Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wringing laundry...and not other things

It was one of those days a few days back.  I determined to catch up on the laundry that just seemed to accumulate since it is nigh to impossible to do more than 1 1/2 loads of what most Americans would call a normal load of laundry per day here. 

For three days straight I toiled washing load after load by hand, hanging the wrung out pieces to dry on our makeshift clotheslines.  We get two options.  I can either hang it in the back under an awning of sorts (no direct sunlight, but it can stay hanging when it rains) or up front either on the balcony or front entrance.  The front fragrance is a mixture of diesel and various flavors of assorted smells.  The back fragrance is usually that day's lunch, which, of course, includes beans and rice.

The last day of the three days I had just finished my last load, exhausted but knowing I had triumphed.  I hung my last garment, started walking to the kitchen when I began smelling that unmistakable cigarette odor.  What happened next was NOT a pretty sight. 

I flew to the back muttering and grumbling quite loudly in English and Portuguese, letting the smoking man visiting my downstairs neighbor know how frustrated I was.  I did not care.  I had not spent my last day of laundry toiling to get the sheets clean just to have it smell like cigarette smoke!!  Oooh, I was angry.  I wanted to wring his neck.  I yanked every last piece off, throwing it over my shoulder, continuing to mutter loudly, walked into the kitchen and closed the door loudly and soundly behind me.

The kids watched in amusement and fascination while I stormed to the front telling them about the "inconsiderate smoking man downstairs" and proceeded to make room on the front lines for the laundry.  Sanguine personalities, such as mine at times, must be entertaining to watch.

It took awhile, since Josh commiserated with me, adding his own two cents about the smoking man, but when I finally calmed down I started thinking about how hard it truly must be to love one's enemies.  Personally, the thought of wringing the guy's neck seemed much more satisfactory than treating the whole situation with grace or mercy. 

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  Romans 5:8 

Just let that sink in a little.

Read it again.  sink, sink, sink...   Is it soaked in yet?  Yeah.  And we are supposed to imitate Christ.  Ouch.

So, that's an area we can all work on, loving when the world looks on and says you are justified in not having to love.  Grace and mercy.  Harder for some of us than others.

I want to show you another reason doing laundry here is toilsome.  In the photo below I am holding a filter that has ?, rust? iron?  We are not sure, but it stains the laundry if we do not filter it out. You can see a distinct line of where I already brushed some of it off, it is not a shadow.  Amazing.

Here's my "load" of laundry, about 3 sheets in the basin.  The filtered water is flowing out quite nicely right after I have cleaned it.  I can fill a 5 gallon bucket in about 20 minutes (after 10 minutes the flow begins to trickle more).  Than, if I want to have more water, I would need to clean it again to get another full bucket in 20 minutes.  Otherwise, I could let it trickle through for an hour or more.  Either way, it's tedious to continually clean the filter or takes too long to let it trickle.  This is hard work!!!

Now for some fun photos.

Awhile back we visited missionaries on an island.  Oh. wow.  Not only was it humorous to get there, but we did enjoy their beach.  That in itself was worth it.

First, we boarded a city bus and rode for 40-50 minutes.

We saw many interesting sights.  Coconut water anyone?

No?  How about some oranges?  $4 for a bushel full.

 Views around town


Next, we boarded a large boat and navigated for 30 minutes.

 We are learning to fit in.  Everyone wears flip-flops here.

 And these are the sights we will see on the boat.  A HUGE difference from the city.

 We make it to the island of Cotijuba!  It has been 1 hour and 20 minutes since we left Belem and our house.

But wait, there's more!  Now we get to ride the "bonde".  Think of it as a redneck Disney golf cart ride...except through mud and potholes for 20 minutes.  No cars are allowed on this island, so this is public transportation.

 Some typical sights.  Ah, look, this boat is for sale.

 We leave "down town" behind and head toward our destination.

 This made me think of the slogan, "Beef, it's what's for dinner."  

 The bonde drops us off.  We have arrived!

 The life of missionary kids...

Ok, so there's a few perks to living on an island.  We are glad to know these missionary friends.  We've been told we are welcome to come back.  Sounds good to me!  (just have to travel almost 2 hours and endure some potholes...)

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."  II Corinthians 1:3-4

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Just Adjust

You know, Pavlov was onto something. One accustoms oneself to one's own culture. Adjustment to another culture takes time, but can be done. And the adage that you can't teach an old dog new tricks isn't too far off either. However, with enough self-control, a proper amount of help, determination, and freedom to still live part of your old culture within the new one, it can be done. A healthy dose of the fruits of the Spirit cushion the whole adventure into a much better experience.

 I think that was the part we were missing there for awhile. Sometimes one reverts to raw instincts (AKA the flesh) when faced with something challenging, like sports or traffic, or living in a new unknown-ish environment. One thing we have concluded, when people tell you something, make sure you only take it as their suggestion, not necessarily fact. This will make learning to be flexible much easier. ;-)

 So, here's a run down of our first full month in Belem, Brazil. The first week we spent living in a room of missionary friends until the house we were to move into became available. During that time I got my voter's registration card which then allowed me to get my CPF (like a SS card in USA) so we can now ship our container of household goods to us. (I will be SO happy to get a washing machine!!)

 The second week we moved into our upstairs house rental, where we unpacked our suitcases and 10 plastic totes. We managed to bring a portable/camping stove, microwave, a large toaster oven, a few camping chairs, cooking “gear” (pots, pans, cups, dishes, etc.), air mattresses, sheets, and pillows for bedding. Friends are letting us borrow chairs and tables, and a portable AC unit. We figured out how to Jerry-rig another window AC unit so the kids can have AC as well. We tend to just turn the AC on at night because we have been told electricity here is outrageous. We shall find out...

 The subsequent weeks we continued settling in, knowing the area, meeting new Brazilians, and Bill's permanent residency taken care of and all official documents sent to Brasilia for approval. And just today I managed to get my RG (Identification Card) which will now allow us to open a bank account. Woo hoo! There doesn't seem to be an end to the amount of paper work or documents we've had to do. But in reality, were the situation reversed, I am sure foreigners in the US must have to do a lot of paperwork just to live there as well.

 But the end is in sight. In fact, we will be visiting another missionary family on one of the islands soon and I think we will all enjoy the get-away. We met them at another missionary couple's house on New Years. We hope to see where and how they live and pick their brains on how things have been working for them.

To help you visualize our new environment, here are a few photos. Enjoy!

You can see a bunch more photos at

Scrumptious pie crust cinnamon twists from my little oven.
The boys' current sleeping arrangements.  Apparently hammocks are very comfortable.
Doing laundry by hand and kids on technology.  What a contrast!
Muffin size apple tarts.  Yum!  Recipe coming soon.

The living room, boys' bedroom, and office.
Kitchen, complete with "cupboard" (plastic tote) and "pantry" (shelving).
My oven.  Woo hoo!
Laundry room and 2nd kitchen-ish
Our "backyard" (it's actually just a cement balcony where I can hang laundry.  That's the neighbor's house on the ground level.)