Month: June 2006

The End of Our One-Car Era

Getting a dryer from Craig’s List proved more challenging than getting a washer. We wanted one which burned natural gas rather than electricity, and we had to drive to Lakeland, an hour away, to get one. Natural gas is rarer than electricity in Central Florida, so gas dryers are harder to find. But we found one for $100, another good deal.

Getting a second family vehicle was much easier. Tom’s parents (5 minutes away) sold us their minivan, and it was a pleasure seeing them again and catching up. Like our first van purchase, we are not sure if this was a sale or a gift, but we feel blessed either way. We actually agreed to buy this van before we saw it, but we weren’t disappointed when we did.

So we are now a two-van family. Our three years in Budapest with only one car were wonderful, and if there was good public transportation in our area, we would gladly run just one car here, too. Thus ends our era of European automotive sensibilities.

Down With Blogs

If you believe the hype, blogs are as significant as the invention of the printing press for their ability to change the way the world will be seen. If, on the other hand, you believe the counter-hype, blogs are a self-indulgence which pander to dull people’s misguided beliefs that they have something interesting to say.

That made me laugh. This BBC article says some good things about blogging and what it all means in today’s media.

Lest I acquire any self-delusions alluded to above, I simply check the daily visit count on this blog!

What Makes Life Interesting

Trampoline in the Rain

Trampoline in the Rain

Life in Budapest was pretty interesting, but with interestingness came difficulty. Life in Orlando is not very difficult, but with ease comes a certain degree of monotony. It’s not that life is boring it’s just that challenges come in different forms. Driving, getting registered, buying insurance, and buying appliances all require some effort, but they are no longer quite as interesting (my new discovery of online classified ads notwithstanding).

Getting Andrew to tonight’s youth group event was challenging, but it isn’t interesting because there are one million other Americans doing the same thing right now, too.

Visually things are pretty homogenous as well. Sure, it all looks nice, but everything is so spread out that the scenery doesn’t change much during the course of daily errands. It takes a trip through different parts of the city to create an interesting ride. It all makes me want to paint my house pumpkin yellow-orange like our neighbors’ in Budapest.

But jumping on the trampoline in the rain with Audrey – that’s interesting.

Another Day, Another Small Step Forward

Even though Orlando feels just like home, we are trying to keep in mind the things we learned while away (like being flexible), and we are trying to approach this transition as if we were moving to a completely new culture. That perspective is mostly unecessary, though. For example, today I knew when the stop light was going to turn green, because I am already very familiar with the intersections near our home. It reminded me that living in a place for 12 years doesn’t leave you quickly even if some things have changed.

But one benefit of putting ourselves in the place of a learner is that other people teach us valuable things. Today I used my new knowledge of online classified ads (Craig’s List) to buy a barely-used washing machine for $75. I didn’t realize stuff like this would be for sale in such good condition.

Andrew and Audrey are learning, too; they got their new house work assignments today. I was very proud of them, as they didn’t complain and even seemed excited about starting something new.

Just Back From A Retreat

Jerry and Cathy at Sea World

Jerry and Cathy at Sea World

As returning overseas missionaries, we had the opportunity to spend this last week at a Campus Crusade for Christ conference for us and several other families in the same position. Each year CCC hosts a time where their returning ex-patriot staff members and families can begin the transition back to life in the U.S. with some helpful input from others who have done this before.

We stayed at a hotel on International Drive, Orlando’s tourist district. It was a flood of things purely American, and it washed out all memory of what life used to be like two weeks ago before we moved. Neon lights, thrill rides, upside down buildings, advertisements, and amusement parks fill this area. Ironically there were far more foreigners at our hotel than Americans, but their holiday landed them squarely in the middle of a place you can only find here.

The highlight of the time was probably seeing Andrew and Audrey connect with the other junior high and high school kids who were there. They had a separate program, and we hardly saw them all week. Our other highlight was when we all went to Sea World. It was fun riding Kraken again, seeing the Shamu show, and taking self portraits on my camera phone.

It was a good week for ignoring all the things we have waiting for us to do, but tomorrow we resume the hunt for a washer and dryer.

America, The Land of Electronics

Not only were there language barriers to shopping and buying electronics in Hungary, but they also generally cost twice as much. As a result we usually purchased electronics over the Internet and waited until someone we knew was willing to bring them to us in their suitcase. Now, living within easy delivery distance of UPS and just a couple miles from Best Buy this process is back to being easy. With the cultural and lanuage barriers gone, too, it’s downright easy.

In fact, my friend, Dave, was giving me some suggestions for where to find good deals on TV’s, and he mentioned Craig’s List, a website for classified ads. Not only do we not need a TV immediately, but it is one of the things our friends loaned us for now. But Dave had sent me a link to all the used TV’s for sale in Orlando on Craig’s List, and I sent emails to a few of them when I got his link. Within an hour I had a reply from one seller and an appointment to go look at his TV. This morning we are still without a washer and dryer and other essential items, but I bought a TV anyway. It was so easy, and I had the job half done without even trying. Furthermore, I spent less money on it than we sold our TV for in Hungary, and it’s a better TV. It was as easy as falling off a log.

When we bought a TV in Hungary three years ago it took us 10 minutes and a phone call just to figure out that before we could take the TV to the cash register we needed to go back outside, get a cart (which required depositing $0.50 into the cart handle), and bring the cart inside to where the salesperson was so he could put it on the cart so we could take it to the cash register.

If the TV deal wasn’t a big enough electronics victory for one day, we followed it up with another win at the phone store. For a net $40 (after rebates, of course) we left the store with 2 really cool phones (Motorola RAZR and V360), a wireless headset, and 2 car chargers.

I love this place!

I Resume Yard Work

My three year vacation from yard work ended today, but I didn’t mind. I rather like trimming trees and cutting the grass, all while swimming in the Orlando humidity. This time around Andrew is capable of running the mower, but I am not sure if I want to let him. In another couple weeks the job will probably be his, but for now I am liking it.

Andrew Begins High School!

BBQ with the Rodds

BBQ with the Rodds

Today we registered Andrew for high school!

Hungary has no monopoly on paperwork. We spent several hours driving around getting the right medical forms and proof of residency. We’re still not done, but he is tentatively registered.

Driving around is a pleasure. The pavement is amazingly smooth – everywhere. Like a dream.

Biggest surprise of the day: Discovering they built an entire new city while we were gone in the area around Andrew’s high school. Complete with shopping and two new elementary schools. It went up fast and reminds me of a Hollywood movie set. Only it’s real.

Tonight we had a barbeque with the Rodds. Last week we had a barbeque with the Rodds, too. This week it was in Orlando. Last week it was in Budapest. It’s great to transition with friends!

Florida Water Memories

Smells bring back old memories better than sights or sounds, and the water here reminds me of so many things. It has lots of chlorine in it, and that smell has been reminding me of many things; the time we first moved into this house back in 2000, times we’ve stayed at friends’ houses during other transitions, hose showers after long runs, and, of course, swimming on hot days. They are good memories.

Cathy feels our new environment to a greater degree than me, though. We’ve lived for three years on a short-term assignment, but now we’ve returned to an indefinite one, and the change requires some emotional adjustments. She’s having a more normal re-entry experience compared to many other people we’ve talked with who’ve done this.

Audreys says, “I love this house, and I’m glad to see friends.”
Andrew is glad to be where he can skateboard easily again. There is lots of smooth pavement everywhere and people who like to skate – who speak English.

Day 2 – New Tags, New Toys


The New Toy – A Trampoline

Another normal day today – other than a duplicate trip to the auto tag agency. I arrived with a signed-for-sale car title, but I failed to fill in the odometer reading field before I handed it over the counter to the tag agent. One would think this was a minor thing, something you could simply hand back to me so I could fill in the mileage number, but not this agent. She required me to have an addendum attached to my form, also signed by the seller, indicating the mileage amount. After another trip back to the Kelloggs (the sellers) I returned with the proper signatures and got my tag. If this had been my former home in Budapest, I am certain this minor error would have been resolved in about 60 seconds rather than 12 more miles of driving back and forth. She redeemed herself later, though. By pulling up my old Florida auto tag records, she saved me $100 by exempting me from some “new wheels on the road” fee which I had never heard of before.

Our renter friends left behind a trampoline, and this has been our new toy. The kids have always wanted one, and today they had some friends over for some long awaited jumping.

Day 1 – Like Walking Out of the Wardrobe

Before Departure

Before Departure

After Arrival

After Arrival

I’m sure in six months we will have a better perspective on how things have changed in our new world since the last time we lived in it, but for now it feels like we stepped back out of Narnia’s magic wardrobe into the life we left three years ago. All the kids are three years older, but it seems like no time has passed otherwise.

Today was comparatively easy. I set up insurance for our first car – by myself! I drove across town without a map. I went to the bank, and it was easy making a deposit, getting a cash withdrawal, and getting temporary checks. Cathy even managed the Internet setup appointment herself.

Best of all was our first visit back to our house. The first amazing thing was discovering that our new church home group (old friends) had furnished our house! We couldn’t believe it. It makes the next six weeks of waiting on our container very much easier. The next amazing thing was seeing what good condition the house is in. We knew our friends were taking good care of it, but there is hardly even a sign of wear. What a blessing to come home to this! Finally, Andrew and Audrey were amazed at the loaner TV in our house. Our three year TV hiatus has officially ended – as you can see in the picture.

There were two bad things today, though. First was hearing that our friend, Dan (who rented our house with his family) was diagnosed with a brain tumor today. Join us in praying for them, as this is a tough time for them. The second (hardly worth mentioning in light of this situation) is that 5 of our 8 boxes have not arrived. The airline website says one remains lost. I hope the one with my clothes isn’t the lost one.

Done. Ready To Go.

Last Day Packing

Last Day Packing

We’ve made the last delivery, said the last goodbye, and packed our suitcases and boxes – all before 10:30. Amazing. We are also exhausted and looking forward to the chance to rest on the plane. Tomorrow begins the next chapter in our lives.

Last Dinner at Adler

Tonight we had our last dinner at the Adler. This has been our favorite restaurant, and we will miss it. The school graduation, just earlier, was our final goodbye to lots of other friends. Tomorrow is one more day of deliveries and final packing, but then we should be finished and ready to go.

Bookends to Our Time in Hungary

Three years ago when we traveled to Hungary we came on the same flight with friends, the Seelys. We stayed at their new house until our container arrived and began the adjustment process together. Valerie wasn’t able to come initially for medical reasons, so our time was just with part of the Seely family.

Upon leaving Hungary, our last few days here will be at the Seely house. Only part of the Seely family is here, too, as Tom is in the US with Trent for medical reasons.

This creates a nice balance. As we go through the sadness of leaving, being at the Seelys brings back lots of good memories of when we came.

Day 3 of Insanity

I’m sitting here again in our quiet apartment taking a few minutes before another frenetic day begins. Delivering things we sold, cleaning the house, and shuttling the family around has kept me, and the rest of us, pretty busy the last couple days. Cathy is still finishing up her work at school today, and she’ll still have things to finish after we arrive in Orlando. I knew things were stressful when I woke up yesterday morning at about 4:30 am with a migraine headache. Fortunately it backed off enough so I could get back to sleep. When I woke up two hours later the headache was gone, and I felt great – but it reminded me that I need to lighten up a bit.

All Quiet Now



The loading team of 7 is gone. All our stuff is gone. Audrey is out with friends. Cathy and Andrew are running back to school to pick up the books he forgot. Just Annie and me are left, and the house is really quiet. And it echoes.

Cathy’s Retrospective on the Loss of the Living Room

Cathy’s observation of the disappearance of our living room brought different thoughts than mine. It marked the end of a really good time we had as a family. We spent a lot of time together there and had lots of good conversations there.

Orlando promises a schedule likely to be too busy for much time just hanging out together in the living room. Cathy observes that sunny days, of which there are no lack in Orlando, say, “Come on, get busy! Daylight’s burning! Get out and do something!” Whereas the rainy days and cold, snowy days here in Budapest said, “You’re not going anywhere, so you might as well make yourself comfortable, get some tea, and enjoy the moment.”

To keep her perspective on the situation Cathy recently framed a page from her Mary Engelbreit calendar and has made it her motto for this move.

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.
– Dr. Seuss

Whoops, There Goes the Living Room

The Living Room, Ready for Transit

The Living Room, Ready for Transit

Oops. Can’t get a cup for a drink; they just got packed. No more paper towel either, that got packed, too. D’oh, my tools are gone, now. Whoa – so is the living room. Hey, what’s wrong with my Internet connection? – unplugged too. That’s not going today, so it was easy to power up again. Things are changing rapidly in the house. By noon more than half of it was packed up.

Mystery Solved at the Last Minute

During the last year we have puzzled over the species of a particular animal roaming our neighborhood at night. It seemed too big to be a weasel, yet it was too out of place to be a mongoose. Tonight Annie cornered it under a car and then flushed it out into full view. I got to watch it dart back and forth across my neighbors’ driveway looking for an escape route. Finally it ran up their stairs, scurried up their vine to the roof and disappeared into the night.

The animal is a ferret.

With that mystery solved, we can now resume packing. It’s 11:30 pm – eight and a half hours until the movers arrive. Lots to do still.

One Day Left

A Fake Italian Chef

A Fake Italian Chef

The last two days didn’t see as much progress as before, so our one remaining day will be insane. Such is life. We will be grabbing things away from the packers I’m sure, as we haven’t yet physically separated all the things which are going or staying. I guess that will just add to the fun of the day on Monday.

If we run out of time to pack, it won’t be for lack of seeing friends before we leave. While our house is a wreck, our relationships are more in order. Tonight we had dinner with the McIntoshes (Dorsey has been my boss the last three years) and Valerie (less Tom) and the Rodds who are moving to Orlando with us. They made me dress up like an Italian chef since we were all making Italian food.

3 Days Left

Three days until the movers arrive to start packing and carrying things away. We are in full scramble mode, but not yet frantic.

Here’s what got done today. It’s what’s on our minds!
* Take Cathy to school so I can have the van.
* Find someone to paint the house after we leave.
* Stop by post office and ask about my törzskönyv (car ownership card).
* Stop by City Hall and ask about my törzskönyv
* Give cat papers to neighbor.
* Clean van thoroughly.
* Tell landlord that the hot water is not working.
* Deliver van to buyer.
* Make phone calls to US.

* Make final computer backup.

I almost got it all done. Tomorrow is inventory day and packing for the six weeks while our things are in transit.