Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cooking Series

In my experience of living overseas I have realized that it's hard. I'm reminded of this again and again when I watch others who have newly arrived struggle with those same things that I did, and in some cases still do. There are some things that I've gotten used to, but other things I don't think I will ever get used to. There are some things that each day is step in my journey of life becoming "normal". One of these daily steps is cooking overseas. 

I'm not only talking about gathering all your ingredients from at least three different location or gathering your fresh produce from the local market or that you need to learn substitutes of foods/spices or how to make things from scratch... because all of these things are learned along the way. 

Now that I have more time on my hands I find myself looking up recipes online of copycat foods from home. For some reason I was stuck on the "ever delicious" Taco Bell. It's interesting because when we're home we make a "run for the border" because it's convenient not necessarily due to taste. But when you can't have something it becomes that much more delicious in your memories. Always satisfying, and never make you have to run to the toilet... 

So I decided that I was going to make a Taco Bell Crunch Wrap Supreme at my home in Papua, Indonesia. 
Here are the ingredients:
Flour Tortilla
Refried Beans
Taco Seasoned Ground Beef
Nacho Cheese Sauce
Crunchy Corn Tortilla
Sour Cream

Thankfully we had a few of these ingredients from care packages so didn't have to make everything from scratch, but if we make it in the future things would be made from scratch. 

Here are the things made from scratch:
Flour Tortillas (Our wonderful house helper makes these each week for us) 
Refried Beans (Pressure cooker to the rescue!!)
Sour Cream (1 Cup Heavy Cream mixed with 1 tablespoon White Vinegar, stir) 

Future items from scratch:
Nacho Cheese Sauce (Make a White Sauce and add cheese and spices)
*Corn Tortillas (I would have a hard time making this here, so I might request from some to be sent)

We also made Taco Bell Mexican Pizzas, which even with a great imagination left much to be desired. 

Heat your oven to 400 (or in our case as high as it would go) and let your corn tortillas crisp up for about 10 minutes. 

Cook your taco beef. 

Assemble your crunchwraps, and remember this is not Taco Bell so be okay with ugly crunchwraps! 

The taste of our homemade CrunchWrap was spot on! It didn't take that long to assemble after everything else was already made. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Horner's Syndrome

**The following post has some terrible post-exercise photos of me! You have been warned!**

I remember the day well. A group of ladies was playing indoor soccer in 2009 and a conversation like this happened: 

Friend: Are you okay?
Me: Yeah, why? I mean I'm tired from soccer.
Friend: You look like you're having a stroke!
Me: What?! 

My face had split right down the middle. Red on one side, white on the other. I went home and went to Dr. Google to see what this meant. My research (aka one search and a couple of web sites) said not to worry, that this was my normal and if I felt dizzy when I exercised to sit down. 

I accepted that this was my new normal. Those that played sports with me came to the point where they didn't even recognize it, or at least ignored it. 

Fast forward to 2015- 6 years later...

A new friend had recently returned with her sweet baby girl. Kate and I were bringing some baby stuff to them and we were visiting in her living room. By "new" friend I mean we hadn't really talked much and didn't really know one another. She said," I'm sorry, this might sound like a weird question, but are you pupils two different sizes?" I was totally caught off guard... I had no idea. Honestly who spends that much time looking at their own pupils to determine the size. 

The same friend a few weeks later came up after an outdoor soccer game to say hi to the players from both teams. I walked up to say hi to her and her little one and she saw my face. I just played it off because what was normal for me and those around me was new for her. It was a quick conversation, which continued the next time I saw her. She kindly pulled me aside and said she was concerned. Her background is in nursing and they were concerned that their baby girl had the same thing when she was born. She said you might have Horner's Syndrome ( this means there is something that is pressing on the sympathetic nerve running from your brain to the top of your lungs, which causes these involuntary symptom). So she knew the symptoms to look for- a droopy eyelid, different sized pupils, split colored face, and lack of sweat when exercising. She recommended I go to visit the doctor for expats. After that visit it was suggested we go to a great hospital in Jakarta for a MRI and various tests to determine the cause.  Horner's Syndrome is rare. 

After an MRI, which scanned my brain, neck and chest, an x-ray, a visit to an ear/nose/throat specialist, and a visit to the eye doctor it was determined that while they all agreed something was going on they were unable to determine the cause. Major concerns like cancer or stroke were ruled out. So I had a mix of emotions- thankful it was nothing serious, but disappointed there were not more clear results. Second opinions believe the issue is located along my neck, but is nothing to worry about right now. When we are around a lab with better capabilities she recommended I have a cancer panel completed. Our local expat doctor is confident there is no cancer, and it would have been recognized with all the tests. 

So here we are. We continue to live and serve in Papua, knowing that health is precious. Horner's Syndrome is not effecting my life. We just now have a word for all these things. Now these things make more sense, but on the other hand, we aren't sure of the cause. 

Thank you for those of you who prayed for me. It's weird knowing something is happening, but doctors and tests can't pinpoint it. I rest knowing that God knows my body in and out- He formed me and none of this is a shock to Him. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Masters Degree Journey

We returned to Papua in March after our "baby-lough" with a 4 month baby girl. We still had no idea what we were doing or how to raise a little one, but at least we were in *our* place and could fall into a better routine. 

In the past I had often explored options of completing a Master's Degree but it never seemed like the right time. There were some specific criteria that had to be met for me to even consider. It needed to be affordable and all online. Many courses are not affordable and students must appear on campus a couple times throughout the course. So at the various times I was looking, only a few courses were completely online but were expensive. 

One day I was looking around for options for online Master's degree and was directed to the University of Texas in Arlington's website. This was it- affordable, shorter than the average course, and 100% online. Perfect! I began the application process the week before we returned and was accepted to enroll in the upcoming courses. My first class was in May 2014. 

Each class was an intense 5 weeks with multiple assignments due each week. You had to be organized and stay on top of things, often looking ahead to get a jump start on future assignments. In between each class was a week break- a time for your brain to rest! The overarching project was not a thesis but an action research paper. The researcher is active in gathering data and answering a specific question. My topic was does gender attitude impact mathematical achievement. Basically I was exploring the stereotype "math is for males, and reading is for girls". So even though the massive paper was not due until the very last week of the entire course, I still spent a large amount of time gathering research and analyzing data during the course of the project. One optional part of the paper was a dedication page where you could say thanks. At that point anything that was optional was scrapped- I just wanted to get it done and be done with it! 

So I'll take my time here to dedicate my paper/project. It would have been written something like this: 

First and foremost I want to thank God for allowing me to complete this Master's degree in Curriculum and Development in Mathematics. Attempting to complete a 100% online tertiary degree while living in a third world country with an extremely unreliable internet connection seems insane after examining the past 18 months. I know that it was the Lord's grace that the internet connection held steady throughout the majority of the course. It was His perfect timing that the moment the entire province lost access to the internet, due to a shark biting the fiber optic cable,  was during my longest break from school and that it would be repaired to a trickle the day my next class started. It was His grace that gave me productivity each time I sat to write or research during a nap time. It was His provision that provided a person willing to hand-carry a last minute textbook needed to complete work for a course. It was also through His provision that all our financial needs were met during a time of extra spending while living on a conservative budget. 

I also am forever grateful to my wonderful husband, Josh. His sacrifice and love for me was evident with every measure of grace extended to me throughout the past 18 months. Josh was my strongest supporter who cheered me on when I felt like I could quit. He prayed for me when I complained and cried, which gave me the mental strength to press on. What a beautiful example of a servant's heart Josh has been to me during this time. Thank you, Josh, I love you! 

Many friends and colleagues came alongside me during this course. Thank you to the teachers who allowed me access to their classrooms to conduct lessons and gather research. Thank you to the students who answered honestly and gave genuine feedback which gave great research. None of this could have been easily or sanely done without the help of dear friends who gladly watched my daughter, so I could spend hours chipping away to complete the work. You willingness to show me love by babysitting means more to me than I could ever say. Thank you. 

That's what I would have said. 

I completed and submitted the final assignment at the end of October. It felt great to push submit and be done with it. I took a much needed break from the computer and spent more time doing other things. We celebrated by taking a family vacation to Bali, where my dad met us there and then returned to Papua with us for two weeks. It was a great time of refreshing, which was so needed! 

The graduation ceremony is happening on December 17, and while I won't be walking across the stage to accept my diploma, I will be opening up a precious can of Dr.Pepper and celebrating with my family! 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hi, we're the Harringtons

After a long hiatus, we're back! August was my last post... such a long time ago. Many things have happened over the course of these past few months. Before I "de-brief" about those things I feel like I should re-introduce myself to you, because I feel like we're those people who haven't seen each other in a while and maybe we've forgotten each other's names. So to slay the awkwardness before diving into life together again, let's get reacquainted before taking our future steps in our shared journeys.

First, and most importantly, we are followers of Jesus. My name is Amber. My husband, Josh, daughter, Kate, and I live in Papua, Indonesia. Indonesia is a group of islands that stretch across a space that's about 3 times the size of Texas. (Oh, I'm also from Texas and measure all things accordingly.) Papua is the farthest province to the east. We share an island with Papua New Guinea (after all these years I still can't spell PNG properly!!). The island is split down the middle- east side is PNG and the west side is Papua, Indonesia. We've been in Indonesia since 2008, where we began our journey after 1 year and 6 days of marriage in the big city of Jakarta. We started language school in Bandung for 9 months, and relocated to Papua in 2009. We aren't sure where "home" is. When we're here home may be America; when we're in America home may be in Papua; when we're on an airplane home may be wherever our destination is. Josh is from Washington state, and I'm from Texas. Kate was made in Indonesia, born in Texas, and was back in Papua at 4 months old. This is the only place (outside of visa trips and vacations) that she has [remembered] calling home. 

Josh serves as a mechanic and helps maintain regulations at a small non-profit organization (Yajasi) that has ties to Wycliffe in America. The primary focus is to provide safe air transportation for Christian workers to and from difficult/impossible to reach interior villages. These Christian workers are involved in a variety of projects at various stages. Some are just getting boots on the ground for the first time and learning the tribal language; some have started translating the Bible; some have learned the language but are involved in developing oral Bible stories that can be communicated and shared with others to ensure that God's Word is being talked about in gardens, on front porches- every where; church planting, discipleship, community development, literacy, education...some have completed the New Testament and are involved in translation of portions of the Old Testaments; and some are wrapping up their time here and are returning to their passport countries. Safely maintaining the airplanes takes many hands and involves much more than "just turning a wrench". 

I am a stay-at-home momma. My days are filled with coloring with broken crayons, having stickers stuck all over me and furniture, filling juice cups, sharing snacks, laundry, cooking from scratch, and serving my family. God is tuning my heart to show me how wonderful it really is that I can spend every day with Kate and how I can strive to make my home a place of peace that anyone can "feel" when they step in. **The height of this peace is at nap time, which if you come over during that time proceed with caution...** 

We enjoy life here. It's always summer here. The beach is an hour away in either direction. Tropical fruit is delicious. Rain on a metal rooftop makes the best sound for great sleeps. Now, there are very difficult and challenging things about life here- separated from family and friends, so we "miss out" on major life events; food is totally different- grocery stores, places to eat, things to eat, cooking; no parks; trash; mosquitoes that carry diseases; diarrhea; friends leaving, friends coming and then leaving again... I have to stop, because if I stop and consider ALL these things at one time, I find myself wondering what in the world am I doing here! Usually a few of these things is always happening- I just thought of two more- airplanes flying over our house ALL day, and unreliable power, which is a very polite way of explaining how I REALLY feel about that. Wow, sorry for the negative turn. 

I'm rambling now. Now that we've been reacquainted, we can pick up where we left off in our journey. I hope to write more often now that life has "slowed down" a bit. 

The Harringtons-that's who we are. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Selamat Jalan

There are few things in life I dread, but the month of May is one of them. The month of May sends my heart into a mix of emotion ranging from relief because the end of the school year is here to deep sadness because good friends are leaving, some for a short time others with no plans to return. The weeks leading up to graduation have me continually saying good-bye and trying to squeeze in just a few more minutes together. The week after graduation there's a large void in my heart. It's me grieving, I know. This happens every year. This year we said "See ya later" to the Ferderers.

I knew I would be friends with them the first time they ever said anything! We were at a teachers meeting for the beginning of the school year and the new teachers were introducing themselves. Ben said," My name is Ben. My wife's name is Michelle. We are the Ferderers, it rhymes with murderers." I never forgot their name, and instantly knew we would be friends. 

Ben and Michelle served as nurses and teachers. Michelle was the first person in the entire world that I emailed a picture of Kate's dirty diaper so she could tell me if it was normal. She has been a constant benchmark of what normal is in parenthood. Our girls loved to play together. Kate still will ask for E when we drive by your old apartment.

There are way too many memories to share here, so I'll share some photos that spark lovely times spent together. These pictures don't capture the companionship that encouraged us to just keep going. They don't capture the tears shared or the hard questions asked that provoked insightful conversations about ourselves, God, and each other. They don't capture all the meals shared together. They are only a glimpse of the journey we share together.

Rockin' the "Dad Plaid" and the babes are wearing neon

We miss you! We're looking forward to meeting up when we're stateside. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Teething Troubles

This post is real life. 

Teething is hard- on everyone! 

Melts downs by the second- both by baby and momma.

Sleep schedules disrupted. 

You do whatever it takes for silence. 

The few moments of silence will be interrupted by the phantom crying or screams that are ringing in your ear, maybe someday in a few years that will eventually disappear. 

**Before reading any further I'd just like to say that if you're past this point you may consider giving advice or judging these actions.  

You may also want to say something like: "Well at least she's not..." Please don't. 

Trust me, I have already done that to myself.

Then I remember and am encouraged by the fact that I did whatever it took for a few minutes of quiet. I bet if you think back you'll remember some of those moments when you did whatever it took for quiet.

  If you're in this stage right now do what you need to do to ensure sanity in your house and life! You have my permission and support to do whatever it takes!**

Kate's bed is big enough for a children's soccer team to fit in it. So I climbed in, just to calm her down. Immediately she pinned me to the bed and passed out.  I was trapped and had no idea how long I would be there before she woke up.
 It was super sweet to have my little one cuddling on me. She rarely snuggles. It reminded me of those sweet moments when she was tiny. 

And then this happened....

That didn't last long...

Then she pulled a fast one on me...

and left me snuggling with Ms. Cow instead of Kate. 

Every day is different. This emotional roller-coaster that she's experiencing is new to me.It's new to her too. So new she doesn't even know or understand the variety of emotions she's feeling- she's learning what all of them are for the first time!

 I need so much prayer for wisdom, patience, grace, and the ability to release myself from this unrealistic standard I have for this type of Momma I want to be or think I should be. I want to be free from how I think I should be/act as a mom. 

I just want to love Kate well. 
I just want to reflect Christ well to her. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Blind Taste Test

Blind taste tests are not something I would normally recommend when living in a foreign country, but when it's in your own house I'd say it might be okay. 

Josh likes coffee. Josh is creative. Josh has combined these two characteristics and has begun roasting his own coffee. The creative process has been adapted- it went from roasting them in the oven to heating them on the stove top in one type of pan to using a different pot to now using a heat gun. The heat gun, the latest and fastest way to roast your coffee, shuts of the power to our house so everything else needs to be turned off for the magic to happen without interruption. To me, the 2 cups a year person, it's a messy process; to the 2 cups a day/ love of my life person it brings a lot of joy to create something he enjoys. 

He received a special bag of Pikes Place Roast from Starbucks as a birthday present in the mail. He wanted to put his coffee against PPR. Challenge accepted. He brewed the coffee the same way, poured them in identical cups (the cup with the black tape on the bottom was his roast), had a blindfold, and I had the video camera. 

The result: He knew right away which cup was which. He still said his roast was pretty good. I'm not sure if he ever said which was "better". There was no clear winner- if you mean spitting out the loser. 

Would your favorite coffee stand a challenge to Josh's Papuan Roast?? Bring it on. 
Images by Freepik