Friday, May 30, 2008

This week in the USA...

Let me start out by saying that if you have ANYTHING else that you need to be doing, go ahead and do it... this blog entry will be totally pointless and will be an incredible waste of your valuable time.  However, I feel obligated to post once a week (or so) and sometimes my life just doesn't seem all that exciting.  Several of my missionary peers feel the same way (that their lives are equally as boring as mine) and that they really don't have a lot of incredible information to post on a weekly basis, but none the less, there are "blog police" out there who get all fussy if we don't post each week, and then they whine and say things like, "Why haven't you posted in 8.26 days???  I've been waiting on pins and needles for your next post!"  You know who you are...  

So, here are the random thoughts and events of the past week or so...

We are still "home" in the USA, awaiting our June 23rd departure date for Peru.  We continue to wait for our Peruvian visas, which are delayed - again.  It appears that we will now have to enter the country as tourists on a 90 day visa and work from within the country to get our residency visas finalized.  This means that when the visas are ready, we will have to leave the country and travel to Chile, then re-enter the country as "residents".  Which means that we will incur the unbudgeted cost of extra travel to Chile.  Oh well - such is business in Latin America.  

We have been super busy speaking at church services, dessert receptions, dinners, etc.  I think that we are finally finished with the "scheduled" speaking engagements.  However, there is a long list of people who still would like some time with us and want to meet for lunch, or dinner, or coffee, or whatever.  We are flattered and overwhelmed that anyone really wants to sit and eat and talk to us!  My stomach has had enough, though... it is in a constant state of "complaint".  It has become a running joke now - everywhere we go, someone tries to send home food with us (which is so nice).  However, my mom's refrigerator is overflowing and our waistlines are ever growing.  This morning is Billy's weekly coffee and donuts date with his accountability/bible study men's group and I begged him to NOT bring me donuts!  I didn't eat dinner last night because I'm so miserably stuffed, and I don't intend to eat breakfast either.  So if you really want to meet with us and talk, that's great... but I'll be having water, thanks.

Sarah has learned to swim since we have been home.  My mom is a member of a gym and she arranged for us to have a one month membership so we could take Sarah to the pool while we are home.  (I realize that at this point in the story, some of you are making the connection between my overeating and the gym membership... just hush!)  So we have been taking Sarah to the pool and she has decided that she no longer needs her ring and she can swim "like a grownup".  Within the past few days, she has thrown away the ring and started swimming like a fish!  She is now the proud owner of dive rings, which she is working diligently to recover from the bottom of the pool.  "It's hard, because my booty floats!", she said on the first day of her attempts.  Yesterday, she was able to jump in and swim to the middle of the competition-size pool without help.  She and Billy also spent almost an hour doing stunts... Sarah being thrown by Billy, doing flips and standing on his shoulders for two-man stunts, etc.  The lifeguard in me was having a fit, but the swim team in me was so proud!

Our old lab died this week.  He was 15, so he had lived plenty of life for a lab!!!  Actually, about 10 years ago, he had heartworms and we did the treatments to try to save him from that, at which time the vet told us that he might have another 3 years in him.  So we feel like he really got a lot more out of life than was to be expected.  He was Ryan's dog... Ryan got him when he was in kindergarten.  Ryan is now a junior in college, so he and Rex have been together for a long time.  It was a pretty tough blow for Ryan.  Not that we didn't expect it, and not that we didn't know that sooner or later Rex was going to die, but you're still not ready to deal with it when it happens.  So late the other night, Ryan and Miles and Billy buried Rex in the garden at my grandmother's house, and we all shed a few tears and said goodbye.  It has been a year of goodbyes and losses...

Today we will do more sorting and decision making... we are trying to finalize our packing for Peru.  We need to get it done so we can let the team in Peru know exactly how many bags and how much weight we are bringing.  They need to make arrangements for transportation once we arrive in Lima and some of our bags will have to be shipped by bus from Lima to Huancayo.  So we are trying to decide what we need, what is practical, what is not important, etc.  It's not my favorite activity... remember, I had a nervous breakdown trying decide whether to keep clothes hangers when we moved last year!

Well, if you made it this far in reading this post, I'm worried about you.  Surely you have better things to do!  They have counselors for this sort of thing... Seriously, thanks for hanging in there with us and supporting us, and caring enough to read even the most mundane things about our lives right now.  Within a few short weeks, we will have more exciting posts from new and exciting places... just hang in there :)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Home... whatever that means

So we are finally "home", whatever that means nowadays.  I have been perplexed by trying to answer the question "So, where are you from?" lately.  Several times this week, I have been in situations where I was meeting new people, etc. and they always ask me, "Where are you from?" or "Where do you live?", to which I have no real answer.  Home used to be here (Texas), but now we don't really feel like we are "home"... we are just visitors, back "home" for a time.  We don't really have a place to put our stuff, a closet was partially cleared for us, the living room is piled high with luggage yet unpacked... it just doesn't feel like home really.  Costa Rica isn't home, although it was for the past year - and we REALLY miss our friends from the language institute.  Peru isn't home yet, although it soon will be.   We don't have housing arrangements in Peru yet, we don't have our visas yet...  Everything is just a big LIMBO right now and feels kind-of weird.  

We are pretty tired.  We haven't been in Texas for a week yet, and already I have been to Dallas for two days to see my brother direct his Spring pops concert, been to a big welcome home dinner in Navasota (really neat - they even had Welcome Home Drum Family on the restaurant marquee), filmed a video at the church, transferred the title on the used car we bought for Miles, made a video / slide show for next week's speaking engagements, designed and printed bookmark prayer cards for next week, and have done countless hours of shopping that we needed to take care of before Peru.  We have sent Ryan back to TAMUK for a week or so and gotten his VW bus insured.  Culture shock on the USA end is compounded by the North American lifestyle of "super fast, super efficient, pack in as much as possible into one day" attitude.  It is taking it's toll on our very Latin American cultural mindset that we spent so many months getting used to... slow, calm, laid back, nothing happens fast, everything takes time, and you'll only accomplish 2 things on your list on any given day.  I really got used to that!!!  

By the way, my plan to eat my way across Texas came to a pretty quick demise.  Our first meal on the ground was at Chili's on the way home from the airport.  Billy and I didn't sleep that night because our stomachs were rebelling (more food and more fat than we are accustomed to).  On the second day, we had a nervous breakdown in the grocery store when my mom asked us to pick out a couple of bags of potato chips to go with sandwiches at lunch... there are WAY too many kinds of potato chips in this country!!!  We finally just threw up our hands and told Mom to pick.  That night, we ate at La Casita and again, my stomach was not very happy with me... I made a trip to WalMart to buy Tums since this seemed to be quickly becoming a trend.  In Dallas, we ate dinner at IHOP after the concert and I only managed 1/2 of my plate.  Sarah fell asleep in my lap and I could have done the same -- we just aren't used to these late nights!  In Costa Rica, it wasn't unusual for us to pass out in bed by 8:30 or 9 each night!  The mental exhaustion of language learning and a different culture was rough and we really needed lots of sleep.  Since we have been "home", we haven't been in bed before 11:00 yet!  Last night, it was 1:15 before we turned out the lights.

And there is no relief in sight... Today Billy attended his old Bible study coffee at 6 a.m., this weekend my girlfriends are taking me out for some pampering and lunch tomorrow, our old small group from church is having a social for us tomorrow night, Sunday we deliver the sermon at two services, have a Q&A forum at the Sunday School hour, attend at going-away reception for a pastor/supporter, hold another Q&A forum at a dessert reception in our honor in the afternoon...  Yep, I think we will be pretty exhausted by the end of Sunday.  If anything, we just haven't had time to really feel the effects of culture shock because we are so busy and so tired!

Love to all of you.  Pray for us and our transitions in the USA, and for the transitions that are in the works for our move to Peru in June.  

Monday, May 5, 2008

A view into my very disorganized mind

Emotions are running rampant and there are so many things on my mind right now.  We have so much to do before we leave Costa Rica this weekend, and yet, this seems to be the longest week in history!
I miss my friends from language school already... I miss them TERRIBLY!  In fact, I'm teary-eyed writing this!  This is the last time that we will be around a large group of missionaries who completely understand us and love us and have been through everything alongside us.  Our 10 classmates did life together this year, literally.  We all went through immense loss together (giving up our homes, friends, culture, language, etc.).  We  struggled to learn a new language together and a new culture.  We laughed together and cried together and took care of each other and loved each other through it all.  We were / ARE very tight.  Now we are all scattered...  It's rough.  I didn't get to say goodbye to Mike before he had to leave, Heath left early to get married in the USA, Matt & Brooke had to take off for some fundraising in the USA, Matt left yesterday for Honduras... and that's the end of "the gang"...  three are still in Costa Rica and going to school for one more trimester, seven of us have jumped out of the nest for our new countries.  Que triste!  I really miss my "family".
Gear switch... today we have no water.  That's fun!!!  They said it would be back on by 1 p.m., but it is now 4:00 and still no water.  So we went to McDonald's for lunch.  In Costa Rica, McD's has fried chicken as a combo meal (Billy's favorite).  They do not have the fish filet sandwich in Costa Rica, which is my favorite in Los Estados Unidos... too sad for me!  We took Lisbeth with us and we discussed how McDonald's here has delivery, but in the USA there is no delivery.  She was amazed... every food establishment here offers delivery!!!
Speaking of Lizbeth, this is a sad week for her and for us.  We are packing our things and she is very unhappy about it!  She is getting all of our "extras" that we can't take home with us... small kitchen things, etc.  Her family cannot afford to have most of the things that we take for granted, and we can't take most things to Peru with us.  Anything electric has to be re-bought in Peru because of the difference in current and plugs.  Somethings just weigh too much and it isn't financially feasible to pay the extra weight and baggage fees to take them... it is cheaper to buy them again.  So we are saying goodbye to our "stuff" again and Lizbeth is very happy to be on the receiving end.  But she is very sad that we are leaving.  She is teary every day.  She and Sarah are very close.  We aren't looking forward to Friday when we say goodbye for good.
We are really ready to go leave Costa Rica - it's time.  This was but a season in our lives and we have completed the task.  The goodbyes are painful and we are ready to go "home" to the States.  It will be great to see friends and family again!  I miss my friends and the backyard campfires, impromptu dates at La Casita, etc.  I am sad that I haven't been there to laugh with them and cry with them and live life together with them.  I hope to catch up...  And family - we haven't seen Miles since March, we haven't seen Billy's family since last June, I miss my Gama and our coffee breaks... It's time to go home for a bit.  
Personally, I think I have a serious food issue... much of my return trip to Texas revolves around where I want to eat because I miss some foods so much!!!  La Casita, Pappadeux, Starbuck's, PhoJon, Circle H hamburgers, etc... that's terrible, isn't it?!  And I dream about my visit to Target... just think - all of the things I need and want, all under one roof, all air conditioned, Starbucks at the door... I'm drooling just thinking about it.  I think I have a problem...  I might need counseling....  One of my missionary friends assures me that it will be a terrible experience (shopping at Target) because when she went home, it was shear overwhelming shock and she didn't last 10 minutes in there.  She says that we have really become accustomed to our new ways and that the USA is very difficult to go home to... I'm praying that she is wrong, but bracing for the possibility that she is right - after all, she HAS been there before me.
By the way, we DID graduate from language school.  We walked down the aisle and everything.  We carried the Peruvian flag, we received diplomas, etc.  Ryan graduated with us.  So we are all certified Spanish speakers now (mas o menos).  We aren't fluent - at least Billy and I aren't.  Ryan and Sarah are amazing!!!!  We know enough to realize that we are still pretty stupid, but on a good day, our knowledge of the language is incredible.  On a bad day, well, it's bad.  But we're still learning...  We learn more every day and the little men in our heads are up there working overtime at filing all of the Spanish in the appropriate places.  Each day some new light bulb comes on and we have another "aha" moment where something falls into place.  Hallelujah!