Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas from the States!

Merry Christmas, one and all! I'm sorry for the delay in posting. I have arrived safely home, for those who haven't figured that out or seen me yet. :o)
The last few days of school were crazy, as I expected. And I had a cold, too! I went all semester without really getting sick and then had to fight it for the last 2 days! The other thing I had to fight was the visa red tape process. I'll make a very long story kinda short. I hadn't gotten anything in the mail, like I expected. So I checked my progress online, and it said if I didn't get anything within 30 days to just go downtown and do it in person. Well, it had been more than 30 days since I had mailed everything in, so Sunday night I scrambled finding someone to go with me downtown and also someone to cover all my classes. It was not easy, but I straightened everything out. The next morning, after getting just a little lost, I made my way to the visa office. I took my ticket (like the kind you have to take at the deli counter) and looked at my number--D03. Ok, what does that mean? When we took our seats, a woman walked up to the waiting room and started calling numbers in the 60s. So I figured I'd have to wait through about 40 numbers. After 25 minutes or so, she started calling numbers in the 90s and I got my things together. She called 97, 98, 99, C00, C01...We were only just starting the C's and I was in the D's!!! So close, and yet so far away! After another hour and change, my number was called. Less than 5 minutes later we were leaving the building. Not because Chilean red tape is easy to navigate. But because there was nothing I could do there that day. I had to wait 30 days after my APPROVAL date, not my application date. I was approved Dec 6th! So basically what I had was a temporary interim visa until my real one came in. So although no progress was made, I did find out that I was safe to leave the country and come back again (which was really good since my flight home was the next day!!).
So, that being done, having skipped a day of classes for nothing (classes reviewing for finals, no less), we stopped for a quick lunch at Burger King before I had to be back for my last class. We ordered a rodeo burger (burger, with onion rings and barbecue sauce), but they ran out of onion rings. So it was really just a regular burger with barbecue sauce. Well, it tasted a little odd. Kinda sweet. It wasn't bad, but it was very strange. After the two of us did some taste testing and research, my friend came up with the reason. The barbecue sauce was actually chocolate. Chocolate!! Can you imagine? It was highly amusing, at least. :o)
The next day, I flew home. The man sitting next to me on the plane was a Chilean cowboy who spoke limited English. So for the 5 or so hours that we talked, it was in Spanish about 90% of the time. And it was quite successful! If I didn't understand, he would reword or explain it to me. And if I said something wrong, he would correct me. So I learned a lot! It was very fun and very encouraging. I was able to help translate for him and the flight attendants, who didn't speak any Spanish, oddly enough. What's more, I found that I was so used to speaking Spanish in public, that I was saying excuse me and thank you in Spanish to the American flight attendants! It took awhile to switch over. This is a good sign, I think. :o) We were able to talk about many things, including our beliefs (albeit on a relatively shallow level due to the slight language barrier). He actually brought it up first, and as we continued the discussion, he was shocked and a bit befuddled at learning that I went to church EVERY Sunday. He said I must be very faithful and serious about it. I look forward to the day that I can deepen discussions like that. After the flight, I walked with my new friend, Roberto and his Chilean friend, who were both nervous about their next 6 months in Los Angeles. I was going to help them through customs. We walked through the airport at 6am, laughing and talking. I was trying to lighten their spirits and distract them from their nerves. All was going well until we came to the separate lines for American citizens and visitors. I had to say goodbye to them (which I did the Chilean way, with a kiss on the cheek, and got many odd stares from the Americans around me), and they had to fend for themselves. I never saw them again. I'm sure they did fine though!
My last week and a half home has been a whirlwind of visiting with friends and family. I thought a month would be plenty of time to fit it all in, but now I'm not so sure! It's been odd to be home, because most of the time it doesn't feel like I've been gone! I've stepped right back in to life in New Jersey. It's been so good to be home, to see my family, my friends, to drive (oh, how I've missed it and the independence that comes with it!), go to church, hear preaching in English, and so much more. I'm looking forward to Christmas and all the festivities it brings. It's always a fun day with family and friends.
I pray that each and every one of you has a blessed Christmas, and that you are able to enjoy every minute of the day, whether opening gifts, spending time with loved ones, laughing, eating, talking. Most importantly, I pray that you can praise God each moment for the gift, the reason for Christmas. Feliz Navidad!!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Another year older...

It's been awhile since I've posted, and for good reason. The end of the semester is coming up and I feel like a chicken with its head cut off. However, I'm finally beginning to see an end in sight! I still have a ways to go and a lot to do, but I'm much much closer. It seems much more doable now (although it always was doable, because God gives me the strength to get everything done...and this is no exception!).
A lot has happened since I last posted, so I will try to quickly hit the highlights of the past few weeks.
Thanksgiving was a time of a lot of people, a lot of food, and a lot of sun. Most of the ABWE missionaries currently on the field got together at the Crosses house. They have a large house with more than enough space and a pool in the back yard. With everyone there, we totaled about 40 people!! It was quite busy! We had tables set up outside. I took it upon myself to organize the food on the table, because everything was helter-skelter. I basically directed a couple of my friends in what to do! So of course, I was designated to be the one to instruct people on how the system worked for maximum efficiency. I'll admit, it felt a little odd to be telling all those veteran missionaries what to do at my first Thanksgiving! :o) After we ate, the teenagers and kids jumped in the pool for awhile. I did not, although I was threatened with being thrown in a few times (it came to nothing, though!). Then we watched a movie with the teenagers (apparently a holiday tradition...always the same movie). And I wrapped up the day with quite possibly the oddest board game I have ever played in my life (and I've played some weird ones in my day). But I won, so I liked it. Haha.
All in all, it was a great day. And the first Thanksgiving where I had to wear sunblock! :o)
Just a few days later was my birthday. Saturday night I had some of my friends over. Being in Chile, they were 45 minutes late (except for my American friend. She was just on time and got to help me prepare the food. ha!). We ate, they teased me about my Spanish, as they tend to do, and I grew more and more stressed as the night went on. Why, you ask? I'll tell you. I really wanted to go bowling, but we were waiting for someone who was VERY late (over 3 hours...and he's American! He did have a reason...something went longer than he anticipated...but it was still a little stressful for me). People started talking about not going bowling because it was getting too late. Yikes! Well, to make a long story short, we ended up going and had a lot of fun. I almost won, too. Only one person beat me (ironically, it's the guy we were waiting so long for). :o)
So, to sum up my birthday--it was very fun and a little stressful. Some of the guys were acting extra silly to make me laugh when I was stressed. I did find it a little difficult at times to have a birthday party where I didn't understand half of what people were saying. But it's to be expected at my stage.
The following week I worked and worked and worked. I didn't get to bed before midnight the entire week. And it caught up to me Friday night. We were having some family time, preparing for Andrea's birthday party the next day. For some reason, I got VERY tired and VERY giddy. I was laughing at the stupidest things, and once I started, I could not stop. But I TRIED to stop, which made my laugh sound very strange. I have never heard myself laugh like that before. Melissa was egging me on, and Dave (the King of Corny Jokes) certainly didn't help at all either. It made me think of the scene from Mary Poppins where everyone is floating near the ceiling because they can't stop laughing. I certainly felt a little airheaded!! :o) We then spent at least half an hour trying to bounce bouncy-balls into a dinner glass. I lost every time, partially because I do not have an innate talent for aiming bouncy-balls, and partially because they would make me start to laugh almost every time and then everything went down the drain from there!
I've gotten a lot of work done this weekend, and still have had time to do some fun things. Yesterday was Andrea's birthday party, which was so fun (although I was still tired and was very tempted to leave and take a nap!!). Then in the evening I went to a graduation at the seminary to support our Chilean pastor who was graduating. Then afterwards I went to the Crosses with my American friends who live there and a bunch of their Chilean friends. It was VERY fun and funny since we sat around the table until about midnight, eating, sharing "most embarrassing/funny" stories, and laughing at a guy who dramatically fell out of his chair, flinging food everywhere. Needless to say, I was up very late.
I went to a Vineyard church this morning, which was a very interesting experience. If you don't know, Vineyard churches are Pentecostal, or at least lean heavily in that direction. I've been to churches who have Pentecostal tendencies, so I wasn't completely shocked, but it adds a whole other dimension when everything's in Spanish!! It was a good experience though, and I was glad to be able to spend some time with a friend who will soon be leaving Chile, and I probably won't ever see her again.
Looking forward, the next few days will be busy, but I'm hoping that by Wednesday I will have the bulk of my work done. Then it will be little odds and ends, and then preparing for my trip home. I'll be landing in Philly on December 12th, ready for the cold weather! Brrr!!! It's been 85 degrees and sunny every day for the past 2 weeks. (A few weeks ago we had a heat wave of 95 degrees for a few days! That was a bit torturous!!)
Ok, well this has ended up being much longer than I anticipated. I can't make anything short! My bed is calling me, and I must obey. Good night!