Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saturday Post -- 29/01/11

(written on Friday -- another delayed post due to continued internet problems)

Hadn’t been expecting to post this weekend due to our impending departure to Santa Cruz for a few days’ in the city but, this being Bolivia, a couple of things have happened which we weren’t anticipating. Firstly, this week has seen the first day-off-nobody-warned-you-about of the year (to be fair, it’s taken them four weeks). The Beni department, in their wisdom, opted to declare a Paro, i.e., an enforced shutdown, in order to allow us all to, literally, get our houses in order. This is due to the recent spate in the region of Dengue, the deadly virus carried by mosquitoes, fairly prominent during rainy season. So today, everyone has the opportunity to well and truly ditch the mosquito welcoming mat in their homes. Have to say, I have approached the crisis by watching tennis (Come. On. Andy.) and, looking out our window, it doesn’t look like many families are overly-concerned. Mind you, our side of town is a little less affected by the whole thing.

The second reason for writing is that, on Wednesday, we got our Interpol certificates, about a whole two months sooner than the office had been anticipating – with hindsight, they were probably protecting their own backs. Anyway, we had included this as a prayer point, so we thought we should update you on that. Visa-wise, it’s the tip of the iceberg (and one that would cause the Titanic's conqueror to blush), but a significant first step and the green-light to proceed with the remainder of the visa documentation when we return from Santa Cruz.

At work it’s been a productive week all round. Jessica proceeded with various nursing support tasks and on Tuesday afternoon had the chance to observe the first surgery session of the year at FT and, like many young health students/professionals who come here, came away having seen lots of stuff she’d never experienced before. Amanda started putting her new-found audiology skills to practice at work, really feeling the benefit of the course. And I put the finishing touches to preparations for the first few weeks of Community classes, which resume on Monday, 7th of February (the day we come back to work after our break).

Jessica fishing last weekend (Maicol in the background). The excursion was short-lived as a torrential downpour turned up five minutes later. Buckets were required.

So we’re looking forward to a relaxing few days in Santa Cruz. Jessica flies home on Tuesday and we’re planning on staying one more night before returning here on Wednesday, which really means Thursday. Long-distance bus travel in Bolivia mostly takes place at night, as it minimises the risk of engines overheating and tyres getting damaged. Sensible, though it doesn’t really chime with my complete inability to sleep on anything that moves.

• For safety in our travels to and from Santa Cruz, and Jessica’s flights home on Tuesday.
• For a relaxing time as we enjoy our first real break since September.

• For a productive week for the three of us at work.
• For the successful granting of the Interpol certificates.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Sunday, January 23, 2011

(Post-)Saturday Post -- 22/01/11

First up, apologies if this week’s update arrives later than usual – we know a lot of you make a habit at the weekend of reading our update. I’m typing this up offline as we’ve now gone about two days without internet. Another severe deluge of rain on Thursday/Friday may have played its part in that – the networks here not yet robust enough to cope with adverse conditions. I will post as soon as possible.

Jessica has been settling into the pace of things nicely here. On Monday morning she had her volunteer’s induction (does that mean she was induced?) with Kenny and immediately settled into various nursing tasks. Mostly, she has been taking care of basic needs, such as cutting giant rolls of gauze into small strips, but now and again she’s provided assistance to Amanda in the afternoons in treating patients. And we’ve made sure she’s put to good use at home too! It’s been great to have an extra pair of hands to help cook, wash dishes etc. Most of all, it’s been really wonderful just having a familiar face around and we look forward to the remainder of the time we have with her.

Amanda has successfully managed to juggle her sister’s visit with her Audiology training course. This week, the participants applied the theory they’d learnt in the first week to FT patients. In addition, there was a closing exam. No prizes for guessing who got the highest score – though her mother may be curious as to where the other 10% went.

I’ve managed to compile all the main English class teaching materials for the year this week. This year, we’re hoping to run two classes simultaneously: one for absolute beginners and one for last year’s participants, as well as anyone else who feels capable enough to join at that level. The classes will also start alongside the school year in mid-February this year, which will give us a lot more time and flexibility (a crucial commodity in this society). Additionally, we learned over the course of the last year that a big incentive for Bolivians is simply receiving certificates – few things make them happier than a bit of paper saying they attended a particular class. So this year the classes are divided into four smaller modules which will last about six weeks each. I spent a lot of time last year chasing my tail when it came to English materials, so it’s great to be able to have the year in place so early, allowing me to concentrate, God-willing, on other matters such as FT’s library and the website.

Another noteworthy accomplishment this week was booking flights to Toronto for Jessica’s wedding in August. Though we have always planned on returning for this important family event, we had been dithering over this, waiting to see if there were any big shifts in the market in January. Sure enough, prices plummeted this week, so we made a move. The wedding is our main motivation for travelling but we’re looking to kill a few birds with the one stone. My family will be travelling to my uncle and aunt’s home in Virginia for two weeks to have a little reunion with us, which I’m obviously quite excited about. And we’re hoping to use the time to visit churches with which we have links, to update them on our ministry here in Trinidad.

By next weekend, that ministry will, unbelievably, be a year old. However, we’ll not be in Trinidad but in Santa Cruz, where we’re going to spend a few final days with Jessica before seeing her off the following Tuesday morning. No update, then, next weekend, but then again, depending on how long it takes the internet folk to sort themselves out, you might not even get this till then!

• For Craig and co-worker Samy as they put the finishing touches to preparations for the resumption of the Community Classes on 7th February.
• For Jessica’s last week here and for safety as we travel, by road, to Santa Cruz next Friday evening.

• For Amanda’s successful completion of her course.
• For having the English class preparation out of the way.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Saturday Post -- 15/01/11

There we are at the wedding, last night, of Asalia, one of Amanda’s nursing colleagues at FT. We certainly enjoyed ourselves, though the evening was not without its responsibilities. I was asked by Asalia and her husband to be the official photographer, something I am hopelessly under-qualified for, but nonetheless, I was happy to pitch in. Amanda had the honour of being asked by Asalia to be an official witness at the marriage ceremony, an important role here. And in the run-up to the wedding, Amanda had also provided her talents in an area she has had plenty of practice in (not least for our own nuptials): making the invitations. It was a pleasure to provide such support to Asalia, a great friend to both of us.

Yesterday’s celebrations capped a busy week for us in which we’ve been occupied with a range of tasks at work. I led the meditations in the mornings, dealing with Paul’s vision of heaven, his ‘thorn in the flesh’ and, well, those silly Corinthians – and by extension, you and me! Some ripe passages for good teaching this week. I also turned my attention to the Education section of FT’s six-monthly report, which will be with sponsors in the coming weeks.

Amanda, meanwhile, has spent the mornings enhancing her audiology skills as part of a two-week course which is being held at FT. FT’s former audiologist and speech therapist, Maricarmen Fernández, has come back to take the course and Amanda has benefitted immensely from the teaching, with a week still remaining.

Her afternoons have been spent in nursing. That is, apart from Thursday, when we drove to the airport and picked up Jessica, whom we are pleased to say arrived in one piece. Just as excitingly, so did the various Zip-Loc bags stuffed with top-quality European chocolate! A few other surprises were in store and it’s fair to say we enjoyed something of a late Christmas on Thursday evening (well, they do say Christ was really born in January!).

Know what else happened in January, indeed, on this very January day a year ago? We left the UK for Toronto and, ultimately, Bolivia. Wow! Where did that year go? I guess at this rate, it won’t be too long till our first furlough. We look forward to seeing you then, but till then, you’ll just have to content yourself with this week’s prayer points.

• For Jessica as she begins her two weeks of voluntary work this week at FT.
• For our time with Jessica as a family, that we’ll make the most of the next couple of weeks with our sister/sister-in-law (delete as appropriate).

• For the opportunity to serve our work colleague at her wedding on Friday.
• For Amanda’s course and all she is learning there.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Friday, January 7, 2011

Saturday Post -- 08/01/11

Last weekend I mentioned that the outdoor Christmas Eve service a couple of weeks back had been something of a test for the fingernails as storm clouds lurked overhead throughout. The worst of it, in fact, had been a mild sprinkling early on, followed by the rainbow, of which I included a photo last week. Indeed Christmas Day was, weather-wise, one of the most pleasant I can remember. The rain never came but the temperatures stayed cool with some pleasant sunshine to boot.

Oh, but doesn't Christmas seem a mere relic of the dim and distant past today! Rainy season well and truly began this week with two major deluges wreaking havoc. We live in one of the higher parts of town, but the FT headquarters got a slight mediaeval spin with their very own moat protecting the portcu--sorry, front door. And as for altitude, we reckoned we'd got it made, living in an upstairs apartment and all. Not so! Yesterday lunchtime we came back from work to discover a giant puddle on the surface of our bedroom floor. Water had managed to come in from the balcony, entering under the patio doors. So we did full justice to the phrase 'working lunch' while making the pleasant discovery that our balcony has a drain, which blockage had caused the water trappage in the first place. Shows what careful homeowners we are. Anyway, that made quite a difference and we were able to deal with the consequences without any major damage.

Of course, our minor annoyance was as nothing compared to what will face many homes around Trinidad, many of which are simply made from sticks and often built on stilts so as to avoid the worst of it. For many, it's a losing battle and FT's healthcare team will deal with a fair few cases who have endured its ill-effects over the coming months.

The other main development this week is that we woke up one day and realised that it was time to start making headway on our next visa application. Regular readers may be forgiven for thinking we only just finished off our last one -- and yes, it feels like that to us as well. But the one-year visa will be up in early March and so we need to start getting together the mountains of documentation required for the new two-year visa application (this is the maximum visa we can obtain at the moment and then in 2013, we can apply for permanent residence), particularly as there is a hefty daily fine for each day we stay in the country sans visa. So this week we made a start on our Interpol administration, just one of several certifications required for the two-year visa but one that will take at least a few weeks to process. When we have that and everything else in place, our passports will then be sent to La Paz to be granted the new visas. Clearly a good drenching of prayer would be welcomed, not only for the process itself but our attitudes throughout. I particularly find my patience draining in these many hours of sitting around in offices, most of the time being told that the last guy sent us to the wrong place. Nevertheless, having started the process last year in early February, we've made something of a head start this time, so that's a little encouragement.

Work has been busy for both of us, Amanda ploughing away at the survey results and audiology; I preparing meditations for next week and my sermon for this Sunday, which will be on 2 Samuel 7 -- those of you who know the passage will realise what a challenge it is to limit oneself to a 40-minute sermon. We're also looking beyond the weekend, however. On Monday Amanda will begin taking a two-week audiology training course at FT and then on Thursday it's off to the airport to, God-willing, collect Amanda's sister, Jessica, who will be flying down from Toronto via Miami on Wednesday/Thursday. The final leg of the trip, as for all international travellers to Trinidad, is from Santa Cruz to Trinidad on a 12-seater plane. She needs to get from one airport to the other within Santa Cruz in order to do this and Spanish is by no means her forté. However, our friend and co-worker Maicol has a brother in Santa Cruz who is going to do us a big favour and transport her between the airports and on to her flight. Prayer, nonetheless, would be much appreciated.

• For patience and the Lord’s guidance as we begin the long and winding visa road.
• For Craig as he preaches this Sunday and takes the morning mediations at FT next week.
• For Jessica’s travels to Trinidad and our time with her over the following few weeks.

• For a full recovery for Craig from a very brief stomach upset on Sunday/Monday.
• For the arrival of a key computer hardware package from Canada this week (it was sent in November so we’d been growing a little concerned).

¡Qué Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Saturday Postscript

As an addendum to yesterday's post, we got some great news last night, just as 2011 hit. As the refrain of "¡Feliz Año Nuevo!" was spreading among the massed crowd gathered outside the church, so was a rumour that the fuel hike had been dropped. Completely. Naturally, we were reluctant to get our hopes up but, sure enough, the decision has been completely reversed in an astonishing about-turn by the government. In the space of a few days, the people said "enough is enough", the country went into an effective shutdown mode and the government stared into the abyss of a mass uprising and realised it really wasn't worth the hassle.

I couldn't help but notice, too, that we had a few hits on the blog between yesterday and today. Therefore, I know there were folk out there praying with us over this whole issue and as this new year dawns, we have yet more reason to trust in the perfect timing of the Lord God.