This question never ceases to crack me up! There just isn't a “typical day” for us. We never had a typical week in Peru, either, although is was a completely different schedule and lifestyle! The life of a cross-cultural worker (CCW) or missionary is always punctuated by random acts and divine appointments and teachable moments… we are continually working on something (we have to-do lists, too, just like anyone), but always ready to drop it all to meet with someone who stops by or calls for us. Our days don’t follow “normal” work hours, as we are constantly molding our schedule to fit what pops up of happens. I can give you an example of what our days usually look like (ha ha ha!):
We always try to be up at 5:30 a.m., but it is usually closer to 6 before our feet hit the floor. Quiet time / devotionals, then catch up on some quick internet world news. Sarah is up at 7:30. Family breakfast, then off to school. We walk Sarah to school each day (15 minutes there), then we head off (brisk walking) to the town center to try to combine some exercise with some errands and some cultural learning. We take a different route almost every day, so we have now almost walked 2/3 of the city’s streets. We stop along the way to do any banking or light shopping or post office things that need to be done. Our town is all uphill / downhill, so it is a decent workout. Almost daily, we run into someone we know and stop to talk for a bit. Home by 10:30 or 11:00 a.m.
Showers, dishes, laundry, then office work… contacting several of the other missionaries whom we care for, writing for the blog or the newsletter or the TMS website we are working, writing curriculum for the coaching workshop we will teach in January, etc. At least once a week, that plan gets side railed by an urgent need from another field, a counseling or coaching call, expense reports or time-sensitive issues that need to be dealt with. And at least once or twice a week, none of the office stuff happens because we receive a call to come meet someone for coffee and discussion, which always becomes a fantastic 3 hour meeting that we know was planned by God Himself. Morning office time is important, as it is our only time when Sarah is not in the house and doesn’t need help with homework, and we have hours then when the USA is still sleeping (i.e. no emails, no calls from USA, no urgent requests for anything from that side of the world) - so we try to get a lot accomplished before 2 p.m. This is when we can be most effective in the office, as well as work with ‘this side of the globe’ on ministry, counseling, and coaching.
Walk to school to get Sarah by 2 p.m., then we walk home and have lunch. Spaniards have a big family lunch in the afternoon, then they have siesta hours until 4:30 or 5… but not our family. We eat lunch and we take a small break until 4 p.m. at the latest… can’t afford longer breaks as Sarah is playing catch-up this year in school and she is swamped with homework (usually 4+ hours of homework each night). Sarah gets to work, as do we. Afternoons become a little more hectic, as we begin to get emails and Skype calls from the USA for ministry things, etc. If we have meetings with missionaries who are in their preparation stages, or if we meet with the office for anything, those calls happen in the afternoon for us.
Late afternoon and evening time is a juggling game, as we have ministry things (bible study, meetings with people) or “extras”… Sarah has a class on Wednesday evenings and we have a bible study and fellowship with another couple. Every week on alternating days (Monday or Tuesday), Laurie has a group meeting; and again on either Thursday or Friday, depending on the week, she has another group in another town. Billy meets his friend to help him with English, or with another friend to talk about culture and immigrant issues.
We try to have dinner at 8:30ish, Sarah is in bed by 9:30, and we are finally ready to sit an relax together or fall asleep reading. We try to be in bed by 10:30 or 11 p.m. so we can start all over again tomorrow. ☺
I won't lie to you... I have a ridiculous fear of finding hair stylists. Seriously. There is a part of me that feels like this is really serious business - what my head looks like - and there should be some kind of interview process, a look at a portfolio, several references, and maybe a sneak drop-in visit to watch the hairdresser in action before actually choosing the person that you are going to trust to attack your head with scissors and a round brush.
In The States, a had a mild panic attack when I went to a new hairdresser upon returning from Peru. She had been recommended to me by someone I trusted, and she sounded great on the phone, but the salon was named "Eye Candy" and that sent a small shiver of fear down my spine. Should a women in her late forties be getting her hair cut in a place named "Eye Candy"? I went to the appointment anyway, only to walk into a salon that was painted in zebra stripes and hot pink and lime green and lined with about 20 chairs and stylists. Maybe because I had just spent 5 years in a third-world country, this threw me for a little bit of a loop. I mean, in Peru, haircuts cost just a handful of coins and my cute little hair lady had a very modest two-chair salon that was about the size of my bathroom. So walking in to this "chic" hair salon was a dramatic difference for me. I started to fear for my life... well, maybe only for the life of my hair, but still. In all honesty, it was great! The stylist was darling and she did exactly what I had asked her to do. She was a great conversationalist and we had a great time. PS... I love Eye Candy and I will return when in The States again.
So, fast forward to today... I haven't gone to get my hair cut since moving to Spain. Again, fear. The dread of finding a good stylist. So I let my husband go first. A few weeks ago, he went to get his hair cut at a place close to our new home. When he returned, he looked great! It was even actually a little longer than his usual cut, which is a mistake in a good direction - you can't do much about a mistake in the too-short direction! I began with my battery of questions for him. "Are they professional? Was it a woman in her bathrobe with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, watching a soap opera while she cut your hair in her kitchen / salon? Did the scissors and combs and salon appear clean? Did the stylist have purple hair or a tattooed face or anything that would make me fear for the fate of my hair?" He assured me that all was well, that it was clean, that they were professional, that it was a real salon, etc. So I agreed to try.
Today was the fateful day. All three of us needed a trim. My daughter went first (okay, I admit to letting her be a guinea pig, but I was pretty sure they couldn't mess up "cut an inch off the bottom"). After a few minutes, she was washed, she was trimmed, she was dried, and all was well. Great!!! This might actually work out!
Then it was my turn. I was washed and set up in the chair. I showed the stylist the photo that I always take in with me. She looked at it, as did the two other stylists in the salon. "Que preciosa! Muy elegante!" (How precious! Very elegant!) Hmmm... score one for me! That sounds promising! I asked her to please not trim my bangs any shorter than they are right now, to which she agreed. Great again! Okay, now down to business... she combed, she separated hair into parts and clipped up areas with pins and clips so she could attack, umm, I mean "style" the back.
With the first cut, I knew I was in trouble. You see, there just isn't much you can do when someone holds the scissors vertically up the back of your head and cuts from neck to crown in one fail slice. Yep. There it goes. You can't replace that big hunk of hair that just fell to the salon floor. And you can't exactly quit now, seeing as there is a giant hunk of hair missing from the back on your scalp!
The hair continued to fall, and fall, and fall. And I thought, "This is it. This is the nightmare that I always feared would happen in a salon." I began to think back to the two blog articles I had read by other mission women on this very subject. Want to know what women go through in other cultures trying to get a simple hair cut? Worth a read are Scissor Hands
and "Pavos, Flecos, Bangs!"
While my stylist is having a heyday on the back of my head, my husband is seated in the chair next to me for his cut. He looks over and sees the mayhem that is ensuing. He tries to not let it register on his face. He is unsuccessful. He tries to assure me that it will be okay. Also unsuccessful. He decides to close his eyes for the rest of his cut. I think I'm supposed to think that he is relaxing, but I KNOW that he is praying... praying for a miracle, praying that I don't kill him for convincing me that this was a good salon, praying that our night / weekend / life is not forever effected by this episode. Probably praying that he can get out of his chair first and run before I am finished!
Just as she finishes my hair, she says, "I just love how you have let your gray hair grow and blend in with your blonde. It looks like it was frosted. So silvery. Preciosa! Que Preciosa!" Hmmmm... I'm not sure how to take that, seeing as literally every single person in the salon has on a cap smeared with hair color - including the stylist! The only ones without caps and dye are me, my husband, and our nine-year old daughter. So I'm not sure that my hair color really is so "preciosa". I think it is just a novelty that I don't color it. Maybe sarcasm, maybe a hint... whatever, it didn't feel very preciosa at the time.
So here I sit, staring at my reflection in the computer screen. My daughter took one look at me and her eyes bugged out and she said, "that is not
the picture you showed her". No kidding, Baby, no kidding. Is it any consolation that everyone in the salon commented and said, "Que Preciosa!" as I walked out?
The hair salon... a sure-fire road to the pit of culture shock.
So I'm cleaning the house like a wild woman today... sweeping, mopping, dusting, scrubbing toilets... everything. We have guests coming to coffee later and the house has to be spic and span EVERYWHERE, not just the kitchen or the living room. In the USA, if the upstairs wasn't clean and perfect, "oh well". Because usually the guests only see the living room and the kitchen and the bathroom anyway, right? Well, not so here in Spain! It is customary to "show the house" when you have guests over. When we have been over to visit others, we are shown the whole house - like a tour. We are paraded through the rooms - every single one of them, even the bathrooms, even the laundry room, even the roof area where they hang laundry, everywhere! The first time, I thought it a little strange. The second time, I thought it even stranger! Then I was let in on the secret... it is customary. Cultural. It is showing you that there is nothing to hide. You have seen it all. You are "in" and accepted. You have been shown the whole house. So, I'm cleaning today in anticipation of having to do the home-tour thing tonight and show our guests the whole house. Not that there is a lot of house to see... but they will see it none-the-less. Dust bunnies, beware! I'm on a rampage against grime and smudges today! Oh the things we do in the name of culture and 'fitting in'...
We had hopes of bringing our dog, Charlotte, to Spain. She is Sarah's dog and she has been with us for our entire adventure in full-time mission service. We got her in Peru when we first arrived and she and Sarah quickly became best friends. In our opinion, she played a big part in Sarah's adjustment to Peru and in our lives.
So, when we left Peru, we took her to Texas with us. It was a huge financial sacrifice for us. HUGE!!! the funds came from our own pocket - don't worry, no ministry funds of any kind went to flying a dog to Texas! What was at first a nominal sum of money quickly became an enormous outlay of cash. We wrestled with the idea of leaving her behind. It was a decision that we didn't want to make, but felt that financially we may have to. But, when talking with our best Peruvian friend (and Sarah's Peruvian mom), she burst into tears at the idea of leaving Charlotte behind. Which, of course, made us burst into tears, too. She said it was unthinkable! On several levels, just unthinkable.
For one thing, Peruvians don't take care of dogs as 'pets'. Dogs are for guarding things and for herding animals and for killing anything that comes near your stuff. But dogs are not loved and cherished and cared for. They roam the streets. They eat from the gutters and from trash. They are chained up on rooftops and in concrete yards. It is sad. Our friend knew the outcome of what would happen to Charlotte is we tried to leave her behind with a Peruvian family... she would be mistreated and not loved or fed properly. She would be let out to roam the streets. She wouldn't know how to defend herself or find food. She would die.
The other reason - the one that made us all cry - was that Charlotte was, in our friend's opinion, Sarah's sister. She had been Sarah's only family. She was the live version of a most-loved stuffed animal or the baby blanket that is carried around for years. When Sarah had been sick several times and in bed with fevers and unable to do anything, Charlotte never left her side. Charlotte was immensely loyal. We couldn't leave her in a foreign country where no one loved her or cared about her.
The decision was made to move her to Texas. As we waited for our visas and our moving date to Spain, we prepared Sarah for the possibility of not being able to take Charlotte to Spain due to the cost. Leaving her in Texas with family was a viable option - Charlotte would be loved and cared for and she would have a great home. We continued to check on how to move her with us, but it wasn't looking good.
We left for Spain in August with the hopes of coming home to get Charlotte on a quick return trip that we would take in another month or so. Things were in order for the possibility of her traveling, but the contingency was for her to stay with family.
Finally, while we were settling in to our new house in Spain, the last of the quotes from airlines came in and they all surpassed the budget we had for Charlotte... they surpassed our budget by a LOT! There were lots of tears in our home that night. We called home and asked Granny if she would continue to keep Charlotte forever.
Soon thereafter, we began to look for a puppy to complete the void in our house in Spain. We had wanted a Spanish Water Dog and asked around about puppies for sale, but we couldn't find any that were ready. Some were still not born, some were not weened, and some were too old for what we wanted. Then we found a mixed breed puppy with the cutest face ever... he looked just like Benji from the movies of my childhood! Sarah fell in love the minute she saw him and "Buddy" came home to live with us.
Now for the interesting cultural mistake...
Several days after getting Buddy, we walked past the kiosk on the corner in our neighborhood. The guy who owns the kiosk (he sells candy) yells out and says, "Hey. I have your puppy here today. Here he is, right here behind my store." He proceeds to pull out a little bitty Spanish Water Dog! We had asked him the previous week if he knew where we could buy a puppy. We thought he might know since he has three of the same breed. He had told us that he knew who had some puppies, but they weren't ready to leave the mom yet. They wouldn't be ready for a couple of weeks or so. And he told us about how high pedigree they were and they were very costly (way more than we wanted to pay for a puppy!). We politely listened to they whole sales pitch, then said we would maybe think about it. He had told us that when the pups were weened, he would bring them to town and we could see them. We smiled and said we might like to see them, them we went home. Now, less than a week has passed and here he is shoving a puppy in our faces and saying that this one is ours. We told him that we had already found a mixed breed, but thanks for remembering us. (This is where the non-verbal cues that are so important to culture come in... the irritated, angry face, the clipped speech, then the silence.)
Our problem became evident to us quickly... 1) this guy was under the impression that we wanted his puppy, 2) "maybe" and politely saying "we'll thing about it" usually means no in the USA and it seems to mean yes here, 3) this guy is of a gypsy sub-culture which has it's own set of cultural rules, and 4) we have to walk by this guy's corner kiosk about 6 times a day, every day. Without too much discussion, we decided it was best to buy this puppy and dig ourselves out of this cultural soup! So, in our very best effort to smooth the waters / stop an international incident / save face / and keep the peace in the neighborhood, we went back and bought the tiny Spanish Water Dog.
Great... two puppies... I'm thinking Charlotte's airfare is looking like it was probably worth it... we should have just dug deep and shelled out the cash to the evil air cargo empire. Two puppies...
Our first days were spent looking for a place to live. That was easier said than done, being as we arrived (unbeknownst to us) in the middle of a time of local holidays and business closures. When things close down here for a holiday, that means EVERYTHING closes down… banks, grocery stores, restaurants, EVERYTHING! On the day before everything was to close, we tried to meet with people who could show us some places for rent. We called one realtor who gave us directions to her office so we could meet… except that she used only landmarks and not streets for directions. We don’t know the landmarks yet, so in no time we were thoroughly lost. She said something about being by Veronica Park. No signs at any of the parks. She said they were in front of the police station. We found the police station, but didn’t find the office we were looking for. So we went into the police station to ask. They sent us down the hill and around the bend to “the yellow and green building”. So, off we went. Guess what we found — about 10 huge yellow and green office and apartment buildings! We called her back and she gave us more directions. This time we found yet another police station (would have been good to have known that there were two police stations). We finally found the office and walked in, only to find that the realtor was not there and wasn’t working today. She had given us directions, but neglected to tell us that she was on vacation and wouldn’t be back to work for five days!
We met a different realtor who showed us two ‘interesting’ places. We politely declined. Note that we once bought a fixer-upper house that had no plumbing and no back wall. We most currently lived in an adobe mud ’house’ that was literally a donkey barn when we moved in and it had an outhouse and a composting toilet. So for us to “politely decline” two places is saying a lot.
We had a lead for another house and we called. We left a couple of messages during the day. When he called back, Francisco set up an appointment with us to see two places the next day at 5:30. Awesome! In the mean time, some friends had previewed a house for us and had given us a contact for a man named Paco. I left a few messages for Paco and explained that he had shown a house to some friends of ours and we would like to see it. When he called back, he said, “Yes, I will show that house to you tomorrow at 5:30. It is one of the houses I have already set up for you.” I’m sure that I sounded a little confused when I tried to figure out how to reply to what seemed like a supernatural ability to have already set up appointments with a man I had never talked to. Then he let me in on the big clue… Francisco and Paco are the same person. I had been setting up phone calls and appointments with the same person all day. Yes, I felt pretty embarrassed. But Rule #1 in living and working in another culture is “You must be willing to laugh at yourself and at your mistakes.” Billy and I have done a LOT of laughing over the last two week, for sure!!!
To make matters worse, or funnier, we were told that someone from the church would meet us at a certain parking lot and lead us to the church. On the way to the meeting place, our cell phone rings and it is (you guessed it) Francisco / Paco calling to say that he has been sent to meet us and he is waiting at the designated place. He is very jovial on the phone and I laughed and said “Hello again, Francisco / Paco! We look forward to seeing you again.” He laughed and said “Okay!”. The surprise of the day was when we pulled up and Francisco / Paco was NOT the same Francisco / Paco from the other day. He just thought I was a little crazy on the phone! (All is well now - we are going to his house for coffee next week.)
By the way, in the course of two weeks, I think we have met no less than 5 or 6 men named Francisco / Paco / Fran and a couple of other nicknames for Francisco that I haven’t committed to memory yet. Obviously, this is Spain’s version of the name “John”. You can’t shake a stick without finding someone named Francisco / Paco here.
Long story short, we ended up renting the house that our friends had previewed for us. The landlords are very nice and have been very helpful. It is something like what we would call a small townhome in Texas. The bottom floor is a one-car garage, a 9x9ft tile patio, and a front door (no living space on the first floor). The second floor is a living room, kitchen and a half bathroom. The third floor is three bedrooms and a full bath. The entire place is about 1200sq.ft. No grass, no yard, no plants. That part is going to be really hard for us since we are very much outdoor people. A friend is going to show us where to get some plants for some pots later in the week.
We have also had adventures in grocery shopping -trying to figure out how things are organized in the store, new vocabulary for foods, etc. You must bring your own bags or you are charged per sack, so we quickly learned to carry our reusable grocery sacks with us. For more on the adventures of grocery shopping, you can read our blog entry from Day 1.
Getting used to a very different time schedule is another challenge. The day gets started a little later here. Lunch isn’t until 2:30 or 3:00pm. Everything closes at mid-day (1 p.m.) for the lunch break and opens up again at 4 or 5. Dinner is MUCH later… 9:00 pm is an early dinner! The neighborhood starts to buzz at about 10pm in the evening - that is when we start to see people walking as families, kids go out to ride bikes or play outside, people put their chairs outside their gates and sit on the sidewalks and congregate to chat. On Saturday night, we actually saw an entire family (little children included) getting into their car to go out to dinner at midnight! We aren’t acclimated to this new “life clock” and pace quite yet.
Climate has been a little bit of a challenge. Imagine Texas temperatures with little to no air conditioning. Our house has a small unit in the living room and in one bedroom. The air units are like the small versions of the units you see in hotel rooms in The States. They are very costly to run, so we work to manage the sun and the windows and the cross-breezes until late in the day. Then we run the air for as short a period as possible to cool it down a little before we have to get in bed. The good news is that the locals tell us that this is the end of the hot part.
We do not yet have internet and are not sure when that will happen. We were told that we cannot get internet service without a bank account. We were also told that we cannot get a bank account without our official residency visa and number (which is still in process). But our landlord was able to circumvent that rule and help us get a bank account! So internet is coming soon. Right now, we visit a local restaurant/café to use their wifi every couple of days until we can figure out another way.
Getting to understand the population makeup here is a new challenge for us. There is a large gypsy population here - one neighborhood directly next to us and one neighborhood directly above us on the hill, just to name a few. There are people here from North Africa, as well as from Pakistan and other Middle East nations. There is a large group of people from the UK living in the area, but they mainly congregate in a town a few miles away and have their own segregated community.
We are frequently met with surprise when people realize that we speak Spanish. The default is to assume that we are Brits. We have been told on several occasions that our Spanish is really quite good… maybe they are just flattering us or maybe they are making fun of us, but it seems sincere. We always apologize for not speaking “Spain Spanish” and explain that we have been living in Peru. They are very accepting and always say that we are doing great and that the different vocabulary and verb tense will come soon enough, not to worry. Happily, we can be understood when we speak and we are doing well at understanding others, so all is well in the language department for now… Whew!
Blessings to all of you! Thank you for your continued prayers and support.
Day 2 began the house hunting process. We had a couple of leads, but we were having some trouble getting in touch with them. So we headed out to find a couple of realtors and have meetings with them and try to see some properties.
Lesson #1 - Driving in a foreign country is not so easy. The car is smaller. The roads are WAY smaller. The street signs are also foreign and don't make immediate sense to us (what is the difference in a blue circle with a red line and an arrow and the exact same sign in black?). Street directions and addresses are a mystery to us. Lots of one way streets.
Lesson #1.5 - Maybe driving around in a stressful situation is not the best idea when you are also going through the effects of jet lag. You're just not working on full power, you know?
After a few hours of driving around trying to find addresses, going the wrong way on one way streets, parallel parking, etc. we were a little ragged. Time for a snack break so we could regroup. We talked to a realtor on the phone and she gave us verbal directions to her office.
Lesson #2 - Clarify! When the person on the other end says, "we are in front of the police station" you might need to know if there is more than one police station. When they say "we are located at Veronica Park", you might need to know that there are a variety of locations with the name Veronica.
Lesson #3 - this is a re-learn of an old lesson... talking on the phone in your second language is tough! When the phone rings, you have no context. You have no idea who is on the other end, no voice recognition, no facial cues, and no clue what the topic is. Add to that the different vocabulary and different accent and you have a rough conversation punctuated by "Could you repeat that please?" and "I didn't understand. Could you speak more slowly please?" I especially love when they get frustrated with you and they give you the audible sigh of disgust and irritation.
We finally made it to the realtor's office only to find that she was not there. She was just talking to us on the phone and leading us to it, how could she not be there? Her secretary took down our info and promised that they would call. That was two days ago.
Lesson #4 - Spain is akin to Peru in their idea of holidays and festivals and such. Evidently, Wednesday was a big holiday - but no one could tell us what kind of holiday or why. In the afternoon, things began to shut down. The sign at the grocery store announced that they would be closed on Thursday. On Thursday, we asked someone about the holiday and the closures and he said, "It is the holiday of the virgins." On further questioning, he said it was for any and all virgins. He wasn't sure what day it started or when it would end. The woman in the tourist office in town said that it was a holiday, but she didn't know why. She didn't know the days or the times of closures. She said it might also have something to do with the fair, which runs all next week. The lady in the restaurant told us that it was only for today and everything would be open tomorrow, but that proved to be incorrect. So, who knows??? Nevertheless, the realty office said they can't see us until at least Monday.
Lesson #5 - there are lots of people who take their yearly vacation during these couple of weeks. Lots of stores are closed and have a sign that says they won't open again until the 26th. One realtor told us that the person in charge of his internet and postings and appointments is on holiday until the end of the month and we were just lucky that he happened to catch our email.
We did finally get to see five places for rent. Two were definitely out... really tiny and really dark. One had an outhouse, no lie. Billy also had to bend over in half to walk up the stairs in that one. I'm afraid if anyone had the urge to do a jumping jack, the place would have imploded. For us to say no to any house is saying a lot, since we once bought a hundred-year old house that had no plumbing and no back wall, and our latest home was a donkey barn when we decided to move in and 'renovate'. Extreme Home Makeover has NOTHING on The Drum Family! Anyway, back to the story - One house that we saw was GREAT - just so happens that it is the same house that our friends had already viewed for us prior to our coming. Two houses were STUPENDOUS and I wish I hadn't ever seen them. But they were out in the country and would be too difficult to deal with Sarah's school and with ministry. Poo poo! They were awesome! But just not what we need.
Lesson #6 - Who knew that Paco and Francisco were the same person?! I had been calling "two" realtors to see a couple of different things and finally the poor guy clues me in to the fact that I'm talking to the same guy each time! Poor Paco... he had a great sense of humor about it, thank goodness!
So, now we wait on Monday and the other realtor (we hope). They have a few things to show us. Might be that the one that our friends already picked out is the right one. There is a lot to be said for wise counsel and trusting the local folks to steer you right.
I'm assuming that Paco/Francisco doesn't also have the third nickname of Jose! Maybe we have already met this guy and we have already seen the right house! :)
Day One is Spain included a trip to the grocery store for a few quick items.
Lesson #1 - all of the vocabulary that I have for fruits and vegetables is in desperate need of a makeover. How is it that Spanish does NOT equal Spanish? Somehow, it is true. So one of the first things on my list to do today is to get a small spiral notebook and start language learning all over again. Back to kindergarten... At least I'm not starting all over again with everything! Just need to revamp some vocabulary.
Lesson #2 - the grocery shopping experience is BYOB (Bring Your Own Bags). If you don't, they charge you.
Lesson #3 - Wow - waaayyy too many choices for olive oil! We will have to make this a learning point for future conversations with others.
Lesson #4 - LOADS of fish and seafood things in the meat dept, all of which have names we are unfamiliar with. Another vocabulary experience. Several things with tentacles and sucker-things. Several things that appeared to be shrimp-like. All the fish have huge teeth (I think I'm staying out of the ocean here). Finally found a familiar sight - trout - and went with the familiar for dinner. Day One is not the day to gamble on dinner... too sleep deprived, too brain dead, too overwhelmed to chance a bad dinner.
Lesson #5 - even cooking dinner is a new experience! Sarah looked at the stovetop and said "What is that!?" Turning it on and figuring out the settings was a whole other story.
We finally ate dinner at 9:30 p.m. Sarah almost fell asleep in her plate. We have groceries to last another couple of days. We are now aware of a few learning points we need to work on. This is going to be a new adventure, for sure!
The sway of life, back and forth, two steps this way and one step that way, a spin or two, countless dips, crescendos and rests. It is the dance between the familiar and the unfamiliar. No matter where you are or what is going on, it is always in play. The dance.
Several years ago, we moved from familiar to unfamiliar as we moved into another culture and another country. That move way a crazy tangle, as the unfamiliar steps outweighed the familiar ones and nothing seemed right. It was a tough time for us. We were fighting to quickly learn and change the unfamiliar things into familiar ones. Little by little, we adapted and learned the dance. We weren't experts, by any means, but we survived and learned to move in and out of situations and life.
Another change in scenery was much easier. The dance seemed a little more familiar than unfamiliar. There were slight adaptations to be made, but it came easier this time. We learned to laugh when we made mistakes, and to give ourselves grace when we weren't perfect.
Last week, we found ourselves in another country and culture yet again.
The dance seemed equal parts familiar and unfamiliar there. In some ways, it seemed easy, like the gentle sway of life 'back home' and we adapted quickly. In other ways, it was very foreign and we found ourselves making many mistakes. The street signs and driving customs were quite different and caused us to have many exciting moments - luckily we can laugh about them today! We
were blind to the ever-so-slight mannerism differences that distinguish 'alien'
from 'native' and count ourselves blessed to have had people around us who
pointed them out to us and helped us navigate the dance a little better. We learned a lot. We laughed a lot. We enjoyed the dance.
Whether you leave the country
or you never leave your county, you will inevitable experience the dance. When you try out a new church, you
enter into the dance of new verses old.
When you begin a new class, the dance begins.
When you drive in a different region that you are unfamiliar with, that
balance between familiar and unfamiliar begins to rock.
How you navigate the dance is the key.
Welcome to The Dance that is
life! May you enter with passion
and laughter and an eagerness to learn!
My days have revolved around questions for the past several weeks.
That is not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all! In
fact, I love questions! Maybe because in my pre-missionary life I was a teacher - and for several of those years, I was an inquiry-based science teacher. The word "inquiry" in that statement shows how much I lived a life of questions.
Questions, for me, are an avenue to answers. I need questions. If I don't ever ask the the question, I won't ever find the answer. I use questions to find direction. I use questions to guide me. I use questions to dig deeper.
Jesus was a question-man. He used questions to guide, to give direction, and to make people dig deeper within themselves to find the answer. He made them think. Many times, when someone asked a question of Jesus, he simply turned it around and asked them for the answer.
To the man who asked, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?", he answered with the question, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?"
(Luke 10:25-26) The man answered correctly (showing that he had the answer in his mind all along). Just after that, the same man asked, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied by telling a story (the Parable of the Good Samaritan). At the end of the story, Jesus asked the question, "Which of these three proved to be a neighbor?" Again, he answered the question with a question and made the man think deeper.
There are many more instances in Scripture that illustrate this same point - Jesus valued the use of questions.
So many questions roll around in my head each day:
What can you see from the other person's perspective?
Put yourself in their shoes... how does it look and feel from their side?
What can I do to turn this into a positive experience?
Since I can't change other people, what can I do and change about me that
would make things better?
What is the most important step I could take right now to move me forward?
How is God speaking to me?
Is God trying to get my attention?
What is God trying to do with my character?
What questions are rolling around in your head? What are you asking yourself? Use those questions and listen to the answers that you hear. Let them
guide you and give you direction and help you go
I’ve been rereading The Journey by Adam Hamilton as part of my preparation for Christmas this year, and I am once again struck by the similarities of the town I have grown to know and love and the town of Nazareth.
I currently minister in Patarcocha, a small village in Peru. It is not modern, by any means. In fact I only know two people who have real toilets, and our house is not one of those two. Patarcocha is still a village that lives life the way it has for the past several hundred years. People still cook with wood on adobe stoves. Women still wash clothes in the stream. Fields are still
plowed by hand with oxen pulling a wooden plow, and the planting is still done completely with the labor of family and neighbors. Sheep are led out to the fields each morning and brought home each night. It is generally a quiet
place with a slow lifestyle.
In the research that I am reading about Nazareth, the tiny town
of Mary and Joseph was incredibly similar. Nazareth was a town of 100-400
people. My village of Patarcocha has a population of 200. Nazareth
had very little in the way of‘modern conveniences’. The people of Nazareth were manual laborers - carpenters, bakers, farmers, potters, shepherds, etc.
They made their goods and took them to the nearest big town to sell them
in the markets or to the more wealthy‘city people’. If a family from Nazareth was able to provide for a better education for their child, they sent them to Sepphoris. Men or women who wanted a better paying job would travel to Sepphoris to work for people who had need for paid laborers or housekeepers. People from Nazareth could actually stand at the edge of town and see the bigger, better Sepphoris in the distance.
Life in Patarcocha is much the same as in Nazareth. We can see the bigger
town of Chupaca just at the base of the mountain, and across the valley lays the large city of Huancayo. People who can manage the funds quickly find a way for their child to attend school in Chupaca. Goods are traded in
Chupaca or Huancayo. And the population is changing rapidly in Patarcocha due to the flight of the youth and men, both headed to Lima or Huancayo for the promise of better jobs and a better lifestyle. Patarcocha today is,
therefore, a village that is predominantly populated by single or abandoned
mothers, children, and abandoned elderly.
I’m particularly struck by the verse in John 1:45-46 in which Nathanael says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” in response to the news that Jesus had been born. It is a sentiment spoken many times today regarding Patarcocha. When people learn that we live there, they can’t catch themselves before the words spill out, “Why?! Why would anyone live in Patarcocha? There’s nothing good in Patarcocha. They are country people.
Backwards. Quechua Wanca.” Of course, there is a scowl on the face that goes with the sentiments. This has always made me sad, that people look at the people of my village with such a low esteem.
Maybe I cannot completely change the view of others toward my village or my people, but I can take every opportunity to say what a great place Patarcocha is. I share with others about the wonderful things I have learned while living here. I work constantly to build up the esteem of the people here and point out to them all the beautiful things about life here and about the people whom I have come to call family. And I know in my heart that God is doing a great work in hearts and lives here. You know what? Something good DID come from Nazareth and something good lives in the people of Patarcocha.
These are beautiful people with so much to give to God’s kingdom and they
are doing it, one step at a time. I think I would have loved Nazareth too, had I lived there more than 2000 years ago.
Is there a ‘Nazareth’ in your area?
Is there a place or a neighborhood or a town that others look down
upon? I urge you, during this time
of preparation for Christmas, to consider that place and to look for the good in
your local ‘Nazareth’. You never
know what you might find unless you look for it.