27 November, 2008

Blog Policy Change, Thanksgiving Down Unda

Well, it's that time of year again in the USA--Thanksgiving Day! This year Clare decided to tackle a full Thanksgiving Dinner all by herself while I watched over Levi. We managed to find a turkey at a nearby store and Clare downloaded a number of traditional Thanksgiving recipes, like green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cornbread, gravy, and of, course, the turkey. We celebrated with our hosts the Knuckeys, and Clare's parents. A good time was had by all.

Recently an old friend of mine wrote and asked me why he couldn't comment on my blog--this blog isn't totally my own; it's part of a small project on the part of some of my bosses at Wycliffe who are interested in putting more information about daily life with Wycliffe in PNG on the internet. At first we had decided not to allow comments, as we can't control what people write, but now we've decided to give it a go and see what happens.

As we say in the old country, "Em tasol"! (That's it!)

25 November, 2008

Clare's folks, New American Passport Holder

I may have forgotten to mention this, but Clare's parents are here for 3 weeks to see us and to get to know their first grandchild.

Incidentally, it's because Levi is the first grandchild on both sides of our family that he has 2 middle names. Because he is the first one, we chose to honour our dads by using both of their first names as his middle names. Hence, Levi, (his own name), Robert, (Clare's dad) Willem, (my dad) Koens. Levi Willem Robert was another option, but then there was the risk of him being nicknamed "Billy Bob" and I just couldn't handle that. Here's Levi with Clare's Mum. We haven't settled on whether she is to be called "Granny" or "Nana", but it'll be a while before Levi can speak, so I reckon we have time to think about it.

On a related subject, we took Levi into Melbourne today to the American Consulate. We were all ready with as much proof as we could find that I had spent over 4 years in the US over the age of 14, but in the end all I had to do was sign an affidavit that I had previously written describing where I was born, how many years I spent in the US before going to South America, where I lived in South America and how long I was there, where I lived in the US when I returned from South America, etc., etc. I was very glad that they accepted my affidavit, as I had a difficult time proving that I had actually lived in the US, even though I spent 10 years there before going to PNG.

Anyway, bottom line is that Levi was approved for his US passport and Social Security number. I have to admit that a part of me hated plugging my son into a government system at such a young age, but there you have it. It's certainly much easier to travel with passports and visa stamps and all that jazz. We finally gave up on trying to do the passport photo ourselves and had it done in a pharmacy not far from the US Consulate--naturally Levi was asleep when it was photo time, so we had to figure out how to wake him up, get him to open his eyes and look at the camera. I'm not sure how many photos the camera man ended up taking, but it was probably over 20. Wonder of wonders, we finally did get a pretty good one, if maybe a little bit grumpy looking. I'm glad that the cameraman had such a patient attitude about it all.

We also plan to get him his UK passport. I figure it's a good idea to get them both and thus try to give him as many options as possible for the future. Who knows what the future may hold for him?

So that was OUR day! The folks at the US Consulate were really nice, even though I had my usual trouble with the metal detector which resulted in me having to go through over and over again before I finally found a small pocket knife in my change pocket that I had completely forgotten about. (Unfortunately the net effect was that it looked as though I had tried repeatedly to sneak it in!) Thankfully the guard was very understanding and didn't give me a hard time. I refrained from telling her a story about my trip to the US consulate in Lima, Peru when I was 16 which resulted in me having to shed 6 knives (nothing illegal) at the metal detector....

24 November, 2008

Long Time No See!

Well! It's been an awful long time since I posted anything here. Having a baby around takes up a lot of time and effort. Now that Clare and Levi have been home for a while, we've been establishing new routines and getting a handle on all the new things in our lives, like nappies (or "diapers" depending on where you're from), prams, (or "strollers" or "pushers", take your pick), car seats, (or "baby capsules"), etc., etc. We love our little boy! Especially as he seems to be so easy at this point--mostly he just eats, sleeps, and makes dirty nappies. If he's fussy, it usually means that he is hungry. Anyway, all that to say that we've been busy learning all about our baby and how to take care of him and that has been taking up a lot of time, sometimes at odd hours of the night.

Tomorrow we take a trip down to the US Consulate to see about getting a US passport for Levi. By US law he has to be sighted by somebody at the embassy before they will let him have a passport. Hopefully one of the 50-100 attempts at passport photos that we have taken will be acceptable. It's just difficult to get a 2 week old baby to look straight ahead, (or look straight up if you have him lying on the floor), with his eyes open, both ears visible, no parents' hands in sight, on a flat, white background with no shadows.

In the near future we will also be applying for a UK passport for Levi, but it sounds like that one will be much easier to get.

Once we have one of the passports, we will be applying for a PNG visa--this is the part that might be the most difficult, as the PNG visa office is often overworked and sometimes visa applications take an unavoidably long time to process.

And by the way, who turned off the heat here in Melbourne? I'm freezing!

15 November, 2008

Finally Home from the Hospital!

YAAAAY! My wife and son are finally home from the hospital! I thought we would never get out of there--apparently there were several other women and babies being discharged at the same time, so it took us over an hour to get permission to leave. This photo is of Clare lying on the sofa with Levi watching TV. It looks like Levi has already figured out that there is nothing on worth watching.

It's so good to have them back! By the end of their time in hospital, I was starting to really miss them, even though I was spending much of every day at the hospital with them.

I installed a baby seat in The Mighty Holden pick-up. That was a trick! I had to remove the whole back seat to find a place to mount one of the straps. I was warned that some hospitals here won't let you take your baby until they see receipts from a professional workshop for having your baby's car seat installed, but thankfully the Mercy Hospital wasn't that way. Many thanks to the folks who loaned us the car seat!

Levi is cute, I think I'll tell Clare that we can keep him.

12 November, 2008

Levi Robert Willem Koens

On 11th November, (local time) at 1:49 a.m., our son Levi Robert Willem was born. At 7lbs 10oz, he was about 1 lb over his projected birth weight. He was 20 inches long. Clare and he are both doing well, resting comfortably at the hospital.

American father, English mother, born in Australia and moving to PNG at the age of 1 month--yup, he's definitely an MK. He's going to have more difficulty than average when asked where he's from! I guess he'll get to choose the place he likes best.

Between hundreds of emails, trips back and forth to the hospital, etc., etc., I don't really feel like I have the time to write any more right now--hopefully I'll get a chance to add to the blog later today. Maybe in about 12 hours or so?

Thanks to those who were praying.

Oh, and contrary to popular prophesy, he was not born with a bandana on and with a wrench in his mouth! :)

04 November, 2008

Election Day USA and the Dog

This is our dog in Ukarumpa. His name is Guinny. I only put this photo here because I didn't have another one I wanted to put up today and because we miss him. He's a good dog, especially now that he pretty much no longer chews up things that are important. I'm sure that he would like kangaroos if he were here to see them and eat them.

Today is Election Day in the USA, and so naturally, since I am a citizen of that country I feel compelled to at least mention it. I admit regretfully that I haven't been able to vote in the last couple of presidential elections--usually my voting disctrict gets my presidential ballot to me in PNG sometime in April after the election, by which time even the recounts are usually finished.

Politics are a little bit of a sticky thing in Ukarumpa. Most citizens of the USA who go there, (and this happened to me), eventually find themselves in a situation where they feel as though they are at odds with citizens of other countries who also live in Ukarumpa. The Wycliffe Centre at Ukarumpa is an international community with Wycliffe members from 15-20 different countries. Within the main body of Wycliffe at Ukarumpa, there are sub-groups of American, Australian, Dutch, English, Canadian, German, Swiss, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, Finnish and New Zealand people, just to name a few. Obviously we don't all agree on politics, and I have found that people from different countries will often have very different ideas on the role and form of government. Some people love to talk about politics and love to critique the politics of other nations.

(I should also add at this point, that I really like the international aspect of living in Ukarumpa. It can be a really good place to live and work--like most things in life, it is what you make of it.)

When I first arrived in Ukarumpa, I engaged a few non-Americans in these types of political discussions, but soon found myself embroiled in long and sometimes heated conversations that I was only marginally interested in. After a while I ceased talking about politics with non-US citizens altogether, as I felt the topic was too divisive. Now, in the interests of "...living at peace with all men...", I make it my habit to keep political discussions to a minimum. I'll happily explain the way the US system of government is designed to work and what some of it's current challenges are, and I will also happily listen to others describe how their country is supposed to work and how they feel about it, but as soon as somebody starts asking me to explain why America did this or why America doesn't do that, I start looking for a way out of the conversation.

This is one of those areas where I take Romans 12:18 to heart--"Insofar as it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with all men." (mostly KJV, I think). When I used to get into these discussions, I used to find myself avoiding people or treating them differently because I couldn't get around our political differences. But over time I learned that relationships with people are more important than political rhetoric, and being vocal about my political views was something that I learned I was happy to sacrifice to live at peace.

And that's pretty much all I've got to say about the election.