Simple Pleasures



Life in the Mission field…

Sometimes it is the simple little things you can miss. I come from a line of pumpkin pie bakers, grandma and mom. So I grew up loving pumpkin pie.

Tinned pumpkin is a rare find here in Ireland and when found can be costly. Yesterday shopping in our local shop I found tinned pumpkin, I had to do a double take. Yep there it was and the cost manageable. Let’s just say Shawn had one giddy wife in the shop.

Next week during mid term break there will be pumpkin pie. I know it breaks all the rules of having pumpkin pie only during Thanksgiving, but you have to enjoy these moments when they come. 

by Deanna Tebbe

Third Culture Kids



So I’m reading a book right now about TCKs- Third Culture Kids, a passing recommendation on Facebook by another missionary mom. What are Third Culture Kids?  They are kids of missionaries or military personnel who grow up outside of their passport country.  It’s like they grow up between worlds– adapting to, loving and probably more fitting into their adopted country, but never completely on the “in”, always a foreigner.  On the other side, though they look completely like they should “know” (“respond”, “act like”, “fit in with”) their passport country, they often do not and the skills needed in their adopted country are often useless in their passport country, whereas the skills needed in their passport country are often lacking.  Belonging is the scary word I keep reading about in this book.

Our child will be a third culture kid.  Actually, a fourth culture kid. As Vicente and I come from two different cultures (thus no one consistent culture at home), and our baby will grow up in a third culture, but not quite belonging to any of those. She will have her own fourth culture.

Anyway, it’s a very interesting book- Between Worlds Essays on Culture and Belonging by Marilyn Gardner. I’d recommend it to those in that position and for all ya’ll who know of some TCKs coming to America, perhaps on furlough, and what their particular needs might be.

There are a lot of things I identify with in this book, having lived outside of the States for five and a half years in total now.  It’s not that long, I know, but in those times, I’d very much adapted to my adopted countries and cultures. Until the time I moved at age 21, I’d been monocultural, knowing only my American logical ways, my ways of getting places and getting things done, my perspectives and opinions based on my views based on being an American (and every American has their view!).  But when you begin to adapt to another culture and their ways, learn their opinions, and do things the way they do them (for more than a week/month-long trip, etc.), you become bi-cultural.  And the thing is, you can never go back.

You will always be a foreigner in that country, no matter how well you speak the language, understand their nuances, what’s going on behind what they’re saying, or prefer the way they do things. That’s expected.  But the big shocker, at least for me, is that you are a bit of a foreigner at home too.

I remember feeling lost at home sometimes.  Feeling like I’d changed and I didn’t quite know how to interact, how to do daily things, how to choose lotion at the store (seriously, an aisle full of options!!). It was exhausting.

I felt it most when I moved to California.  Fresh off the plane from Japan, I felt baffled at times with how to relate to these West Coasters who knew everything pop culture and did everything so prettily.  At that time, I knew very, very few people and the last two years of American movies, books and music were a black hole for me. It was challenging for me to feel like I belonged, especially when my new husband did.

Thankfully, I adjusted.  It took time, and making my first friend, Emily, was a balm for my wound-up, tensed self.  She was the first person I went to coffee with (after 2-3 months of being in California).  She listened to my stories (she’s good at that), asked questions, and without realizing it, helped me feel like I could figure this new life out.  I don’t think she realized that day what a major role that played for me, but I remember it all clear as day.

Anyway, this went in a whole new direction. These experiences and this book are making me consider what needs my daughter will face, and how I might guide or make this process easier for her.  I can’t do it all, but for those who meet her on American soil in the coming years, your understanding of her (without pitying her) and including her in things will make a great difference in her life and will hopefully help her to embrace (discover?) and feel comfortable in the American side of her skin.

by Janine Alvarado, Missionary to Japan

Medical Differences Overseas



Living in another culture requires an extraordinary amount of a) prep work and thinking ahead and b) going with the flow.

Recently, I messaged a Japanese friend to ask some advice.  Rosalyn had had a fever of over 100 for nearly 24 hours and I wasn’t entirely sure what to do.  I asked my friend when she usually calls the doctor.  Of course, she corrected me– you don’t call the doctor here, you always take them to the clinic.  Of course, I knew that but it’s just my way of saying it.

I told her what our American doctors would say and she just said that she’s taken her kids with a lot fewer symptoms than Rosalyn had.  So I did.  I took along my American meds I’d given her, all the paperwork I thought I might have need of and went in.

Seems it’s only a cold.  I’d rather be safe than sorry.  But beyond my reconfirming all the details with the doctor to check my comprehension of how to give her the meds and what I needed to do about some insurance paperwork I have that’s now expired (sigh), it got me to reviewing.

What would I do if her fever were to go dangerously high? What number do I call?  I’m not talking about doctor’s numbers, I’m talking about 911.  Because it’s not 911 here!  There’s no nurse hotline here.  Where can I take her at 3am if I need to?  All those answers, as a mother, I have to know ahead of time.  It concerns me to make sure I can communicate clearly, and that we are prepared in case of emergency.

Some could accuse me of a lack of faith.  I’d say, no, that’s called being a responsible parent.

I absolutely have faith and trust God for healing.  I trust God that He will keep her safe.  I’m not too concerned about a little cold, it’ll build her immune system.  But in some cases, it’s not enough to just go with the flow and figure it out as it happens.

I’m not entirely sure where this blog is coming from. But it’s just been on my mind, that unlike what someone innocently mentioned that it’s just like figuring it out in the States, but just in another language, to this I’d say, no, it’s nothing like it

by Janine Alvarado, missionary to Japan

Triumphs: A Glimpse of Practical Living Overseas


Vicente, Janine and Roslyn Alvarado

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

When we lived in the USA, Rosalyn’s bottle preparation was simple.  5 ounces of water to 2.5 scoops of formula.  In Japan, for nearly the same amount of water, you add a whopping 8 scoops of formula.
And that, ladies, is the perfect illustration of what it’s like to live in a foreign country…5.5 new steps for everything you do.

The title, “Triumph”, may seem like an exaggeration.  However, I guarantee you that the feeling I have when I’m able to accomplish simple things is nothing short of triumph!

Getting a Cell Phone:
We went to two places and were turned down for cell phone contracts because of the length of our visas, although I can name four other families of the same visa status who have the same plan we applied for.  Re-collecting my confidence and disappointed expectation, we went to another shop a few days later and obtained a contract.  It took only about an hour and a half.

Later that night the real fun began as we tried to set up our email account through the company in order to use sms.  Two and a half excruciating hours later I went into the “zone,” a place where I shut out all distractions and where Vicente knows not to bother joking with me.  It was the LORD who helped me through that!

Registering at City Hall:
Two hours…four windows.  Sooo many forms to fill out.

Internet and WiFi:
PTL!! He certainly helped me out on this one!  Setting up both of them I made simple mistakes.  But, in both cases, the LORD led me through random steps to figure out how to make it work, just as I began to think I wouldn’t be able to do it by myself.

Cooking on a two burner stove:
There were cheers of triumph in our apartment a couple of days after we moved in when we figured out that our tiny two burner stove top needed a battery in order to keep the flame lit.  Anything to do with gas lines scares the “bejeepers” out of me, but when we were finally able to light our stove and keep it lit in order to cook, we cheered…randomly…several times.  In fact, I still cheer randomly.

I won’t bore you with long lists of what we’ve had to do.  Though it took you just a few minutes to read this, none of these things were as simple as the 2.5 scoops of formula or the fifteen to thirty minutes it might take you to accomplish it at home.  They’ve involved many extra steps and many challenges.  There have been times when I’ve pulled out my iPod  to use a translation tool and asked the person on the other side of the counter to type in the word for me.  I’ve received many papers in receipt of my transactions with information I’m sure is pertinent, but I can’t read them at the moment.  They are sitting in stacks and when I have a question, I’ll pull out the appropriate one, go into the “zone” and attempt to translate and understand it.

Sometimes…sometimes…maybe eight tries later, there are cheers of triumph.

by Janine Alvarado, Mission Japan

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