First Impressions and Initial Adjustments

Gratitude

We are so excited to have arrived and gotten settled over the past 2 weeks of being in the country. While those first few days were emotionally overwhelming, we have adjusted our mindset to better prepare for each day here. We are so thankful for the warm welcome from those who already live here. Between having help at the airport to being invited to a few dinners of other expats in the community to a new friend being willing to drive us all over the city so we could complete and submit legal documents for residence, we are starting to feel a bit more connected. We love our new place  and we are SOOO thankful that we could move into a furnished flat so we didn’t have to do all of the initial apartment searching and furniture purchases right away. Since we have 9 months in this flat, we will have time to figure out what neighborhood makes sense for our family and learn enough language to help us navigate the process of making major purchases.

An initial perspective
We live on the top floor of a high rise in the middle of a busy city… and somehow, the view of the sea just past the city lights and traffic reminds me of God’s creation that is greater than humankind’s creation. Our view won’t always be this spectacular – but for now, we are enjoying this temporary situation that God has provided!

We live near a decently busy street so although it is convenient for getting to the bus stop, we have a little more noise than other places in the city. It is a beautiful flat with a lot of natural light streaming through the windows (DREAM for me!!). Because of Sam’s early morning wake-up calls, I am seeing a LOT of sunrises these days — which I find incredibly peaceful and an amazing reminder of God’s faithfulness.

We really only need half the space (the first floor) of what is available – which means it will be a GREAT place to host guests over the next 9 months… hint, hint. We are so grateful for this place to transition and prepare to have our Baby Girl in just a few short months.

A few tears for Sam
As Sam says “slide” and runs around the playground, both Tony and I have had experiences, in the first week especially, where we each feel deep pangs of loss for Samuel’s familiar and much easier life. The other day, a young boy came up really close to Sam and Sam kind of shouldered him to tell him to give him some space. The other boy pushed Sam a bit hard in response to Sam’s gesture. Generally speaking, local boys here are a little more aggressive or physical than children in the States. With a language barrier between them, they could only act out their feelings instead of speaking to each other and this broke our hearts, just a little. In contrast to this experience during our first week here, I just saw two older kids play sweetly with Sam despite the language barrier and it filled my heart with gratitude that some older kids would enjoy playing with him and his Dora ball.

As Tony and I talked later that same night as the first playground experience, we were reminded that while the parks may seem as great as Kollen Park and the potential for connections with other kids will be more of an uphill battle, we can still try and give Samuel a childhood that is safe, fun, and full of God’s joy – even in a big city. We may have to exert more energy and creativity to do so, but we trust that we will find ways to provide a life that is not limited to the walls of a city apartment.

When we are at our apartment together, it is good.  One of Sam’s favorite new words is “Jump!” which sounds more like “Jam!” and Sam is on cloud nine as we let him jump (just a little) on just one of the bigger beds here. Sam loves showing his speed while running throughout the downstairs and his new Dora ball (best $3 purchase ever!) has already entertained all of us quite a bit with Tony and Sam’s soccer moves – and Sam’s delight of my attempts to play too.

We continue many of our daily activities that we did at home such as having family worship time together. Tony plays guitar while we all sing and Sam shows off his latest dance moves. Just this week, I took Sam to a music/play group with other toddlers and he LOOOOVED it. He may not have sat quietly on my lap and followed along with the hand motions, but he LOVED dancing and running around while music was playing and interacting with kids from all over the world. I am thankful for my free-spirited, embodied child.

Sam is starting to settle into this new home environment and have cries of protest instead of anxiety before his sleep time. And those first few nights where Sam had to sleep inbetween us on the bed are fading into normal nights (mostly) of sleeping in his own pack-n-play. Eventually, we will move him into the second bedroom on the first floor but we are trying to make the move in a gradual way to make sure he knows he is safe and loved. Just when we think we have his new ‘schedule’ figured out, he pulls a 1-4:30am completely awake night on us (like last night) and we are groggily trying to sort through the causes of such crazy sleep patterns.

Trying to safety-proof a high rise apartment is not the same as putting up baby gates and covering the plugs at our home in West Michigan. We have a little more work cut out for us, but Tony and his friend were brainstorming ways that they could make the windows (without screens) more safe when we have them open to let in the breeze. For now, we only have windows open when we are in the room and we don’t have any furniture anywhere near them. Considering that I am afraid of heights and sometimes overly cautious, I am actually doing okay – but I will feel better when we have extra precautions in place to protect our sweet little one.

We are thankful for a balcony with really high rails (it hits Tony at his chest) and we don’t have any furniture out there that Sam could climb up on. We keep the doors locked unless we are out there with him, and we have a ‘no feet on the ledge’ policy. (I’m mostly writing this for my Mom – in case you were wondering!)

We’ll be posting soon on our beginnings at language learning and some of the things that we have discovered about living here. I have some fun photography projects that I hope to get to soon and share with you, but I need a little more time to settle into everything.

“From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.” Psalm 113:3

2 comments
  • Kay and Kenn Putt - Hi Tony, Christen, and Samuel,
    We love to hear about how things are going in your new life. The pictures are amazingly beautiful!
    Thanks for sharing your life with us!
    May our good Lord protect and guide you…
    Blessings, Kenn and Kay Putt (TCUMC)ReplyCancel

  • Jada - Tony, Christen, and Samuel….such beautiful words and pictures that depict your feelings and experiences. Thanks for assuring me about the safety features you are putting in place although I have to say that from my perspective the railing appears to be slightly lower than Tony’s chest 🙂 We continue to pray for you three (4) as you settle in and get acclimated. Samuel will soon become familiar with his surroundings. WE will pray for his rest and peace. We love and miss you. Thank you for sharing with all of us. Love, MOMReplyCancel

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