Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Revisiting Moving Memories – August 21, 2007

For sixteen years, I’ve remembered August 21 as the anniversary of my family’s departure from Los Angeles, heading to Jos, Nigeria. But now that I’ve moved to and from Scotland with my husband and kids, I remember the 1991 move through new eyes.

As a teenager, I watched my parents sort our stuff into “take with us,” “get rid of,” and “store in the U.S.” piles. I knew that I had the allotment of one box of my things to bring with me. Even today I regret some of the choices I made then about things I gave away. But for the most part, it was my mom and dad’s responsibility to figure out how to move our family of five permanently to a new country using 30 boxes (and storing very little).

When faced with similar decisions in 2005 as an adult and a mom, I struggled with various emotions. Part of me was thrilled to be “cutting loose” and not feeling tied to things anymore. Part of me was very sad to sell or give away items I would have preferred to keep. It was not fun to have a massive yard sale and see people looking at my things through bargaining eyes. I felt a responsibility especially to my kids, to choose what was most important to our family of four and make it fit in only 6 duffel bags and a few carry-ons. At least we were only moving for a year, instead of a lifetime. Even so, for the first month in Scotland, I’d go to bed regretting the loss of one thing or another.

At age 14, I was so excited about moving to Africa. Mom and Dad had been talking about it for a few years, so I’d had time to adjust to the idea. I knew I’d have to make new friends, but in L.A. I would have been changing schools anyway. I preferred the idea of an international school and a class of 30, to a Los Angeles public school with a class in the hundreds.

My parents were the ones who had to deal with logistics: shots, passports, visas, bank changes, etc. They stayed up for multiple nights, packing and cleaning. Each box had to be as close to 70 pounds as possible (but not over) and catalogued with its contents. Mom and Dad were the ones who had to get 30 boxes approved by the airline, amidst stares from other passengers in awe of our amount of stuff. They were the ones who worried about my sister’s refusal to eat during our entire journey, and probably wondered what they were in for in this new land and new job.

At age 28, I was the one responsible for the logistics. First there was getting visas—Steve took a day off work to take a train with me and the kids to downtown Chicago, aiming to come back with the necessary British visas. Instead we found that the visa fees were four times what we thought, and that we could not walk away with the visas in our hands. Then there was selling our home—I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning, cleaning and then crying my heart out, full of memories and fondness for our house. And just like my parents experienced, we felt the stares of Europeans in the Dublin airport, condemning us for our carts of luggage (their baggage allowance is even less than domestic U.S. flights). I broke down in tears when the airline attendants spoke harshly to us, accusing us of delaying the flight as our carry-ons had to be checked due to the European baggage allowance.

I’d never really thought about what my mom had to go through, learning to cook and keep house in a different culture. At 14, I’d been wrapped up in my own transitions and my efforts to make friends in my new school. In Scotland, though, I had to adjust my recipes to a different method of measuring and different ingredients. I had to learn to shop by foot and bus, instead of driving my mini-van. I struggled to cook and do laundry with fewer amenities and in a much smaller space. Within weeks I wrote to my mom, saying how my eyes had been opened not only to her international move, but also to her days of mothering 2 preschoolers in a small space and without a car.

Little did I realize in 1991 that my first international move would prepare me for another one 14 years later. Even though I’d moved as a carefree teen, I’d seen what my parents went through and I was aware of some of what was involved. Hopefully my next international move will benefit from both of these past experiences. That is the purpose of memory, is it not?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Depression Again – August 13, 2007

I feel like a failure in every way. I don’t know how normal, happy people do it. I’m tired of my messy tendencies and my inability to keep house well. Tired of feeling disorganized and unscheduled.

I feel like a failure with my kids – when Naomi is so insolent, or I have to call Josiah three times before he comes, I just wonder why I ever thought I could parent. And how ridiculous to think I can home-school!!!

I’m a discouraging, nagging wife to Steve, and a non-existent neighbor and witness. I’ve lived here for 9 months and don’t even have friends yet. And I don’t manage to stay in touch with good friends who live far away. Worst of all, I find it so hard to pray and read my Bible.

I don’t know why doctors think that antidepressants and counseling would make an improvement for me. I don’t think anything can help.

Gorgeous Perseids! Aug. 12, 2007

If you’ve never star-gazed during the annual meteor shower in August, you should give it a try! Steve and I put a blanket on our lawn tonight and within 10 minutes, saw 5 meteors! I was so thankful I live in a dark place. I remember that as a kid, my dad would drive us quite a ways out of Los Angeles to get us into the mountains where the light pollution wasn’t so bad. All I had to do was step out my front door and lie on the grass! The sky was beautiful. We stayed out for half an hour and enjoyed talking quietly and seeing God’s creation. Two meteors in particular were gorgeous, with long tails and very bright. Happy gazing!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Everybody’s Learning!

I’ve just begun learning Arabic! We bought the Rosetta Stone computer tutorial for oral, written, and spoken Arabic and I began working on it today. It’s a great system (so far) for learning a language on my own (which I admit is highly inferior to learning it in context). Even Naomi worked on it a little with me, but got frustrated and stopped. I was really worried about learning a new language because I never was able to speak or comprehend French very well when I studied it in school. But I’m liking this so far.

Ethan is learning how to get around! He began crawling a month ago and now also pulls/pushes himself to a standing position whenever he can. Sometimes he waits until there is something above him to hold onto; sometimes he just pushes onto his feet from a crawling position. He loves to move!

Naomi is learning to face her social fears and get to know new people. She attended her first Vacation Bible School in mid-July, at a Baptist church in town. She was so scared ahead of time, and even threatened to throw fits if I made her go. But we talked about it a lot, and I managed to convince her to give it a try. She ended up loving it, and even made a new friend. This week, she and Josiah are both attending another VBS at the Gertzes’ Baptist church, and again are loving it.

Steve is learning about an early 20th Century British missionary to Egypt named Temple Gairdner. He’s considering switching his dissertation topic to this man (instead of Raymond Llull) in part because he would not have to learn Latin in order to read Gairdner’s writing. (He would only have to learn Arabic first!) We’re also trying to learn that though God doesn’t answer prayers the way we hope, he is still listening and providing for us. Steve did not get a job we hoped he would, so we’re unsure what this year will look like, though perhaps it will be a good time for Steve to take Arabic classes and study Gairdner.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Farmer's Market – August 1, 2007

God ministered to us in a sweet way today at the Lexington Farmer’s Market.

My kids love the experience of walking by all the tables displaying bread, honey, vegetables, flowers, and fruit. When we went in early summer, Naomi’s favorite thing was the flowers. For a few weeks, we didn’t make it to farmer’s market because I wasn’t in the habit of driving to town on a Wednesday. This week I made it a priority and we were blessed.

There was an abundance of vegetables and fruit, which was nice for me so I don’t have to buy my produce at Wal-Mart this week! There was a soft puppy for the kids to pet, and a choir friend of mine to greet. A lady selling bouquets of flowers saw my kids and came after us, telling Naomi and Josiah that they could each pick their own flower from her collection. Such a small gesture meant a lot to my preschoolers who love flowers. Naomi’s flower had a slightly prickly stem, so the lady even wrapped it in green tissue paper and tied it with a string.

We bought a few tomatoes and a cucumber at one family’s stand. They were also selling honey and offered to give us a taste. The kids enjoyed two mouthfuls of sweetness and were delighted by the “bear” bottles of honey for sale. The owner told me all the prices, and right away offered me a “two for one” deal. But I hesitated because I only had a few dollars left in my wallet. He said he was so taken with my kids – that they were well-behaved and sweet – that he’d give them a bear bottle of honey for free.

I couldn’t believe it! I was truly impressed by his generosity, and grateful for the encouragement he gave me by complimenting my kids. But it got even better…

We returned to the market two hours later and were sitting in the shade, near the same stall. The friendly vendor remembered that we’d previously bought tomatoes and cucumber, packaged up some more for us and brought them to the kids as yet another gift. Naomi and Josiah dove right in and each ate a tomato and half a cucumber. That they would eat raw vegetables so cheerfully added to his high opinion of them!

It was now near the market’s closing time and the same man came to me one more time and told me we could have any squash or cucumber for no charge because he was going to pack up and go home. We gave him the last of our money and picked out a few more cucumbers (my kids think they’re delicious!). Tonight we enjoyed sweet, ripe tomatoes in our taco salad, thanks to this family at the farmer’s market.

On the way home from town, I asked the kids what their favorite part of the day had been (we’d also been to a story time at the library and done a craft). Naomi’s favorite was the farmer’s market, though she didn’t specify why. I said that my favorite had been the market, too, but because it was so special to be given gifts by complete strangers … flowers, honey, cucumbers, tomatoes and kind words. Thank you, God, for an encouraging day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Gertzes Move

My in-laws, “Mom and Dad” Gertz, have now moved out of their apartment. Yesterday was the last day of their lease and they spent it cleaning. They’ve been moving for over a week, taking loads back and forth in their huge van, between their apartment and a storage room in their house that’s under construction still. They’ll be temporarily living with Steve’s sister and her son while they get their new house closer to completion.

We helped them get started with their packing last weekend, and Steve’s helped them more in the past few days. I’ve had them over for three dinners and delivered a fourth to them, including last night and the night before.

It’s going to be really strange not having them down the road anymore. I thought we’d spend more time with them than we did. Nonetheless, I was always glad they were so close by. Sometimes the kids and I would stop by to say hi to Mom on our way home from town. Or if we were all out walking after dinner, we’d go to their place to give them wildflowers and the kids would tell them the latest about their day.

One night there was a lunar eclipse and we couldn’t see it from our house because we’re next to woods. So we hopped in our car, drove for one minute to their place and watched the eclipse together while enjoying root beer floats (they always manage to have ice-cream at their house!)

If we had fix-it problems, Dad often came over immediately to help out. Steve carpooled every morning with Dad, driving together to the construction site. And it was just plain convenient for times we needed babysitters or just wanted to get together. It was nice having somewhere we could walk to! (Being on a farm, we drive to just about everywhere else.)

Now we’ll have the benefit of seeing them when we’re in town. On library days, I’ll have a place to let Ethan nap, in between my various errands. And hopefully we’ll have some lunches together when we’re in town for other reasons.

But I’ll miss having them as neighbors, that’s for sure. Thanks, Mom and Dad Gertz, for everything!