I think this post will just be a simple human interest piece with a culinary focus. I’ll try to fit in several of our favorite moments and the laughs in between. I have been amazed at how well Aubrey and Caleb have just continued with who they are in this very different place. There have been mentions of home between TJ and I as we plan out this last week, trying to fit in all the things we want to do (namely a few more family walks, more time with the Perrys and another game night with Maggie and Matthew), and Aubrey, always a keen listener to conversations she isn’t a part of, picked up on it. I’m not sure if she had wondered about going home at all or was too busy learning about life here to think about it, but she started just yesterday asking about her house in America and her friends there. Caleb of course is fully in the moment and it is interesting to see how acclimated he is now. He does bring up some things about home though! Someone said the word hot tub in a story today, and Caleb started yelling, “hot dog pees! Peessss, hot dog!!” He was very sad when I couldn’t give him one. Other than a few moments like that, this is his new home and life as far as he is concerned. What will a real move to the field look like? TJ and I continue to process this question as we find our rhythm here.
Last week we had a double date with Jeff and Elizabeth while Aubrey and Caleb stayed with all the Perry kids (their oldest, Lilly, is 16) at their house for a movie night. It was wonderful fun. Hazel, Given, and Winnie were beside themselves excited about getting to give Aubrey and Caleb a bath and put them in pajamas; they helped me pack up a little back pack of all the things the kids could possibly need and walked us over to their house. TJ and I had a great time getting to talk to Jeff and Elizabeth without interruption.
They took us to the Bishop’s compound (they have a great chef) in town after a quick trip through the open air market. We got a neat curry take on American hamburgers with chips (French fries) on the side. And an almost cold coke. Such a luxury! Date night second edition happened last night and we went to the only other restaurant. I didn’t catch the name, but it was Ethiopian. I will say, TJ and I had never eaten Ethiopian food before and we were both shocked when Elizabeth tore the white spongy looking napkin the food was served on, dipped it into the sauce and ate it. For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s called injera and is a sourdough flatbread (thanks, Wikipedia!). It reminds me of a crepe just a little.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time together. Driving to the restaurants (and everywhere else) is really more like off-roading it. I wish I could have taken a picture of the gullies and sometimes waist deep trenches all through the main dirt roads. I was too busy hanging on as we slowly lumbered in their range rover over the rough terrain! I am going to have to gain some serious courage (and learn how to drive a stick) to get behind the wheel on the mission field.
Filling the hours of the day has been more challenging after the first week, but having nowhere to be promptly means we can stop and enjoy things like a long trail of huge pale orange ants climbing up a tree (Caleb stuck his hands right in the trail and there was a slight frenzy on my part to swipe them off), random wide short logs that are fun to try to roll, and any small green weed daring to grow during the dry season (Aubrey likes to pretend she planted them and yells out, “Look Mommy! My seed is growing! We need to bring it water!!”).
During walks, Aubrey likes to make dust trails for us to follow by dragging one foot or shuffling both feet in the inches of dust everywhere and asking Caleb and I to only walk in the “path” she made. We have managed on several occasions to take thirty minutes to walk to the Pyatt (a one minute walk without kids) and I usually don’t mind. We have visited Maggie and her two kids, Naomi and Leo, multiple times and switch off houses. Our latest favorite, as it has been getting hotter, is playing in the water tubs (yes, the same dread water tubs that Caleb would not go near during our first week). Lots of busy pouring from one container to another and then episodes of intense splashing fill the afternoon nicely! This has cured Caleb of his fear of baths and now he wants to climb in one every chance he gets, clothes on or not.
A favorite has been lunch with the Perry family. We have had homemade sushi, thai soup and pad thai. They often eat later (around the kids nap time) so twice my kids have slept at our house (with an eager Perry helper or two hanging out just in case they wake up early) while TJ and I have enjoyed lunch kid free with the rest of the family. This usually includes Alex and that makes TJ and I happy. Alex has all the older kids laughing at his antics and stories within a few minutes of sitting down. Elizabeth has endeavored to find a way to make all their favorite dishes even on the mission field despite limited fresh vegetables, not very much meat, and very different dairy products. When the power went out for several hours the first week we were here, Elizabeth had been in the middle of baking 9 loaves of bread that would last her family the next week and a half and had to switch all those pans to the wood fire oven outside the Pyatt! Three hours later, they were done and still turned out great! She and Rebecca (the Canadian doctor here for three months) just made cheddar cheese the other night and are waiting for it to age. I think I should go to a cooking from scratch class with a focus on creative substitution in recipes prior to moving somewhere without grocery stores.
I have missed being able to take the kids to a park or library or Mayborn, until we discovered the pig farm! Just a small walk away down the big dirt road outside the compound, there is a small wooden fence enclosed pig sty with four large pigs. They are owned by someone the Perrys know and Elizabeth pointed it out to me on a run one morning. Never have we been on a better field trip. Maggie and I teamed up with the Perry girls extraordinaire (including two other MK toddlers they were watching) and led our little troop, munching on digestive biscuits on the way, to the destination. The Perry girls hadn’t ever stopped to look at the pig farm so they thoroughly enjoyed it as well.
We ooh’d and aww’d over the stinky dirty pigs and their big rubbery looking noses, and the kids’ eyes almost fell out of their heads when they saw the pigs getting fed “slop.” We walked back to our house and promptly colored pig pictures to hang on the walls. Since that first trip, we have been two more times!
Oh, one other highlight I can’t forget to mention was the night we ordered “delivery” from the EPC compound (the same one we went to on our date night). Alex paid 450 pounds (about 22 dollars) for five hamburgers and five orders of chips. He had also gotten us cokes and REAL ketchup in town earlier that day and we had a feast! The kids were so excited they had a dance party around the table.
Neither one of them actually ate anything but fries and lots of ketchup since the burger meat was a bit spicy, but that didn’t matter. We had just finished eating (thankgoodness!) when Caleb stood up and turned around in his high chair, and TJ said, “What is that all over his back?” Yep, poop explosion. We hadn’t had to deal with one of those since before the 1 year mark! Not even that could put a damper on our fine dining evening.
To find some sort of conclusion to this random assortment of recaps, I will say the Lord has so richly blessed us during this trip by providing fast friendships, good fellowship, and time for long conversations. The kids are thriving, and TJ and I love the adventure of new and different together. The sobering thought is once the newness and excitement wears off, underneath there will be a depth of confusing cultural differences, language barriers, and very difficult medical work wherever we end up going. We are praying for grace to see us through the “Dancing Elephant” stage on our own foreign mission field and His energy to stay the course when we become weary. Only three more days before we fly back! Thank you for all of your prayers and thoughts!