Living in a Third World Country (Part 5: The Close of a Chapter)

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Me singing with a small group of Christians from the San Fernando church of Christ.

As time went on and the weeks turned into months and months into years, Trinidad became a part of who I was.  Just like every move before, I adjusted and thrived.  I was very active with the young people at San Fernando Church of Christ and was even able to participate in my dad’s six week Greek class at the school.  I participated in any crusades we were having or tent meetings.  On multiply occasions, while my dad preached on a street corner, I was there and enjoying the fellowship with other Christians and the opportunity to share the Good News to anyone who was willing to listen.

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My dad holding a “spot” meeting.

 

The food became something I craved and still do to this day. Oh, to be able to bite into some Shark and Bake, while gazing out over the ocean at Maracas Bay.  What I wouldn’t give to be able to have my dad walk through the front door with our mid-morning snack, Doubles.  I wish I had payed more attention to my good friend Kiba, as she tried to teach me how to cook some of my favorite dishes.  I keep saying that one day I am going to attempt to cook some Roti.  As many times as I complained about the smell of the curry dishes cooking so early in the morning, I would give anything to smell that smell again.  You don’t miss it till it’s gone.

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My awesome friend Kiba and one of the best Trini cooks I know.

 

Being in Trinidad for two years was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  I grew so much as a person and as a Christian and I know that I am a better person because of it.  I know my parents had their doubts about uprooting their two youngest children and moving them to another part of the world, but I am so glad that they took the chance and allowed us those opportunities that so few get to experience.

As I think back on it all, I am reminded of something my oldest sister told me not long before we moved.  She and I were riding in her truck and knowing how upset and scared I was about leaving, she reminded me of the scripture in First Corinthians 10:13.  Even though this scripture was referring to temptations and that God would not allow you to be tempted more than you could handle and He would always provide a way to escape those temptations, at this moment in my life, it reminded me that I was not alone in this journey, God would be with me.  God would see me through the difficult times and help me to overcome, and He did!

Living In a Third World Country (Part 4: Clean Your Plate)

 

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I had mentioned earlier in, Living in a Third World Country (Part 2: Getting Settled), that we stayed with an American couple for a couple of weeks, while waiting for our own house to be ready and our crates to arrive.  We had to stay with them for around two or three weeks, and while there was plenty of room for us in their house, it still wasn’t 100% comfortable for me.  This wasn’t my house so I always felt like I had to be on my absolute best behavior.  I wasn’t really happy being in Trinidad yet, and I felt like I had to put on a happy face while I was there.

Parker and Donna had been missionaries for the majority of their lives.  They lived and worked in Thailand for many years before moving to Trinidad where they had been for around 20 years.  Parker was the director, and taught different Biblical topics at the San Fernando School of Preaching and Teaching, and Donna passionately taught music there also.  They both took there jobs very seriously and were very well respected there.  It wasn’t long before I felt the same towards them as the majority of anyone who ever met them would.  They were and still are a very cherished couple to many, many people.

That being said, I can’t say that this was how I felt about them to begin with, and it took a little while before I did.  Don’t get me wrong, I always appreciated them and was thankful for everything they did for us during those first several weeks, but at this point, I needed to be coddled and handled very carefully or I lost it and would start crying, again.  I know, I sound like a big baby, and I was!  I am not denying that one bit.  I was always a very sensitive child and in this particular situation, I was extra sensitive.

Parker, for me, was just easier to get along with in the beginning than Donna.  I don’t know if he felt sorry for me and made a point to be extra kind, or if he was just scared of me, walking on egg shells around me, so as not to set off the overly emotional teenage girl living in his home.  Either way, I don’t remember having too much of an issue with him in particular.

Now, Donna, on the other hand, she was and still is, I’m sure, a very strong willed woman.  She was tough, and strong and to be honest, she scared me a little, and if I wasn’t living in her house, with her rules, we probably would have gotten along swimmingly from the start.  What is funny about the whole thing is that the stuff that really irked me the most, while I was there, is the same things that I make my own children do now, like keeping your bed made and room clean, and picking up after yourself after you eat.  I mean really, can you imagine having to make your own bed and put away your dishes, WOW, was I ever mistreated.  HA!!  I have one particular story I want to share that describes the whole atmosphere perfectly.

Every place has critters that tend to enjoy the comforts of our homes, even if we don’t particularly enjoy their company.  In Trinidad, ours was the dreaded sugar ants.  You know, those teeny, tiny black ants that tend to get in your sugar or cereal.  Well, one afternoon we had been invited over to eat lunch at Parker and Donna’s house.  I took my regular seat, to the right of Parker, who sat at the foot of the table.  The food was blessed and it began making its way around the table.

Everyone began eating and I took a couple of bites of my food, including a bite or two of some peas.  While I was chewing and rather enjoying my peas I began peering down into my plate, I realized that something wasn’t quite right about the peas I was enjoying so very much.  As I took a closer look, I realized that, sure enough, these weren’t your ordinary peas, nope these peas were extra special.  As discretely as I possible could, I got my mom’s attention and directed it to the peas on my plate.  As she studied them, she came to the same realization and confirmed my deepest fears, that wasn’t pepper mixed in with our peas, nope, those were ants, not just a couple of ants, there were enough ants in those peas to give you the protein you needed in order to survive for a week without food.

We informed Donna of this and she examined them and decided that they were not ants, it was just pepper but she sure didn’t convince me and I don’t think she convinced anyone else around the table of it either, but being the respectful individuals that we were and knowing that in this house you completely cleaned your plate, we continued eating.

I was so proud of myself when I finally finished that last bite, so proud, that I pointed it out to whoever it was that was sitting to my right, which couldn’t have been but a couple of seconds of bragging triumphantly.  As I settled back into my chair with a proud sigh of relief, I glanced down, one last time, at my plate. To my astonishment and horror, there was another serving of those ant peas.  I wish I could’ve had a picture taken right at that moment of what my face must have looked like as I tried to figure out where in the world these things came from.  Manna from above was not an option, and Donna was at the opposite end of the table, there was no way she served it to me.

This bewilderment, on my part, only lasted a second or two, it became as clear as crystal, as soon as I glanced to my left. See, the quiet little man, sitting to my left, who had decided he wasn’t going to eat his peas, he was going to be brave and defy the woman sitting on the opposite side of the table, regardless of the consequences or at least this was what I thought as I watched him not eat his peas, while I forced mine down.  No, this man, seeing that I was able to keep them down, while I was turned to the right, bragging about finishing mine, dumped his, on my plate, and then sat, just as proud and triumphant as I had been five seconds earlier.  It was written all over his face.  Parker had won, he was still in good with his wife, and he knew good and well that I would eat those peas without a word, which I did.  You would think that this would’ve angered me but oddly enough, it just endeared him to me more, because now we had a moment, a secret, and a story to tell.

As the months continued on, Parker and Donna, easily became my family.  I adopted them as my grandparents and I adored them and still do today.  One of my proudest moments was when Donna asked me to teach her a song.  She new the basics to it but needed help with the alto.  She was a very strong alto and so for her to be asking me for help was one of the proudest moments for me.  I loved sitting next to her during church or anywhere we went.  She is one of those people that when she hugs you, you had better take a deep breath and brace yourself, because she hugs like a bear.  It was the same when she would hold your hand, tight and strong.  I love them dearly and they will always hold a very special place in my heart.

 

Living in a Third World Country (Part 3: Waking Up My Senses)

 

If you have not read, Living in a Third World Country: Part 1 and 2, you can find them here, Living in a Third World Country (part 1: Another Move), Living in a Third World Country (Part 2: Getting Settled)

That was the turning point for me, I believe.  After that night I had my “group”.  After that night I had been drawn out of my bubble and it opened up a whole new and exciting world.

Now, I haven’t done much descriptive talk about living in this country and how different everything really was for me.  Coming from Texas, I was unfamiliar with how the tropics looked and even felt.  I moved from a very dry, west Texas, and so the differences in atmosphere alone were shocking enough.  Yes, I was use to an overwhelming heat, but the humidity in this place was something I had never experienced before.  We were dealing with a 90 to 100% humidity at all times.  If you are unfamiliar with the Caribbean, it basically has two seasons, the rainy season and the dry season.  In the rainy season it rained everyday, the dry season was every other day.  I did enjoy the showers we would get during the day.

The smells, on the other hand, weren’t quite as enjoyable, especially in the beginning.  For the most part, people did not have air conditioning in their homes, we were not an exception.  So, because of this, our windows, along with everyone else on the Island, stayed open 24-7.  This promised that you were going to experience all the sounds and smells of the Island.  Sometimes, like after a rain, those smells were fantastic.  Other times, and for the majority of the time, you were smelling what everyone was cooking, and this didn’t begin around lunch, nope, this started first thing in the morning.  It was the most intrusive curry smell I had ever experienced.  I had not began to even tolerate this smell until months after we had moved there, mainly because I was not a fan of the food, quite yet.

Then there was the fantastic smell of the sugarcane factory.  If you have never smelled a sugarcane factory, there is no way to describe it.  It is a smell all in its own, and for me, it wasn’t a good one.  Now, the longer you live in an area, the less offensive these smells become, sometimes they even begin to grow on you and don’t cause you to completely gag.  The sugarcane mills did grow on me and that smell no longer bothered me too bad.  The continued curry smell, on the other hand, was never a smell I looked forward to at 6 o’clock in the morning.  By the time lunch rolled around, it smelled better, but bacon or coffee is all anyone should have to smell, that early, or donuts!

One of the only things I didn’t ever find myself complaining about was the scenery.  It was the Caribbean, after all.  It was amazing to me to finally see a palm tree that wasn’t on television or in a magazine.   The majority of the beaches in Trinidad weren’t much to write home about, but it was still a beach, something else I had never experienced.  Don’t get me wrong, there were beaches on the Island that were magazine worthy.  Maracas Bay was that place for us.  Tobago, Trinidad’s sister island was the place you really wanted to be, if you were a tourist and the only reason you were there was for the beaches.  I did make it over to Tobago for a week, and it didn’t disappoint.

Our home was what most people would consider a beach house.  It was on stilts and we lived upstairs and parked underneath.  The inside of our particular house was pretty normal. Three bedroom, two bath, with an open floor living, dining, and kitchen area.  It was a nice house for this country.  I think the oddest thing about it was that it was gated.  There was a doorbell on the gate and  if you had a visitor, instead of knocking on the front door, you rang the bell and we would come out to the balcony and yell from there.  You can keep your gate open but with dad gone most of the day at school, we typically kept it closed and locked.  Now I am aware that this is not strictly a Trinidad thing, but when you live in Texas, it is odd.

 

Now, as I ventured off with my dad, when he was evangelizing and going from door to door to share the Gospel, I came to a quick realization that we were truly blessed to be living where we were.  I remember going in one home that was pretty much on 4 posts and had a wooden ladder you climbed to get in.  It was tiny inside for this young, growing, three person family.  One small couch was in the living room and the bedroom was about 3 feet, directly across from the couch, separated by a curtain.  The kitchen was large enough to have a stove and a small fridge and one person in it at a time.  I do not remember seeing a bathroom.  A rain barrel was the only “fresh” water they had for cooking and cleaning, which was a typical fixture for all the houses on the Island.  Despite all of this, they were the most hospitable people I had ever met, offering up something to drink and large plates of food.  They just wanted to share anything they had and were beyond joyful to do it.   Seeing something like that and then seeing how generous they are, really makes you reevaluate everything.

I would come to appreciate things I never even considered before, things I easily took for granted.  It was impossible not to.

 

 

 

Living in a Third World Country (Part 2: Getting Settled)

If you haven’t read part 1 of Living in a Third World Country do so here, Living in a Third World Country (part 1: Another Move)

Leaving the airport that hot, muggy night, I had no idea what was in store for me at that moment in time.  I wish so bad I could go back somehow and talk to that insecure and timid 15 year old girl.  I would start off by telling her that it was all going to work out and it would be one of the most amazing experiences of her entire life, and to chill out and enjoy every moment while you have it to enjoy, because it would go by so quickly.

I do have to take a brief moment to describe the vehicle we rode in to get to our new home.  I am only doing this because this vehicle would become such a memorable character in our lives as much as a living, breathing person does.  It was simply known as, the Van. I am sure it had its nicknames that were provided to it by numerous people, but I just referred to it as, the Van.  This vehicle was an old white, no nose automobile, ugly as they come.  It had rusted out holes where, if you were inclined, you could count the pot holes you where driving over as they went under your feet.  Being that the vehicle had no air conditioning, the sliding plexiglass windows had been used to the point of not closing anymore.  If it rained you literally held your umbrella open, inside the van, trying to block out at least some of the rain that was coming in.  That van holds a very special place in my heart now.  It was always an adventure in itself just to ride in it.  Thankfully that night it wasn’t raining.

We stayed with another American couple who also worked at the school, for about 2 weeks, while we waited for our house to be ready and for the rest of our belongings to arrive.  We brought only what would fit inside two large crates, which wasn’t much.  It was like Christmas time when our crates finally arrived.  We began to get settled in our own house, which was next door to the American couple we would be working with.  I will elaborate on this couple later, as they became like another set of grandparents to me.

Settling into your new home, where you don’t have to venture out and actually interact with people and really come into the full reality of where you are and how different the culture is, was easy.  The hard part was actually having to act like some kind of normal functioning teenager, if there really is such a thing, when we did go out.  I remember the very first church service I attended.  It was an evening service and the people where beyond friendly and accepting.  They were so excited to have us there. Oh how I wish I had felt the same at that time.  I tried to hide my fears and overwhelming sadness by hiding behind my mom and staying as close as I could to her and my dad.

My little sister, although a little timid at first, was quick to already have several little girls hanging all over her, admiring her hair and the way she spoke.  Jessi has always been outgoing and made friends way too easily.  I was polar opposite, happy to be under my mom and dad at all times, especially here.

It is beyond difficult to even remotely pretend that you are excited to be here with all these people who are trying to make this transition as easy as possible when you have tears streaming down your face.  I just wanted to go home! Not back to the house with some of our belongings in it, but back to Texas, back to my friends, back to where I was comfortable.  I was not made to be here, in this place.  At least that is what I thought.  How wrong I was about that.

After services, the church had prepared a get together with food and drinks to welcome us and get to know us a little better.  At this point I started to feel myself shutting down inside, not even wanting to hide my pain, my fears, or even my anger.  It was about this time that a girl came up to me, grabbed my hand, and pulled me away from the only comfort zone I had at that time, my mom.

I remember that moment so vividly.  I was scared and unsure and it took this person coming over and forcing me to interact for me to actually do it.  She said her name was Chrystal and then proceeded to pull me over to a larger group of teenagers who began introducing themselves to me.

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Crystal and I. 

To be honest, I don’t remember anyone else who was in that group.  I just remember her, at that moment, saving me from myself.  From that moment on, she was my person.  From that point on, my comfort zone began to grow.

 

 

Living in a Third World Country (part 1: Another Move)

 

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Mom, Dad, my little sister Jessi, and me fixing to board the plane headed to Trinidad.

Towards the end of my freshman year in high school, my dad sat my sisters and me down in our living room in Big Spring, Texas, and began to lay out what the next two years would potentially look like for us.

I knew this set up all to well, as we had had these,”family meetings,” many times in my life.  I knew the exact words that were fixing to spill out of my dad’s mouth, “We are moving.”

See, I am a preacher’s kid.  My dad has been a church of Christ preacher for over 35 years.  Moving was not a foreign concept to my family, though it was never an easy thing to do.  Before I was 14, I had lived in 5 different places, mostly in Texas, although we had a brief stay in Colorado.  I always adjusted, I think pretty well, and was happy wherever we ended up.

So, as we sat, anxiously awaiting why we had been called together, my dad proceeded to let us know that we were moving.  Out of all the times that we had had this discussion, this is the only one that I remember so vividly in my mind.  I don’t know if it was because I was older and was the happiest in our current location or if it was because of what came out of his mouth next.  See, this time we weren’t just moving to another part of Texas.  This time my dad hadn’t accepted another preaching job.  This time was different.

My dad had accepted a teaching job, at a preaching school, in another country, a third world country.  Now, to give my dad some credit, he did make it sound kind of cool and like this huge adventure that we were fixing to embark on.  I mean, we were fixing to move to the Caribbean, Trinidad to be exact, for at least the next two years.  Who wouldn’t want to live in the Caribbean, right?  Well, at this time in my life, THIS GIRL!

Through my sobbing, however, my dad layed out our future for the next two years.  In my previous post, Why We Chose to Homeschool, I explained how I had wanted to be homeschooled most of my life.  My wish was coming true.  Being that it was going to be such a drastic change in our surroundings and lifestyle, my parents knew that homeschooling my younger sister and me would be the best for us.  I was extremely grateful for this decision on my parents part, because I sure didn’t want to go to school there.  So, one point for my parents on making this a little easier.  Also, we would only be there throughout the school year and would be back in the states for the summer, visiting our supporting congregations and family.  Two points.  I was also still able to go to the Bible camp I had attended each summer for 4 years.  Three points.  This was starting to sound okay, I guess. I mean, I might as well embrace it, because it was going to happen whether I wanted it to or not.

So a couple of weeks before the school year started for the Trinidad School of Preaching and Teaching, we headed over the ocean on a 9 hour flight, which by the way, was the first time I had ever flown on a plane, way to dive in head first.  I think I cried for those entire nine hours.  We arrived in Port of Spain, Trinidad, after dark, probably around midnight, I can’t remember, I just know it was late.  We made it to customs, and our passports were all stamped, and Dad’s two year work visa checked out.  We were officially cleared to begin this new and exciting adventure in our lives (although, at that time I didn’t think it was exciting, more like terrifying).

To continue on click here, Living in a Third World Country (Part 2: Getting Settled)