Well, I have since returned from 2 weeks in the U.S. for Christmas and some R&R with my Idaho friends and family. I got some much-needed relax-time, and a lot of low-pressure hang-out time with people in the Nampa area. Besides not getting to see everyone, my time there couldn't have gone any better. But overall, I quite enjoyed not having an agenda, a task list, a schedule, and any projects to work on for a short time.
Some highlights of my time in Nampa stand out - I got to see and hang out with Isaac, Rain, and Camden (Hughes) for my birthday, in which I struggled to maintain a positive score in an intense game of Dutch blitz. My cousin Ryan got engaged as well, and I took engagement photos of my brother Camden and his fiancé Habtam. Over the next week I remember lots of food, stories, card games, and an occasional burst of political discourse. I briefly reconnected with the political topics in the U.S. after a several year black-out where I only receive the highlights that make it to local news stations.
I was hoping for some snowfall, but there was none to be found the whole time I was there, except a brief dusting. The temperature didn't change much at all... just the scale - that is, I went from about 25 degrees Celsius to 25 Fahrenheit. I took a few nostalgic walks through the NNU campus, watching the sparrows and woodpeckers flitter around the cold lifeless trees, and was even surprised by a family of quail in the bushes outside the prayer chapel. The campus felt like a lifeless ghost town during Christmas week, but I amused myself imagining how the shopping cart got into the Elijah drain, and listening to alarms from abandoned dorms strain to resurrect some life out of the empty rooms.
Some other highlights were: developing film with Mark and Kelly in the fine arts darkroom, playing racquetball with my dad at the gym, visiting Jason's secret "writing spot" where we can watch the trains and traffic whiz by below without being detected, and discovering some half-a-dozen hidden geocache treasures. I got to visit the Whosoever Sunday school class that is still going strong with a sum total of probably over a millennium years of wisdom, and see some friends in the ICM International Church. And if that wasn't enough, I got to drop in on a Lord of the Rings marathon on New Years' Eve at Paul and Gracie's, and trek out to some hot springs on the banks of an icy river with my family. And right before I left, I got to attend an MAF team meeting in person, and visit with Brian Ward and his family for a short bit.
Visiting Idaho-home is a mixed-feeling experience, I should point out. It is then that I realize how much I give up to be on the mission field and live overseas, both materially and socially. From day-in to day-out it becomes easy to forget how much my friendships and family time mean to me, but going back is a jarring reminder of how much I miss out on while I'm away. I tend to focus on the exciting things I get to be a part of in Costa Rica, and I truly do thank God for the things I've been able to be a part of, but it isn't without considerable sacrifice. I try not to get wrapped up in how much I give up to be a part of God's work here, but at times I'm reminded, and Christmas time was a big reminder. Not asking for sympathy! Just stating that I have a great group of family and friends that I LOVE spending time with and miss very, very much.
Well, I skimmed over a lot that happened those two weeks, but it was a great, restful time, which I really needed before returning to the daily grind in Costa Rica. Take a look at the following photo album to see some of the other adventures of this Christmas season.