Good Morning...or Good Evening, wherever you are in your day right now, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.
I would like to share a photo with you. This is an image I captured earlier this week on my daily bus ride out to the AIDS facility. When you absorb the intricate details, what do you notice?
Yes, a memorial park (some even apparently call a park like this "God's acre" or a "resting place") fills the forefront of the image. If you are a U.S. American, do you, as I do, find yourself shocked at how "white" this park is?
Apparently, white granite and sometimes pearly tile covers the face of these sites, and this is a norm in Costa Rica, as well as other countries, such as Spain.
Lacking are the green expanses, so common in the continental United States, which calm one's soul, replaced by this ocean of heavenly white which transports its visitor into an ethereal otherworld....
Let me share another image with you. I obtained it last week when a dear friend of mine took me graciously to a rural area of Guanacaste, the northwestern region of Costa Rica, for some rest.
As your eyes soak it in, where do your thoughts linger?
It's beautiful, isn't it? Breathtaking in a inquisitive, intriguing sort of way....
It also dramatically differs, doesn't it, from what many of us who are U.S. Americans are used to? This picture represents a completely different way of life than many of us are accustomed to.....
Here is another image I captured last December, in this case during a weekend run on the west side of the capital city (I live on the east side.) Again, what strikes you in this canvas?
Through these three landscape images, it is easy to sense immediately that life differs significantly in Costa Rica from the contintental United States, isn't it?
Something about life in Costa Rica is just...different....
...Everything about life in Costa Rica is just...different....
The longer I live here and work here among these people, or Ticos, as they call themselves, the more profoundly I come to comprehend that the Tico [Costa Rican] culture and people differ strategically and excessively from U.S. American culture and mannerisms.
Take, for example, this quote I copied from one of my Tico friend's Facebook page. Posts with this type of message on the Facebook pages of Ticos are not rare, unfortunately. And this one reads, "Deceptions make you open your eyes and close your heart."
Here is the image:
How do you feel or what do you find yourself pondering as you reflect on these words in this image?
I find myself saddened...and bewildered. Because, again, these posts across Facebook here in Costa Rica are not a rarity. Often, I have listened, confused, as Ticos have confided in me, "Well, I did that and had that loss, so I am not go to take that risk [and opportunity to grow or for enjoyment] again."
And the marketing.... In the past five days, my attention has been captivated by noticing with perhaps more acute observation than before the common use of the words, "Without Fear...." aka "You can do this without fear," "You can buy this...without fear," "If you use this, you will have no more fear...."
The U.S. American culture of having a confident, expectant attitude in receiving positive results and having positive experiences that I, as an immigrant to the United States, have embraced as my own is not the culture within which I daily exist now.
The one I daily exist within now, is one where theft, corruption, and lack of resources often shackle hardworking Ticos from a life and lifestyle I had come to believe was my "right" as I lived within the United States....
If I come with a confident, expectant attitude of positive results, not aware or sensitive to how close the possibility of loss feels to this population, I might unwillingly communicate arrogance, entitlement....
This is just one of many cultural differences I comprehend more daily. Am I willing to truly understand and adapt to the Costa Rican world I live in?
I realize, again, and again, that:
To love effectively and work effectively, there is much to actively learn and understand in another country, and there are many cultural bridges to continuously cross.
What did the Apostle Paul write? "Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone.... I have become all things to all people, so that by all possible means I might save some."
"For the love of Christ compels us...."
"Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you...."
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize...."
Will you rejoice with me and pray for me for the opportunity God has provided for me to serve and love this Costa Rican population and specifically the AIDS patients I work with? Below is an image of Costa Rica I captured when I was able to go on a morning run last week during my week of rest from the big city and hectic traffic. God graciously provided through a friend.
For those who would like to know more of some of the cultural differences, the article below touches on some of the areas I have been focusing on for effectively working and communicating God's love:
1) "Management hierarchy. In some cultures, there is an expectation that employees defer to managers."
2) "Different ideas about agreements and commitments. [U.S.] Americans tend to prefer clear, detailed agreements and expect commitments to be taken literally and seriously. But other cultures take a more flexible approach to agreements."
3) "Results versus profits. Some cultures value getting things done and aren’t sticklers for rules or protocol. Others emphasize protocol above all else."
4) "Attitudes toward appointments and deadlines. Whereas [U.S.] Americans expect strict adherence to deadlines, others are more flexible."
5) "Being "too direct." [U.S.] Americans are known for being direct and are generally not concerned with "saving face" or avoiding conflict, but these can be big hang-ups in other cultures."
Again, I am very grateful for your prayers as I seek to work effectively and show love effectively among the Costa Rican population, the local health care team I partner with, and the AIDS patients I work with.
Ingrid Anne Stavrica
LoveAIDS would like to remind our partners & public that we are limited in both the stories and photos we can share do to needing to protect patient confidentiality, complying with patient privacy laws originating within both the U.S and the countries we work with.