Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Church in Any Language

We didn’t go to church for a month after we arrived here. The CLO gave us their list of English-language religious services, as we’ve come to expect at each post. But here, the list was distressingly short. It was filled with orthodox services and with chapel services at Camp Bondsteel (almost an hour away) or at Film City (a nearby KFOR/NATO base, open to some employees of the American embassy, but not to family members, so Alexa and I can’t go). There was one and only one non-orthodox, nearby, open-to-all-of-us option: Bashkësia e Popullit të Zotit, or Fellowship of the Lord’s People. According to the information from the CLO, this congregation is mostly Kosovan, and services are conducted in Albanian, with English translation. I had visions of headphones, flashes of polite smiling while utterly failing to communicate with the other attendees, and fears of just plain not fitting in. We weren’t sure exactly where this church was located, and to be honest, we didn’t expend a lot of effort to find out at first … we were too busy trying to find out if there were any primarily Engish-speaking congregations that we could visit instead. We didn’t find any.

Accordingly, this past Sunday, we piled into the car and went to church, for the first time in a month. As we entered the building, my dread premonitions seemed to be coming true—all around me, I heard people speaking Albanian, but none speaking English. I understood not a word. The greeter gestured us toward a specific section of the sanctuary, and I began looking for where the interpreter may stand, or where the headphones and jacks were. I didn’t see any, and I began to wonder just how this English translation would occur.

Before the service started, we met three English speakers: a probably-American man whose native language definitely was English, an African woman whose native language may have been English, and a Kosovar woman whose English was superb. I relaxed a little, but not much—here were three people we could talk to, but what about everyone else? Would our opportunities for Christian fellowship be limited to these three?

Not by a long shot.

When the service began, it became clear how the translation occurs: from the stage, with practically the entire congregation chiming in to help when the interpreter gets confused over a word. The greeting was spoken in Albanian, with a woman translating each phrase or sentence into English. There was a time or two when she did hesitate over a word, and at least half the congregation called out the correct word for her. When we started singing, the words were projected onto a screen, but each verse took up twice the amount of space it “should” have: Under each line of Albanian lyrics was a line of English lyrics. Most of the songs were sung first in Albanian, then in English; a couple were sung in English first.

I even tried singing a little in Albanian, after listening to the pronunciation and reading the English translation so I had an idea of what I was saying. That was one of those small moments worth remembering. There I was, for the first time in a church service where English was not the primary language, singing praises to God in a language that I didn’t know, but understanding the words because the translation was provided, and sometimes because I knew the words in English already. It reminded me of the first time I attended Maadi Community Church in Egypt—a little glimpse of what Heaven will be like, although it felt a bit like a different perspective this time, because of the unfamiliar sounds of the Albanian language. At MCC, it was a glimpse of Heaven because of all the different “nations” and “tribes” worshipping together; at the Fellowship of the Lord’s People in Kosova (the Albanian word for Kosovo), it felt more like a preview of the “every tongue” part.

After we sang a few songs, a prayer was said in Albanian—no translation. After a few more songs, a prayer was said in English—no translation.

Then the pastor started speaking. He spoke in Albanian, with a woman translating into English after every sentence or two (no short phrases for him—he was eager to share). When she hesitated over an English word, he joined the congregation in providing it for her. He introduced two special guests: two pastors from neighboring countries who were in town for a prayer breakfast, which was attended by government officials from Kosova, Serbia, and many other countries, including a congressional delegation from the United States. He invited these guests to greet the congregation.

The two other pastors came up to the podium, one at a time. They each spoke in English, passing along greetings from the evangelical churches in their home countries (Serbia and Macedonia) and expressing hope for reconciliation of all the people of the Balkan region, which is well-known for wars and ethnic violence. One even joked about how he, like me, tried singing in Albanian for the first time that morning. The interpreter translated their comments into Albanian—again with some assistance as necessary from the congregation. The second pastor said his first sentence in Macedonian, obviously not expecting anyone to understand—the translator smiled politely and looked at him blankly, and the congregation chuckled. It was obvious that most of the congregation speaks English, and it was equally obvious that English is the language of communication among the various ethnic groups of the Balkans.

After the greetings from the pastors, the children went to the front to be prayed over (in Albanian, no interpretation). Alexa chose to stay with us. Then the children went downstairs to Sunday school, and Alexa announced a desire to go, too, but reminded us that “Mama needs to go with Lexa!” So we excused ourselves and followed the sound of children to the Sunday school room, a windowed room off a larger fellowship hall. I was grateful to see that the service was being shown on a television in the fellowship hall—once Alexa is comfortable enough to be in Sunday school without me but not yet comfortable enough to be in there without being able to see me, I hope to hear the sermon from that television. For this week, however, I sat in the Sunday school room with Alexa in my lap, listening to the story of Zaccheus, first in Albanian, then in English—I even was consulted on the proper English pronunciation of his name—and then the memory verse, first in Albanian, then in English. Then, while the children colored a picture of Zaccheus in the tree, I chatted with my first non-embassy-affiliated Kosovar acquaintance. She was very friendly and welcoming, and she offered to put me in touch with the woman who coordinates a weekly playgroup for preschoolers.

I knew when the service was over, as the congregation moved down to the fellowship hall for coffee. Jeff and I met the pastor, who spoke to us in fluent English. We tried to catch the Canadian missionary who had delivered the morning’s sermon but were unable to do so—undoubtedly, we’ll meet him some other time, as he and his family live in Pristina and attend the Fellowship of the Lord’s People regularly. We didn’t stick around very long after service was over; Alexa was hungry and exhausted and needed to go home. Unfortunately, service begins at Alexa’s usual lunch time and goes through her usual nap time … we’ll have to figure out how to adjust her schedule so that we can attend church without inviting a hunger- and/or sleepiness-induced meltdown each week.

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve found our church home here, or at least a temporary one. If we hear of other English-speaking congregations, we may try them, but my impression is that we will be able to make friends and enjoy Christian fellowship at this church. I didn’t hear the sermon, but Jeff didn’t tell me of any major theological differences, so we’re hopeful that this church is what it appears to be: a fellowship of Bible-believing Christians, many or most of whom speak a language we understand as well as one we don't.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Moments to Remember

Every time we move, we experience many small events that make an impression in the moment. Many of these events go unrecorded, as there isn’t enough to say about them to fill a blog post. Many more get quick mentions on Facebook, only to disappear into the ether as time passes, memory fades, and we don’t look back on old Facebook statuses and remember.

Life with a young child, likewise, is filled with small events. We parents think we’ll never forget all the moments of sweet innocence, of joyful silliness, of hilarious cluelessness. But we do.

This blog can serve as my reminder. After each international move, I download the posts written from our previous home, and I create a “blog book.” In the process, I edit heavily—correcting the formatting errors that occur during the download (why in the world do ALL the blog-to-book software options remove the space between paragraphs?!), adding in pictures and names that I don’t want to share on the internet, fixing the typographical errors that I missed the first time around. And in the process, I remember.

As I read each post, it takes me back. I find myself reliving the moments of which I hadn’t thought in months, about which I’d totally forgotten. I am reminded of details. I look back on those moments that would have been lost forever if I hadn’t recorded them.

Today I am inspired to preserve a few* moments. Bear with me, please … or better yet, enjoy and appreciate these small moments with me.

I Love You, Mama

Several months ago, I asked Alexa—on a whim, really—if she wanted to tell Daddy that she loves him. Immediately, she made her wordless affirmative noise. “Ok, then, go ahead and tell him.”

No hesitation: “I love you, Daddy,” came her sweet voice. Since then, she’s told him more times than I can count.

But ask her if she wants to tell Mama that she loves her. Again, no hesitation: “No.” Ask her if she loves Mama, and she says “yes” or makes her wordless affirmative noise. But ask her if she wants to say the words, and she absolutely, positively, most assuredly does not.

Yesterday morning, I was getting ready to go out to the supermarket. Because it was Memorial Day, Jeff was home, and Alexa would be staying with him while I did the shopping. As I was putting my shoes on by the door, I heard Jeff upstairs in the playroom, asking Alexa “Would you like to tell Mama you love her?” I didn’t hear the response, but I didn’t need to; I’d heard it every time he asked her that question.

“Mama, did you hear that?” Jeff called. After my negative response, he asked Alexa to say the same thing, just louder.

And then I heard it.

Alexa’s sweet little voice, saying “I love you, Mama.”

I restrained my impulse to go pick her up and hug her with all my strength … scaring and possibly breaking her isn’t the appropriate reaction. Instead I took a cue from Jeff’s response when she tells him that she loves him, and I said calmly, “I love you, too, Sweet Pea.”

Since then, Jeff has asked her a couple more times if she wants to tell Mama that she loves her. The response? Absolutely, positively, most assuredly “No.” But that’s okay. She’ll say it again in her own time. Until then, I’ll be grateful that one time, she chose to give me the simple joy of hearing her sweet little voice telling me that she loves me.

Uh Oh! There’s Nobody There!

Apparently I have not done well in saying the blessing with Alexa before she eats her lunch every day. Each evening at dinner, either Jeff or I will say “It’s time to pray,” and Alexa obediently will put down her fork, spoon, or food (whichever is in her hand at that moment) and reach out her hands—one for Jeff to hold and one for me to hold. Then we pray, we release hands, and we all start (or resume, in Alexa’s case) eating.

At lunch, Alexa almost always eats earlier than I do. She eats between 11 and 11:30 most days, well before I get hungry—and since she doesn’t take long to eat, and goes down for her nap immediately after lunch, I don’t eat with her even when I am ready for lunch, because I don’t want to rush. So I set her up with some food and then either clean up the kitchen while she eats or sit with her at the table but don’t eat anything. Although it feels a bit sacrilegious to admit it, it usually doesn’t occur to me to pray with her if I’m not eating.

Today, however, I did eat with her. I set her up with her food, then prepared mine and sat down at the table. “It’s time to pray,” I said.

Alexa obediently put down her spoon and reached out both hands—one to me and one to the empty chair beside her. Then she looked at me in all seriousness and said, “Uh oh! There’s nobody there!”

I had to assure her that when no one else is here, it’s okay to just hold Mama’s hand while we pray. Unfortunately, for Alexa, that translates into transferring her spoon to her other hand and continuing to eat while holding Mama’s hand during the blessing, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Lexa is Still Hungry!

Jeff was a little late getting home today, and Alexa was really hungry by the time he arrived. I’d held dinner because I didn’t realize just how late he was going to be, so she hadn’t had anything to eat in over three hours, even though it was half an hour past her usual dinner time. So we fixed her plate first and let her go ahead and sit down to eat while we fixed ours (since we were eating leftovers from our cookout yesterday, it was just a matter of fixing plates and reheating them). By the time Jeff sat down and I was almost ready to sit down, Alexa was ready for dessert.

We offered chocolate ice cream, also left over from yesterday. Alexa enthusiastically accepted. I gave her the ice cream, then sat down to eat (“Uh oh! We forgot to pray!” Alexa said, as we said the blessing over her dessert). Moments later, Alexa had eaten all her ice cream and wanted more.

We said no. Cue the sad little pitiful crying, with big crocodile tears rolling down her face. “Lexa is still hungry!”

Jeff told her that we understood that she was still hungry, and she could eat more if she wanted to, but not more ice cream. She needed to eat a lot of good healthy food, and only a little dessert. That was not what she wanted to hear. The crocodile tears intensified.

Then we offered a specific alternative to chocolate ice cream. “Would you like some carrots and red pepper?” (Also left over from yesterday, from the vegetable appetizers.)

“Yes!” The tears dried up—immediately. When we offered some leftover watermelon as well, you’d think the chocolate ice cream never even existed.

Is there any other child in the world who views carrots, red peppers, and watermelon as an acceptable—and even superior—substitute for chocolate ice cream?

*Originally there were two more moments I wanted to share today, moments that have more to do with moving here than with Alexa. However, in the process of writing them down, they became their own blog posts. Expect them in the coming days.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Difference in Cultures

Every time we move, we become part of a different culture.

No, we don’t become a part of our host culture; that’s not what I’m talking about. We adapt to some degree; that’s just a part of showing respect, and it is necessary. But the host culture isn’t the only new culture to which we are exposed.

Each embassy also has a different culture. Sure, they all fit under the umbrella of “American,” but there are nuances.

The U. S. Mission to Egypt was so large—it was the largest permanently staffed embassy in the world during our time there—that much of it felt impersonal. There were people there who cared, but overall it felt institutional. Although most employees who worked within the embassy compound at least recognized each other, it was not expected that everyone would know everyone else, especially with mission personnel divided among at least three large compounds. Subgroups and cliques formed; my primary social group became non-mission expats, though it included a few embassy wives whom I met through non-embassy activities such as Maadi Community Church or the Maadi Women’s Guild. Overall, my impression of the embassy was that it was a large, professional institution, with a professional culture that encouraged individuals to be friendly.

The U. S. Mission to Cambodia was much smaller and more personal. The employees, for the most part, worked on one mid-sized compound; most of them knew each other, or at least could provide a name and section (office) to go with each face. From what I recall, the Community Liaison Office was more active, and there were more “everyone’s invited” parties and gatherings hosted by individual mission members than there were in Cairo. Again, however, my primary social group became non-mission expats, once I was able to find them. My impression of the embassy was that it was a professional, but friendly, institution.

The U. S. Mission to Kosovo, from what I can tell, is even smaller and more personal than the Mission to Cambodia. Currently there are two compounds, but they’re within walking distance of each other, and most mission personnel live near each other, though there’s beginning to be more of a separation into two distinct residential areas. Everyone knows everyone else—they can tell you name, section, spouse, kids, pets, home state if not hometown, often previous posts, of just about everyone else. Everyone knows who’s departing—and who’s arriving—this summer. I lost count of how many people, upon being told that we were new to post, said, “Oh, you must be the Smiths*! Good to meet you!” I haven’t had the opportunity yet to meet any non-embassy people, but I have attended six social events (only two of them semi-official) organized by embassy personnel in the four weeks that we’ve been here, and we’re going to another one tomorrow. From what I’ve seen so far, the CLO is trying to be active and provide social events and outings, though I’m not sure how many people participate in those activities (we haven’t been able to participate in any of those yet, though I’m hoping to in future). Overall, my impression of the embassy is that it is a very friendly, yet still professional when it needs to be, community.

Part of any culture is the prevailing attitude toward children, and this aspect of culture also differs among embassies.

I didn’t really notice Embassy Cairo’s professional attitude toward children, as Alexa was born after I’d already begun spending most of my time with people unaffiliated with the embassy. I have no idea what, if any, official events occurred for children. Many embassy families hired nannies for the kids, but other families included a stay-at-home parent. Those stay-at-home moms were the mission members whom I tended to meet and socialize with, and most of them had school-age children, so they were free and clear during the school day. I can’t really characterize the embassy culture’s attitude toward children one way or the other.

Embassy Phnom Penh seemed a bit conflicted about embassy kids. On the one hand, there was a playground right there on the compound, and when I arrived there were kids’ story hours every month—or maybe every week?—in one of the conference rooms, and there were children’s Christmas and Easter parties at the ambassador’s residence, and the CLO occasionally organized weekend playgroups at Monkey Business. On the other hand, I never saw any children using the playground except when the embassy hosted a local orphanage, and the story hours were discontinued soon after our arrival—I think the person who organized them rotated out and no one else volunteered to organize them—and the weekend playgroups were rare and always on Sunday mornings, so we never went to them because we went to church. I think most embassy spouses worked, so most hired nannies for the kids. I went to a few of the monthly social gatherings for spouses who didn’t work, but I left Alexa with our housekeeper during those events, as that seemed to be the norm. So there was an official effort to be a child-friendly embassy, which I appreciated, though it seemed to me that children were an afterthought rather than a feature of embassy social life.

Then we arrived here.

If Embassy Phnom Penh was conflicted about embassy kids, Embassy Pristina is determined not to be.

This embassy is in transition. Children were not allowed to accompany their parents to post for a long time—I’m not sure how long—because of the potential for violence here. Not too long ago, it was deemed safe enough for children, and two years ago, the first children arrived at post. The first school-age children are scheduled to arrive this summer; apparently educational options had to be evaluated before the post could be opened completely.

As with any transition, opportunities co-exist with problems. Most parents here tell us that things are improving. Only one has made clear just how bad it was for children at post when he brought his family here two years ago. His words, as near as I can recall, were, “They cared more about pets than they did about kids.” I had assumed that a post where adult dependents were allowed but child dependents were not would consist of two types of families: those who were young and either single or married but childless for now, and those who were older and whose children were grown and gone. Apparently I was wrong; most families consisted of married couples who had chosen not to have children in favor of making it easier for both spouses to pursue their careers. Understandably, given the circumstances, the embassy culture was unsympathetic to children and their parents; I don’t know that it was hostile, though at least the one father thinks so, but children just didn’t enter into the thinking of most mission members.

That child-free culture has changed. Those who have been here for a year or more—we’re the first arrivals of the summer, so everyone else has been here significantly longer than we have—may not recognize how child-friendly this embassy is now, as they remember growing pains to which we were not exposed. My experience, however, as a recently-arrived mom, is that this embassy is incredibly focused on children, and this focus is a direct result of the problems experienced by the first wave of parents and their children. Not only does this embassy have a playground—and an indoor playroom as well—but it hosts weekly playgroups there. When the CLO sends emails about the events and outings they sponsor, they almost invariably specify that “Children are welcome!” When I declined an invitation to a social event hosted by the Deputy Chief of Mission because I didn’t have anyone to care for Alexa, I received a reply to bring her; childcare would be provided—and when Alexa refused to stay with the other children and the caregiver, she was welcomed to the adult gathering. Children have been present at almost every social event I’ve attended (one was a ladies’ night out; most attendees were moms, but the kids stayed home with Dad), and one was planned specifically to introduce us to the other parents and children at post. Alexa even was welcomed into all the offices we visited during our newcomers’ orientation briefing.

I’m certain the growing pains are not over. With older children arriving for the first time this summer, education will be a concern, and the activities that welcome new preschoolers won’t be appropriate for teens, tweens, or grade-schoolers. And stay-at-home mothers aren’t particularly common here yet—the response when it was discovered that I don’t have a paying job was “Oh, we can fix that!”—but there are a few of us, and maybe there will be a few more after this summer. The culture is still changing and probably will continue to change throughout our stay here. It will be a fascinating experience to watch and participate in this shaping of a culture that will impact families for years to come.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying an embassy culture that truly welcomes our entire family.

*Our last name isn’t really Smith, but we’d rather not put the real one on here.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


We’ve been pretty busy around here. A lot of it for me has been around the house—unpacking, doing laundry, ironing, cleaning, organizing. But we’ve also been busier outside of the house than we typically are, and I’m beginning to think that we will continue to have fuller schedules here. The U. S. Mission to Kosovo seems to consist of a social bunch, and we intend to join in.

Our first Sunday here, we accompanied our sponsors to a cookout. It was a nice introduction to a few people, including our sponsors’ two children and one other little girl. We even met a man who grew up less than an hour away from my hometown. Jeff joked that we had our priorities right: We went to an embassy party before we went to the embassy.

The following week, I stayed busy at home while Jeff acclimated himself to the office. That Thursday, Alexa and I accompanied him for the newcomers’ orientation. It was my first visit to the embassy.

The embassy here is vastly different from the embassies in Egypt and Cambodia. In Egypt, the U. S. embassy was a compound surrounded by a thick wall, with local police on every corner and local guards just outside every entrance. The word “fortress” comes to mind. In Cambodia, the embassy had a wall, but it wasn’t the heavy-duty wall of Cairo—it served its purpose while being more attractive and less intimidating—and the grounds were more manicured and beautiful. Both of those embassies had office buildings inside the wall, though the character of the buildings differed in ways similar to those of the walls around them.

In Kosovo, however, the embassy has an entirely different feel. It has a wall, complete with guards, but it encloses a couple of city streets that look residential. The embassy is those houses, renovated for use as offices. So rather than entering the security perimeter and then having a choice of one or two office buildings to enter, in Kosovo, each office has a house. It gives the embassy the feel of a village, rather than an official compound.

Anyway, we spent our Thursday going around the embassy “village,” checking in with each office. Our first stop was breakfast at Uncle Sam’s, the “cafeteria” (more of a café, really), which has delicious food and friendly service. After that, we visited the Community Liaison Office, the med unit, the Regional Security Office, Human Resources, and CAPE (Cooperative Association of Pristina Employees—a group that employees can join in order to use their combined resources to perform functions that the government can’t or won’t perform, such as member-only gyms, libraries, or restaurants; discounts to internet service providers; or bulk orders of hard-to-obtain grocery or other items). We introduced Alexa to the playground, which was much to her liking.

After all our orientation activities were done, Jeff returned to his office and Alexa and I took a taxi home. The taxi took a different route than we’d taken on the way in, so I caught my first glimpse of downtown Pristina that day as well. I look forward to exploring it more fully on foot.

The following Saturday—last Saturday—morning, we followed our sponsors to Camp Bondsteel for our first visit to the PX. Everyone here calls it the commissary, and based on comments I’d overheard, I expected a full supermarket with an attached smaller PX, like what we had in Egypt. It wasn’t like that, however; it was reversed—a full PX, complete with electronics, clothing, books, and household goods, with a small grocery section attached. As small as the grocery section was, however, it was stocked with plenty of things that made my eyes light up, including creamer for my coffee (we’d been told it wasn’t available here), Cheerios for Alexa, and plenty of grill-worthy meats to go with the grill we purchased that day. After lunch there (we had a choice of Burger King or Taco Bell, neither of which are otherwise available), we headed back to Pristina.

That afternoon, we went to the home of the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) for the spring picnic. We met several new people and chatted with the ones we’d met previously. We enjoyed the hamburgers and hot dogs provided by the DCM and the sides and desserts provided by everyone else—and we made our contribution of chips and salsa purchased that morning, since I didn’t yet have the supplies needed to make a homemade contribution. (Our air freight had not yet arrived, so I was limited in my baking dishes as well as in ingredients. I’m still working out what ingredients are available here.)

While at the party, I became aware of a ladies’ night out scheduled for that evening—I’d been invited already by email, but I didn’t have internet access yet. Jeff agreed to care for Alexa, so I accepted the invitation to ride with a neighbor.

Accordingly, Saturday evening, I walked down the street to my neighbor’s house, and we drove downtown together. The venue for the night’s festivities was a Mexican restaurant, so margaritas and appetizers abounded. Maybe 10 of us were there, and everyone was friendly and welcoming. There was lots of laughter, accompanied by well wishes directed toward the one woman who’s leaving soon. It was a nice time, unfortunately cut short when the woman with whom I’d ridden received a phone call from her husband—he’d been called in to the office unexpectedly, and we needed to get back so she could care for her son while he went in.

Sunday morning we had hoped to attend church, but that didn’t work out.  We still haven’t located an English-speaking congregation to which we know we both have access—there’s a chapel service at a military base nearby, to which Jeff could go, but Alexa and I are not allowed on base. Instead, Alexa and I stayed home while Jeff made the drive back to Camp Bondsteel. He had set up our new television the night before, only to find some stuck pixels right in the middle of the screen. An exchange was in order.

Monday was supposed to be a typical “clean the house” day for me, but it turned into something else. We’d experienced a small leak in a filter in the garage. A couple of embassy plumbers had come to fix it as best they could, but they told Jeff that what they had done was temporary, and they needed to obtain better parts before they could do a permanent fix. On Monday, the need for the permanent fix became very apparent.

We woke up to the sound of water running in the garage. The leak was back and bigger. Jeff called it in, then went to work. To make a long story short, the plumbers came and looked, left to purchase a new filter, then came back and replaced the filter. They assured me that this filter was stronger, and they’d attached it very securely. I don’t doubt them, but they had underestimated the water pressure coming into this house—apparently we’re right off the water main, and the pressure is extreme. Not long after they left, my washing machine started making a funny noise, and I checked it to discover that there was no water. On my way up the stairs, I heard a waterfall in the garage. The new filter had fallen off completely, water was gushing out, and there was a good inch of water on the floor, despite Jeff having left the garage door partially open so water could run outside. I called Jeff, told him to get the plumbers back NOW, and followed his instructions for how to turn the water off.

Shortly after that, a couple of electricians came to fix some transformers. They turned off the pumps (needed to push the water all the way up to the top level … though maybe not with the excessive water pressure), then proceeded to deal with the transformers. As they were leaving, another plumber arrived to turn off the water—half an hour after the gush had started. If Jeff hadn’t told me how to turn it off already, it could have been very bad indeed.

Then the original two plumbers came back, looked, went to buy another filter and a valve to regulate the water pressure, then came back and fixed the problem. This repair seems to be holding, as we haven’t heard any running water (or waterfalls) in the garage since then.

Oh, and on Monday, I also hosted a couple of men from the internet company, who set up our home internet service. Later on Monday, I turned away two more men from the internet company who didn’t realize that the first two had come.

Then came Tuesday. Tuesday morning, Jeff stayed home while we accepted delivery of our Unaccompanied Air Baggage, which arrived much sooner than expected. He put together our mattress while I unpacked the kitchen goods and some of Alexa’s toys. She was incredibly excited to see “Daddy George” (a large Curious George doll) and Yow (a stuffed tiger), as well as her balance bike and several other toys.

Tuesday afternoon, Alexa and I went back to the DCM’s house for Spring Tea. I originally had declined the invitation because I don’t have a babysitter yet, but then I was told that child care would be provided and that Alexa was welcome. I took a chance and accepted the invitation, fearing that Alexa’s screaming would cause me to make a hasty departure. It turned out both better and worse than I feared: Alexa didn’t scream, and we didn’t have to leave early, but she also refused to stay with the young lady who’d been hired for childcare. She sat right beside her mama, in a chair left empty due to a last-minute cancellation, and she was quiet and well-behaved as she ate her fruit cup and cookies and drank her water (Mama had forgotten to bring her boxed milk). She even favored the DCM’s husband with a smile or two when he played with Daddy George, without whom Alexa had refused to leave the house. It was a nice time, and Alexa received several compliments on her behavior, for which I was grateful.

The following day was May Day, a local holiday. We relaxed at home all morning, then went to our sponsors’ house that afternoon for a “Meet the Parents (and Kids)” cookout. I met a few more ladies and several more men, Jeff socialized with people with whom he’d interacted primarily professionally, and Alexa found a safe haven—the “house” at the top of a slide—from which she could observe the other kids while considering whether or not she’ll ever acknowledge their existence. All in all, a good day.

Thursday and Friday were more busy days at home. And finally we come to this weekend—a long one, because tomorrow is a local holiday for Orthodox Easter. We had ideas about going out, visiting a local mall, trying a nearby restaurant. Jeff had ideas about inaugurating the basketball court. None of that has happened; it may or may not happen later today or tomorrow. Instead, we’re enjoying the opportunity to relax. Upload pictures to Facebook. Write and publish blogs. Order some things online we’ve been meaning to get around to ordering. Watch a Star Wars movie—mandatory for yesterday, May 4 (otherwise known as “Star Wars Day” – May the “Fourth” be with you).

We’re just enjoying a nice relaxing weekend in our new home. Finally.