Stuck.

Have you ever felt stuck? Stuck in a time, a place, a habit?

The Waiting Place…for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or the waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting. Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for the wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting. NO! That’s not for you! Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.  Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr.Seuss


When we came back to Asia, we were ready to get things done baby. Let’s adjust. Get back into language study. Finish language study. Do the “real” work. Get IT done. Bam. 

But as soon as we got within striking range of our goals, they all seemed to take a step backwards just out of reach. We had to stay in the city for security concerns, then we had to stay in the city until after the major holiday, then we had to stay in the city while Michael went to a teachers conference, then last minute Michael had to buy a ticket and fly to the capital city to have a visa problem fixed, then we had to go through the PROCESS of getting our driver’s licenses renewed…and then we had already been stuck in the city for a month.

Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good; God probes for what is good. Put God in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place. God made everything with a place and purpose…Guilt is banished through love and truth….We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it….bits of Proverbs 16

All of the sudden most of the things holding us back cleared (I still don’t have a drivers license in hand), and we rushed to our mountain home. I can’t say that all of the frustration magically disappeared as soon as we left the city. In the mountains we have people around every day so we can easily hear their language and see their culture being played out in each tiny way. But, that doesn’t mean that the words and the customs magically seep into my brain and heart making me talk and act like one of my friends. It still takes intentional work. LOTS OF IT. I can feel stuck here in my babbling, stumbling version of their language. 


Now we are back in the city with more visa work, and two trips.

Will I CHOOSE to trust even though it looks like we are wasting time getting stuck here and there along the path. Will I trust that God is directing? I’m learning in the waiting places  that God has a place and a purpose for this too.

Adjustments

I felt the crush of people surrounding us, taking our picture.


I remember when we first landed in North America I looked over a sea of people expecting to immediately be able to see Michael, but he blended in with all of the other tall, light skinned people. It felt strange to blend in. 

We got used to it, though.

Now we are back to the crowds of darker and shorter Asians, and we stick out again. While we waited for a flight, the snack stand lady grabbed Ezra’s foot and then rubbed her belly (hoping his whiteness would “rub off” on her unborn baby). When our flight was called we stood up with the crush of people also wanting to get on the flight (no “zones” here). We felt so conspicuous with our overstuffed luggage, and our glowingly white skin. It seemed like everyone around us was talking about us (I could understand, but pretended I couldn’t). Several had their phones out taking our picture. After finally crowding our way onto the airplane, and sitting down, the kids in the row in front of us and behind us immediately stood up on their seats and watched us until take-off. Before long I noticed a cell phone pushed between the seats. When we landed and waited for our luggage we had ten teenagers surrounding the boys, teasing them into letting them take the boys’ picture. It feels so uncomfortable to stand out. 

It is taking some getting used to.

We were used to the sweat. We were used to the hunt that we call grocery shopping (four stores, a market, a roadside stand, and a bakery all to fill a simple list). We were used to the attention. We were used to the last minute plan changes and uncertainty. 

After being away for a year, though, it feels newly uncomfortable. It is hard to be uncomfortable. It is not fun to bear the weight of so many eyes. But, as we navigate life with seemingly EVERYONE watching, it reminds me to live an exlempary life in this world that isn’t my home.

Build your RAFT my son

Our family moves. A LOT. Friends come and go in our lives. A LOT. Changes happen. A LOT.

We have several strategies that help our family navigate the changes. If you move as much as we do, maybe they’ll help you. Or if you’ve never moved, but your kids are anticipating a change (maybe a school year with a new teacher or new classmates) maybe these strategies will help.

The book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by Dave Pollock and Ruth Van Reken gave me words that helped us solidify our process. The authors devoted a chapter to leaving well. They recommended building a RAFT as a process of saying goodbye. RAFT stands for  

Reconciliation | Affirmation | Farewell | Think Destination.

Jude will miss his cousins, house, and jumping on the trampoline.

Reconciliation. Right before this last move one of my kids was hurt by a close friend. “Mom he was mean to me” was hard for me to hear. But, keeping reconciliation in mind, I said, “sometimes when we are getting ready to leave it makes our friends sad, and when they are sad they can be mean. Forgive him.” They are still young so it’s easy to forget and move on. Even so, reconciliation is a very important step in leaving well. Being at peace with ourselves, our friends and family, and the place we are leaving is important. I don’t want my memories to be of how grumpy I felt in the hot weather, or how annoying the traffic was, or how irritating a person was…I want to be at peace.

A sweet goodbye present for Jude

Affirmation. I am a third culture kid who has a hard time opening myself up. Sure, I can have a million friends, but rarely will I have one that goes deep. Usually when it comes close to time to say goodbye, I insulate myself. I decided years upon years ago that I wouldn’t cry, and so I don’t. It’s hard to change these long held patterns, but I try to dive in to relationships even if I know that it will only be for a short time. I try to encourage my kids to let their friends and family know how much they mean to them before they leave. Each of us attempts to acknowledge our special friends, and the wonderful experiences that happened to us while we were with them.

A sweet scrapbook created by our friends


Farewell. Last time we left I had the boys give small gifts and goodbye letters to each of their friends when we said farewell. But, this time I had a hard time getting anything together. We were blessed, though, by special friends who created photo albums, painted pictures, and helped stuff the boys backpacks with fun things.

Enjoying treats from the backpack after a long trip

Think Destination. Before we leave, we talk about the benefits (and shortcomings) of the place we are leaving. We also talk about the place we will be going. This conversation often continues for weeks, even after we have arrived.  I often find myself saying “you know you don’t have to pick one place over the other. Both have good things.” Just yesterday Grey said, “There are positives and negatives about here and about America. Here we don’t have to wear seat belts, but it is hot and there is a lot of trash. In America there are lots of toys, even in all of the stores, but we have to wear seat belts.” 

Change is a hard part of our life. The life is still worth it though. We are doing what we feel called to do. Not only that, but the boys get to experience the wide wonderful world.

A Trip: a few mountain ranges over

Last month we took a trip a few mountain ranges over. We travelled with our friends Jesy and Ely, who make everything fun. On our way we stopped at the market and bought the last servings of Turmeric Rice and Gado-Gado (steamed vegetables with a delicious peanut sauce).

To G’s great joy we stopped to eat at a “beach” with a big gnarly old tree.

The tree was just perfect for climbing, and picnicking…except for the ants.

The hike up was a hard one because we walked in the middle of the hot day. I guess we weren’t too genius in our planning. But, in my defense it’s a hard one to plan…we had to come down off our mountain in the morning, before it rained. And then no on really wanted to sit and wait on the coast for 4 hours while the weather cooled off.

Half way up, the road turned into a cement sidewalk. It was a super strange thing to see, a cement sidewalk winding through chocolate and clove trees on the back side of a mountain. I guess someone must have had government funds to burn. If they’d painted it gold and called it the Yellow Brick Road, it wouldn’t have been much stranger.

Finally we got to our hosts house.

]

They have a gorgeous view of the clove trees stretching out to the ocean.

The boys had fun playing with their friends.

We hung out and spent more time getting to know the special families who live there.

We spent two nights there, and often crashed by night time…even though we were sleeping on mats on top of a cement floor.

A Trip to Thailand: Chiang Mai

In Chiang Mai, we first stayed at a generic hotel that was picked for its nearness to the seminars.

Michael was in meetings all day, so the kids and I spent most of our time at a mall. Unfortunately it was raining almost every day for a week.

One evening we did go to Nic’s Restaurant and Playground. The boys really needed to burn of some energy…Nic’s was fun, creatively beautiful, and had delicious food. Normally when we travel we try to do things that we wouldn’t be able to do anywhere else (like eat Thai food when in Thailand). But, with kids, sometimes the rules have to be changed.

Nic's Playground + Restaurant

Nic's Playground + Restaurant

Continue reading

A trip to Thailand: Bangkok

A couple of months ago, we heard about some continued learning seminars that were being held in Chiang Mai, and decided to take advantage of them.

Bonus, we’ve never spent time in Chiang Mai.
Bonus, you have to go through Bangkok to get to Chiang Mai.
Bonus its TRAVELING.

After the trip down the mountain, a night in a small guesthouse thing, and what felt like half a day of traveling, we got to a smallish little airport. There we had some time to kill…so first off: root beer floats and hamburgers in A&W. The entire trip the boys had been bouncing up and down with excitement. But, I started to notice J was getting less and less excited, and then I knew something must be wrong because he didn’t even want his curly fries. “culy like my hair mama…”

Then he threw up…and we had a couple of runs (literally) to the bathroom, and I started having war zone flashbacks of when he had typhoid on another trip. We rushed him to the airport clinic that mercifully had air-conditioning + meds, and collapsed there until it was time to check into our flight.

Continue reading

anachronisms

We unexpectedly spent a few days in the capital city to arrange our son’s passport. We stepped from village life into a bustling, modern, expensive city. We often felt out of touch, out of step, underdressed, and a little “anachronistic.” Here are a few other things we noticed that were like us, a bit out of context:

Bajajtaxi

the bajaj (3 wheeled motorcycle taxi) next to the jaguar.

the food cart selling .50 noodle soup outside the door of the 5 star luxury restaurant.

the street kids playing on a pile of cardboard, while the kids of diplomats and businessman climb a brightly colored play structure next door.

Bajajtaxi3

the cheap clothes markets down the road from the burberry and gucci and diane von furstenberg filled malls.

the rough tenement houses around the corner from the multi-million dollar mansions that made it into the pages of international design magazines.

the bamboo scaffolding on a glass and steel high rise.

eating fried rice for breakfast, and then eating a $10 plate of risotto and duck

Bajajtaxi2

our boys squatting like they are in the village, to get a better look at the expensive toys in an upperclass toy store.

me carrying j while most of the families around us have a nanny for each kid. we ate at one restaurant where one nanny fed the kid, while the other one gave him a drink.

It was a fun trip even if we felt a bit bewildered. I know, though, that we will enjoy getting back home. 

family trip to the mountains

Laujetrip1Laujetrip2Laujetrip3Laujetrip4Laujetrip5Laujetrip6Laujetrip7Laujetrip8Laujetrip9Laujetrip10Laujetrip11Laujetrip12
Here are the long awaited pictures from our family trip to the mountains. 

 

Day 1: Wake up at 5am to leave at 7:30. Finally leave at 9:00. Drive for 5ish hours, eating our fried chicken and rice in the car in front of a beautiful ocean scene. Finally arrive at the oceanside town and arrange 5 motorbike taxis to take us all up the mountain. Nervously strap J to myself and get on the taxi. After about 30 minutes of hard riding (on the side of mountains with huge drop offs, up steep rutted roads, and down dramatic hills) I decided that it was actually better then any rollercoaster, but I needed a rest. We climbed off, chatted with some new friends, and then climbed on again. Finally after about an hour total we arrived and stood ackwardly around trying to make conversation with people who didn’t speak much of the national language. After a bit I strapped J on and we hiked to our new temporary home. We made some dinner on the open fire, swept out the cobwebs, chased away the rats, pulled out mildewy mattresses and sheets and made up beds, and then took baths right before the sun set. Everything got very dark, very quickly at 7, and I found myself hardly able to stay awake. I crawled into bed with the boys, and slept mostly soundly.
Day 2: Wake up at 4 am to the sound of roosters and J crowing along. Help boil water over the fire for coffee and rice. Pull out the granola and make up some milk. Enjoy breakfast. Wait around for church to start. Hike back to the church and sit around trying to make converstation. Sit down with all of the ladies on the bamboo floor, try to keep the boys busy, watch J play with the other boys. Try to stand up much later and find that my legs are totally dead. Enjoy talking with the few ladies that can speak Indonesian. Head back “home” for some lunch of rice and mackerel and then lay down for a rest.

 

I’ll finish the rest in part two.