Monday, January 31, 2011

The Way of the Woodpecker

Whatever you see, take care to consider it well, and you will not see it in vain. ~C.H. Spurgeon

Since these birds have become a part of my morning wake up routine I decided to learn a few things about them:

Woodpeckers can be found in wooded areas all over the world, except in Australia.
The woodpecker's strong, pointed beak acts as both a chisel and a crowbar to remove bark and find hiding insects. It has a very long tongue, up to four inches in some species - with a glue-like substance on the tip for catching insects.
Some species drum on trees to communicate to other woodpeckers and as a part of their courtship behavior. 
Woodpeckers tap an estimated 8,000-12,000 times per day.
Woodpeckers have characteristic calls, but they also use a rhythmic pecking sequence to make their presence known.

While facts can answer a few questions, and be somewhat interesting, personal observations can also be taken into account.  From the quote above the photo Spurgeon goes on to say 'you shall learn from every living beast, and bird and fish, and insect, and from every useful plant that springs up out of the ground.'

So what have I learned from the woodpecker?

Woodpeckers are beautiful to look at.  But don't let that pretty face fool you.  They are not all innocent.
Woodpeckers are loud.   In a group, which is infrequent but does happen, the sound can be deafening.
Woodpeckers are persistent.  They keep coming back to the same spot and repeating the same actions.

Are there any spiritual applications for me to be made from these observations?  Probably.  However, at 7 am when I am awakened by such annoying unwanted alarm clock it is difficult for me to learn from the ways of the woodpecker.

Perhaps another day!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fill er' up...

Yesterday was the first time we filled up the car.  We were headed out to check out a bookstore in Spanish Lookout.  This gas station is one of the few along the highway down to Mennonite country.

The gas station has a convenience store along with a hotel and is open 24hrs.  I noticed sign that mentions a diner opening up there soon as well.

It was amazing to see this place so busy...

And it seems like a place for some to hang out as well.  We saw locals that came in on their bikes just for groceries only.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kriol Sightings

Last Sunday we went for a drive down to Dangriga.  We saw this sign for a lumber yard as we were crossing the bridge and I had to shoot the picture quickly as cars were behind us.  From now on I will be on the lookout for more signs in Kriol!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thought for Today

With my eyes focused on seeking the JOY that God has for me this year I will climb higher and wait. He is my Teacher and my Guide on this journey and I am willing to do what He asks of me and trust Him through this process.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tasty Tuesday

Today's recipe comes from the Kriol Kalinda (Creole Calendar).  Kriol is one of the main languages spoken here in Belize.  Although some consider it broken or lazy English, it does have its own set of grammar and spelling rules.  The National Council of Kriol has been diligently working to promote the language and culture of Belize and one of their projects is this calendar.  This year it features a monthly recipe for stewing favorite meats.

Schoo Givnat (Stewed Gibnut)
1/4 er 1/2 a wan gibnat (bowt 3 pong)
1/8 kop vineega er di joos a 2 laim
1 teespoon seezn saal
3 plog gyaalik, chap op; er 1 teespoon jrai gyaalik
1/2 teespoon blak pepa
1/2 teespoon taim
1 tayblspoon saiz rikaado
1 tayblspoon Lea ‘n Perrins saas
1 meedyom oanyan, slais op
1 meedyom sweet pepa, slais op
1/8 kop vejitabl, kuhoon er kuknat ail

How fu mek it: Wash meet wid vineega er laim. Kot op di meet eena di saiz porshan weh yu waahn. Jrayn di meet gud gud. Miks op aal di seeznin dehn lang wid di saas sotay yu ga wahn wet amonk. Rob dat op gud-wan pahn di meet. Den set di meet wan said fu soak dong wahn lee owa self; oavanait eena frij gud tu (di langa di beta). Heet ail eena yu pan. Ad di meet. Ton dong heet tu meedyom. Brayz fu 30 – 40 minits; ad 1/3 kop waata evri now ahn den wen di meet jrai owt, sotay ih tenda. Kova di pat meentaim if yu waahn ih moa tenda. Yu ku ad di vejitablz fahn di taim yu staat tu brayz if yu waahn dehn saafi saafi, er wayt sotay now fu ad di vejitablz if yu waahn dehn moa ferm. Ad lee moa waata ahn kuk dong tu ail. Serv wid blak-aiy peez ahn rais, bayk plaantin ahn pitayta salad.

givnat (variant: gibnat; bush rat): gibnut (also called ‘paca’); species of large rodent, highly prized as a game meat in Belize. It got the name Raiyal (Royal) Rat because Queen Elizabeth was served gibnut when she visited Belize. If you don't have a gibnut, this recipe will work well with rabbit.

Although I have been told that the gibnut tastes like chicken I don't think I will be trying this recipe anytime soon... not even with rabbit. But if you are an adventurous soul and decide to give it a try, let me know how it tastes!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

counting our blessings...

So here we are... car owners for the first time in six years. And we feel so blessed.

We are so grateful to be mobile.  I can hardly express the joy we feel over how all of this came about!!  From the price of the car, to having some of the fees waived to receiving help every step of the way, this complicated process was almost painless.

We started here on Thursday at the Customs and Excise office.  The car was valuated and then we paid all of the fees that needed to be taken care of.   We have a receipt for all but one of the services we were provided.  The broker who wrote up the paperwork gave us a big discount on his fee at the request of one of his childhood friends.  In Russia we got used to paying for things under the table every now and then so this was nothing new to us.  

The man that was helping us is the cousin of a prominent political figure here in Belize and he has quite a few friends in high and low places.  Buddies that he went to school with, people that he has worked with in the past and they all take care of one another when needed.  We were so glad that he knew the owner of the car and that he was helping her get it sold by helping us through the process of buying.  

With all of the fees paid the next step was to get the title transferred into our name.  The owner and her assistant went with us to the Ministry of Motor Vehicles and we all signed the paperwork.  Following that we went over to the seller's house to pick up the car and make the final payment.  

After the purchase was  finalized Tom and I went by ourselves over to the insurance office to get the car insured. From there we went over to City Hall and got the new title in our names, registered the car and got new plates all in just over 30 minutes.  The officer who wrote up our paperwork noticed our address and told us that he lived just two streets away.  I mentioned that my friend Anna lived back there.  He said 'yeah, she lives just one street over.' Such a small town... I never even said Anna's last name. 

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Friday, January 21, 2011

still in process

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Yesterday we went up to Belize City to begin the process of buying a car.  We had to go to the main Customs and Excise office which is right near the port.  

In the distance we could see the large cruise ships that come in.  We have never taken a cruise so I am amazed by the size of the ships.  We were told that many of the ships come in on Thursdays and that the city is prepared for them.  The livelihood of many people depends on tourism.  Normally, there are 4 or 5 ships of this size anchored off the coast.  This day there were only 3.  The person who was with us told us that this is a major blow to the economy here. Apparently there is a dispute regarding the local tenders who bring people to the shore.  You can read about it here Local Tenders Threatened

Anyway, back to car buying.  Yesterday's step was to have the car valuated and pay the fees that are due to the government.  Normally when you bring a car into the country you have to pay duty on the import.  The car we are purchasing came in through a diplomat so there were fees waived.  We were unsure exactly how this was going to affect us but in the end we were not charged for this.  And we rejoiced over that news.  Import Duty is 59% of the vehicle's value.  We did have to pay Revenue Replacement Duty, Sales Tax, and an Environmental Tax.  Click on the highlighted portion to read more about those fees.

Today we will make the final payment to the seller, get the title transferred into our names, get plates for the car and insure it.  We are so grateful to those walking us through this process and for the people we have met along the way.  This is our first experience purchasing a car in a foreign country and so far we are pleasantly surprised at how well everything is going.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

off to Belize City

Hopefully, we will soon be the owners of a 'new to us' car.  Today we are going to Belize City to get the paperwork started.  We are so excited about being more mobile and getting to see more of this beautiful country.   

This is a big step for us.  We  haven't owned a car in six years.  Russia's public transportation was so good that we didn't need a vehicle.  There we were able to go anywhere we wanted to go by bus or taxi. Here it is not quite as convenient.  We are praying that all goes well and that we will be able to show pictures of the vehicle and share the process with you all soon!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thought for Today

Joyfully learning to consistently practice the habit of 
speaking out and speaking up for Him
one day at a time in 2011.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tasty Tuesday

On Sunday after church we attended a leadership meeting.  We went out to a place called Cheers.  The food was great and the open air restaurant was fun and yet relaxing.  The only draw back was a smoker or two.  Interestingly none of the smokers we saw were locals...just tourists.

I didn't see anyone who had taken off their shirt to leave it behind
 but apparently many others had chosen to do that before we arrived!

Most of the team that we were with had the special of the day which was baked barbecued chicken with rice.  Tom had a double cheeseburger and I had the Tropical Sandwich.

My sandwich was very simple... ham, mozzarella cheese and pineapple served between two slices of toasted bread.  It came to me nice and warm dripping with melted cheese.  I would say it was a winner!

Tom and I decided that when people come to visit us Cheers is on the list of restaurants to visit... just so you know!!


Monday, January 17, 2011

expecting the unexpected

I have gotten used to geckos, lizards, woodpeckers, insects and bugs... so why was I surprised to see a squirrel?

Well, when I imagined this 'jungle' before we arrived a picture of a squirrel never came to my mind.
  Until now.

Friday, January 14, 2011

one good thing...

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
Martin Luther King Jr.

I don't see myself as the one doing for others.  I usually see myself as Tom's helper.  He does the work and I help and support him.  In the past when I thought about what I wanted to do for others it usually revolved around my kids or what someone else thought needed to be done.  

Well, kids are grown and off on their own adventures in the world.  And I have time to figure out where I want to serve.  I became interested in helping out in the public school here in Belmopan.  There are four government schools here in the city and they ask volunteers from each of the various faith traditions in the community to come in and teach a religion class twice a week.  Yesterday was my first time.  I had 30 children from grade Standard Four (ages 9-10) who are all classified as coming from evangelical families.  For my first class we just sang songs and got acquainted with one another.  

Each child stood to tell me their name.  And each time they answered a question they stood up to respond.  The level of discipline and respect was amazing to me.  I had them each tell me one good thing that had happen to them this week.  But I asked them to share it using the phrase "I feel blessed because..."  To hear from each and every child that they felt blessed because they had a kind mother, or passed a test, or played soccer with a friend was such a joy. 

If I had to tell you one good thing that happened to me this week I would have to say...

I feel blessed because 30 children touched my heart and filled it to overflowing with joy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Haven... an update

What a night!!  Where to begin?!

Our worship leader/youth pastor at the church is taking a break because of feeling burnt out.  We saw this is a great learning opportunity for everyone.  This young leader was doing worship for 4 services a week, teaching on Youth night and has a full time job as a school teacher.  No wonder he needed to step back.  As he steps back it is important to draw others forward.  

Tom and I chose to involve more people in the running of The Haven this week.  It is important for it not to become the Tom & Alida show. When I arrived at the church I asked one of the young ladies if she would take care of setting up the refreshment table after the teaching time and while I was speaking with her Tom was teaching a young man how to run the powerpoint for the evening.

We had worship followed by a lively time that Tom is calling "Pikni Passij".  Pikni (pronounced picknee) is the Kriol word for children.  The children get a short lesson from Mr. Tom and then they are dismissed to their class.  Tom's main teaching for the evening was about the Rules of Stuck Family.  

The exciting part of the evening is one I cannot fully describe because of our rule of confidentiality. But I can say that the discussion time went deeper last night than ever before.  We are grateful for those of you who prayed for us to be safe people.  I had barely opened the group when the first person jumped in to share what she had learned about her family and herself from the lecture.  It was amazing to hear each and every adult present in the group open up in a more personal way.  Wow.  Wish you could have been with us.

On Saturday Tom and I will be stepping into the youth ministry at the church as mentors.   Tom will be teaching at Youth night for the remainder of the month.   As it stands now the plan is for Tom and the worship leader/youth pastor to alternate teaching each month.  We are looking forward to getting more involved with the youth and are excited about teaching recovery principles to this generation.  Youth here range in age from 13-30 and they make up 64% of the population in this country and are the majority at our small church.  

We are grateful.  

We are on the right track.

 We, as a congregation, are all growing and learning to trust one another
 and together we are trusting God for the results.  


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thought for Today

What a blessing it has been to see the new growth coming through on this mature palm tree after the devastation of Hurricane Richard last year.  I take notice of the old branches that have turned brown and are falling away.  May my arms keep reaching up to Him anew and fresh each day.  Rejoicing through 2011 come what may.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tasty Tuesday

Everyday, except for Sunday, we hear a truck blaring it's horn as it goes up and down the street.  I decided it was time to go and find out what most of my neighbors are buying.

Turned out when I checked he had fresh warm corn tortillas. Although our preference is flour tortillas it was nice to have some made fresh that I didn't have to make myself.  Especially since this stack only cost me 75 cents!

So far I have used them to make quesadillas and tacos... and since there are just two of us here eating I still have more left!

Now I have to watch out for the guy on the bike selling tamales!

Monday, January 10, 2011

A basilisk comes to visit us...

This lizard was very impressive to see up close and personal. 

Tom was outside carving when he looked up and saw it on the fence. He whispered to me to bring the camera outside and I was able to get these shots. From our research we believe it is a Brown Basilisk; sometimes called the Jesus Christ Lizard because of it's ability to run across the water.

Although we keep looking out for it we haven't seen the lizard since Friday.  It was quite a rush getting to see such an interesting prehistoric looking creature up close!

Friday, January 07, 2011

just so you know...

If you want photos of the American Embassy in Belize you can take a photo like this one:

 The American Embassy here in Belmopan from about one block away

or you can take one like this
Sign in the front lawn of the American Embassy

But if you take a photo of your husband standing in front of the building a security guard will come out of nowhere and make you delete it in his presence... just so you know!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Haven... an update

Last night was our first night back at The Haven since the holidays.  Tom is finishing up his teaching on The Family as a System.  We had a time of worship.  Tom gave a short lesson to the kids which involved a lively discussion and demonstration of upsetting the balance of a family of coconuts.  After the children were dismissed to their class we gave a short break for snacks and then moved into the group discussion time.

Each time we meet we read the rules for the group and rule number four is about safety and says:
Remember that each of us are responsible for building trust and safety.  Who attends The Haven or what is shared in our small group is confidential, and this information needs to stay within the walls of The Haven.  Do not share what others have discussed, without their permission; even if it is in the form of a 'prayer request'.  This is how we maintain safety.

And yet we noticed that it was hard for people to share in the small groups.

Over the holiday break I had a brief conversation with a pastor's wife in the area.  After I described our work to her I learned that what we are doing is desperately needed but that people here have a hard time trusting that what they share in private will be kept confidential.

"People here dey ben burn. Erryone dey gossip" she told me.

This is a small town.  Every knows everyone.  Everyone thinks they know everything about everybody.

And the gossip flies at lightening speed over the coconut wire.

We decided to make a few changes to our format to see if that would help to loosen people up, break the ice and make them feel more comfortable.  The short refreshment time after Tom's message was had worked beautifully in Russia and we thought it would help here. It had people laughing and gave them a brief time to fellowship with one another.  The other change was discussion questions.  Tom wrote up two simple questions that went along with the topic.  Instead of one or two people sharing we actually had 6 people open up to the group of 18.  A victory!

It is hard to share personal things in a small town. Churches are not always safe places to be real.  This principle is universal.  We may feel we are betraying our family or loved one by sharing our own hurts or feelings. We don't want to put someone else in a bad light.  We must keep our 'I'm fine' face on.

Tom and I have had a few counseling appointments and several get together's and meals since we arrived with a young couple who have been married for less than a year.  This week was the first time that they went beyond surface talk and finally poured out their hearts.  The husband said they had discussed it and agreed that we were trustworthy.

Our prayer is that we will continue to build trust and teach principles which well help others grow and become who they were designed to be.  Our desire is to remain open to learning more about the culture through talking to our neighbors, vendors in the market and people that we meet around town.  We will continue to ask questions and stay interested in the Belizean way of life so that we can provide safety and love, a Haven if you will,  for all who come our way.

Please join with us in prayer.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

thought for today

My aim is to spend this year rejoicing... and I am so grateful that all of creation helps to point the way.