Last week, my friends Taylor and Bethany came to visit. While they were here, they treated Ben and I to a special dinner. Since food is expensive here, and we don’t often buy meat or certain fruits and veggies, they gave us the gift of yummy by taking me shopping and buying me groceries for an awesome meal.
We decided to make one of Ben’s favorites: meat sauce on rice, Africa style. Well, sort of. We didn’t have any curry powder. But I improvised, and it turned out great!
A couple pounds of beef
Oil for frying
4 oz of tomato sauce
2 T pilau masala
1 T of garlic
1 t of ground ginger
1/4 cup corn starch
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups Chicken broth (or bouillon cube and water)
Cut the meat into one-inch cubes. Slice onions.
Heat oil in a frying pan. Fry onions until translucent. Remove from pan.
Fry meat until thoroughly cooked.
Add spices to meat and stir.
Add tomato sauce, water/broth, and onions. Allow to simmer.
Slowly whisk in corn starch until sauce is thick.
Serve sauce over rice. Pair with tropical fruit and salad. Enjoy!
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!
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.
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!
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 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 Comments will not be published.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.
This is the easiest and fastest East African food I’ve found so far.
My sister, who’s a junior at Arizona Christian University, is working on a project on Burundi for her geography class. Burundi is a tiny African nation near Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania. It also happens to be the country where my husband, Ben, was born. Of course, she and her project partners interviewed Ben as their expert on Burundi.
She also asked me for a recipe to bring to class, so I sent her directions to make chapati and mandazi. However, those take a long time, so I thought I’d write up a recipe for something a little quicker: chips mayai.
Chips mayai is basically a french fry omelette. It’s a popular street food from Tanzania that is also easy to find in surrounding countires. You can make it from scratch, but this is the busy college student version.
-Frozen french fries
-Oil (palm oil is the most authentic)
Thaw your french fries.
Heat a generous amount of oil in a frying pan. Cook fries until hot.
Beat eggs (eggs and fries should be 2:1 ratio) and add a little milk, salt, and pepper.
Pour eggs in pan. Allow to cook over medium-high heat until the bottom is cooked. Flip over. It’s fine if it’s messy once flipped.
Cook thouroughly and remove from heat. Serve with ketchup.
Today’s blog post is a special guest post from Gabriela, a Third Culture Kid living in Kenya. Enjoy– and don’t forget to like and share!
Having lived in four different states (having traveled to most of the fifty of them), been in six different countries (not counting airports), and lived on two different continents in my 17 years of life, I don’t have a culture to call my own. This is what makes a third culture kid (TCK) different: we make our own culture. I might have a name that is in English, Gabriela Reincheld, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m totally American. As a TCK, I take parts of different cultures and shape them into my own worldview. At the moment, I’m a senior in high school at a Christian boarding school called Rift Valley Academy in Kenya. My parents are missionaries and teach here. I love it. This school is so awesome because all of the kids here are TCKs, like me. For a while, my parents were dorm parents for ninth and tenth grade boys where Ben Johnson was one of my dorm brothers. It was awesome having twenty older brothers and my one younger sister. Over the years, I have learned so much through living in Kenya, while having more of a Western mindset.
In March, I had the privilege of going on a cultural trip for school to a place off the coast of Kenya called Chale Island, where I would be studying Reef Ecology for one week. With a total of about 30 high schoolers and six adults, we had been traveling for nine hours by bus…you can imagine how that was. On our way to Chale, we were winding down a dusty narrow road surrounded by a vast forest. We came across an incident where a semi-truck was tipped over and we had to help flip it back over in order to keep going. The long drive from central Kenya to the coast usually takes about 9 hours, but for us it was 12. You never know what awaits you on these adventures…this is Africa. Although it was a long and tiring trip, it was worth it.
We spent the next week in paradise. One thing that interested me was how pollution is destroying the environment and the natural habitats in the ocean. We got to have hands on experience by picking up 1516 kg of plastic on a 200 meter stretch of a deserted beach. Also, we learned about the different types of sea-life in the Indian Ocean and discussed how we can see God working in this environment. It was amazing to see how a tiny brown jellyfish can make a group of students laugh through their snorkels while tapping its top.
Lastly, I must brag and say living in Kenya has its perks. Although we often have droughts and there are still internally displaced people (IDP) from the 2008 election, there is still beauty and joy found in this country. The people with less materialistic values are the ones you can see the most joy in. Whenever I visit orphanages and the IDP camps, I never cease to be amazed at their joy. God is continuing to work here and it’s awesome how he reveals his majesty.
Those of us in the expat/foreign student category can name a lot of reasons why we chose to live overseas. I’m sure the most common answer is “I wanted to experience a different culture.” We talk about the people we interact with, the things we see, the food we eat. But reasons why one benefits from life overseas goes so far beyond just the obvious, beyond the great Instagram moments and the postcards home. Here is a list of some of the reasons why I think living overseas is great.
Less choice in the grocery store
The water goes out now and then
Frustrating cultural nuances
Fewer people you can relate to
That whole confusing English-metric conversion problem
It’s not as safe
Pause. You’re wondering, why are these positive things? Aren’t these some of the reasons why most people never move internationally? Probably. But I would argue that they are also some of the best things that you will experience while living overseas.
Power outages are arguably the most annoying part of my daily life. We have weeks where the power stays on for days at a time and other weeks where I spend three hours every afternoon with no power– thus no internet, no AC, no cooking. The whole island is on the same power grid, so if something goes out, the whole island suffers. This is with the exception of the medical school, which has its own reliable generator. Our apartment, however, is at the mercy of the power grid. While it bugs me, this has made my life better in a few ways. First, it teaches me to be more flexible. If I have plans that require power, they have to change. That’s all there is to it. My attitude doesn’t change the fact that we have to eat cereal for dinner. But I can choose to have an enjoyable bowl of cereal by iPhone light or to have a miserable cereal dinner by iPhone light. I’m learning to go with the flow. Secondly, lack of technology forces me to look around and remember all the other thing I can do! Reading, games, art… sometimes it’s good to take away the digital options! Also, the power outages bring us together. We all open our doors to let cooler air in, drop in to a neighbor’s apartment to see if we blew a fuse or if the power is out everywhere, and stop to have conversations.
2. Fewer options in the grocery store.
Personally, I like this because it make shopping quicker. With fewer brands and options, I can pick choose what I need and move on. It also makes my cooking more basic and my cupboards less crowded. I know what my staples are, I know what they ought to cost, and I know what I can make from them. Easy.
3. The water goes out now and then
Honestly, I really don’t like this. It’s gross to have dirty dishes pile up in the sink. It has, however, taught me to prepare and have a few jugs of water in case of emergency. Also, it makes me grateful for having running water at all. It makes me respect people who don’t have running water and work hard to make life work without it.
4. Language barrier
I interact daily with people who speak English, French, Dutch, Spanish, and/or Mandarin. Most people here speak enough English that I can communicate with them. My biggest struggle, honestly, is the heavily-accented Caribbean English that many people use. It’s terrible, but I struggle to understand foreign accents. It’s embarrassing. I have so many uncomfortable moments in buses and at stores! I’m grateful for this, though. It teaches me to go out of my comfort zone and learn to communicate. It forces me to assimilate my ears to local speech. Someday, when I move to a country without much English, I’ll be forced to learn to communicate on a whole new level. The result of this will be learning a new language. And that, of course, is a wonderful thing!
5. Transportation issues
We have decided to live here without a car. I am so grateful for my friends who have cars and take me to the store and everywhere else I go! Besides those who let me grab a ride, my only other option is a bus. We live in Cupecoy, an area with mostly resorts and dining and few locals. Therefore, the taxis come often but the buses are unpredictable. If I want to go somewhere by myself, my options are to wait as long as it takes for a bus to come or walk a mile through a golf course along the road to Maho, where buses come more often. I usually choose the golf course. Once on the bus, getting somewhere is not too bad. I did have a bus driver make me get out in the middle of traffic and then holler at me for not standing in the middle of the road to close the door. Other than that, it’s been alright. Certainly less convenient than having my own car. But in many ways, it’s better. First of all, I get to spend time with my friends when we carpool. I love that. Secondly, when I bus it, I get to be a part of normal life on the island. I meet people I’d otherwise never meet. I get to talk to the bus driver and hear his or her story. I get to learn island etiquette better. Want to be a local and not a long-term tourist? Take the bus.
6. Frustrating cultural nuances
I took a few intercultural courses in undergrad. I remember that we once played a game representing a foreigner in a new culture. We were told some of the rules, but not all of them. We had to figure out the rest based on the behavior and reactions of the players who knew all the rules. That really is what it’s like when you live in a foreign culture. People tell you the obvious differences, but not the more subtle ones. You can let this drive you nuts or you can treat it like a puzzle to be solved. In the process, you’ll get some weird looks, maybe even some dirty looks, but you’ll also build relationships. Come in as a learner, with smiles and shrugs and apologies, and people will often be willing to laugh with you and help you learn. Expand your comfort zone! Step out into new boundaries, and enjoy making those mistakes and earning those little cultural victories. In Sint Maarten, locals greet each other formally with “good morning” or “good afternoon” as soon as they enter a new place. It has (finally) become a habit for me, and I’ve had great conversations with the local employees at AUC and people around town because I’m more capable of communicating respect the way they do.
Just because you seem to have absolutely nothing in common with another person doesn’t mean you can’t learn to relate to them. Widening your definition of what it means to connect with another person allows more people into your life. Diversity is a good thing! Expand your horizons. One thing I love about living here is that most of my acquaintances are from vastly different backgrounds than my own. I can learn so much.
8. That whole confusing English-metric conversion problem
Thanks, America, for having a complicated measurement system that is entirely different from the rest of the world! I’m still not sure this is actually a benefit. And I do love my dual-system measuring cup. However, I think I will be forced into learning how to operate in either system– and maybe even be able to do rough conversions in my head.
9. It’s not as safe
During my rather limited international travel experiences, people in the U.S. have often fretted to me, “But it’s not safe!” “Africa is not safe!” “What if you get malaria?” “Why would you move out of the country? Isn’t that unsafe?” Even, “Be careful of those Islams over there.” I know they mean well but… really? This American obsession with safety is why schools have to have a specific number of inches between the wood chips and the seat of a swing or risk being written up by a safety inspector. To be honest, I’m not too worried about foreign diseases, all my Muslim friends and acquaintances are pretty cool people, and sometimes “safe” is boring. Why else do people jump out of airplanes for fun? I think the biggest thing here is redefining “safe.” In the U.S., we work so hard to stay safe and secure– we probably tend to go overboard, actually. Even so, the U.S. isn’t really safe. I grew up in the city with the highest national percentage of kidnappings per capita. We have all heard the tragic news about recent school shootings across the country. And some freak on the I-10 spent the better part of September lodging bullets in other peoples’ cars. Now, I live in a the region of the world with second-highest AIDS rate. There is a bar down the street where someone got stabbed last year. Muggings sometimes happen on the golf course at night. Also, all weapons are illegal on the Dutch side of the island, so I can’t even carry mace or a pocket knife to defend myself. That makes me feel uncomfortable. Is it safe? No, but neither is Phoenix.
I realize that many places in the world are extremely dangerous. There are places with rampant disease, war, religious radicals on extremist jihad, and many other dangers. There are places you would not bring your children to live. There are places it is not wise for many of us to go. I think that there are times, however, that we just have to place our lives in God’s hands and follow Him wherever He asks us to go. For some of us, part of the process of trusting Him is putting ourselves in a place that frightens us. What would the world look like had the Pilgrims, David Livingstone, Florence Nightingale, or St. Patrick been afraid to go where it was unsafe? Where would we be without the men and women in the armed forces who are willing to leave their homes to keep our nation secure? Stepping out a place of security helps us to redefine our priorities in life and to destroy unnecessary fear.
Whether you’re in Sint Maarten battling with a bad attitude about the electricity, in North Africa risking it all to help others, or in the United States stepping out of your comfort zone to engage your neighbor from a different culture, we all have something to learn from our circumstances. Whether you’re living at home or abroad, don’t take the little things for granted. Everything that comes our way can shape who we are.
Here’s a special post written by my husband, Ben. This is his story.
A single set of car headlights could be seen bobbing up and down on a remote dirt road at midnight. Our jeep jolted over every bump as it raced through the night. My parents were driving me to Heri Adventist Hospital in remote Tanzania. I had appendicitis and needed immediate attention. My only hope was a surgeon named Dr. Alvin Rocero, the only person within hundreds of miles that could perform such a surgery. The journey was not a comfortable one, and each bump caused a sharp pain in my lower abdomen.
After several hours, we arrived and Dr. Rocero was there to meet us. We were so grateful that he and his team were willing to receive us so late at night. The staff performed the necessary blood tests and confirmed that I had an elevated white blood cell count. I remember being wheeled into the operating room and after the anesthetic, blackness.
I awoke the next morning, blurry eyed and confused, but grateful to be alive. The appendectomy had been successful. A four inch incision, complete with stitches, marked the lower right side of my abdomen, since the materials for a laparoscopic appendectomy were not available in rural Tanzania. As I lay there in the hospital, I watched the medical staff come and go. I saw the incredible needs that they met with limited personnel and equipment. I saw the love with which they served people they did not even know, treating each patient with the utmost care.
Five months later, I injured my knee while playing rugby at my boarding school in Kijabe, Kenya. I underwent a successful arthroscopic surgery at Kijabe Mission Hospital. Unfortunately, thirty minutes after the operation, I began to get a severe headache. The pain escalated until it was unbearable. I do not remember what happened after that, but the hospital staff said that my fever spiked and I slipped into a coma. My condition worsened by the minute, and the doctors thought that I was going to die. They called my parents, telling them to get on the next flight from Tanzania to Kenya because they did not think that I was going to survive. However, they performed a spinal tap and discovered that my cerebral spinal fluid was a milky color. Doctor Myrick immediately suspected meningitis and started me on intravenous antibiotics. His quick decision saved my life. Thirty minutes after they administered the antibiotics, I snapped out of the coma and began to recover.
In the span of six months, I had endured much pain and suffering and almost died twice. It had not only affected me physically, but also mentally and emotionally. I realized how fragile life is and how quickly it can be lost. As I recovered in those mission hospitals, I had ample time to reflect on this and to observe the personnel who worked there. They had not only administered to me with loving care but also to everyone else. These people dealt with stressful situations every day. They were either paid too little or not at all. Many of them had sacrificed lucrative practices in the United States to come and voluntarily serve thousands of medically underprivileged people. Yet, they treated each patient with the dignity and respect that every human life deserves. Just because the services were free or at expense costs did not mean that they did the bare minimum. These people went above and beyond. They saw me. Not just whether I needed another antibiotic injection, or an IV bag, but they saw the trauma that I had gone through. They took compassion on me. They would talk to me to make sure that I was doing OK. They noticed when I was confused about something and clarified it until I understood. They exhibited the often-forgotten part of caring for people—to actually care about them. Many medical professionals can easily give a good first impression based on their physical appearance. However, all of that can be quickly forgotten if they are aloof, uncaring, and insensitive. People want to know that doctors care. They want to see it in tangible ways. It is a life-long journey of learning how to become a more compassionate and caring healthcare provider. I believe that is what separates the great doctors from the mediocre doctors.
Living through these experiences inspired me to become a doctor, a compassionate and caring doctor. I want to be a physician who can care for physical ailments and conditions, but also someone who can empathize with the hurt, the confusion, the pain, the stress, the unknown, the chaos, the unfair, and the loss that patients in hospitals experience every single day. There will be many tough cases that I will face daily. There will be many demands that are placed on me. People will be difficult. Patients will be ungrateful. Technology will become frustrating. Co-workers will not cooperate. Even though all of these things will happen, I will choose every single day to see the needs of people, not just their physical needs, but their emotional and spiritual needs as well. I want to comfort the person who is crying, to acknowledge the one who feels lonely, and to clarify when I see confusion in someone’s eyes. I want to be there when someone’s world is falling apart. Being a compassionate and caring doctor is a lifelong process. It is part of being a true professional; a professional who cares.
We’re about a month from our move to St. Maarten! We already have an apartment ready for us to move into when we land. We’ll be living in Rising Sun Apartments, a two minute walk from Ben’s medical school and a five minute walk from the beach. It is a one-bedroom and is 490 square feet, bigger than our current apartment, which is nice! It’s also almost twice as expensive, which you have to expect from a touristy island where nearly all the area’s apartments are owned by one single company. I’m planning to fix it up like a beach cottage and get crafty with shells and rocks that I find on the beach. Our place is close to the airport and also conveniently near to two or three shopping centers. We don’t plan to have a car– shipping our Kia would not be worth it, so we’re selling it to my sister. Public transport on the island is supposed to be pretty good, anyway. We don’t use public transport in Phoenix– the city is so spread out that the bus system is not as effective as it is in other big cities. Getting used to using buses will be a new adventure! We liked using buses when we were in the Bahamas last summer. I wonder if it will be similar.
Here is a video that shows the sights of St. Maarten. You can get a feel for where we’ll be living if you watch this. We will NOT, however, be sandblasted by jets landing and taking off near Maho Beach! Not our idea of fun… we’ll be surfing.
I am a third-culture wife. I’m not a third-culture kid. I’ve never lived overseas, never been immersed into a new, semi-permanent cultural setting, never learned a second language out of necessity. I can’t tell you what it means to say good-bye to home and friends for the twelfth time. The longest I’ve spent overseas is seven weeks in East Africa—long enough to get a taste of the world, but not long enough to get homesick. I have never experienced these things, but I know their effects onone’s heart and soul. I know the heart-wrenching farewell to a loved one. I know the delight of finding that rare person who has visited your hometown or who can speak your second (or third) language. I know the silent shudder triggered by fireworks, reminders of the sound of bombs and gunshots. I know these things not because I am a third-culture kid, but because I am a third-culture wife. This is my story, and the story of my adventures at home and abroad.
Those of you who are TCKs or are close to one know that there is so much more to a TCK than is initially obvious to the rest of us. Some of you may be wondering, what is a TCK? A Third-Culture Kid is anyone who has spent at least two years (roughly) before the age of 18 in a country other than the parents’ home country. This excludes immigrants who stay in the host country/ receive citizenship in the new country, although these individuals can certainly relate to much of what a TCK experiences. A TCK is generally expected to return to his or her parents’ home country. Third-Culture Kids include missionary kids, NGO kids, military kids, and any other expat kid. The Third Culture is the culture that all these people share. It is a unique culture. While most cultures include people of similar background, ethnic background, history, and language, the Third-Culture includes people from a variety of backgrounds: a Korean missionary kid in Kenya, and American military kid in Japan, a British NGO kid in Ecuador. In fact, this diversity is what defines the Third Culture. The Third Culture is characterized by mobility, adaptively, and change. The TCK shapes the third-culture individuals and deeply influences the way that they see themselves, others, and the world. Third-Culture Kids are, in my experience, some of the most compassionate, fascinating, and complex people in the world. I am glad to have several as friends and I blessed beyond measure to be married to one.