Saturday, July 28, 2012

Our Humble Home (For a Month)

This is the road where we live for the month we're in Bolivia. Gerson's parents' home, which they rent, is the one with the huge tree --- NOT the one with the razor wire on top the wall.
Although the house doesn't have all the comforts of our house in McAllen, it does provide for all our needs and contains an abundance of LOVE!
This is the room Gerson and I share with Edson and Jayden. My amazing mother-in-law raised the money to buy the toddler bed and crib for them by renting out the trampoline to neighborhood kids in the evenings! What an business woman!
The kitchen is the structure in the background where Gerson is working. The second day we were here the wind was so strong it almost blew the tin roof off the kitchen! Gerson and his dad got to work putting heavy wooden rods on top. The room where we sleep will be the dining room when we leave, so for the time being we mostly eat outside on the plastic table where you can see Jayden sitting.
 Don't worry about the rustic conditions. My mother-in-law believes in cleanliness. Even though she cooks in rough conditions, she maintains a clean kitchen! She doesn't even have a sink in which to wash the dishes; instead, she uses plastic tubs.
If you are a detailed person, you may have seen the washer and dryer in the back of the kitchen. However, since Gerson's family has just moved to this new house, they have not been able to hook up the washing machine to water yet. Therefore, all of our clothes have to be hand-washed! Bless my sister-in-law, Silvana, for washing our clothes for us! I'm thankful she actually ENJOYS this chore. I've never had such clean clothes in my life! 
After washing them by hand, she had to hang them all up to dry. Don't worry ---- she really did have a sense of humor about it. She loves serving in this way!
Our bathroom is NOT an outhouse, for which I'm very thankful. Our sink is outside, but at least the toilet and shower are INSIDE. :)
 Bless my father-in-law for realizing and understanding that his "gringa" daughter-in-law considers hot water for showering pretty close to a necessity --- especially during these winter months. The temp can drop into the 50's during the night and can stay pretty cool throughout the day. This gal doesn't like cold showers on HOT days, let alone COLD days! Most Bolivian homes do not have hot water heaters, nor do the they have heat in general, so if the cold remains for several days, it feels colder than it actually may be. So, Daddy Fermin installed a rustic hot water heater. If I explained how it worked, it would probably make you nervous for my safety, so I won't go into details. Suffice it to say that I flip that black switch and turn the white switch on the shower head, and VOILA, I have enough hot water "to skin a pig," as they like to tell me. This gal is happy with whatever hot water I can get! :)
 The kids take even a more rustic approach to bathing. They bathe out in the yard. We heat water on the stove in our almost-outdoor kitchen, add a little cold water, and my two boys are happily splashing away.
Although it may seem backward and lacking in today's luxuries that many consider needs, this home is full of joy, laughter, love, and the Holy Spirit! I will admit it is sometimes a hard life. But, it's a GOOD life --- one full of blessings that can't be put into dollar signs!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bye-Bye USA, Hello Bolivia!

It is a long journey to Bolivia, and for us it was especially long this time. Our missionary friends and co-workers, Tim and Kim Benner, drove us from McAllen to Brownsville at 5:00 AM on July 18th. I had told Jayden we would eat at McDonald's when we arrived at the airport. That was a big mistake, because Jayden doesn't forget promises! Little did I know that the Brownsville airport didn't have a McDonald's. It only had one restaurant and it was outside of the security checkpoint. Needless to say, my little guy was disappointed!

I continued to tell him that eventually we would find a McDonald's, but I had no idea how difficult it was going to be! We had a short layover in Houston, and although our flight got delayed, we weren't sure how long the delay was going to be and we needed to remain at our gate. There was no McDonald's in view. Again, Jayden was saddened.

We arrived in Miami, picked up our luggage, and headed out to wait for our hotel shuttle. We considered eating in the airport before heading to the hotel, but we knew that the hotel had a restaurant and were hoping there would be restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. We caught our hotel shuttle, checked into our 5th floor room, and headed downstairs to try to find some food. Would you believe there were NO restaurants besides the hotel restaurant within walking distance. Needless to say, the hotel restaurant was a far cry from McDonald's!

After a night in the hotel, my boy STILL had not forgotten about Mommy's promise to eat McDonalds. (Now, I was getting a tad bit nervous since I knew we wouldn't be finding a McDonald's in Bolivia!) We checked in at the Taca desk, checked our luggage, and decided to go ahead through security and find our gate, even though we were about 4 hours early to the airport. As we were going through security, I hear Jayden's voice cry out, "MCDONALD'S!" much to the amusement of the elderly gentleman who was checking our passports and tickets. He grinned and said, "My son always had a nose for french fries, too." I asked the kind man where McDonald's was and he pointed behind himself and said, "Right after you get through security, there is a McDonald's." Sure, enough. My son had already spotted the sign, hence the enthusiastic yell. I was praising the Lord I got to feed my son McDonald's! We were one happy pair! You can tell from Jayden's smile he was thrilled with his lunch.
 From Miami we had a 5+ hour flight to Lima, Peru. From there we had another 2+ hour flight to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The boys did not sleep much on the flight from Miami to Peru, but by the time we caught our last flight, they were both tuckered, as were Mommy and Daddy. We took Edson as a lap baby, so he was on our laps the whole way. Talk about a challenge with a toddler who never slows down! Thankfully we had 3 seats and he and Jayden were able to share a seat for part of the time.
 Both boys are small enough that at one point we had them both laying down in Jayden's seat with their heads on our laps. By the end of the trip, I was carrying a sleeping Edson and Gerson was carrying a sleeping Jayden. We were ALL exhausted.
 We were greeting in Santa Cruz by quite a welcoming committee! Gerson's mom and dad, pictured above, were there. In addition, both of his sisters came as well as his brother, sister-in-law, and our 2 nephews and niece! We weren't expecting EVERYONE to come since we arrived at 2 AM. That was sacrificial on their part! We were given plenty of hugs, and since Gerson's brother is a taxi driver, we had safe transportation back to the house.
We stayed up late talking. I think we finally went to sleep around 4 or 4:30. We slept a couple of hours and then the boys woke us up, ready to start the day. The boys were starving and wanted to eat breakfast. Thankfully, about that time a woman was walking by our gate selling fruit. Edson saw the bananas and started pointing, wanting to eat them. We called out to the lady and invited her into the yard. 
 We made her day by buying a large bunch of bananas for the boys, as well as some delicious strawberries. How I've missed the fresh Bolivian fruit!
So, eating fresh fruit was the beginning of our first day in Santa Cruz. The boys haven't stopped eating fruit since. We can't keep our kitchen stocked with enough bananas, grapes, strawberries, and papaya to keep the boys full! They are both eating super well and LOVING the Bolivian treats!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bits and Pieces of Travel Adventures

Here we are in Bolivia after two and half years of being away. I knew we had arrived in South America when we landed in Lima, Peru and were told we had to go through security after getting off the plane to catch our connection to Santa Cruz. I´m used to not having to go through security if just catching a connection, so both Gerson and I were startled when we were directed to a LONG line of people waiting to go through security. We thought we had less than an hour until our connecting plane left, and by looking at the long line in front of us, we thought we´d be spending the night there in the airport. However, thanks to our two little guys, we were given preference and ushed to the front of the line where we, once again, went through the whole drill of removing our shoes, belts, watches, etc. Were we ever relieved to get through that!

Our next adventure was to find Gate 18, which according to our flight attendant was where we would find our connecting flight to Santa Cruz. We got there, out of breathe after hurrying through security and carrying both kids plus all our carry on baggage, only to find out that it WAS NOT our gate. Once again, panic set in. Time was flying by and according to our boarding passes, the flight was about to leave. We found a arrival and departure board and looked up our flight. Hallelujah! It was  just a few gates down at Gate 26 and it was going to be leaving an hour later than we had thought!

Once we arrived at the correct gate, I left the kids with Gerson and headed to the bathroom. Remember, the last airport in which I had been was Miami. The restrooms there are plenitful and spacious. There is an abundance of stalls in each restroom and rarely is there a long line because the women can go to another restroom down the same cooridor and use one of its 30 stalls. Basically, the wait is SHORT: Not to be in Peru. There were only 3 stalls in the only women´s restroom I found. One stall was locked, although no one was in it. The other two stalls were full and there was a waiting line. I was also reminded of what continent I was on when I read in Spanish, ¨Please do not throw the toilet paper into the toilet.¨Yup. We´d arrived in South America! ¨ To be honest, it made my heart happy!

We made our connection to Santa Cruz without further problems. We were blessed, however, to meet a lovely lady from Tarija, Bolivia while waiting to board our last flight. In the course of our conversation, she learned we were evanglical (Christian) missionaries. She beamed and replied, ¨Then we speak the same language!¨ What a joy to find a fellow Christian travelling with us! Her husband owns a hotel in Tarija and she invited us to come and have coffee with her when we visit Tarija next week.

How did the kids do? They were amazing! (I wish I could download the pictures onto this blog that we took of them during our trip, but I´m at an internet cafe and it would be a little tricky. Hopefully, we´ll get internet access in the house where we are staying tomorrow. Time will tell. We are staying with Gerson´s family and they just moved last week to a different house. They haven´t had time to get the internet installed. That was on our list to do today, but grocery shopping was more important! ;) )

Back to the kids . . . they were troopers! The first day they didn´t cry at all and enjoyed both flights. We stayed in a hotel in Miami, which ended up beimg a fantastic way to break up the trip. The second day of travel was a bit harder. The flights were longer and the kids were worn out from the previous day´s excitement and schedule. There was some crying and some rough moments. but considering we spent 12 hours ON planes and it took us just under 48 hours from the time we left our house on Wednesday morning to when we landed in Santa Cruz on Friday morning, I´d say they did super well!

The funniest thing that happened with the kids was when Jayden looked out the window as we were landing on one of our flights and yelled out, ¨Look, ants!! A LOT of ants!¨ I looked out the window and saw a LOT of CARS!!! Gerson and I laughed and laughed! It was a joy to see things from his three year old point of view.

Thanks for all your prayers. I have so much more I want to share with you, but at this point it´s going to have to wait. I need to go back ¨home¨ and have ¨tecito¨ (light supper) with my family. We love you all and appreciate your prayers more than you know. Gerson has already preached once and is scheduled to preach 2 more times in the coming weeks. I´ll keep the updates coming as much as possible. I will also try to have photos uploaded soon.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mommy Ponderings

"I want better for my kids than what I had."

This is a phrase I have heard over and over again by so many parents. It's even been said in our household a time or two (or maybe more, if I'm honest!). But lately I've been ponding that phrase. As a mommy who is on the journey of a lifetime raising 2 incredible, busy and energetic sons, it's rare that I have time for much introspection. Today as I was fixing lunch with my sons underfoot, for some reason that often-used phrase came to my mind and the pondering began.

In probably 99% of the cases where I heard that thought expressed, it has been in the context of material possessions. It has been in the toy store where I see parents contemplating what to do for their child who is throwing a tantrum, or at least expressing his desire, for his parents to purchase the popular toy. Too often, the parents give into the child, stating their plan for THEIR children to have it better than THEY had it! (Been there, done that!)

It also comes up in coversations with other parents. We tend to "brag" about the most recent purchase to make our children's lives more enriched, more stimulating, more educated, more . . . well, you fill in the blank. It seems like the more we give our children materialistically, our peers and fellow parents applaud and express their desire to do the same for their kids.

To be honest, I've fallen into this popular trend too often. Why do we feel our kids need better than us? Are we so unhappy with our childhood? Are we so unhappy with our parents' parenting? What are our childhood memories and why do we want to "one-up" them with our children?

Now, let put in a disclaimer here. If there is a parent who is reading this who grew up in a terrible household with abuse, neglect, or emotional issues, I'm not referring to you. Of COURSE your desire is to give your children a better life --- one without the abuse, neglect, and emotional toil you grew up with. I'm referring to those of us who grew up in loving homes with two parents who loved us, disciplined us in a godly manner, supported us while teaching us of the consequences of our choices. I'm talking about those of us who had food on our table daily and new clothes at the beginning of each school year. Why do we desire so badly to remember those blessing as "not good enough"? Isn't that what we're saying when we say, "I want better for my child"?

This is what I remember from my childhood.

My parents LOVED me unconditionally.
My parents had TIME for me.
My parents LISTENED to me.
My parents LOVED each other and SHOWED me what marriage and committment means.
My parents TAUGHT me about God.
My parents ENCOURAGED me.
My parents wanted what was BEST for me, even if it hurt.
My parents didn't give in to my every demand, but TAUGHT me that some things must be earned.
My parents TAUGHT me that my choices brought about results  --- some good, some bad.
My parents PROVIDED for all my needs, although some of my wants may have been denied.
My parents PROVIDED me with a stable home.
My parents PROVIDED the setting and foundation for me to have a solid relationship and bond with each of my siblings.
My parents TAUGHT me to put others before myself.

And the list could go on and on.

Were my parents perfect? No. They even admit to that. BUT ---- they provided me with a wonderful childhood, full of precious memories, love to spare, and a solid Biblical foundation that became a personal relationship with Jesus when I got older.

What more could I want for my kids than a stable home, wonderful memories, strong bonds within the family, and a personal relationship with God? Do I need to feel like they must have the latest toy or gadget to be successful in life? Must I give into their every whim just so I feel accepted by society? Must I fuel their desires to have THINGS and in the process forget what is truly important in their young, impressionable lives?

I know I will continue to make mistakes in my parenting. Just like my parents, I am not perfect. However, my prayer is that with the strength and help of God, my kids have an upbringing LIKE mine --- not BETTER than mine. For, in all the things that truly matter, mine couldn't have been better! Even if I didn't get my Cabbage Patch Doll on the day I wanted it.