Cerro Chirripó – Highest point in Costa Rica

As I write this I am still wincing painfully from sore leg muscles when I climb stairs and stand up from sitting as a result of my most recent adventure – climbing Mount Chirripó, Costa Rica’s highest mountain. Climbing this 12,533-foot mountain up into high-altitude tropical climate was one of my two most recent adventures involving physically taxing undertakings in order to experience the raw natural beauty of Costa Rica that has gripped me and held me captive since I first arrived here. A few weeks ago, I took a Saturday to bike the Orosi Valley loop, a beautiful scenic road to the east of the greater metropolitan area (the San Jose capital and its outlying cities). It winds through lush green coffee fields, old colonial churches, follows the Reventazón river and crosses the dam, through some beautiful small towns and some breathtaking overlooks. Both experiences were physically pretty exhausting, but incredibly beautiful. And climbing Chirripó was the more difficult and culturally significant of the two. Continue reading

Sources of Inspiration


If you’re curious at all what are sources of inspiration for me, here is a list of different people and works that have impacted my thinking. I find that I identify strongly with the writings or perspectives that these people bring, and I find their understanding of how the world works very applicable or challenging in the context I’ve lived.

Of course, these are publicly known figures that have impacted my thinking. They’ve written and produced a lot of good stuff that I consider to be the most interesting and inspiring ideas I’ve ever run into. I can’t claim expertise on any of them, except to say that what I have read from them has been very impacting to me and helpful in framing how things are. I’d say they are on the right track and have some really important commentary that speaks into how we live. This list doesn’t include people who have personally impacted how I live; I would need a separate list for that.

I’ll list off and clump together some of the principal influences, and include a short explanation of the aspects of their work that impact me most strongly. Continue reading

Visitors from Colombia

Earlier this month four youth from a church in Armenia, Colombia, completed their visit to Costa Rica as missionaries-in-training. During their time here they served in various ministries through the church I’m a part of (Amistad Internacional in San Francisco de Dos Ríos). They plugged right into the church and helped out tirelessly for about two weeks at our church VBS activities and different ministries members of our church are involved in (Funda Vida, YWAM, Latin Link in Los Guidos, Edutecnología, and a young church in Paraíso, Cartago). Each visiting missionary was placed with a family from the church while they were here. Continue reading

Strike 3

Last week I joined some La Carpio neighbors in a protest against a water treatment plant that’s being installed right at the entrance to their community, less than a kilometer away from their homes.

  • Watch a video with images and sounds from the protest

Two computer technicians were scheduled to come into the office to help last Thursday, but they called the day before saying it would be difficult to get in because of a strike the next morning that would block the only entrance (for vehicles) in and out of La Carpio. I called my host family to see what they knew about the strike, and they gave me a few more details they’d gotten from a community meeting organizing the strike. Because I sympathize with La Carpio’s struggle against the high level of environmental contaminants that are dumped into their community, and because I was glad to participate in a protest against something that seems such a clear disregard for people’s health and dignity, I joined them Thursday morning to support the community in their protest.

The “waste treatment plant”, more accurately described by residents as a “craphole” and other similar terms, is only one of the many forms of environmental violence implemented against the La Carpio community. The most infamous is the garbage dump that was built in 2000 by EBI, a Canadian-owned company, which boasts the sanitary treatment of 1200 tons of garbage per day. The “sanitary treatment” of the material waste is disputed not just by La Carpio residents less than a kilometer from its dumping grounds, but by neighboring elite in expensive homes on properties across the valley. Strike one is the garbage dump, causing high incidences of hepatitis and diarrhea. Strike two are the quarries in the valleys on either side of the community, which pump dust into the air causing any number of respiratory problems. Strike three would be the waste plant, but not if La Carpio can strike first.

The people who spend the most amount of time in La Carpio, that being the women and kids who often spend the entire day there, are the ones who suffer the most. The family I lived with suffered from all the above problems, as I described in this blog post and others.

It recently came to light (through government correspondence made public through Wikileaks) that in contrast to Costa Rica’s “green” image it promotes, less than 5% of its blackwater is treated before reaching the ocean. The river that dumps the contaminated water from the central valley (Río Tárcoles) is the most polluted in Central America. The beaches in this area are favorites for foreign tourists because they are the closest en route from the capital city. There is a HUGE need, then, for water treatment of the polluted rivers (both for environmental protection and for tourist money). It is interesting to me, then, that the waste treatment plant is being placed where it is, on a river branch before the union of three different rivers. A water treatment plant is essential; it’s a just a clear case of environmental injustice to place it in an impoverished community that has already unwillingly received the full brunt of metropolitan contamination – it’s garbage, its symbolic rejection, and now its wastewater. To quote Costa Rican sociologist Carlos Sandoval Garcia:  “both in the material domain – garbage and residual water – as well as in the human domain – Nicaraguans and poverty – La Carpio is a site and signifier of abjection” (Narrating Lived Experience in a Binational Community in Costa Rica, 2009:156).

The above video shows some photographs and audio clips from the protest. If you don’t follow the Spanish, most of what is said, or written on the signs, is mentioned above. The main demands are: no water treatment plant [so close to where we live], and instead, build a high school for the community.

Learn more:

My life at <= 145 lbs and 275 linear inches... on leaving

One way to simplify your life if you find yourself buried in an onslaught of senseless clutter is to move often, and as cheaply as possible, limiting yourself to the ever-reducing baggage restrictions that airlines have. Every time you make an overseas move, you have to prune off the useless junk you’ve accumulated over time.

It’s no different for me, I find, even though I tried to keep myself from collecting clutter from creeping over my shelves and into my closets. I was unable to resist the temptation to accumulate more junk than I can use, but my sins catch up to me once departure date arrives. Departure date is the cutoff for when I have to whittle my excess down to the bare necessities, and make careful decisions about what’s worth taking and what stays behind.

What finally makes the cut tells me something about who I am, and is a somewhat sobering reminder about what the U.S. is known for in other parts of the world. Continue reading

Photography Ethics

Korda and his iconic photograph

Alberto Korda, the photographer made famous by his iconic image of Che Guevara gazing resolutely into the distance, considered the photograph a stroke of luck. Korda covered the Cuban revolution and became Fidel Castro’s personal photographer for ten years. Yet the image that changed him, that impacted his thinking and caused him to dedicate his life career to covering the revolution, is the transfixing photograph he took of a young girl cuddling a piece of wood as a doll.


 “The photo I took that has been published throughout the world and is considered the most famous photograph in the history of photography is the photo of Che Guevara. But for me, in my heart and in my feelings, the most important photo is that of Paulita.”

~Alberto Korda

This American Life: Scenes from life back in the USofA


I apologize for the miserably long lapse of time since I’ve published some updated news. I hope that in the past several months, you’ve gotten some insight into what I’ve been up to via prayer letters, church presentations, or personal conversations. I’ve been back in the United States since May, so I’ve taken advantage of these past several months to try and meet personally with people (since I’m around to do it!), and also to share publicly at churches about the ministry work I’ve gotten to be a part of for the past several years in Costa Rica.

My prayer letters for this year are available on my MAF profile website: https://maf.org/blowers, in case you missed one of the exciting installments 🙂

A huge thanks to those of you who I’ve gotten to have conversations with. Many of these are a real encouragement to my soul. It is good to hear some of the things I’m processing reflected back for me. Of course, I come back a very different person than when I left four years ago. But it is a real encouragement to see and hear about the life I’ve been distant from for four years as well. That is, I am fascinated to hear about the interesting things going on in the lives of others that I’ve only been privy to via facebook updates and occasional notes.

While back in the U.S., home base has been the basement of home… that is, I’ve been living downstairs in my family’s home here in Nampa. I was able to visit a few other locations to spend time with family and share about ministry news: Oregon, California, Kansas City, Florida, and Oklahoma.

I’m working on a more detailed collection of thoughts and experiences that have impacted me since I’ve been back in the U.S. Until I get that done, take a look through the following photo albums and we’ll call it good:

Please know I am VERY grateful for the hospitality, kindness, and encouragement that so many have showed me since I’ve been back. It is very appreciated. Thank you also to those who have begun giving (or have been faithfully giving for many years) to help me be a part of this ministry.

Ghetto Superstar

Greetings! I recently added a few interesting articles in my separate blog about living in La Carpio. There’s a lot of writing on there, so if you’re behind or even if you are checking it out for the first time, here are some articles you might want to start with:

If you comment on anything there, I’m the only one that can read it. I’ll continue to add articles as I find time but I won’t always update with a separate announcement on this blog.


Yielo Fieldwork

Please read. Please comment:

Perhaps you’re curious about what life is like in an entire community built on land than no one has legal title to, a stone’s throw away from the largest garbage dump in the country (and a line drive away from the country club’s golf course across the valley). Perhaps you never noticed that in places without paved roads people toss water on the dusty road outside their doorways too keep it from unsettling and coating the insides of their homes and from clogging up their lungs. How are places organized and coordinated where resources are scarce and government can’t keep up with population growth? Or ever wondered how people who don’t get 24-hour running water store up water for the day when they can’t afford sophisticated backup water systems? How many buckets of water does it take to bathe oneself in the morning from a 55-gallon drum?

Continue reading


Camera Obscura

If you’ve ever gotten the chance to sleep inside a “tin shack”, or a structure with walls and a roof of corrugated steel, you may have learned pretty quickly how the thin walls don’t separate you very well from what’s going on outside. In this case, immediately outside the room I’m describing is a dusty street, and although I am inside the room I can hear conversations from people outside my room talking late into the night. I can smell the frying foods from Coyol’s taco shack on weekends, the odor of exhaust when the neighbor leaves in the morning, or catch wafts of rancid smoke if someone has ducked into the alley to light up. There are lots of noises, too, like the tinkling giggles from kids jumping rope or playing “landa” (tag). The mornings are particularly noisy, with the fighting cocks crowing anywhere from 3 A.M. onward, dogs barking, and cars revving up. On weekends, a woman and child walk by selling “nacatamales,” singing-songing the word out shrilly as they walk the streets, drawing out each syllable in an unmistakable rhythm, each progressive syllable shorter than the one before it – “naaaaaaaaaacaaaaataaaamaaaales.”

Continue reading