Tag Archives: Moving

Moving…with Children

Details are falling into place and it looks like we are on track to head to Amman at the end of October. It’s coming up fast! One thing I think about constantly is how to prepare my two-year-old (we’ll call her Lulu–her Arabic nickname–for this blog) for the move. She is at an age where she is very attached to her routines and places; she is very curious and likes to explore, but she can also become very shy and overwhelmed in new places. She’s done pretty well when we’ve traveled out to visit my family in the Northwest, but I don’t think that is a very good measure by which to predict her reaction to Amman. This is going to be a huge transition for her, and she’s too young to be helped much by talking about it.
I’ve started focusing on making changes in our lifestyle to make it more similar to how we will live in Amman. Little things, like phasing out flavored yoghurt and replacing it with plain, rotating in more beans and legumes instead of meat for meals. This week I plan on putting away a lot of her toys and books, and probably some of her clothes, too. Since we are going to a country that struggles with water shortages, I’m contemplating doing away with the nighttime bath, although often she really needs it (she loves digging in the flower beds). Lately, she’s been watching a lot of camel races on YouTube, and we’re trying to have her watch more ‘Alam Simsim or nature documentaries instead of Blue’s Clues (her favorite) or Yo Gabba Gabba.
Anybody have other ideas of what to do now? I know that in the end, we’re just going to have to get there and start adjusting. Lulu and Hungry Husband and I will have have to go through our own process of culture shock, and while I know generally what to expect from myself and Hungry Husband, I feel really uncertain of what to expect from Lulu.

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Luggage

Over two and a half years ago, we left a suitcase with some friends in Jordan. It was only supposed to be there for a few weeks, and then someone was going to bring it to us in Yemen. But circumstances happened…
And yesterday we got the suitcase back, with barely any idea of what was in it. Clearly, it was stuff we could live without. Opening it I discovered vacation clothes I’d worn on a scuba diving trip in the Red Sea and floating in the Dead Sea, Arabic books and dictionaries in three different dialects, an engraved brass plate Hungry Husband had made for me our first Christmas in Cairo, and the Tennessee plates (featured in the cover photo of this blog) which we so randomly found in a small alleyway store in Damascus. The assorted items brought back pleasant memories of so many different places.
It is mildly humorous that we just received this suitcase, as in a month or so we will be repacking it to go back to the Middle East, but I feel encouraged by remembering people and places in the region that have been an important part of my life in the past, and will be important again in my future.

What I’ve Been Up To…

Hi there.

Yes, it’s been a long time.  Longer than I ever would have expected.  When I started this blog, I vowed I would not be “one of those people.”  You know, the ones who start going strong and then suddenly drop off the face of the virtual world.

But, that’s what happened.  Multiple moves, one (very healthy, pleasant, and still ongoing) pregnancy, and a very uncertain future have taken the vast majority of my physical, mental and emotional energy over the past few months.

Still, I’ve come up with a few things worth sharing.  The first (which I only tell you about because it was something new to me) falls into the category of “church potluck casserole.”  That is, it contains canned cream of (anything) soup and some sort of crust on top–often, french-fried onions, but in this case, crumbled crackers.  I thought it absolutely revolting and wrong in so many ways, but Hungry Husband liked it, and so did the people at the homeless shelter.  But I threw the recipe away.  Quickly.  Because canned cream of (anything) soup is not real food.

Church Potluck Casserole

Fortunately, I have had better luck since then.  In the midst of what has been a long and very stormy spring, I have been yearning for summer and light, fresh flavors.  First, I came up with a lovely black bean-based salad.  It’s the sort of thing that does not have a recipe…I just threw in things that reminded me of the Caribbean: black beans, mango, celery, red peppers, red onions, cilantro, lime juice, chili powder, chicken, corn, jalapeno, garlic, cumin.  It is very flexible and tasty.  I took a big bowl to a friend’s graduation party last weekend and the dish was cleaned out rather quickly.

So pretty!

Finally, another recipe-less dish based on one of my favorite marinades: olive oil, lemon juice, cilantro, and garlic.  I whipped up some penne pasta, opened a can of salmon (fresh salmon is way out of our budget right now–boo!) and had Hungry Husband chunk the meat, and turned the marinade ingredients–plus a slab of butter) into a sauce.  When the pasta was ready I threw everything together and voila!  A fresh and flavorful pasta dish that pairs perfectly with sauteed or grilled vegetables.

A perfect pasta for summertime longings

Tonight, I am having Taco Lasagna with Cilantro Lime Cream Sauce (from Sweet Peas and Pumpkins), and I’m secretly glad that Hungry Husband is away for the night, because I may eat the whole pan myself.  Good thing I only made a half recipe!

Reverse Culture Shock

Hi friends and readers.  Sorry about the disappearing act; I wish I could explain it all, but I have neither the time or the inclination to share everything with the internet world.  Suffice it to say, the past two months have been quite stressful.  Thankfully, (some) things are starting to settle down.

To start with, we are back in America.  This was quite unexpected and has been a very difficult transition for us.  We spent the past few weeks living with my in-laws, who are wonderful people, but it is always stressful for me to not have my own space and be able to nest.  As of this weekend we are finally in our own place, lovingly (and freely) furnished by friends.  I have a kitchen again, which means there will be more recipes forthcoming.

In the meantime, I want to give you all something to read.  I wrote this recently for some of our family members and friends to help them understand a little bit of what it is like to return to one’s home culture after a significant period away.  This is an often-overlooked and unexpected aspect of the expatriate life that is important to be aware of.

Reverse Culture Shock

One of the most difficult aspects of returning to America for people who have spent extended periods of time overseas is dealing with Reverse (Re-entry) Culture Shock.  Although most people generally expect that someone will feel disoriented and uncomfortable when entering a foreign culture, there is little awareness that those same feelings are common and often even stronger when he returns to his home culture.  This has been and continues to be one of the least-understood problems for expatriates when they return to the “home” culture, which, for many, no longer feels like home.

During their time overseas, expatriates experience many changes not just in their environment, but also in their values, attitudes, behaviors, and perspectives, and when they return to their home culture they are faced with the feeling that they no longer understand or fit in to society the way they did before.  It can be difficult to communicate these new ideas and beliefs with family and friends who have not shared the overseas experience and have not gone through the same transformation process; additionally, people in the home culture often do not seem interested in hearing more than superficial details about the expatriate’s time overseas.  Consequently, the transformations experienced by returning expatriates may affect relationships with those closest to them, who don’t necessarily comprehend the subtle changes that have taken place, and may not always accept them.  Expatriates who adjust best and bond most strongly with their overseas community will often have the hardest time returning and adapting to their home culture.

The way in which a expatriate left their overseas context can also play a major role in their home culture re-entry process.  Although most people in the home culture will expect the expatriate to be overjoyed about returning, the expatriate often feels a deep sense of loss and sadness over the people and places they have left.  The expatriate may be experiencing feelings of failure or guilt if he believes that the return to the home culture was unnecessary or somehow against his wishes, or that his work did not turn out as he hoped.  The need to grieve the losses caused by re-entry can also exacerbate the lack of understanding and patience exhibited by family and friends.

Here is a list of some of the most common symptoms of Reverse Culture Shock:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Sleep disorders (insomnia or excessive sleeping)
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Personal/ethical dilemmas
  • Feelings of inferiority
  • Alienation
  • Shyness
  • Trouble making (or reconnecting with) friends
  • Relationship problems
  • Sexual problems
  • Work/academic performance difficulties

The length of time it takes to reintegrate to their home culture varies person to person.  It can be influenced by the amount of time the person spent overseas, the level to which they adapted to and bonded with their overseas culture, the patience and understanding exhibited by family and friends, as well as by situations happening in the foreign community of which the expatriate was part.