Black, silty sand. Bodysurfing the warm Pacific by moonlight. Plates full of rice and beans and fresh mahi mahi. A grass fire Miguel fought in sandals with both water from the pool and the ocean. Marshmallows roasted on crude driftwood found along the shore. Late game nights with ice-less tea. Drying sheets along a concrete wall while large, iguana-like lizards scamper over the fresh laundry. Sunburned, freckled children—content to sleep and wake in the same swimsuit. Bus rides from one station to another crowded with sweating travelers. Christmas in Puntarenas.
Finals are finished, grades are in and our intensive Bible-Storying conference is over. Now that 12 piles of laundry are folded and stacked, we grab full backpacks and wind through the streets of downtown San Jose to a crowded bus station, with our blue tickets. The autobus sways alongside seas of coffee beans and wild fruit. When the bus stops, we follow Michael through the backstreets of a small, barb-wired community, to our home for the next week: an ancient, white house settled in a palm grove along the waterfront. Christmas in Puntarenas.
Here, I learn how to peel and de-vein fresh shrimp. My legs swell up like stuffed sausages, and the skin blisters and cracks after falling asleep under the tropical sun. Michael braves furious waves under a midnight sky, until some large sea creature brushes up against his legs. Chloe falls into the pool necessitating a rescue effort which renders Michael with a bruised collarbone and sore, beaten knees, while part of my leg: purple, yellow, and red covers a lump which makes sleeping painful.
There’s a fire to the left of our lot, whose flames leap across the wire fencing until Michael and the boy who lives there, armed with 3-gallon drinking water bottles, begin to drench the property. When the fire truck arrives, shovels full of the black sand are used to extinguish flames. Nearly empty beer bottles under the hot sun fueled the afternoon venture. The pool has a fine layer of ash, and our rooms smell smoky. No one is burned. Christmas in Puntarenas.
Meanwhile, the ladies in the kitchen teach me which vegetables they finely chop to boil into black beans, and how orange achiote paste makes especially delicious arroz con pollo. They stuff boiled, yellow potatoes with ham and cheese, and layer the platter with green beans from the market.
After Christmas Eve dinner, we gather with 3 other families and our Costa Rican hosts, for worship. We eat cake. We sing and listen and laugh. Much of it is in Spanish. Four months ago, I would've been completely lost. But tonight, we understand many things. We can even pray in Spanish together. Tonight is a time to rejoice: It's quite extraordinary, really, to learn to hear and speak another language. This is something God is accomplishing on our behalf, and we are celebrating this Christmas in Puntarenas.
To check out photos from our adventure, check out the link below: