November News 2006 -- 28th November 2006

What we used to call the ‘crazy season’ in NZ…hasn’t seemed quite the same this year. It is getting cold (we have had to buy lots of winter woolys!) & dark here…and instead of the long nights, BBQs & end of year breakups we are finding ourselves watching rugby, staying inside where it is warm & celebrating when we see the sun! Yes, things are definitely different over here, more than we had thought & we are trying to understand & adjust. We have found ourselves at times unaware culturally, and although the language we speak is the same, often the meanings are very very different!! We have found it at times very difficult, and lately have been quite homesick for NZ & things that are ‘normal’, but I think we are learning, that everywhere we go we will always take the weather with us, and we can determine what we look at & focus on.

In regards to work…the class Jon has been struggling with has definitely settled down, and he feels as though he is making some small steps with them. He is busy at the moment in the middle of organizing the Christmas production, which is on Dec 11th & 12th. I didn’t get the job I applied for at the school…& although initially I was quite disappointed, I think now, it wasn’t really what I was looking for, and God had it all in control. I am still getting consistently 3-4 days supply at this school anyway, & we have decided that I wont take any other supply at other schools, so at least I have some normality & routine about where I will be working. I have talked to the Principal about giving me a definite 2-3 days a week & I think this is in the pipeline. I am learning to trust God in the certainty of work.

Out & about…we have watched all the All Black games, which included the French games in the pub, with French commentary – quite an experience. The other weekend we hired a car, and together with George & Mahala (school friend I have know since I was 12-13) we visited Stonehenge & Bath. Stonehenge was amazing to see first hand & so mysterious, an awesome site of history. In Bath we explored the Roman baths, which are also an amazing piece of history & then we had scones & tea in the old dining hall with live music. It was a really good day & experience. Jon has also joined a local chess club, so he enjoys playing each Thurs nights, plus some tournaments. My hobby at the moment is playing settlers online & I am trying to get a top 50 rating!

We have found a church in Watford (about 20 mins north of where we are) that we have enjoyed attending, and think we will keep going back to. It is also meeting in a school hall, and although a bit smaller is similar in some ways to the church we used to attend in Tauranga.Check it out online if you are interested… http://www.watfordcommunitychurch.org

It is about 3 weeks until the end of the school year, and our trip back to Ukraine. (We fly out on Dec 21st & will be back on Jan 3rd) We are counting down the days & really looking forward to it. I am assuming for us this year will be a white Christmas. We will definitely miss you all at this time, and wish you a great time with family & friends, an awesome holiday time, and all the best for 2007. We aim to be back in NZ next year sometime after July hopefully. Thanks for your prayers & friendship over our year of travels. We have enjoyed & grown seeing more of God’s world, creation & people.

God Bless,

October UK -- 26th October 2006

Well it seems as tho October is nearing an end… and we can tick off another month in London!

At the moment we are on half-term break (a week) so it is halfway to Christmas! It will seem quite strange for us to build up to Christmas with the weather getting colder & colder!

I have had only 2 days off in the last 6 weeks of work, so the initial 3 weeks extended quite far. I really enjoyed my time there, and don’t want to go back to supply teaching, so I am applying for a fulltime job there working as an “inclusion support assistant”. This basically is a person who works with children who have behavioral problems etc. I have been interested in this area for awhile, so would enjoy the experience, plus the stability of a fulltime job!

Jon is enjoying his job as the music teacher (although it’s not that challenging) but not at all enjoying the other part of his job which is to release the deputy head’s class for about 4 periods a week. They are a really problem-filled class, and not at all fun! I have been in there for an afternoon, and if I had to do that on a consistent basis, it would drive you insane. It is hard to separate it out from you as a person, and thinking you are not a good a teacher, whereas in fact it’s that there are some issues beyond the actual teaching that need resolving. Jon had a positive meeting with the principal about it, so we are praying for a good resolution after the break and as the term wears on.

We took the opportunity last weekend to travel to Brighton (which for some reason reminds me of a mixture of Wellington & Dunedin!). We went down on Friday night on the bus, (£4 each, each way!) spent Saturday exploring the beach, pier & town area, (very windy & massive waves!) then stayed Saturday night in a 200 year old house that was built for the Mayor way back then. It was an interesting experience, now owned by a strange man, and I had a very strange shower!! We then spent Sunday (in the pouring rain) exploring the different places where my Dad grew up, his house etc. Was good to see, and hard to imagine what it would have been like 58 years ago when my Dad left there to come to NZ. The rest of this week we are spending at home catching up on things and also taking the time to visit some London attractions.

We went and watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, saw Big Ben, Westminster Abbey & then explored the Tower of London, and saw the crown jewels. We were going to have a trip on the London Eye too, but the queues where just horrendous, so we will go back at another time. Also looked around locally & took a walk up to Harrow on the Hill, and went into the church at the top of the hill that has been there for 900 years. Very impressive!

We are struggling at the moment to enjoy our time here, but have to keep reminding ourselves that it is just for a reason & a season. Organising travel and seeing different sights & countries will help us to pass the time. We are realising that where ever else we have lived doing things with people & having people around has been a huge part of our lives… and now we feel very lonely & isolated.(But getting very good at playing settlers online!) We are praying for some people to be able to spend time with, and also a church where we will feel comfortable to attend. We will try a few more out… but that gets tedious after awhile!

On a positive note, having to walk everywhere has been good for us, we have both lost quite a bit of weight and enjoy the forced exercise of about 30 mins walk each day. Jon has also joined a chess club, and enjoys extending his brain this way. The staff from school are also very friendly, but we feel if these were our only friends, we wouldn’t have any spiritual encouragement. We know God is teaching us, and growing us through our experiences here. At times we want to just pack up and go home (or back to Ukraine), but we know that pushing through to the end of the year is what we need to do, and that precious jewels are found on the hard road.

That’s about all from us I think… o wait… Jon has a cell phone now too (surprise!) and the number is on the email signature.

God Bless,

UK September -- 30th September 2006

Hi there everyone…

Time flies when you’re working!! It didn’t seem that long ago I was beginning the 3 weeks supply work at Weald Middle School (same school as Jon’s permanent job) but I have now completed that. I have really enjoyed it, and although at times I wondered what I was doing, it has been good for me to refresh my teacher skills! I have been given another couple of weeks there doing more relieving, and after that… I don’t know but praying I can get some type of permanent arrangement there too. Jon is enjoying his job there too, although there is one very difficult class he has quite a few times that is very challenging & can be quite depressing. We would appreciate prayers for wisdom & keys to handle this. The staff there are a really cool bunch. We went to the pub for drinks last night with some of them. It was a fun night, they are a laugh a minute kind of people. There is a good mix of NZers, Australians & English people.

Other than work, we haven’t really done much so far. We aim to head to Brighton, (where my Dad was born) the south coast of England for a weekend really soon, and then during midterm break in the middle of October we aim to head to Ireland for 4-5 days. In regards to travel we have also booked tickets to travel back to Ukraine for the xmas holidays, (21st Dec-3rd Jan) so we will get to experience Ukraine in the winter.

Our future ideas at this stage are to head back to NZ after we finish up here in July 07 for about a month to visit everyone, and then head back to Ukraine for a year to start with. But it is a while away, so we’ll see what happens and how God leads us.

It is not too cold here yet, but definitely autumn. We have enjoyed a few days where we have headed to the park with a rug to read a book, or a picnic. One of those occasions was to catch up with one of Jon’s school mates which was really cool.

It has been interesting for us to observe the culture here, and although we speak the same language, it is easy to assume we are the same, but we have found that is not the case. Food & clothes etc are really cheap here, people are buying stuff (and lots of it) all the time. There is people everywhere & heaps & heaps of smokers. Customer service is really useless because there are so many people it doesn’t really matter! We have started our own tradition of having a roast every Saturday night and our first couple have been NZ legs of lamb!! Cheaper than we can get in NZ, and taste very nice. This country is a very rich, prosperous place, but almost void of any kind of identity, direction or common beliefs. Everything goes, and religious tolerance is absolutely huge. We are getting a chance to learn firsthand about many different religions. It is very interesting.

Anyway… that is probably enough for this time.

Until next time,

News from the Motherland -- 8th September 2006

Well how are you all?
We are doing well here and settling in ok. The good news is that I (Ruth) have a job starting Monday for 3 weeks at the same school as Jon, and it may lead to more work, so although a bit nervous it will be good to be back at work. (No more sleep-ins!) Jon is enjoying his job (had 1 week now) and I think he will really enjoy the challenge & enjoyment of teaching music.
The flat we have shifted into is working out well. (see attached photos) As you can see from the pics, we have the flags on the wall of all the countries we have been to so far. I was thinking a mighty all blacks flag or NZ silver fern flag would look great at the top of them all. If anyone would be so kind as to send one.... well, I will love you forever! Our other flatmates are a couple from NZ (Southland to be precise) & Aus. They are cruisy and easy to get on with which is cool. We went to watch the All Blacks with them last Sat, so some fellow supporters. The house is in a quiet street -- hardly any traffic noise (heaps better than Tauranga) just the sound of the sirens at night! and our landlord is really friendly and helpful.
We went back to Hillsong Church on Sunday and enjoyed it. We think we will make that our church for the year. It will be good to make some friends and maybe get into some sport so we wont have to recluse ourselves in our own house all the time!
We see this year as a good time to earn pounds and just spend time together as a couple, hopefully stress free. Jon also hopes to get music tuition with the aim to get the official music grades -- the piece of paper! We also aim to make the most of being near Europe & visiting some other countries of interest.
Our thoughts at this time in regards to our future is to go back to Ukraine in the Christmas holidays to experience it in the winter, and get a different feel for the country, with the aim in mind of maybe shifting back there in July for an indefinite period of time. We are still praying about this, and really seeking God as to where He wants us, as we realize that that is the only place where we will have peace in our hearts.
Not much else more to report...
Until next time

Europe Trip -- 26th August 2006

Well here we are safe and sound back in England.
It has been an interesting trip and we often asked ourselves why are we doing this! We dragged all our luggage through 4-5 countries and on 2 trains and 3 bus rides. As you can imagine we have lots of things to remember and took many photos, but we are only able to share a small part of this with you.
Leaving Ukraine
We found this very hard to do as we have made some really good friends here but we left anyway to Lviv (west actually) and spent one day there. It is a very old city and quaint. (See photos for streets being made). We then took an overnight bus to Poland, with a 3-4 hour stop at the border!
Poland
We enjoyed Poland, esp.. the city we stayed in -- Krakow. We spent one day visiting Auschwitz (hard to comprehend and really believe) and we also visited Schindler's factory (from Schindler's List -- the movie), and Wawel castle. It too is an old city and has an awesome town centre and atmosphere.
Germany
We then took another overnight train to Berlin, hoping to get in early enough to catch the All Blacks in a pub, but again the we were late and we managed to get the last 30 mins or so in an internet cafe -- Go the All Blacks. We camped in Berlin in "Tent City" which is an urban camping ground in the middle of the city the set up for the world cup. It was an awesome place to stay, we had great tent neighbors and really enjoyed it there. We hired bikes one day (and became a menace to the general public -- esp.. because they had bells on them!) and took a look at the Brandenburg gates, parts of the Berlin wall and other parts of the city. After this, Jono left us to go back to Ukraine and we headed off for Holland.
Holland
It's hard to know what to write about this place... we caught an overnight bus to Amsterdam, and this time arrived early (4:30am) with nothing really organized we started wandering the streets with all our stuff. It then started to rain and before we knew it we were in the red light district!!! I believe that God sent us an angel tho as a guy offered to find us a hostel. He was a really nice guy and helped us get rid of some other unpleasant characters! Without too much detail (the full story is at www.roofellin.blogspot.com) we were pretty shocked with Amsterdam, and decided to stay only 1 night. We did manage to visit while we were there the Van Gogh museum (again hired bikes!) and also Corrie Ten Boom's house in Haarlem, known as 'the Hiding Place' as her family helped Jews during the war. I had read the book as a child and it was almost surreal to be in the house where it all happened.
London
From there we caught another bus overnight to London, crossing the English Channel by ferry and landing at Dover. We arrived in London at 6am in the pouring rain and had a terrible day (see www.roofellin.blogspot.com for the story). The short story is that we now have a flat which we shifted into today (address at bottom of email) and we are thankful to God for good friends, and his provision.
Jon will go into the school next week to sort things out, and I will start supply (sigh) teaching again when school resumes on 4th Sept.
Our updates will become more scarce, but we do aim to keep you informed with how we are and what we are doing. Please let us know if you would rather not receive these anymore.
Until next time...

Goodbye from Ukraine -- 13th August 2006

Well...
The time has come again to say goodbye to another set of friends we have made and another country! We leave tomorrow morning and head into Kiev, where we will catch a bus late at night and travel overnight to Liviv (city in the east close to the border of Poland). We will spend the day there and then catch a train that night (again overnight) over the border into Poland. We aim to spend 3 days in Poland, one of which will be a trip to Auschwitz. We then aim to travel to Germany and spend 3 days there, and then onto Holland with 3 days there before we head back to London. We want to get to London about the 25th or 26th August. School starts about a week after that. My brother Jono will come with us most of the way and then head back to Ukraine as we head to London.
It has been a great time here, and been mind-blowing to again experience another culture and how they respond to life and God. The people here are passionate and real about their belief in God. It is there first love and much more authentic than what I have seen in the 'western' world. We would love to come back next summer if it is possible.
We also really enjoyed our trip to Odessa, where we parked up and camped wherever we pleased, swum in the Black Sea, and had a good holiday with 3 Ukraine young people with us. It was a long road trip with about 8 hours in the van. The wheat and sunflower fields on either side of the road where very impressive though, as they went for miles.
On our last morning as we were packing up, Jon went for a wash in the sea, checked carefully to see if it was deep etc. then dived in but hit a rock. He came back up to me with the towel on his head and warned me he had hurt himself before he showed me!! Just as well, because I couldn't help clean up the gashes as I started to feel queasy. So Jono cleaned him up. He had a deeper gash on his forehead, and on the bridge of his nose, with scrapes up his stomach, arms and cuts on his feet. As we traveled back that day, and stopped for lunch, he got a few stares, as he looked like a war victim out of a cheesy movie with a big bandage on his head!It has healed really well though, and almost gone now. We are thankful that it was no worse!
Last weekend Jon attempted to busk again on the main street in Kiev, and got a good response. It was really interesting to watch a crowd gather, and then come up and ask for songs. This week we have spent time around the house fixing the pump, concreting steps, making a BBQ/hosting area, and other odd jobs. Playing a bit of Settlers and spending time with people before we go.
Last night we went to a traditional Ukrainian wedding of a couple from the church here. It was interesting to see the many many traditions they have. One which is to steal the bride's shoe and then they have to do strange things to get it back. Also another one is that the groom washes the bride's mums feet with watered-down vodka and leaves and then once they are washed he gives her a new pair of shoes and then dances with her in the new shoes. There where so many more as well-- about 800 years worth of accumulated traditions! Interesting to watch, but made the day very long!
Well that's the news from our end
Until next time...

Ukraine Update 3 -- 30th July 2006

Hi there again
Thanks for your prayers. We have made a decision as to the next year's location. We have decided to shift back to London. Jon has accepted a job in a school in Weald, north London teaching music to primary-aged students for the next year finishing July 2007. We have booked train tickets which leave Ukraine on the 14th Aug heading to Poland. We aim to spend some time in Poland, Germany and Holland before we get back to England around about the 20 -25th August.
So with about 3 weeks left here we have made a few plans to get some jobs around Jono's house completed and we will also travel next week to the Black Sea for a 3-4 day camping and explore trip. We will take about 2-3 other young people from here with us. This week we have spent a lot of time tidying and relaxing, got Jono's new curtains up etc. Once we are back from our road trip we aim to get stuck into a few big jobs including building a BBQ, making some steps, reinforcing a wall, and maybe helping to fix the pump and other stuff. Well those are on the list at least, we may find time to complete a few of them in between Settlers games!
Last Saturday (after watching the rugby) Jon and Ben attempted to busk in Kiev, but with the amp cutting out and the mayor making new rules so the police had to move them on, it wasn't entirely successful. They shifted to another spot and managed to draw a crowd of about 5 drummers, so by the time we left it was a drum fiesta -- sounding lovely as you can imagine! We aim to head into Kiev this Saturday too for the next All Black test.
We also visited a nearby town last Sunday and went to church there. It was a really a thought-provoking day as the pastor there showed us through the massive building the church has bought -- an old sewing factory and told us about the different ideas and visions he has for each room etc. We then went and saw the bio diesel/gas and mushroom factory that they have started. There is heaps of opportunities here for business-minded people to help get the economy back on its feet and provide good jobs for people. The pastor in the town we are in too has started a strawberry farm and is also making jam. Its a really great way to bring Christian principles into the workplace. One of the girls who works on the strawberry farm earns the equivalent of $1NZ an hour, which is double what another girl earns who works here in town. Its strange to find out and understand how unfair the way money works in this world. The thought of saving enough money to travel is way beyond most people's minds here.
We have had plenty to think about while we have been here, and enjoying conversations with many different people. Although we have chosen to head back to London it hasn't been without thought of the great people we have made friends with that we will leave behind here.
Well until next time,

Ukraine Update 2 -- 9th July 2006

Hi there again...

We are still alive and survived the week marooned on the island! It was definitely a different type of camping than what we are used to in New Zealand, but none the less enjoyable and in such a beautiful spot! The pit toilets were a challenge; I still haven't yet mastered 'the squat'! The food also was an interesting experience, and I think we were all glad to get back to a big lasagna I made the first night back. We meet heaps of very cool people there, and the hunger for God is something completely unmatched in the western world. Most, if not all, of these Christians are first generation believers and often the only one in there family. There have been lots of things that we are much more thankful for now that we used to take for granted, and some things we didn't even realize we took for granted, but were just a part of our lives.

Since the camp we have spent 2 days in Kiev, the first day was a tour of the city and souvenir shopping, and yesterday we went to some clothes markets. This has all been with a mission team from Pacific Hills Christian School in Sydney who have been here for the past 2 and a half weeks. We saw them off at the airport yesterday, and as Jono had been leading the team here it has been a busy past 3 weeks! We will slow down a bit for awhile and get a few things sorted, and then hope to travel maybe next week to Poland or somewhere.

You can pray for us as we feel we have come to a crossroads in our travels, Jon has been offered a job in England that is primary school music teaching, we haven't heard back from the Kiev school, and we could also come home. So with these 3 options and many others we could consider we feel a bit confused and need prayer for direction and guidance.

So hope this keeps you up to date....

Jon’s corner...

Language learning again is awesome but much more difficult than Spanish, although it is said once you have learned a second language it is much easier to learn a third. And though I would not claim to have 'learned' Spanish in its entirety I certainly feel like it has opened my mind to some different dynamics within language. I guess more than all this though in seeing many different ways of existing on this earth from the obscene amounts of money that circulate in England to the very miniscule dirty pieces of paper that are exchanged between paupers in the main streets, we are left a little confused as to where God wants us in this picture. On one hand there is the freedom from the rat-race and the promise of discovering deep relationships but on the other hand there is the reality of earning the elusive but necessary dollar to maintain this standard of living we call 'normal'. I really do wonder about the possibility of having the best of both worlds but highly doubt my ability to live consistently with what I believe whilst being part of the rat-race. As for the concept of financial independence, I don't buy it mainly because all the people I know who are trying to achieve this goal seem to have lost sight of the important things in life. Anyway, please pray that God would give us a conviction about our next moves.

Until next time

Ukraine Life -- 7th July 2006

Hi there everyone...

We have now been in Ukraine for almost 2 weeks. Things have been non-stop since we arrived with a mission's team from Australia arriving 4 days after us and also one of Jono's (my brother) friends (Ben) from Australia arriving a day after us. Ben and Jono are in charge of the mission team while they are here and they are also running a camp together.

We have been involved with both of these things and managed to keep ourselves busy. Although the projects (running a camp and youth work) are very similar to what we used to do in New Zealand it is great to be a part of it in another culture and also as a helper rather than an organizer.

The village we are staying in is built next to a big river and the beach and water is a big part of the community's life now as it is summer. The camp we are having starts this Monday until Friday and is on an island in the river. It is an absolutely beautiful spot and an amazing piece of God's paradise here on the other side of the world. We have spent the last 2 days setting the camp up, taking dozens of boatloads (Jon) of people, firewood, tents etc. over there. We are looking forward to a great time.

The people here are very friendly and we have made friends easily within the group of young people and the church here. We have spent time on the beach with them, watching the world cup, going to the circus and also a traditional festival. The town was celebrating its 855th year -- there is so much history here its really amazing. Going to the war memorial where battles actually happened was also quite sobering to think about.

We are enjoying our time... still not sure yet as to where to after this- I think we will think about that when it happens!!

Until next time

3rd (and final?) update from London -- 25th June 2006

Well hello again...

Tomorrow we leave for the Ukraine so this maybe our last time with a good internet connection for awhile. I am not sure what it will be like in the Ukraine, but don't let that stop you from writing to us!! We will still continue to keep you up to date with what is happening as much as we can.

Well this last week has been very busy for us. Jon has worked every day and I have had 3 days teaching. It has been good for us both work wise and also for the wallet. Supply teaching over here gives us about 125 pounds (before tax) a day.

The latest on the job front is that Jon has been offered a few jobs so far, but none of them have seemed right (not according to the agencies who have pressurized us to take them). So as it stands at the moment is that we have applied for jobs at an international school in Kiev (Ukraine) and we will find out more about these this week. We have meet with the initial lady contact and she seemed quite positive and it looks promising. I'm sure we will have a good chance in the next few weeks to experience the culture and also hopefully visit the school to give us a taste of whether this kind of job would be good for us. Otherwise if this line of thinking brings us to a dead end, then it will be back to England in about the middle of August for more supply teaching and hopefully and more permanent job not too far down the track. The job in the Ukraine would be for a year's contract.

This last weekend, we discovered 'Covent Garden' where there are buskers every 5-10 meters. Lots of musicians, live statues and other entertainers. A really great atmosphere, heaps of people and things to look at and do. We went back there today too (Sunday) to meet our friend Bex and get a few photos. We walked from there down to Trafalgar Square where we peacefully sitting and enjoying the day when we noticed a strong police presence and then almost from nowhere the square started to fill with English supporters who were leaving the pubs they had been watching England play Ecuador and started celebrating in the square. It was a bizarre set of circumstances as they sung and chanted climbed the fountain, kicked soccer balls around and waved the English flag everywhere. Was awesome to be apart of, but kinda strange too as I'm sure it wont be long until we see the national day of mourning when they lose!

Saturday night, Mahala & George invited us to Sean Young's (guy I knew vaguely in Nelson -- Steve's brother) birthday where we had a BBQ, game of touch (yay) and spent the night with about 20 or so other Kiwis and Australians that are over here for a time. Was really great to hang out with other people our own age and culture!

We have enjoyed our time here in England, although it has been hard to get our head around things, as the cultural differences are more subtle.

Until next time,

2nd Update from England -- 18th June 2006

Hi there everyone again,

This update has taken me quite a lot longer, as you can imagine we are no longer living in Paraguay tranquillo time! We have been trying our best to sort out the job market, which as yet has been quite disappointing. It seems as though things are more complicated than we thought. Some agencies give us the twice over, whereas others try to rip us off. We have found one agency so far that is aussie-run and is really good. Last week we had 5 days between us of supply (relieving) teaching which is good for the wallet, but insane for the brain!! We really can’t believe the standard of behavior here, it is absolutely shocking and makes you want to walk out and let them do what they want!

It has been good to work though, and we have had to leave home about 6:50am and we get back home anywhere between 5-7pm. That is mainly because we are living north of London and have to spend quite a lot of time & money on the train system, although the system is very good.

We have had time to do a few other things though, such as paint some windows and varnish some doors here where we are staying. We visited the British museum, (Jon enjoyed this, I couldn't wait to get out) Big Ben, and other sights around London. (see photos). We also had a trip further north into the country last weekend, and watched England unfortunately beat Paraguay in the world cup. The football (soccer) here is quite big, we have been watching a few matches.

We have had some awesome weather since we have been here, and it has actually got hot. IT really intrigued us the other day when we were wandering around London about 5-6pm that on every corner (literally) there was a pub, but instead of the patrons drinking inside, they were out on the street (see photos) enjoying the weather, standing on the footpath in groups. Was quite interesting and strange for us. The pub scene here is actually really nice, it is open to everyone, (has family areas) and serves great food. It’s great to watch sports games in too!

Last night we went into London to catch up with Mahala a friend I went to school with. We walked down 'Brick Lane' a street famous for Indian curries, where at every shop an Indian came out and tried to offer us a good deal -- reminded us a bit of South America. My Argentinean shirt and the Italian one Jon was wearing created a bit of attention!

Been good to hear about the All Blacks winning, and so weird to hear about the snow in Christchurch! It’s been good to keep 'in the loop'. It seems as though these 3 weeks have been the hardest in regards to homesickness etc. but I'm sure things will start to get better!

Anyway that's all from us this time round, one more week before we head to the Ukraine.

Be good to hear from ya,

Love,

London1 -- 5th June 2006

'ello everyone 'ows it going?

We have made it safe and sound to London with all our bags, so praise the Lord for that. After traveling for about 30 hours altogether it was a relief to have a shower and hit the sack! The flights and trip was uneventful but long and tiring. We had about a 5 hour stop in Argentina, and about an hour stop in Madrid, so that at least broke the journey. It was great though to get through the last customs and see our baggage waiting for us on the carousel, as we hadn't seen it since Paraguay!

We are staying here at a relatives place just north of London in a place called Watford. At the moment we are looking for jobs -- desperately as you will know everything is expensive here until you start earning the pounds. Jon reckons the currency is called pounds because you almost need to cut of a pound or two of your own flesh to pay for stuff!!! I am surprise at the amount of street names I know. It is amazing really how good a teacher Monopoly is!!

WE have explored the main centre of Watford a few times, helped in the garden, watched NZ play Brazil in football (I think they did ok, at least I wasn't embarrassed) and spent time online looking for jobs. We have wireless broadband where we are staying so that is great. World Cup Fever is well and truly underway here and next Saturday England's first game is against Paraguay!! I think I might wear my Paraguay shirt!!!

Yesterday (Sunday) we got the train into central London and meet one of our friends (Bex Souter who I flatted with in Kaitaia) and went with her to Hillsong London church. We really enjoyed it, it was in the Dominion Theatre, which is really lovely but we were not permitted to take any photos! Started off with "Salvation is here" so we at least knew that song. It was really cool as partway through the service they had a time of prayer for requests & praise points that were anonymously written on cards, I thought that was a great way for corporate yet meaningful prayer!

We haven't really done too much else yet. Have booked tickets to fly to the Ukraine on 26th June, so we have about 3 weeks here until then.

Jon is trying to sort out a permit so he can busk on the London Underground!

Until next time,

Update 12 -- 26th May 2006

Well folks...

This is the last one from the land of extremes -- Paraguay!

We head off tomorrow morning on the bus to Asuncion and then on Wednesday morning we leave for a very long 24 hours of travel. We leave Paraguay at midday, then we leave Argentina at 9pm, arriving in London 4pm the next day. I’m sure it will be good, but tiring. Please pray that our baggage makes it through all the stops (we also have a short stop in Madrid, Spain) and arrives in London with us.

We will update you from London as to our plans from there on in.

We have enjoyed our time here in Paraguay, and seemed to have accomplished a few things...

* Rest & relaxation

* Read heaps of books

* Helped out with MEGA (painted, varnished & sanded windows, doors, tables, chairs, made a soccer & volleyball court, started the playground etc)

* Managed to break a few things (including a bent bike tire (see photos) and cut the skill saw cord in half!)

* Sightseeing around Paraguay

* Learnt some Spanish (Jon learnt enough to have a decent conversation)

* Grew a beard (Jon)

* Experienced a different cultures traditions (food, music, way of life etc)

* Received multiple mosquito & ant bites

* Got stopped by police who were looking for an American named "Ruth" (kinda scary!)

* Got sick!

* Saw God at work in 2 different cultures (Ache & Paraguayan)

* Spent time with God & discussing future plans and philosophies

* Spent time with the family

* Finished "Farcry" (a new computer game we bought before leaving NZ)

* Wrote a few songs

Just to name a few!

All in all it has been good, and we feel that out horizons have been broadened, hopefully our understanding deepened and learnt heaps.

We hope to indulge ourselves tomorrow with the Super 14 final on TV once we arrive in Asuncion. Man I do love NZ and have missed some things especially rugby. Its funny how you have to leave to really appreciate some things you take for granted.

Oh well, that's all from us now,

Signing out from Paraguay,

Update 11 -- 19th May 2006

Well hello!

Yes we still are alive & kicking, although not entirely well! We have been out of email contact for the past week or so, hence this late update. I also have not been able to keep any food in for the past 5 or so days, and now also have a sore throat, so at the moment trying to keep my head above water!

We have been up to quite a bit, but I will still try to keep this short, so if you want extra details on anything, just ask for in a separate email!

About last week sometime we left General Aquino with the family (the van is at last fixed & working well) and headed for the East City (Cuidad del Este) which is on the border of Brazil, Paraguay and also very close to the Argentinean border too. We stayed there 4 nights and visited a few things. Firstly we had a look around a Christian school there for rich upper class kids -- really interesting and a great place. They are looking for native speaking English people to teach there on 1 year contracts if anyone is interested. We really enjoyed the company of the director and we organized to go out for dinner with her the next night. This ended up being in Brazil, because we headed over to Brazil to have a look at the Iguaçu Falls. They were pretty amazing and we also enjoyed the Brazilian food!

The next day we had a tour around the Itaipu Dam (I think the biggest in the world) and then also there zoo of animals they rescued when they flooded the area above the dam. Very cool animals and some very cute, and some very scary!

We headed off the next day to visit one of the Ache people tribes and spend some time with the family who have been helping them to cope within the 21st century. The people have really been brought forward 500 years in technology and learning modern techniques of farming and agriculture instead of trying to live off the hunter-gatherer type of scenario. They are a really lovely people with lots of love & hugs for everyone. Jon especially enjoyed our time there (I spent most of it in bed unfortunately) and they even organized a concert for him to play at, although he just thought it was going to be a jam with a couple of guys. The village really loved it and it was a great night. It is a really special place and so awesome to see these guys so happy and full of life. In some ways these people are primitive but their ability and desire to work as a community is advanced. We were excited to see an expression of God through another culture where they are taking what they want from the western world and remaining Achè in the process.

We are now back in Asuncion for a couple of days... not long now till we actually fly out for England!

Lots of traveling, lots to see & lots of photos taken, too much to write here in this one email.

Hope that gives you the basics though.

Until next time,

Update 10 -- 3rd May 2006

Hi there everyone again,

Well since last week... we were suppose to be away for a trip around the countryside. We set off okay, but got only about an hour away, when the car decided to have a bit of a spazz again!! (see photos) So the safest option was to turn around and get back. We got back okay, and now the car is at the mechanics awaiting a new engine! So far they have had 3 different engines sent up from the capital, each time the wrong one, so sent back again!! We are yet to see if they will get the right one.

If this doesn't work out, then maybe in about 2 weeks time, we will bus ourselves into Asuncion and try to do some of those things ourselves. Wait & see.

So in the meantime, we have got back into the swing of things here, and since all the doors have been hung in MEGA we have just completed the last coat of varnish on them. We have also enjoyed the extra time to read heaps of books, and relax and have spent a bit of time in song writing.

This last Monday was a public holiday, so we spent a bit of time with the local boys, even taught them how to play touch rugby. Not too many forward passes, although some attempts at American Football styles! They seem to enjoy it, although as young boys go, they really want Jon to teach them 'hard' rugby! This weekend we may try to see if any want to be converted to a 'Settlers fan'!

We have had a cold spell here -- down to 19 degrees in the day, and about 10 at night. With a cold southerly the wind, the locals are really complaining -- kinda funny to watch them layer on the clothes!! We have a fire inside the last few nights too (see photos) which takes the chill off the air, and also fills the house with smoke!

You will also notice in the photos, Jon's new growth, kinda like the face stuff, but on his back -- that's disturbing!!

We have heard there is a Tsunami warning today for Fiji & New Zealand, we hope & pray you will all be safe, and that there won’t be too much of a disaster. We will keep our eyes on the internet news, but let us know what is happening if you can!

Until next time,

God Bless,

Update 9 -- 26th April 2006

Week 7
Hey there everyone,
We are doing well here and just coping with the very hot weather we have at the moment!
Yesterday it was 38 degrees in the sun, and 33 in the shade!!
We have completely finished the soccer field although it still needs leveling, and also
finished painting the windows. The doors have been hung, so I suppose the next job
(apart from the playground and volleyball net & poles) will be to put the last coat of varnish
on them. There is lots here to keep us busy.
We are off tomorrow on a bit of a sightseeing trip, which will include the largest falls in the
world and also the largest hydro-electric dam in the world, plus a night or two with the
Ache Indians and also a look at some Jesuit ruins. We aim to be on the road about 2 weeks in
total. We will take our laptop, but the email maybe sporadic.
Last weekend we took a trip out to the country to visit Frank's great uncles, who live in a
small cottage (see photos). We also got to see firsthand the making of a thatch roof -- very
interesting!
Other than that, not much to report, we are keeping well, attempting to make plans for our
trip to England. Once we get back from this trip around, it will only be about 2 more weeks
before we leave.
Thanks for all the news we get from home, it is really good to hear how everyone is going.
Until next time,
Hasta la vista

Update 8 -- 20th April 2006

Week 6

Hey there everyone,

Hope you all had a good Easter. Over here the Easter break is quite a big thing, religiously and family wise. A lot of families get together for this time.

We had a few trips away during the long weekend. We drove out to the port (river, not the sea!) and went for a ride on a boat. I was desperately trying to see a crocodile or piranha but I had no luck. We also visited a few people plus a trip to Friesland for groceries. My sister also had her birthday on the Friday, plus one of the next door neighbors had his on the same day, so we were invited over there for a Paraguayan style BBQ to celebrate (see photos) with all the extended family. Jon especially enjoyed the interaction with the people, and spent a bit of the weekend with the boys over there playing chess and volleyball. We were also going to go and visit Frank’s uncle, but on the Friday night (just as we were running back from the BBQ as fast as we could) it started to pour with rain & we had a massive electrical storm -- the best lightening & loudest thunder I have ever heard & seen! Because of this the roads were really bad, so we didn’t go out the next day, although Jon & Frank went and put a tarp on the roof (see photos) of a guy who is paralyzed and his roof was leaking because of the storm. It actually got quite cold after that, and we had to put on a jumper & long pants!

Work wise we have finished the varnishing of the doors, and this week we have measured, mown, & marked both a volleyball court & soccer field (see photos), and we have enjoyed using the soccer field, yet to get the net sorted for the volleyball court. We have also painted the table tennis table its last coat, and been painting the louver windows in MEGA.

MEGA is coming along quite well, (see photos) and is not far off being ready for the pre-school to start. We have enjoyed the physical work, and learning things as we go.

Next week we are off to visit I think the biggest dam in the world in Brazil, Iguacu Falls, and the Ache Indians. Should be really good.

When we get back our project is to start the building the playground!

We are well, although suffering from insect bites, and I dropped a glass jar on my foot last night & got a few small cuts! But otherwise we are good and enjoying the change, lots of good books and time to talk and chill.

GRINGO CORNER

Well it has been another week of learning Spanish- and making mistakes. This week’s funny was when I was trying to say that “this is my brother-in-law”, instead I managed to say “el es mi hermano epeleptico” meaning this is my epileptic brother which brought a bit of a laugh.

Hasta luego,

Jon & Ruth Ellen Pirini

Update 7 -- 12th April 2006

Week 5

Hey there everyone,

Another week, and another dollar, or is it in our case another week, another few dollars spent!! Actually here there is very little to spend our money on, so that is good. We are just enjoying doing and being here with not much stress!

I have finished sanding, painting, sanding again & then varnishing the tables & chairs (see photos) and now both Jon & I have started oiling & varnishing the 10 doors for MEGA. Jon had sanded them all by hand before this! (I will include photos of MEGA and its progress next week.)

We have been playing soccer a bit (no-one really wants us on their side tho, cos we are useless & it comes so naturally to them!) and Frank has just completed the legs for the table-tennis table, so I'm sure that will become a fierce competition soon!

We had a little visitor to our bedroom the other night (lucky Jon found it before we went to sleep) in the form of a little frog (see photos) that could jump a mile high! We attempted to catch it with a container and Jon thought he had it when it jumped on his arm & he screamed (I did as well just for effect), then Joanna managed to get it & put it outside. Phew, glad it didn't do that during the night! Although these little ones are quite harmless, not like the big toads.

Every morning & night me & my little nephew (he's 2 and a half) go "og" (his name for frog, but he actually means toad) hunting. There are 3 that we know where they live, so we have named them Fred, Mack & Wooster and check on them everyday. He is quite good at spotting them and gets very excited when we find them. I pick him up so as not to get too close tho, because if they feel under attack they will shoot stuff at your eyes that if it gets in them will make you go blind. So although it keeps him (& me) occupied I make sure it's at a distance! There name in Spanish sounds like "Gestapo" so that's what I have named them!

We have met a few people around the town, and it seems that the conversation seems to go something like this: Hola! Then if I'm not with Jon, the next question is, "Are you married to which I answer yes, then the next question is do you have any children, to which I answer no. Then they ask why!! So I tell that we are still practicing! They then carry on to tell me some story about how they never had the chance to do that, or that they were pregnant 1 month after getting married, and all this other stuff. It's quite amusing really.

GRINGOS (foreigner learning Spanish) CORNER:

Today I (Jon) tried the traditional "sopa". It is a bread type dish made in that outdoor oven in the photos. Anyway when I left I said "gracias por el sapo" which mean thanks for the toad! LOL.

Anyway, that's enough for this week, we are well, the Easter break here started today (Wed) and is until Sunday, so we may do a few different things. Let you know about it next week!

Until next time,

Jon & Ruth Ellen Pirini

Update 6 -- 4th April 2006

Hey there everyone,

We have had one week here now, and have enjoyed getting into routine and settling a bit into "everyday" life.

After the initial shock of hard physical work to Jon's body of machete-ing a field of grass (in the heat) he has adjusted, is feeling better and enjoying helping out with the building & cleaning up of MEGA (Multi Education for General Aquino) & it's grounds.

I have finished sanding & painting the tables & chairs, and will be varnishing them in the next week.

We have meet some of the locals, had an exciting trip to the Mennonite colony (called Friesland) on a very muddy road, and been introduced to more of the bug life (see photos).

We are gradually getting more understanding in our Spanish, and keeping well. It's not too hot here, nothing we can't handle.

It has also been good to have a break and take a step back from our lives in NZ and re-assess what is important to us, and dream about our future.

The field that Jon spent some time cutting (& taking the hay away) is now been able to be used for soccer, so tonight was the first game. Apparently it's a daily occurrence after work is over for the day, so that should keep us fit.

Hope you enjoy the photos, and that it gives you a bit of a visual idea of what it is like here,

Until next time,

Jon & Ruth Ellen Pirini



Update 5 -- 27th March 2006

Hey there everyone,

Well I am writing this time from General Aquino, but there was a lot of distance in between.

We ended up spending a week in Asuncion, because after getting the car fixed, there was another day & half of hold ups, plus we had to do a months worth of groceries, and you don’t travel here in the dark, so we needed to leave in the morning.

We made the most of our time in Asuncion, although it was hard to find things to do without a vehicle, but we endured a bus ride, went to the markets (see photos) and sampled quite a few restaurants/cafes. Spent a lot of time reading and killing time.

The last day we were in Asuncion (Friday) we had a huge downpour of rain and the streets became rivers!! Then the thunder & lightning started which resulted in the power off for a few hours. We decided to walk down to a café on the corner for tea, which happened to be a main intersection & watched the cops standing in the “river” which was the road, trying to direct the traffic because the lights were out! After a while they got sick of it and left, and it was quite humorous to watch the intersection get clogged up and stuck and cars, buses & trucks went everywhere!!!

We left the next morning and traveled 2 hours on a sealed road, and then about 2 & half hours on a dirt road. The dirt road was only 45kms long, but was also contained lots of puddles, holes & other interesting objects. We also had to stop a few times because the car was again overheating.

We arrived here at about 4pm or after and unpacked everything from the very muddy car & trailer.

We encountered for the first time that night the huge range of bugs and beetles this land has to offer including big moths (I really don’t like these!) fireflies, huge toads, spiders and other creepy crawlies!!

Sunday we went to church, and spent the day relaxing, and today Monday was our first real day of work. The girls had school; Jon slashed long grass with a machete, & other jobs with the boys. My project is to sand, varnish & paint 16 little chairs & 4 tables for the pre-school. This kept us busy today and we are enjoying a bit of routine & work.

Jon is quite sun burnt & has a sore throat so we hope that gets better overtime.

I also had my first Spanish lesson today when Joanna & I went “down town” to buy an alarm clock.

My description & the photos will only give you a small snapshot of what it is like here, it really needs to be seen to be believed!!

Until next time,

Jon & Ruth Ellen Pirini

Update 4 -- 21st March 2006

Hey there everyone,

Thought I would send some photos this time, so they are attached.

We are enjoying Paraguay and think we have lost the jetlag problem so that is great.

Yesterday Frank spent at the mechanics workshop while the car is getting fixed. It looks as though it is the head gasket so it will be a big job!! He has to stay and watch them the whole time, as they may do something dodgy otherwise. We are just hanging at the guest house and killing time, as we have no vehicle, but it's been good just to relax, do some reading and hang out with my nieces and nephews.

I went to the hairdressers yesterday and got blond streaks in my hair. Cost me $10 NZ!! We are heading to the markets this afternoon on the bus, so that should be an experience!

Hopefully next time I write from General Aquino (the village Joanna lives in) if the car is fixed in time!

Laters,

Jon & Ruth Ellen Pirini

Update 3 -- 19th March 2006

Hi there everyone again,

This time I am writing from Asuncion Paraguay! We arrived in Friday here about tea time, with no worries at all. After leaving the hostel we went out to Buenos Aires airport via taxi and basically spent the day there trying to kill the time before we boarded the plane. It is a very boring airport, and we managed to embarrass ourselves a few times, and make a few mistakes in Spanish. I think the funniest thing for us was going through the customs area where they scan your bags, and watching a women in a booth trying to play solitaire on her computer (she was obviously very bored) but it didn’t look like she actually knew how to play (I don’t think she knew we could see her) and kept moving the same card backwards and forwards!! Rather amusing.

Once we arrived in Paraguay we were pestered by people wanting to push our trolley, and although we opened our bags to declare some honey I had bought they were not interested at all and we got through without a hitch.

It was great to see Joanna and her family and also great to again speak in English. There car has a mechanical problem, so we will be in Asuncion to either Tuesday or Wednesday until it is fixed. It is much hotter here than in Argentina, and averages around 34 degrees, but it is not unbearable, although at times I feel quite lightheaded. We are pretty much over our jetlag, so sleeping and feeling much better.

Yesterday we went down town, and had a look around, and also saw a show being put on in the street. We came home for the cooked meal of the day and a rest, and then later on went out for a later light tea and a look around a mall.

Today we went to a church, which was great, friendly but I had no idea what was being said. We sang 3 songs, 2 of which I knew the tune of because they were English ones that had been translated. Quite an interesting experience.

I am enjoying Paraguay and really looking forward to getting up to Jo’s house so we can settle and be in one place for awhile. Our basic plan at this stage is once we leave here and head to London is to stay there for about 2 years, and then look to come back to New Zealand.

Hope you are all well, and we are enjoying getting the news from home, keep it up,

Until next time...

Update 2 -- 17th March 2006

Well we have almost finished out first leg of the journey here in Argentina. We leave our hostel this morning and head off to the airport to await our flight to Paraguay.

It has been an interesting time here, it’s definitely not a city that would be on my visit again list! The hostel has been good, and we have had free internet so that has been great, but not sure how well we will go with internet in Paraguay.

We haven’t really had a good impression of Argentina, because we have only been in Buenos Aires, which is a huge city of a population of 13million. It is dirty, old and quite poor. The streets have to be believed, the traffic is insane and the soccer is everything. There was a party all night long last night, as i think there team won.

Getting Jon's visa for Paraguay was a complete breeze, the hardest part was finding the consulate! But once we got there, we waited about 30 mins then had to come back in about 2-3 hours and we had it.

We tried out a restaurant for steak (photos on my blog) and did a bit of shopping, but other than that haven’t really been too adventurous. Trying to get over the jetlag, and learn a bit more Spanish!

Thanks to those who have emailed us, it’s been really good to hear what is happening at home,

Keep in contact

Laters

Jon & Ruth Pirini

Prayers Answered -- 14th March 2006

As I type we are winging our way to Argentina on Airbus 340. So obviously we got the required documents in time!

It was midday today we had to make the call to either postpone our flights or take the chance of missing them since we still hadn’t received our passports and Jon’s visa. 12:10 the phone rang to say they had arrived from where we needed to pick them up! Praise the Lord, and thanks to those who prayed, we felt very relieved and were happy to make our way to the airport knowing we were leaving today!

It was great to have Jon’s sister Geordie and her family surprise us by coming down from Kaitaia to see us off. Our parents were also there and Jon’s aunty. Although it was a bit sad, we were joking about having our names over the loud speaker to make our flight, and just our luck as we were boarding we heard our names!! I don’t know where time went!

We are about to have dinner on the plane, and we will arrive in about 9 hours time, which will be 1pm local time. We aim to head to our hostel and then the embassy for the last visa we need!! Will update you more then! Bye for now and thanks for your prayers

Um yip, so we are here, it is random, and I feel I think culture shock!! The plane flight was bearable, but I think I might have got about 2 hours sleep!!! We arrived in the rain, the customs was loose as, and very easy to get through, without even scanning one bag. No problems getting a transfer to the YHA hostel we are staying in, although Jon tried to hop in the front of the car, and almost got in the drivers side, as it is left-hand drive here!! The lanes on the motorway are just guidelines I think because they seem to drive more on them, than in them. All the apartment buildings look like lego houses, and things here are quite old, but so far the people are very friendly although they talk very fast and are very expressive.

Jon has just left to walk 10 blocks to the Paraguayan consulate, and as it is muggy I will have a shower, and maybe a bit of a rest, after all it is still today! (March 14th)

We plan to have these email updates with just what has been happening etc. my own thoughts/feelings and other info will be on my blog, the address for that is at the bottom of this email.

That’s all from us now,

Love

Rufus & Jay