Batten Down the Hatches!

Okay…so we have a first.  At least for us.  Tracey was prepping for classes in the morning when we got the call.  “Just wanted to let you know there is no school tomorrow.  The government has issued mandatory school closures for the country.  It’s a Hurricane Day!”   Once the surprise and nervousness wore off, the novelty kicked in.  Seriously…a Hurricane day?  What do we need to do to prep?  Hope we have enough water and candles.  Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we could sit on the roof and watch the whole thing happen?  Just about woke the kids up to get their opinion.

Hurricane Irene is making it’s way up from Puerto Rico and should be around/over/on top of us somewhere by noon on Monday, August 22nd.  Chatted with a friend who has lived here for years and they said load up on necessities in the morning, but no need to stress. Probability for us in Santiago it means alot of wind, a good hard rain, and maybe 20 inches of the wet stuff.  What makes it funny is houses here don’t generally have glass on the windows.  We have screens, shutters, and even bars, but not glass.  We’ll have to let you know what all happens.

On the other side of things, Tracey and the kids kicked in to school this week.  5:30 am alarm for the teacher, and the rest of us follow at 6:am.  And here I thought 6 o’clock only came once a day…in the evening.  Below are some pics.

Santiago Christian School Campus








The Houck crew on their first day of classes









Tracey teaching Amber’s 2nd Grade PE class








On the ministry front for myself (Tim), we continue to pray for some specific answers.  I’ve been interviewing with YoungLife as well as connecting with the local Area Director and we are yet to make a decision.  I’m passionate about student ministry, and the opportunities here are so plentiful, I find it hard to describe them well.  As an example,  Santiago Christian School (SCS), has an enrollment of over 500 students Pre-K through Grade 12.  And although it is an openly Christian institution, a large portion of the student body do not come from a Christian home.  Families from all socio and economic ranges send their kids to SCS knowing the school is rated Number #1 or #2 in the country (depending on who you talk to).

It’s a re-learning of sorts.  Some families are connected all the way to the President of the country, while others are scraping by just to be there.  The Dominican is predominantly Catholic (the official religion of the state), but evangelicals are the minority.  I say ‘evangelical’ simply because the mormons, jehovah witnesses and others use the label ‘Christian’ and are accepted by society here as such.  To be in a Christian school setting with total freedom to share the truth of Jesus with the students is such a priviledge.

That is why my heart is already attaching to the teenagers at SCS.  Late fall I will begin coaching Varsity Boys Basketball, and I’ve already spoken at the middle school & high school chapels.  September 8-9 I will be speaking with over 100 high school students at a 2 day spiritual retreat in the mountains.  The doors are already opening to pour into the lives of these amazing teenagers.

Please fire up a prayer not only that the country fares well during our little Hurricane, but also that the hearts, minds and wills of the students are soft to the truth of Jesus Christ.

Essential Items Update:  Long matches….everything related to cooking is propane.

Things that make you go, huh?:  Our kids were playing with a couple of caterpillars on the sidewalk before school and our neighbour happened by.  The kids said ‘hola’ and showed him their furry little friends….to which he pulled out his machette, bent over, and chopped them in half!  He smiled warmly, returned his knife to its sheath, and headed home.  Apparently the little critters had infested a tree in his yard and he wanted to protect us from the same fate.  Now that’s a caring neighbourhood 🙂




Drinking from the Firehouse

At first glance I’m thinking you were expecting a pic of one of our kids drinking from a local firehose.  And while that is distinctly possible (maybe even probable), I’m sorry to disappoint 🙂  There are, however, equally strange, odd, and new stories to share with you though that have the feeling of drinking from a firehose.

I’ll start with our trip from Toronto to the DR.  We left our hotel in the city of T.O….where a punk rock festival had just wrapped up the day before, and much of the neighbourhood was celebrating Uraguay’s soccer victory in the America’s Cup….at the precious time of 3am.  Kids were awake and excited…until we arrived in Miami, Florida.   Our flight came in late so we grabbed deli sandwiches and hopped on our connecting flight to Santiago, Dominican Republic.  The kids snoozed & Tracey and I could sense the excitment/apprehension/lunch welling up inside.

Santiago airport is small & beautiful.  After collecting out bags we discovered Drew’s car seat was still somewhere in Miami and coming on the next flight.  That didn’t matter though.  The Dominican has no rules on car seats.  In fact the DR also has no speed limits, no maximum # of people in a vehicle (I’ve counted 9 in a 2-door), lanes are optional to use as are stop signs, traffic lights and turn signals (the latter helps me feel like I’m still in Winnipeg).  After a week here though, it all feels normal. 

Speaking of normal.  Our home is a huge blessing.  Most of the staff live in apartments but because we have a larger family we are renting a house…for the same price.  It’s spacious and even has a balcony upstairs big enough to hang laundry & rip-sticking (i.e. like skate-boarding but much less adult friendly).  We also have a washing machine (no dryers here), a propane kitchen stove, microwave & fridge/freezer.  Lighting our stove is a hoot…Tracey is a little less psyched than I am on that one.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be one of the newer immigrant families who moves into the neighbourhood and doesn’t speak the language, aren’t familiar with the local customs, and fumble their way through asking for the simple items when shopping?  Well, guess no more!!!!  That is us…mucho bigtime.  We stick out like the inner filling of an oreo cookie.  The only gringo’s on the street, everyone knows who we are and we have no clue who they are yet.  We’ve met some who have been very gracious.  I tried out my sketchy spanish on one neighbour only to discover I thought I told here I was going shopping at the ‘Colmado’ (conerstore)…but really told her I was going shopping in ‘Columbia’.  Probably explains her perplexed expression.

The adjusting is going so well, we’re surprised and thanking the Lord for it.  No TV means alot family time which we cherish.  We are all learning Spanish, preparing meals, doing chores, and shopping as a group.

Now for stories.  I’ll summarize for the sake of size. 

Drew – falling headfirst onto the concrete floor (everything is concrete – no carpets) out of bed late at night makes quite a loud ‘thud’.  He’s okay 🙂

Common animals running around:  gecko’s, chickens, cockroaches, stray dogs, humming birds…all in our little yard.

Trees in our yard:  Avocado, Naranja (orange) & beautiful flowers

How you cut your lawn:  On your knees with hand clippers.  (Sounds like fun…for the kids)

When driving, assume everybody & anybody with do everything and anything at all times

Horns – honking your horn is just letting others know your there

Crossing the street:  There are two kinds of pedestrians in the DR.  The quick & the dead.  So far we’re pretty quick and getting faster each day.

Roosters:  Start doing their thing at 5:30am daily….did I mention we’re having chicken for supper?

Bathroom:  Doesn’t matter how fancy the place, you can’t flush the paper (YUK!!)

ESSENTIAL ITEMS FOR THE DR:  Covered garbage cans for the bathroom, 30 pesos (90 cents) for a water cooler jug of fresh water, strong fly swatters for cockroaches, moths & children when necessary.

I hope you’re enjoying the updates.  Now that online accesibility is more frequent I’m hoping to catch up more regular.  We love and miss you all.

Dios La Bendiga