Thursday, July 25, 2013

Off The Market

It's amazing the plethora of people that we meet in this fishing village in Nicaragua. Some of the characters feel like their right out of an episode of "Reality Stars of San Juan del Sur". (Yes, TLC, consider this story a pilot episode!) We've met people from every walk of life, every ethnicity, and all are interestingly diverse in personality. There's the Aussie who married an American and is here to do humanitarian work and raise her four kids, there's the American schoolteacher who started an international school, an Irishman with a stout accent and smile, there's the all-American, super-fit couple who run the local yoga studio, the guys from Naples, Italy who have settled here and opened their own Pizzaria, a few surfer dudes turned dads, some earthy, hippie chicks turned moms, and us....the missionary couple from Oklahoma who are known for our superhero-dressing kiddos and overuse of the word "ya'll". It's a blast! 

Today, however was a first. I was jumping some waves on the beach with the boys on our day off of mission work and noticed a large Nicaraguan family doing the same near us. You know that feeling you get when someone is staring a hole in the back of your head? So there was that too, but I dismissed it as, "They've obviously never seen a woman swim in so much clothing before because the water is FREEZING and I'm not squeezing myself into a bathing suit" look. I'm getting that a lot, as I insist on swimming in work-out attire (running shorts and rash guard tank) ad most everyone else is bouncing around the sand in their string bikinis. Not this Chica! I've got some poundage to she'd before this belly sees the light of day! Anyway, so there I was, getting all creeped out by the gawks and obvious stares of a particular younger Nican gentleman. Try as I might to shrug them off, and let the waves carry us to the other side of the beach, his gaze became more and more obvious. 

The boys finally reached their limit of wave jumping stamina and asked if we could walk back home for a snack. I obliged and we headed for shore to grab our flip flops. To our surprise, the "creepster" followed us to our stuff. He bent down and asked the boys how they were liking their time in his country. (Maybe he's not so creepy after all and genuinely hasn't met many Americans...) then he introduced himself as "Manuel. And I'm looking for an American wife. Are you single?" Um....what the what?! Who in the world comes up with an introduction like that?! After I jut gave him the benefit of the doubt and reduced his "creepster" status, he pulls out this first impression! 

"Well, nice to meet you Manuel. But I am happily married. Thank you." I began fumbling with my beach stuff, and rounding up the boys shoes as he continued to explain to me how he wants to move to the US and work but the government won't allow him to unless he has an American wife/fiancĂ©. Isn't that nice? Most of the things that he said to me in the next ten minutes were followed by my blank stares and " that so?!" face. This guy was unlike any character I'd met in San Juan del Sur. After he obviously didn't get the reaction he was looking for and probed further for any American single friends that I had, I shuffled us out if there in a hurry. A little dazed. A little confused. 

There are people like this in the world, ya'll. Those that are way more "overshare-happy" than I am! Also those that are not above marrying completely out of convenience and necessity than for love. Luckily, I am a magnet for such people and will continue to share them with you all in this space. Aren't you excited?! 

This shall end our first and only episode of "Reality Stars of San Juan del Sur". And since I would never embarrass the remainder of my new friends here, I shall leave it up to TLC to pursue a reality TV segment on life as an expat in Nicaragua. Let's just say the journey is exciting here, amigos. Never a dull moment in the life of this missionary. That's for sure! 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

My Kids are "Imagination-Challenged"

***I've decided to start writing again! I'm so excited, and I hope you are too! I've really missed an outlet to vent, rave, and learn together along this parenthood journey. All my sarcasm is distributed solely to my husband, who doesn't appreciate it nearly as much as my MBP readers! LOL! I will jump right in and will be doing posts this way for awhile; short and sweet and exactly what's going on in our little life parenting two small kids in this foreign country. I'm learning it's all the same though. Kids are kids and our job is the same globally. Raising decent human beings. So here we go! Back in the saddle, yo!!***

Once we stripped our children of all toys except the ones they could fit into one large suitcase to take to Nicaragua, I realized the gravity of what I was asking them to give up. Toys were their security. The things that they found enjoyment in, but also the little bit of life they had control over. They decided what they would play with and how, and it provided them distractions. They had an entire room full! We had two huge garage sales and we probably ridded their little lives of thousands of dollars worth of toys in a span of three weeks before the big move. 

Now that we are here, I'm realizing a few things about their "stuff". Without all the distractions and materialism, they don't know how to play. They don't know how to be kids the way my generation used to be kids. We'd rush outside first thing in the morning and pick up a large stick and rocks and play baseball all day in the cul-de-sac. We would cart our matchbox cars out back and spend an afternoon digging roads an making tunnels. We would retreat on rainy days and build forts out of sheets and chairs and read books to each other. We learned to use what we had, which wasn't a lot, and we were completely content with that. We used our imaginations. My kids are definitely lacking in that department to a certain degree. Do your kids have this issue? There are so many toys out there that it eliminates the need for them to be resourceful and create anything for themselves. 

As we sat on the beach yesterday, they looked out over the crashing waves and said, "Mom, we're bored!" I choked on my bottle of water. Looking around at paradise before us, I realized... I need to teach my children to play! 

We immediately got to work with some bowls and cups that we'd brought, making a sandcastle village. We decorated with sticks and shells, and them we went on to digging a "swimming pool" for the few superhero action figure that they'd brought down with them. Filling the bowls with water, they filled the pool with saltwater and had so much fun splashing around. Once I led them through the process of using what they had to have a good time, they ran with it. But I fully understand how up until now, they've lived in a lifestyle of sitting around waiting to be entertained. They are "lazy-fun-makers". It's going to be a process of teaching them to play. Many intentional moments of sitting down with them and leading them through guided brainstorming techniques. Teaching them to be resourceful and thankful for the little bit that they still DO have. We will do so with a few disgruntled attitudes about how much stuff they used to have to occupy their time, but I pray that in time, this way of life will be the one they prefer. The simple, relational, creative playtime that cultivates their imagination and their perspective on gratitude. Just one of the many things we are working on here in Nicaragua. As I've heard said numerous times, " they are our FIRST mission field", after all.