Introduction to Costa Rica by Chris

 ¡Pura Vida! (translation, Pure Life!)  This is a common thing you hear in Costa Rica, it is a bunch of things all mashed together.  It can explain a type of approach to can also be a greeting....or a salutation.  It can be used to answer when someone asks how you are doing or to say that something is cool.  It has endless uses in day-to-day life here in Costa Rica.  I feel like we have only seen the tip of the iceberg with this phrase.  Costa Rica is a relatively small country (think slightly smaller than West Virginia) in Central America.  It has a population of just over 5 million people and although it is small has varied terrain.  Most people think of beaches when they think of Costa Rica.  We live about as far away from either side (the Pacific or the Caribbean) as you can in Costa Rica.  Our family lives in a small community in the northern middle of the country called Santa Rosa de Pocosol.  Santa Rosa, after the patron saint of the town, which is Saint Rose of Lima, and Pocosol after the district.  This is interesting for us as we spent almost 3 years in Peru and visited the chapel where St. Rose of Lima (as well as St. Martin de Porres) was buried in Lima.  There is another Santa Rosa in Costa Rica, so we need to differentiate by adding the Pocosol.  Pocosol is a district of the canton of San Carlos which is in the Province of Alajuela.  We serve in a parish with a wonderful parish priest named Fr. Geison (or Jason).  He welcomed our family with open arms and has been just wonderful to us.  There is another FMC family that lives about 1 hour away in a smaller town called Coopevega.  FMC has had a missionary presence here for about the last 8 years.  The parish that we serve in is made up of 41 smaller communities making it the largest parish in geographical size in the diocese.  Also, due to the close proximity to the border with Nicaragua, there are many Nicaraguans living in very poor conditions scattered all throughout the parish communities.  

In the diocese that we serve in, there are 4 FMC families serving in total.  The Becker family is in Coopevega, the Schmitz family in Florencia and the newest addition is the Jansen family, which just wrapped up their Intake with FMC and are arriving on the 29th of December.  We served with the Jansens in Puerto Rico before they attended Intake and are really blessed to have all of these families to serve alongside as an FMC community.  It is especially cool because the Jansens are originally from Michigan and the Beckers and Schmitz families are from Minnesota/North Dakota.  It is great to have other Midwesterners here with us.  We live near what used to be a very active volcano, called Arenal.  The last giant eruption occurred in 1968, before which it had been dormant for 450 years.  It stayed active until October of 2010 and they say it will stay that way for about another 4-500 years but who knows.  The capital of Costa Rica is San Jose, which is confusing for us as the capital of Puerto Rico was very similar, San Juan.  My bad Dad joke is that we exchanged a John for a Joe and a Port for a Coast!  

Life starts early around here with some neighbors leaving around 4am to go to work.  We rise around 5am and it starts getting light outside shortly thereafter.  It has rained a lot since we have been here but we have been in the rainy season which is wrapping up now.

Here are some interesting facts about Costa Rica:

  • More than 25% of the land is dedicated to conservation
    • This is in part due to the main economic driver being tourism
  • Costa Rica has more than 5% of the world's biodiversity
  • More than 90% of the butterflies in Central America can be found here
  • There are more than 50 types of hummingbirds found here (we have some that visit our house regularly)
  • Costa Rica got rid of their military in 1948 and are one of 23 countries around the world that have no armed forces.  Almost 2 dozen countries around the world, including the U.S., have pledged to provide military assistance to Costa Rica if the need should arise.
  • The whole country occupies less size than Lake Michigan!
  • Up until 2012, there were no street signs in the country.  In 2012, they added street signs in the capital of San Jose but where we live, everyone's address is in relation to some other landmark.
I will end with some photos of our town and one of the nearby volcano (not taken by me but from the internet):

This is a view of one of the more rural areas of our town
This is the view from our porch facing east where we can watch the sunrise during our prayer time.

The Arenal Volcano on a clear day

I hope you were able to learn something new about Costa Rica.  Pura Vida!

I hope you all have a blessed Christmas and may the incredible story of The Savior of the World, the God who created the universe and everything in it....who humbled Himself to be born in the humblest of human a manger in a little corner of Bethlehem...may that story strike you in a new way this Christmas!  May the peace that can only come from Him, from Jesus, be with all of you this Christmas!

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