Tag Archives: airplane

And We Have a Winner!

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Guess what came today!

That’s right– Caribbean Dream by Rachel Isadora. Last week, I announced a giveaway contest for this book. Today it’s time to announce this winner!

By the way– I bought this book. I didn’t receive it as an incentive for the giveaway. I just like the book and thought you might like it, too!

On Tuesday, I’m going to give it and a couple other similar books to the local kids I tutor for their little league library. I’m looking forward to reading it with them.

And now, without further ado, congratulations to our winner….

…..Octavia Carpenter!

Be looking in your mailbox for your copy of this book!

***

This book isn’t the only thing that arrived on the island of Saint Maarten today.

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At 2:43 pm, this Delta flight soared over Sunset Beach and touched down on Dutch Caribbean soil. I watched it taxi from my friend’s house on the hill and strained my eyes to see the passengers exiting the plane. Finally I saw them… my mom, my dad and my sister! I’m so excited to spend the next week with them here. Tune in soon to hear about our Caribbean Christmas adventures!

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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.

Dear American Tourists

Dear American Tourists, please stop being so rude.

It is no secret that American tourists do not have the best international reputation. I am an American. I live on a Dutch island in the Caribbean, where my husband goes to medical school. We were asked during orientation to be courteous and not perpetuate the poor reputation American tourists have. I do not think of myself as a rude person. I think most Americans do not. I have noticed, however, that in every country I have ever visited, “the locals are so friendly.” Maybe I have only traveled to friendly places. Maybe not. Maybe, everywhere else seems so friendly because America is generally not very friendly at all.

So what is our problem? Why don’t people like us, and what can we do to change that?

I would say that many things are cultural. People have different ideas of how to greet one another (one friend here said that he was sternly corrected for saying “hello” rather than “good morning,” which is proper here). People have different standards of eye contact. People have different rules for tipping, eating, asking for directions, etc etc.

There are some things that you can control when it comes to cultural courtesy. You can Google whether tips are expected or insulting in a certain area of the world. You can ask what a proper greeting entails. You can watch to see whether greeting strangers as you pass is considered kind or creepy.

There are also some things that you cannot control. You will not pick up on the majority of cultural nuances. You will trespass because you are used to signs designating private property. You will shake hands “wrong.” It happens. People probably won’t care too much; they will hear your accent and realize you are foreign. They will probably ignore it or laugh a little. They might become annoyed, but, hey, you’re learning.

Finally, there are things that are very rude no matter where you are. Dear American tourists, please do not do these things.

Please do not act as if you are better than other people. Your taxi driver and your waiter are not there for you to unload your grouchy jet-lagged crabfest upon. And just because people do things differently than you would does not mean it is “wrong.” It’s just, well, different.

Please do not act as though America is superior to all other nations. We Americans all love the stars and stripes, and that’s a good thing! However, people don’t want to hear a string of comparisons that belittle their own beloved nation. America is a culture where things are dichotomistic, time-oriented, and efficient. Most places aren’t like that. So don’t freak out when things are relaxed, confusing to you, or just plain irritating. If you wanted things to be American, you would have stayed in America. So enjoy the culture, embrace it while you’re there, and look for the good aspects.

Please do not be ethnocentric. No matter where you come from, it’s easy to place anyone different from yourself in the category of “Other.” You know what I mean, those Other people. The ones who look or dress or work or speak differently. I think that if we aren’t careful, we often look at people who are different from ourselves as less intelligent, less skilled, less important. You see a woman in a third-world county who is illiterate and does not work outside the home, and has never touched a computer. You may have more education and technical skills, but can you keep eight kids clothed, fed, and healthy in a two-room mudbrick home with no electricity, no water, and no stove? Can you sort rice so that not one tiny stone ends up in the pot? Can you carry 50 pounds of stuff on your head with no hands? Do you speak three languages? Can you keep a garden that supplies most if not all vegetable needs for your family, plus provides a little income? That, my friends, takes some serious skill. Some things are easy to miss. Learn to appreciate them. And just simply LEARN! Don’t go somewhere expecting to be a guru of all knowledge. (Shout out to short-term missions trip people here.) If you want to teach, you must first be a student. You will get more respect if you are willing to ask to be taught. Plus, it’s fun. It’s an icebreaker. It brings much laughter.

Please do not devalue other nations’ autonomy. I cringed when I heard an American tourist say, “The Bahamas should just be another state. It’s basically just part of the U.S. anyway.” How uninformed. Please, Mr. Florida Guy. You visit Touristville where half the people are white and everyone speaks English, and suddenly you think you know everything about the nation! My advice is, forget the tourist traps and take a local taxi or bus to the places that the locals hang out. Then you can get a feel for how people live. Learn about their government and read about the very intelligent people who run the state. There’s so much more to a place than just its American-catering tourist industry.

Please do not offend the locals by the way you dress. There are places where a bikini is pretty standard. There are places where you really ought to cover up, even arms and legs. Know the difference. There is no reason to exercise your liberty to dress revealingly if it gives you, your organization, and your country a bad name.

Please be mindful when you take photos. In some places, you can get your camera confiscated if you take a photo of the wrong thing (military or police in some countries). In others, people simply don’t want to be in your scrapbook. In general, don’t objectify locals as if they were some interesting foreign specimen.

Please do not be pushy. Yes, you come from a place where you can get pretty much whatever you want almost as fast as you want it. When traveling abroad, be mindful that this is rarely the case. Do not intimidate, complain, or demand. Rather, be smart and be respectful.

Please just be kind and courteous. In the end, people know you’re a visitor. They expect you to be, well, a weirdo. However, it is possible to be a courteous weirdo. Say please and thank you, smile, treat people the way you would like to be treated. Kindness counts, and it can go a long way in improving our international reputation.

A One-Way Ticket

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Our last Arizona sunset

Today is the day! We were up until the wee hours last night packing our bags, and somehow spent almost the entire day today finishing our moving preparations. It’s hard to explain the emotions of moving away from home for the first time ever. Maybe that’s because it hasn’t really sunk in yet. Right now, I’m sitting at our gate with an hour to go until takeoff. I’ll have fourteen hours to process this huge change once we are in the air.

I’m excited but sad. I’m excited because I’ve been looking forward to an adventure in the great wide world for so long, but sad because of those I’m leaving behind. Someone recently asked me what God has been teaching me through this process. One of the biggest things He’s taught me is to place less value on the things I can buy and more value on the things I can’t. In other words, I’ve learned to appreciate people even more through this move. I’ve always been thankful for the people in my life, but now so more than ever. It’s been one of the most bittersweet lessons I’ve ever learned, because I’m now moving far away from those same people. There have been so many goodbyes this month. The hardest of them happened just ten minutes ago, when I said good-bye to my family at the entrance to airport security.

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     The past few weeks have been so wonderful. We have been absolutely showered by love from friends and family. We’ve had so many encouraging notes and words given to us, so many gifts, so much generosity. My parents opened their home to us when our lease expired at the end of July. Our church gave us a special send-off prayer and blessing. Even one of the little girls in our Sunday school class brought me homemade jewelry on our last day of teaching. We’ve also had so many fun things to do. I’ve loved our “Arizona Adventures,” exploring points of interest around the state. I’ve loved our babysitting jobs for kids from the school I worked at last year. I haven’t loved the heat, but I did use that to my advantage (My sister and I baked cookies on the dashboard of my car last week).

The next few weeks will be wonderful, too. We have a week and a half before Ben’s classes start, and we have a whole island to explore– Spanish ruins, beaches, surfing, new food. I have lots of plans, but hardly any idea of what to expect! You know how you plan so much for Christmas that you hardly remember that December 26 exists? That’s how I feel right now. I’ve come to the culmination, to the end of my knowledge, and now I don’t know what comes next! I suppose that’s part of the adventure. I’ll find out what comes next when our plane touches down. Until then…

Plane Tickets and Packing

We are officially set to move to St. Maarten! We have plane tickets for August 18, Ben’s medical tests are done, our letters of good standing are filed away with the school, and all the little checklist items have been completed. Our move itself is relatively inexpensive. Our total cost for two one-way tickets is under $500. Since we can’t take a moving van with us, we won’t have that expense, and we decided to leave our car here rather than take it with us. We get to bring two 50-lb suitcases each, so anything we want will have to fit in those and in our carry-ons and personal items.

The last two or three weeks have been filled with sorting, planning, purchasing and preparing. We only owned one large suitcase, so we went to Goodwill (actually, four Goodwills) and bought three more. Our total was about $45 for all three, and they are strong and in good shape. I love second-hand stores.

Our first course of action in preparing to leave our apartment was to declutter it entirely. Don’t you hate moving and sorting through unused junk at the same time? I thought I had decluttered my stuff when we got married and moved in to this apartment a year ago. Turns out I was wrong. Apparently, I have saved every single bank receipt since I was seven–and categorized them by month in envelopes. Same with pay stubs since I started a regular job as a college freshman. I also saved and organized all my college notes, assignments, and syllabuses by class and semester.  By the time I went through all of that and all the random papers stuffed in between books on the bookshelf, our trash and shred piles were enormous. We managed to condense our giant accordion folder into one and a half tiny ones. Fortunately, we also found some long-lost important paperwork that we needed.

     After we went through our papers, we went through the rest of our random stuff- you know, the kind of stuff that ends up being shifted from the bookshelf to the table to under the bed to the closet and back to the bookshelf? That stuff you can’t do anything with but can’t get rid of? As it turns out, we actually could get rid of most of it. It’s amazing how much stuff I thought I needed until I started planning to move overseas. We also wrote down everything that was left and decided what we would do with it– sell it, give it or donate it, store it at my parents’ house, or take it with us. The list of what we’ll actually need to take is quite short. It mostly consists of books and clothing. The stuff we’re storing is the stuff we can’t take, but will use to set up house again when we return to the States, such as our dishes, bedding, and that kind of thing, as well as things we got as wedding gifts that are too big or too heavy to take with us.

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Books! These some of the ones we’re keeping.
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So many piles of books.

Speaking of books, we also went through those. My books are my friends, so it was hard to say goodbye to so many of them (but not nearly as hard as it will be to say goodbye to our human friends). We packed up about half our books to sell or give away (I kid you not- half of our books). I think I also still have a nice collection of Bible commentaries at my parents’ house, but I don’t count that because it hasn’t been in our apartment. Besides, Ben has Logos software, which contains most of the best scholarly Bible study materials anyway, so print books aren’t really necessary. They’re too heavy to move, and an iPad isn’t (I hate to write that– I’m still a supporter of pages. I love pages far more than screens). Perhaps there also comes a point when a book may be good, but if I’m really not going to read it again, and probably won’t loan it to anyone because it’s not quite that good, then I really don’t need it anymore. Share the love; sell it and let someone else enjoy it. Maybe that’s my attitude because I know I really don’t have a choice at this point; maybe I’ll be a book hoarder again when (if) we settle down and stay somewhere for a long while someday.

I had already gone through my clothing once, so I had (for the first time ever!) fewer clothes than Ben did. I had already sold or donated about 1/3 of my clothes, and I think that yesterday we probably got rid of half of what was left between his clothes and mine. We stuffed them all in a giant laundry bag, which Ben says weighs more than I do. According to minimalist websites and my own findings, all you really need for clothing is seven T-shirts, five nice shirts, a handful of dresses (unless you’re a guy… switch this for button-ups), a blazer and business skirt/dress pants, a sets of workout shorts, a pair of denim shorts, a pair of denim capris (or your favorite substitute), two pairs of jeans (one dark pair for dressing nice and one work pair), a few skirts if you’re a girl, one or two jackets, some warm things for cold climates (not sure what that entails, because I live in Phoenix) and enough socks and underwear to last a week or two. I actually kept a few more skirts and dresses than I need because I like them and they fit in the suitcase. In reality, what one REALLY needs for clothing looks nothing like this. You can survive on a lot less clothing, and most people in the world do.

If you are not interested in cutting down your wardrobe, come to our garage sale in July and take some of those clothes off our hands at a great price…

We packed our clothing suitcases yesterday, just to see what we could fit. All our clothes, plus shoes, cosmetics, and nail polish, fit into two suitcases weighing exactly 49 pounds each. Now we have two remaining suitcases, two carry-on bags, and two personal items to fill. We’re taking about 20-25 books, including some of Ben’s science textbooks, and I suppose we’ll decide later what things are most important to fill the last the space in our luggage.

Thanks for reading this long post! Maybe I’ve inspired some of you to take a weekend or two and declutter a bit. It’s amazing what we keep in our closets, bookshelves, and bedrooms that we really don’t need. Cleaning out the clutter is making our home more peaceful and our lives more simple. That is a great reward. Oh, and did I mention that we found almost $100 in the process? Now, if that doesn’t motivate you…