i am from… celebrating heritage

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Sololá, Guatemala – circa ’93

I am from a brew of freshly roasted coffee.
From the smell of tea tree oil and the jasmine outside.
Cilantro home-grown and limón freshly squeezed.
From a triangular dining room table that seats fifteen people.
A house worn in with well-loved nooks and too many books.
I am from jacaranda trees in bloom and a rainy season that brings everything to life.

I am from failing at pictures, because we’re a small village.
From sleeping in the mountains to watch shooting stars.
From belly laughs, midnight feasts, and happy half-birthdays.
Odious matching dresses with my mom and sister (only kidding – they were lovely).
From mom’s pancakes every Saturday morning.
I am from grammar fiends and a shared love for music and literature.

I wasn't lying about the matching dresses.

I wasn’t lying about the dresses. That is produce on my dress, people. Produce. I know you’re jealous.

I am from fields upon fields in Illinois and Ohio.
From sweet tea and pulled pork in the deep sultry South.
From English truffles and pudding; and maybe a duke.
From volcanoes and cold in luscious Guatemala.
From heaven on earth in southern México.
I am from anywhere and everywhere in between…

I am from tacos al pastor, mole negro, and fresh conchas from the panadería.
From competitive game-players; a life without screens.
From seeing the world from a very young age.
From outrageous road trip traditions; people who enjoy traveling together.
From music to sports; and books too, of course.
I am from a childhood of scraped up knees and playing ‘lost kids’.

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I am from seventeen years spent in Latin America.
Fresh sushi in California to the snows of Colorado.
From the tropics of Asia to no home at all.
From awaiting my flight to the next far off place.
From an adopted family wherever I bed.
I am from life on the move and ecstatic reunions.

I am from regrets and mistakes made endlessly.
From exceedingly broken to truly redeemed.
From days I can’t face the world, to learning to trust.
From a family that supports and encourages when life gets hard.
From friends that become family when mine is far off.
I am from a Father who Loves unconditionally.

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(Inspiration for this post came from She Loves Magazine.)

holiday melancholia & choosing joy

Christmas hurts.

Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, there’s a steady influx of holiday-related posts; baby’s first Christmas, new traditions, old traditions, fancy meals and dresses, a time to reminisce, and families long apart – together again. I never knew something to make my heart feel such joy and sorrow at the same time.

It’s my second Christmas away from home, yet the ache I feel far surpasses last time.

My parents are moving to America.

This is the last Christmas in my childhood home – and I’m not there for it.

I’m losing something that I didn’t know I needed to say goodbye to.

It’s not that I’m sad about missing Christmas day, or even the Christmas season; it has and always will be about the people. Christmas is the one time of year I get to fly home to ‘my country’ and be with ‘my people’. People who have scolded me, watched me grow from a wee tot into who I am today, in complete support of me in any endeavor I pursue. The people who were my adoptive aunties, uncles, and grandparents; people who most influenced my life.They know what part I play in my family dynamics, they saw me through my awkward, embarrassing years, they know my talents and weaknesses, they care to know what I’m learning, and they constantly tell me how proud they are of me… they cherish me unconditionally.

I’m far from home this year, experiencing the holiday season in a different continent than I have before. It’s been so fun to see how a different culture does Christmas and get to spend this season with an adoptive family, but we’ve been so busy that it wasn’t until I checked a calendar this morning that I even realised today was Christmas Eve.

I found myself swallowing a lump in my throat I didn’t even know was there.

I’m grieving a season in my life I know to be ending very soon. Not a literal season, but a season of international terminals in order to go home on holiday; of sleeping in my own bed – not the guest bedroom in a strange house in a new state; of using different currencies on break; of being with the people I consider to be my family, who value me; to see my childhood friends – grown TCKs who are scattered all over and whom I’d never see any other time.

We don’t get a lot of say in the direction God takes our lives, but mine is going somewhere I hoped it wouldn’t… and damn it, it hurts.

Life. Goes. On.

I think God, in His divine Love, knew this would be a hard pill for me to swallow, so He orchestrated a way for me to go home one last time before the move. In October, I strongly felt that I needed to go home after I return from Asia; as my place to rest and figure out my life. I moved to the Philippines directly after graduating college and I haven’t had the mental capacity since then to plan out a blueprint of my next year. I found an affordable flight that would give me 6 weeks with my family before I’d move back to California. It was a month later that it became clear my family would be moving to Michigan in June, in order for my parents to take on a new role in ministry.

In other words, God had planned out for me to go home before we knew the move would happen. Are you kidding?? It’s humbling to know that unbeknownst to me, God loves me so much that He’d prepare in advance a way for me to get the closure I need.

That being said…

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Knowing my Creator and recognizing His plan to be the best, I hereby choose to not wallow in self-pity over the upcoming changes in my life; but instead to face them head on with my eyes mostly open. I might scrunch my face a little, because I do that sometimes…but I will rely on my Saviour, taking it just one day at a time.

So for today, at least — I am choosing joy.

Missionary Kid Envy

We spent a few hours this afternoon swimming in a spring located on a former SIL center about 10 km from our house. Not far for a quick escape on a hot day (yes, hot day on December 5th). As we were driving down the little dirt road that led to the property, visions of my childhood on our SIL center in Oaxaca creeped into mind. Then I found myself imagining what life would have been like had my parents chosen to be missionaries here, in Asia Pacific, rather than Latin America. After visiting this property, I’m telling you what — we, the missionary kids of Oaxaca, Mexico got GYPPED.

It was the most perfect MK stomping ground I’ve ever seen in my life. Orchards of fruit trees for the climbing, tall swing sets, rolling meadows of green goodness, and a clear, refreshing, and deep spring on the same property; complete with a diving board. All they were lacking was a rope swing! I am irrefutably jealous of the missionary kids who got to call this heavenly place home.

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This was my attempt at drowning the Moffit kids. I told them to stop moving so I could take a picture, but every time they’d stop moving, they’d sink. Muahaha.

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Neo’s new favourite face to make.

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Yes. This definitely ended how you'd think it would.

This definitely ended how you’d think it would. It hurts me to look at it very long.

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This picture pretty much encompasses the MK life. I love everything about it. All 4 kids passed out in the boot of the truck after swimming all afternoon.

¡Viva La Independencia!

I live in a country where people will find any excuse to have a party. I hate it. It’s not in my nature at all. However, I am finding myself a lot more inspired to find reasons to celebrate life! Because it is Mexican Independence Day, I’m planning a full-on ‘grito’ celebration for these Asian-raised children who may never get a chance to experience the real thing — unless I get my say in the matter of them coming to visit me in Oaxaca. So I am going to go out on a wire to celebrate my home country, though I am far away, with a few alterations:

  1. We do not have local beauty queens to sing the national anthem horribly off-key, (although we all know I qualify – puh-lease).
  2. We do not have enough people to make a parade worthwhile, no cowboys to ride into town on their horses, and definitely no impressive fireworks.
  3. Although it can be easily arranged, I have chosen to veto the tradition of smashing flour-filled eggs on each others’ heads. You’re welcome, Belinda. That alteration is dedicated to you.

This year, my family will be celebrating Mexican Independence Day from 5 different countries. I don’t know how much each of the family members outside of Mexico will be able to celebrate, but I (family rep for Southeast Asia) have planned a cultural immersion evening; latino music and a Oaxacan feast with all the food we would typically have on the night of the Grito. Horchata, tacos, churros, and platanos fritos (fried plantains)! It will be my first attempt at trying to make all these dishes from scratch and so far away from all the ingredients I need. With all the Asian twists I’ll have to give it, it’s not promised to be very authentic, but it will at least temporarily satisfy my cravings.

How can you not love how festive they are for special days!

How can you not love how festive they are!

Most MKs have difficulty answering the question, “Where are you from?” For me, that question is easy. No matter how long I’ve lived outside of Oaxaca, I have always considered it to be my home. Although I will confess, some days I don’t feel like divulging my entire story to a stranger when they’re just trying to be polite, so I’ve come up with a short answer: “About an hour north of LA”. The difficulty lies in when they ask further questions about my schooling and family, then I have to fess up that I only lived in Simi Valley for 2 years. When people hear I grew up south of the border and notice my skin colour, I just know I’m not going to get out of that conversation for a good 15 minutes; and truthfully, sometimes I just don’t want to talk about it.

Do you ever wish your life were more boring so people would be less intrigued??

I sometimes feel like I’m alone in that sentiment…

I miss my Oaxaca sunsets with all my heart.

Although I’ve seen my fair share of the world, nothing holds my heart like this place.

En todo el mundo no puedes encontrar a una gente mas patriótico ni mas amable que los Méxicanos, y me siento orgullosa de ser considerado uno de ellos. Extraño celebrar este día tan especial con los que amo mas en todo el mundo. ¡Un día regresaré y celebraremos el Día de Independencia juntos otra vez! ¡¡¡¡Viva México cabrones!!!!

Oh, The Noise, Noise, Noise…

Stepping out of the airport in a jet-lag induced haze, I was bombarded. Everything was so different from what I knew and the humidity was so thick I felt like I was drowning. So many noises, so many smells! Maneuvering more luggage than I had hands for, I somehow made it on the right bus. Or I was about 75% sure it was the right one, anyway. I walked down the narrow aisle of the bus and couldn’t help but eye the red velour walls, yellow polyester curtains with giant tassels, and a lucky maneki-neko cat* figurine sitting at the front with its paw beckoning at each turn of the bus. So much beauty for the eye to behold… As I began to wonder why American bus systems haven’t yet adopted the ambiance of Asian buses, the guy walking down to collect the coins yelled something I couldn’t understand, and immediately everyone standing in the aisles found a lap to sit on. I tried to suppress a laugh; it came out as a snort instead.

I’m sure my experience conjures up memories of your first trip to a developing country. It’s pretty standard, from what I understand. It’s funny how quickly life overseas becomes normal and you actually come to expect the very things that once overwhelmed you.

Case in point:

Last week on my night to make dinner, I was preparing to make orange chicken and fortune cookies (by scratch, mind you) when I realized I didn’t have any oranges. Living in the-land-of-never-being-able-to-find-all-the-ingredients-needed, I’ve become queen at substitution. However, there’s no substituting orange in orange chicken; at least I wasn’t about to try to attempt it. Off to the store I went. I jumped into a motorela** and went to the store, which is approx. 2 km from our house, bought 4 oranges, hopped back on a ‘rela’ and came home. The trip took me an hour and fifteen minutes. When I walked in and glanced at the clock, I was shocked — at how quickly I had returned from my errand!

How did this become normal?

More recently, yesterday at 8 am to be precise, the day kicked off with a little kindergarten, 5th, and 7th grade math. After working on math for a few minutes in silence, Kuya Boy, (yes, that’s really his name) the guy working on the bathroom cabinet, turned on some manly machine – a chainsaw perhaps – right outside the schoolroom window. Whatever it was, it was loud. That’s fine. We can work with that. Then, “Iron Man” (I have yet to learn his real name) turns on a weed-eater, again, right outside the window. All right, testing my patience here. When I didn’t think the kids could possibly get more distracted, a parade walked by outside our house with live music and drums. A parade. At 8 in the morning. Only in the Philippines. Oh, the noise, noise, noise, noise! Sorry, I couldn’t resist getting a little Seuss-ical on you.

Yet somehow even then, I didn’t think much of the absurdity in the situation until all was quiet, and I realized I had been yelling the lesson to be heard over all the commotion.

*For those of you needing a visual image of my bus trip, this is a lucky maneki-neko cat. You clearly have not been in Asia or eaten bad Chinese food in the US if you have not seen one of these bad boys! You probably just didn’t know they were called that. Spread the word. 

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**These are motorelas. They’re like a cross between Thai tuk-tuks, Mexican cucarachas…and I’m pretty sure a combination of any other motorised transportation you’ll find in another country. Motorcycle in the front, party in the back! It’s more fun in the Philippines.

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For now, my maneki-neko cat and I are signing off. (Admit it, it’s fun to say!)

Birthdays & Rewards In Heaven

I’m not meaning to brag or anything, but my dad is pretty rad. He’s a stud.  He tans like no one’s business…without even trying. He’s an all-star athlete who’s in way better shape than me, and I’m apparently “in my prime”. Whatever that means. He’s been robbed at gun-point on numerous occasions, yet always stays level headed. He’s a pro at crossing borders, flying with 7 kids in tow, and mapping out our furloughs to the T. He’s extremely organised and has great people skills. He’s an expert at business and missions and I think he might actually be part robot. He has all 9 immediate members of my family’s social security numbers memorized, {I can hardly remember all their names}. If he’s called you more than once, he probably has your telephone number memorized, (not to sound creepy or anything). He remembers everyone’s names, even if he’s only met you once, and given enough time talking with a stranger in an airport, he can usually find that they have a mutual friend.

I don’t know how he does it.

Today he turns 60 and I’m sad I can’t be there. A downside to cross-cultural ministry is having a family of 15 going on 27 people and knowing that you’re pretty much guaranteed to miss every birthday, holiday, and get-together. It’s worth it, though. One event missed = one crown in Heaven, right? I’m pretty sure that’s somewhere in the Bible;)

As you can see, I am the first girl, and obviously the cutest of my siblings. Then another 3 meddlesome Mexicans were born and I went from being the favourite, to being the middle-kiddle and forgotten—sometimes. I get away with blaming quite a bit of my weirdness on this, so no complaints.

Family photo 1992

We were such a cute little Guatemalan family!

I love that my dad didn’t necessarily always treat me different just because I’m a girl. It probably helped that I had 3 older brothers, so I just got to tag along on all the cool things they got to do. I was still able to go on village trips, help mix cement for building projects with teams, and hang out with the ‘big kids’. One time, my dad, my brother Mike (on the far right), and I drove our van up to the Texas border to sell it, we then turned around and spent 48+ hours traveling by bus to come home again. I was maybe 7 at the time? I have NO idea how my dad kept a 7 and 9 year old entertained on a bus for 2 straight days, but kudos to him…and my mom of course. We were obviously pros at traveling.

My first “real” village trip was with my dad and oldest brother, Chris. It was the kind where you stay with a family and spend the night, or several nights. I was 4 at the time.

I was born for missions. Just look at my outfit!

Another time when I was little, I was sick on furlough with a raging fever and I fell asleep on the couch while my dad watched a baseball game. He woke me up to ask me how I was feeling and I told him I was still feeling pretty sick. Then he asked if I was too sick to go out and get some ice cream with him. Well, I guess I’m not really that sick…so we drove to Honey Hut and got a cone.

Ice cream fixes all wounds.

Although I may forget your name and have trouble remembering my own SSN, I do take after my dad in some ways: I favor my dad in his studly looks (minus the natural tan & brawny muscles, obviously). We have a shared love for the ocean, running, humidity, coffee, and cinnamon ice cream. I have also inherited his same humour. Sorry, world…

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I love you, Dad! Happy birthday!

You’re Calling From Where??

Yesterday, I spent 30 minutes calling via Skype to America, which is a 15-hour time difference, to talk to a delightful Canadian man named Jay, (who I’m not entirely convinced wasn’t an angel) to start a new car insurance policy. Phew. What a sentence. It’s a long, boring story behind my car drama. Basically, he had to run through my old policy information to transfer it into a new account. It began like it always does:

“You learned how to drive in Mexico in 2005, you joined AAA in 2009 in Southern California, you then switched to a year-long Colorado policy in 2010, then back to Southern California, and I see here you’re calling from…wait, WHERE are you calling from exactly??”

“The Philippines.”

After an awkward silence, either due to a poor connection or Canadian-Jay still trying to figure me out, I sheepishly added, “I move around a lot…”

That is what got me thinking about the life of a TCK (Third-Culture Kid) and inspired this post. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, if you don’t already know this about me…

I love making pros and cons lists.

Now you know. When I think of growing up as a missionary kid (or TCK, if you prefer) in Latin America, one main pro and one con come to mind. There are plenty of blogs and books out there that address both of them, but I wanted to throw out my two centavos, or cents, or whatever you want to call them. The con is this:

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Now we all know someone who has moved overseas, whether for long-term or short-term work: missionary or humanitarian, military, volunteer, retirement…etc. If you haven’t, then you probably will at some point in your adult life…unless you’ve never left your basement. (My mom doesn’t take a fancy to my offending people from rural Alabama, which was whom I was going to reference here. Oops. I guess I referenced them anyway.) But for TCKs, having all your friends move overseas, well, that kind of comes with the job description.

In my 22 years of opinion-having, the main downside to being a TCK is the fact that you don’t live in close proximity to the same friend for more than a few years (or months, or yes, even days sometimes). I don’t even have my family relocating as a reason for this. We were the minority in the missionary community, in that I lived in the same house from the time I was 3 until I graduated from high school (my parents are still living in the same house today!). It was everyone else that did the moving around.

I was devastated the first time a little friend moved far away and I knew I would never see him again. (If any of you have run into a 22 year old named Toby in Germany, who used to catch tadpoles with me in Mexico, and loved legos more than he loved me…tell him his girlfriend from when he was 3 would like him to call.) Despite friends moving away being a frequent occurrence, I remained overly optimistic and continued to make new friends like any little kid would do, until they too, relocated to another country or continent for good. Subconsciously, I began to distance myself from potential friends. I would befriend the new kid in town, but there was always a barrier preventing us from getting too close, so it would hurt less when they, too, moved away. I had learned early on in life that missionary kids just don’t stick around very long. And that’s all I have to say about that. But not really…

Now for my pro:

Friend Map

Wait a minute, you might think. “Your pro looks like your con!” The truth is, it’s pretty awesome to have friends all over (once you get past the fact that you hardly ever get to see any of them). I could pretty much go to any country and through the online missionary community, namely my parents’ network, and I’d be able to find somewhere to stay. In fact, once upon a time in Seattle, I had nowhere to stay and I called up my mom at 3 pm and within 20 minutes she gave me a name and an address for somewhere I could sleep that night.

This picture is a screen shot of an app called “My Friend Map” generated from Facebook and the “current cities” people have in their bio, so it’s definitely not up-to-date with reality. Who updates their current cities? Ain’t nobody got time for that. I love being connected with so many cultures through my friends and the technology that allows me to keep up with them — regardless where they are on the map. Now if only they had invented this app (or our town had internet) when I was 3. Maybe then things would have worked out long term and lest we forget, long distance, with Toby: the 3-year-old German, tadpole-catching, former boyfriend of mine. What a title…

I can’t relate to most TCKs stories about how they had lived in 15 countries by the time they graduated from high school, because I didn’t move frequently growing up. I did travel a lot every summer, and I’ve been able to see my fair share of the world. I was very fortunate to be able to have the same home to come back to at the end of it. However, since graduating high school, I seem to be making up for that fact with all the moving around I do now! During my college years, I lived in 12 “permanent” addresses, but that is another story for another time.

Conversations like the one I had with Jay are nothing out of the norm for me now. I always feel like I need to explain myself…like I’ve done something wrong. Or I feel like I need to give my entire life history to any customer service representative or immigration officer that asks me a question about where I’m from. “Then when I was 6 weeks old, we moved back to Guatemala…”

They never should have asked!