Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Semana Santa, Holy Week

Semana Santa, Holy Week
Who knew that a morning of exploring Panama’s coast and waterways for wildlife, turtles, and manatees would be a perfect reminder of why we celebrate Semana Santa.

Our residency was supposed to go through by the end of last week so that we would no longer have to leave the country for a 3 day visa reset trip. It didn’t go through so we found ourselves planning a last minute trip to Panama. The trip down to Panama was uneventful and amazingly beautiful as we had not been to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica yet.  The road to Panama traveled along the Caribbean Ocean and the thousands of acres of banana plantations.  It was beautiful. Crossing the border was much easier since we had done a border crossing before and know a bit more Spanish this time. We have also gotten used to scary, rickety bridges in Costa Rica, so walking over a bridge that had holes in it big enough for Abby to fall through wasn’t quite as concerning.

Our first full day in Panama, we decided to do something that we would never be able to do in Connecticut. We went on a tour to see manatees and turtles. We took a boat ride out to the manatee ‘blind’ but before we got there we stopped by to say hello to the sloths. They were difficult to get a good picture of but that was very cool to see. We have a picture of the ‘blind’ or like one of the kids said, “Cool! A tree fort,” where we observed the manatees. When we arrived, we unloaded our cooler with lunches packed and watched below as a man tied up banana leaves and a hand of bananas which hung just at the surface of the water.
Hanging the bananas and leaves.

Then we waited… and waited..and waited. The kids wondered how long it would take. “Well, the brochure said the tour is about 5 hours and since it took us 30 minutes to get to the tree fort, my guess is about 4 hours.”


“Oh, did we forget to tell you that part?”

Laying around waiting.
Watching the Manatees.

The ground when Rob got up. It was very hot.
So, the kids sat and watched the water for a while. Then they went to the back side and watched the trees for interesting birds, then started scrolling through pictures on ipod touches and phones. Anything to pass the time quietly. Finally, after about 1 hour and 15 minutes, everyone seemed to succumb to the waiting. The restlessness dissolved and everyone became very quiet, laying on the platform, and listening to the beautiful sounds of nature. I enjoyed about 15 minutes of this silence until we heard the crunch of a manatee nibbling on a banana leaf. Coolest thing ever to watch these huge mammals gracefully move around underwater cautiously poking their noses out of the water before eating the snack we left out for them. The smallest noise would startle them and cause a big splash. Mara and I even saw a turtle swim by but didn’t have our cameras ready to get a picture.

The experience of waiting for manatees reminded me of our relationship with God. We want to hear Him speak to us. And we think that we are “waiting” to hear from God and in the process we are keeping ourselves busy or distracted to help the time go by more bearably and yet nothing happens.  He is silent. It isn’t until we succumb to the waiting and become totally quiet and still before Him that we get what we are waiting for, a sense of His presence and to hear Him speak to us.

Cool kids.
Right now we are celebrating Semana Santa, Holy Week, a time to remember. In Costa Rica, the children are off from school and many businesses are closed. This is a full week of celebrating and partying. My understanding is that it is mostly a week of partying and the true reason for the holiday has been lost. Remembering the last week of Christ’s life. The week where he was welcomed into Jerusalem with palm branches and praises as he entered riding a donkey and it ended with his betrayal and crucifixion. He went to temple and drove out the money changers and began teaching every day.Each day the Pharisees, Sadducees, and chief priests tried to trap Jesus with their questions and each day Jesus outwitted them with his answers. Jesus was very bold in his preaching knowing that it would lead to his torture and crucifixion by the end of the week. Yet He still did it because of his obedience to God and His great love for us. What an amazing Gift He has given us.The chance at a personal relationship with him. The least we can do is take some time this week to remember all that He has done for us. I would love to challenge each of you to take some time this week to remember exactly what it is we are celebrating this Easter.Maybe read the last 6 chapters of Luke, or watch one of the many movies about the Passion of Christ, attending many of your church’s services or activities that have been planned, or maybe taking time in your “manatee blind” to get quiet and still before the Lord and listen to Him speak to you. Whatever you decide to do, our prayer for you this Easter season is that you experience a closeness to our Savior like you have never experienced before.
Turtle egg huts.
Playing in the ocean near the turtle tracks.
After our unexpected time of tranquility with the manatees, we headed out to the beach and we saw where the turtles had laid some eggs. The conservationists put protective netting around the eggs to keep wild animals away. They had another lookout spot there where you could camp out all night and hope that some turtles showed up to lay eggs but we felt that we pushed our luck with the kids already once today and wouldn’t try an all-nighter, waiting for turtles. We got to see turtle tracks and the spots where they laid the eggs.  Good enough. They will be hatching in 2 months. Maybe we’ll try it then.
On the way back we saw many types of birds, some crabs, as well as some very cool vegetation and beautiful flowers. I’ve had a lot of fun walking around and taking pictures of all the beautiful flowers. One more full day in Panama, and then we head back to celebrate Easter with our 6:8 Family.
Have a Happy Easter everyone!
God Bless,


Cool Trees...

Pretty Flowers:
Passion flower: named after the passion of Christ.

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