La Rambla, Pocitos

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Good things come to those who wait

Buying a vehicle in Uruguay (or probably in any context where you don't know the system) is an adventure.  We first found out about this van in January.  We had looked at several options and swallowing the price being doubled was getting harder and harder.  Then we found out about an embassy couple leaving this June, selling their used Honda Odyssey.  We were buying some of their household things, and they then told us about their van that they would also be selling.  We looked at it, and it was beautiful, with all the dings and whistles.  After sitting in it and looking at all the cool features, I reluctantly asked the price, thinking it would be way out of our price range.  To my surprise, the price was the same as what we were going to pay for something of far less quality.

Then the question about waiting until June for a vehicle hit us.  Did we really want to take buses and taxies for another 6 months?  We had just finished a year in language study with no wheels and we couldn't wait to get to Uruguay to be mobile again.  We had a few weeks to think about our decision and after looking at the same quality type of vehicles and seeing that they cost from $70,000 and up, the phrase, "good things come to those who wait" came to mind.

So we decided to wait.  We didn't have the money needed yet, anyway, so waiting gave us time for more money to come in.

We were blessed by being able to use vehicles from other international workers for part of the time, at times cramming all 6 of us into these small spaces.  But we persevered.  We even made it through visits from family, although it was a tight squeeze at times.  Once we took 8 people over an hour away and back in this vehicle made for 4, maybe 5.  We are thankful for the use of these vehicles, as we didn't have to take as many taxis and buses.

Then June finally came.  Time to really start jumping into the buying process.  We had to hire an "escribana," or someone who would help us with all the legal papers (a requirement here).  The United States Embassy has a set of rules and a procedure for purchasing a vehicle from their employees.  It became apparent that our escribana wasn't familiar with all the embassy requirements for selling a vehicle, but she got in contact with the embassy contact and the process got on track.

We found out that June 25 would be our signing day, and that we could get tags for the van and take it home on the 26th.  The 25th came.  I went to the embassy at 9:30 to sign the papers and deliver the remainder from our vehicle fund to cover what we still owed.  (We ended up having to pay half out of our savings, which we will be able to have reimbursed when the remainder of the money comes in.)  Everyone was there who needed to be.  When I pulled out the check, the embassy contact person immediately became upset and told me I had the wrong type of check.  I was supposed to get a check against a bank in the USA from a special money changing house.  I had the equivalent to a cashier's check from our bank here.  The check they wanted would cost several hundred dollars, as the cost is based on a percentage of the total, and not a flat rate.  Or I had the option of wiring the money.  Either way, it had to be done that day.  With the embassy family leaving on the 28th, they had to have a buyer for their vehicle. They couldn't wait around.  So I had that day to fix the problem or they would have to sell the van to someone else.

Never have I been so thankful for our national office.  I just wish they opened their switchboard a little earlier. We had to wait until a little before noon to find out if they could even help us or not.  Time was ticking.  Thankfully our field director got through and the national office agreed to wire the money stateside to the seller's account.  But the deal was that the money had to be in the other people's account by midnight or no deal.  No sweat, right? Every wire takes a couple of hours, and this one was done between noon and 1.  All afternoon, we waited.  All evening we waited.  I had assurance that God was going to take care of us and Timbrel's word from God was that He was going to build our faith through this experience.  At 11 we just assumed the sellers had forgotten to contact us and we started the process of going to bed, anticipating all would be ok at the 8:30 signing.  No news is good news, right?

I woke up at 7:15 and a text from around 11:30 the night before said the money still hadn't transferred, but that they would check again in the morning.  I am glad I didn't read that the night before, or I don't think I would have slept very well.  Then another text came with the good news we were waiting for.  They money transferred sometime during the night.  Praise God!

I went for the signing, with that all too familiar feeling of anticipating something to still be wrong.  I met and signed with the embassy people, and then it happened.  They handed me the keys.  The van was ours.  Finally.  After all the waiting and last minute stress-waiting.  I walked out of the embassy with the keys in my pocket and a smile on my face.

We had to go get the tags, which had minor hiccup of us having to return the embassy because of a forgotten signature.  Then we found out we had to pay a tax that was remaining from the previous owner - a tax of $.10 - yes, 10 cents.  We walked 3 blocks, paid the tax, and returned for the tags.

We returned to the embassy again to pick up the van.  I spoke with the sellers one last time and then was able to drive our new van.  I told the sellers that I was going to pull in my garage (er, parking spot in the garage) and just take a nap in the van.

As I drove home, I thought about all the God did in order for us to purchase this vehicle.  I thought about Troy, and the money that came from his death.  Thank you Troy and Sarah.  I thought about all the gifts that have come in from so many different people.  Thank you to so many friends and family.  God's provision is amazing.  I am overwhelmed with thankfulness.

Then we went and picked up Madeline after school.  As I walked out of the school yard with her, she was telling me about her day, totally oblivious to the van sitting right in front of her, not even noticing that I wasn't walking, just standing there trying to get Timbrel's attention to turn on the video camera.  Then we walked to the side of the van and it clicked.  A Madeline smile appeared.  My heart smiled.  We are greatly blessed and very happy that good things come to those who wait.  Waiting is definitely an appropriate word for this van.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Am I really "doing" anything?

I recently gave some advice to a friend from language school who is about to do what we did five months ago - move to a new country and begin to plant (finally) deep roots. When you make as much of an effort to learn a language as we did in Costa Rica, you like to think that your language learning will continue on the same plane once you arrive at your final destination. After my second year of language study, my Spanish level will be double what it was after my first year, right? This was a really exciting thought for us at the end of our year in Costa Rica, where we felt like we had great teachers and learned well.

Enter daily life in Uruguay. When we left Costa Rica, we left behind a maid that kept our house clean, the laundry done, the dishes washed, the beds made, etc.  We left behind an excellent language school and 20 hours a week of instruction. Perhaps most importantly, we left behind the ladies who took care of our kids, speaking a lot of Spanish to them, for 25 hours a week. Did we really think we'd be able to do the work of all of those people? Plus jump into life in Montevideo?? Oh, and we had a baby in Costa Rica, so now the little people outnumber us 2 to 1.

So it didn't take too long for daily life to overwhelm me. And for me to figure out that my interaction in Spanish was going to be drastically lower this year than last year. It's kind of depressing to almost be able to feel your amazing (!?!) Spanish skills seeping away.

When you constantly have the feeling that there are at least four or five things you could be doing, it is freeing to know your first assignment. God has repeatedly confirmed my first assignment here. They are 7, 4, 2, and 9 months old, currently. They like to watch movies, read books, and play Pet Shops (yes, even Micah).  They say cuter things than any other kids in the world. They're high maintenance, yes, but they're also high reward. And I am one part of their world that hasn't changed (well, too much anyway).

Is my Spanish floundering? Perhaps (we do go to tutoring twice a week and have other interaction in Spanish). Are there usually undone dishes and laundry? Yes. Are there always parts (all?) of the house that need to be cleaned? Definitely. Are there things I would love to go do that I just can't do right now? Yes.

Is it worth it?

It's worth it to see light in their eyes, joy on their faces, and safety in their sleep. It's worth it to see them learning to adapt to the newness without being overloaded.

Here's the advice I gave my friend from language school:
"Give yourself LOTS of time. You and your family will be under a high stress load (though you won't always feel like it), and it's okay to let your energy go toward surviving (thriving?!?) as a person, a couple, and a family. Keep your language expectations low and your awareness of His presence high and you'll be fine."

Giving that advice helped me look back over the last five months and be renewed in my assignment.
We're here for the long-haul. The language will come. The most important thing I can do is be in His Presence, listening, resting, watching His face, reading His cues, being His Friend.
"You are my friends if you do what I command." - John 15:14