Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Roller Coaster

I needed to take some time to distance myself from events of the past few days before I could write about them (I needed to part the clouds). It has been an "interesting" few days...

I am getting around a little more on my own. The streets are crazy here. I think I mentioned all of the round-abouts in a previous post. Let me just paint a little clearer picture of these for you: These are not your basic, no nonsense round-abouts. No, no. These are more like spaghetti bowls; tangled masses of twists and turns, exits and on-ramps. One round-about is connected to another round-about, which dumps you into a 3rd round-about, etc. Cars are streaming in and out from all directions--with no clear signage as to who is supposed to yield to whom. By the time you exit from these dizzying circles, you don't know which way is up. Add to this high speeds and a few huge "shock breaking" speed bumps, just for good measure, and you've got yourself a ride that rivals the tilt-a-whirl at the county fair.

Monday, I got lost picking the kids up from school. I have taken them and picked them up a few times before, with no problem. Previously, I have had to take a detour, as one of the main avenues was under construction. However, Monday afternoon, the avenue was open. I thought I could just take this main road instead of the winding, bumpy detour through residential streets. I was a titch late, and this would save me some time--it must have been an answer to my prayers.

It wasn't the answer I was looking for. I turned one block too early off of the avenue, because the street was not clearly marked. (None of the streets are clearly marked; this particular street was not marked at all.) I soon realized my mistake, and taking into account the one way streets, I looked for a street to take me back to the street I should have originally turned on. Finding one, I turned and headed in the direction of the street in question (or so I thought). I went for several blocks and couldn't find my street. Where had it gone?! I knew I was headed in the right direction, but the street was nowhere to be found. Giving up on finding that street, I turned left to head in the direction of the next major avenue that I needed. I figured I would find it if I just kept heading in the right  direction. Soon, however, I crossed over a street that should have been intersecting with the street I was looking for. This didn't make sense, as I was positive I was headed in the right direction! (If you are lost reading this jumbled up set of directions, don't worry, so was I at this point... Remember that first, fateful wrong turn?--It was at the beginning of a round-about. Picture the spokes on a wheel--each one goes off in a different direction--here was my problem.)

Anyway, I continued to get more lost. I would find a street that I knew, but I would be too far South or North, East or West (I have no idea which direction is which in this crazy landmark-free town!) I would try to backtrack on the one-way roads, but I wouldn't go far enough, or I would go too far, and have to backtrack again. (I have an innate sense of direction.) I felt that I  knew basically where I was, I just couldn't figure out how to get exactly where I was going. (You know when you see something in a dream, and you try to go toward it, but to no avail? It was something like that.)

 Now, I was late to pick up the kids. I didn't have the number for the school. I started to panic. I decided to call Tom. It is illegal to make calls while driving. I decided to throw caution to the wind. I called. I got the crazy Brazilian guy on Speed (this is the fast-forwarded message in Portuguese from the phone company that I often get when I make a call. I have no idea what the guy is saying; I just know that it means my phone service is not working...AGAIN!) Maybe I'll stop and ask for directions. Then, I think, "I have yet to meet an employee of a store or gas station who speaks English. And, I can't for the life of me remember the name of the street the school is on right now." Maybe not.

The way I see it, there are 2 options right now; pray for help, or shout curse words at your husband. I choose the latter. It doesn't work. Finally, thank goodness, Tom calls. Now I can really shout some curse words! It still doesn't work.

Well, long story short(er): I circled around and around until I found the correct street-- by pure luck (should have prayed), and I was only 15 minutes late. They (the kids and the administrators) were very understanding. Tessa was a little nervous that I wouldn't be able to find my way home. I did.

By this time, my whole day (and the next day) was ruined. The funny thing is, I really never felt that lost. I knew I could find my way eventually. It's not that big of a town. I was just really frustrated with my situation. My phone rarely works. I'm in a foreign country and I don't speak the language. I have to rely on others (mostly Tom) to do everything. I have lost my independence. I feel like an infant.

Monday had started off to be a great day. My neighbor, Marly (the one who brought groceries the first night, and has brought food almost every day since), came over with ingredients and supplies to cook lunch. I had asked her to take me shopping and teach me how to make some of the traditional foods. She went ahead and bought the ingredients and gave me half of her pots and pans, and then showed up to cook for me. I was overwhelmed. We tried to communicate with each other (clumsily) while she taught me. I felt so helpless. Here she was, doing this wonderful thing for me--how could I ever repay her? She has already done so much! I invited her and her son, Renan, to stay and eat with us. No, no--she couldn't stay today, but she would be back tomorrow to teach me more. So, here I am, eating the lunch that she bought and cooked for me, feeling like a loser.

Yesterday, I had to cancel the cooking instruction, because our family had to go to another city to register with the Federal Police. (This went a lot better than expected. We [mostly Tom] have dealt with a lot of bureaucracy since our arrival. There is a lot of number taking, line waiting, going to 3 different agencies to accomplish 1 thing...that sort of thing.) Anyway, we arrived back in the afternoon, and Renan showed up with the day's offering of food--fresh strawberries--YUM!) Later, Renan showed up on the doorstep again with a huge bag full of new plastic storage containers, a cheese grater, a garlic press, some bowls, and a few other assorted kitchen supplies. Marly had seen how sorely lacking my supplies were and took pity on me. Now, I am in tears. I can never repay her kindness. Tom suggests that maybe she takes pleasure in helping me, and I should learn to accept the help.

So, maybe this year-long adventure we have embarked on is a chance for me to learn a few things--relying on others when I need it, having patience (with others and myself), and learning that happiness is more about attitude , and less about situation.

Right now, our family is reading in the Book of Mormon about Lehi and his family. This was a family who left their wealth and earthly possessions in Jerusalem because Lehi had been warned in a dream that Jerusalem would be destroyed. They travelled in the wilderness for 8 years before sailing to the "promised land"--the Americas. During this time, Lehi's son, Nephi, was obedient and faithful. The journey was hard, but he knew that the Lord could help him accomplish anything. Lehi's other sons, Laman and Lemuel, however, were complainers. They wanted to go back to the comforts of home. They didn't have faith that the Lord could help them. They didn't try to learn from the circumstances they were in. They were wicked and miserable.

I am ashamed to say that I have been like Laman and Lemuel, constantly complaining, and missing out on a lot of the good things around me. When I try to rely on the Lord (and other people, whom, I believe, are instruments in His hands), I am happier; even through the hard times. Why can't I get this through my thick head?! I love it when my problems are answered in the scriptures. It feels like they were written just for me.

Today, I woke up with a better attitude (the sun shining, the birds singing, blah, blah, blah...) Marly came over to pick me up to take me shopping and give me more cooking lessons. I had written a letter and then translated it on the computer (who knew you could do that?!) I gave it to her this morning. The words were a little messed up, but the message was clear: I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all she has done for me, and I will never forget her kindness. I thank God for her daily. We were both in tears.

We went to the store. I bought the food. We cooked together. We communicated more easily (thanks to google translate). We laughed. We hugged. We cried. She still wouldn't stay to eat, but I felt that we had shared something special--both of us giving and receiving. There is no doubt that I am on the greater receiving end, but, as Marly said, "I will always be here for you. I am happy to do it." I hope that I can do the same; for her, for others, for my Lord and my God.


  1. Who knew I had such a great sister? Thanks for sharing and helping me to understand the blessings I and my family have seen the past two+ years. It's hard to see the good when you seem to be so surrounded by the bad (Satan is good at that little trick). You just let me stand on your shoulders to see over those walls of self-failure I've been building. Love you and keep sharing!

  2. I failed to mention that Monday night, while driving Tom home from work, and "debriefing" the day, I turned right on a red light. Apparently this is against the law here. Tom kindly informed me. I blew up. I truly did not intend to blow up at Tom, but merely the absurdity of the situation: You can't make a turn on a red light when the intersection is clear, but you can ignore the stop signs. Please pray for poor Tom.

  3. Oh Kathy! I LOVE reading your blog and relate to it SO much! Please remember you have only been there about a month and you are doing AMAZING! You have friends, you have to get lost to learn your way around, your kids are in school, you are learning the language and you are learning to cook the food and most importantly you are human!!! much love and hugs to you my friend!

  4. I have tears leaking down my face now. I will be honest, I have had bad thoughts about what a goodie-to-shoes Nephi must have been. But have realized how much happier I am when I do what is right, Nephi must have been the most happy, content person ever:). I love reading about your adventures, be nice to Tom, he loves you! I miss your face!