August 18, 2013

Randomness and Shenanigans

Yesterday we went on a little girls trip to Memoria - that's the local... erm... 'mall.' I suppose you would call it.  It most resembles a flea market.  Outside, makeshift stalls made out of wood with tin or plastic roofing.  A pallet-type table stretches across the stall whereupon piles of clothes, shoes, underwear, bras, fabrics, sheets and other such textiles are carelessly strewn about.

August 16, 2013

A New Life

It's nearly spring in Moshi.  Cool days are turning warm.  Flowers are in bloom.
And I can't help but parallel our family with this new season - new life.

Our lives as we know them, are completely changed.  As we adjust to the time difference, the culture difference, and the dirt difference (it is Africa, after all), we're learning a new life.

A life where we put our toddler to bed at his (normal) 6:30/7:00 bedtime and he wakes two hours later wide-awake-happy-as-can-be.  His body thinks that was his afternoon nap.  So for the next 3-4 hours we calmly put him back to bed exactly 234,532,679 times - in the toddler bed he chose to sleep in after only one night in his new room.  He can get out of it quite easily, as we witness him poking around from the hall - "I can't reach puppy."  "Momma, I gotta pee."  "I not doing anything, I thirsty." "Momma I can't reach teddy."  He can get out of it quite easily, but still hasn't mastered opening the mosquito net to get back into bed, or how to untangle his friends when they fall on the floor into the pile of mosquito net that lies there.

When we finally feel it's safe for us to go to bed, that he's finally down for the night, we turn out the lights and lay in the dark.  It's about 12am and we're listening to the neighborhood dogs howl away at who-knows-what when we hear the pitter patter of little bear feet on the concrete floors, "Momma, I can't reach my puppy.  Help me reach puppy?"  ::sigh:: "Yes, little bear."

That was the last time, we're sure of it. So we switch off the bedside light and roll over to sleep again.

The alarm goes off at 8:45am, time to unlock the door so our house mama can get in.  Normally we would scoff at sleeping so late, but with the nights the way they've been, we'll take all the sleep we can get.  One of us gets up, undoes the padlock, then crawls into bed, awaiting the pitter patter of feet again saying this time, "Momma, sun came up! I get in mama papa's bed?!"  Our morning routine, since he was a wee nursling has always been to snuggle in bed for a bit in the morning.  Now that he's in a toddler bed we've had to teach him to wait till the sun comes up before he comes to lay with us.  We snuggle, read the Bible with a kids app on my phone, and he'll occasionally play his alphabet game or storybook game afterward.

We get up to make breakfast - since it's so late it's usually something quick like toast with jam, granola cereal or leftover pancakes that have been frozen.  Owen runs out while we're getting breakfast ready to greet Marta, our house mama.  He calls her "my new friend marta".  He talks about the roosters he hears crowing in the yard, occasionally saying "roostah" instead of 'er' on the end, and adds "marta" to his sentence.  Marta, with her accent, says it like that.  He likes Marta.

After breakfast we play with toys, get dressed and ready for the day, play outside, check on the chickens, or go hunting for lizards.  There are about a dozen or so that like to sun themselves on the front of the house and O loves to watch them wriggle away as we walk along the front.

Lunch rolls around and we heat up leftovers from dinner the night before, or may ask Marta to prepare a little extra of the African food she prepares for herself and Charles, the gardner.  After lunch is nap time, which involves reading books (always If You Give a Moose a Muffin), praying and singing before tucking the bear into bed.  While he naps we either:  a) nap with him depending on the night we had,  b) I edit pics and Bill plays his xbox, or c) get other stuff done around the house or prepare for an errand we'll run after nap.

After nap we usually run errands, head to friends' house, or play some more.
Around 4pm start getting dinner ready - it takes a lot longer to cook and prepare food when it's all fresh and/or frozen from being fresh :)  By 5 or 5:30 we're ready to eat.  I've been cooking easy meals lately just as we get adjusted - spaghetti & garlic rolls, macaroni and cheese (from scratch!) and hot dogs (not from scratch), veggie and cheese quesadillas, baked chicken and cooked carrots, things like that.  As we get more into the swing of things I hope to be cooking a little more sophisticated and eliminating hot dogs all together - blech!  It's hard to get protein here because the chicken is expensive, and scrawny, the beef is cheap but not good quality - so beef hotdogs have been our protein a couple of nights.  :(  We'll figure things out though and get into a routine - it may be a mostly vegetarian routine, but I'm okay with that!

After dinner it's play time for a little while, then we head out to feed Disco (the dog), make sure the chickens are fed and in the coop, water the banana trees and make sure the back gate is closed.  Then it's time for the bedtime routine to begin again.

The other day I was reflecting on the above - the lack of going and doing and ministering when my husband so wisely pointed out - this time, the past two weeks, has been ministry time for our family.  The past month of our lives has been so hectic, crazy, uprooted, emotional, full of change, that it's okay that we're "just" spending time together.  Enjoying the giggles of our little one as we all sit on the floor and play together.  Watching him learn how to take care of the dog and chickens, and how to climb on the stool to wash his hands in the sink and how he turns the fan on in both our rooms every night, and how he sits on the couch and excitedly exclaims, "I sit by momma AND papa!!"  There's that saying that 'ministry starts at home' and that's exactly what it's been for us these past two weeks.  Restoring us.  Getting our love tanks, quality time tanks, sleep tanks and laughter tanks refilled.
I can't believe I'm posting this first-thing-in-the-morning-we-have-morning-face picture.

So that's our new life.... for now.

Until school starts in a couple weeks and things change all over again :)

August 14, 2013

You See, What Had Happened Was... (part2)

Monday Morning, 9:20am (Kenya time)
Our flight into Nariobi arrived a little after the expected time of 9am, and we stood on the runway waiting for a bus to take us to the gate for some time. After riding a bus across the tarmac to the airport and climbing a huge set of stairs carrying our three rolling suitcases, two backpacks, diaper bag and two year old, we literally ran with all our stuff all the way down the terminal to the very end and down a flight of stairs to gate 3, where we were told our 10am flight to JRO was. We arrived in time, the agent said, but she could not let us on because our bags had not been tagged through JRO. I explained that she could look in the computer and see that they were in the transfer crate and that we didn't need to go get them and go through customs, etc. and she refused. Very disappointed, we began the walk back to the stairs. A pair of men that looked like managers asked us what was wrong as we stood huffing and puffing at the bottom of the stairs, and I told them the lady wouldn't let us on the plane because of our bags and he said he would 'try to work a miracle.' After he looked at the situation he, too, said there was not time for them to get us on the plane, and our luggage. I told him I would be ok with our luggage arriving later and he said we owed money for the extra pieces. He put us up in the British Airways Business lounge (thank you Jesus) and connected us with a BA transfer agent. 
Monday Morning, 10am 
The agent said he would work out our luggage. He said he would go downstairs and physically move the luggage to where it needed to be and hand-tag them through to JRO then he would come get me and give me the receipts. Awesome.  I went back upstairs to the lounge where Bill & Owen were finishing breakfast.  I had a few bites myself then snuggled in a chair with O and took a nap.  
Monday Afternoon, 2:00pm
After our nap we woke up and walked around the lounge a bit.  Owen played with some of his toys and we snacked on some of our food.  They were serving lunch in the lounge but it was 100% African and with our nerves and stomachs the way they were we didn't want to risk it.  We still had not seen that BA Transfer agent, so I went in search of him, only to find his shift had ended so he just left. I was relaying with the Kenyan Air people (who told me they handled Precision, what our original 10am flight was booked on) and between the KA and the BA agents, no one would take responsibility or tell us what we needed to do about our luggage. (Welcome to Africa!) We went around and around in circles with them...
Monday Night, 9:00pm
... still going in circles with the transfer people of KA and BA... when yet another BA agent told us the Kenyan Air people would only accept our luggage if we went out through customs, got the bags, paid for them and re-checked them in. With only an hour to our flight leaving that would be impossible with our family of three who had already been traveling for 50 hours. The BA agent said he would go and help just my husband move all the crates and get things settled. So my husband had to pay for the transfer visa ($20), pay some porters ($20) to help him move the 10 crates (3 pieces were missing) and then pay Kenya Air $276 for a per/kilo over-limit fee. She was going to charge him $200 per piece (4pcs over since they wouldn't accept the 3 pc allowance code) but when he said that was crazy because it was more than the cost of the ticket, she changed it to per kilo. Bill made it back upstairs just in time for us to gather our cary-ons and get to our gate to board our 10pm flight.
Tuesday Morning, 12:30am
Upon arrival in JRO we got our visas, got all our crates (10pcs) but did not have our stroller, carseat or suitcase. We made a claim with Precision and moved to customs.  One man looked at me very sternly as I held onto O's hand, pointed at a crate and said, "Are there medical supplies in there?!"  I looked at him (possibly as if he were crazy) and said, "No, just clothes and diapers?"  "What do you need all these for?" he asked.  "We're staying for a long time," I replied.  He handed me scissors and instructed me to cut the zip ties off one of the crates so he could inspect it.  It happened to be the one that was mostly Owen's toys and clothes.  He seemed satisfied and moved onto the 2nd crate.  Again it had some of Owen's toys on top, a few kitchen items, and clothes.  He was convinced and sent us through without opening any other pieces.  Thank. You. Jesus.  We headed out to the parking lot where Ryan and Peter were waiting and got loaded up!
Tuesday Morning, 3:00am
We've arrived at the Neuberger home, dropped our crates in the living room and are in search of our PJs.  At this point we are filthy, nasty airplane dirty but we don't care.  We just want a bed.  To lay horizontally with our eyes closed for more than two hours. We let Owen sleep with us and we are all out cold.  I've never slept so hard in my life.
Tuesday Afternoon, 12:30pm
We hear a horn at our gate and a car pulling in.  We wake from our stupor, rub our eyes and peek out the window.  The Street family is here.  We quickly pull ourselves together and get to the living room to greet them.  I glance at the clock - 12:30!  Holy moly!  I had no idea we had been sleeping so long.  Peter said Bryan & Mandee had come around 9am but we were sleeping, he figured 12:30 was a good time for us to wake up so he told the house mama to let them in :)  We were okay with it.  
We spent the rest of the day unpacking and getting settled.  Ryan came over later in the day to tell us precision had called about our luggage, two pieces were in and we could run into town and get them.  Our stroller and suitcase had arrived, but we were still missing our carseat.   
We continued unpacking that afternoon, then headed to Ryan & Stacy's for worship night.  We were exhausted and kind of didn't want to go, but I knew it would be the perfect start to this new season, so we sucked it up and went anyway.  And it was a great time of worship, laughter, and fellowship, and the Holy Spirit was so strong in that place - it was just what we needed. 

August 09, 2013

You See, What Had Happened Was.... (part 1)

Saturday Morning, 11am.
Friends arrive to help load up our luggage and cart us to the Charlotte airport.
Saturday Afternoon, 12pm
American Airline agent gives us the 'look' about our 10 totes, 1 suitcase, stroller and carseat as she sees us pull up to her counter.  She makes small talk as she checks us in, but refuses to check our bags all the way through Kilimanjaro, our final destination. She says she can't because of some lack of agreement or something.  We pay the $400 for our two extra pieces of luggage (British Air allows 3 pieces per person for missionaries) and after a few tries at persuading her to change the luggage tags to JRO instead of just checked through to Nairobi, I give up.  I figure I might have more luck with the British Air people once we get to London.
Saturday Afternoon, 12:30pm
Our friends are now giving us the 'look.'  The we-don't-want-you-to-go-but-we-do-because-you're-following-God look.  We hang out for a minute, delaying the inevitable.
We take some pictures on our smart phones, and then circle up to pray.  The men all pray, and even one of the girls, but the rest of us are silent, no doubt because we were just doing all we could to hold back the tears.  As the hugging and good-bye/see-ya-laters started so did the tears.  Tears that said "I will miss you,"  "I'm proud of you,"  "I won't forget you,"  "We'll keep in touch," "Love you, friend."
Saturday Afternoon, 1:15pm
We walk through security and glance back, there they are, all standing way back there watching us walk through the checkpoint, I shoo them away as if telling them we just need to rip the band-aid off and they mock me.  I love those people.
Saturday Afternoon, 2:00pm
We grab lunch in the atrium, Carolina BBQ for Bill & Owen, a Quizno's flatbread sandwich for me.  We walk around a bit, plenty of time to spare before our 3:45 departure.  Owen runs around the airport, then crashes for a nap in Bill's arms.  Our gate is right by Cinnabon.  It's calling our names.  I grab a mini and share it with Bill, feeding him like we're teenagers in love again, because his hands are full with our sleeping toddler.
Saturday Afternoon, 4:00pm
We're on the plane to Chicago and it is quite possibly the smallest plane I have ever ridden on, and I have been flying across the country since I was six.  We got some "Front Row Favor" as Pastor Troy says, and Bill & Owen got the seat with extra legroom for the short jaunt to Chi-town.
Saturday Evening, 6:00pm
We've walked briskly through the Chicago airport and boarded our plane to London with just enough time to spare.  We've got seats together again and we're ready to take off!
Sunday Morning, 1:00am
Owen starts writhing in pain and complaining that his "diaper hurts".  Though we've been potty learning at home, we are traveling him in diapers, for obvious reasons.  So I take it off real quick and check for a rash, but don't see a thing.  Then I realize his diaper is dry as can be.  The last time I changed it was at 10:30am Saturday morning, before we left the house.  I'm assuming he's got a cramp from holding his pee in, so I tell him to pee in his diaper.  Bill & I gently explain that it's okay to pee in his diaper, that diapers are for pee and poop and because we're on the airplane he can pee in there.  He just keeps squirming and saying his diaper hurts in his half-asleep-overtired state.  It seems to come and go depending on the position we hold him in and eventually he falls back asleep in my arms.
A couple hours later he wakes up crying and holding his stomach/bladder area.  I feel it and it's rigid and his stomach is a little distended.  Bill takes him to the bathroom to try and get him to use the toilet since he won't pee in his diaper and to no avail - the bathroom just freaks him out (as it should) and he cries even more. It's obvious he's in a ton of pain so I ask the flight attendant if there's anything we can do.  He pages for any doctors on the plane to come to the back galley.  Five different people appear, a surgeon, a couple of RNs and a couple others with medical experience.  All of them agree that we need to try running warm water over his hands, on his feet, or just let him see the water.  So we try it and nothing.  We try to take his temp to make sure he doesn't have an infection but he's so tired, in pain and freaked out by all of this at this point that we can't get an accurate temp.  He doesn't feel hot to me though, just in pain from a full bladder.  When nothing worked one of the nurses suggested at least giving him some baby Advil to help with the pain, and a mom that was sitting near us appears and says she has some baby meds if we need any.  I get him to choke down half a dose of baby ibuprofen and he falls back asleep.  When he wakes up he's happy and his normal self again, but his belly is still rigid and distended and his diaper is still dry.  The paramedics have been alerted and will be on the plane to help us as soon as we land.
Sunday Morning, 7am (London time)
Our plane touches down and the pilot comes over the PA asking everyone to remain seated so the paramedics could get to us quickly.  Once they find us on the plane they move us up to first class so the rest of the passengers could deplane and she gets to work taking his history and stats.  He has no fever and his other stats were all good, and he's in good spirits from the ibuprofen kicking in.  She calls an ambulance while I check his diaper one more time.  I notice there's a little pee in it - yay!  But his belly is still rigid and distended.  The medic was seriously one of the nicest ladies I've met, she said it was up to us, but if it were her child she would take him to the hospital just to get checked out.  Just to make sure it's not an infection or something serious.  At this point I'm mildly freaking out.  Ambulance ride?  Hospital?  We're in London!  Connecting flight?  No insurance?  Our luggage?
And then all in an instant, as if someone (I'm positive someone ) was praying for us right that instant, I had a peace about it.  A complete and total peace that surpassed any kind of earthly understanding considering the situation we were facing. "Yes, we'll take the ambulance, " I told the medic.  So immigration came on the plane to check our passports, an AA agent came on to get our connecting flight information, told us the flight to Nairobi was leaving at 10am and we would need to re-book, but that it wouldn't cost anything since we would have a hospital pass.  The EMTs arrive on the plane and we wait for them to open the side door.  An elevator/lift/car thing carries us down to the tarmac where the ambulance is waiting.  We pile in our carry on luggage then climb in ourselves.

They begin taking stats and getting paperwork filled out and we're cleared to head to the hospital, which is about 5 miles away. I ask the dreaded question to the lovely EMT (the two girls in the rig were seriously amazing, by the way!) "So, how does all this work with insurance?"  "Oh," she replies matter-of-factly, "All emergency healthcare in London is free.  Unless you end up getting checked in and needing continuous care, this will all be free.  And I don't see that happening, I'm sure you guys will be out of there in no time."
Thank. You. Jesus.
Saturday Morning, 8:30am (London time)
We're sitting in the waiting room of the pediatric ER (or what they call A&E (accidents and emergencies).  Owen is playing with toys that are over-worn and mostly broken, but he's happy nonetheless.  He's been checked out by the nurse and we're waiting for the doctor to see him when he stops what he's doing, looks at me and says, "What's that?"  That's what he used to do when he was first learning to use the potty and he'd feel himself pee.  I check his diaper and it is literally exploding with pee.  It's running down his leg because it's so full.  You know what happens to a diaper when a kid goes swimming in a pool?  That's what it looked like!  The thing easily weighed 4lbs.  He had finally released everything that was in his bladder!  His tummy looked normal again and was squishy like it should be.  A few minutes later he had a bowel movement too.  He was asking to eat and drink (he wouldn't before, no matter what we bribed him with) and was running around and happy.  The nurse took a urine sample from his diaper and sent it to the lab.  When the doctor finally came he was ready to go back to the airport (he kept asking to!)  Between the two of us we deduced that he just didn't want to pee on himself because of the potty training.  His lab tests came back normal, she felt around his belly and he was normal.  We were given the discharge papers and called a cab to get back to the airport!
Saturday Morning, 10am (London time)
Because we were taken, literally, right off the airplane, I had no British pounds on me to pay for the cab, but the cab driver was kind enough to drop me at the curb of the airport so I could run in, exchange my money and get back to him with the 15pounds for the cab fare (highway robbery! That's $26 for a 5 mile ride!) I was thankful to him for allowing us to do that and we quickly gathered our carry ons and headed to the BA counter to re-book our flight.
The agent there kindly informed us we didn't need to re-book because we were already booked on the 7pm flight.  However, he noticed our bags were only checked through to Nairobi so he quickly set to work fixing that for us.  He got everything fixed in the computer system, but (obviously) couldn't go down and re-tag the bags for us.  So he told us once we got to Kenya that we would just have to tell the people at the check in counter that our bags were in the transit bin, and that they should go all the way through to JRO, even though the tags said NBO the computer had the right information in it.
Perfect.  So now we had a good 8 hours to kill.  Oh well, better in London than in Africa :)
We found some comfy seats and Owen promptly passed out on papa's lap again.  We both found ourselves nodding off as well. It had been quite the day/days/morning ?
After a few hours of rest we got up and went in search of food, and the kids play area.  O hadn't peed yet and we wanted to make sure he did one more time before we got on the next flight so we kept giving him juice and water and asking him every five seconds if he peed.  I think he finally got it and ended up needing a new diaper four times in London!  I know, it's a parent thing to rejoice when you kid needs a new diaper even though he's supposed to be potty training.
Saturday Evening, 7pm (London time)
We finish up our coffee and dinner and head to our gate to board the plane.  We show them our papers from the hospital because it's now on our record that we had to take the ambulance and they require a 'patient is okay to fly' form from the doctor.  Once they check that out we hop on bus which takes us all over the tarmac until we finally reach our plane.  We hop off and watch the sunset as we climb the stairs.

Once aboard, we settle in for a (hopefully) good nights sleep.

... to be continued...