What’s Your Story?

“So…where are you from?”

Last night I was at a gathering for young business leaders and people who want to make an impact on society. As we got to know each other over cheese fondue, we asked all the ‘normal’ small talk questions.
And there it was again.
The harmless inquiry on my biography that makes my insides curl up and my words tangle up in my mouth. 

Where do I even begin?

As TCKs we are well acquainted with these awkward questions on where we’re from or what we call home. When we don’t have an easy answer straight away we’re often faced with blank stares or even more questions.

So I crafted different versions of my story: the short version for superficial chats, the long version for someone who’s really interested.
I tend to leave parts out which might only bore the others, I rather zoom in on the good parts, the stories that make you laugh or wonder.

Don’t we all find ourselves in such places at times?

Our life stories are supposed to look perfect. We brush them up with Instagram filters and hide the parts we’d rather not make public. We’re all about sharing – even if we actually just share parts of it. 

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I sometimes wonder if we don’t miss out on a lot of great things by editing our life stories.
We show ourselves, but only parts of us.
What if we revealed something else?
What if we gave someone the gift of the unedited, raw pieces of our lives?
What if we unveiled the dark spots in our story – the doubts, the unanswered questions, the experiences that don’t make sense?
What if we added a bit more color to the otherwise perfect picture?

Our stories are the greatest gift we have.
When we share from ourselves we invite someone else to get to know us, the real us.
We actually get to know and love ourselves more by embracing our own stories, all of it.
And we allow the Lord to reveal a bit more of himself in our broken narratives.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Yearning for a Home

So…where are you from?
Quite a typical question in a smalltalk setting.
To a TCK, it’s the worst enemy.

Somehow “place” has got a spell on us.
The places we’ve lived in have made us who we are today, they have shaped our understanding of ourselves, they have given us a home in this big wide world.

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But what if you change place all the time?
What home remains for us restless wanderers?

In the last two years I have made an interesting discovery: I actually do like to stay somewhere.
To take hold of a place.
To make a home somewhere.

This is strikingly new to someone who has moved more than twenty times in her not-so-long life.
I can’t promise I’ll stay forever.
I can’t guarantee I’m going to like everything about it.

But for now, I want to make an effort to set down roots here and really settle into the place I’ve been given.
Get to know the people around me.
Appreciate the beauty right in front of me.
Rest in the knowledge that this restlessness is a deep yearning for the ultimate home – the place where all our hearts do belong.

Psst, if you’re looking for some great reading on this prompt, check out Tsh’s memoir “At Home in the World” or Jen Pollock Michel’s “Keeping Place“.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Tabithas Pfanne

The last guest post for this series comes from Tabitha. She and I met many years ago on a TCK re-entry camp. Tabitha grew up in Tanzania, but now lives in Germany. Coming ‘back’ and settling in a country that has never truly been yours is a challenge – but small things can make a huge difference. Tabitha shares one of them.

Continue reading “Tabithas Pfanne”

The ‘Treasures’ of Traveling

When I travel I dive into the smell and taste of new food. I take in the breathtaking beauty of vast landscapes. I enjoy meeting people and listening to their stories.
When I travel I take a few pictures and collect souvenirs.
Not the objects you’d expect.
I collect stories.
In the midst of people, in a public square, on a bench at the coast – I sit down and write down all these treasures that beg to be told.

I just came back from a vacation. Two weeks in the UK with many great adventures and encounters. So here a few of my ‘treasures’ from London.

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A street in Aldgate at rush hour with one office building next to another.
Facades of steel and glass designed for people with long hours and large paychecks. In between the skyscrapers you can still detect remnants of the people who used to live here: small brick houses with coal stained chimneys next to modern art temples of money and business. Instead of tiny shops you find exclusive bars and high-class take away restaurants for the people who can’t ‘waste’ time on meals.

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Instead of low-class workers you now see men and women in elegant suits hurrying down the streets – coffee in one hand, blackberry in the other. They are no longer walking, they are running as if they can’t get away form this place fast enough. Their expensive costumes are paired with bulky trainers because their feet just can’t take it anymore after a day in high heels.

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This is a place for business, strictly business.
This is London.

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London9A street in West End at night.
Picadilly Circus is pulsating with cars, with tourists, with life. The streets are heavily trafficked by the all too familiar red Double-decker buses and black cabs. They. Are. Real.

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People are invited to get lost in the crowds or spend a lot of money in the many shops within the neo classicist buildings. If you just stop for a moment you can pick up a variety of languages and faces from all over the world. In between the shops you can see the shiny billboards of the many theaters celebrating the arts in countless musicals.

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The stories range from murder mysteries to romance to historical dramas. You dive into a world where everything’s shiny, all conversations are put into song, and in the end it will all work out well. Afterwards you walk out into real life again, carrying the stories with you and wishing that sometimes life would have a score to it.

This is a place for dreams.
This is London.

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The smells of Whitechapel.
You take the Tube to the East End and when you get off the train it feels like you step into a whole different world. Just a few blocks away from the sophisticated business quarters at Aldgate the streets are suddenly crowded with people wearing long beards, turbans, hijabs, or burkas. The mosque is located right next to the Synagogue. Shop signs are in Tamil or Arabic and advertise restaurants which sell pilaw and masala instead of pie.

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The area where workers from the nearby dockyards used to live a century ago is now home to people from all over the world, forming an incredible mixture of languages, religions, and cultures. It’s one of the poorest suburbs, but also the one where world travelers might feel most at home.

This is a place for diversity.
This is London.

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The Mall around Buckingham Palace.
Thousands of people from around the world press their faces against the iron gates to just get a glimpse of the Changing of the Guards. Men in red embroidered coats and large fur hats march up and down to the ‘James Bond’ tune. The ceremony seems like a relict from the past, and yet the monarchy is as present in the British society as ever. The English love their Queen and you can’t help but admire this lady who’s seen and lived through so much and managed to stay true to herself and her values nevertheless. Across St. James’s Park you can see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. The old buildings have seen great events and heated debates, and they will soon be the place of a historical decision when the British vote on the Brexit. London and its population are crucial to the polls, and Europe is awaiting the results.

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This is a place for glamor and decisions.
This is London.

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The sounds of Covent Garden around noon.
The Piazza that used to be London’s biggest fruit and vegetable market is now filled with many elegant stalls selling everything from imported shawls to handmade jewelry. Instead of groceries you can taste original fish and chips, inhale the rich flavors of tea, or admire the delicate shapes of wooden toys. The surrounding pubs are flocked with business people and groups of friends enjoying a light lunch and a pint. Yes, it’s only noon, but it’s never too early to start drinking Ale.

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Covent Garden is the stage for all the artists who haven’t made it to the West End yet. The streets become their entertainment – jugglers, magicians, comedians, and opera singers. If you allow yourself to pause and sit down for a moment you discover something beautiful: a soft melody in the midst of the street noise. A song that makes you wonder like a child. A small glimpse of the extraordinary in the ordinary.

This is a place for celebration.
This is London.

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Four days in this beautiful, complex, enchanting and intriguing city. I take away sore feet, tanned skin, and a few pictures. There’s still so many places to discover, so many stories to tell. I’ll be back.

I Am Not Anne

When I was a young girl, my favorite book was Anne of Green Gables. I loved reading about the adventures and mishaps of Anne, an eleven year old orphan who’s adopted by two elderly siblings. She isn’t wanted at first, but eventually moves in with the Cuthberts and changes life in the small town of Avonlea quite a bit. With her very open and curious personality she falls into a few traps along the way, but somehow she always manages to win people over. No mater how selfish, bitter or traditional people are – Anne finds ‘kindred spirits’ everywhere.

I have always found Anne’s character quite appealing, considering the fact that she moves into a very tight-knit community. Everybody knows everyone in Avonlea, and everyone is somehow related. This comes with the usual conflicts and gossip: once you do something ‘wrong’ (which basically means something different than traditions) everyone knows about it. And everyone is entitled to have an opinion on it.

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Anne doesn’t care. She does things differently, ignores rules, or revises old traditions. She confuses people with her extroverted character and ideas, but in the end she brings the community closer together. People suddenly help each other out and care for each other.

Grandma’s place reminds me a lot of Avonlea. A small village in the middle of nowhere where everyone knows everyone. There are conflicts and there’s gossip. There’s one right way to do it, and a lot of confused stares and hushed comments if you do it differently.

There’s close community and a lot of help, too. You can call people anytime if you need homemade food, farming supplies or practical help. People reach out and are willing to care about each other. My Grandma and my mom as well are used to simply picking up the phone and calling for help. They have no problem walking into other people’s yards.

They are at home there.

As much as I enjoy Grandma’s place I realize it’s not my Avonlea.
When I was there a few weeks ago Grandma asked me to pick up some honey from the neighbor. “You can walk through the backyard”, she said.
I really wanted to.

Instead, I stood there and hesitated.

Unable to walk through the yard I realized that I know of people, but I don’t really know them. I am not the kind of person who just walks into people’s yards and lives. I am not the kind of girl who turns others into ‘kindred spirits’.

I am not Anne.

I have had my shares of adventures and mishaps (and I hope I’m not done yet!). I have walked into cultural traps and caused more confusion than understanding. I have felt unwanted and lost in tight-knit communities.

And yet I have discovered that there’s more of an Anne inside of me than I thought.

I do have a way to look at the world that some might call daydreaming, idealistic, or naïve. I call it finding beauty in the mundane. With the right mindset you can see past the worries, pain, and problems life so often throws at us.

I do clash with people’s mindsets and opinions because I sometimes do things ‘differently’. But it’s such a blessing to see how others live and think – why don’t we learn more from each other? And more than that, why don’t we practice caring about and for each other?

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Most of all, I did and do find ‘kindred spirits’ everywhere. It normally happens when I least expect it. At a friend’s birthday party, on my way home from work, in a comment below a blog post.
‘Kindred spirits’ who have traveled the world, who have lived in different countries and fell in love with several cultures at the same time.

Who know what it means to feel lost and want to belong so badly.
Who do things ‘differently’ and yet don’t want to give up themselves.

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Who might be afraid to walk through the neighbor’s backyard, but would have no problem finding a place to stay on any continent.

Who have discovered that our Avonlea is bigger than one geographical location – it can be found whenever we let each other in on the new, weird, exciting, exhausting experiences life might bring.