May 26 2009

Day 45: fishing

by renee

It’s the perfect picture. Out our dinette window I can see the most precious thing ever. Andrew is teaching the kids how to fish. They are knee deep in mud, Joy is on Andrew’s back and everyone is enjoying the weather and the mud and hoping to catch a few bass that were washed up to the shallow water and now stuck there when the river went up considerably a couple of days ago. I am supposed to be working but wish I was out there having fun in the mud too. It’s my turn to work and his turn to play with the kids.

May 22 2009

Day 41: Schooling on the road

by renee

This morning, while Andrew got some work done at the coffee shop, I took the kids down to the river bank to play in the sand. We had finished scripture study and had a really great time of discussion. The kids were so interested and eager to learn. While we were outside immediately after, they still had that eagerness so decided to take advantage. “Okay, everyone! Time for math! Everyone grab ten stones and line them up!” I spent time with each child individually, using the rocks to do some math problems, while the others were content playing the sand. I used the Ray’s arithmetic with Reayah, using the rocks to practice addition, subtraction and the beginning understandings of multiplication and division. Bennah is a visual person and using rocks to represent groups, he was able to practice his multiplication very easily. He has learned to count by 2s,3s,4, and 5s and is now learning to count by 6s and 7s. Zach and Jaiden did simple counting and threw the rocks into the river when they were done. As I taught them, I was rejoicing at how easy this was, and prayed that I would have many more days like these :).

After lunch, the kids had some play time and then came in to do journal writing. The kids had been making up their own worship song and so I asked them to write it down as a poem. Reayah loves to write and had no trouble concentrating and filling up 3 pages in half an hour. Bennah on the hand struggles when there are many distractions around him. While we started to write, a short thunder storm started so we were all in the trailer! Including a baby who wanted attention, a tired toddler and a provocative 4 year old, who drove his truck over Bennah’s journal.  So, Bennah had a rough time and after some frustration on both our parts, he completed his assignment. I want to accommodate him so he can concentrate and do school joyously, without frustration, but I also need him to practice concentrating with distractions. He won’t always be do his work alone, away from everything. I think it’s a good skill to learn. I do want him to see that I am supportive of his struggle though, and encourage him to overcome. Writing is the hardest subject for Bennah. Not because he’s not good at it, but because it requires a different form of concentration. And sitting still!

It was a good day. We did school, we did our chores and got the trailer clean and prepared for Shabbat (Sabbath). We love Shabbat. The one day we Andrew and I can sleep in while the kids fend for themselves and run amuck!

May 22 2009

Day 41: Favor

by andrew

YHWH is finding favor with us at this campground. He has given us a neat relationship with the owner even though we didn’t really do anything special to seek it out. The family that runs the gas station / campground here is really nice and helpful. With my background in computers I was in a position today to help the owner get his wifi broadcasting from the coffee shop into the campground again (he had an antenna / repeater / booster that was unplugged for the winter and I made sure it was all connected correctly and verified the signal for him).

He’s interested in expanding the range throughout the whole campground, so I went around with my pocket pc surveying the current signal strength per site. After I had a picture of how the layout and foliage affected the coverage I walked around with him and made recommendations as to how many repeaters he might need and what existing structures / poles / etc might make ideal locations for them to cover the rest of the campground.

I was happy to help! And the immediate benefit for us is that WE ARE NOW FULLY CONNECTED RIGHT AT OUR SITE!!!

Actually, this is a huge deal, because I’ve been battling the Autonet Mobile connection for days. Their support team has been excellent, but what we’ve discovered together is that Canada is a problematic no-man’s land of wireless data service when it comes to roaming. We’ll see what the final outcome is, but for now I will be diplomatic and protect most of the guilty with some anonymity. Basically it works like this: Autonet advertises data coverage for the U.S. and Canada because the carrier / provider they use advertises coverage in the U.S. and Canada. Essentially, Autonet themselves are a customer to this carrier on behalf of their own customers. Their carrier in turn has roaming provision agreements in place with Canadian carriers to (in theory) provide data and voice service to their customers. Confusing?

Well, the Canadian companies, it turns out – and I’m thinking of one in particular – seem to be (at the very least) somewhat unconcerned about the data connections of the customers who are on their network via a roaming agreement. In fact, looking at the logs and observing continuous ping behavior, it seems like their network is actually terminating data connections at a fixed interval. This has been the source of our woes.

Autonet is still working with me to get a solution – and they’ve been fantastic. Ultimately, I’m hopeful, however – I’m keenly aware that the reality is this: I’m the customer of a customer of a customer of a service. When you boil it all down, that’s the true picture, and there are a lot of moving gears in the overall scheme of that arrangement. It would only take one uncooperative gear at any level to translate into my service not working reliably.

Also, I’d take issue with the statement on Autonet Mobile’s FAQ that says: “Autonet Mobile is the Internet Service Provider…” I guess this is true from a certain vantage point, but traditional broadband ISP’s generally have their own infrastructure and Autonet does not. To the marketing team’s credit however, the web site has already been updated to correct their ignorance in advertising. The original page pulled from Google cache as of May 7th (which sold me on the service) states: “…to give you the broadband speed and expansive coverage in both the US and Canada.” The cached page also includes a link to a coverage map that clearly shows the US and Canada. The new page, by contrast, states: “to give you broadband speed and expansive coverage over the entire United States,” and includes a link to the coverage map of their service provider.

This might all sound like I’m trying to slam Autonet Mobile. Well, I was quite disappointed that they didn’t deliver the reliable service in Canada that was advertised, since that was one of the biggest requirements I had as I was shopping for service – knowing we’ll be spending a lot of time up here. However, their support has been superb, and I’m still hopeful that they will work something out on behalf of the customers who need connectivity throughout North America. I really hope that they don’t decide to give up on Canada and take a minimize-the-losses approach. The ridiculous state of affairs when it comes to cross-border data sharing and service really needs to be kicked into the 21st century. Maybe Autonet will take the mantle and be one of the pioneering catalysts.

But, for the meantime YHWH has looked out for us anyway – we now have a solid connection through the wifi at the Campground all the way inside the trailer – and for that we are very thankful!!! Thank you YHWH! Thank you Welcomestop! No more packing everything up to go spend a few hours at the coffee shop; no more leaving the laptop at friends overnight to get some bulk uploading done; no more sneaking in email checks and uploads when we’re with family for dinner… and, truth be told, the upstream data rate over wireless here (even with only 2 bars) is actually FASTER than either location that I tried in the city hardwired to a cable connection. Ah… it’s the little things in life.

Ok, back to the work I should have been getting done instead of this little praise/rant before Sabbath sets in.

May 17 2009

Day 37: Hanging out

by renee

Last night the kids feel asleep on the way home after visiting with my sister, her husband and their sweet little girl. My brother-in-law is a food genius so we were treated as usual to a delectable feast. Yummy food, delicious drink and lots of laughter. It was a great night. This morning the kids slept in until 9am! We had a wonderful laxy day today. Did a bit of school, a little work but mostly just hung out, got a coffee treat at the campground coffee shop and even got a nap in! It’s a rough life! We’re going campground scouting tomorrow to see if we want to move somewhere else or just stay put. We have till Wednesday to decide.

May 15 2009

Home Sweet Home

by renee

Ahhhhh….. It feels good to be clean. Nothing like a nice hot shower in your own home. Even if it is small, the trailer is starting to feel a lot more like home. Every time we arrive somewhere we have this little family joke: “We’re home!” no matter where we are when we stop. I’m thankful for the things we sometimes take for granted: hot water, electricity, heat (especially on days like today). I enjoyed my tromps to the laundry room and back in the cold, and the family walk / run – the exercise and cold air felt so good. And so did coming back to a nice warm cozy trailer!

I am really enjoying having Andrew around every day. There have been sacrifices that we’ve had to make, and challenges adjusting to this new way of life, but it’s worth it to start and share every day together with him. I like brewing a pot of coffee for two rather than just myself. I think I could even live in a tent and eat rice and beans every day as long as we were together as a family. Of course, I say that now, not knowing how hard it would really be. Andrew gave up a really successful position at a comfortable job with an income that spoiled us a little, but the kids and I missed him.

It’s going to be nice staying put for a while so that we can relax a wee bit, visit family and friends, and have a little time to enjoy our home sweet home before we take it with us to our next adventure.

May 15 2009

Day 34: First Impressions

by andrew

I hope this post makes it through – the wireless service here outside the city has turned out spotty to say the least and our connections (internet and mobile voice) are very unreliable.

Such a bizarre weather time-warp … just over a week ago we were enjoying 80-90 F weather in Pennsylvania only to get up here (yes, I know it’s Canada but it’s the middle of May for crying out loud) and have some snow. Ok, nothing you could actually play in, but it’s the principle of the thing. Not that I mind really… anything to have more of a challenge. It’s good for us. Puts hair on our chests.

Today was full.

Breakfast and coffee. Registered at the office for a week here (initially, though we’re going to go campground exploring around the city to see if there are better options). Explored the facilities.

Tromped through some of that insane Manitoba gumbo mud with the kids for an hour… you can’t possibly know what I mean unless you’ve had the experience yourself – your shoes end up twice the size and 3-4 times heavier than when you start out. So then there was The Scraping and Soaking of Boots at the end of that, which took the rest of the morning.

Mounted a fruit net holder thing to replace a light fixture we were never going to use and a green bowl that took up too much counter space.

Started working on the kids laptop to get it all set-up and ready for them, which took 8 times longer than it should have since I can’t seem to keep a solid connection going… and that’s still not done.

I did get a couple emails off, although I should have been helping Renee with kid-wrangling-for-dinner at the time.

Tried to switch our cell phones over to the Canada side of Verizon, and finally found the access code I needed ( *228 ) but no success… I think we need to be closer to the city for it to work.

Emergency freezer thaw and spray down wash / wipe / dry and repack due to the fishiness that crept in during those couple days after we unplugged from AC power before the LP mode on the fridge was fixed and our stinking frozen Haddock defrosted enough to stink everything up.

Renee got the kids through school. Did the laundry (5 trips back and forth by the end of the day). Finally got her shower. (I’m still contemplating mine). Made lunch and supper.

I checked in with our finances. Made sure we weren’t forgetting any bills in all the ruckus.

Had another shootout with the Black Tank… there were a couple days when we didn’t have a lot of water to flush down the crapper, so today was more of a preemptive strike than anything else. Nothing as dramatic as the first campaign. But it did require a bit more stretching of ye ol ingenuity.

First impressions of Welcomestop Campground west of Winnipeg where #1 intersects the Assiniboine river: neat place fairly scenic albeit with a bit of a run-down feeling (perhaps due to the flooding and pre-spring barrenness); utilities all fine; thankfully no GFI on the 30 amp otherwise I’d have been trying to track down a new converter all day; muddy (only because kids will go where the mud is); laundry is low-tech but decent and nicely close to our site; store is adequate for emergency purchases; showers are coin-fed so we’ll probably never use them; staff is very nice and helpful… BUT the location seems to be perfectly situated to thwart a constant wireless connection either to the city infrastructure OR the rural infrastructure; they do have free wifi up at the “coffee shop” (a partitioned area in the gas station store); so we’re going to figure out over the next few days how much of a show-stopper this is for us as a reliable connection is obviously important to just about everything we need to do; overall the kids love it here; it will be even more fun when it warms up enough to have a fire outside and put the carpet out and the awning down, etc.

After supper we all went outside for a good hearty run  around the campground (mostly to force as much of the rest of the energy out of the kids as we could). Felt grand. There were snow flurries. The trailer felt too hot when we got back inside… well, to me and the boys anyway. Renee says it felt just right (but she doesn’t know that I turned the thermostat down before she came back from her extended walk with Jaiden).

And then SHABBAT. Sabbath. Rest. Ceasing. What a blessing.

May 15 2009

Day 33: Made it!

by andrew

Well, we made it! We’re in Winnipeg! (12km west of the perimeter on #1, anyway, but that counts!) We’re settled in our cozy warm trailer (heat cranked as it’s down to 35F / almost 0C outside now, and judging from the ice on the ground around our water hook-ups it might get even colder yet tonight). Hmmmmm….

We wanted to call you all  (yes even you strangers who might happen across the blog), but we haven’t figured out how to get our cell phones switched over to Canada roaming yet [Verizon gave us an access code to use once we got here but it didn’t work and we don’t have a cell phone signal to speak of at the campground]… BUT our handy dandy AutoNet Mobile router has 40% signal to some other cell network and that’s enough to get this post out as a close second and regrettably impersonal alternate option.

Thank you for all the comments! I wish I could respond to them all in depth. They’re so fun to read and it’s encouraging knowing others are traveling with us.

Long day… We hit the road at 8:30am and had several stops along the way, but we rolled into the campground right around 9pm after an hour or so of  driving through the flooded southern plains of central Manitoba, which was actually a perfect backdrop for contemplating an upcoming post that will probably be titled something like “Death by Bureaucracy: Archetypes of the Hidden Worldwide Slave State that permeates everything and can be found in something as simple as trying to legitimately cross the longest undefended border in the world…” It will ramble on about how we’re all slaves to a system that controls us far more than we realize until little moments give us glimpses, but then the glimpses pass and we forget again… about how – even with the level of freedom we seek to attain in our travels – there is yet a strong opposition in the world to anything that resembles true freedom (not freedom of “choice” to do whatever one wants, but true freedom)… about how there is a spiritual freedom that should be impervious to such encroachment – that certainly goes far deeper than any physical freedom to do or say – but how even that can be stifled if the mind gets in the way… about how odd it is that so many people can’t fathom or process or even contemplate that some crazy folks (like us) would actually NOT want to live in one place all the time… (the simple question, “Where do you live?” in fact belies how narrow minded people can be)… and, how foolish it is that every modern societal construct in our fancy western culture is wired to the fundamental assumption that one must have a home address (not merely a mailing address mind you) where they can be found most of the time… how silly would the Bedouins or other ancient and modern nomadic peoples think you were if you asked them “Where do you live? … Where is your home?” …….. After today I can completely relate, and I’m sure none of the 3 border crossing guards at each of the 3 levels of redundant-question-asking-security (2 of which were completely new to me in crossing) had any idea how silly I thought their questions were. Ah…. it was once such a simple thing to cross the border. I did it every weekend for a year (give or take a few weekends and most of those when I was in Mississipi) when Renee and I were engaged and I was stationed at Minot, ND. And as long as you seem “normal” and they can measure you and quantify you and rely on you to act predictably (like pretty much everyone else) you can slide right through no problem. Well, no such simplicity here. HOWEVER, we did get through, and YHWH can certainly provide crossings in even more impossible scenarios in the future.

There, now I don’t even need to write that post after all.

So, after a cruise around the campground and an hour and a half setup (connect electric, off the hitch, level front to rear, slide-out, stabilize and level side-to-side, connect sewer line, connect water line, etc etc) while Renee got the kids tucked away in their beds it will finally feel like we’re here after a couple “normal” nights’ sleep that aren’t followed by driving days. YEA! See some of you soon! Although we are thinking that we might just lay low this weekend and get some rest, recover from travel, settle in, tend to some loose ends (like showers and laundry), that kind of thing… if we can get away with it 🙂 We’ll see how it goes.

Since I’m posting this, we do / should have normal email access, which might be the best way of contact until we get the cell service figured out… ok… supper and then bed!

May 14 2009

Day 33: Almost to Canada!

by renee

I am playing a drawing game with Bennah and we just entered North Dakota. We’ll have a brief stop in Fargo and are hoping to be in Winnipeg by tonight. Woo hooo!!