Modern Day Pilgrims

Monday, March 24, 2014

To the Rescue!

My knight in shining armor had to come and rescue Titus and I today.  Titus locked me outside of the house from our back yard and I could not explain to Titus how to unlock and open the door.  You must be thinking, "Couldn't you have just hopped the fence or gone to the front of the house?"  Well, let me try to explain, although this will be difficult since there's not really a way to compare this to anything in the states.  Our backyard is completely fenced in by the neighboring houses, and there is no way to get to the front of the house from our backyard.  If you managed to jump a fence, you would then be stuck in your neighbor's backyard.  Our neighbor facing the street has an entire line of trees along their fence, so if you managed to jump our fence to get into their backyard, you would then have to get over another fence and then climb a few trees.  Not. going. to. happen.  So there is no gate or anything of the sort, like in the states.  It is literally completely fenced in.  The only way to get to our backyard or to get into the house from our backyard is through the back door.  To make this scenario even more frustrating, our back door has a door handle that you can access from the inside of the house but there is not a door handle on the outside.  I don't know who thought this was a good idea, if it was placed there for security reasons or what, but you can get out to the backyard but not back in if the door somehow gets locked.  To make things more complicated, the door's "lock" is not traditional.  It locks by turning the handle up so that the handle faces up and down instead of side to side.  There's not really a "lock" in the traditional sense of the term, as there's no place to put a key and there's no way to pick it.  So how did this happen?  I was trying to do some beautifying to our backyard and decided that some gardening was in order (yay for Spring!).  I made sure to leave the door wide open, but without my noticing, Titus started playing with the door.  I didn't think he would actually figure out how to lock it since the doors are more complicated here, as explained above, but alas, Titus unintentionally figured it out.  And he couldn't undo it, despite my coaxing and attempts at explaining to push the handle down.  Titus got more and more scared and cried uncontrollably as time went on since he could see me but could not get to me and I could see him but could not get to him.  Thankfully, after 20 minutes of ever increasing panic and frustration, a neighbor heard me, rightly assumed where my husband worked, called my hubby's work, and then Chris came to our rescue.  The whole ordeal lasted about an hour and a half.  Titus was so shaken up that when Chris walked through the front door, he cried even harder.  I think he thought he was either hearing things or that Chris somehow managed to get stuck outside with me too.  Poor thing.  He continued to cry the most heart-wrenching, scared cry for at least 5 minutes in daddy's arms after Chris arrived and let me inside.  I hope nothing like this happens again.  While I'm not holding my breath that they'll switch out our ridiculous back door, we did come up with a plan to make sure it doesn't happen again.  I quipped to Chris that this is the safest country we have ever lived in, yet ironically, this house is the hardest to get in and out of.  :-/  Life in Poland, I guess!   

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

FINALLY an Update!

So here I am writing a blog post almost 2 years since my last one!  There’s not really an excuse for that, because I know writing a blog post is the easiest way to give an update to family and friends.  I also understand the above header for our blog is really outdated.  I will update that soon, I hope.  But we are now in Warsaw, Poland and have called this place “home” for 3 months now.  It honestly feels like we’ve been here for longer than 3 months.  We thought we’d come to Poland and be faced with the worst winter we have ever experienced, but it seems as though my friends and family in the midwest have been hit MUCH harder (so far) than us.  We are not complaining.  We have been glad for a warmer winter, although this past week has been a bit of a shift.  There is a good 6 or so inches of snow on the ground and it has continued to snow every day.  The temperature is not in the negatives yet, but it is still cold!  We look forward to Spring but are enjoying the beauty of snow until then. 

We are very thankful for our church family here.  In case some of you don’t know or have forgotten, prior to coming here, we found a church with a former Master’s Seminary graduate as its pastor.  He is Polish and the church is about 40 minutes from where we live.  It is a house church with about 40 people.  We started communicating with Jan, the pastor, almost a year before we got here, so it was like seeing an old friend when we finally arrived and met him and his family.  He graciously offered to give us Polish lessons twice a week before we got here and we have been doing lessons with Jan once a week since we got here.  But back to the church.... The church has been very welcoming to us and almost everyone in the church speaks at least a little bit of English.  Even those who don’t have been very warm and kind and I’ve had conversations with these individuals through people who are willing to translate.  The service is entirely in Polish but we wear headsets and someone translates for us each week.  It is not quite the same as hearing a sermon in your own native tongue untranslated, but we are thankful we get to attend a church where we are likeminded with those who attend.  Our friends here so far are entirely from the church and we are thankful they have welcomed us with such open arms.  We have already been able to serve in the church.  Chris and I both had the opportunity to share our testimony and on two different occasions we have separately talked with the teen boys and teen girls in the church.  I am going through a three part series on "purity".  The first session was on modesty, we most recently discussed boys and "dating", and the next topic will be on how we spend our time.  We are grateful and thankful to the Lord for such a good church.  We believed before we got here, and we still believe, that this church is one reason why God has brought us to Poland.

So what are my impressions of Poland so far?  I think the best way to describe it is a blend of east meets west.  So much of Warsaw looks Soviet in architecture but there is enough Western European flair to not make you feel like you’ve been transported back in time to the Soviet Union (like I’ve heard it feels like in countries like Moldova and Ukraine).  Besides the people from church who have been nothing but gracious, other Polish people have been generally and mostly very friendly.  I would say the percentage is 3/4 and 1/4 between those who don’t mind that we can’t speak Polish (and are even delighted by our attempts at trying) and those who act annoyed.  Spanish speakers in America anyone??  Yes, it’s humbling and humiliating to be the one who is made to feel ashamed that I can't speak the native tongue.  

So speaking along these lines, the language barrier has been difficult.  We know very little Polish, and despite our efforts to learn it, we still feel as though we know very little.  Of course, we’re not really immersed in it so that doesn’t help, but nonetheless, Polish has proven to be an incredibly hard language to learn.  Do not think we are giving up, however!  We will keep trying until the day we leave.  To give you an idea of how difficult it is, just about everything is conjugated.  It’s not enough to learn the word “one” or “apple”.  Depending on the sentence, whether it’s masculine or feminine, the endings change.  So jabłko (apple) becomes jabłka or jabłek, etc., and the numbers also change depending on if the noun is masculine, feminine or neuter.  So vowels are not the only thing conjugated in this language and so learning one word completely is like learning three to seven English words.  I will be transparent and say that the adjustment to Poland has been harder than I thought it would be, and I think this has mostly to do with the language barrier.  We can’t even go to McDonald’s or KFC and order food without great difficulty.  I thought coming here would be nice because we would FINALLY “blend in” (unlike in Africa and the Middle East), but I am learning that that is not necessarily a blessing because everyone assumes we’re Polish and can speak the language.  But Polish people, at the same time, do seem to genuinely be okay with Americans and they really seem to like the United States.  I have met so many who go on and on about America, and if they haven’t been there already, they tell me how much they hope to go there some day.  Poland has a terribly sad history and America has, at least in the past, been there for Poland, so perhaps this contributes to their goodwill towards Americans.  

The culture is westernized but has its own uniqueness as well.  Men tend to be more chivalrous here, at least in some ways.  For instance, men shake a woman’s hand before a man’s to show respect.  Polish people are obsessed with dressing warm.  Even if it's 40 or 50 outside, children and even most adults are completely bundled up from head to toe.  We have gotten some not so friendly looks since we don't usually have our kids as bundled up as they do theirs.  They also seem to like slippers.  Our church has a huge pile of slippers by the front door and when people walk into the house, they take off their shoes and put on a pair of slippers.  I keep telling Chris he'll come around by the end of our tour here and will be just as obsessed with slippers as our Polish friends are.

Besides the language barrier, the most frustrating aspect of everyday life is going to the grocery store.  It is my least favorite errand.  To give you an idea of the grocery store experience, imagine going to a grocery store and finding that nothing is labeled in English.  It is all in a foreign language that you either don’t know well or don’t know at all.  This makes it hard to identify various dairy products, meat, and other products.  Don’t get me wrong -- I do not expect everything to be in English because I understand that I’m not in America!  But this is the first time we’ve lived in a foreign country that doesn’t, at least in some way or at some level, cater to English speakers.  The carts at the grocery store are typical of what you’ll find overseas...none of the wheels have controls on them, so they are difficult to steer and turn and take a lot of muscle to get them to go where you want them.  Also, the grocery store seems to be very crowded no matter what day or time we go and people are not afraid to give what we’ve started calling “love taps” with their carts to get you out of their way.  Yes, they will lightly hit you from behind with their cart to get you moving.  They also will cut you off in the aisles, in line to get your produce weighed, etc.  In the U.S., as you all well know, if two people are going down the same aisle in opposite directions and it looks as though there is not enough room to pass, generally one or both will stop and say something like, “Please, go first.”  Here, there is no getting out of the way, stopping, or gesturing for the other person to go first.  I have heard “excuse me” (in Polish of course) very seldom while at the grocery store, although I think I must say it at least 100 times every time I go to the grocery store because I just feel like I'm in everybody's way!  To me, grocery shopping just seems like a free for all, more so than in other countries I’ve lived in and definitely, definitely more so than in the U.S..  This is really hard for me to wrap my head around and get used to.  I have to remind myself I’m not in America, but it is still so frustrating, and as a result, going to the grocery store is not something I enjoy.  On the other hand, you will never ever see a larger sausage variety than here.  There is a entire aisle dedicated to sausage and other cured meats and then there is a whole other section where you can ask for various sausages by weight.  It's a good thing we love sausage because we've had a lot of it so far!

Poland definitely seems to love kids more so than Americans.  Restaurants, even the nice ones, usually have a little area set aside where kids can play.  There is also an abundance of play places that are pretty amazing inside and spotlessly clean.  The play structures are HUGE and there are at least 5 I can think of within a 4 mile radius of where we live.  I take the kids once a week to a play place and it’s nice that we have a variety of places to choose from.  There are also a few indoor water parks nearby where we live, but at all but one of them, men HAVE to wear speedos.  We have not and probably will not frequent those because Chris adamantly refuses to wear one.  

Charlotte misses home more than I thought possible for her age.  She constantly asks about Indianapolis and tells me how much she misses her friends.  I miss everyone too.  A lot.  Of course, I try to be strong for Charlotte and I remind her (and myself at the same time) that this is where the Lord wants us and that we need to be willing to let Him use us however He wants to here and to not let homesickness make us discontent.  I think the play places help, though.  She genuinely loves them even though she hasn’t quite warmed up to Polish kids yet.  We didn’t think the language barrier would affect kids who usually seem to be able to overcome such obstacles and find a way to play together, but Charlotte is struggling and is being stubborn with a lack of desire to play with kids who don’t speak English.  We *might* have started making progress on this front on Saturday when, after talking to Charlotte, she finally started playing with this adorable little Polish girl at the play place who really wanted to play with her.  Charlotte was ignoring her and kept telling us she didn't speak English.  I am encouraged to see God working on her heart since after I talked to her about her attitude and how she was ignoring this sweet little girl, she happily went and played with her and had a good time.  Titus is young enough that he’s had no issues adjusting whatsoever, so my not talking about him is not because he is forgotten about.  He is a pretty chatty little guy even if we can’t understand most of what he says, he’s still a cuddle bug, still looks just like Chris, and he just adores his big sis, Charlotte.

We haven’t seen a lot of Poland yet, but we did take a trip to Wroclaw, Poland (close to the current German border and it was in Germany pre-WWII) on Thanksgiving.  None of our belongings were here yet so we figured we would go ahead and “get away” for the weekend.  The town still looks VERY German and it was really quite beautiful.  A family from our church has a nephew who is in school in Wroclaw, so he met up with us and gave us a tour.  He was so nice and we really enjoyed our time with him.  His name is Matthew, or Mateusz, in Polish.  I have attached a few pictures below from our trip there.  We have also visited a few pottery places here and I must say that Polish pottery is BEAUTIFUL!  What we’ve bought so far has been mostly for gifts, but we hope to start building our own Polish pottery collection soon.  

In case you haven’t been keeping up on our facebook adoption page, the news I’m most excited to tell you about, and while it is last, it is certainly not least, is that we are OFFICIALLY in the process of adopting.  We have chosen and have been accepted by Lifeline Children’s Services, which is a Christian adoption agency based out of Birmingham, Alabama.  We have been very thankful and pleased with the agency.  They are always so prompt to get back with us and to communicate with us.  Our home study will be taking place over a 3 day period at the end of February/beginning of March.  Two social workers from Lifeline are flying out here to do the home study and until then, we have been tasked with doing a lot of paperwork, completing required adoption training, getting our medical clearances, etc.  Some of this stuff normally waits until after the home study, but to help move things along, they’re having us do this stuff prior to the home study.  We are thankful for their willingness to accommodate us and are looking forward to working with them throughout this journey.  We are still planning, Lord willing, on adopting two children under the age of 7 from Poland.  Please keep us in your prayers as we go through this journey, both for patience, financial provision, for God to prepare Titus and Charlotte for new siblings, and for God’s protection on the two kids we will be adopting.  While we do not know who they are yet, there is a very good chance that they are alive right now.  We appreciate, love, and miss you all greatly!  Thanks for reading our update and for your prayers!  Below are some pics from the past few months.

 Charlotte and Daddy at our church's Thanksgiving celebration in early November.

 Pastor Jan 

 Chris giving his testimony at the Thanksgiving celebration.  I gave mine at our church's Christmas service (sorry, no picture of that).

 Chris got the privilege of carving the turkey at Thanksgiving.

 a spread of Polish desserts at our church's Thanksgiving celebration.

 George Washington is even in Wroclaw, Poland!

 There are little gnomes placed all throughout Wroclaw.  Here's one of them.

 A view of part of Wroclaw from the river. 

 a Catholic church in Wroclaw.

 Pope John Paul II is from Poland, so they like him here a lot, not to mention that Poland is predominantly Catholic!

 Couples put locks on this bridge to mark their love for each other. 

 Here's a better view of the same bridge.

 Another church in Wroclaw.

 Here's an interesting statue in Wroclaw that starts on the other side of the street.  I think it's supposed to symbolize something from WWII but I can't remember what specifically.

 A view of the main center of the Christmas Market in Wroclaw.

 The main street in Wroclaw.

 Charlotte and Daddy on a sleigh in Wroclaw.

 Mateusz (Matthew), Chris, and Charlotte.  Mateusz is our new friend and was our "guide" in Wroclaw.  They are standing in front of a pierogi restaurant we ate at.

 A close-up of Mateusz and Chris.

 Charlotte and Titus on a ride at the Christmas Market in Wroclaw.

 A huge windmill - they served hot drinks inside of here at the Christmas market in Wroclaw.  

 Charlotte and Titus in Wroclaw.

 Charlotte on another ride at the Christmas Market in Wroclaw.

 Charlotte and Titus inside our house a few days before Christmas. 

Our Christmas tree and all the goodies we were spoiled with this past Christmas.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Would You Like Some Pepper Spray with That?

Well today is not just Valentine's Day here in Bahrain.  It's also marks the one year anniversary of the protesting that has rattled this country for the past year...protests that eventually demolished the Pearl Roundabout after an overkill move by government, where a popular monument and symbol of Bahrain once stood.  Don't get me wrong - the pearl is still a symbol in Bahrain, but the area where the monument once stood now symbolizes protestors rather than the historic pearl industry of Bahrain, which was its original intent.  Everyone in this country has been on high alert and hoping for the best but expecting the worst as this anniversary day approached.

The Pearl Roundabout/Monument Last Year

The Protestors were planning and hoping to secure large numbers of people to try and "reclaim" the Pearl Roundabout, or at least the land where it once stood in all its glory.  The police have been ready for this for months and have done a great job keeping protestors at bay now that the day has arrived.  Unfortunately, the side effect is that tear gas is literally all over this country right now.  We had to deal with it at the park today and I still feel like I have the taste of it in my mouth a few hours later.  I won't complain, though.  I was hoping against the worst case scenario that the protests would keep us from leaving this weekend.  It looks like that won't happen since the police are much more organized this time around and are dispersing the crowds with quicker and greater success.  For this I am thankful.  If I have to put up with a peppery taste in my mouth if it means I'll be on a plane this weekend out of here, then I'll deal with it.

Tear Gas During the One Year Anniversary Protests

Monday, February 13, 2012

Something for Charlotte and the Boy

Before our pack-out last week, I was able to get one more dress sewn for Charlotte and just after the pack-out was completed, I was able to finish a knit blanket for The Boy.  

I'll start with the dress I made for Charlotte.  It is another Oliver + S pattern called the Birthday Party Dress.  For those who aren't familiar with Oliver + S patterns, they use a scissor system to inform sewers how difficult the pattern will be to sew.  1 scissors = beginner, 2 scissors =  advanced beginner, 3 scissors = intermediate sewer, and 4 scissors = advanced sewer.  I would say most Oliver + S patterns are 1 or 2 scissors, but this particular pattern was 3 scissors.  To the best of my knowledge, they haven't yet come out with any 4 scissor patterns.  I wasn't really sure why it was 3 scissors from looking at the pattern. It looked like a very simple dress.  I liked that it used buttons up the back instead of a zipper, which is my preference.  Once I started sewing it, I learned why it was 3 scissors.  There are some more advanced techniques used for this dress, but as usual, Oliver + S did a great job explaining how to do everything so that it didn't seem as complicated.  There was also a lot of hand work with this dress from having to blind stitch different sections.  I am so horrible at hand work, but I watched a few tutorials on blind stitching on the Oliver + S blog, and I can confidently say that my handwork on this dress is the best I've done yet.  I will say this, though.  The dress went perfectly until I got to the straps.  They don't look awful, but it's bad enough that I don't think this dress will be a contender for State Fair entry.  :-)  

 It's hard to see how detailed this dress is from the picture, but there are 3 box pleats that run the length of the dress.  The fabric I used is Michael Miller.

 The dress had 2 options: a tab front closure or a tie closure.  I thought the tie closure looked more cute and would help the contrast fabric stand out more.

 Here's the back.  Instead of buttons (my buttonholer isn't working properly), I tried out my brand name Babyville Boutique snap pliers and red snaps.  I think I actually prefer snaps over buttons even though you can't get as "fancy" with the type of snaps you use as you can with buttons.

 I remember the day when Charlotte loved to smile for the camera.  Now I'll just take what I can get.

 Thanks to Daddy's help, we got one decent one!

Okay, so now on to the blanket I knitted for The Boy.  I found a free knitted Chevron Baby Blanket pattern from the Purl Bee's blog.  Most chevron patterns are for crocheted blankets.  I don't know how to crochet, so I was very excited to find a free pattern for knitting the chevron design!  My original plan was to follow the color scheme the Purl Bee used but without using the super expensive yarn the pattern called for:

I was able to find a GREAT yarn through WEBS called Valley Goshen.  It is a 48% cotton, 46% modal, and 6% silk yarn.  It feels ultra soft and luxurious, and I love that the bit of silk adds strength to the yarn. Goshen Valley doesn't offer the exact same colors used in the Purl Bee blanket, but I was able to get close and WEBS offers a 20% discount on orders over $60 and 25% on orders over $100.  However, I did encounter one problem ordering from WEBS and it has to do with backordered products.  The lemon drop yarn was backordered and WEBS didn't tell me when it would be shipped.  Usually when things are backordered, the website tells you when it will be shipped and it's usually no more than a month or two.  WEBS didn't give any indication of when it would be shipped.  I ordered this yarn back in October and it is still backordered.  I think that if something is going to be backordered for more than 2 months, they should just list it as "unavailable" and not allow people to backorder it.  I'm moving in less than a week and now I have to figure out how to tell WEBS to either cancel my backorder or forward it to a new address.  

When I came to the point in the blanket where I was ready for the lemon drop color, I had to figure out what to do next.  I didn't want to skip to the green apple shade because that would completely throw the color spectrum off, so I decided to go ahead and look at other colors in the Goshen Valley line (that were IN STOCK) and create a new color spectrum for the blanket.  I came up with a butter yellow shade, orange, and red.  This color scheme was not what I originally had planned but I think it turned out okay for having to adjust the color spectrum in the middle of the project:

I also made some changes to the Purl Bee's pattern.  I made a test blanket before the real blanket with cotton yarn I had lying around, and I decided the blanket was too small.  Instead of casting on 100 stitches, I cast on 128 and I used a few more colors than the original blanket pattern called for.  I figured out that with the Goshen Valley yarn, I could sew 18 rows per color and nearly finish the yarn.  Little waste!  So instead of a 26" x 33" blanket, the blanket I knitted is a more generous 32" x 40" baby blanket.  I plan to make several more of these bad boys.  It is a great blanket to knit while you watch TV or when you really have nothing else to do and don't feel like sewing or reading.  Since I won't have my sewing machine while I'm staying in a hotel for maternity leave, I bought some more yarn to start on two more blankets - one for a girl and one for a boy.  Here are the color schemes I picked out, and yes, all of the colors were in stock this time.  The girl blanket is on the left and the boy blanket is on the right:

I can't wait to see how they turn out!!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Going to the Park

We leave Bahrain in one week!  Wow!  We're trying to take the time to do things we haven't yet done or want to do again before we leave.  Today, we took Charlotte to a new park that was fantastic.  It easily compared to nice parks in the states and even had a large pool for paddle boating.  It was right on the coast so you even got a nice view of the Arabian Gulf.  The only downside was that it was VERY windy.  I'm not sure if that was just today's weather or if it's always that windy since it's right off the coast.  Even so, Charlotte had a great time today.  Below are some photos of our day and a video of Charlotte climbing up a wall and going down a spiral slide.  

 an observation deck at the park

 the playground for children under 5

 a view of the Hidd bridge from the park

 Chris at the top of the rope climb in the 6-12 year old playground....  ;-)

 Charlotte enjoying a crawl through tunnel

 going down a really tall spiral slide

 Mommy pushing Charlotte on the swing

the "pool" where you can go paddle boating...we're not sure if this is open yet but boy does it look fun

Friday, February 10, 2012

Videos and Photos

Charlotte loves looking at pictures and videos on our computer and I thought today, Why don't I post some of these on my blog?  So here you go.  Here's some videos we've recorded over the past month or so...two of them as recently as yesterday when we went to Wahoo! Waterpark again.  I've also posted some pictures of the Wahoo! Waterpark trip below the videos.  Enjoy!

Here is a video of Charlotte going down the kids slide at Wahoo! Waterpark yesterday.  She went down much bigger slides than this, but we didn't think to take video of her going down a slide until we got to the kiddie area right before we left.

I'm surprised at myself for posting this, but some people have been asking to see my preggo belly.  Here is a video that will show you how huge I am.  I'm definitely not a cute pregnant woman this time around and I'm going to have a lot of weight to lose in 2 months!  Part of this is my own fault.  I haven't exactly been eating healthy!

Here is a video taken when we went to Dubai with my brother Matt at the end of January.  The video was filmed at our hotel's pool.  Charlotte loves playing "1, 2, 3", which means being thrown from one person to another.  Uncle Matt was nice enough to take my place since it's too much pressure on my stomach to lift and throw Charlotte right now!  

This video was recorded late January at a birthday party Charlotte went to.  Charlotte loves to climb and jump and she was more entertained doing this at the party than she was playing with the other kids or doing the party games.

And here are some more Wahoo! Waterpark pictures from yesterday:

For those who might freak out at this picture, this is not a hot tub!  It's just regular temperature pool water with bubbles.  :-)  Middle Easterners don't really do hot tubs since it's usually so hot here.  This type of jet pool is what you'll usually find over here.