Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A day in the life

Dear Family and Friends,

After three weeks off of school and a new semester before us, we are settling into a routine. We arrived in Nicaragua at such an interesting time – first the riots, then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas – our kids only had one full week of school from the time we arrived until Christmas! We often felt disoriented the first couple of months here, but life is becoming a little more predictable (relatively speaking) now. We thought we would begin to share more with you about what life is like here on a day to day basis. Dan, Rebekah, and I will share a little of what we have experienced and observed.

Rebekah recently started making a list of things about Nicaragua that are “different than Iowa”. I asked her if I could put it in our update and she said that I could.

1) The roads are bumpier than Iowa.
2) There is no carpet in houses.
3) The houses are different.
4) You live inside a wall.
5) It is warmer.
6) There are volcanoes.
7) The money is different.
8) There are markets.
9) You have bars on all your windows.
10) It’s a different language.

Rebekah is someone who notices everything about everybody and about the world around her. I enjoy her list because it is just like her – she is a very sequential and organized thinker. Also, notice all the times she mentions the house – one of the most difficult transitions for our kids has been leaving our house in Iowa. It is quite amazing what a home represents to a child.

A Day in the Life . . .by Lisa
On December 26 our neighbors would be leaving for the States and told us that we could use their internet connection while they were gone since we still are not connected. We were looking forward to this a great deal. I also talked with a friend at this time asking her to help us with our phone as it was crackly and we were thinking that this may be the source of our internet problem. On December 29, Will had a 102 fever and the only thing he felt like doing was playing Webkinz on the computer while he laid on the couch. In the midst of his game, we lost our neighbor’s connection due to a possible power surge. End of internet connection. Will was now sick and irritated. Dan and I were a bit stressed having a sick child with a high temp. We did not yet have a doctor so I called a missionary nurse and after describing what Will’s throat looked like (very red and white spots), she told us we could let him try to fight it for a couple of days and then just go to our local pharmacy and buy some antibiotics – no prescription needed and $3.50 for the bottle of amoxicillin. (A week later he was doing fine).

Dan and I were cleaning the house this day that Will was sick hoping to air things out and clean things up to help our family’s health situation. We put Will’s sheets – the only sheets he has – into the washer. Around 20 minutes later, the electricity went out. It had been out for a few hours when Dan suggested that we wring out the sheets and put them on the line so that they would be dry by evening. Good idea. So, we put the sheets on the line. Around an hour later, the electricity comes back on and we decide to put the sheets back into the washer to finish the cycle.

We pick up the phone in the midst of all this and it is now dead. We call our friend (on the cell phone) who was going to be helping us with calling the phone company and she said that she would try to call at least 3 times a day to let them know about our phone issues. Then, after mopping the whole house, we go through the inevitable ritual of watching all of the ants come out of hiding. They are not so happy that we demolished their indoor anthills that they build in the cracks of our tile. We try to decide whether we can better tolerate dirt or ants. We are now on day 15 with a dead phone and it has been a month and a half since we have had internet in our home. (We drive to the school to send out updates. We use our cell phones which we had hoped just to use for security when we are out and about.). We end our days giving our kids “milk jug” baths. The city water is turned off between 5:30 and 6:00 pm which is when most people then use their water tanks. For some reason (no one knows exactly why), our four houses at the bottom of the hill do not have a valve to shut off the air pressure in the pipes, so we get spurts of water out of the shower which we cannot use without burning out our heating unit on the shower. So, we fill up milk jugs with hot water around 5:30 and then give our kids their milk jug showers around 6 or 6:15 pm. So, why don’t we give them showers earlier? Because they play outside (we’re determined to raise kids who have time daily to just play) after homework is done from like 4:30 to 6:00 with their neighborhood friends. One time they did come in so filthy, that we all walked up the hill and asked a neighbor if we could use their shower! Anyway, this gives you a little bit of an idea how things can go sometimes. Dan will now share a specific day that he had trying to get a package we received out of customs.

A Day in the Life . . . by Dan
On Dec 18 I was at the front desk at NCA when the FedEx delivery man arrived to let me know that we had received a package that was being held at customs at the airport. The next day a Nicaraguan friend from NCA drove me to the airport and we spent about 45 minutes trying to find where the FedEx office was and after walking about a quarter mile from the airport we found the office only to learn out that they would not let us in because there were already enough people in line to last until the time they closed, 4:00.

So, Today (Dec 22) I went back to the airport by myself. This was a feat in itself, as I had not driven there before and it is on the other side of the city. The trip was uneventful and went well. I again parked at the airport and walked the quarter mile to the FedEx building. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of my walking.
First I took the papers I had to the counter and they told me I had to go to the back room and find the FedEx location. I walked from the waiting room into a warehouse with boxes stacked everywhere sectioned into the different delivery companies (UPS, DHL, FedEx…). I gave my papers and my passport to the FexEx person and he proceeded to type my information into the computer and then he printed off two pieces of paper and gave me one and kept the other and told me to go back to the front. It turned out that the Nicaraguan lady behind me in line at the FedEx section spoke English and she told me I that I would need several copies of the piece of paper he gave me and that she would show me how to do it after I get my number at the front desk.

I then went back to the waiting room and showed them my new piece of paper and they gave me a number (#61). I sat in a chair and waited for my Nicaraguan friend to come back out of the warehouse. When she did, she led me to a building a couple of blocks down the road where a man stood by a copy machine ready to make my copies for me. After thanking her for her help I walked back to the waiting room while she went to meet her husband.

When my number was called I went to the front desk and showed my papers and my new copies of the papers. They stamped and signed each piece of paper and told me to go back to the warehouse. I went back to the warehouse and after a couple of minutes a man and woman walked me back to the FedEx section where I showed them that I had a couple of new copies with signatures. They then found the package and opened it to find that it was full of English books for kids. They leafed through a few of the books. The lady that had walked me to the FedEx section told me that we now needed to go back to the front desk. So we walked back to the waiting room where they took my passport and all my papers and told me to sit down and that they would call me when they were ready.

I went to go sit down when an older lady came up to me and excitedly said “You speak English!” She went on to tell me that she had moved from Nicaragua to Houston, TX 25 years ago and she remembered what it was like arriving in the US and not knowing English well. So she said, “if you need any help, let me know.” They called me back up to the front desk to tell me that I would need to pay a $10 tax on the package I was receiving. They gave me another piece of paper and told me to wait in the line to pay the cashier. So I waited in that line and paid the cashier my 208 Cordobas and she stamped my piece of paper.

I brought my newly stamped piece of paper back to the front desk where they looked it over and then signed it and sent me back to the warehouse. By this time I knew the warehouse and many of the people working in the warehouse pretty well. I greeted everyone again and this time just the man joined me on my walk back to the FedEx section where I again showed him my new papers. He took a few minutes to fill out a few forms and then he found the package and gave it to me. My escort now brought me to another desk where I waited for my turn and then handed over all my papers. He proceeded to take out all of the staples that everyone who gave me a new piece of paper had added. He filled out a couple of forms and then gave me two new pieces of paper and let me go out the door. Before I left I thanked Julio, my escort, for walking me through many of the steps. The guard stopped me before I could walk back to the airport and took the top sheet of paper off my pile and sent me on my way. All this took about 2 hours and I think I received the special treatment, because when I talked with the lady from Houston, she said she had already been there for over 3 hours. Probably not how it would be done in the US, but I did enjoy spending a little time with and getting to know a few more Nicaraguan people. I drove home from the airport a different way and didn’t have any problems. God cared for me through the whole process and provided the help I needed just when I needed it. (We were also so blessed by this package of over 100 books from Rebekah’s 3rd grade class back in Iowa!)

We have often been advised that if we accomplish 2 things in a day, we are doing well. So often days are like this with many interruptions and unexpected detours which require physical energy and a willingness to release some of our expectations. I think it is good for us to be in this place – to struggle with productivity and to often feel that we are accomplishing very little or that which we accomplish is so often needed to be redone. Oswald Chambers reminded me in his Dec. 30 devotion, “Watch how God will wither up your confidence in natural virtues after sanctification, and in any power you have, until you learn to draw your life from the reservoir of the resurrection life of Jesus . . . It is the saddest thing to see people in the service of God depending on that which the grace of God never gave them, depending on what they have by the accident of heredity. . . . But, as we bring every bit of our bodily life into harmony with the new life which God has put in us, He will exhibit in us the virtues that were characteristic of the Lord Jesus.” We pray that all of these “differences”/adjustments/challenges will create in us just that – the virtues that were characteristic of the Lord Jesus.

I will close by sharing that on January 8 we received our Christmas cards! What a treat! I was not prepared, however, for how the pictures and letters would impact me. At one point the kids looked at me and they said, “Mom, you are going to cry aren’t you. We can tell because you keep blinking your eyes.” The kids also received 5 packages from family and friends and are expecting 4 more to come. They made comments about how their friends still remember them – thank you! We also received a number of cash donations for us to use for Christmas presents which is also so appreciated – we’ve let the kids know how their Christmas presents were given to them through a much larger community this year. I wish you could hear them thank God “for our supporters” – they are very aware that everything we have, we have received from God through those back home – thank you. Thank you too for the emailed pictures and Christmas letters and notes – we so enjoy hearing from you! Thank you so much for all of the ways that you love us – each in your own unique way and each expression is valued and appreciated so much.

Please continue to pray for the political stability of this country. There will be some political changes in January so we pray for a smooth and peaceful transition.

Peace to you,
The Van Zoest’s