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Blog Introduction

This blog is the story of how my husband and I faced the illness and death of two of our children. Each blog post is essentially a chapter in the story, so in order to truly understand it, you are going to benefit by starting at the beginning.
I hope you find our story touching, and in some way find comfort and hope through it as you face your own storms in life.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

House Hunting and the Start of Culture Shock

We arrived in Slovenia the Monday before Thanksgiving; a holiday grandly celebrated in the States, complete with traditional family gatherings and gorging on all the wonderful seasonal favorites.  Other countries don't typically honor America's national holidays and rightly so. But since our missionary friend is American, he and his family planned to celebrate it and we were invited to attend.  Turkey and salads, new friends and old gathered around their dining room table to give thanks for all of God's blessings.  It was good to be among familiar faces and to feel so welcomed. While it was nice to be out and around others we knew, it wasn't the same as being home.

The little apartment we were in was satisfactory, but we wouldn’t be able to stay long term.  It was utilized by the church every week for kids Sunday school, so each Sunday morning we had to be sure our things were all picked up and put into the one bedroom behind closed doors.  It wasn't a big deal, but it was something I didn't want to deal with every week.  It almost felt like we were the intruders in their house.  It wasn't long and we began to diligently search for a place of our own.

House hunting in other countries is not the same as house hunting here.  The first problem is language.  Not being able to speak or understand Slovene was a huge issue, and not just with regards to looking for a home.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to learn the language of the people you are living with. Most of the young people were well-versed in English, and we could usually find someone to interpret. In spite of that, I found the language barrier to be a huge hurdle.  I hated the dependency on others, as well as the bother I felt we were causing them.  It was interesting how quickly we became paranoid. It seemed obvious to me that all conversations had something to do with us, when in reality, a very small portion likely did.  Warranted or not, the inability to communicate, and the paranoia increased my frustration and stress load considerably.

There seemed to be no real concrete way to find an available home other than word of mouth, and as such, we were presented with two options.  One was a townhome in Vhrnika, a small town outside the capital.  It had enough shops and businesses nearby to make it a desirable place to live, and it was not a far distance from other places we would go.  The house had a large living area, but a tiny kitchen.  To the wannabe chef, the space was very confined and seemed unfit.  The bedrooms were upstairs.  I worried about neighbors sharing walls; Mike was a drummer at the time, and Rob played trumpet.  Not exactly the tools for making happy neighbors during practice times.  It was an adequate home, but it didn't feel right to me, so we continued looking.

The second home, and the one we settled on, was in Bevke.  It was in a smaller village with virtually no shops other than the corner bar. It was surrounded by farmland, and was a short drive through the country to get to our friends' home, and a closer distance to Ljubljana.  It reminded me of my roots growing up on the farm, but to a much smaller scale. The house was called a "twin house", or as we better know it here in the States, a duplex.  A family with two teenagers already lived in one half, and we hoped this might mean friends for Mike.

Our half of the twin house had a strange arrangement of rooms.  On the main floor, the first room you came to was a bedroom, and then to the back was a kitchen- an "American kitchen".  Cabinets galore, a nice cooktop stove, and windows for natural lighting.  I liked it.  It lacked an oven and stove hood, but those were things we would have to add. There was also a separate room for laundry; something not often found in European homes. The only other room on the main floor was a bathroom which held my personal respite- a very long, deep bathtub which I could literally float in.  Heaven.  The upstairs held a very large living area with sliders off to one end, a balcony adjacent.  The only other window in the whole room was a sky light placed in the angled ceiling.  You could look outside and see who was pulling into the driveway, as well as the surrounding landscape, but it wasn't my idea of a good window.  There were two additional bedrooms and a half bath upstairs.  The bedrooms were problematic in that like many European homes, they had slanted walls.  Our bedroom’s was the steepest.  In a room with about a 15x 10 foot floor signature, the flat part of the ceiling was about 15x5.  From there it angled sharply down to a point about three feet off the floor where it met the wall and went straight down.  Again, a skylight was the only window in the room, and with wood paneling on some of the walls, it was dreary.  It would not be a place I would choose to spend time in. The other bedroom was smaller, had less severe angling of the wall, came with a very convenient built-in wardrobe, but had a mirrored wall.  It was also paneled and dark, and had one skylight for a window.  I liked the living room and kitchen areas, but the whole layout of the house was frustrating when having company.  I couldn't seem to make it work for me.  People upstairs to be entertained, and the kitchen on another level, far removed.  I didn't love it, but it was our home.

We had our own place, and our roots were being put down.  Very soon I would find other, unexpected "roots" demanding to be "uprooted".  Culture shock would be the catalyst.

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