Sunday, February 28, 2010

Week 14: Segunda Semana -- Finca la Flor

Photo: The volunteers of Finca la Flor with Brigette Daaber, one of the founders and the director, on the right.

Rural Community

Community as the agent of transformation of consciousness is the heart of the matter for me this week.

Finca la Flor is a consciousness transforming organic farm on a mountainside in central Costa Rica. You can learn a lot about the farm at the website:

The deepest and most soulful and most challenging and most delightful experiences are through my interactions with the folks who live and work here.

The community here keeps changing. There have been anywhere from 7 to 12 volunteers living here during the last week. They come from British Columbia, Quebec, New Brunswick, CA, IN, NY, TX, France and Austria. Brigette or Bri, the director, is from Germany. There are about 12 workers on the farm -- cooks, Spanish teachers, administrators, and agricultural workers -- from tiny La Flor (the local village) or other nearby communities. Therefore, even meal time is a lesson in international diplomacy and courtesy. (By the way, we have super terrific local organic food for every meal!) Often at the table French has been the predominant language this week with English as a close second. Early in the week our Costa Rican hosts/cooks were not sitting at the table with us.

Over the relatively short time of a week the community transformed. We learned how to thank our cooks and co-workers in the kitchen and insistently invite them to sit with us, though the table was crowded. We used a large white board to list the names of the foods we were eating and other vocabulary needed for conversation as we shifted our table talk to a more common language: Spanish. And we practiced talking and listening, being the one telling a story and the ones receiving.

Tuesday evening Eugenia and Armando along with Bri taught us “La Guardia Morada” which is a Costa Rican folk song about the national flower. We also heard the story of this place and its challenges in creating relationship both with the land and with the local community.

Significant in this transformation was dancing! At the initiative of Eugenia, Lena and Francisco, we all gathered to learn sala, merenque and cambio. Our Costa Rican hosts were both gracious and insistent as they pulled us out onto the “dance floor” (common building). Dancing, to me, is a concrete expression of learning one another’s language and culture -- body language and gender culture, among other things. The whole body work of dance as well as cleaning out the goat and horse and chicken and duck pens is transforming in a way that hours of “meetings” could never be!

In a more substantive way, watching the film “Home” together on Friday evening stirred deep waters of conversation. It is a stunning portrayal of the formation of all the interrelationships with make life possible on earth as well as all the ways we have seriously endangered that life force. This sparked table talk about eating or not eating meat. So, Bri, in her best consciousness transforming manner, said, “Well, I think we will eat a goat next week. Will you, Nina, eat it?”
So, more visceral consciousness transformation to come.

I am so grateful for the soulful hospitality of this place. Though I miss home and church more and more daily, I am indeed privileged to be gathering a global community of friends here.

peace to all, Nina

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Week 13: Primera Semana en Costa Rica

You will understand more of the significance of this photo by the END of this entry...

I have been taken in, fed, educated, laughted at, laughed with, and thoroughly welcomed to rural Costa Rica by Martha's family! Over-view: birds morning, noon and night, learning how to keep bees and extract honey, visiting Adolfo's tiny and thoroughly amazing organic farm including milking a cow for the first time in my life, learning about plants and animals, recipes and the behavior of ants, and meeting the people who live in the rough and soulful and gloriously beautiful hills that overlook Puntarenas and the sea and the peninsula and islands across the way.


A good friend of the family said that a Beachy Amish family had moved into the area. When Henry Miller's name was given as an up and coming visitor, we were all invited to stop by. So, one late afternoon, we got into Leo's Jeep and went up and down and around the gravel roads. A full rainbow stretched from one side of the mountains to the other and over our way.

When we arrived the porch was dark. But Leo persisted in knocking. Again, the magic word seemed to be "Henry Miller." We were all invited in (seven adults) to sit in the front room. Curtis was our host. He and his wife wore the plain dress that looked Amish or...But when asked they quickly said they were Mennonites. A very few questions into the cnversation and the Millers of Holmes County, OH and the Yoders of PA were in the conversation. "Here we go!" I said. Curtis' wife laughed. We soon learned that Curtis' favorite cousin is Bennie Yoder who was a VS'er in Costa Rica before Henry. He is a good friend of Henry and Martha.

And what of Curtis' wife? What was her family name? "Horst," she said. Martha spelled it out to be sure. "I know a Willie Horst," she said. "That is my brother!" said the wife of Curtis. Can you believe it!

For those of you who do not know, I have known Willie Horst and his family for years. He was part of Fellowship of Hope where I was a pastor, and he and Bertie have been a missionary in Argentina for many years, ending this year. His daughter, Carmen, is a good friend who lives in Goshen! Martha had been Willie and Berdaline's Spanish teacher in Costa Rica years past and Henry also knows them well. What a joyful and amazing connection to meet "extended family" in the wilds of Costa Rica!

A bit later in the conversation, we were invited to the back of the house where the three daughters and two friends were doing piles of baking for the market the next day. Of course we had to buy whoopie pies and granola and apple pie and freshly baked bread while we talked together and learned more of the cousins and answered their questions about how old Carmen's adopted baby must be.

I asked if I could take a photo to share with their relatives. On the way back from fetching the camera we went to the bake room in the dark. I opened the door and suddenly began to fall backwards! Henry and Leo were behind me, bringing the cash to pay for our goods. They caught me just as my ample behind caught the edge of a very large pail -- full of dirty water that was being saved to recyle. Another miracle of the day -- I did not get wet at all! No one could believe it, but I thanked God generously for my generous behind! Many, many jokes in English and Spanish ensued as you might imagine.

So, though I had not planned to visit the Mennonites (also known as Boronitas by local neighbors here), ah, here we are! And not just any Mennonites, but the aunt of a good friend, and sister of another.

As I was leaving I asked if they knew that Carmen was a poet. No, they said. But Curtis was quick to add: "How good you said that. My wife is a poet, too. She has written a book of poems." I mentioned that Carmen had a beautiful poem about Willie's mother...

I will be eager to hear how this Boronita grapevine works. Many more vines are coming home with me about organic farming and soulful and simple living. Some will be weeds, some fruitful. Only God will know! ...more next week...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Week Twelve: Jubilee! Sabbatical in Costa Rica Begins

Okay, I am going to cheat. It is Tuesday, I am in Costa Rica, and I cannot JUST write about last week. But I must write about last week first!

What a wonderful send off for sabbatical I received from my family and friends and from Florence Church! I had many special meals with family and friends, and Donald and I went to see Avatar as our Valentine's date on Friday night (stimulating much conversation about how the imagination of the film does or does not coincide with the realities of life between Costa Rica, Cambodia and Congo and the US). It was a tender farewell to Drew and Caitlin and little Lily in utero. Ah, I hope belly photos will follow me!

Sunday was full of all the best of Florence and home. Worship was gifted with an original song by Ben Nofsinger, fabulous singing by Florence choir and men's ensemble, blessings and anointing, and then food and dancing! What more could I ask for. My photo from last week is of Daniela teaching salsa to us in the church basemnt! Perfecto! We had a relaxed and soulful afternoon at home around the woodstove, and Donald delivered me to the South Bend Regional airport at 6:30 pm to catch the bus to O'Hare.

Here is a bit of travelogue:
All travel went very well. It was a long night, but I was able to sleep during most of the flying, and I had lovely conversation partners. First flight<<<<<< was a young couple from Chicago coming to CR for 2 months to find a place to teach. She was an English secondary ed major. They had been teaching in Bogota, and could not find teaching in Chicago area. Delightful. Second flight it was two young men from Chicago, originally from Ecuador. They were going home for a vacation. Both are managers of Dunkin Doughtnuts in Chicago. Very encouraging for my Spanish.

AND NOW I am in Costa Rica. Henry and Martha were pressed up against the glass outside the airport when I arrived. Ben, Martha was not too short to see. She was wearing glorious, glowing white! The city is surrounded by mountains, some crowned with clouds. The trees are in bloom, orange and yellow, and the bouganvilla is bright pink and red. As the sun set the parrots were so noisy between us and the mountains as we walked to Sabor de Cafe for our evening meal. Glorious! Henry and Martha and I talk and talk in Spanish and English and watch Olympics in between. In a few moments we will drive with Leo, Martha's brother, to his land near the coast. More to come...

Love to all...

Feel free to comment! Nina

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Week Eleven: Catching Kayak in the Wild

Today my soul was caught by Don Troyer's reflections on Listening to our Dreams.

Here is a nugget. Don continued the line of thought from last week -- the invitation to finding God in "the wild."

“In God’s wilderness lies the hope of the world – the great fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and the wounds heal ere we are aware.”
-John Muir

Don added: The natural world provides this outer and healing wildness. The inner world of the dream is equally as wild and equally as healing. (Nina's paraphrase of Don...)

Today my eye was caught by this man in his kayak on the St. Joe River just outside of Bristol. Wow! This is dedication to the wild! And joy!

Will my sabbatical dreams also be such an adventure?