La Rambla, Pocitos

Monday, April 30, 2012

Curious George Comes Home

Curious George has been a member of our family for about three years. When we first visited Uruguay, we took George with us and photographed his adventures so that our then almost 3 year old daughter could relate more to our pictures when we returned. At that time we had no idea that George would become the dearly beloved best friend of our second (then only 3 months old) daughter, K.

So for every trip we have taken since K was about 9 months old (and I do mean every TRIP - to the store, to a friend's house, anywhere), for every nap and every bedtime, George (a.k.a. "Georgie") has been there. He wears the love well. His neck doesn't hold itself up anymore. His stuffing has been, er, redistributed. His skin tone has shifted. He has a hole in his right ear - a very significant hole, because K puts her finger into that hole and twists, even in her sleep.

Life in Costa Rica has made it a bit more challenging to keep up with George. We don't have a car, so our options for getting to our destination include: walking (with or without using a stroller), taking a bus, taking a taxi, or a combination of some or all of the above. 2 adults, 3 kids, diaper bag, other random paraphernalia, and...Georgie. Always Georgie. (Fortunately our firstborn, who still cherishes her Raggedy Ann doll, is content to leave Raggedy at home and sleep with her at night. Raggedy still makes all long trips, though:)

Have you ever noticed that when you do something out of your normal routine, it is disturbingly easy to make mistakes? Add one new variable, and the chances of losing or breaking something skyrocket. I'm guessing (hoping) that the chances of mistakes are also much higher when you have small children, and that, maybe in a few years, I will have more sanity and lose fewer things. I can dream, can't I?

Last Sunday morning was part of our normal routine - go to church. But out of our routine at the same time. For some unexplained reason, my stomach was acting up all day last Sunday, so I decided to stay home from church and keep little M with me. There is no nursery, and he is not a fan of sitting still for an hour and a half, so sometimes our Sunday mornings are a little hairy (New Variable #1). Jimbo's parents are visiting us right now (New Variable #2), so when we called the taxi and everyone piled in, there were 5 people in the taxi (which we thought nothing about since our family of 5 uses taxis all the time). But this taxi driver told Jimbo that he could only take 4 people (New Variable #3). But wait, for more $$, he says, he can take 5. So the best plan was to get out of the current taxi (New Variable #4) and walk down the street to find another one. Normally we are very careful to check the taxi to make sure we didn't leave anything behind, but the strangeness of the situation clouded the details.

On they walked, down the street, to a new taxi driver who took them to church with no problems. K didn't go to children's church because she fell asleep in church, and no one remembers seeing George anywhere on the way to church, at church, or on the way home from church. I knew, though, that George wasn't in our house, because I had asked K just before she walked out the door if she was going to take him, and I had seen her pick him up and take him with her.

Jimbo and his parents searched all over the church before they left, just to be sure that George wasn't there. When they came home without him, and found that he was not at home either, our hearts sank. We looked, but we knew we probably wouldn't find him. I called the taxi line, having heard that sometimes the drivers would turn things in. We thought that surely George had been left behind in the first taxi - the one they had to get out of because he didn't want to take 5 people. This meant that the driver was probably not going to be too inclined to help out, even if he did hear the announcement from the taxi line office.

We looked and prayed and called the taxi line, and looked and prayed some more. Jimbo even walked over to the taxi line (where the taxis wait to be called for service) and talked with a very nice "taxista" (driver) who promised to be on the look-out for George and even return him to our house if he found him!

Sunday night Jimbo, his dad, and some friends from school went to a professional Costa Rican soccer game. Jimbo couldn't really enjoy the night because his heart was so heavy. K, meanwhile, was using her budding imagination to explain to her other monkeys that Georgie had taken a taxi to the Monkey Beach (there actually is a beach here that we refer to - because of K - as the "monkey beach").  Later she came up with the idea that we should all take a taxi to the Monkey Beach to look for George.

I don't know if I can explain why the threat of this loss was so devastating for us. Would it have been so hard if we were still living in the United States? I don't know. On Monday night I cried my eyes out, begging God once again to "please bring Georgie home." The thought of my little girl without her best friend just broke my heart. Was it because I know her so well, and I understand how sensitive she is? Or was it because my heart had to once again consider a loss - a matter of grief - a hole left in our hearts as big as our love for K and her love for George. My heart has learned the importance of acknowledging the importance of loss. As I've told my oldest daughter many times, the grief we feel shows us our love for the ones we miss. I think that any parent will agree that it is easier to go through a loss yourself than to watch your child go through that loss.

Whatever the reason, our hearts were broken, and we continued to pray. On Monday night I e-mailed some ladies who pray for K specifically. One of them wrote back, believing with us that George would be found, and encouraging us to seek direction about where he might be. We did, and began to feel more and more that we should call the pastor of our church (his wife tutor's us in Spanish, so we had his cell phone number). On Tuesday afternoon I called, using my "best" Spanish to explain the situation. I could hardly finish my sentence before he said (I'm pretty sure, since he said it in Spanish), "Yes, I have it in my office. There was a monkey running on the roof." (I have yet to hear the complete story about the roof...and there was something about a girl running with George - I think a girl other than K?)

I couldn't believe it!! I was overjoyed! The pastor promised that his wife would return George to our house that afternoon. I ran into the kitchen, crying, to tell Jimbo that George had been found (it's possible that at first our empleada, who only speaks Spanish, thought that I was delivering some bad news:). What a miracle! We have no idea how George came be at church, much less to be found at church. But we are so thankful!

That night, about 9:00, K got her Georgie back (see Facebook for the picture). What a beautiful reunion it was. K knows that Jesus brought her Georgie back to her, and that Jesus loves her and wants to be her very best friend, one that will never leave her or be left behind.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Getting home. . .

   It's always an adventure, isn't it.  That's what we tell our kids when things don't happen like we plan them.  Today we had one of those adventures.
   We were finishing up our week of vacation where we enjoyed a wonderful week of rest in a little community called Playa Bejuco.  Last Saturday, the bus dropped us off right in the middle of nowhere, somewhere on the west coast of Costa Rica. Things seemed kind of sketchy, but the bus was gone, and with nothing but banana and mango trees surrounding us and a faded sign that read "Playa Bejuco," we followed the instructions given to us in an e-mail and walked with our three kids and luggage down the dirt road.  We rounded a bend in the road and spotted the office which was about one-third of a mile away from the main road, and we proceeded to check in.  A guy with a cart attached to his bicycle loaded our stuff into his cart and led us away from the office.  We walked some more, another half mile or so, into the very nice community called Costa del Sol.  We settled into our comfortable vacation home and enjoyed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, microwave popcorn, and Pepsi for our first dinner of the week.
   We found the gated community to be very tranquil and enjoyable.  With two swimming pools and a private beach, we spent most of our time in water.  We napped in the afternoons, enjoying the treat of air conditioning in the hot beach climate.  We finally discovered Netflix and were able to enjoy some new movies as a family.  We treated ourselves a couple times to the open air restaurant of a local hotel, which was about ten minutes away from our home, listening to the waves and smelling the smells of the ocean.  Most of the time, our meals came from food we either brought with us or bought at the mini-super that we found outside our community.
  Then today, we started our journey home.  The shop-keeper at the mini-super, a supposed expert on the bus schedule, assured us that the bus would pick us up at the same place we were dropped off.  We loaded our luggage into the back of a pick-up truck that belonged to a neighbor who drove us to the bus stop.  We unloaded and before the guy drove off, he said he had his fingers crossed, hoping we could get on our bus, since this is one of the busiest travel days of the year and the buses are packed.
   At the bus stop, an old tin-covered three-walled structure, there were several other men and one lady waiting for buses to wherever they were going.  Their bus came, and we found ourselves alone as a family, enjoying a nicely overcast, not so hot day.  We waited and waited.  Several buses came by that we thought were ours, but they sped by.  At last we were sure we spotted our bus in the distance roaring down the road. Timbrel walked down the road a ways in order to flag down the driver, waving our tickets frantically in the air.  The bus, clearly marked, and about an hour and a half late, sped by leaving us in the diesel exhaust and dust.  That's when Jimbo turned to the kids and announced that an adventure was beginning.
  We didn't quite know what to do, and had no other option, except to wait for another bus; a bus that would stop for every person who flagged it down, a bus that would take hours longer, a bus we weren't sure was even coming.  But what else could we do?  We then prayed for God to provide a bus.  About 15 minutes later, with Micah getting a bit more cranky, and the sun getting a little more intense, the pick-up truck that dropped us off came pulling up.  They were going to get supplies at a town down the road when they saw us, and so they offered us a ride.  This town, about 15 km away, would provide a better chance of getting a bus, since it was a town, and not a stop in the middle of no where.  We agreed.
  Once again, we loaded up.  We arrived in the little town, and made our way to the bus station.  The station was packed with people.  The man dropped us off, wished us luck, and he was off to the local grocery store.  We carried our stuff over to the ticket window and tried to communicate that our bus passed us without stopping.  The lady behind the window smiled and then proceeded to explain that the bus does not stop at little stops like ours, and that we needed to catch it here.  We had missed our 12 o'clock bus. The next bus would arrive at this station at 3 p.m., but there may not be room for us, since there were other ticketed passengers waiting.
  We spotted a restaurant across the street, and we were getting hungry.  We had about an hour until our bus arrived, and so we went and enjoyed a much appreciated hot meal.  The kids, with food in their bellies, were much happier.  We went back to the station a little before 3, and waited about 10 minutes.  The bus showed up, and it was packed.  A bus employee got out and began loading other passenger's luggage under the bus.  I approached him with our tickets for the noon bus.  He looked at them and told us to wait.  He went and spoke with the driver and came back to explain there were only two seats left.  We asked if we could go ahead and get on and explained that our kids would just sit on our laps.  He agreed and began tagging our bags and throwing them under the bus.
  We walked to the door and gave him our tickets.  He looked up and he asked where our other ticket was.  We were confused, because we had just counted four, which was all we needed.  He showed them to us, and there were only three.  The bus was ready to pull out, and he motioned for us to go ahead and board.  He told us to hold our kids, so the automatic censor would count only three.  So we rushed aboard, tripping the censor three times.  We thought we were good; at least we were on board, and we were only taking up two seats out of our four we had purchased.  Jimbo had Micah and Madeline in his lap about four rows behind Timbrel, who had Kayden in her lap.  Praise God for providing a bus!
   We rode the bus for two and a half hours back to San Jose.  Jimbo couldn't make it holding Madeline and a fidgety baby, so Timbrel got the privilege of Madeline so Jimbo could wrestle with Micah.  Being blessed again, the man in front of Jimbo had a little dog in his lap.  That made for a good distraction whenever Micah started to whine.
   We arrived in San Jose and unloaded.  The employee who loaded our bags began to explain that we needed to pay for the ticket we didn't have.  I pulled out the receipt, which clearly showed we had purchased four tickets.  That was not good enough.  He needed a paper ticket because he had to turn in those tickets and he was accountable for them.  Not sure what to do, I asked to speak with his boss.  It was getting dark as we waded through the crowded station to a barred window, where he motioned to an older gentleman to help us.  He explained the situation, and the man behind the window took a good look at us.  He told the employee that he could accept our receipts as our ticket and told us we were free to go.  So we grabbed our bags before anyone could change their mind, and flagged a taxi.  We made it home around 6:15.  Another adventure over.  Another answered prayer.