, and Isabel, age 11. Erick’s home is in San José, the capital of Costa Rica, and he was very involved with the government, had TV appearances, etc. His church was on the outskirts, in Granadila (50 newborn believers!)
Pastor Erick also had two “baby” churches he served: Zapote, about an hour and a half south of the city, and Tarcoles, a small fishing village on the Pacific Ocean side of the country, about 3 hours by bus. (If you stick with me, you will hear all about Tarcoles in the next exciting chapter of my two-part Costa Rica mini-missionary adventure.)
Pastor Erick spent a lot of his time visiting his new “babies,” and was also involved with a missionary outreach on the border of Panama (4 hours into the mountains, then another 4 hours to the actual Indian village). “Does your family ever go with you?” I asked (seeing as they are home in San José a lot). “No!” Erick replied. “The conditions are too poor and primitive.” He went on to say that he never takes his children into the outlying areas of Costa Rica because ” . . . they kidnap children in those areas. They are much safer staying in San José.”
Well, the sprawling city of San José didn’t seem all that much safer to me. Not with all the bars on their windows and doors, and the locks on the porch gates. The neighborhoods of San José are set up so each section is its own neighborhood. Erick’s small house (an apartment, really) is part of the Gallo (rooster) neighborhood. They have their own school, market, and police station. (Yes, one morning we heard the news that their market had been robbed the night before. Erick was down there with the rest of the neighborhood and the police.)
Although I can’t for the life of me find all the cool pictures of the market, etc., I did manage to scrounge a few of the Cordero’s Neighborhood “Candy Club.” It’s kind of like a Good News club. One little girl was ecstatic that she got her own Bible (I think I had brought some from the States). I took her picture, but where is a photo when I want one?
Nobody has cars in the city except a few (Erick didn’t). They all ride the bus into downtown San José, a mere 20 minutes away, and the bus ride is like 25 colones (really cheap). The moms don’t work. Every morning you can see them walking their children to the neighborhood school. The sidewalks are full of moms and kids. Every school child in Costa Rica wears the same uniform–navy skirt or slacks, white shirt, and navy sweater. There is no such thing as homeschooling. Parents pay for the uniforms and for the kids’ schoolbooks.
Fun fact #1: In Costa Rica, “adios” is a greeting. That was strange to me, but I got used to waving and saying “adios” to everybody who walked by. Also, neighbors drop in all the time, day or evening.
Fun fact #2: Blanca knew right away that I spoke “Mexican” Spanish (umm, not a compliment. Costa Ricans “ticos” look down on Mexicans). How could she tell? I called Ryan “mijito,” (my little son) or “mijo.” Well, that’s what my Hispanic friends called their kids, so of course I picked it up. Maybe all Spanish countries (except Costa Rica?) do it too. I have no idea. But I was “marked.” LOL
I had been involved with an ESL program with our Hispanic community where we lived, so I had learned enough Spanish to go one-on-one with Blanca, Erick’s wife (who spoke no English). But I never understood anything Erick was saying during his sermons. Just too much too fast. Erick’s kids spoke only a little English, and Ryan, who had Spanish thrust upon him at an early age, refused to give it a try, although I think he understood more than I did. I do remember him asking Erick, “Quiere jugar Play Station?” But I think Erick would have understood it even if Ryan simply pointed to the box and said, “Play Station?” We all played a game called Banco (Monopoly) and that was easy since I can read and write Spanish much better than I can “hear” it.
Blanca took me to her English class, which was . . . painful, to say the least. The teacher, a native Costa Rican, could not pronounce the English words like they should be pronounced, but I smiled, was friendly, and had a good time.
Blanca held a ladies’ Bible Study in her home, and Erick was in charge of the youth group too. (Every home has a patio that butts up against everybody else’s patios in the block. No heating, no hot running water, and no dryer. Hence the hanging clothes in the background.
Sorry the pictures aren’t clearer. This is the “old days.” Erick had a digital camera with an SD card (nobody had cell phones). He took and gave me hundreds of pictures, but I can only find about two dozen.
Finally to end this random “missionary” post, here are Blanca and I playing “twins, right down to our socks and shoes!
Next post . . . a strange (and a little scary) trip to the fishing village of Tarcoles.