Thursday, November 29, 2007

Christmas Decorations

Costa Rica, as we have previously stated, is NOT an inexpensive place to live. Given that, it is very difficult to find ways to decorate for Christmas. As many of you may know, I go a little overboard when decorating my house for Christmas. As you also may know - we got rid of EVERY decoration we had before we left the States. This can be a lonely time of year, so one way we are trying to stay in the Christmas spirit is to add a little Christmas to our home. I'm playing songs on the computer, and Madison went to town to make some Christmas decorations including our Christmas "stockings". We actually couldn't find any Christmas stockings that didn't cost over $25.00 apiece, so we got creative. We found some felt Christmas hats that say "feliz navidad" on one side. We turned them over, and Madison decorated them with fabric paint. She also made the paper chains you can see in both pictures. We found the equivalent of a Big Lots, and found some dollar ornaments, and we decorated the tree. However, the weather has warmed up nicely, and instead of a very cold Winter we are accustomed to, we are dealing with weather in the high 70's, low 80's. Doesn't have much of the "feel" (from a weather perspective) Christmas season. Anyway - enjoy the pics of our Costa Rican decorations. Later I'll post pictures of how some of the local nationals decorate their houses for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Old Friends, New Food

The "Churchill" drink of Puntarenas

Margaret and Jerry visited for the day. They arrived into Puntarenas off of their cruise boat, and we grabbed our own private taxi and toured the area seeing some great things (see the above crocodile). There is not much to see in Puntarenas, and the beaches are NOT very nice. So...that's why we got out of dodge. We also went to one of the highest points in the area and saw the entire bay - it was a site that only being there in person can do justice - no picture could take in the beauty! A great day of visiting and being with family! WooHoo!

We also had the opportunity to try a few new foods. The first was ceviche. Me GUSTA!! (I liked it very much!) Madison...not so "citrusy". Ceviche is a Peruvian Dish, a form of citrus marinated seafood salad that originated in the northern region of Peru. The marinade used in ceviche is citrus based, with lemons and limes being the most commonly used. This being said, all citrus will work. In addition to adding flavor, the citric acid causes the proteins in the seafood to become denatured, which pickles or "cooks" the fish without heat. The result tastes more like a cooked dish and less like raw fish preparations such as Japanese sashimi. The other neat thing we tried was the Churchill. The Churchill is a frozen non alcoholic cocktail that contains ice cream, condensed milk, red sugar syrup, powdered milk and with a long spoon and a straw. Yes, as rich as it sounds, but oh was it good :-) See above picture. Don't know the history - if it was named after Churchill or not, but odd that it has the same name if it wasn't. If anyone knows - let me know.

All in all - a long two days, but well worth the trip.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Tomorrow (Monday) the family is going down to a coastal town called Puntarenas. Margaret and Jerry, Mike's parents, are on a 21-day cruise through the Panama canal. They have a one-day stop in Costa Rica, and we are going to meet up with them. We are going to leave as soon as Madison is out of school tomorrow, catch a 3+ hour public bus to the coast, get into our hotel, and meet them at the dock the next morning (Tuesday). They will be in port for most of the day, and we just have plans to hang out with them. It's going to be a lot of fun, and we will be back late Tuesday night. So, don't plan on seeing any blogs for the next couple of days until we return. Have a great early part of the week!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

School coming to a close

Well, it's been 3 months since we have been here, and with only 3 weeks to go until the end of this trimester, I wonder where the time has gone. The last week of school is primarily to wrap things up - typically all tests will be done, and most of our learning for the trimester will be completed - so learning new material will only be for two more weeks. We have definitely gotten into a routine of things. We know where to buy the best priced things. We know how to get where we are going whether it is walking, taking the bus, or going by taxi, paying our bills, going to the bank, etc. School has become a our daily routine of classroom lecture, homework, studying, test taking, and back for more each day. We have learned a lot, but only to realize how much more we need to learn! Things are going to end quickly as we still have much to do in these last three weeks. Thanks for going along for the ride this trimester, I look forward to seeing what next trimester has in store for us.

I have decided to take on the roll of music director for next trimester at school. These duties will include putting together worship teams, coordinating those teams to play in chapel twice a week, and possibly being the piano player for a worship team. I look forward to seeing how God will use me in this capacity. Please pray for this ministry and my involvement in it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

accion de gracias (Thanksgiving) part 2

Today we celebrated Thanksgiving here in Costa Rica with six other families. There were 12 missionaries to five countries and three Costa Ricans. We had a very enjoyable time and greatly enjoyed the company of our new friends.

Take a look at the 2 minute and 20 second video to see what our Thanksgiving was like:

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

accion de gracias (Thanksgiving) part. 1

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and it's a great time to reflect on what to be thankful for. The Pettengill family has so much to be thankful for it's hard to start. Our families are first and foremost. Their emotional support to us has been awesome - it keeps us going. Our friends, and our church are the other two important things we are so thankful for. The love we have received and are still receiving from friends are incredible! Friends that rush to send us stuff we are "missing" or "need" is awesome! Knowing that someone is praying for us everyday is such a huge blessing to us. Other friends we have met through our itineration process, and other churches that have picked us up as family without a second thought. God is good to bring so many incredible people into our lives. So for that, we thank God everyday.

So what is Thanksgiving in Costa Rica like? Well, as it's not a recognized holiday here, many, many people don't even know about it. The reason the school knows about it, and all of our teachers is because 90% of their students are from the USA. So, we still have school, I actually have a test tomorrow. Madison is in school, and I'm sure we will all have homework. However - we do get out an hour early, and Madison gets out 3 1/2 hours early! So, there are some good things.

So what about a turkey? Well, for a medium sized turkey that won't fit in most ovens because the ovens are so small, you can get it for about $40.00. We will be eating at our neighbors house - along with 5 other families. So - it's going to be a big "family" afterall. I'm making pumpkin pie (try that in a country that doesn't eat pie - so doesn't even know what a pie plate is), also try making it without evaporated milk (had to use condensed milk, and mix it with regular milk...hmmm...). The canned pumpkin, cranberry sauce, and stuffing mix came from my awesome mother-in-law - she sure came to the rescue. Someone will be bringing green-bean casserole - try that without cream of mushroom soup, or onion topping, or for that matter, canned green-beans - only fresh ones can be found around here. Someone else is also bringing sweet potatoes - but of course you can't find those here either - there is some other type of tuber that (kind of) tastes like sweet potatoes, but it's white, not orange - should prove interesting. And marshmallows for the top? can find colored ones ANYWHERE - but white ones are going to be hard to come by - so we shall see.

All in all, it will definitely be an "American" Thanksgiving, but also definitely have a Costa Rican flavor to it. Now all we need are fried plantains and mango salsa. Stay tuned for tomorrow - I'll have some pictures to share from the event.

Monday, November 19, 2007

What DO Missionaries Do For Fun?

This past weekend we attempted to answer this question. We went and stayed near Arenal, an active volcano in the north of Costa Rica. This was another great opportunity to relax and enjoy much of what the Rainforest has to offer. We explored howler monkeys, crocodiles, leaf cutter ants, turtles, birds and more. It was also a great time to relax and enjoy the pools and ponds around Arenal that are naturally heated by the volcano.

Watch this two minute video and see what else we did near Arenal:

Friday, November 16, 2007


We are off to Arenal for the weekend - coming back late Sunday evening. Arenal is a very active volcano in Costa Rica, and therefore a big tourist attraction. Can't come to Costa Rica and not see Arenal. So, there won't be any posts this weekend unless I can get one up when we get in Sunday evening. Feliz fin de semana! (Have a great weekend!)

By the way - got my first hair-cut on foreign land! They did a fine job - but oh is it short! Difficult to have a hair conversation with limited Spanish. You will have a chance to see the final results when I get pics of Arenal posted.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


It is very interesting what one becomes accustomed to. The "norms" of any society are just those things. Many things you don't know how you would do without. Think about 10 years ago - people had beepers, now most people own a cell phone, or two, or three - what would you do without it? If you leave your house in the morning without it, do you turn your car around to go get it? What about 24-hour stores, gas stations, beautifully groomed front yards - do your hackles go up when the neighbor's grass is over 3 inches high? However, have you ever looked at it from a different perspective? What if you were a foreigner, coming to live in the U.S. - what would it look like to you? Probably weird. Here are some examples:

Convenience Store in Costa Rica
Convenience Store in U.S.

Guard Shack in Costa Rica
Guard Shack in the U.S.

Streets in Costa Rica
Streets in the U.S.

Rain Gutters in Costa Rica
Rain Gutters in the U.S.

Trash Cans in Costa Rica

Trash cans in the U.S.
Home Security in Costa Rica
Home Security in the U.S.

Park Maintenance in Costa Rica

Park Maintenance in the U.S.

Front yard in Costa Rica

Front Yard in U.S.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mr. Bean Teaches Spanish

Today Mike’s favorite teacher, Grammar teacher Francisco, used an unorthodox teaching method. The class watched Mr. Bean, British comedian extraordinaire. Ok, how does that teach you Spanish you ask. The class watched a five minute Mr. Bean skit and then spent nearly two hours creating past tense Spanish sentences describing what Mr. Bean had done. Still don’t see the value? In that time Mike wrote three full pages of past tense Spanish sentences describing the antics of Mr. Bean.

Here is the five minute clip the class watched. I encourage you to watch it. It doesn’t matter if you like Mr. Bean’s humor. Watch this clip and think about how you might describe it in past tense. Some of Mr. Bean’s antics are hard enough to describe in English.

Monday, November 12, 2007

school project

Unfinished project Finished project

Madison was tasked with making a visual aid for science. They are studying volcanoes. Here it isn't as simple as running down to Michael's, or any other craft store and purchasing your needs. Chicken wire and paper machet aren't easy to come by. We could make the paper machet, but chicken wire?! There isn't a Home Depot down the street. So, we managed to find some clay, and used an upside-down flat bowl for the bottom portion of the volcano. Then, we crumpled up paper and put on top of the upside down bowl to give shape and stability to the upper portion of the volcano. Then - we decorated it with paint, rocks we scavenged from outside, leaves, and grass for the greenery. All in all, I think she did a very good job. Her presentation is on Thursday.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Just a compilation of thoughts during my time here so far. A con, followed by a pro.

1. con. I haven't seen a sunset in 3 months. It's the rainy season here - I haven't seen the sky for that matter.
1. pro. I've seen the most incredible mountainside right outside my door - every morning!

2. con. I haven't read a book in English in 3 months
2. pro. I've come to understand more and more when I open the Bible in Spanish

3. con. I haven't had a "real" coffee in so long (read - Starbucks)
3. pro. I live in an area that produces some of the best coffee I've had - just not with all the "fancy" stuff to go along with it (read - non-boxed milk, toffee nut syrup, etc)

4. con. The only double-stuffed Oreos I eat are ones sent to me from friends
4. pro. I can eat fried plantains all day!

5. con. I haven't walked anywhere without stumbling on a pot-hold, or slipping on moss-covered sidewalks
5. pro. I've never walked so much in my life - it's a good refreshing thing in the morning and evening from school :-)

6. con. I haven't driven a car in 3 months
6. pro. I haven't driven a car in 3 months

7. con. I don't have a pet to call my own
7. pro. We have a dog we have "adopted" - at least in the mornings, we lavish her with love at the same street-corner every morning

8. con. I've only been to the movie theater once since I've been here
8. pro. We can rent movies for $2.00 before they are even released in the states

9. con. The Internet is so hit-or-miss, I take advantage of it when it's working
9. pro. I spend much less time on the computer

1o. con. Have to walk to church, listen to 3 1/2 hours of Spanish
10. pro. I get to worship with people of a different culture, but worshiping the same God.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Being a Nurse in Costa Rica

Coming to Costa Rica I had a plan. Learn Spanish. That was my focus - I knew that was why I was here. It is so awesome that God has shown me otherwise. So far I have treated 6 different "patients". God placed me in a country where medicine is good, but oh so different! Your home physician isn't a phone call away, you don't have an "advice line" to call for questions, and medications come in all shapes and sizes I've never seen in the states. Using prophylactic charcoal as a way of cleaning the toxins from your body; a topical compazine (for nausea) you rub on your wrists when traveling; sending patients home with medications they not only don't know what they are, but don't know how to use. It's all very strange. I say all that because so far I've been able to "diagnose" viral meningitis for my neighbor (all symptomatically - no, I didn't do a spinal tap..."diagnosed" a skin rash on a 2-year old; helped a baby with severe diarrhea; gave a young girl some medication for nausea; helped a young man with severe pain - I had a great first-aid kit with me; and gave another man an injection of medication he was given from the pharmacy. I guess he was expected to give it to himself. He purchased the unconstituted med (still in powder form), a vial of fluid to mix it with, and a syringe and was sent on his way. He called me...I gave him his shot - worked out for everyone. So, as I said, just when I thought I was here to learn Spanish, God showed me that ALL of my skills could be used. I've been playing on the worship team (another skill God has allowed me to learn), worked with children during out mission trip (another skill God equipped me with as the children's ministry director at our church), a nurse :-) I can't wait to see what else He has in store for me.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Trip home from San Carlos

On our way back from the San Carlos mission trip we had the opportunity to stop in this beautiful quaint town. In the center of town was a church - and outside of the church were some beautiful trees/shrubs trimmed into many different shapes. Here is a picture of what we saw.
This week we are have some guest speakers in from the states. They are refreshing us each day with lessons. The theme of the lessons is Cultivating Gospel Transformation of our Heart. It is rich and we are enjoying it immensely. I've had the opportunity to play three times this week on our worship team. This is really helping to improve my confidence for future work. I am really grateful for this opportunity.
Tomorrow night we are going to a symphony performance at the National Theater downtown. It's an incredibly beautiful theater designed after the theater in Paris. I believe the symphony will be performing Mozart. This will be Madison's first symphony performance she has seen.
Saturday is a day of REST. We have almost nothing planned - maybe a movie - maybe not. We shall see.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Language Improvement

One of the biggest things we are trying to improve on is not only knowing HOW to speak, but knowing WHAT we are saying. An example of why it's so important:

Monday, November 5, 2007

Mission Trip to San Carlos, Costa Rica

We just spent three days (November 2nd - 4th) in San Carlos, Costa Rica. While in this very poor community the Pettengills organized a children’s event for 50 kids and spent some special time at an orphanage. Watch this five minute video to see what went on:

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Back home

We have returned from the mission trip to San Carlos. We have a video we will post tomorrow - gives lots of details. Had an incredible trip - even if the van did break down twice. It poured rain (RIGHT after we finished all our outside stuff - hmm....go figure :-) ) Anyway - just wanted to let everyone know we were all home safe and sound. Next week is going to be a little different at language school. It is spiritual emphasis week. We have regular class, but we have chapel every day, and every evening. We will have a speaker here and will have the opportunity to listen to some sermons in English. This week the worship team I am on will be playing twice on Tuesday and once on Friday. Need LOTS of prayers for that as we have only had one opportunity to practice - and that was only for the Tuesday morning songs - we haven't even practiced the Tuesday evening songs or those for Friday. No matter how well or poor we do, our goal is to glorify God in all we do. Look for the video tomorrow :-)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Mission Trip

Our family will be gone all weekend - off to San Carlos orphanage for a mission trip. We have a group of 40 going there (about 4 hours away) and will be working on some construction projects, door-to-door evangelism, and working with children and youth. Madison, Mike and I will be working with the older youth - 10 years old and up. Games, snacks, and bible lesson. We will be returning Sunday - later afternoon / early evening. I'll post stories and pictures upon our return.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

So you think you can bake...hum?!

Mike enjoying the "lemon (lime) squares"

What is one to do with an oven that either over-cooks, or under-cooks, where no one in the country understands what azúcar confitero (confectioners sugar) is. So...I wander into the local grocery store and look randomly around the store. Failing to find a box or bag with the name of azúcar confitero on it, I finally asked someone. I managed to ask for what I was looking for, but was given the most quizzical look. Hmm..I thought...clearly either my Spanish stinks, or they don't have it - it wouldn't be surprising if they didn't - they only started getting peanut butter 3 years ago, and that's only for the gringos - the tico's (Costa Rican's) don't eat it. So, I explained (all in Spanish...thank you very much) that I needed sugar for a dessert, but not to put INTO the dessert, but to sprinkle on top (do you see the use of all those prepositions?!...sigh...). Anyway, it looks like the idea was successful, and I was shown to the area where it was, and I looked at the box, and didn't see azúcar confitero, but azúcar molido (no...that doesn't mean powdered or confectioner, but it means ground or crushed). Somehow that didn't fit the description in my mind, but I took it home, hoping for the best. The other item I needed at the store (not for my current recipe) was baking soda. I looked....and looked...going to several stores...and STILL didn't find any. Yes, I know you can use baking powder and add cream of tartar - but then I would have to find THAT! Anyway - finally managed to ask someone for it, but was (again) given that quizzical look (why am I getting accustomed to seeing must be me...) anyway - I found myself led to a pharmacy. A pharmacy, you may ask, why a pharmacy?! Yes, those who know, baking soda is used as sodium bicarbonate - an antacid - so why not sell it in the pharmacy?! Anyway - I went home with my two prizes, and attempted to make...lemon squares! Of course the other thing you should know is Costa Rica doesn't eat lemons. When I asked for a yellow lemon at the store, I got nothing but stares. Come to find out (after...yes...many more searches) that they only use limes - look up lemon and lime in a Spanish dictionary and you will see the word is one and the same. Anyway - so I was up to the challenge - and...yes - they came out GREAT!!!! Lime squares for one and all. We are learning fruits and vegetables in one of our classes. We had to bring in "typical" dishes from the U.S. and I used this recipe - had to write it in Spanish. Did a pretty good job, if I do say so myself. So, I'll be bringing them into class tomorrow for all to share.