Last Tuesday, we arrived here into our apartment. Although they have recently been renovated, it still lacks various creature comforts and kid friendly aspects. However, in an effort to not be whiny Americans, that are admittedly spoiled beyond measure compared to most of the rest of the world, we are “roughing” it here without the convenience of a microwave, an elevator, clean smelling air, a bathtub, reliable wireless internet, a dishwasher, and any form of enjoyable television. For those of you in the adoption process, this is written for you for informational purposes only and not a reflection upon anyone or anything. Just info.
We had the girls eating instant oatmeal and we were all eating leftovers, heated up in a microwave so that we could conserve some money and not be broke when we arrive home. Without a microwave, there are no more leftovers to enjoy and yes, the oatmeal can be cooked still, but other, smaller apartments in this complex have a microwave.
Our next missing luxury is an elevator. Knowing that we are coming with 3 children, and staying here in an apartment where we have to get groceries and go out and about to stay sane, you might would think an elevator or a first floor apartment would be a possibility. Not with us. Picture us, going up and down 3 flights of stairs, multiple times a day with 3 kids, a stroller, and anything we have accumulated in our journeys, such as groceries. Again, this is just info. We are making it work.
The aroma of whatever your neighbor is doing is not quite the equivalent of fresh air. I have never lived in an apartment, but smelling what the neighbor is cooking can be quite the tease or turn off. Other smells we are welcomed with include the repugnant odor coming out of the toilet and sinks as well as the occasional cancer causing second hand cigarette smoke, regardless of the no smoking signs posted around. They talk, we hear. They cough, they walk, tap on the wall, whatever, we hear. However, we pay them back with the crying and sweet music of American and Polish temper tantrums.
As many of you read and had been praying for, bath time with Victoria started out as quite a struggle. For about 2 weeks we dealt with the painful and torturous cries at bath time before finally getting her into the tub with her sisters for a fun bath. We left with bath time in good shape, arrived here and lost the 2 weeks of progress we had achieved. Here, we have a stand up shower, barely big enough to bend over and pick up a shampoo bottle in, in which we attempt to bathe a 5, 3, and 1 year old. We are back to screaming and crying. But, then again, we are not on vacation.
Reliable wireless internet is another creature comfort that we have become all too reliable on. Having had free reliable internet in Katowice, we easily kept in touch with friends and family at home. Thus relieving any homesickness we or the girls had from being gone for such a long time. We were able to update our blog and Facebook pages and share what is going on in our lives 5000 miles from home. Now, we have a stick that allows one of our 3 wireless devices to connect to the internet, sometimes. It is a pay to use deal and after using it sparingly the first few days, we ran out of minutes or KB’s or something. We now have to take a 50zl ride to the mall to a store to get it refilled or recharged or something so that we can keep our kids from crying at night because they are homesick.
Now on to the dishwasher part. I grew up without a mechanical dishwasher and the dishwasher we had at home also cooked all my meals for me growing up. She is not here and I am equipped with 2 arms that are capable of washing the handful of dishes that we have available to us in the apartment. We have water, soap, a tiny sink and 1 towel and that is all we need. Not a complaint, just info.
The television here, opposite of Katowice, which was satellite and fairly international, is made up of a handful of channels with CNN, international version, as the only English speaking channel. So, as all of you were sleeping, I, for a couple hours, learned before you that Kim Jong Il had a heart attack Saturday. I know his past, his likes and dislikes, his achievements as dictator, his family, his love of fine wine, movies, and foreign prostitutes, and that his 28 year old son will now be moving into power.
On now to the non-informational parts of the update. On our first full day here, we were blessed with a guided tour by the girlfriend of Magda’s son. Some called her Ola, some Yola, and even one Olga. No matter the name, she was great and quite the blessing to us as we explored our new home and surroundings. She went with us through the Royal Castle and the Warsaw Rising Museum. Though Cinderella was not there, Ryleigh enjoyed the castle and seeing the throne, bedrooms, ball rooms and such. After that, we enjoyed some traditional Polish cuisine and learned that Ola/Yola/Olga and many other Poles enjoy a nice cup of sour milk. The trip to the museum was about enjoyable as a trip to Auschwitz. The reminder of what happened here 60 years ago is heartbreaking. To see what evil deeds man is capable of when absent from God is deplorable. The names and faces of so many innocent people in front of us serve as a reminder to stand up for those who cannot stand themselves, speak against injustice, and love our neighbors as written in the Bible. Sadly, we often think of those immediately around us as our only neighbors.
On 2 occasions we attempted to go to the Copernicus museum and had our efforts stuffed by the Polish president, whom we saw on the road 3 times. There are only 2 police cars in the motorcade, one in the front and back with 2 cars between. All we had to do was pull off the road. If we were at home, the city would be shut down and security everywhere. We did make it to the Polish science and technology museum. It was filled with various things from old radios and computers to a space section, a coal mining section, and more. The rest of our time with Leigh’s parents was spent walking around old town and just hanging out, enjoying time with Mimi and Papaw. They would leave us early Saturday morning and a tearful goodbye led us to a renewed spirit that our journey was now one week shorter and the blessed visit we received from them helped us feel a little more at home.
This past Sunday, Leigh and I took an expensive taxi ride to an English speaking Baptist church we searched out on the internet prior to getting here. The pastor is American and turns out the 5 of us comprised nearly half of the attendance. We learned that many people are travelling for the holidays. We were able to partake in their Christmas lunch afterwards and met some new folks. One such fellow we met is Robert, who is a missionary here from California. He has been here several years and works as an ESL teacher and street preacher. His boldness and love for the Lord exudes. It is my prayer, that one day my faith is such that it is the very thing that makes me who I am and what I am about. He took us to another English speaking church that night that was full of young and old English speakers. We met folks from all over who graciously mingled with us and made plans to get us out and about and not waste away here in the apartment during the upcoming holidays.
Today, Tuesday, Leigh and the girls went to an indoor play place while Robert and I went to the main Subway station. While there, he preached in Polish and I handed out 2 different tracks. We were able to put the Gospel in the hands of many people today. Some read it, others threw it away. Regardless, they had the Gospel in their hands today. Robert stood on the sidewalk, boldly proclaiming the name of Jesus to those that passed by. In a predominantly Catholic country, home of the former pope, and over 2 million people in this city alone, it is staggering to think how many wander this city lost. Lost because they are trapped inside a traditional, ritualistic religion that many believe requires prayers to a man while neglecting the relationship that can lead them out of the darkness.
Other random things that we have done since we have been here:
-On the way home the other day, we are packed in a taxi. Picture it: 3 kids, no car seats with a driver who speaks no English. Layla and Victoria are restless, not enjoying the death grips that we have on them so that the aggressive driving, that is the norm here, does not toss them about the car. They begin to cry. Crying turns to the occasional death scream and all at once, the driver pulls over and says “here”. We look out the window and see that we are not home yet. We are in old town, but not home. He evidently had enough. It was the cheapest taxi ride we have had because we never finished the trip.
-Layla, who is perfectly capable of saying, “Toria” for Victoria’s name, has decided to call her “Goggi”. She responds to “Goggi” and they have on frequent occasions had conversations with one another about who knows what and seem to understand one another. Then, they either hug or hit one another and both respond with crying in the most overly dramatic way. Goggi, not Gaga as in the Lady.
-Some Polish people, despite our initial response of not speaking Polish, will continue to talk to you a hundred miles an hour in Polish. One lady in a restaurant told us in perfect English that she did not speak English, only Polish. She turned out not to be the nicest person and had a gentleman translate our order to her through the Google translate app.
-Victoria will, in a moment’s notice, take a head first dive towards you or in your direction. Be ready. Someone may have to get her a helmet for Christmas. She is fearless.
-Ryleigh has developed a new love for “twigs”. Translated into English, that is Twix.
-Layla has started eating vegetables and drinking any kind of vegetable or fruit juice or tea in front of her. At home, not so much. Victoria eats like my mammaw. Fruits and vegetables and traditional Polish cuisine are her favorite for obvious reasons. She will only eat fries and ketchup at McDonalds. We will probably ruin her when we get home.
-Just like in Katowice, we are stared at a lot. Maybe we look American? Maybe it is because we have 3 kids? Maybe it is because 2 of the 3 are crying when strapped into the stroller? It is probably all 3.
-I am no taxi expert, but I noticed how the fare went up the other day while we were not moving and sitting at a red light. Of course, there was some crying in the car.
-Flush the toilet, hear the sink gurgle. Nice.
-I used a toilet the other day that had a duct taped seat. 101 uses, even worldwide.
-Layla can open up childproof cough syrup bottles and dump them on the couch now.
-Pizza here is not quite like American pizza. It is much thinner. Nevertheless, I ate 6 pieces the other day and was stuffed. Ryleigh ate 5.
-The refrigerator has 5 temperature settings. The milk has frozen at 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1.
-Leigh’s parent’s smaller apartment had a combined washer and dryer. We have the bigger, more expensive apartment and have a drying rack. Luckily, the knob to the radiator in bedroom is broken, so clothes dry faster due to the unstoppable heat. The heat in the rest of the house is off. That room heats the entire apartment.
-Wii is a life saver. Ryleigh is quite the sword fighter. Her erratic style is nearly impossible to beat.
-We were told Sunday that our accents remind someone of watching Hee-Haw growing up. We took that as a compliment.
-As I type this, the snow has started to fall.
-Kielbasa tastes so much better here, whether grilled, fried, boiled, or smoked and a squirt of mustard will cost you about $.33. Nothing is free hardly.
-Layla has made it an entire week without hitting her head on the floor. Knock on wood.
-We have cabinets in our apartment that only Patrick could reach. I have to jump just to touch the bottom of them. Unfortunately, he is not here and we did not pack a ladder in our luggage.
-“That man is not very nice. He must have the devil inside him.” – Ryleigh
-While passing out tracts today in Polish, I asked Robert what it said on the front. He smiled and walked over to me and said, “The pope is a Nazi” and walked away. I hope he was joking.
-Please pray for us as we are dealing with some homesickness as well as some physical illness.
-Pray that Layla and Victoria continue to bond and realize they are on the same team and do not have to be opposing forces 24/7 or at least 14/7, assuming they sleep 10 hours.
-Pray that our paperwork moves quickly and that we can afford to change our plane tickets to get home sooner.