June Updates and Summer Plans

Date: June 22, 2011
Location: Quito, Ecuador

The expression “April showers bring May flowers,” came into mind many times during the weeks that followed the birth of Grace Erin Meier.  It certainly seemed that we were getting enough rain in Quito during that month to water the May flowers of several countries.  Although Grace’s memory bank will not be able to remember those first couple months of her life, her mother will not forget them.

It is hard to believe that spring has so quickly slipped into summer and we are now preparing to make our next big move.  It has been nearly three years since we moved to Quito, Ecuador on July 31, 2008, with a 12 month old boy and a few suitcases.

Now, we are preparing to leave with a nearly 4 year old boy, his 2 ½ year old brother, their nearly 3 month old sister and quite a few more suitcases.  Please visit the posts below to find out more about our big move to Lake Jackson, Texas, and some of the adventures we’ve had in the past few months.

You’ll find the following stories here:
1) Summer Plans 2011
*Read our itinerary and find out if we’ll be in your area this summer to plan a possible visit

2) Graduating the class of 2011
*Find out about finishing the 2010-2011 school year

3) Our April Showers
*Find out about the health challenges and weather-related trials we faced

4) A Quick Trip toTexas
*We flew to Texas in mid-May to visit our soon-to-be home and ministry location

5) Bringing Voting to the 21st Century
*Impressions of the election process in Quito this past May

Thanks for keeping in touch!  We would love to hear from you through e-mail, Facebook, Skype, telephone, blog comments, etc.

Sincerely,
Cristina Meier (along with Stephen, Jared, Luke and Grace)

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Summer Plans 2011

Once school ended on June 17, we were in earnest to get all our packing done so that we’d be ready to leave Ecuador on the evening of June 24.  Here is our traveling itinerary in case you want to know where we will be traveling before we end up in Lake Jackson, Texas.

Cell phone in the U.S.= 352-215-4524

Meier Traveling Itinerary

(Friday & Saturday) June 24 –25 = Leave Ecuador / Arrive in Florida

Flight Information:
LanEcuador516 @ 6:30pm leaving Quito
LanEcuador516 @ 11:35pm arrive in Miami

Travel Information:
Rent van in Miami and drive to Gainesville, Florida (on the road 8 hours)
Approximate arrival time between 10am -12pm on Saturday, June 25
Drop off rental van and pick up van in Gainesville

Saturday, June 25 – Wednesday, June 29 = In Gainesville, Florida
*Staying with family, visiting, etc.

Thursday, June 30 = Travel to Virginia Beach, Virginia
*On the road (14 hours)

Friday, July 1 = In Virginia Beach / Travel to Northern Virginia
*On the road (5 ½ hours)

Saturday, July 2 – Monday, July 4 = In Winchester / Stephens City, VA
*Visiting friends, church, etc.
Pick up storage items from Griffin family

Tuesday, July 5 = Drive to Mobile, AL
*On the road (18 hours) 

Wednesday, July 6 = In Mobile, AL
*Visiting with Blanton family 

Thursday, July 7 = Drive to Lake Jackson, TX
*On the road (10 hours) 

Friday, July 8 – Sunday, July 10 = In Lake Jackson
*Settling in, buying furniture, pick up shipped items from Quito, prepare for Stephen’s first day at work

Monday, July 11 = Stephen begins working at BCS in Lake Jackson, Texas

Stephen’s Current Job Opportunities

The year began slowly as Stephen found himself back at the beginning of the process of looking for a new job.  He began to send out more applications to more schools both in and out of the United States.  He looked at the job conference taking place in Chicago in February for a while.  After much prayer and asking different people for advise, he decided the expense of the trip wasn’t worth the risk of not coming back home with a sure job offer.

So, we continued to wait.  As the weeks of February passed by, he received both positive and negative feedback from different schools.  He was interviewed over the phone and Internet for several schools.  A school in Lake Jackson, Texas, called Brazosport Christian School (BCS) was the first to ask for an on-site visit from Stephen and agreed to pay for his travel expenses and hotel stay.  Soon, they had scheduled him to leave Quito on Wednesday, February 23 and return to Quito the evening of Saturday, February 26.

Bangkok, Thailand

In the midst of talking to this school in Texas, another school in Bangkok, Thailand called International Community School (ICS), had also started interviewing Stephen.  Just a few days before Stephen was planning to leave on his trip to Texas, they also asked for him to take a flight over 12 time zones to come and visit them. 

With Cristina’s due date approaching, he asked for the trip to be booked soon after he returned from Texas.  Just this morning, he has been given a tentative itinerary which would have him leaving Quito only 24 hours after returning on February 26.  His flight will leave soon after midnight on Monday, February 28.  He will arrive in Thailand on Tuesday night and spend all of Wednesday and Thursday there before flying out early Friday morning to arrive in Quito late on March 4.

Fortunately for him, we have a two day holiday on Monday and Tuesday for Ecuador’s “Carnival” vacation.  So, he will hopefully be able to recover from his jet lag soon after returning to Ecuador.

Besides these two schools, there is a school in Peach Tree, Georgia, which has told Stephen he is among their top eight candidates for the administrative position they have there. There is also another international school in Casablanca, Morocco (northern Africa) and in Tegucigalpa, Honduras that have been interviewing Stephen, but have not requested an on-site visit yet. 

However, since Cristina has requested that Stephen not travel anywhere in her last four weeks of pregnancy, these two trips are the last he will make until our third little bundle of joy arrives on the scene.

If you would like to call Stephen and encourage him in the next few days while he is Texas, he is using the following cell phone number: 352-215-4524.

A Voyage without Immediate Results

Stephen helps decorate our family Christmas tree on the weekend before his trip to the U.S.

Two days after Thanksgiving break, Stephen was taking an international trip to the U.S. He had two major destinations.  First, he was traveling to Naples, Florida, where he was being considered as a possible candidate for high school administrator at a church-based school there.  He was to spend two days there and then he would drive up to Atlanta, Georgia, to attend a job recruitment conference hosted by the AASSA international association of schools located in central and South America.  Basically, several schools from countries in central and South America, would be sending representatives to this fair to recruit people for different administrative positions at their schools. 

Stephen had already connected with several of the schools through the recruitment website, and was highly confident that he would receive several job offers while attending the conference.  However, the fair did not turn out quite as he had hoped.  Although he was able to make some valuable connections with other administrators there, he was not officially offered a job position by any of them.  There are still a few schools who are still “considering” Stephen among their top candidates.  But Stephen is learning that even if one is considered “second” among the candidates, it makes no difference if the person considered “first” accepts the job.

Such was the case with the Christian school in Naples.  Stephen was told that he was a definite “second” choice, but they were waiting to hear back from their number one choice.  Two weeks later, they received their confirmation from that candidate and told Stephen that the position had been filled. 

So, here we are, once again, wondering where God will send us next year.  The only thing we know for sure is that we will be leaving the Alliance Academy International.  Stephen’s replacement has already been chosen and announced to the current faculty and staff.  There is no turning back.

Our biggest challenge right now is finding positions that will offer Stephen enough of a salary that we can pay off our loans and mortgage, and so that Cristina does not have to work for at least a couple years while their children are under school age. 

One school in Honduras was at the point of offering a position to Stephen, but he found out that we would need to rely on donations and financial support gifts.  Raising support has been increasingly difficult in this past year as many of our friends and supporters struggle to meet their own financial burdens.

There is another recruitment fair in Chicago, Illinois during the second week of February.  Stephen is still considering whether he should attend, because we really don’t have the funds to send him on another week long trip to the U.S.  However, he may have to attend if nothing opens up between now and then.

Stephen’s Upcoming Recruitment Voyage

Stephen has been very busy the past few months, but not just with his administrative duties at the Alliance Academy International. He has been searching for jobs at other international and/ or Christian schools that are looking for secondary administrators.

We have been feeling for quite some time that God was going to pull us out of our present ministry and locate us in a new ministry.  We just keep praying to find out where exactly that is.

So far, he has applied to several schools both in and outside the U.S. and has had a few interviews.  However, we have not had any solid offers at this time.  Therefore, he decided to sign up for a conference that helps bring new staff to international schools located across South America.  The association’s name is AASSA (Association of American Schools in South America).  The job fair takes place from December 2-5 in Atlanta, Georgia (Link: http://www.aassa.com/recruiting_fair_schedule_2010.asp).

As part of his trip to this conference, Stephen is also planning to visit a school in Naples, Florida that has been interested in looking at the possibility of hiring him as a secondary principal.  Stephen plans to fly to Miami, Florida on Tuesday, November 30 and drive to Naples.  He will stay there until the morning of December 2 and then drive to Atlanta, Georgia to participate in the job fair.  He will drive back to Florida on the afternoon of December 5 when he hopes to visit with Cristina’s side of the family for one evening before returning to Quito on the afternoon of December 6.

If you wish to get in touch with him during his time in the U.S., he will have the following cell phone number – 352-215-4524.

A STUCO retreat for the whole family

One of the duties that I decided to continue this school year was being a class sponsor.  The Class of 2013 were freshmen students last year and this year they are full-blown sophomores.  As one of my high school teachers used to tell me, sophomores are “wise fools” as defined by their name.  In spite of the interesting and challenging personalities of some of the students, I was looking forward to a new year of helping these students raise funds and learning more how to work together on different tasks and projects.

One of the first big events for the class sponsors is the STUCO (Student Council) retreat.  I decided that Luke and Jared should also come, because I couldn’t stand the thought of being away from them overnight.  It ended up being the trend among adult sponsors as three other parents brought their young children, as well. 

A large tour bus took us out of the city of Quito to a property owned by the school in the city of Calicali.  Because of it’s location in the mountains, the weather tends to be quite chilly.  The only time it warms up is when the sun is shining directly on it. 

We arrived in the evening and spent some time running around in the open fields between the cabins.  Jared brought a soccer ball and spent a lot of time kicking the ball to another little boy who was also there.  Luke didn’t really care about the balls.  He wanted to play with the grass or chase the dogs that lived on the property.  Fortunately, they were very tame dogs who tolerated well the aggressive and chubby little hands of my 20 month old son. 

We all ate dinner together and then I tried to entertain the boys while their dad spoke to the group of student leaders about conflict resolution and how to deal with conflict.  However, it was quite challenging to keep them both quiet as Jared was fascinated with the moths that were attracted to the light bulbs inside the windows.  Jared kept yelling, “Look, Mommy!  There’s a butterfly!”

I would try to shush him and say, “That’s great, Jared…just try to be a little more quiet.”

Finally, the session was over and I took the boys back to our cabin to get ready for bedtime.  I dressed them up in about six layers of clothing and then placed a single bed up next to the bottom bunk of one of the two bunk beds in the room to make some child safe sleeping areas for the boys using blankets and pillows. 

Jared was excited about his little cozy corner of the bed where I had propped up pillows on both sides to keep him from rolling around the bed.  Luke was more excited about climbing around the room than sleeping in his area between the pillows.  It took me until 10:30pm before I could get him to fall asleep.  I slept across the end of the single bed to provide a barrier on the side of their bed that wasn’t against the wall. 

The air grew colder as the night hours dwindled into morning.  Jared woke up a couple times needing his covered tucked around him better.  Luke kept pushing his head into my side as he tried to scoot himself out of his little “nest.”  Somehow I managed to keep him well covered during the night. 

Breakfast time was welcomed by all and the sun began to heat up the mountain air around us.  The boys were able to take their sweaters off to play in the fields later that morning. 

By the time we had to leave, the boys were tired and happy.  Everything went smoothly except for one thing.  I managed to forget my purse with my wallet, my cell phone, my keys and other personal items by the outdoor campfire location and didn’t realize it until we got back to Quito.

Thankfully, we had friends who lived in that area and they were able to pick up my purse and bring it back to school to me the following Monday.

Summary of our Summer Travels

Our summer officially began with our summer trip to the U.S.  We left Quito on the morning of Saturday, July 3.  We arrived at the airport shortly before 6am with four suitcases, two car seats, two backpacks, a diaper bag and a stroller.  Luke was strapped into the stroller and Jared did the big boy thing and walked beside us.  After lugging our entire luggage to the international airport, we found out that we really had to check in at the national gate, because our first stop was in Guayaquil (a coastal city in Ecuador). 

After we finally got checked in at the correct location, we didn’t have any major incidences until we found ourselves waiting in the airport in Guayaquil for our next flight to Miami, Florida.  Our flight was delayed for over an hour.  This made us a little nervous, because we had a connecting flight in Miami to Orlando. 

We arrived in Miami with about 50 minutes to find all of our luggage, recheck all our luggage to the next flight and then go from the international wing of the airport to the national wing to make our flight to Orlando.  The ladies in Guayaquil had suggested that if we didn’t make our schedule flight that we could always take the 10pm flight to Orlando which would arrive at 11pm.  We weren’t too thrilled about that idea, because we still had a two hour drive from Orlando to Gainesville where we would be staying with family.

Somehow we managed to make our scheduled flight and arrived in Orlando as planned at 8pm.  However, not all our luggage made it onto our flight with us.  Fortunately, both car seats did arrive.  But one suitcase had been bumped to the later flight.  It was the suitcase that had all of Cristina’s personal items and all the mail we were planning to drop off in the post office for people at school. 

The representative at American Airlines was very helpful and told us that they would personally deliver the missing piece of luggage to the place we were staying in Gainesville.  As promised, someone came by at 5pm the following day with the suitcase. 

Thus began our adventures in the U.S.  We spent a couple days in Florida visiting with Cristina’s brother and sister in law, her sister and brother in law.  They had each given birth to their first sons.  It was fun to spend some time with the new nephews.  Cristina’s bachelor brother, Tim, also spent some time with them.

After spending 4th of July in Florida, Stephen and Cristina packed up their rental car and two young sons and drove up to northern Virginia.  The on-line directions suggested it would be a 13 hour trip.  With two babies in two, it ended up being a 16 and ½ hour trip.  But we all made it to the Shenandoah Valley area of Virginia in one piece.  We took a week to spend time with friends, supporters and members of our ‘home’ church who lived in the area. 

We were also able to meet our new realtor while in Virginia.  At the time that our tenant decided to leave our home, our realtor also told us that we would need to find someone else to take care of our property for us.  It seemed that God worked out the timing perfectly, because we were able to meet our new realtor in person a week after we signed a contract to have them care for our property.

During our time, we were able to attend church for their Wednesday night service and all of their Sunday services.  Our sons also got to participate in the first night of the church’s VBS program.  Jared rode a horse for the first time in his life.  Luke really liked to songs that they learned that night.

Link on Facebook (you’ll need to be a member of facebook and be on our friend status)http://www.facebook.com/Stephen.CristinaMeier?v=app_2392950137#!/video/video.php?v=423053256650

Monday morning, we left Stephens City, Virginia and drove to Marietta, Georgia to visit some friends.  It was a good half way point between northern Virginia and Mobile, Alabama.  The following morning, we traveled down there to spend time with Stephen’s sister, Susan and her family.  It was a short visit of about 24 hours.  But Jared and Luke enjoyed their time with their cousins, Zoe, Connor and Gavin.

Link to a Kodak Album: http://www.kodakgallery.com/gallery/sharing/shareRedirectSwitchBoard.jsp?token=881696395506%3A251583500&sourceId=533754321803&cm_mmc=eMail-_-Share-_-Photos-_-Sharer

Wednesday afternoon, we drove back to Gainesville, Florida where Cristina’s relatives were waiting.  Cristina’s parents, Steve and Helen Cobb, had also flown up from the country of Guatemala to spend a few days with them.  We hung out, celebrated Jared’s third birthday a little early and took a trip to Neptune Beach.  Jared and Luke had a lot of fun playing in the sand.

For our final week in the U.S., we stayed in the Gainesville area, finishing up our shopping and enjoying some of the local sites.  We took the boys to a local splash park one morning.  The boys really enjoyed playing in the water.  We also took the boys to a museum located in the University of Florida.  Jared especially enjoyed the live butterfly exhibit.

We flew back to Quito on Saturday, July 24.  It was the most stress-free trip I had experienced yet.  The only delay was in leaving Miami.  Our flight was delayed for about 45 minutes due to cleaning of the aircraft.   But we still arrived in Quito before the boys’ bedtime.