We recently have hosted several weeks of guests from out of country, which always reminds me how different my life is. I forget that it is different. I’m just used to it now. I forget about the things that I don’t have here, or the things that we do differently, or the ways that we do things. They are just ‘normal’ to me now, but I’m always reminded of how different they really are when we have USA guests. So, I thought I would share a few:
We don’t have an oven. That’s right. We don’t have an oven. We have a table-top toaster oven thing that sits on the counter in the corner. It’s big enough to put a 12” pizza in, or a 9x13 pan, barely. It’s kind of a glorified Easy Bake Oven. I think Barbie might have had one in her Barbie townhome (I just showed my age). It’s unpredictable and cranky. Sometimes a cake takes 1 hour to bake, and sometimes it is burned within 20 minutes. Cooking in it is something like babysitting a toddler… don’t leave it alone for a second!
In reference to the above issue… anyone remember the fact that we hosted overnight guests in our home 156 nights last year? Anyone remember that I bake at least two or three cakes or sweet breads a week for bible studies and disciple meetings? Yep… yippie for the Incredible Tiny Wonder Oven!
We don’t have a dryer. Nope. No dryer. We have clotheslines. That makes us dependent upon God and The Weather Channel and the Sahara winds for dry clothes. My own personal nightmare is a week of rain when I have a houseful of guests with sheets and towels and dirty clothes.
We do have a washing machine. It is in the kitchen by the sink. I don’t know why that is always a funny thing to everyone who comes to visit, but it is. Where a dishwasher would be in the States, we have a washing machine. It takes at least 30 minutes to do a load, and that’s the super quicky mode for clothes that haven’t actually seen dirt in their entire lives. A real load takes 59 minutes, minimum. (Why 59 minutes? I don’t know. I would have rounded up that number, if I were a washing machine engineer.)
Foods that don’t exist – at least not unless you make them from scratch: We do not have all the canned goods available to us that are in the USA. That means no cream of mushroom soup and about a gazillion other things. We don’t have a lot of processed foods or pre-mixed foods. Now, this is actually a good thing, because it means that we have little access to a lot of processed stuff and things that are not so healthy. But, it also means that all of those recipes from Mom or grandmothers that call for a can of mushroom soup… those don’t happen without a little thought and preparation. So, thank goodness for the Internet and Pinterest!!! I can usually find out how to make things from scratch without too much trouble.
Air conditioning / heat… debatable as to whether we have it or not. Yes, there is a small air unit in our living room (like those in a motel room under the window). However, it does not work near as good as those hotel ones! And there is only the one, for the whole house. It won’t even cool off the living room, much less the kitchen and bedrooms! And, electricity is really expensive, so it costs a lot to run an air unit that isn’t really doing much. Luckily, we have high ceilings and big windows and we live in the country where we can almost always catch a breeze. But, July and August and September are brutal. Over 100F every day with no air conditioning. Do you know why Spain is big on the siesta??? Because it’s too dang hot to do anything else at mid-day! You just lie real still in front of a window and pray for a slight breeze. Last year, we had some USA visitors in July. I think they thought that they might die of heat stroke. Then they went on to find out that MOST of EUROPE does not have air conditioning. (Right now, go kiss your thermostat in your central air / heat home and give God a little shout out thank you that you live in a place of luxury!!! ‘Cuz the rest of the world is NOT living life at a perfect temperature!)
Heat is almost the same story. We have a cast iron wood burning fireplace in the corner of the main room. That's the heat for the house, unless you count the little brasero heater that goes under the table to heat frozen toes. In the winter, we get down to freezing every night, with frost or ice every morning. The fireplace burns pretty much non-stop in the winter months, except at night. At night, we dress in our finest polar fleece lingerie and curl up under three layers of blankets and down comforters. We never have visitors in the winter! (Again… never take your heater for granted! Send your HVAC man a card of gratitude TODAY!!!)
Other things we don’t have… closets, a bathtub, a dishwasher, coconut oil, sloppy joes, cool whip, cute little craft supplies, awesome office supply stores, lovely bookstores with coffee shops and real live books, fast food, etc. I can’t lie… some of those things are just luxury items to me now. Oh, how I dream of the date nights Billy and I used to spend at Barnes & Nobel, drinking coffee and perusing the aisles of books and magazines. Oh how I have longed for a Chic-fil-a drive thru on those days when I’m dog-tired and have zero ideas for what to cook. Oh how my thoughts dance at the idea of a Michael’s or a Hobby Lobby or an Office Depot. And the thought of sitting in a real tub taking a real bath, complete with bubbles and a real book… surely that will exist in heaven!
Yes, our life is different. I truly forget that it is so different. I really am just used to it, now. I don’t think about these things until visitors come – really, I don’t. But as soon as they walk in the kitchen and say, “Um, hey… is that a washing machine by your sink?”, then I remember – that’s not normal back home. Last week, some visitors brought me a book as a hostess gift… a REAL book, with paper pages, in English! Or last month when my best friend and my mom both sent me recipes for some great new dish, and I realized that half the ingredients are not available. That’s when I think about it.
But I wouldn’t trade my life here. Nor would I have traded my life in rural Peru. It’s home to me now. I’m proud to know how to make so many things from scratch. I’m okay with being a little inconvenienced some times. My life here comes at a price, yes. I have fewer modern conveniences. I have fewer items available to me that are fast and easy. Yet, I also have things in my life that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I have the best farmer neighbors I could ever ask for (I had great farmer neighbors in Peru, too.) I have a pretty simple life. I have good friends who choose to sit for hours over conversation and coffee, or who will choose a long walk together over watching TV or chatting on Facebook. I live a life that is centered on relationships and ‘living life together’, not on schedules and to-do lists and efficiency. It’s beautiful, and I love it. Give me a few less modern conveniences any day!
Okay… well, maybe I would really love to have a real oven. ;)
In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a soccer mom, a horsewoman, and the neighborhood hospitality queen. I did "Joanna Gaines farmhouse style" before Chip and JoJo were even a thing - we restored an 1884 Victorian farmhouse in small town Texas and did shiplap walls until I thought I'd go crazy. I taught at NASA, scuba dived with astronauts in training, and studied animals at Sea World for educational purposes. I've tried just about everything, because I have an insatiable need to know if I can do it! Never underestimate a Texas girl in cowboy boots!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers via teaching and training and care, and helping displaced people to navigate their new reality in Europe.
I'm passionate about fostering personal growth, growth in community, and growth in The Kingdom. Walking alongside others and helping them to use their unique design, their gifts and strengths and maximize their abilities to fulfill their God-given purpose - that's what makes my heart sing!