Sunday, August 31, 2008

Vaccinated Shmaccinated

We are a household vaccinated to the hilt. In addition to the usual childhood regime of MMR, Hib, Polio, DTap, Varicella, and PCV, we have also been vaccinated against Flu (annually), Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Hepatitis A and B, Rabies and should the situation call for it we can quickly get our hands on Malaria pills. I am not a fan of shots and certainly my boys don't like them either, but our lifestyle is such that exposure to things like Typhoid and Rabies is not that farfetched and so the pain must be endured. I have always taken comfort in the fact that these many, many, many shots are, in the long run, good for us. And, I have always taken it on faith that the clear liquids in the myriad vials injected into our arms, thighs and other places are exactly what the label says they are; that they have not been tainted or administered improperly; that they have been stored at the appropriate temperature; and, that the dosages are accurate and the potency sound. I realize this is a lot of faith to have in one's government, but generally speaking my government has proven worthy of my faith. We recently learned that the same cannot be said for all peoples of the world.

During our first week in Caracas, an employee at the US Embassy was diagnosed with the Mumps. When Kenny told me about it, we sort of laughed it off, feeling sorry for the employee and counting our blessings that we had 4 yellow shot records indicating our immunity (at least sort of anyway) against such a crazy disease. The next day we discovered that it wasn't just this employee that had Mumps. In fact, for the last few months there have been over 10,000 new cases of Mumps reported each month in Venezuela. In America, we would call this an epidemic. The Venezuelan government however, says, 'um no, this is not an epidemic and that those who suggest otherwise are being alarmist. As if that alone weren't enough, even more injurious is the fact that some speculate the culprit for this non-eidemic is the government themselves, suggesting that they knowingly distributed thousands of MMR vaccines that were in fact just MR - what a difference an "M" makes. Of course the government denies all culpability for cause or consequence. I'm sure the tens of thousands now suffering through swollen glands and facing the threat of infertility at the hands of this virus are comforted by their government officials' repeated denials and baffled looks. Maybe it isn't their fault after all, maybe it really was just a bad batch of vaccines? Either way, our next round of shots in on the horizon and I think we're going to have to dig a little deeper than usual to muster the necessary faith.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Comfort Food

We are teaching Caleb to sleep in a real bed (i.e. not a crib). This has been difficult because for the last three weeks before arriving in Caracas, he refused to sleep anywhere but practically on top of me. But, there was not a crib option for him in Caracas and so the time came for him and us to make our move.
the bed - thank you to Grandeur for the fun, perfect for Caleb, quilt

The first few nights were rough, and though he eventually did sleep in his own bed - he was not alone. And, for those of you who don't know or don't remember, sleeping in a twin bed with an, even whilst asleep, unstoppable two year-old is not exactly restful. The next night was better, after multiple stories and songs and various food items he eventually fell asleep alone and stayed that way all night. The next night better still with fewer stories and songs, no food and no tortured sleep for his by now exhausted parents. And then, 2 nights ago we lost all our momentum. The night started well - Caleb fell asleep almost immediately after just a few lullabies. We sat in our room and watched Bill Clinton and Joe Biden wow the Democratic Convention with their recycled rhetoric and familiar gesticulations, marveling at the fact that for the first time in months both our children were asleep in their own beds and not anywhere near us. Then, just as the balloons were falling and the confetti flying we heard a loud crash and an even louder wail - Caleb had fallen out of bed onto our very hard, uncarpeted, solid wood floors. I dashed to his room and found him lying prone in the middle of the floor staring up at the ceiling crying like his heart and possibly body were broken. I scooped him up and after several minutes got him to quiet down while Kenny dutifully pushed the twin beds in his room together. He was tired, that was clear. But, more than that, he was not interested in going back to his bed where he told me multiple times "Not this bed, I fall down, hurt." So I began to bribe him back offering him anything he wanted to coax him to return and give in to his fatigue. After shaking his head no to everything he finally looked at me as said, "I need chicken!" Not just any chicken, what he wanted was this:

pollo a la brasa, basically roasted chicken and a standard dish in Peru available in every grocery store, restaurant and home at a moment's notice. Of course I know he loves this chicken, we ate it often in Peru and no one more happily than Caleb. But, we've been in Venezula now for just a week and I don't know if they have pollo a la brasa and I start thinking that I can probably distract him from "needing" chicken tonight, but what about the next time his little heart is aching for something comforting. Sure, I long for peach pie, but I'm a grown-up, I can reason myself out of doing something desperate (read throwing a tantrum) if I don't get it. But, Caleb, he's 2 and not exactly a rational being. And, if they don't have this here, then what, I make it myself? Cooking whole chickens, roasted or otherwise, isn't something I'm very familiar with.

This is bad, very, very bad.

Suddenly a glimmer of hope. I remember Saturday afternoons plopped in front of the tv wishing there was something to watch. I think of my college all-nighters before cable was king and 24 hour news the norm. A vision pops into my head of this man -

you know who he is, you've seen him too, probably hundreds of times, disbelieving you are actually watching him hawk his latest invention, but secretly tempted to pick up the phone and "CALL NOW!"

And then a second image appears and I realize that for just 4 easy payments of $39.95 (plus shipping and handling) salvation the size of a toaster oven will be ours. I'll let you know how it works after we roast our first chicken.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


We have good news and bad news. The good news is our visas were finally approved yesterday afternoon - Huzzah! The bad news is, 'er, our visas were finally approved yesterday afternoon. Of course the only seats available were for today, so we are beginning our trek to Caracas in just 4 short hours. I am thrilled to be getting out of the hotel and into our own space, but the packing was a nightmare and I am dreading going through security with our many accouterments - oh well, we've survived that before and will again, I'm sure. Our only other concern at this point is that we are flying through Miami and as Tropical Storm/Hurricane Faye inches closer, our chances of being delayed in the less than lovely Miami airport increase. We're praying mightily that won't happen and that we'll arrive this evening as planned without any emergency landings along the way, water or otherwise. Adios for now, we'll be back in the blogging swing of things just as soon as we have identified a Venezuelan service provider and have our internet access up and running.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Things I Should Be Doing

2 months ago I posted my final post from Peru and what I figured would be our last post until the Summer was over - see, I knew we had tickets to fly to Caracas, Venezuela, on August 13th, and that until then our lives would be in a constant state of flux leaving little time for blogging - but, I didn't count on those plans being derailed to the degree that they have been. In fact, we are not yet in Caracas, we are in Washington, DC, waiting for the Venezuelan government to approve our visas. So far we have waited just 3 days, but we've been told there is no reason why the visas are delayed and that some very unlucky folks have waited months, that's right MONTHS!!, for theirs to come through. The waiting isn't terrible, it's just that mentally I was prepared to enjoy or US vacation only so long - that time has now passed and I fear that when we finally do leave the sense of loss will be harder to cope with. Right now, instead of waiting I should be:

Unpacking suitcases into Department of State provided furniture instead of living out of them.

Teaching Caleb the joys of sleeping in a big boy bed instead of having his feet in my stomach and head all night because he refuses the hotel crib.

Wandering around our new 3 bedroom 4.5 bathroom apartment with a terrace, great views of the city and full-size kitchen instead of trying to fit comfortably in a 2 bedroom hotel "suite" with miniature appliances.

Reviewing applicants for a live-in maid.

Getting to know the city of Caracas instead of the city of Falls Church, VA.

Standing in the grocery store wondering how we will ever cope for 2 years with food shortages instead of standing in the grocery store and drooling over all the food I know I'll miss.

Lamenting the fact that it takes an inexplicably long time to get internet access set up everywhere in the world.

Learning how to make my own baby food since I can't just run down to the corner store when we run out.

Saving money instead of spending it as I think, "I might need this some time in the next two years and what if no one is willing to ship it to an APO address, or it's too big and will be rejected due to size restrictions, or etc., etc., etc.,." I am getting very good at justifying ridiculous purchases.

Reviving my dormant Spanish instead of reveling in the joys of being able to say just exactly what I mean.

Anxiously waiting for the cable guy to show up so I don't have to miss one more second of Olympic coverage than is absolutely necessary.

Enrolling Caleb in preschool.

Meeting with our ecclesiastical leaders to find out what assignments they will have for us in our church congregation and wailing about the fact that my Spanish isn't good enough to perform at the expected level.

Recovering from a protracted flight from Washington, DC, to Caracas with a 2.5 year-old and a 6 month-old instead of dreading said impending flight.

Above all else, I should be blogging and commenting on other blogs instead of putting off our "this is where we've been this summer" post complete with oodles of pictures that I have been planning in my head for 2 months.

Today we are waiting, like yesterday and the day before that, for the phone to ring at 3:00 pm to tell us if our visas are ready so we can then re-book our flights (assuming there are seats), cancel our hotel and car rental reservations, pack our 8 pieces of checked luggage, say one last round of goodbyes to our dear DC friends and bustle off to our next foreign destination. If they haven't come through, we'll be here until at least Tuesday and beyond that, who knows? On the bright side, we are tourists in our favorite city and are spending time with friends we thought we wouldn't see this time around and are getting our fill of American food, drivers who obey traffic laws, Target, bookstores, Olympics, NPR, and a host of other things that make America feel like home.

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