Tag Archives: tck

That one time… when I forgot to write for over a year.

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There is a famous quote by someone (who I cannot for the life of me recall) that says “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

That’s a pretty significant amount of miles – quite a distance and it requires courage. But what about when you aren’t walking those miles? What about when you hit mile 1,000 somewhere in the sky above a continent you have come to love in just a short space of a year, while still being homesick for the one you left behind? What if approximately 8,388 miles later when you landed on solid ground in stifling heat and humidity you begin two months of figuring it all out. Where you suddenly began to go through all the fullness of joy and all the sorrow again? What if you decided to defer that sorrow and just focus on the joy?

My break was great. I visited both of my passport countries and was able to see and be with friends and family in both. My church family at NCBC let me stay in the mission house again. I went up to Townsend (tradition!) to help with CHARM and day camps and family fun nights.  I also was able to go up to Canada to see my dear friend from Korea, now living in Bangkok, get married. After that wedding weekend, I flew back to TN via WA and was able to see my parents, my sister, the Culps and lots of friends including Stephanie there. Then I went to England to see more of my family and to spend some time with my dear friend Lindsay.

And now I am back, more miles flown, over more oceans and mountains, back in my room in Tanzania. I have been back now for less than 48 hours, and the paradox of life is in full force.  I feel the sharp tug of all my ‘homes’ and the comfort of being back ‘home’ in my bed all at once. I decided to try to write about it, but it seems a bit unfair that I haven’t written in so long.

Tanzania has been so good for me. The people here are amazing and the community that I dropped into embraces all that stroll through this little town in the Southern Highlands. It welcomes and encourages those who have been here for 2 days or 2 months or 2 years or 12 years for that matter.

I will try to write more — about my summer — about my life in Tanzania — and about figure out the spaces and places in my heart and my mind — but it might be pole pole…

The best time to start building your RAFT is 4am

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The best time to start building your RAFT is 4am

I can’t sleep. Well, I was sleeping and then I woke up and now I’m here. I started looking through pictures on my sister’s Facebook of her 21st birthday and Prague which led to more old pictures and more old locations and for the first time I really let myself miss places and things. Usually what I miss the most is people and the things I miss are because they remind me of a person, not because I miss the place itself. But today I let myself miss all the past things I’ll never get back and all the old addresses that are still memorised; their usefulness long gone. I wasn’t homesick. I was giving it finality that I had reserved and refused to let go.

This is my last month in South Korea. And I’ve said goodbye many times but I have never intentionally RAFTed. One of my dearest friends, and TCK mother herself, has encouraged me to do it this time. I was going through the motions of it, quite reluctantly at times, until those pictures brought me back. I didn’t realise that saying goodbye to here meant saying goodbye to all I didn’t say goodbye to before. How’s that for helping you fall asleep?

I never realised how grateful I was to be looking at pictures of old apartments I’ve lived in or restaurants I loved going to. Bookshelves I used to have, paintings that I had created and hung in my room. Shower curtains and old clothes that have long sense been lost in a move. Pictures of friends on walls. Desk lamps and coffeemakers. Spatulas that were passed down from friend to friend. Some of these insignificant items do make it across oceans. This morning I was putting on my socks and seeing ‘Quecha’ on it made me incredibly introspective. Socks, people, socks! I have never had any emotional connection to socks before. These things I don’t ever set out to take pictures of intentionally. They’re there in the background and most days I don’t even think twice about the fact they’re gone. Nothing like sleep deprivation, socks and Sydney to convince you that my friend is right when she says all those things about how to leave well.

I’m packing up these ‘things’ in my classroom and I have so many. My students love this. They especially love my green classroom sign that says ‘Grade One’. Why do you still have this Miss L, if you are a second grade teacher?’ The first few times they asked they looked confused when I explained that it was from my first classroom as a teacher instead of a student in China. Another item they love to ask to touch is my tiny miniature glass fox that Amy got for me. We each have a different animal and seeing that Venetian glass makes my heart so happy knowing that it is a memory I share in time and space with someone else. I have many of these items, maybe too many… Scraps of paper with notes written are my biggest weakness ! But my students are slowly understanding. Now they’re connecting why these small pieces are so dear to my heart. They show off their artwork that they made me last year to students who are new this year. They plan our farewells, even to the hour I am at the airport and I will check in my bags and we will all go to Lotteria and get Shake Shake fries together . (One of them even coincidentally has the same domestic flight as me). We hold hands and run and skip and cry and smile and laugh because soon it will be the last time for many of them.

We work to keep the places and things we can close to our hearts, if we can’t have them close physically. Nothing changes, except what has to.

There is a healing that prevails….

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So many moments happen on the floor for me.  

Let me explain. I have a quilt top that I purchased at the five day market when I first arrived here in Korea nearly two years ago. It is beautiful and I loved it so much that I placed it on the floor as a sort of rug rather than on my bed.

The rug has almost become a place of refuge with me many time.  Myself and guests alike come into to my home and gravitate toward it. I love just laying on it after a long day and talking with someone. I’ve prayed on that rug there, prostrated and poured out my heart to both God and trusted friends. I’ve fallen asleep watching movies, or enjoyed evenings watching Downton Abbey. I’ve had Bible studies with women sitting cross-legged with their Bibles open and book club meetings with a glass of wine discussing our latest novel. Children like playing on it — whether my friend’s 1 year old playing pots and pans older children playing Minecraft on my iPad.

When I was in the hospital last year because of my wrist and all those complications, there was a room with me, eight other people in hospital beds and about 25 people sleeping on the floor. People who had committed to taking care of their loved ones who were sick and needed someone to do things for them. Food, medicine, changing bed sheets, even going to the bathroom and back. There is no nursing care. It was a labour of love, true love and friendship. Many people came to visit me and bring me things I needed. There were also those who slept on the floor for me. Every night I was there, besides the first night (and Leslie Facetimed with me so I wasn’t alone that night either) someone was there. Amber and Melanie both slept more than one night. Wendy and Stephanie came too. Cathy and Jerri came faithfully, so did Lisa and Byron and I can’t even begin to name everyone. So many people came to just sit on that floor in that crazy million degrees hot room to be with me. But laying on the floor and “sleeping”  through the night meant a lot.  I was in the most pain and the most confused/not feeling well at night. I couldn’t intervene on my behalf. Language barriers were the least of my worries at that point.

And I’m a lower-elementary teacher, so the floor is where I conduct the majority of my time at work as well. Independent work stations, small reading groups, Smart-board lessons, you name it. I like grading work and making the floor command centre for “paper passing out” time — yes, we’re constantly on our rugs, in our beanbags on the floor at school.  The floor is not an odd place to conduct yourself in many cultures, but it might be somewhat silly to those not familiar with that way of life to say it’s one of my favourite places.

When a place becomes familiar and comfortable you can sometimes take it for granted. I was with one of my close friends on Monday night and after supper and board games, the kids were in bed and we were on her floor with our computers listening to music and talking.  We had just spent prayer time together there on that floor, all five of us lifting up our hearts to God just moments before and He met us in a real way that I often take for granted. Those moments of calm peaceful assurance that just pass me by. Why? Maybe it’s because they are so natural and integrated into every day but I miss it. The busyness creeps in, often taking away what a truly special thing it is to have community. The majesty of it and the presence of the Holy Spirit fell as she played a song for me by Sara Groves. ( I posted it in the post before this one. ) That Sara Groves song reminded me of another song that my friend Amanda gave me several years back, “He’s Always Been Faithful.” And He has. Even when I haven’t, not consciously, but just by life becoming comfortable and familiar. 

There on the floor was a moment that meant more to me than anything could right now.  I realised why the floor was so powerful. It was simply about presence, and about being there. No words were needed. Nothing needed to be wrong or right with the world, the in-between grey was okay. A strange little bit of my heart that wasn’t hurting at the time and I didn’t even know needed healing was healed in that moment. A little peace of home was permanently etched onto my soul. That this past two years and next two years are just where I am meant to be.

 “Love washes over a multitude of things…. “

Standing up straight

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if given the choice of going for your dreams or not, would you try or would you stay comfortable?

I have always done things the hard way in life. I don’t mean my life was terrible or difficult, quite the opposite. I just mean that if there are two ways to achieve a goal or to accomplish a task I always seem to take the way that is harder or more complicated. Even in the simple things, like ordering coffee. Lan always makes fun of me and how ridiculous it sounds when I order something from Starbucks. I guess the little person inside of my mind has always been suited to the customized Hong Kong food order 🙂 I don’t know if its the fact I like challenges, or that my mind analyses things differently, or that I just want to figure things on my own but I crave simplicity and always end up with complexity.

There’s something I want right now. It’s always been a dream of mine and there’s a chance I could do it and excel in it. There’s also a chance that I could fail and then the idea of it would be crushed forever in my mind. I’m a pretty resilient person. When I had my eval for going to China pre-PFO, I sat down with the lady at Alongside to discuss my results. She said, well you are normal in all scales except one. My mind was racing about what I had scored ‘too high’ on. It ended up it was resilience. Not a bad thing I guess. Armed with this knowledge I know if i theoretically fail with trying to achieve this dream of mine, I’d be okay. But I’d hate myself even more if I don’t stand up straight and give it a go. I think this resilience comes from being a TCK and the fact my parents instilled in me a sense of courage when it came to “being a pioneer” or doing something new. I was a kid who did all sorts of activities …. Didn’t stick with many but enjoyed them all. Just the opportunity was enough for me. It didnt matter as a child if I ultimately would fail — I just never had that possibility of failure in my mind. That doesn’t sound quite like it should… I just mean I never took on anything that in my mind I thought I would fail at doing, so I never had the fear of failure. Things aren’t so black and white as an adult. *sigh*

When I was in my undergraduate studies, there was a lot of emphasis placed on your “calling” in life. I never quite felt comfortable with the terminology used ; it seemed to indicate if you didn’t succeed in what you were doing with your career choices that’s because you weren’t living up to the calling placed on you or walking directly in God’s will. I’m a teacher and so much of my profession is directly tied to my identity so ultimately if I failed as a teacher, I’d be failing as a person and failing as a follower of Christ. It was all new to me- this sudden concept of failing and I was afraid of it. I couldn’t walk straight with my head up confident in what I’d chosen to major in was my “calling” from God. With dealing with all the identity issues I was already facing, it was almost overwhelming. I remember many times crying in Mrs. Gill’s office about it. For as confident in something’s in my life, I was completely incompetent with confidence In other areas. My bachelor’s and first year teaching I began to chip away at those barriers slowly but surely. I do believe after much thought and now eight years of it, that teaching is something I am called to do. But the more we become instilled with the confidence of He who called us, the more we become humbled that it is only by his power and grace we exist. The more I become aware that there is so much I don’t know yet. The more and more that the experiences of observing and watching instead of speaking that I learned as a child serve me well as an ATCK. The more we experience grace , the less we understand of it.

So will I dive in to this momentary challenge of a chance for something I’ve dreamed about ? Do I believe I’m enough for it ? Do I believe He is enough for it ? I might not have all those answers today but I do know this…

The one who calls you is faithful, and He will continue to be faithful. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 ISV

Finding Quiet Amongst the Noise

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I took my first run after being back in Jeju on Wednesday. Despite the asthma flare up I have going on right now, there was just too much going on and I needed to get away — no headphones or anything. It was a farmer’s road so it wound in and out of beautifully tilled fields with soil just waiting for the fall crops to be planted.  This first week has been a week that can only be described as wonderful. I’m teaching my first graders from last year so we’re embarking on the journey of second grade together. We have lost a few friends, as international schools do, and added four new ones for this year. I’ve perhaps been more focused on building memories and being fully present than I have in the years past. I always have held time elusive and as if it was something precious to me but I also have a bad habit of forward thinking. This summer I spent just enjoying each moment fully… fully as a moment by itself and not as a part of a bigger picture or as a memory to be filed away to call back later. That’s how my run felt.  Just as I was starting, Mindy (new first grade teacher, who took my place since I looped up to 2nd with my kids) was on her way back. Following Mindy’s advice combined with the quick overview Amber had given me the weekend before, I set off towards 1132.

At the end of the road was a little shop that I darted into. I inspected the items — flour, some eggs, milk, sugar — making it the closet little shop to my new place to get items for baking and cooking.  Not wanting to miss the bus to Emart, I ran back and grabbed my shopping bag, hopping on and setting off to do the dreaded grocery shopping. Renewed by the run, in the quiet place in my mind, soaking in the lyrics to a song we sang at YES service last Sunday was just what I needed to be able to make it through to the end of the week.  My prayer for this year is that as  I am filled with His peace, that my heart would be open and be ready to be cultivated — just like the Jeju fields I run past.

Airport and Asthma Attacks

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My most memorable 4th of July celebrations weren’t actually ever celebrating the birthday of one of my passport countries. Beyond that, most of those memories weren’t even in the USA. I can remember the first time I ever associated lighting off fireworks with July 4th. (And it wasn’t until I was in 5th or 6th grade!) My Jewish friend and her family took me to an Indian reservation that everyone called Boom City. The most exciting part for me was that you could haggle back and forth over price. Other 4th of July’s that have been memorable were in other countries, with a small contingent waving flags or decorating in red, white and blue. Most gracious were the American Airlines flight attendants and gate check in staff who gave me flight wings and stickers. Then there was the patriotic services that my church does, and being Stateside for one of those was always a joy — especially as I was older and grateful for the religious (among others) freedoms that this country I’m meant to call home afford. I’m proud of the opportunities that many people seek here. I remember cartwheels in hospitals, due to my sister being unable to breathe due to her asthma. I remember sitting on a step staring at the ocean in Okinawa listening to country music and taking a run along the beach before making chocolate chip cookies and playing with sparklers. One of the best times was the party at the US Embassy in China. Talk about a birthday party! Or how about celebrating 春节 by watching the movie Independence Day?

On Facebook today, my friend Mike Pollock  asked “What does patriotism mean to TCKs?” I wrote a fairly long answer, however, I think that one of the best parts of being a TCK is I can be excited for celebrations of freedom, no matter WHAT the country.

Today I’m in the States, and I’m excited to celebrate. Not so much the 4th of July, as to celebrate friends and family and togetherness. Of celebrating making a home where there are those you couldn’t do life without. Cherishing moments with those I love, and cherishing the independence and freedom that I have in Christ.