Sunday, January 31, 2010

Safely home

As those of you of a Facebook persuasion may already know, we have arrived safe and sound in Trinidad and we have all our luggage – wahey! The Lord is, indeed, to be praised.

We arrived in Santa Cruz on Saturday morning, where we had to catch our flight to Trinidad, albeit from a different airport. We picked up our luggage (aided and abetted by the usual trolleymen here – whom Craig stupidly mistook for taxi drivers and paid an astronomical tip!), jumped in a taxi and headed for the other, smaller airport, a good 40 minutes’ drive away. Already, as we sat in the car, the enormity of the task we were facing became clear. Santa Cruz is essentially a mega-sized version of Trinidad. Everywhere we looked was pure anarchy as evidenced by the insane driving. It wasn’t too cool either!

Fortunately for us, Dr. Diego Santana (whom you’ll get to hear a lot more about over the coming months – he’s in charge here at FT) was on his way back from Nicaragua and had a reservation on the same flight. And what a flight! A 14-seater aircraft, with a single row of 7 seats on each side of the aisle! The rivers and jungles of Bolivia spread out below us – but all we could do was sleep!

We met the rest of the Santanas (Jo and their delightful three daughters, Elena (8), Hilary (6) and Noemi (4)) and KC, who, with her husband Maicol, is staying – as are we – in the home vacated by Kenny and Claudia Holt, while they are on furlough in the UK. And once we’d dumped everything, we more or less slept, waking up around 8pm to grab a quick bite (sleep was a bit of a running theme yesterday).

This morning we had a chance to visit the church attended by the workers at FT and the locals, ‘El Jireh’. We listened to our first Spanish sermon from the pastor, Elias, before taking communion together. In this way, we felt truly at home. It’s also a good place for us to revise our Spanish, given that you hear essentially the same vocabulary every week!

More soon, but we’re heading out for a bite to eat now…

(PS -- We'd been hoping to post at least another couple of pictures, but simply to upload this single image took about 15 minutes! This is the new reality in which we now live, therefore please be patient if you're waiting to hear from us any time soon!)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Urgent -- Please pray!

Writing from Miami, where in a few hours we'll board our flight to Santa Cruz. A couple of updates to inform you of.

We called American Airlines on Thursday to double-check the situation with our baggage (we each have two gargantually-overweight cases, plus a bass guitar and an acoustic guitar). They informed us that the baggage was fine, provided we were prepared to pay excess, but the guitars could not be checked -- they could only be taken on-board. The acoustic guitar case is a fairly snug fit, but the bass case is a special flight case, so there was no way we could take it with us. I therefore resigned myself to being reunited with my beloved fretless when our first Canadian visitor arrives.

At the airport today, of course, we played the missionary card and pled with them to take the flight case, but it was no-go. However, that wasn't the last of it -- they informed us that the agreement between AA and the Bolivian government does not allow for any excess baggage! Essentially, our desk attendant would be putting his neck on the chopping board if anyone found out. Yet, after ten minutes of waiting and praying to ourselves (hey, it worked at Glasgow!), he conceded! Nevertheless, due to the weight of each case, we really have no idea if our cases will get any further than Miami. So we would really appreciate if you could just remember this situation in your prayers over the next few hours.

When we got to the departure lounge, I realised I hadn't read my Bible today and today's reading was from Luke 19, in this case, Jesus' triumphal entry on Palm Sunday. Upon instructing his disciples as to locating the requisite colt, he advises them that they will be quizzed and that their answer is to be simply, "The Lord has need of it". As I read these words, I once again felt a real sense of peace about the whole situation. Over the past year, so many seeming insurmountables have arrived in our path (moving to Bolivia being just one of them!), yet I have known every time we have overcome them that the Lord, does indeed, have need of us. It is with this assurance that we board our flight, confident that our cases are sitting comfortably in the bowels of the Boeing!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Amanda's First Post

For any of you who know us well, you have probably been able to figure out that Craig has done all the blogging so far. This is not because I am not interested, but it is because he is addicted. Seriously... you want to hear the conversations we had about blogging years ago. He's done a complete 180.

Anyways, so it is now my turn... and as tonight is our final night in Canada I thought it appropriate to finally add my say to the mix.

We have just arrived home from our dinner out with my parents and my Aunt Cathy where we were treated to an unhealthy amount of meat at Montana's. (Just so everyone knows... their apple butter rib tips are no longer on the menu. Sigh...) I think I spent a lot of time today avoiding the fact that we are leaving tomorrow... and I don't think it's because I am scared of the goodbyes. I think it is because I am somewhere between nervous and anxious about starting out somewhere completely new again. I know we've both been to Trinidad, Bolivia before... but starting a new life is something that we've not done there before. I am nervous about the fish out of water feeling and I am nervous about not being able to communicate clearly initially... I am nervous about meeting tons of new people and having to make new friends all over again. So... not terrified, but a little bit more than nervous... and then I am still going to cry at the airport... leaving home is always hard.

I actually spent the last three days re-reading a set of books (The Silk Series by Linda Chalkin) which I got when I was 7 and have read 4 or 5 times previously. I haven't read it in over a decade, but I strangely felt that need to re-read it... like going over it one more time re-enforced the emotional connection I have with home. My sisters did laugh at me... but just wait till they move to another country. I actually stayed up to 5 a.m. last night rapidly trying to finish the last book before we left... and success. Please do not view this as a recommendation to buy these books... remember, I got them when I was 7. Anyways, it felt good to go over that again.

Despite all the sentimentality, I do not feel at all like we're doing the wrong thing. It is at times like this that I have to look back on the last year and remind myself that God has clearly led us to this point. Over and over again He has shown himself faithful and though I know I will still experience that lovely fish out of water feeling, I know that He'll be there through that.

I have had such a good time in Canada... strangely it has not been that far removed from my day to day life while living in Canada, and it has reminded me that I was very blessed with my life pre-marriage, especially to have such a wonderful family - parents, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins... and grandma (who attended her very first movie screening last night - unfortunately there were not enough people in attendance for it to meet her expectations). I will miss you all...

P.S. As we'll be travelling over the next two days and then settling into life in Trinidad we might not be able to post on here for a while. But we will post something as soon as we can, so please keep checking back.

No ring-rustiness here

Back in the UK, there’ll be the usual IOC-sating BBC coverage, weather-worn clips of Sarajevo ’84 and (if we’re lucky) yet another Cool Runnings repeat.

Not so here in Canada, where our first sighting of the famous five rings was in the queue at the customs desk. That’s right, it’s so big they won’t even let you in the country without your loyal acknowledgement.

Of course, the fact that the proceedings will be played out in Vancouver (where an unusually mild winter is causing officials to store extra supplies of snow – yes, you read that correctly) is a contributing factor, but it merely adds fuel to the quadrennial hype-furnace in a nation which has long referred to ‘the summer Olympics’ and ‘the Olympics’.

And there’s no question which event is the most written-about, argued over and anticipated with religious fervour. Indeed, the single gold medal up for grabs in the ice hockey tournament may as well be a championship in itself. Imagine the Olympic football tournament allowing full-strength squads and having no World Cup to rival it and you’re perhaps about halfway there.

I was here in December 2005 when the country practically came to a standstill. For the squad announcement.

Naturally, no marketing department with their wits about them can afford to miss out on such an opportunity and Coca-Cola have duly obliged in cinemas with this admittedly brilliant encapsulation of the pre-eminent place in Canadian culture of the good old hockey game. Believe me, I saw it pre-Avatar the other week and at least one person I know shed a tear...

You know you're an exile when...

1) You're posting from the TV room at 6am, three sets into the semi.
2) At 2-1 up, you're happily counting your chickens, to the extent that you're scouring the web for a Bolivian channel likely to show the final (not looking likely).
3) You even find yourself missing Sue Barker.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Works matching words

They say there's barely a French town without a street bearing the name of Victor Hugo. I'm reading 'Les Miserables' just now and, a mere 200 pages into Hugo's doorstopper, increasingly understanding why. One cannot fail to be utterly inspired by the life of the Bishop of Digne, whose tale opens the novel. A martyr to self and a servant to all, we would all do well to remember his example and he will be particularly etched in our minds as we begin our work, in a few days' time, among the people of Trinidad, Bolivia.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Gie 'em a Haggis!

To be honest, we hadn't really given it a moment's thought. Indeed, it wasn't until Amanda's dad had mentioned it that we even remembered that the famous Allowayman's birthday was approaching. As Craig can increasingly appreciate, he is an exile who hankers after any vague semblance of home. And, on this occasion, it was that 'Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!'

Indeed, so determined was he to mark the big day that he went out on Thursday and picked it up himself. And there was only one option for this: Pickering's legendary Scottish bakery 'The But 'n' Ben'! This venerable institution has proved a treasured home from home in Craig's brief visits here and even furnished the wedding party with its kilts in July '07.

However, diligent and much appreciated though Mr. Kearon's efforts were, a few finishing touches (well, a couple of gratuitously overpriced bottles of Irn Bru) were required, and it was thus with no small sense of unfettered elation that we set off for aforementioned establishment on Saturday afternoon.

Fast-forward, then, to Sunday afternoon, when, having returned from our little Hamilton adventure, we set about making preparations for dinner (though largely observant, Joanne's departure for university that evening meant the supper fell a day early). We served a traditional meal of haggis, neeps and tatties, with Amanda preparing a delectable raspberry cranachan upon which we gorged over dessert. And Craig was, naturally, summoned to address the haggis and generally act as a guide to the evening's festivities.

All well and good, though next year may be a distinctly more challenging proposition. That said, I hear the But 'n' Ben do a fine line in tinned haggis...

Old pals

Over the weekend we had the opportunity to catch up with some valued friends and confidantes.

We love Amanda's extended family and they are a great source of support to us both. Amanda's uncle and aunt, Jerry and Dorothy Chee, have long taken an interest in us. Jerry and his wife work in full-time Christian ministry with Power to Change and, as such, have been ideally placed to advise us over the last eighteen months. At this stage of our journey, it's good to have close at hand the kind of people who are not only a source of Christian wisdom and encouragement, but also, as it were, 'mission-minded'. As ever, we spent an evening of food, fun and fellowship (TM & (C) Alan S. Cunningham) with them and benefitted from their wise counsel regarding our ministry.

The next day (Saturday) we travelled west to Hamilton to drop in on Don and Wendy Grant, who were a great help to Amanda while at university there (even helping her, in a roundabout way, to find work in Scotland!) and who have since become firm friends of Craig, too. It was a pleasure to catch up with them and a particular delight to meet their new grandson, Noah. While there, Deanna Carr, another of Amanda's old uni friends, came to say hello. As our weekend drew to a close, we felt that strange mixture of physical exhaustion yet genuine refreshment.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Carry-on flying

A minor development, but not altogether unwelcome in the light of our scales-crushing luggage haul. Passengers upon flights entering the US may now take on board a carry-on (in the light of the incident at Detroit, hand-luggage had been banned three weeks ago). Good news for us, then (we fly via Miami next Friday), though, donning my political cap, I'm once again confused as to how putting enforced security procedures in place for a short while, only to scrap them weeks later as terrorism exits stage left from the front pages, is in any way an effective deterrent. It would, of course, be utterly cynical, undemocratic and wholly disparaging of me to suggest that political capital trumped the interests of passenger security. So I won't.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Joy in the journey

It's been the little things over the past year that have gained momentum and served to confirm to us that Bolivia is where we're meant to be. The latest example of this came upon our visit to Glasgow Airport yesterday.

The Lord had already been at work over the past weeks, supplying a generous gift from our friends at church to help cover the costs of the extra bags we'd be carrying (with a rule of one-suitcase-per-passenger, we would have to pay for another two suitcases plus two musical instruments). However, as we placed each case upon the airport scales, the excess weight came to around 20kg -- effectively another case! In these times, when airlines are fighting tooth and nail for every last penny they can muster, we had every right to expect a whopping charge. But God had other plans! Responding to Craig's mum's exhoration, we prayed hard to ourselves as the final case was weighed. And moments later, we were pointed in the direction of our gate, no questions asked.

Inevitably, as we parted from Craig's family, the tears flowed. But the sadness we all felt upon our separation was married with a joyful assurance of God's perfect will.

Snappy families

On Tuesday evening, the Cunningham clan's very own David Bailey, Douglas Colquhoun, took some shots of Craig's family, at Craig's mum's request. Finding a spare half-hour to rendez-vous at Douglas' Hyndland flat required some serious diary acrobatics, but we reckon it was worth the effort. Enjoy the sample pics.

Riches beyond measure

You know the story by now. Even if you haven't seen 'It's A Wonderful Life' (in which case, upon which planet have you been spending your Christmases?).

It is Christmas Eve and George Bailey bursts into his home, elated at having once again been granted the gift of life by guardian angel, Clarence. Mere hours ago, Bailey, bankrupt and hopeless, had been questioning his very existence as he gazed over a high bridge. Yet now, having understood more clearly the difference his life has made, a very different George embraces his wife and children as never before, as they prepare the house for mystery guests. All at once, hundreds fill the Bailey living room, carrying baskets overflowing with dollar bills. Hearing of George's plight, they have dropped everything on the biggest night of the year to help him in whatever way they can. A final surprise closes the film, as George's war hero brother Harry returns from Washington DC. He proposes a toast "to George Bailey: the richest man in town".

As we boarded the plane from Glasgow airport yesterday lunchtime, we knew that we, like George Bailey, may not be laden with material possessions, but in that infinitely more important commodity of friendship, we are veritable billionaires. While it has pained us to our very marrow to have to leave so many dear friends and family behind in Scotland, we know that such sorrow reflects the warmth of these relationships. To all whom we managed to see in the last few days, thank you for taking the time to bid us goodbye. To everyone else, sorry we couldn't rendez-vous, but we wish you all the best for 2010 and look forward to seeing you...perhaps in Trinidad itself!

Welcome to our new home... more than one sense of the word. As we prepare to arrive in Trinidad in a couple of weeks' time, we'll do so with a new blog. Essentially, we'd obviously like to post pictures and that wasn't possible on the old website. Looking forward to seeing you here now and again!