Saturday, September 17, 2016

September School, Birthday and Baby News

We've been deep in school routines and work lately. My second-born finds change the hardest, so it's nice to hear that he's adjusting better to classroom activities.
Some more exciting news we found out since the last post is that our new baby is a girl!!!! Everyone was hoping for a girl and very excited to know. I don't have check ups here, we just called a reputable ultrasound clinic and went. I think it was $15 for everything. We are also almost finished getting the midwife plane tickets! It's exciting!
My Talia turned 9 this month. To celebrate, we went out to a big mall with a dollar store (the best) and got really good pizza! That's rare since pizza on the street here is sweet and has weird toppings like boiled eggs. Instead of a birthday cake, she opted for doughnuts, also a rare treat.
On the way home, it started raining and the kids were excited to ride home in a downpour with the sides down on the Tuk Tuk.
Family pitched in to get her a good used bicycle, which she has wanted for years. She was ecstatic! Here, the best bikes are used ones from Japan. The shiny new ones from Vietnam break every time you look at them... But that's a story for another day.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Green Fruit and Custard Apples

People seem to eat a lot of things before they're ripe here. People walk down the street every day pushing carts filled with green coconuts or green oranges. Green tomatoes are a popular acidic side to greasy foods. Green bananas are used in cooking. 

A fruit I had never seen before, that was also a green color, was introduced to me recently; but this fruit is ripe:
In Khmer it's called "pry tee-ahp." In Spanish it's "cherimoya" and in English I've heard it called custard apple or anona.

You peel off the bumpy green outside. It's thick and dry, so it peels off easily from the grape-like consistency of the interior.

Inside, the white part is divided into sections. Each section has a big, shiny, black seed inside.

The white part is delicious! It has a peachy, pear-like flavor. Compared to its ugly exterior, it is surprisingly nice!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Starting School in Cambodia and Working with Children of Prisoners

School started August 10th, and with it a very different schedule. Our mornings (and the night before) are busy making sure the kids have everything they need for the day, breakfast, teeth brushed, uniforms on etc. before we get out the door and on a tuk-tuk.
Their school has a dual language program with English and Khmer, all on the same level. Because this would mean Talia taking 4th grade subjects in a language she completely doesn't understand, she comes home after the English program. The boys, however, are at the right age to learn Khmer, so they stay later. At first this meant making 3 separate tuk tuk rides throughout the day to get everyone to and from school, but now Talia takes the school bus (whose route just started) home and is excited to do that for the first time. They seem to be adjusting well, and like their classes.

When they started their school, I started my work with Prison Fellowship International. I work with the Children of Prisoners Program to help children around the world who have lost a parent to prison  get sponsors. This program began after a prison ministry program. The mentors would go into the prisons and hear the same request almost every time. "Will you please tell me how my kids are?" When the mentors went out to find the kids of these prisoners sometimes they found grandmothers on their deathbeds struggling for all they were worth to stay alive and protect the children. Sometimes those children were being rented out as slaves. Some were sold into prostitution without a protector there to prevent that. Some begged on the streets to survive. The hardest news to relay was when they had to tell a prisoner that their child had died. This program was started to connect these very needy children with a sponsor who would supply (usually only $28 a month) to help the child stay in school, have access to healthcare and counseling if needed. The prison ministry part also focuses on helping prisoners reintegrate with society and their families after they come out so that these children can have a family again. Otherwise, what often happens is that they end up right back in jail. There is so much more information connected to these three ministries by Prison Fellowship International, but basically, my role gets the information about the children edited and verified so that it can be sent to the main office and they can get a sponsor. The people I work with here in Cambodia are wonderful people, also, with varying roles in this program.

I realize my blessings every day as I see the photos of children from these countries. I'm thankful my children have food, shelter, people who love and protect them and the ability to go to school.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Adjusting to Cambodia

Our first impressions of Cambodia were:
(Elias jet-lagged upon arrival.)

-Amazement at the million motorcycles weaving through traffic with a few cars and more Tuk-tuks, with hardly any stoplight at intersections. The rule here is "push until you get through."
(Above: view from the fourth floor balcony.)

-Powerlines aren't the three or four big black lines trailing from a post you'd see in the States or Mexico, but hundreds of lines snaking off of every pole. The electricity has gone out three or four times since we've been here, maybe that or the construction has something to do with it.

-Here, like in Abu Dhabi, instead of toilet paper, it is more common to use a sprayer hose. The only problem is that the water pressure is so high on them you have to be careful. Ezra loves spraying the water. We, like most people here, live in a narrow, very tall house connected to a row of houses. It goes up on very narrow stairs to a fourth floor. There are two bathrooms on the bottom floor where the kitchen, living room and guest room are and one on the third floor where the kids bedrooms are. This morning Elias said "Mommy, why is water falling on my head?" Ezra was up on the third floor in the bathroom spraying the water down the stairs. Our room is on the second floor, and since I'm pregnant, that means I have learned to navigate the stairs half asleep several times a night to get to a bathroom.

-School for the kids starts this week. We were thrilled to find out that all of their supplies were covered under a book fee and we didn't have to go out looking for them!
(Above: A neighbor loaned a bike to Elias and Ezra wanted a turn.)

-Stores here are mostly specialized and not "everything under one roof." We've found a decent "Western" store but before that cereal was anywhere from $8-$18 a box. We didn't get it.
(Above: Talia sweeping with a traditional broom.)

-For breakfast here, most people eat pork and rice, rice porridge or a type of rice noodle soup served with a bread stick. We usually make eggs for breakfast so finding them was a priority. It was interesting to learn that duck eggs are more common here than chicken. They're bigger and richer, so that's fine, but so far we've gotten chicken eggs.

Lots of things have been going on! I'll have to tell you about some of them later.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Reflections on first week of being a principal

After several years of feeling that I had more to contribute in a strategic role than in a classroom, I found myself miserable in a paradise.  Our time in Los Cabos, Mexico, was a time of intense personal and professional growth, but hardly any of it was comfortable.  Most of the time, it was downright painful!  I realized a needed a change, and soon, so began apply for administration jobs in locales and schools that interested me.

We originally were trying to stay within the Spanish-speaking world for our kids’ sake, but realized that they had progressed with their language skills more than we had expected.  We started looking in other places, and after not having much luck with various coordinator-type roles that I was more than qualified for, decided to apply for principal jobs in some smaller/growing schools.  A friend sent me an advertisement for a secondary principal position in Cambodia, a place we were fairly opposed to going, or really just hadn’t seriously considered, as it just didn’t fit our picture of where we were going next.  However, the school was exactly the type of school I was looking for: growing and young.  After some serious discussions as a couple, we decided to apply.  What could it hurt?

Long story short, I got hired as Secondary Principal.  I was a little surprised to get hired, but after having been here for a week, realize that it’s the perfect fit.  Cambodia, while still very much developing, is along the lines of what we were looking for.  The staff and management at my school are very supportive.  The workload and expectations are manageable and reasonable, yet there is much work to be done to grow the school.  Everyone is happy, positive, and energetic.  What’s not to like? Pretty much everyone at the school speaks English, so my lack of Khmer isn’t so much an issue for now, though I’m learning more every day. 

 A major benefit is something that I hadn’t even considered until after I arrived. My broad dissertation topic for my doctorate at this point is establishing or growing schools in war-torn regions.  Cambodia fits the bill, although it’s several decades past that point.  The effects are still easily seen, though, in too many ways to describe right now.  The obvious context for that dissertation topic is the Middle East, and that very likely will factor in at some point, and we did live in Guatemala for a couple of years after its civil war (what is the deal with so many wars in this world?!). 

We’re very fortunate to have this opportunity, and we plan to make the most of it.  Life is good.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Last May Surprise

So many things happened in May. Many of them are in my last 2 posts, but there are two in particular that I didn't mention. One was how special my family made Mother's Day by hanging up beautiful homemade cards on my door to surprise me when I got home! I hadn't been feeling well, so when Ben asked what I wanted for Mother's Day, I said "some good vitamins!" And, sweetheart that he is, that's what I got. And they did make me feel better, until all the sudden I didn't. I started getting really nauseous and tired.That's when I found out my last present in May: a positive pregnancy test.

This pregnancy has been harder, so far, than others I've experienced. The nausea is more intense and I don't feel well often. It makes it easier to like that Ben says this is the last one. It would be much harder to miss easy pregnancies than to remember how disgusting this one feels and be glad it's over. International moves while pregnant are no joke. Thankfully, I think we've mostly got it down. Minimize, minimize, minimize, then pack clothes and books and go! Then, find a midwife as soon as possible. We are in the minimize stage of: separating things into storage, give away, throw away and take right now.

Previously, the saving grace of living in a desert during summer has been the really great air conditioning available. Here, that's not the case. Air conditioners are for one room only and, in my experience, barely cool that. So we do what everyone else does, spend the sweltering evenings outside where there's a breeze until the sun goes down enough that the house isn't quite boiling. As we live on a main street, any semblance of privacy goes out the window, literally, because you can't afford to keep them closed in the heat. Cabo is such a beautiful place. I will always remember that part of it. But now, I am also really looking forward to visiting family in the States with their air conditioners!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Birthday Weekend

May is full of so many family birthdays, but I will have to hug them all when I get home. I had a fabulous birthday with friends and family!
My teacher friends took me to a great restaurant with nice outdoor seating and tasty pizza. However, that outdoor seating turned into a memorable moment when a bird sky bombed the girl next to me! Thankfully, everything washed out well and no harm was done.
They insisted on this photo, too.
Ben took us to Puerto Paraiso, a mall in the same city as the church we attend, and we ate at a 50's diner. Afterward, the kids loved seeing the spotted fish and the crabs in the marina waters. We took their picture in this:
Then our friends threw me a poolside pizza party with chocolate tres leches cake! Talia swam until she HAD to get out and everyone had fun.

The next day everyone was sick except for myself and Elias, so we went to school, where even MORE surprises awaited. I am so spoiled. I know it. I'm surrounded by beautiful, loving people and so blessed. ❤️ 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Teacher's Day Celebrations

May tenth in Mexico is always Mother's Day. We had a huge 80's themed program at school to celebrate the mothers and then, the following weekend was...... Teacher's Day!
It was amazing! Our school took us out on a camel adventure with Cabo Adventures. We hiked through the desert, went camel back riding on the beach, and ate delicious typical food like chicken in mole and beans and fresh-off-the-'comal' tortillas and quesadillas.
The guide said the dress they modeled for the excursion was after North African camel herders. Our safety helmets had head coverings sewn on just for fun.
The next day we were all invited to a fellow teacher's family vacation house near a beautiful dam between mountains. The view of the water and cactus covered mountains was really pretty.
Of course, the kid's favorite part was the pool!
Talia stayed in as looooooong as she possibly could. She loves jumping in the water!

All of us had a lot of fun spending time with fellow teachers who are also close friends. I'm always so thankful for the wonderful people I work with! 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Desert Plants and Flowers in San José del Cabo

Talia and I like to run and hike together when we get a chance. Sometimes we go to the estuary and sometimes we visit the camels and the dolphins, or visit the horses at the beach, and other times just walk around the historic district of San José. 

One of our favorite things to see, besides the animals, are the interesting flowers and plants that exist in this dry environment.
Mangos are Talia's favorite fruit and it is almost mango season!!! They are just starting to change from green to red and yellow.
Of course there are cactus fruits.
And this cactus was budding.
This little bush looked like it had apples but they weren't as hard or big as an apple.
There are lots of interesting seed pods.
Some are really weird kiwi-looking things.
Others are bright orange....
With red circular seeds inside when they burst open.
Guamuchil fruit that gives you dry mouth.
Talia loves the flowers!
We saw hummingbirds around these yellow trumpet-shaped flowers.
This looked like a tree at the bottom and a cactus at the top!

Come hiking with us!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Ezra turned 2!

Can you believe this boy is 2 already?! I barely can. For his birthday he had a small party at his class.
He had fun at school and then on his birthday got to go to the party of another friend where he played a lot.
He slept really good that night.
Happy birthday, Ezra, we love you!

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Next Chapter: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

As you may have noticed, the beginning of a new year is also usually when many schools begin their hiring process for the next school year. This means, usually around March or April, we know where we have been contracted to move next.

This time we have something we have never done before: Asia! It is a land where the local people went through horrific war where the educated, fair and even those who wore glasses were targeted and killed. To survive many people had to learn to eat insects and find non-traditional nutrition options. Even today you can find snake-on-a-stick, deep fried tarantula, crickets (like Mexico) and other insects for sale in the markets.

We will be going to the capital city of Cambodia: Phnom Penh. We are excited that Benjamin will get a chance as secondary principal and I will be teaching 5th grade again. Our children will attend the school there, like they do here. I am excited to be working with many Filipinos again, like in Abu Dhabi, and just being closer to the lovely friends I have in the Philippines again.

Of course, the hardest part of this move is leaving so much of our hearts behind. Mexico is a beautiful place. It's so nice to speak the language! The people we've met here have impacted us on a deep level. It's the kind of place to which I hope to one day return.

But there is also excitement in a new adventure. Asia is completely new to us and the pictures are beautiful. Khmer (pronounced kuh-m.eye) is another new alphabet to learn. Come along with us and see the pictures as it unfolds!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Palabra de Vida Rehabilitation Center, San Jose del Cabo

As we travel around the world, one of the things we always look for is a way to give back.  In San José del Cabo, the opportunity worked out without us even trying. In church one day, the pastor asked Ben as a gentleman walked by, "Have you met Bill?" This was the beginning of our relationship with Palabra de Vida.
Here, Bill is helping Talia get in position to whack the pinata.

Palabra de Vida is, as they say a "Rehabilitation Center [that] seeks to provide the necessary tools for the drug addict and alcoholic to be restored through God’s Word, to be equipped to live and lead a Christian life and to be successfully and safely integrated back into the community as a healthy and wholly transformed person." Ben and I both have worked here as translators, and Ben also teaches English. I don't say any of this feeling special or to get attention. Actually, we've gotten more than we've been able to give. Palabra de Vida and Bill and Jacki have played a very special and important part in our stop here in Mexico. They are very generous and kind people who we look up to and who felt called to start a non-exploitive rehabilitation center here. (I won't even go into how other centers here exploit the addicts. It makes me sick to my stomach.)

Beautiful Jacki
 Everywhere we go, I feel like God has brought key people into our lives to help us grow. I'm very thankful for the ways Bill and Jacki have been part of our Cabo family and let us be a part of the Center (Jacki would want that spelled the Canadian way: Centre). Our kids have been over there for piñatas and love playing with the Center's dogs. 
Talia whacking the pinata!

 I love being at the Center. It feels peaceful and purposeful. They provide classes to the addicts who choose to be there. The guys can leave at any time, though a normal cycle usually lasts 10 months.
They are provided with healthy meals, lessons in practical things like health, resume building, how to make a budget, English, Bible and many other things for no charge to the men. Many, many lives have been changed for the better here. I'm so glad we got to meet them. They are definitely a cause worth supporting.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spring Break in San José del Cabo

I haven't posted in a while because it seemed everyone kept catching a sickness and when one round would finish a different sickness would start a new one. Adjusting to everyone being in school with germs passed around different from Abu Dhabi has really been an adjustment!

But now, we are well,thankfully, and we've been enjoying our spring break!

We have gone to the beach, the park and running several times already.

 Talia LOVES the water but the boys are scared of it. I think it may have to do with this particular beach having strong, loud waves. They must sound intimidating to a little boy. However, the boys love to play in the sand. Ezra's favorite game is to play peekaboo with his toes. 

Elias and I will cover his feet with sand and ask him where they are. He giggles and kicks off all of the dirt.
Talia and I have been able to go running together. She is really good! Talia is strong, energetic and has a lot of stamina. She makes me run faster than I would alone. Sometimes on our runs we go by the estuary and watch the ducks.

We are looking forward to visiting some nearby markets and towns also. It's so nice to have time to relax!

Happy Spring Break!


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Woodworking and Valentine's

Benjamin has always been interested in woodworking but time, storage and interest have never all collided until now, perhaps spurred on by necessity. Living in a small house with five people, one of which is a toddler who is very curious and good at breaking things, has forced us to be creative with our storage. The house is great, but didn't have much in the way of storage that was out of Ezra's reach. Benjamin looked around online and found some templates and how-to videos and whipped up a storage racks for the coffee cups he is emotionally attached to as he likes to collect them from every country or important milestone he reaches.
Here, some are being washed, but it is currently full.

Afterward, he liked working with it so well, and we have a lot of other ways it could help, so he made a hinged work table that can store tools when not in use.
Today he created little toolboxes for the children and let them paint them. They loved it!
Talia chose red.
Elias chose blue.

They also helped me make Valentines's Day surprises for Ben today. One was all of these hearts to hang in the room to surprise him when he got home from getting supplies.
Then we made him a favorite dessert: apple crisp. Elias was in charge of mixing the apples and spices, Talia made the topping and Ezra supervised... Everyone enjoyed it!

May your weekend be filled with love also.