Monday, November 17, 2014

Emotionally Raw

There is no other way to say it October and November have left me emotionally raw. From Jamen fracturing his arm to our family being sick for the last 8 weeks and me feeling guilty for not being able to pour into other people around me. The hearing of the sudden and tragic death of a three year boy in our village and feeling the weight of why we are doing what we are doing. The high spring temperatures (118F) that have left people in the village with sleepless nights and walking to get water at night because its too hot during the day. And me feeling guilty for sleeping in and not having to leave the temperature controlled house for days. The planning of our return and yet needing to be present here and now. The reality that there will be hot and sleepless nights list goes on as it slow strips away leaving me feeling beaten and raw.

I read a fellow missionary blog and she said it so well I have to quote her because I couldn't have said it any better. "I'm worried that my commentary on American life right now might come across more critical than I intend, so I just don't write about it. I don't feel critical, but I do feel a little lost and overwhelmed at times and I am not sure that I could explain those feelings well on this blog without it sounding like I am bashing everything around me. People constantly address the issue of Third Culture Kids  (children who were raised in a culture outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their development years and who don't feel like they are truly a part of their culture of origin or fully part of their host culture. They are a mixture of both and therefore represent a "third" culture) but nobody really talks about Third Culture Adults. And I think what I am feeling and experiencing should be labeled as that. Because even though I spent almost 30 years in North American culture, there are some parts I never experience that I am experiencing now."

          "But the real transition has been that I have tried my best to immerse myself in a completely different culture for the last three years, and jumping back into my own has been more complicated because of the new sights, sounds, and thoughts that I have been processing for three years. I can't un-see the things that I have seen that now make me view the entire world- not just these two separate and unique cultures- through different lenses. I have a whole new perspective, and as most of you know, perspective can make all the difference." 


She says it so well, doesn't she? I am so there and can totally relate and understand. I realized this month that my perspective has changed in so many ways. Since we came back to the states I knew how I saw things was different but I kinda pushed it away or shoved it down and blamed it on just being out of tune with things. But now I realize I view the entire world different now and that's OK. So in my times of feeling raw with the weight of a new perspective I have thrown my self into the word in the early quite of the morning, cried out to the Lord, been burly eyed with lack of sleep and hardly able to engage those around me. I pray for guidance and renewed excitement, I plan and organize and am thankful for this time of AC and indoor heating and rich foods to nourish our bodies. I talk with my husband and close friends who have been there and understand, not to have a pity party or brag about how our perspectives are different now but to be encouraged and/or come alongside. I'm not prepared for the things that are challenging and that shake me to my core but I don't have to be, I have be walking in truth and looking to the Lord to guide me and grow me in it.  

This month I've also been realizing that in just 7 1/2 short weeks we'll head back. So I have stopped buying luxury items like body wash and switched back over to bar soap. I'm letting the mouth wash run out. Some might think this ridiculous but I couldn't justify throwing out half used items, I don't want to leave them behind and I'm not taking half used items back (I need all the space I can). So here I am, reminding the kids to wash and rinse quickly while showering, don't leave the water running while brushing teeth, I've been writing down new recipes and menu planning for a whole month (breakfast, lunch and dinner) to save myself the time when we get back. Its a good thing too cause its taking me a long time. 

Then to top it off I've been reminded not to be so attached to our stuff. 

We lost our favorite backpack, the one we have had for 8 years and had been collecting national park passes on, it had all our memories! When Jon was on his way on a camping trip it flew out of the back of the truck, he lost everything (clothes, camera, flashlight, sleeping bag, ect.)! He called me and I spent over an hour driving around with the kids, looking and stopping on the interstate. I told the kids and we cried together. I actually got a little mad at God, thinking its just a backpack, can't you let us find it! But then He reminded me that I was being prideful and putting too much weight and identity in something like the backpack. I was playing the "woe is me" card and "pitiful poor missionary" card, thinking to my self, "we don't have much in this world and you take the back pack away?" Pathetic I know but I'm being real with you none the less and the Lord was good in reminding me my thinking was wrong and so was my attitude. And really in the grand scheme of things, I would rather loose all my stuff and still have my family, and that is where my focus should be, so I'm kinda thankful it took the loosing of the backpack to remind me and nothing more.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

September Got Away

September has been full! We were in TN for 3 full weeks, getting to know people in a church out there and visiting the Smoky Mountains. My kids made friends and it broke my heart to have to move on, but I am so thankful for other kids accepting my kids and my kids jumping in and making friends. I'm thankful for people who included us and did fun things for our kids like take them to the county fair. It was fun for me too, I met new people, learned lots about canning (which will help me later back in PY), kept homeschooling and learned more about myself.

Rainbow falls in the smoky mountains.
It was beautiful! 
Baskins Creek Falls

Jonas was loving the orange (his favorite color) leaves
Jamen and Jade worked hard in their books to get their junior badges.

Finally we said goodbye to TN and we made our way to GA we stopped in a place called Cataloochee in NC for two days to camp. We got to see lots of elk and up close too!
We saw 30 elk one day and 20 more the next day 
Our last day the rain and sun created an amazing rainbow 
I even saw the end of the rainbow! I was pretty excited and a little disappointed there was no pot of gold at the end. 

This last part of September simply has gotten away from me. I had my birthday (this is my last year in my 20s, hard to believe) and after that we have been sick every weekend and then Jamen broke his arm. It hasn't been fun (just being honest) but I am so thankful for so many things through all this. Thankful doctors close by, fun sick foods, cool house to battle the fevers, freezer space for popsicles, a dryer to dry favorite blankets quickly and lots of kid movies!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Culture Shock 101

I walk along just looking. The pots and pans, plush towels and soft sheets are everywhere and a rainbow of colors line the walls everywhere I turn. Slowly the walls start to close in on me, the walls lined with their rainbow of colors smile down at me, looming over me, shelves with their sparkling wares screamed "buy me", my heart started to race, my face goes pale, tears blurred my vision. Closer they come and my vision becomes darker. Suddenly firm and gentle hands grip my shoulders, my mom pulls me into a hug and I blink hard to not let the tears fall. I cling to her as she whispers, "its ok, I understand, we can leave if we need to." I hugged her back and wiped my eyes, I stared harder at the walls as if to push them back where they belong and I say, "no, I can do this."  

Culture shock is  defined as the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply travel to another type of life.

Its been three months today since we have been back. I haven't been able to write simply because I didn't know what to say. I had too much emotion and not enough words. But today I think I am able to put my emotion into a few words.
My personal feelings of disorientation came at me from all sides the second the plane touched down and we walked into the Miami airport. The smell was different... bleached and clean and it was so bright! The kids hit culture shock when we strapped them into their 5 point harness car seats for 5 hours. My husband embraced it all, he drove the car like a pro on the 6 lane highway out of Miami. 

Less then 24 hours after we had landed we walked into Walmart...we walked like we were in slow motion, staring with eyes wide and mouths open. The lights were bright and there was so much space. Now I had been planning this trip to Walmart for three years, I couldn't wait! I thought I remembered what it all looked like and how to shop in the states. Boy, was I wrong. I set out to find the 6 things we needed for dinner and breakfast the next morning. Jon and I split the list to save time. I only manged to get yogurt cause I stood looking at all the choices for 10 min! People were looking at me and saying "excuse me" trying to get their own stuff. I finally just grabbed some and ran away. Jon, meanwhile, had found the rest of what we needed and took the kids down the cereal isle to count the different kinds of Cheerios. He did all that while I was just trying to pick out yogurt! This was only in the first 24 hours and I knew I would face much more.

Little things started to stick out to me that the kids noticed, they noticed that there weren't any guards in front of every store. They freaked out when it started to rain, we almost never travel in the rain. The foods were different, what people once or twice a week here, we eat once a year when it comes in season. They are adjusting very well, everything is new and exciting and they are getting use to all the traveling and new people. It been awesome to see my kids interact and share what they like and miss about PY. 

Days turned into weeks, I started to drive again after 3 years, it was like learning all over again. Hands at 10 and 2 the whole time and I hugged the white line. I consistently go 10 to 15 under the speed limit. Shopping got better, I forced my self to go out to the dollar store, go to the post office. I realized that I use to be the person who wouldn't talk to the people who worked at the store, now I don't care and I ask questions. I have embraced being able to speak in my heart language to express everything I want to without fumbling for words.
Slowly my thinking/remembering where I was changed. I talked a little louder to my kids in the store, I managed to greet people at church without trying to kiss both cheeks, I stopped saying "excuse me" to enter and leave a conversation, we have had to learn to be on time and I freak out less about carrying enough water and snacks when we travel. We still take way to long when we leave someones house after dinner and its weird to say goodbye at the door. So many cultural things we had adjusted to and were part of the norm, suddenly weren't normal. 

So, here I am, driving, talking, thinking, relating and enjoying the things I've missed for the last three years. I probably sleep more than I should, I defiantly eat more cheddar cheese than I should but over all I think the crazy culture shock is gone. More how the Lord is growing me in another post. Meanwhile, here just a few pictures...

Playing tent in Grandma and Grandpas back yard

Big bowls of ice cream! 

Feeding the deer at the zoo!

Enjoying the views!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Reentering Society

We made it, we had arrived! We had great flights, the kids were excited, all baggage arrived safely, our heads were spinning with fatigue but we were back! 
We hit the ground running when we arrived but it turned out to be a good thing. The kids were adjusting well, I however was struggling. Have you ever had a dream that seemed so real that when you woke up it was hard to remember where you were but at the same time hard to remember what had happened in your dream? Well that's what I felt like, I felt like the last three years of my life was this far and distant dream, and yet so real. I was in a fog and kind of a grump the first 5 days. Four days after we stepped off the plane we went to one of our churches kids camp where we were able to share with the kids and the adults what we had been doing the last three years in PY. It really helped me talk through all that we had done, seen and experienced the last three years and help rid my brain of the dream like state I felt like I was in. It ended up being a very good and encouraging week!
Its been really cute to listen to my kids as they discover things like hot and cold running water, one conversation between Jamen and Jade went like this...Jamen: "Hey Jade look at this! This one is hot and this one is cold." Jade: "oh ok". Jamen: "Turn them on and see which one you like best." Jade: "ouch this one is hot." Jamen (giggling): "I know, which one do you like?"

They are also liking the big bath tubs that you can "swim in", rugs, all the different the 12 different kinds of cheerios in the cereal aisle, different kinds of cars and houses, car seats have been an adjustment but its going well. Jade a slight freak out moment when it started to rain on the highway, she was very concerned for our safety but we assured her that the roads were safe to drive on even in the rain. Jon has been loving everything! For me Walmart has been a highlight and very tiring at the same time, the first time I went I spent 15 min just trying to buy yogurt.
Not only have been dealing with culture shock but, I've also been dealing once again with the "American dream" and "life being so much easier here". I know you are thinking life is not easy and I know that too, everywhere there are challenges but in comparing the physical stress of  every day life in PY to life here, its totally different. Part of me wants all the stuff that I see around me and to just stay here would be so easy. But its been cool to see the Lord remind me in different ways that this world is not my home. Some dear friends of ours live in Africa and they recently came back stateside and wrote blog about this world not not being our home and I was so encouraged. I've been encouraged by the verses below...
Hebrews 13:5 & 20-21
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be satisfied with what you have." "I pray that the God of peace will give you every good thing you need so you can do what HE wants. God raised from the dead our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, because of the blood of his death. His blood began the eternal agreement that God will do in us what please him, through Jesus Christ, and to him be glory for and ever. Amen."
So, I know there will never be an easy button in life and when I look at the pictures we've taken and see the faces of people I have gotten to know and seen the lives they live. I will keep pressing on even though its not always easy.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Journey Has Begun

Well, we made our last journey to the village and stayed about 12 days, the rain delayed us in getting out for longer. But we had a good time once we made it and learned so much, always something new to learn, like when it's cloudy for 5 days the solar panels don't pump water to the water tank, so its a good idea to be careful with how much water you use. How to say yes or no in different situations, when you are asked for food, gas or rides, knowing that what you say sets a trend. What to do when your child is throwing up but people are at the house to visit and you know, they know, you know they are out there waiting but you can't tell them what is going on inside the house so you have to ignore them. Always a challenge and there was lots for us to think through. Over all though it was good to have time to say goodbye as we transition into a different world and begin our 7 month journey. 

Below are some pictures from our trip...
We got to eat grilled armadillo, which was very good! 
Jon wasn't sure if he should eat the lung or not
The neighbor dog fell into the trash pit where we burn our trash. He barked and whined for much of the early morning, Jon had to get the neighbor to get him out, he wasn't going to let us get near enough to help him out.
Jade and her friend 
Me and some of the neighbor ladies drinking terere together
The baby from next door, he is such a cutie! 

So we said our goodbyes, packed up the house and went back to town. Once there we organized everything and packed our bags to head down to the city.  
Jonas was ready to go, hat and backpack on, snack in mouth and shoes in hand.

All the kids did great on the 6.5 hour bus ride to the big city. The bus was nice, good movies were played, everyone around us was friendly and the bus made great time! It was such a blessing! So, we made it to the city and the first thing Jamen said was "its really loud here". 

We are about to under-go several changes over the next few weeks, please pray we will gracious with ourselves and our kids as we adjust to so much... food, cultural greetings (Jonas says "Hola" to just about everyone these days), sights and sounds, the weather (its gonna feel cold) and just the normal things that aren't so normal (TP goes in toilets, hot and cold running water, learning that whole back yard isn't for digging in, car seats). Of course there are things we are looking forward to...seeing family and friends, worshiping in our heart language, foods we remember and crave, rest stops, big bath tubs for the kids and hot showers in heated bathrooms with no water restrictions and so much more! 

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Three Years

Today is the 1st of May and in just 10 days it will mark 3 years in PY. Just three short years ago we had our bags pack, life organized, long flights ahead and an exciting adventure before us.
We arrived and were greeted in new ways but by smiling faces. 
We were welcomed and we were excited!
We had new sites and sounds before us...
 And a new culture to understand.
We jumped in with both feet 
we settled in, we studied, we made this our home.
We kept learning new things while still doing the familiar in our own culture, birthdays were celebrated and friendships deepened.
(Jade's 2nd birthday and Jamen's 4th birthday) 
We had a baby! I always said I never wanted to have a baby overseas but the Lord had other plans. We were blessed to have a 3rd child and to experience the best labor and recovery ever!  
The first year was lots of adjustments for us but the Lord was faithful in being there every step of the way, through the smiles, the tears, the joy and the pain. When things were going well and when things were hard. 
The second year marked ... 
A year of greater struggle for me but also a time of friendships deepening, holidays felt a little more normal, drinking terere and eating sopa were familiar and comfortable. The sites and sounds were common and my heart no longer raced out of control when I took the bus alone.
Sweet friends who were by our sides helping us, encouraging us and being there for us became closer than family. I recall when Jon had dengue fever and baby Jonas was so sick friends took me to the hospital. They dropped everything to help! What a blessing!
More friends were made as language levels grew and culture understanding deepened. We were able to grieve better with friends who lost loved ones, who's families struggled. 
But we also got to experience the joys of new life, to be there to celebrate and give encouragement and a helping hand.
Finally a new horizon was before us, one we had been waiting 10 years to get to 
It was time to once again say goodbye  

To take time to visit one-on-one and treasure friendships made 
Time to pack up again 
To arrive again in a place were greetings are unfamiliar, the words sound like gibberish, the culture unknown and everything we knew to be familiar was no more.... 
But there is no doubt in my mind friendships will be made, culture understood, the gibberish will turn into meaning and understanding and the Lord will grow us even more though the ups and the downs.

So here is 3 years! And I'm looking forward to many more!