Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Thursday, January 26, 2012
That’s what everyone told us during all of our trainings. It just takes longer to live in Africa. I tried to process that, I tried to imagine it, I thought I had an understanding. I did not. I think it’s sort of like having your first baby. You can read all the books, take all the classes, babysit for a friend, etc. But, until you have that baby in your home and have lived a few of those sleepless nights, you cannot understand.
It’s true though. It just takes longer to live here. For example, often we are without power. So, when the power has been out for a while and we need to use the generator to keep the fridge cold, we go into our pantry, flip this lever to switch the current from city power to generator, turn off the hot water heater, go outside and turn the generator on. Then, at 10 o’clock each night, when it’s time to turn the generator off, we have to go outside, turn the generator off, remember to flip the lever back to city power, in case it comes on during the night, and then flip the hot water heater back on in the hopes that we’ll have hot water the next day. That’s just to keep the fridge cold.
I’ve been shopping the last two days. Two different ladies have graciously taken me around town to show me some of their favorite stores and stands. Just figuring out how to make foods that are familiar using the ingredients that are available to me at a reasonable cost will be a challenge. But, I look forward to figuring it out. Each store has a small selection of foods, many of them about the stock of your average 7-11. At this point, I’ve been to all 3 of the “large” grocery stores and there is nothing back home that I can think of to compare them to. Maybe a country general store. Maybe not. Okay, no comparisons.
The packaging for everything is so different. Like, I never would have thought that the mound of black trash bags full of powder was flour. Fortunately, my colleague explained to me that I need to freeze it and then sift it before I use it to get all of the bugs out of it. I haven’t had to use it yet, but we’ll see!
Today, I bought hangers from 3 different stands, because I kept thinking that the next stall might have a more reasonable price. Then, when I brought them home, they had to be washed and dried before they could be used. When I started using them, I realized that I didn’t buy nearly enough so now I’ll get to brave the market again to find more of them.
I did buy some strawberries. When I got home, I had to run a sink full of this cleaning solution to soak the strawberries in for 20 minutes before they could be eaten.
Water. That takes longer too. Fortunately, we were given a nice water filter through the WMU program that Southern Baptists run. So, each morning, we pour water in the top and then it trickles through the filter into the reservoir. Then, we can use it to make our kool-aid, milk (it’s powdered here), and ice (which we haven’t actually had yet because the freezer has yet to get cold enough). Before we brush our teeth, we have to make sure that there is bottled water in the bathroom for us to brush with. When the filter gets dirty, we’ll just scour off the crud and use it again.
Laundry is fun too. We have a washer that someone blessed us with until our crate gets here. So, when we have city power, that works great. We don’t have a dryer, so we can hang the clothes out to dry. But, if we do that, then they have to be ironed or put into a hot dryer long enough to kill the mango fly larva, or else we’ll get a mango worm growing in our skin. Since we don’t have a dryer and I am not about to iron everything, we’ve chosen to live like Sanford and Son with clothes hanging all over the house. We’re going to get a better system soon, I hope.
It just takes longer. That’s all there is to it. It could be maddening. Truly! But we’re choosing to look at it as an adventure. We can already see so many ways that all of these inconveniences can help us to live in greater community with other folks. It also helps us to be grateful for the little things. I have not picked up my to-do list pad one time since we got here and even with all of the craziness of learning how to operate in this new nomal, I’m enjoying learning new skills and processes. Mostly.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
I’m going to go ahead and write this blog post while it’s rolling around in my head, though I honestly have NO idea if and when it will ever get posted. Some wise person told us to record our thoughts and impressions and take lots of pictures while everything was fresh and new to us because soon, it would all seem normal. At this point, I find that incredibly hard to believe. But, since I respect this person, I’m going to take their word for it and try to chronicle a little bit of our arrival.
Our flights went well. Much better than I expected. The only thing that was a struggle was sleeping. We didn’t do much of that. Between 5 kids and the flight attendants offering something to whoever was still awake, sleep was scarce. So, by the time we landed, we were beyond exhausted. Our bodies were convinced that it was about 9PM, but the clock in our new country read 6AM.
As we waited in the immigration line, we discussed how well everything had gone and how we could tell that the kids were reaching the fragile state, so we hoped the next few hurdles would go smoothly. But you know, God has a way of giving us what we need and not what we want and the next few hours certainly proved that.
When the immigration officer called us forward we stepped up in full confidence, knowing that we had our visas in our passports and we were good to go. Then, the officer asked to see our paperwork. We were confused, we didn’t have any paperwork. We’d sent it to the embassy, gotten the visa, and here we were! They proceeded to explain that all of the paperwork the embassy received was supposed to be in a sealed envelope, addressed to the consulate, and we were supposed to produce it at that moment. We looked at each other in horror because we knew that we had handed that 3 pound stack of papers to our supervisor in Canada and asked him to shred it for us, because it contained so much personal information.
At that point things got really hairy. Kids started crying, phone calls started flying, uniformed people started using words like deport. It was not good. In the meantime, about 50 feet away, our luggage was going round and round the carousel as we watched and prayed that we would be able to get to it.
After a while, they took Ryan back to a room to discuss our options and they sent me to go and start claiming baggage with my 5 children. There was a sea of porters wanting to help us and I was totally overwhelmed. There were bags stacked all over and so one porter started gathering his friends and they pulled then together. I counted, and recounted, and then counted again, only to discover that we were missing 3 bags. So, as Ryan was getting our passprots seized, I was trying to fill out baggage claim forms and my kids were trying hard to hold Abe together as they alternated bouts of crying. It was horrific.
After what seemed like a very long time, even though it was probably only an hour or so, we were told we could leave and given a sheet of paper with our passport numbers on it, but no passports. Next came customs, where an officer insisted that he was not letting us leave until he searched our bags or provided him with a detailed packing list. We kept saying, there are 7 of us, we are moving here, they are household goods, clothes, book, etc., etc., etc. Praise the Lord, that gal that had come to help us out with her trusty phone and embassy contacts had greeted a man earlier who told the man that we were his friends and to let us go. So, miraculously, he waved us on.
At this point, I was exhausted, stressed, and it was time for our drive home. We had been told that the drive could vary based on the traffic, checkpoints, etc. Let’s just say, that the rhythym that had begun the day continued on our way home. Both of our colleagues who traveled with us said that they think we may now hold the record for the longest drive home from the capital city, and it took between 6 and 7 hours. We got stopped at so many checkpoints by so many officers in so many different kinds of uniforms that it was almost comical. Then, about 2/3 of the way, Lily got horribly carsick and began vomiting. It was traumatic.
Fortunately, things began to improve from there. We arrived at our new home to many friendly faces who were all eager to greet us and welcome us. Our house was covered in balloons and colorful paper chains. The beds were made up, there was a starter supply of foods, and it was obvious that we were welcome.
Our first morning here, Ryan and I both woke up, anxious about our situation. We knew that if we couldn’t secure those papers in a timely fashion, we were going home and that was a heavy weight. But, we both spent some time in God’s word and then dialogued about what we felt he was saying to us. Though we were in different places in scripture, we both were reminded that none of the previous day’s events were a mistake. God was certainly aware of everything we’d faced. We had not willfully made a mistake with the visa paperwork and God was going to do his will, whatever that may be.
Later in the day, we were able to get in touch with our supervisor and we found out that he had not yet shredded the necessary documents. So, I’m happy to report that they’re on their way and we’re prayerful that we’ll see them soon and be able to get all of this mess resolved.
The last couple have days have been spent attempting to unpack, shop, establish phones, internet, etc. I can’t wait to share a little bit about the learning curve that the last few days has involved. But, that’s a whole ‘nother post. I am very hopeful that sleep will come tonight as it’s been avoiding me our first 2 nights here, so I’m off to bed!
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Thursday, January 19, 2012
- We need prayer. It's not just something we say because it's the right thing to say. We literally depend on the prayers of the body. Just as much, we need to know that you're praying, so an occasional e-mail or FB note is a welcome thing.
- We are not superheroes. We don't have any special powers. We do not want the American church to elevate us. We're ordinary people who have surrendered to God's call on our life. Our kids throw tantrums, we get irritated with our spouses, we are tempted to doubt God's power. We need your friendship, not your awe.
- We miss community. Words cannot express how much we miss our church. We have full confidence that we will find another type of community in our new city, but it will be very different. In some ways, we will always long for our familiar American worship.
- We want to share what is happening in our lives, so please listen. It's really hard because part of our heart is in the States and part of it is with our work. We want to engage in your world and we want you to engage in our world. At the same time, things have changed for us and we aren't the same people that we were before. Just knowing that there are people who will listen to the details and allow us to think aloud and share what is happening is a good thing. God is changing us in amazing ways and we aren't sure how to process it all, be patient with us. We promise not to show you any hour long slide shows of us wearing native clothing and chasing giraffes. Maybe 30 minute power points, but not hour long slide shows.
- Remember our kids. Notes, cards, e-mails. They mean so much to our family. Not because of what they say but because they show them that somebody remembers them. Our kids love to know that they are not forgotten and that there are friends who are holding them up. From everything we've read and observed, our kids can and will continue to struggle with where their "home" is. It is our prayer that instead of feeling that they have no home, they will have multiple homes and that when we're in the states, there will be people who are willing to invest in them and pour into them for those windows of time.
- Pursue us. In the months ahead, we know that we will become even more disconnected from what once was. Communication will become more challenging for us. We may not be able to answer every e-mail promptly. Don't stop sending them. I know you're busy too, but when the Lord brings us to mind, we'd love to hear from you!
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Saturday, January 7, 2012
- We haven't done Santa. Some of the godliest people I know do Santa. That's great for them, but we don't do Santa. I was one of those children who was devastated when I found out the truth and I decided early on I wasn't comfortable with the creativity that was involved with telling the story.
- Every year, we do try to give to someone who has need in some way. We've done all sorts of things, we've done the shoeboxes, we've picked names off a tree to shop for, we've adopted families with needs through a SS class, last year we did 12 days of Christmas gifts for a family that we were involved in sharing our faith with. That was definitely the kid's favorite. They loved the ringing and then dashing from the doorstep every night for 12 nights. It doesn't matter so much to us what we do, but that we do something(s) and that our kids are involved. This year it was simply baking cookies to share with some neighbors that we've met.
- We always help the kids make gifts to give to the people that have invested in them through that year as a way of saying thank you. Teachers, coaches, etc.
- Every year, we put up our Christmas tree together (usually the Sunday after Thanksgiving) and on the night that we do, we eat "party foods" like sausage balls, fruit and dip, and cheese cubes. I learned this year, that my children consider that a non-negotiable.
- We do some sort of nightly Christmas count-down and we use that time to share the Christmas story. This was a resource that we used when our kids were younger (though ours was the first edition.) Now that they're older we use the Bible. It works amazingly well.
- We give each of our children 3 gifts, as a reflection of the gold, frankincense, and myrrh that the wisemen gave.. Although, I'm going to be honest here and say, we also do stockings and they involve little gifts. And sometimes those 3 gifts are really multiple gifts with one theme. Like this year, Abby got an I-Touch. But with it she got a cover and a docking station too. But we counted it as one gift. So, it's probably not as minimalist as it should be. It works for us.
- We bake together. We eat together. We laugh together. Those are all rock solid traditions.
- That's really about it when it comes to the set-in-stone traditions. There are several other favorites that we have done off and on through the years, but we don't do them every year. These would include things like making gingerbread houses, crafting ornaments, christmas light driving, caroling, and hosting parties of different sorts for different purposes.