Friday, October 28, 2005

Friday comments

Yesterday we went back to the library, and to Bible study, otherwise we've stayed in this week so that the girls could rest well (or at least be given the opportunity to!) and kick these colds. Mariah seems to be responding well to the antibiotics, her nose isn't running, and she is happier overall. Lily also seems to be doing better. We've only made a small dent in that stash of PediaCare (this is not a complaint!).

We have learned how to say "My name is" in Spanish. Thanks to everyone who filled us in. If we have any more language questions we'll just post them here...

I just finished reading Honey for a Child's Heart. Thanks mom, for the copy. This is an excellent book to encourage parents to read to their children and as a family. It also includes a large annotated bibleography to help choose good children's books.
Reading board books in Spanish is an interesting way to get in a little Spanish vocab. practice. Our library has several of those, but many titles are in English. My 2 favorite finds in the children's section this week: Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allen Ahlberg (I can quote this one from when I was little), and Under the Window by Kate Greenaway (stories and rhymes for children with KG's adorable illustrations. First published in 1879).

We have had a very hard time finding a source for whole wheat flour. Evidently no one bakes with it here as no Super K, WalMart, or other grocery store carries it. I paid $5 for 5# bag at a health food store yesterday, and the price just about killed me (but it's still cheaper than buying WW bread). Tonight on the phone our pastor told us that he and his wife know where to buy it in 50# bags, and that we can go in on part of a bag with them. Isn't God good?

We are attempting to potty train Lily. We will not keep a running tally on this blog of accidents vs. successes. Check back in a few years to verify that we succeeded. We will comment that she is rather taken with the concept of a "treat" or "tee-free" (as she says) for going potty (1 plain M&M. Generous, aren't we? But hey, when your child has hardly ever tasted M&Ms, just 1 tastes wonderful!). She's figuring out how to work the system and get as many treats as possible, and I've spent more time in the bathroom (and wiping the tile floor) than I'd care to recount. And yes, mom, we're using the M&Ms to teach her her colors (a tried and true Magill tradition).

Monday, October 24, 2005

Dr. Visit

Mary, from IBB (our church - Iglesia Bereana Bautista), went with the girls and I to the Dr. this morning. It's extremely helpful when people show us places as San Juan is rather large and Dr. offices can be in hard-to-find strip malls. There is a pediatrician who goes to our church (at church people know her as Cuca) , and so we went to her office. She was kind and friendly, and though the office was tiny and different from the Dr's office at home, things worked out ok. The line of patients in front of us wasn't long and we were in and out in about an hour. I was glad we went, as both of Mariah's ears have ear infections. We got an antibiotic prescription for her, and Cuca gave us numerous over the counter drug samples as well (PediaCare anyone? We have 12 boxes now. She said she had to get rid of the stuff as no one here in PR wants to take it and she keeps getting more samples in the mail. Evidently it's not the drug of choice here, but Dr. Lipp at home recommended it to me and Cuca also endorsed it. I was glad for the samples). The excellent news was that Lily's ears were clear - this is the first time a doctor has looked at her ears in the past 12 months and said there wasn't an infection or some possible indication of one. PTL! And pray that it stays this way. She hasn't really responded to any of the antibiotics we've tried in the past.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Sabbath comments

I don't really have time to ramble since I'm typing this a few days after Sunday....

David Vater, and his wife Karen (who has a different last name. Most women here don't take their husband's last name. It's a cultural thing, we hear. And when you ask them why they don't take their husband's last name, they say, how would I go about changing my name? with a kind of clueless expression. With the bureaucratic hassles we've been through here already, I don't blame them and wouldn't want to try to change my name either if I lived here) and their 3 sons (2 visible, 1 soon-to-be-born) came for lunch. We had interesting conversations about various problems in PR, about life here, life in the countryside (where Karen's mom is from. We hope to get to visit out her direction before we leave), what kinds of fruits grow around the island, etc.

Karen asked what the biggest culture "shock" has been for us. My initial answer was the trash everywhere, but in thinking it through, I think we have a short list of 3 things that continue to shock us and are hard to get over:
1. The bureaucracy
2. The cost of living
3. The trash (which reminds us that at some level, people aren't thinking about the future consequences of present actions)

Possibly a fourth item would be things related to living in a huge city - the crazy traffic jams, the crowded feeling, the sky-rise apartment buildings, etc. But honestly, these are easier for us to accept than the first three.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


Ben went for a ride this morning with BOMB - Believers on Mountain Bikes. Haven't heard of them before? Neither had we, until we met Angel and Carlos. Angel goes to the Thursday morning Bible study, and Carlos is her husband and an elder at Calvery Chapel, and also the president of the local BOMB chapter. Carlos, Ben, and several others rode around Old San Juan for a couple of hours and the non-riding spouses and kids played at a nearby park. They had devotions before they left, and this was a "prayer ride" (not all rides are prayer rides) so they stopped at a couple of points and prayed as a group. Carlos is a pretty serious rider, but most of the other guys in the group weren't; Ben wasn't sweating much when they got back. Ben informed me that the fellowship was good. Maybe there will be a chance for "serious riding" later.

Friday, October 21, 2005

More Lizards

We went to a park today with a few friends from the Thursday Bible study for our once-a-month play group. It was a small-ish neighborhood park with lots of playground equipment, but in PR-style, some of the equipment had parts that were missing or broken. It's always handy to have a bench with a back and no seat.

However, it had a pond in the middle of it with large iguanas and large geese all around it, just walking around free. (There was a fence between the pond and the park). So Lily saw the iguanas and fed the geese and a good time was had by all. It's kind of cool to go the park and see the iguanas.

BTW, Happy Birthday, Elizabeth Magill!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bookin' around...

We found how to get inside the library today when we visited there with friends (I had attempted a few weeks ago, but went down the wrong drive, only to encounter a guarded gate - very common here - with an only Spanish speaking guard). It is very small; very, very small. In fact, the whole thing would easily fit inside the children's section in our Lafayette library.

However, it's a very interesting place... it's completely community run, operating on a skelton budget funded by the cost of library cards ($20/year) and volunteer staff (with the exception of one, part time guy who pays the bills and does other essentials. A number of the volunteers did not speak Spanish as their first language). The books are received almost entirely from donations. Donated books are either sold at reasonable prices to generate more revenue for the library (these are usually the less pristine volumes), or shelved for circulation. There are over 700 community families involved in this library, and they can have whatever kind of books they'd like in their library (read: no government regulations!). The sad thing is that there is no library system here (my card doesn't work at any other libraries) and there are very few libraries around. The next nearest library (so we've heard) is about 20-25 min. away, and is another community-run venture.

The lingering thoughts in the back of mind: What does it say when you have a city of 4 million people and there are only 700 families involved in the library? Is that a fair indication of the number of folks around who read books for fun and education? If so, would that shed some light on the social poverty we see everywhere?

Monday, October 17, 2005


We've mentioned to some of you that Lily likes to look for lizards in our yard. We see the little ones (like seen at pet stores or ECHO) frequently. However there is a larger variety that we've only spotted a few times. This guy (at left) came wandering out while we were swimming this morning (I got the picture later in the morning when I spotted him/her again). He is about 12 inches long, including the tail. At first glance I wondered if it was a rat! I was relieved to realize it was just a big lizard.

Incidentally, we also have frogs the size of small kittens (we're not kidding) that come out in the evening in our front yard. We don't have a picture yet, but when we do, we'll post. They are really cool. Lily and Ben went frog hunting on Sat. night after dinner for about 1/2 an hour. Great playtime.

Unfortunately, pictures of wild life don't come with little rulers at the side to "compare for size".


To those who prayed for the girls recovery, thank you, they appear to be on the mend. No Dr. visit necessary. I am hoping to avoid that part of PR life while we're here!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Sabbath Ramblings

This has been a pretty quiet week, just the normal shopping and daily life. Lily got sick on Thursday, and Mariah on Friday, Lily with a bad cold and Mariah with croup. They are slowly recovering, but I plan to stay in with them until they get a little better. Ben went to church this morning, and I’ll go this evening. We don’t have our health insurance cards yet, so though we can get medical care, it will be more complicated. We also hear that going to the doctor here is an all day event since you can’t make an appointment but rather just show up and wait until your name is called. My PR friend recently waited 6.5 hours to see the Dr. with her kids. She informs me that this is an unusually long wait, but if we have to go, we should pack a lunch and plan to be there awhile. I’d rather not experience this.

On being here a month: We are finally completely unpacked. That is a nice feeling. We feel more settled, have little routines, and know where the essential things are in town. I’m realizing that some of my personality and tastes are not very culturally Spanish.

We’re learning to adjust our expectations to reality. Ben is gone about 60 hours a week, which creates a bit of a time crunch for us. His work project also looks like it will take longer than expected.

On friendships: It’s interesting forming relationships when we know at the start they will only be for a few months. People are kind and welcoming, we’re forming good friendships, but there’s a general underlying understanding that it’s only for a short time. It makes us appreciate those that really do welcome us so warmly, and I wonder how it will all work out in the long run.

On learning Spanish: Our generally useful “Household Spanish” book does not have the translation for “My name is”. This is rather problematic, as that is a foundational phrase for relating in any language. Otherwise, it has much good information when we have the time to study it. I (Anna) am picking up a fair number of nouns and a few adjectives, but no grammar and almost no verbs. This makes it very difficult to form a real sentence. We are still looking for someone who might help us a bit with our Spanish.

On Covenant theology: Studying the Scripture with friends who don’t see the Bible through this “lense” makes me realize how integral it is to my thinking and understanding of Scripture. Covenant theology reveals such a rich “layer” of the Scriptures. It ties both testaments together, and shows so clearly how each event fits into God’s covenant plan of redemption. Like Jay Adams points out in his counseling materials, one’s systematic theology (or lack thereof) affects how one sees Scripture and draws applications.

On Anna: Read Luke 2:36-38. I am currently challenged by a woman who shares my name and is a dynamic example of godliness, thankfulness and faithful service to the Lord. I’ve spent quite a bit of time meditating on the little we have recorded of her life and the example of her life is a challenge to me.

On your calls & email: we really appreciate it. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Old San Juan - III

The narrow streets of Old San Juan, many of which are paved with blue-gray bricks. When trading ships used to come from Spain and Europe, they came with hulls full of these bricks, dropped off the bricks and picked up their cargo of sugar or other island products. The ships couldn't sail if they were empty, so they used these bricks for weight. Eventually San Juan accumulated so many bricks that they started using them to pave their streets!

Old San Juan - II

These are the "cool pics" we took in Old San Juan. Read the following post for details of the trip.

Old San Juan

We went up to Old San Juan on Saturday. It is the historic section of the city, with a few little parks (like one above where Lily is with all the pigeons; there is a lady in that park who sells food to feed the pigeons), very narrow streets which they still allow people to drive on!, and an old fort built in the 1530s. It has some history and apparently lots of night life; we noticed the lingering effects of the later during our morning visit. We had lunch at a "Puerto Rican diner" - in the US, a place like this would serve hamburgers and fries at lunch or meatloaf at dinner, but here they serve things like "amarillo pie" and beans and rice and roasted pork. We like Puerto Rican food quite well so far. Mariah slept a large part of the time in the stroller, and Lily preferred to walk up all the stairs she could find, poke in every hole we passed, and pick up rocks of all sizes.

Recent pics of Lily

Playing "driver" is a favorite activity and a request every time we get in the van. She knows how to operate most of the buttons and we don't give her the keys!

Can you tell nap time is approaching? Lily has put the duck, her doll, and herself down for naps on the family room floor... everyone goes face down and with his/her/its own diaper. Very important.

Friday, October 07, 2005


Where'd we get a kid with a tongue like that?! Maybe we're related to frogs after all... She can lick her chest (seriously) to get those last tasty drops of rice cereal.

Playing, playing

No real news to post, just pictures of the grand-babies.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Highlights and Lowlights

Highlight of yesterday: Our grocery store is near a ravine that is really over-grown, kind of jungle-like. When I pulled into the parking lot facing the ravine, up in the tree was the most enormous reptile I have ever seen, something like a several foot long iguana. One of the onlookers was joking that he was going to lasso it. It was absolutely huge, on the scale of something you see in the zoo, not the pet store. Very cool.

Lowlight: A recent biopsy confirmed that my Grandma Magill has breast cancer. She is 83. We don't know how extensive the cancer is yet, but intially, things don't sound real great considering her already delicate health situation. Pray for wisdom for the Drs. and our family.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Attention avid readers of this blog

If you are someone who wants to read absolutely every post on this blog, you will need to start your reading today from the posts dated Sept. 27. I actually wrote all the posts from 9/27 until 10/4 today, and just dated them according to the day on which they happened. This means that you need to open the Sept. archieves (see link on this page) first, then the Oct. archieves, then whatever shows up on the main page. Hopefully after today things will be more current.

One great thing about the tropics...

is that science lessons come to you. Lily is inspecting the multi-footed insect that crawled across our kitchen floor just before we went out to swim this morning. It wasn't a millipede, maybe a centipede? Though we may have some crawling insects, we have few flying insects... we left our windows open last evening because it was cool outside, and only 1 moth flew in. It was dark outside, and we don't have any screens, either.

This is a nice shot of the expanse of white tile that "carpets" our house.

Nonna, these are for you...

Mariah is trying very hard to crawl. She's getting very close to success.

Mariah looks at life through rose-colored glasses

Hello from PR, everyone!

Mariah sits alone!

Earrings, toddler style

Every wonder what it would look like if you wanted a sippy cup or Q-tips for earrings? Wonder no more.

For all our safety-conscious friends: No, we don't usually let Lily play with Q-tips. She found my last 2 that I'd carefully saved until the shipment arrived. The shipment came on Saturday, and now we have a new full box, which is carefully put away.

Pictures of our house

These are pictures of our house (the car is not ours). The pool is in the backyard and Lily and I go swimming most mornings that we are home. If you come and visit us, you can swim with us too! BTW, the pool is part of our back-up water supply in case of a hurricane (we have a separate drinking water supply). Not pictured: a very small backyard, and the ceramic tile through the house (think: like what's in McDonalds, only white, to show every speck of dirt). Otherwise, it's a pretty typical 2 story, 4 BR, 2.5 bath. Except for the concrete walls (to withstand a hurricane and resist all the bugs that munch on wood, of course).

Update on our return date

I talked with Ben on the phone this morning, and he mentioned that there is an all day planning meeting tomorrow to re-work the timeline for the entire project, as it is evident that they will not be able to meet previously projected time targets (you may recall that 12-15-05 was the originally scheduled end date). So perhaps it will yield a new target return date?? Personally, I'll know we're coming home when I get on the airplane. That's kind of how things go around here.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Lily - prayer request

Please pray for us as we raise Lily. She is currently “researching” our behavioral boundaries for her and the consequences of crossing them. We need God’s grace and wisdom, and so does she!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Sabbath refreshment

A wonderful day of worship and fellowship. I (Anna) was in the nursery in the morning, as we’ve decided to leave Mariah in there during services and SS. Our church has no place where we can get English translation for the service other than in the sanctuary. There is no narthex at all, and she is just too loud to stay in right now, so I’m going to be taking my turn periodically in the nursery.

We had lunch with Omar and Griselda (Lily really likes to run around with Griselda’s purse, like she does with Christy Nelson’s in Lafayette). Several others were there as well, and we had a nice time of fellowship, exchanging stories of life experiences. It was also nice to discover that their “after church hospitality” is pretty similar to ours at home, so we can have people over and do things like we would at home and know that they will be comfortable, DV.

The evening service was communion. Pastor Vater preached from Genesis 3, on the fall and its consequences and redemption (interestingly enough, his communion mediation was styled very similarly to how Dave styles his). He made an interesting comment that the Biblical description of heaven includes elements from 3 places: Eden, the Holy of Holies, and Jerusalem.

After the evening service, there was an informal dinner and Bible study/discussion at the home of one of the members (somewhat similar to a Fireside Chat for people of all ages). Since we were there, and everyone else was bilingual (!), they decided to do it in English for us, for which we were very grateful. We discussed methods of Biblical interpretation, and the practical applications that flow from this. As an aside, we were pleased to discover through conversation that many in this church take the keeping of the 4th commandment seriously! Ben and I left encouraged and challenged, and with some very tired children, who did remarkably well given the late hour.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

All in a Day's Work (a post from Ben)

This Saturday has been a rather full day here. For starters the girls got up early: Mariah at 6:45, Lilly about 7:30. I (Dad) got up with them, and had a good time getting them both ready for the day: diaper changes, getting dress, and breakfast for Lily, Anna and myself. We were doing pretty well finishing breakfast by 9:00. Then it was time to begin the day’s projects.

First I worked on installing a child-proof gate at the bottom of our tiled staircase (with tools borrowed from our pastor). I realized that the installation kit didn’t come with the necessary hardware for installation in an all concrete (exterior walls) house. So this meant a trip to Home Depot, which thankfully is only ¼ mile away. But since I was going out later in the day, I spent the rest of the morning playing with the girls while Anna unpacked our kitchen. [For those who didn’t know we shipped most of our belongings via air freight. This means it flies here in about 8 hours, and then waits at the tax office for about 8 days, and then they deliver it to your house the next day…]

About 12:00 as we were beginning to start preparation for lunch the technician for our cable company arrived. He came to install our cable modem – yes all he did was unpack the box, run a short piece of coax (TV cable), and plug it into our computer. He also installed a bunch of “junk” software on my computer, which I now get to clean up this week. I tried three times to get the cable company to let me pick up the hardware and do the installation myself, but this is against their policy. But all complaining aside, it is a great blessing to have our computer back with internet access. Hopefully this will mean we are more in touch with you, and we hope to have pictures up on the blog soon as well.

After the internet installation and lunch I went to Plaza Las Americas (see the previous post) to find some new short sleeved shirts for work. The dress code here is a little higher than back home, so I’m filling out my wardrobe for work. Thankfully most of the summer clothes are now on clearance so I was able to find some great deals.

Once back from the mall I helped clean a little (Anna did 90% of the cleaning herself), then we made our traditional homemade pizza, which is a favorite and longstanding Saturday night tradition. I was given some yeast by our pastor last night, which was a story in itself. We went to the mall just outside our neighborhood to eat at a Puerto Rican restaurant (oddly named “Country Pit”). While in the food court we ran into the pastor’s son and his family, who were just finishing their meal – we had a very nice visit with them, and learned that David was gong to the airport that night to pick up his father who was returning from a short visit to the US. I also had to travel to the airport that night to return our second rental car (which was a great blessing for the past 2 weeks). So, we decided to meet and carpool so that Anna didn’t have to drive with the girls late at night. So after dropping off my car, we picked up Paster Vater (pronounced like Darth V, only with a “t”). We then dropped off Pastor Vater, who loaned me not only his drill, but also gave me some yeast!! The church here is a true blessing.

So anyway, back to Saturday. After dinner I helped get the girls in bed and then resumed the gate installation project, and finally finished about 9:45. I am wishing that I could have shipped my tools over here now – but I suppose that I’d only get into more projects then, so it’s probably better not to have them.

So after a long day of laboring, cleaning, cooking, shopping, and playing with the girls, I slept well last night, and I’m looking forward to great Lord’s day tomorrow. Good night, and God Bless.

The saga of cable TV

The cable TV man came to install our cable modem and take away the cable TV service so that we could get our bill reduced a bit. This saga of interactions with the cable company has been one of those “Welcome-to-PR-you-are-not-in-America-anymore!” experiences. Enough said. At least we have internet at home at a working (high) speed now.