Calling All Hinson's

"…that they should seek God…" Acts 17:26-27


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Costa Rica: {el último día de clase}

We made it! I have a certificate that says so!

I completed 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, 3 weeks of Spanish classes.

The kids completed 1 hour a day, 5 days a week, 3 weeks of Spanish classes.

And our teachers put up with all the fumbles and energy and nervousness and mispronunciations.

We have a lot to show for it…the kids were given Peppa Pig toys, candy, and certificates.

I was given a certificate and lots of kind words.

But most of all we were given a fantastic learning experience. We are FAR more knowledgeable than we were three weeks ago. FAR MORE. The kiddos have been exposed to a beautiful language that they will be able to use the rest of their lives. I have been given tools to use that will allow me to form deeper relationships with my dearest friends in Countryside. What more could we ask for?

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The Owner of Intensa

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Receiving their graduation gifts

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Receiving gifts and certificates

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Opening Peppa & George, gifts from their generous teachers

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Sweet hugs from sweet teachers

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They made it! (Not the kids, the teachers!)

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I changed professors weekly, but I had Yami every day in the afternoon. She was so much fun!

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Me and the Fab Three…Pablo, Mireya & Yami. I was so blessed to have such knowledgeable and equipped professors.

We couldn’t have asked for a better experience with Intensa. So fun! Thanks guys!

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Costa Rica: {Food}

*Sorry for posting this so late. I was eating.*

These past three weeks have been full of pleasure for our palates. I had the misconception that when we got to Costa Rica we would eat a lot of tacos and burritos. I haven’t had a single tortilla since we have been here. Now that is disappointing on a few levels, but overall it has been just fine.

So if there haven’t been any tortillas and enchiladas, what have we been eating?

All the food we have had has been so very fresh and tasty. Actually, the more I have thought about it, I have realized that we have unintentionally been on a whole food diet for three weeks (except when we make our own PB&J for lunch). Almost every bite has consisted of fresh ingredients straight from the farmer’s market or the backyard.

The day we arrived at Maria and Marlene’s we were chatting in the backyard and were given bananas straight off the tree. These are the best bananas I have ever had. They are so sweet and have a sort of crunch to them. A Hinson crowd favorite for sure.

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Maria and Marlene are the best cooks in San Jose, hands down. Each time someone asks where we are staying, they immediately react with “How lucky! Their food is delicious!” They cater for events around town and have some famous dishes. The thing that impresses me the most, though, is the freshness of it all. Every sauce and dressing, even the jelly for the toast, is made from fresh ingredients–not out of a bottle or box.

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This morning for breakfast we had eggs, gallo pinto (a rice & black bean mixture), toast, and mango. Maria also makes her own juices for breakfast and this morning we had some sort of strawberry juice. Papaya has also become one of our favorites.

We are provided breakfast and supper each day from Maria and Marlene, but lunch is on us. We have been living the college life, eating peanut butter and jelly and tuna from a can, but when we don’t feel like eating that, we eat at the school cafeteria. The food there is just as yummy and fresh. And cheap.

For supper we never know what to expect, but it’s always delicious. We always have a sort of salad–whether it is just fresh veggies, shredded cabbage with classic Costa Rican dressing, or a fruit salad. Then we have white rice, black beans, and our main dish. My favorites have been the baked chicken and homemade lasagna.

And the coffee. Let’s not forget the coffee. I usually drink coffee loaded with flavored creamer. I haven’t had any creamer while we have been here, but the coffee doesn’t need it. It is so smooth and rich and delicious. Even while I am in class, my professors are kind enough to bring me a fresh Cup O’ Joe when they see I’m getting overwhelmed. It solves everything.

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Last night when we asked Asher what he would miss the most from Costa Rica, he said “Maria’s food. It’s better than yours mom.” Thanks son, I’ll miss it too.

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Costa Rica: Weekend 1, Part 2 {Thieving monkeys}

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Our second day at the beach, we headed to Manuel Antonio National Park. In 2011, Forbes magazine named this one of the world’s 12 most beautiful national parks. All the wildlife is free to roam in their natural habitat, which includes 4 species of monkeys, 2 types of sloths, iguanas, birds, and many more creatures. We were told by EVERYONE to watch the monkeys when we got to the beach. They will steal your backpacks, shoes, lunch, whatever.

And I was worried about the folks on the bus yesterday.

We waited in line for a good while to get into the park because everyone else in Costa Rica seemed to have the same idea that day. At least we knew we were headed somewhere that was well-liked. We left Grant waiting in line and me and the kiddos headed to the ice cream stand next door.

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The way the park is set up, you have to walk a good ways (some amount of kilometers) through the natural park and then at the end you come upon the beach.   DSC_0235

When we got to the beach, I found a place that I thought would be good for relaxation and fun. Grant and the kiddos hopped in the water and I set up our lunch. I called the kids in to eat and Grant stayed out to help some other men get this huge tree trunk out of the waves that seemed pretty dangerous to be bobbing to and fro around all the swimmers. Me and the kids sat down in our peaceful corner with our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apples and almost immediately after our first bite, the largest iguana I have ever seen appeared 3 feet in front of us. Not having any knowledge of the temperament of iguanas, I was scared to death. The kids wanted to pet it, but in my calmest voice I asked them to sit back down and don’t move a muscle. I felt like I was in a standoff with a bear. He wanted the PB&J.

We slowly stood up, food in hand, and moved to the right, out of his way. I guess he decided we had chosen a perfect place to relax, too, because he found rest on our beach towels and left me standing with all our belongings in hand and two giggling kiddos by my side.

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All of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye I spotted something in the trees. It was a monkey. Of course. He wanted some PB&J too. Why not? I tried to get a good photo and not get peanut butter on the lens and by the time I lowered my camera the monkeys had multiplied. I turned around to get Grant’s attention–who was still working hard to get the tree out of the water–and other folks started gathering around our spot to see the spectacle. By the time I had turned back to the trees, there were at least 15 monkeys, NO LIE, staring at me and my children. I felt an enormous fear sweep over my body. I don’t know what iguanas do to humans, but I was sure in that moment that monkeys could do far worse. The fun and laughter my kids were having was not my sentiment. All I could picture was them attacking me for my PB&J, my camera, and my sweet children to take back to their Master Monkey and show him how good they did that day. Oy!

IMG_1268The last straw was when one monkey decided to hang from a tree by his tail and GRAB A WATERMELON out of the hands of a man sitting next to us. Did you hear what I said?? The robber monkey sole the man’s watermelon! I jerked up our beach towels and the kids and ran for the beach, screaming for my worker husband to GET.UP.HERE.NOW. All smiles, his reaction to my story was Oh! That’s cool! Cool, you say? Is that what you think? You think it would be cool if the monkey thief took your little girl like he took that watermelon?? Call it hormonal, call it overprotective, call it what you will. I did NOT trust the monkeys. Especially when they outnumbered us.

DSC_0262*And you may think he’s the cutest thing and it would’ve been the neatest experience (like my kids and Grant thought) but I had nightmares about the monkeys for days. Days I tell ya.*

After the monkey fiasco, we found another place to sit and I was able to slow my heart rate a little below 200. Grant and the kids enjoyed the water and I sat with the backpack around my ankles, taking pictures of my sweets playing in the water, soaking up every moment of this once-in-a-lifetime expedition.

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The kids made friends quickly and I was so pleased when they would venture out to try their best español on their new friends. Asher would run back and forth and say How do I say…to my friend? His excitement was so much fun!

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Despite the unpredictable iguanas and thieving monkeys, it was such a blessed day. I expect none of The Hinson’s will forget Manuel Antonio National Park.

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Thankful to have made it out alive,

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Costa Rica: Weekend 1, Part 1 (Vamos a la Playa)

Before we headed to Costa Rica, I mentioned to Grant that I would love to make it to the beach while we were here. The closest beach to San Jose is 3 hours away by car and 5 hours by bus. He nodded his head and said “We’ll see”. I, however, figured we will never make it back to CR for 3 weeks together as a family and wanted to take advantage of being here. Besides, you can’t go to a Latin American country and not visit a beach, right?!

The school sets up excursions for you if you want them to–which made me feel much better than blindly searching for a good beach, safe hotel, transportation, etc. The first day of class we asked them to get us a price and itinerary and we would see how we felt about the whole thing. It also seemed appropriate to go the first weekend we were here because that Friday was a holiday and we didn’t have classes that day.

Vera, the magnificent coordinator for the school, got us a price, itinerary, and all the trimmings that afternoon. We had time to pray about it and decide if we wanted to spend the money and make the trip. We felt no reservation from God about moving ahead with it and booked the tickets and room the next day.

That Friday we hopped on a public bus at 9am amongst a slew of other folks headed to the same beach. Besides the bus not having air conditioning and being 1,000 degrees, all went well on the 5 hour bus ride through the curviest mountains you have ever experienced. I tried to sleep and pray through the whole ride–that I wouldn’t throw up, that EG wouldn’t have to pee, and that Asher’s battery wouldn’t run out on the old iPhone. We had also been warned that it wasn’t the safest way to travel concerning your belongings, so I had my backpack wrapped around my ankles the whole time. God heard and answered all-of-the-prayers and we arrived in Manuel Antonio around 2:30 that afternoon–sweat, backpacks, and all.

IMG_1255A short walk from the bus station landed us right at our dream-come-true, Hotel Espadilla. It was a magnificent hotel straight out of a magazine. I actually didn’t care if it even had a bed–I was enamored by the air conditioning. I had been hot for 6 days at that point in time. Let me clarify. I had been sticky-hot for 6 days and no one here believes in air conditioning. Spoiled much? I turned the AC on 20 degrees and laid (with or without clothes on, you will never know) on the bed. My kiddos curled up under the blankets and shivered. I’m pregnant, what can I say?

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When I felt like my body temperature had decreased significantly, I agreed to head to the beach. We lathered up with sunscreen and headed out to the heat fun. The public beach at Manuel Antonio is so beautiful and so spacious. It was great for the kids to run and play. Of course folks try to sell you all of their handmade products and beach sno-cones and fresh coconuts, but it didn’t bother me, it just added to the cultural experience.

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A breakfast was included every morning at the hotel and let me tell you, America, your continental breakfast ain’t got nothin’ on this Costa Rican hotel breakfast. Fresh tropical fruits, pastries, made-to-order omelets, pancakes, fried plantains, rice, beans, fresh squeezed juice, Costa Rican coffee…the whole nine! I almost had to be rolled out of there every morning.

The pool was literally right outside our hotel door, so we spent many hours there, too. I’ll never know how we were able to stay at such a nice place for such a great price, but I trust that God had his hand in it.

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The next day we took an adventurous trip to Manuel Antonio National Park. This trip was so thrilling that it deserves it’s very own post tomorrow–complete with unpredictable species and thievery. You don’t want to miss it!

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Much love,

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Costa Rica: Maria & Marlene’s

A big part of learning the language here in CR is the homestay portion. The school strongly encourages you to stay with one of their contracted families in order to fully experience the culture and Spanish-speaking 24/7. When Grant was here in September/October last year he stayed at Maria & Marlene’s house. He felt so welcomed and taken care of that he insisted if we come back as a family, we would have to stay there too. I emailed the school to tell them our request and it all worked out perfectly.

IMG_0601Maria and Marlene have a 5 bedroom home that they have turned into a sort-of bed and breakfast. Me and Grant have one room with a bathroom attached and the kiddos have their own room across from ours. Another room is occupied by Khana, a brilliant young girl from Japan who is teaching Japanese at the University of Costa Rica through the Peace Corps. Khana is very talented–she makes jewelry, plays an instrument, and speaks Japanese, Spanish, English, and is taking classes in Portuguese. We have enjoyed spending time with her.

Maria and Marlene have the gift of hospitality. They have made us feel welcome from the moment we stepped out of the taxi when we found them sitting out on the sidewalk waiting for us to arrive. They bake cookies for the kiddos and color with them. They put up a tent in the backyard to give the kids something to do and they play cards with us at night. When I had a cold last week, Maria heard me coughing late at night and brought me a cup of hot lemon water.

And if I were able to accurately describe how well they cook, you might just purchase a ticket on cheapOair.com and head down to Maria & Marlene’s. They provide breakfast and supper for us each day we are here and to say it is delicious is an understatement. The flavors and food combinations and freshness and richness have left me full and happy. The kids are loving it too, which is a big deal for EG.

Their backyard has been both a place of quiet solitude and loud playing. The beauty of the area has been an enjoyment to take in. I am so glad we were blessed to stay here.

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More tomorrow,

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Costa Rica: Clase de los niños

When we booked our trip to Costa Rica, we wondered if there was an opportunity to allow our kiddos to learn in a formal way, too. I emailed the school and they made a class to teach Asher & EG Spanish! They attend class from 9:45-10:45 each day and are having SO much fun!

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The first day they were in class they learned to say Buenos Días, which means Good Morning or Good Day in English. We went for a walk later that day and every.single.person we passed on the street was greeted by two little eager Americans telling them Buenos Días! It brought a smile to many faces and I am thankful for that.

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They have learned their vowels, colors, and animals, have played BINGO, listened to music, and even made cookies. They are really enjoying their class time and I have been impressed with how much knowledge they have gained. Their little brains amaze me! God’s certainly going to use this for His glory!

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Costa Rica: Language School

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I can now, without a doubt, fully understand the meaning of Intensa (translated “Intense” in English).

Six hours a day. Five days a week. One-on-one with someone speaking Spanish to you. Teaching you verbs and sentence structure and making you pronounce clearly and asking you to tell them stories. All in a different language.

That’s Intensa.

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Now that I have two weeks of class under my belt I have finally found a moment to breathe and come up with some sort of blog posts to document our stay. I really had forgotten how demanding and physically exhausting such vigorous mental work was. Each day last week I would come home from class at 4:30 and all I wanted to do was sleep until the next morning.

Part of that was because of the time change adjustment. Part was because of the heat. Part of it because I’m pregnant and I love to sleep.

But I think another big part was because I was giving it my ALL and was really soaking in the knowledge.

When you begin your term at Intensa Language School, they sit down with you and do an interview (in español, of course) to see which module you should begin. After that you take off running with the modules and try to make it through as many as you can for the time you are here. I should finish one each week by the time we go home.

*There are 13 Spanish modules and hopefully I will go through 3, 4 & 5 while here. I found it encouraging that there are 40 English modules and I already know that language. Maybe I can do this. ;)*

In the afternoons the sessions are more focused on conversation instead of grammar. The teachers know I am in the medical field and they have so graciously been teaching me the names for body parts, how to have a conversation in a doctor’s office, and we have been reading dialogues with question/answer time about medical problems. This has been such a blessing to learn in a way that is interesting to me!

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I have been really happy with my time here at the school. The teachers are fantastic–they all have such fun personalities and are so very encouraging. The atmosphere is so friendly and inviting. There are only about four students learning Spanish here now, the other students are learning English at the school. They are mostly college-aged Costa Ricans. The ones I have talked to say that speaking English will give them much better job opportunities and they are excited about learning.

And one of the other students learning Spanish? He is deaf and mute. English is his native language, but he has a great job at a company that has now required him to learn Spanish. He answers email messages and chats with customers over the computer and the company wants to open his client base to Spanish speakers. And I think my learning is hard…

Each day I feel more comfortable with the language and I hope God opens many doors for me to use what I have learned. Thanks for your prayers, friends!

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