Monday, March 23, 2015

Please Tell My Son "No!"

Om works at our house today, which means Isaiah and he will play football together for about 30 minutes while I get Om’s 10:00am break time snack ready. Today I fried up some bananas while keeping a watchful eye out the back window.

Om picked up my four year old’s shoes from by the door and told him to put them on so they could play. Instead, my darling son slapped the shoes out of Om’s hands and laughed in his face. I immediately turned the heat off the stove and went outside to have a talk with him.

We all know kids push boundaries. No, you may not climb the walls. Use gentle hands with the dog. Where is your inside voice? Yes, you have to brush your teeth. Yes, you have to sing twinkle twinkle little star while you wash your hands, make them really bubbly. Say please. Say thank you. Look at my eyes and listen. It seems to never end, but eventually it does sink in and my kiddo realises the boundary line isn’t going to budge. No matter how many times you ask, Mom will not buy all the snacks at the checkout counter. It’s just not going to happen. 

Or at least it shouldn’t happen. 

What if the shop owner sees you begging and that mom isn't buying so reaches in the candy pot and hands you treats? What if after you slap the shoes out of Om’s hands he doesn’t say anything? What if you throw a public temper tantrum and while your mom is trying her hardest to ignore you, a stranger comes up making pity noises and hands you juice box? What if you order grownups around and they do what you say?

A friend once told me the story of her toddler daughter crying loudly because she didn’t want to take a nap. A neighbour actually came to the gate and told her the child is crying and she should tend to her. My quick witted friend replied with a smile, “Oh no. It’s healthy for her to cry. It’ll make her lungs strong.” 

“How do you handle it?” I ask expat friends, and their responses are just as diverse as our children are. 

So I give the candy back to the shop owner. I have a stern talk with my son in front of Om about how he is expected to behave. I tell the juice box stranger that my son is angry, not sad, and that he needs to listen to his mom. I try to stop worrying that somehow I am offending people here by how I discipline and what I expect of my son.

Often people back home remark how living overseas is such a great opportunity for a child. I totally agree, but on the really rough days I think, Oh boy, I’d better watch out. This living overseas thing is a great opportunity to turn my sweet, smart boy into a spoiled, bossy brat.
Then I repeat the most prayed mom prayer ever - Lord help me! 

Brave jungle explorer

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

One Year In: A Letter to Myself

Dear Fresh-off-the-plane-self,

It’s hard to believe a year has past since you first caught sight of these jungle thick mountains. In some ways it feels like you just arrived yesterday, and in others like you’ve lived here a lifetime.
So much has happened and I don’t mean to freak you out, but you’ll get your ass kicked this year. You'll have the good old honeymoon phase to cushion the blows, but it still cuts.  

This year, you’ll get super sick. You’ll get amoebic dysentery, worms, giardia, and typhoid (twice), not to mention the common cold. You are so afraid of tropical diseases right now, but you’ll soon find out that even if you are tremendously sick in your body, you are alive and well in your spirit. Your husband will get sick too, but don’t worry, your three year old will stay healthy through it all.

You are going to write a blog post about how you are losing your mind and the response will overwhelm you. I know you will push that publish button through tears and fear that you are revealing too much and the “What will people say?” echoing in your mind is deafening. Here’s the thing, you’ll press that button and that one post will open up a whole world to you. You’ll receive message after message from people who will pour out their hearts to you because they can relate in some way. From that moment on you’ll find tremendous freedom in writing and stop caring about what others think. 

But soon, someone you love and respect is going to tell you that you share too much and make people uncomfortable. It’ll rattle you, but you’ll hold firm. You’ll find that honesty creates family and you’ll be better loved and supported than you can even dream is possible now.

You are going to make a huge cultural blunder and very nearly ruin a relationship. Good news though, you’ll get help. People will literally fly in to help clean up your mess. You learn so much, repent so much, and are forgiven so much. It’ll be ok.

You are going to screw up your marriage this year. That one hurts a lot. You’ll blindly charge ahead, dragging your husband behind you. Yeah, it’s as bad as that. Eight months later you’ll see the emotional chasm between you and realise those little cracks shouldn’t have been ignored. You’ll repent and your husband will forgive you. You’ll both become aware of each other’s vulnerabilities and be more careful to tend them. After all is said and done, you’ll never be more happy to have the husband you do. You guys rock together.

Your son is going to be just fine. He won’t get malaria or typhoid or anything. He’s going to be healthy and happy and make friends. You are worried now that you won’t be able to home school him, but the truth is he’ll beg you everyday and even on weekends to do school together. 

He’s going to be so interested in ministry too. You’ll pour over maps together and talk about people groups all over the world. You’ll stand back in wide eyed amazement as your three year old says, “Mommy, see those people over there? Let’s go tell them about Jesus.” He’ll do it too and you’ll translate for him. 

This year is going to be a roller coaster, but you’ll make it. I'm here a year later and guess what? Today, you'll be looking forward to the future and wouldn’t trade this last year for the world.

So relax! I'll see you in a year.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Culture Shock Phase 2: Cue the helplessness

I knew it would happen eventually, the next stage in the whole culture shock process. The part when you progress enough with the language so you hear and see, but don’t yet truly understand. About two months ago Culture Shock Phase 2 arrived in full force.

Author Lisa-Jo Baker said, "Ask any of us who write, it’s usually because we need to read to understand our stories." Yet here, in this stage, the words are a mess in my head. I can't make sense of my own story. There are no neat and tidy bows of lessons learned to wrap up all my sentences. They just hang wide open, gaping.

My house helper had her scooter impounded yesterday. She texted me to tell me she couldn't come over. She was at the police station. I freaked a little. She's here now, but still doesn't have her scooter. The police want 500ribu, about $50, for it. That's 20hours worth of cleaning at my house. She told me she has a friend who knows a police officer and maybe she can get it for 100ribu. Driving home yesterday she hadn't realised the road was closed. She was stopped and her scooter taken.

Another expat told me a story that when the ban on selling anything on Sundays first took effect, some ladies came from a village with their greens. They sat out on the sidewalk as usual. Guess they hadn't heard the new rule. Their veg was confiscated.

I have a million thoughts all zooming around my head. I'm dying to write about them, to draw conclusions, to make sense of my emotions, but I’d probably be wrong. I still have so much to learn. I see, but I don't understand. It'll be years, probably a lifetime, if I ever really do.

If my helper can't get her scooter back for 100ribu I think I'll just give her the 500. Or let her borrow it, or work extra for it. I don't know. What's the culturally appropriate thing to do? What would grace do?

A couple weeks ago I woke up early, heard loud voices, and so went to look out the window. A few days before that my neighbour had come home drunk and shouting. I assumed it was the same thing, but still got up to check. There was a young guy standing outside my neighbour's gate. When my neighbour came I heard the guy say, "We stole a motorcycle. Open the gate fast!" So my neighbour opens the gate and they quietly roll in the stolen motorcycle.

I didn't know what to do. What can you do? I was ready to report it, but was told that's absolutely a bad idea. The neighbours will learn where the info came from and we'll be known as informants. The neighbours might retaliate. I'm to pretend I don't know anything. A friend of a friend will tell a police officer friend. I keep waiting for something to happen, but nothing has so I guess nothing will. To be honest, I don't want the thieves to go to jail. Jail here would be horrible, but I would like the motorbikes returned.

Turn the other way. Pretend you didn't see. Your neighbour abuses his wife and her screams haunt you. Pretend you didn't hear. I ache inside.

I know I'm not supposed to be surprised when “sinners act like sinners”, or whatever the adage is. That's just it, I'm not surprised by the horrible things people do. I'm surprised by my complete inability to do anything about it.

So I go about my business. I cook and clean and shop at the market and do preschool with my son. I go to church, women's bible study, and team meetings. I host visitors and greet my neighbours.

Oh God do I pray. 

the road home