Lessons learned from my first month on the field
I would not normally think that I am used to instant gratification but upon arrival in Scotland it was blaringly obvious I was very much an instant gratification person. Not to say that I get angry when I don’t get what I want when I want, but I am not used to waiting and jumping through hoops constantly. Things started quickly enough thanks to the family I am working with. They had done the whole looking at apartment thing for me and found one that was perfect for what I needed not only in price but location as well. In fact, the day I landed I paid my deposit and first month’s rent and had my keys given to me. That is when the brakes hit and they hit hard! First things first of course, I needed to pick up my biometric card from the Post Office. The biometric card is my ID here in Scotland. It shows I have a visa and a right to be here. The official paper says you must pick up the card within 10 days of arriving in the country. So, two days later I went to the Post office to get it. What I hadn’t seen on the paper is that I actually wouldn’t be ready for pick up until I had been in the country 7 days. The ladies at the Post office were very kind but brought that to my attention. So I had to think, why is it, they threaten you with being removed from the country if you don’t get it within 10 days, but they don’t send it to you until 7 days after being in town? My friends told me that this was totally normal, although I don’t think I believed them at the moment!
So, the next step is to get a bank account and a way of communication. Don’t worry I didn’t forget about the biometric card thing. The end of that story is coming. I go down to the local bank and tell them I want to open an account. Although I did have my American ID, they required I have a piece of mail from the government such as utilities or something that proves my address. Well, you would think that would be easy right? Wrong! My utilities are “pay as you go” and so therefore, no bill. I just take the special key card to a local store, put money on it and plug it into my machine and voila! Electric and heating! So the man at the bank said I needed something else. We looked into what I would need and made the necessary contacts to make that happen. The only problem, it would take about 2 weeks just to get that mail in. Meanwhile, I went to the mobile phone place to look into a phone. Their regulations are I must have a Scottish bank account.
At least I did get to go to Ikea and Costco and get some much needed items and found some things on a good sale such as a bed frame (which I thought would be harder to come by for a good price). Once we got my bed frame put up, it was time to order a mattress. Went to the local mattress store, found a good one on sale and that was that. Or so I thought! When I paid for it, we discussed delivery. I could get it delivered but it wouldn’t be delivered for two and a half weeks! So we asked what if we just took it ourselves? Still won’t be ready for two and a half weeks. I had to resign myself to realizing I wasn’t going to be staying in my new flat for some time.
Now back to the biometric card. I went in the exact date it said it would be ready. Nope! Not there. Once again sweetest ladies ever, and the one in charge said to check back in two more days. I also got an email address from her to email the proper place should it not come in. I was a bit worried and yes a bit frustrated. Now I began to understand what the missionaries were saying.
Getting something done here is just plain and simply not easy. Oh, I love it here and everything about this country but I am realizing how good we had it in the states. After a few attempts at trying to find out if my official government paper had been sent out, it finally arrived. I was so excited! Finally able to open a bank account and just in time too, my next rent was due in 4 days! I happily took my ID and my paper with my name and address on it to the bank. I dealt with a different person that day. I gave her my required items and after a moment she said she didn’t think that would work. That not only did I need that official document, but I had to send the application back in and get what they called a National Insurance Number (which, by the way, takes over two months to get). I was almost heart broken. Then she said, wait, do you have a letter from your employer? If I could get a letter addressed to the Bank from my employer (aka the church) it would work instead. Well, of course, we could do that just fine! Wish someone had mentioned that the first time we went in!!! Went back an hour later with letter in hand and opened an account. I am too pampered in the states!
Bank account in place and now it’s time to go get my mobile phone. That would be easy right? Walk in, tell them you want a phone, give them your bank account particulars, and immediately get denied because I haven’t been in this country long enough to build credit. Those pesky rocks of reality dashing my hopes and dreams again! I could have gone with “pay as you go” for that as well, but the phone price out of pocket was staggering and something I just didn’t want to do. Thankfully my amazing coworkers in the ministry offered to add a line to their account and I could pay them monthly for mine!
So now the time comes for my mattress to finally be delivered and I get to stay in my own flat! I went grocery shopping and filled my fridge (which also was a huge and crazy story as to how I obtained that)! Decided it was time to try out my oven. Much to my dismay, there are absolutely NO markings on the oven. The thing is so old, it’s all worn away. I fiddled around with the stovetop and figured approximately what was a high setting and low setting. After about a month of waiting I was able to get a new one from the landlord.
You may wonder if things are starting to settle down? Yes they are and I am learning that I am not always going to find what I am looking for and that’s ok. The choices we enjoy in the states are not the same in other countries. You want a solid deodorant instead of a roll on or spray? That is hard to come by. So when you see it buy it, it may be the last one you find! How about canned chicken for easy meals? Every form of canned meat is on the shelves EXCEPT chicken. So I am learning. I am learning to find another way to do things. I am learning that if you see what you are looking for get it, because there is a huge chance it won’t be there tomorrow. And I am learning that that is ok.
Amongst all this set back and frustration, one thing remains the same. My God! He is faithful and loving and has taught me a lot about leaning on Him even in these frustrations. I have begun to teach children’s church here on Sundays and by the end of the year, we will be starting a mid-week youth program as well. I am doing what I have always dreamed of doing and enjoying the lessons along the way. As I look out my window down to George Street here in the City Centre of Perth, I still have a hard time believing I am here. This is my new home! After traveling for 3 years of deputation, it’s strange to be buying a bed and a microwave and dishes and putting down roots. But it’s a good strange. Will things always be happy go lucky? No, we all know that. But one thing I will cling to for as long as God allows me to serve here in Perth: “Faithful is He who calleth you who also will do it."
By Deana Hewston
Missionary to Scotland