Sunday, March 22, 2009

Only in Honduras

Only here have I
be woken up by a man selling screens and glass to fix your windows, door-to-door, at 7 am on a Sunday morning
walked by a window display that has a boy mannequin dressed in cuffed shorts, polo shirt tucked in, and swim wings; or a store window selling bikinis and wedding gowns - and it was not a second hand store!
seen a armed man riding on top of filled propane tanks
been able to buy chairs, baskets, hammocks, ice cream, sweet rollls, and cotton candy at my gate all before 11 am - just who has a craving for cotton candy at 9:30 am... bring me coffee and let's talk!
ordered kebabs featured on the menu and being told it will take so long to make, choose something else,
asked for a Pina Colada and having the waitress come back 15 minutes later apologising that Pina Coladas are too difficult to make - albeit listed on the drink menu
waited two weeks for the land lord to even think about fixing the windows so that we can secure the house when we leave during the day
accepted that the stove probably will not be work properly before we head back to the US
carried home a back pack full of delicious food from the fruit stand and still have money left from my equivalent of ten dollar bill
stopped on the corner to chat with the street sweeper and kissing and hugging before I continued my walk
cheek kissed virtual strangers whom I just met.
bought delicious honey from the house across the street

Life in Honduras is full of surprises, juxtapositions, and unusual encounters - never a dull moment!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Temporary housing

As a military wife, I have had my fair share of temporary housing - and never thought much of it, apart from mumbled complaints about the things I did not have. Living in Honduras has given me a much more challenging perspective of temporary living.
We were fortunate enough that Mike was able to find us a place to rent short term. There are houses here to rent, and there are furnished places to rent, but a furnished house, in a safe community, for rent short term is not easy to come by, so we are truly blessed.
The house is furnished with the basics we need to live - beds, table, chairs, stove, fridge and it even have some great extras: sofa, sofa table, water cooler, desk for our computer, and some lamps to light up the place at night. The kitchen had minimal but almost sufficient equipment. The question for us became: "Is this good enough for our time here or do we need to purchase x?" Since we are on a limited budget, each purchase required a 'no, we really need this' in order to be made. So we now have enough plates, cups and utensils to hosts friends for dinner, one pretty good knife, a working can opener, and a few assorted other items. It took a little getting used to, having to juggle meal preparations not only based on what was in the store that day, but the size and types of pans we had. Bob has been known to heat his tea water in our 'lobster pot size' pot a few times, and our newly purchased non stick frying pan does double duty as quick micro wave to reheat left overs. The longer we are here, the more we get use to the limitations and, strangely enough, they no longer seem so restrictive. In a sense it is pretty freeing to have these limits imposed on how we live, what we cook, and the cleanliness of the place.
One day talking with a dear friend, she mentioned the concept of our temporary residency here on earth, and how our permanent home is not here, but in Heaven. It really made me think about how I live life here on earth, not just in Honduras.
How differently I live here in our temporary home than I did in our 'permanent' house in Ridgecrest. How would it look like if I lived a little more like my home is a temporary place rather than permanent, something ephemeral rather than something of such great importance. I have come to appreciate the temporary status of our home here, and the freedom is affords me, and I pray that I will carry some of that with me back to the US. We have so much less stuff here, yet we are not really missing much. The boys are doing a fine job finding things to entertain themselves with, even though we brought hardly any toys. We eat a decent meal each night. Our friends seem not bothered by the fact that nothing match, the food is served in pots, and we have to wash the forks before dessert, and we have fun fellowship playing games, getting to know each other and solving "the world's problems."
As we begin to unpack all our many boxes this summer, I pray I will remember where my true home is; that the things we have need to be taken care of, yet held lightly in my hand, that what we have is good enough more often than not, and that what truly matters is family and friends.
Asking the question "do I really need this, or can I make do?" will do wonders for not only our budget but for our lives. Less things to take care of, more time for friends, family and relationships. Honduras is teaching me so much!

Take the No for the Yes

Two years ago, yesterday, God rocked our world by clearly saying "No" to our great plans for this time period between retiring and going back to school. There were a lot of emotions processing the end of our dream, what we had planned for, prepared for, desired, wished for and talked about for the last 8 years.
Two weeks later, we went away for a weekend get away. Both Lukas and Noah love to swim and although it was already hot in our desert town, there were no outdoor pools open. When we checked in to the hotel, the boys quickly spotted the little hotel pool. They were so excited and we were in that pool in record time - from car unloading to swimming: a blink or two! The boys happily played around in the pool, swimming, diving, jumping, splashing, and riding of Daddy's back. It did not matter to them that the pool was small, in their eyes it was perfect. Only the sun setting - making the desert cool again - and very hungry bellies could even begin to persuade them to get out and dry off. "This was the life" as Lukas says.
The next morning, we planned to spend the day at a local water park. The boys woke up, and had their swim shorts on before their sleepy parents had even opened their eyes. 'C'mon Mamma, C'mon Daddy, let's go to the pool....' When we told them we had other plans for the day, the reaction had the resemblances of a nuclear reactor melt down - how could we even think of going some place else, having to get in to the car, when there was a great and fabulous pool right here outside our door. Two very sad, although obedient, children, joined us for breakfast and then got in to the car. The mood certainly was somber. On my inside I was seething, how could they be so ungrateful, so unappreciative, we had these great plans for them, and all they did was whine and complain about not being able to play in the 8x10 pool. Their grumbles turned into singing when they realized where we were going, and what we had planned for them - a full day at a fabulous water park: lots of pools, slides, wave pool, lazy river, more slides, and water play. They squealed with delight and we had a phenomenal day.
The irony of this was not lost on me - the grumbling, whining and complaining that I was doing about our "No" was no better than that of Lukas and Noah. I saw a glimpse of what our Loving Heavenly Father must feel when I kick and scream, protest and argue. I often think about the 'water parks' that God has in store for me if only I am willing to listen and obey. How often have I spent my time in the little pool, when the water park was right there, because I wanted to lead and direct my life?
God's "No" two years ago, lead us to His "Yes" which we are living out right now. Spending four months in Honduras, working with missionaries, learning the language, experiencing the culture, and getting to know some amazing people - that was God's water park for us. I would have gladly given up a much bigger pool for this water park, and I only wish I had done it more graciously, without temper tantrums, whining, complaining, arguing, fretting about and stomping my feet. If I had had it my way, we would have missed this incredible, amazing, wonderful and all around invaluable experience - and all for splashing around in the puny hotel pool.

Beth Moore wrote:
Any "No" an earnestly seeking child of God
receives from the throne is for the sake
of a greater "Yes."

I pray that I will remember this next time God says "No."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Just Do It!

Living in Honduras continues to teach me so many life lessons. What seems to logical, practical and easy from my perspective may just not be so - when viewing life from another point of view. Just last week, I had a great experiential lesson on this subject.

I had been suffering from a severe itch, hives, rash skin condition for over a week, when Bob said: "Enough is enough, you need to see a doctor." Since there is no Yellow Pages to find a doctor in, one either asks for referrals from friends or pound the pavements looking for doctor signs. We had spotted two dermatologists offices on our walks around town, and Erin suggested a third, so armed with directions I head in to town on Friday. The first office apologetically told me the doctor was at a convention and would be back in 10 days, but try this one... Well, that doctor also was at the convention, and so was the third doctor I tried and the fourth. As a last ditch effort before abandoning the quest, I headed to the private hospital. Yes, they did have a dermatologist on staff, no she was not at the convention, and yes I could come back that afternoon for an appointment, as long as I brought cash.
I returned cash in hand at the appointed time. The office secretary asked for my name and birth date. When I told her my name, she looked quizzically at me, so I handed her my ID card. Who can blame her, Severinghaus is not easy to spell. Once she typed in my name, she looked up, and asked, what about your second last name? Most Hondurans have two last names - one from the mother and one from the father. Well, I only have one - it is long enough that hyphenating was out of the question when we got married. She repeated her question, probably thinking this Gringa just does not understand. She finally gave up, and I silently wondered if she wrote 'Gringa' as my other name to make it proper.... As I reflected on the interaction, I realized that something as basic as a last name is so differently interpreted and used depending on culture, country and family.
The doctor was very congenial and relatively rapidly diagnosed me with escobiosis. My Spanish English dictionary did not have this word, but fortunately she was prepared with a Spanish English medical dictionary - my condition: scabies. It is very simple she told me; "just wash all of your clothes, every piece of it, in hot water and dry it in the dryer on the hot setting. Tonight, put this cream all over your body, go to bed, and in the morning take a shower. You then need to wash the sheets, and towels that you use every day for the next week in hot water, and dry them in a hot dryer. Since you live with three other people, I strongly suggest you take the precaution by treating them as well, i.e. washing all their clothes, cream, sleep, shower, and change sheets and towels daily. In a short 7 days you will feel so much better. " Well, it does sound simple... but it is not. I wanted to tell her how impractical her suggestion was considering my current living conditions, but on second thought realized that she would not understand, and probably not care. If I wanted to get rid of the itch, this is what I had to do.
My little pila in the backyard can only handle a few pieces of clothing, and there is no hot water in the house apart from through the widow maker in the shower..... We only have one set of sheets for our bed, and not that many towels. So far, we have had rain almost every day, so it takes a few days to get the heavier things dry. Fortunately our sheets are thin, thin, so they do usually dry pretty quickly, but what do I do if it pours?
I am fortunate enough that I have enough resources to make this happen. We took all my clothes to the laundromat, and paid extra for hot water wash. Four hours later, I had completely step one. We have not seen rain for the past few days, and the sun and the light breeze has made washing the sheets every morning possible, some days they are dry before lunch! But it is taking extra ordinary time, energy and resources to make this happen - much more complicated than it sounded.
It has been a very humbling experience as it taught me that so many of my western ideas, suggestions, and resolution to problems and situation I see here in Honduras are just not practical for them to implement. Many minor ailments such as lice, bed bugs etc cannot be properly eradicated unless one follows a rigours routine of sanitizing and cleaning - yet when the laundry is done in the river, the water is hardly considered hot. When several family members share one bed, and not everyone is treated, how can you stop the infestation? When we suggest the addition of fruit and vegetables to the diet, but there is none to buy nearby, and the closest fruit stand is 45 minutes away with a bus, is that truly practical? Possible? Feasible?
Just Do It! sounds easy and quick, but behind the words hide reality with all its limitations and challenges.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Deceptively pretty

In the sunlight our house looks so inviting, almost beautiful. The garden is green and lush with large banana trees and bougainvilleas tree that are blooming. There is a curved walkway up to the house and potted plants and yard artifacts are scattered around. The facade of the house is painted a warm orange/yellow color and the door is dark wood. On one entire wall facing the garden we have these large, almost cathedral like windows, that go from almost bottom to almost top. Inside we have hardwood floor, and dark marble type tile, stainless steel counter top on the bar style counter into the kitchen, we have original art works on our green walls, and there are some antique pieces of furniture mixed in with the new to create a nice eclectic blend. From the outside, in the sunshine this is a pretty house.

But if you look a little closer, if you check in the corners, lift up the rugs, move the furniture, and open doors, there is a very different picture. The windows are almost falling out because the window frames are rotten, our floors have large holes caused by water damage, the termites leave their calling cards for us every morning, the couch is falling apart, the chairs are wiggly, our green walls are stained by the water leaks from the roof, we can see the sun light through the ceiling in the kitchen, and some rooms are just not even worth opening the door to. It is very deceptive and disappointing to see the true condition of the house. And if nothing is done to the correct these problems, the house will continue to decay and may even become uninhabitable.

Isn't that how I present myself to the world? Perfect, appearing to have it all together? I reflect on how much time I spend on the outer appearance of myself, our home, the boys, my family – yet what is the condition on the inside? My priorities are clearly skewed in the wrong direction when I focus on the outside and neglect the heart and soul, the inside.
Sweeping the floors of our little Honduran home, it was so clear to me that I need to change my focus. God, ever so gently, reminded me to spend my time on the inside, studying His word, praying, reflecting on His teaching, serving others, and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, and not worrying so much about the outwards appearance. Then I would be able to stand up to the scrutiny of others, and a living witness of Christ love in this dark world. My house would look pretty on the outside because the inside was well taken care of.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisees! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Mt 23:25-26

My prayer: May I spend the time cleaning the inside of my cup and dish….