Last week John and I had the opportunity to visit some friends in the countryside and lead a marriage retreat. I was a bit nervous about this trip for a few reasons: I'd never traveled to the countryside of this country before. We are certainly not living in rural Iowa, with picture-pretty farms, fields of green, blue skies, and neatly kept farmyards. So I wasn't sure what to expect, but prepared myself for the worst: bugs, no a/c, sleeping on the floor, a "bathroom" outside, and perhaps the same vegetables stir-fried for every meal. I was also a little nervous because we were leaving our girls with our house helper, Lou, for the three days we'd be gone. I wasn't concerned about her, mostly just worried that the girls would be naughty and she'd be dead tired and at the end of her rope. But they love Lou so I wasn't worried about that part! Just look. . . But here's how things really went:
1. We stayed in a very clean, relatively comfortable place, home to one of the couples at the retreat. It was a three-story structure, John and I were given our own bedroom AND clean, indoor bathroom! I was so relieved when I saw the clean, western toilet with working flush and even a roll of toilet paper next to it! Silly to be so thankful over such a small thing, but still...!
2. The sleeping arrangements were great. Yes, the bed was hard as a board and about as wide as a glorified single bed, with a "crunchy" pillow made of seeds, but I slept great and was so thankful to have a room with John--the rest of the people had one big sleeping room for the men, one for the women, sleeping on pads on the floor. Honestly, that would have been fine too but it was nice to have a room to ourselves. I'm so glad we "stepped out" to do this retreat away from our home. There is something really bonding and special about living together for a few days.
3. Our hosts treated us with amazing hospitality. The wife cooked for ALL of us, EVERY meal, and it was all super fresh--corn on the cob from their garden, tomatoes they raised, boiled eggs for breakfast from their chickens, freshly made steamed bread and steamed stuffed bread, cucumbers from their plants, the list goes on. I ate way more than I planned to because they kept ladling more and more food into my bowl! We loved it, and loved them.
4. I was so surprised that every person attending took a shower every night. Knowing the country I live in, and the fact that sometimes people wear the same thing for a week, I had only brought the pants I was wearing and only one change of shirt. And, being unsure of the bathroom situation, I wasn't even planning to shower if I could get by with it. But they all showered every night! I came home and asked Lou about it and she said in the summer, with no a/c, you have to take frequent showers--in the countryside, they're used to sweating but then they shower at night so as to be clean for the next day.
5. I learned a lot of new words, that's what comes of speaking the local language the entire day every day! But I didn't write them down and now I fear they are lost forever . . . unless somehow I recognize them when someone else uses them and then I can remember and work them into my new vocabulary. Language learning, it never stops, I tell you!
So, all in all, we had a truly wonderful, blessed time. It was a joy to be there and to meet these precious people. Though we were up every morning about 5:30 and awake and talking or teaching late into the night, I never felt tired while we were there, PTL! It did hit me after we got home, but I'm recovering now. I'm really thankful for the opportunity and look forward to perhaps visiting this couple in their countryside home again.
And the girls? Well, Lou kept a careful record because she knew there were rewards on the way if the girls did well, and punishments if they didn't, and on the whole they did VERY well. She has learned a thing or two about child training from being around our family, and wasn't afraid to be the authority in our place while we were gone. There were a few very minor kerfuffles, but nothing major, and amazingly, Christin had absolutely no trouble with the potty while we were gone! In fact, I can't remember the last time she had an accident! She's been dry day and night for at least two weeks now. The other girls did fine too and so to their great delight received TEN POINTS for good behavior after we came home. (The points can be accumulated and used for various rewards.)
So we had a good week (left last Monday and came home Thursday morning) but I'm so glad to be home again. We did very little home schooling last week (obviously) but now I'm ready to jump back into it again tomorrow. Thanks to all who were "thinking" about this retreat for us. It went so well and we are thankful for the opportunity, and hopeful for the impact. We felt the Lord doing great things during our time, all glory to Him!