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Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Auckland, New Zealand

We’ve finally done all the firsts….first time visiting the supermarket and vege shop, first checking the mailbox, first play with neighbours, first chat over the fence, first BBQ, first time to the organic shop, first summer swim, first walk, first day back at work, first contact with medical personnel (thankfully this does not tend to be a regular occurrence for us, but we are going to have booster shots done so we can take off again any time in the next ten years without having to go through the rigmarole of weekly jabs for Far Too Long At Far Too Great An Expense), first rain, first vege planting, first bread baking (we’ve even got a sourdough bug on the go now)…we had completed all the firsts except going back to church.
Now that’s done too.
One lovely (obviously-blog-reading) lady spoke to us afterwards, saying she had looked over and seen us and thought that if she’d been us she’d have been sitting there missing the close-knit Romanian church group we were a part of for a month; she’d have been feeling today was impersonal and non-interactive and very big. Strangely enough, these were not the things that stood out to me. I noticed the niceness. As a matter of fact, in a number of different settings, this keeps happening over and over. Everything seems so pristine, so well-cared-for, so unbroken, so matching, so nice. We don’t attend a church that meets in a big fancy cathedral or even in a modern church building – we set up shop each Sunday in a local school hall. But, even still, it looked nice. And when the lights were dimmed, it seemed like a performance!
Secondly, everything felt slow. Instead of needing to race to try and keep up with the words of the songs, we were able to sing along comfortably. Even the song that had been learnt while we were away. It was not completely unfamiliar to us though – we encountered it first in Romania, and now we know what it meant;-)
Thirdly, there was real English. The sermon included turns of phrase that you just don’t hear coming from language learners. This added a depth and made me aware again of the importance for people to have the Scriptures in their own tongue. Having not given it a moment’s thought for many years, I remembered that once upon a time I had thought I would be a Bible translator some day….clearly that never happened.
Fourthly, we were able to connect with people we know. What a comfortable blessing, and one we shall try to not take for granted.
The last thing we noticed was how our trip continues to affect this new life.
Cloths draped over a big wooden cross made us think of similar ones draped over statues in Cambodia.

A sermon reference to the multiplicity of gods in ancient days brought forth images of statues lined up outside temples, both in Asia and Europe.

A prayer for those suffering as a result of the Haiti earthquake led my thoughts to the suffering elsewhere as well.

Our experience of the past fifteen months will no doubt continue to mould us into the future. But the time has come for us to stop the recording.
Our adventure of life for the next year will involve Rob continuing to serve the local community at his place of employment….giving to the wider world community by raising money for Big Brother Mouse…becoming a biking family….possibly becoming a farming family….we’ve already started new learning experiences through books and activities….we’ll hopefully take road trips round our own country….we’ll dream dreams.

And one day, we hope to reopen Pilgrims’ Progress, for another chapter.

insert picture of the ten of us lined up like our front page picture….but we need to take the picture first 😉 (and we’d quite like to take it on the new land we are going to call home signifying our new adventure into a different lifestyle….we have been to look at properties, but haven’t found The One yet….so maybe any picture will do)

PS In a few days – or perhaps when we’ve taken that last photo – we’re planning on rearranging the blog. We are not going to close it completely as some travelling families have done when they finish their travels (maybe because we do not feel we have finished), but we are going to reverse the order of the posts so that we can read from beginning to end!

PPS When we had a look at an old post the other day we discovered it had somehow got truncated…..Grandpa Gene, we’ll be sending you the full version of the story you were in the middle of reading!

back to work

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Auckland, New Zealand

We wake, legs entwined, his breath gentle on my neck. We stir, but say nothing, savouring the last moments, not wanting to let go.
“It’s over,” I finally whisper.
“Until next time,” he replies.
“We’ll do it again.”

For a few months now, January the eleventh has been on the calendar as The Day Rob Has To Go Back To Work. That’s today.

Before going, he prays with us, revises memory verses, sings some songs and eats breakfast. We are falling back into a new old routine. It’s strangely comforting. ERgirl3 sits on his knee – such a special opportunity she has had this past fifteen months to become a daddy’s girl, to cling to him as her rock and security, to get to know him in a way none of the other children did at the same age. We are told she will not remember the trip – and she may well remember only a little – but what a strong daddy-bond she has forged. When it’s time for the parting, she announces, “I don’t want you to go Dadda.” But she accepts he has to. She’s grown up a lot.

I ask the children, as I had asked Rob last night when we were travelling home, if there’s anything they are not enjoying about being back in New Zealand. Generally, we try to focus on positives, but we recognise it can be beneficial to process the harder things too.
There is a long thoughtful silence. Kgirl11 breaks it with the same answer her Daddy had given in the car, “Unpacking.” Well, that’s understandable!
Jgirl15 adds, “It’s not exciting.” And Kboy12 agrees, “There’s nothing new, it’s all the same.” Right now a mega-dose of familiarity is a blessing. There’s enough going on with catching up with people, trying to get the house unpacked, replacing worn-out clothing, organising learning materials and returning to *normal life*, that we don’t need to be dealing with foreign foods or strange tongues or unknown destinations or wondering where we’ll sleep tonight. You really can’t argue with a hot shower each evening or having a pillow under your head. But no doubt the day will come when we might wish for a little more adventure. Friends who lived in a developing country for a few years mentioned recently that they now find life here is easy, comfortable, predictable and unchallenging to the point of even being boring.
For us right now, familiarity has its place.

The only thing I’m not enjoying is something I had an issue with before we left, and something we were able to avoid for a good part of the trip: *car dependence*
I like daily marketing on foot. Today, after dropping Rob near his workplace, we drove (not walked) twenty minutes (not just a few minutes) to the supermarket (a big impersonal warehouse rather than open-air market filled with little stores manned by individual people, who have time to stop and chat rather than processing you through as fast as they can so they can process serve the person behind you in the queue). We shopped for a month. Instead of buying fresh raw milk every day as we did in Romania, we now have twenty litres of milk piled up in the freezer. Instead of deciding day-by-day whether we’d have cornmeal or rice, we now have a stack of both – and chickpeas, beans and lentils, too. It’s a different rhythm here. Of course, we *could* go to the supermarket every day, but we actively try to limit our car usage. Besides, we have more interesting things to do than drive around the suburbs day in and day out.

So we did our shopping, came home and put it all away, unpacked some more books, made some bread and yoghurt, supervised some spelling, mathematics and Latin learning, and taught Kboy12 how to make an awesome almost-Italian pizza (just need the pizza oven and it would be truly authentic), zipped out in the car to pick up Rob so he wouldn’t have to walk the whole way home, showed the toilet fixer to the cracked loo, and had some friends over for the evening.
Yep, just another day at the office!

seeking Christmas

Friday, December 25th, 2009
Istanbul, Turkey Turkey has had a reputation in recent times of being not particularly friendly to adherents of the Christian religion. We wondered what we’d find. Christmas Day dawns – bright and early….well, early, but barely light. We are staying right ... [Continue reading this entry]

three days ago the third…and four days ago too

Thursday, December 10th, 2009
Brasov, Romania Throughout much of Western and Central Europe the sixth day in December is set aside for celebrating St Nicholas’ feast day. Known for being kind to children and as a generous gift-giver, the saint has been remembered now ... [Continue reading this entry]

what a welcome! (three days ago again)

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009
Brasov, Romania Slideshow Sunday the Second…..we were invited to share our slideshow at a small local church. It was exactly fourteen months and one day since we had been to a “real” church service. Opening the door at the top of the ... [Continue reading this entry]

three days ago (magical moments)

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
Brasov, Romania Some days you wake up and you have no idea that the day is going to be filled with surprises and magical moments. Saturday was one of them. Because we were invited to a local church on Sunday, the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Jgirl15, the first baby (or The Eldest)

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Brasov, Romania written by Jgirl15 


I really hope no one asks me what the one thing I enjoyed most about our trip is, because its an almost unanswerable question! There’s no ONE thing. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Kboy12, number two son

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009
Brasov, Romania A follower, admiring whoever he is spending time with….one who is happiest in the company of others and in heaven if there is also a ball… who wants to make money and prefers to own things than simply ... [Continue reading this entry]


Tuesday, December 1st, 2009
Brasov, Romania December first always signifies the beginning of our Christmas preparations. A year ago we were in Laos, the most non-Christian country we have visited. This year, it’s Romania, and we have six months of frequent church-visiting behind us. One of the ... [Continue reading this entry]

back to town

Sunday, November 29th, 2009
Brasov, Romania It was so easy to get out of the habit of going to church on a Sunday. Here it has been easy to slip back into the habit. But it’s a habit with a difference. The church “family” ... [Continue reading this entry]