Friday, August 24, 2007

Pura Vida: "Pure Life" in Costa Rica

Part 3

(Scroll down to read parts 1 & 2)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

There's this dog that lives next door to the mission that looks like the Budweiser dog. Brown and white with that flat face and pointy ears. He has his own dog house in the back corner of the yard and barks and wags his tail (mixed signals) when someone comes by.

Costa Rica is beautiful and tropical and lovely. The children are wide-eyed and eager to play, learn, and love. Our youth shared last night during debriefing how much the children have touched their hearts. The work is hard but fun and the mission of God and of God's church is so clearly happening here. I praise God that God is showing these youth what it means to be a Christian in mission in this world.

The other side of that for me (and for some of the youth and other adults who are alert) is the negative experience we have had with the staff. For me, a lot of it comes down to mission theology. Mission theology and Christian education are at the core of my personal identity, and this week I have felt trampled upon. There is a caution of care that seems to be lacking here. Why are these people really here? Some of our youth and adult leaders have said they think it could be for selfish reasons. Plus the fact that this is an American-run mission and that the Costa Ricans working here are the ones doing the grunt-work ("hired hands," almost) turns me off. The motivation and the model that I see being presented is very "us/them." An "Oh, let's pity these poor Costa Ricans" kind of mentality.

I am afraid of what this way of doing things is showing our youth. I hope they know better, or will at least process this week and eventually come to know better. I know that I and our other trip leaders have tried to be intentional in letting them know that there is another way to do mission--a way that is non-threatening, love-filled, and good. I really pray that God works in their lives to show them the true meaning of Christian living, service, and mission. I really pray that this week will positively affect their outlook and beliefs. I know some of them are struggling with some of these things already. I know that God is with all of them, and I pray that God works on their hearts for good.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Last night I stood in the rain at a public telephone outside a house store up the street and called my husband. I have been trying to reach him all week! It was good to hear his voice, but we didn't have much time to talk. It wasn't the place for serious conversation. It was mostly formalities, but it was still good to talk to him.

Today is the last day at the mission. At noon we will get on the bus and drive three hours to the Pacific Ocean. I am thankful to be able to leave this place and spend a few days relaxing and unwinding. It will be nice to sleep in a hotel, have nicer facilities, relax on the beach, go shopping, etc. We are also going on a canopy tour in the morning, which I am a little freaked out about but I hope will be really cool.

Yesterday I felt like the staff finally got us. This has been a rough week with them, but yesterday things finally seemed OK. Maybe they are as excited as we are to be coming to the end of their journey. We are their last group, and most of them will be returning to the U.S. this weekend.

I think last night was really hard for the youth. There was a lot of sharing and crying. It will be hard, and yet good, to go home. A lot of these young people are really struggling with a lot of things--not just about this experience, but about life. I hope they can leave this place with a different, helpful perspective.

Early Evening
Saturday, August 11, 2007

We travelled four hours by bus yesterday across Costa Rica to Manuel Antonio, a small beach resort town on the Pacific Ocean. It was interesting watching the countryside change from densely-populated Costa Rican mountain towns to miles of land filled with cows and grass where few people seemed to live, to mountainous coastal villages filled with resorts, condominiums, and Americans. In some ways, we could almost be in America in Manuel Antonio. Costa Ricans here are more like the hired help than the native population. In this part of Costa Rica, the U.S. Dollar and the white man rule.

It is still tropical and beautiful here. There is a sign on the bathroom wall warning us of a water shortage and reminding us that Costa Rica, in all its beauty, is still a Third World country. Is it? Things here are a lot better in a lot of ways than in Africa. I have been impressed by the many conveniences here--I have yet to have to pee in a hole in the ground! When I look around, I don't see Third World. I see people with many of the modern conveniences we have in America--cars, running water, electricity, good infrastructure. Costa Rica is somewhere between Africa and the U.S. in that regard. Maybe Second World?

Tourism is the biggest industry in Costa Rica, and in this part of the country it is definitely obvious. It is a shame that tourists (mostly Americans, I gather) are creating a new kind of "tourist colonialism" here. The dollar and American wants and needs seem to be taking over. At what cost? At whose expense? What is being lost? Is it really worth it? Does anybody other than me ever think about these things? What makes me the saddest is that most of the Americans (and other tourists) that come here don't seem to think about these things. They just want to spend their money and enjoy themselves, and they want the Costa Ricans to help them do it.

On the other hand, I am sure that it is tourist dollars that are making Costa Rica the well-developed nation that it is becoming. Is the loss worth the gain? Is that a fair trade-off?

Today we went on a canopy tour, which was really stressful for me! We basically "swung through the air with the greatest of ease" on zip-lines suspended between the trees high up in the canopy. Not exactly my cup of tea!


Dawn said...

"Is the loss worth the gain? Is that a fair trade-off?" SUCH a good question.

Rifkatou said...

Group trips are always fun -- i mean most of the time...
It's sad that some people have to give up something to be able to experience another.

ticagirl said...

I think you have a lack of understanding of what and who Pura Vida Mission is. I have been down there 2 years in a row and it's been an amazing time both years & I plan on going again next year. Their goals and mission theology is sound and biblical. You obviously don't have a true understanding of the Costa Rican culture and Tico's either. You should go there again and learn more before condemning an organization that does amazing work for both the Costa Rican people and the missionaries who come down there.