Monday, January 21, 2013


My best writing is when the experience is fresh, so I'm a bit late in writing about this weekend.  But we have been so on the go that there's hardly been a time to stop and write!  Its been a bit of a 4-day weekend, with school closed on Friday for in-service and the embassy closed today for MLK's birthday.  Annika and I have enjoyed a lot of company over the past few days.

Dave borrowed a car from a motorpool at the embassy for the weekend, something we're allowed to do whenever one is available.  This is a fabulous deal, because Caracas is not an easy city without a car.  We live about a mile away from a few different grocery stores, and that mile is entirely uphill in the direction where you're carrying your groceries.  There are only a few restaurants in our neighborhood, and no urban areas to walk.  Our pretty little hill is the beginning of the suburbs, safe and quiet... rather boring and not constructed for walking.

Saturday morning began with one of the girls from the embassy coming to babysit our kids while we explored the city.  The Community Liason Office at the embassy put together a tour of the city, and we hopped into the big van with a few other folks and got a driving tour.  We were shown the local hospital, the neighborhoods where other embassy folks live, the best markets, the best hiking and a few neighborhoods with good restaurants.  The tour lasted around 7 hours, and I came home exhausted and with my head aching from so much information.  The city seemed exciting and the size seemed manageable, but the streets and the crime still seemed formidable.

That afternoon, we stuck inside the neighborhood, enjoying our wheels to stock up on milk and juice and to grab a snack at a tasty bakery just outside of walking distance.

Sunday, we headed to church.  The United Christian Church of Caracas is a very small, international, English speaking congregation.  Its hard to compare it to any church we've been to before.  There were a few families who looked like ours - young, American and with kids around our ages.  They had Sunday School for the kids and a staffed nursery for Annika.  The staff only spoke Spanish, which lends credibility to my assumption that Annika will be fluent by the time we leave.  The Sunday School teachers all spoke English, as did the pastor.  He was engaging and the choir sang with gusto, if not exactly on key - given the choice between the two, I'd probably prefer a choir that sings with gusto.  The adjustment between our large church with amazing teaching and powerful preaching in Virginia and this small church with spirited singing was stark, and made me a bit homesick at the beginning.  But by the end of the service, I could see us fitting in well.  Many people have prayed that we will find good Christian friends to help us grow while we are here - please continue to keep this in your prayers.

We found our way to the church, to a restaurant after church, and home again without getting lost or carjacked and so we counted yesterday as a resounding success.

Today, Dave and I sent the big girls off to school and then headed off in the opposite direction.  Now more comfortable in the car, we headed to a home improvement store (the size of an American Home Depot, but with shelves generally half empty) and to the hospital (to collect the results from Dave's medical tests - he does not have tuberculosis, and his cough has very nearly gone away).  And then, with some level of excitement, we explored the twisty roads of Las Mercedes, a restaurant and night club section near our neighborhood.  We were planning to park, to walk around a bit, to grab something to eat and to be generally charmed by this neighborhood.  Instead, we got a bit lost, we got stuck in a lot of traffic, we learned that Las Mercedes is not a neighborhood for walking but one for driving to your specific destination and paying the dude on the street to watch your car while you go in.  We explored a bit and demystified the area for ourselves, and then headed home for leftovers for lunch.

Such a journal - the details in this no doubt make it boring to you, but Dave and I feel as if we have found such freedom this weekend that they were important to share.  The GPS has begun to work and we've begun to find our way around.  Traffic doesn't seem nearly as bad as in China, and the city is not so big.  I'm happy to have a few months to redraw the maps inside my head before our car arrives and I get to drive on my own.  But this weekend, our city became much less intimidating, and might I say much more charming.

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