Discouraged

Ever have one of those days where everything just seems to hit you all at once? That’s what Thursday was for me.

First, I was stressed over what was happening with Alex at his new school. Apparently, he made life pretty miserable for his teacher last week, leading the school to question if the class they had put him in was the best one for him. He came home on Wednesday with two notes written in his school notebook, one from the 2nd grade teacher, explaining some of his behaviors and why he wasn’t going to be in her class anymore… and the other from his new teacher, the Kindergarten teacher. Ummm, okay, so 2nd grade wasn’t working out, so they decided to move him back two grades? As it turns out, when Rusty went in to talk to them, they told him they felt like 1st grade was too full, and there were already 4 kids in 1st grade with special needs or learning problems or something, so they didn’t want to add Alex into that mix.

I’m really fine with Alex being in the Kindergarten class. As I said before, I’m more in favor of holding kids back than pushing them ahead, especially in the beginning. I just wish the school had explained to us the situation from the beginning (the correct class for his age was full) and let us decide whether we wanted him to be a grade ahead or behind so we could have avoided this mess. To me, it’s not really important what grade he is in — he is there to learn Spanish and for the social interaction. Academically, he is way ahead of the other students in Kindergarten, so I will probably have to send stuff from home for him to do so he doesn’t finish early, get bored, and cause problems for the teacher and the other students.

I’m mostly frustrated because I feel like Alex has already earned himself the reputation there as being a problem child. The school has asked us to have a neurological and psychological evaluation done on him. They suggested he might have ADD or ADHD. I’m not denying that might be a possibility (although I do think that high-energy boys are often falsely labeled such), but I do feel like they are being awfully quick to start requesting testing when he hasn’t even had a chance to adjust to this new environment. After all, he hasn’t been in a formal school environment for a year and a half, he’s immersed in a new language that he can’t yet communicate well in, and he was put in the grade ahead of where he should be. And they’re surprised when he has trouble adapting?! I’m not excusing some of his behavior (much of it was totally unacceptable, whether or not he can communicate well, and we had some pretty serious talks about it on Wednesday night), but I do think that once he adjusts and knows the routine, the expectations, the rules, and above all how to communicate his needs and problems, the acting out will diminish.

So, I was feeling anxious about all that, and then Rusty started telling me about the meeting he had with Kent and Josh the day before where apparently it came out that there had been some criticism as to his performance leveled at him by some folks on the medical campaign. I think it is interesting how people can come on these week-long campaigns, people who don’t even know you or have a vested interest in you or your ministry (i.e. they are not personal supporters or from a supporting church), see one aspect of what you do, and then feel like that somehow gives them the knowledge and the authority to critique you personally or how you are doing your job! Are missionaries the only ones who deal with this, or does this happen in other professions? I am sincerely asking — this is not a rhetorical question! I have been thinking about it all day, wondering if this happens to other people in other jobs. We don’t claim to be perfect, we still have much to learn (we haven’t even been here a year for goodness’ sake!), we make mistakes and bungle things up daily and probably will continue to do so for years to come! I guess it would just be nice if people would take the time to know us and understand our unique situation and the team dynamics we are working with here in Ecuador before being so free to offer up their criticisms.

I probably just need to grow a thicker skin. There will always be critics. I know this.

Also, Rusty left on Thursday for a weekend trip to Kumanii. We went to the bank to take out some money before we left — he needed cash for the trip, and I needed to pay the ladies who help me around the house. And none of our cards would work in the ATM — we tried his bank card and mine, as well as a credit card from a different bank and could not get money out with any of them. Which probably signifies a problem on the Ecuadorian bank’s end, or a problem with all international cards. Still, it was frustrating. And on the way out of town, Rusty called to inform me that he’d been pulled over for “speeding” (going 2 km. per hour above the speed limit) and given a $90 ticket. Really, Ecuador? Really?!

Sometimes, it’s the compilation of little daily annoyances on top of all the major stresses of living in a foreign country (learning to speak a new language and adapting to a new culture for instance) that just make that first year or two abroad so difficult. And sometimes, it just seems to come at you all at once, like waves relentlessly crashing over you, making it hard to catch your breath. After Thursday, I was grateful for a peaceful weekend at home, for crackling fires in the fireplace each night, for “Downton Abbey” with my sister last night, for a long nap this afternoon.

And I’m looking forward to our family vacation at the beach next week!

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A Little Break

I’ve taken a little break from the writing project for the past couple of days, for several reasons:

  1. After spending all week at home with my kids, I sort of feel like I’ve run out of things to say! Not really true, of course — I have lots on my mind, lots I want to and could write about, but at the end of the day, I am usually just so tired that all I want to do is veg out in front of the TV or my computer, not think about putting words to some of the thoughts rattling around in my brain. It has been raining a lot this week, so every day, I would think, “Tonight would be a nice night to build another fire after the kids are in bed, and just relax in front of it,” but then after I got the kids in bed, I couldn’t even muster up the energy to actually get the fire going.
  2. On Thursday night, the older boys had a sleepover in my bed. They watched a movie on my laptop before they went to sleep, so I couldn’t use my computer during their movie, which is usually a good time for me to write. I could have gone out and used our desktop Mac or even Rusty’s old laptop, but I decided cuddling with my boys and watching “Cars 2” for the 542nd time was more important.
  3. Yesterday, we spent the afternoon at my sister’s house. We celebrated Jana’s fifth birthday with a Hello Kitty party and TONS of kids (just including cousins from both sides of the Marcum’s family, there were 13 kids, plus there were a few from Jana’s class at school). It was a crazy fun time, and after everyone else left, we stayed for a sleepover. After we got the kids settled and asleep, we watched a movie, and by the time it was over, it was late and cold, so I just went to bed.

Rusty will be home TONIGHT, and we are all so excited to see him. I am so very thankful for all the folks from the States who come and make sacrifices of time and money to bless Kumanii and the people along the Cayapas, but I’m also thankful that we don’t have another short-term group on the calendar until June! 5 groups in 6 weeks has been a little much for us with such young kids.

Hospitality

Rusty arrived home (yay!) in time for lunch, and along with him, the entire group from the East Hill Church in York, NE, who are here on a short-term campaign. Eleven people in all, thirteen if you include Rusty and Josh, and we fed them all lunch. One of the things I like best about our home here in Quito is how conducive it is for hosting large groups for meals or parties. We have already done quite a bit of entertaining in the few months we’ve been here.

We really love having people into our home. It is something we have always done, since the early days of our marriage. I remember having friends over for dinner as newly-weds in Japan, usually just one or two at a time because that was all our tiny apartment could comfortably hold. When we lived in Mississippi, the youth group and the young families were frequent guests in our home, just across the street from the church. Our second home in Japan was a large and spacious house, which became a venue for Bible studies and church parties, and the temporary home of a couple of short-termers with Let’s Start Talking. While living in campus housing at the grad school, we hosted our share of team meetings, and this carried over to our time in Portugal, where, since we had the largest apartment of the group, we hosted Team Fellowship Nights every other week.

Hospitality really has become one of our core family values through the years, and we enjoy being able to use our home as a ministry tool. There have been a couple of times during our marriage when we couldn’t have people over because we were not in a place of our own, but living with family or friends, and we always found we really missed being able to share our lives in this way.

Hospitality is an art, one that I learned growing up from my mom, where our home in Nairobi had a constantly revolving door for guests. It is an art I am still learning as I now play the hostess in my own home. But probably the most important thing I have learned about hospitality through the years is that it doesn’t require a perfectly decorated home, fancy dishes, or elaborate food. It just requires a desire to make people feel welcomed and loved and comfortable. And you can do that in a tiny apartment with paper plates and pizza delivery just as easily as someone in a million-dollar home with expensive china and a catered meal.

In Africa, guests are considered a blessing from God. If that’s true, then we have already been incredibly blessed during our few months in Ecuador! I hope this is always how I perceive the people who come and go through our front (or back) door — as a blessing!