03.15.08

Umm … when do we start worrying?

Posted in finances, ministry, Team at 1:27 pm

The exchange rate is a cruel, cruel thing. It’s one of those things that I never thought about before I moved overseas. But now I watch it way too often.

Here in Italy, we use Euros, which happens to be a very strong currency right now. Our “paycheck” is in dollars, which happens to be a very weak currency right now. Put those two facts together, and my average, three-bedroom apartment which used to cost around $850 is now over $1,000. And that’s over the course of just a few months!

I think we’re hit doubly hard here in two areas: housing and groceries. Both of these are things that can be trimmed only so much. A family of nearly 6 can only cut out so much food and so many bedrooms!

Jason emailed us a link you may have seen which basically indicated there is no end in sight to the dollar’s drop.

So when do we start worrying? Does a point come where we all pack up and go home because it costs too much to live here? Do our supporters even understand how horrible it feels to raise all of this money and watch it disappear just because of some silly world currency market? The thing that really bothers me is not so much that things cost a lot of money, but that I feel like our supporter’s donations just go right down the drain because of something none of us have any control over.

I think Jason had some great advice for us in his email, “Read it. Be aware. Don’t worry. God is big. Keep praying and cinching your belt. Let’s be more generous.”

03.06.08

My new green car

Posted in technology, travel at 5:54 pm

So our life changed pretty dramatically this month. After almost three years of living without a car, we finally saved up enough Euro pennies for a 2001 Fiat Multipla Bipower.

The Multipla

Methane on the left, Gas on the rightIt’s called Bipower because it runs off two different kinds of fuel: plain old unleaded, and methane. One of Italy’s natural resources is methane, so many cars are sold that use both fuels. Many people even add a methane tank after the fact, if the car they like isn’t available with methane. When first starting the car, it uses gasoline. As soon as the engine is running, it switches to methane, usually in about 5 or 10 seconds.

Here’s some math: Gas is currently €1.40 per liter, or $8.19 per gallon. Methane is €0.85 per kg. Meaning it costs about $80.86 to fill the gas tank and $34.24 to fill the methane tank. However, I bought the car with about 1/4 tank of gas, and it still has about 1/4 of a tank. I’ve only had to buy methane.

But all of the figures are meaningless unless we also look at mileage (though in Italy mileage is measured in liters of fuel per 100 km – so smaller numbers are better here!). Using gas, it should get about 27 mpg. Using methane, it should get 36 mpg. Meaning that methane is both cheaper, and gets better mileage.

But it doesn’t end there. Burning methane produces less CO2 than burning gas, so it’s easier on the environment. I like to say that butterflies and rain forests come out of the tailpipe.

There are a couple of drawbacks: 1) it’s a little more difficult to find a methane station for refueling. Most cities won’t allow giant tanks of explosive gases downtown, so we have to plan when and where we refuel more carefully. 2) There’s a little less get-up-and-go when using methane.

And you wouldn’t believe how many of these things are on the road. Hopefully, our 181,000 km old Multipla will stay on the road at least for a little while!

03.05.08

Italian Superstitions

Posted in culture at 5:28 am

This one is one of my favorites. I’ve seen it done!