Stephen runs to be a hero

     This past weekend (March 1, 2009), Stephen participated in a race with the oddest distance he ever ran.  It was a 12.7 km race which is approximately eight miles.  He found out the reason for this particular set distance had to do with the fact that the race began at one police station in the southern side of Quito to the other police station in the center of the city. 
Stephen Registers for the race
Stephen Registers for the race
     The reason the race spanned between these two points was because of the fact that the race was sponsored by the National Police Force of Quito.  This was the 5th year that this race had been organized. The flier for the race stated, “Be a hero and support the National Police by participating in this race.” 
     In spite of the lack of regular training and adjusting to the high altitude, Stephen felt energetic  (if not heroic) as he prepared to meet other runners from the school early that Sunday morning.  They all rode out to the starting point in a taxi. 
     Cristina and the boys stayed home, because the race was starting at 8am.  Stephen found the course to be very hilly and the kilometer markers were inconsistent.  However, he was happy to participate with approximately 3,000 other runners after not having run a race in three months.  At the end of the race, Stephen received a “diploma” from the National Police to commemorate his run. 
     After finishing the race, he walked home from the police station feeling tired but content.  He was surprised to find that he was not as exhausted as he had been during other races.  In face, he has already signed up to run another race.  On March 15, there is a 10K that he will run at 8am.  


A Taste in Ecuadorian Nationality

A small replica of the Ecuadorian National Flag
A small replica of the Ecuadorian National Flag

     Although the Alliance Academy International (AAI) has always had a certain number of Ecuadorian citizens, it has not been until recently that they have taken on the civic responsibility to honor the national flag in a common scholarly event known as “Jura a La Bandera.” It literally means “The Pledge to the Flag.” 
On Friday, February 20, Stephen had the opportunity to play a small part in this school-wide ceremony.  The top nine students from the sixth grade class and the high school senior class were selected to participate in the ceremony while other students and their parents came to watch. There were other students who participated from ninth through eleventh grade in carrying in the flags from all the countries represented by the student body.

     According to a letter sent out to parents and teachers, “The reason to celebrate this event is to teach our students civic respect that we should have to Ecuador, where we live; because of this, we would like to point out the following:

a. Ecuadorians are obligated to pledge to the flag.

b. For those who have double nationality, it is optional; they can pledge to the flag or show a sign of respect to the flag

c. Foreigners do not have to pledge to the flag, only show respect.”

      During the event, the sixth graders and twelve graders who participated wore black pants or skirts and white shirts and white kid gloves.   The ceremony began at 2:30pm and ended at 3:30.  Cristina was unable to go, because it was in the middle of Jared’ naptime, and she was at home with the boys.

      Stephen participated in the beginning of the ceremony by giving an invocation prayer.  Stephen commented that this was the only part of the ceremony performed in English.  The rest of the ceremony was done in Spanish. 

      After all the flags were brought into the room, there was a collective “promise” given by both the sixth grade class and the senior class to honor and respect their country and the flag of their country.

     Then all the students from elementary school through high school marched up in rows to honor the flag in the way they saw fit.  For Ecuadorian citizens, this meant actually kissing the flag and saluting it while walking by.  For foreign students, there were roses made available for them to take to the flag and leave there. 

      Although Stephen did not understand much of the language being said, he could understand the sentiments given.  For him, it was a good experience in seeing how Ecuadorians place importance on honoring their nation’s flag. 

Another successful week in spiritual emphasis

     All middle and high school students attend chapel every Wednesday. However, there is also a special week of chapels planned for each semester of the school year to emphasize areas of spiritual growth for all students who participate. Soon after the second semester began at the Alliance Academy International (AAI), they had their second spiritual emphasis week from February 9-13.  A graduate of the school, Paul Reichert (98) was the speaker for the week. 

      Although Cristina was unable to attend any of the chapels, Stephen was able to attend parts of the chapels.  He noted the dramatic transformation of the chapel into a dark room with three projectors pointing toward the center of the room where the speaker was located.  The students sat in chairs in the stages that surrounded the speaker as he focused on how one can “know God” and how to share God with others.
     Stephen found Paul’s first chapel message to be interesting as he focused on the aspects of evangelism and how to present the gospel message to those who are atheists.  As the week wore on, Stephen also noted that the students were very receptive to Paul’s message and responded well to him.  
     In summary, it was successful on both a spiritual and personal level.

Luke Evan Meier: The Making of a “Citizen”

Cristina signs forms for Luke's birth certificate

Cristina signs forms for Luke's birth certificate

     One of the interesting challenges in giving birth in a “foreign” country is processing the paperwork to register the newborn child as part of a specific society.  The whole idea of “dual citizenship” becomes a reality as one has go through the “red tape” of two different countries. 

     Cristina’s adventures first began with giving birth to her son at the “Hospital Metropolitano” (translated “Metropolitan Hospital”).  After paying the bills and being given permission to leave the hospital, Cristina and Stephen in obtaining the certificate of live birth.  They were directed to the office of clinical records where they submitted the small card that identified Luke as “RN Meier Cobb” during his hospital stay.  The office gave them a certificate of live birth that also identified Luke as “RN Meier Cobb.”   

     RN is the acronym for “recien nacido” which is the Spanish word for newborn.  It didn’t matter how many times Stephen or Cristina told the doctors and nurses that the baby’s name was Luke Evan, they still referred to him as “RN Meier Cobb.”  Another interesting item was that the certificate listed the mother’s name only and it was listed as Cristina Rebeca Cobb (which is her maiden name).  However, the parents didn’t feel too concerned, because they were told that this certificate was not official.  The next step was to take the paper to obstetrician’s office (the doctor who delivered the baby) and get him to sign it in order to obtain the “official” birth certificate from a civil registration office.

     After making an extra trip to his office, Dr. Bermeo signed the document and Cristina put it away for several weeks without thinking anymore of it.

     As the days of February slipped by, Cristina realized that she would soon have to renew her own passport, because it was set to expire on February 28, 2009.  She also realized that she had not yet obtained the official birth certificate for Luke Evan.  After some urging from Stephen, she agreed to go to the U.S. embassy to try to renew her passport (and find out what needed to be done for Luke) on Friday, February 27th.

     Unaware of the adventure that awaited her, she packed herself and her two boys into a taxi and requested that the taxi take her to the U.S. embassy.

     “The new location or the old location?” the taxi driver asked her.     

     Stumped by the question, Cristina guessed that it was the new location, but made a panicked call to her husband to find out for sure.  Relieved to find that they were traveling to the right direction, she sat back and tried to relax.   

     Thirty minutes later, they arrived at their final destination.  Fortunately, the long taxi ride only cost $3.  She thanked the driver and then walked toward the building.  The guard met her at the front door and asked her what she was doing there.

     After explaining that she needed to renew her passport, he shook his head and told her that the office that serves the needs of U.S. citizens is not open on Fridays.  She found out that this office is only open from 1:00-4pm on Monday through Thursdays, and that she would have to wait until Monday to process her paperwork. However, it was not a useless visit.  Two gentlemen standing on the curb had offered to take her passport pictures if she needed them.  So, she took her boys down to their shop and got passport pictures taken for herself and for Luke. 

     After returning home to put the boys down for their afternoon nap, Cristina decided to try to find the civil registration office near the hospital that her doctor had recommended.  Leaving the boys at home with the nanny, Cristina took a taxi out to the hospital.  She had the hospital certificate of live birth and the passports and Ecuadorian ID cards for herself and Stephen.  This, she was told, was all she would need to receive the official certificate.

     “At least, I can get this done now and be able to get Luke’s passport when I go back to the embassy on Monday,” she told herself in ignorant bliss.

     Her bliss was soon to be shattered when she began reading the sign on the door of the civil registration office located in the police headquarters of the “Hospital Metropolitano.”

     First of all, she needed to make copies of everything (hospital certificate, passports, visas, ID cards, marriage certificate).  After making copies of what she had, she realized that she didn’t have her marriage certificate on her.  She was also told that her hospital certificate was not valid, because the doctor was supposed to put his official stamp on the record…not simply sign it.  Therefore, she had to go back to his office to request the stamp and make another photocopy of the paper. 

     With a sigh, she left the building on another quest.  She stopped by her doctor’s office to obtain the missing stamp, went home to pick up her marriage license and got copies of everything she needed. At the end of the day, she returned to the civil registration office with Stephen and the two boys just in case they were needed.  They arrived to find out that the office closed at 2:30pm every day.  A little frustrated but not dismayed, the family returned to the office the next morning.

     Finally, the paperwork was being processed.  Cristina gave a sigh of relief.  She didn’t mind paying the 50 cents required of those who wait more than 30 days to register their newborns.  She watched joyfully as the clerk nodded her approval to all the paperwork presented to her and began to fill out a form that appeared to be a certificate.  She got excited as Luke Evan’s name was added to the form instead of “RN.” 

     When she finished typing on several sheets of paper, she handed a small document to Cristina and explained that the paper was to be presented at another office in the south end of Quito in order to proceed with Ecuadorian or U.S. registration.  Slowly it began to dawn on this family that the adventure was not yet over.

     “You must wait eight days before you can go to this office,” the clerk explained. “But this paper will not help you at the U.S. embassy until you visit the civic registration office of Turubamba and receive the official certificate for your son.” 

      Although Luke would not be eligible for a U.S. passport by Monday, Cristina determined to find out exactly what she would need for him when she went in to renew her own passport.

     Her Monday visit turned out to be the easiest part in the whole process. Cristina received some important documents that needed to be filled out before she could process Luke’s “birth abroad” certificate and his passport. Most of the requirements were familiar to Cristina and Stephen after going through the process in obtaining Jared’s passport.  The only surprising request was to bring in some kind of evidence that either parent had “resided” somewhere in the U.S. for at least five years of their lives.

     Children born to U.S. parents can obtain citizenship through their relationship to their parents, however, it is not allowed officially unless the parents themselves have lived within U.S. borders for at least five years of their lives.  It is almost a problem for Stephen and I, because we both lived most of our lives outside of the U.S. Fortunately, we both attended college and graduate school in the U.S. which covered six years for me and seven years for Stephen.  Therefore, we don’t have to rely on the three years of married life that we spent in the U.S. to count for our five years of U.S. residence.  Instead, we can use an official transcript from Stephen’s university to show that he was a campus student for five years while obtaining his bachelor’s and two of his master’s degrees there.

     Although the adventures are not yet over, Cristina and Stephen are hoping to be able to obtain all of Luke’s necessary paperwork done by the end of March. 

The Frequent Flier “Planned” a Trip for April

************Special Note: Update Listed Below***********

As of mid-March, Stephen cancelled his April trip to the U.S. and made a decision to stay in Ecuador for at least one more year. Find out more at the following link:
     Ever since last November, Stephen has been looking for job openings for a school administrator position in light of the possibility of not being able to continue working at the Alliance Academy International. 

     As we pray for God’s direction for the following school year, Stephen has also received feedback from most of the schools to which he has made inquires.  Some schools have sent polite and brief rejection letters.  Some have expressed interest in keeping his record on file and others have set up interviews and asked if it would be possible for him to come visit them.
     In light of these requests, Stephen has decided to make a week long trip to the U.S. to visit the schools that seem the most likely to offer him a position for next year.  

     His specific itinerary for his April trip is not complete at this point.  All he knows for sure at this point is that he might be visiting schools in northern Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and possibly Massachusetts and returning to Quito on May 2nd.  He will be looking for places to spend the night as he travels around looking at schools.  You can let him know if you are interested in the possibility of visiting with him in this whirlwind traveling adventure.  Cristina and the boys will be staying in Quito.


     E-mail: booking booking

The “Bumble-bee Freeloader”

The home of the freeloading bumble bee

The home of the freeloading bumble bee

     It was the third weekend in February and Stephen was looking forward to the four day weekend that we were getting because of “Carnaval.” 

     “Carnaval” is the name that Ecuadorians have given to the celebration of “Marti Gras” that is the more commonly known name for this celebration in the United States.  In Ecuador, the two days before Ash Wednesday are national holidays in celebration of Carnaval.  This year, those days were the 23rd and 24th of February. 

     Saturday morning, Stephen and I decided to take our babies up to a place called “El Teleferico” which is a cable car ride that carries you up to the top of the Mountain/ Volcano called “Pichincha.”  Restrictions to children under the age of eighteen months meant we weren’t allowed to actually ride the cable car.  However, there was a cute little park and some lovely landscaping at the base of the cable car ride.  We took the opportunity to roam around and find some good locations to take family pictures. (One of those pictures is the banner to our blog site).  

     I was carrying Luke around in a Baby Bjorn® and Stephen was carrying Jared around on his shoulders.  When we found a spot to take a picture, I pulled Luke out of the Baby Bjorn® and held him in my arms.  After the shot was over, I strapped Luke back into the Baby Bjorn® and kept on moving.

     After a couple hours, we decided to go back home so that Jared could take his afternoon nap.  I didn’t notice anything unusual about the Baby Bjorn® until we made it home.  Stephen was putting Jared to bed, and Luke was laying peacefully in his crib when I made a startling discovery. I had just picked up the Baby Bjorn® that I had tossed onto my bed when we arrived home.

     To my surprise and amazement, the Baby Bjorn® began to make the oddest humming noise and it appeared to be vibrating in my hand.  At first, I thought I might be hearing the noise from somewhere else.  So, I took the thing over to Stephen and asked him if he was hearing the same thing I was hearing. 

     He looked at me and stated quite calmly, “It probably has a bug in it.” 

     I jumped back, dropping the humming object on the ground.  I recovered my sense quickly, realizing that I didn’t want the humming “thing” to come flying out into the house.  I gingerly picked up the Baby Bjorn® once more and carried it over to the living room window.

     For those of you who are unfamiliar with the way a Baby Bjorn® works, it contains two straps that are put on one’s back and a series of hooks and buttons to strap a small baby onto the front of the person holding the baby.  The two side hooks go into a cylinder hole of cloth and metal near the rib cage area. 

     After banging the Baby Bjorn against the outside wall of our 6th story apartment window, I suddenly realized that the buzzing noise and vibration was coming from the cylinder hole on the right.  I debated for a moment if I should just take a shoe and try to pound the life out of the creature before digging it out, but then realized I didn’t want to deal with the mess afterward. 

     Therefore, I took a deep breath, pointed the Baby Bjorn® out toward the sky and carefully rubbed my finger at the closed end of the hole where this insect appeared to be trapped.  A couple buzzes later, a bumble bee crawled out the front of the hole and flew away. 

     Just like that, our “bumble bee freeloader” was gone, and I was grateful that no one had been hurt in the process (including Mr. Bee).

Cristina’s Qualifying Exams Results

     After taking my written exams for my Ph.D. in Communication from Regent University on January 29-30, I had three weeks to review my material and prepare for the oral defense on February 17th. Meanwhile, I was still busy adjusting to being a mom of two without having the help of my mother. 
I realize the big question on everyone’s minds is, “Did you pass?”
     I have to answer both “yes” and “no.”  Let me explain.
     When the day finally arrived for me to take the test, I was both tired and mentally exhausted.  But I thought I was prepared to answer the questions of my professors. 
The exam took place in the director’s office at the school, so that my professors at Regent University could take advantage of the Vonage phone number, which would ring as if we were located in New York and not cost them a huge international long distance fee. It was a conference call from 10am to 12 noon.  I sat on one end of the line while my four professors sat at the other end on a speaker phone. 
Regardless of the time I spent preparing, I immediately became nervous and my mind blanked out at the first question asked of me.  I spent the next two hours trembling through each question and the responses I was giving and feeling completely unnerved.
     At the end of the two hours, I was extremely drained and did not feel that I had done well at all.  The professors bid me farewell to discuss the results of my examination.
     My advisor called me back to give me both “good news and bad news.”  I had done well enough to pass five of the seven segments of the test.  Therefore, I was deemed competent in approximately 71% of my qualifying exams.  BUT…I did not meet their expectations in responding to questions on qualitative research methods or in advanced communication theory.  Therefore, I would be required to take those two portions of the qualifying exam over again in October of 2009 (when the next qualifying exams are made available).
     So, “yes,” I did pass a significant portion of my exams and will not have to retake those sections.  However, “no,” I did not pass the exams entirely.  My transcript for the spring semester will show that I have not passed my exams and that I will need to retake them before I can continue with the process of finishing my doctorate degree.
     However, my professor did tell me that I could begin doing the research needed to present the proposal for my dissertation in the fall semester.  And I would have the rest of the spring and summer semesters to work on that and to study for the two portions of the exam that I will need to retake in October.

Farewell, night shift


Luke sleeps

Luke sleeps

     I felt quite blessed when my first son began to sleep through the night when he was 10 weeks old.  After listening to so many parents who had to wait six months or over a year for their infants to sleep that long, I also considered myself quite lucky. 

     That is why I had been nervous about the sleeping habits forming in my second son.  Would Luke learn to sleep through the night at the same time that Jared did? Seven weeks went by and Luke was keeping a 3 hour sleeping schedule each night.  I was growing quite tired of the two nightly feedings that had to take place. 

     Then something surprising happened.  On February 25th, I put Luke to bed at 9pm and went to bed myself.  Eight hours later, I woke up to find out that Luke had not stirred the whole night.  The following night, I put Luke to bed at 10pm and he slept until 6am. 

     I was starting to get excited.  However, the next night Luke up at 3am and decided it was party time. Much to the dismay of his parents, he would not go back to sleep until after 5am. 
So far, Luke seems to be keeping this interesting pattern of sleeping through the night for two nights in a row and then waking up for his 3-5am party on the third night.


     March 11 (Wednesday)- As of last night, Luke has slept through the night FOUR nights in a row.  It was also the first night that “mama” was not awakened by anything between going to bed at 10:15pm and waking up at 6am.  Not only did Luke sleep through the night, but so did Jared and mama’s bladder!


The Interpreting of “Jaredish”

 Jared continues to defy my expectations of him.  I had heard that boys take longer to talk than girls.  I had also heard that children learning more than one language at a time would probably not start talking as soon as children who are learning only one language.

Jared calls his brother, "Baby Loo"

Jared calls his brother, "Baby Loo"


     However, Jared has amazed me with his understanding of so many English and Spanish words.  We’ve been playing the “where’s your ______?” game with Jared, and he’ll point out those objects for us. 
As his understanding has increased, so has his spoken vocabulary. At 19 months of age, he has learned to say quite a few words.  Now, he doesn’t actually string them together in the form of an intelligible sentence, but he has been able to get his message across.
The challenge comes with words he’s learned to say that are similar to each other.  In these instances, interpretation is all about context.   

Here is list of some of the words Jared has learned to say:
“Daddy” and “teddy”For a long time, everyone was “Mama”, but finally he learned how to call his father, “Daddy.”  It was about the same time that he had learned how to say “teddy” when saw this stuffed creature, which can cause some confusion if you don’t know to which he is referring.
“bottle” and “Bible”:  Jared loves to play with his parents’ water bottles, even if he can’t drink from them yet.  He also learned how to distinguish the book in his bookshelf that is called “Baby’s First Bible.”  It is one of his favorite picture books.
“Papi” and “puppy”: Jared’s grandfather (on his mother’s side) has the title of “Papi” whom Jared is becoming acquainted with through computer visits on the Skype video-cam.  Jared’s stuffed puppies are his favorite sleeping toys.  
“juice” and “shoes”: Jared is learning how to drink juice from a Sippy cup.  He also knows that he can’t go outside to play in the park if he doesn’t have his shoes on.
“num-num” (the word for his milk) and “mum-mum” (the word for his food):  These are…of course…words that Jared has made up.  We still have a hard time distinguishing when he’s asking for something to drink or something to eat.


And there are other words that he completely makes up:
“baa” is a book
“die” is Stephen’s Gameboy®
“why” is the word for his stroller. We think he is trying to say “ride,” as in “going for a ride in the stroller” but it always sounds like he’s saying “why.”  

     There are also a few words his parents say that confuse Jared.  For example, Stephen wanted to teach Jared where his “brain” was.  For a while, Jared would make a flying motion with his hand every time we would ask, “Where is your brain?”  
     Then, we realized he must be thinking we are saying “plane” (which we had already taught him in English and Spanish because we see a lot of planes fly overhead).  I took some time to teach Jared to point to his head when we asked him, “Where’s your brain?” 
     After he finally seemed to get the hang of it, we thought we had reached communication success in this area until Stephen asked him, “Jared, where is the airplane?”  Much to our amusement, Jared started pointing to his head again.
     Even with these communication challenges, i
t’s exciting to listen to Jared learn how to speak.  Sometimes he just babbles away in “Jared-talk” and we can’t quite figure out what he’s trying to say.  In those cases, Jared has learned how to use body language. 
For instance, he brought a water bottle and his Sippy cup into my bedroom the other day.  I was sitting on the bed, feeding Luke.  
I watched curiously as Jared carefully put the water bottle on the ground and then placed the Sippy cup on the ground in front of it.  He took a minute to look up at me and then he dramatically pointed to the water bottle full of water and then at his empty Sippy cup.
Hmm…can you figure out what he wanted me to do?
Note: An update was written in May with more words that Jared has learned.

February Notes

Date: March 3, 2009
Location: Quito, Ecuador

It is hard to believe that the month of March is already here.  It makes one sit back and wonder where the first two months of the year disappeared. Here in Quito, Ecuador, the “MK Meier Family” has remained busy and productive.  We finally found renters for our townhouse.  Our new tenant and her two cats are scheduled to move in March 2009.


Here are some of the highlights for this month:


*Jared’s vocabulary is expanding by leaps and bounds

*Luke just might be ready to sleep through the night

*Cristina is officially through with the spring’s qualifying exams for her Ph.D. The question is…”Did she pass?”
*The twists and turns to getting citizenships established for an international newborn in Quito, Ecuador

*Stephen races to become a “hero”

*Stephen was also able to use his frequent flier miles to schedule a trip to the U.S. at the end of April to visit some potential schools who are interested in hiring him next school year.
*Observations of a week of Spiritual Emphasis at AAI
*What it means to honor the country flag in Ecuador

*Cristina learned how to take care of a “bumble bee free loader”


These stories and more are listed on the different pages of our blog.  We invite you to read through them.