Sunday, August 19, 2007

Of Houses and Cars

With great delight, I (Eric) report that we now have both a car and a house! Once again, the Lord has been good to us. We had the privilege of using a loaner car for the first couple of weeks here on Guam while we busily looked for one of our own. For a variety of reasons, we focused on a Hyundai Santa Fe; a type of car we see buzzing all over the island. We looked, and looked. Someone then connected us to a guy on "Big Navy" (the main Navy base) who had a `03 Santa Fe. Turns out he wanted $1500 more than we had budgeted. Agreeing that it wouldn't work out, I went back to looking. That was a Tuesday. After trying more cars and under-bidding each one, only to be rejected, I got a call back from our Navy friend saying that by the time he traded in this car, bought a new one, and shipped it to his new post, it would cost him $7000. He offered it to me for my offering price which was $1500 less than the dealer offered him on trade-in!

On to the house. We looked and looked. We also made some interesting discoveries. While working with a real estate agent, we learned that the base amount given to the military for housing is $1720 a month. That could be why nothing was available in my $1300 range! That was also why the $1500 places were uninhabitable. We took a look at one $1500 place and nearly gagged upon entry. The dead cockroaches, the hot moldy smell, and the chunks of concrete fallen from the walls were more than Christian and I could take. Only one place seemed to be remotely possible. After noticing we were disappointed, our agent suggested we just drive through this decent neighborhood and see if there were any signs out that were not on her list. Can you tell where this story is going? We saw a very nice-looking house in a friendly neighborhood. Sure enough, the lock box was in place, so we got in to find a nice, clean home, that had indoor laundry (rare in Guam), a large enough kitchen, and room for a study! Our hearts sank as the agent made a call to find out the rent was $2500 a month, which shouldn't have surprised me. I then asked her to see if they would take $1700. She coughed, but asked anyway. I guess the listing agent also hiccuped, but said they may consider $1800.

To make a long story short, after lots of back and forth over details, I signed a lease for $1800 a month. Note, that's a $700 cut per month! We moved in last night. Much thanks to Dave and Joyce Owen for putting us up and putting up with us, but it was nice moving into our own digs, even though we still have precious few possessions. As you can see from the picture, the house features the traditional Guam "bunker look," but that means it will survive the typhoon they say we are due. We are so thankful to God for his wonderful provision, yet again.

That being said, $1800 is still about $800 per month more than budgeted. We had no idea what actual costs would be, so even when we're finding a deal over here, it's often still above budget. Your faithful giving to our ministry here is vital to its continuing.

School is just about to start, so we've been engaged in lots of meetings and preparations. Meanwhile, back in California, Karyn and the girls are readying themselves to load the shipping container, and then they will be free to come to Guam. Finalizing the shipping container is just a matter of details and pricing (another prayer request). Thanks so much for all of your support and continued prayers.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Growing Accustomed

  • Well, just as Christian is getting accustomed to wearing pants that are really too short (even after lengthening them as much as possible), Eric is also trying to adjust. First, lets talk about Christian. He admits to being a little overwhelmed by a new school where he doesn't know anyone and he sticks out like a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a vat of hot fudge (in the Guam heat, this image was appealing)! Being the only white kid in his junior class (and in the whole high school for that matter) makes life interesting. Standing a full foot higher than many of his classmates makes things very interesting. The little ones from the adjacent elementary school stare, point, and giggle like he's a circus attraction. By far the tallest in the school, people can't believe he's only a junior and are begging him to join the basketball team (not his favorite sport). He is a bit hesitant, however, for after playing a pick-up game at lunch, he claims he's never sweat like that in his life. After playing a brief couple of minutes at the end of the day, he walked to the car almost drenched and exhausted. He can't believe how hot he gets, and it doesn't help that his school requires long pants and full shoes.

    Eric is also trying to adjust. After dropping Christian off at school, Eric rushes home to hit the books (the second part of his doctoral disseration is due SOON) However, the little bit he has run around has made for interesting encounters. Here is a brief list of some of the things he's trying to grow used to:
  • Driving in the pouring rain with the a/c on (isn't it cold when it rains?)
  • Dodging meandering dogs in the road
  • Waiting, waiting, and waiting
  • "Local" grown bananas costing more than they do in the states
  • A yellow light means "speed up" and red means "proceed with caution"
  • Constantly being asked, "What base are you stationed on?"
  • People being so friendly it seems strange
  • Swimming laps in the warm ocean at 8am
Meanwhile, we are still waiting for a rental house we've made a low offer on, and are trying to be patient enough to find the right car (there is a limit to the choices). Nevertheless, we are thankful to Dave and Joyce Owen, president of PIBC, for their hospitality in letting us stay in their house and use their car. The real test comes when they arrive back on the island early next week!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Alpha Team Arrives!

Well, the long-awaited transition has happened for two of us, so "Haffa Adai," as the locals say! Christian and I arrived on the island of Guam August 2, after a long, grueling trip via Honolulu and Osaka, Japan. Contrary to the way it sounds, it was not a paradisial trip. Japan Airlines rejected our transfer in Hawaii and sent us back to United Airlines. After 4 hours in the airport (not the beach), we got on a Northwest flight to Japan. After finally locating our gate, we were told Christian had no ticket to Guam and that we'd have to buy one. It appears that someone back in paradise accidentally ripped out his ticket from Japan to Guam. Through broken English, I was told he couldn't go on. I thought Christian would do quite well in Japan, so I was about to leave when he talked me into trying to change things (not really). Finally, when I had just handed All Nippon Airways my credit card, they told me that Northwest confirmed his ticket via the phone! Close call.

We arrived here at 2am to humidity, clouds, and rain. I guess that makes sense because the Western Pacific just moved into its rainy season. Christian has been rather surprised by a few things: the island seems bigger than it is, there are acres of jungle, a large percentage of people living way below any of our standards (living in virtual shacks), there are loose "boonie" dogs roaming the streets everywhere, and people just dump their old rusted cars along the road. He's also been surprised by the scores of Japanese tourists on the west side of the island and the incredible water that "feels and looks like swimming in a tropical aquarium." We've spent about an hour each day snorkeling around different spots in between all the banking, shopping, and dissertation writing I have to finish. The picture above is of him at one of the many WW2 memorials - this one overlooking the navy base and the beach the Americans stormed in 1944.

Tomorrow we transition to looking for housing, which is my first prayer request. Because of the expenses of living here, good rentals are very expensive. We really need four bedrooms because my office will need to be at home, and there will be five of us. Secondly, tomorrow I try to secure a car. Fortunately, we've been able to borrow one from PIBC president Dave Owen, but they'll be back soon and needing their car. Of course, Karyn and the girls are still in California; please pray that all the business back home will get wrapped-up soon so that they will be able to join us. Alpha Team has arrived, but we are eagerly awaiting Beta Team! Finally, Christian settles into school on Wednesday morning - you know how to pray from there.

Thanks for all of your support. If you've made a pledge to support us, now would be a great time to start sending it in if you haven't already. God bless you all. The Alpha Team (Christian and Eric).