Category Archives: Global Nomad

Five Minute Friday: Place

It’s  Friday!  This has been a stressful week.  Glad to make it to Friday.

Linking up again with Kate Motaung and the FMF crew, writing for five minutes prompted by a word.

This week’s prompt is place.

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Where is my place in this world?

The question needs to be answered by everyone, but it gets trickier for global nomads.

That longing for belonging feels harder to satisfy when you’ve already lived several different versions of yourself.

What is the essence of belonging?

I believe it is living in community.

And, to me, the essence of community is connection.

So, now, the question remains– how do I connect to others in community to find my place of belonging?

The way to do that is to search for kindred spirits and create connection, community and culture with them.

Sound like a tall order?

Maybe.

Or maybe you could just call it an retreat or reunion. That feels doable.

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The Ties That Bind: Understanding the MK Connection

mkconnection

A classmate of mine is no longer walking this earth.

I feel the loss deeply.

I wonder for the umpteenth time why the bonds between third culture kids are so strong.  After all, it’s been decades since we shared a campus.  Only a small fraction of my life was spent building friendships in that arena.  And, yet, the impact is inexplicably profound.

I’ve pondered it again this week as I have before.   But, this time, I’ve come to some new conclusions.

The pyschological explanation is that we all met during impressionable, vulnerable years when our identities were in formation. We all experienced two or more cultures and were trying to decide which culture we personally identified with.  “Who am I?”  just became more complicated.  And here we are surrounded by a group facing this same challenge.

Most of us were not living in our passport country and far from extended family.  Into that vacuum emerges a third culture.  A group of expats on the same journey.  Kindred spirits who knew what it was like to be transplanted.  To be dropped into an island of English speakers surrounded by foreign languages, food and ways.  In this context, we struggle to answer the questions: Who am I?  Which culture will I choose?  Who are my people? Where is my tribe?  Where do I belong and how do I get there?

Those same fundamental questions we were all facing and answering, mostly oblivious to the process, but mindful that we were not alone.

The spiritual explanation took me by surprise.  I woke up one morning with verses from Mark 10 on my mind.  “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel, who will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age  (houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields– and with them  persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.”

The bonds are strong, the connection is deep because Jesus promised to provide family to those who had given up family.  He hard-wired the bonds to be stronger than passing friendships.  Many in that expat community were missionaries.  They had made sacrifices for the sake of the gospel.  Jesus promised to recompense those sacrifices.  Not only in the life to come, but in this life as well.  Inexplicable.

Related posts:

When Your Family Tree is Grafted

The Itch I Couldn’t Reach

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When Your Family Tree is Grafted

graftedfamilyappletree

For sixteen years, my husband and I with our kids were ex-pats assigned to Mexico.  One of the interesting things about living as foreigners in another country is your relationship with other ex-pats.  It hit home this week when were catching up with a former co-worker from those days and I heard my kids call him “Uncle”.  It was common in our ex-pat community for the kids to call the other adults Aunt and Uncle.

But it gave me pause, thinking about those unusual relationships. My kids have great relationships with their blood relatives.  Their grandparents, aunts and uncles are encouraging and supportive in tangible ways.  So, I’m a little stymied to put my finger on what makes these relationships unique.

Maybe the critical element is being geographically far away from your extended family.  So these Aunts and Uncles step into the vacuum.  It fills that need for the family connections that go unmet for months or years at a time.  But, there also exists an element of choice.  You can choose who to get together with for Christmas dinner or the Super Bowl. You can choose who comes to the kids’ birthday parties and who you ask to help you move.  Back in your hometown, you know who your relatives are.  You know how the pecking order plays out.  There’s a clear distinction between friends and family.  There’s no blurring of the lines.

Away from home, the line between friends and family gets blurred.

I’m grateful for the people that stepped into the extended family gap that was created by the logistics of geography.  Our lives are richer because of it.

 

 

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Food is Culture

foodisculture

When Pete and I went to Mexico three years ago with our ministry team, we were inhaling tamales, atole, tacos arabes– eating everytime we turned a corner. One of the main purposes of the trip was to learn the culture, but we were doing so much eating that my husband coined the phrase “food is culture”.

ceviche

When we were in Peru earlier this month, we got to try Ceviche for the first time.  Ceviche is raw fish marinated in lemon juice till it “cooks”.  It sounds strange, but actually tastes good.  It’s often served with Yucca, which is very much like a potato in taste and texture.

trujilloperu

Another culinary first for us in Peru. I can’t remember what these were called, but picture ground meat wrapped in mashed potatoes and deep fried.  Yum.  Also, deep fried donut thingies. Yep that’s technical.

tacosarabes

On our way back from Peru, we spent a couple of days in Mexico, and were able to experience some more “culture”.

Tacos Arabes are made from meat cooked on an upright spit and then shaved off.

tacomeat

On the table.

tacos

And ready to eat.

tamal

That is the pinkest tamale I’ve ever seen in my life.  It was also one of the best–sweet with a great flavor.

I’m fascinated thinking about what it takes to build a culture:  tradition, ritual, expectations, norms, celebration, punishment.   We are born into a culture and we adopt it or reject it, surrounded by others adopting and rejecting.

But, then, we reach a point when we become the culture shapers.  We lay foundations and sculpt a family culture.  We shape the culture of our churches, schools and organizations.  We decide, “This is how we do it here.  We will establish our traditions, rituals, expectations, norms, celebrations and punishments.”

And food is interwoven into it all.  Some traditional foods are associated with celebration.  In our church we eat tamales on Easter Sunday morning.

In our family, we have a few favorite recipes for special occasions.  I’d like to be more intentional about preserving and passing on those recipes, those traditions, those memories.  Because, essentially, we’re passing on culture.  We are the culture shapers.

What culinary traditions do you have that shape your family culture?

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The Itch I Couldn’t Reach

subtle shift

Something strange happened on our trip to Peru.  Like an itch you can’t quite reach or the name just out of reach of conscious memory, I couldn’t figure it out.

On our first layover after leaving Chicago, the plane bumped onto the runway in San Salvador.  I looked out of the window and saw palm trees.  I felt something I couldn’t identify: just a twinge;  a small whisper.

After puzzling about it for days, I figured it out: there was a subtle shift in my spirit and my international alter ego awoke.

I know there are palm trees in Florida.  I know there are palm trees in California.  (We lived in Southern California as newlyweds, but in a Hispanic neighborhood– so almost international.)

But, something about seeing those palm trees connected with the memories of living in the Philippines as a teenager and the memories of living in Mexico as an adult.

Something about seeing those palm trees said, “We’re not in Indiana any more.”  Time to shift to your Latin personality.  (Which isn’t necessarily the best version of myself, I might add.)

I have trouble expressing myself in Spanish.  To be embarrassingly frank, I have trouble expressing myself verbally in any language.  (Okay, in English.  It’s not like I speak a lot of languages.)

Did you know your personality changes in another culture?  Okay, all your basic tendencies remain the same.  But, a different environment will bring out or suppress some of the ways you are naturally wired.  This has been a slow realization.  But, being a Psych geek, it’s one that fascinates me.

Anyway, ever since that experience of looking out of the plane window in San Salvador, I’ve been trying to figure out why I had that strange twinge in my soul.  Mystery solved.  Elementary, my dear Watson.

What’s your latest light bulb moment about yourself?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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