Tag Archives: TCK

East African Cooking: Chips Mayai

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. 

Ben being African: he climbed a tree to get this coconut and opened it with a rock.

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.

You need:

-Frozen french fries

-Eggs

-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.
 
Happy Burundian!

Advertisements

Eight Things TCKs Want from Their Friends

Do you have a friend who grew up overseas in an expat family? Have you ever wondered how you can better connect with them? Often, Third Culture Kids can be difficult to get close to. They’ve had drastically different experiences than people who grew up in their home culture. They get asked the same questions a thousand times and have developed rote answers. They don’t expect most people to understand their perspective and experience, so they avoid the frustration and don’t often try to explain it. Instead of asking the same old questions, try this instead.

  1. Ask them about their life journey, not where they’re from. And be interested in the answer. Don’t ask where they’re from and expect a single answer. They don’t have an answer to this question! This week, someone asked this question to my husband, Ben, who is a TCK. His answer? “That’s a good question.” Ben will usually answer this question based on the person’s apparent interest level. To casual inquirers, he says “Phoenix,” which is where we lived in the U.S. To people he’ll see again, he usually tells them he grew up in Africa. To people who really seem interested, he will explain that he was born in Burundi, grew up in Tanzania, went to high school in Kenya, and lived in Phoenix for college.

    Photo0146
    Ben and his friends in Tanzania
  2. Ask thoughtful questions. I wonder how many times TCKs have been asked if they rode elephants to school. Or if they speak African. Or if they had a pet lion. Or if they know someone’s cousins friend’s sister, who lives somewhere on the same continent. Nothing will shut down a conversation like a thoughtless question. Instead, ask a meaningful question about the TCKs life abroad: Where did you go for family vacation? What was your favorite sport when you were a kid? What did you do in your free time?

    IMG_1878
    Stevie at the source of the Nile
  3. Accept their life stories. When you’re sharing stories about childhood pets, and your TCK friend starts talking about the pet monkey or monitor lizard, just listen. Don’t make a snide remark about being shown up by your friend’s story. Don’t suggest that they’re bragging. They might be, but probably not. Remember that all they have are stories about cross-cultural life. While your normal was a suburban home, two cats, a dog, and a basketball hoop in the driveway, their normal was a cinder-block one-bedroom, a parrot and a herd of goats, and bilingual soccer games with a plastic-bag ball in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro.

    lizzie
    Lizzie feeding a giraffe
  4. Be patient with cultural nuances. TCKs have grown up with a variety of cultural expectations, and although they’ve become adept at being cultural chameleons, they don’t always know exactly what expectation belongs where. That funny pronunciation, the way they use their fork, the avoidance of eye contact with the opposite sex, the different concept of time… all of that can be attributed to culture. Don’t make fun of it or act like it’s stupid. Roll with it. Or, if you feel it should be corrected and you’re in a position to do so, explain it with respect.

    IMG_1182
    Zach on safari
  5. Make them your most trusted news source. TCKs get annoyed by Western media’s botched coverage of issues in their adopted countries. They get even more annoyed by people who trust the media more than their own experiences. Listen to your TCK friend explain the realities of their world, and believe them. You could never understand the issues better than they do simply by watching TV and reading a few articles.

    IMG_0421
    Ruthie and a Burundian drum
  6. Let them teach you to think globally. Culture is so pervasive that we often fail to recognize our own cultural tendencies. Be open minded to the global perspective of your TCK friend. At times, he or she will challenge your Western attitudes, philosophies, and perspectives.

    Photo0089
    Crossing the river
  7. Recognize that they have deeper experiences than you do. Your TCK friend is likely multilingual, has lived in three or more cultures, and has seen things you’ve only ever heard of. Bilingualism means they can communicate with more people, and with a greater framework for thought. Multiculturalism means that they have a more well-rounded view of the world. More varied experiences means they’ve seen much of the world, experienced social studies in real life, and likely have gone through some sort of trauma that you cannot identify with.

    DIGITAL CAMERA
    Maiden voyage on Lake Tanganyika
  8. Be the friend that sticks around. TCKs are familiar with good-byes. They’re used to people coming in and out of their lives, and they certainly don’t believe you when you say you’ll stay in touch. People rarely do. Be the friend who follows through. Write letters. Ask how they’re doing. Set up Skype dates.
    IMG_1422
    Ben’s zebra selfie

    Third culture kids, did I get it right? What else are you looking for in friendships?

Dreams of Tomorrow

I believe that every bad quality can become something positive. Stubborn people know how to stand their ground. Argumentative people make great lawyers. Messy kids grow up to be creative adults.

I always thought I was discontent. My parents gave me the opportunity to travel the United States (the plan is to visit every state before we die; I still have ten to go). Every time we went somewhere, I’d leave begging my dad from the back seat, “Can’t we just move here? Why can’t we live here? Wouldn’t it be cool to live by Such and Such National Park? Wouldn’t it be cool to get RAIN sometimes? The baseball team here is so much better than the Diamondbacks! Can we move here? Why not?” There was nothing wrong with living in Phoenix. I had a great house and a great community. I just wanted something… different. I thought I was ridiculously discontent, and I probably was. It was something I had to pray about and work through. But maybe the root of my interest in moving somewhere else wasn’t really a contentment problem. Maybe the root of it all was my wanderlust, and I just didn’t know how to productively channel it yet.

I still feel that wanderlust. I still feel restless and look forward to going somewhere new. According to my college psychology textbooks, I’m going to outgrow it in about five years. Despite what the experts say, I doubt that it will ever leave me. I’ve tasted the expat life, and I don’t know if I can ever go back and put down roots. Even here, on the tropical island of Saint Martin, I feel a restlessness. I want to peek behind the curtain and find out what comes next. I want to sell stuff, pack, and move again. I want to discover someplace new.

Some of my most breathtaking moments are sunsets after surfing. I like to paddle out away from the waves, sit on my board, and watch the golden highlights play over the azure surface of the water. I love to watch the blue sky turn slowly cotton-candy pink, reflecting in pastel colors on the waves. Yesterday, as I watched the sun set behind the hills of the island, I couldn’t help but realize how lucky I am to be able to experience such a moment. I felt like God was painting a watercolor masterpiece just for me. How many times will I surf at sunset over our two years here? Fifty, maybe? A hundred? I wonder what it will be like to say goodbye to these tropical evenings.

Do you want to know the truth? I’m OK with knowing that this won’t last for the rest of my life. I’m OK knowing that I’ll have to sell my board in a few months. I don’t mind that I probably will never live on an island again. I’m OK with a limited number of ocean sunsets. I can’t imagine a more wonderful place to live than Saint Martin, and I love being here. But there’s so much more out there to discover. I want to spend as many days as possible watching the sun set over the waves while I live here, but I also want to watch it set over the buildings of Prague someday. I want to stargaze from the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I want to reach the top of Kilimanjaro. I want to ride a train in Toronto with my friends and a whole passel of Little League boys. I want to go to a K-Pop concert, a Sydney opera, and a Broadway show. I want to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.

In a year and a half, Ben’s medical school basic science classes will end and we’ll move again, this time for his clinical rotations. According to those who have gone before, we have virtually zero control over where we go, and we won’t know where we’re going until it’s almost time to leave. We could be moving states every month or so for two years. You know what? I think I’m OK with that. I might even be looking forward to it. There’s so much to experience in this great big world of ours, and I’m ready to take it on.

Waterfalls and Elephants: A Thai Adventure

Meet my friend Marie! Marie and I went to college together in Arizona. She currently lives in Asia, where her husband is stationed with the military. She has gathered many stories during her global travels, and I asked her to share one with us!
img_4983
My friend, her husband, and I had been in Thailand, specifically Bangkok, two days and we decided to sign up for a tour to visit the Erawan National Park and the close by Elephant Sanctuary. Our earlier adventures had all been in the exciting city of Bangkok. We had seen the Jade Buddha,  national temples and palaces, the Giant Buddha, and many sights on-board exciting public transportation. However, time had come to see a little more outside the city.
img_4979
The morning of, we woke early and met up with our van driver outside the hostel we were staying at on Kao San Road. For three hours we made our way outside the city, only stopping briefly to use a squatty potty and grab a meat filled biscuit for breakfast while the van was filled with gas. Through the beautiful jungle and up the winding roads we finally made it to the Erawan National Park where seven gorgeous waterfalls awaited us.
img_4980
We made our way up the path to the first waterfall, along the way seeing wild pigs and hearing multiple languages from the many tourists on their way to the waterfalls. The heat and humidity required the constant consumption of water on our brief hike, but finally we made it to the first waterfall. The beautiful turquoise water gushed over the huge rocks and small naked children swam through the water with the many fish. The fish were the same kind of fish that many spas use to eat the dead skin off of feet.
img_4982
Further, we made it to a less crowded waterfall and pool where we waded and swam through the cool and refreshing water to the rocks under the waterfalls, getting our toes tickled by the many fish. Under the falls we looked through the curtain of water and viewed God’s beautiful nature. After a little bit of time and three more waterfalls, we had to say good bye to the falls and made our way down towards the van for an authentic Thai lunch and then on to the Elephant Sanctuary.
img_4981
An hour later in the van, we pulled into a park by a river surrounded by jungle. Immediately we were greeted and lead down to the shore by the river. Two massive elephants emerged from the jungle and waded into the river, each atopped by a native Thai man yelling commands.
img_4985
Three at a time, we made our way out to the first elephant and climbed onto his back. The elephant was then coaxed to spray his back with water, completely soaking us. His bristly back helped us to stay on as he moved and the river current sped on by. After a few minutes, the Thai man gave out a command and the elephant bent his front legs and threw us forward into the river. After belly flopping and trying not to be taken down river, we made it to shore where we went up to platform to ride the elephants. We climbed aboard an enormous and very friendly elephant. The trip was absolutely fantastic as we made our way through the jungle scenery. We were absolutely terrified when the elephant would climb up and down steep stairs!
img_4986
When the elephant ride was completed we climbed back into the van yet again for the long ride back to Bangkok. That day was filled with awesome new experiences. From there on we gained many other new exciting experiences as we entered Cambodia and visited Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, and Sihanoukville. After Cambodia we made our way to Southern Vietnam and saw the Mekong Delta, Can Tho, and the Floating Market. At long last we headed back to our homes in South Korea.
Life is surely an adventure.

Transitioning Overseas with Ease

Moving overseas is a momentous operation. But it does not need to be a miserable one! There are many things that you can do to make your big move easier and happier. Before I made my first big overseas move, I worked for a company that operated internationally. As part of my job, I briefed and trained interns who were heading overseas for a few months or years. I learned a lot in the process and soaked up insight from my husband, who has made five major international moves in his life. And when I finally had my chance to go, I learned for myself what it’s like to transition cultures and countries.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way. Everyone has different experiences, and I’d love to hear your stories and insights in the comments, too.

IMG_2641

  1. Expectations. This is the single most important thing to consider when you’re moving overseas, especially if you’ve never visited that place before. The truth is, your expectations define your experiences. They are the biggest culprit in relationship breakdown and disappointment in general. Before you go, write down your expectations so that you know what they are. Read them over and remind yourself that you have a 99% chance of every one of those things being different than you think! For example, I was totally convinced that I would get fresh mangoes off the tree every day in Sint Maarten. Not so– everything is imported. Try to prepare yourself for this sort of thing. Have as few expectations as possible. Be open to new and surprising things, and make it fun.
  2. The big fights. One side effect of leaving is that you will find yourself experiencing tension with the ones you love most. Don’t worry; you’re not losing your mind. This is normal– and knowing that makes big blow-ups avoidable. The inclination to fight is your subconscious’ way to make leaving people easier. Obviously, it has the opposite effect. Remember that the people you are leaving are experiencing loss, too, as they say goodbye. Have grace for others, and ask them to have grace for you.
  3. Saying goodbye. Saying goodbye is hard, but closure is important. Let people know you’re going. Meet with friends and make plans to keep in contact.
  4. What you need to pack. What you need to bring? Probably nothing more than yourself and your passport. Of course, your clothes and books are nice to bring, too. As you prepare to go, redefine “need” and “want” in your mind so you can judge what will be helpful to you and what will be cumbersome. Be sure to bring a few things that will remind you of home– maybe some photographs. Don’t spend a ridiculous amount of money toting the entire contents of your home across the ocean when you can replace it for cheaper when you get there.
  5. Your first day. The last thing you should do when you land is go to your new home and surround yourself with American (or Canadian, or whatever) things and people. Even if you’ve been on a plane for fourteen hours, try to spend your first couple hours on the ground immersing yourself in the culture. Go shopping. Take a walk downtown. Ride the bus. And remember that the faster you force yourself to adapt to a new time zone, the faster the jet-lag will wear off.
  6. Staying sane. Culture stress is a real thing. Some people feel it quickly, others don’t. Generally, most people experience the “honeymoon stage” for about three months and then go downhill from there. Rock bottom is at two years, and then things start to look up. However, charts and graphs can’t define your experience. This journey is what you make it, and somehow you’ll have to survive the bad days and the homesickness. Go exploring, try out restaurants, shop where the locals shop. Journal regularly, and start a blog so your friends back home can follow your adventures. Skype friends and family regularly. Write lists of what you love about this place. Write lists of what you hate and turn them into positives.
  7. Take care of yourself. Unfortunately, people take advantage of foreigners. We see this in our home countries, and it’s just as true anywhere else. Being taken advantage of can range from being quoted the “white price” on buses to date rape and muggings. Learn what the safe and dangerous places are, get to know local prices, and don’t take unnecessary risks.
  8. Feel what you feel. Not what you think you’re supposed to feel, not what your boyfriend thinks you should feel, not what a “strong” person would feel. Adjustment is hard. And that’s OK.
  9. Have Fun! With all of these points on how to survive an international move, it might sound like I think moving overseas is a drag. But transitioning to a new place can be a lot of fun! Enjoy yourself. Take a thousand and two photos. Try things you’ve never done before.
  10. Community. Without community, you will have a tough time feeling at home. Build community with other expats in your area. Make friends with locals, too. Both are essential for being truly integrated in your new home. Find a church, find a club, invite people over.
  11. Get involved. Becoming part of the community and culture around you will bring you joy and save you from many days of loneliness and wishes of a return ticket home. Some of my friends and I volunteer a few days a week to tutor kids with a local program. This really was the best thing we’ve done on this island– we were all feeling a little lost and isolated until we started focusing on something other than our own lonely selves. A sense of purpose brightens life anywhere you are.
  12. Understand the culture. The best gift you can give to yourself is the ability to understand the place you are living in. Learn the basics– how to properly greet people, what is decent apparel, and how to get around. New cultures can be frustrating at first, but remember that just because things are different it doesn’t mean that they are wrong. In the end, you’ll have fun as you achieve little cultural victories and begin to be able to understand and use the new language or dialect around you.
  13. Be a good expat. Represent your country and culture well. I wrote a blog post on this that’s worth reading.

IMG_8141
Looking for more? Here are a few other posts from my blog that you might find helpful! You can also check out my list of favorite expat blogs.

overseas.jpg
Pin Me!

Kenyan at Heart

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.

12207888_1020589941359119_1372657312_n (2)

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.

Jellyfish

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.

12204986_1020593918025388_1798909316_n (1)

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.

If you would like to keep up with different events going on in my life as a TCK, come visit my blog: scarfedpassenger.wordpress.com

Image credits Gabriela Reincheld and Brian Wagner

What Makes Me a Third-Culture Wife

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.image

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.