Monday, November 26, 2012

Taking the Plunge

Have you ever jumped off a high dive or a cliff?  As you stand on the edge you are excited and a bit afraid.  Then you jump.  In a split second you go from excitement to fear and back to excitement again.  Then you hit the water and feel a sting.  Depending on how you land, that sting can be with you for a second or several days.  A split second later the sting is overshadowed by the shock of the cold water.  You quickly get over the shock and acclimate to the temperature around you.  You may even swim under water for a few seconds before your lungs remind you that you need to come up for air.

Tonight I was thinking about diving.  I did this a lot as a kid having grown up in a land with over 10,000 lakes.  It is, in many ways, a very fast picture of what moving to another country is like.  At first you are excited and a little scared as you begin your time abroad.  Then one day a sting followed by a shock hits you.  Depending on how you hit this point, the sting may be with you for a short time or a long time.  After the shock, things normalize until the day comes that you realize it has been a while since you have come up for air.  Once you come up for air, you can swim around in your new culture for a long time and feel right at home.  You may find yourself gasping for breath every so often, and you will never totally fit in (divers never become fish), but you will (probably) get to feel right at home.

Of course some people can't swim.  And they should not dive.  In the same way some people can't fit in in a second culture and they should not try to be what they are not.  God did not make them for cross-cultural work, so they should be satisfied to take vacations abroad but not live there.  There is nothing wrong with this.  We all have different skills and gifts.

I took the dive into Bulgaria almost two years ago.  I can safely say that I'm swimming as well in Bulgarian culture as I would in a lake back in Minnesota.  I really like it here, and I have no desire to get out of the water just yet.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Thanksgiving is a bit different in Bulgaria.  This is mainly because it is not a holiday here.  Schools and work are open, and daily life continues uninterrupted.  (There is also no Black Friday tomorrow.)  While we prepared a feast, the rest of Bulgaria just went about its business.

It was a great day for us though.  After dropping Sophie off at school, we started cooking.  Okay, Sasha started cooking.  I just did stuff like pealing potatoes, boiling water, and washing dishes for Sasha to use while preparing the next dish.

This was the first time we did everything ourselves.  Every other Thanksgiving celebration we have attended or hosted has been the kind where everyone brings a dish or two and the hostess makes the turkey.  Not this time though.  This year we were almost alone.  The only guests we had were Baba and Diado (Grandma and Grandpa), and as they were coming from Kostenets by train, it was impractical for them to bring anything.  We bought the bread, but the rest was made from scratch.

It was a great meal.  We really enjoyed ourselves.  My father-in-law quickly learned the joys of gravy, and this was the first year any of our girls actually looked forward to the turkey.  After dinner, I helped Sophie with her homework (remember, it's no holiday in Bulgaria), and Sasha cleaned the table to make way for pie.  After Baba and Diado left, we broke out Small World, and played a couple games.

Thanksgiving is great!

Today is also a landmark day for me.  It is the longest I have been out of the U.S. in one stretch.  True, we have been living overseas for 6 years now, but I always had a reason to go back for a bit every now and then.  Today I broke my previous record of time away.  There are things I miss in America, but I also love it here.  Besides, I have a beautiful wife who has embraced America and its culture.  I feel at home wherever I am in the world as long as she is with me.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Saturday Afternoon Surprise

Early this afternoon we got a call from the mom of one of Veronica's classmates.  She and her daughter wanted to come over for a visit.  Sasha quickly told me to put my tools away and stop my Saturday afternoon projects because we were having guests.

As I type this, Sasha is upstairs conversing with the mom over cookies, and the girls are playing with Veronica's friend.

One thing I love about our neighborhood is that it actually feels like a neighborhood.  We have friends just stop by for the fun of it.  It seems to be easier to connect with those around us than it was last year in our old neighborhood.

I'm very glad to see Sasha and the girls connecting with our neighbors.  It makes home feel more like home.