Saturday, December 26, 2009

The scariest (to me) part of the move is tomorrow!

Tomorrow morning we will be attempting to disconnect, move, reconnect, and point our satellite internet system.

Lots of the systems at our new house are very new - in fact, as I write this, Allen is working to get the electricity from our bank of batteries to the outlets, so we don't have to continue running everything on extension cords.

But the part of the move that makes me least comfortable is when we disconnect my internet, and then try to reconnect it. Would you pray with us, that this would go smoothly? That we wouldn't damage the equipment in the move, that we will be able to reconnect everything and get it pointed correctly, without any trouble?

Thanks so much! Watch for me on the other side, to let you know that I'm reconnected!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas, and we're almost done moving!

Just a quick update. Today (Christmas Eve) we are moving like maniacs. We'll have Christmas in our new home. We have water, a working toilet, a shower (cold), electricity (created by a generator and stored in batteries) and a working kitchen sink. Really, what more could we want?

Well, there is the teensy question of internet. In the next couple of days, Allen will disconnect our internet and move the satellite dish to the new location. Please pray that we are able to reconnect quickly and easily.

Today is not a holiday for us, as we tie up lots of loose ends, and move large appliances and such. Tomorrow we'll probably only take off half the day. Allen is leaving on Monday for a month in the US, and he doesn't want to leave us without everything fairly well under control here.

Kirstin and my parents have really saved the day - Christmas Day - for us! Our container shipment didn't get here before Christmas (partially due to delays related to the political situation this year) so my parents packed suitcases full of gifts, and a Christmas ham, and brought them to us. They also brought Kirstin, who helped drive loads of stuff and people back and forth between the two houses for her entire visit! We had hoped to have so much more done before their arrival, but our unexpected trips related to our residency put us far behind schedule. I hope they're glad they were able to be useful, instead of sorry they came!

I must run now, but I wanted to let you know how things are going here. Even though we are having a remarkably untraditional Christmas this year, we are trying to remember to be grateful, in the midst of our busyness, for God's True Gift.

Have a blessed Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The First Day (part 3): The Boring Part

Russell drove the beige Land Cruiser, carrying Trish, Gus, Boo and David. The majority of our drive was on beautiful new roads, with the exception of the one hour driving on dirt - but even that was mostly smooth, well-packed dirt. We were ahead of schedule, the roads were clear, the scenery was beautiful, and the vehicle ran well. Really, isn't this the most unbelievable part of the whole story? We even bought Domino's pizza for dinner, in the city of Siguatepeque. When we reached the city of Comayagua, we stopped for the night at a hotel. (If you like maps, you can find both of these cities on the map I posted with the previous portion of this story.)

Allen and Rachel (in the white Land Cruiser) had made it to the bank in San Pedro Sula in time to complete the financial arrangments, and they were on their way to rendezvous with us in Comayagua. They encountered some really bad road construction delays late in the day, including one spot where they sat for an hour and a half without moving at all, so they were about an hour behind us.

We all settled in for the night, knowing that we needed to start out early the next day, as we wanted to get to the Immigration office as early as possible. We still had a nice chunk of road to traverse to get to the capital. We don't visit Tegucigalpa often, and we didn't know the location of the Immigration office, so we also had to figure on some extra time for getting lost, and turning around, and such.

Next time: Our day at the Immigration office

Friday, December 18, 2009

We interrupt this travel saga for a brief message


We're so excited to have Kirstin home with us for the holidays! She's thrilling us with exotic tales of job hunting and interviewing, job orientation, punching in and learning the ropes at Home Depot.

Tomorrow morning she is going to jump into helping us with the move. Having an additional driver is going to speed things up so much! I'm excited to think how much closer we are to being done with this move, now that we have her help!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The First Day (part 2): Setting Off

Solving the problems related to a sudden, unexpected road trip involved more desperation than brilliance. Allen decided to hire one member of his construction crew to stay on site as a watchman for out on our new property while we would be away. Interestingly, the most responsible and honest (in our estimation) worker was also the youngest, Chele (pronounced something like chili). Happily, Chele is also fond of our animals, and they know and respond well to him. He would be responsible for two dogs, the mother cat and kittens, the chickens, horse, and bull.

Allen set Chele up in the smaller of our two buildings, and secured everything of value in the larger building. It's a sad fact in Honduras that you need to hire a watchman to keep your property safe, and then you also have to protect your property from your watchman! Chele would live, sleep, and eat in our team house for the next five days. Because we had been expecting a normal work day, there was a cooler full of lunch for the entire crew on site. Chele would live on cokes and bologna sandwiches for a few days! While Russell and Gus finished getting everything ready out on the property, Allen came on home and packed for the trip.

It was necessary for Allen to make a stop in San Pedro Sula, before heading to Tegucigalpa, to move funds from our US account to our Honduras account. San Pedro used to be "on the way" to Tegucigalpa, before new road construction opened up a much more direct route (the new road is paved almost the entire way - only about an hour of travel on dirt now). You can see the old route to Tegucigalpa shown with a black line on the map at the top of this post. The new, shorter route is shown with a blue/gray line, where it deviates from the old route.

So, Allen and Rachel got into the first Land Cruiser, and headed out to the north, to do banking in San Pedro Sula. They left around noon. It is a three to four hour trip to San Pedro Sula (depending on traffic, road conditions, weather, etc), and they needed to get to the bank before it closed for the day. They were cutting it pretty tight.

The rest of the family, in the second Land Cruiser, driven by Russell, would leave later, and travel on the shorter route up over the mountains. The plan was for the two groups to meet at a hotel that night, somewhere outside of Tegucigalpa, but close enough that we could be in the city first thing Friday morning, to accomplish our business with the Immigration Department.

Before we could leave, however, we had to secure our rental house, and make certain that the animals would be cared for. It was impossible to reach any of our local gringo friends, who are mostly either Peace Corps workers or bilingual school teachers, as they were all at work. In the end, we made an uncomfortable decision: we would leave the house in town without a watchman, and we would try to set up the animals there so that they could fend for themselves during our absence. Several things worked to make this possible. One, our next door neighbors are related to our landlord, so we knew they would be certain to notice if anything was amiss at our house during this time. They weren't given access to the interior of the house, but they could keep an eye on things from their place. Second, we would be stopping back at home, and spending one night, between our trip to Tegucigalpa and our trip out of the country. So, we didn't have to prepare the animals to be alone for the entire 5 days, but instead they could be set up for one overnighter, and then (after we'd been home to clean up and restock their food and water) another two nights alone.

We left one dog outside, as a sort of guard. (She hides under our trailer and barks at anyone who comes to the gate. I'm sure it's quite intimidating.) She was given a huge quantity of food and water, and she had shelter under the carport. She wouldn't be happy, but she'd be fine, and would make it somewhat less likely that anyone would want to come over our wall.

The new puppy, Commando, was a problem. He is too valuable (as well as awfully young) to be left outside. Another sad fact - a young and valuable watchdog has to be protected from being stolen, until he's old enough to be scary to the robbers! We have a large hallway which ends at the carport with a secure gate. We blockaded the hallway so that Commando had the space from the blockade to the gate. He and the other dog could socialize through the gate. He also had lots of food and water, but he has a bad habit of spilling out his water bowl when he's bored, so we gave him multiple shallow baking pans of water (harder to tip over), and we worried about him more. He also had to pee and poop on the tile floor. Not a wonderful solution, but the best we were able to come up with.

The two young female cats (who have been only indoor cats) were secured in a bedroom/bathroom. With plenty of food, water, and a litter box, we figured they'd do okay. The two male cats were set up so that they could get in and out of the house through a window (they can fit between the security bars). If they ran out of food, they could catch mice.

Morph the parrot, and Granola the bunny were each given a stockpile of food and water, but we knew their food wouldn't be appetizing for long. These two were secure, and we didn't have to worry about their poop issues, but they both eat fresh foods, and those are harder to set up in advance than commercial dry dog and cat food.

Once all of these arrangements had been made, we grabbed a quick lunch, packed some clothes, and tried to remember all of those things that are good to do before leaving the house for a few days - like taking out the trash and making sure no foods are about to go bad in the kitchen. Then we set off, earlier than we'd expected to be ready, which was nice for Russell, as he didn't have to feel pressured to push his speed to make our rendezvous with Allen and Rachel.

Next time: The drive!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The First Day (part 1): We Have a Problem (or two, or three)

It was Thursday, the 3rd of December. We'd just said "goodbye" to our friends, the Hayeses, who had worked with us here in Gracias for a year. They had delivered some items to our new house before leaving - some furniture we'd loaned to them, some furniture we'd bought from them, a large number of boxes of ministry-related items which had been stored at their house, plus a mother cat with five kittens.

Allen and Russell were working out on our property. Other family members were at our house in town, packing. With my (Trish's) parents and oldest-daughter Kirstin coming for a visit in mid-December, we were working hard to finish our move. We wanted to be somewhat settled before their arrival.

That's when we got the phone call, from the lawyer who is working on our residency. But, I need to backtrack a bit here.

We've had official residency in Honduras for several years. However, we'd been offered an opportunity to upgrade to a much better type of residency, by a high government official I won't name here, because of their appreciation for our humanitarian work in the department of Lempira.

Apparently, the appreciation of this official wasn't great enough for them to actually follow through with their offer, and after waiting (and trying to work on this with them) for months, we found ourselves in the awkward and unwanted situation of having our residency in arrears. We had to disentangle ourselves from this "help," and move on.

We had previously used a lawyer located in the city of La Ceiba, because we lived over in the islands, and this was a convenient location for us. Everyone always suggests, though, that using a lawyer located in the capital is better for residency work, so we decided this would be a good time to switch. A lawyer in Tegucigalpa was recommended to us by a good friend, and we were off and running on getting our legal residency back. Purportedly, the new lawyer was able to get the fines which had been assessed against us (because of the gap in time, when our old residency was not renewed and a new residency hadn't been instituted) forgiven, with the help of the original government official who was responsible for the problem. Then began the work on getting our residency back up again.

But. The lawyer kept asking for new papers, and then different papers, then not replying to our emails, then not answering our phone calls. We played around with this for a few months, as things got gradually worse, until it became clear that this lawyer was really NOT going to accomplish anything. We found ourselves switching lawyers again.

This time, finally, the lawyer recommended to us has turned out to be a blessing. He jumped into the situation with enthusiasm, and almost immediately discovered that the fines for the previous problems had not been forgiven, and had, in fact increased significantly. Things were so bad, that it was likely that we would be considered for deportation if something positive wasn't done by the end of the year. The dollar figures being bandied about, to fix our immigration problem, were astronomical for our budget.

The phone call from the lawyer that Thursday morning was a shocker. We would have to visit the immigration office in Tegucigalpa in person (the whole family) to pay the fines and fees. Then, we would have to leave the country and return again. This would then have us in the country on a 90 day visa. During the 90 days, the lawyer would submit the paperwork for our new residency, and we would receive automatic renewals on our visa until the residency work was complete. These travels would need to happen before the end of the month of December.

Now, any kind of travel at this time was totally out of the question. We were (and still are, by the way) living in two different houses, one in Gracias and the other a few miles outside the city. We had major construction projects ongoing. Neither house is secure enough to leave without having someone stay to watch over the property. We had guests coming soon, and we needed to prepare for their arrival. We couldn't imagine leaving our guests here in Gracias while we traveled all over the place. Oh, and there are holidays in December!

But Allen figured out a plan. If we left that same day, we could get to Tegucigalpa in time to make our appearance and pay our fines at immigration on Friday. Then we could head out of the country, and possibly be home as early as Monday. This was a wonderful plan, in terms of being home and done with this whole mess before our guests arrived - but what about the two houses, finding watchmen, setting up petsitting (we currently have, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit, over 20 animals in our care: 4 dogs, 11 cats and kittens, 3 chickens, 1 parrot, 1 bunny, 1 horse, and 1 bull), accessing the large amount of money needed to pay immigration and to pay for our travels, etc? How could this all be done, and the whole family be on the road, with basically no notice?

More on this story to come soon. I'm going to go pack some more boxes now.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Preview of Coming Attractions

We just got back from one of our craziest weeks ever - and if you know this family, then you know that's really saying something! I'm working on catching up on emails, writing a newsletter, and still packing - but I promise the story of our eventful week will be coming soon! Watch this space - and thanks for praying for us when you don't hear from us. We appreciated those prayers this week!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An update on our move

Both construction and moving are happening here, so things are a bit unsettled.

Yesterday, Allen and Rachel spent much of the day converting bookcases into walls in our new abode. This is one of those exciting steps which makes a big difference in changing the look of the building from "warehouse" to "home." They didn't happen to take any pictures, however, so you'll just have to use your imagination for now. I am told that the kitchen has 3 walls, my bedroom has walls, and some of the other bedrooms have partial walls. We're getting there!

At the same time, work continues on getting the plumbing hooked up, the tile floor (in the girls' bedroom) completed, the water tank finished, etc. The men will be placing lots of black water pipes on the roof. The water in the pipes will be heated by the sun, and this will allow us to have hot showers and hot water in the kitchen, even before our solar panels arrive (they aren't coming until February).

Back in town, Boo, David, and I are the work crew charged with keeping house and packing. Although we are the weaker, smaller team, we're trying to hold up our end of things. As the rest of the family heads out to the construction site each morning, they load up the vehicles with furniture and our packed boxes, so the move is gradually pushing forward.

We now have several family members living out on the property full time, for security purposes. We had a couple of thefts in the past, much earlier in the construction process, and we knew as we started installing expensive items like floor tile, doors, windows, etc, that the likelihood of theft would be much higher. And, of course, once we started moving boxes of household stuff out there, the theft risk rose even more. For this reason, Christopher (aka Gus) has been living out there as a watchman, for just over the past month. Although he's only 15, he has been living alone many days, sleeping out there alone most nights, cooking for himself, etc. I think that's pretty amazing and brave, don't you? He has done a great job with this, but I know Gus is glad to have more family out with him now - I think he was getting a bit lonely!

Now there are several family members, 2 dogs, a bunch of cats, a bull, a horse, and three chickens living out there. We hope to all be out there soon!