Monthly Archives: November 2015

First Sunday of Advent

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

My family loves celebrations and traditions. Growing up, we had many wonderful traditions leading up to Christmas– little gifts for Christmas countdown, paper chains, setting out a new nativity scene every day for two weeks, picking out a live tree, decorating parties. Of all the traditions of my childhood, one stands out in my mind as a particular favorite. Every Sunday for the month leading up to Christmas, my mom would cook a special dinner and my dad would lead us in Christmas advent devotions. My memories of this annual event are so vivid. I can almost smell the scent of burning wax and hear my dad’s voice reading from the book of Luke in the Bible. This year, we’re thousands of miles away from my parents, but we’re carrying on the Advent tradition in our own home.

The Advent candle tradition has been observed for centuries by Catholics and protestants alike. Traditionally, a wreath is constructed from evergreen boughs, laid flat on the table, and four candles are arranged in a circle on the wreath. One tall, white candle is set in the center. Each of the four Sundays before Christmas, a new candle is lit. On the first Sunday, one candle is lit, on the second, two are lit, and so on. On Christmas, all four candles on the wreath are lit, and finally the white candle is lit, as well. This candle is the Christ candle and it honors the birth of Jesus.

The four candles in the circle have no set meaning, although there are many different names and symbolisms given to the candles. Some call them the peace, hope, love, and joy candles. In my home growing up, they each represented a different group that announced the coming of Jesus. The first candle was the prophet candle, representing Old Testament prophets; the second was the angel candle, representing the angels that appeared to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds; the third was the shepherd candle; and the fourth was the wise men candle.

Generally, the lighting of the candle is accompanied by devotional and scripture reading. My dad would always read from an Advent devotional book and then choose portions of Scripture to accompany it.

The lighting of the Advent candles is not a religious ritual. It is simply a way to prepare our hearts and minds for the Christmas season. Like many people observe Lent to help themselves remember and focus on the approach of Easter, Advent devotions help us to remember that Christmas is coming and also remember why we celebrate Christmas at all. It’s a time to take a break from the distractions and busyness of life and take a few minutes to think about the meaning of Christmas. It’s easy to get caught up in the endless Walmart isles of toys and the explosion of red and green in Hobby Lobby, Pinterest and our news feeds. But the true reason we even have Christmas at all is that 2000 years ago, a baby boy was born in a cave in the Middle East, and He changed the world.

Now that’s something to celebrate.

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In preparation for Advent Sunday, I bought some candles at the Chinese market next door– they didn’t have pink or purple candles, which are traditional, so I bought red, green, yellow and white instead. Oh, well. At least they look Christmassy! I went to a baby shower today and ended up with some bits of green ribbon, which look great tied around the candles. We don’t exactly have evergreen here, so my ribbon will suffice. Also, I think the circular formation of the candles must have some significance, but I don’t know what it is–anyway, it looked weird without a real wreath.  I set them up in a line and they looked beautiful.

Ben found an Advent devotional on his Logos app on his phone. We sat down to dinner with Matt, I lit the candle, and Ben began to read.

The devotional he chose called the first candle the Shepherd Candle. It signifies the Lord’s guidance in our life as a shepherd. In many places in Scripture, God is called our shepherd. It seems like a weird metaphor to a society without a whole lot of shepherds (or sheep for that matter), but it was a very tangible comparison for Middle Eastern ancients. A shepherd watches vigilantly and lovingly over his sheep, and he protects them from harm and cares for them.

Here are some Bible references that talk about Jesus as a shepherd:

If you don’t have Advent plans for this evening, why not take a few moments to read these scripture passages? Whether or not you have an Advent wreath, candles, or even a Bible in print, you can celebrate the Christmas season by celebrating Jesus.

 

What are your favorite Christmas traditions? Or how does your family observe Advent?

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Tropical Thanksgiving

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Happy Thanksgiving weekend from the Johnsons! This was my first Thanksgiving outside the United States. Here’s how we celebrated it, expat-style.

Since Thanksgiving is strictly a U.S. holiday, nobody on Sint Maarten got the day off work or school. We weren’t too bothered by this; two of Ben’s classes have ended, so he only had to be at school for three hours. We spent the extra two hours in the morning catching some waves at the beach.

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Waves at Mullet Bay

 

Usually, we run in a Turkey Trot (Thanksgiving 5K) on Thanksgiving morning. I have to admit that I felt a little guilty for not running on our family’s annual race day! Between my  bad knees, the humidity, and the lack of Thanksgiving festivities, though, I was definitely happy to “settle” for boogie boarding to earn my extra Thanksgiving dinner calories.

Another tradition that I missed was the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Instead of that, I watched Phineas and Ferb in Spanish while Ben was in lab. Maybe I’ll be able to catch some parade clips on YouTube later.

The one traditional thing that I definitely did for Thanksgiving was cook! It was a little lonely to be in the kitchen by myself– usually, my mom, dad, sister, and I all work together to make Thanksgiving dinner. This year, we went to a Thanksgiving potluck with our church group, AUC’s Christian Medical and Dental Association. I made bread rolls and pumpkin pie. I didn’t have a pie pan, so Ben put a sign next to my casserole-dish pie that said ” πr2 .” I don’t know if anyone got it, but we thought it was funny.

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Pumpkin Spice Latte Pie

 

Since there were three other people also making pumpkin pie (Thanksgiving calls for a LOT of pie, people!), I decided to make pumpkin spiced latte pie with chocolate swirls. You’re welcome, Starbucks lovers!

Check back Tuesday for the chocolate pumpkin spiced latte pie recipe on my new weekly segment, Foodie Tuesdays!

I actually got to enjoy three Thanksgiving dinners! It would have been four, but I missed the one put on my the AUC spouses organization because we rented a car that day and needed to get all our shopping done.

The first Thanksgiving dinner I had was the Saturday before Thanksgiving. My friend Stacy invited us to share in their holiday celebrations with their visiting family. She and her future mother-in-law made a delicious, home-cooked, Southern-style feast!

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Thanksgiving Lunch at AUC

 

The second Thanksgiving meal I had was at lunch on Thanksgiving Day. American University of the Caribbean doesn’t give students the day off school, but they do give a free lunch with turkey, potatoes and all the traditional fixings!

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Thanksgiving Potluck with CMDA

 

The last Thanksgiving feast we had was the potluck with CMDA. There were about 30 people there– friends, neighbors, classmates, and people we’ve never seen before. There was a row of tables filled with aromatic dishes, and more dessert than anyone could handle. Yum! CMDA president Blake carved the turkey, Ben carved the ham, we said a prayer of thanks, and then we all sat down to enjoy the meal and the beautiful ocean view from the porch.

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I was thrilled to see these little guys at the potluck.

 

When we got home later, we Skyped my parents. Even though we missed them, my sister,who was in Wyoming for the holiday, and Ben’s family who are in various parts of the world, it was good to be able to talk to family and share a part of day with them, even if we could not share a meal.

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Ben carving up the ham

 

What an amazing sunset. What a great day. We have so much to be thankful for: food, friends, family, video chat and email, the kids and coaches on the baseball team, our island paradise, school, church, and so much more… most of all, the saving grace of God. He is so good to us, and has blessed us more than we could ever imagine.

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Thankful in All Circumstances

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s the time of the year that we remember to that God for our blessings and show appreciation for the people in our lives. At Sunday school a couple weeks ago, we had the kids list things that they are thankful for an leaves and glue them to a paper tree. They listed their parents, their friends, their things and their favorite TV shows.

I’m thankful for those things, too, especially the friends and family! I find myself thanking God for them every day.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things in my life. What is less easy is being thankful for the frustrating things! The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. “…Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ for you.” Many of us spend a lot of time trying to find out the will of God for our lives so that we can follow it. Yet here is a clear explanation of His will for us, and we often completely forget to do it! Being thankful in all circumstances means thanking God for the good things in our life, but also thanking Him for the stuff that bothers or hurts us.

My challenge to you this Thanksgiving is to list five to ten frustrating things you are thankful for and why.

Here’s my list:

  1. I am thankful for power outages because they remind me how blessed I am to have power 95% of the time
  2. I am thankful for the mold in my house because it is a result of the humidity that makes my island green and beautiful
  3. I am thankful for expensive food prices because it encourages me to learn to make things like mayonnaise, bread, and tortillas.
  4. I am thankful for Mosquitos because even though they are annoying, they aren’t scorpions!
  5. I am thankful for failing at things I try because it teaches me to move past my failure and my ego and to work hard at attaining goals
  6. I am thankful for slow mail service because it reminds me how awesome it is to live in an age with e-mail
  7. I am thankful for the crabby maintenance man at our apartment because he gives me a chance to practice patience and also to stand up for myself
  8. I am thankful for water outages because they help me to appreciate the hard work that many people do every day to have drinking water
  9. I am thankful for loud late-night karaoke at the bar next door because it gives Ben and I a few extra hours awake and together on Friday nights
  10. I am thankful for med school keeping Ben busy because it makes us value the time we do have together and helps us to make the most of it.

Enjoy your holiday! Let’s finish off the year with thankful hearts every day.

 

Saint Martin/Sint Maarten Travel Guide!

I have just completed my 2016 SXM travel guide! Click here to find out what you can do on your trip to Saint Martin/Sint Maarten.

Friends and family– I made this for you! Come visit us! We’d love to have you.

If you’ve been to SXM, please feel free to contribute your travel tips and ideas. I’d love to expand the travel guide using your expertise!

 

I Went to the British Isle

I went to the British Isle. No, not the one in Europe– the one next-door to Saint Martin. Anguilla may be Saint Martin’s closest neighbor, but it is nothing like it! Join my friends and I as we add a stamp to our passports and explore a new place.

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Sint Maarten only allows foreigners to stay on the island for three months at a time. I’ve heard that Americans can stay for up to six months, but with security on the island tightening every day, I decide it would be wise to take an international excursion before my three months are up.

Sandy, Emily and I drive together to Marigot, the port on the French side of the island. It’s a busy day– the cruise ships came in the morning, so the pier is buzzing with tourists. We finally find a parking space and make our way to the ferry.

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The ferry is a little bit confusing, because there are three lines to wait in before entering the ferry, and none of them are in any particular order! The employees and border officials are kind and helpful, though, so we quickly figure out what to do. Soon we are sitting on the ferry with stamped passports. The ferry costs $20 per person, in addition to a $5 port fee.

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The boat ride takes us about twenty minutes. I enjoy the rhythm of the ocean and the sea spray. Some of the passengers are worried about feeling seasick, but fortunately the ride is short and they are OK. Anguilla’s coastline becomes more and more visible, and soon we can see beach houses and boats.

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Soon, we arrive at the island! We eagerly pile out of the ferry and head through the customs line. Two more stamps for our passports. We walk out of the building and into the courtyard, where we are suddenly overwhelmed with people trying to rent us cars or offer us taxis! I am convinced that we’ll be able to use public buses once we walk out onto the main road, so the three of us refuse their offers and begin walking. All we see are a few houses and some goats.

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We walk about a quarter mile with no success, when a taxi pulls up beside us and offers us a discounted ride. “There aren’t any public buses here,” he explains, “Anguilla doesn’t have enough people to support public transportation.” We take his word for it and hop aboard. Each person costs $18 each way, but the third person in our group only costs and additional $5. We only have to pay $11 each– more than a bus would have been, but less than a car rental.

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We drive from Blowing Point to the capitol, The Valley, which is in the center of the island. It is so different from Philipsburg or Marigot, the capitols on Saint Martin! There are relatively few buildings– mostly government offices, schools, and restaurants. No tourist shops and no large hotels to be seen. We opt to take the bus all the way to Shoal Bay, which is the island’s best beach.

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Once we get there, we’re glad we did! Shoal Bay Beach is perhaps the most beautiful beach I’ve ever been to– and that’s saying a lot, considering that I live a short walk from Mullet Bay Beach.

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We are instantly greeted by beach attendants and restaurant employees. I am afraid that they will smother us while trying to sell their services, but they do not. They are friendly to us and seem to be more interested in our enjoyment than in pressuring us to rent an umbrella or buy an expensive meal.

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We chose the more casual of the two restaurants, Uncle Ernie’s. The conch looks delicious, but we all decide on the $5 grilled cheese and fries. The food is good, and the meal is big enough to keep us content for the remainder of our trip. The ocean is calling us, so we leave a tip for the staff and head for the sand.

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I immediately wish that I had brought my snorkel gear– the reef looks amazing! One of the beach staff tells us that we can see parrotfish and sea turtles a little way out. I make a mental note to at least bring my goggles next time I come.

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We sun for a while, and then wade in the clear blue ocean water. Sandy and I decide to catch some waves before heading back to our towels.

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The beach is about 2 miles long, so we decide to go exploring. Every time we think we’ve found the most beautiful spot, we turn a corner and find something even more amazing. We finally come the eastern end of the beach. We strain our eyes to see the tip of Anguilla in the distance.

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Four-thirty comes to soon. One of the beach staff comes to tell us that our taxi is waiting, so we pack up and head to the taxi. He takes us a different way back to the ferry so that we can see more of the island. We have gorgeous view of Saint Martin almost all the way back.

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While we wait for the ferry, we wander around the beach near the port. I am amazed to see how close Saint Martin looks! Anguilla looks very far away from Saint Martin because it is such a flat island. Saint Martin’s hills give us a better perspective of the distance.

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We get our exit stamps, pay the $20 ticket and $8 port fee, and climb onto the boat. We’re tired now, and happy to clamber down into the cabin of the ferry, watch the sun set, and enjoy the movie being played on a small screen at the front of the cabin.

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We enter Marigot port and get our last passport stamp of the day.

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Anguilla looks so small from the harbor! It’s hard to believe we were standing on the other side not half an hour ago. We turn our backs on the lights of the bay and head home. Behind us, the flag of Anguilla waves farewell.

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One Hour in France

One week after the attacks on Paris, the French flags in Marigot, French St. Martin fly at half-mast. Although the crowds of tourists seem to obliviously enjoy the sun, sand, and sea, the denizens of Saint Martin–on both sides of the island– feel a change in the atmosphere.

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Fort Louis in Marigot, French St. Martin flies the French flag at half-mast

 

Although French St. Martin’s port flies only France’s flag at half-mast, the Dutch side of the island is hoisting all flags at half-mast, a gesture of support and compassion for its French counterpart. “Je Suis France,” cries a sign in Simpson Bay. It is times like these that the unity of the nationally-divided island is most evident.

The significance of the bombing hits close to home for many– for us, exactly .70 miles from home. I’m sure you can image the underlying fear that many people on our island feel. Besides sharing our land with the French, many of us, Ben and I included, have loved ones who live in Paris.

Security on the island is tightening as events continue to unfold. On Monday, the Dutch-side newspaper announced the arrival of a small group of Arab men with false Greek passports. The men were detained as suspected potential terrorists. I’m pretty sure they’re not– real terrorists would certainly have more realistic passports and would know better than to use Greece as their cover country.

Tuesday, the police created a road block and checked every single car on the route to the capitol. I’m not sure why, but it certainly slowed down traffic and I was glad to be coming back rather than heading toward Philipsburg.

The attack in Paris not only brought our attention and compassion to Parisians, it also (finally) opened many Western eyes to similar tragedies around the world: West Bank, Somalia, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Chad, and Cameroon all experienced acts of terrorism in the month of November, 2015 before Paris was bombed. We did not hear about those on the news because terrorism in Africa and the Middle East no longer shocks us.

Perhaps our horror at the attack on Paris will give us renewed perspective on terrorism in any country.

Maybe it will get our attention so that we will stop re-posting and start doing something about it.

Dutch Sint Maarten is not the only place Syrian refugees showed up with false papers. I heard of incidents in both Honduras and Texas in the last 24 hours. Of all the people currently affected by terrorism, certainly Syrians are at the top of the list. It seems they have nowhere to go, so they are going wherever they can. Wouldn’t you?

Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do for the suffering of Paris except put up a French flag on my Facebook account and bear with the haters and the cries of “white supremacy.” It’s not much, but it’s a way to join with St. Maarten in supporting St. Martin and France.

Fortunately, there are tangible ways that you and I can help the people escaping violence in Syria!

I found this article from a UK-based news source that gives practical ways that “regular people” can be a part of the solution.

One of my friends offered this updated Amazon link. You can spend that unused Amazon gift card and send needed items to be distributed to refugees.

Friends, the world can be a terrible place. The acts of wickedness shock us, petrify us, make us weep. But we don’t have to live in fear, without hope. We can be the hope. We can be part of the solution. We can pray for God to bring comfort, peace, and justice. Then we can stand up and be the answers to our own prayers. We can bring light into this dark world. We can extend the hand of compassion to those who are hurting. This is what God has called us to do, and we can all do it, wherever we are.

 

 

 

One More Time

If you asked me what day of the last year I would like to live over, it would be April 21, 2015. Why? Why would I want to live over a random Tuesday? Why not a big, life-changing, memorable day? Because the memories are enough. I’d want to remember those days the way I experienced them the first time around.

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Just another day out our place, April 2015

 

The things I don’t remember well are the everyday things. I’d like to go back a few months and live over a regular day in a past season of my life. On Tuesday, April 21, 2015, I woke up to the sound of Ben’s alarm at 5:30 am. I dragged myself out of bed and made breakfast– probably eggs– while Ben made coffee. We did morning devotions and ate together, and a bit before seven he drove me to work. I opened up the preschool, played with my sweet babies, and then worked as a teacher’s aide in their class. Then I went home and cleaned the house, ate lunch, read my Bible. Maybe I called my mom. Maybe I saw my sister while walking home from work through her college campus. Maybe I walked the long way home and enjoyed the sounds of the city. At 2:30, I went back to work and watched elementary school kids. I probably brought my ukulele and let them play it, I probably played tag with them. I talked casually with the friends I worked with. After work, I walked home and made dinner for Ben. He came home, and after dinner we got ready for Bible study. I made tea, everyone came, and Ben led study group. We read the Bible, prayed, talked, and laughed together. Then everyone said goodnight and went home. I made Ben’s lunch for the next day and we went to sleep.

Not a very exciting day, but a good day. A normal day.

If I could live a day over, I’d want to live again in a day in the life of the former version of me. I’d remember what my life was like. I’d see the changes that have happened over the months, and I’d be grateful for how I’ve grown. I’d be thankful for the time I had with those friends, those kids, that home, that place.

Today, I am thankful to the Lord that I lived today and that I get to live tomorrow. I’d love to live a day in my life over again, but we’re only given one chance to live each day. Let’s be thankful for today and make the most of it.

Inspired by WordPress writing prompts.

A Sint Maarten’s Day Parade

Twirling skirts, bright eyes, steel drums and johnnycakes… this is Sint Maarten’s Day! Upon hearing about this holiday, my first  question was whether the day celebrated the island’s heritage or the actual feast day of Saint Martin. As it turns out, it celebrates both. According to the story of the island’s earliest known history, Christopher Columbus stumbled upon our island paradise on November, 11, 1483–Saint Martin’s Feast Day– and named the island in honor of the day. Today, Saint Martin the man is more or less ignored, and the island people celebrate their heritage and homeland.

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Ben and I had been looking forward to this day since we landed here because American University of the Caribbean gives its students Sint Maarten’s Day off classes. I was also looking forward to the day-long cultural celebration in Philipsburg, the capitol district. We took a bus in the early afternoon to join the throngs of people in the streets of the capitol. The air was absolutely electric with energy!

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I immediately felt a little out of place– virtually everyone else was rocking red, white, and blue t-shirts; most of them even had patriotic designs! I was wearing a green skirt with a pink top. Oops. We went in search of Saint Maarten t-shirts. I could see that many of the stores in the shopping district were selling such apparel, but all the stores were closed, as per the law of the land. We finally found some in Festival Village, but all they had left were XXLs. “They run small,” offered the lady at the booth apologetically. I said no thanks, but bought a Sint Maarten flag.

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Festival Village, a large, purple outdoor complex on Pond Island, was filled with shouts, laughter, bubbles, and flashing lights. The kids were having a heyday on the inflatable bouncers! Their parents enjoyed fried food and bottles of soda at gaily decorated food stands around the edge of the complex. Under a canopy, domino players determinedly focused on their annual tournament.

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The schedule said the parade would start at 3:00, so we made our way through the streets, under the bunting-covered palm trees, to where the parade would begin. We waved at a recording drone that hovered overhead and watched the crowd fill up the streets.

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The crowd thickened around us and began to build upward– people appeared in second-story windows, on balconies, and on their daddies’ shoulders. We smiled and greeted people we know as they pressed through the crowd to their favorite parade-watching spot.

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Ten minutes passed, half an hour, fifty minutes, an hour. Finally, we heard the sound of steel drums and dancing feet. True to Sint Maarten, the parade started on “island time.” Nobody seemed bothered. We crowded closer together and strained to catch a glimpse of the first dancers.

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Sint Maarten is home to people of many heritages, so cultural St. Maarten dance is diverse. My favorite were the women in hoop skirts who twirled and whirled down the street. Click on the thumbnails below to get a better look at the photos. So much color, so much movement! The women danced to the rhythm of the drumbeats that filled the streets and echoed off the buildings.

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Dancing with a hoop skirt

We loved the drums! I couldn’t help but dance a little myself. The whole crowd swayed and pulsed with the beat of the drums. The Jolly Boys, a local band, played their calypso beats as they drifted by on a float.

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What’s a parade without the smiles of children? There were dozens and dozens of kids in the parade– some dancing in patriotic tulle dresses, some dressed in historical garb holding their mothers’ hands, some waving like princesses and others peeking through windows.

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The car enthusiasts also contributed to the parade. This taxi is a little spiffier than the ones you usually see on the roads, but it still has the typical giant front-window sticker.

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This is my friend Lisa. She marched in the parade wearing cultural dress. The cultural clothing was probably the most visually interesting part of the celebration. There were clothes from every era in every style, from the drab and dirty slacks of the salt pickers to the Princess Julianna dress with a hoop skirt the size of New Jersey. I was excited to see professors from Ben’s school, American University of the Caribbean, representing the school and rocking salt picker hats!

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I was amazed at the stilt-walkers! The parade lasted about an hour and a half, and these people walked on stilts the whole time. That takes some serious skill. There were probably fifteen of these– I wonder who made the clothes for them? Equally as cool were the living statues. They looked so real! I’m not sure, but I think they were based on some of the statues on Sint Maarten’s round-a-bouts. This side of the island has more round-a-bouts than intersections, and each one has a statue with local significance.

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As the sun began to sink, the parade marched to its final destination– Festival Village. Tired dancers and sweaty but happy walkers disbanded and began to enjoy the celebrations for themselves.

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Happy Sint Maarten’s Day, everyone! What a wonderful way to celebrate our island home.

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Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights

As the sun begins to set on a small waterfront resort, people of all ethnicities trickle into the courtyard. One by one, candles and lights begin to illuminate the surroundings. As the courtyard fills, the aromatic scent of curry begins to grace the air. It is the second night of Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights.
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This is the West Indies, not India. Yet even here in the Western hemisphere, we are eager to celebrate the triumph of good over evil– and, of course, what promises to be the apex of human culinary achievement.

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Someone announces that the food is ready, and we all line up, plates ready. The menu consists of rice, banir (vegetarian red sauce), chicken tika masala (red sauce with meat), yogurt sauce to cool our mouths after the spice, naan (Indian flat-bread), and samosas (fried dumplings filled with potatoes and peas). We find a group to sit with and dig in. It’s as delicious as it smells!

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The group we sit with is comprised of people who were born in India or raised in Indian homes. The conversation quickly turns to Indian culture and geography as people discuss and compare their location of origin, lingual heritage, and family traditions. I take the opportunity to ask questions and learn about the diverse and colorful nation of India.

A university student explains to me the origin and traditions centered around Diwali. Diwali is a traditional Hindu festival lasting five days. On the first day of Diwali, people hope for wealth and prosperity. The second day of Diwali celebrates the triumph of light over dark, good over evil. The third day is the actual day of Diwali, the Indian new year’s eve. The fourth day, the new year, celebrates love and devotion between husbands and wives. The final day is a celebration of sisters. Siblings honor one another and exchange gifts on this day.

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The night grows blacker and sparklers are lit, illuminating the party scene. Indian pop music wraps us all in an exotic sheath of sound. Children dance and spin in the candle light. People migrate from tables to the bar and the dance floor.

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Before long, the deck is crowded with smiling and laughing dancers. The sky is black, but for us, the darkest night of the year is bright and joyous.

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Missing Friends Back Home

People are a liability. You can replace homes, you can replace cars, you can replace clothes and electronics and stuff, but you can’t replace people. People are a liability because having relationships hurts. If you have relationships, you will have pain. Maybe they will hurt you, maybe you will hurt them, maybe you will hurt just because they hurt. Maybe it will hurt because you have to say goodbye.

Saying goodbye hurts.

I said a lot of goodbyes this year. After graduation in May, the class exodus to old homes and new jobs commenced. I started to miss people I didn’t even know I liked that much. Then, the month before we moved, we helped close friends move to Arkansas, Nevada, and Northern Arizona. We said goodbye to friends and family going to dozens of location around the country and around the globe.

And then we left.

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The weeks before we left were a blur. We said goodbyes, gave hugs, and shared tears until my heart felt numb. We said goodbye at the airport to my family, and I bawled in the terminal once we were finally through security and waiting for the plane.

The thing about people is that you can’t replace them. You can make new friends, but they hold a new place in your heart. They don’t fill the place of the old friends. I wish I could take all my old friends and all my new friends and all my family and move them to this little island. One thing that stinks about moving around is that no matter where you go, you always miss somebody.
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The first few weeks we were here, I felt like we were on vacation, so it wasn’t too hard to be away from people I know. When school started up and I started to spend more time alone, I started to feel the absence of familiarity. I feel bad, but I have to admit that I kind of resented my neighbors for not being my old neighbors. I missed having neighbors knock on our door randomly throughout the week to say hi or share a DVD or ask for prayer. I really started to miss people. I missed my family. I missed our Bible study group. I missed our church. I missed everyone from work. I missed friends from school. I missed everybody. I still do. Sometimes, part of me wants to just go back to Arizona. But I also know that things aren’t the same there now. New people live in our apartment complex, new people work at my old job, new people go to my old college, and so many people who used to be there are gone.

I try to live by the adage, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” I compile pictures from past seasons of life and smile when I look at them. And then I look around and thank God for the wonderful things I have in this season. In a year and a half, when we leave, I’m going to feel the same pains of goodbye about this place. And thus goes life– goodbyes and good memories.

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Ben is used to goodbyes, and they don’t faze him as much as they faze me. That’s part of being a Third Culture Kid. You get used to saying goodbye. Ben has made five international moves and probably said goodbye to more people than I’ve ever met. All I can say is thank goodness for modern technology. I used to hate Facebook until I married into a family with members in five different countries. Now, I’m glad to have a way to see pictures of my nieces and nephews and find out what’s going on in my family members’ lives. It kills me that I’m not there to watch the kids grow up. But I’m glad I can still be a little bit involved from where I am. Als0, I’m convinced that video chat is the best invention of the century. In the last week, we were able to Skype into both my parents’ birthday celebrations, and it was almost as good as being there (despite the awkward delay when trying to sing “Happy Birthday”). I can’t imagine how it must have been for people when mail went overseas by boat only. It makes my day when I get an email or a Facebook message from a friend back home.

I’m learning how to stay in touch. Historically, neither Ben nor myself have been too awesome at this. Ben literally has no time to do it himself these days, but I’m trying to get better at it. I even wrote nineteen post cards a couple weeks ago. They probably won’t get anywhere for a couple of months, but hey. I’m also getting better at initiating and answering emails. I’ve only Skyped a few people, but I have a lot more I want to talk to. Also, my phone works here (joy of joys!) so I can even get phone calls! Our friend Bizi moved from the Southwest to the East Coast two years ago. He still posts Facebook pictures of friends from our college days to let us know he’s thinking about us. I love that. If any of you, dear readers, have ideas on how to keep connected with people, please let me know in the comments!

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Burned into my memory is the last goodbye we said to friends. We had a game night at Bernie and Jessica’s apartment a couple days before we left. As we were leaving, our friend Marcus stood outside the apartment and waved to us with a sad smile. We were just about to turn around and walk away, when Bernie popped out of the door with a giant smile and way too much energy for 11:00 pm–

“Bye, guys! See you in Heaven!”

Marcus slapped him. “Shut up!”

We had to laugh. It was funny, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that Bernie’s really on to something. I really hope we see him again before we die, but no matter what, we know that between Believers in Christ, there is no “Goodbye forever.” It’s always just “goodbye for now.”

It makes me think of a Michael W. Smith song that has become close to my heart.

Because friends are friends forever,

If the Lord’s the lord of them,

And a friend will not say never,

Cause the welcome will not end.

Though it’s hard to let you go,

Still the Father says we know

That a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.

A lifetime’s not too long to be friends. Stay in touch with us, guys. We miss you and love you.