Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Traveling With 2 Little Ones

We travel a lot for our job. We've counted, and it's at least 100 days a year, but realistically, much more. That's a lot of missed school days, snacks and naps in the car, fast food stops along the way, and pit stops on the side of the road.

We realized recently how lucky we are that no one in our family gets carsick. Several of our trips are 7-8 hours in the car, one day there, and another day traveling back. The girls do remarkably well. They color, nap, play on their play computers (seriously, this occupies HOURS in the car-best investment ever), and eat lots of snacks.
Hanging out in a hotel on our most recent trip to the Mexican border.
These two will share a lot of adventures over the next several years. 
Every trip we take usually involves meetings. Occasionally one of our staff volunteers to hang out with the girls so I can participate. Often I miss out on parts of the meetings, or sometimes, the girls can hang out right where we are meeting. 
The girls are getting old enough to self-entertain,
thanks to lots of coloring books and an Ipad full of Doc McStuffins episodes.
Though the travel can be tiring, we are blessed with great little travelers. 
This job would be nearly impossible without their flexibility and good natures.
This picture: isn't she looking grown up?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Machu Picchu: A 15th century Incan Estate

I finally decided to finish sharing pictures from our Peru trip with some pictures of our day in Machu Picchu, the old 15th-century Incan ruins, almost 8000 feet above sea level. They were only discovered about 100 years ago, being so remote and so high up in the mountains. 

The night before we stayed in a small Andean town in an old hotel inside the train station. 

This may be my current favorite picture of my sweet girls.
Ready to board the train.
We took a train ride through the beautiful countryside and arrived to the main town below the ruins. The girls were probably most excited about the train.

We took a 30 minute bus ride up the side of the mountain to arrive at the gates of Machu Picchu. 
Beautiful countryside.
What fascinated me the most was how high up we were. How did they get these rocks up this high?

Michael explaining to Ellie about this really old village.

A really, really, old, big rock called "Sacred Rock."

We were literally above the clouds.

The girls were troopers walking around.
This was definitely an experience we won't forget, though the girls won't remember it beyond some pictures. We're not sure when and if we'll have an opportunity to travel again to Peru, so this was a special trip for us.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

We Survived Year 1

We landed in Guatemala in April of last year. 
On the plane to Guatemala
We’ve lapped the one year mark.
These girls have changed so much in a year.
Our first week in Guatemala
How have we changed? Who are we, one year later?

It’s been a dense year, full of changes in culture, lifestyle, language, 3 home moves, a steep learning curve to a very demanding job, watching our 9 month-old and 2 year old grow in confidence and language skills, and, not to be overlooked, learning to work together as a couple.

Often change happens so slowly that we can’t name it until there’s a stark contrast from “before.” 

So, how have we changed?

-We eat meat again. I still don’t cook with it at home but we eat out regularly with our travel schedule and the girls really love chicken.
-We continue to think about what it means to live with less. We downsized to 8 duffel bags to move to Guatemala, and then inherited a house full of items from past MCC workers. I am more aware of how much we have in excess than what we lack, especially compared to people we come into contact with every day.

-Simple things like brown sugar from the States bring a lot of joy. After months of putting up with weird brown sugar here, my life is changed for the better because I can enjoy the flavor of my oatmeal again, thanks to my in-laws bringing me packages of brown sugar from the States. 
Goodies from the States I don't get here.
-I’ve heard that personalities change in different languages, and that seems to be true for us. Normally a verbal processor, I don’t have many English speakers with whom I can talk with freely, besides my husband. This has been extremely difficult since I don’t speak Spanish super well, and especially not to the level where I can express myself like I often would like. I’ve become more introverted, quiet, less chatty in group situations. In contrast, because of his high level of Spanish, Michael has stepped up and become more outgoing, intentional in conversation, and to most people here is much less the introvert. I wonder if 4 more years of this pattern will form and shape us more permanently? 

-We don’t get many date opportunities. In the States, we had our occasional dinner out away from the girls and even a couple nights, thanks to trusted friends in Fresno. Here, we have left the girls exactly 3 times, twice after they were in bed for a couple hours where someone stayed in the living room, and once over night when their aunt and uncle were here. We have less freedom to make time for ourselves as a couple. That has a multitude of implications. 

-My girls are amazingly adaptable. They've adopted to life and language and frequent traveling with so much ease.
 -I care less about certain material things. We are still American consumers, and with a bounty of opportunities to partake in American stores, (Costco, Sears, fancy malls), we can still easily get caught up in “stuff” here. But, there’s been a shift. I’m rarely on Pinterest, except when I need to find a specific recipe. I don’t look for how to make my house “nice.” I already live in abundance, even if all my things are mismatched or partially glued together. My girls don’t have a well painted, smartly-decorated room with matching bedspreads and wall hangings and floor rugs. Yet they’re still happy.

-It’s hard for me to take “first world problems” seriously when Guatemala has one of the highest country chronic malnutrition rates in the world (usually swings between #3 and #4). Many people in this country don’t have access to clean water or basic food. I just can’t care that you found a good deal on those expensive shoes that could have fed families here for weeks. I'm not judging, I just don't know how to share that joy.

-We greet everyone with a kiss on the cheek. It’s a habit now. 

-We lock our doors in the car every where we drive.

-We don’t always wear our seat belts.

-Though both my girls are almost always in their carseats (and my 22 month-old is still rear-facing), there are times when at least one of them is unbuckled, sitting on my lap. This is a common reality here and doesn’t induce panic in this safety-mongering mom like it did when we first arrived. Sometimes it’s simply more practical. Either Ellie sits on my lap, or I force someone to sit in the truck bed. Fortunately, for my own sanity, Hazel has very rarely not been in a car seat. She’s just too squirmy. 

-I’ve learned how to make popcorn in a pot on the stove, without my beloved Whirley Pop, how to use a pressure cooker to cook beans in an hour (this was a major paradigm shift), and how to to knead dough by hand without my KitchenAid. 
Our MCC Office
-It’s hard to be a part-time worker and a full-time mom. Really hard. I haven’t figured out yet how to do it well. I'm not sure I will ever figure it out.
-I’ve learned living in another country can be exciting, scary, comfortable, uncomfortable, challenging, and life-changing.
Adventuring together in Peru last month.
So far, it's been worth it.