Category: Costa Rican friends

Scars of Life

There is a song that I love that talks about how the things we suffer make us stronger. A few of the lyrics say something along the lines of “I would love to fix it all for you, but please don’t fix a thing whatever you do. Cuz these bruises make for better conversations.”  I’ve been thinking of that song a lot lately. But I think that it’s the scars, more so than the bruises, that show the lives we’ve lived. Bruises come and quickly heal, but scars stay with you for the rest of your life. Of course this means physical scars, like the one I’ve got on my knee from whitewater rafting, or the one on my ankle from the killer mosquitoes in Machu Picchu, or the one on my foot from too much dancing in cheap shoes. But the deeper scars, and the ones that show all the more life, are the ones under the surface, the ones that can’t be seen. The scars that have been left from my travels, from the places I’ve lived and the things I’ve seen and the people I’ve met. They don’t cause scars at first; at first they are wonderful, magical, and life-changing. But it’s that very life-changing aspect that causes scars later on.  It’s the separation, the tearing away from those things that I’ve grown so close to, that rips my heart and emotions apart and leaves deep, deep scars. 

It’s hard to cope with those scars. They are painful. They are there because something that touched me deeply is now no longer with me. But, as hard and as painful as it is to live with those scars, I would never choose to live life without them. Which scar would I give up? My precious host family in Costa Rica, who taught me not only about life there but about how to love others, love God, and be content with what I have? My dear students in Korea, who selflessly took time out of their insanely busy schedules to love on me, a sad and desperately homesick American very far from home? My beloved host parents in Spain, who cooked for me the best food of my life and with whom I know I’ll always have a home if I ever go back to Seville? Or perhaps I would choose to give up this most recent scar from Peru, in which the flexibility with which I came allowed me to meet some truly incredible people and see God work in ways that I have very rarely ever seen?

No, of course not. There is not a chance in the world that I would ever give up what I gained from those experiences in exchange for a pain-free, scarless existence. As the song says, they make for better conversations and richer lives. The fact remains, however, that it hurts to be always and forever separated from things and places and people that you love. But I don’t think God has given me these scars – or anyone, for that matter – to cause us pain.  If that’s what we think, we’ve just got to be missing something.  In fact, I wonder sometimes if reflecting on wonderful things from the past makes it harder for you to focus on the wonderful things of the present.  I know that’s something that I often struggle with.  The real question is not how to avoid the scars, but rather how to live life in a way that amplifies the beauty of the here and now, rather than focusing on the pining for a beauty long past.  The real question is figuring out how to use these scars of life, both the good and the bad, in a way that honors God and uses our talents and knowledge to their full potential.  Perhaps that’s where the true beauty of life lies – in learning to live in a way that does not eliminate losing things you love, but diminishes those scars because you have learned to find beauty and joy in your present state, no matter what it is.

Wahoo!!!!!!

Wahoo, interjection: an expression of joy.
Wahoo, noun: a large game and food fish found in warm seas.
Wahoo, noun: an amazing restaurant, full of joy, warmth, and great food.

That’s what’s printed on the menus of the restaurant I went to tonight. The last definition is a fitting description of the restaurant; the first is quite apt in describing my day in general today. Let me start from the beginning….

Well, today started out like any other Friday (which, of course, is inherently better than all other days :]). I made alot of progress on my paper; it’s really starting to come together. I’m excited about the final report. The theory that I finally worked out is this: decentralized countries with large degrees of ethnic fractionalization tend to remove some of their decentralized fiscal autonomy in order to reduce secessionist tendencies. In other words, that federal governments in areas with alot of ethnic tension tend to make regional governments dependent upon transfer from the federal government to make them stay in the union. So I’m looking at constitutions, legal code, law journals, scholarly articles, etc, to try to back this theory up.

So anyway, after lunch, we went to the Center for Disease Control for a tour. It was really alot more interesting that I was expecting. The tour was very interactive and informative. I’m hoping to get pictures up soon; the pics are on someone else’s camera, so I’ll have to get them from him before I can upload them. The only bad thing about that was that I kept getting flashbacks from my Great Neglected Diseases biology class I took during my sophomore year. I hated, hated, HATED that class – we spent the whole summer studying these bizarre parasites and effects of them, as well as how to treat them and common areas of the world that they are found in. I have to say, though, my professor was very good at what he did. At the CDC, I knew most of the parasites that I read about, as well as how they were obtained and treated, because I still remember most of what I learned in Dr. Conn’s class 2 years ago.

After I got back from the CDC, I met up with a dance buddy, Alan. (oh, and speaking of dancing, I went to a west coast dance last night, called Wicked Westie. It was incredible. I don’t know why I enjoyed it so much more than the Sunday night West coast dances – it’s basically the same crowd, just in a different location. But it really was something special last night. I can’t wait to go back next week :]) But anyway, Alan and I recently discovered (through my photo album that I’ve been upkeeping about this summer, actually) that we work a block away from each other. So we went to the CNN center to grab a late lunch. Did you know that the CNN center used to be an indoor amusement park? It also boasts the largest unsupported escalator in the world….in case anyone was interested in that :). So anyway, we got Chick-fil-a and took our food to Centennial Park. Centennial Park is a huge park that was built in Atlanta for the 1996 olympics. It has walkways, benches, trees, shrubs, fountains, statues, everything…it even has a choreographed water fountain show that people can – and do – play in all the time. There were several school groups frolicking in the water while we were there. I really wanted to join them….but then I decided that it would be rude to just leave him there while I went and played, so I restrained myself :). The conversation was interesting anyway, so I was happy where I was.

In the evening, I met up with some graduate students from the department I’m working in. I had met with my advisor yesterday to talk about my project; after we were done, he told me he had someone he wanted me to meet. So he took me around the hall and introduced me to his new research assistant from the Netherlands, Peter. While we were talking, a grad student, Tamoya, came up to him and told him that they were meeting to go to dinner the next night around 6:30. I casually asked where they were going, and she told me it was a place called Wahoo, in east Atlanta. She then invited me to go, if I wanted to. So today, I was really debating going, but then I finally decided, what the heck, go for it! You only live once!! And I’m so glad I did! 🙂

Regardless of the restaurant or the food, the group I went with was fascinating. Dancel, from Brazil, was on my left, wearing black in mourning. And Peter, from the Netherlands, was to my right, wearing his country’s colors in celebration. (The Netherlands beat Brazil in the World Cup soccer tournament today, lol. There was lots of discussion about that :D) Then there was Andrea, a philosophy professor from Germany. Next came Violetta, a 5th-year P.h.D. student from Serbia. There was also Tamanya, from Jamaica, and her Italian boyfriend, Mario. The accents, the stories, the experiences, the different points of view….everything about the conversation tonight was fascinating. It was strange being the minority in my own country, tho… 🙂

But then, as icing on the cake, the restaurant was actually really cool, and the food was AMAZING!! Check out their website here: http://www.wahoogrilldecatur.com/. I got the Georgian trout – sauteed trout topped with succulent pesto butter and sugared pecans, served with delicate white cheddar grits and sauteed green beans (that description was for you, mom! Love ya! ;]). Anyway want to guess what the grand total on the bill was? **drum roll, please**….$421.50!! I’ve never seen a check from a restaurant that big! The alcohol alone was about $130. Peter said, jokingly, that I should keep the check as a “souvenir”. But then I decided that I really did want to keep it. So I did :).

I don’t think the group knew what to make of this strange American girl who doesn’t party or date random people, though. It was really quite amusing. I got grilled by pretty much everyone at the table, some more than once, about why I don’t drink or date. I tried explaining my reasons at first, but finally just gave up and said because I simply don’t want to. Actually, I was asked (and then had subsequent conversations about the subject) on 3 different occasions over the course of the day as to why I don’t date…I found it rather amusing 🙂

I haven’t talked to my family from Costa Rica in close to 6 months (tico is the colloquial term for Costa Ricans). We’ve communicated a few times via email, but it’s been pretty sparse; we’ve both just been really really busy :(. But after I got back from Wahoo, they randomly called me on Skype!! It was soooo good to talk to them; we talked for almost an hour and a half. (on a side note, I love Skype. Free unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls, anywhere in the world, plus you can use a webcam and see each other’s faces. I would marry Skype if I could…. :D)

It was really sad, though, to see how rusty my Spanish has gotten in 6 months. I can’t wait to go to Spain and polish it up. Which is ANOTHER wahoo factor!! My mom sent me a text today telling me that my visa has come in!!!!!!! I’m OFFICIALLY going to Spain in 60 days!!!!!!! Mom told me that when she opened the package she thought at first that I had been rejected – there was no note inside the package, no forms, nothing except my passport. Apparently, a visa is simply a little piece of paper that goes in your passport. After all of the hassle of getting my visa, that tiny little piece of paper is almost a let-down. You’d think they could at least give me a stand-alone form or SOMETHING….but hey, it’s one less thing to have to worry about losing while I’m there. I’m just glad it’s all over :).

I know everyone’s in different stages of life…but guys, embrace life, please! You’ll never get another chance to do it!!! Even with the little things…take advantage of the opportunities that come your way! I seriously considered not going to Wahoo’s because I didn’t know anyone in the group and the restaurant was pretty pricey and I’m trying to be a good steward of the money God has blessed me with. But you’ll never meet new friends if you don’t go out with people you don’t know! And, as my dad often says, money is not meant to stay in a bank. There’s so much joy and excitement out there in this world, just waiting for anyone who’s brave enough to experience it. Sure, new things are scary. I’m scared every single time I do something new. But that’s not a reason to not do something. Shoot, if everyone took that point of view, I think the human race would die out pretty soon…I’m pretty sure that having a child is one of the scariest things in the whole world :). But guys, go chase your dreams! Dreams will always be just that – fantasies – unless you work to achieve them. It breaks my heart to see friends of mine who have things they want to do, but they’re shackled by fear into the same hum-drum existence that they’ve always known. Take a leap of faith! Do something daring, out of the box, extraordinary! I promise you you won’t regret it :).

OK, I’m off my soapbox now. Love you guys bunches, thanks for reading! 🙂