Last week we celebrated ONE YEAR of living in Christchurch, New Zealand! You may remember our post detailing some things we loved after living here for six weeks but, now that we’ve been here for a year, there are just so many things to write about! We absolutely love it here and have enjoyed making friends and settling in to our new home. Here are ten of our favorite memories from our first year (in no particular order):
1. Shared Kai Sundays + Seating Change
You might remember that there were fewer than 8 people attending our church when we arrived a year ago. It felt SO EMPTY because there were like 60 chairs set up in the sanctuary! We took out over half of them and arranged the rest into a semi-circle with a few couches. This makes it a lot more cozy! We also organized a potluck meal for the first Sunday of every month. Seeing as how the people in our church are ethnically diverse, we get a delicious range of Indian, Kiwi, Samoan, and American foods! This has helped us get to know everyone in our congregation so much better because we all love to eat 🙂
2. Homeschool Journey + New Friends
We made the decision to continue educating Hosea at home. We didn’t want to do it on our own so we banded with a few other likeminded families to form a co-op! This is where we’ve made some great friends and shared in the joys and trials together. We’ve also taken advantage of all that the homeschool community has to offer. The boys have tried out and loved dance, gymnastics, bush school, and kids yoga, and we hope to do music classes and swim lessons next year!
3. Our First Summertime Christmas
We love Christmas and we love summer weather, but having them both at the same time was pretty interesting! We tried to re-imagine some old traditions like having frozen hot chocolate, playing outside on the trampoline instead of huddling under blankets inside, and planting a pine tree in our back garden, but it wasn’t quite the same. We figured out we really just need to create new traditions, so we’ll be working on that in years to come! We still got out all of our nativity scenes we’ve collected from around the world and listened to Christmas music as we celebrated with only our family of 4 for the first time ever!
4. Afternoons at the Beach
Growing up in a landlocked place, anytime we ventured to the coast for the beach we made sure we maximized our time there, spending every waking moment by the water. We now live within close proximity of several beaches and we discovered that heading to the beach doesn’t always have to be an all-day event! Many Sundays after church in the summer we’d head to the beach for a couple hours and just relax. Often the boys occupied themselves in the sand while John and I read books; it was glorious! Our favorite last summer was Cave Rock at Sumner beach.
All 4 of us have now celebrated birthdays here in New Zealand, in opposite seasons from what we’re used to. For Moses, an October baby, we hiked in the middle of a Spring downpour at Bottlelake Forest. For John, born in February, we went to outdoor pools and had ice cream. For Hosea, a July baby, we went to see a movie and made a cake. And for me, also born in July, we had hot chocolate and enjoyed a ride in a cable car up the port hills.
6. Hosting Visitors
Many of our favorite memories occurred while we had friends/family staying with us. We are so grateful we have people who sacrifice their time and money to come see us on the other side of the world! We’ve hosted my mom and brother, John’s parents, my aunt and uncle, and a few other friends passing through. It is such a treat to share with them our new home and some of our favorite places, allowing them to get a glimpse of our ministry and life here.
7. Quail Island, Tekapo, and Anakiwa
Many agree that New Zealand has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world and we’ve gotten to see some of that this year! Quail Island is an old quarantine area and leprosy colony just a 10 minute ferry ride away! We took a nice 3 hour hike around the island and shared a picnic together. Tekapo is just 3 hours drive from Christchurch and is the Southern Hemisphere’s only international dark sky reserve! There are beautiful mountain views, ice skating, and hot pools too. Anakiwa is in the Marlborough Sounds (a 5.5 hour drive from Christchurch) and our friends let us stay at their beautiful holiday home there! We tried out kayaking and stand up paddle boarding while sting rays swam beneath us! We have great memories from all three of these short trips!
8. District Assembly + Youth Camp
These two events helped us get a better idea of what our district looks like. We so enjoyed getting to know people from the other Nazarene churches across New Zealand! District Assembly was in Auckland in November and it was a time of multi-cultural worship, delicious food, and learning about the ministries of some other Nazarene churches. Youth Camp in January was in Whangarei and it was a time of late night games and music, energetic young people, and water play. Our boys loved hanging out with other leaders’ kids and the teenagers!
9. Mid-Winter Christmas Party
Some friends from church had the idea to host a Mid-Winter Christmas party in July. This was so much fun! We had yummy Indian food (biryani), decorated cut-out Christmas cookies, had hot chocolate with marshmallows, and played Christmas music. It was a fun time with our church people, and several invited friends too. This actually felt a bit more like Christmas than December 25th did, ha! We all want to make this an annual tradition now.
10. Baptism at the Beach
Near the end of Spring, two people from church asked John if he would baptize them. This was a big celebration for our church! We all went down to the beach while John and a couple others braved the icy waters (it was a cold day!) to perform the baptisms. Then we went back to church to warm up with lunch and tea + coffee. This was one of our first celebrations with our congregation and we’ll always remember it!
So there you have it: ten of our favorite memories from our first year! Undoubtedly there are great memories that have been forgotten from this list, but this is a great summary. Thanks to those of you who support and pray for us! We are forever grateful for your texts/phone calls/emails/notes of encouragement as we find our way. Here’s to digging even deeper roots in the years to come.
Blessings on the journey,
Abigail + family
Hello! Long time, no blog post! Moving to a new country is hard, hey?! We often find ourselves exhausted and overwhelmed (<<thanks to culture stress) but that’s par for the course. We’ve noticed though, that much of the conversation in our home revolves around our excitement for NZ life! We are still so new to this country but at first “glance”, here is what we LOVE about living in New Zealand so far:
It seems that everyone and their mom cares about the environment here in NZ. And they don’t just SAY they care, they actually DO things to care for the environment. For example, at coffee shops you have to request a takeaway (to-go) cup when ordering. Otherwise, they just automatically put your drink into a mug for you to drink there. Generally, takeaway containers and grocery sacks cost extra to encourage you to use/bring your own! At every cafe I’ve visited, I’ve seen people bring in their own cups. It seems like everyone recycles and composts (the “trash trucks” pick up food scraps and compost it for you!) and I’ve overheard many conversations about being more green. Obviously, there are definite areas where we can all improve, but this is something that has stood out to me since arriving!
2. Opportunities for Nature Exploration
If you didn’t know, New Zealand is breathtakingly beautiful and a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking for spectacular views and amazing hikes. The South Island, where we live, is home to the Southern Alps and we get to drive by them all the time! We’ve taken advantage of nearby nature reserves, parks, ponds, and forests, spending time hiking, walking, and picnicking. We love to admire God’s creation, knowing full well God delights in our enjoyment of it. Our adventures out and about have helped us meet people, learn a bit about NZ’s history by reading strategically-placed signage, and simply explore our new area. Also, it’s free!
3. Cultural Diversity
One thing I noticed right away was the diversity in Christchurch. People who know NZ are probably laughing because Christchurch is actually one of the least diverse cities here! But even still, there is a great international presence here. We’ve met people who’ve moved to NZ from Germany, Ukraine, the U.S.A, India, Fiji, England, Canada, Colombia, and Chile. We’ve also been able to learn a bit about Maori culture, NZ’s indigenous Polynesian culture. The Maori language is popular in schools and is on various signage throughout the country. There are a few Maori songs and many words that get used in daily conversation that everyone seems to know. For example, “Kia Ora” = “Hi/Welcome” (Literally means “Be Well”), and “kai” = food.
4. Slow Pace of Life = Kind Citizens
We all know that Americans love to be productive, efficient, and busy. I’ve noticed a big change in my lifestyle since moving to NZ, surrounded by people who actually take vacation days and often have nothing on their schedule. This allows for time to explore this beautiful country and enjoy family and friends! People obviously go to work and participate in extracurricular activities, but it does seem like there is a slower pace of life here. It’s been good for all of us! For example, one thing I’ve noticed is the ability to wait for various fruits/veg to be in season. There’s no rush to have avocados in the Winter, they’ll just wait for Spring and Summer when they don’t cost an arm and a leg! Also more often than not, random strangers seem to enjoy taking the time to say hi and ask how my day is going. Everyone has been kind and welcoming to us.
5. Accommodating to Dietary Restrictions
Overall we’ve noticed that almost every restaurant/cafe has vegetarian/gluten free/dairy free options. I’ve met more vegetarians and vegans here than I’ve ever met in my life! Everyone has their own reasons for eating the way they do, and I love the intentionality behind it. Some do it for health reasons and some do it out of concern for the environment, but no one bats an eye at our family’s odd mix of restrictions. And better yet, there are loads of choices for us if we get the chance to eat outside our house (a rare occurrence, but still…)!
6. 100% Kiwi
New Zealanders are humbly proud of their unique culture. You’ll see “100% Kiwi” on labels and in shops, stating that the ingredients and/or labor all originated in NZ. Websites like ebay, craigslist, amazon, and groupon don’t exist here because someone has created a kiwi equivalent. There are hardly any outside chains, because Kiwis just create their own awesome stuff!
There are so many more things we love about this place, but I wanted to keep this short. You can count on us writing more about our life here as we continue to get settled and find our footing. Thanks for stopping by! Give us a shout if you’re thinking about us. It really helps in those times where we miss our dear friends and family back home <3
I confess that when I moved back from Haiti four years ago, I didn’t really have the desire to go back ever again.
You may be saying, “What? I thought she loved Haiti!” And I do! But after being there for several months, I had started to focus on the difficult parts of living there. Being perpetually sweaty, covered in dirt, and working hard to communicate started to wear on me. And that’s not even including the little things… cold showers, intermittent electricity, and the same few meals (although delicious) left me begging for variety. It can be difficult to accomplish things in Haiti, and I found myself focusing on the end result of accomplishment rather than the journey of learning to get there. I am American after all! 😉
In January I could not shake this feeling that I should go back to Haiti to visit. When I dug deep, I remembered so many good things about living there! These positive memories had been shoved to the bottom as I let the negative memories of culture stress rise to the top. I so badly wanted to GET OVER culture shock, that I didn’t let myself deal with it properly and just be present on my journey. Turns out, there was a group going to Haiti in May that needed a trip leader. I gladly accepted this offer from Global Orphan Project (goproject.org) and we ended up having a great experience just last week.
I witnessed so much goodness my heart could’ve burst! From the moment I stepped off the plane I felt like I was “home”. I’ve said this before, but the bad part of traveling is that your home is in pieces all over the globe. I hope my team didn’t get tired of me talking about Haiti, I tried to encourage them to create their own perceptions and be present in their own thoughts. But I had forgotten! By speaking out loud I was not only encouraging them to see the goodness, but REMINDING MYSELF of it too.
Whether they’re aware of it or not, the Haitian people I hung out with last week taught me many things. Where we see trash, they see treasure. Where we see brokenness, they see an opportunity for resourcefulness. Where we see a crowded church that “needs more seats”, they see a vibrant congregation ready to worship. Where we see boredom, they see a time for rest. But it’s not just about “them” and “us” is it? Because we’re really not that different. People are people, and we are all on our own unique journeys through life. So let me turn this around on myself. Where I once saw difficulty, I now see opportunity. Where I once saw frustration, I now see there is something for me to learn. Where I once hated the heat, I now can enjoy the times where the air conditioning is in fact working! Where I once saw a sound system that didn’t function properly, I now see the wonder of singing without the burden of equipment. And where I once experienced hopelessness, I now see peace and contentment.
The first thing I wrote in my journal was in kreyol, “anpil change” (so much has changed). I initially meant that a lot of things looked different than they had 4 years ago and was writing about the way dinner was served, the uneven step that got leveled, and the location of the drink fridge. But I think what really changed was me. You see, life keeps on going whether we’re ready or not. And I realized that I could let the frustrations of Haiti become my cry, or the joy of Haiti become my song.
I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.
Dear Millbrook Church of the Nazarene,
As our season with you has now drawn to a close, we just want to say thank you. I said this a couple weeks ago while blubbering at the front of the church, but now that I’m safe and sound in Kansas City, I want to say it again. The year of 2015 has been absolutely wonderful because of your presence in our lives. We would not have been able to adjust to life in Millbrook, Larne without the support of you, our church family.
From the moment we stepped out of the airport that cold February day, we felt your arms wrapping around us (although not physically of course, some of you Northern Irish people aren’t the most touchy bunch!) From you we learned more than I could ever write in a blog post. What constitutes a good Ulster Fry, how to bowl and play snooker, how to drive on the left side of the road, where the mums & tots groups were located, how to keep warm in our house, how to play the ukulele, banter etiquette, and where to find the best charity shops. We got to witness a growing church plant, new families being welcomed, the start of a youth group and a toddler group, and lives being changed in and out of the church. We experienced unmatched generosity, heartfelt hospitality, genuine character, honest friendships, a dedicated faith, and deep conversation. You jumped right into our lives and fit so perfectly. It’s like you’d been there all along and, now that we’re apart, I wonder how we’ll survive without you.
But like the song says, la la la la life goes on. Our paths converged for eleven months and now they’re parting. You’ve left imprints on us that changed us and will last a lifetime.
While now physically far away, you will never be far from us. We hold you forever in our hearts and minds and find ourselves thinking of you constantly. For the life of me, I can’t quit saying “half ten” instead of ten thirty. I can’t bring myself to say “pants”, “sweater”, or “diapers” yet, because “trousers”, “jumper”, and “nappies” still linger in my vocabulary. I laugh to myself when I order “tomato basil soup” because I know you all would say “tomaaahhhhto” and rhyme basil with apple.
When we arrived in Northern Ireland, you helped us live without our family. You became our family. Now that we are back in Kansas City, we find ourselves asking the same question as before, “How do we live without our (Millbrook) family?”
We miss you so much already and we are lifting up your families in prayer. Keep fighting the good fight and living like Jesus lives. You are a bright light.
With love stateside,
The Carr Family
“You can kiss your family and friends goodbye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” -Frederick Buechner
A Guide to Supporting a Child Dealing with Cultural Transition
For the past ten months my family has been participating in a ministry program in Northern Ireland. My husband is working through seminary and the classes he’s taken while here account for 24 credit hours toward his degree. Staying true to our unconventional way of doing things, we embarked on this journey with two young children who, at the start, were just two years old and 3 months old. As parents who strive to guide our children through life with grace, we’ve continuously been thinking about helping our children adjust to life in this new city of Larne. Now that our stay in Northern Ireland is nearly over, I’m still thinking about how to help them adjust, but this time they’ll be adjusting back to life in the United States in a few weeks. For my husband and I, we are jumping back into something familiar. Our kiddos, on the other hand, don’t exactly remember life in the States. During these last ten months I’ve been asked by several families to share advice on how best to help children adjust to a new country. Here are some helpful ideas:
1. Wear Your Baby/Toddler/Preschooler
We love to wear our babies and have worn them from the day they were born. Being part of the UK, Northern Ireland has a “pram culture” (my own made-up phrase) meaning, everyone pushes their babies/children in strollers. This is a very cultural thing, everyone does it, and it seems to work well for them. We attempted to use a pram for our first couple weeks here and it just did not work. Our baby was so fussy and I decided to stop trying to fit in, and just wear him in the baby carrier already! He’s over one now and he still loves the carrier. It provides warmth, attachment, comfort, and a place of retreat when he needs to “check out” of our overstimulating world. We even purchased a toddler tula (LINK HERE) after a few months so that our older son could benefit from “going for a ride on daddy” too. He still loves it even at age 3. This is especially helpful in crowded areas or when our attention is being drawn elsewhere.
2. Bring Familiar Toys
Our oldest is very “into” cars, planes and trains. We brought along several of these that could fit into a lunchbox. He has played with them every day since we’ve been here and we are even taking them back to the States with us when we go in a few weeks. I strongly believe that this helped him adjust. Being able to wake up in the morning and see his same toys was a good way to bridge his two worlds together. They became “transitional objects” in his life.
3. Find Familiar Foods
Similar to the toy suggestion above, our first shopping trip was spent finding foods that were familiar to our (then) 2 year old. This will be different for every family, but it eased his mind to know there were bananas and apples here, as well as almonds, fruit snacks, and other favorites. It’s tempting at first to buy all sorts of different foods that look interesting, but sticking with familiarity at the start can make branching out easier later on.
4. Provide Frequent Explanation and Constant Communication
This one is SUPER important. As adults, we see something different, we process it in our minds, and we try to remember it for next time. For kids who are often already overstimulated by their world, they need to hear us explain why things are different. Taking time to talk them through daily activities helps them process what they’re experiencing and is vital to adjustment into a new culture. Many times my answer was as simple as, “That’s just the way they do it in Northern Ireland.” Being honest with my son about the differences we were experiencing proved to remind him we were going through this transition together. I encourage you to make space for extra conversation, and don’t get too worn down when they ask the same questions over and over (<< that is difficult I know!).
5. Keep a Sabbath Day
There are so many activities to get involved in when you move to a new place. It is a great idea to put yourself out there and join groups, clubs, classes, etc. and this is so important to meeting new people and making friends. But it is far too easy to become too busy. We find ourselves running from activity to activity and then our kids are screaming and we look at each other with the expression on our faces that asks, “What in the world have we gotten ourselves into?!” This is when you realize you need a sabbath day. God commanded us to take a day of rest for a reason! Usually we hole up at home, stay in our pajamas, read books, make food, and spend no time cleaning. It’s wonderful and allows us time to reconnect.
6. Visit Parent/Toddler Play Groups
This is a great way to get out of your house and meet people, especially people with whom you have something in common! Kids always help bridge the gap and give us things to talk about. Even before we understood much about the culture here, we were able to laugh with other parents about funny things our kids do. Children speak a universal language! They get a chance to play, and you get a chance to chat with other adults. It’s a win-win situation.
7. Find the Library
We found the library early on during our time in Northern Ireland. Our initial excitement was finding books (we left all ours behind in the move), yay! Our excitement was furthered when we discovered that all the books were printed in the UK, meaning the language was a bit different. These are so fun to read and helped us learn new words and phrases that are used here, but not in the States. Generally, libraries are central meeting places. At the Larne library, there are flyers for knitting clubs, book clubs, concerts, craft and story times, and our kid’s favorite: Rhythm & Rhyme, as well as other events taking place in the community. It also helped us get out of the house and into our community, one of our main goals here.
8. Give Extra Attention
Sometimes our kiddos “act out” during times of cultural transition. We all experience culture shock differently, and kids don’t often know how to express what they’re feeling. Words go out the window, and screams/grunts prevail. It can look like bad behavior, but really they just need some time and assurance that we are there to help them through it. When everything in their life has been upended, they need to be reminded that we are not going anywhere, and that we love them. As parents, we are the constants in their lives and our children need to be sure of that. Acknowledgement of feelings is important with all children and is possibly even MORE important in times of cultural transition. “I know this is hard. I see that you’re sad/confused/frustrated. What do you think we could do differently? Can I help you XYZ? I’m here if you need me!, etc.” Taking extra time for cuddles provides a space for conversation. Think about asking questions that don’t require a yes/no answer. This can give us a good idea of what’s going on in our kids’ heads and what types of things they get “stuck” on or what is hard to deal with.
It is really hard to adjust to a new culture, and can be exhausting when doing it with kids, but it is also so rewarding and satisfying! I hope this gives you some good ideas. Have you lived abroad with your children? What has been helpful for you?
Recently I had the opportunity to engage in a pilgrimage of Celtic Irish history. It was an experience I will remember forever. You see, tourism and travel is an enormous industry today. I read so many blogs where the main goal is to see more of the world and to travel, to really get out of your comfort zone and experience something new. This idea of travel and tourism made me wonder if there was a fundamental difference in what I was doing as a pilgrim, and what thousands of others were doing as tourists. Were tourism and pilgrimage all the same thing, simply rebranded and renamed? Something in my spirit told me that there was indeed a difference, and yet it took me some time to really put my finger on what that difference was.
During our pilgrimage we began on the slope of an absolutely beautiful mountain near an area called Glendalough. This place is made famous because of a pilgrim known as St. Kevin. We walked down a path that had been beaten by the footsteps of many who had come before us. The path followed a stream right into an ancient monastic village. We had scheduled to meet with a tour guide who would tell us the history of Glendalough and, while we waited, I looked around at the incredible beauty that shot out from every blade of grass and every leaf of the trees. The mountains rose and fell all around us, and a babbling brook coursed its way toward a pair of lakes that it helped to feed. I took a deep breath and could smell the freshness of nature. Simply standing and being was, in its own way, an experience that allowed me to worship Jesus. Directly above me grew several canes of blackberries, which tasted so sweet and refreshing. I lost track of time as I picked blackberries and prayed to God. Before I knew it, our Guide had arrived. His name is Father Michael and he is a retired priest of the Catholic church. He began by blessing our group with a blessing of solitude:
“May you recognise in your life the presence,
power and light of your soul.
May you realise that you are never alone
that your soul in its brightness and belonging
connects you intimately with the rhythm of the
May you realise that the shape of your soul is
that you have a special destiny here,
that behind the facade of your life there is
something beautiful, good and eternal
May you learn to see your self with the same
delight, pride and expectation with which God
sees you in every moment.”
Then we began our journey into the heart of Glendalough. Father Michael encouraged us as we walked to go forward in silence. It was in this silence that I was able to really reflect on the constant presence of God in my life. He led us to the first lake which holds some personal significance to me. My wife and I took our first picture together at this lake nearly ten years ago. Then our guide led us up into the mountains where we got to see where St. Kevin may have lived. Our guide told us the tale of St. Kevin and the blackbird:
“And then there was St. Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but his cell is narrow, so
One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As as cross beam, when a blackbird lands
And lays in it and settles down to rest.
Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,
Is moved to pity: Now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown
And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time
From the neck on down through his hurting forearms?
Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?
Or has the shut-eye blank of underearth
Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?
Alone and mirrored clear in loves deep river,
‘To labour and not seek reward’, he prays,
A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the river bank forgotten the river’s name”
Hearing of the discipline that St. Kevin had was a powerful lesson to begin our pilgrimage. Each of us was paired with another group member and made to be prayer partners. After hearing the tale of St. Kevin we split off to pray. We were pilgrims together, and we were learning that the Celtic Christians of old had a deep revere for nature. They also had a respect for the darkness in each one of us. They would have operated with the knowledge that O’Donahue wrote about,
“We are always on a journey from darkness into light. At first, we are children of the darkness. Your body and your face were formed first in the kind darkness of your mother’s womb…Your birth was a first journey from darkness into light. All your life, your mind lives within the darkness of your body. Every thought that you have is a flint moment, a spark of light from your inner darkness. The miracle of thought is its presence in the night side of your soul; the brilliance of thought is born in darkness. Every day is a journey. All creativity awakens at this primal threshold where light and darkness test and bless each other. You only discover balance in your life when you learn to trust the flow of this ancient rhythm. Ultimately, light is the mother of life. Where there is no light, there can be no life…Life is the secret presence of the divine. It keeps life awake. The soul awakens and lives in light. It helps us glimpse the sacred depths within us.”
Our pilgrimage began as something more. Something different. The Latin name for pilgrimage is peregrinatio, which when translated can mean either “pilgrimage”, or “voluntary abandonment of home and kin for ascetic purposes”. As Balzer puts it, we were seeking to identify with Christ in his death. Just as Christ let go of his divinity to fully embrace humanity, so the pilgrim would let go of his beloved land to follow Christ. It is this relinquishing of all that one holds dear in order to follow Christ that separates a pilgrim from a tourist. Abigail and I are pilgrims, following after Christ everyday.
“Pilgrim, how you journey
one the road you chose
to find our where the winds die
and where the stories go.
All days come from one day
that much you must know,
you cannot change what’s over
but only where you go.
One way leads to diamonds,
one way leads to gold,
another leads you only
to everything you’re told.
in your heart you wonder
which of these is true;
the road that leads to nowhere,
the road that leads to you.
Will you find the answer
in all you say and do?
Will you find the answer
Each heart is a pilgrim,
each one wants to know
the reason why the winds die
and where the stories go.
Pilgrim, in your journey
you may travel far,
for pilgrim it’s a longway
to find out who you are….
Pilgrim it’s a long way
to find out who you are…
Pilgrim it’s a long way
to find out who you are…”
-Enya: A day without rain
“So how did you figure out how to open a bank account in Northern Ireland?”
I seem to get asked this a lot.
In the beginning of February we moved our family from Kansas City, Missouri to Larne, Northern Ireland. During our first week in the UK, we were recovering from jetlag and lounging around the house while the boys ran circles around us. One day, we heard a loud beeping noise! Something we had never heard before, and we had no idea where it was coming from. When we texted our new Northern Irish friends, we learned that it was our electrical box beeping to tell us we had no more credit left. I found the card that our landlord had left behind and I went to the website to see if I could pay online. No luck, I needed a debit card that was registered in the UK. I couldn’t get one because I had no bank account, so I would have to go to a shop and pay in person. Well unfortunately, it was 7pm and we had no car. We called our mentor and she came over on this cold, rainy evening with her son and they took me to the grocery store where I was able to top up our account with cash. This wasn’t a huge deal, but it was inconvenient, and we were nervous about our electricity shutting off! Inconveniences like this kept coming up and inspired me to take the bus into town, walk into a bank, and try to figure out how to open up an account.
The bank was very kind but basically told me that I had no proof of address, even though I had a signed lease. All my bills were either paid by someone else or they were on a top up system so we couldn’t use any of those things to prove our address. The bank told me there was nothing they could do and sent me on my way. Well if any of you know me, you know that I research things. Thoroughly. So I put my research skills to task and figured out how to prove my address in order to open an account.
First, I got a pre-paid credit card through cashplus.
Note that I did not qualify for most of the perks that go along with being a card holder, but this was only a means to an end. The card took about a week to get to our house and then I took the bus to the post office where they let me top up the card with cash.
After topping up the card I called the customer service line (which costs) and requested a credit card statement be sent to my house. The customer service representative tried to talk me in to getting an electronic one, but I persevered and had the statement sent to my house (which cost £10). It took about 10 days to get the statement in the mail.
Now that I had the credit card statement, I had a piece of mail that confirmed my address. I took this along with my visa to Ulster Bank where I was able to open a current (checking) account. This provided me with cheques, deposit slips, and a debit card.
Voila! Bank account opened. Now I am able to start my free Amazon UK Prime 30 day trial, switch my iTunes account over to the UK store to download some of the free apps (that are only available in the UK), accept cheques from people wanting to help us financially, and pay with a card instead of cash at the grocery shop! If you try this, I hope it works out for you as well as it did for us.
Even after a long day (we went to the monastery in Montserrat), we decided to venture out for dinner. After walking through the bustling Barcelona streets for only 10 minutes, we ended up at an adorable outdoor restaurant called El Jardí. It’s tucked away in a courtyard of sorts so it’s quiet except for the happy chatter of other restaurant customers. Before entering, you’ll notice the courtyard has a giant chessboard & pieces, plus several trees and even nice benches to sit on. There were a lot of people there enjoying the warm weather in this shaded area.
The restaurant has a calm, fun atmosphere but my favorite part was the lovely garden and its paths! Just the right size for our 2 year old, he was happily occupied during dinner. We were able to keep our eyes on him and let him wander as he pleased.
We got plates of assorted cheeses and meats, pan con tomate, and patatas bravas (potatoes covered in a spicy mayo-type sauce, our new favorite food item!). Our 2 year old had a milkshake and our baby happily munched on meat/cheese in his chair. We sat in a corner booth with comfy pillows and cushions.
One of the main reasons we purchased this specific baby carrier (the Onya) was because it could transform into a seat! We ate so much sensational food during our week in Barcelona, but only ONE PLACE offered us a high chair! This was surprising to me. El Jardí was the first place where we tried out the Onya’s seat feature and it was so brilliant. Our baby loved it, and we were hands free to enjoy our conversation and meal together. After all, this was our anniversary trip!
I recommend this restaurant to anyone, not just people with kids!
When we first arrived there was a group of older ladies finishing off their afternoon drinks and as the night went on, families started arriving for dinner, groups of friends came in for tapas, and couples found tables for date nights.
Our waiter was kind and never rushed us, and the food was delicious! I’m glad he recommended the pan con tomate (basically toasted bread with a tomato sauce on top) because, while it wasn’t anything super-impressive, I’d heard it was a staple and had been meaning to order it! And as he suggested, it tasted great with our cheese and meat plate 🙂
If you visit Barcelona, I hope one morning you find yourself eating breakfast at Escribá. It’s located on Av. Las Ramblas almost right next to La Boquería market. Passersby tend to notice it because of all the gorgeous cakes and chocolates in the window! The first time we popped in, it was to admire the fancy desserts. We weren’t going to get anything because it was only just after 9am. That’s when I glanced at a displayed menu and saw the word, desayuno. “(GASP) They have breakfast here!”, I whispered excitedly to my husband. So then we got a table. What could be better than breaking fast at a dessert place?! We ended up with café con leche, a spinach & goat cheese quiche, hot chocolate, and ensaimadas. First let me tell you about the traditional Spanish breakfast pastry called the ensaimada. It is like a flat swirly croissant made from brioche bread and topped with powdered sugar. It is super tasty! On our second and third visits (yes, 3x in 6 days!) we ordered ensaimadas carmelitzadas which I would equate to a grilled ham and cheese that uses an ENSAIMADA instead of bread. This may have been the yummiest thing I’ve ever eaten in my life! You’ve got to try one.
By the way, my simple café con leche was divine because it was served with a small chocolate bar to stir in and let melt in my coffee. Umm, why have I never done this before?! Here’s a picture. Mine’s on the bottom left, and you can see the chocolate there on the saucer! The mug on the top right is my husband’s hot chocolate (he doesn’t like coffee) but can I tell you what was actually inside that mug? MELTED CHOCOLATE. This was no ordinary “hot milk with chocolate powder stirred in” type drink. This was literally a mug full to the brim of creamy melted chocolate bars. Unsweetened too! It was served with sugar packets! 100% chocolate folks. And whatever toppings you like. Twice he got the raspberry sauce and this photo here is of the hazelnut/praline option. AMAZING! I think these particular beverages will be served in heaven <3
We ate outside during 2 of our visits and this would be my seating choice again if we were to go back. Eating inside was a bit cramped with the energetic kiddos, but still lovely. My 2 year old was actually kept quite occupied by admiring all the desserts in the display windows!
On our last day in Barcelona, we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary by eating at Escribá. We let our toddler have cake for breakfast… it was a chocolate orange cake with melted chocolate poured on top. If I remember correctly I think it was called “El Escribá”. He chose it from the window and was super excited about how delicious it was!
I highly recommend visiting this place. The wait staff were very friendly and seemed to enjoy trying out their English phrases on us. Prices were reasonable and all the food we tried was sensational! I would definitely go back to try the horchata they had on tap inside; it looked amazing!