Sunday, March 18, 2012

City Mouse . . . Santiago?

I haven't been posting much lately because really I only had one thing I wanted to say. And I wasn't allowed to at first, because Owen wisely felt that there were a number of people who really needed to hear it directly from us and not find out from a web page or something.

So I've now been told I can go public with our news, and while some of you may already have heard it . . . (drumroll) . . .

. . . we're moving to the Dominican Republic in July! (If, like me, you've heard of it but only know it's somewhere south of the United States, I can now tell you that it is in the Caribbean Islands and shares the island with Haiti.)

Owen took a job there as principal at Santiago Christian School. His former boss moved there a year ago and warned me in the summer that he was going to get our family there. I laughed and said, "Good luck!"

Clearly, I underestimated him.

Owen visited Santiago in February and fell in love, mostly with the idea of our family there and also with the school. He's really excited about it, and as those of you that know him know, he doesn't get excited about a whole lot. The school has around 600 students and about 200 in the high school. The link above is to a school video, and Owen took the picture below when he visited.

Quite honestly, I've had to hold this information in for a while, and that does not come easily for me. At first I kept it in OK, but it was like a dam breaking. Once I started talking, I couldn't stop. Now I'm at the point where if I see a stranger walking down the street I all but run up to them and announce, "I'm moving to the Dominican Republic."

That is because:
  1. I feel the impulse to share most of my thoughts with mostly everyone, and
  2. I'm trying to convince myself this is really happening.
I mean, I haven't even seen the country yet! So this is all a little surreal. They have bananas and pineapples there!

I've run the gamut of emotions already about our upcoming move. Hysterical tears, excitement, fear, confidence, peace, worry, problem-solving think sessions . . .

I got started on the packing almost right away. It turns out that I make a pretty dedicated packer. The night we made the decision I started a book of lists, which is well over 20 pages at this point. Some page headings are:
  1. Questions to get answered,
  2. Things to sell,
  3. People to tell,
  4. Things to store at my parents',
  5. Things to store at Owen's parents',
  6. House projects to complete before we leave,
  7. Toys to bring,
  8. Books to bring,
  9. Things to do before we leave
  10. . . . you get the idea.
Then I started actually packing, mostly because I got an email telling me that someone could carry some suitcases for me if I had them ready in a week. A week?! It turns out that there are people connected with the school who sometimes come to Philadelphia who are willing to take bags back for us. So we basically have to be prepared at any given time with bags all packed up that are ready to send (we've sent two now).

But the problem with that for me is that for me to send any bag I feel like I need to know what's going in every bag. Because it's not like we can take a limitless amount of stuff, far from it. It's kind of like a cross between a math puzzle and one of those painful "what really matters" middle school morality scenarios involving a life raft and lots of people wanting on it. (Luckily, all five of us get to go, so it's not as stressful as those were in middle school.) Our puzzle goes something like this:

If we can check four bags for free when we depart (each weighing up to 50 lb), plus four carry-ons (two of which have to be carried by small children), and a personal item per person + a bag and carry-on and personal item and diaper bag when Val goes in April but which she will have to manage alone + two to five? suitcases carried by kind school officials visiting Philadelphia before we go + an additional five? suitcases if we return from visiting family over Christmas + some larger items and boxes at $1.50/lb via a missionary cargo plane that we'd have to drive to Florida (the items, not the plane) . . . then do we bring this serving spoon?

I mean, the problem with this sort of sorting, at least if your house (like ours) is filled with a rather underwhelming array of personal but not valuable items is that I find it hard to justify bringing almost anything on the one hand--and find it equally difficult to justify deciding that while that other inconsequential item makes the cut, this one--for seemingly arbitrary reasons--does not.

The next problem I faced with the "get four suitcases to such and such a place in a week" scenario was, what suitcases? I mean, we have a few duffle bags and two wheeled carry-on cases. But helpful Anne, wife of former/future boss, told me I need to put out a general appeal to everyone I know and go thrift store hunting. That last suggestion worked beautifully. I found some pretty beat-up suitcases for a dollar each. I think I got about eight bags for $13.00.

There were a few issues. It turned out I was a little hesitant to actually bring these sketchy suitcases into my house. That red one in the picture at the top of this entry got peed on by a stray cat while I had it on the porch for its quarantine period. But a little vinegar and sunlight went a long way, and now the beach toys and plastic toys I don't care too much about are in that baby.

The general appeal idea I had to amend to "everyone I know who is old enough to have old luggage they are ready to throw out." It turns out that thirty-somethings do not own a blessed thing in that category. Here are some of the suitcases that turned up from wonderful friends and relatives (that black leather bag up top actually saw the Vietnam War). These suitcases I felt I could bring right in, so they were not in danger from cats.

Obviously, any faithful readers of this blog will have to endure many a future blog about moving, but the reward to those faithful readers will hopefully be very interesting blogs from our new tropical location.

We have felt very cared for and supported, and have very much already seen God providing for us in big ways. One of the biggest answers to prayer just came this weekend. We just found out that a lovely family wants to rent our house while we're gone, which was by far the biggest thing we needed to get lined up by July. Next month I will fly to Santiago with Abigail to pick a house for us to rent (we really felt like her input would be invaluable for this decision), so we'd love prayer for that trip. That I'll find a house that will be great for our family, and that I'll like the country.

More to come, but it's late, and I need to go to bed. :)


  1. awesome!!!

    best wishes! prayers and blessings! good job on all the prep work already!

    I look forward to reading your blogging about moving (and of course your life in the DR!) as much as I look forward to your blogging about everything else!


  2. Thanks, Heather, for the prayers and good wishes! I have to say I was excited about the blogging prospects when we decided to move there. :) We'll keep you posted!

  3. Val, this is awesome. Awesome.

  4. We hope so! We're excited, if slightly overwhelmed. :)