Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thank you, Andi

The peace of the earth be with you,
the peace of the heavens too;
the peace of the rivers be with you,
the peace of the oceans too.
Deep peace falling over you.
God's peace growing in you.

Mennonite Hymnal

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A song for early bedtime cuddling...

This is me lydia

I am making a blog post


A new word from my Spanish class today, translated as "dailies" or "routine."

I have discovered (and my family may say they always knew this about me) that I am a person of routine. I need to have a plan, to know what comes next. This has been both a blessing and a curse in my life.

While I struggle to beat depression and culture shock, and to find my place in this new land, I made a list of things that I need daily to take care of myself, to feel safe, and to be able to take care of others and do my job(s) well.

They are:
my vitamins
something caffeinated (black tea, chocolate, or coffee)
30 minutes of prayer/meditation
30 minutes of exercise
a sincere conversation or gentle touch from Aaron
some kind of brain input-something to think about
connection with a friend
positive physical contact with the kids
healthy snacks

Of course, I don't get all of these things every day. But what if I did? How might that change my perspective on life?

I also enjoy creating routines for our family during the week.
On Mondays we eat pizza.
On Tuesdays I get a special coffee from downstairs.
On Wednesdays we get ice cream after school.
On Thursdays we eat something spicy.
On Fridays we have movie night with popcorn.
On Saturdays we go to the market.
On Sundays we go to church, Skype, and eat roasted chicken.

This rhythm keeps me going, helps me to look forward to something, and sets boundaries to help us care for ourselves and each another.

And then it starts over again. and again. and again....creating cadence and cotidianas.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Colombian Food

Aaron and I fell in love in Mexico. We fell in love with each other, and we also fell in love with Mexico....the food, the culture, the climate. We initially hoped to go to Mexico, but this did not work out with MCC.

We were warned ahead of time that Colombian food was NOT like Mexican food. But we didn't buy it. I mean, how different could it be?

While other things can remind us of Mexico, we find that we REALLY miss the food.

It has really been hard for us to find food that we get excited about. Colombian food is somewhat flavorful, often salty, but not at all spicy. There is one vendor at the market who sells chilis to me, but I have to look hard to find her. Tortillas are not at all common. They are sold in the grocery store, but are quite expensive. I have yet to find pinto beans.

One thing that is similar to Mexico is that lunch is the main meal of the day, often long and large, while supper is quite small.

So, a typical lunch includes fresh juice, some kind of soup, a big chunk of grilled or fried meat (chicken, pork, beef, fish), rice, potato and/or yucca, and a very small (if any) dessert. The dessert usually involves fruit.

There are a couple of sauces that we like. One is tomato based and served with Arepas (a think corn-based type of bread). Another is called "Picado" and is served with grilled meat. Neither is spicy.

Colombians eat a lot of pizza and pasta, and of course here in Bogota we have been able to find other ethnic foods such as Thai, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Sushi. We have heard of a tequila museum that makes good Mexican food, but we have not been there yet.

We are grateful for the abundance of good fruit, and we are learning to like many things that are served to us. The fresh selection of bread reminds us of Europe. Jen also likes that when you go out to a restaurant for lunch there is often only one of two lunch options, which makes decisions a lot easier. We still long for Mexican cuisine, and the strong flavors that we fell in love with 14 years ago.

One of our favorite restaurants is a Vegetarian restaurant close to work. It is referred to as the "Mennonite cafe" because so many of the MCCers and church folks eat there. The food is always yummy, very abundant, and extremely cheap. We can get the full meal deal for lunch for only $3.50 per person.

A new route plan for school

Our children had an afternoon bus ride of 1-2 1/2 hours in the afternoon. This got them home exhausted, car-sick, and grumpy. It also was problematic because we had little time in the evening for family activities and/or homework.

So this week, we embark on a new plan with our former-carpenter-mennonite-pastor-cab driver named Fabio. Fabio picks them up at school and delivers them home in 30-40 minutes. He is kind to them, and chats all the way in Spanish. He makes sure they wear their seatbelts, he takes care of their many backpacks, hockey gear, and instruments, and he is happy to deliver them safely back to their parents, who usually wait outside.

There is one day a week that Fabio is not allowed to drive (because of traffic restrictions.) On this day, Aaron or I collect the kids on the Transmilinio, which is Bogota's primary public transportation bus system. It is clean, quiet, easy to navigate, and we still get home one hour earlier than the school bus.

We have high hopes that this change will make a difference in their attitude toward school. Let's hope we are right!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thank you, Yolanda and Kristin

(from Yolanda)
"Change is everywhere, change comes to everyone, and truly, all life is change. So may I honor the seasons of life. Let me savor the fleeting beauty, and yet let go when time has come and gone. So may change bring new vitality. So may change bring added wisdom."

(from Kristin)
"Suffering requires us to descend into ourselves. As there is no other way out, we are obliged to call on the power of the soul and spirit. When we succeed in doing so, instead of groaning and crying out in rebellion, we exhale a delicate perfume."

Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov

Weekend vocabulary #2

chao: goodbye
pan de banana: banana bread
limpiar: to clean
correr: to run
polito: little chicken
escalones: stairs
pinturas: paints
libros: books
fresa: strawberry
puerro: leek
botas: boots
pulgar: thumb
hacer punto: knit
no mas: no more
empujar: to push
blando: soft
duro: hard
banco: bench
la rana: frog
jardin de flores: flower garden

Friday, September 25, 2009

Eva Cassidy

If you haven't yet heard of this woman, you might want to check her out. She is incredible. Here is a familiar song that she sings beautifully.

Thank you, Aunt Pam and Ruth


Stinging winds blow hot and wide
Across the wilderness of my heart.
Thoughts of Egypt: To return,
And temptation to rebel
Threaten sometimes
To reduce the pillar
Of cloud and fire.
Might it be a mere mirage
In the lonely desert?
But remembering the Red Sea path
I wander on
and wonder.

--Ruth Naylor

Published in: The Mennonite, February 15, 1972

The Desert's Secrets, by Alessandro Pronzato

In the desert the most urgent thing is---to wait. The desert does not take kindly to those who tackle it at breakneck speed, subjecting it to their plans and deadlines. It soon takes its revenge and makes them pay dearly for their presumption. Instead, the desert welcomes those who shed their sandals of speed and walk slowly in their bare feet, letting them be caressed and burnt by the sand. If you have no ambition to conquer the desert, if you do not think you are in charge, if you can calmly wait for things to be done, then the desert will not consider you an intruder and will reveal its secrets to you.

I Didn't Know - Tagore

When the lotus opened I didn't notice and went away empty-handed.
Only now and again do I suddenly sit up from my dreams
To smell a strange fragrance.
It comes on the south wind,
A vague hint that makes me ache with longing,
Like the eager breath of summer waiting to be completed.
I didn't know what was so near, or that it was mine.
This perfect sweetness blossoming in the depths of my heart.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Second month in Colombia

We celebrated another month in Colombia with green bean soup, crusty bread, cheese, and another cake. This one was not as good as the tres leches (wrong bakery) but it was festive!

Some new things that we learned this month are:

The limeade is really sour and we like it!

They have chicken flavored chips (Eliza would be so happy to have her meat and chips all in one bite!)

There is a special cheese that you dip into your hot chocolate. It is like a mild string cheese and it gets all melty and yummy.

School books/backpacks are very heavy. At some point we will need to get backpacks with wheels.

We never have to worry about parking.

We lost four jackets this month. It is impossible in this city to get them back. There is no lost and found.

When you are sick, it is because you breathed in too much cold air, or you did not wear enough clothes. People her are constantly covering their mouths with scarves to keep the cold out. They make a special red fleece vest for layering under your clothes to keep you healthy.

Dish soap comes in a tub. Colombians think it is "gross" to put all your dirty dishes in a sink full of hot water and soap. Instead, you scrub the dishes first, and then rinse them off.

Our hot water heater heats water as it comes, so the more pressure, the hotter the shower.

The Colombian word for "cool" is "Chevere!" They say this all the time.

Bogotonians are known for adding "ita" and "ica" to the ends of all their words like "momentica" "cafecito" "Martica" "Helenita" "pancito" etc.

Bogota has a youth orchestra.

Greetings last a very long time and often include "Hola" "Como esta?" "Y tu familia?" "Que mas?" "Dime" "Y que mas?" Aaron is into this, but Jen finds it exhausting.

Colombians have tremendous fruit salads. They are often served with shredded cheese, honey, ice cream, or heavy cream on top.

Colombians like little things. There are lots of miniature things, including chairs and little spoons. Dessert and coffee are always served with little mini-spoons (cucharitas).

There are street jugglers/performers on every major intersection. One time we saw three people standing in top of each other all juggling together. We like to leave them tips.

Choir warm-ups are universal.

Even expensive private schools here lack books, supplies, and have leaky roofs.

For 50 cents, you can get a really good "tinto" which is strong black coffee served in a tiny cup.

People often volunteer to do things for you, but they are not always sincere. They want to help, but they will more often tell you they will do something and not do it. This is their way to "save face" and let you know they care. Same with getting directions. People will always give you directions in the most friendly way. They are not always correct, but you will always get an answer.

Household things should always be covered. Tables should have glass tops, chairs and sofas, covered. We have even heard of large "cozies" for washing machines and refrigerators, and one friend covers all of their books up with plastic. Items like this are to be protected and preserved.

When a teacher does not come to class, there is no sub, there is just free time.

When you are late to class, you get locked out.

Colombians like to applaud, for all things celebratory, or just all things in general.

An introduction does not just mean your name, but a short speech about yourself and your opinions/thoughts about the day.

You also give a short speech/explanation to the group when you leave.

Getting wet and dirty is not OK.

When Colombians want to write a word and signify it for both genders, they use the @ sign. For example, "herman@s" or "bienvenid@s."

It is NOT difficult to get a discussion going in class. In fact, you are more likely to run over time on discussion.

When someone is praying out loud in a group, it is common for others in the group to whisper their own prayers/words during the prayer.

Ice cream trucks look like this. Andy wants to go home and build one to sell ice cream all over Newton in the summer.

What we miss, part 2

Dr. Pepper, cicadas, N & J Bakery, bluegrass, Pages loft, Twinnings English Breakfast, Verenike, ground turkey, green chilis, Sonic runs, fires, Rolling Rock, cottonwood trees, *bikes*, BCAPA, BC soccer suppers in the stands, our heavenly bed, Josie, walking in the dark, seventh generation and ms. meyers, Mexican food, walking to a friend's house, homeade salsa, Z-S trampoline, driving laws, Big Red gum, hedge apples, The Office, the olive bar at Dillons.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thank you, Elizabeth

My friend Elizabeth gave me this poem for encouragement. It also came with a beautiful painting she did, but I could not get an adequate picture of it for the blog.

The Pruned Tree

As a torn paper might seal up its side
Or a streak of water stick itself to silk
And disappear, my wound has been my healing,
And I am made more beautiful by losses.
See the flat water in the distance nodding
Approval, the light that fell in love with statues,
Seeing me alive, turn its motion toward me.
Shorn, I rejoice in what was taken from me.

What can the moonlight do with my new shape
But trace and retrace its miracle of order?
I stand, waiting for the strange reaction
Of insects, who knew me in my larger self,
Unkempt, in a naturalness I did not love.
Even the dog's voice rings with a new echo,
And all the little leaves I shed are singing,
Singing to the moon of shapely newness.

Somewhere what I lost I hope is springing
To life again. The roofs, astonished by me,
Are taking new bearings in the night, the owl
Is crying for a further wisdom, the lilac
Putting forth its strongest scent to find me.
Butterflies, like sails in grooves, are winging
Out of the water to wash me, wash me.
Now, I am stirring like a seed in China.

By Howard Moss

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bolos for a birthday

The Colombia MCCers really like to celebrate birthdays. This weekend we were invited to celebrate with Steven for his 25th at a 1941 "old-fashioned" bowling alley in Bogota.

There was coke with straws,

friends to laugh at you and cheer for you,

keeping score by hand,

and a shirtless man to put up the pins everytime we rolled.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Want to learn some Spanish?

In order to boost our Spanish acquisition, we are studying "weekend vocabulary" as a family. Each weekend, we will have a list of words we try to use and remember for the weekend. If you want to learn Spanish with us, study our list with us as I post....

escuchar: to listen
patines: rollar skates
piscina: swimming pool
esperar: to wait/ to hope
musica: music
pelicula: movie
tocar: to play an instrument
huevos: eggs
oracion: prayer
comer: to eat
pensar: to think
balon: ball
lavamanos: sink
taza de bano: toilet
zapatos: shoes
palomitas de maiz: popcorn
tarea: homework
hermano (a): brother/sister
lluvia: rain
divertido: funny

There will be an online quiz on Sunday night (just kidding).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

For Kristin

During the basketball game, we played on a school playground that reminded us of something Kristin would love.

rainbow tires

rainbow hopscotch

outdoor handwashing (fairly common, even in restaurants)

a giant chess board

a gathering hut

and bright lime green miniature benches (with bushes cut around them)

Abby's speaking Spanish

According to her teachers, Abby chats about with her friends at recess in Spanish. She is not letting on to us that she is getting it, but occasionally she smiles because she understands. I am amazed at the brain activity that permits this to happen.

Basketball in Colombia

Well, he did not have the height disadvantage, as he has had in the past. But he really did stand out as the only blonde. It is not uncommon for a stranger to call him "Mono," meaning "cutey" or "blondey" or "light-haired." (literally, in other Latin American countries it means monkey)

And we should just say that this team needed a bit of Coach Brad's influence. These little boys were not the most talented we have seen, but they played with gusto and enthusiasm, and won two out of three games in the tournament so far. Andy made five baskets, but missed his "hook shot." He stole the ball frequently and passed with accuracy and confidence. He played aggressively, despite not really understanding a word from the coach or the referee. It was really fun to go as a family and watch him play.

(And Coach Brad would be pleased to know that Andy did not get called once for travelling or double dribbling).