Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy birthday baby girl!

Leah is the big 1 today! We celebrated Venezuelan style with a cake and ice cream. She loved having everyone sing to her.
She devoured the cake. We weren't even paying attention. We look over after cutting some cake and serving it to people and she's going crazy. No one had to tell her what to do with it!
We needed a quick little shower (no baths even if we wanted to, only showers here) after all of this. She wasn't too bad though.
Noah didn't mind the cake either.

As a little treat for the kids, we went to McDonalds today. It's about a 10 or 15 minute walk so we went there, since Noah loves it and they have a little play place. That's surprising to us considering a lot of McDonalds in the States don't even have those. They really enjoyed it for many reasons. They love getting out of the apartment in general, so that was a bonus to get to play somewhere else too.

Sweet Julieta (she Venezuelan and her and her husband, Christian, are on staff here with their son Lucas) took me and Noah to get Leah some cake and ice cream. I knew where to get ice cream but the bakeries here can be a little complicated. I really appreciated her help. And the stinters and Christian and Julieta and Lucas came to celebrate with all of us. It was absolute chaos (oh and the a/c stopped working because they cut the power last night to conserve electricity). So imagine 85+ degree weather with no a/c with 35+ people all in one room. :) It's Venezuela!! Anyways, it was a lot of fun to celebrate with everyone. Leah had a great day and Noah can now say she is 1 instead of 0.

More pictures of life here to come. We just wanted to celebrate our baby girl today!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The weekend, and a recap

A good chunk of the weekend was a much needed reprieve. We had all day Friday off, except for a fun social dinner and ice-cream later that evening. And then with the exception of a trip to the orphanage on Saturday from 1-5 and a home-church meeting from 1030-1130, we had the rest of the time together as a family.

Let me tell you, this was big for us; let's hope it helped our kids enough to carry them through this week. To this point, life in our apartment has just not been much fun. Leah has been cranky, sick, not sleeping well at all, and just generally upset for about a week now. So she cries and whimpers often. Noah has been those same things but his crankiness manifests itself in just general disobedience and lashing out. He is nearing his third birthday in a few months so part of this is to be expected, but it hasn't been pretty since we've arrived. Not a fun time.

With that said though, in total honesty Melissa and I are doing fairly well. We were able to have a few significant conversations together and really connect this weekend. And the culture shock that usually comes along a week or so into a trip like this hasn't been an issue at all. We're pretty sure this is because of how similar Venezuela can be to Azerbaijan--often we feel like we're back on Stint again, only with two little ones. So, spiritually and physically we are both doing rather well--trusting God with our lives and our project. But our emotions are sometimes off, which is to be expected with two constantly cranky kids.

The project has been incredibly fruitful. We have seen many come to Christ and have already shared the gospel with 391 Venezuelan students! Our students have really been faithful and have been going for it on campus. Alex Hill, one of the guys on our project, got to see 11 students receive Christ as their Lord over the course of three days last week! And both Melissa and I have really loved being on campus as well. The students here just seem to be generally more welcoming and willing to engage in conversation--even conversations in which they are told that their entire thinking about spiritual things could be wrong! It's just really refreshing.

Just about every conversation I've had here has been fruitful. The first few days a student involved in Campus Crusade for Christ here in Valencia and I went out to go sharing. We approached a group of three and began to chat. During the conversation I began to paint a picture of everything God wants to do in the world--that he wants to remove our guilt as far as the east is from the west, that in Jesus he has begun a new Kingdom and a renewed people to be loving and comforting and gracious, that God wants to heal every broken heart and wipe away every tear, that it is his desire for every person to be whole and not fractured and broken relationally, physically. One of the girls in the group began to tear up. We could tell this was what she wanted; she wanted to be made whole again, and for all her pain and sorrow to be washed away. God was working in her heart. Ultimately she did not decide to make a decision to give her life to Jesus (I think perhaps the pressure was a bit much for her with her two friends there), but we have planted a seed.
She finally heard the best story in the world, and that she could be a part of it.

Prayer for us would be much appreciated. For our kids and our continued faithfulness on campus.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The beach

So this past Saturday we all went to the beach with Venezuelan students. It was an hourish drive and then we took a boat for 15-20 minutes. It was pretty interesting. Honestly, there were moments we thought maybe we weren't going to make it on the boat. There were around 10 people on each of the below boats and they do not "drive" slowly regardless of the conditions of the water. The kids handled it pretty well.Once we got there, they both loved the sand. Leah would find all kinds of corral and put it in her mouth. Great. At least she wasn't eating handfuls of sand.
Noah didn't really want to go in the water. The guys tried to talk him in to it, but he didn't like the waves. Can't really blame him. They almost took him out a few times.
But he went in with Tony. And Tony took good care of him. Some of the students even built a sand wall for him so he could just sit and the water would come up but not get him because he was behind the wall. They were really good to him all day.
Leah passed out a little while after we got there. She started to fall asleep on the boat but then it got pretty rough. Bart didn't mind. He doesn't like sand anyways, so he got to take a nap with her. And then burnt the tops of his feet because they were sticking out past the umbrella. Whoops!
I feel like I just had to take this picture. I looked up and this was my view. Come on buddy. Put some more clothes on! It's ok though. I would probably rather see that than all the women walking around in their bikini thongs. Yuck. Seriously. Noah definitely loved playing in the sand and even contributed to burying Kristin. But he didn't really understand why. Matter of fact, I don't really understand why either....
He was loving just dumping sand all over himself. He looked like a little albino child since he was covered in sand.
Then the little man passed out on the boat ride back. I have no idea how but he must have been pretty tired.
And on the van ride back, they both passed out. Bart started to also, but probably would've dropped the baby, so he stayed awake. The kids were pretty worn out but they had fun. And we did too. However, the beach isn't nearly as much fun when you get to clean sand out of 2 kids' cracks and crevices.
More to come soon. We're pretty tired but starting to feel like we're catching up and getting a little more energy. We feel like project has been go go go, but it's great for motivating people. We're just getting old so it's harder for us. :)

And as a little side note from the beach, yesterday on campus I saw a girl named Cristal accept Christ! It was pretty amazing! She is 21, has been married for 5 years and has a 4 year old. In the past year, she has lost her mother and other family members (extended family) and her father has been sick so she has felt the burden of taking care of him because she's the oldest. She has 4 younger brothers and I think 2 younger sisters, so she was at a point of needing to really rely on the Lord and allow him to provide peace and rest for her. We're excited to get to follow up with her and we told her she should go home and share with her husband and son. I'm praying that the stresses of life don't keep her from getting involved and growing in her new faith. Will you please pray with us for that? What an awesome opportunity we have to present the love of Jesus to the people of Venezuela!!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Some VZ pictures

These are not in any kind of order....but here's our kitchen with totally open cupboards (great for babies and toddlers) and the bottles of alcohol on top of the cupboards.Around 30 people crammed in our living/dining room for dinner 3 nights a week. Not really sure what Clay and Justin are laughing at, but probably Noah.
Noah passed out on our Pooh blanket. He pretty much always naps in our room now so they can both get decent naps. It's working ok for us.
And the airplane ride. Noah definitely wasn't a fan of taking off but then he did fine. He didn't like the 2nd flight nearly as much, probably because it was 4 hours and felt really long. Leah did really well considering she was a lap child and couldn't really go anywhere.
The weekend was a combination of tiring and relaxing. On Saturday we decided to go to the beach. That meant leaving at 7:45 and getting back around 6:00. It was a long day but the kids had fun. We'll post more pictures soon. We have to download more of them. Plus, we don't want to overwhelm.....

Oh and the Venezuelan Pentecost (we've adapted this from the Azeri Pentecost as we used to call it on Stint) has arrived. Not really. We've just all had a little bit of the runs. It might have been some of the veggies we ate with dinner last night. They had soaked in a vinegar solution but maybe that didn't work? We're not feeling bad though, so that's pretty amazing considering how bad it could be. We're praying we don't get any of that nasty stuff. The kids have colds but they're handling it pretty well. So sad to have a cold in a really hot place, but I'm sure their bodies are adjusting to a lot here.

Please pray for sleep, energy, health and that we would rely on the Lord. Last week was great and we're hoping it continues to be great and that we and the students don't get sick and/or burnt out. Oh and pray for some of the guys on the project. Some decided to not be wise and apply sunscreen at the beach and they are very much paying the consequence for it (one guy is blistering). They would appreciate the prayers as they try to recover.

Until next they say in Venezuela: chow (good-bye)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The first few days

From my (Melissa's) perspective:
Well, with almost a day of travel and all of us not going to bed until 4 am on the morning we arrived, we thought it would be good to get up, take a shower, have some breakfast and then get the ball rolling. Nope, no water. Wasn't planning on that. Actually, we did have water at 6 am when I randomly woke up and thought I had a good night's sleep only to find out I slept for 2 hours and it was super bright outside. But I choose to go back to bed, and then wake up at 8 to now water. Whoops!

Most of our first day here we didn't have water. That kind of makes for a small challenge with kids. We went out to eat for lunch and dinner with the team since no one had any sort of food other than breakfast (the stint team that is hear graciously got us all breakfast food for the first few days we were here). So that was nice not to have to run to the grocery store right away. Problem is, I still don't totally know where to get groceries. I mean, Christian, a Venezuelan staff guy took me the other night because we were barely getting by on what we had, but it was a 10 minute drive and, let's be honest, I'll probably get lost if I try to go there again. Oh well. I think there are some small places close by. I have a few weeks to figure it out. :)

The kids have been doing ok. Leah is a super trooper. She's been sleeping really well and eating pretty well here. I haven't been able to give them much fruits or vegetables since we got here since I forgot to buy vinegar at the store, but they're surviving off of bananas and other things. Noah has had a pretty hard transition. He understands that this is weird and he doesn't understand why we live with 2 other people (we're sharing a 3 bedroom apartment with the other 2 staff women on the project, so there are 6 of us in the apartment). He likes them both, so enjoys playing with them or asking where they are. Luckily our apartment complex has a little playground type area that we can go to when both kids are awake. There's a pool too, but we're not sure if we can actually use it. Noah is pretty excited about it though. It even has a kiddy area.

I'm feeling pretty disconnected from the project. Our apartment is far enough away from everyone else that it makes it pretty hard to be involved with 2 kids. But 3 nights a week, everyone will be at our place for dinner, so that is good. And I'll get on campus to meet with students at least once a week. And we have a family night where we go out and do something fun, so I'll be able to touch base with people here and there. Sometimes I just feel like there's not much purpose in me being here. Though I am in charge of all the money, so it's probably good for Bart and Claire (and the students) to not have to worry about all of that stuff.

Julieta, Christian's wife, and I have been able to touch base a little. They have a 2 year old and a baby due in August so it's nice to be able to connect with someone who is in a similar life stage. I'm really looking forward to being able to spend time with her.

I honestly haven't seen Bart much. It's pretty strange. I feel like I just need to get out and explore but Bart doesn't like that very much. He worries that it's not safe. It is, at least during the day. I went out by myself with the kids the other day to meet up with everyone for dinner and a few people kind of freaked out. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Stay cooped up in the apartment all day long every day? No way!

Oh and the apartment. Let's just say, bachelor pad. Gross. This is how dirty it was. Leah is crawling and the tops of her feet and her knees where constantly black. DISgusting. So we (I) decided that I would pay someone to come clean the place on the 2nd day we were hear cause I just straight up could not handle it. It's better now. And it's such a strange apartment. The guy has enough toilet paper to last like a year. Sweet. Don't have to buy toilet paper. He has like 20 tooth brushes between 2 bathrooms. He has 2 plants, 1 of which is looking pretty bad, but the other 1 looks perfect. He has a strange porcelain doll type thing sitting between the plants. I'll take pictures and post this stuff. Don't worry. Oh and he has like 20 empty bottles of alcohol sitting on the high shelf in the kitchen. And that's not mentioning the numerous pictures/figures of Mary/Jesus or something of the like. He also has a tv in every room and an empty fish tank which Noah got pretty excited about cause there was a car in it. So weird.

Oh, and he had a dog. Dog hair everywhere. I'm used to it already. There isn't a vacuum here so what can you do? There is absolutely nothing childproof about this place. We have to lay the stroller in the kitchen area so Leah can't get in to everything because there are no cupboard doors or anything. And there are knives, spoons, tools, pots, pans and many other things she could get into. Hoy da. We do have hot water though and air conditioning. Both are pretty darn amazing. So it could definitely be worse. Oh and the blanket on our bed.....Pooh. One big gigantic Pooh. Noah loves it. This place screams bachelor pad, yet not at all at the same time. I really don't get it. But we're here and it's working for us. And I kind of have to laugh even as I type this. The joys of living in another country.

So this has been a book. Sorry. It's been a lot of what I expected and yet a lot of what I haven't expected. But we're making it work. Noah is picking up a little Spanish and everyone that sees our little gringo kids either smile or say something in Spanish. Most of the time I just smile cause I have no idea what they're saying. I think there will be a lot of that this summer. Me just not knowing half of what people are saying. That's ok. As long as I know where home, food and the bathroom are, I'm probably good.

Out like trout.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

We're in Venezuela!

Or as Noah likes to call it, Wenezuela.

Traveling wasn't a blast, but we figured it wouldn't be. The thing about our kids is that they have a hard time sleeping anywhere but in their bed/crib; Leah in particular. Noah actually did a pretty good job, considering.

We left from Capital City Church in Columbus about noon on Sunday for the airport. Our flight left at 3ish so we felt we had plenty of time, but we didn't account very well for the chaos that results from traveling with 30 people. Some people checked in but forgot to grab their boarding passes from the self check-in. Others were a bit frantic over their bags and the like. Others were just downright scared or anxious leaving the states for a month and a half. Eventually we made it, but with little time to eat. Our family scarfed down some chicken and fries in about 10 minutes while everyone else boarded and eventually we all made it.

They did pretty good the first flight--but having a lap child is not very much fun. What is especially not fun is that Leah is at that curious-I-want-to-crawl-everwhere-and-stick-everything-in-my-mouth stage so sitting on a plane with us holding here is not her idea of fun.

We arrived in Atlanta with everything and everyone we needed. We didn't have a long layover, only an hour, so we walked quickly to the next gate. The Atlanta flight was not so much fun. Noah decided it was a good time for his potty skills to completely evaporate and twice he peed in his pants. Changing entire outfits twice is not a fun thing on an airplane, especially with a whimpering, crying 2-year old. Towards the end of the 4+ hour flight, Noah just wanted to get off. "I want to be done with airplane." Leah was fussy for a while until she eventually fell asleep with Melissa holding her. It, of course, wasn't a restful sleep and she awoke every so often to let the people on the plane know she wasn't a very happy camper. We let Noah watch Cars on our computer just for sanity.

We trudged through the Caracas airport. As is pretty common in Venezuela, the bus that was coming to pick us up was about 30 minutes late so I think we boarded the bus and left around 1130 or so. The bus ride was ok, actually. Noah slept on me and Leah on Melissa and we each got a bit of sleep as well. Upon arrival in Valencia we dropped the girls apartment off first--but that was a bigger task then we thought. We had to make sure they were situated and comfortable and all that before we boarded the bus again to drop off the rest of the project at the hotel. The long wait was that the hotel clerk had to enter all 18 people staying there into the hotel with their passport info. That took quite a while with Melissa and the kids and Clay hanging on the bus the entire time. The kids were troopers really; it could have been much worse.

We eventually made it to our apartment and got our stuff situated. Leah was not ready to just be laid down after all that holding so she let us know all about her tough day. Even that, though, wasn't for very long--maybe 10 minutes. They got some sleep and we did as well. We awoke to the beginning of summer project in Valencia!

We'll post about our first few days soon, stay tuned for updates!