Friday, September 30, 2005

Today's PR experiences

Today the girls and I went to a play group with a friend from yesterday’s Bible study. We went to the park, and since it was just “the park” it didn’t occur to me to take the camera…. Was I kicking myself later! It was a gorgeous park, like you might find on the grounds of historic manions or buildings in the US! We could see the ocean and watch the waves come in, there were arbors with vines and unique little benches underneath, beautiful trees and manicured walkways, and nice, solid, unique play ground equipment for the kids in one section. This playground equipment was some of the most tastefully built playground equipment I’ve ever seen; if you can imagine playground equipment being “tastefully built”, this would be it! With the breeze off the ocean the heat was more bearable and we had a wonderful time. I want to take Ben back there sometime.

In the evening, we ran into friends from church at the mall food court where we were trying out some inexpensive Puerto Rican food. Through a random sequence of events, they gave us some yeast, and we also now know where to buy it. Thanks to all who offered to ship us some :). Oh, and we liked the PR food that we tried :).

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Bible study at Calvary Chapel in Guaynabo. Guaynabo is a section of San Juan near us. It’s a fun name to say in Spanish: Why-na-bow, with the stress on the “na”. There are some great sisters in Christ here, and this study (in English) with women at all stages of life is enjoyable and encouraging. We are going through the book of Luke.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Play group

The girls and I went to a play group that Alba helped me find yesterday. It was at one of the Union Churches (a non-denominational church, that is a union of people from many denominations). Interesting time, kind of nice people, no real mention of the Lord, except by one lady in a private conversation afterwards. Not sure if I will go again or not, but this could be an opportunity for interaction with some non-Christians.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Our not-so-imminent return

Ben informed me today that “the project” (ie, the reason we are here) is not currently meeting it’s targeted timeline. Ben told me last week that it would likely be the end of January or early February, given the way things are going (very disorganized - not Ben's fault – My paraphrase of the situation: He's trying to collect documents from various different people detailing how they performed/built certain things, the documentation is difficult to locate, and sometimes just isn't there because people have been trying to hurry through stuff).

We are talking seriously about coming home for a couple of weeks at Christmas, since it appears we will be here into the new year.

The girls and I went to visit with Alba, wife of Ben’s co-worker, who was born in PR and now is re-located back here through Lilly (they have lived in the US for some time). She helped answer many of my questions and made some phone calls for me to establish a few useful contacts.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Plaza Los Americas

Translation: Mall of America. Yes, we have one about 20 minutes from us - as long as it takes me to get to the Tippecanoe Co. Mall from home. The shopping options are extensive at this Mall of America: 4 stories, Baby Gap, Gap Kids, Gap, a large Children's Place, a JCP that is the size of the entire Tipp. Co. Mall, a huge Sears that doesn't look anything like Sears at home, Macy's, etc. We also have a good mall, comparable to TCM just outside our neighborhood. The discounts at MoA aren't that great (no surprise there), but there are some better options at the mall closer to us. Ben is there now buying clothes for work, because he has to wear dress clothes to work here.

Attempted to go swimming with both girls by myself this afternoon. I won't try that again. Lily won't stay in the little baby floatee, and Mariah is too small for it, and everything fell apart from there!

Mariah is sitting very nicely on her own now. She also decided this evening that peaches were worth eating after all.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sabbath Ramblings

Another good worship service today. Our pastor is away in the US for a couple of weeks so a couple of the other men preached. The morning message was on James 1 and how sin takes root in our lives.

We are slowly figuring out “who goes with whom” at church – mothers, fathers, kids, singles. It’s interesting to see people who remind us of folks back home in their personalities, interests, age, etc. Thankfully, this is not too hard since there are only about 50 people in the church. Esther will be interested to know that there are at least 5 people from the DR in our church. One family is from Mexico. They have a new baby with the most amazing swatch of soft black hair.

We were invited for dinner next Lord’s Day, which I’m looking forward to!

The nursery worker told me today that Lily was hiding behind the curtains and periodically poking her head out saying “Hola”! She is not afraid to be in the nursery, likes church, and is improving overall at sitting through worship, for which we are very thankful.

Mariah, who quickly recovered from her fever a few days ago, is trying very hard to crawl. She is so strong she can straighten her back legs as if she was trying to do the bear walk (but she always takes a nose dive first)! She also tried peaches this week and is not sure if she likes them or would rather stick with rice cereal.

We cannot find yeast in any of the grocery stores (no, we weren’t shopping today. This has just been a week-long quest). In one store, I was able to make myself understood, only to notice that the stock-boy had a display box for yeast packets in the cart of things he was removing from the shelves. He produced for me one little and very beaten up packet of yeast that had been buried and abused at the back of shelf. Yes, that was exactly what I wanted. No, sorry, they didn’t have any more and wouldn’t be getting any. We’ve been advised to try Sam’s Club, Costco, or a local bakery (haven’t been to any of these yet). They do eat yeast breads here, so we aren’t quite sure what the story is.

Ben talked with the shipping company this past week, and it looks like our shipment (the stuff that the packers took before we left) may come by the end of this week. I am really ready for my own pots and pans!

Special thanks to those who have emailed us or otherwise kept in touch, especially with personal, family, and church news. Your emails are hugely encouraging.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Lily was feeling much better and back to her normal happy self when she woke up the next morning. PTL.

Mariah seems sluggish and maybe warm tonight. Unfortunately, the thermometer is coming in our shipment of stuff which hasn’t arrived yet. Ben’s going out to buy one. Please pray that she will not be really sick. She has seemed kind of “under the weather” and fussy the last few days. On a positive note, she just got her first 2 teeth J (the bottom ones).

I think that mom must have prayed that I could get some cleaning done on Wednesday, because the girls slept for almost three hours, at exactly the same time! I got the hall scrubbed down, the last of the suitcases unpacked, and the master bathroom cleaned and “Odo-baned” (this is a strong cleaning chemical) from the doggie poop that was on the floor when we arrived (more on this later).

We’ve made it a whole week. Reflecting back on our expectations and the conflict between them and reality sheds quite a bit of insight into the struggles of the week. I had expected (who knows why?) that our house here would be fixed up something like you might find at a simple cabin at Brown County, IN – something that looked like kind of like a home, had approximately everything that a home would have, and we’d basically just unpack our suitcases and resume life. Instead we arrived to house with plain white ceramic tile on every floor; a kitchen whose entire contents (except for the physical structures of cabinets, stove, oven, etc.) were in one medium sized box – an 80 piece “complete kitchen” set, made in China; dirty walls; doors with gray finger prints around every handle; doggie poop in the master bathroom; and pictures on the walls of modern art, that; when we deciphered the spots and splashes, we suddenly realized that we were staring at what Scripture refers to as “unseemly parts” in I. Cor. 12 (our landlord took these back to his house). However, there is a beautiful pool and bubbling tub (which can be heated, but who wants that when it’s so hot outside?!) in our backyard, leather couches in two rooms, a guard at the gate to our neighborhood, a freshly painted exterior, and clean floors and bathrooms (except the master bath floor) when we arrived. I sense a strange dissonance, and it’s hard to make any sense of these very conflicting experiences.

Life is far more “American” (ie, what you’d find in the continental 48) than I expected, so that has been a pleasant surprise. However, it makes the un-American parts of life seem all the more strange and frustrating.

I went to a women’s Bible study (they even have free, quality child care!) at Calvary Chapel this morning – heard about it from a lady at our church. Though we may not agree totally with their theology, it was a blessing to be with other English speaking believers, and I left encouraged by the fervency of their prayers and desire to walk with God.

So, I guess we’re going to stick it out here for a while.... Stay tuned as the story unfolds.

Monday, September 19, 2005

More on Life in PR

Sept. 19 – Still no phone hooked up yet, but the cable company came today with a bill for $170 – I didn’t pay them and we plan to contact the company and revise our service request! Other handymen were here (at the landlord’s request), finishing projects on the house which didn’t quite get done before we arrived. None of the handymen spoke English, but everything got figured out anyway. Tony (our landlord) and his wife, Ely (pronounced Ellie), both speak English very well, but weren’t here until the handymen were basically done with their work. I need a crash course in Spanish really badly!

Lily is sick today. She’s got a fever. She’s been on antibiotics for 5 days already for an ear infection, but evidently it’s just not working. It’s so sad to see her all lethargic. Hopefully it will break overnight.

The flora here is so incredibly different than home. All the tropical plants that I so carefully grow indoors at home grow outdoors here and are about as common as petunias are at home! Several of our neighbors have orchids growing in baskets along the trunks of palm trees in their front yards.

We saw a toad the size of a baby rabbit in our driveway on Saturday evening. So cool! There are lizards around, too.

The weather is like the weather at ECHO, only hotter and more humid, if you can even imagine!

The tropics grow bugs very nicely. It’s hard to keep the kitchen free of ants and fruit flies, even when all the food is put away. Bring on the Tupperware! There was a large (1.5”?) cockroach, belly-up, in the bathroom at church. I was advised to contract with the exterminators to come monthly to our home (I don’t plan to follow through with that unless it’s absolutely necessary).

Ben went to get milk tonight… it’s $4/gallon here!

We know that we need to post pictures desperately… we’ll try and do that after we get on-line at home.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A Blessed Day of Rest & Worship

Sept 18 – We worshipped today at IBB – Berean Baptist Church, in English. They are a small Reformed Baptist congregation of about 50, with ties to an RB church in New Jersey. Our pastor, Noble Vater, knows and has heard Ted Donnelly speak, so he wondered if we were from the same denomination (we are). It’s an extra small world among Reformed believers! Pastor Vater has pastored in this congregation for 42 years.

The pastor’s son, David, interpreted for us. He is bilingual (I’ve met more bilingual people in the last 4 days than in my whole life!), and did an excellent job. They have a head-phone system, but it doesn’t work in the evenings, only the mornings, they told us. Sure enough, it cut out in the middle of the evening service. David just sat behind us and interpreted in a whisper. What a huge blessing, as worship became much more meaningful through the translation (this experience sheds an interesting light on the discussion of tongues in I Corinthians 14). I hope that, before we leave, the Spanish will also begin to take on meaning.

We were so blessed to find people and a congregation who share similar values to us – encouraging us to keep our children with us in worship, valuing Christian education for their children, preaching that speaks to both the heart and mind, etc. There is very little cultural support for these things here, even less than at home, from what we gather.

Pastor Vater spoke from Ezekiel 37 (The Valley of Dry Bones) in the evening. Of particular note to me were two things: first, that the coming of the Spirit was an OT fore-shadowing of Pentecost, and second, the exhortation to having a vibrant, living, real relationship with the Lord, not one filled only with head-knowledge.

Does anyone know anything about a Spanish Psalter? Does one exist?

Lily made a new friend – David’s son, whose name is also David. They had a great time running around the church and playing after both services (toddlers must be the same around the world!). David is 3 1/2, and was very kind to her. Now when we recite the list of names of friends and relatives we know, David’s name is mentioned J.

The nursery has a ceramic tile floor. No rugs.

After the evening service was a “pitch-in snack”. We fellowshipped some more and enjoyed both new and familiar foods. David’s wife is the only stay-at-home mom with small children in the church – there are about 4 families with little kids (so we’re in good company), but the cost of housing is so high here that most of the women have to work. David, and his wife Karen, built a house on top of David’s parents’ house, which saved them a tremendous amount of money and allows Karen to stay home with their children. I will go with Karen to a mom’s group on Thursday, DV.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

They have Wal-Mart!

Sept. 17 – We tried to find Wal-Mart today. We did find it, eventually. Ben was a noble and persistent driver, and I was a useless navigator since we went to three stores and none of them had maps. It was worth the trip. I’d never thought it would be comforting to be inside Wal-Mart but it was (that’s my discount store of choice at home in IN). Some cleaning and un-packing ensued in the evening.

This house is Lily’s death trap. Every single floor is ceramic tile. We have 2 little bath mats in the bathrooms and those are the only exceptions. Even the staircase is tiled. Tile does not give, not one tiny bit. It makes linoleum seem soft and comfy. We have purchased some gates for the stairway, and tonight we bought 1 big rug at K-Mart. It’s worth it – Mariah has to learn to crawl while we’re here. I’m really curious to see how long term residents with small children work through this.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Settling in, and Driving?!?

Sept. 16 – Our landlord came by today, and more of the picture is taking shape…. They got word only 1 week ago that we were coming, and had to move their family out of this house for us; he contracted with the real estate company (who arranged our rental agreement) to provide a house with furniture only, the lady arranging our re-location was providing the rest of the furnishings (she had purchased sheets and towels for us)…. It’s ok. We’re learning to roll with the punches (and it’s good I’m writing this a few days after the fact!)

Driving in Puerto Rico isn’t exactly like Lafayette, Indy, or even Chicago. The traffic is very dense (think Chicago) with motorcycles driving between the lanes of cars. A major issue with driving is that no one adheres to the “right of way”. Simply ignoring a few common rules creates chaos on the roads. People will simply pull out in front of you, and you are expected to stop. People turning left will enter the road and completely block two lanes of traffic going the opposite direction in order to get to their turn. This is in addition to the face that shoulders are almost always viable lanes, and getting into position for the lanes at the toll booth is more intense than Aldi shopping mid-day on Saturday. It is very uncommon to see a car more than 3 years old without a major dent or ding. Add to this the pole position driving on the expressway and it really is amazing that there aren’t more accidents. Just one final note: it is actually legal to run stop lights here in Puerto Rico – but only at night after stopping completely and checking for no on-coming traffic.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Day of Travails, no I mean Travels...

We’re having a little trouble getting our phone and internet hooked up, so that explains the absence of posts. Here’s a little catch up from the last few days.

Sept 15 – 2 kids, 2 car seats, 1 diaper bag, 1 toy bag, 1 emergency bag, 1 computer, 2 parents, 3 moving boxes, 2 suitcases, 1 garment bag, 1 stroller, 1 pack-n-play. This was the official inventory as we pulled out of the driveway more-or-less on time on Thursday morning. We had an uneventful trip (PTL), though not without certain intense moments, such as carrying the kids, car seats, 3 bags, and computer for what felt like a few miles inside O’Hare Airport (no, they were sorry, they couldn’t get any help for us). We also discovered by observation that friendly airport employees can check your stroller at the door of the plane instead of at the ticketing counter, thus enabling one to *use it* in the airport.

Sept 15 – early evening. We decide for our first meal on the beautiful Latin island of Puerto Rico to be adventuresome – we really enjoyed our Meat Lover’s pizza from Pizza Hut. Actually, this decision was more one of urgency than cultural preference. We happen to live close to Pizza Hut, but the closest thing to Latin restaurants near us is Taco Bell – which usually makes us feel like running for something other than the border…

Sept. 15 – late evening. We arrived to our “furnished house”, or, more aptly put, “house with furniture”. What’s the difference? A “house with furniture” has only furniture….no trash cans, toilet paper, washcloths, etc. The “furnished kitchen” was one of those 80 piece “complete kitchen” sets. On my 5th trip to K-Mart in 48 hours (conveniently located at the edge of our neighborhood) I was wishing for a mask, hoping that none of the employees would recognize me. Not that I stand out or anything…. J

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

New address in PR

Hello - we have our new address in PR now. Please email me at and I'll send it to you.


Monday, September 12, 2005

Welcome to our family blog

We thought it would be fun to post this site so family and friends could check in for news, thoughts, & photos, especially during the next few months. Check back for more to come!

"Can you hear me singing?"

Shortly after we were married, we decided that it would be fun to read The Lord of the Rings trilogy together. Ben had read the trilogy before, but I'd never it, so he agreed to read it aloud to me. Through most of the trilogy, I had a hard time finding a character in LOTR with which I can identify, however, when we came to the passage about Tom Bombadil and Merry dol, it struck a little chord. Perhaps I identified with the love they shared, perhaps with Tom and the trees, perhaps I liked the water-lilies for Merry dol.... who knows. At Ben's suggestion, Tom's song is the inspiration for the title of our blog. Following is the whole poem. And, by the way, Ben read the entire trilogy to me, and we still enjoy reading aloud together.

Hey! Come merry dol! derry dol! My darling!
Light goes the weather-wind and the feathered starling.
Down along under Hill, shining in the sunlight,
Waiting on the doorstep for the cold starlight,
There my pretty lady is, River-woman's daughter,
Slender as the willow-wand, cleraer than the water.
Old Tom Bombadil water-lilies ringing
Comes hopping home again. Can you hear him singing?
Hey! Come merry dol! derry dol! and merry-o,
Goldberry, Goldberry, merry yello berry-o!
Poor old Willow-man, you tuck your roots away!
Tom's in a hurry now. Evening will follow day.
Tom's going home again water-lilies bringing.
Hey! Come derry dol! Can you hear me singing?