Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Just Three Days To Go!

It’s just after midnight and I’m looking northwards over the lights of Kitchener from the window of our 17th floor apartment, listening to the autumn wind howling around the corner of the building and wrapping up some work on the computer. Josh & Melissa’s wedding is just a few days away and coming up fast!

The past couple of days have been somewhat hectic. A number of things have kept me busy: correspondence with family, friends, people from the administrative team in Burkina, and the folks responsible for scheduling our upcoming new director orientation program in the States; an update for family, friends, and others who support us in our work; a PowerPoint of pictures of Josh & Melissa for the wedding and reception; other things here and there associated with wedding preparations. Kathy’s been working on seating arrangements for the reception with Melissa’s mom, and getting things prepared for the rehearsal dinner for about 30 people that will be hosted here in our apartment on Friday night.

Josh’s best man, David, arrived from Kansas this evening and is staying at his place. They’re old friends from Burkina. Josh is going to have a full house once three other friends, the Goulbourne boys, show up as groomsmen for the rehearsal on Friday and then stay overnight for the wedding the next day. Good thing Kathy & I are not staying there during this time. We old fogeys would just cramp their style. Besides, they’ll probably be up all night talking and Kathy & I need our beauty sleep. Don’t want to be ugly for the wedding!

Speaking of beauty, I’ve got to go and get a haircut later on today. Yeah, I know there’s only so much they can do, but I’ve got to at least make the effort to look good! Hopefully the tux will do the rest :) Kathy has a hair appointment on Saturday morning.

On Thursday, I’m going to see my Dad to help him celebrate a milestone birthday, his 75th. He won’t be able to come to the wedding because he’s still recovering from an injury and surgery. But I’ll bring my Mom back with me and drop her off at my brother’s place in Mississauga, where she’ll stay until Saturday when my brother will bring her to the wedding with him.

Most of Friday will be spent getting ready for the rehearsal dinner and the arrival of various guests. Our good friends, Pastor Audley & Yvonne Goulbourne, will be staying with us overnight. Pastor Audley is performing the wedding on Saturday.

Yes, it’s a busy time, but an exciting time too, and we’re going to enjoy it all we can. At our age, when you get a chance to party, you better take it! Those dance moves won’t be getting any easier as time goes on!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Moving Right Along

Can you tell that we’ve got our hands pretty full with wedding preparations and other stuff right now? :) With all that going on, I’ve had to let a few things (like regular blog postings) slide for a while.

Last weekend, we drove up to Gravenhurst to join in the 125th anniversary celebrations at Calvary Baptist Church. This was the church we left from to prepare for overseas work and they have supported us right from the beginning. We stayed with some wonderful friends there that we first got to know when they visited with us for a few days in Burkina. While in Gravenhurst, we were also able to spend some time visiting and talking with some other long-time friends, as well as with someone interested in going to serve in Burkina on a short-term basis doing construction work.

A special singing group was the highlight at Calvary’s anniversary service. At one point, they gave out CDs of their music to a few special people. The first was to someone who was celebrating a birthday that day. It turned out to be the pastor! The second was to someone celebrating a wedding anniversary. That CD went to a couple celebrating their 64th ! Wow! And the last CD went to the people who had travelled the farthest to attend the church’s anniversary celebration. Ha! That turned out to be Kathy & I.

Preparations for Josh & Melissa’s wedding are coming right along. Kathy & I finally have our outfits. Mine was simple: go into a suit store and get fitted for a tuxedo. Kathy’s was more complicated but after a couple of weeks of driving around searching and trying stuff on, she finally got all the necessary pieces :)

I’m also working on preparations for the orientation I’ll be doing in the States after the wedding. It’s turning out to be a lot more work than I’d anticipated! Had I known that, I’d have left a little more time after the wedding to get ready! As it is, I might just have to wing it now and then. But that’s half the fun, isn’t it?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Detours on the Highway of Life

Yesterday we had an appointment with friends and colleagues in Toronto, so off we went, winding our way through some back roads to avoid Highway 401, notorious for its traffic jams into the city on weekday mornings. It turned out to be a wise decision because when we passed over the highway later on, traffic was stacked and packed solid and unmoving for as far as the eye could see in both directions!

Part way to Toronto, we received a call on our cell phone. The appointment had to be changed to another day because something had come up for our friends. So now what? Well, we’d planned to go to do some shopping in Burlington later on in the day anyway. Got a wedding to get ready for, you know! So we just changed direction and headed there.

At the mall in Burlington, I noticed a cell phone sitting on the back of a toilet in the men’s washroom. I picked it up, wondering whose it was and how I was going to get it back to him (I assumed it’s a “him” because it was in the men’s washroom :) That’s one of the problems with cell phones. People don’t usually put their names on them or in them. I guess I could have taken it to mall security or the mall administration office, but what if the person who lost it couldn’t remember where he’d lost it and didn’t come back to the mall to ask for it?

I began flipping through the contact list in hopes of finding something I could use. At first, there was nothing. I had no idea who the people in the list were. But then I saw something, two entries together: First “Cathie” and then “Cathie’s parents”. Well that looked hopeful. Maybe Cathie was his wife or girlfriend...

I called “Cathie” and a woman answered the phone. I didn’t know quite how to begin the conversation! What do you say in such a situation? Finally I just said, “Hi. I found this phone in a washroom in a mall in Burlington. Do you know who this number belongs to?” The lady replied, “Yes! It’s my boyfriend’s phone! He’s on his way to Toronto today.” We went on to discuss how we could get him his phone back. She obviously couldn’t get hold of him because I had his phone. And she didn’t have a car to come to the mall to get it.

Finally I asked where she was. It turns out that she worked in an office building in downtown Hamilton, about a 20-minute drive away. So I said that after we finished our business in the mall, we’d come to her workplace and drop the phone off.

An hour or so later, we were coming up to the address, so I called Cathie again. “I’ll meet you downstairs,” she said. There was no parking allowed on the street at that point, so we pulled up behind a bus and waited. “Okay, I’m here,” said Cathie a few seconds later. “I have long blond hair and a black top. Where are you?” We told her that we were in a blue Toyota Matrix behind the bus. Soon, a young blond lady talking on a cell phone came into view. “I see you!” she said excitedly, and came running over. We handed her the cell phone. “Thanks a lot!” she replied. “You’ve restored my faith in human nature!”

Well, that was enough good deeds for one day. Don’t want to overdo it, right? Besides, it was lunchtime.

Monday, September 7, 2009

So Where Will We Stay?

Where to stay when we come back to Canada? Suitable and affordable accommodation back home is going to become a significant issue for us in the years ahead. By “suitable”, I mean a place with all the necessities where we can unpack our suitcases and feel at home for anywhere from 1-6 months. If it’s just a few weeks here or there, we can easily stay with family or friends, several of which have offered us a place to hang our hats. We thank God for them! But for longer periods of time, we really need our own space.

But it’s not easy to find such a place. Nearly all rental units require a minimum one-year lease to begin with. We need something significantly shorter, but with all the amenities and basic furnishings so that we don’t have to go and haul our household stuff out of the various places we’ve got it stored and unpack it, only to pack it up and haul it back again a relatively short time later. We’re getting too old for that! In fact, unless you really love moving all the time, I think moving all the time gets old real fast no matter what age you are!

This wasn’t an issue in earlier years of our overseas experience because family life with younger children was fairly stable, our parents were in relatively good health, and airfare for four people to travel back and forth across the ocean even once every couple of years was rather prohibitive. We just stayed in Africa for anywhere from 2-4 years at a time and then came home for at least a year before going back. For that length of time, it was no problem to find a suitable place to rent and to go to the trouble of moving our stuff in.

But now our situation has changed. Events and activities involving our grown-up children and elderly parents necessitate more frequent trips home. And flying back and forth has become more affordable, not just because of better prices for airfare, but also because we now only have to pay for two people to fly. However, we can’t stay for as long as we used to. And therein lies the problem.

An option we’ve considered and dismissed for the time being is home ownership. There are several reasons for this: 1) A house costs more money than we have, 2) it would tie us to one place every time we came home, and 3) the current rental climate is a landlord’s nightmare. In order to make mortgage payments, we’d have to rent the place out during our absences. Not only is it hard to find good tenants (and bad ones are nearly impossible to evict), but we’d have to engage someone to manage the place for us, at least in terms of maintenance and repairs. And if we’re only coming home for a month or two, it’s still not worth the effort of moving our stuff in and out again, never mind having to ask one tenant to leave, and then finding another one only a short time later.

So what’s the solution? Well, we’ve found a temporary one for now: corporate apartments. These are fully furnished apartments or condos that can be rented for as little as a week at a time. True, they’re not cheap, being more expensive than a regular apartment. But they’re cheaper and bigger than a hotel room, and include all the utilities and services, like electricity, water, telephone, cable, and Internet, that you’d normally have to go through the hassle of signing up for when you move in, and then terminating when you leave. You just bring your suitcases in when you’re ready, and leave when you’re done. And unlike most apartments, you just pay by credit card. Convenient or what!

But as I said, this is a temporary solution for this time at home. In the future, I’d like to see something similar, but for less money. At the moment, corporate apartments cater primarily to business clients, people who are moved around by a company or corporation for work-related reasons. But in our increasingly global village, there are going to be more and more people like Kathy and I, private individuals who need to spend a few months here and a few months there, but who don’t have the financial resources of a for-profit organization or business behind them. It’ll be interesting to see what possibilities develop in the next few years...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

We're Back... And We Missed It

We’re back! It wasn’t easy to be a whole week without Internet access. Especially since I had 50 e-mail messages to work my way through when we returned! But after the rather rough and turbulent year we’ve been through, the down time did us good.

While we were away, it seems like we missed the event of the year in Ouagadougou! The city and its environs were on the receiving end of a freak torrential downpour that dumped 15 inches of rain on the city in a matter of hours. This never happens here! It’s the heaviest rainfall in 90 years! Saw some incredible photos that a colleague, Chris Ladish, posted of the event. Wow! More pictures by Chris below.

The downside is that tons of people lost their homes. What do you expect when most homes are made of mud bricks?! And why do people build their homes of mud bricks? Because that’s all they can afford. So the people that can least afford it are the ones who have to start over. Sounds like the government is working to help provide temporary shelter in public schools and other facilities.

I don’t have all the details yet, but it seems like our personal guards’ places are okay. One just lost the wall that runs around his courtyard. On the other hand, most of the employees that work on our Centre have lost their homes. Our organization in Burkina is apparently helping provide some emergency funding to help them out. What a disaster! Let’s hope there aren’t disease outbreaks now on top of everything else!