Monday, 4 January 2010

A moving experience

A big surprise this week we saw a moose on the way to the airport, no the moose wasn't on the way to the airport we were. We were taking our daughter and her boyfriend back after their Christmas trip to visit us. We had a good time with them and our daughter was ever so sweet, she bought me a gift to pamper myself with, as she said no one ever buys me that sort of thing any more, which is true and really thoughtful. 

We finally managed to get a trailer this week but the process was not as simple as in the UK. We didn't realise that we would have to go and get it re-registered and tested and insured before driving it away- that doesn't happen in the UK. We knew that trailers have documents here in Latvia which, like the car, you have to carry with you at all times, but hadn't realised about the testing and insurance that it also needs. It is probably a good idea though, so that they are roadworthy. It also made me realise once again, how different things are from country to country. Sometimes you think you have the system sussed and then something else turns up that you think should be the same and find out that its not.

A major achievement was not only taking our daughter to the airport and buying a trailer in one day we also managed to get skis too. Now that might not seem like a big thing to you if you have lived in one country all your life but when you move around you realise that to accomplish more than one task in one day is a major achievement, usually it doesn't happen and the process can go on for months (like our woodstove an ongoing project to get it installed since September, we are close on that one but still not there yet at least we have all the pieces now, just need someone to install it now). We have a cross country ski run at the top of our hill and folks can be seen on that most days but for fun we decided to make our own on our land, The Everglades. Our own cross country ski run is not as convenient as the one up the road but then again there is no one there to laugh at a couple in their 40s making fools of themselves. Bit chilly though as it was -17C on the way home just before sunset.

I follow a blog and recently and a  prophecy was posted which declared that new oil deposits would be found and my first reaction was "Oh dear!", not good news but then it started me thinking - what if the oil deposits were not the black stuff but other sources being tapped and so I hit the academic journals and started looking at turpentine which turns out to be a by-product of the paper industry, I also found out that you can get a lot of turpentine and tar whilst making charcoal from pine, which can then be collected,  I also found a paper that used 75% turpentine to run a diesel engine. Early days maybe but for a country that has a wealth of trees due to increasing forest coverage that is exciting news - could the oil deposits be locked up in the trees?

The last 10 years have been truly amazing so much has changed. To set the scene I have to back up a couple of years to 1998 when a guy called Martin Scott (the same one who publishes the blog I mentioned above) prayed over me and said that we would travel as a family. Now at the time we didn't have a huge amount of money but in faith we went and bought a big bright pink suitcase and in the following year we used it to travel to Cyprus and stay with a Greek Cypriot friend of Ian's, a contact through work. It was a very gentle introduction to being immersed in a different culture even though it was only a week. 1999 was also the year a friend of ours first travelled to Latvia and went to some children's camps there; when he told us about it we began to think that maybe this was another opportunity to travel together as a family. So in the year 2000 we started off on our adventures, it was only two weeks but a huge step for us as a family with three kids 10, 12 and 13 years old; no one that we knew had gone to kids camps abroad and taken their children and we had no idea how it would work, but it did and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, so much so we went back the following year and took another youngster with us too.

2002 we began to feel that God was saying to move to Latvia and we started to pursue that idea and to look at the possibilities and opportunities but somehow we felt the timing was not right, God's timing for his purposes are so important to us. A question asked in jest by Ian to a pair of Danish women in a conference "Are there any jobs going?" set in train a sequence of events that eventually lead us to move to Denmark in 2003 and join a Danish company. This gave Ian extra holiday, extra pay and also meant we were half way to Latvia with more frequent flights from Copenhagen. We left our daughter in England though with another family to complete a course she had just started. I was home schooling our two sons at the time so we didn't have the problem of getting them settled into a new school at their age (13 & 15). We did keep hold of our house in England though as we thought it might be useful for an income but because the house we lived in was actually two terraced houses knocked together we worked like crazy before we left to turn it back into two houses, more rentable and ultimately more saleable. So that is how we came to leave our Derbyshire home of 15 years and move to Denmark.

We knew our ultimate destination was Latvia but how long that would be was an unknown to us. At one point I was praying and asking God whether to put down roots in Denmark or to prepare to move, the answer that came back was quite clear and quite startling "You will move once more before you go to Latvia  and that will be to America. When you get there you will get a key to open the door to Latvia".  How on earth was I going to tell Ian that one? He never really liked America. His company though had a unit out in Colorado and he had to go out there on a business trip and when he came back he commented how nice it was out there. Gulp! One of my conditions of telling him is that he would respond positively to being out there. I told him about what I felt God had said and we waited for the right time once again. In the meantime another of our children left home. Our eldest son completed his GCSE's (we returned to the UK briefly for him to take the exams needed) and he then went to an Efterskole which is common in Scandinavia and gives youngsters a chance to try something different, improve their schooling if necessary and live away from home, the one Mark joined was similar to a junior Bible School. His year at the Efterskole took him all around Denmark, to France then to Albania all by coach travelling through many different countries. He also visited South Africa and travelled through Zimbabwe to Zambia. Travel as a family!!!! We initially thought that was together but began to realise early on that it meant we would all just travel. After the year at the Efterskole Mark then went to England to study carpentry and shortly after that Ian was called into the office and asked if he would like to relocate for up to three years to America. Hmmm! Would need to think about that!!!! Well for all of 5 minutes, actually. Ian did not say yes straight away, as that would have looked rather strange, he had to at least appear to consult his wife. 

So early 2006 with just one child in tow this time we set off for Colorado. We decided to sell the Danish home as renting that out was more problematic than in England and we didn't think we would be back anyway, a rather fortuitous decision as we sold at the top of a housing boom that had seen the house prices nearly double in the two and  half years we owned it. Our time in Colorado was enjoyable and Ian thoroughly enjoyed the over 300 days of sunshine a year, I missed the seasons though. Two weeks of Spring and Autumn didn't seem quite right somehow. Colorado is stunning though with the Rockies nearby and mountains over 14,ooo ft (4200m) high, the people are friendly and it was certainly relaxing to live there. For the first time in our life we had money left at the end of the month as Ian was on a Danish wage but paying American taxes which meant we could pay for our kids to come out and see us and me to go to Brazil three times. While we were there we also passed into the realm of being empty nesters - it was great! Shortly after we moved to America the Danish company reorganised meaning that the whole of Ian's division was now based in America and then about a year after that they decided to sell the division, it became clear to us that it was time to go. Right until the end though we didn't know if we were going to be able to go straight to Latvia or take a detour along the way but the Danish company decided it was cheaper to pay for us to move to Latvia than to keep Ian, on, as there was in reality now no job to go back to Denmark for.

The key? Well while we were in America we bought a flat off one of our friends who lives in Latvia with proceeds from our Danish house, so we had a real key to a real door to our new home in Latvia. So 2008 saw us finally move to Latvia after 6 years of waiting for the right time. In those 6 years Latvia had become an EU country making our right to stay there so much easier. House sales the Danish one and one in England made sure our finances were also in good shape to help us through the transition process and it also meant we are now debt free - no mortgage. 

Well that is obviously a very brief run through the process of getting to Latvia and does not do justice to all the friends we have made along the way, the wonderful experiences and the many frustrations of moving 3 times in 7 years, all international moves. We have gained a great deal of knowledge on removals, paperwork to expect on entering a country and also enough knowledge to realise that absolutely everything takes at least twice as long as you expect and to expect the unexpected. We have also learnt to adapt to cultures or at least learnt to live within them, we have learnt to take our time and watch and wait, and I hope we have seized the right opportunities as they have come along.

Changes continue to happen while we are here in Latvia and last year we passed some major milestones in our family. Our youngest, Matthew started University to study a subject he has always longed to do, automotive design, plus he turned 20 years old. Our middle child, Mark, got engaged and our eldest, our daughter Emma, finished her nurse training and in a few days time sets off to Australia to live. We celebrated 25 years of marriage and I gained a Post Graduate Certificate in Development Management. Not a bad list of milestones for one year.

As we move into the next year I feel like it will be a year that sets the pattern for the years ahead, it will not be like anything that has gone before. Back in 2006 or 2007, not sure when, a phrase that hit me from the title of a book is "What got you here, won't get you there" and I believe that is as true today as it was back then. So here's to 2010, a year I look forward to with a sense of anticipation, excitement and some nervousness.

Photo 1: a barbed wire sculpture of a moose in Colorado (sorry I didn't have a camera with me to take a photo of the one we saw this week)
Photo 2: Skis and snowshoes drying off in the shower cubicle
Photo 3: The two end houses were actually one house for 9 of the 15 years we lived in the village in Derbyshire
Photo 4: Our Danish house
Photo 5: One of the squirrels that used to visit our Danish house
Photo 6: Our American house
Photo 7: Our Latvian apartment building.


  1. It is so important not to go ahead of God and think we know what He wants. And you have shown this remarkably in your experiences. It's very interesting to see the variety of homes that God has chosen for you to live in over the past 10 years. I join you in saying - Here's to 2010, whatever God has in store.

  2. Thank you so much for your encouragement over the past year Mavis and I pray many blessings to you for the next year too.


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