December 27, 2010

Last *sniff* Christmas in Chile

Officially, our contract ended in October. But, we wanted to stay on longer so we could finish out the pastoral year, accompany the kids during their Confirmation and spend our last Christmas here with the community. We're anxious to see our family, but we just weren't ready to say goodbye in October. So, here are some photos of our last holiday here in Alto Hospicio:

We like to have a live tree, so we once again decorated our one and only living house plant with a Christmas theme.

We had a packed house for Midnight Mass (at 9:30). It was great to see so many families come together.

We had the kids in the chapel act out the Christmas Pageant during Mass. Joshua was too big for Baby Jesus this year, but we fortunately had another infant to place in the manger. This time, Baby Jesus was a little girl.

At midnight, we followed Chilean tradition and placed Baby Jesus in the manger. Joshua had the honor. We invited a neighbor over for Christmas Eve dinner and got to bed at about 2am. Here, Santa Claus arrives at midnight, after the arrival of Baby Jesus, and so kids can be heard playing in the streets with their new toys until the early hours of the morning.

On Christmas Day, we joined the other missionaries, sisters, brothers and priests in the parish and shared a big turkey meal.

Joshua had on his festive bib for about 5 seconds... long enough for us to snap a picture and then for him to throw it on the ground.

Joshua had a great time running from lap to lap with all of his "aunts and uncles," stealing bites of their desserts.

Once again, we spread the American tradition of gifting Christmas cookies. This year, we totaled 210 cookies and handed them out to about 25 families. Anna did the visiting alone this year, because David was home with stomach problems. It was a blessing to be able to share with so many families in such a simple way and deserves a future blog post of its own.

These are the crumbled, misfit cookies that Anna allowed David, Joshua and Gringuita to eat.

December 16, 2010

Another Long Week

Since checking in last, we've been continuing the same pattern of busyness. Last Sunday, we had our final parish-wide youth event. We gave our testimony about "Christian Life," but didn't do a very good job with it. We're not great public speakers - especially with large groups. The kids still enjoyed getting together with other youth. Our mainly boy group was very happy to realize that there is a chapel in the neighborhood next to ours full of pretty girls. We imagine that they will be much more enthusiastic about participating next year.

That night, we were invited to a birthday cookout. It was nice to go hang out with this particular family, since they are our co-padres. Joshua enjoyed himself too, since there were lots of other kids to play with.

On Monday morning, we woke up early to varnish the chapel. In its ten years of existence, it has only been varnished once, so the wood was very thirsty. We didn't finish until this afternoon and needless to say... it was exhausting! The kids showed up to help at first, but two days was their limit. We couldn't really blame them. After painting our days away, we spent our evenings with more families. We got together one last time with some neighbors that have been good friends. They'll be going on vacation before Christmas and so we had to push our goodbyes up a little bit. Tonight, we'll share with another family.

One week closer to home and one week sadder about leaving.

Proof that the boys did some work.

David defies heights on a really shifty ladder.

One of the men from the community. David helped him get into a rehab center about a year ago and he just graduated a couple of weeks ago. He helped us out since he is still looking for work. We're praying that he won't fall back into drugs.

All work days end in a soccer match. Joshua and Gringuita joined them, but they didn't get any goals.

December 10, 2010

AEDM - Fail

As you've probably figured out, I didn't make it to the end of AEDM. After two weeks, I got caught up in the whirlwind of having a visitor, confirmations, and then going to Santiago and dealing with the US embassy. I thought that I would start fresh in December, but haven't done a thing.

David and I are currently in a state best described as depression. The reality of leaving Chile is hitting us full force. We had our first farewell with a family who left today on vacation and who we won't be seeing again. We're trying to visit at least one family a day in order to spend some quality time with all of the special people who have touched our lives during our three years in this community and we often experience a sense of nauseousness when people ask, "When will you be coming back?".

We're still working with the youth and have a few activities lingering on as we finish the year. Also, we're still trying to form a team of adults to work with the youth next year. I imagine that most Christian communities have the same problem - a group of youth that need guidance and not enough responsible adult help to accompany them in their journey. We continue to pray and to ask people for help. We're making progress... slowly.

We're also officially on the job market. We've been searching jobs on the internet in Santa Fe, NM. I've decided to apply to a graduate school there in order to study for my master's degree in art therapy. So, we dug up our old resumes, wiped off the dust and started updating. Sadly, we're a little worried about putting our history as missionaries with the Catholic Church as work experience, when applying for secular jobs. We fear that in a secular society, the word may be misinterpreted and we might be seen as fanatics or as close-minded. So, we find ourselves hiding our faith in a way, rewording "missionary" as "volunteer", "parish" as "community" and "catechism" as "holistic development." We're confident that we'll find work, but a little sad that we may have to downplay our faith, which for us, is the most important aspect of who we are.

December 3, 2010

Columban's Day and the US Embassy

We just got back to the house after two weeks in Santiago. Whew! What a couple of weeks...

It started off nice. Nov. 23 is St. Columban's day and obviously, a big day for Columban missionaries to celebrate. The tradition in Chile is to start the week off with a paseo, or outing. We went to a small country town in the Andes mountains where there is a picnic place, with a pool and plenty of green space to roam. Joshua had an ear infection, so he couldn't exactly go swimming. But, he managed to have a great time anyway, pushing lawn chairs around like cars, running after his 3 year old friend Matilda and splashing his feet in the water. As he was playing "train" with the chairs, he slipped, scraped his chin and bit his lip. There was a lot of blood and a lot of crying, but lollipops and ice seemed to heal it pretty quickly.

The day after the paseo, we had a special mass and dinner among the Columban family - priests, lay missionaries, sisters, seminarians, employees and friends. Finally, we headed out to a retreat house for our biannual regional meeting. This was our last meeting with the Columbans in Chile, so we especially enjoyed the social aspect of it all. Since the majority of the Columbans work in Santiago (over a 2 hour flight away), we appreciate the time we have together.

After a great week of sharing with the rest of the Columban family, we went to the US embassy to see about Joshua's visa to enter the US. You would think that the process to enter the US for an adopted child of two American citizens would be pretty easy, but the truth is far from it! He is treated just like any other (adult) foreigner who wants to immigrate. He has to have a medical exam, an interview and pay lots of fees. We thought, "How expensive could it be to file some paperwork?". Apparently, $1000 USD expensive. After spending all week jumping through hoops and translating about 20 pages of adoption documents for a completely bilingual embassy, we are now waiting to be contacted with a date for an interview. We're told this interview will be in Santiago in about two weeks. Did we mention that we live in a city over two hours away by plane? And that Joshua is two? And that the only answer he will have to any of their questions is auto (car)?