Thursday, October 17, 2019

Seventeen Dufflebags, Japanese Food, Cockroaches, and Rubber Stamps

or Peru, And How We Got There

On this day in 1984 two young people, feeling very grown up and, at the same time, young and vulnerable, left the United States on a one way ticket for a country where they had never been before. Getting there was a twentieth century odyssey.

With our 17 duffle bags of luggage, we flew out of Chicago saying good-bye to Jim's parents and a few people from our sending church to Miami where we were met by a son and father, each with the same name, who were friends of my inlaws. They told us that their hospitality would be somewhat meager because their wife and mother was in the hospital with Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome! They had come to the airport in their car, but since we were flying stand-by the next day we had to take all our luggage with us. The father decided to take me home with my carry-ons (a sewing machine and a "portable" typewriter!) and get the church van. He just opened the door for me and let me in the house and went back to the airport to get Jim and all the luggage. I didn't know which room was ours, so I sat in the living room waiting for them to return. It was hot and humid and suddenly I heard noises like someone trying to open a window. Just like on TV, I went to investigate. Turns out it was a parrot scratching around in his cage. When they all arrived back, he apologized that he hadn't shown me our room or anything else so I could make myself comfortable.

The next day the father went to work and the hospital so the son showed us around Miami some. I remember him complaining that there are so many non-Floridians there now. He said, "We ought to make a law that anyone who hasn't lived here at least five years has to leave." Me: [blank look]

We took him to a restaurant to thank him. He chose a Japanese place. We had never had Japanese food and whatever it was we ordered we didn't really like, so we spent a lot of money on an ethnic experience we wished we hadn't had. Later in the airport, we decided to have one last McDonalds hamburger before leaving the country. Taking the airport train to the terminal with a McD's we ate cold hamburgers and soggy french fries. Two disappointing "last meals" in the United States for who knew how long?

When the son dropped us back at the airport with all our luggage we got a skycap (I don't think they even have them any more!) to load up all our bags onto a huge cart and go to one airline where we could fly on standby. The skycap dumped all our bags on the floor and left. We tipped him what we considered an extravagant amount, but he frowned at it. Maybe they always did that to see if they could get more, or to make you want to give more the next time. The airline gave us a price that sounded so high, we decided to check out the other airline. Jim said he would go and I could stay with the luggage and if it were good he would come back to get all the luggage...and me!

We ended up flying on the second airline and tipping a second skycap to move our stuff to another end of the terminal. After everything was checked through we went off to a bank of pay phones to call our parents. I remember having to put three dollars worth of quarters into the phone while I was already talking to my mother. "We have our luggage checked." Clank, clank "The flight leaves at 7:15pm." Clank, clankity-clank "First we go to Grand Cayman" Clank, clank

The reason we had to fly to the Cayman Islands instead of a direct flight to Peru is that there were no direct flights in those days. (Any millennial who has read this far, is probably asking in what century this took place!) The planes Peruvian airlines--both now defunct--flew made too much noise to be allowed by the FAA to land in US airports. So of course, Peru said, the US airlines could not fly into Peru either because tit for tat and you would get all the business and big, bad USA is bullying us again. So one Peruvian airline made a deal with Cayman Air and another with Jamaica Air and Eastern which had flown into Lima made a deal with some other Caribbean Island. Nearing midnight we landed on Grand Cayman and were all ushered into a metal shed where a bartender spoke a form of English I could not understand at all. All I remember about my first Caribbean island was that it was hot and humid late at night in the middle of October so, why would anyone ever want to vacation here?

We boarded the Faucett plane and settled in our seats when a large cockroach walked up to the top of the seat in front of us, looked at us, and wiggled his antennae. Thankfully I was too tired to react or even consider the possibility that he had a friend somewhere else on the airplane, like in my seat!

We landed at Jorge Chavez airport at about 2 a.m. and stood in line with everyone else to go through customs. I could hear bang-bang, bang-bang and wondered what the sound was. When we got up to the desk with the official, I discovered that he was stamping passports and papers and reinking continuously. Bang-bang, stamp-stamp! It seemed like there were dozens of official documents to stamp to make our entry into Peru legal. (Side note: a couple of months later I was watching a little girl about three play with some papers she had found. She was pretending to stamp each one and ink the invisible stamp before affixing the stamps. I realized this was a way of life!)

We saw our senior missionaries and waved to them along with another new missionary as we gathered all our luggage onto the cart with the help of a porter who looked somewhat official. When we got out our new colleagues handed us red and white carnations "the colors of the flag", gave us a quick greeting, and rushed around loading our mountain of luggage into the van another kind missionary, who we didn't know, had brought to convey us home. It seemed like ten people appeared out of nowhere to "help" load the duffle bags. The missionaries were telling us to watch to make sure everything went into the van and no where else and to hang onto to our purses, wallets and other items. A boy was tugging on my coat and talking non-stop. I turned to one of the missionaries and asked, "What is he saying?" Our friend cocked his ear and listened for a minute and then said, "He's saying, 'I'm the one doing all the work here. I'm the only one who should get a tip.'"

Finally we were all piled into cars and drove through the dark and quiet streets home, only slowing for red lights. Our senior missionary said that at this time of night it wasn't a good idea to come to a complete stop, but that he did usually obey the traffic signals. 

At their house we unloaded everything into the tiny entry of their two story row house, had a quick word of prayer to thank God for a safe arrival, and then everyone wanted to go to bed. We were shown to the "prophet's chamber" on the flat roof of their house. There were two twin beds and a table. We climbed into the beds that felt cold and clammy due to the humidity in the air. We laid there a few minutes and then a rooster crowed, and I thought, "Where have I come to?"

Thanks for reminiscing with me about that eventful day 35 years ago. I had fun remembering everything about that defining moment in my life. Now that we base ourselves in the US I never know what to say when someone asks "Where are you from?" And I dislike my name tag at conferences saying that I live in a small city in Iowa, because it doesn't tell my story. This is part of my story. As I write this, I realize that everyone has more of a story than we can know through a name tag or an address. I realize I need to ask more questions and listen more intently, to hear between the words and find out people's fuller stories in order to connect with them more.

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Friday, October 11, 2019

Hitting the Goals! ...or Not

As I was looking through my calendar, I came across my goals that I set at the beginning of the year. I guess I kind of forgot I had goals, but it was pretty good to read through them, or at least through the first few.

  • Finish reading through the Bible -- I was on a two year through the Bible plan because I find trying to get through in one year makes me just read without thinking. Or the only thing I am thinking is "Gotta finish. Gotta finish." So my goal was to finish by the end of the year. I was consistently ahead of my plan and then during the month of Ramadan we met nightly to pray for Muslims. Since they read through the Koran during that month, we decided to read through the New Testament. We did this out loud together each night. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed reading large chunks of Scripture and something about hearing it out loud made it more real. I've been working on scripture memorization the last few years again, so when I came across those familiar verses and passages, it was great to read them in context. I decided that our reading "counted" toward my through-the-Bible, and so I finished in June! Yay! One goal was met. Then I moved on to other reading during my quiet times.

  • Get to 160 verses memorized -- I was there already! And looking back at my Bible Memory™ app, I saw that I had only missed a few days of review this year--mostly when I was traveling. So now I'm well past that and have set a new goal. I have to say, that this is one of the most enjoyable things I do. Sometimes I get frustrated by my failure to remember simple things or getting confused between the old KJV that I first memorized some verses in and the NASB that I now use, but mostly, I find myself marveling again at the truths I am hiding in my heart.
  • Lose 10 pounds -- How many years has this been on my New Year's Goals? Well, I wasn't doing well and I was asking God why I was always so hungry and eating so many things I shouldn't, especially between meals. And asking for HELP! In June we went away for 3 weeks and I came home seven pounds lighter! We were so busy I didn't snack (plus I wasn't in my own kitchen) and the last week, which was vacation, we were so active that I guess I was eating less and using more calories. At home, I kept it up, snacking on Bing cherries and lost another seven pounds slowly over two months. But then something happened and I went back up four just before I came away to be at my daughter's for three weeks to help with her new baby. So far I'm getting almost no exercise here (as my pedometer tells me) and feel like I might be snacking again, so I'm hoping the rain will stop and I will be able to go walking again. But I'm here to help, not exercise. Anyway, another goal met! Yay me! (Even though this is an on-going, rest of my life challenge.) 
Then I read the next goal:
  • Go to the grocery store only once a week -- Oh. Dear. Recently it's been more like "only" once a day. Between eating tons of veggies and needing to replenish the supply often, unplanned-for guests, forgetting an item (or ten), and having a craving for a dinner I don't have the food for, I have totally failed at this. I have a lot of excuses about being busy, extenuating circumstances, and blah, blah, blah, but this is one I need to work on. Anyone else? It takes time planning a menu, checking the pantry, listing the ingredients, sticking to the menu, having a few emergency things on hand for added people around the table, and forcing myself to eat what I have and not a craving. If I need more veggies than my large fridge can hold, I can go get those, but I don't need to go just because I forgot the yogurt or suddenly want curry sauce.
So, like I said in January, I'd love to have some grocery store buddies--not the clerks who check me out, though I'm glad they're friendly--but ones who will say with me, "While I love Aldi, I don't really want that place to be my hangout!" What do you say?

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Thursday, October 3, 2019

Nine Books Worth Reading - Or Listening To!

I recently went along with Alan Shepard, the first American in space. I also orbited the earth with John Glenn. And then I flew in Apollo 11 and experienced the amazement of being the first human to set foot on the moon along with Neil Armstrong. It was a fascinating experience!

Of course, I didn't actually join these men. But I listened to the book Shoot for the Moon; The space race and the extraordinary voyage of Apollo 11 by James Donovan. Although I'm not into rockets, space, or even sci-fi, this book captivated my attention (and made doing mundane jobs like cleaning floors and dusting more enjoyable).  It's just one of the books I've gone through this year. And one I would recommend.

Since October is National Book Month, I thought I would tell you about some of the books that I've read or listened to recently. Maybe you are looking for a good book for yourself or to read to you family. I am a voracious reader and my favorite genre is biography or autobiography, but I venture out into other categories as well. I remember enjoying Eddie Rickenbacker's biography so much that I read chapters of it to my kids during a car ride. They were engrossed by his exploits as a WW1 Ace, race car driver, and his twenty-four days adrift in the Pacific after his plane went down. At the time, my four children were aged five to fourteen. And yet it held all their attention.  A book that will help connect your family, doesn't have to be a children's story!

I find most of my books through our public library's electronic lending library, but I also read paper copies checked out from there and loans from friends. Once in a while I even bite the bullet and buy a book! Here are some more books I've enjoyed recently.

Daring to Drive: A Saudi woman's awakening by Manal Al-Sharif. This is the story of a woman in Saudi Arabia who went from being a strict Muslim, even melting her brother's cassette tapes in the oven because they were not allowed, to challenging the status quo to be able to do the simple activity of driving herself around town. She never intended to become an activist, but ended up even going to prison to fight for her rights.

My daughter was in the Middle East recently looking into Arabic language schools, so I read another book that she had about Middle Eastern culture: Miniskirts, Mothers, and Muslims: A Christian woman in a Muslim land by Christine Mallouhi, an Australian married to an Arab. The book is full of anecdotes about herself and other expats who were learning how to live in the Middle Eastern cultures and their successes and failures. I found it particularly interesting because there were parts I could relate to having lived in South America and also made me wonder what faux pas I have made in various parts of the world that we have visited for our work with Emmaus International

I decided to take a plunge into some fiction for a while and listened to Lynette Eason's series Hidden Identity, No One to Trust, Nowhere to Turn, and No Place to Hide. I have to say that I find most Christian fiction insipid and most secular fiction too immoral to want to read, so these books were a refreshing change. My one complaint was that there was a lot of killing. The books do tend to follow a pattern after a while, but it was still a fun read, or actually, listen.

I listened to Orphan Train Rider: One boy's true story, by Andrea Warren. This is the story of one of the children who rode on the trains in the early 1900's to find a family in the midwest because their parents were dead or unable to care for them. The chapters are interwoven between historical facts about the 200,000 children who rode these trains and Lee Nailling's own story of his life as one of the children who had to leave all his family and start a new life at nine years old.

Usually I am enjoying two books at the same time, one to read and one to listen to. I generally get two very different genres so I don't confuse the stories. I'm currently reading How I Know God Answers Prayer by Rosalind Goforth, a book that encourages me to take every need and desire to the Lord in prayer.  And I'm listening to Becoming Dallas Willard: The formation of a philosopher, teacher and Christ follower by Gary W. Moon. This is the October free book from I have appreciated some of Dallas' writing in the past, so I thought I would enjoy his biography. I have only listened to about an hour of it so far, but it is amazing to hear what difficulties God allows people to go through to allow them to be used later in life by Him.

So tell me, what are you reading these days? I'm always on the lookout for books worth reading!

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