Monday, August 31, 2009

4 Days to Go!

Tonight's dining experience: L-R James, my tutor's father holding Will, and our host.

Tonight's hostess, Gula, a shopkeeper in our town (also my tutor's cousin).

Will helping to make lagman (the most traditional U dish) at my tutor's house. Tonight's hostess Gula was there helping as well (on the left).

Two nights after that, my tutor and her parents at our house for dinner.

My English class, our helper Ishmael's two daughters plus a cousin. (And Will, a reluctant addition)

The final countdown has begun... I have such mixed feelings. Only 4 days left til we leave... it's Sunday night here, and we leave early Friday morning for the airport. I'm really starting to look forward to this next phase, but I'm also so sad to leave this special little town and all our sweet friends we've made already! We had a wonderful dinner tonight at the house of some very hospitable local friends here, and another dinner last night to commemorate the 18th anniversary of a neighbor's mother's death (interesting, huh?). I'm trying to figure out which nights I have left to use up the last frozen meat in our freezer!

I feel so connected to the people in this town. Before we came I shared with some of you all my fears about whether or not Will would thrive here, given his sweet personality and how unfriendly this country seemed to be initially-- all fears gone now. They all love him! Tonight our hostess couldn't stop holding him and kissing him-- she bought him a little Russian board book and wrote in it for him, in Russian (even though she's U) "To William from Auntie Gula" and the date. She says if a day goes by when we don't stop by her shop, she misses Will. I already feel so much acceptance and willingness to help from these ladies-- which takes some of the fear out of coming back with two little ones, in the dead of winter!

Please ask for good closure with everyone here, and for Will as we travel and transition. I'm going to print out pictures of our house and our friends to show him while we're away, so he doesn't forget who everyone is. One last praise: we finally installed our water tanks and automatic pump today, so now we have water all the time, instead of just a few sporadic hours a day! Luxury! (Just in time, right? We get to enjoy it for 4 days and then leave... but how nice it will be with an infant to have hot water available 24/7 when we come back! PTL!)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Feasting Before Fasting

The fast of Ramzan begins in 2 days, and everyone who has been planning on having a party of any kind has been cramming them in the last few weeks. Weddings, 50th birthday parties, circumcision parties... you name it, it's happening. One friend said to me, in response to a comment about how many parties there were, "I know-- we are all so tired!" Parties here, as I think I described before, are seriously intense affairs-- lasting until 2-3am, and consuming more hard liquor than we thought humanly possible. And then many of these same party animals will turn around, and for one month out of their year do all in their power to please the Divine Deity they think is pacified by external piety. We are interested to see how Ramzan is observed over here, and are glad we get to be here for at least part of it.

We leave the country two weeks from this coming Friday, and are heading into last days of organizing our house, getting it ready for winter, packing things into boxes, installing a padlock on our bedroom door so we can store valuables in there, etc... I am still struggling with trusting God about leaving a second home we love to have a baby (the last time this happened we weren't allowed to go back!), but it's getting easier as I realize the gift this situation actually is: in the west, there is a semblance of permanence, and everyone feels like their possessions and situation are theirs forever. But that's not really the case. In an instant, everything can change, in the west as well as here. Here, though, massive changes happen so often and so regularly that one learns to be always prepared for the unexpected-- such as keeping a complete inventory of every single item in your house and where it's stored, so if someone else has to pack up for you it makes it easier to give detailed instructions! I've decided to be thankful for the lack of pretensions over here, and to be glad I live in a place where I can't pretend things are permanent-- it forces me to hold everything with open hands, instead of leaving it optional.

So please pray for grace as we try to spend each day wisely, balancing last-minute house projects with last-minute hospitality invitations, trying to get in a few last language lessons, and continuing to adjust to life with a toddler in this new culture. I'm still struggling knowing how to discipline him and control him when we're at locals' houses-- not wanting him to get away with too much, but not wanting to discipline in front of them either since I want their approval and feel our relationships are still so fragile... and then I feel guilty for sacrificing Will's training on the altar of man's approval... there must be a middle ground, and some strategies I haven't learned yet. It just all takes time.

Anyway, thanks for your prayers-- more when I'm able, and hopefully more videos the next time I'm within reach of broadband. We love you all and are so thankful for you!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Rats! The video with the words wasn't the one I thought it was... it only has him trying to say "delicious." It took nearly an hour to upload a 30second video, even with our friends' DSL connection... shucks!!! Anyway, more videos to come, but very slowly because of all our limits... hard not to be frustrated.


"Shuffle Like A Penguin"

New words!

I counted yesterday, and William used over 100 words! (I'll post a list for the interested ones :)) He's learning so fast. He's getting better and better at mimicking, and is coming up with new ones all the time that I haven't taught him. He can recognize far more words than he can say, too. It's so exciting to watch him learn!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Donkeys, Neighbors & Bumps

Our next door neighbor, Ayup Bova (Grandpa Ayup), has been bringing his donkey into our backyard every day to eat our weeds. Will is absolutely fascinated, and I took him out there a couple times to feed her apples and give her water in a bucket. Yesterday when Ayup arrived, he scooped Will up under one arm and plopped him on the donkey as they walked towards the backyard. Will was all astonishment-- and made Daddy take him back out there later on (so Mommy could get a better picture). That's him waving to Ayup across the fence, in the second picture. Ayup burst out laughing when he saw us back there with Will again-- having a donkey is such a totally normal part of life to him, the fact that it should be such a novelty to us is hilarious.

And here's me, six months pregnant and very thankful I'm not super huge yet. It hasn't been a very hot summer-- lots of rain to cool things off every so often, and our house stays nice and cool like a cave inside. Even so, I get really warm during the day and am starting to feel full quickly and have heartburn (and the old bladder problem as well)... only 3 more months to go until we meet the 4th member of our family! It's starting to feel more real, not only for me, but also for James too-- and even Will says "baby" and pats my tummy (or a bit further up-- he gets a bit confused sometimes as to where the baby actually is!). He can say both of our name choices, for girl or boy, and I have an adorable book I read to him called "There's A House Inside My Mummy" which he loves.

Any good toddler preparation hints from you Moms of more than one out there?

In other news:

Aynora came to visit me today, after a long absence. As usual, she wanted something-- this time cream for her husband's cracked dry hands. Unfortunately, I didn't have what she needed, but that didn't deter her from staying to taste our dinner-- sweet & sour chicken (James was running late and it was already cooked on the stove), or from asking for a bowl of it to take home so her husband and daughter could try it too. This time when she came, it struck me that her eyes don't look quite right-- she hardly ever looks directly at me when she talks-- and I'm wondering if she's possibly under an evil influence of some kind... only G knows. Please keep thinking of for her, and for wisdom for me in how to handle her.

We didn't end up going to my friend's 50th birthday party a couple weeks ago after all-- James and I got a horrible flu the day before and were in bed all the next day. A convenient way out of what promised to be quite the party, and for which we weren't sure what in the world to do with Will, but I was sorry to miss it and brought over a gift for her the afternoon beforehand. She's been really kind, bringing fresh bread or steamed buns whenever she makes some, and getting her daughter to help me with my curtains for free... all without seeming to have ulterior motives, and just a generally pragmatic, helpful person. I really like her. She's already offered to help me with my kids, when I have two, and possibly with my house too, which would be a great relief. A really good friend to have.

My wonderful sweet Russian tutor continues to be full of surprises. The other day I was at her house, looking at the pictures they have displayed in their living room. Next to a battered 8x10 of her grandfather in his younger days was a lacquered Russian-looking portrait of our JC! A few lessons later I got up the courage to ask her why she had a picture of him in her living room. She replied that he's one of their prophets as well, and that her whole family is interested in learning more about what the K says and becoming better M's. We've already discovered that it's those who are more devout who tend to be more open, and so please keep them in your thoughts.

Thanks for lifting us up! Less than one month to go before we leave to head back to New Zealand... already I'm feeling sad about leaving, and already I feel so attached to our home and neighborhood here. We've settled in physically and emotionally in record time, thanks to God's grace and all of you who are thinking of us. I'm struggling with leaving a second house and place that I love to have a baby-- the last time we did that we never went back. Please ask for the ability to hold all things loosely and keep these rich blessings with open hands!