Tuesday, 29 June 2010

For everyone who has asked what we’re doing next...

A quick catch-up on what we've been up to lately...

We had a lovely 4 weeks of relaxing and exploring Austin more together, and then a couple of weeks of selling our furniture, cleaning and packing. We arrived a year ago to an empty house and built up our furniture gradually, so we went through the reverse process this time, ending up with just airbeds again. We had 6 suitcases and 6 pieces of hand luggage to fill with things, but there was still a lot left over that we had to leave. We have been blessed by God to have so many good things that we can't even carry it all!

Sid had been looking very energetically for a job, but in the end the job found him! We have known for some time that God is calling us to move over to Africa, and specifically to Zambia, but we weren't sure of the timing. During the last year, we've increasingly felt that it was going to be soon, and might even be the next step after Sid's course. So Sid was looking at jobs in Zambia, and other surrounding countries. He was looking for work that would be meaningful, and that would be a challenge and use all his newly learnt MBA skills. At his graduation ceremony, Sid gave the commencement speech, and someone in the audience (the father of one of Sid's classmates) heard him speaking about our plans to move to Zambia and realised that Sid could be a good match for 2 jobs he had in Tanzania and Kenya. His organisation is the Henry M Jackson Foundation, who do medical research for the military. The jobs themselves have little to do with anything medical or military though! It's Program Management, which is everything from financial controls to hiring to setting up contracts to training to resolving labour disputes. Sid went to the organisation's HQ in Baltimore for some interviews, which he felt went very well, and then we had a nailbiting 3 week wait to hear from them.

A few weeks in I started feeling like we should be thanking God for the job, so we did. A little while after, we heard that they were in the process of working out an offer for Sid! After waiting so long to hear, it would have been natural to assume they were not interested, but we also know from experience that God often leaves us waiting to the last minute. I think those times are meant to be opportunities to learn real reliance on God. Whether that job had come through or not, we knew God would provide for us. We left Austin with our suitcases, not knowing if the job was going to work out or not. It was part way through the journey back to England that we heard that it was all sorted, and Sid accepted the job!

So we are going into a season of travel now. We flew from Austin to Manchester and stayed with some friends in Birmingham for a few days, and then had a week with my whole family in a holiday house in Chester. Then we repacked and flew to Zambia (via Amsterdam and Kenya). We're here for 3 weeks, staying in Lusaka and Chingola. Sid's sister, Ivy, is getting married on July 3rd, so we're excited to be able to rejoice with her and her fiancé, Paul. We'll fly back to England on July 15th and spend a couple of weeks in Chester sorting through things we left in our house and catching up with friends, then go to Shetland for a week to stay with my parents. From there we'll fly to Washington (1st week of August) where Sid will have 2 or 3 months of training to get to grips with how the organisation works. Then towards the end of the year (Oct/Nov) we'll be moving to Mbeya, Tanzania. That is likely to be a short-term placement, so we can move to Dar-es-Salaam by the time Esther needs to start school in September 2011.

It feels strange to have no base right now. We'll be living out of suitcases until we arrive in Washington midAugust. But it's exciting to be seeing so many different places! Esther is a fantastic traveller – other than throwing up on the flight from Austin! But she's very flexible. We've always tried to explain to her what's going on around her, and what our plans are (I remember Sid walking her around the house when she was just a few hours old, explaining what happens in each room!). I think that really helps her feel secure in new places, and if there's something we haven't explained she'll often ask about it. Going from America to England last week, we hadn't realised that she would not necessarily remember what England's like. We left England when she was 2 and a half, so she's spent the last third of her life in the US. She misses her friends in Austin but was happy to see some friends in Chester. Now we're in Africa and trying to explain things that she hasn't seen before – people riding in the open back of a truck, fruit & veg stalls and pens of live chickens by the side of the road, people speaking other languages. It's great to be able to show Esther a taste of Africa before our move to Tanzania later on.

If anyone in Chester is reading this and wants to catch up with us, we'll be around from the 15th of July for 2 weeks. Also, if anyone knows of anyone going on holiday around that time whose house might need sitting, please let us know!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Easter Celebrations!

Time has gone so fast! Sid's course ends in 3 weeks!!! His last exam is April 21st and he graduates on May 1st - you can imagine we will be celebrating our socks off!!! We just had Spring Break a few weeks ago, so he doesn't get any time off for Easter - not even Good Friday :( But we have been busy rehearsing for our church's fantastic Easter drama/musical production, which is tomorrow morning. I'm singing in the choir, and Sid has managed to find time to rehearse to play guitar with the band. I'm so happy he's getting some musical outlet! Well, for both of us really - we've enjoyed soooo much being part of a musical group praising God! I thought I'd try and give you a taster of what we'll be singing, so here goes...

The rehearsal schedule has been a bit crazy (Tue, Thur, Fri and Sat this week!) so I've been even worse than normal at keeping in touch the last few weeks! Sorry if you've emailed and I haven't replied yet - normal service will be resumed from Monday :)

Sunday, 31 January 2010

I haven't written on here in aaages, so here's a bit of an update. Sid's well into semester 2. He did really well last semester - got 4 A's and 2 B's, which he was really pleased with! It's been hard work (90 hour weeks) but he's enjoying the challenge.

We had a good Christmas, though it was strange not being with family and the close friends we normally spend it with. Sid had 4 weeks off, and not too much work so it was a good break for him. He slept for nearly 24 hours over the first couple of days! We did some fun things together - had some family movie nights, went to see the Nutcracker, saw the big Christmas tree downtown, went to our church’s Christmas Eve service and Esther performed in her first nativity play as an angel – very cute! On Christmas Day we invited someone over for lunch and then had dinner with some other friends. It's been pretty cold here - apparently the coldest winter in 20 years (nothing like the snow in the UK, but still down to freezing and not what we expected in Texas!)

Esther turned 3 on the 14th of January and we had a party with some of her friends from church and the Acton kiddies. She's growing fast! She's really into gymnastics and ballet and makes daily requests to watch gymnastics videos on youtube! She loves books too, and our routine involves stories throughout the day. Sid takes half an hour each evening for playtime with her, and she looooves getting that time with him.

She just woke up so I'll finish this another time! There are photos coming!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Photos of our house

Last week I finally had a proper tidy up (I had some friends coming over) and it was so nice to sit down and not be surrounded by mess that I took photos :) I'm glad I did, as the clutter is creeping in again now!

This is our living room. We've actually got used to the clash of khaki, apple green and sage!

The kitchen, taken from the dining room. On the left at the end of the kitchen are patio doors, and on the right, the washer and dryer and shelving.

The dining room, taken from the living room. There's a little corridor to the left, which leads to the stairs and downstairs loo. Front door on the right, which comes straight into the living room.

Sid's prayer request board. Esther did the artwork, and Sid posts up things that he'd like her to pray for that day. I wanted her to be able to help daddy, and learn more about prayer, and this fits the bill.

Our baker's rack in the dining room. (This was $25 delivered to our door!)

One side of the kitchen. Note the can of Raid strategically placed on top of the fridge, so I can find it in the dark if necessary! (we've had about 1 cockroach per week wander in a bit lost, and this stuff is great at getting rid of them)

Esther's art wall. Every week she comes out of her class at church clutching armfuls of things she's made!

Upstairs is barred to photographers right now! But as soon as it's been beautified (or even just plain tidied) I'll take some pics.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Give thanks

I decided this week I want to devote more time to this blog. I enjoy writing about our life in Austin and whatever is on my mind! So I planned to do 3 entries per week, starting with today.

It's been a really busy and tiring day and with 20 minutes until bedtime, I just didn't feel like it. But one thing I really hate is being dictated to by my feelings, and whenever I realise that's what's going on, I try my hardest to stand firm against them! So despite the day I've had, I decided to write this, because life goes deeper than feelings.

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always.

(Psalm 105 v 1-4)

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The slightly scary intersection near us

Cowgirl Esther at the Pioneer Farm Museum

(me trying to take arty shots!)

Esther getting the glazed-over nap-time look
And trying to balance 'her' sticks on the beam -
this had to be done before she could sit on it apparently!

A whole month to catch up on...

I can't believe it's been so long since I wrote on here! Everything's going really well for us over here. Sid's into week 4 of his course. It's been huge amounts of work for him, and Monday to Thursday pretty much all he can do is work and sleep and eat. But he's really enjoying what he's learning, and being in class with some other very smart people.

We're settled into our house now. Still some bits of furniture and things we want to get, but we've got all the necessities. Esther and I are enjoying going bargain-hunting at garage sales on Saturdays.

We found a great church and we're getting to know people there. Sid went along for a men's breakfast at the weekend and had some good chats. It's nice to be able to walk into church and have more of a conversation than just 'hi, are you new here?'. I've joined some small groups - one on parenting and modeling a relationship with God for our kids (called Instructing a Child's Heart). I'm looking forward to learning more through this one. I also joined A Happy Healthy Heart, which is a combined workout and discussion about healthy eating, body image and the Bible. It was so much fun! We did a salsa warm-up and then a half hour workout. I haven't done any form of organised exercise since school, so I'm hoping this will get my fitness levels up! We're also (both!) going to do a 3 week course introducing us to the church's vision, history, etc. (this is the only course we get to do together because of Sid's schedule!)

I joined another group that meets alternate Mondays (with childcare included). It's called MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) and I'm counting the days till the next one! 2 hours of chatting with other mums, eating breakfast together, watching a video on being a mum (can't quite bring myself to type mom yet...), discussion together and doing a craft. I'm really excited about this one and looking forward to making some good friends through the year.

It probably sounds like I've spent most of my time joining groups! The first few weeks I was really focussed on getting the house to a live-able state, but realised that I really needed to make some friends, so I've gone all-out on that and feel a lot more sociable now! Esther's happy to be meeting people too.

Austin has a ton of stuff to do with kids, which we're really enjoying. We've been to Austin Children's Museum, a Pioneer Farm museum (photos to follow), Zilker Park Dinosaur Pit (where you can dig up fossils in the sand), storytime at a nice bookshop and we love going to the splash park every week on a Friday.

We've also spent an excessive amount of time at the driver's licence office trying to figure out what we need to do to drive legally. The first response was that we just can't drive while we're here because our visas are for less than a year! In the end, it was agreed that we can drive on our UK licences for up to a year, but our insurers demanded we get Texas licences, so we did a computer test and then went back to do the road test. Thankfully we both passed, but the whole process ate up more than 10 hours over 3 weeks, which is a huge amount when Sid's doing 90 hours of study per week... We're glad it's over! There are several things to get used to when driving here: 4-way stops instead of traffic lights, frontage roads, being allowed to turn right on a red light, and the roller-coaster junction between our 2 nearest major roads! It's fun though :)

Apologies to anyone who's emailed and not had a reply - there's a whole list of people I need to reply to. I'm planning to start working through them this week. Thought I'd just let you all know we're still alive over here!