Sunday, February 28, 2010

My new pets... well, kind of mine.

We were asked to do some posts along the way that were directed a bit more towards kids... this way kids in some Sunday Schools would have a way to relate to our life here. So, I hope that this one is of interest to them.

Animals... there are so many different animals all over the place, and I know that I am very far from seeing all of them. I'll start off with our "pets". I used to joke that one of the ways in which Craig got me to agree to come was because I would be able to get a dog. (This is just a joke... it is clearly NOT the reason we came, and neither did Craig have to force/convince me to come here...). The house in which we are staying actually does have between 3 and 5 dogs depending on how you count "ownership" of a dog... and these dogs are actually kind of shared between multiple houses. There are 5 dogs that kind of live in the space between Diego and Jo's house and Kenny & Claudia's house (we're living in the second one of the two). Their primary purpose is security because they bark if anything moves around the outside of the building. KC was telling me that in a lot of ways Bolivians' views on pets are quite different from ours... generally people don't have pets because they want something to keep them company but because they serve a purpse, ie. security or killing big spiders/lizards/mice. Also, these dogs can never come into the house because they are, well, very dirty (some people let their dogs into their house... but ours don't come in). They run around all day in the bush and play around horses and roll in who knows what. They are fed by giving them the left overs of absolutely everything and they sleep generally on the patio near the house.

And I have a favourite... his name is Cable. He is apparently the newest addition... he just showed up one day with a Cable around his neck, hence his name. The first picture below is of him... he is kind of like a dachshund, and I've always wanted a dachshund, so I think that's way I love him the most. Then there is Tota and Kitty (mother and daughter -- one of them is the second picture below, but I don't know which one is which most of the time, as they look the exact same). We generally feed these three... the other two are generally big bullies (Arturo and Sam -- not pictured) who steal food from the other three and jump up on you with their muddy paws and ruin your clothes. Arturo was also eating KC's chickens and he bites the other dogs.

And yes... KC has chickens (third picture down)... she has what I think is a lot and she sells the eggs. Sometimes when they fight, or when one is attacked by a bat, she has to bring one into the bathroom and let it live there for awhile so that it can heal. So... sometimes you have to go to the toilet with a chicken staring at you. Kind of creepy... You can't get emotionally attached to the chickens though, so no naming them, because they can be quite mean to each other and leave you emotionally scarred.

KC also has a cat named Baddy which lives in the house. I have to say, not being the biggest cat fan before now, that Baddy and I have a great relationship (fourth picture down). She loves to kill any frog, fly, lizard or anything else that gets into the house. Apparently, there are a variety of lizards here that have a way of dropping their tails off when trying to distract an attacker. It is not odd to see a dead lizard with a missing tail around the place (okay, I don't know if you want to tell that one to the kids).

There is a park nearby which would be similar to a petting zoo back home. Instead of goats, sheep and such they have ostriches, deer, alligaters, a boar and a tapir. You can also pay money to go in and see an anaconda, but we have not done this yet. I did watch the baby ostrich walk right up to a couple on a park bench that were getting, well, very friendly. The baby was very interested in their activities. The alligaters, thankfully, are fenced off with the boar, tapir and loads of turtles. Apparently, you can find wild ostriches at the side of the road here in some places.

Generally we have to be careful of tarantulas, snakes and scorpions in and around where we live. We always wear shoes in the house and put towels/blankets in front of doors so they can´t creep in under the door. I haven't seen any tarantulas or scorpions yet (not that I am eager), but I have seen a couple snakes... though only dead ones.

For those of you that know me... I am not a spider person at all... and seriously, I believe, by God's grace they don't really bother me that much anymore. You just have to get used to insects of all kinds here because they are definitely not going away. Well... I hope the pictures and animal stories will make this place a little bit more real to some kids. Let us know if you have any ideas of subjects of more children-orientated posts.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Saturday Post -- 27/07/10

This week has very much provided a salient reminder of modern telecommunications and their hazards, Bolivian bureaucracy and its toe-curling awfulness….and, above all, my complete block-headedness!

On Sunday I attempted to set up a call with my parents. It became clear even before we got here that using Skype to call the UK from Bolivia would be about as useful as giving Ashley Cole a copy of ‘The Idiot’s Guide to Staying Married’. Therefore, Pater and Mater kindly obliged to dust down the old landline (remember landlines?). Alas, they were unable to get through – not, as we naturally suspected, because it was simply too much for the Bolivian phone lines to handle, but because our home phone seems to have forgotten how to ring.

The next day, Maicol kindly had our UK mobiles ‘chipped’ for use in Bolivia and, thus, numbers in hand, I skipped gleefully to the computer and emailed home immediately with our new contact details. On Wednesday afternoon I received a (as yet unconfirmed) ten-second call from a family member on my mobile, but the line was as clear as mud.

Such problems, as previously stated, extend to the realm of cyberspace. This week one of my TEFL assignments involved watching an hour-long video of a TEFL class, i.e., 6 ten-minute clips on YouTube. In order to access the fastest internet speed possible, I headed to an internet café in town. And, yes, it was indeed significantly quicker than our internet at home – a mere four hours were required to watch one hour’s worth of video!

This impediment, however, was as nothing compared to the setback which followed. The next day, ready to resume my TEFL studies, I looked in my bag for my USB stick. You can probably guess the next bit: I’d committed the cardinal sin of modern computing. Frantically I sped back into town, expecting disaster and encountering a situation that was all the worse for its bittersweetness. One of the guys at the café did, indeed, have the stick. Only, armed with a ‘finders-keepers’ mentality, he had taken it upon himself to re-format the stick. Containing three years of work. None of which, to my eternal regret, was backed up.

Well, at least he was kind enough to give me back my stick!

A hard, hard lesson. I seem to have one of these moments every year and I dearly hope I’ve paid my dues for 2010! At the same time, I was reflecting with Amanda that the vast majority of material on the stick was a bank of Scottish educational materials for classes of all shapes and sizes that I’d built up over the years. Was there, I wondered, something else at work in my ineptitude? The removal of another little safety net and a clear message from the Master that we are here in Trinidad to stay?

My panic and frustration this week has, thankfully, been balanced by Amanda’s deepening relationships with her colleagues at FT – proof of which can be found in their bestowal of a nickname upon her. A couple of firsts here this week – she finally had the chance to assist in the Tuesday afternoon ear surgery session which takes place at the military base here (this is on the other side of town, so transportation and the setting up/dismantling of equipment effectively add three hours to the procedure – this will be drastically reduced from March when FT’s brand new operating theatres open) and watched as Diego repaired the ear of a man who had damaged it when playing football. He had sustained a tympanic membrane perforation that was non-healing. So Diego performed a tympanoplasty (ear drum graft) and Amanda got to watch it up close as they have an observation attachment on the microscope used for micro-ear surgery. Secondly, she helped out at the first of the weekly school visits which are now taking place to determine the health and wellbeing of children in the vicinity, taking heights, weights and temperatures.

An area for which we would very much appreciate your prayers is our one-year visa application. Some of you may remember that the whole point of obtaining our 30-day visa before we came to Bolivia was to ease the process when we arrived here. Many’s the time over the past weeks that I’ve said to myself, “So this is the easier method?” We got the ball rolling on the Monday after we got here and we still have some way to go – there seem to be about 101 different layers of bureaucracy to wade through before you can even have a sniff of obtaining it. Thankfully, we have been greatly assisted by KC, without whose help we would be lost in the paper jungle.

An added complication is that, though we paid for a 30-day visa, arriving on 30th January, the London embassy, in their infinite wisdom, set our expiry date as the 18th of February! Now, we cannot be removed from the country and as long as we can prove our visa is pending then we are fine. However, there is a small daily charge for every day we stay here without a visa and, thus, we are facing an ever-increasing bill for our efforts (or, to be more precise, the non-effort of the Bolivians!).

Perhaps by next January we’ll have obtained our one-year visa! Nonetheless, we wait and trust in the Lord’s perfect timing. Now there’s a communication method that works the world over!

• The ongoing visa application.
• Common sense (this one’s for Craig!).
• Craig’s sermon on 1 John 1:8-9 this Sunday (28th).

• Our deepening friendships with our friends and colleagues.
• Trials – they’re good for our perseverance.
• Amanda’s growing opportunities in healthcare.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Foundation Totai - Nursing

Hi... it's Amanda again.

This blog entry is going to be all about what I am doing in the hospital. If you want any specific questions answered about my work in the hospital that I don't cover, please e-mail me at

For the people who do not know, before I left Scotland, I received my certification as a Health Care Support Worker/Health Care Assistant. I was receiving training from the Practice Nurses at my place of work in blood pressure, urinalysis, heights, weights, new patient medicals, minor dressings and stitch and staple removal. I have also been able to take blood samples for the last year. It was my hope to be able to take these new skills to Bolivia with me.

Since I am currently spending a lot of time learning Spanish, I work (well... learn really) at the Foundation generally half of every day.

You may have already read about my first shift in which I got sick, but I returned on Wednesday afternoon of last week for my first full shift. That afternoon I worked with a nurse called Odalys (I think), but everyone calls her Choca (because she has the lightest skin colour, apparently...). Oh... please also remember that I have very little Spanish and the nurses have no English... through gesturing, watching and some rapid Spanish learning I am figuring out what they want me to do.

Essentially, all appointments are walk-in/on-demand. They tried to have pre-bookable appointments, but most of the patients never turn up. Every patient that comes to see either the General Physician or the Paediatrician sees the nurse for "triage" first. The nurse takes their temperature, blood pressure, pulse, height, weight and records their age and then passes the file onto the doctor. I very quickly was able to do this, while the nurse who was in with me did the actual talking to the patient. Choca kept going "Bueno, bueno Amanda", so it was a bit of an affirmation to know that I wasn't going to be completely useless to them.

The nurses also see their own patients. There was a boy who came in for a wound check and returned later in the week to get his stitches out. This I found frustrating, because I would loved to ask questions about the procedure here and such, since I am familiar with these things, but I can't get past the Spanish.

The nurses give injections frequently as well. For example, we saw a patient for triage that Wednesday afternoon who was then sent back to us after seeing the GP for an injection. Since I can't read Spanish very well (and all GPs in all countries have ridiculous writing) I wasn't able to figure out what she was diagnosed with, but the doctor had prescribed Penicillin -- intramuscular. Choca, the nurse, mixes up the injection and then gets the girl to lie down ON HER BACK. I was expecting a gluteal injection and was confused as to why she was on her back. The nurse then drops two drops of the mixture into the girl's EYE!

I am so confused by this point... I then figure out through some rapidly-learnt Spanish that they drop it in the patient's eye to make sure that they are not allergic to it. Yes... apparently if the eye changes colour they are allergic to the Penicillin and they won't give the injection. Thankfully, this patient was not allergic and the nurse got her to turn over and give her the injection in behind as I initially suspected. I still don't know where the infection was.

As all people in health care know... there is also a lot of paperwork that is involved. There are no computers in the consulting rooms... everything is still recorded on paper (which isn't a big deal, as I believe Canada only just stopped using paper notes, is that right?). But, on top of the patient's file there are two or three different books in which you have to record general admin about the patient's visit (ie. name, date of birth, new or return patient, tariff category, etc -- there is just so much). When the nurses have time they are required to input all this data into an Excel file which will organise it all for the Foundation's biannual report.

I am going to leave it at this for the moment. The nurses also do some screening work in the local Paediatric Hospital and a local school... but I will wait to have had more exposure to those before I enlighten you all. Thanks for reading.

Saturday Post -- 20/2/10

To date, these blogs have tended to focus on day-to-day activities more than our leisure time. We may be boring, but we’re not so boring that we don’t let our hair down come the weekend (alas, a purely figurative statement in my case)!

On Saturdays, Amanda will leave the house with KC around 9 to go and do the grocery shopping for the week (see previous entry). I, meanwhile, join Dr. Santana and about 6 others for a frontón session. Frontón is like squash without the mid-life crisis. You play it on an outdoor court which is about the same height and width of a squash court, but twice as long. You play it in teams of two, one at the front and one at the back, with racquetball equipment. It’s fast, unpredictable and utterly addictive – so much so that we play on Wednesday evenings too.

Our only other ‘engagements’ at the weekend are church-related. I meet the other band members for a practice at 3pm on Saturday and then, at 10.30am on Sundays, we have our main service, which is followed by a communion service and usually finishes around 12.15pm. The church’s music situation is in need of something of an overhaul. We have a small, but eager band of 3 guitarists and a keyboard player. However, the vast majority of music at present comes from a theologically-sound, though somewhat antiquated, hymnbook of about 50 songs. Chicho (Rachel Peebles’ husband) and I are endeavouring to expand the range. This week we photocopied ten new worship songs for use, though hopefully we’ll have use of a projector in the days to come. Add to all this the fact that Bolivian singing voices tend to be about as pure and unblemished as Paul Gascoigne’s criminal record and it is clear that music is an area of crucial importance.

These aside, we tend to spend our weekends in a perpetual state of elegant slumber, reading, snoozing and watching sports. And the Winter Olympics.

As mentioned last week, Carnavál, while providing Bolivia with an unrivalled opportunity to celebrate its culture in all its drunkenness (22 deaths nationwide and counting), gave those of us at FT a much-appreciated two-day holiday on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, we helped the young people (Jóvenes) of the church out with their programme of outdoor games. Some 50 young people turned out for this event, which included a time of worship and gospel presentation in the morning and evening sessions. Our main involvement, however, was throwing water balloons at unsuspecting teenagers and photographing them in all their mania. A good time had by all.

Tuesday was scheduled to be our ‘day out’ but unfortunately, we were not able to see as much of the surrounding countryside as we would have liked as there had been severe flooding all day Sunday and throughout Tuesday morning. We therefore drove about 10 miles out of town to a fish restaurant near the river and this proved to be a most sobering journey. On either side of the road, all one could see besides acres of water was treetops and rooftops of houses, with only the electricity pylons standing strong above it all. At the immediate roadside were hundreds of makeshift tarpaulin tents – in other words, the temporary homes of those who had to evacuate (no joke: on Monday, for one of the water games, we were generously donated the ‘roof’ of one of the participating girl’s bedrooms – a single tarpaulin sheet).

We arrived at the fish restaurant and you can see from the first picture how precarious the flooding had rendered the entrance. We sat down and enjoyed a fantastic meal together (pictured are Craig, Amanda, Maicol, KC and Chicho). But while we were enjoying ourselves, the third photograph demonstrates the fragility of life for the restaurant’s neighbours.

On Wednesday, we were back at work, enjoying the fact that another weekend was none too far away. Amanda’s Spanish is picking up (she’s now telling the moto drivers what to do – know the feeling, guys!) and on Thursday evening I was able to give a brief, three-point talk in Spanish at the prayer meeting.

Finally, a brief ‘hello’ to a Mr. K. Fisher, none too impressed by the mixing of first- and third-person in previous posts. Trust you’ve enjoyed this post, Kenneth. And get a life.

• A relaxing, rejuvenating two-day holiday.
• Encouraging signs of progress in language-learning.
• Safety during Carnavál.

• Craig is giving a sermon in church next Sunday (28th). Pray for preparation.
• Amanda’s development of relationships with co-workers.
• The people of Trinidad who have had to desert their homes during the flooding, and FT’s ability to deal with the health/community needs arising from this.

Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Friday, February 12, 2010

Saturday Post -- 13/2/10

Well, our first week here was always going to be a little different and it's fair to say that this week we were brought down to earth with a bump. On our knees. With a wrenching stomach.

Amanda went to her first session at the clinic on Monday afternoon, reporting mild nausea but otherwise looking forward to getting started at last. Within half an hour, she was desperately trying to remember the word for "toilet" and, having managed to locate aforementioned excrementary recepticle in the nick of time, she promptly emptied herself of all but love.

As first impressions go, it takes some beating.

Not content to keep it all to herself, Amanda proceeded to pass said virus on to Craig as he was attempting to nurse her back to health that evening. I'd expected long, agonising nights in a posture of prostration as I set off for the mission field, but this I had not bargained for.

Needless to say, we took Tuesday off, but what we lost in work hours we more than made up for in Doctor Who episodes. By Wednesday morning we were able to nibble again and were back behind our respective 'desks'.

Amanda was attended the clinics this week and paid a visit to the local maternity/paediatric hospital. This was the first week of a new study into hearing deficiencies of children who are in the accident & emergency facility there, as part of the foundation's ongoing ¡Oye, Bolivia! ('Hear, Bolivia!') programme. She's enjoying being back at work and already, despite her lack of Spanish, feels part of the team. The other day she was pointing out to one of the nurses the differences between the English verbs 'to kiss' and 'to kill'. A beneficial distinction, you'll no doubt agree.

I've spent a half-day every day this week working through my online TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course. Though a lot of the reading is fairly theoretical, most of the assignments have a really practical basis. Just like being back in the classroom, then.

And speaking of classrooms, we've commenced our Spanish classes with our teacher, Farid. Amanda attends on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and I on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Farid is a Chelsea fan, so he's not had the best of weeks (he should be used to those) but his footballing knowledge does have its linguistic benefits. When I was trying to remember the meaning of the Spanish work 'puente', he said 'bridge...Wayne Bridge!'. I think it's best we leave it at that...

As you can see from the photograph, Trinidad is once again feeling the negative effects of rainy season. This is a typical scene, particularly in the southern outskirts of the town, which sit nearer the river. It is at times like these, of course, that the Foundation's assistance is most required. And yet, while many thousands struggle to keep their houses in order (in an all too literal sense) the citizens are preoccupied with Carnavál, i.e., the traditional Latin American festivities in the days preceding Lent. Lent, of course, is a season of abstinence, of inward contemplation and renunciation. It thereby follows that Carnavál is the perfect time to get your vices out of your system! You've got to love the logic. If Lent was observed half as enthusiastically as Carnavál, Trinidad would be experiencing true revival!

Needless to say, it's not the best time for Christian missionaries to be in town (chocos are a particular target of youths with super-soakers!). So instead, we're helping the young people of the church out with a programme of activities all day on Monday. And on that same note, we had a meeting with the church elders on Sunday to look into possible roles. Amanda's going to be helping out at the Sunday school and I'm going to be helping the praise band, though I made a head-start on this, guitar in hand, last Sunday. And I'm going to be put on the teaching rota, probably speaking about once a month. I've been asked to share something at the Communion service this Sunday. I think they want to check that I'm not a heretic...

• For Amanda’s increasing confidence in Spanish (see previous post)
• For a speedy recovery from our bout of sickness.
• For a quick adjustment to our new schedules.

• For the people of the town who are worse affected by the floods.
• For Craig as he gives a brief message on Sunday.
• That our relationships with the people of the community would develop.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Do you want to know what I did today?

This is another post from Amanda... like I mentioned earlier, my messages might be a little more spaced out, but I thought that what I did today would be of interest to some people. I went grocery shopping... and this entry is going to be all about grocery shopping.

By the time we left Scotland, Craig and I had grocery shopping down to a fine art. We were loyal Tesco and Costco shoppers, (and deep down I still am... I'm there in spirit) and aside from our monthly trip to Costco, we were one-stop shoppers. That, however, is not a possibility here. The grocery stores are ridiculously priced compared to the markets... so a trip to the market it was.

A lot of the stalls close around noon, so Saturday morning shopping is an early affair. Also, we don't have access to a car, so all purchases have to be balanced on the back of a motorbike. So, at 8:30 this morning, KC and I left our house for Pompeya, one of the markets in town.

Fresh vegetables were first... the stall that we went to, with some lateral thinking, wasn't all that different from the grocery isle at your local Tesco or Loblaws (for the Canadians). However there is no refrigeration system or random sprays of mist to keep the veggies moist; that is actually why you have to go shopping on a Saturday or Wednesday, because those are the days that fresh veggies come into town. The mound of onions was massive and the tomatoes were not the beautifully round, red tomatoes that we're used to... but apparently this scruffier version is tastier. The place was also chaotic... and there are no lines... you just kind of try to get a worker to come over to you and exchange money.

Then we bought eggs... they don't come in a carton... they give them to you in a bag and you have to work really hard to not break them. But I got 15 or more for 10 Bolivianos, which I think is quite good.

Meat came next, and it was hard... think unrefrigerated butchers. The meat is completely fresh... hung up that morning... and then they chop the bit you want off and give it to you in a plastic bag. I have to be honest and say that I never ever used a butchers while living in the UK. I was too scared... this was a wake-up call.

The milk products were next... and not there is anything exciting about getting milk, but because we had so much stuff at this point, and I think because she wanted to challange me, KC said she would watch the stuff on the bike and I could go buy my milk and then we could switch. AND I DID IT! I bought milk, chocolate milk, cheese and butter... though at one point I did turn around to KC and yell, "How do you say butter?". But yes, I felt really chuffed with myself. These little successes have come to mean a lot.

Then loaded down with over 8 kilos of veggies, 4 kilos of meat, breakable eggs and 7-8 bags of milk on the motorbike we had to go back to the house and drop off our first round of shopping. I only broke one egg! Then we were back out on the road for the second trip - first the fruit stall and then to the pharmacy (OK... the pharmacists here sell medications to people without prescriptions... people go to pharmacies instead of doctors... and they don't ask what other medications you are on for possible drug interactions or anything. Scary.) for toiltry stuff... and then cleaning products and then the chicken.

You go to a stall where there are whole chickens just sitting on the ledge (plucked and de-headed) and tell them what part of the chicken you want. And they chop it up and give it to you... in a plastic bag. Ya, it was lovely. Again back to the house for another drop off and then back on the road looking for kitty litter (KC has a cat).

It was very educational... slightly scary... but enjoyable. I am going to try and make a Sheppard's pie (cottage pie for the people in the UK) this week... KC isn't sure if Maicol is going to like it, but we're going to give it a try.

I hope this wasn't too boring for some people to read... it was an exciting new experience that I wanted to share. Hope you enjoyed it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Saturday Post -- 6/2/10

Dear friends,

It's now a week since we landed here in Trinidad and while so much is still so new to us, we feel very settled.

With five hours' difference from Glasgow to Toronto and only a single hour's deficit between Toronto and Trinidad (FYI, we're four hours behind GMT and they don't change the clocks here in the Northern Spring), we naturally assumed the worst of the jet-lag was behind us. Yes and no. While we have enjoyed an hour's extra sleep in the morning, our sense of exhaustion has been palpable. In many ways we're just recovering from the hectic last few weeks and (in Craig's case, anyway) retrieving the evening's snooze lost on the way down here.

Of course, at the same time, the heat is a not inconsiderable factor in this. We're not sure exactly what the temperature is – probably mid-to-late thirties – but let's just say we had our first (dreaded though hardly unexpected – this is Trinidad) power-cut on Wednesday and, with the ceiling fans out of action, probably between us produced enough perspiration to cause embarrassment to the East German women’s hammer-throwing team.

Acclimatisation has been required, additionally, to our new surroundings. Fundación Totaí is based in a part of town which didn’t even exist a few years ago. Indeed, when the foundation stone was laid for Casa Margaret (the main building here), the project was effectively based in the middle of nowhere. Since then the town’s (city's?) outward spread has been so rapid that it now sits in the suburbs.

This seismic change is visible in the town itself, which has increased in population by one-third. This, added to a growing upper-working-class, has sparked a major upsurge in traffic. Those of you who saw our presentation towards the end of 2009 will remember those images of transportation in Trinidad – the odd moto-taxi, a horse-and-cart here or there. These days, the roads are practically gridlocked wherever you look, with a major increase in motos but also the appearance of a hitherto unknown entity in Trinidad: the car.

Though it's a little strange for us to effectively move in with another couple (with the Holts returning to their home in June, there may well be three of us here), we could not have felt more welcome. K.C. (a volunteer from Seattle) and her husband Maicol (a native) have gone to great lengths to help us settle in, with K.C. dealing with most of our induction business. In K.C., Amanda has someone with whom she can go shopping and watch girly movies; in Maicol, Craig has someone who can mock him for being a “choco” (white guy) and whom Craig can bore to tears with his ramblings concerning the financial instability at Old Trafford.

Around us are great friends, some new and many old, not least Diego & Jo Santana and the many natives with whom Craig already has a deep friendship and for whom Amanda will some day be able to say the same.

Though we were advised to use this week to settle in, on Thursday afternoon we had a meeting with the Board of Directors to discuss our roles here. The next three months will be somewhat dominated by language learning. We've been able to enrol in classes with the local language institute which complement our individual levels in Spanish. Our weekdays will appear thus: for half a day, we will concentrate on our Spanish and in the for the other half, we will focus on our specialist areas. Amanda will be getting her hands dirty in healthcare – job shadowing the nurses in the clinic, helping with health checks for children in the local schools and newborn hearing assessments – while Craig will sit his online TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course, in order to gain the internationally recognised qualification. Additionally we will help out in various ways across the different areas, with Craig, for example, supporting sports ministry discipleship and, in the church, getting involved with the praise band and teaching schedule (first sermon is Sunday 21st!).

Beyond the next three months, we can envisage Amanda’s main focus being healthcare with a little church work, with Craig’s being more of a 50/50 split between church and education. But, as we know all too well, it is the Lord alone who knows what will transpire, and so we will endeavour to hear his voice in the midst of all of this.

We aim to post this update every week, probably around the weekend (if you are a church secretary, you may wish to visit on a Saturday evening in order to pass on updates to your congregation). We have no idea what sort of format it will take, but we can guarantee that it will always close with a few main points of prayer and praise:

• A safe arrival here in Trinidad.
• A genuine feeling of being at home among the volunteers and workers here.
• Following Thursday’s meeting, having a clear idea of our schedule over the next few months.

• That we would adjust mentally and physically to our new climate and timetable.
• That we would be disciplined in our language learning – particularly Amanda, who is effectively starting from scratch.
• That we would find time in our busy schedules for personal Christian growth and for each other.

Que Dios te bendiga!

Craig & Amanda