Saturday, May 11, 2013

Meet Liz

Well hello there!  I wish I could sit down with you face to face and share a great, steaming cup of Costa Rican coffee (did you know I live in coffee country?  Seriously, we live at the perfect altitude, just over 4,000 ft with the perfect volcanic soil to grow some of the world's best coffee!  And there is a coffee field right across the street from my house).

Someone asked what my favorite type of coffee is...really, anything from Costa Rica, made strong with cream and a touch of sugar.  I am really not into all the frape latte whateverness, which is just as well, because they really don't make those here.

Anyone want some mango cobbler?  It's just ready from the, wait for it, crockpot!! Yes!  I just discovered this and wow!  What a great thing.  We have pretty consistent electricity where we are, and this has been revolutionary to me!  Anyway.  So let's talk food.

I am sure that a lot of you deal with this, a lack of prepackaged convenience foods.  We didn't use a lot of those things in the States anyway, but it's been cut back even more by living here.  Sure, there are places we can get some of that stuff, but it's a fortune.   And really, it's not good for us either.  So, we've headed further down the road of whole foods and cooking from scratch.  And it's amazing what you an find with The Google, did you know you can make yogurt?  Or half and half?   My approach to cooking is the closer it is to the way God made it, the better.  I also focus on using ingredients that are found readily here.  For us that means using lots of fresh produce from the local Feria (open air farmer's market) and sticking with the staples; meats, fish, flour, sugar, spices.  I've learned how to incorporate things like mangos and avocados and ayote (just like pumpkin!) and other things we've never seen before, you know like mamon chinos.

I am been using a book called Nourishing Traditions (yes, it's available on Kindle) as a guide.  One of the things I have been experimenting with lately is fermented foods.  Right now I am feeding a ginger bug (to make homemade pop).  All I needed to start it was fresh ginger root (in abundance here) and sugar and some water.  Anyway, I'll let you know how it turns out.  I am also excited because there is the possibility that in a few weeks there could be an organic market opening up near us.  Costa Rica is a world leader in pesticide we'll see. 

I have learned some different Costa Rican dishes over the last two years.  We do picadillo (a chopped up veggie with ground burger, sweet peppers, cilantro, and garlic of course!) beans and rice, gallo pinto (beans and rice and scrambled eggs) and this year at Christmas time my landlady taught me how to make tamales!  I know that I make adjustments to the reciepes and they don't turn out completely Costa Rican (a LOT less oil!!) but I know they are healthier and my family is more likely to eat them.

Someone asked if we have house help.  Welllll....we did last year and it wasn't a great experience.  In fact it really stressed me out.  She did do some cooking for us and frankly she wasn't a great cook. I think that was the turn off to a lot of Tico dishes for my family.  And when she made American dishes, they just weren't right either.  So I have no help for you all on teaching house help to cook your favorite comfort food.  So sorry.  Oh, hang on, I hear screaming...I'll be right back.

Sorry for the break...I just had to go take legos away from the puppy and comfort the heart broken 4 year old because his favorite lego piece was beyond repair.  Good grief.  You know, motherhood is just hard, no matter where in the world you live!  Someone asked what my biggest challenge is with three little boys...oh boy, I don't know.  Maybe it's the relentless day in and day out of three kids.  There is always someone who needs attention, and usually it's more than one at the same time.  There is the mediating, the instructing, the noise, goodness the noise!  I saw a quote the other day and thought, "yep, that nailed it!"  Boy;  noise with dirt on it.

Someone asked me how I manage being mom and being part of our ministry here.  To be honest, I don't.  Ha!  Really, our boys are 6, 4, and 10 months right now, and I am doing all I can to keep my head above water at home.  I feel like there is plenty of time for me to do things outside of the home, right now, my boys need me most.  They are my first ministry, and I am the only mama they have.  There are other people that can fill in at camp where needed.  I need to be here.  And really, I am ok with that.  I can be part of what goes on in the ministry by cooking.  College kids love to eat no matter where in the world they live.  So I bake.  Most ticos don't bake at home, so homemade goodies are a HUGE deal here.  Cookies, cakes, breads.  We also do English night once a month in our home and I make an American meal. 

Ok, totally changing subjects.  Can I tell you what is driving me nuts about Costa Rica right now?  The DRIVING!!!  Seriously.  I find myself just getting angry when I get in the car.  The lack of rules, the crazy one lane roads that need to be shared by two lanes, the mountains, and just the craziness of traffic!  Ahhhgggg!

Another thing that has been a hard adjustment for us is how Ticos are welcoming but not intimate.  Let me explain.  In general (and you all know there are exceptions to this)  Ticos are very friendly on the surface.  But rarely will someone invite you to their home, or imitate a deeper relationship.  We are finding that the onus is on us to make the first move in relationships.

But there are things I like about this place.  I like how things are slower here (well, sometimes this drives me nuts too, heheh).  I like how people first try home remedies before just rushing to the doctor.  I like how because we're here by ourselves, our family is growing closer.

Well, seems as if our coffee is gone and the baby is hollering now.  Such a nice chat.  And now can I introduce you to my friend Richelle?

I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t love Jesus. But somewhere around the age of five, I realized that even though I loved Jesus with all of my heart, just loving Him wasn’t enough to guarantee that I’d spend forever with Him… instead, I had to agree with God that I was a sinner and accept His gift of salvation made possible only by the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus. One night after church, on the way home, I prayed and asked Jesus to become my Savior and Lord. That night I also promised Him that I’d be a missionary for Him when I grew up. Like all kids, my ideas of what I wanted to be changed - but missionary the missionary part remained… missionary cowgirl… missionary swim instructor… missionary doctor… missionary teacher… I am so thankful for how the Lord first called my into missions and then preserved not only that call but my desire to serve Him ever since. It was a long journey to end up in Niger… growing up in Oklahoma, university in central Pennsylvania, camp counselor in rural Pennsylvania, my first “cross cultural” missions experience in inner city Boston, short term missions (including a year in Bangladesh and a month in Thailand), teaching as part of a special education program…

I could not have imagined and certainly never would have dreamed that when God finally placed me in a  long-term missions assignment, it would be in an African capital city, on the back side of the desert, speaking French, learning a local tribal language, writing children’s radio programs, working with illiterate women while mustering the gumption to eat fried grasshoppers… all as the wife of a wannabe red-neck techie and the mama to 8 amazing kids!


  1. Ok, Richelle, what are your best tips for living internationally with kids? And what is the part you love most about living internationally?

  2. Liz, I felt that way about driving too but when we switched to two cars and I had to drive I learned to love it. There's a strange rhythmn to the crazy traffic circles, and who doesn't love the chance to run red lights at will and park on the sidewalk????

  3. I loved reading your story, Liz, and I applaud you for being there for your kids right now. It's so important to keep things in perspective. :) We have found the situation pretty similar in terms of folks here being very friendly but not prone to deeper relationships. I thought at first it was because we were outsiders, but now I'm noticing it among the locals, too. Keeps us on our toes!

    Richelle, I'm anxious to read more about you. You mind sharing some organizational tips? I'm sure you must have some, since you manage to juggle 8 kids, ministry, and an online presence. I'm in awe!!

  4. So few questions! Richelle, do you want to wait another week, and try to get some more?

    My questions for you are:
    What reactions do you get about your family size in the local culture? (I ask because having three children in Russia was like having three heads; it's been something of a relief to move to an area that takes four a little more calmly!)
    What does an average day look like for you now?

    1. ha! That is a great description! Here in CR we get a lot of "You have such a big family!!" I didn't think 3 kids was that many. And we had a hard time finding a vehicle big enough for us and groceries!