Thursday, August 01, 2013

A Visit from Aunt Terri & Benjamin

arriving at the Iquique airport, July 25th 2013

We were three sisters growing up in Chile in the dozen years between 1982 - 1994. Arriving in Santiago at the ages of 6, 8, and 10 respectively (me being the youngest!), we first entered the hallowed halls of the Santiago Christian Academy for missionary children in 1st, 4th, and 6th grades and continued through graduation from high school. Through the mentoring of many great teachers and the influence of genetics (education being a major profession in our family tree) we each went on to college to become teachers ourselves. My sisters Terri and Jennifer are both elementary teachers, with Terri having also completed a masters degree as a reading specialist.

a yummy Chilean lunch was our first stop on the Iquique tour
Jennifer (not pictured - but you can read about her in this post) and her family returned to Chile full-time in 2006, after serving short-term for two years in 2001-2003. She has contributed to SCA, our mission's MK school, in various capacities - directing Christmas musicals; assessing the needs of new ESL students; serving on the school board. This year with her youngest beginning Kindergarten at SCA, Jenn will enter the 1st grade classroom as a full-time teacher.

Terri, Benjamin and Alec amidst the construction of portside Iquique
Terri, meanwhile, spent years teaching full-time in public school and Christian college in Pennsylvania before "retiring" to homeschool her own children. During her time as a college professor training teachers, she had the privilege of accompanying small groups of student teachers back to SCA for hands-on experience and a cross-cultural adventure. She also provided in-service training for the educators on staff at the school during those visits.

we enjoyed a fun boating experience around Iquique's harbor
However, it had been seven years since Terri was last able to travel to Chile (an eternity for an MK who loves her "heartland!") She had never been to Iquique. So when the opportunity presented itself for Terri to accompany one of her former students who planned to teach at SCA and in so doing provide additional teacher training to the current staff, we all hoped and prayed God would provide the funds to make this dream a reality! Terri also hoped that enough funds might be raised to allow her son Benjamin (8 years old) to accompany her on this trip, as her now-teenaged sons Jonathan and Sabastian did previously.

Terri watches as son Benjamin acquaints himself with the Pacific Ocean
God truly does "exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think" (Eph. 3:20) and He did provide for both Terri and Benjamin to come to Chile for three weeks. In an unexpected twist, her former student did not come after all. Yet even in this we realize God uses circumstances as He sees fit and this was the one He chose to bring Terri "home" for awhile. And we are grateful! It was so special to receive them in our home and in our city and share the people and places and realities of our life here.

happy cousins
Our kids of course were thrilled to have visitors and a reason to skip a little school and visit some of their favorite "haunts" (pardon the pun for those who recognize the "ghost town" of Humberstone below!) Saturday, the day we chose to head to the interior of the desert, was cloudy and cold in Iquique yet brilliantly sunny once we crested the mountain and skimmed over the Atacama Desert sands.

new passengers on an old train
Owen and Benjamin marched to the (significantly faster) beat of their own drummer as they scurried through exhibits and whisked around corners and often vanished from sight in the nooks and crannies of the timeworn town. But occasionally they reappeared together, in this case as friendly clerks in an old general store of sorts:

"Can I help you, ma'am?"

don't mess with "Teacher Terri!"
As always, the creaking desks of the old classrooms sagged under a new crop of students and "Teacher Terri" had fun imagining the joys of a one-room schoolhouse filled with ALL ages (thank you, Pedro!) It was actually a pretty busy day at Humberstone with plenty of other tourists, including a full busload with their own guide. We had to chuckle at a "first" for our family when a stranger hopped behind us during a family photo and had his wife take a picture with him in it, too! (Guess he thought "Brangelina" had made it to Chile, ha!)

a picture of the whole gang - thanks to another helpful tourist
Finally it was on to Pisagua where much to our chagrin, upon descending to sea level we discovered the same cold cloudiness that had hovered over Iquique. That did not stop the four boys from testing the waters, though! Benjamin had his heart set on swimming in the Pacific so after a hearty lunch of homemade chicken salad on fresh marraqueta bread, he and his cousins unearthed the swim trunks and changed al fresco behind the car.

literally, where the desert meets the ocean
Owen didn't last long in the low temperatures and Ian was reeled in after an early attempt to get swept out to sea (one of those "slow motion" moments in motherhood), so Alec and Benjamin got the most out of the experience. The picture below is my favorite - no, Alec is not worshipping the waves but he sure is expressing delight over them!

thumbs up and sheer joy
On Sunday we introduced Terri and Benjamin to our church, our friends, and our taca-taca (foosball) table - in that order. It was a blessing and a sweet memory to worship side by side, singing praises to our God who is the same in Iquique and in PA. And then of course, a Sunday afternoon visit to Iquique would not be complete without introducing our visitors to our favorite Chinese restaurant as well. Sadly, we forgot to take a picture. But Terri, who has traveled to China, paid the high compliment of saying it was the best Chinese food she has tasted outside of China (and we like to think she is right!)

cousins in competition
Aunt Terri with a handsome young nephew
On Monday, we treated the big kids to a day off from school and managed to squeeze several important stops on the Iquique tour into one morning. First, the Zofri free-trade mall for important purchases such as rechargeable batteries, Spanish children's books, and Iquique's finest chumbeque. Then to Plaza Prat downtown with its historic clock tower under repair and tourist trolleys calling for yet another cousin photograph!

at Plaza Prat

don't they all look so excited?
Terri was able to shop for homemade gifts for those who supported her trip to Chile, and Benjamin took home a handmade wooden boat as a keepsake from our coastal town. (By the way, one of his classic questions to Aunt Steph was, "Why did you just call it a town? Didn't you say this was a city? Which one is it?")

mother and son perusing the artisan shops in iquique
With one more place to go yet realizing the boys were not up for the challenge, we stopped at church so Owen and Benjamin could join Ian and Alec and head home with "Uncle Pedro" who had promised a delicious asado/cookout for our last meal together (and he did not disappoint!) The little boys were very happy with their mementos from our shopping trip, and happily posed for a picture with Aunt Terri before we parted ways. Two-dollar sunglasses never fail to impress! :)

Aunt Terri with littlest nephews
Finally, we ducked into the Terminal Agropecuario (known more simply as the Agro) to browse the busy aisles of secondhand American clothing and purchase a pair of regulation white sneakers for Eva's PE class (her second pair already this year - yes, she is growing!) Crossing the main street, we then visited the bulk candy store where Terri was able to stock up on sweet treats to take home. Chilean chocolate bars - the Sahne Nuss brand which her husband loves (and which incidentally is a blog post topic elsewhere, who knew??) - as well as individual manjar packets for our dad and we also considered buying Negritas and alfajores but exercised self-control instead. It was so fun to reminisce about our favorite Chilean sweets and it brought back memories! From the candy store I ran two flights up to the fresh produce section to buy veggies for dinner, and then we were headed back to home.

As promised, Pedro had delicious spiced ribs and chicken breast on the grill and we ended our visit as it began with a wonderful Chilean meal. Goodbyes were said at bedtime, as our kids were off to school in the morning and by noon the next day, Terri and Benjamin were on their way back to Santiago for one more week of ministry and memories. We already miss them, but are so glad they came!

grilled chicken, ribs, Chilean rice and salads - yum!
last meal with our special guests


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing these experiences. It is fun to travel vicariously and see how your family is doing. God bless you all. Love, Bethleen

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful synopsis of an unforgettable experience for Terri and Benjamin and the family as a whole. Thanks for sharing it.

Tina said...

So glad you got to make some wonderful memories with your sister. Your city/town sounds like a neat place to visit. Loved the pictures. T