Saturday, July 31, 2010

Picture worth a thousand words...

They say a picture's worth a thousand words. I work very hard to make sure that my family is safe and while here that means making sure that we avoid the local tap water as much as possible. I wash fruits and veggies in water that has a small amount of bleach in it. I wash the dishes and then sanitize them by rinsing in bleach water. Friday I was able to SHOW the kids(and remind myself)why I go to these measures. I put a load of laundry in and the water only came out as a trickle. I began trying to figure out the problem and when I removed one of the hoses at the back of the machine I found it. There is a small blue filter that filters the intake line of impurities. This is what it looked like when I removed it:
It was full of dirt and 'gunk' of unknown origin. I showed it to the kids and told them that the washer had only been in use for four days so, "THIS is why we don't drink the water here." I cleaned it out and replaced it and the washer worked fine. This morning as I started another load of laundry I noticed the water was again only trickling out so I removed the filter again. Here's what it looked like this morning: There had only been two loads run between the cleaning of the filter so I'm not sure what this means. Perhaps for some reason there was extra sediment in the water yesterday or maybe cleaning the filter will be a daily routine. Either way, it's a good reminder for me and the rest of the family. Bottled water to drink and bleach water for food and dishes.

It's a beautiful day in La Palma. We've only had showers of rain today. The thermometer on my fridge says it's 77 degrees and 80% humidity. Our family ventured out to grab some lunch and to pick up some items for tomorrow's lunch. (We're having taco salad in case you wondered...just wishing I had some packets of taco seasoning!) While out we passed a group of Americans at one of the artisan shops and were kind of excited to talk to some "English-speaking people." They were a tour group from South Carolina and had come up to La Palma for the day from San Salvador. Jose has gone to San Salvador and I'm excited to see if he was able to get some or all of the items on my list. :)

Love, Lori

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday night

Yesterday just seemed very busy and I didn't get any blogging done. All day long I checked Facebook whenever I had a few minutes because a friend of ours was receiving a kidney yesterday in St. Louis and we were continually watching for updates on his condition. We were joining in prayer with friends across the United States and in other countries to beseech God to help the surgeons, the donor, and our friend. The surgery went well and the kidney is now doing its job and the doctors are happy with the way things have gone. And now friends of the family are posting of their prayers of thanks to God for the successful surgery and ongoing prayers for no rejection of the kidney. Isn't it a blessing that even though we are so far away, the wonders of technology help people around the world share with each other that they are all praying for the same thing? What an amazing blessing to be a part of the huge family of God.

I did get pictures out the kitchen window. However, I have tried three times to upload them but for some reason, Blogger isn't letting them upload. I guess I'll try again tomorrow.

Jose is hopefully going to San Salvador tomorrow and I have sent money with him so that hopefully I will have a cake pan, muffin pan, and flour by Sunday! The only flour I have found here is rice flour or corn flour. And I haven't found any metal baking pans of any size. I'm hopeful that next week I can bake.

Ruth had some stomach issues yesterday but is much better today and now we are all well. It's been raining steadily for nearly two hours now, but that hasn't dampened the spirits of a neighbor nearby who thinks we all want to listen to the bass line of his favorite songs. Despite the noise/vibration, I'm heading to bed and hoping that he runs out of energy soon. I know I already have. :)

Good night.
Love, Lori

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


This morning I had a wonderful surprise. As I was preparing breakfast, Monte looked up and said, "Here's Blanca." I hurried to the door and sure enough, my sweet Blanca was standing in the schoolyard outside her brother's classroom. I called her name and when she looked up she had a look of disbelief on her face. She just stood still for a few seconds before she decided it was really me and came over to see me. To get to hug her again was wonderful. The last word I'd had on her was that she was not able to walk very well and might never be able to walk. I'd planned to call her this afternoon and arrange to get a ride to go visit her. She had surgery a few weeks ago to put some kind of rod or pin in her back and has to wear a very stiff brace for 6 months. Walking is painful sometimes but the doctor told her to keep doing it because it's good exercise. I invited her in to share breakfast with us (I don't think she enjoyed the oatmeal with leftover fried apples in it as much as we did, though) and she spent the rest of the morning with us. She needs a lot of encouragement as she still has a long road ahead of her but she was thrilled to see us and get to visit with us. She hopes to come back tomorrow and bring Emily with her.

I wanted to give some of you who have asked about the conditions here a view of the kitchen. Here's a view of the sink and the countertop in the kitchen:
and then to the right of that is a hallway and then the stove (complete with big yellow propane tank) and the refrigerator. To the left of the sink is a spare toilet (behind the red metal door) and the spare shower-turned-pantry I mentioned yesterday.
I think I've finally found a place for most everything in the kitchen and have gotten it organized so that we can use it. One of the best parts of the kitchen, though, is the view out the window. I'll post some pics tomorrow of the beautiful view of the mountains that I get to look at while working at the sink.

This afternoon Isabel came and showed me how to cook beans the way they do here. They've just finished cooking on the stove. (They're cooking in the pot in the picture above) Now I will put them in the refrigerator and tomorrow morning I add a little water and (here's where I'm glad I made room in my suitcase for my little food processor) I run them through the food processor/blender till they are smooth. Then she told me how to cook them in a skillet to make the flavor the best but I think I'm supposed to keep that part secret. ;-)

Monte had a meeting yesterday with Jose to discuss plans for the church here and then today was able to meet with both Jose and Jorge to discuss some more. Ruth and Nathan have been working to make their room personalized to them and organizing their things. We have now been in the country a week and are feeling more at home every day. By next week we should be into a fairly normal routine and the kids will be doing schoolwork.
By the way, I think we're getting the hang of the laundry-drying situation. *yippee* All of the clothes that have been washed are now dry, thanks to learning to time when to put them outside. It feels so good to not have damp clothes! :) We're heading out soon to a surprise party for Norma's birthday. It's been a great day and looks to be a great night.
Love, Lori

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Daily life...

As we begin to find a new "normal" in our lifestyle, I am having to find new ways to do what used to be simple tasks. When I wanted toast for breakfast, I put two pieces of bread in the toaster and a minute or so later it was ready. I didn't have room for a toaster but found this neat little item at a store for a couple of bucks (far cheaper than the 20+ dollars for a toaster here) that makes toast on the stovetop. I had bought some margarine and some raspberry marmalade at the store and our toast was quite good with some eggs for breakfast this morning.

I realized today that I have no pans that will go in the oven so I set out to find some kind of a baking pan/dish to cook some chicken in for dinner. None of the stores I tried had them except for aluminum foil ones. So I will treat my foil baking dish very nicely and hopefully Jose can find me one in San Salvador on his next trip.

I didn't realize how much I took my electric clothes dryer for granted until the past few days. This morning I put the clothes out on the clothesline to try to get them dry and so here's a picture of my "dryer" in La Palma. It wouldn't be so bad if it didn't rain from about 1:00 in the afternoon on into the night. I found that larger clothes and towels do best when I put them across the railing in the morning sun but we have to be ready to grab them when the rain comes. We have found that hanging them indoors with fans works to some extent but when the humidity is high, it's just nearly impossible to get them dry. Cristian told me today that sometimes to get his jeans dry, his mom hangs them on the back of the refrigerator where they can get some of the warmth from the coils. I don't think I'll try that method yet.

One thing I have needed is some kind of shelves to store dishes, food, etc. in the kitchen as there are none built in here. I managed to find a kitchen rack that serves the purpose. It conveniently fits into the extra shower that is in the kitchen (that probably won't be used by us). Because it fits in there, I can close the door and it latches securely so bugs can't get in which is an extra bonus.
For dinner this evening I was able to bake some chicken with a "salsa ranchera" tomato paste that I found at the store. It turned out pretty good and I made some mashed potatoes to go with it and some fried apples. Having to wash all the food with bottled water or bleach water makes food preparation take a lot longer than it would in the States but so far we're all healthy so it's worth it.
We're all hoping for a better night of sleep tonight. Last night being the first night in a new home, we experienced the normal night of new noises one might expect. In addition, there was quite a menagerie of animal noises to adjust to. Roosters don't just crow at dawn, in case you didn't know. And a bird that sounded no less than 5 feet tall insisted on squawking outside our window about 4:30 a.m. Add that to the fact that the mattresses we picked are F-I-R-M. In the store there is nowhere to lay on them as you might in the States...they're all stacked against the wall and you have to feel them that way. What felt reasonable in the store is a bit firm for our taste but I'm considering letting Nathan go jump on it for an hour or two and see if he can break it down a bit. :)
My class on cooking beans got moved to Wednesday so I'll have more on that later. We are all well and looking forward to another full day tomorrow. Thank you all for your continued prayers.
Love, Lori

Monday, July 26, 2010

Just another manic Monday...

Today was a full day. We got the rest of our things brought to our house and Ruth and I headed shopping for basic food items as well as things like plastic containers (a MUST in the humidity here) and rugs and hangers and brooms and queen sized sheets. The hardest item to find was queen sheets. Several stores had only full size sheets and some tried to tell me they were queen size but when we looked at the dimensions we knew they weren't. In the end I decided to go home and measure our mattress for certain and return later to buy the sheets.

Unfortunately, when I was ready to go out, it was pouring rain. But Ruth set out with me and we traipsed through the rain to get our last few items we needed. I found a set with Mickey Mouse that said queen size and the dimensions were right but at the last minute I noticed that it was a flat sheet and a duvet cover...kind of strange as a combination, huh? At last I found what is probably the only queen size set of sheets in any store in La Palma but the dimensions of our bed are 160 cm x 200 cm and it said it was 152 cm x 208 cm. I hoped it would work and purchased it. I'm happy to say that it fits! Funny how hard something that would be so simple in the States can be.

We got back from our final shopping trip about 5:15 and church services are at 6:00. (They have an activity almost every evening) So we quickly ate a bite and headed out the door. I don't feel like I sat down all day until just now. I feel like I've run a marathon today.

The kids are doing great. Ruth was excellent during our rainy shopping trip and didn't complain about the rain at all. Nathan is doing well for not having his friends to play with and being intermittently bored. They're both picking up a lot of Spanish and Ruth can understand a lot of what people are saying now but has trouble figuring out how to put a sentence together.

My kitchen cabinets are piled with the groceries we bought today because there are no cabinets in it. So tomorrow I will venture out to find some kind of plastic shelving unit to use in the kitchen.

We have a washing machine but no dryer right now. Our plan was to see if we could get by without a dryer. The problem is that right now we are having rain every afternoon from about 1:00 till late at night. So I'll give it a couple more days and see if we can work out a system to get the clothes hung out in the morning and make that frantic dash to get them off the line as the first drops of rain fall in the afternoon.

Tomorrow will be a day of organizing. The Christian school next door starts at 7:00 and there is a loud bell that rings to signal the beginning of the day. In the event we are not yet awake, that is when our day will start. I look forward to what Tuesday brings.

Love, Lori

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Almost there...

Today we got to worship with our church family in La Palma. We got to see sweet faces that we haven't seen in several months and received a warm welcome.

After church Jose made a phone call for us and arranged for Romeo (or maybe Romero?) to come and get us at the hotel at 3:00 along with our big pieces of luggage. He would take us to our new house and then go get the bunk beds and wardrobes Mauricio had made for us. When it started to rain heavily at 2:00 we figured it wouldn't happen but he showed up at 3:15. We loaded the suitcases, covered them with plastic, and piled into the front of his truck. We unloaded the suitcases at the house and Monte and Nathan went with him to get the furniture. When they returned, they discovered that the wardrobes that had been made were a few inches too long to navigate the turn required to get them into the bedrooms. We attempted to discuss various options of cutting them down and reassembling them in the bedrooms but in the end decided that Mauricio would come back tomorrow when Jose could be there to help in the discussion. At that time he will also assemble the bunk beds.

So we are spending one more night at the Hotel La Palma. Here's a picture of what one end of our room looks like right now. There are actually 5 twin beds in this room. The end you can't see in the photo has the 5th bed and is where the pile of suitcases has been. The sign over the bed was from the staff of the hotel.

Tomorrow we will have breakfast and find someone to help us with a vehicle to get our carryon suitcases to the new house and begin the process of unpacking and arranging. In the process I have a great deal of shopping to do. I have to get the basics for the kitchen and pantry and we will hopefully have our first meal in our new home tomorrow night.

Isabel is coming on Tuesday to give me some lessons in how to do things the way they do in El Salvador. One of the main things I need to learn (don't laugh, please...okay, you can laugh) is how to cook beans. I know it's supposed to be simple but the kind you buy here are a bit different and I want to know how to cook them and how she cooks the rice. She puts some vegetables in it and makes it really good.

Tonight Jose and Norma were taking a group from church up the mountain to pay respects to someone who had died. It is a friend of a member from church and some of them had visted her when she was ill. They were to leave around 6:30 and it would be about an hour's walk to get there. Our family was just not up to that kind of walk yet, especially in the dark. It was still raining when they started out and was getting dark quickly. There were about 6 women and about 7 children going with them. I've been up the road they were going and it is not an easy path. I admire their dedication.

So by this time tomorrow night we hope to be in our new home. Thanks for your prayers.
Love, Lori

Rainy season...

It's the rainy season here in El Salvador. And Saturday we experienced how it can change your plans. We had a very productive morning (read Monte's account of it here: ) and were looking forward to a productive afternoon. But then the rain started. We were at the hotel and it rained, and rained, and rained. Here's a view outside our hotel room during the rain. I took the time to catch a nap at that point and when I got up it was still raining. There was nothing we could accomplish so we just waited...and waited...and waited. We'd planned on going to enjoy some "gringas" at a local restaurant for dinner but about 4:00 Monte said, "I think we're going to eat here at the hotel tonight." I got out my travel Scrabble game and we played that a bit before dinner and then after dinner we got out our DVDs that we brought and watched a movie on the laptop before going to bed to the sound of rolling thunder in the distance. It wasn't a productive afternoon but we enjoyed some family time together during the course of it. We all continue to be healthy and well and are looking forward to Sunday morning worship with our La Palma family.
Love, Lori

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hitting the ground...

As much as we would like to have "hit the ground running" we realize that we have to pace ourselves--at least in the beginning--as we begin our life and work in El Salvador. When I come here with short-term mission trips, we work at a hearty pace but realistically in coming for a longer term (and with two kids) we have to be more cautious not to run ourselves ragged and get down and sick. We went to the beach yesterday with the kids and then enjoyed a delicious seafood lunch at a hotel on the beach. We stopped in San Salvador at a Super Selectos (a smaller scale WalMart Supercenter) and picked up several things that are either hard to find in La Palma or are just cheaper in San Salvador. Among them were ice cube trays, Heinz ketchup (the kind in La Palma is really sweet and I don't care for it), non-stick skillets, laundry detergent in a big package, Ranch salad dressing, and various cleaning products. But Monte was the hero when he stumbled upon cans of Dr. Pepper! They were 75 cents each and we got 4 to save back for a special occasion. :) We have never found it in El Salvador and had been told it wasn't available but these have the special Ironman cans that we've been seeing in the U.S. so maybe they're just now available.

We then made a quick stop at Office Depot in San Salvador to pick up a printer. The store layout was very much like the U.S. ones and we were able to quickly find what we needed and be done.

The traffic in San Salvador is always terrible. There seems to be no real rules other than honk and keep on driving. But as we headed up one 6-lane road we began to realize something was on the road. It was kind of sticky and dark and we began to smell it and realized it was molasses! We continued driving but traffic was slowing down because of the problem. In face, it was...go ahead and slow as molasses. In some places it was nearly an inch thick and the cars that drove through the thickest part were getting splattered with it from the vehicles in front of them. As we crested a hill at least a mile later, the offending tanker truck was pulled off to the side of the road with a couple of police cars and news cameras. I'm posting a pic of a driver education school car that has been splattered with it. I can't imagine cleaning that off of your car.

We were greeted in La Palma at the hotel with a banner that the staff had made for us--in English! It was such a sweet gesture and they work so hard to make sure that when our group comes we have everything we need.

Salvador, the owner of the hotel, arranged for a local man who makes clay pots to come today and show the kids how he makes them. We all got to try our hand at pottery. It was fun for all of us. His assistant also told us that he has a projector if the kids get bored and want to watch a movie and they can project it on the wall out in the meeting room.
We went today and showed the kids where we'll be living and I think we'll all adjust to the accomodations. We shopped for some of the furniture we'll be needing and may be able to get it delivered tomorrow (Saturday). If we can, we might be able to sleep in our new place as soon as Saturday night, but Monday is more realistic. We're all anxious to stop living out of our carry-on suitcases and ready to be in beds that we can call our own. We are all healthy and well. Thank you to everyone who is supporting us in this endeavor. We could not be here and undertaking this work without you.

Love, Lori

P.S. Both Grandmas sent presents to the kids and I got pictures of Nathan with both of his in the hotel in San Salvador. He is snuggling with the bear from Grandma McClurg as he went to bed Wednesday night and reading the book from Grandma Lalli in bed the next morning. Thanks, Grandmas! :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

So many goodbyes...

We've said so many goodbyes in the last weeks. So many hugs and tears. Yesterday was the "final goodbye" before our trip. We said goodbye to my parents and sister and Monte's parents at the airport. It was a long process and we took a lot of group shots. As we headed through security one of the women working there asked Monte where we were going and for how long because she sensed that it was a longer trip after watching the sendoff and the goodbyes.

The process to get to where we are now has not been an easy one. Trying to narrow down what a family of four brings for a year to 8 suitcases. Helping my children say their goodbyes to friends. Saying my own goodbyes. The beautiful things it that through all of the difficult times we have felt God's hand leading us. Yesterday we continued to sense it.

We met Monte's parents and brother, my parents and sister, and 2 of our nephews at McDonald's near the Tulsa airport. We were able to enjoy breakfast (or lunch, depending on what time you ordered) together and visit and savor a few more moments with our loved ones. We found a corner grouping of tables near a television that was tuned to CNN. As the time to head to the airport drew near, we gathered together and had a prayer. After the prayer as we were starting to clear the tables a story came on CNN about a fire-throwing tradition in El Salvador. Of course it caught our attention and we watched for a few minutes about a local village's tradition that, in terms of danger, might rival the Running of the Bulls. As we watched the video of the men throwing giant balls of fire as one might throw a bowling ball at the bowling alley, I felt like this little news story was a little wink from God. To me, it was an affirmation of our destination and caused me to smile several times during the day as I reflected on it.

A few hours later we had a layover in Houston. We chose to stop at Chili's Too for Dr. Peppers (which don't exist in El Salvador...sigh) and some cups of soup and chips and salsa. As the waitress took our orders and we all ordered our Dr. Peppers I told the kids these would be our last ones for the year. The waitress asked why and I explained. She then smiled and told us she was from El Salvador. One more little affirmation from God.

Now we are in El Salvador. The "goodbye" portion of our journey is over and we begin the next portion of it. We arrived last night and stayed at a hotel near the airport. The kids are doing great and we all got a much-needed good night's sleep. We're about to go enjoy breakfast here at the hotel. After that we'll take the kids to the beach for a little bit and begin the journey up the mountain to La Palma. It's been four years since Ruth has experienced El Salvador and this is Nathan's first time. It's going to be an exciting day.