Monday, November 22, 2010

South of the Border

I'll bet you'll never believe where we are... south of the border! And when we do things, we go all the way. So, not only are we south of the border.... we are really south of the border - almost in Guatemala! It took us 30 hours by bus to get here.

So, why are we here? This is where hubby grew up as a second-generation missionary, and this is where some of his family still lives and works in the ministry. We came here for two weeks for David to speak at his mother's annual ladies' banquet and so that we could visit with his family that the kids and I have not seen for 6 years.

The kids have been loving playing with their cousins.... some of these cousins they have never met before! I watch them play and see a sense of belonging in them. We are not just guests in a home. We are with family. This is such a rare moment for us that we are soaking it all in.

I am taking oodles of pictures! However, since we left many of our things in our van at the border, I accidently left the cord that connects my camera to my laptop. So, pictures will come later...

The only thing I am really hoping and praying for is that little Micah James will not decide that he loves Mexico so much that he wants to become a Mexican! I am 30 weeks along with him and just trying to keep him put for now!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reverse Culture-Shock, Part 3

This is the last post in a three-part series of things my children have found to be different in America than what they are used to on our mission field of Ukraine. To find part 1, go here; to find part 2, go here. If you are viewing this post in your inbox and the pictures do not line up well, go straight to my blog to view them.

1. Canned biscuits (I had so much fun with this one the other day! We were staying in a missionary's home, and the pastor's wife had sweetly left breakfast items in the refrigerator for us to cook for ourselves. One of those things included canned biscuits. Very cunningly, I called my 8-year-old Davey over to help me open the can, knowing full well that it would pop and scare him! And who says missionaries never have fun?!) 2. Dishwashers (Most homes have these and many ladies do not think twice about the way their lives are made easier because of them. But, I'll refrain from being jealous and just laugh at myself when I cannot figure out if the dishes are to go on the little wires sticking out or between them. Ahem.)
3. Homes without fences or walls (Did you know that most Ukrainian homes [and even cemeteries] have iron fences or high concrete walls around them? We have not built one around our home yet, and our loving church people keep reminding us that we need to prioritize that to keep burglars out. So far the Lord has protected our belongings, but we do plan to put up a wall or fence soon.)
4. School buses (For some reason my children have been just fascinated with "school bus sightings" and they love to yell out when they see one. In Ukraine, the children either walk to school or ride a city bus.)
5. Home construction (Ukrainian homes are always built out of very large bricks or huge slabs of concrete. They sincerely cannot understand why Americans build their homes out of wood. Reminds me of The Three Little Pigs. I guess they worry about the big, bad wolf blowing American houses down, and in some regard, they are right when you consider the damage that can be done with tornadoes and hurricanes.)6. Porches (We have never seen a Ukrainian home with a porch.)
7. Speed detectors (These are scary! If you accidently go over the speed limit you'll be caught! Since we are on the road so much, we have to be extra cautious.)
8. Electronic "Your Speed" signs (Ah, such nice reminders!)
9. Traffic bridges (Wow! Sometimes we feel like we are on slow-motion roller coasters when we loop around and on top of other freeways! This also causes much excitement in our van.)
10. Massive sports stadiums (The kids were "itching" to go to one of these, so we were able to take them to a high school football game last week at the Christian school I attended long ago, and they thought they were going to be on TV! Boy, did we get a laugh out of that one! Good thing is, they are still too young to understand the difference between high school and professional games!)
11. Two- and three- car garages. (Some of our beloved Ukrainian friends would feel blessed to live in a house the size of some garages we have seen here!)
12. Pick-up trucks (We are currently traveling through Texas, so you can only imagine how many pick-up trucks we have been seeing. We have never seen a pick-up truck in Ukraine, so a pastor recently and ever so graciously took our kids for a ride in one. They were thrilled!)
13. Homes-on-wheels (You would never see one of our concrete homes in Ukraine being hauled like this!)
14. Everlasting supply of toilet paper and paper towels in bathrooms (Enough said.)
15. Air-conditioned homes (I do not know of anyone in America who does not have an air-conditioned home. I do not know of one person in our Ukrainian church who has an air-conditioned home, including us. And, yes, it gets hot enough in the summers that we could really enjoy them. But, the funny thing? When we come back to America, we all always get colds.... from the air conditioners!)
16. Waste (The trash cans Ukrainians use in their kitchens are not much bigger than the ones Americans use in their bathrooms. Ukrainians do not have much to throw away, and it is incredible to us to see how much Americans have to toss, donate, sell at garage sales, or store in their garages.)
17. Modesty in America (For the most part, we are always pleasantly surprised at the general modesty of Americans compared to Ukrainians. Ukraine is an Eastern European country, and I think that most people know that Europeans are known for exposing too much skin.)
18. American flags in front of most businesses. (One of my kids innocently asked, "Is this to remind them this is America?" It was a pleasure to use this opportunity to explain why Americans are proud of their flag and its meaning.)
Ukrainians ask me on a very frequent basis, "Do you like it better here or in America?" Well, that is certainly a question that is hard to answer, and I usually say something along the lines of, "I love it both here and there."
America is the land where I was born and reared. It is the land where I found God and learned of His Son Jesus. It is a blessed country that is most certainly easier and more comfortable to live in.
Ukraine is the land where God has called our family to live and minister. God has blessed us in this country for following His leading there more than eight years ago. Our hearts have become forever knit with the Ukrainian people, and even though it is harder to live there, we love the simpler way of life which causes us to be grateful for even the little blessings in our lives. Though we enjoy our time here, we lovingly call Ukraine "home."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Reverse Culture-Shock, Part 2

Here is another very random list of things that have been a culture shock for my kids. Alot of you seemed to enjoy the first post, so I am continuing my little series. If you missed part 1, go here.

1. Food aisles (There are so many choices here... and so much processed food. Most of my cooking is done from scratch because we do not have the quick options Americans do. I'll have to post a series one day on that topic.) 2. Smooth roads (So smooth at times, that we get sleepy as we travel. Trust me... this does not happen with our bumpy roads in Ukraine... You always have to be alert there!)
3. Restaurant/Fast food choices everywhere you turn (Why would you ever want to cook at home when you can have dinner in just minutes? We certainly do not have this "quick" option in Ukraine... unless you want McDonalds every day of your life... and who does?)4. Free grocery bags (Did you know that we pay for these in Ukraine... about 20 cents a bag?! Being the frugal people that we are, we save these and reuse them [and reuse and reuse... you get the picture]. You know, I could probably make a fortune by saving the bags we have been given here and selling them in Ukraine!)
5. Self check-outs. (Ummm... this would definitely be a big "no-no" where we live. Especially since people here in America are allowed into stores with big purses, diaper bags, etc... In Ukraine, we have lockers where big purses have to be locked up before you are allowed into a store. I'm sure you can guess why.)
6. Mega-sized stores (Do you know how easy it is to get lost in these places? And wow... how do you ever decide what to buy?!) 7. Parking lots (It is unbelievable how common it is to see a parking lot like the one pictured below here in America. Since most Ukrainians walk, this is an unusual sight for us.)8. Mile markers (These are so nice when traveling!)9. Water/Ice dispensers on refrigerators (It seems that most people have these in their homes and my kids are fascinated. They refill their cups over and over just to be able to work these machines. They are certainly getting more than their required amount of water to drink these days, and I sure don't mind!)10. Free drink refills (In Ukraine you pay for refills, so we are having a hard time getting used to being able to drink all we want.)11. Drinking tap water (Drinking water from a faucet in Ukraine is something even the Ukrainians will not do. Everyone buys their water or draws water from a nearby well to drink.)12. Obesity (I'm almost embarrased to mention this one, but to be completely honest we are stunned every time we come back to America to see the obesity. Food is so readily available here that people are becoming alarmingly overweight. When you live overseas and are away from Americans for a couple of years at a time, the shocking truth of this is very evident when you walk off of the airplane. I sincerely miss America food and easier cooking, but I also realize that I am doing my family a favor by not having as many food choices.) I still have some more "reverse culture shock" to share with you, so I hope to do one more post on this topic. Your comments (here on the blog and in my e-mail inbox) have certainly been entertaining, so I look forward to hearing from you again, my friends!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reverse Culture-Shock, Part 1

Since we have been back in America for a little more than three weeks, we have watched our children go through culture shock... only it is reverse culture-shock since they are Americans by birth.

Even though our home in Ukraine is "American," our children have lived in Ukraine most of their lives. And, since some things that are in America are not in Ukraine, we have enjoyed watching the childrens' reactions to those "new" things.

I have had a lot of time on the road, so I used some of this "mundane time" of riding to make a list of things the kids have mentioned, or even made us laugh over, that are different to them. Here are just a few of those things on my list:

1. Free condiments at fast food places (Yes, we pay extra for this stuff in Ukraine, and the kids can't believe it is free here... or that nobody is watching to make sure you only take just enough.) 2. Vending machines (These are just now coming out in Ukraine, but they are still a new idea and highly entertaining for my children)
3. Sidewalks in front of homes (And the funny thing? People in America do not walk like Ukrainians do! These sure would be nice in every neighborhood in Ukraine like they are so abundantly available here.)
4. GPS systems (Our van has one of these, but the most entertaining part of all to us is that most pastors assume we have one. I guess everyone has one now, either on their dashboard or on their cell phone...)

5. "Automatic bathrooms".... i.e. toilets that flush automatically, sinks where the water automatically flows when you wave your hands under them, automatic paper towel dispensers, etc...

(You should see the scared looks on my hillbilly kids' faces when the toilets flush automatically... or watch them try to figure out where the water faucet is to turn the water on! And just try to explain to my kids that you can walk away while that water is still running... that it will eventually go off by itself... and they won't get in trouble for leaving the water running!)

6. Signs that say "Don't Text and Drive." Whatever happened to "Don't Drink and Drive"?! My how the times have changed!
7. Drinking fountains (I nearly dread when a place has these... and nearly every place does... because it means a minimum 5-minute detour for our family!)

8. Clothes dryers in EVERY home (Ahhh... now these are Mommy's favorite. Do I even have to tell you to be thankful for your dryers? And did you know it is a MIRACLE to put something dirty in to wash and be able to wear it less than 2 hours later?! Even hubby is enjoying the miracle of clothes dryers.... I know because he has been very willing to help me with laundry these days!)And, have you ever had your kids see a dryer sheet and ask, "What is that?" Oh, I have! 9. Car-transporting trailer trucks

There are many, many more items on my list, but I will divide this post into parts and add more later. Hope I made you laugh (and, yes, at our expense! I seriously don't mind!)