Recently a new family has moved into our ward. They are Honduran and had the wonderful opportunity to go to the USA through a Graduate Scholarship at BYU. The scholarship has now brought them to Costa Rica and 2 weeks ago, my husband (the Bishop) and our little family of 4 (this was while E/K were in Utah) had the opportunity to help them transition to their new home, which is in our ward. YEAH FOR US!
During the few days that they stayed in our home, one question was asked to me, which I get asked by almost EVERYONE who meets me . . . “Do you speak Spanish?”
If you don’t know the answer, well, here it is . . . No. I don’t. I am understanding a bit more Spanish every week but I only speak enough Spanish to be understood at a very basic level. Like a little 3 year old. I am not ashamed of my Spanish, I have had to work very HARD for it but it is not something I love to share with people. Yet, the more vulnerable and humble I am, I actually feel happier and more able to love the people I am trying to speak with.
Most reactions to my answer come out in 2 ways. Either they scold me harshly for not studying more and reprove me to start now or they offer to help teach me Spanish or even translate for me. Both answers are actually VERY sweet because in both situations, the person is TRULY trying to help me. They put themselves in my situation and depending on how it makes them feel, they give me one of the two responses.
To be honest, I don’t WANT their help.
Is that lazy of me or selfish? I think more selfish because I have truly come to LOVE the life that I have right now. I LOVE not understanding the gossip that is being said all around me. I LOVE not hearing swear words or foul language. I LOVE not hearing arguments or cruel conversation. And I LOVE NEEDING the Spirit to be with me at church, or in a conversation, to help me understand. But I am feeling that this phase of not understanding is going to slowly come to an end. Either translation equipment will be provided at church and I will struggle to not comply or I will begin to understand more and more Spanish, forcing this little world of mine to come to an end.
Either way, I know that it will be good for me, just as this SHOCKING experience of NOT being able to speak or understand has been good for me. Yes, I have FELT dumb and deaf these past 30 months, but not with the ones that matter most . . . my family!!
They have been able to understand me all along and they are whom I was sent to help and serve. I have ADORED my time in Costa Rica because of the work I have done with my family. I LOVE being the wife and mother. I LOVE waking up every morning and seeing how this day is going to turn out, because I KNOW that we are being given a once in a lifetime experience to be THIS CLOSE and SO FAR AWAY from everything we once knew. It truly has been a treasure to behold.
Now, back to me answering people’s requests to help me. When I tell them that I am okay, they don’t like my answer. They either pity me or want to reprove me some more. But I have recently realized that although I may not be able to speak Spanish, I do have a few gifts and talents that MANY women in this country do not have!
First: I can DRIVE!
MOST women in this country do not know how to drive. The driving test is VERY difficult to take but even worse, the driving laws are not enforced, so the laws are not obeyed. It is literally like being in a Nascar race every day, no holds bar! But I love it and I feel that I have been prepared for this experience. Since I was a little girl, my father has been teaching me the rules of driving. When we would drive somewhere, our father would ask us where we were close to and how do we get back home? Then he taught us to see farther up ahead on the road, to always be as prepared as you can for what may lie ahead. He taught us to look for brake lights 3 or 4 cars ahead of us, because that would warn us that we would be stopping, and possibly without warning. He also taught me to look all around, imagining that every car WANTED to hit me. That has helped me the MOST in Costa Rica. I feel VERY prepared to be here and driving. Thanks Dad!
Second: I can BAKE!
Yes, people need to eat in Costa Rica and so someone must be feeding them. And yes, most mothers and wives do the cooking (even if they have a maid, she mainly does the cleaning or only a few meals, not all of them). But the women do not know how to bake. Baking first needs an oven and that is something that many women do not own. Even in middle class families they don’t find it necessary to own an oven. And if they do buy an oven, they are the size of a mini fridge. They are expensive to run and the ingredients to buy, in order to use it, can be expensive. But in my world, baking is a must!
My sweet mother gave me baking classes when I was in the 3rd grade. I still remember that summer with Mrs. Holland at William Penn Elementary. I would go to the class in our school cafeteria. We learned to bake cookies, make gravy, cook noodles with sauce, cut vegetables, etc. But most important, she taught us how to keep a clean kitchen and to wash the dishes immediately. Her lesson has shaped me into the person I am today, as well as the many lessons from my sister-in-law Karen, Paul’s grandmother Phyllis Whitchurch, my dear friend Pam Selman, my own mother, as well as a slew of Relief Society sisters that took the time to teach me the recipes I loved from them the most (Sydney Lindsey, Tori Spencer, Michelle Lund, Cristie Hansen, Stephanie Pierson, Kori Scott, Michelle Loosley, Crystal Ashton, “The Food Nanny” and “Our Best Bites,” to name a few!)
Now bring ALL that education to Costa Rica and people see me as a Master Chef. I literally can make anything I want and THAT is a gift, especially living someplace that adds far too much MSG to the food to compensate on quality, and a foreign country that doesn’t have the restaurants that we enjoy in the USA. I truly am blessed to be able to bake and cook and have this gift bless people’s lives. I have seen it countless times, so much so I am thinking of starting a meal log, writing down the names, date and foods we ate and everyone’s reactions. I truly feel that when I feel prompted to make something for someone, it is because our guests need THAT food and then I seem to cook it in a way that THEY enjoy (I don’t always enjoy the food I make but when the guest does, then I realize who the food was meant for . . . them!)
Third: I can CLEAN!
Just yesterday, in our Relief Society lesson, our sweet and wonderful Relief Society President Stephanie was giving a lesson on Self Reliance and she mentioned an experience she had had with me and Curly Cook. We were at the church having a BBQ and she had found me in the church cleaning. It was our month to clean and there had been a wedding that day, as well as a baptism. It was Saturday night, I was exhausted and knew that we wouldn’t be able to go home until the church was clean. Thankfully the wedding party had cleaned the chapel, but the rest of the church was a mess. So I got to work.
I had half the rooms swept out by the time the R.S. President found me. I was dripping with sweat (I ALWAYS sweat when I am sweeping. I wonder why? – okay, too much information for you but this is something I hope to grow out of, something I hope is due to my surgery recovery. Anyway, I was dripping with sweat and Curly Cook came in to help me. She didn’t stay long because the R.S. President started to clean the bathrooms and Curly Cook offered to help her. YEAH for me. I loathe cleaning the bathrooms.
The R.S. President explained that she didn’t want the little girl in there to help because what little girl knows how to clean the bathroom? But THIS little girl did and it AMAZED her. She asked Curly Cook how she knew to clean the bathroom and she told her, “My mom has us clean at home. She showed me.” This experience taught the R.S. President that it is the parent’s responsibility to help the child learn along side the parent. Children really can learn, and at a young age too. She thanked us for our example and I saw a light in her eyes. That light reflected back into my eyes and I realized how blessed I am that I KNOW HOW to clean. I know how to take care of my home and I don’t NEED someone else to help me. Thank you Grandma Christensen for teaching me to clean at a young age!
What help I have been to my own mother and when I have needed help, I have turned to my own children and by doing so “taught them how to fish” as well. What a gift these 3 talents are in my life. Without this experience, I don’t think I would EVER appreciate what I have already been given. So if my days of dumbness and deafness to Spanish come to an end – wish I honestly hope they do – well, I’m the better for it. Because no matter how many new talents I add to my life, I will hopefully continue to work at and fine tune the talents I already have, and driving, baking and cleaning are only to name a few!
What gifts and talents are you grateful for? What are some gifts and talents you hope to acquire one day? Leave a comment below, I would love to hear about it!
Thanks for listening,
Health Update: ** I have a little health update. Yesterday I was able to fit into my jeans skirt for the first time in a year. Healing from my health issues has been a very slow process but also a tremendous blessing. I am truly grateful for the opportunity that I have had to have this experience. I feel stronger now, more alert and I have more long-lasting energy throughout the week. I still have one or two “down days” but that is so improved from the one or two “energy days” I used to have in February. Here’s to the amazing process of healing!