Saturday, April 27, 2013


We spent the last week at a retreat center with other country reps from Latin America and Haiti. It was helpful to talk with other families with young kids in a similar role. I had been feeling unsure about how much I'd be working and how I would balance my responsibilities to my girls. A timely conversation with our bosses was exactly what I needed to feel supported and more confident about what's to come. I am thankful that raising our girls is seen as an important part of our job.

It was a big week for us as a family. Ellie is used to being away from us for a couple hours at a time, usually for church or Bible study. These meetings were all day, all week long, with a few breaks throughout the day. It helped that she made very fast friends with several little girls, but even that didn't always appease the crying and sadness and desire to be near mommy and daddy. I can understand why when children start preschool the parents stay at first and slowly ease into leaving the kids for longer amounts of time. 
The kids and their crafts this week.
The theme of our meetings was resilience. Michael and I are feeling a bit overwhelmed after this week. We heard repeatedly from other reps how much work this job is (which we knew before we got here), and how we will literally never be "caught up" on our work or ever get it all done. I haven't decided if that's discouraging or encouraging. A common thread of advice was to guard our time and to find balance. We need to create boundaries from the very beginning of our job. Boundaries to protect our family time such as sticking to work hours and learning to say no. There were a lot of helpful suggestions we will take from this week. 

Last night we traveled back to the city and said goodbye to most of the reps. This meant that once again Ellie had to say goodbye to friends. (We will see most of these reps next March in Bolivia). Granted, they were new friendships formed over less than a week, but they were connections for her. After a month of travel and not a lot of social interaction with kids her own age, I was able to see this week how important it is for Ellie to have friends to play with. She had a solid group of friends in Fresno that she saw at least a couple times a week, and she talks about many of them all the time. Leaving those friends (and their families) was one of the hardest parts about leaving Fresno. We will have a lot of opportunities to learn resilience in the next few years as staff and friends and family come and go in our lives. 

These girls were buddies all week.
It broke my heart to watch Ellie refuse to say goodbye to one of the little girls last night. She wanted to get off the bus and follow her friends. She keeps asking about her toys and specific dolls and we've told her they were traveling on the airplane with us in their suitcase and are in our new apartment. We thought we'd be heading there today but now we have a quiet day at a seminary before we move into our new place. Tomorrow we will do some shopping for the new place, most importantly, to find a crib for Hazel. I'm ready for her to be done sleeping in closets and makeshift beds made from sideways tables, though they seem to work fine. 
Hazel's current sleeping arrangement: a table on its side with blankets on the floor.
Last night was rough for many reasons. We were tired and got to our room at 10PM. We had to shift our expectations. Today we've been given an unexpected day of rest and quiet. Though my first choice would be to move into our apartment today I'm trying to be ok, to be patient and flexible.  I'm ready to give my girls a sense of security and to stop living out of a suitcase. I'm ready to get our new place set up and to feel at home. I'm ready for our new normal to begin. In the meantime, we are learning how to be resilient in this time of transition.
Hazel is pulling herself up on everything these days!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Our travel day

We made it safe and sound last night. The girls did really great through the whole thing. Here's my brief recap of yesterday's events:
Baggage: After haggling at the check-in counter, I was able to only have to pay for 3 of our 8 bags. Yes, 8 bags. Then we pushed our pile of "carry-ons" (I put that in quotes because they were all clearly larger than carry-ons) to the gate and they offered to check the carry-ons all the way through for free.

Flights: We got to the airport a little late, but everything went so smoothly that we had time to grab lunch for the plane and hang out a bit. The girls did good on the flight from PDX to Houston. Hazel got very tired and screamed for a while. She finally fell asleep about an hour before we landed. Ellie loved the airplane and loved watching Cirque du Soleil on the tv. 

The connection was very tight in Houston. I grabbed dinner while Mel ran the girls to the bathroom and then we boarded. We had to sit there for a little while on the runway.

The second flight was fine. The girls did great but we were all pretty tired. The flight was about half full, but because they have the "Economy Plus" section now, everyone was still cramped together in the back of the plane. Silly capitalism.

Arrival: We landed about 9:00pm Guate time. We collected our bags (on three carts) and slowly pushed all three carts plus the stroller through customs. In my stubbornness I refused to pay any of the porters to help us. So it was slow going. Everything was fine and we made it through quickly. 

We met Antony (the current Guatemala Rep for MCC) and loaded up his pickup. Ellie rode on Mel's lap and Hazel was conked out in her car seat. A short drive later we arrived at the gate (which was guarded by a guy with and AK-47.... a warm welcome indeed) of the Mennonite Seminary where we are staying today (and where we will eventually be doing language study). Except for cleaning up the shampoo that spilled in one of our bags, we basically jimmy rigged beds for the girls (E on a mattress on the floor, H in wardrobe/dresser with our bags blocking the door). Then we crashed.

We were greeted with a warm welcome this morning at breakfast by our bosses Mark and Gloria, and by all of the other Reps in Latin America. I know a few of them, so it was great to see familiar faces on our first day.

We decided to skip church to relax a bit, and later we'll move our bags to our apartment before heading to Antigua for a retreat this week. We're so glad to be here and thankful for our smooth and uneventful travels.