Thursday, January 31, 2008

Just Call Me Martha Stewart!

It is so hot here on Guam, that the bedding we brought from California would have caused heat exhaustion instead of a good nights rest! Since we could not afford to go out and buy all new bedding, we had to get creative! In the States, I had purchased this cool surfing fabric and attached it to a heavy comforter for Christian's bed covering. In this picture, our girls are using a seam ripper to take the light-weight cotton surfing fabric off the attached comforter. I then attached the surfing fabric to Christian's sheet and voila!--a tactful, inexpensive, bed-covering. Just call me Martha Stewart--but please don't report me for child labor infractions! : )

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Just in the Nick of Time!

I have had several requests to give an update on my book and class situation. I will only address the book situation in this blog and will save the class update for another blog. I'm kind of embarrassed to talk about an aspect of this because of an error on my part. It was my understanding that my class was to start on January 16. As a result, as the 16th was drawing nearer and I still didn't have my books, I started to freak out! Five days before my class was to begin, I resorted to having my parents purchase and overnight ship my primary text book to their house in California. My mom then handed the book off to my friend, Stephanie Soltero. Stephanie scanned each and every page and sent them to me via email so I'd be able to put together my syllabus, class schedule, and lectures. As the pages came in to me, I hurriedly read them staying up until 2:00 a.m. for several nights trying to get through the material. (I felt like a college student, not a professor!!). For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why Eric seemed so relaxed. He didn't have his books, and he hadn't finished his syllabi either - why wasn't he freaking out? Then, one precipitous day, I heard Eric tell someone that classes were to begin at PIBC on the 21st of January. I thought he had misspoken but he confirmed that my class didn't start for a week. On the one hand, I was greatly relieved - I now had a full week more to prepare and to hope for the delivery of the elusive textbooks. On the other hand, I was terribly embarrassed. I had already posted the blog soliciting prayers, and my family and friends had jumped through hoops trying to help me out. To make matters worse, poor Stephanie's computer had actually crashed in the process of sending me all the scanned pages! How would I tell Stephanie of my error? Well, I have decided the wimpy approach is the best approach in this case. ;~) I know she reads our blog, so I will let her read how horrible I feel and how embarrassed I am - sorry Steph!

The good news is that InterVarsity Publishers was willing to send another box of the same books via a different mail carrier so that I got the books in the nick of time. The original box of books I ordered from them has yet to arrive. I have been told by seasoned professors to expect them within the next six months. I also received the second box of textbooks I had ordered from Thomas Nelson Publishers on time. Just like the first box from them, this one was also delivered to the University of Guam - go figure!! Regardless of the nerve-racking timing, all books were accounted for by the commencement of class! Thank you so much for your prayers.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

TJ the Boonie Cat

A few posts ago, I shared how sad I was on Christmas Day because of missing our oldest son, Teyler (19 years old). Well, it hasn't just been me who misses Teyler. Not having Teyler with us has been the hardest adjustment for everyone in our family. It has been especially difficult on the girls who adore the ground Teyler walks on. Teyler has never been the typical brother; he has always been EXTREMELY involved in the girls' lives. The girls are eight and eleven years younger than he and he has ALWAYS been a nurturing and attentive big brother. Even now, he'll call using my parents' phone (they get free calling to Guam) and will talk with the girls for an hour (not exaggerating) listening to them tell him all about their Polly Pockets, the cute way they fixed their hair that day, the cute outfit they put together, etc. I'm nearly snoring with boredom as they describe these issues ad nausea! Yet, I can hear Teyler in the speaker phone, excitedly engaging with them, "Really?" Wow!" "That must be so cool!" He's an amazing boy (I guess I should say man) and such a blessing to our family. It's a significant loss for all of us to no longer have access to him.

Now, I'm going to digress into another story that, I promise, will eventually connect with what I ju
st relayed. There is a lady, Evelyn, at Pacific Islands Bible College, who told the story of her boss, who was feeding two boonie (wild) newborn kittens, and some boonie pups. Boonie cats and dogs are all over the island. It is common for the mothers to abandon the litters. (I'm not sure why this is. Maybe the mothers die or are forced to leave in search of food?) Eventually, the boss realized she was allergic to cats and she was getting very sick every time she fed them. Evelyn asked us if we would consider taking one of the kittens. Right away I thought what a great diversion loving this kitten would be from our sadness over being separated from Teyler. Unfortunately, I knew we couldn't afford getting the kitten its shots and getting it neutered, etc. Conversationally, I mentioned that if the boss was willing to pay for all vet expenses, we'd take the boonie kitten.

This is the part where it all ties together.
Our family is now the proud owner of a little orange tabby kitten. Of course, upon his arrival, the naming debate began. Name after name was brought to the bargaining table, when lo and behold, the master of the house suggested "Teyler Junior," and thus "TJ" was christened. Immediately, that poor, scrawny, malnourished boonie kitten was bathed, shampood, blow dried, combed, and bejeweled (with a cute collar with his name). For about a week, he was terrified of all people and any loud noises. Now, TJ is the adoring "child" of Katie and Noelle. Besides his first dousing, recently, the poor thing has joined the girls for both a bath and a shower. They are smitten with him and he with them. And so, although we don't have the real Teyler, we have the next best thing, Teyler, Jr., better know as TJ!
"Every good and perfect gift is from above." (James 1:17b)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hazards in the Road

Thought I'd take a picture of a spot in the road we travel over almost daily. Unfortunately, it's difficult to get a good perspective with a picture. The hole in the asphalt is about 1/3 the width of the road and could damage your tires if you tried to travel through it. There is not enough room to go around the outside of the hole without leaving the road. Unfortunately, what is not evident in the picture is that the gravel on the side of the road drops down so that if you swerve to avoid the hole, you'd tear out the bottom of your vehicle. Instead, you have to put the edge of your tire on the edge of the asphalt and then your other tire will be on some gravel that is more level with the road. Now, you have to add to this the fact that this picture was taken on a relatively dry day so that you could actually see the edges of the hole and the sides of the asphalt. With just a little rain, this whole area is flooded, so you just "hope" you get your tires in the right spot. Factor in another interesting tidbit of information. It gets dark year round in Guam at about 6:30 p.m. Many (probably most) of the roads in Guam have either no streetlights or very few streetlights. Furthermore, many (probably most) have no center lines or side lines marking the road, that makes figuring out which direction to steer your car quite the guessing game! Now, picture yourself driving down this road at night in the rain (extremely common) with little visibility and no markings to follow, and you might have a fairly good idea of what it's like to drive on Guam!

P.S. At the end of the road is St. Paul's Christian School where Christian attended the first half of his school year. We JUST transferred him to another school, which is another story!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Pitfalls of Guam

Hmmm..... Should I tell you the story of how last night I fell into a three-foot-deep hole walking to my car in one of the nicest neighborhoods on island? Or should I tell you the story of driving on roads so bad that two nights ago, when I lightly braked for a stop sign, my car just kept sliding and sliding into cross-traffic, causing the car heading toward me to have to swerve into the on-coming lane, barely avoiding a serious accident? Or, perhaps I should tell you about trying to get parcels from the States. Yes, I think I will focus on that since it is causing me quite a bit of stress at the moment.

I will be teaching a four unit counseling class at Pacific Islands Bible College
starting next week. I ordered two different textbooks for the class from two different publishers several weeks ago. I paid a bundle of extra money to have the books shipped by the fastest means possible. Towards the end of last week, I still had no textbooks. Then on Thursday I got a call from the University of Guam telling me they had a box with my phone number on it. Why the box ended up at UOG I have no idea. (Thank goodness Guamanians are so nice that the gentleman took the time to call to ask if the box was mine before sending it back to the publisher in the States). I rushed down and found a box with twelve (of the 26) needed textbooks. At least I, the professor, had ONE textbook I could read so as to partially prepare for my class. But, where were the other textbooks? Dave Owen, the president of PIBC, just received a box of books he'd ordered for a class he was teaching two years ago! How does one write a syllabus or prepare lectures without all the needed textbooks? What will happen if the needed textbooks don't arrive by the time class starts next week?

For those of you who have taught, I'm sure you understand the serious quandary this puts me in. How can I possibly be prepared to teach this class without having ever read or even seen my core textbook! In addition, I had really hoped to be able to thoroughly mull over the material to be able to come up with effective ways of communicating with the students. With English being their second language and with textbooks being written from an American cultural perspective, I knew I had my work cut out for me. Okay, here comes true confessions of a missionary: I'm a little scared of taking on this big-time teaching commitment. I have taught one unit intensive classes in grad school but I have never taught a semester-long class. My expertise is in doing counseling (over twenty years of it!)--not teaching it. Okay, I'll be really honest; the combination of not having the materials and this being my first long-term teaching assignment is pushing my anxiety buttons. Do you think you could pray for me? With all my heart, I want my teaching platform to be a vehicle by which students can begin to understand the deep love of Christ and His desire to bring wholeness and healing to broken and wounded people. This is the message I want to be integrated into all that I teach. The obstacles I face overwhelm me: no textbooks, English as a second language, a significantly different culture, and the first time teaching a long-term college class.

I take heart in what Scripture says, "The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b)." I covet your prayers.

This is Jayvina. I believe she will be one of the students in my counseling class. She is an extremely bright and sweet young woman. Please pray for her and the other students at the college, many of whom struggle with English as a second language and face trying circumstances within their clans on various islands throughout Micronesia.

Banana Donuts--Yum!

Here are the "cooking bananas" once they have ripened more. I put a dinner fork next to them to give you an idea of their size. They are shorter and wider than the bananas typically found in grocery stores in the States.

Not the best picture, but here are the banana donuts made from the "cooking bananas." They were delicious! That entire bunch of bananas shown above plus 1 cup of flour, 4 tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and voila! They reminded me of my Grandma's corn fritters but sweeter. Katie and Noelle liked them dipped in syrup.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Going Bananas

If you've talked with us, you know that one of the hardest adjustments has been not having access to quality fruits and vegetables. Yes, I think we were very spoiled having lived next to the Central Valley where there is the largest single concentration of fruit and nut farms and vineyards in the United States. Surprisingly, not much of anything is grown on Guam. (I was told it was because the locals got fed-up with having to start over again after every super-typhoon--don't know if this is the real reason.) Anyhow, pretty much everything is shipped to Guam; this means wilted lettuce (I'm talking sometimes wilted to the point that it would be in the dumpster in California), oranges that sometimes look nice on the outside but once opened are dry and juice-less, and often bruised and old tasting apples, etc. And, to add insult to injury, the cost of these items are often triple the cost in the States. So, the Sorenson clan was THRILLED when Lola, a native of Guam who attends our church (also the sister to Bill Sablan, my volleyball buddy in California) brought us some Manila bananas. Oh my goodness! These bananas (the 3" long ones on the right in the picture) tasted like strawberries!!! They were delicious! A few days later she brought us some "cooking bananas" also from her neighbor's tree (the larger bananas on the left). Lola told me to either cut them in half and put them in a pan of coconut milk and simmer until the coconut milk evaporates or to use them for banana donuts. I'll let you know how those turn out!

P.S. Thanks, Bill, for encouraging your sister to share the fresh bananas with us. You need to hurry up and visit so we can play volleyball with the locals!!!