Regarding Transitions…

“Before you go, will you teach us… ?”

Two years ago, this time seemed very far off and possibly beyond our reach. How did we manage to journey long enough down this road of language learning to be ready to leave our language school, our first launching pad? Did we really learn all the things? Can we truly say we speak Mandarin? Can anyone ever fully speak a second language though? It seems to be a never ending task of tweaking and perfecting. Absurdly, my teachers are confident that I have reached the point of being sent off on my own to continue the learning, out in the world, haha! (Mark, being a native Cantonese speaker, graduated over a year ago and has been patiently waiting for me to hurry up. *smile*) So in just six weeks we will be waiting for my final exam results and packing up the apartment – preparing to start a new chapter,  in a new city and province, in Southern China. The place we have told you about, you’ve shared our hopes and dreams and joined with us in our vision for helping people while learning about them and their culture. Sanya, the beautiful and tropical place that we’ve longed to plant our roots in, where we hope to live for many years to come, with a new and one day thriving business that brings light and love to all who enter!

But in order to get there, we must first leave here. Xi’an has been a place of growth for our family. It has held many treasured memories of firsts and friends that became family. This giant city (twice the size of Sitka, AK, the largest city in the USA) has been a place of learning, both language and culture, as well as some harder life and spiritual lessons. And it’s also been a difficult place, so very overwhelmingly so at times that we could hardly catch our breath. The kind of place that forces you to hold tight to those that will still love you when the fires go out and the flood waters fade. We have learned to be brave and strong and to love our family fiercely. Thankfully, we have also learned to be gentle and vulnerable and to be more lovable when others come alongside us… In the midst of these reflections, my thoughts are interrupted by the pressing needs. Packing, organizing, purging, cleaning, studying, grading, doctors (oh so many doctors this year!), translating doctor reports, newsletters, work reports, charging the scooter, buying groceries, cooking, bathing, etc, etc. 🙂 How does one simply pack up their whole life and family and start fresh in a new place, in a foreign country… all over again?!

This is our ‘normal life’ friends. Although we hope this is our last BIG move for a long while, we have grown accustomed to it over the last eight years. Eight years of constant transition. What I know for sure about it is, we must leave well in order to start over well. Our race isn’t over, but our time in this place soon will be. So how do we manage that time? It starts with preparing our hearts and our spirits to say a lot of “See you later”s to dear friends, neighbors, classmates, and teachers that have become family. This can take a lot of prayer and it can hit you by surprise when the ones you least want to leave start to, as great friends will, become excited for you. They ask you questions and talk about a time when you will be practically on the other side of the country and doing new things. They want to hear all the plans – and all you can think is “But then I won’t see you every single morning. Maybe not for many months… or even years! I will miss you dear one!”

That’s about how my week was going, rather by the book so to speak. Then came the new line of questions I had never prepared for. ~~ “Before you go, will you teach us more about raising kind and helpful kids?” “We want you both to help us with pre-marital counseling while you’re still here, do you have time?” “Maybe you can write a book or come back sometimes to teach *Word & *Truth classes?” “I can gather some friends, I think it’s very important that you give us a marriage seminar. How about after the holiday – but before you move?!” ~~ You see, most of our language teachers like to ask us questions during class. Things they really want to know, but also to get us to answer in Mandarin using new vocab and grammar. We never expected that they would miss those talks or that those conversations were much more than curiosity about the foreigners’ ways. Yet, over the months of daily classes, some of our teachers have really poured out their hearts and in turn we have shared ours freely. Not only will we miss those precious moments with these very dear ones… but we desire to grant every single request we possibly can before we make this big transition from the big city (Xi’an), to Sanya (Which is SMALL by Chinese standards, but still about the size of Jacksonville, FL (the 5th largest city in the USA by landmass).

And how to finish well? We are choosing to be purposeful and loving in how we prepare ourselves, our kids (their transition stuff is a whole other post full!), and our dearest friends for our departure. Between the travel, phone calls, emails… amid rental agreements, class time, grading papers and doctors… we have scheduled time out of packing and studying for special lunch visits, game nights, play-dates and even a friend’s wedding. We have plans to take our kids on one last adventure trip with friends during the upcoming school break (although not together – half of us are going north and the other half south). And yes, we will teach a marriage seminar, we will counsel other friends in preparation for their wedding (which we hope to come back to attend next year!), and we will take time to pray and fellowship with many more beloved ones that have become our “China family” these last two years!

Maybe after the move I will think about writing that book. Let’s start with just getting back to writing here on this blog once a week. Or even once a year, that would be good! Guess I don’t have to tell you what being a full time language student and homeschool mom living in China has done to my “free time” or rather, my “writing time”. *grin*





where is HOME?

We spent the 4th of July here in HK preparing for our one & only official Homestudy visit for our adoption paperwork. But we DID manage to grab a hot dog & a cinnamon roll at Ikea – plus I made some “4th of July mini-cupcakes” for the kids a few days in advance… forget that the only sprinkles we could find were Christmas colors! LOL – But that’s just life living overseas & we love it! Good, bad & ugly, we know that we are right where we are supposed to be. So we celebrated in little ways with each other (not many other Americans nearby or in our ‘circle’), we called a few friends & we watched a couple movies that remind of us ‘our USA home’ this week. – Turns out the kids LOVED ‘the Three Stooges’! 🙂 Anyway, many people from both sides of the world ask us, “Do you miss home?” & another hard-to-answer question is the even more frequent “Where are you from?” – My answer is either “It’s complicated…” or the below, which is much LESS complicated!

As world travelers, expats & TCKs… Our home is wherever God plants us!

We have been transplanted several times.

Each time we experience some homesickness for certain experiences & people we love.

But when God does the planting, he always surrounds us with exactly what/who we need in every home we’ve had.

There have been lonely days when I thank Him for reminding me that He is our closest friend.

As well as amazing friends/adventures we never would have if we hadn’t trusted Him & left our ‘home’.

One day we will all be in our ‘forever home’, our eternal home in heaven.

Until then…

Home is in the center of God’s will.

Happy belated 4th of July Friends/Family!!!

We are blessed to be US citizens. 4 of us born into it, 1 (soon to be 2) of us ‘naturalized’ into it. We celebrate the Freedoms & Privileges that come with being American. This is a day that we DO miss being with friends/family & enjoying our traditions of BBQ, pools & fellowship – BUT we are grateful that those very freedoms give us the opportunity to share love & hope with others all over the world! With much privilege comes much responsibility my friends. We pray we use ours wisely…

Sacramento - Our 'USA home'

Sacramento – Our ‘USA home’

God Bless America! ONE OF our ‘home’ sweet ‘home(s)’!!


feeding five on $10

So I’m working on our latest newsletter – don’t forget to use the link in the sidebar to put your name on the list… While taking a break to have dinner with the family, I was given yet another chance to “JUST TRYYYYY” some new foods. Tonight’s choices were Rock Sea Bass in soy sauce with chives & maybe the 100th possible form of Bean Curd (Tofu, which is pronounced “DOfoo” here).

I will admit that I’m getting braver in these private taste sessions. I much prefer the snickers of my own 4 guys to the hot glare of a table full of 10 locals/strangers who think it sooo very odd that the foods I won’t eat are the ‘normal ones’. To be fair, I suppose it IS rather quirky, considering how I have no issue with gulping down a nice hot bowl of Red Bean Soup (a local dessert actually made with big red beans boiled in a sort of sugar water), traditional Shark Fin Soup made with real Shark, or even gobbling up a serving of ice cold Jelly Fish tentacles… I don’t even have a problem with an occasional bite of intestines & I certainly won’t turn down a Bubble Milk Tea! So ok, this ‘eating ministry’ thing works on the weird foods, I guess it IS the rather ‘normal’ foods that I never liked as a kid that still give me grief (& Mark because he has to order other stuff for me). But I’m working on it!

Which brings us back to tonight’s dinner! Verdict is………. I actually LIKED the fish & was fighting off the kids so I could get more. Not exactly because I loved it, but more out of hunger. You see, I found the fish was actually ‘not terrible’ & in fact, it was better than the chicken we got – so sad when a restaurant actually manages to ruin a chicken of all things?! Anyway, the Bean Curd did not make my list, but since there are still 100 more forms to try, I won’t give up on it altogether just yet.

The best part of dinner turned out to be the price – The beautiful Bass was actually LESS than $10 US! Amazing!! Here’s a picture of the YUMMY fishy… the boys had fun peaking at his brains & finding every last bit of meat on him. – Now I’m off to get one last cup of tea & then get this Newsletter finished. 🙂




where ARE we from?? … {third culture kids}

The Kwong kids saved up & bought 2 of their very own TCK mascot chameleons. This little boy is named Miko, his sister is Okim. 🙂

Those of us that leave one country & live in another for any length of time have experienced many of these truths. It helps for others to understand us, but even more important, this article helps us to understand ourselves. We have a blend of cultures making up our back story. It’s who we are, it’s who we’re becoming. We are not one or the other, but both & all of the cultures we ‘come from’… We are not just expats, we are Third Culture Kids/People (TCKs). (Other stories about TCKs)

Here are some wise words from a friend on what it is to be a person of more than one culture. -jk

Takeaways from four years among TCKs

I’ve been a missionary for almost fourteen years.  I’ve lived on three continents, in four countries.  I’ve learned a new language.  But for the past four years, I’ve been in a new chapter of ministry- one that has challenged me, enlightened me, made me laugh and sometimes made me cry: working with Third Culture Kids.

TCKs are not just the children of overseas workers.  They are, just by being, a ministry themselves, a part of the Great Commission and a shareholder in the call of God on their family.

I have been so honored to work with TCKs of all ages from all over the world.  And as this chapter in my life draws to a close, I just wanted to share some things that I will take away with me.  I hope they make you smile.

I’ve learned that a three-year old American child who has lived his entire life overseas gets pretty confused when you bring him back to America. 

I did actually learn this with my own children before I ever came to the TCK office.  But I have been delighted at the perspective of the many young children who come through our programs each summer with no real memory of what America is.  Their observations and perceptions are amusing, poignant, delightful and insightful.

I tip my hat to Carsten “Boose” Myers, who observed that Americans have reserved “potty” parking. (Handicapped parking,) and to Ian Dobson, who when asked what he wanted for a treat, answered “seaweed.”  And to every little TCK who is confused by white eggs, string cheese and playground equipment.  America is a weird place.

I’ve observed that there is no dividing line between child and adult.

There is more like a gray area of “no-man’s land,” entered when society legally defines an adult (age 18) and exited only when the neurons stop misfiring and maturity takes over.   For example, college students majoring in important fields like software engineering, linguistics or philosophy, may suddenly and for no apparent reason, decide it is perfectly acceptable to use a coffee table (not belonging to them) to sled down a snow-covered rocky bank at two in the morning.

Adult? Child?

Neither. And both.

I’ve learned never to underestimate the power of sickness to spread among people in a confined space:

Thanksgiving Retreat 2008, where what later became known somewhat tongue and cheek as the “Chameleon Flu” affected over 80% of us in just three days, with at least three of us ending up in the hospital.  Just thinking about it makes me want to hunt down a bottle of hand sanitizer.  Wash your hands, people!

I’ve learned that I LOVE Colorado:

Okay this is a personal one with not much my reader can take away.  But I’m so thankful I’ve had the chance to go to Winter Park every November for the past four years and revel in the outdoor culture and the magnificence of the Rockies.  Even if I was working 70-hour weeks while reveling.  Dear Colorado: Don’t worry, I’ll be back!

I’ve been reminded that everyone has a story:

Like a character in any good novel or well-written movie, our back-stories have molded and defined our present personality.  They form the lenses through which we perceive the world around us.  They shape and define our interpretation of other people’s actions and our responses.

Just because I do not understand someone’s actions or responses doesn’t mean they aren’t logical.  It probably just means I don’t know their back-story.

I’ve realized that it is okay to be proud of your back story:

 TCKs are proud of who they are.  They are proud of where they have been and the languages they speak and the food they have eaten and the wars they have lived through.  Sometimes Americans perceive this as arrogance.  But for the most part, it isn’t.  It is not any different than an American student going off to college in another state and hanging a banner from their hometown sports team.  Or me, living in Missouri, and hanging framed prints of Seattle in my office.  I’m proud of where I’m from.

I’ve learned not to dismiss other people’s back stories:

Remember that everyone, TCK or not, whether they have lived overseas or never left their home town, has loyalties and preferences.  They are proud of where they are from too.  They have experienced things you haven’t.  Their experiences are valid and real too.  Dismissing them as invalid only makes you look bad, and it closes the door on relationships.


I’ve observed that it isn’t always wise to hide behind your back story:

Just  because you were raised in a culture where a certain behavior is acceptable, doesn’t mean that people will overlook that behavior in a culture where it isn’t.  To put it more plainly, saying “where I grew up, it is okay for me to be rude to store clerks,” doesn’t make it acceptable to be rude to store clerks anywhere.

Understandably it is often difficult for TCKs to learn the “rules” in a new culture. I’m not talking about doing things unintentionally.  I’m talking about deliberately flouting the rules of one culture, because the behavior was acceptable in another.  Not a good idea.  You won’t make friends that way.

I’ve learned by observation that it isn’t a good idea to wrap your whole identity in your back story: 

Your story is still being written.  Where you have been, what you have seen, what you have survived, endured, or experienced is a part of who you are.  But ultimately it is only a part of who you are.  It isn’t the whole thing.  Don’t be so wrapped up in where you came from that you forget to be where you are now.  You are still a work in progress.

I’ve learned new words.  Like “freegan”. 

 Until I worked in this position, I had never heard the word.  I’m not naming any names, but thank you for educating me on this interesting lifestyle choice.  More power to you.

Thanks to my TCK friends, I’ve also learned how to do the Cha-Cha slide,  about Indie music,  and that some of you are truly bilingual or multilingual in a way that no language school can teach.  I’ve learned the merits of various national football teams (soccer for my American readers). I’ve learned that boarding school may not be as horrible as I used to think.  I’ve learned what a Global Nomad is, what a Third-Culture Kid is, and that among you there are  amazing future teachers, pastors, parents, engineers, ambassadors and missionaries.  I’m so thankful for each and every one of you and the relationships I have that I would have missed out on if the Lord hadn’t allowed me this position.

If you look at me and you wonder what you see, I may be tall, thin or fat, dark or fair.  I may have long hair, or freckles there, but I’m something extra special, can’t you see?  For my heart beats true to the red, white and blue, and I love my Lord Jesus too.  So you old-timers don’t forget, I’m a TCK, a Third Culture Kid!