Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | March 4, 2019

Cultural challenges

Technically we have been back home now for well over a month and one or two important things have happened: all of our children are now at school, we’ve celebrated a birthday and Roz is working in two jobs. But I have been meaning to write about what it’s like coming back to Bolivia from the UK…

The UK was cold and wet by the time we left in January. By way of contrast Bolivia is hot and humid at this time of the year. We swapped wellies and slippers for chinelas (flipflops), numerous cups of tea for ice-cold banana smoothies and coats, scarves and gloves for shorts and t-shirts. What’s so weird about all that is the instant change that flying by plane subjects you to. There’s no gentle progression, it’s just boom! Welcome to sweat again.

The other thing I notice is that there is a period after travelling from country to country where your cultural sensitivity is heightened, before you get used to the differences again. For example that realisation again that time does not mean the same here in South America as it does in the UK. Something starting at 10 o’clock for example means that everyone will be there by 10 in the UK. In Bolivia though, people may be arriving around 11 or later. This does make some events hard to plan…

Thinking about these cultural differences we decided to invite some neighbours round for a Devon cream tea (or as close as we could get), replete with English tea, scones, jam and cream. It went down very well.

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Check this out, the presentation is sconderful.

Sometimes cultural differences can feel hard, especially the switch between the two- occasionally we can worry about how the children will cope with living in both cultures, but in reality it is enriching. Experiencing the challenge of different cultures makes you reflect on why you think or act in a certain way and what is really important. It helps you understand people, and yourself more. In reality it is much more of a blessing than a challenge.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | January 7, 2019

Hearing through the static

You learn different things from different people at different times. Sometimes long after they have passed something on to you even. I used to work with a lady called Sandy who frequently spoke about getting involved with what God was already doing. She talked about waiting on God for Him to show where He was already at work, instead of thinking that we are the instigators, acknowledging that He is, as He has always been- in creation, in our every breath and in our faith.

This has come back to my mind recently as I think about this new year (technically already started but I haven’t quite got going yet) and wonder about what are the new things for this year. Where do I need to change, what should I invest in and prioritise? Or more pertinently, what is God already doing and working on that I need to wake up to?

Hearing God can be a tricky one, I find it hard enough to listen to and understand what people are really saying at times. It seems to me that some of hearing from God involves sorting through the static of everyday life that surrounds us- our own thoughts and feelings and all those messages that are bombarded at us from the world that we don’t even notice sometimes.

So at the beginning of 2019 I want to make space to cut through the static and hear what God is doing- in me and my family, in my work and my friends, in Santa Cruz and in people I don’t even know. So this week Roz and I will set aside some time, but I also need to make that space every day, because the static keeps on coming.

(*In this wireless age maybe static isn’t a very good image for what I’m trying to describe. Unfortunately I’ve not got any other ideas…)

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | December 22, 2018

Less is more (at Christmas)

Christmas in the UK is often a time of excess. We may stuff the turkey but we also stuff ourselves! (I’m quite pleased with that little phrase, I may sneak it in again later. Or into casual conversation.) As someone who enjoys Christmas food and drinks and snacks and chocolate it is really easy for me to go over the top. I am starting to think however that this is a mistake. Less is more.

For example: Christmas flavoured drinks. I love coffee (be it cafetiere or the more fashionable aeropress or pod coffee machines, I’m not fussy). I also love ginger as a flavour and ginger cake or gingerbread. Should it not follow then that a gingerbread latte would be an incredible taste sensation? Combining two amazingly rich flavours in one festive vat of indulgence. Shortly, the answer is no. It is an over-the-top saccharine gingery mistake. Especially when someone has put a little gingerbread man on the top that dissolves into the mixture. A normal coffee is definitely preferable.

Last Christmas I discovered icing topped mince pies. Now I thought a mince pie could not possible be improved upon, but adding icing seemed like a genius idea. Who doesn’t love icing on cakes? Often my youngest daughter will chose something just to eat the icing and leave everything else. Sadly though icing on the top of a mince pie is deeply flawed. Again, it is just too much. Less is more.

The same is true of the non-consumable side of Christmas. You may not know, but my family and I are a (self) appointed Christmas lights judgement panel. Much like Simon Cowell or a real judge in a courtroom we are experts in this specialist field (disclaimer: we have no training, qualifications or position to back this up). Many is the night when we will venture forth into the bleak midwinter, passing judgement on the Christmas lights of neighbours and strangers alike. A frequent comment is “too Christmassy” which often suggests that someone has gone for too much. No clear theme, a confusion of colours or characters who do not belong together. This year a simple blue and white is proving quite popular with the judges. The message frequently though is less is more.

So, after passing judgement on coffee shops, mince pie purveyors and people who decorate their houses with Christmas lights, what might my ‘less is more’ mantra mean for me? Indulging a bit less (yes, boxes of chocolates, I’m looking at you) and appreciating a bit more? Making space and time for the simpler things? Not touching a gingerbread latte with a bargepole?

Although I jest, there is a serious point. Many of our friends in Bolivia enjoy a vastly simplified, largely present-free Christmas, partly for cultural reasons, partly for financial ones. I cannot just close my eyes to that. Plus greed (lets call it what it is) is one of my  weaknesses.

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So how can I practice less is more? Can I stuff the turkey but not myself? (was running out of time there, I’ve shoe-horned it in a bit to be honest). Let’s see.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | December 19, 2018

Blasts from the past!

Roz and I met, courted (as my Grandparents would have said) and married in Leicester. Last week we went back for the first time in well over ten years. It was brilliant. It’s funny how evocative a place is in terms of bringing back memories and feelings.

More important than that though was seeing people we’ve not seen for ages- some family, from my wife’s sprawling gigantic side and some old friends.

One thing that struck me was not how different our friends are now but how they seemed just the same as they always were. They look the same, they sound the same, they are the same. That thing about meeting up and being able to carry on from where you left off is also true, although with the strange dynamic of trying to catch up on everything that has happened in the interim, not least of which has been the arrival of small people who look a bit like us.

Introducing old friends to our children and our children to people who played a key role in our life at a time when we were getting to know each other was a great privilege. Meeting their children was also amazing, as was seeing teenagers who were very small children last time we saw them.

Our time in Leicester was formational and has had a lasting impact on our lives. As much as place plays a role in this people have been far more important and we have been blessed to know some great friends and family who have taught and encouraged us and laughed with us. And it was good to go back.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | December 9, 2018

Glory in obscurity, significance in insignificance

I think all of us would like to do something of significance, be it at work or some kind of project or maybe socially. At the moment we are in the UK and I would be hard pressed to say that what I am doing is of significance. Its lots of time with the children, time at home, visiting people, going to the park, little walks (or runs) in the Great British countryside. Small things- lots of time to think and reflect and be- but not much on a big scale.

I’ve been reading about David in the Bible recently- he of Goliath killing fame. He was anointed future King of Israel, and later held up to be the prime example of a King of Israel; all stuff of great significance and importance. But before that he has to put in long, hard days of looking after sheep, away from the action, in obscurity and insignificance. But here he is being prepared and trained for his giant killing moment. It makes me think…

But maybe I’ve actually got it all wrong in the first place- what gives anything significance and importance? Is it really how many people are affected and say well done or is it a little deeper? Maybe my definition of significance is way out of line with what God sees as significant. And I guess He is probably correct, not me.

Could it be that spending this extra time with my children, loving them well, being with them, serving in small things is not just preparation for something bigger but is actually the thing of significance that God has for me right now?

Last night we went to a community choir Christmas concert that some of our friends ran, conducted organised and put on. It was brilliant- there was a deep sense of community and fun and moments of worship I think (maybe less so when singing Let it Snow). It reminded me that The Most Important Person was actually born into complete obscurity and insignificance, in a small backwater in Bethlehem; in a stable. And yet He was God Most High, used to glory and honour, majesty and perfection. He was willing to go to such depths.

I think I need to take another look at my definitions and values.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | November 29, 2018

Running

I started running over a year ago now and have found I really enjoy it. After more years than I care to mention of absolutely no exercise at all- punctuated by my lovely wife Roz gently asking/encouraging me to get off my backside- I am now engaged in a form of physical activity again and it feels good!

At one point I started training more seriously to run a half-marathon which seemed like a massive challenge, but did something to my knee which put that idea to bed. Currently I’m just trying to run for fitness and enjoyment- the feeling after a run is amazing, I love it. I would like to make it clear that I am no trendsetter here, merely a follower of Roz who started before me, runs more than me and can and has run further.

Running in England is very different from running in Bolivia. In Bolivia we either run early morning or in the evening, when the heat and humidity is bearable. Actually, running in the rain is quite good as well. In England it feels too cold for me to run too early in the morning and then it’s too dark and cold again by the evening. The cold air makes it harder, but it’s nice not to get ridiculously sweaty so quickly.

I have been enjoying running in the woods in England, through the leaves and past the fields and far away. I mostly run around our local park in Bolivia, where I enjoy looking at the burrowing owls or the cactus flowers. Shortly before coming to England I did get to basically go on a run through the jungle where I got to rest at the top of a hill overlooking the jungle with a toucan flying past. That was with my friend Tom- not Autumnal Tom, but ex-rock star Tom.

Running in England and running in Bolivia are two very different surroundings but with the same sensation and feeling- of freedom, of connection with creation.

I like listening to worship music when I run, I like the physical nature of worshipping through running- of connecting to God as I connect to His creation.

It is helping me stay fit, enjoy creation but also meet with the Creator.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | November 19, 2018

Autumnal Golds

We are currently back in England visiting family and it is the first time in nine years we’ve been here during Autumn. It is beautiful; the oranges and yellows and reds and golds compared to the normally bare branches and evergreens we see when we’re here in the winter. I love the sun shining low through the branches- its breath-taking at times.IMG_20181112_144607451_HDR

We are loving it- taking the kids on walks in the New Forest, kicking up the leaves, finding acorns and conkers (sadly our children don’t know what these are really).

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It’s all very autumnal- my friend Tom’s favourite word. Bolivia doesn’t really do Autumn, or seasons in general for that matter. I do enjoy the changing seasons and they feel special because it’s not what we’re used to. In Bolivia we have a rainy and dry season more or less. And a few weeks of cold. So at the moment, we are enjoying a bonus, beautiful Autumn

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Yes, it’s a water colour original.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | November 14, 2018

Welcome back!

I haven’t written anything on this blog for about four years. I don’t really know why; it just happened. I think maybe small children and life had something to do with it, but probably mainly the fact that the extraordinary had become ordinary.

That happens, doesn’t it? We start something new and it is all exciting and shiny and fresh and then gradually it just becomes background and normal and less exciting. Living in Bolivia has become like that for us now. What once was a crazy situation is now commonplace: we’re no longer newcomers adapting to the wilds of South America. It’s our home now. There is a sadness in this, maybe we’ve lost some of the excitement and sense of adventure, some of the healthy fear and wonder. But it also shows that we’ve made a home here, we’ve put down roots and camped up.

After my self-imposed, unplanned hiatus I’m going to take up writing- well writing this anyway- again. When I was younger I didn’t want to be a footballer or an astronaut or a fireman; I wanted to be a writer. I remember the first (and last I think) story I wrote: an adventure story set on a deserted island for school. It was rubbish. This is a way of carrying on with that ambition in a modest and manageable way.

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What an exciting writing image!

I don’t really have a plan, but please join me if you’d like to.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | December 2, 2014

End of a long journey!

Yesterday I collected Evie’s brand new updated birth certificate. She is now officially a Powell (well actually a Powell Powell. You have to have two surnames on birth certificates here. But doubly a Powell is better than no Powell at all).

This means that we have now completed the adoption process here once and for all! Yes, we have popped the cork on the champagne and celebrated with family over skype and with Bolivian cake and friends here. It has taken three and a half years and felt every bit as long at times but it has always been worth it and we have never regretted adopting the beautiful and brilliant Evie. We can testify that God has always been faithful, constant and dependable- answering prayers, providing encouragement and love at just the right time.

Now though we can start to plan two big events- the first being a dedication service and party with our Church and friends here; the second being a visit to the UK! Woohoo! Our children regularly ask to go to England (to see relatives, play on the beach and see a squirrel being their top three requests. Not necessarily in that order. If we could combine all those three experiences in one trip Evie and Caleb would be well satisfied.) and we can now really think about going.

Last night we went to an end of year show at Caleb and Evie’s guarderia (nursery). Brilliant. The best bit was Caleb screaming an abc song at the top of his voice. He seemed angry about it for some reason. Maybe he’s just passionate about letters.

Posted by: Thoughts and pensamientos | October 20, 2014

Intense

Okay, it’s time to get back on the blog after some time off. I’m going to try and write a few shortish posts in the next few days to give you a flavour of how our life is at the moment.

Intense.
This is the word I’d choose for life with a new-born. Sometimes intensely, deliriously happy- like when we got to view Ana-Noemi’s first smile or bring her home and introduce her to her brother and sisters. Sometimes intensely difficult- like when Ana-Noemi is screaming, there is poo or wee somewhere it shouldn’t be in the house, various other members of the family are crying (including us) and we should have left to go out half an hour ago.

But it is never boring. Or uninteresting. I think actually a lot of the best experiences in life are intense- both intensely good and intensely bad at times.

Ana-Noemi is nearly three months old already and is growing well. God has blessed us so much.

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