Tomorrow marks a halfway point for our group as we are starting to get a little homesick, a little uncomfortable, and a little sick of Costa Rican food. We have been blessed with such an incredible start, and now we face the challenge of keeping our strength and good attitudes up as we cross this threshold. I think that if we can look to what we have accomplished for encouragement, as well as to one another, we will be very successful.
We are now out of Alajuela and away from the church, which many people have been talking about. The first week at the Iglesia Metodista was a wonderful way to start the trip, filled with wonderful people and an inspiring mission. It was bittersweet to leave but our new mission is no less important and has much in store for us to learn. We are working at a Goodwill Affiliate in Desamparados, a neighborhood on the outskirts of San Jose. San Jose is a contrast to Alajuela, as there is much more commercialization and wealth, but also much more trash and obvious homelessness and poverty. It is not uncommon to see beggars standing in traffic or to see cardboard boxes that serve as homes. Desamparados is a humble neighborhood and the Affiliate is located on a quiet sidestreet away from the (crazy) traffic. When we say that it is a Goodwill Affiliate, it is because it is not an actual Goodwill store. This is a plant that manufactures board games, but these games are assembled by special needs workers from ages 15 to 70. Dimas, the pastor from the Iglesia Metodista, owns five Goodwill Stores which are supported by donations from the stores in the United States, and now that he is finally making profit, he is able to donate money that can keep this affiliate open. The plant is run by volunteers who work with the staff and make sure that everything is running as it should.
What we have done for the Affiliate so far is similar to our work in the Iglesia. We are outside chipping away old paint, drywalling, and painting the exterior walls and fence of the building. We are not directly working with the staff, but we are doing them a great service. The staff spends some time each day watching us, many of them shyly, from inside and it is so sweet to see how excited they are when we go inside and speak to them. Many of us are capable of just simple exchanges in Spanish and communication is a little more difficult with this group, but the point always gets across. We are hoping to work with them a little more closely on Thursday. For now, I think a lot of us do understand that we are beautifying a building that is a huge part of their daily lives, thus we are really making a difference.
In the meantime, we have all had a great time exploring San Jose and our new temporary home. It is a very exciting city and we are learning a lot about the Ticos and their lives. Most shocking (moms shouldn't read this) is the prominence of private security guards once night falls. Unfortunately night falls around 6 p.m. here, which means that every night when we walk to dinner we cross numerous guards, all of which have weapons which range from bats to handguns to machine guns (Mary Beth and I almost passed out seeing that one). These guards simply stand quietly in front of office buildings and stores, and they do not greet the passerby with a "Buenas noches" as other Ticos do. People have warned us to be careful here at night, but why so many guards? Why not city police? We're still trying to figure it out. I really am so impressed by the friendly manner of the Costa Rican people, but there are still many things to digest and understand about their lives.
Well, I ask that all of our friends and family continue to keep us all in your thoughts and prayers as we are halfway through with our mission. We love and miss everyone very much and are looking forward to recounting our adventures with you very soon!