Under the cover of darkness, I arrived in San José late on January 1, 2010. Tired and disoriented from a few hours of in-flight sleep my heart and mind were also racing. Once I cleared customs and claimed my luggage, I experienced a surreal moment walking to the door. As young college students bound for an adventure tour passed me, men stood with signs looking for their tourist visitors. The scene gave me a moments pause.
I had little idea what to expect of the entire month that lay before me, and indeed the new year as well. Perhaps it was providential that stress kept me from dreaming up expectations about what my life would be in Costa Rica. However, I knew I wasn’t a tourist, so as I stood waiting for my deaconess sister, I had to ask…am I ready for this? There’s no going back. Yes, I’m ready, I thought.
Winding through the dark streets of San José, I tried to get my bearings, which proved to be useless. So I just observed. As we turned onto the dirt road toward the shantytown that would be my home, I prayed to live in the moment. Happy New Year. From that moment on, I was free of the burdens of 2009 and free to re-claim an identity that had been lost in the depression—an identity of being a compassionate listener, spiritual director, and deaconess.
It was difficult to arrive so late at night, because I was not able to see my surroundings. The houses in this small barrio are constructed of mostly scrap metal. I lay in bed that night listening to the noise of traffic and dogs barking. Bookshelves and a hanging bedsheet blocked off my private space. However, the other side of the room was open to the air. I lay there disoriented, yet thankful for a bed and the roof over my head, ready to sleep off a long day and begin a new life with a new community.
Below is the picture I took on my first morning in Costa Rica. It looks out to the rest of the barrio and the mountains above San José; behind me are the bookshelves and my space.