Saturday, January 29, 2011

The big & little things...

Another week of classes has ended here in Costa Rica. This week was a little easier as we are finding "our groove" here. The kids had a half day on Friday which was much needed - they all took naps Friday afternoon while Eric and I stocked our NEW refrigerator! Woo Hoo!
Delivery of our refrigerator! I was doing a little dance in the driveway! :)

The BIG thing - For the past 2 weeks we have not had a functioning refridge. The entire unit had turned into a freezer. Because of this we were having to go to the supermarket every other day for fresh food and then only cook what we could eat. This added a new strain to the mix. I have never enjoyed grocery shopping (I'll just be honest here) but yesterday when I was able to buy food for 2 whole weeks I was thoroughly enjoying myself! What a huge blessing from the Lord! I think He was teaching me something about thankfulness....

Our new refridge arrived .......... oh the anticipation of plugging it in ....... I know, but this was a big deal!!! Anyway we put it into place with our landlord - or at least attempted too. The refridge was 1/2 inch too tall to fit under the cabinets - ooops! The above picture is Eric and our landlord using a hacksaw to trim off that 1/2 inch. It was a male bonding moment. :)

The little things - I removed one of Eric's stitches yesterday. Just a little tiny black knot of thread, but oh how thankful we are for that thread. Tomorrow I should be able to remove the rest of them.

A pet - our kids have been asking, sometimes begging for a pet - generally right after they see a stray, skinny dog running around or following us home from school. We have always told them no - First because pets are a lot of work, second because they cost money and third becaue our landlord doesn't allow them. Well the Lord takes care of even those little desires - yesterday we found a light green gecko in our bathroom. He is quite pretty and VERY fast! Once he realized that he had been spotted he scurried under our free standing sink - to the point that we could not see him. Below is a picture of Eric trying to get him out.
He was not able to extract him so Kevin sat in the bathroom for an hour reading his book in hopes that "Bob" would make an appearance. Bob has not made an appearance since this photo, however just knowing that Bob might be in the bathroom has made the kids happy. They now have a named pet. How can a parent complain about that! :)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Oops! Wipe-out.

We will tell this story from end to beginning - so that you know it turned out well! :) This is my dear hubby with the very capable and friendly nursing staff of the hospital in Jaco. All stitched up. WARNING - next picture is bloody.

A weekend away!

Some dear friends of ours gave us a wonderful gift this weekend - 2 days away from the city. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at a nearby beach with M & M. We also ate way to many M&M's - something Eric loves and they don't well here! We had not realized how stressed we had been feeling until we left the concrete jungle of San Jose and saw the green mountains and smelled the salty air. It was incredibly refreshing! Above on the far left is the condo complex in which we stayed.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Week Of Tears

Fun with a new friend at the park.

One of our more frequent and very common meal here.

No dishwasher to rely on here - the boys were singing
praise songs while washing dishes - it brought tears to my eyes.

During orientation last week we were told that the first week of classes is known as the week of tears. The director of Instituto de Lengua Espanola said that she sees more men cry in her office the first week classes than she does the rest of the year. Well, Eric did not cry but all of the rest of us did this week! On Monday the kids began their classes and on Tuesday we began ours. All of our classes begin at 7:30am. The kids get done at 2:30 while we are finish at noon.

As first trimester students we take 2 hours of grammar classes, 1 hour of phonetics and 1 hour of language. By the time 12:00 rolls around we are ready for a nap!!!! Every hour we get a 5 minute break - praise the lord for that! Studies have shown that after an hour of language study it is necessary to take a break for learning to continue. Studies have also shown that a person over the age of 25 who is learning a second language requires 2 more hours of sleep per night. We can understand why after only 4 days of classes! When classes are done for the day, we work on our homework for 2-3 hours.

So - back to the tears - in combination with a lack of sleep (we had a mariachi band playing at the neighbors house 1 night and car alarms going off), the continuing feelings of grief and loss and being challenged in our classes, the kids and I all had our "day of tears". We also have yet to completely move into our new home. We are still finding spots to put things and re-arranging items almost everyday in the kitchen so that our maid (a dear lady) who happens to be about 5 feet tall can reach everything she needs to.

On a very positive note this week we were able to complete our fingerprinting which is necessary for our student visas. The police station was not busy when we arrived which is unusual. We actually were the last people in the station and had a great time joking with the officers. Of course they all commented on how tall Adrianne and I are. I think Adrianne was embarrassed when one of the female officers and I broke in to song at the same time after joking around.

Today our guard gave us flashcards to study our Spanish verbs with him. He is so enthusiastic about helping us with our homework and in the mean time also learning some English. We took another trip to la feria today (the market) and bought our weekly supply of fruits and veggies. It is always fun to see the different types of fruits available and then figure out what to do with them once we purchase them.

This week will bring a whole new set of challenges, I'm sure, so we keep this little prayer on the edge of our tongue every minute - "God Help!"

Monday, January 10, 2011

First Day of school

Today was our children's first day of school at SoJourn Academy in Costa Rica. Our middle child Kevin, woke up early (5:30am) and was dressed and had his bed made before our alarm went off at 6:00. We were out the door by 7:00 am and even had time to stop at PPK (pan por kilo) for a miniature donut before classes started at 7:25. Our walking time is about 15 minutes one way - especially with the kids carrying their backpacks.

The school has uniform shirts which cuts down on the amount of clothing necessary to bring here, although the kids aren't all that enthused about it yet. The above photo is taken outside of our gate. Each morning we unlock 3 padlocks to untangle the chains that our landlord keeps on his gate. Although crime is not very high - especially where we live -everyone is cautious and bars, gates, padlocks and razor wire are very common around here.

This past weekend (our first one here) we went to the "ferria" or market to stock up on fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes, watermelon, lemons and avocado grow in abundance here. We felt very ignorant at times because of the number of items that we were not familiar with. Many times in our broken Spanish we asked if that item was a fruit or a vegetable and then we would ask if it was sweet or bitter or spicy or bland. It was definitely a learning experience.

We met several families here that are in their second trimester and spent Saturday afternoon at the park with them. All of our children were able to meet other kids their age and have connected well. Sunday we attended church - we just chose one based on recommendations from other students. Of course we did not understand much of the message but the people were friendly. We had lunch with new friends and I learned a little bit about how Ticos cook their rice.

Today we met our Empleada (maid). It is expected that as an outsider you will have house help. I am most thankful for that as I have yet to figure out what Costa Rican cooking is all about. Lidia will be helping to cook for and with us as well as help us with language study while she is here. We look forward to starting classes tomorrow. Eric and I are not in any of the same classes but we were happy to see that we are in the higher end of the beginners. Our tutoring (gracias Laura!) in the States has paid off.

Many of the side streets here in Costa Rica have guards by the corners and we met ours yesterday. Enrique is very friendly, a Christian, and can't wait for us to visit him in his little shack with our homework so that he can help us. We have found that most people will go out of their way to assist you if you show the slightest bit of interest in their city or language.

Looking forward to writing the next blog in Spanish! Well maybe not the next one. :)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Photos of the past few days

The view of the southern mountains from one of the nearby super markets.

All of the local tow trucks are either green or red converted landrovers.

The boys under the walkway at The Spanish Language Institute

Our first trip to Hipermas (similiar to Wal-mart).
Well our first 5 days are behind us - we are tired but encouraged by the people we have met so far and the relative quietness and comfortableness of our new home. Because there is a small garden outside our window - we can actually here crickets instead of car noises and alarms. At 6:15 each morning we here our landlady's heels on the tile floor above us and a bird call that sounds a bit like a cat getting in a fight with a raccoon.

Since we are up at 6:00am each morning these noises are not so bad - now, we have not spent our first Saturday here but we are praying that our landlady sleeps in and so does the bird!

Tomorrow will be a new adventure with a trip to the market - held each Saturday at a sports park nearby. We are looking forward to stocking up on fruits and vegetables.

Things we have learned about Costa Rica - so far

The country of Costa Rica does not have/ nor use street addresses. They are set up to use landmarks. Our address is 75 meters north of La Pacifica farmacia in San Fransico de dos rios. Gas, telephone and electric bills are delivered by hand to each house and then must be paid at the local supermarket. The government has said they will have street addresses by 2020.

Costa Ricans have spotless floors! If you are cleaning a house -the floor is the most important as they believe sickness comes through your feet from the floor.

Most of the storm drain covers/grates have been stolen and sold for metal. Because we North Americans tend to walk with our heads up instead of looking where we are walking the locals (Ticos) call the open storm drains - gringo traps.

It is very rude to point to a person, slam a door of a car and blow your nose in public.

When referring to a person's height you must bend your hand so your fingers are at a 90* angle instead of a flat/palm down hand. The flat hand refers to the height of an animal.

Pedestrians have the right away but not really- walk quickly and always look both ways. Stop does not necessarily mean stop.

Four million people live in Costa Rica - 1 million of them are displaced Nicaraguans.

Facts about Latin America as told to us by a Costa Rican pastor:

  1. Average president pockets $25 million dollars during his/her presidency.
  2. 1/3 of all children are born to teenagers.
  3. 467 million people live in Latin America
  4. 40% of Venezuelan teenagers are prostitutes
  5. Military spending is 60 billion per year (Costa Rica does not have any military)
  6. The evangelical and catholic church are considered irrelevant to Latin America.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Yesterday was not a good domestic day for me. I have to laugh about it - there is enough stress already trying to make our way around without adding domestic messes to the list.

We had borrowed sheets for our first night here as we mistakenly thought linens were provided and therefore did not pack any. I decided to do a load of laundry in order to return them to their rightful owners, fresh. I had thrown some dirty laundry in a sink next to the washing machine as we do not yet have a laundry basket. BAD idea.

Eric was talking to our landlord in the front room and I put the laundry in- measured the soap by "eyeballing" it and walked away. About 10 minutes later I came into the kitchen and realized the entire floor was 1/2 inch deep in water! I did not want to make a big scene since our landlord was a room away from me so I took every piece of dirty laundry that was still dry and threw it on the floor to try to soak up some water. Then I used every towel in the place to soak up more.

Turns out that the washing machine drains into the sink - the sink where I had thrown the dirty laundry in. OOOPS. The drain as we also determined was and still is partially plugged adding to the problem. I have to say though that the floor was surprisingly clean - even before I washed it!

Needless to say I then had to wash another load of towels as they were the only ones we had and we needed them for showers. Eric strung up clothesline around four concrete pillars in our living area so that we could line dry them. See the above photo! I told Eric I was just trying to multi-task.

My second domestic blunder occurred at lunch when I was making mac and cheese for the kids. No strainer to be found so I used the pot lid. I was also giving instructions to my kids at the time and half of the mac and cheese ended up in the sink. Not cool. Bought a strainer today!

To top off my day we went to the store for a large run of stuff and I left the list in the kitchen.

So, is multi-tasking a good thing? Based on yesterday - probably not. Currently I am brushing my teeth while typing this -apparently I haven't learned my lesson yet! ;)

Our new home

Our boys doing an exercise routine with
our friend John in our "front room".

Our back patio.

Our back door.

Lunch in our dining room.

Today was the first day of orientation for parents of new students. We toured the school and met the other 5 families that are starting this trimester. Tomorrow begins regular orientation from 7:30-noon for the rest of the week.

We finished at 11:30 today, returned to our new home for lunch (it is about a 15 minute walk and I can honestly tell you it is uphill both ways! - of course it is also down hill both ways). Costa Rica is rather "hilly". After a brief nap - we are still recovering from getting here and the preparation it took to do so- we walked about 20 minutes to a household goods store and a dollar type store with our big brothers. We were able to purchase pillows (no more sleeping on sweatshirts! :)) and a few more items for our kitchen.

The kids and I took a taxi home with our purchases while Eric and our friend John took another taxi (maximum allowed is 4 people) to the local mini - mart to get some meat for tacos. Needless to say we have yet to stock up on food and as it turns out- this particular store did not carry meat so we settled for spaghetti.

I am amazed at how much energy it takes to set up house in a new country. We are very dependent on others to help us find our way and not all of the stores carry everything- so several trips are necessary to complete shopping.

At this time we have not had time to "enjoy" Costa Rica as we are trying to get set-up before classes begin on Monday. We are told that classes are intense and we will be very tired when we return each day. Definitely a new adventure awaits us!

Monday, January 3, 2011

We have arrived!

Thank you all for your prayers! We made it safely to San Jose!

Flight was slightly late for take-off due to de-icing but it was great to see one last snow fall before we left. Landed in Atlanta at 9:00am and by the time we took the train to the next terminal and grabbed breakfast to go from Mickey D's we walked right on to our next flight. That flight was uneventful as well - a little boring for the kids but we all slept on and off. Landed in CR around 2:00 EST. The immigration line was really long and we stood in it for about 15 minutes when one of the airport workers came by and asked if the boys were mine - I said "yes" and he moved all of us to the front of the line. Turns out the locals - known as Ticos love kids, so it is very common for them to go out of the way for them. We then found all of our luggage - another miracle! Three of the bags had been checked, but nothing was taken. It took two porters to get us to customs - at customs we were asked for a return ticket since we arrived as a tourist. We did not have a return ticket and our big brother said that normally they do not ask - but I showed the guy our paperwork to apply for our student visas, he checked with his supervisor who was standing right there and she said no problem and waved us through. Because we had 2 porters, the customs officials did not even stop us to check our luggage. We walked right outside and met our big brother Matt and our driver Fernando who speaks flawless English and was very interesting. It took about 45 minutes to get to our new home from the airport due to traffic. We were told that it can take as little as 20 minutes but Sunday afternoons are busy family times and traffic is high.

Our landlords were waiting to meet us - Aurillo and Antoinett. He is about 70 and she is probably 55. Very friendly people and turns out he is a pilot wanna be - so Eric and he talked for an hour about that. The boys showed him their remote control helicopters and he is excited to learn how to fly them. He then invited us to come upstairs to their portion of the house for tea and scones. We were so tired but he asked 3 times so we finally said yes - it was very pleasant. By the time we were done with tea we had time to unload one bag and then we walked 4 blocks to meet our big brother and his family for pizza at a local restaurant. The pizza was tasty - same price as the States - no deals here we are told.

 When we returned we unpacked everything but it is not all put away and will take awhile to make it feel homey. We thought linens were included as the pictures showed linens on the bed, however they are not so we borrowed sheets from our big brother and will be using sweatshirts for pillows tonight. We do have blankets as I knew those were not included. Tomorrow will be a big day of shopping as there are no pots and pans, no sheets, no groceries except for a few things our big brother picked up for us.

It is definitely not home and feels like we just arrived for a 2 week vacation in a rental cottage, but we are going to work on it.

I attached a few photos of our day. The first one is of our new landlords by our new front door. The next two are of the kids in their new rooms and the last one is Eric checking out the bidet!

Again thank you for holding us up in prayer - we will need it more than ever over the next few months!

Blessings to you all,

Renee on behalf of the tired Fogg familiy

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Today was a sad day for our family. We moved out of our home of 14 years, said good-bye to family and friends and are currently in a hotel in anticipation of leaving for Costa Rica at 6:00am.

Farewell to our dear friends - the Vasquez Family,
now the proud owners of our pet Guinea Pig!

Papa saying good-bye to his grandkids.

Our neighbors -who came-even though they too were moving out.
Soon they will be on their way to Tanzania.

Although today was a tough day we also realized how blessed we truly are. We have awesome family and friends! Thank you for loving us and loving ON us.
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