Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's Who You Know...


Before you read this post, you MUST go and read THIS POST from my friend Tara. I am not kidding. The rest of the post won’t make sense unless you read hers. 
Thank You.

When I first read Tara’s post a few days ago, I snickered. It was cute and Noah is funny.  I don’t know Noah well, but I could imagine him dramatically making such a statement and it made me smile.
Days later, I am haunted by that post and I can’t stop thinking about Noah’s statement. 
“It is very hard to love people you've never met.”

Our world is swirling with fear and animosity and hatred these days. Our home country is outraged at the things that are going on in the country in which we live and vice versa.  Tension continues to mount, fears swell like balloons and rumors are launched from every direction.  The media has a hayday and marches on with its brainwashing mantra…corrupting anyone who will listen.  
Real voices and real lives on both sides are drowned out by the clash.

The people we know and love are increasingly hateful and fearful towards the people we know and love

...and it breaks our hearts.

I feel like a broken record these days and know it will only get worse in a month when we get back to the States.
These days we say a lot of:
“We have seen the news, we know what our people did to your people. We don’t agree with it and aren’t a part of it.”
“We have seen the news, we know what your people did to our people and we don’t agree with it.”
“Yes, there is unrest here and people are upset…with good reason. Hopefully it will calm down.”
“Yes, people are upset there…with good reason. Hopefully they will calm down.”
“No not all of the people in our country hate you and are that insensitive.”
“No, not all of the people in this country want to kill you or make your lives miserable.”
“People in my country are good people, for the most part…there are just some bad ones thrown in that make things seem really bad.”

“People in this country here are good people, for the most part…there are just some bad ones thrown in that make things seem really bad.” 

Okay, you get the idea. Before you think I have gone crazy, or just not edited this post, I will reassure you that I meant to write what I did; the same thing…from two different sides. 

It really comes back to smart little Noah’s statement,

it is really hard to love people you don’t know.

Let’s be honest, this place is ugly and violent and scary. But it is also good and beautiful and holds a lot of potential.

Let’s also be honest: America is ugly and violent and scary. But it is also good and beautiful and holds a lot of potential.
The kicker is people don’t know one another.  What do you REALLY know about people from this country (or the Muslim world as a whole) that hasn’t been fed to you by the Media Machine?  I am guessing not a whole lot.  The same goes for people here.  They learn through the Tube (and media as a whole), just like people have become accustomed to doing all over the world.  The problem is: what is shown by the media is one (very skewed and slanted) side of the story. Sorry, but FOX News does not know all…and people don’t know all by watching it.

It just grieves me that there is so much hatred and ugliness on both sides…against people not even KNOWN by those launching it.

I realize that it is not possible for every person in America (or other countries outside this one) to come here and experience life and it’s people.  Not everyone can interact with kAkA and the rest of our friends.  All of the kids in the world can’t come and mooch food off of the cook every day and naan from the guard every night like Little t has become so skilled at doing.  It isn’t possible… 

But I wish with all my heart that it was so that people could KNOW one another. So that barriers and walls of fear and misunderstanding could be torn down. 

So that flesh would see flesh instead of seeing fear.
I guess I can sum it up by saying, I am grieved by the fear and misunderstanding that is so thick these days. Honestly, this is the main reason I am not ready to skip back to the States just yet (that and it being an election year…). I dread the nasty comments, the condemnation, the disgust and fear…all from people I know and love, against people I know and love.

Please pr.ay for grace and peace for us in these days as we navigate these very turbulent waters…that affect us very personally on both sides.  We want to be salt and light on both sides. We want to help people KNOW each other. We long to do what we can to dissolve some of the fear and break down some of the barriers.  We need Je.sus SO desperately to do that through us.  If I am honest, right now, I would rather go sit on a beach on an island somewhere than go home to hear how crazy or stupid we are for doing what we do, etc.  So please pr.ay for us.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Important Useless Information...

This information will most likely mean nothing to all of you, but I feel compelled to share it with you for some reason.  I am sure you will thank me for it in the end. 

*Happy Hut (Hoot) to you all!  The month of Hut started here two days ago (I just really get a kick out of saying that…which is mainly why I am telling you this). Everyone has reassured us that when Hut comes, winter leaves.  So far, we have had a foot of snow and temps that have not left the 20’s. We have nervously turned on the water each morning (we leave it dripping at night) to make sure our pipes have not frozen. I am feeling positive about the direction we are moving…

* Our plan is to move out of our house in a week and then have almost a week where we stay in the guest rooms and can just trash this place as we pack.  We are hoping it will be easier to pack if we are not trying to live here as well…maybe a little less stressful?  One can hope, right? It should be a good time.  If given the chance, I would ditch it all and get on a plane tomorrow…but there aren’t any scheduled flights, unfortunately.

* Because we are winding down our time here, that means I only have a week left of using cloth diapers for a while. At this point in time, that makes me happy.  I LOVE cloth diapering for so many reasons, but am ready for a break.  The no water or electric situation is fine, but it puts my finely tuned laundry schedule on the fritz.  Some days when I need to rinse diapers there is no water…or when I need to wash there is no power…or both!  At this point, I will just be ready to not have that to deal with as we deal with moving, packing, traveling, etc. 

* Little t is quite attached to his diapers, apparently.  He shows no signs of interest in the toilet except to read the Potty Time book a bazillion times a week…but hey, who wouldn’t be attached to a book that has a toilet that you flush at the end! It gets me every time! Anyway,  every time we ask him if he wants to use the potty, he smiles sweetly and says, “no thanks!”  The other day he started to pee as I had his diaper off and I said, “quick, let’s go to the toilet!” He said, “no I wait.” I put his clean diaper on and he said, “okay, pee now.”  5 minutes later I was changing another diaper.

* Can I just say, I am so much happier without fleas being a constant part of my life?  I just realized the other day how much of an improvement it is that I am not constantly itching, searching, paranoid about the little things crawling all over me, etc.  I have taken it for granted for a while now, but I am really really loving being flea free. If you haven’t tried it, you should!

* And lastly, if anyone should decide that they want to torture me for some reason, I will give you my current top two methods.  I hope that none of you will decide to do this, but you never know…
1. Packing a house with a toddler.  People, I love him, he is adorable and sweet and funny and has come from my womb…but I can’t stand him when I am trying to pack! I swear one of the kid’s spiritual gifts is dumping things out and making messes.  It is constant. I fold laundry, he unfolds it. I put books in a box and turn around to find him taking them out.  I organize a shelf and in one fell swoop he knocks it all on the floor.  I am amazed (and thoroughly annoyed) at his ability to undo all of my work in a fraction of the time it takes me to do it.  It is hard, because he always wants to ‘help’ and can be disgustingly charming about it, but at times I just want to sit and cry! 
Case in point: yesterday we were getting ready to go to our team meeting and I was prepping a bag for Tariq.  I am sure people wonder if we are moving each time we leave the house, given the amount of junk we haul around. In my defense, the meetings can get long and I would rather be over-prepared with stuff to keep him busy.  Anyway, I was looking through the plastic bin that holds all of his trucks/tractors/cars for his ‘fancy’ tractor. He was doing what he does best…telling me what to do as he sat and ate his snack.  After inquiring as to what I was doing, he watched me carefully move pieces from one side of the box to the other while sifting through it.  With much exasperation in his voice, he finally said, “Just dump Momma, Easy!”   I couldn’t help but laugh…

2. Evil Contact Solution. I wear contacts…and my glasses occasionally when I have to.  I procure my lens solution from a supplier in a town a few hours away.  That is the fancy way of saying I get my contact lens solution from the used food bazaar in the next city.  I have had great luck with this method. Usually bottles are sealed and dirt cheap as opposed to getting it in the capital or hauling it in from Dubai. 

I was down to two bottles of solution this last week…plenty to last me until we leave right?  I decided to first use the bottle that wasn’t clearly sealed. I rinsed my lenses and popped one into my eye. I promptly began screaming in agony.  It must have been bad because A.P. came running fast.  By this time I was crying and begging him to “get that thing out of my eye!”  He had to hold me down while he pried the lens out of my eye.  He then helped me wash out my eye with clean water in a spoon (he is really smart like that).  10 minutes of washing later, my eye was totally red and bloodshot. I could barely keep it open because it seemed really sensitive to the sunlight.  The whole time Little t stood on his breakfast perch at the kitchen island and watched us. 

I put on my glasses and tried to get cleaned up before the rest of our team got there for our pr-ayer meeting.  A.P. promptly went to get the bottle and dumped it out. We figured someone thought it would be funny to fill it with something else…

I put a new pair of contacts in later that day and my eye was still painful, but was feeling a little better. 

The next day, I decided to try the other bottle...it was sealed so I figured it was good.  Stupidly, I still had not read the bottle. Contact solution is contact solution, right?  Wrong.

I rinsed my lenses and was quickly screaming again when it hit my eye.  A.P. was gone at work, so I had to pry it out myself this time.  Little t was once again in the kitchen. As I was screaming, I heard a crash…not thinking about more than my eyeball that was being eaten by evil acid…I focused on that instead of the crash. 

Finally I got the lens out and washed out my eye.  About that time, Little t came into the bathroom with handfuls of broken glass…his little fingers dripping with blood.  He had been playing with oranges in a bowl and dropped the bowl off of the table.  He had graciously picked it up and came to show me (and figure out why I was screaming). In the process, he had gotten a few cuts on his fingers. 

I took the glass away and cleaned his hands…still not able to see out of my one eye.  I found band-aids. I had packed them the day before and told myself that I hadn’t needed them up to this point…what where the chances of needing them now in the next two weeks? 

He flipped out when I tried to put the band-aid on…I think just cause he didn’t know what it was.  But he was flinging blood everywhere and screaming. I was squinting through one eye, yelling at him and trying to wipe away the mass amounts of water that streamed out of my tainted eye.  Eventually I got him calmed down and got the band-aid on.  I then spent the next hour on the kitchen floor picking up shards of glass…as a million needles continued to poke into my eye-ball and I kissed his hands that were “so owie” every other second. 

By the time lunch rolled around, we were both an exhausted mess.  

I finally read the solution bottle about how you can only use that solution with a special lens container that neutralizes the solution and doesn’t make it like burning acid being poured into your eye.  So glad I was smart enough to read about that before…

Two days later, my eye is finally almost back to normal and Little t’s hands have sported Elmo, Big Bird and Curious George band-aids. They are better too. 

So, evil contact solution in the eyes would do me in pretty quickly. I look at the bottle now and my eyes start to water.  Makes me shudder just thinking about it...

There, don’t you feel more informed now? 

You're welcome.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Natives Are Restless - Part Two

For part one of this post click here: The Natives Are Restless - Part One

You know how it is.  A few weeks into school break and the fun has worn off for everyone.  You have gone to the pool a dozen times, the mall 6 days and the park is just boring by now.  Your mom is going crazy having you underfoot by now and you are about to go crazy from the amount she wants you to help out around the house.  There are months of this left and only a week at Grandmas and a week at camp to break up the monotony.

Now imagine yourself here…there are no malls, you have to pump each drop of water your family consumes from a well down the street and then haul it home, so swimming is definitely out of the picture. The park is filled with men from the villages taking naps on the benches.  They yell if you make too much noise going down the slide. Endless games of soccer are played in the streets when the weather allows, but dirt streets mixed with days of mud and snow make that seem like a rarity more than a habit.  You can only fight with the same boys so many times each day before it gets boring. The t.v (if you have one and if there is electricity) only gets four channels; a religious channel (that Granny loves to watch and nod her toothless head at), a cooking channel from Uzbekistan, a Bollywood soap opera channel, and a music channel that makes your mother click her tongue in disapproval (they don’t blur anything out on that channel). Your mother still tries to give you work to do when you are home, but you already work a part-time job anyway so that gets old real quick.   You are a native and you are quickly getting restless.
One day, on your way home from work, you stumble across a beginner English book and have a brilliant revelation.  You will learn English.  Everything you hear and see tells you that it is the way forward, the way to get out of the rut of this life. With English, you will go far; makes lots of money, get out of this country, wear fancy clothes and be able to eat meat every day, twice a day!

Your family is really poor, so you aren’t even able to consider going to an English course in town. You immediately think about the nice British lady who lived next door to your family a few years ago and taught you some English.  She is gone, but the new Lady that is there doesn’t work in an office, so she might give you lessons. You will go ask her right when you get home.

As you arrive on your street, you wave and greet your friends who are in the midst of an intense soccer game.  They ask about your book and you excitedly share your plan with them.  They too are bored by this time in the break and decide that they should learn English as well. Thinking that there is power in numbers, your group of 10 bangs excitedly on her gate.  You chatter to each other about what you are going to do when you get older and can speak English so easily. 

The gate is quiet for a minute…that must mean that the guard is doing shopping in the bazaar.  You figure this is good news because he is pretty protective of the Lady and might not let you talk to her.  You know that the Lady will have to come to the gate, so you have a straight shot.  She comes out and after standard greetings, you launch into your proposal, holding your prize book out for her to see. Your friends crowd around and press into the gate with expectation.  At first she doesn’t understand you (her language isn’t always so great…especially when you talk fast because you are excited) and replies that she doesn’t have any books like that to give you.  You take a deep, patient breath and explain again that you have come for an English lesson. You state that the lady before her gave them all the time, that you need to learn, that she doesn’t have anything better to do because she just sits at home all day, so she should teach you…etc.

You are surprised and disappointed when the Lady doesn’t automatically throw open the door and usher you into her classroom/house so you can begin your magical journey to a better life. She explains that she has already had other kids there earlier asking to play and learn, that her son is sleeping, that she is currently in the middle of cooking supper for 8 people that night, and that she has to exercise or she will be a crippled pregnant woman in about 10 seconds flat. Not one to give up so easily, you agree that today won’t work, but you will be there at 8 am tomorrow morning.  The Lady reminds you that tomorrow is Thursday and is her Family Day and says she won’t be able to do it then.  You push again saying she can talk to her husband and tell him the plan and you will be there at 8 am.  All of your friends nod in agreement behind you.  Again, in a little sterner voice, she tells you that she really won’t give you English lessons tomorrow, so you might as well not even come.  You encourage her to figure out a time with her husband and let you know…that most any time will work for you.  She gives an elusive answer as she closes the gate and rushes back to her house and her recipes.

Bright and early at 8 am the next morning you and your friends knock on the gate. Book in hand, you are ready to begin.  The unlucky happens when the guard answers the door.  He eyes your group suspiciously and asks what you want.  You give a very convincing statement about the Lady promising to give you an English lesson at 8 am this morning and ask him to let you in. The suspicion doesn’t leave his face. He knows you well enough to know that you and your group of friends are usually up to no good. He also knows the Lady well enough by now to know that it is not in her nature (no matter how kind she is) to offer English lessons at 8 am…especially on a Thursday. Some days he even doubts whether she is alive by 8 am! He says he will go ask. He closes (and locks) the gate behind him.

He comes back a few minutes later with an “told you so” look on his face. He replies that the Lady did not promise to give you an English lesson today because today is the weekend and her Family Day.  You try to interject an argument, but he doesn’t give you the chance before closing the gate again.

You spend a few minutes pounding on the gate and yelling. It isn’t the most glamorous tactic, but sometimes if well timed if drives the Lady or her husband crazy enough that they come to the gate to yell at you to stop. If they come to tell you to go away themselves…it would be another prime opportunity to plead your case.
You are disappointed when no one comes to the gate…even at your insistent knocking and yelling. The same happened when you banged on the gate and yelled Little t’s name for 30 minutes earlier in the week. The gate remains firmly closed. Maybe they are getting tired of your little game. Maybe you are just losing your touch.

The boys urge you to join the soccer game and you are quickly distracted by chasing the ball down the semi-muddy street.
This was the story of my week last week. 

My mind has been firmly focused on packing and in preparation mode for the huge transition that my little family will go through in the next two months. So, I had a hard time with the significant amount of people who made their way to my gate. Okay, okay – it was only 4 or 5 groups of people…but compared to the usual (none) it was a lot!

I find myself stuck in this hard place.  Do I want to open my home up to a group of 10 year old boys to teach them basic English…during “my” time (naptime)? I might consider it, but find it hard to jump into something like that a few weeks before I leave, or when I have guests to cook for that night, or in these days when I must exercise, or (insert a thousand other excuses here). I am just not sure how to handle this.
In theory, I would love to be the woman who is known as the cool foreigner who gives English lessons and opens her home to all of the kids in the neighborhood.  In reality, I am scared out of my mind as to what that would look like. It would be like opening Pandora’s box. Especially during this break from school, there is potential for me to have kids in our house all the time. Like, all.the.time. And I don’t know how I feel about that to be honest...or maybe I do know how I feel with that, but it isn't so nice, so I don't want to fess up to it...

I also struggle with where the boundaries are.  Where do you draw the line? These kids can come, but these kids can’t? These kids are poor enough to warrant taking free English lessons from you while these kids may have a little money and be able to afford a course.  These kids are bored (there are no outlets for them) and just looking for something to do vs. they are really motivated and want to learn English. These kids are driving their parents crazy at home, so they are told to go get lessons from the foreigner vs. they themselves really want to do this.  These kids will learn enough from me in this short amount of time for it to benefit them in the long run vs. it is a stretch for me and I would like to keep my sanity.  I just don’t know how to navigate these waters!

I might not be quite as torn if the educational system here was not so poor. If they were getting decent educations, I might not fret as much about not investing in this way.
I also might not worry as much if I was working a lot in an office and had a ton of interaction with local people. I could justify that my time and energy and effort put into relationships is focused elsewhere and I need to keep boundaries around personal space and time.  Being home all of the time and not having a massive amount of interaction doesn’t afford me that same excuse.  Don’t get me wrong, I love being home and totally embrace it. In fact, the more I realize that my primary outlet for ministry right now is my home and my kids, the more I love it.

But there is a small niggle that is hard to shake.

That Niggle says that if I was a better person, a better woman, a Godlier woman, a better Worker...I would be more diligent and interactive with my neighborhood and community…on top of serving my family well.  If I was just Super Woman, dangit!

So I find myself in this juxtaposition these days…I don’t really want to spend the precious time while my son sleeps teaching 10 year old boys English. That is the plain and simple selfish truth.  I am learning to accept the reality that I still find it challenging to invite people into my home and have my life exposed for what it is; blocks on the floor, crayons and jelly on the table, a kid who never wears clothes, and a me that is not quite all put-together. I am fine with this reality…I just struggle with the very vocal disapproval that others are so quick to slap on it.

If I am honest, I really struggle with kids coming over and being in my house. Nothing is off limits. They will go through anything and everything and take whatever suits their fancy. The pantry is full of fun food for them to try, the cupboards hold all kinds of special things for them to mess with, my clothes may not even be safe.   I struggle with that. Maybe this is a sign I have too much stuff? Maybe it is an indication of growth that needs to happen in me?  Maybe it is normal? (Someone please reassure me that it is normal!)

I know this sounds horribly negative towards these kids, but it is just the way life is here.  There is no privacy. There are no personal possessions. There really is no such thing as asking permission…you take it and hope you can get away with it. Our office manager stared at our friend Emily blankly when she asked him what he did with his free time….the time he had to himself when he was alone.  He honestly replied that he had never been alone.  He is in his late 30’s and admitted that he had never been alone. He went on to confess that the thought of being terrified him.  This is a culture of community to the deepest depths and the invasiveness of that is not always an easy pill for my introverted self to swallow.

I don’t really know why I am telling you all of this…except for the fact that it is my life these days.  I find I am caught between the self-perceived pressure of wanting to finish well and not be completely harried in the last minutes of being here, and feeling the need to dig deeper and give a little more.
How does that look?

I have a friend who lives down the street who is lonely and really needs a friend.  She came the day after the droves of kids last week. I was frazzled and didn’t really want to see her to be honest (it was the weekend, during naptime). But she needed a friend.  It was SO evident that that I needed to make a very intentional effort to love on her.  I quickly found myself forming excuses for why I couldn’t, but God wouldn’t let it go.  She came in and we had a good time.
I would like to think that being focused and intentional in this period of life means I am open and available and desperately eager to interact with people like her.   I really think that it comes down to priorities at this stage in the journey.

The amount of need in this place is staggering. 

I could quickly exhaust/discourage/burn myself out by trying to meet everyone’s needs.  But there has to be some boundaries for my family and my personal life. And there has to be some focus or it all becomes too much and I will find myself curled up in the fetal position on my kitchen floor bawling my eyes out.  With the focus comes the ability to turn things away that 1. Aren’t as serious or as desperate, 2. I am not super passionate about and 3. Leave room and healthy balance for things that I do want to do and am passionate about…and be able to do them well and with a heart that longs to serve.

So, the boys will have to wait…I am not Super Woman. 

If I was Super Woman, my first order of business would be using my cape to fly to Said Country and slap some sense into whoever decided to use millions (billions?) of dollars to plop freezers/schools down in the middle of nowhere.  There is a reason I haven’t been given a cape yet…

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Natives Are Restless - Part One

To say that the educational system in this country is lacking is a gross understatement. To even say that the educational system in this country is a system gives way to some doubt in my mind. There are so many things that just aren’t when it comes to raising up the next generations to be well versed in anything more than the latest Indian soap opera or who won the cricket match yesterday.
There are a lot of factors for this, that I won’t to into here…because that isn’t what this blog post is about. Suffice it to say, the educational system needs help. 

A miniscule example of this is winter break. 

Because there are still so few school buildings built here, most schools still meet outside (like under the sun) or in half-built buildings or tents given by the UN. Because of this lack of facilities, the three month break for students is in the winter as opposed to the summer.  Even if there was an abundance of school buildings, heating them through the winter would be impossible. Public/government funding is so non-existent for things like education. There is no budget for fuel. Heck, there is barely a budget for salaries. Our cleaning lady makes almost as much money as a full time teacher.  This point was solidified yesterday when my language teacher and I were talking about this and she marveled at the fact that kids in other countries go to school during the winter…that someone actually gives money towards fuel for the classrooms…
A familiar sight across this country: Kids meeting for school.

Now, other countries around the world have begun to take notice of the deplorable educational system here and donate money specifically for this.  One country (which shall remain nameless…for their own sake) has jumped in with both feet. They have given the money for school buildings all over the country and I am sure they are patting themselves on the back as we speak.  While their efforts are noble and well-intentioned…they are also just sad as well.  Because “the donor knows best”, they get to decide how the schools are built and where to plop those buildings.  Said Country chose a very dignified design made of stone and brick. The buildings are long with classrooms on each side of a central hall.  Each room has large windows to let in ample amounts of sunlight that will enlighten the room as the children’s minds are enlightened.

There is another name for a stone and brick building with large windows built in a long row: a freezer. 

With temps easily dipping below freezing each night for 7 months of the year in most places in the country…those buildings are bone cold.  And remember the thing about there being no fuel?  Yeah.

The other reason that schools are open during the summer and not winter is accessibility. This generous donor country also got to throw their weight (and money) around enough to decide where these schools should be built.  The obvious choice being near major roads…with big fancy signs that have their country’s flag on them and an eloquent description of how great they are for providing a school for the poor urchins of this place.  The irony is that many poor urchins have to walk miles to get to the schools. It is extremely rare to see a school building in an actual village.  They are out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing. Part of this is that they are ‘centrally located’ so kids from many villages can be equally far away. Most people we know say it has more to do with the visibility of them… We know kids who get up at 3:30 or 4 am to start walking to school. They are there for a half day and then turn around and make the trek back home. Especially in the winter where there are feet of snow on the ground and large risks of avalanches, walking to school isn’t realistic.
Like I said, there is nothing around...nothing.
 It may be nice to think that having schools on main roads would provide a transport opportunity for kids to and from school, but that just isn’t realistic. There is no consistent public transport to or from these villages…usually the only form of transport is the family donkey (which some kids use). And people don’t have the money to pay for a transport system. Some families have flat out told us that they don’t send their kids to school because they can’t afford for them to not work (on the family farm, family shop, weaving, etc.). Buses would be a great idea…but most villages would be unreachable…and remember that lack of budget issue…yeah.

As you can see (from my very wordy explanation) the logistics of schooling in this place are a nightmare.  There is no choice but for kids to go to school in the summer and be home in the winter. 

I had a point in telling you all of this…a point other than just ranting and raving about the educational state of this country. The point was this…
The natives are restless. 
The tent for this girls school blew away a few months before we passed it.
 (Check back tomorrow!) 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It's Been Two Of Those Weeks

You know the saying, “it’s just been one of those weeks”? Well we are on week number two here…things breaking, pipes freezing, plans falling through. Some days it just feels like it never stops.
A.P. said the other night that he is feeling good and isn’t quite ready (or desperate) for a break yet. But then our stove wasn’t working, the power has been non-existent, the transformer we just had fixed blew up and we can’t pump water. Today he is declaring that he is ready to get out of here.
It would be nice to think that we just have to pack suitcases and hop on a plane (if the flight we were supposed to be on did not just get cancelled...). That we could just forget the issues and deal with them when we come back. But reality is never so perfect is it? We have to completely tear down and pack our house (like take out the wiring, carpet, everything) to be stored.  You know, like ‘in case of emergency’ stored…so it can be put on a truck if need be, or won’t get eaten by mice, or leak if rained on.  Essentially, we have a lot of work ahead of us. And it wouldn’t be so bad if the things that help keep our lives running smoothly didn’t keep falling apart. But clothes and blankets can’t be stored dirty. They can’t be washed without water and the water can’t be pumped without the power…that can’t run without the transformer…that won’t stop blowing up. Anyone else noticing a vicious cycle here?
It is also somewhat daunting to think that we will have to set up another house when we return…which means wrestling with electricity and water issues once again…in a house that is somewhat notorious for being a pain in the neck when it comes to those things (not to mention with a new baby thrown in the mix). So, while we work hard to not think that far into the future, and focus on the tasks for today, sometimes our minds do wander. In those moments,  we can be heard subconsciously releasing a little groan of dread at what is potentially to come.

We are fine, just a little frustrated and overwhelmed at the task ahead of us.  In the midst of it all, we are continually reminded of how good we DO have it, even when we take that for granted. I almost cried last night as I took a hot shower for the first time in…I can’t even remember how long. It was SO nice as compared to a chilly sponge or bucket bath. It was truly a rare treat these days! So, we will keep learning how to ‘count it all joy’ even if we have to do it stinky and hungry and in the dark!

Please be pra.ying for us in these days. We really want to finish well and not miss opportunities to be salt and light in these last few weeks. We know that Satan would love to keep us from that…to wear us out, discourage us, help instill bad attitudes in us that would sour our leaving and cloud our vision from being focused in these days.  We need grace and strength and patience in these days…with our neighbors and co-workers, with Little t and with each other.  Please pr.ay for wisdom as we re-book flights, try to pack and prepare, and keep life somewhat stable for Little t. Thanks for all you do for us…we couldn’t handle this journey alone.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

Around Here These Days...

I am a terrible mother...

I have not taken a single pregnancy photo until a week or so ago.

I take that back...I took one very blurry photo in the hotel mirror in Dubai when I was like 8 weeks pregnant...totally bloated from a HUGE supper at Texas Roadhouse...and accompanied by my husband who was mocking me because his belly was just as big at that time...I may have to find that...

I keep growing, but haven't documented it steadily like I did when I was pregnant with Little t.  But I finally broke down and had A.P. take a photo last Friday. So, here is baby #2:

20 weeks pregnant with Baby Burton #2

Prrreeety sure the basketball isn't supposed to come for a while longer...I am scared for the next 4 months!
I am feeling really good these days and baby is doing great.  I felt pretty nasty until about week 12 and then it has been smooth sailing from there.  Baby kicks all the time and endures much "love" from his/her big brother.  Many people marvel when they find that I am working out everyday...but those who have seen me after not working our for a day or two (or three) can attest that it is more of a necessity than an impressive feat of determination.  I get so painfully sore - especially in my lower back - if I am not working out every day.  I went three days over the weekend (had guests, etc) and I looked like a crippled 80 year old woman by the time the week rolled around.  A.P was concerned, I think.  So, I do it to stay sane...and mobile.   We are really excited about this new addition to our family!

In non-baby news...which is most of our news as you can tell from the lack of belly photos...Life is rolling along here in M-ville. We are quickly approaching the end of this stage of life here and feeling good about it, though we have a lot to do before we leave.  To be honest, today, I am really ready to get to a place where I can have a hot shower and sit in a room that is warmer than 64 degrees...we are looking forward to a break.  We LOVE life here, but we have our days (today being one of them) where a little less stress would be good.

But like I said, for the most part, we are doing great here in M-ville.  We are sad to think about leaving many aspects of life here for a time.  Life is simple and unchaotic...and we really really like that.  Excitements of our week include things like:

 Little t discovering the camera and taking a series of 'self portraits'. He said cheese and smiled for each one...even though none of them included his head.  I would have shown the rest, but the camera was set to video mode, so they are all small films. They would take years to upload.   ***Small point to consider....I was sitting right next to him and watching him do this the whole time.  Normally I would not let him play with the camera like this...but it was during a small small window of opportunity where the power and internet were working...so I threw caution to the wind and let him snap away while I checked e-mail. And I have this gem to remember my excellent parenting decision by!

The coolest Boy Band in M-ville!  Check out Little t's hands in his pockets.  The kid kills me!
This is our stage. The newest fad in A.P. and Little t's playtime routine.  They get up there and sing and dance and play air guitars.  Elmo is in their band (obviously) and provides excellent vocals.  They have shows each day at which I must be the groupie and cheer wildly from the crowd. We know how to have fun!  The cushions are laid down because after the concert Little t jumps off the stage into A.P.'s arms repeatedly. He is getting better at waiting until the count of three. He is not 100%...which is scary, but we are getting there.      ****Sidenote: I did not choose the color of this wall...just wanted to point that out.

As we speak/I write, there are loud cheers coming from the game room.  A.P. is out there with his boss from the capital and one of his main donors from England. They are playing Wii for the first time.  We had them over for supper (along with a local man who lives in the capital).  I was really nervous to host this local guy, but he was a gem and supper went off without a hitch.  Now Dance Dance Revolution is making everyone happy.  

We really know how to live it up here in M-ville!

As Promised...

Here are more photos of our Donkey Day...Little t is convinced that every day should be Donkey Day. Scarily enough, he almost has his father convinced of the same...I think this break to travel back to the States is coming at just the right time. If I didn't have the excuse of leaving in a month, I am pretty certain I would have a full-blown zoo in my yard!  Without further ado...

Consider this a belated Christmas card...from us to you!

Poor donkey...I can just tell he is saying, "please get the large pregnant lady off of me...please!"

It took some convincing, but we did get A.P. on the donkey. He is usually a brave soul, but a small incident with a crazy runaway donkey in Lal has left him scarred.  kAkA reassured him that this donkey was calm and not crazy like the ones they raise in Lal.  Thankful for kAkA's urging because this photo is priceless!

Little t was all about the rides...

Little t and kAkA's sons, 4 and 10...probably two of the sweetest boys in this whole country.

I wish I could blow this up a billion times...I can't handle the cuteness! 
Little t sitting in front.  Once he wiped the look of sheer terror off of his face, he had a blast.

See that smile? Monsters don't smile like that. Just really great men who profoundly bless our family. God bless kAkA and Donkey Day 2012!

If I Had a Big Enough Suitcase...

We have lists going and are beginning to move in the direction of packing. It feels more final since hearing that we did in fact lose the contract on our current house and will have to move out of this yard all-together. It is sad and we wish that we could have stayed in our current house, but we are glad to be done with the indecisive drama that our current landlord family has become synonomous with.  

We are still in that awkward phase of wanting to pack and feeling the itch to pack, but not having a lot that we want to pack away and lose access to for the last 5 weeks we have here.  This time is the worst part of transition for me.  I am actually motivated, but currently have few outlets for that motivation. 

One thing is for sure, though, I would pack up kAkA and bring him home with us in a heartbeat.  Either A.P. or I comment each day on how sad we are to think about not having him as a part of our daily lives in the near future.  We are deeply reminded of it when we watch he and Little t interact, and especially when Little t pra-ys for his ‘toe-toe’ several times a day. 

We find it somewhat remarkable and sacredly beautiful that we have been blessed to have him working in our yard.  Guards (chowkidars) can sometimes be seen as a necessary evil in this place. They are essential for safety and as a practicality (shopping, dealing with people at the gate, pumping water, etc) but a bad egg can really make it an awkward situation. If you have someone creepy/nosy/lazy/greedy/bossy/etc, working in your hard, it puts a damper on your home-life.  So, to have kAkA has really been a very pleasant surprise for us. 

To give you a few examples of why he is so great:

A few weeks ago, Little t was teething hard-core. He was a cranky mess and driving me crazy. Thankfully the weather was nice and we were spending lots of time outside.  When he is miserable, he usually wants nothing to do with kAkA…even though when he healthy, he can’t get enough of him.  That particular day, he had finally warmed up to kAkA who was pushing him around on his scooter while I hung laundry.  It was a welcome relief for a few minutes. 

The quiet was interrupted by more screaming from Little t. Apparently kAkA had tried to chop his leg off…or something like that.  kAka carried a wailing Little t over to me and handed him off.  Little t eventually calmed down and I put him in his swing. I took turns pushing him and hanging socks. 

kAkA showed up 5 minutes later with a piping hot bag of popcorn. He asked if Little t could have it. The second Little t saw it, he went crazy (he loves him some ‘pokern’).  kAkA handed Little t the bag and said to him in his very gentle voice, “I know your teeth hurt you don’t feel good, but you need to be nice for your momma. Eat some of this and maybe it will make you feel better.”
I just about melted and wanted to hug the man. 

A few days later, he came to the rescue again.  Little t and I had been playing outside and had gone to visit the office (a regular occurrence for us). We watched the lady who cooks there make rice for lunch. It is quite a fascinating process and we both learned a lot.  At the end of our time, Little t noticed that Office khAla (that is what we call her…no idea whatsoever what her real name is…she is just Auntie Office to us) was chewing gum.  He pointed out her “gumma” as he calls it.  She caught on and because she was feeling generous decided to share.  She plopped it out into her hand, rinsed it under the tap water in the sink of the kitchen and stuck it in his mouth.  It all happened so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to stop it. By the time I picked myself up off the ground, he was saying thank you and chomping away happily.  I ushered him into our yard and out of view of Office khAla and promptly engaged in wrestling the wad of community gum out of his mouth.  He was having none of it. Screaming like a stuck pig he tried biting and kicking and hitting, anything to keep his prize.  The whole time I was trying not to gag as I made an attempt to reason with him (it didn’t work) as to why he needed to surrender his ‘gumma’. I finally won by force and threw it into the compost pile. 

This led to HUGE theatrics, which led kAkA to come out and make sure that Little t was okay.  As he lay on the ground kicking and screaming, I tried to reason with both he and kAkA as to why I threw the gum away.  kAkA acknowledged that she had washed it off before giving it to him…

I told Little t that I would go into the house and get him another piece of gum...that hadn’t been chewed by anyone yet.  By the time I got back out, he had recovered and was even happier when kAkA brought him gum from a shop down the street.  In his gentle way and with a twinkle in his eye, he told Little t that his momma didn’t like it so much when he chewed gum from other people (even though it really was okay if they washed it off before hand).

And most recently…
A few weeks ago, Little t heard a donkey bray outside our gate as we ate lunch.  He got all excited and wanted to go see it.  We went outside, but kAkA was busy saying his noon pr-ayers in his room so couldn’t take Little t out.  As a general rule, I don’t hang around outside our gate…Little t will sometimes go out with A.P. or kAkA to watch the boys play soccer or play with other kids, but I try to be culturally appropriate by not hanging around out there.

So, because kAkA was pra-ying and A.P. was at work, I told Little t that we would have to find the donkey another time.  We went in and he laid down for his nap. When I went to get him from his nap, he immediately asked about the donkey. We went outside to ask kAkA who searched the street, but couldn’t find one. 

For a few days after that, all Little t could talk about was a donkey. Unfortunately we had a lot of snow and rain in that time and kAkA explained that the donkeys don’t usually go out when it is so slippery. I am not sure if he was feeding us a line, or if it was true….I believed him either way, but Little t was really sad about this. 

At the beginning of last week, kAkA asked if it would be okay if he brought a neighbors donkey on a nice day so Little t could ride it.  Of course, we weren’t going to turn an offer like that down!  Wednesday dawned bright and clear and a donkey showed up in our yard!  Little t was beside himself with excitement and A.P. and I took turns snapping photos like faithful dorky parents.  kAkA’s two sons had brought the donkey and they got in on the action as well.  We had a good time taking turns on the donkey and posing for photos.  kAkA was totally humored by us and how much entertainment we got out of the shaggy animal.  In exchange for hauling around this large pregnant lady, the donkey was treated to all the grass it could find in our yard.  A.P. came back from the office several times throughout the morning as we hung out in the yard and played. He just chuckled at the sight, the boy rolling in the mud, the bunny munching away, the donkey grazing, kAkA's boys playing soccer, and the neighbor’s rickshaw that was parked in our yard for the night…we have really acclimated!

As I was chatting with my parents on Skype the other night, I was raving about kAkA and how great he is. I know that he isn’t perfect, but he has been a significant blessing to our family in this last year.  My mom (who visited a year ago) said that she wishes that everyone back home would get a chance to meet kAkA…a realistic glimpse of a normal person that lives in this place. I couldn’t agree more.

 Interacting with kAkA and others like him have helped shape our heart for this place and it’s people.  We know that there are bad things being done here by bad people here. We aren’t stupid or ignorant to the fact that evil rears it’s ugly head here far far too often. But we are so deeply grateful that we get an inside picture into the reality of life here for the majority of the population. We are thankful that we can step beyond the brainwashing and one-sidedness of the Western media to see the whole picture. We are able to come face to face with people who are good and hard-working and trying to make a living to put food on the table for their family.  Some people here have been subjected to some pretty awful things. Some people have chosen to do some pretty awful things.  But many of them are grossly misunderstood as being who they are not – terrorists, beasts, murderers, traitors, haters, I could go on and on. 

If I did have a big enough suitcase, I would bring kAkA and his lovely family with us…so that friends and family could rub shoulders with our friend, a true picture of the majority of people in this place. And so that we could continue to have them as part of our daily lives.  And most importantly, so he could get Little t special things when he is throwing dynamic fits!

Extensive photographic evidence of how great kAkA is...and maybe how ridiculous we are...to follow in the next post...but a small taste for your here...