Friday, April 30, 2010

The Countdown Begins

As of today we have exactly one month until we leave Cochabamba for our journey back to the United States.  I think I will start marking the days off the calendar with big "x"s to make me feel like I am progressing.  I have plenty to keep me busy until I leave, but I find myself easily distracted by daydreams and memories that have come flooding into my life like rain during rainy season.  I think how easy it will be to shop, to cook, to clean, to do laundry.  I think of how fun it will be to eat out, to spend time with family and friends and to share the incredible ways we´ve seen God work in these past three years.  I daydream about how cheap instant oatmeal, cereal, real granola bars, and Dr. Pepper will be as compared to here where we have to have a bank loan to buy such things.  I dream of sitting in Market Street Coffee or in Starbucks with a REAL coffee in my hand.  I can almost smell it.  We could even go out for DECAF coffee at unheard of phenomenon in Bolivia.  I think of all the kinds of soda there are to buy.  I can even afford a whole case of them in the States.  I imagine basking in the red glow of the "Hot Now" sign at a Krispy Kreme Donut Shoppe.  I can taste real Mexican salsa and yummy chips.  I visualize the green rolling hills of Northern Virginia.  I can´t wait to share the Smithsonian Museums with the kiddos.  But until I get there as I said I have lots to do. 

I am a list person so now I am working on a list of all the lists that I need to make.  :)  Our friend, Tim, in the UK asked me to write a blog about our countdown to leaving.  I`m not sure if this is what he had in mind or not, but here goes.  A partial list of things I need to do here before we get on that plane.
  • We need to wrap up certain ministries such as Joe giving and grading his final exam at the seminary, bring to a close his mentoring meeting with the pastors he meets with on a weekly basis, and I need to stop meeting with my language helper.
  • I get to help plan and pull off a baby shower (really a little girl shower) for my dear friend Angie who is adopting a little Bolvian girl.  I am so excited that this is happening before we have to leave since I have prayed for Kaitlynn for a long time now and am thrilled to get to welcome the newest Washington in May!!
  • We want to spend some times of fun and fellowship with missionary friends we won´t be seeing for way too long.
  • I have to pack for everyone.  Packing way more than just clothes.  I have to remember all our important paperwork, gifts for family and friends, reminders of our lives back here at home, and all our school books and work we will need for next year.  Then I have to inventory what all is in each suitcase in case they are lost or stolen in transit.
  • We need to eat all of the food in our pantry...the teens are on this one.
  • We have to finalize our travel schedule as much as possible since we are trying to work in driving thousands of miles to and through at least 20 states to visit supporting churches and friends.  This means trying to work out housing all over the country for our rather large brood.  Not an easy task.
  • I need to write a few talks that I want to share with groups.  We also have a weekend retreat where we will doing lots of teaching/sharing that we need to work on.
  • We need to have a new pic made of our family for prayer cards.  This is no small undertaking either as anyone who has tried to coordinate schedules and wardrobes of 11 people knows.
  • We will be meeting with our Bolivian lawyer so she can tell us what kinds of things we will need to do and what we will need to bring back with us to start our visa process all over again when we get back.
  • We have a voucher for three days in the Yungas (the jungle outside of La Paz) already paid for that we want to use.
  • I need to finish homeschooling for the year.  The kids are still working hard and plodding through, their teacher on the otherhand has trouble staying focused at this point. 
  • I need to make lesson plans for next year so that I will know what books to pack for 8 students.
  • I need to finish shopping for gifts that won´t be too cheesy/touristy for our family and friends.
  • I have to buy all the non-teenagers "Croc" type shoes to wear on our journey.  I figure they are our best choice since for ´security purposes´ we will be taking our shoes off so many times and we don´t care to miss a flight due to putting shoes on 11 people.  Also we can wear socks with these unlike flip flops.  As you see I have thought this all out.  I´m not forceing my great idea of ugly shoes on the teens, but if they miss the flight, it´s their own fault.
  • We want to take lots of pictures to share with the folks back home and also to remember what all we are missing here.
  • I want to eat more silpanchos and papa rellenas, drink more JavaLattes, and work in as much JuiceZen as I can as well as enjoying the wonderful fruits and juices of Cochbamba.
But now I must go and mark April 30th off my calendar.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Woman without a Country

That´s what I am feeling like these days as I contemplate our home assignment. First a little background on what home assignment is. Our mission requires that we go back to our “home” country for 9 months after three years on the field. In May of this year we will have been in Bolivia for 3 years so that means we will have several months to spend in the States reconnecting with friends and family, visiting supporting churches and raising funds to spend for the next several years in Cochabamba. Along with these things we plan on having some serious fun. Unfortunately Joe´s dad passed away last July. He left us a small inheritance and Joe had the idea to use it while we are back in the States by taking a couple of vacations. We wish that we would have been able to go on these vacations with him, but are grateful to him for the opportunity to be able to do some things that we don´t normally get to do living in Bolivia. We already have our tickets purchased and will arrive at Dulles Airport on June 3rd…just one day before my parents´ 50th Wedding Anniversary. It will be fun to be there in person and to celebrate this momentous occasion with them.
Now back to the ´without a country´ part. I think that´s really how I feel. I know I am a foreigner here in Bolivia. I don´t look like a Bolivian and I certainly can´t speak Spanish as well as a Bolivian. There are many things about Bolivian culture that I either don´t understand, can´t relate to or sometimes even don´t like. I know that I don´t really ´belong´ here although I now consider this my home. I also don´t fit so well in my ´home´ country any longer. I have had experiences that have changed me from the person I was. My eyes have been opened to the poverty that is unheard of in the USA. A woman begging at the gate for food for her and her children. She literally cries with gratitude when provided with the food. Boys 8 years old who live on the street and stiff glue to try and escape what has now become their homeless, parentless reality. Churches who meet in the campo (country) under a small wooden shelter on homemade wooden benches and are just so glad to be there. I now know what a privilege it is to have clean drinking water and eat at places where I don´t risk catching a disease, an amoeba, or a parasite. I am thankful for the rare weeks when no one in our family has one of these dreaded critters.

Even though I am looking forward to many things in the United States including but not limited to:

• shopping at Costco for large quantities for our large family
• buying prepared foods and not having to cook every single thing we eat from scratch
• getting to spend time with friends and family I haven´t seen in way too long
• having all my clothes dried in a dryer and not on the line, and while I´m on that subject…dryer sheets!!!
• eating some great Mexican food…actually great foods of all kinds
• not having to bleach/sterilize all the fruits and veggies we consume
• not having to worry that I won´t be prepared for a different cultural situation I might encounter anytime I leave my house
• worshipping in my heart language
• being able to buys books at a real bookstore
• the library
• going shopping without having to take along teens to tote my purchases and provide ´security´
• efficiency, cleanliness, and customer service
• not having to pay someone to watch my car everywhere I park
• heating and air-conditioning
• spending extended time with Seth and Jake
• being able to accomplish more than one task in one day
• drinking directly from the faucet
• being able to return something that doesn´t work or doesn´t fit once I´ve left the store
• not looking so different from everyone else
• Yankee Candle Company
• a dishwasher (that isn´t one of my children)
• Blue Ridge Bible Church
• celebrating birthdays with grandparents
• not having to check the covers or my shoes for scorpions
• a garbage disposal
• malls
• free water at restaurants
• having gas piped directly to our house and not having to chase down a truck to exchange a tank of gas
• good roads
• Bath and Body Works
• being altogether with my whole family for Christmas
• not getting yelled out if I take my baby out in 85 degree weather without socks or a hat on or without her all bundled up in a wool blanket
• going to one Super Wal-Mart or Super Target for all our needs under one roof….yes, ALTOGETHER in ONE place, and INSIDE and HEATED or AIR-CONDITIONED!! They even provide a convenient basket on wheels to carry all my goodies in. How convenient is that?

Anyway I digress. My point is that while I am looking forward to many of the things that I miss in the US the most important being my family and friends, I´m not sure how well I will fit in there anymore. I´m not the same person I was just 3 years ago. I have a whole set of new experiences and see life from a new perspective.

I have a whole list of things I will miss here in Cochabamba while I am in the States including but not limited to:

• Going to the open air market each Saturday where I not only can buy all the fruits and vegetables that we can eat in a week for less than $50, but I also get to see lots of friends as they are there doing the same thing. It´s quite the social event.
• My friends here who are so willing to drop everything in their very busy lives and just have a cup of coffee or a chat when I need them.
• People and relationships being the priority above things and accomplishments
• Learning a better perspective of God as I discover more of what and who He created.
• Going out to eat with my family without having to take out a bank loan.
• When it is necessary to take a child to the ER, we can usually get everything we need done for less than $75.
• Worshipping in Spanish
• Wonderful organic fruits, vegetables, and juices available for pennies year round.
• Living in a big city and being close to everything. We can be at the movie or any restaurant we want to go to in less than 10 minutes.
• The intimate friendships that missionaries form.
• Silpanchos (meat or chicken pounded so much it is flattened on top of a bed of rice and fried potatoes then covered with a fried egg, and topped with tomatoes, onions and peppers).
• Running red lights and ignoring one way street signs…in other words ´fluid´ traffic laws
• Feeling like I am a part of something ´big´
• Public transportation
• Walking, walking, walking
• Seeing everything from a few goats to a whole living room or dining room suite in and on a taxi
• Following God´s plan for my life
• My Bolivian friends
• My little apartment that is “home” to me
• Spending lots of time together as a family
• Being able to afford snacks at the movie.
• Buying movies on DVD before they come out in the theater in the US….and paying less than $1 for them.
• Seeing people excited about what God is doing everyday around them
• Seeing motorcycles used as family vehicles for 5 or more people.
• Feeling part of a community.
• Helping new missionary friends get settled and adjusted to life in Bolivia.
• Carachipampa basketball games

As you can see there are many things I miss while I am here in Coch and many things I will miss from here while I am back in the States. I´m not sure where I ´belong´ anymore. I´m not sure where I ´fit´…. if anywhere. I am a woman without a country. I guess I will choose to look at it positively and say I am a woman with two countries. I miss one whenever I am in the other.