Monday, July 30, 2012

First Photos Of The New House!

Because I forgot to take photos of the house we will be moving into, I took Kaylee and the girls over to have a look at it, and took a couple of pictures to share with you!

This is what it looks like from the street:
Kaylee and I were talking about covering the security bars with tin for privacy (most houses have that or a brick/rock/concrete wall), so I asked the landlord today if I could do it.  He said, "Oh yeah, I'll go pick some up and we'll paint it up and install it!  Whatever you want to do, just let me know."  They seem like really nice people to work with.

Here's a better shot of the front:

The main part of the humongous kitchen:
I'm looking forward to being able to BBQ right outside the kitchen for the first time ever!

Kaylee went to the trouble of drawing up the floorplan, to help her visualize how we will use the space:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I Dream of. . .Houses?

In last Sunday's paper, there was an ad for a house for rent about 1.5 miles from us, toward the city.  The description was just what we were looking for.  I called the number, and found out that there were still renters in it, so I wouldn't be able to see it until later in the week.  He did confirm that it was the size and layout that we needed.  I left my name and number and was told to expect a call.

Because we had an in-town vacation planned, I decided to call him again on Tuesday, just to keep the ball rolling.  He recognized me immediately and told me that I could see it on Thursday morning.  The problem was that the family there wasn't planning to leave until the end of the month.

We left for our vacation as planned on Wednesday afternoon, but I was feeling anxious about the house.  As you can see from our last housing update, there is a tremendous variation in quality for a similar price.  Everything that I knew about the house so far told me that it would be perfect for us, but I had no idea what condition it was in.  I was struggling with letting go and trusting God -- what if it was a rat hole?  What if the landlord was kicking out the renters and they were hanging on as long as possible?  What if we couldn't move out of our house in time?  What if. . .?

That night I had a dream.  Ever since I was small, I've had very lucid dreams.  However, I have never had a dream like this one.  Experientially, it was no different than any other, but the content!  It was short and to the point -- the house was perfect and the renters were packing up, on their way out.

I woke up in the morning and I can't say the dream helped much -- I was still anxious and had to take a few minutes to sit and pray with Kaylee before I left to go see the place.  By the time I arrived, I was calm, but that changed quickly.

I was greeted at the gate by the landlord and it was obvious from the start that he had a very good relationship with his renters.  I was in shock as he showed me around the place.  It really was perfect!  And even better, the renters had things pulled out of cupboards, getting them boxed up, and cleaning to leave!  They have until the first week of August, but appear to be on their way.

I was so overwhelmed by it all that I completely forgot to take any photos to show Kaylee!  She still hasn't seen the place!  Lord willing, we'll be able to see it this week, so she can start strategizing our 26th move.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ladies Retreat

Over the weekend I, Kaylee, attended our church's Ladies Retreat. Three nights and three days of almost pure Spanish! I survived! It was such a good experience and really stretched me in the language. I skipped one session halfway through to take a break but other than that I participated the whole time. This is a huge step and was very encouraging for me!

Our time was spent listening to two speakers, devotions, crafts, conversations, a bit of time in a frigid pool, eating and generally having a good time. The two ladies that shared with us both work with Palabra de Vida (Word of Life) and both had great topics that I believe were really good for all of us to hear. One of the women is from Argentina and I struggled a bit with her accent but otherwise understood pretty well the majority of the teaching.

My roommates were my good friend Suellen and another older single lady in the church, Vicky. We were spoiled by only having three in our room (some had 11!). Each day we did the devotions together and I could tell that Vicky was trying to stretch me in the language, having me read and share my thoughts instead of just being silent. It was good for me.

I had the opportunity to have several one on one or small group conversations that allowed many of the women to see how much I have progressed in my Spanish. Many of them haven't had the opportunity to talk with me (and I have to say I'm pretty shy about using it on Sundays) so that too was very encouraging. I had many say, "You can talk now! And you understand!"

Another area that I was stretched a bit was teaching a craft. Upon arriving in Bolivia I quickly received the reputation of being a crafter so when there is an opportunity to craft in the ladies group I am often asked for ideas. Over the weekend I taught one of the four crafts. It was a little crazy but it worked and several accomplished what they had set out to do so I was pleased.

We ate very Bolivian foods over the weekend. To give you an idea: every morning we had some bread with tea, coffee or drinkable oatmeal. The last morning we were also served a drink that is pretty common here: cornstarch thickened water with a bit of orange juice mixed in for flavor! For lunch we had a full almuerzo: soup and seconds. The bowl of soup would be a complete meal for me usually but then we were also served meat, rice or noodles and always boiled potatoes as our seconds. For dinner (at 8:00pm) we were served more rice or potatoes and a very small amount of meat. They do not consume a lot of vegetables and we were given a piece fruit (banana or mandarin) as dessert or for refreshment between sessions.

Our pastor's wife and daughter with their crazy hair!
On Saturday we had some special events. First, I got my hair cut! One of the ladies took classes to be a beautician, although her job is cleaning, so she took the time to cut hair for several ladies. Then they had a competition that night that included crazy and original hairstyles. We all had a good laugh. I was one of the two judges. After the hair competition there was a long night of games. I was unable to participate due to a foot injury but had a great time watching them. I also retired early after too many late nights, early mornings!

All in all it was a great weekend. My pastor's wife's comment when we were leaving was, "You're tired but you're not stressed." That sums it up for me. It was really encouraging to walk away not stressed. That means that I am understanding the language and culture much more and communicating much more. I am no longer an island in the group, unable to participate. It's awesome to see how far I've come. God is good!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Housing Update

Over the last few days, I've looked at 3 different houses in our area.  Three very different houses!

The first was a home in a gated community near us.  Frankly, we knew it was out of our budget, but wanted to see all the options.  It was a phenomenal home, but it would separate us even farther from our friends, economically speaking.  Besides, I wouldn't even be comfortable there:  there was NO man space!

The next place I saw was more our speed.  It doesn't have everything we'd like, but it would be doable.  And the price is right!  It has a good-sized kitchen, and a huge living room.  With its 3 bedrooms, I figure it's in the neighborhood of about 1200 sq ft.

The third house was grossly overpriced, at $15/month less than the one above.  It was cute, but at only ~300 sq ft, it wouldn't serve our needs very well.  The first photo below is looking from one bedroom door through the living room to an identical bedroom on the other side.  The bathroom and kitchen are accessible only from the outside, a common feature of low-budget homes here.
It does have a nice big yard, though!

We continue to look and talk to people about housing options, and recently expanded our search into the city.  Please continue to pray for us as we look, especially that God will give us wisdom as we sort through very few, but quite varied, options.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Home is. . .where?

Life can be so ironic, can't it?  I think God likes to keep us on our toes. :)

June was a tough month for us.  As I mentioned in our last post, we've been stressed and sick.  We were trying to process the reality of moving out to the jungle, based on what I saw on my trip to Urubich√°.  Kaylee was really feeling the pressure of living here and learning language.

In the midst of those problems, we were thankful for a blessing:  our home.  Kaylee was counting how many times we've moved in our 7.5 year marriage.  Care to hazard a guess?  25.  That's right, 25 different "homes."  We stayed in some of those places only a week, but literally had no where else to go at the time.

In contrast, we've lived here 17 months, longer than anywhere else in our life together! (Previous record: 11 months)

All that joyous stability changed this week.

I don't really want to get into all of the details, but we had a major run-in with our landlady on Monday.  Basically, there was a misunderstanding of her (according to friends and neighbors) unreasonable expectations of our use of the space for which we are paying.  The result was that we have been falsely accused, insulted, and asked to leave ASAP or pay more rent.

Under the circumstances, we are going to leave. 

This house has been a blessing!  It's large.  We love the view.  We're settled and comfortable.  But it's not worth dealing with unreasonable people, and we're already paying more than fair market value for the place.

Last month, we realized that we needed a vacation:  time to get away from the stress and pressure and just be together as a family for a few days.  We had to put it off a few weeks, because our church's 15th anniversary celebration is this week (more on that later!), and next week is the ladies' retreat.  It was going to be 2 weeks of grinding through our responsibilities until we could take a breath.

I think our perspective is a little different now.  It's such a joy to see with new eyes the value of the relationships we have here, in the church and in the neighborhood -- people that know us, appreciate us, and care about us.  We all went to the first night of the celebration last night and even though I was up front playing with the worship team most of the time, Kaylee and the girls stayed the whole time, until 10pm!

Please pray for us in the following ways:
-That we would be able to get through this added stress without breaking -- that we would look to God for strength and help.

-That we would find a house quickly.  We would prefer something in this neighborhood, so that we're close to the church.  We'd also like something with a yard (which this place lacks) so the girls can spend more time outside, and also a spare room for visitors!!

-That in all of this, we would be a good testimony to our landlady and to the neighbors, in the way we talk about the situation.

-That we can reschedule that vacation!!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Date Night!

June was a month full of stress and sickness.  We started the month out with a cycle of stomach flu - I got hit hard right on Kaylee's birthday.  At the same time, we all got colds, and are still coughing.  Of course, my friends attribute it to the fact that I wear shorts and a t-shirt at 65*F. :)

We realized that we desperately needed a break from the pressure of language study and started planning a short vacation, here in the city.  Unfortunately, due to a slew of church events that we want to participate in, we've had to put it off a few more weeks.

In the meantime, however, Kaylee did an excellent job planning a date for my birthday!  She found out through our language institute that Kjarkas, Bolivia's most well-known folkloric band, was going to be in Cochabamba for a concert the day after my birthday.  She bought us tickets and got a reference for a nearby coffee shop.

Because my brother and his family are temporarily living in our downstairs apartment, babysitters are easy to come by!  We put the girls to bed like usual, and headed into the city.  The coffee shop was busy, but pleasant - Kaylee said that the cheesecake was the closest she's had to the "real thing" here.

At 8:30, we walked to the event center where the concert was going to be.  Along the way, we stopped for a picture by a fountain, and ran into some friends.

The listed concert time was 9pm, but of course it didn't get started until well after 10.  We spent most of the time chatting with other students from the institute that had also come.  The atmosphere was MUCH different than the Kala Marka concert we went to 6 years ago, which was at a theater, filled with good-natured hooligans.  This was a high-class, sit-at-a-table-and-sip-rum (we refrained) kind of concert.

Kjarkas is celebrating 41 years of existence.  They tour internationally and are a cultural phenomenon.  It was fun to see them in concert, in their hometown (they actually originated in the Capinota province of Cochabamba).

Here's a sampling of the photos we took (more here!)

Bootlegging isn't a problem here - it's an accepted way of life.  I shot video of several of the songs and have uploaded 5 of them to our YouTube account.  The following is one of my favorite songs in the Tinku style, featuring traditional dance and costumes:

This one is by far their best-known song.  As a friend told me, it ranks right up there with the national anthem: