Saturday, December 26, 2009

December 26, 2009: Our first Christmas in Cyprus

We had friends from Germany staying with us for the nine days before Christmas, which we enjoyed very much. Some more sightseeing around Cyprus, lots of games of Settlers of Catan, and they even babysat one evening so we could visit some other friends, taking only Helen with us. :-)

On the 24th we celebrated "German Christmas", as that's when Germans celebrate normally, and as Peter and Christin were leaving on the 25th in the wee hours. That meant we got to light the candles on the tree a day earlier than usual, as my husband won't let me light them until we open presents, and as he's married to a U.S.-ian who thinks it's silly to open presents after dinner and have hyper children who don't want to go to bed, we generally celebrate on the 25th. But the few "German presents" didn't take that long, and the children went to bed fairly happily, still anticipating Christmas morning. They weren't even that upset about saying goodbye to Peter and Christin, as we'll see them in Germany in February.

The rest of us then played two last games of Settlers of Catan, and at 1:15 I went to bed and Jörn took Peter and Christin to the airport. When he got back 20 minutes later, I asked if everything was fine, and he said, "Yes, it was quieter than usual--apparently, not many people want to fly on the 25th."

We didn't get woken until almost 7:30, and bought ourselves a little more time in bed (but with several children bouncing on us, so not sleeping) by sending Marie to make the birthday cake. Once that was in the oven, we all got up and lit the candles on the tree again.

Rather than the free-for-all I grew up with, we all take turns taking a gift from under the tree and handing it to the right person. I imagine that "normal" children would choose something that they think is for themselves, but this is one of the times that I'm glad my children aren't normal. :-) I myself am not at all into gift-giving and would rather do away with it all together, but the children have apparently all inherited their father's main love-language and delight in giving gifts. Katie started, and chose the gift that she had made at preschool (where, two days a week, I work and she attends) for us. Then Lukas excitedly chose a gift from himself to one of his siblings, and on it went. The children were always pleasantly surprised and grateful for what they received, but were over-the-moon hyper with excitement about what they gave.

Around 10:00 the phone rang--it was Peter. Last week the airport in Frankfurt (which was where they were flying) had been closed because of snow, forcing 3000 people to spend the night there, so I said, "So you made it! Good!" Peter said, "No, actually we liked Cyprus so much that we decided to stay--we're in Ayia Napa!" I laughed and said that I know that I'm gullible and tend to believe whatever people tell me, but I wasn't falling for it this time. I could hear Christin laughing hysterically in the background, and it took awhile, but they finally convinced me that they were, indeed, in a hotel in Ayia Napa. The runway lights weren't working, so everyone had been taken by bus to a hotel in Ayia Napa, where they had gotten to bed around 3:30 and had just finished a big breakfast! They said that the hotel was nice and the food was good, but it was awful being surrounded by so many "fat tourists" and the "scenery" basically consisted of one hotel after another. They were very glad to have seen a bit more of the "real" Cyprus with us that most tourists ever do. They were going to be taken back to the airport at 11:30, and with a direct flight to Frankfurt, I imagine that they did eventually arrive.

I did find an article on-line about the airport closure, but wasn't able to confirm if they now have the runway lights fixed. I selfishly certainly hope so, as we're flying at 3:00 a.m. in two days!! We have a six-hour lay-over in Frankfurt (after changing planes in Prague), so there's a little bit of lee-way, but as our flights are not connecting (we booked separate tickets from here to Frankfurt and back, and from Frankfurt to San Francisco and back, which was considerably less expensive that booking all the way from Cyprus to San Francisco), I'm not sure what would happen if we were to miss the other flight--and I don't particularly want to find out, either. We were concerned about weather in Prague and Frankfurt, but it never occurred to us to wonder if Larnaca Airport would be open!!!

Anyway, we eventually finished opening our gifts, some people sort of had breakfast (they'd already been eating gummy bears and chocolate and such all morning--nobody even wanted any of the chocolate birthday cake...), and around noon we headed for the home of Sue and Richard, as we'd been invited to Christmas dinner and afternoon/evening with them.

Christmas dinner was scrumptious (tender, HOT turkey--not something I'm used to!) and the company was even better. The children behaved fairly decently, for the most part. I love visiting people, but sometimes find my own children's behavior to be so stressful for me (even when it's not even bothering our hosts) that I can't always relax as much as I'd like to. After dinner, chatting, and dessert (half a dozen different delicious things, for which we didn't have room, but didn't let that stop us!!), we drugged some of the children with a movie, and the adults (five of us, as Sue and Richard's son Tim was also there, visiting from England) and Jacob played Settlers of Catan with the Seafarers extention, which they had received for Christmas. I'm rather "Settler-ed out" (and I know we'll have three more weeks of it in the U.S...), but as always, the best part is the people. :-)

We lazed around comfortably for quite awhile, nibbling and chatting, then had a concert by Tim (piano) and Marie (violin), and around 8:30, as some of the children were starting to lose it, decided we'd better leave before things escalated.

Children to bed, and we weren't long in following--and didn't get woken up for good this morning until nearly 9:00!! (The previous post is about this morning...) Today we have about 18 YWAM people coming at 2:00 for lunch and singing (oh yeah--I'm supposed to be looking for the words to a few songs in various languages...) and exchanging "white elephant" or "monster" gifts. I'm trying desparately to get clothes washed and dried (and it started raining about half an hour ago...I might actually put the drying rack in my bedroom and turn on the heating, as I'm running out of other options) for packing tomorrow afternoon/evening, and then we're off. And after those next six weeks (three in the U.S., which will include a wedding, two anniversaries, three days at Disneyland, three birthdays, and maybe even some time with friends, and then three in Germany, for which we already have over 30 different meetings with people planned...), we are REALLY going to need a vacation...

December 26, 2009: A counting song (to the tune of "Ten in the Bed")

There were two in the bed and the little one said,

"Scoot over, scoot over!"

So they both scooted over and Helen climbed in.

There were three in the bed and another one said,

"Scoot over, scoot over!"

So they all scooted over and Katie climbed in.

There were four in the bed, but she wouldn't stop talking, so Mommy said,

"Go to your bed, go to your bed!"

So Katie went away and three went to sleep.

There were three in the bed and another one said,

"Scoot over, scoot over!"

So they all scooted over and Jacob climbed in.

There were four in the bed and another one said,

"Scoot over, scoot over!"

So they all scooted over and Lukas climbed in.

There were five in the bed and another one said,

"Scoot over, scoot over!"

But Mommy said, "How can I scoot?"

And Katie said, "By moving a little!"

So Helen climbed on Mommy's face and Katie tried to squeeze.

There were six in the bed but Katie said,

"I was here first, I was here first!"

There were many, many elbows, and many, many knees,

And lots and lots of fussing, and lots and lots of pleas,

Until finally, the Papa said,


There were two in the bed...but not for long.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December 22, 2009: pre-natal check-ups

The fact that I lived in Germany for over 17 years probably wasn't too helpful for my frustraton this morning, but the fact that I've also lived other places that are culturally VERY different from Germany did temper that some, and that I'm fascinated by languages and trying hard to learn Greek also made the morning not entirely a waste of time.

Four weeks ago I went to the hospital for a pre-natal check-up, mostly just because I wanted an ultrasound to have some idea of a due date, not being at all sure. (When I said I really didn't know how far I was, the doctor looked down again at my paperwork, listing all eight previous pregnancies, raised his eyebrows, and said something like, "By now you really ought to have some idea.") The baby's head-rump measurement spit out an age of 11 weeks (well, 9 weeks for the baby, 11 weeks as doctors count), due date June 15th, 2010. Anyway, I was there last time for 2 1/2 hours for a total of less than five minutes with the doctor, and as I was leaving, there was a near-riot going on in the waiting area, with dozens of pregnant women yelling at a man in hospital clothes. While I myself had been waiting, women had been comparing their appointment times, and there were several with 9:00, one with 9:20, and several with 9:30. That was after 10:00 when they were looking at them--and I didn't even have an appointment at all, being told one wasn't necessary. After several women who had definitely arrived after I had had elbowed their way in, five women (two English, two Cypriot, and one who spoke neither English nor Greek but agreed with the others that I should definitely be next) pushed me in the next time the door opened. Quite an experience. Anyway, I'm glad I was out of there before the riot started, but felt bad for all the others still stuck there.

In any case, I let myself be talked into going back today for another check-up, with the idea that if the baby's size four weeks later still matched that due date, I'd be reassured of the due date, as I'd been told that I'd have another ultrasound. Also, I know someone whose twins were NOT seen at 12 weeks, so it was good to confirm today that there IS only one baby! But the doctor didn't take any measurements today, just checked the heartbeat, then as he turned off the ultrasound machine said, "How many sons and daughters do you have?" I told him, and then he said, "Well, it looks like you might have--" and I quickly interrupted him and said "Don't tell me! I don't want to know!" He was rather surprised at that, and then said that he wasn't really sure, anyway, but IF I go back at all, I'll be sure to mention BEFORE they start that I don't want to know the baby's gender!

But I really, really don't want to go back. I had been given "the first appointment", at 7:30 this morning. I was indeed the first person there--the doctor and an assistant didn't arrive until 8:20. But shortly after I arrived, other pregnant women started arriving. That's where the language practice came in, because happily, the first one to arrive spoke very little English, in fact, not more than I speak Greek. So although I'd officially learned how to tell time in Greek on paper, I could never remember it, but now I can. :-) It's her first baby and she's in the ninth month, and she had an appointment for 8:00. The next woman to arrive didn't sit down with us, but went and stood right at the door to the room where they take blood pressure and weight. The one after that was another Cypriot who spoke little English, then a Muslim woman arrived, then another who didn't talk, and then a Nigerian who spoke no Greek at all, but English, and had her six-month-old son with her.

By 8:15 there were 10 of us, and then at 8:20 the assistant went into her office, and lady number 3 had pushed her way into the room before anyone else could react. However, the rest of us (those who were sitting--there are only six chairs--as well as the others standing around) quickly moved over to the door, leaving most of the chairs empty--one was still occupied by a father. When the door opened, two women tried to push in front of me but I managed to slip in. My blood pressure was taken and I was weighed (just like last time, the doctor's scale gives me four more kilos that my scale--I like my scale MUCH better!!), was scolded for not having had an amniocentesis (I'd declined four weeks ago, which the doctor hadn't had a problem with), was handed my file, and got to go wait in the hallway again to get into the doctor's office. Arrival number 4 was the third one into the assistant's office, arrival number 2 was the fourth one in, I didn't pay attention after that, as I was enjoying chatting with the English woman I had met four weeks ago.

When arrival number 3 (who had gotten in first) was finished with the doctor, at 8:50, I managed to be the next one into the doctor's office. He did his best to impress on me the importance of the 20-week ultrasound, and I told him that I already have an appointment with my doctor in Germany (who will actually TALK with me) for the end of January, had the very quick scan, was given an appointment for February (which I don't have much intention of keeping), and was out of there again at 8:53. Not quite an hour and a half, so certainly better than last time.

When I got home, I called the three phone numbers I'd been given (by a lady who now lives in the U.K., but whose homebirth story I'd found by googling "homebirth Cyprus", as she had her baby at home in Cyprus two years ago) of a doula and two midwives who are reputed to attend homebirths. I left a message with one midwife's voicemail and there weren't any answers from the other two, but the doula called me back almost immediately. She's leaving on vacation tomorrow, but we're going to talk again in February, and she sounded quite encouraging.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

December 16, 2009: temporary success at immigration

As an aside, I find it rather unfair to be being dive-bombed by mosquitos while I'm freezing! Cyprus has a lot of great things--mosquitos in December is not one of them.

Efficiency doesn't happen to be one, either, but we did get a temporary reprieve at Immigration today. No real progress, but the good news is that I'll be able to leave Cyprus in two weeks without being given the third degree about why I've been here longer than my three-month tourist visa allowed, and I'll be able to re-enter once, by the 15th of February. (We get back the 12th.)

This morning my husband headed for Immigration in Nikosia and took our 7-year-old, some books, and as advised, my passport and our marriage certificate and lots of time, and he also took every other single bit of paperwork we've ever had, which we always do when doing anything like this. I've always said that walking from the car to the embassy or consulate or some other official place would be the best place to mug us, because our entire identity is contained in whatever bag we're carrying.

The first person he talked to didn't think that what he was saying made any sense, but finally told him to go to "Block 7"--the complex apparently has something like 9 buildings--which is where they deal with non-European foreigners. So Jörn went there and found it was closed. He got in a side entrance and was told that really, they're closed until January, as they're in the process of moving. (The only surprising part is that this is practically the first place in Nikosia that we've been to that had not YET moved from the address we were given...) No, of course they won't give letters saying that my application is in process--who told him so? Does he have a copy of the application? Good, because as they're in the process of moving, they don't know where anything is. (See, this is why we always take EVERYTHING, not just what they say they'll need...) The friendly lady made a copy, talked with her boss, and came back and said no problem, they can issue me with a one-time, re-entry visa. Where are the stamps, please?

My husband asked what stamps, and was told that he needs "revenue stamps from the post office, worth €10.27." So then Jörn asked where the post office was, and the lady said that she had just explained it to this other applicant, in Greek, who was standing next to Jörn, so Jörn could just give her the money and she could get the stamps for both of them. Jörn politely declined handing over the money, but did walk out to the parking lot with the lady and asked her where the post office was. She said she had no idea, somewhere near the Presidential Palace, but she didn't know where that was. Jörn did know, however, so was able to tell her, and then they drove off in their separate cars.

Nothing else too exciting--Jörn found the post office (after parking at the parking lot behind the Press and Information Office, where he'd had to pay a lot of money to get the children's birth certificates translated in the summer), got the revenue stamps, returned to Immigration, paid, and got the visa in my passport.

However, I still don't have a yellow slip (the registration paper, giving me permission to live here indefinitely), and the lady seemed to think it amusing that Jörn even asked her when that might happen. She told him to come back when we get back to Cyprus in February--at their new premises in the Old General Hospital. At least I do know where the Old General Hospital is, as I had to find that in order to find the Ministry of Health, and I imagine that we can count on Immigration not moving AGAIN before we can get there, so that's good...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 15, 2009: Immigration woes...

I should have posted an update before, but there unfortunately wasn't ever any exciting news. My husband went to Nikosia (as he is the European, and as men tend to receive a bit more respect here, we thought it made more sense for him to go than for me to...) on the day they said that my registration should be ready, and they went through the entire rigmarole again: "We need such and such paper." "You have such and such paper. Right there." "Oh, okay. Then we need to make another copy." Etc. I don't remember all the details anymore, but very frustrating. The only interesting part was that the head of the department heard Jörn speaking German with the children (he had two or three with him) and was intrigued: it turned out that this man had lived in Bochum for 12 years, very close to where we used to live. So they spoke German with each other and the man promised to be on the case and gave Jörn his extension number and told him to call the following week. The following week Jörn called several dozen times, eventually reached him and was told that my registration was ready, but that he didn't know where it was at the moment, so please call back in an hour. Jörn called back in an hour, dialing many, many times. (He didn't count.) Then he started making lunch and handed the phone to me, and I tried over 30 times. No answer. We kept trying in the next few days, including (at the suggestion of several other people) trying from other phone numbers, in case they had blocked our number. No success. In the meantime, I had really hoped to go to Germany for the first week of December for a conference about families on the mission field. I was going to take Helen and my friend Sue, whom Helen is crazy about, to take care of Helen. I'd hoped to leave on a Friday (the conferenced started the following Tuesday), but on Thursday, still having no news, we found flights for Monday morning (well, middle of the night, to be exact...) instead, but still didn't book. On Monday Sue let me know that if by some miracle my registration came through that day, then she was willing to fly with me Tuesday morning, even. But, it didn't, and I'm sure the conference went well, but I wasn't there. In the meantime, another friend of ours told us that he has a friend in Nikosia who is a police officer with some kind of contact to Immigration. (One of the steps they took with my paperwork in Nikosia, incidentally, was to send it to the police department there to determine that our marriage is not a sham marriage. As my husband pointed out, there must be easier ways to sneak into Cyprus illegally than to marry a German, travel around the world with him for 14 years, and have five children, but, well, you never know what people will do...) Anyway, last week, this friend, Aris, got in touch with his friend, whose name I don't know, and she started calling immigration. Wednesday she didn't get through to anyone, Thursday she didn't, Friday she didn't. She called Aris, very apologetic, and said she'd keep trying. Yesterday Aris called: his friend had gotten through, and the result is that they have lost my file completely!! Nobody has any idea whatsoever where it could be. However, since it was now a police officer asking about it, they are now (as of this morning) willing to write a letter stating that I am in the process of applying for residency, and therefore, may leave and re-enter the country, even though I've long since outstayed my three-month tourist visa. When we asked for such a letter at Immigration in Larnaka, they said that that is impossible, that they never do that, and when we asked in Nikosia, they said the same. But a police officer asked, so now I can have the letter. Which is good, as we're flying to the U.S. in 13 days. However, they won't send it--one of us, preferably Jörn, has to drive to Nikosia to get it. Nor will they make an appointment, and they can't say when exactly the man who will produce the letter will be in the office, just that he will probably be gone next week. So Jörn was told that he needs to go to Nikosia, early, and have time with him, as he may have to wait an hour or two. So despite the fact that we have friends from Germany arriving early tomorrow morning, Jörn will be going to Nikosia tomorrow, and taking a couple of books, as well as Lukas, and hopefully, will get this letter. When and if I ever get my yellow slip is still up in the air. On the one hand, as long as I can leave and re-enter Cyprus without a problem, it doesn't really matter. However, once I'm registered, we can apply for various large-family perks, such as a reduction in our electricity bill and a percentage off of groceries at certain stores. Just the father (and the children) being registered is apparently not sufficient.

Friday, November 13, 2009

November 13, 2009: Trip to immigration this morning

Today was much more frustrating than yesterday, although much shorter. We left at 9:45, got photocopies made of the paperwork from yesterday, and were at immigration by just past 10:00. Marie, Lukas, and Katie stayed outside on the rocks under the trees and Helen and I waited in the hallway, where an old man gave me a seat, then a younger woman gave the old man a seat, and everyone was very friendly and talking with Helen. After about half an hour, it was my turn. The lady at the reception desk said that Mrs. Maria is not there and won't be back until December 1st, please come back in December. I said that they must have the file, though--could somebody else help me, please? She sighed, called a colleague, and I got to go into an inner office.
At this point, Helen started fussing, refused to nurse, didn't want to play with anything, and eventually started screaming. She has a very loud, piercing scream. While she was screaming and I was trying to talk with the lady, Katie came in, took her shoes off, and started to roll around on the floor, and when I told her to put her shoes on and stand up, she had a temper tantrum. I sat her on a chair, not particularly gently, and kept trying to talk with the lady who didn't feel particularly responsible for me.

She first tried to tell me that I need to apply for a yellow slip. I explained that we had applied in JANUARY, that we had been there FOUR times already. She finally looked for--and found--our file, and said that I need medical insurance for my "babies". (The Greek word that actually means "baby" is used for children of all ages, and Greek-speakers, even those quite fluent in English, tend to use the word "baby" in English, rather than child. Lukas and Katie do NOT like it when they say that to them, but I digress.) I said, "Yes, I have the E106 here, and the Cypriot medical card." She wasn't the slightest bit interested in the E106, but took the medical card off to photocopy.

Then she came back and said accusingly, "I need to see the E106." I smiled and handed her the E106, which she took off to photocopy.

Then she came back again (Helen was still screaming, by the way, but Katie had gone back outside to Marie and Lukas) and said, "Now we can send your application to Nikosia." I said, "My application has already been SENT to Nikosia, and returned to you here. Mrs. Maria called me and said that I only need to provide proof of medical insurance for the children, then I can be given the yellow slip." She said no, since I'm American, my paperwork all has to be done in Nikosia, they can't do anything here in Larnaka. However, the lady who is doing Mrs. Maria's work at the moment will be in on Monday, so I can come again on Monday as of 7:30, if I want. But everything will HAVE to be sent to Nikosia, and they now have everything required, so there's really no reason for me to come back in on Monday. I asked how long it will take (as last time we were at this point, they said up to five months), and she said one week.

With Helen still screaming, I finally said okay, and left. I got all the children in the car, Helen finally nursed and calmed down, and then I left all the children in the car and went back in. (I ignored lines and simply walked into the inner office.) I asked if it would be possible for ME to go to Nikosia, and she said yes, of course, and gave me a slip of paper with the address. Not having much faith in addresses in the meantime (not to mention that there is no place to look up addresses in Cyprus...), I asked her if she could show me on the map where the immigration office in Nikosia is. She said yes, of course, and she and another colleague spent a very long time looking and my map and pointing out streets that they knew and having some long discussion of which I basically only understood the prepositions and conjuctions (while useful bits of speech, they don't help much in following a conversation), and finally told me no, they couldn't. I asked if they could then give me my paperwork, please, so that I could take it to Nikosia, and they said no, they will send it, that they have to send it to the police there. This made NO sense to me, I explained again that Mrs. Maria had said that everything is done, they were just waiting for the children's medical insurance, but she wasn't particularly interested. I explained that I hope to go to Germany at the beginning of December (oh yeah--that's another story, except that there really isn't one yet, since without the yellow slip, I can't go) and that I'm running out of time, and she said again, "One week."

I went back and sat in the car for a long time, with my head on the steering wheel, ignoring the children's fussing, etc., then finally left, and was home again by 11:15. Jörn called around 12:00 and I told him the story, and he's going to go in Monday morning at 7:30. But at that point, my paperwork will probably all have been sent to Nikosia anyway.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

November 12, 2009: The latest in the immigration saga

I'm just remembering that I never finished the passport saga, so I suppose I should finish that first. We borrowed a friend's car so Jörn could take Lukas to gymnastics and I could go to Nikosia on a Thursday afternoon. I tried somewhere around a dozen times to telephone to confirm that that was really okay, but there was never any answer. Just before leaving town, though, I tried one more time and got an answer--the first lady told me yes, of course, no problem, but she'd just check if her colleague was in that day. Her colleague was in and said no, of course I couldn't renew my passport in the afternoon--only in the morning. So much for that afternoon, although I then did go get new passport photos--at a different place, one Euro less, and four photos instead of two, but with my typical "Yuck--I hate having my photo taken" face. Anyway, I went the following Monday morning leaving home at 6:30. I of course hit rush hour in Nikosia, so didn't get to the embassy until nearly 8:00, and it was about two hours until I was through, but there were no problems, and three days later I got an e-mail telling me my passport was ready to be picked up. The trip to pick it up was totally uneventful--I even left absolutely everything except my car keys and my old passport in the car, to make security easy. (But they had cubbies for purses and such--I'd had to leave the diaper bag there the first time, although when I then said out loud to Helen, "Okay, Helen, no pooping," they did let me take out one diaper and the wipes to take in with me...)

On to the immigraton saga...

First of all, Cyprus is part of the European Union. Jörn and the children are Europeans, and I'm not only married to a European, I have permanent German residency status. Therefore, it should be a very straightforward matter to register our family here in Cyprus. Within a week or two of arriving, Jörn went to the immigration office and got, in writing, a list of what we needed to have in order to register.

I don't remember now exactly what was on that list, although I do know that passport photos were required, and we had to go get photos of Helen taken, but had recent enough ones of everyone else. Jörn went along to the appointment a month or two later, with all the required paperwork, and by himself, as they had specifically said that the rest of us didn't need to come.

At this second meeting, they asked him why he had bothered with certain items, and why on earth he didn't have certain others. A new appointment was made for June, and would he please bring the whole family.

In June we all showed up for the appointment, and after waiting outside for a long time, they called Jörn in, but looked confused about why he had bothered to bring along his wife and five children, and asked us to wait outside. So we waited outside in the parking lot in the June heat of Cyprus while Jörn was inside the air-conditioned building. (There were trees, at least, but no seats.) They changed their mind about certain requirements and asked us to return in July.

In July we all went again, and this time, although most of the meeting was with Jörn alone while we again waited in the parking lot (but this time I had brought water and snacks, at least), they did call us in at the end to check each face against the passports. Jörn and the children were all granted "yellow slips" (not quite residence permits, but the idea is basically the same--legal permission to be here), but the evil American was told that her paperwork had to be sent to Nikosia. They said that it could take up to five months, which would be the end of December, and that if it did indeed take that long, they could no longer give me a yellow slip, as my passport was due to expire June 11th, 2010, and had to be valid for at least six months past date of issue of the yellow slip--in other words, if they took until after December 11th to approve me, then I would no longer be approved. That was one reason I had to get a new passport. (I needed a new one anyway because it was questionable as to whether, when we return to Cyprus next February, they would let me in with a passport only valid for another four months. Some people said three months is fine, but we've heard so much conflicting information for so many countries that it's better not to risk it.)

Then at some point, the immigration office here in Larnaka called and said that they had everything back from Nikosia, and that Larnaka was in trouble with Nikosia for having granted the children yellow slips, as they had "no proof of health insurance." Of course, now it was too late, as they HAD given the children yellow slips, however, ever since then, they've been holding MY yellow slip hostage until we provide sufficient proof of health insurance for the children. (The fact that we have USED this health insurance for four of the children, multiple times and twice at the emergency room, in the 10 months we have been here, is irrelevant.)

I have completely lost track of how many phone calls Jörn has made to Germany and to various offices in Larnaka, and he's visited four or five different offices here, as well, as he's been told at each one that a different one is responsible. We eventually obtained the required E106 form from our health insurance in Germany, which states that Jörn Lange, his wife Sheila Lange, and "all members of his household" are covered by complete health insurance. This form is of course in German, but it's a fill-in-the-blank form, with numbered blanks, and the idea is that these "E" forms ("E" for European--for members of the European Union) are universal. Here in Cyprus, they need only look at a blank form in Greek and see that if box so-and-so is checked on the German form, that means such-and-such. Germany cannot provide us with a form in Greek (or English or any other language)--only in German. That's the whole point of the E-forms. However, despite requiring it of us, nobody in Cyprus has the E106.

Soooo...the latest information we were given (after Jörn called, at my suggestion, the German consulate here in Cyprus) was that we should go to the Ministry of Health in Nikosia and get them to WRITE the children's name on our E106, put a nice official stamp on it, and everything will be fine.

Jörn took Jacob with him today to the worship seminar YWAM is running this week, and at a little past 9:00 I headed to Nikosia with the other four children. Just before 10:00, despite one missed turn, we arrived easily at the address given to us by the German embassy and marked clearly on the brand-new map we have of Nikosia as "The Ministry of Health." I'd enjoyed the slight detour, too, as we saw part of the amazing wall in the center of Nikosia, and I was thinking about how, if the meeting went quickly, we could go to the park at the wall, and maybe I'd phone up my friend Jane and ask if we could come hang out for awhile (she lives very close to there), or maybe I should just head back to Larnaka and get to immigration before they close at 11:30, or maybe we'd go to Ikea and I'd get another spice rack for my miniature books, or maybe we'd look for a decent-sized bookstore, or...well, there were many possibilities!

Pulling up to the building, though, I thought it looked rather deserted, except for the Pizza Hut take-away and the pharmacy on the ground floor, and I thought it was odd that there was no sign of any kind around what appeared to be the main entrance. And parking was very easy--plenty of space in the parking lot behind the building. Well, the very nice lady in the pharmacy told me that the Ministry of Health had moved two years ago, and that it was "verry, verry farr away." She thought it was behind the old general hospital, but she couldn't tell me how to get there, either, and it wasn't even on my map, although she could show me the general vicinity, but again emphasized that it was very far away. I pointed out that I had come from Larnaka and it wasn't as far as that, and I had to go there one way or another, and loaded the children back in the car.

The "other side of town" is starting to look quite familiar--that's where the German and U.S. embassies are--so I figured I'd head over there and probably see a sign for the "Old General Hospital", or at least be able to ask at a gas station or someplace. I didn't see any signs, and Helen was starting to get very upset about being in the car for so long. Traffic was much heavier, I was being distracted by Helen, and I got rather mixed up. I never did find where I was on the map, but by the sun eventually managed to get to the west side of the city and passed by the Presidential palace twice before I finally found a place to park and nurse Helen. I then went into an office supply store, where several of the staff as well as several of the customers were very friendly and helpful, and then finally one staff person who spoke excellent English even drew me a map--to the Old General Hospital, anyway, as she had no idea where the Ministry of Health might be.

I found the Old Hospital without any trouble, but missed the entrance the first time around, so got to drive around it twice, then into the parking lot, no place to park, back out and around the whole block again, and once more into the parking lot where I, probably not entirely legally, but safely, anyway, which is much more than can be said for most of the people parking in Cyprus. This time I left the children in the car and went to ask where the Ministry of Health is.

The lady at the front desk answered, "This is not the Ministry of Health. This is the Old General Hospital." I said "I know, but I was told that the Ministry of Health is very close." She told me to go out the back doors and then I would see the black building. Then I confused her by turning around and walking out the front door, but when I came back in a minute later with four children (and my purse and the bag full of paperwork...) she nodded.

We walked down the very long corridor in the obviously VERY old hospital, went out the creaky back doors, and found ourselves on the sidewalk, with no black building in sight. We walked for awhile, and then saw a modern building on the other side of the street that maybe could be considered black (it was all dark, reflective windows), but there was no sign in English on it. I carefully studied the Greek, but except for "Nikosia" (Lefkosia, actually, in Greek), several prepositions, and the address ("between the rivers", although more accurate would be "between the mostly dry sometimes trickles of water"), I didn't understand any of it. I should have at least found out what "Ministry of Health" is in Greek, but I hadn't.

Anyway, we did walk on a bit, but not seeing anything else that looked promising, we went back and went inside. There were several posters of health-related activities (brusthing teeth, washing hands, etc.) hanging up, so it looked promising. By the time it was my turn at the front desk, it was nearly 12:00. The lady there told me to see "Mrs. Marta, inside", and vaguely waved her hand behind her. There was a short hallway and three or four doors, all of them open, but none of them had the name "Marta" on them. I put my head inside one where there seemed to be a lot of activity and asked (in Greek, this time) where Mrs. Marta was, and the lady there waved vaguely and said (in Greek, at least!), "Inside." I went in the direction I thought maybe she had pointed, but that lady wasn't Mrs. Marta either--it turned out that she was at the back of the first office into which I had looked--inside.

Mrs. Marta didn't speak the most fluent English, but it was certainly hundreds of times better than my Greek, and I tried to explain the situation. All I wanted her to do was to write the children's names on the E106 and put a stamp on it. She told me she needed our alien registration numbers, and I explained that that was the problem: I do not have one yet, and I'm trying to get one, and that's why I need this form filled out! She kept explaining that I couldn't have a medical card until I had an alien registration, and to please go to immigration and get registered, then she could give me a medical card. I told her that I don't want a medical card, and that I can't register until I have this form. I even told her in Greek that my husband and children are German, but I am from the United States, and that's why I have a problem.

Mrs. Marta finally called Mrs. Emily upstairs (in Cyprus, people are generally all called "Mrs." or "Mr." and their first name), and then handed the phone to me so I could explain this to Mrs. Emily. Mrs. Emily spoke excellent English, but could not understand why I needed this. I sympathized--in fact, I've been told by other people that there is no law requiring anyone to even have health insurance, so nobody understands why the immigration office is requiring this of us. However, the immigration office is refusing to register me without this, so it's not like I have a lot of choice. I talked with Mrs. Marta again, and she called Mrs. Emily again, and then Mrs. Emily came downstairs to see my paperwork and talk with me personally.

By this time the children were getting rather ansty, and although I did quiet them, I apologized to Mrs. Marta and explained that they'd been in the car for nearly three hours and it was hard sitting for so long. (Actually, the car was only about 2 1/2 hours, but we'd also waited for awhile.) She raised her eyebrows and said, "From Larnaka?" and I explained that we'd first gone to where the Ministry of Health used to be, but a lady at the pharmacy there had told me that it had moved two years ago, and I had had a lot of trouble finding the new place. She said, "No, not two years ago--very recently!" I asked when, and she just said again, "Very recently, not two years!"

Mrs. Emily appeared to mostly understand, and said that they'd be happy to put the children on the form and issue a medical card for my husband and children, but that they couldn't issue one for me, because I didn't have an alien registration number. Nobody cared at all that we have European health cards which we can already use at any hospital and that I don't WANT a Cypriot medical card, but I finally said that was fine. She took the paperwork with her and asked me to wait.

In the meantime, Helen had a diaper that HAD to be dealt with, and immediately. We were given permission to use the "employees only" toilet, and off we went.

When we got back, Mrs. Marta happily handed me a medical card for Jörn and the children and the E106 with the children's names on it, but no stamp, and when I looked it over, I saw that MY name had been crossed off!!! I asked her why my name had been crossed off, and she said because I don't have an alien registration number, and therefore, cannot be issued a Cypriot medical card!!

I did not cry. I am very proud of myself. I explained again, very, very slowly, "This form was issued by my German health insurance to show that I have health insurance from Germany. I do not NEED a Cypriot medical card, I need to get the yellow slip! If they don't believe that I have health insurance, they will not register me. This form was from Germany. This form was proof that I have health insurance. I do have health insurance. You should not have crossed out my name."

Mrs. Marta called Mrs. Emily again, I talked with her for awhile. They apologized. In the meantime, my name is crossed out, in ink, which makes it look as though I do not have health insurance. I wrote down Mrs. Emily's name and phone number, and she said that the immigration office should telephone her if they have a problem. I guess I'll find out tomorrow morning if that works.

We finally got back to the car and left the parking lot at 1:10, four hours after leaving home. No park, no visiting Jane, no Ikea, and likely no lunch, either, if Lukas was to get to gymnastics by 2:30, especially as it was now the middle of the lunch rush hour. (Most Cypriots go home for lunch and many stores close for a couple of hours in the middle of the day.) At 1:40 I pulled up to a Zorpas bakery and bought too-soft bread (didn't get our favorite bread, because that would have needed slicing which would have taken longer) and expensive cheese, which Marie made into sandwiches and handed out as I kept driving. We made it to gymnastics with 10 minutes to spare, I let Lukas out, and we came home and I started typing this. At 3:30 I picked up Lukas again, and now it's 4:45 and Lukas and Katie are playing outside and Marie is doing math.

Tomorrow I'm going to the immigration office here in Larnaka, but at least I know where that is, unless they've moved since July...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

October 22, 2009: re-post from my other blog...

A couple of weeks ago a friend told me that she'd read a post at my other blog that she thought I'd accidentally put there instead of here, but I didn't get around to checking it until just now. She was right, so I've copied and posted it here. I'm not sure if it will go in the right order or not, as I'm certainly not going to try anything fancy, just claim the original date and time, which was October 22nd at 10:55 p.m.

Incidentally, I've since figured out just why I was SO tired, although I really should have been completely recovered from the flu by that time. Much to our happy surprise, we're expecting a baby next June! :-) (And the first trip to the doctor--two and a half hours, about three minutes of which were with the doctor--ought to be another post, but not today.)

October 22, 2009: This week so far

We have three computers (well, one isn't ours, but is more-or-less on permanent loan), all of which have different quirks. The main problem with this one is that it has a tendency to be near-dying--WHEN it's working, it's definitely the best of the three. It's the only one that lets me type easily, so I'm taking advantage of it working to try to update.
Passport: after the futile trip to Nikosia on Columbus Day, I chose the next sort-of available time, Thursday afternoon. We borrowed a friend's car so that Jörn could take Lukas to gymnastics, and at 2:00 I left in our car, with Katie and Helen, first taking a friend home. I'd tried quite a few times to call the embassy to confirm the hours, but the recording between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. kept telling me to call between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. However, just after dropping off my friend, I pulled over and tried one more time, as I still needed new photos, and if they couldn't tell me where to get them near the embassy, I preferred to try to get them in Larnaka. I actually talked to a HUMAN!! A very nice human, too, who said that of course I could come that afternoon to renew my passport, no problem--oh, but maybe she should just check if the lady who does that was in. She connected me to someone else, who informed me that under no circumstances could I renew my passport outside of the hours 7:30 to 11:00 (which is, actually, what the website said.)
So...I looked for another place to get passport photos taken (being embarrassed to go to the same place as the week before...) and found a parking space directly in front of a place that gave me FOUR photos (instead of two) for SEVEN Euros (instead of eight.) As expected, I look annoyed and wanting to get out of there in the photo. Oh well.
Monday this week I left at 6:30 a.m., with only Helen, and arrived at the embassy at 7:45, and parked only about a five-minutes' walk away. (A friend came to babysit the other four children as of 8:30, and another friend picked up Jörn at 8:40 for work.) I had to go through three separate security checks, and at the second one they told me I couldn't take anything except my papers, so I said (out loud) to Helen, "Okay Helen, no being hungry or pooping." They ended up letting me take the wipes and a diaper after all, which they put in a page protector along with my wallet, but not the crackers. It's a good thing Helen is very happy with mama-milk, because that's all I was allowed to take in. The rest was put in a cubby, no problem. (A friend of mine renewed her daughter's passport in Frankfurt, Germany, a couple of weeks ago, and had to walk several blocks to a kiosk that does businesss taking a lot of money to hold cell phones of people going to the U.S. consulate--no cubbies there!)
When I got home, I was falling asleep while talking with the friend who had been babysitting, and she talked me into taking a nap. I DO NOT NAP. But I agreed to go lie down. I started to drift off almost immediately, at which point Marie came to tell me she had found something, then Jacob came to ask a question, and then Katie brought me my cell phone, as Jörn was calling. And then I actually went to sleep and slept an hour and a half.
The afternoon was fairly calm, although the children were rather horrid about going to bed (Jörn has a regular meeting Monday evenings), and then when Jörn got home at 9:00 he brought along a couple of friends who needed to talk, who stayed until about 11:30.
Tuesday I went to Tots in the morning, which despite having something like 20 children, is considerably more restful than my own five at home. Katie and Helen mostly bee-bop around doing their own thing--I occasionally have to rescue some child's hair from Helen, and I did play peekaboo with Helen in the playhouse for awhile, and she fell off of her chair during snack time, but nothing dramatic. Then we took Sue home and visited with her for a bit, but it got exhausting chasing Helen and telling Katie to keep her feet off of the furniture, etc., so we were home in plenty of time for lunch. In the afternoon I let Marie stay home (Jörn was out) while I took Lukas to gymnastics, but I spent so much of the time trying to keep Helen and Katie off of the mats (Jacob helped by chasing Helen a few times while I was dealing with Katie) that I didn't get to watch Lukas much or listen to the Greek. Tuesday evening we had a prayer meeting here, but only until about 10:00. (Oh, and I translated and proofread some things for a friend, but it wasn't much.)
Wednesday I worked at the YWAM preschool--oh yeah, kind of a major thing that I haven't managed to mention here on the HOMESCHOOLBLOGGER blog, but as of last week, I'm working Wednesdays and Fridays in a preschool. (Those are the only two days that it happens...) I take Katie and Helen, and there are two other preschool children, as well as the 6-year-old daughter of the leader. I was VERY apprehensive about it all, but it's working out well, and it's so peaceful there. The three older children are at home with Jörn--Wednesdays his regular meeting happens here at home (the children have lists of independent and cooperative, non-parent-needed, work to do, and instructions to interrupt only if there's blood, which there was this Wednesday, but not too serious), and Friday is Jörn's morning off.
Wednesday afternoon we went to Sue's house to watch Swallows and Amazons--the children had actually started watching it Sunday evening on the "new laptop" (the one that we bought new just over a year ago, which has Vista, which we really, really can't stand), but about 15 minutes into it it started getting funny and then quit altogether, and our permanently-borrowed computer doesn't have a DVD player, and the "old laptop" (the one I'm using at the moment, bought used on E-bay 3 1/2 years ago and excellent in every way except for it's tendency to need repairs that would cost thousands of Euros if we didn't have friends who have done it for us for free twice in the last month...) wasn't working. Actually, by Wednesday it had been repaired again, but we'd already arranged to go to Sue's, and the children were REALLY excited about that. A much bigger screen and actual sound weren't too bad, either. :-) Shortly before we were going to leave there, we found out that the couple who was supposed to come to dinner at our house wasn't coming after all, so we invited Sue and Richard to dinner. After dinner we played Settlers of Catan with them AND with Marie and Jacob (who have been begging to play with Sue and Richard for ages), with Lukas, Katie, and Helen all trying to help. It was fun. I think. It was pretty loud, so kind of hard to tell. Then the children went to bed and we played a nice peaceful game.
Today...Jacob complained that he got woken up by my shouting (at Lukas, who had just dropped a rock about the size of Katie's head within about two centimeters OF Katie's head...), but I refused to apologize when I looked at the clock and saw that it was 10:00. Other than that, the day wasn't too hectic. I took Lukas to gymnastics--this time Jacob stayed home, and Marie and Katie watched, and I stayed in the car with Helen, who had just fallen asleep, and sorted photos on the laptop. Then a friend dropped off two of her children while taking another one of them to the doctor (and she had her baby with her, too), so another couple of peaceful hours, because of course the children all went off to play. After the doctor's appointment, they came back here for dinner, which was very nice, although a bit loud. But not as loud with nine children as it had been last night with only our five...I don't get it.
Tomorrow: preschool, Jacob and Lukas to Discoveries in the afternoon, Marie to Youth Group in the evening, YWAM dinner, and bed.
And I just realized that it's nearly 11:00 p.m. I'm looking forward to the time-change this weekend, as I'm not really enjoying the 7:00 a.m. getting-up on Wednesdays and Fridays...

Monday, October 12, 2009

October 12, 2009: The best-laid plans o' mice and men...

Our plan today was to go to the U.S. embassy in Nikosia to apply for a new passport for me (according to the website, only open from 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.), and then to Ikea for a growing list of "needed" items. One potential item was some sort of brainstormed idea for a hamster cage, cheaper (or at least bigger and nicer) than the only hamster cage at the pet store we visited last week, so on the way to Nikosia, we stopped at another pet store in case they had more acceptable hamster cages. We also had something to pick up at the post office, so not knowing if it might be something big, we thought it would be better to drive there than to walk.

However, this was what happened...

We started with the pet store that we'd gone to specifically because they were reputed to have the most hamster supplies--no hamster cages at all.

Then we went to the post office. As one street was blocked off, we turned into another and I jumped out and walked to the post office. It was only an envelope, but it had come open, so I had to sign for it. (It was the invitation to my host sister's wedding in Costa Rica, which is of course cool, but as we can't go, it made me sad...) Then when I walked back to where I thought the car wasn't there. I walked back to the post office and retraced my steps, totally confused, wondering how I was ever going to figure out where we were parked, since I had obviously gotten it wrong. I wondered around several blocks, and as I returned the third or fourth time to where I thought the car had been, Jörn came driving around the corner. That WAS where he had been, but he'd had to move, because someone parked (and left) their car just opposite ours, in the narrow one-way street, so nobody could get by. Because of all the one-way streets and several of them closed because of construction, it took him quite awhile to get back--he couldn't just drive around the block.

Already running rather late, we finally headed out of town, with Helen screaming. We sang all of her favorite songs and a few others, and I finally said that it didn't matter whether we made it to the embassy, but we HAD to stop. So we stopped, filled Helen up with mama-milk, and then kept going. I suppose there were speed-limit signs on the freeway, but I didn't get the impression that my husband paid any attention to them. For that matter, nobody else did, either--we were being passed more often than not.

We found easily enough the place labled on the map as "U.S. Embassy", arriving at 10:55 a.m. Rather than try to find someplace to park, I jumped out of the car while Jörn waited, to ask if this WAS the embassy (there was plenty of barbed wire and several soldiers on duty, but it seemed rather strange that there was a Cypriot flag and a Greek flag, but no U.S. flag...), and if I could still get in 5 minutes before closing time. Well, it wasn't--it was a Cypriot army base, and has been for a very long time. They could tell me that the U.S. embassy was somewhere completely different, but not how to get there.

So although now it was obviously too late, we thought we'd at least head for the other side of town, near the presidential palace and the German embassy, to see if we could find the U.S. embassy to be able to get there more easily another day. We actually found it very easily--it had a huge flag, flying high, which my husband spotted from the next street. (And my German-born children started singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" when they saw it, which despite my 19 years outside of the U.S. and my general lack of patriotism, I thought was pretty cool!) Again, my husband stopped the car and I jumped out to ask the lady on duty if there was any chance that the website was wrong and I could still get in, although it was 11:15. Well, the website was wrong: for U.S. citizens, the embassy is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., every day except for Cypriot and U.S. holidays. Today happens to be a U.S. holiday. I thought about it for a moment and said, "Oh...Columbus Day?" but the lady didn't know--she's from Romania and has lived in Cyprus for 20 years. This happens to be my 20th October outside of the U.S. (making it more than half of my Octobers, as this is my 39th October...), the 19th consecutive one, so I'm not too up on U.S. holidays.

Back in the car, and we went to Ikea. We did find some of the stuff on our list, and some that wasn't, but several things that were on our list were not to be found. That's fairly typical of a trip to Ikea, so I suppose not so bad. And I'll be going to Nikosia again at least twice in the relatively near future--once to apply for my passport and once to pick it up--so I can stop by Ikea again.

I did get something to use as a base for the hamster cages (Jacob and Lukas are both getting hamsters...), but still have to go to a hardware/DIY store for heavy wire mesh, and then figure out how to attach it, etc.

When we got home, I wanted to put the passport application and all of our passports away, and couldn't find the photos that I had taken last week. They were nowhere to be found--not in my bag, not in the car. I even looked through all of the pages of all six passports (Jörn had his own in his own bag--I only had the children's and mine) and the three books in my bag, and finally cleaned out the car. I had everything on my lap between the not-embassy and the actual embassy, and my suspicion is that when I picked up my passport, wallet, and passport application to jump out of the car the second time, I missed the photos, so they fell off my lap (and out of the car) as I got out, and are now on the ground across the street from the U.S. embassy. I HATE having my photo taken, and it was actually the best passport photo I'd ever gotten (depsite the huge pimple on my chin), because Jacob was with me and made me laugh right before the photo was taken. Now I'm feeling sulky (because of the cost and the fact of another photo at all) and have to go get more expensive stupid-sized photos taken, so it will be a much more typical photo that I'll be stuck with for the next 10 years. (The U.S. requires 5 cm by 5 cm--and then CUTS THEM DOWN TO THE EXACT SAME SIZE AS EUROPEAN PASSPORT PHOTOS!!!! So I always have to pay extra for the weird size and only get two photos instead of four. For a short time (I think Marie's second passport and Lukas's first, in the summer of 2002), they did accept European passport photos, but mostly I've had to get the U.S.-size ones--that's 11 passports just in the last 12 years, and two more are due for renewals next year.)

I was about to say that I'm finished with my whining for tonight, and then the computer erased that sentence for me, which reminded me that I'm on the "new laptop", which likes to erase things if I bump it just right, because the "old laptop", which I like much better when it is working, is not working again.

Now I'll stop, and go to bed early. Tomorrow has to be a better day.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October 1, 2009: Now I know why Lukas has a bed

Jacob hasn't liked sleeping in a bed since he was about four or five--he's mostly slept on the floor. For the last six months or so, Lukas has also been sleeping on the floor more often than not. Last week the boys cleaned their room completely, then put colored tape on the floor to define "Jacob's", "Lukas's", and "shared" areas of the room. In the process, Lukas gave me several blankets to put away, as he decided (at the end of September, after four months of Cypriot summer...) that it was really too warm for so many blankets.

Last night he asked me to give him some blankets, as the floor was too hard. I said, "Well, you COULD sleep on the mattress, you know!" His eyes lit up and he said, "That's a good idea! I can put the mattress on the floor under the bed, then when I throw toys on the bed, they won't bounce!!"

So now Lukas has his mattress on the floor under his bed. The same bed we brought to Cyprus because Lukas was so heartbroken at the thought of leaving it behind--it was the only children's bed we brought. He's slept in it maybe three times since we came. But at least he has a good place to keep toys without them bouncing.

What I haven't figured out yet is why we bought Jacob a bed when we got here. He didn't want one, and didn't want to lose that space in his room, but I thought he should have one. Maybe for the same reason my parents insisted on getting me a bed (a futon, actually) when I gave my bed to my little sister when she was big enough for a bed, since I preferred sleeping on the floor anyway and didn't want a bed taking space up in my room. Not that I know what that reason was, nor do I know why I preferred sleeping on the floor myself...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

September 27, 2009: Bike ride!!

When we moved to Cyprus in January this year, the only bicycle we brought was Lukas's. It's a very sturdy beginning bicycle that I bought used for Marie nearly eight years ago, and Marie, Jacob, and Lukas all learned to ride on it. (Well, actually Lukas learned to ride on a friend's bike, but perfected his technique with this one.) Marie's and Jacob's bicycles were both falling apart and I ran out of time to pack mine and left it with a friend, thinking maybe to bring it out to Cyprus some time in the future, Jörn doesn't ride a bike, and Katie and Helen don't, either. I also brought the bike trailer.

I bought the bike trailer when Marie was three months old and used it (in December, in Germany, no less!) quite a lot for about a month. Then we moved so that my husband's great-aunt could come to live with us. The combined facts of having the bicycle and trailer in a very hard-to-get-to place in the cellar, and not wanting to be gone for longer than necessary from the great-aunt, meant that I didn't use the trailer again until about three years later, with both Marie and Jacob, and used it all of once, I think. (Maybe twice?) Then we moved again and it was much easier to get the bike and trailer out, so I used it once to go to playgroup, was concerned about how horribly dizzy I got, then found out I was pregnant with Lukas. Oh, and the last seven and a half years in Germany, we lived at the top of a very long, very steep street. That meant that going anywhere was easy, coming home was a pain. So between weather, pregnancies, great public transportation, being out of the country, and laziness...well, I used the trailer maybe half a dozen times in all those years. But I still like the IDEA very much, and where we live in Cyprus is much flatter!

But a bike trailer without a bike isn't much use, so a month or two after arriving, we bought a (very) used bicycle for me, which turned out to need new tires (which I didn't get), and a bike for Jacob, which is great--especially as it was only 10 Euros. Then a couple of months ago we finally got bikes for Marie and for me. We rode them home, and parked them--it was WAY too hot for me to be willing to go bike-riding!

This afternoon, though, I realized that the weather is finally perfect, so pumped up the tires of the bike trailer, put Katie and Helen in it, and the boys and I went for a short, but glorious, bike ride along the salt lake. (Which, incidentally, had quite a lot of water in it for several days last week, and still has a little bit!) Helen looked confused and curious as I buckled her in, but within about five seconds of starting, she was humming to hear the funny sound that makes going over bumps. :-) She absolutely loved it. I had a hard time keeping up with the boys, but blamed it on the 35 or so kilos I was pulling, not on the mumble-mumble kilos on my saddle.

Yes, there are about four months of the year that it's too hot for ME to be willing to ride a bike (the boys were riding all summer long), but the public transportation here is between bad and non-existant, and we only have one car, and it's basically flat all around here, and it doesn't rain much, sooooo...I hope that today's bike ride doesn't stay the only one this year! For that matter, I would like to go for another, longer, ride with all the children tomorrow, and on Tuesday might even use the bikes "for real", rather than walking to playgroup. The traffic conditions are a bit scary, so I'm not sure about that yet. We'll have to see how the "practice" goes tomorrow, especially with Lukas. Nobody is supposed to ride on the sidewalk, not even children, but the worst stretch traffic-wise has a really wide sidewalk, and when we walked to playgroup last week there were hardly any people there, so I'm thinking we might just ride on the sidewalk and see what happens.

Friday, August 21, 2009

August 21, 2009: Our latest trip to the emergency room

It's great having friends we can call in the middle of the night, although it would be nice if we didn't need to call them...

To start with, we've just had a somewhat...challenging...three weeks with a visitor, so I started off the evening last night tired. I do know that I've gotten better and better at packing over the years, all the same, it puzzled me how it could take a single guy about 4 times longer to pack for himself than it takes me to pack for seven people. At the end, despite the fact that he'd taken dozens of stones from the beach here (not entirely sure that that's legal...) and bought hundreds of Euros' worth of clothes (much cheaper here than in Germany, apparently--I wouldn't know, as I don't shop either place...), he was surprised to find that his suitcase was seven kilograms overweight. At 1:15 this morning, as my husband (Jörn) was more than ready to leave for the airport, "G" started going on and on about how they'd be sure to look the other way, etc. and that he was just going to risk it. (On the way here he had six kilos too much and got away with it by saying, "Look, I'm visiting a family with five children who moved to Cyprus seven months ago--they need their chocolate and Haribo!" The lady apparently said, "I shouldn't do this, but..." and let him get away with it. He thinks he charmed her, I think she was tired of listening to him talk. I'm not feeling very charitable, I have to admit.)

But we asked what his plan of action was if they didn't (at 22 Euros per kilo too much, that would be an expensive seven kilos!!), and he was quite surprised to realize that Jörn, who was supposed to work at 7:00 a.m. today, only intended to drop him off at the airport and come back home--not hang around for an hour or so. So G decided to re-pack and leave things here for us to ship to him.

Then just before 1:30, as they (Jörn and G) were about to head out the door, half an hour later than intended, Lukas came into the living room and said sleepily, "Jacob fell out of bed." That was rather surprising, not only as Jacob is ten years old and has never fallen out of bed before , but also because he very rarely sleeps IN bed--he usually sleeps on the floor. I asked if he was crying or bleeding and Lukas said yes to both, so I headed to see what was up--Jörn, the less lazy and more compassionate parent of the two, had already gone to Jacob. I found Jacob sitting on the bathroom floor, Jörn cleaning blood from Jacob's face and trying to locate the source of the bleeding to stop it. Jacob had a gash on his cheek over an inch long. It wasn't until we got to the hospital that we realized that the blood caked all over his eyebrow was not from the same wound, but from a similar gash on his eyebrow.

The thought of G missing his flight just did not bear thinking of, and Jacob was dizzy and there was an awful lot of blood on his bedroom floor and leading to the bathroom, so we didn't want to wait for Jörn to take G to the airport and come back, and even though we temporarily (as of yesterday afternoon) have two cars, we also didn't want to leave sleeping children on their own. (I might have been tempted to if they'd all been asleep--I would have woken up Marie and told her what we were doing--but Lukas was still awake and had started crying again because G was leaving. Having no idea how long I'd be gone, it wouldn't have been a good idea anyway.) So Jörn took G to the aiport in the borrowed car and I called Richard.

Richard answered his phone extremely coherently for 1:30 a.m. and came over right away, and I put Helen (who had been awake since 12:30 and I hadn't even bothered trying to get back to sleep, as she was useful in helping keep me awake until G's departure) and Jacob into our car and drove to the hospital.

The emergency room looked crowded when we walked in, but I quickly realized that all the people there were with only one person, who was already being seen to, and we were taken straight into an examining room. When Jörn and I had taken Lukas to the emergency room in April (while, incidentally, Richard's wife, Sue, babysat the other children), they hadn't let me go with him because of Helen, so being there on my own this time I was prepared to fight to stay with him, but they didn't blink an eye at Helen this time. (Well, actually, they all blinked lots of eyes at Helen, flirting madly with her as she flirted back!!) They discussed back and forth about whether they should stitch or use Steri-Strips (I didn't get a whole lot of the conversation, as it was in Greek, but "Steri-Strips" in Greek is...roll of drums..."Steri-Strips") and finally settled on Steri-Strips.

Jacob was great, squeezing my hand tight and groaning a tiny bit, but holding his head perfectly still, as three people worked on him. We of course were asked how it happened, and I said that Jacob said he fell out of bed and must have landed on Legos or something--who knows, as he has a ten-year-old boy's bedroom. The doctor looked rather skeptical, which made me very uncomfortable, and he examined Jacob all over, also finding two bruises on his leg. Jacob said he was coming down the ladder (his bed is a "captain's bed"--higher than a regular bed, but not by a lot--the ladder only has two rungs) and slipped, and he didn't know what he'd hit. After they'd finished with the Steri-Strips and were filling out a form for getting an x-ray, Jörn arrived. Yes, I CAN manage an emergency run to the hospital on my own (have a bit too much experience as it is), but it's SO much easier with my husband there, too, and I was very glad to see him!

Jacob had the x-ray (he said they took three or four, all of his head), they checked the x-rays and said that he was fine, and we were told to keep him quiet and not to let the wounds get wet for four or five days. The doctor told Jacob no skateboarding or football, that this was a time to sit inside and play computer games, at which Jacob looked insulted and said, "I'll read." (That cracked me up, as he likes computer games at least as much as his mother does and plays even more, but I'm glad he also thought of reading!) Anyway, fun fun--keep him quiet and dry. We've gone to the beach nearly every day for the last three months, and on the evenings we don't go, Jacob plays loud and wild games of hide-and-seek and tag with the neighborhood children. I figure I'll at least catch up on the reading-aloud that I've meant to do but haven't, because Jacob is usually running around outside...

To finish the story, we got home and let Richard go home to his own bed, Jacob went to bed in our bed, and Helen and I went to bed in Katie's bed. (Katie and Marie have a bunk bed with a single bed on top and a double bed underneath. On any given night they might both be on the top, both be on the bottom, or one in each--last night Marie was in the top bunk and Katie was in the bottom.) I first removed a coloring book, several marking pens, three stones, and a spinning top, then there was plenty of room for us. Katie woke up and was very, very pleased to see us in her bed, but Helen was not at all pleased to have Katie's arm around her. Despite the fact that it was 3:00 a.m. I had a hard time falling asleep, not being able to read first, but eventually managed, and the next thing I knew it was 7:15. Jörn had set his alarm for 7:00, so he could call and say he's not going to work this morning and was already back asleep. And now it's time to leave to take the children to the last day of holiday club (VBS for U.S.ians), and Jacob wants to go too, so I'm going to be staying. My bet is that within half an hour, Jacob will decide it's too loud anyway and want to come home.

Monday, July 27, 2009

July 27, 2009: how to use English good

I've seen various forms of these rules, which totally crack me up. The scary part for me is how many people don't even get the joke! Anyway, here's one list, which I found while trying to figure out where the list originated. This was the best explanation, in my opinion, and below is a partial list. Enjoy!

  • Make sure each pronoun agrees with their antecedent.
  • Just between you and I, the case of pronoun is important.
  • Watch out for irregular verbs which have crope into English.
  • Verbs has to agree in number with their subjects.
  • Don't use no double negatives.
  • Being bad grammar, a writer should not use dangling modifiers.
  • Join clauses good like a conjunction should.
  • A writer must be not shift your point of view.
  • About sentence fragments.
  • Don't use run-on sentences you got to punctuate them.
  • In letters essays and reports use commas to separate items in series.
  • Don't use commas, which are not necessary.
  • Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
  • Its important to use apostrophes right in everybodys writing.
  • Don't abbrev.
  • Check to see if you any words out.
  • In the case of a report, check to see that jargonwise, it's A-OK.
  • As far as incomplete constructions, they are wrong.
  • About repetition, the repetition of a word might be real effective repetition - take, for instance the repetition of Abraham Lincoln.
  • In my opinion, I think that an author when he is writing should definitely not get into the habit of making use of too many unnecessary words that he does not really need in order to put his message across.
  • Use parallel construction not only to be concise but also clarify.
  • It behooves us all to avoid archaic expressions.
  • Mixed metaphors are a pain in the neck and ought to be weeded out.
  • Consult the dictionery to avoid mispelings.
  • To ignorantly split an infinitive is a practice to religiously avoid.
  • Last but not least, lay off cliches.

  • Thursday, July 9, 2009

    July 9, 2009: My beach history

    Okay, so I was born in Southern California, in a place called Oceanside, which is even actually right by the ocean, and we apparently went to the beach on a regular basis. But I don't remember it at all, and we moved north when I was 3 1/2 or 4. The first time I actually remember being to the beach was when I was 12--we went to Disneyland and camped near the beach, and I loved it. As I recall, it was all stones--no annoying sand. The next time I remember was when I was 18, went to Disneyland again (this time with my high school graduating class), and I hated it, but I don't think that had to do with the beach itself, even though it was sandy, but with the fact that I did NOT want to be on that trip and had a bad attitude about it the whole time. I'm sure I'd been to the beach other times during my childhood, but I honestly don't remember them. Mom? Sibs? Do any of you read my blog?

    When I was 18 I went to Mexico for a year, lived six hours from the coast, and went with the youth group to the beach over a weekend, which also happened to be my birthday. Except for getting sunburned after sitting in the back of a pickup truck for six hours, and the campfire where they all sang happy birthday to me and each and every person gave me a hug (I love Latin America!), I don't remember much from that time, either. Is it possible I didn't even go in the water?

    I've also been to the beach several times in Costa Rica: once with the group of exchange students when I was there the first time in 1988, once with my host brother and some of his friends (I think in 1993, but not sure), and once with most of the family two years ago. We did have a wonderful time, but the sand was all over the place and irritating. Having the outdoor shower in the house where we stayed was very helpful.

    During my 17 1/2 years in Germany we made several day-trips (three-hour drive each way) to the beach in the Netherlands, but the last time was five years ago, and I'd also been to the Baltic Sea a couple of times, the last time 11 years ago.

    I shouldn't forget that last year we lived in Muizenberg, South Africa, for four months, literally a five-minute walk from the beach...and I went to the beach a total of three times.

    Oh yes, and we spent a couple of days at the beach in Thailand three years ago. I didn't want to be there (at the beach, that is--I loved the eight weeks in Thailand that we spent with the PEOPLE), hating being surrounded by tourists and sand. I annoyed my family and my friends by singing Sandra Boynton's wonderful song, "Tropical Sand." Here's my favorite line from the first verse:

    You like the tropical sun and the tropical sea, But hey, mon, Alaska sounds good to me.

    Then the brilliant chorus:

    I got de sand in my toes and de sand in my nose,

    de sand in my ears and de sand in my clothes.

    I got de sand in my hair and de sand in my face.

    I think I got de sand most everyplace.

    And we now live in Cyprus, where the furthest distance from the beach isn't very far, and we live in Larnaca, right on the coast. Without children I could probably walk to the beach in 20 minutes, we can certainly drive there in less than five minutes (parking and getting into and out of the car take longer than the drive), but I DON'T LIKE SAND. People had been telling me since January that we'd be going to the beach regularly once it got hot, and I was skeptical. I love being in the water, but I don't like sand, and I don't like the sun much, either. When my brother visited at the end of March we did go to the beach for an hour, but it was cold (which was nice) and only three of the children even went into the water. Wind kept blowing sand in my face and I sang my favorite beach song again. In the middle of May a friend took us sailing, and the beach there was all stones, which I liked very much, but the children missed sand. the end of May, my husband had found the perfect beach for us, in Pervolia, about 15 minutes away. Once I've gone to all the hassle of getting everyone and all the stuff into the car, I really don't care if we drive 15 minutes instead of five, especially for this perfect beach. It has stones where our stuff all stays sand-free, and right at the water it has sand for the children to play in. It stays shallow for a very long way, so I'm not paranoid about the children, and the very best part: when we go around 4:30 or 5:00 in the afternoon, we have SHADE--even in the water! And there are hardly any people there, and most of the people we've seen are Cypriots, not tourists. I've even had a couple of good exchanges with non-English-speaking Cypriots, and they're very hard to find. So for the last five weeks or so we have been to the beach three or four times every week, and we've been loving it.

    Yesterday, however, we couldn't go to "our" beach, because we had a homeschool families get-together at the beach here in Larnaca, which is all sand. We did find a little bit of shade from the lifeguard station, but there was sand in everything and on everything, and there were people all over. I did enjoy the part where I was in the water, and I very much enjoyed having the time with the other parents, but I'm looking forward to going to Pervolia tonight. I'm going to have to get used to sand, though, too, as the homeschoolers want to meet at the beach every week, and our housegroup will be meeting at the beach every other week throughout the summer, starting tomorrow. And yesterday I promised my husband that I would NOT sing the best beach song that was ever written, so I didn't. And that's the point of this post--getting to sing the song! :-)

    You like to be playing in the sun when it's hot.

    I wish I could find me some shade where it's not.

    You tell me the islands are very, very pretty,

    but me, I find them...a little too gritty.

    Any sand-coping strategies out there?

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    June 15, 2009: Do you like homeschooling?

    First, a semantics disclaimer: the word "homeschooling" for me does not say anything about our "homeschooling style", just that our children don't attend traditional school, public or private! We're fairly relaxed, which translates to wildy disorganized in the eyes of the highly structured, yet far too structured in the eyes of the true "free-learners." I can live with that. :-) Anyway, as I was saying...

    Last week, with the whole family in the car, and for no particular reason, I asked my oldest daughter (Marie, 11 years and 9 months old) if she likes being homeschooled. She said, "Umm...yeah, I guess so." I asked why, and she said because she hates getting up early. (She went to public school for six months in third grade, nearly four years ago, and yes, she hated getting up every single school day of those six months.) I asked if she would want to go to school if she could start at, say, at 10:00, and she said maybe. Then I told her that it's really okay to say what she thinks, that I wasn't trying to get her to answer what she might think I would like to hear, but that I really wanted to know. So she went on to say that at school she really liked art class and misses that, and she enjoyed recess and playing with the other children, and the rest was okay except for P.E. We talked about it a little longer and she admitted she likes math at home better (that surprised me--at the time, she seemed quite happy with the ridiculously easy busywork, not bothered in the slightest by not being challenged), and she likes all the reading we do, and she likes having lots of time to read on her own. It came down to that if she could do "flexi-schooling", which I recently read about in a book called "Free-range Education", she would probably like that very much, but that if that's not an option, homeschooling is better than going to school, although kind of in a "lesser of two evils" type of way. Not very encouaraging, really, but a good chat.

    Then I turned to my 10-year-old son, Jacob, and asked him the same question. From him came the enthusiastic, "YES!! Of course!" I asked why, and he said, "Because I can get up when I want to and read what I want to and learn what I want to and however I want to and wherever I want to and I can think what I want to and say what I want to and nobody teases me and I can play with the friends I want to play with and do the things I want to do." I purposely didn't put any punctuation in there, because he definitely didn't use any while speaking! We talked a bit more, but there wasn't much more to say. From my point of view, he totally "gets" why we're homeschooling. (He attended first grade for six months, at the same time Marie was in third grade.)

    Just to finish off, I asked my nearly-seven-year-old son, Lukas, if he likes being homeschooled, and the little ham said, "Yes, because I get to spend more time with my mother." As a friend of mine wrote on her blog about her son a few weeks ago, he would probably make a great politician, but we have higher hopes for him. I did talk a bit more with Lukas, but as he's never been to school, he doesn't have anything to compare it to, and it boiled down to the fact that he's quite happy with his life.

    Then Katie (will be four next month) said, "Mommy, you didn't ask me!" so I said, "Okay, Katie, do you like being homeschooled?" She put on her silly little "I'm-pretending-to-be-shy-because-so-many-people-think-that's-cute" face and said, "Yes." I dutifully continued with, "Why do you like it?" and she said, "Because I get to do math!" When Lukas finished Earlybird 2B several months ago, Katie took over his book, constantly asking me to do it with her. I finally got her her own book, Earlybird 1A, a few weeks ago, which was a bit silly, because she finished half of the book in about three sittings. Whatever.

    Just to be silly, I then turned to Helen, nine months old, and said, "So, Helen, do you want to be homeschooled, too?" and Marie responded extremely emphatically, "Yes, definitely!" I was rather surprised, after her own rather wishy-washy response, and asked why she was so sure that Helen would like being homeschooled. Marie's response, "Because Helen has strong opinions." Very interesting. I asked then if one can't have strong opinions at school, and Marie got kind of quiet again and finally said, "Well, yes, but you can't do anything about them. You're sort of supposed to think the same things the other kids think, and like the same things and have the same things, and you're not really supposed to like math or like the teachers or anything like that." I asked her if she didn't have any strong opinions herself, and she said she does now, and wouldn't let people change them anyway, but that would be one reason she wouldn't want to go to school ALL the time, because it would be too exhausting keeping her own opinions.

    Insightful, I thought, and rather more encouraging than the first conversation with Marie! Overall, my children like homeschooling. :-)

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009

    April 29, 2009: Accidents etc.

    Just a quick list of what we've had since arriving in Cyprus January 14th this year:

    January 15th--I broke a filling, had it replaced. Now I know a dentist who speaks very little English.

    A week later--Jörn had a crown come off, had it glued back on. He went to a different dentist, who speaks very good English.

    Middle of March--Lukas cut his thumb with a pocketknife, we opted not to bother with stiches, but he'll have a nice scar.

    Later the same day--Jacob ran through a (closed) sliding glass door, one big cut on his knee, two more smaller ones on his leg, we opted not to bother with stiches, but he'll have a nice scar.

    End of March--Jacob had an ear infection, now we know an English-speaking GP.

    A week later--Katie had a fever and ear pain for two days, on Katie's second day of fever, Helen screamed for two hours, then had a fever in the night. Katie was fine, Helen had an ear infection, now we know an English-speaking pediatrician.

    Two weeks ago--someone kicked a soccer ball into the side of our car, denting the front fender so that the driver's door wouldn't open. A neighbor straightened it, we haven't done anything else about it.

    A week and a half ago--I let chapped lips get out of control and had a hugely swollen and infected lip that spread to lymph nodes, but it got better after about four days. The pharmacist is getting to know us quite well.

    Last week--Jacob dropped something in the bathroom sink and it (the sink/washbasin) broke. It was replaced yesterday. Now we know a nice English-speaking plumber.

    Last night--Katie was running down the hall and tripped and fell. She has a swollen gum, a loose tooth, and a fat lip.

    This afternoon--Lukas was climbing up the side of the veranda and he and the concrete slab on top of the brick planters that make up the walls of the veranda crashed to the concrete ground. Now we know where the hospital is and Lukas has had his first x-ray, but his ankle is thankfully only sprained, not broken. I'm supposed to keep a six-year-old boy still and with his foot up for five days.

    Cost so far: 10 Euro deductible (excess) for Jörn's dentist, 50 Euros for replacing the sliding door, and that only because we forgot to ask for a receipt, we were so shocked at it being done within two hours.

    German health insurance and liability insurance rock!

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    April 21, 2009: Katie's speckled frog and a cockroach

    Katie came to me very excited this morning, because she had found a toy frog and wants to take it to playgroup next week for a reverse-counting song we sing about frogs: "Five Little Speckled Frogs."

    Five little speckled frogs sat on a speckled log,

    Eating some most delicious grubs, yum yum!

    One jumped into the pool where it was nice and cool,

    So there were four green speckled frogs. Hum hum.

    So she played with the frog for awhile, singing some version or another of this song, but then decided the frog needed speckles, as it was only plain green. After a long family discussion about the frog's ownership, it was determined that it was Jacob's frog, but he never denies his little sister anything he can grant her, so he carefully speckled the frog with a permanent marker. Delighted, Katie continued to play and sing, and this was her latest version of the song, fitting the melody perfectly, with the text as near as I can remember it:

    One little speckled frog sat on a lilypad

    Eating some yummy yummy bugs, yum yum!

    It jumped into the pond to go-o swimming,

    And wa-as very, very dead. Oh no!

    Her explanation was that as it landed on its back (she'd of course tossed it up in the air to land in the "pond"), it was dead like the cockroach we found in the shower this morning. Which reminded us that we'd found a dead cockoach in the shower this morning and hadn't done anything about it, so went to look at it to think some more about it, and discovered that it WASN'T dead, after all!! It was on its back, but wiggling its legs. We put a yogurt pot over it while we decide what to do next. Yuck.

    Sunday, April 12, 2009

    April 12, 2009: Snail slalom

    I've been wanting to write a blog post with this title for a week! Several times since we moved into this house, I've managed to wake up and GET up before Katie did, and have gone for a walk down by the salt lake. Last week when I did that, there were snails EVERYWHERE. Not wanting to step on them (in all honesty, not so much because of caring about snails, but because of not wanting yucky squished snail on my sandals...), I spent most of the time watching carefully where I was walking, which involved a lot of back-and-forth, or slow motion swerving. Snail slalom. Almost all of the snails were crossing the path from south to north, except for in one short section where they were crossing north to south. Very weird.

    I went for another walk the day before yesterday and played snail slalom again, but there weren't quite as many, so I got to enjoy the scenery a bit more. I also discovered that we're pretty much right in the middle of the four-kilometer-long path--it took me 21 minutes to walk to one end of it, and 23 minutes to walk to the other end. Since it's about half a kilometer down to the path, that's a five-kilometer walk if I go to one end only and back home. Not very far, but a first step towards my goal of running a marathon before I'm 58. I take Helen with me in the sling, so I can't jog even if I could jog, which I can't.

    April 12, 2009: sunrise and Son-rise

    When I played snail slalom the day before yesterday, I didn't wear socks with my sandals and got blisters on both big toes and on one heel. I feel like such a wimp. I would have liked to go down to the salt lake this morning to watch the sunrise, but I pretended that the fact that my favorite sling is in the laundry was the reason I didn't, not my limping.

    So...this morning I actually set the alarm, for 4:55, and went up on the roof, instead. The sunrise is officially around 6:30 a.m., but it's light long before that, and the part I like best is watching it get light. I got Helen back to sleep and left her in bed with Papa and went up at 5:15, just in time. Because of the lights from the airport, the streetlamps, and the brightness of the moon, I'm not sure if there was any light from the sun or not yet--east didn't really look any different from any other direction. By 5:30, it was definitely dawning, and the streetlights went off at about 5:45. Despite the telephone lines and the buildings and the lack of mountains, I enjoyed it very much.

    Having celebrated the Son-Rise by myself on the roof, I came back downstairs at about 6:15, in a much better mood than I'd been in yesterday, ready to continue celebrating the Resurrection with my family. I made Easter bread, using Greek yogurt instead of Quark, guessing at the amount of baking powder because my recipe said "a packet of baking powder", adding a lot more flour than the recipe said to get the right consistancy, and leaving it in the oven for about twice as long as the recipe said, and it still turned out fine! While it was in the oven I put eggs on to boil and went outside to take down laundry and completely forgot about the eggs. 10 of the 12 were cracked, but I dyed all of them anyway, and set the table with a miniature chocolate egg on each plate. Everyone liked the bread and the eggs and the children were glad that we had a treat after all, after we'd cancelled the egg-dying yesterday due to the enormous gap between parental expectations and children's behavior.

    After breakfast the children even made butterflies and eggs with coffee filters, paper towels, and the left-over egg dye. I felt very domestic and organized. That does happen, once every couple of years or so, but it wears off quickly.

    At 10:00 we went to the worship service of a church we've sort of kind of decided that we might mostly go to semi-regularly, and then afterwards went to a multi-lingual house church for lunch and fellowship (and learning Greek!), and didn't get home until nearly 6:00 p.m. And now it's 8:00 and I'd actually like to be getting the children ready for bed, but we didn't eat lunch until nearly 3:00 and haven't even had dinner yet, and now a friend is here playing Ligretto with the children, so I'm at the computer. I'm not sure what we're doing next Sunday, which is when the Greek Orthodox celebrate Easter.

    Okay, the friend is going to continue playing Ligretto with the children, and Jörn (and Helen) and I are going to walk to the bakery ALL BY OURSELVES and buy bread! Yay!

    Sunday, March 8, 2009

    March 8, 2009--Quick update

    First of all, for Ute: schön, dass Du mich gefunden hast! Ich denke immer, ich sollte mal auf Deutsch schreiben, aber komme nie dazu…
    Second: this is going to be really short, because I’m supposed to be home in 21 minutes and am not finished with what I have to do here, yet
    So for the quick update: "here" is the wonderful guest flat (apartment to my compatriots) we had asked to stay in for two or three weeks and actually stayed in for SIX AND A HALF WEEKS! It was wonderful and we’re very grateful–thank you, thank you, Sue and Richard! And the reason I’m "here" at the moment is because we don’t have telephone/internet in our house yet, so I’m checking e-mail, etc. (Too much etc.–I’m sorry I’m so behind on answering e-mails, but I DO always answer eventually, you know I do, A and M!)
    And yes, our things arrived on Thursday (yay!) and nothing was broken (yay! again and a huge thank you to Neema and Judy, who packed most of the dishes!), but we didn’t actually move ourselves in until yesterday. I still haven’t figured out how to put photos on here (yes, you can tell me what to click, and it should be obvious, but when I’ve tried, it hasn’t worked), but I’ll get photos onto Facebook at least. Eventually. Don’t hold your breath.
    But we’re in our house and are very happy!

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009

    March 4, 2009: Progress and a octo-plus

    Language progress: I went to Greek-speaking playgroup again today, with a few more Greek-speakers this week! I was thrilled to pieces when I confused a new person because I said "Kalimera" (good morning) well enough that she thought I actually speak Greek, but then I had NO clue whatsoever what she next said to me. :-)

    Moving progress: our crates arrived in Limassol last Friday and we were able to sign the customs papers here in Larnaca, and today they finally called to say that they're actually going to deliver our stuff to us TOMORROW! They'll call tomorrow to say what time. It's good that we're flexible. :-)

    And a Katie-funny: as usual, she was in our bed far too early this morning, around 6:20, talking and singing and I-don't-know-what, as I was still trying to sleep. At 7:15 I got up and went to the bathroom. As I walked back into the bedroom, Katie was climbing out of bed and saying to my husband, "I'm going to Mommy." She had her back sort of to me, so I dashed around the bed and under the blanket on my husband's side--he saw me coming and held the blanket up, then pulled it over my head quickly. I don't know HOW Katie missed seeing me, but she did, and went out of the room. She came back, leaned on me (through the blanket) to talk to Papa, asking where Mommy is. I managed not to giggle out loud, but was shaking holding the laughter in. She said, "What's that?!" and pulled the blanket back and saw me. Then she said, "Oh, Mommy! There you are! I thought it was a octo-plus!"

    Maybe you had to be there, but Jörn, Lukas (who had joined the bed while I was out of the room), and I all just totally lost it, and since Helen loves it when people laugh, she also laughed hysterically. It was a nice start to the day, although I'm still not entirely sure if I ought to be insulted that my daughter thought I was "a octo-plus."