The missionary adventures of the Stimpson family

Posts tagged “missions

3 Years and Counting…

April 30th is a significant day in our family. Most importantly, it is the day our Isaac was born, the first son after three daughters. When his arrival into the world came, we already knew we would be heading to Romania in the near future for an indefinite length of time. One year exactly after Isaac’s birth, we boarded a plane in Chicago with our sights set on Bucharest, Romania.

I really cannot believe it has been three years since we said goodbye to family, friends, and familiarity. Goodbye to good burgers, cheddar cheese, and road trips without potholes! In some ways, these have been the most difficult years of our lives, but in so many ways these years have stretched my faith, taught me what “dying to yourself” means, and forced me to be more adaptable. On the difficult side, I’ve cried more, gotten angry more, felt more burnt out and lonely, and been ready so many times to say “heck with ministry life, let’s go live on a farm far away from cities.” But, on the good side, I rejoice at being in God’s will, seeing our family be used by God to bring light into a very dark city, being a part of God’s transforming work in others’ lives, learning what self-sacrificing love really is (being a mother and wife has taught me much in that area, too), knowing more what deep-rooted, unwavering, unshakable faith, hope, and joy truly is, and being a part of discipleship like Paul talks about in 2 Timothy 2:2.

During our short time here–to those who are missing us it may seem not so short, but it has sped by for us–we have gone through so many ups and downs, excitements and disappointments. We started a small meeting with a gypsy community that lived near us, and it grew to where many families joined in. A few surrendered their lives to Jesus, and one man in particular was ready to be baptized and learn to live for God. But, a couple of families had some domestic problems relating to alcohol and domestic abuse. We helped the best we could, but some just wanted sin more than God. After this, the other families we focused on trying to leave the city and find work, and a year after we began, that little church meeting ended.

We had meetings in our home for a while and tried to start up a church that way. Many pledged to help us to the end. This lasted a few months, grew for a while, then shrunk to just our family and one friend.

Finally, we decided to get more official, rent a room for weekly church meetings, and kickoff our official church: Biserica Piatra Vie, Living Stone Church. It started bigger than we’d hoped, but after a month, our meetings shrunk to just our family and a friend or two. We lost friends, gained friends, and we toiled on. One year after our official start, we had a decent church start: three people joined as official members, besides us American missionaries, and other families and visitors came around regularly. Now we have monthly healing and deliverance meetings that bring in extra visitors, opportunities to pray for the sick and oppressed, and see God move! We’ve seen people surrender their lives to Jesus, baptized one of them, prayed for many to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and seen God heal many of physical ailments.

But, there are still ups and downs. We don’t know how long God will have us here, but we’re ready for whatever He says. We feel honored to be used by God, whether we’re just part of sowing something that others will reap or whether we get to reap what others or we have sown. Sometimes we wonder why God chose us, when there are others with more time and fewer responsibilities (We have five children now, are homeschooling, and have one very active 15 month old–yes, we even had a baby while here!), but God knows what this city needs more than we do.

Planting a church is tough (bravo to Cornerstone Pastors Michael and Annie Fisher and Derek and Deb Miller for doing it before!)! Planting a church with a big family is tougher. Planting a church with a big homeschooled family in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language so well in a culture that is quite different than what you’re used to and not getting to see your family and friends in three years is toughest. But God is our strength and our portion! He is our Rock! He is the One who builds His church against which the gates of hell cannot prevail! He is good, loving, comforting, joyful, merciful, just, giving! He provides for us, heals us, empowers us, and guides us! All our hope, life, love, joy, peace, and faith is in Him alone! We are happy to serve and follow Him!


Daniel and Maria’s Home

Wow, it has been a really long time since we’ve made any posts here, but it’s about time we get back to it. Today’s post is mostly a collection of videos. Our church, Biserica Piatra Vie (Living Stone Church), supports a missionary to the city of Bucharest, who shares the gospel, passes out gospel tracts, and simply spreads the good news about Jesus and the gospel around town. His name is Daniel, and just a few months ago, he married Maria. They’ve been living in a tiny room in his mother’s home, but there is not hot water or a kitchen, and the bathroom is outside (it gets cold here in winter in Romania).

God put it on our hearts to help them, but we weren’t sure how. Not being able to find an affordable place for them to live, Jake got the idea to use one of the popular online fundraising websites to raise money for Daniel and Maria to build themselves a home. Daniel used to work in construction in Finland, so he had plans all ready and only needed money to buy materials and hire his brother to help him.

Well, after only a few weeks of the fundraiser going live, the money was raised, and immediately Daniel and his brother Marian got to work. Jake has helped a bit, and he’s gotten some great clips of the work being done so far. Check them out below. While you’re at it, pray for Daniel. Pray that God would continue to bless his evangelism in Bucharest. He’s gotten to talk to so many people about Jesus and been able to follow up with several who want to know more, and we want to see God multiply this fruit and see a big harvest reaped for His glory right here in Bucharest!

Here’s the link to the Crowdrise page about Daniel and Maria’s home: A Home for Daniel and Maria

Busted by the RATB!

So we’d heard rumors of plain-clothes RATB officials who sneak aboard busses, trams, and trolleybuses to check to make sure everyone paid for the trip, but I hadn’t seen any until yesterday.

Thankfully, too, because we’d forgotten to pay more than once.  It’s never been intentional.  It just kinda’ happens sometimes if we’re in a hurry, the tram is really crowded, we’re trying to figure out if we’re headed in the right direction, or we’re trying to keep our kids from getting eaten by dogs or run over by cars.  🙂  Sometimes you just forget.

Before I go further into my experience with the RATB KGB, a little background.  RATB (pronounced Air-Ahh-tay-bay and standing for Regia Autonomă de Transport București) is the body that governs all Bucharest-area public transport – tramvai, troleibuz, and autobuz.  Every city in Romania with public transport has an RAT-something.  Bucharest has RATB, Cluj has RATC, Timișoara has RATT, Brașov is RATBv, and so on…  Nice and orderly.

Yesterday, I needed to take the tram to a meeting I had with a medical student, so I hopped on board.  I waved my card in front of the reader, but it was broken and never deducted money from my account.  So I slowly squirmed my way through the crowded tram to get toward another card reader that I hoped would work.  I waved my card, it worked fine, and then I stood there and waited for my stop.

People in Romania stare at you way more than in America.  It’s just not inappropriate here.  It’s kinda’ cool that there’s no stigma against it but really unnerving at the same time.  People here also stand really close to you.  At first it freaked me out and I would tend to back up to give myself room to breathe, but now I’m mostly used to it.

So yesterday, as I waited, standing on the tram, lost in my thoughts, it didn’t really surprise me that a short Romanian woman in a white collared shirt would stand right in front of me staring at me.  I just thought, “Oh, she’s a Romanian.”  Then she mumbled something really quietly, still staring intently at me.

“Poftim?” I said, to which she responded in another hushed, mumbled response that I had no chance of understanding.

At this point, I was losing hope that I would ever understand what she was trying to say, so I decided to try to ignore her.  Why was she staring at me, standing inches from my face?  I didn’t know, but I would pretend she wasn’t even there, or that it was normal.

I hoped my attempts would convince her to leave and stare at someone else, but it didn’t work.  She continued to stare.  Then I suddenly noticed her hand, holding an RATB badge.

I tried to tell her I paid, she mumbled something in return and stared even harder, so I pulled out my wallet and showed her my card.  She grabbed it, held it up to the reader and, as far as I could tell, made me pay for another tram trip.  I told her, in extremely well-spoken Romanian, “No, not two.  One.”  Now it was her turn to ignore me.

The second ride she made me pay for only cost an extra $0.30, but I let it ruin the rest of my trip on the tram.  Now it’s funny, but at the time, I was really annoyed, not so much at her but at this culture that I don’t understand.  I love Romanians, but I sure don’t pretend to understand them.  They constantly talk about how bad things are, they stare at us all the time, they stand really close to you, they mutter a lot, they’re obsessed with appearances, they speak this strange language we can’t understand…

In spite of the stuff I don’t understand, I really do love these people, and it’s fun to figure this place out.  One day, it’ll feel just like home, but right now, it’s still mostly a foreign country to us.

Day 32 – I Don’t Have to Post Today

Just wanted to let you know.

My month of daily postings is done.  🙂  It was fun, but I’m glad I don’t have to do it daily anymore.  Stay tuned, however, because I’ll probably still have updates every couple days or so.

OK, one quick update from today.  We just got out of a really awesome prayer meeting at our house.  We had people over to watch the Ee-Taow movies, documenting how an entire tribe from Papua New Guinea came to Jesus.  Though only one of our friends here made it over, we had a great time watching the movies, talking about revival, and praying for God to move in our city.

We’re getting so stirred up right now.  Please pray for God to continue giving us vision and show us where He wants us to go and what He wants us to do every day.  There are a ton of obstacles to the Gospel here, but we’re confident God wants to move in a big way.  Jesus, let Your Kingdom come to Romania, and let Your people rise up in power and love to declare the Gospel throughout this nation!

Before I close, if you’ve never seen the Ee-taow movies, you need to watch them.  Here’s the links on YouTube:

Part 1: The Mouk Story
Part 2: The Next Chapter

God bless you all!

Day 31 – In Need of Iarba Verde

So we’ve completed 1 month in Romania today.  It’s strange knowing we’ve been here a month already.  When I think of all we don’t know and can’t do and haven’t figured out and haven’t finished yet, I feel like we just got here, but when I think about living in Milwaukee, it feels like that was eons ago.

Sort of in commemoration of our month in Romania, and sort of because we just needed to see something other than concrete buildings every day, today Jessie and I (with Isaac in tow) hopped on the train to get some iarba verde.  Literally translated “green grass,” Romanians talk about iarba verde like Wisconsinites talk about going “up north” or Virginians talk about going to the beach.

One guidebook on Romania I read said something along the lines of, “To understand the Romanian culture, you have to understand that, at heart, Romanians are all country people.  They may live in the city or work in the city or go to school in the city, but they’re rural people at heart with strong connections to the land.”

So today, we headed north to see some of that land.  We took a train an hour and a half north to Sinaia, home to Peleș Castle, Sinaia Monastery, and some beautiful mountain scenery.  And not, we found out, home to as many dogs as Bucharest, which is a major selling point in my opinion.  We fell in love with this beautiful little town in the foothills of the Bucegi Mountains.  The air smells like pine trees, lilacs, and cold mountain breezes, it’s quiet enough so you can hear the sound of your own footsteps and chirping birds in the distance, and it’s not completely packed in with people every square inch.  We love Bucharest, and it’s definitely where we feel called to reach out, but I think I need to get up to Sinaia at least once a week now.  😉

I don’t want to bore you with a whole play-by-play of our time in Sinaia, but here’s some of the more interesting things that happened today:

– We were running late to catch our train because the girls all had a melt-down cry-fest at the elevator as they were saying goodbye, so we prayed the whole subway ride that we’d make it on time.  I carried a backpack filled with everything we needed for the day and Jessie had Isaac in the baby carrier, and as soon as the subway reached Gara de Nord train station, we booked it high-speed, running through crowds of people, finding our train, and hopping on board maybe 30 seconds before the train left.  I wish I had the whole thing on video – since Jessie was carrying Isaac in the baby carrier, she couldn’t take very big steps.  At one point in our running, I looked over at her and she was taking these tiny little steps really, really quickly.  I’m sure the whole thing was pretty funny looking.

– One of the guidebooks we read said that trains in Romania don’t normally come with toilet paper in the bathrooms, so they recommended bringing your own, for obvious reasons.  We brought a giant roll with us, but it turned out that the first train had amazing, fully-stocked bathrooms, so we never used it.  On our return train, we assumed the bathroom situation would be equally good, so we didn’t bother bringing toilet paper into the restroom with us.  Bad idea.  This bathroom was nasty dirty, had no toilet paper, and (I kinda’ liked this part) the toilet had a hole in the bottom that went right through the floor of the train.  All the toilets on Romanian trains just empty directly onto the tracts (which is a good reason to never play on train tracks, kids!), but this train in particular, you could see it as it happened.  Another strong selling point in my opinion.

– We toured Peleș Castle with a group of Americans, and it was a little embarrassing.  One woman made a really dumb joke that just made Americans look xenophobic and stupid.  In reality, we are kinda’ xenophobic and stupid, but I still don’t want people to know that.  But now you all do because I’ve just put it up in my blog.  Beyond that, Jessie was the first to notice just how frumpy all the Americans looked.  Americans just don’t dress nicely unless they have to.  And even then, we’re pretty practical about it.  In Romania, women would probably wear high heels while hunting for bear.  It’s a little annoying sometimes just how much emphasis everyone places on looks, but it’s just how it is here and I guess we’d grown almost used to it.  During the tour, we weren’t wearing anything fancy ourselves, but after spending so much time around Romanians, we’d gotten used to seeing people dressing really nicely all the time.  It was really weird seeing women in sweatsuits and hoodies again.

– Most people I’ve met in Romania sound Italian when they speak English.  Most.  Filip sounds like he’s from Chicago, AndreEa sounds British, and our tour guide, who was really funny and a great guide, spoke with a thick Dracula accent.  In case you were wondering, it’s only moderately creepy when you’re walking around an old palace following a female Dracula impersonator.

– After seeing the castle, we stopped and listened to a street performer playing classical guitar for a while.  He was really good, so we bought a CD from him.  After paying, he asked the obligatory questions, “Where are you from?” and “What are you doing in Romania?”  When we told him we were missionaries who came to tell people about Jesus, he said, “Yes, that is why you are shining.  You are like Moses, full of God.”  Then he told us about his father, who was a Pentecostal evangelist in Romania.

– Leaving the castle grounds, we passed 2 Asian women who took one look at Isaac in the baby carrier and just started cracking up.  They were laughing uncontrollably, tearing up even.  That got Jessie and I laughing too, but I don’t really know what it was all about.

– Later, we picked up some cheap souvenirs for the girls – little purses with girls wearing dresses sewed on them.  When we went to buy them, the store owner refused to let us get them.  In Romanian, he told us, “No, these are for girls.  You have a boy,” referring to Isaac.  “How about a hat?”  I love how Romanians will help you do the right thing, even if you didn’t ask their advice or they don’t really know what they’re talking about, as in this case.  I explained to him that we had three girls at home who the purses were for.  Then he understood, sold us the purses, and moved on to ask us the same two questions everyone asks us in Romania.  When he asked, “What are you doing here?” his wife answered for us, “They’re missionaries!  They have four children!”  Yes, of course, what else could we be?  Isn’t that just a law of nature, that everyone with four kids becomes a missionary?  We spent some time talking about missions for a while, in mixed Romanian and English, some of it making sense, and found out both the owner and his wife are good Baptists.

– We stopped for dinner at a restaurant called either “Steak” or “Rocky Mountain.”  The sign said one thing but the menu said another, not that it really matters.  The tagline for the place was “Casual American Dining” or something like that.  It wasn’t exactly American dining, but it was very good nonetheless.  One of the fun things here was that the waitress never brought our bill, asked if we were ready to pay, or even hassled us to buy dessert.  She brought our food and then left us alone.  When we were finally ready to leave, we had to find her to get the bill from her so we could pay and go get our train.  We only sat in the restaurant for an hour and a half or so, but I’m sure we could have stayed all day and never been pushed out.  So different from the McDonald’s style of rushing in and out and getting as many people fed as you can every night.

– When we took the train back to Bucharest, we accidentally wound up in the first class cabins.  We didn’t really know where we were or what we were doing, so we just sat down somewhere.  Later, the ticket-check guy came buy and chewed us out.  Thankfully, someone near us spoke up on our behalf and so we were allowed to stay.  It wasn’t amazing in first class, but the four course meal and free back massages were pretty nice.  Seriously, I think the only benefit was having a room you could close off if you wanted to, but you never would because it was crazy stuffy already in there, and having seats with a little more leg room.

– On the train, Jessie got into a conversation with a Catholic woman from Spain.  The woman was pretty distracted, but Jessie got to at least tell her about why we moved to Bucharest, to tell people about Jesus.

-When we got back to Bucharest, we were welcomed home by being attacked by two wild dogs.  Well, we were verbally assaulted by one and physically threatened by the other.  We were just walking along the sidewalk minding our own business, when all of a sudden a street dog decided we were a threat and barked viciously at us.  That scared this other giant dog right next to us, who lunged for Jessie and growled.  I pulled her away and we just kept walking.  Aaah, Bucharest, home sweet home.

Here’s some pics from the day:


Day 28 – Prayer Walking

Well, today was rainy again, but I’ve been antsy to get out and see the city more, meet some people, etc. so I went on a long prayer walk (route pictured above).  I did a fundraising event before leaving America, promising to prayer walk 1 km of Bucharest for every person who would support me at $10/month or more.  Since 20 people signed up, I have to do a whopping 20 km of prayer walking.

We’ve probably done ten times that much walking, but we weren’t “officially” praying as we did it, so I didn’t count it toward our 20 km of prayer walks we have to do.  We were, however, officially walking…

Anyway, today I did almost half my total promised – 9 km.  I think we’ll end up doing way more than 20 km of prayer walking, because it went so quickly and it was a lot of fun to get out, try to get lost, and then try to find my way again.

While doing a lot of walking, praying, meeting people, exploring, learning the city’s transportation system, etc, God is giving us a real heart for this city.  It’s confusing and difficult to think of how we’ll be able to communicate Jesus to these people who’ve heard it all and been through a lot more than we have, and sometimes it’s frustrating and intimidating when few people want to talk to us or even smile in our direction, or when someone yells something at us and we don’t know what they’re saying, but we’re growing to love this city and these people, and whether people receive us or reject us, hug us or hate us, they can’t take away this love that Jesus has put in our hearts.

It’s strange and disconcerting feeling like we don’t belong anywhere.  This is Memorial Day in America, and while holidays have never meant much to me, now that we’re away and nobody here cares about remembering America’s great military-industrial complex, it’s become glaringly obvious that we don’t quite belong.  We’re not Romanians, we can’t communicate very well, people keep switching to English so we can do simple things like even buying milk… and we’re not quite Americans either anymore.  We’re at the end of the American candy we brought with us (now you know why we had 11 large suitcases!), I got rid of all our American money when we landed, and I’m almost done with our Puffs Plus tissues I brought along.

It’s a really weird feeling, being stuck between two worlds.  I wonder if Jesus felt like this, when He gave up heaven and came to earth.  America isn’t quite heaven, but I wonder if Jesus felt a sort of odd, constant alienation from the people around him.  He could communicate well enough, but they would never really listen to what he said.  And while they would get all hung up on politics or religious holidays or impressive buildings, Jesus knew his kingdom wasn’t off this world.  Jesus hung out with sinners, invited Pharisees to dinner, invited himself to dinner, and definitely became a part of Jerusalem culture and society, but I wonder if, in the midst of that, he felt like he was still a stranger.

Thankfully, we’ve got some really great friends we’ve met here, people who really care about us (Filip and Missio Dei, the Boldeas, Jason the Canadian, George the Australian), and Susie is an ever-present ally in our home, and that helps us feel like we belong a lot more, but it’s not quite home yet.

I didn’t mean to go on that tangent.  We’re really doing very good, but homesickness is hitting a little – I’d like some cheddar cheese, a real, juicy, burger, a Spotted Cow, no wild dogs following me, the rain to stop…  Shoot, if just the rain stopped I’d be content.  🙂

Anyway, here’s a quick run-down of some of the more interesting events I encountered while prayer walking:

– I was followed by one wild dog for about a kilometer.  At first it freaked me out, but then when I noticed he chased off other dogs who came close, I decided I’d let him stick around.

– I had a group of 5-6 dogs surround me at one point, but I told them that it was bad luck to eat an American and so they left me alone, probably went in search of a Canadian.  Seriously, usually the dogs seem to ignore you if you just stay calm and keep walking without paying any attention to them.

– I came across a half-eaten dog carcass on the sidewalk.  Needless to say, it was pretty gross.  I didn’t take pictures.  The only thing I can imagine would have eaten it would have been another dog.  Sick cannibals.  They’re barely human.

– One road was littered with hundreds of flyers for yet another “masaj erotic.”  These guys are aggressive in their advertising – posters, flyers, newspaper and magazine ads… you can’t escape it.

– On a similar note, Gina Pistol is literally everywhere.  Don’t Google her or you’ll regret it.  When Playboy came to Romania, she was their first cover-girl.  Now, she’s advertising underwear on the billboards of the city.  Kind of like a pre-Christian Dorcas (Acts 9:36-43).

– So we’ve covered wild dogs and sexually-explicit advertising.  Next up would be crazy driving.  I can tell I’m getting used to the driving in this city (which, parenthetically speaking, doesn’t mean I’m ready to drive here, but just that I’m getting used to seeing it).  Anyway, I thought it was funny today while on my prayer walk because a student driver came down a busy two-lane road in the middle of the lanes.  My first thought was, “Whoa, he’s in the middle of the road,” followed quickly by, “just like everyone else does here.”

– To close on a positive note, it surprised me just how many people were out in the rain.  No one was really hanging out, but tons of people were out walking around.  In Milwaukee, no one goes out in the rain, except maybe students.  Here, you’ve got no choice, so you grab an umbrella and a rain coat and you get out there and get wet.  I kinda’ like that.

Well, it was a really good time praying for the city and letting God stir my heart to see this nation changed.  I got soaked, especially after my umbrella was shredded by a gust of wind, but it was good to get out and pray.

Here’s some rainy photos for ya’ll:

Day 17 – Expiration Dates Don’t Mean Anything

It’s been rainy the past few days, so we’ve been getting more done inside.  Today, we spent a lot of time studying Romanian.  Since we don’t have a ton of money for tutors or classes, our strategy is going to be using the materials we already have (books, Pimsleur audio MP3s, Byki, and Google Translate) supplemented with heavy doses of real-world usage, conversational partners, and an occasional tutor to make sure we’re learning things correctly.  The key ingredient will be the self-discipline to actually sit down and learn.  To help with that, today I started creating a comprehensive “lesson plan” to force us to stick to a schedule and track how well we’re learning the language.  Rather than just randomly trying to learn as much as we can, never sure if we’re actually getting anywhere, we’re going to have a systematic strategy.

Speaking of that, I had my first full conversation entirely in Romanian with a real, genuine Romanian person, and I understood everything we talked about.  It went something like this:

My phone rings.

Me: “Alo?” (Aloe? Salute? Sit down, you high Duke. She tear, oh. You be the man who mashed the feta cheese…  If you don’t understand, click here.)

Marian (our landlord): “Alo, Jake.  Ce mai faci?”

Me: “Bine, mulţumesc.  Și dumneavoastra?”

Marian: “Bine. Eh, eu vin acum.  Eşti acasă?”

Me: “Da, acasă.”

Marian: “Bine. Voi veni în zece minute.”

Me: “Da, bine.”

Marian: “OK.  Pa.”

Me: “Pa.”

It was just a simple conversation, I know, but it was the first time I understood everything and didn’t have to guess based on context.  It felt so good.

Other milestones today include finally getting our rental contract (necessary for residency permits), bandaging Mae’s chin (she cut it open pretty good on the tile floor), and finding a better way to say “We came to tell people about Jesus” (Am venit sa le spunem oamenilor despre Iisus.)  The sentence I learned before actually translated to, “We came to speak for Jesus,” which is good I guess but not exactly what we were going for.

I got some feedback from Filip today on some Romanian tracts we brought with us.  His honest opinion, which is what I want, was that they weren’t very good except for some that I made for street ministry in Milwaukee that told my story of coming to God.  The others he said were fine but Romanians, especially in Bucharest, have heard it all already and would probably just dismiss it like they have all the others.  Sharing my story would get around all the arguments and draw people in to want to know more.  So my goal is to redesign it to share my testimony, talk about what brought us to Romania, and give a quick Gospel presentation, all in Romanian.  When I get that done, I’ll feel ready to share the Gospel.  Because then even if I can’t say the right words or they don’t know the English words, at least I can give them a pamphlet that has it in there.  Plus, I’ll have my contact info all in there so I can stay in touch with those I share with and keep pursuing the relationship.

Anyway, those are my evangelism goals for now – learn the language as much as I can and redesign my tract so I can hand it out to all the people who ask us what we’re doing here.

On the home front, the kids seem to be having a hard time now.  They did really great on the airplane, in our temporary housing, and as we’ve gotten settled into our apartment, but now I think it’s sinking in that we’re not just on vacation.  They’ve commented how they’re bored with the food already.  Bread and jam, cheese, and sausage used to be really exciting and new for them, but now they just want Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms.  They’re tired of not being able to pour their own water, since the faucet water isn’t healthy and they can’t lift the big water jugs.  They miss having beds (they got delivered today and will be set up in a week!).  The small elevator used to be fun, but now they’re really annoyed with it.  They started talking about all the weird smells.  They don’t like cars being everywhere whenever we go outside.  When we go for prayer-walks, they huddle right next to us now, nervous about new people, dogs, and cars all over the place.  Overall, they’re doing really good adjusting, but I think they’ve reached a point where they’re starting to miss the way things used to be.  Just gotta press through and then they’ll be happy again.

In some funny news, we’ve discovered that expiration dates don’t mean here what they do in the States.  You know how you can buy some eggs that say they expire May 31 in the states, and they’ll probably be good until June 6?  Not so here.  Due mostly to the fact that there are fewer preservatives used in food here, if something says it expires May 31, it probably will go bad by May 25.  We bought some fresh chicken in a grocery store 3 days ago, and when we took it out today to cook for our lunch guest, it was green, sticky, and smelled like rotted meat.  You’d think the fact that it smelled like rotted meat would have tipped us off that it had gone bad, but we poked it, prodded it, stuck our noses in it, looked it up on Google, started cooking it, then finally had second thoughts and decided to go buy some new chicken just in case it really was bad.  When we got the new chicken, a thorough analysis showed that the original definitely had something wrong with it.  The new stuff didn’t smell like rotted meat.  Good clue that it was better.

That was during lunch.  During dinner, Jessie poured the girls some milk that I just bought yesterday and wasn’t set to expire for a few days, and after they drank some of it, Naomi told me, “Daddy, this milk smells like poop and tastes a little like poop too.”  “Really?” I said, picking up a glass and sniffing it.  I wouldn’t describe the scent as poop, but it definitely wasn’t Chanel Number 5 either.  So then, like any good father, I took a nice big gulp.  And turned to the sink to spit it out right away.  It had spoiled and tasted terrible.  I rinsed my mouth in pear juice and then gave the girls each big glasses of juice in penance for making them drink spoiled milk.  They told me they each had drank about half a glass before I got there.  I was both disgusted and impressed by their abilities.

Now, when I bought the milk yesterday, I had Naomi with me.  As I stared at all the different kinds of milk, I found the cheapest one and grabbed two liters of it.  “Daddy,” Naomi had said, “don’t you think that since it’s the cheapest it might be the worst?  What if it tastes really bad?”  “No,” I told her, “cheaper things taste the same.  Sometimes even better.  You’ll see.”  And she did.