Showing posts with label travel adventures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel adventures. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Crossing Cultures

Who would have guessed that moving to Tanzania and back again was only the beginning of my international life?
In the Amsterdam airport, on my way to Kenya for the first time, in college, 2005
Chacos on my feet, camera in my backpack... I was off to capture the world (and learn a ton along the way!)
I never. Ever. EVER planned on or even conceived of meeting and marrying a Korean. Ever. Especially after living and teaching Kids from around the world in East Africa for four years! But God has a sense of timing, wisdom, and humour that I have yet to figure out.

And so, while I was once worried about coming back to the States and to no one who could understand my weird Christian world-perspective or grieve and rejoice with me about events around the world, I've found my life to be anything but. And while cross-cultural marriage has its challenges (much less than expected, to be honest, in the case of these two crazy world-travelers!!!), the perks of joining with another international for life, and of having an incredible multicultural community in part because of it, makes my life richer and more thankful. Who knew I would have the chance with my husband to touch and shine light in the lives of people from every continent* around the world without setting foot outside of good ol' Dutchland, West Michigan?

I get to tutor kids from overseas and whose parents are internationals. I think missionary and third culture kids are some of the coolest kids out there. We're surrounded by cross-cultural marriages in our church and at our dinner table. 

Who would have guessed our wedding party would have people representing every continent* without even realizing?

Our wedding 'guestmap' :)
And then there are the (completely regular) days when I sit at our dinner table as the only "American," among a Korean, a French man, and an Egyptian straight in from overseas. Or with a Korean, Bulgarian, a Nepelese man, and a Malaysian. 

Notice the continuing Korean theme? Yep, this guy's pretty much my favorite. :)

Picture taken by Samara, budding photographer, age 10.
I've tried more new foods since returning from the Land of Tanz than I did while there. I know what celebratory Chinese New Moon cakes taste like, what traditional red bean tteok treats look like for Korean thanksgiving, and that Bulgarians make the best cheesy bread and salad on the planet. I know that Malaysia knows how to make some seriously cute wall-hangings of monkeys for the upcoming Chinese New Year's "Year of the Monkey," that Koreans say "Kimchi!" instead of "Cheese!" when taking pictures, and that little girls from Bulgaria, Iran, Mexico, Uganda, and Australia all equally love to sing the "Let it go" song with the same exuberant gusto and sweeping elaborate gestures as their American counterparts.

There are the days when I connect with dear-to-my-heart missionary friends from the Land of Tanz and my heat aches for the people I got to serve with there. I still want my kids to grow up overseas, if even for a short time, and I wish the country we live in wasn't so bent on individualism that we'd get excited for a neighbor willing to trade ingredients and share household items when needed.

But I have no doubt that this is where I'm supposed to be. That God's crazy, out-of-this-world plans were established for me long long ago, and that they are better than I could ever have imagined. And so we set out on our knees with prayers for wisdom, grace for ourselves and each other, and a lot of thankfulness each day as we cross cultures in our home and beyond... and know that none of these opportunities, connections, or relationships would be possible without Him.

*(minus Antarctica, of course!)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Great FRIENDS and PHOTOGRAPHY... a win-win weekend for the Chungs!

Due to some unexpected opportunities to experience the stomach bug over Christmas, SM and I didn’t get to go to Texas to visit some dear friends of mine as we had planned. Thankfully tickets are much cheaper in January, and MLK day gave us an extra day to spend with them! So we hopped on a plane last Saturday and headed to (slightly) warmer weather, sunshine, and lots of smiles!

This family “adopted” me over furlough and gave me a “home away from home” when I needed it on those long months of masters classes, Partnership Development, and seemingly closed doors. I got to watch their girls when their youngest was born, and take pictures in the hospital. They welcomed me into their lives, and stepped past any unforeseen barriers into mine in a way I very much needed. They celebrated the joys and mourned the hardships that came along the way. They celebrated my last masters class (of the semester) being finished and walked around – and around – the neighborhood with me as I processed my desires to teach missionary kids, to connect kids in America with those around the world, and to be married someday.

When I finally made it back to Tanzania, and they realized I no longer had access to an English-speaking church, they started worshipping with me over Skype most Sundays (after church for them, Sunday evenings for me) and praying over me over the miles. I could say, “things are going alright,” and they would say, “So by ‘alright’ you mean that you're not sick at the moment, but half the parents are... that the students are driving you a bit nuts as you come up on Christmas... that you're wishing for some cool rain to make it feel like the holidays... that things are hard but you are making it through?" Yep, pretty much. They read between the lines and got it.
Screenshot of Skype Worship...
SM got to meet them before they moved down to Texas last year, and Joy was in our wedding. But it was high time for SM to actually get to KNOW this family that I adored so much (and talked about even more). Besides, who doesn’t want to take a trip to Texas in the middle of sub-freezing January temperatures in Michigan?

So off we went. We got to spend time with their four girls and I got to remember again just how amazing SM is with kids. He played games with them non-stop! We also went hiking/bouldering one day and saw some of the beautiful countryside in a local state park. And I enjoyed not only being “Aunt Crystal” once again with girls that love me, and a sister to a couple who exemplify Christ beyond their knowledge to all those around them… but also loved spending time taking pictures of the adorable cuteness of their kids as long as they would let me (which, by the way, was a LOT!). Here are just a couple of the pictures I captured along our trip.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Catching Up

It’s a little strange to realize my last blog post was made while I was still in Tanzania. Since then, I finished selling and packing all my things in Musoma, made my way through Nairobi, said goodbye to some dear friends, laid over with a friend in Italy, got stuck in London overnight, and eventually made it “home” to Kalamazoo. I got to connect with a dear friend who I taught with in Dar (now in Minnesota), meet my niece and spend time with my brother’s family, connect with friends new and old from around the world, move up to a place I’m staying in Zeeland, MI through December, and try to take a deep breath as I continue to acclimate to the world of America.

WAY too many people and places are missing from this picture...
these are just the ones I could find quickly :(

I feel that I'm not only continually catching up with people around me these days, but also catching up on all that has changed while I was gone - and the big and little ways that I changed along the way, too. I'm catching up with what's new in Holland, MI since I was a student here 8 years ago, catching up with how to cook from scratch when you can't just go buy 2 kilos of tomatoes, 3 carrots, one onion, and a fresh pineapple at the local market, and catching my breath a bit after "running hard" in serving for a long time without a lot of good breaks along the way.

This still feels way more normal to me than Meijer or Family Fare...

It's been interesting this time around to realize just how difficult the transition back has been for me. I don’t remember it being this difficult last furlough in a lot of ways. Perhaps I’m just more tired, emotionally and physically, after living in a place that I loved, but was often far from easy. Perhaps I've gotten so used to life in Tanzania that it became second nature, and the switch to the American system of, well, everything is just that much more difficult. Or perhaps actually selling everything and leaving East Africa/moving to the US this time has been more wearying than just leaving my stuff there to go back to. Whatever the reason, I’ve been pretty worn out, but ever-thankful for friends in the States and in Musoma for their continued prayers and support, and to family for “getting” that this whole reverse-culture shock thing is actually very real – and normal. And I’m thankful for a God who remains the same no matter what continent or country I find myself in.

The things that made the cut to come back to the States-
so glad it all arrived with me! At Chicago O'Hare
So today, as I begin my new online class, I think of a previous fall season 3 years ago where I was taking on a much-heavier load. I’m not sure I’m excited to jump back into student-mode again, but I’m thankful for the chance to renew my Michigan teaching license and to learn more about children’s literature. I’m thankful for the amazing ways God has provided, sustained, and encouraged me through His Body in community and through faithful friends and churches in the States over the past five years, and as I pray about what’s next, I’m growing in my ability to trust Him even in the midst of unknowns. And most importantly, I know that I’m not alone in the midst of any of this – thanks to incredible people surrounding me and an even more incredible God who will never let me go.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lord of the Rings: Tanzania Edition

Ever have those moments where you feel like you've stepped into a movie??  In the midst of our hike this past weekend, we all agreed we could easily be in the Lord of the Rings, hiking towards Mordor.

(aka a rock hill in a village about an hour from Musomaland...)
We zigzaged through shambas (farms) as best we could till we finally hit a river-gorge dead-end.  (Ok, it was an irrigation ditch, but river gorge sounds a lot better!)

My roommate Ronit's mad 4WD driving skills
The parking spot
We got out, asked if we could leave our car where it stood... and then wandered back and forth for a few minutes before appealing to our friendly neighborhood farmer for help on the best place to cross!

We stumbled, slid, and got stuck across irrigation ditches, mud-sticky swamps, flooded cow plains, thorn bush patches, corn fields, rainforests and massive boulders. All in skirts :)

Since I was the only photographer in our group,
just assume anything they did, I did too! ;)
At one point Gollum (a local farmer) came over to lead us across his marshy cow pasture, then sent us on our way on the other side.  I was pretty sure he had a secret ring in his pocket, but he didn't offer to share... ;)

Eventually we started to wonder what it'd be like to just start walking cross-country for days weeks on end.  Something like Frodo and his band did (but without the orcs).

 We got a bit torn and beat up along the way...
(Can you see the path?  "Just crawl on your belly under the thorn bushes...")

...but we kept our smiles...
...and finally made it!
We didn't have a ring to destroy at the top, but we did eat celebratory chapatis, take a few pictures, and chat with a bull we randomly met near the top. (How did HE get up here?)

God blesses me with family wherever I go!
My Aussie bro, Lindsay...
...and amazing roommate (for 9 more days), Ronit!
On our way back, we couldn't see the car, so we wandered a bit off-course as the storm rolled in.

BUT we followed our feet through the mud, plunged through the Sea of Swirly Twirly Gumdrops, climbed into the Prado, and found our way back to a dirt road that promised to bring us home. :)
As my students would say, "THE END!!!"

Sunday, September 8, 2013

You Know You've Been Traveling A Lot When...

A few thoughts since getting "home" to Musomaland after all my travels this summer...
  • You get messages from close friends that start with, "I don't know where you might be in the world right now, but..."
  • Seeing the word "transition" - even in a writing-a-paper-context - makes you cringe...
  • The word "visa" really DOES make you think of something you put in a passport...
  • You realize your (brand new) credit card is pretty much unusable in England because of it's lack of a smartchip...
  • Getting on a plane for 8 hours is as normal as getting in a car for a road trip... except you don't have to worry about bringing snacks!
    My regular super-unhealthy-but-keeps-me-awake roadtrip food of choice in the States.
    Road trip snacks look a lot bit different here in Tanzania... :)
  • in your phone has a country code already added in, so it's usable from whatever country you might happen to be calling from...
  • You have long, well-informed conversations with friends about your most-favourite airport in the world and why...
  • You veto your friend's idea of a travel-themed journal because traveling more is the LAST thing you want to think about or do!
  • You recognize the importance of Subway cookies in your life... And make sure to take advantage of their existence in any country you enter (same goes for berries... And good ice cream...)
    Strawberries and Cherries?  YES please!!!
  • You appreciate Whatsapp mucho (an app that lets you text around the world for free) so you can be in regular contact with amazing close friends in other countries and those fitting the same description down-the-road. And because it's your source of new-niece pictures from Florida!!!
  • You accidentally use Swahili in text conversations with friends from the States, and when you try to correct yourself with English, they let you know they remembered the translation from last time you accidentally used it!
  • You think, "Someday, I'll live in one place for long enough to buy a decorative bowl and have a place to keep it!" then again, maybe moving often is good for my accumulative nature... ;)
    Germany.  With a guy just behind the counter making them by hand.
    Oh, I would have loved to bring one of these home...
  • You make decisions on size and model of guitar based on travel plans for the next several years (got it 5 yrs ago... It's concert-sized for a reason!)
  • You know the name of Walmart-owned chains on at least three continents
  • Your little Bible is your primary one - the one you use always. (And that had to be duct-taped to continue it's longevity...) Study Bibles are great, but too heavy to carry on airplanes and buses and ferries and... and... and around the world!
    Big thanks to my friends in MI who made the duct tape job look professional! 
    Never could have done this myself!
  • You're not surprised when the people you'd hoped to meet up with in England happen to be in the guesthouse in Nairobi heading back to England from Zambia as you travel back to Musoma... Meeting up with random people unexpectedly isn't all that unexpected. Just God! :)
  • You pray. A lot. And expect God to show up big time. And aren't surprised to see when He does!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The New Norm

(Backdrop: Written a week ago on a notepad app on my phone while sitting on a train from Charlbury to Essex after staying with a dear, though sick friend I know from the Land of Tanz... thus illustrating the "New Norm" concept to a T...)

I haven't had a lot of chance to blog recently, and on the other hand, I haven't made time. The funny thing is, blogging has always been a way for me to process what's going on in my life. Some things get shared, others don't. But a big part of my processing is transitions, which I seem to do a lot of in my life these days.

On the other hand, transitions these days are becoming the new norm. I've found a system where I tend to need 3 days in a new place to feel more fully like myself, and then, while I'm still learning things... At least I'm not so much in a blur. And for that I'm thankful. Day 1 is disorientation, day 2 I start to notice everything I hate and wish I wasn't there, and day 3 I start to even out, feel like myself, and enjoy everything and everyone. I'd love to get the process down to 3 hrs instead of days, but at least it's not 3 months!

With transitions being normal, and having the chance to go back to many places where I've been before... It's all a bit ... Normal. Not usual, or easy per se, but the differences between places and the unusualness of my experiences no longer seem noteworthy. And that's the problem. Because my normal... Doesn't seem normal to most. And my usual is not so boring to read about, probably. But it's easy to think so from my end or forget there's anything new to mention.

In the past few weeks I've been BACK in Nairobi, BACK in Kandern, BACK with old friends from 2 yrs ago, BACK in masters classes with professors I've had before. BACK in a town I know.  I've met more people and learned new things and stayed in a new place, discovered the extent of my clothing wornness and remembered that half the things on my Amazon wishlist order are actually available in many stores... but many things seem normal.

Now I'm in England, visiting friends and trying hard to focus on writing a couple of papers to finish off the classes I started in March. I'm realizing that the new royal baby (wait, she was pregnant??) is a bigger deal in the States than it is in England. I'm realizing just how much history is all around me. I'm learning how to read timetables for the underground and have had great teachers to help me learn things along the way. I've started saying things like pram and push-chair (stroller), and referring to a child's actions as "cheeky." I thought I was pretty well-versed in British-English, but I'm ever-so-much-more aware of my lack of understanding, my lack of vocabulary, my weird accent (though supposedly I don't have much of one?!). I could identity an Aussie from a Kiwi, but I couldn't tell you the difference between someone from Scotland or Ireland. I need help putting a postcode into the computer (which part, exactly, is the address??) and though I feel like I'm pretty well-traveled, I'm also feeling a bit lost. But I've been thankful to have some great teachers, understanding hosts, and a couple of weeks in the same place to at least figure things out a wee bit!

I'm growing. Learning. Expanding. Changing. I have a reference point for so many books I've read by British authors and no longer feel like I'm going to end up in Narnia when I get on a train. I'm stretching. Processing a lot. And somehow, I'm not getting a lot of paper-writing done along the way!?!

But I am thankful. Thankful for good friends, new and old. Thankful for the chance to see new places, have my horizons (and thus, my ability to teach and share and guide children) expanded. Become even more global in my understanding and realize once again how limited each of our perspectives really are. And somehow, face yet another set of transitions that will bring me back "home" to the Land of Tanz!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Daily Drives... and Ducks

I recently saw a photo on FaceBook showing someone's creativity in expressing their displeasure of potholes somewhere in South Africa.  It was cute.  Really.  I considered (for a brief moment) the idea of doing the same thing here in Musoma... but I couldn't imagine where I'd find the rubber duckies, the cage just seemed like too much work... and it seemed the real ducks in our potholes would probably prefer I leave the water to them!
Picture from FB and
My roommate and I live a bit out of the main town, so driving into work during rainy season is always a fun challenge depending on how much it's rained the night before.  Unfortunately, the video below doesn't show the real LIVE ducks we often dodge on our way into town... but this gives you a bit of a perspective of what the start of my daily drive looks like here in Musoma, Tanzania.  This is the worst section for sure... and the video is really long, so feel free to cut off whenever you get tired, bored, or start feeling carsick!

*Special video credits go to my phone for taking this semi-decent video, a gob of blutack (kind of like poster putty) which held my phone on my windshield for recording purposes, and of course Rascal Flatts for their cover of an applicable song.  (Come to find out, there really aren't that many songs out there about driving... just in case you were wondering!)

(P.S. We are moving into town in 26 days, and my roommate and I are just a bit excited for the move!  Less petrol consumption, not to mention less wear-and-tear on the car, will be more than welcome.  As a friend recently said, some people count numbers of sleeps till big events;  I tend to count numbers of drives...)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Along my travels down I-75 and further south... I came along a few interesting sights.  Some of them I managed to take pics of (when I wasn't surrounded by traffic) and others I had to note down on the yellow post-it beside me.  Here are a few of the things that kept me entertained on my 3 days of driving south!
Because you wouldn't want a regular, boring mountain road...

Who WOULDN'T want to live on Stinking Creek Road, really?
(Turns out there's also a Boggy Creek Road in FL, in case you want the wet version...)
Does it bother anyone else that the American Kidney Fund truck has pick-up service?
I keep hearing about this coca-cola museum, but didn't have a chance to stop...
From my one experience in Atlanta before, I remembered how the right lane of traffic suddenly turns into an off-ramp without warning.  I tried to stay in the middle. 
Did you know there really IS an Oscar Meyer Weiner Vehicle?
Neither did I, till I passed it going down I-75! 
Not sure I'd want to drive this on a windy day though!
Oh, how this reminds me of Tanzania! 
Who says the luggage has to fit within the confines of the vehicle?
Another random street name that called for a picture...
"NEEDMORE RD?" This name cracks me up... let alone that it's obviously under construction!
Everyone wants a "Big Boy" statue walking across their lawn!
Because all dairy farmers should be united...