Thursday, August 4, 2016

Re-entry anxiety: shopping

I started this post months ago, but was reminded to finish it after going to Wal-Mart with some friends of ours who recently moved back to the States from Nicaragua. I’ve updated it to more accurately describe my current feelings.

Having been back in the States for nearly a year now, I like to think the most intense emotions of reentry shock are behind us, but we still experience them from time to time—and likely will for years. Living in a different country inevitably changes you. Actually, I would go so far as to say that if living in another country has no effect on your perspectives or practices, you may be unhealthily inflexible. But I digress…
When we first got back to the States, we were running on empty—physically, mentally, and emotionally. As such, we quickly learned which things “cost” the most in terms of energy or anxiety:
  •           interacting with people we did not know well
  •           being in large public places
  •           choosing between a large amount of seemingly equal options
Being overwhelmed all the time was a weird phenomenon for us, and you may not fully understand it if you haven’t experienced it personally. It’s like the emotional version of being sore in unexpected ways after a new kind of intense exercise, but in this case, “being sore” means having trouble making eye contact with people, being completely incapable of answering the question, “What would you like for dinner?” and having a lot of anxiety even thinking about leaving the house. Going to church on a regular basis almost seemed out of the question.

The more we talk with former missionaries or read their blogs, the more we learn that these are common experiences for those returning from out of the country. And there’s one thing especially that everyone like us agrees is the absolute worst: Wal-Mart.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

on setting the microwave clock (and other unhelpful solutions)

We got back last week from a 10-day trip to Nicaragua. The microwave clock at our friends' house where we stayed was consistently off by several hours, which naturally bothered me a great deal. I fixed it once, and when a few days later it was again wrong by an unreasonable amount of time, it made me laugh rather than annoyed. Here's why:

For the first year that we lived in Nicaragua, we shared an apartment with my brother and his wife and the first of their three children. (They had been living in country for about a year and a half by that point.) In addition to the learning curve of sharing living space with others, there was a much more stressful learning curve of adjusting to culture and climate. Every difference between Nicaragua and the States stood out sharply, and if I’m honest, these differences seemed poorly planned, inefficient, and sweaty*. I always wanted to shake my head and say, "What a crazy, backwards country!"

Monday, October 5, 2015

to honk or not to honk (is not really the question)

no honking

Since getting back to the States five weeks ago, we’ve driven about 5000 miles, seeing family & friends and attending a couple of missions & nonprofit workshops. This adds up to 80-100 hours in the car so far, and I’m having trouble unlearning my honking habits learned in Nicaragua. Back in the tropics, it would be unusual to drive half an hour without honking at least twice. An American visitor rode with me once and told me that he hadn’t honked as much in the last 10 years as I had done in that single day. And I hadn’t been aware that I had honked much. It’s become a reflex.

Honking happens a lot more in Nicaragua because it has a wider range of communication, which I’ll generalize with these five phrases:

Friday, July 31, 2015

A multitude of lasts

We’re into our last month in Nicaragua, which means that each day that passes and each item that we sell or give away increases how much we talk about the “last time” we do something in Nicaragua. A lot of these are trivial and carry little to no emotion, like the last time that we:
  • use our 6-foot ladder (a few weeks ago) 
  • do drinks, popcorn and two movie tickets at the VIP for $15 total (maybe last week, maybe next week?) 
  • make queso (a few months ago) 
  • buy cat litter at PriceSmart (two days ago) 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Two Year Kidney-versary

It's hard to believe that two years has past since I had my kidney transplant. IMG_0009

I remember waking up that morning, April 29th, 2013 after completing my last night of dialysis. I unplugged from the machine that had attempted to clean the toxins out of my blood, but really could only do a mediocre job at best. I was quite sick at that point and longing for days of health and normalcy, which I hoped would come after the transplant. I arrived at the hospital as Amy was in surgery to have her kidney removed. I changed into my gown and waited. Friends and family were there beside me, as they had been throughout the last two years of sickness. The nurse came, let me know that Amy’s surgery IMG_0180was going well and that they were ready for me.

I remember waking up several hours later, sore, confused, swollen, but hopeful. Both surgeries had gone great. I remember at 5:00 the next morning, a nurse came in, needing to weigh me. (I still don’t understand why you would wake someone that early in the morning for something that certainly could have waited a few hours!) I could barely stand, as it seemed that every muscle in the lower half of my body had ceased to function.

Monday, April 27, 2015

will miss/won’t miss: roadside vulcanización booths

As we prepare to move away from Nicaragua (read this blog post if this is news for you), I frequently think about what will change in our “new life” in the States. On good days, I think a lot about what I'll miss from Nicaragua. On rough days, I think much more about what I won't miss. The truth is that what I'll miss and won't miss are frequently elements of the same thing. I think this is why new life phases seem to always be so bittersweet. So without further ado...

vulcanizacionVulcanización (tire repair) booths

What I’ll miss:
If you get a flat tire in the city—usually from running over a nail—you’re rarely more than a half-mile away from a roadside booth that repairs tires. More often than not, they’re little ramshackle booths made out of scrap metal, and they nearly always advertise their presence by painting the words se vulcaniza or vulcanización on an old tire posted just off the nearest major street. (As a side note, I don’t believe any literal vulcanization happens at these booths. It is just understood that they work with tires).

Monday, April 20, 2015

will miss/won't miss: showers

As we prepare to move away from Nicaragua (read this blog post if this is news for you), I frequently think about what will change in our “new life” in the States. On good days, I think a lot about what I'll miss from Nicaragua. On rough days, I think much more about what I won't miss. The truth is that what I'll miss and won't miss are frequently elements of the same thing. I think this is why new life phases seem to always be so bittersweet. So without further ado...

What I won't miss:
We don't have hot water in our bathrooms. Most Americans here who do have it have what's affectionately called a widow maker shower head, but we never got any installed in our current house. I've taken a cold shower every day for the last year and a half, but it hasn't gotten any less shocking (though I have accustomed to the cold-water shave). Mix that with widely varying water pressure and you have anywhere from a dribble to a sandblasting stream of surprisingly icy water.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

One of those days

Today was one of those days. The kind where one thing goes wrong and every other thing follows suit. It’s like all the things were getting together and ganging up on us, knowing if they tried hard enough, they would conquer us.

Tomorrow is our anniversary. Eight wonderful, difficult, amazing, challenging, blessed years. Full of ups and downs (mostly related to our circumstances, not our relationship). We were going to celebrate by going to dinner tonight. But then all the things happened.

We found out the car repair is going to cost at least ten times as much as we thought (yes – no exaggeration – ten!). Our neighborhood kids behaved terribly for us and our team who came to put on a really fun VBS for them this week. And then there is the heat. Which causes the sweat. Which never stops.  Which saps all the energy. And all the little spaces in the day that weren’t filled with sweating profusely, being overwhelmed about the car or frustrated by the kids who were running away as we tried to talk them into behaving and listening—shut up and listen to the message about God’s love!—all those moments were filled with smaller things made bigger by the weight of the rest of the day.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Leaving but staying

It's already been nearly a year and a half since we moved back to Nicaragua from Oklahoma. As usual with the passage of time, it has felt simultaneously both shorter and longer than what it has been! As many of you already knew, when we came back to Nicaragua in Fall 2013, we did not intend to stay indefinitely (for reasons I'll explain in a little bit). We decided that a two-year commitment would be long enough to be beneficial and short enough to be do-able.

With this being said, we would like to inform you that we have officially decided to move back to the States this coming September (2015)! An equally important fact is that we will NOT be leaving our work with One by One at that time.
Now we're sure you have a lot of questions, so we've tried to anticipate them the best we know how:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ruth: a woman who loved well

This afternoon I learned the heartbreaking news that Ruth Graham passed Ruth and Ethan 2away. Though we didn’t know each other incredibly well, Ruth has forever impacted my life. We met briefly before Chase and I moved to Nicaragua, but we really got to know her via e-mail when she and her 3-year-old son Ethan began to send us e-mails. First, we received this one.


Dear Julie and Chase,

Hello to you from OK! My son and and I have only met you once briefly just before you left. (I graduated from JBU, if that helps!)  We read your emails together and talk about how you help the children in Nicaragua.

Ethan, 3, has a couple of questions for you!