Monthly Archives: March 2016

Driving on the “Friendly” Island

I’m not sure if the crazy driving on Saint Martin contributes to the island’s nickname or if it totally destroys it.

To be honest, I don’t often miss the triple-lane freeways of Phoenix, although there are some days that I’d give anything to be flying at 70 miles per hour on an overpass. Saint Martin has one main single-lane road going all the way around the island. A wandering cow in Cole Bay can cause a man commuting from Philipsburg to be late for dinner. It doesn’t help that the driving culture is generally pretty reckless and spontaneous.

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Fortunately, you never really get over 40 mph on the entire island, so collisions usually aren’t too serious. And they do happen often! The ordeal of waiting a few hours for officials to show up and do paperwork is not worth it in most cases, so people usually dust themselves off and keep going. I’ve seen a motorcyclist collide at an intersection in front of me and go flying over the top of my hood, pick himself up, climb back on his bike, and zoom off on the center lane while the freshly-dented sports car rolled along on its way.

Standstill traffic is normal, too. I have literally put my car in park in the middle of the street, locked it, taken my dog on a short walk, and come back to my car just in time while waiting for the bridge in Simpson Bay to go down.

My drive today was particularly aggravating, so I switched my brain from “American time” to “island time” and sat back to enjoy the entertainment of the crazy roads.

First, I drove through a construction zone in Maho. Traffic on both sides of the road was at a complete standstill as two people traveling opposite directions had stopped to chat. One lady even got out of her car to walk up to the window of the other driver’s car! We all had to wait a couple minutes as they finished their conversation before we could continue on.

Next, I watched as someone in front of me became impatient with the slow traffic, pulled out into the opposite lane, and drove on the wrong side of the road until he could see the source of the jam and slide back into the right lane. I thought I was going to watch someone die of a head-on collision.

A bus driver stopped in the middle of traffic to pick up a woman who was waiting, but not at a bus stop.

After this, someone went halfway through a round-a-bout backwards to turn into a driveway rather than going all the way around.

Then, someone flashed me and zoomed in front of me so they could do a left-hand turn in front of me, although I was already halfway blocking the turn and nobody was behind me.

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Going up a hill, a group of bicyclists were holding up traffic as they slowly pedaled to the top.

At the bottom of the hill, a funeral procession had parked in one of the lanes, totally preventing traffic from going up the hill. A limousine was leading the caravan and has simply parked in front of the cemetery. People in suits were milling around the road as behind them, cars waited at least a quarter mile back. I wanted to roll down my window and suggest to the poor commuters to try a different route home, but I opted instead to turn down my Caribbean jams out of respect for the funeral and leave the drivers to their long wait.

Once in Philipsburg, a bus made an impossible turn through moving traffic as other drivers maneuvered around him. I waved to a little boy I know as he and his mom passed me on the road– walking.

People jumped out into the road to cross it and just assumed we’d all stop for them. And we do.

Everywhere I went, people slowed to wave and call out to each other, bus drivers greeted one another with a honk, and greetings flew from pedestrians to drivers and back.Sonesta Resort

Like I said, I’m not sure if this craziness proves that the island is friendly or if it proves that it’s not.

I’ve just decided to just stay as safe as possible and accept it for what it is. After all, I’m the foreigner here and I need to adapt. Even if that means driving five miles per hour, watching bikers fly past me on the center line, dodging goats, and smiling all the way!

 

 

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Bucatini with Amatriciana

Guanciale simmered in San Marzano tomatoes and onions, tossed with parmesan and bucatini.

https://cooksandkid.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/bucatini-amatriciana/

Underwater Egg Hunt

How chances will I have to do an Easter egg hunt underwater? Not many! Each year, Divi Little Bay Resort hosts an egg hunt to support the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation.

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The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation does a lot of good work to protect the island’s ecosystem. I briefly wrote about some of their activities in my article for Seven Seas Magazine. 

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The hunt was not just for a good cause, it was also incredibly fun! Imagine hundreds of people of all ages on the beach, outfitted with snorkel masks and fins, ready to collect 1,000 painted eggs hiding under the crystal-clear surface of the water.

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It was a little bit cut-throat! People are competitive. I went with the other strong swimmers to the deepest area, which seemed to be about 15 feet deep. I strained my eyes for glimpses of color peeking out from the gray-green floor of the ocean and managed to grab seven eggs. Fish flitted back and forth below us, unnerved by the sudden influx of human activity in the water.

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In the shallow area, small children hunted for eggs in knee-deep water.

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At the end, there was a giant raffle with dozens of amazing prizes, ranging from inflatable pool toys to a tow-day stay for two at Divi Little Bay Resort. It was my lucky day– I won two prizes! One was a lunchbox full of beach items and the other was a free sailing lesson with a Sun Bum hat.

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What a great thing to do on Easter Monday! I’ll be back next year for certain.

Spring Break!

The best thing about being a teacher is being a grown-up and STILL getting spring break. I’m not in education anymore, but my friend Ally is, and she decided to spend her spring break on the island with me!

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Those of you who are also expats know just how wonderful it is to hear from friends back home. You also know that it’s a hundred times more wonderful to have them come visit you!

I spent the days she was here showing her all the best parts of the island. If you have a few days on the island and don’t know what activities to choose, these are the things to do.

We managed to hit seven of Saint Martin’s 37 beaches in four days:

Airplanes at Maho Beach, SXM’s best-known tourist attraction.

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We relaxed on Mullet Bay Beach.

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Indigo Bay Beach is beautiful. Kito wasn’t too sure about the waves.

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We decided to be ‘Mericans and get McDonald’s ice cream at Great Bay Beach in Philipsburg.

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Plum Bay Beach had impressive waves the day we went. We tried to get a Little Mermaid-style splash photo…

We also went to Kimsha beach and Long Beach for a few minutes, but didn’t stop to take photos.

Naturally, we had to take advantage of the clear water at Mullet Bay and go snorkeling.

We spent some time in both of the island’s capitols, too.

Philipsburg is the Dutch capitol. Jack Sparrow apparently lives there.

Marigot is the French capitol. We visited Roland Richardson’s art gallery, Fort Louis, an open-air market, and my favorite French bakery, Sarafina’s.

Stacey and I also took her to Fort Amsterdam and Pic Paradis, the highest point on the island.

Of course, the week went far too fast. But it left us with many new friend memories!

No matter how far away you move, some friendships will never feel the distance.

Exodus, Jesus, and Wine

How much do you know about the story of Easter? Maybe less than you think. Read on!

Most of us are familiar with the ancient Easter story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, especially if we grew up in the Church. But the reality is that the Easter narrative began thousands of years before the death of Jesus. The dramatic lead-up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is quite elaborate and was set in place generations before Rome even existed.

If you turn to Exodus 11-12, you will read the story of Moses liberating the people of Israel from the heavy hand of slavery in Egypt. You may have heard this in Sunday school or on Prince of Egypt. Here how the story basically went: Israel was in slavery in Egypt, so God sent Moses to free them. Moses stood before Pharaoh, the king, and told him to free the slaves. The pharaoh refused until God sent ten plagues to the land. The final plague was the death of all the firstborn sons in Egypt. The only ones who were spared were those who obeyed God by killing a lamb and painting some of its blood on their doorposts. Finally, pharaoh relented and forced the people out of the land. They left while their bread was still without yeast and baked the flat cakes during the journey. God instituted Passover in remembrance of this event. I’ll give more details on the Passover feast below.

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Seder Plate for Passover. The horseradish sauce represents the bitterness of slavery, the lamb represents the lamb whose blood caused the Angel of Death to “pass over” the Israelite homes, the herbs dipped in salt water represent the Red Sea crossing, the honey represents the sweetness of freedom, and the egg represents the Temple sacrifice.

 

Fast-forward a thousand years to the account in Matthew 26:1-30. It’s the year 30 AD in Jerusalem, and crowds of Jews have gathered to their holy city to celebrate the Passover. They will be observing the Passover meal tonight, and tomorrow they will all bring a Passover lamb to sacrifice at the Temple to atone for their sins. The lamb must be perfect, with no broken bones or blemishes. The priest will slaughter the lambs for about six hours, and when the last lamb has been sacrificed, he will say, “It is finished.” It’s a gruesome sight– so much blood will be spilled and many innocent animals lives lost. It’s designed to be that way so that the people will see how awful their wrongdoings are and be thankful that God took the life of the animal in exchange for the life of the sinner.

On this night, Jesus celebrated Passover the same way that the rest of the nation did. He gathered with his closest friends to eat the symbolic flatbread and drink the symbolic wine. And then he taught them that the entire Passover was designed to point the way to himself. He was the final Passover lamb, the perfect one who would die in the place of the sinner. He would be the lamb who wiped away the wrongdoing– not just for a year, but forever.

Jesus and the disciples reclined at the table, first-century style. This Passover meal would come to be known as the Last Supper and be the foundation of the sacrament of Communion or Eucharist. Together, they drank the first cup of wine: the cup of holiness. This cup reminded them that God is holy and He desires holiness from His people. Next, the ceremonial washing of hands began. But Jesus did not simply wash the hands of himself and his friends. He washed their feet, a sign of servanthood. His friends were confused because he was their teacher and leader. Jesus told them that he was setting an example for them. He expected them to also serve one another.

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Washing hands

 

After the washing of hands comes the herbs dipped in salt water. The salt water dripping from the herbs reminds us of the tears of the Israelite slaves and the salty Red Sea that the people passed through to find freedom in a new land. For Christians, it is also reminder of baptism. In fact, the institution of baptism has to do with the story of the Red Sea. Christian baptism is a symbol of leaving the old life of bondage to wrongdoing and passing into a new life of freedom with Jesus.

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Parsley dipped in salt water

 

Next, Jesus took up the flatbread, which is called “Matza.” Traditionally, it is broken into three pieces, representing the Jewish patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But as Jesus broke it, He said, “This is my body, broken for you.” He had been telling them for days now that he would have to die, but they didn’t quite understand yet.

Next Jesus picked up the second cup of wine, the cup of judgement. “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” The old covenant had been dependent on the blood of animals, spilled to atone for wrongdoing. Soon, Jesus would spill his blood on the cross and initiate the new covenant. The new covenant is that Jesus blood, his death, is sufficient to make up for wrongdoing. You don’t need to kill and animal, and you don’t need to do anything to earn right standing with God and entry into Heaven. You only have to trust that Christ’s death is enough.

Jesus began to pass around the cup. Each person dipped their flatbread in the wine and ate. As they did so, Jesus dropped the bombshell: He really was going to die, and one of those at the table would betray him to the authorities and make it happen. They began to question who it was. Judas had already struck a deal to betray Jesus, so he got up and left to finish the job.

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The rest of them continued in conversation and Jesus taught the last of his lessons to them. After, they sang a hymn. I imagine that it was the song “Dayenu,” which is sung at every Passover meal. The song talks about how God continually does good things for His people: led them out of Egypt, gave them the Sabbath, gave them the Torah. We can add one more to the list: gave us Jesus.

After the song, Jesus and his disciples left to pray on the Mount of Olives. After an hour or so, Judas returned with a great mob to arrest Jesus. That night, he was tried before the governor and found guiltless. But the governor was pressured by the people to crucify him, so he turned Jesus over to them to die. Jesus was hung at 9:00 am, as soon as the lambs in the Temple began to be slaughtered. At 3:00 pm, when the last lamb was slaughtered, the High Priest said, “it is finished. A few miles away, Jesus felt himelf dying. He cried out, “It is finished!” and exhaled his last breath.

He was buried that night.

Three days later, the tomb was found empty. A few women claimed to have seen him. The governor tried everything he could to find the body. But it was nowhere to be found. More people began to claim to have seen him, and the days continued to go by. The governor gave up looking for the body.

The body was gone.

Jesus had risen from the dead.

He was who he said he was!

And we can have everlasting life because he is the perfect Passover lamb who took away the sins of the world.

100th Post Jamberry Giveaway!

Jamberry nail wraps are pretty cool- all you have to do is order a kit, apply it at home, and forget about ugly chipping nail polish. Sound great? Well guess what? To celebrate 3rd Culture Wife’s 100th post, you could get one for free!

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You may not know that Ben and I founded a 501(c)(3) nonprofit a few years ago. It’s called Bariki Africa, which means “Blessing Africa” in Swahili. We raise funds to support the education of village kids in Africa. If you want to know more, you can visit our website.

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Me at the Kampande Village school in 2013

 

Due to paperwork complication and our international move, we were unable to do our spring fundraiser this year, which is a 5K race/fun run in Phoenix, Arizona. But don’t worry, Phoenix friends, it’s still happing this fall!

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A student leads the class in reading practice

 

Instead of a race, our wonderful intern, Mandy, came up with a great idea for an alterative fundraiser: a Jamberry Nails Party! She’s generously giving the organization 100% of the proceeds to her unique Africa designed nail stickers and 30% of her overall commission. That will translate into a whole lot of free lunches for the impoverished kids in the schools we support!

To join the party, you can visit the Bariki Africa Jammin Fundraiser on Facebook.

To win a free Jamberry Nails Kit, go to the Fundraiser Facebook page, find the design you like best, and comment here to tell me your email address and which one you like. Comments will not be published. A random winner will be chosen and notified on March 30, 2016.

We’d also love it if you’d support the village kids by purchasing a kit for yourself or as a gift. A little money goes a long way in East Africa, so your contribution can make a huge difference to a child.

The Trainless Island

What do you do when you have twelve kids who love trains but have never seen a real one? You take them on a train ride, of course!

The island of Saint Martin doesn’t have a train, but the kids from Player Development SXM know a lot about them anyway. Each day, these boys and girls gather on the little league field to practice for baseball games and improve their academic skills. Many days, my friends and I join them to help with reading and math or coaching.

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When practice and homework is done, the kids run inside the repurposed shipping container that serves as their clubhouse to play with their favorite toy: the model train set.

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The kids are excited, because this summer, they get to ride a real train. In August, they’ll be packing their bags for the long trip to Toronto, where many dreams will come true. They get to watch a Blue Jays game, see Niagara falls, play against a Canadian little league team, and ride a real train for the first time. For their homework, some of the kids have written about their hopes for the upcoming adventure:

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For many of the kids, this will be their first time off the 37 square-mile island.

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Many of the kids dream of being a pro ball player, and this will be the first time they get to witness a major-league game.

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This is a really big deal for them.

The logo for the team is, of course, a train. Coach Tom asked me to design it for the team, and my friend Andrea made it into a t-shirt for the kids to wear during the trip.

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Like it? You can actually buy one for yourself, or send one to one of our kids! All the proceeds of the purchase also go toward the kids’ plane tickets. Make a difference for these kids. Click here!

 

A Homestead/Historical Breakfast

Here’s a Foodie Tuesday from the blog Homesteading 101.

For us, history is very much a part of why we homestead. We have a strong tie to the land where we live and to the history of our ancestors who lived and worked here before us. We still do many of the things that they did during daily life. Making certain foods is obviously […]

http://homesteading101.net/2016/03/23/a-homesteadhistorical-breakfast/

First Day of School (Again)

“So, what grade are you in?” the well-meaning youth pastor asked me, intending to invite me to high-school group. Ah, the familiar curse of eternal youthfulness. I smiled and explained that I’m actually in my twenties, swallowing the urge to snidely reply, “Seventeenth.”

Today, I can truly say that I am indeed in seventeenth grade; or, as it is better known, the first year of my master’s degree. Today is my first day of school, and I feel just like I did when I started my first day of kindergarten.

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Part of the reason that I’m so excited to start school again is that it does not involve any math this time. Can I get a hallelujah? The other part is that I get to study something that I enjoy and that I see as significantly impactful to the world. I’m earning an MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies from the University of London International. The training will equip me to work with refugees, NGOs, and governments to be a part of the solution for people experiencing forced migration.

I don’t have a lot of experience working with refugees (a few days of volunteering at refugee events in Phoenix, a summer in East Africa, and many conversations with friends and family who have been displaced), but I’ve seen enough overseas and in my own hometown to show me the reality of the refugee situation and the great need for more workers in the refugee protection field.

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Photo Source: Rwandajournal

 

It’s a hard field in many ways, because you’re working with humans and not hard facts. This is one time when I do think math would be easier, because you either have the right answer or you don’t. Not so when you’re working with refugees. Often their wellbeing depends on what you do, there’s not one right answer when it comes to handling victims of conflict, and it’s often easier to see the right choice in retrospect. Just look at the knots that the Syrian refugee crises has put so many governments into. The U.S. is completely divided on how to handle the potential influx of immigrants. Europe is learning how to accept the change that a new population will bring. NGOs are working to protect people who have nowhere to go, and wicked people are doing everything they can to take advantage of their vulnerability. Somewhere in that mess, there are refugee experts working hard to make sure the displaced people are protected and resettled. It’s messy, it’s painful, and it’s amazing. I want to be in the middle of the chaos and the hurt and be a part of the solution.

I used to always ask God why I was born in a safe, privileged place. Why me, when so many people who are better than I am are born into places of suffering?  I eventually stopped asking Him why and started asking what. I don’t know if we’ll ever come up with an answer as to why God lets some people have more privileged lives than others. But I do think He gives us a very clear answer about what we can do with the opportunities we have. Sometime during my college days at Arizona Christian University, I heard a chapel speaker or a professor talk about pressing into places of pain. And it clicked with me. I can use my relatively painless existence to enter places of pain and suffering and “bring heaven down to places of Hell on earth,” as writer Palmer Chinchen puts it. That’s what I really want to do with my degree. I want to learn how to work at the highest level to alleviate that suffering as quickly as possible. I want to bring the messy warmth of humanity to the coldness of political policy. But most of all, I want to learn how I can enter into someone’s place of suffering and walk with them to the end.

To be honest, I don’t know what that looks like or feels like yet. I’m just sitting here at my kitchen table with my dog at my feet, first online assignment of my first class completed and an empty teacup next to me. I can’t image the realities of the things I’ll be studying over the next few weeks. I can’t picture what my life will look like in ten years when I finally get to get my hands dirty and do some real work with real issues and real people in East Africa. All I know is that for the next two years of my life, I’ll progress in my education, one step at a time, toward that unknown place. All I can do today is the task set in front of me.

It’s the first school day of many.

 

Tradition! Tradition!

And who does Mama teach to mend and tend and fix,
Preparing me to marry whoever Papa picks?

The daughter, the daughter! Tradition!
The daughter, the daughter! Tradition!

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In my family, “Tradition!” means seeing a high-quality stage performance every year with my mom and sister. When I was little, we’d see the short version of The Nutcracker Ballet at Christmas time. Over the years, our tradition changed from the long version of the Nutcracker to any Christmas play, to matinee performances of fine theater, to dinners at the Arizona Broadway Theater. This year, we doubled the traditional value of our girls’ night out and saw ABT’s performance of Fiddler on the Roof, a family favorite for three generations.

If you’ve never seen it, Fiddler on the Roof is the story of Jewish family in pre-revolution Russia. Reb Tevya, his wife, and his five daughters walk a fine line between the tension of a changing society under the czars and the centuries-old traditional order of Jewish life. Tevya’s oldest daughter breaks tradition by choosing her own husband. He allows it. His second daughter breaks tradition by not only choosing her own husband, but choosing a man who with progressive ideology. He blesses it. The third daughter crosses the line by eloping with a Russian Orthodox Christian soldier. Tevya is forced to decide whether his relationship with his daughters or tradition is most important.

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The story gives an interesting perspective on family, religion, and culture. The soundtrack is excellent! We still have my grandpa’s old record of the score.

What’s that? You say you’ve never seen it? What! Why are you still reading this? By all means, open a new browser window and reserve the movie at your nearest public library!

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You’re back? You reserved it? Wonderful! You won’t be disappointed. We certainly weren’t disappointed by the live performance. The characters seemed to have stepped right out of history or the screen of the movie version.

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The performance of Fiddler at ABT is going to be very hard to beat. However, I have a feeling that the next stage production that we see may be even better. Next on our playbill is Phantom of the Opera on Broadway in New York City. Stay tuned for a blog post on Phantom, coming soon to a 3rd Culture Wife blog near you.

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