Monthly Archives: September 2013

A Frank Talk about Finances

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Today I want to speak frankly to you about a missionary’s budget.  This is not a personal plea for help.  What I want you to see is what happens on our end when supporters “drop” us.  There is a ripple effect that builds as it moves like a tsunami wave.  For some supporters, giving to a missionary means that you sacrifice 2 or 3 Starbucks drinks per week to give $100 a month.  For those types of supporters, you may not see how that $100 a month makes much of a difference, so it’s not a big deal for you if you “shift” that money to another “need” every once and a while.  For the missionary, it’s a different story.  That $100 pledge is significant- it counts… EVERY MONTH.   Let me show you how.

Each sending agency is different, but in our agency each missionary raises his own budget which is set by the agency.  Our agency does not have any reserve funds for us. We are responsible for all our own support raising.  If the funds do not come in, we must come off the field before we are so low that we can’t buy a plane ticket home.  This has happened to several of our friends in the last few years.  Some of them never recover financially and can never return to the field.  This does not mean they lack faith.  This means their supporters stopped giving.  Let’s be practical.

In our system of fund raising we have many, many small supporters which we bring together over the course of a year or more of itineration.  For us it’s a lot of work, but it’s a blessing, because if one or two supporters drop off, we can survive with belt tightening.  That’s where we are right now.  At the moment, our ministry budget is at zero, and it has been there for months now.  That means that any money we spend on ministry comes right out of our personal account.  We are personally funding our own ministry.  For example, this Friday night we have a meeting for our leadership core at our house.  I am making dinner for all of them.  The cost of the food will come out of our own grocery budget.  The students coming from far off will stay over night in our house.  In the morning they will eat our cereal and drink our milk and coffee.  Somehow, God always takes care of us and our own children have never gone hungry as we give hospitality to others.  That’s where the faith happens.  That’s where the miracles occur.

In other missionary sending agencies, one or two large donors support one missionary. That means way less fund raising for the missionary.  But I have a friend here working under a system like this and last week they lost one of their two supporting churches.  In their bank account they currently have $2,000 will is supposed to last until December when they go home for a month of support raising.  They can’t live on that.  At this point they don’t even have the money to buy those plane tickets to come home and raise more support.  They are living on faith, and God is surprising them with little blessings that trickle in.

You might not think your $100 pledge is a big deal, but it has a big impact on the missionaries.  This week as my husband and I discussed our finances we had a little argument which seems humorous now, but it illustrates how your small pledge makes a big difference.  I was complaining that we only have one finger nail clipper in the house and I can never find it when I need it.  I told my husband I wanted to buy another finger nail clipper to keep upstairs.  He said, No, we already have a clipper.  I said, Yes, but I can never find it.  He said, but we HAVE one already.  I raised my voice, Yes, but I can’t FIND IT!  I wrote “finger nail clipper” on the grocery list.  When he ran to the store next time, he did not buy one.  I rebelled and made a special trip to the store to buy a finger nail clipper.

This is a stupid argument, I know, but this is what happens when money is very tight.  You might not feel like it’s a big deal to skip a month of your missions pledge.  But it’s a big deal on our end.  It means we bicker about small purchases, fret over having enough milk for guests, or worse, get stranded in our field and don’t have enough money for a plane ticket home.  Please be faithful to your promises to your missionaries.  You should never take money from your missionary pledge to “give” to another need.  Extra giving should come above and beyond your missions giving.

When you miss a month, we feel it.  Imagine if your employer went on vacation and forgot to pay you one month.  Or image if he said, “Well, we had another speaker in who presented another need and I felt compelled to give what I normally would pay to you to this guy with the pictures of needy children.  I’ll pay you your salary next month, maybe.”  That’s exactly what happens to missionaries when supporters skip a month- we don’t get paid.  There’s no back up fund to cover your missed payment.  Please be faithful in your promises and don’t leave your missionaries hanging.  It makes a difference to us when you are faithful in your giving.

Not my picture.  I don't know who owns this.

Not my picture. I don’t know who owns this.

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A Simplified Life

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This week I read a blog that someone wrote about living in Africa.  Her main point was that life is simpler but more complicated at the same time.  For example, she wrote about a man riding his bike down the road loaded up with a 6 piece bedroom set.  Simple, yet way more complicated at the same time.  She said in Africa a dishwaher is a person.  Simple, yet more work.  I related to everything she wrote… except the part about the hippos growling in the river.  I felt like she could have been talking about Costa Rica.

This week I had conversations… electronic conversations… with two professional teacher friends back in the United States.  One teacher friend is teaching in a huge school.  He is one of 6 third grade teachers!  They have 1,400 students in Kindergarten to 8th grade.  I tried to wrap my brain around that.  We have 6 teachers FOR THE ENTIRE PRIMARY DEPARTMENT at our school.  We have 126 students between Kindergarten and 12th grade.  My son is one of two Seniors.  We have one lone 9th grader.

Photo credit: boltron- / Foter / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: boltron- / Foter / CC BY-NC

The other teacher I spoke with was telling me that her district is starting an new 1 to 1 iPad instruction program.  Every kid will get an iPad and the teachers will use technology to teach them.  She has 45 kids with iPads and she’s looking for ways to use the technology.  She asked if we could set up pen pals for her students.  Can you imagine giving an iPad to a Kindergartener?  How many minutes will it take for them to drop it the first time?  How many will be ruined with spilled juice or sticky fingers?  What a waste of money.

So I was talking to my kids about this in the car on the way to school.  I explained that many parents in America wish that their kids had smaller classrooms where their kids could get one on one attention from the teacher, not from an iPad educator.  Many parents wonder why schools don’t just use books to teach kids.  In our school we use a combination of two popular, high quality Christian school curriculums, all book based.  Parents are lamenting the loss of a simpler life.

Can you image a world where the largest class in the whole school is 14 kids?  That’s our school.  Can you picture what a classroom looks like with real books in the desks and on the shelves.  Do you wish your kids had one on one attention throughout the day?  It happens here.  I pointed out to my kids that they have the kind of education that many people in the United States WISH they had for their kids.  Sure they have to wear hot, scratchy uniforms every day, but they have small class sizes, personalized attention from their teachers, and real books to use.  It’s all a matter of perspective. The simple life can be the good life.

Necessity is the Mother of… Pintrest

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I shut down my Pintrest account about a year ago (you can read about WHY I did that here.) But I am still crafty and ingenious when it comes to making do with having less.  I don’t need a Pintrest page… I live it!  Let me give you some examples of making do and repurposing items that I’ve had to come up with here in Costa Rica.

Our kitchen is actually very American in size and style.  But one of the things it’s lacking is drawers.   So I had to find a place to put the silverware.  I bought four green glass blocks and a long piece of wood at the hardware store to build a shelf over the back of the sink right under the window.  Then I found some decorative jars to put on the shelf to hold our silverware.  It’s super convenient and now I’m sure I can never go back to putting silverware in drawers.  I also bought several large flowerpots to store spatulas, tongs and large knives right on the counter where they are always handy.

You can see my silverware jars in the background.

You can see my silverware jars in the background.

Another way that I’ve repurposed items is in my bedroom.  I have a lot of necklaces and other jewelry.  At our local discount store I found several cooling racks for baking.  I bought adhesive hooks to hang the racks over my desk.  Then using S-hooks I hang my jewelry on the wall like art!  Pintrest eat your heart out! (This week I asked my daughter to organize my jewelry by color.  She was exceedingly excited for this project.  Girl after my own heart.)

You can see the jewelry, cooling racks on the wall above my desk.

You can see the jewelry, cooling racks on the wall above my desk.

When we first moved to this house I was really bothered that there was no closet or coat rack by the front door.  Shoes and jackets and bags just piled up behind the door.  I drove me crazy.  So I asked my husband to build me something.  He thought it was insane when I first explained that my idea was to use doors to hold coat hooks and a bench that doubled as a shoe rack.  But he indulged me and followed my instructions even though he couldn’t imagine what it was going to look like.  Now he proudly accepts all the credit for building one of the coolest coat racks that anyone has ever seen.  Everyone who sees it wants one too.  (Of course I just let him soak up the praise… because I’m going to need him to build the next thing I dream up.)

My amazing coat rack made of doors and a shoe rack.  Thanks Babe for listening even though you thought I was crazy!

My amazing coat rack made of doors and a shoe rack. Thanks Babe for listening even though you thought I was crazy!

But my most recent (and currently my favorite) Pintrest worthy craft is in my office at school.  Unfortunately it’s so new that I don’t have a photo yet.  However, I found these amazing square, bamboo bowls for about $4 each at our discount store.  The next time we took a family day at the beach, I planned ahead.  I brought home two large cream cheese containers full of black volcanic sand with a stunning gold fleck in it.  I already have buckets full of shells that my kids have collected, so I just combined the sand and some shells in my discount bamboo bowl to make my own zen garden for my desk top.  You would not believe how therapeutic that pretty little sand box has become.  No one can resist sticking their fingers in that fine black softness and scooping around with the dainty shell cups.  I’m pretty proud of that stroke of genius and I didn’t even need Pintrest to show me how.

Crazy Costa Rica Facts

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Today I’m going to do something that I almost never do.  I’m going to shamelessly promote a friend’s blog.  Adam and Sarah Quinn are friends of ours who are raising their funds to come as missionaries to Costa Rica.  Hopefully they will be arriving next spring.  They have been coming down here on missions trips for ages, and the bug finally bit them, so to speak.  Anyhow, for the past 15 days or so they’ve been posting an interesting fact about Costa Rica on their blog once a day.  I thought those of you who are interested in travel and cross cultural adventures would be amused at some of the details that have captured their attention.  So scoot on over to Adam and Sarah Quinn’s blog and read their Crazy Costa Rica Facts… and feel free to send them a donation if you feel so inspired.  Tell them I sent you .  🙂  Chao!

Can I pay with Gold Doubloons or Beaver Pelts?

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Gold DoubloonThe other night I dreamed that I found a garage sale here in Costa Rica… a real, American style garage sale.  I spent the majority of my dream “shopping” and finding wonderful bargains.  But when I went to pay I discovered that the only money I had in my pocket was a faded, out-of-circulation $2 bill and an old Confederate Bond from the Civil War.  (No, I haven’t watched Gone with the Wind lately.)  Both of those bills might have been worth something just for historical value, but not at a garage sale.  I was disappointed to have to give up my great bargains.

Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m complaining, because I’m not.  I know that there are plenty of people in the world with far less clothing than I have.  But I get so sick of my wardrobe!  We are in our 4th year of this term, and I haven’t bought very many new items for two reasons.  One, clothing is super expensive here- like 2x or 3x the price in America.  A friend of mine found a blouse with a Marshall’s tag still on it.  The tag said the cost was $17.99 but the Costa Rican price was more than $65 for that blouse.  It’s sickening!  Second of all, I have yet to find a store that regularly carries my size.  You know how all those size 1s and 2s and 3s, all those extra small items that get left on the rack in the U.S. and you think, “Of course no one bought this.  Who is really this size except junior high girls and starving super models?”  Yeah, well all those left over wafe-sized clothing items get shipped to Costa Rica where EVERYONE can be a size 2 no matter what your body shape!  So realistically, I don’t fit into the clothing here and I’m as ordinary as vanilla when it comes to body size.

So new clothing is not available or affordable.  And we don’t rotate our closets for the seasons here unless you count pulling out umbrellas and rain boots during the rainy season months.  I see the same clothing in my closet day in and day out.  Things are getting very thread bare and worn.  Moths are eating some things and the sun is fading others.  Seams are fraying and undergarments are literally “holey underwear”… and I don’t mean we’ve converted to Mormonism.  Every time I fold laundry I pray that the Lord would keep us covered for another few months until we go home on furlough.  I remind myself that the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and God provided every day so that not even their sandals wore out!  I need that miracle for our family.

I used to wonder at (and be a little ashamed of) missionaries coming off the field.  They always looked so woefully out of style and faded.  “Shabby.” I thought.  “Why can’t you just buy a fashion magazine and see what the rest of us are wearing before you get off the plane looking as out of place as Micheal J. Fox in Back to the Future.”  Hey McFly!  But now I know.  Now I know that even if they wanted to be in style- it just wasn’t possible.  The money to buy clothing wasn’t there.  The variety of styles and sizes might not have existed in their field.  And clothing had become a utility- serving a purpose without being fashionable.  They had, by necessity, chosen function over form.  Now I understand.

Indirectly on Egg Shells

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Americans usually speak directly.  They tell you what they are thinking.  Particularly Minnesotans value honest communication of facts.  But in Costa Rica, speaking indirectly is the norm.  One of the highest social values here is not offending.  It can become a labrynth of side stepping and hedging just to communicate and get things done here.  But getting things done is not the priority.  Keeping the peace is more important.  To do this, Costa Ricans often use a third party to ask for favors or to make inquiries.

For example, when we were in language school we convinced our conversation teacher to let us have a field trip to a local coffee shop where we would have breakfast together and practice our Spanish conversation skills.  It’s true, we just wanted to get out of the classroom.  The teacher liked our idea, but she asked that WE ask the director for permission.  We thought this was odd, since SHE was the teacher and HE was her boss.  We considered it her responsibility to go through the proper channels to get permission, but she considered this the proper way of asking for favors- sending a third party.

This happened again a few months later.  We had hired a maid for the first few months that we lived here (I didn’t know how to clean a house with tile floors throughout or to get my laundry to dry in this rainy climate.)  After we moved to another house, we didn’t continue using the maid, however another new family hired her.  One day I ran into Suyen (our former maid) and she asked me to speak with her new employer for her.  She said, “I don’t think Mrs. Anderson understood me.  I asked if I could change my work hours and she said No.  Could you ask her if she understood me?”  Suyen was asking me to ADVOCATE for her, not translate for her.  When I spoke with Mrs. Anderson, she said she understood Suyen perfectly and had said No to her request.  She wondered out loud why Suyen would ask me to speak to her.  Then I put two and two together and realized that I had been used as a third party.  Suyen had wanted my leverage of the power of connection with the other American AND she had wanted my protection from receiving a direct No again.

It was hard for me not to feel used in both of these instances.  However, I have since then learned to use this system of communication for my own benefit rather than always feeling like a tool that my friends use for favors.  Now I can skillfully navigate tricky conversations to avoid conflicts too.  For example, when I have a sensitive question to ask someone, I find another person who is willing to speak to the person for me.  Especially someone OFFERS to go talk to the person for me- I accept the offer.  In America we would say, “No, I can do my own dirty work.”  But here my thought is, “I don’t want to offend or embarrass this person, so maybe it’s better to let someone else do it.  They might know how to do it more gently and more appropriately.”

Because the Costa Rican way is to avoid direct confrontation and avoid embarrassing people, it can feel like walking on egg shells all the time.  I breathe a sigh of relief when I manage to escape a potentially confrontational situation.  I don’t particularly LIKE this way of communication, but I’m learning how to use it, how to adapt to it, and how to recognize it.  It’s part of cultural adaptation and it’s what missionaries do.  We try to be all things to all people and if that means walking on eggshells and speaking indirectly- then that’s what I do.

What’s yours is mine

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Over the weekend I read a snappy little book called “Foreign to Familiar” that neatly summarized the differences between “warm climate cultures” and “cold climate cultures”.  The book was a concise 128 pages long- an easy Sunday afternoon read.  The main idea is that you can make generalizations about cultures based on their weather- with a few exceptions like the American deep South.  The author categorized the traits into chapters with straight forward titles like “Relationship verses Task Orientation” and “Different Concepts of Time and Planning”.  As I read along, I thought back on our nearly 10 years of missions work and dropped my own stories into the author’s generalizations.

For example, in the chapter which talked about how various cultures view and use possessions, “Individualism verses Group Identity”, I thought about how Americans relate to their cars.  For an American, their car represents their independence and, to a large extent, their privacy and right to self governance.  This explains why a year without a vehicle is particularly painful for language school students.  I once knew a family that was in the country for a 6 week intensive at the language school where I work.  They actually BOUGHT a used car for their 6 week stay.  I was shocked!  Even though public transportation is abundant and relatively cheap here, they felt they could not possibly live without the freedom to go where they wanted in the privacy of their own vehicle.

After language school, we moved to Mexico City for our first term as missionaries.  Being one of the largest cities in the world, and densely packed with people and vehicles, our choice of vehicle would determine the quality of the hours and hours of time each day we would spend in our car stuck in traffic.  Our car for 5 quickly became an extension of our house.  We stored extra food, baby formula, diapers, a change of clothing, bottles of water, and toys for the kids in the car.  It was a family vehicle.

Sometimes my husband would need to go to church meetings in a part of town that was unfamiliar to him.  In those cases it was customary to arrange to meet a fellow pastor in a known location and the pastor would give directions to the meeting in exchange for a ride to the meeting.  Thinking he was following a short cut, my husband was absolutely shocked the first time the pastor directed him through a residential neighborhood and then instructed him to pull over at the next corner.  When he pulled over, two other perfect strangers jumped into the vehicle!  The pastor then introduced the newcomers as other pastors and friends.  The “pick up” continued until the car was jam packed with pastors, none of whom were known to my husband, and eventually they made their way to the meeting.

So then my husband was in a dilemma.  Is he required to stay at the meeting as long as the others are planning to stay?  Is he obligated to take everyone home again?  Will anyone offer to pay for gas?  (The answer to that was a unanimous NO.  No one EVER offered gas money!)  The principle that caught us off guard was how this culture related to personal possessions and privacy issues.  The Mexican pastor was not thinking, “My friend is giving me a ride because he has a car.”  He was actually thinking, “Oh good, now we ALL have a ride because we have a car.”  As long as there was space to jam another person into the car, the pastor saw no reason why we should not share the car with others.  It did not occur to him that it was an invasion of my husband’s privacy for the pastor to invite his friends to ride along.

Fast forward several years to our first year in Costa Rica.  Knowing this Group Mentality ahead of time prepared us for what we might find here in Costa Rica.  We planned ahead and instead of just buying a family vehicle that would seat our 5 family members, we bought a 12 passenger van.  We planned to use our vehicle to haul people, things, luggage and equipment for our ministry and personal life.

Almost everywhere we go we are giving people rides.  Once I was stopped in traffic and was startled when someone came up and knocked on my passenger side window.  I looked and saw a fellow teacher friend of mine.  She had been walking from the bus stop about a mile away from the school when she recognized my van in traffic.  Obviously she thought I would be happy to give her a ride- and I was.  I had learned how to share my personal possessions and my privacy with others.  I have great joy and satisfaction in the way this Warm Climate Culture has changed me.

Our van is named "Stella"

The Insurmountable Debt

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On Sunday night, my friend Jon shared this story with a group of missionaries gathered for our monthly English church service.  I have since then shared this verbally with 2 other missionary friends that I work with.  It was such an inspiring story of God’s faithfulness, that I asked Jon if I could share it today on my blog.  You can find the original post on his blog as well as read some of his other posts about living in Costa Rica here on Jon’s blog.

From August 3-12 my dad Ken Dahlager, my oldest son Jonathan, and I went to Cuba to participate in the sixth annual Assemblies of God Pastors’ Kids retreat. Our Costa Rica PK team helped start this ministry in 2008 and we have helped to make this event happen each year since. 500 young people participated in the 3 day event. The Lord’s presence was felt in every event, and we heard many stories of how God has used this ministry to change the direction of many young people, their families, and their churches.

We are still unpacking the many stories we heard in these amazing days, in a country where financial resources are very limited, but the Christians have incredible faith. This is one of those stories.

The young man in the photo below is Adriel, who is 19 years old and competes in the track-and-field event of hammer throw. As we were chatting one day he told me an amazing story. A year and a half ago his parents took out a $100 loan to buy 5 sheep and fatten them up to sell. All 5 got sick and died, leaving the family with a debt they had no way to pay off with their $20 a month salary. He said he had never asked anyone for money before, but he felt a special connection with me and asked if there was any way I could help. As missionaries we normally do not do cash help like this, as it can negatively impact our relationship with the people, but I told him I would think about it and give him an answer the next day.

I have been preaching a message from Matthew 18 about the man who was forgiven a debt of 10,000 talents, about 200,000 years worth of a worker’s salary, but who throttled his friend for a debt of 100 denari, or 100 days’ wages. Like the forgiven servant, I have received so much from God’s grace — perhaps it was my turn to help.

That night I felt the Lord speak to me to help Adriel, sensing that this was an act of faith the Lord was asking me to take. The next day he told me he was leaving the retreat early, since he got word that an aunt had died. I pulled him aside and told him the Lord had directed me to give him $100.

As soon as I did this, he put his strong hand on my shoulder and said “now let me tell you a story. When I was getting on the bus to come here, a little old man got on in front of me who had one arm cut off above the elbow. He didn’t have the 40 pesos (about $1.50) to pay, hoping the driver would let him on anyway. The driver was about to throw him off the bus when I felt God tell me that if I paid for the man, God would provide this week so my family could pay off their debt. I took out the only spending money I had for this retreat and paid it. Now you have fulfilled God’s promise to me.”

The crazy part is that we also have some huge financial needs this year, and I gave him the money sensing God wanted to provide for us as well. The first day I was back home I got emails telling me about special gifts that would pay for two major ministry events. This is a huge response immediately after I gave Adriel the $100, and I’m quite sure that God is big enough to provide for everything we need.

Insurmountable financial challenges are all relative – $1.50 for the old man on the bus, $100 for Adriel’s family, thousands for another. God is able to provide for all of them.

cuba-photo-adriel2

I love stories that build faith and inspire me to trust God more.  It does not matter if your insurmountable obstacle is a pebble or a boulder or a mountain, God is able to make a way for you.  Today I am praying for several missionary friends who are not sure they can survive until the end of this month or the end of the semester or the end of the year.  God is able.  If He can feed Elijah with ravens and the Children of Israel with Manna, then God can provide for your needs too.  Trust Him.

Forced to Exercise

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I’m grumpy today.  I’m being forced to exercise at work today.

I’ve had a  long standing policy to only run when chased… preferably with a weapon of some sort to provide extra motivation.   And I don’t approve of sweating.  I’m sure it’s against my religious beliefs somehow.

However, today we are having a government mandated “occupational health” day at work.  We’re calling it a staff retreat to soften the blow.  Last year they made us do aerobics.  I am probably the most uncoordinated girl alive, so my exercising is always done in the privacy of my own home.

Maybe if I had some cute work out clothes I would feel better about exercising in public, but I’m basically wearing pajamas with tennis shoes.  All my awkward junior high insecurities are bubbling up to the surface.  So I’ve decided to bring some chocolate chip banana bread to share.  That will make things all better, or at least prevent me from tipping the scales toward anorexia… which has never really been a danger for me, but it will work for today.

Sigh, off to “forced family fun”.

What kind of bird is this?

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When we first moved to CR I sent my inquisitive, science-loving nephew Nathan several nature questions to solve.  For example, we have a particular kind of ground cover whose leaves close up when touched.  I took some video of us touching it (this is NOT my video, btw.) and sent it to Nathan with the question, “what is this?”  Nathan and his mom researched it and came back with the answer, “Mimosa or Shy Plant”.  I bought myself a plant book after that.

My next question was concerning a very noisy and social yellow bird that woke me up every morning.  He was large, yellow and black, and not afraid of people.  I took pictures and sent them to Nathan.  He decided it was a “Social Flycatcher”.  I bought myself a bird book after that.

Once I took a picture of a butterfly that looked exactly like a leaf.  And another time I snapped a picture of a clear butterfly!  We have more species of butterflies here in CR than anywhere else in the world.  We actually export butterflies… well, the cocoons really.  I’ve posted pictures of strange fruits, trees, bugs, flowers, sloths, birds, monkeys, crocodiles, and sunsets.  This country never ceases to amaze me with the wonders of God’s creation!

Here's the butterfly that looks like a leaf.  Amazing Camo!

Here’s the butterfly that looks like a leaf. Amazing Camo!

My last question involved a volcano near our city.  The volcano has a lake in the crater, as many volcanoes do.  The lake changes color from lime green, to grey, to turquoise, to redish depending on the level of heat and acid coming from the volcano vent under the surface of the water.  Scientists monitor the color of the lake and the quality of the steam.  They watch what happens to the vegetation around the crater to give them an indication of when the vapors turn toxic or more sulfuric or dangerous.  So one day in the newspaper there was an article that claimed the the lake in Volcan Irazu had “mysteriously” disappeared.  So I sent Nathan the question, “What happened to the lake?”  Turns out it really is no mystery.  It’s something that happens on occasion.  We had had a particularly dry rainy season and then a crack had developed in the edge of the volcano crater which caused the water to drain down into the volcano for a time.  After some hard rains, the lake was back again, cooling off the volcano again like a natural wet blanket.

A young Taylor looking down into the crater lake at Volcan Irazu.  The lake is actually really far down below.

A young Taylor looking down into the crater lake at Volcan Irazu. The lake is actually really far down below.

So here’s my most recent nature question.  I’m going to ask all of you readers too to see if anyone can come up with the answer.  We saw this bird up in the cloud forest of Monteverde.  I think it might be a kind of toucan, but I can’t find it in my bird book.  What kind of bird is this?  There is no prize for the right answer.  Just the intrinsic satisfaction of being right.

What kind of bird is this?

What kind of bird is this?