The Art of Vacationing

When I was growing up, our family vacations looked like this:
Drive for hours, visit friends in other cities or countries, stay at holiday homes or at someone’s house.
We never stayed in a hotel because
a) missionary families can’t afford that and
b) it felt somehow wrong to be in a fancy clean place and have other people serve you when there’s poverty and a completely different culture out there to explore.

I loved our kind of vacations.
We saw, experienced and tasted things so far off from any hotel complex or all inclusive trip. Whenever I travel today, it’s as close to the local culture as possible.

So it’s quite understandable that I was hesitant at first, when  a friend called me in April and asked if I wanted to escape into the sun with her. One week in Egypt, all-inclusive style.

But when I looked at the non-changing, depressing grey sky outside, I agreed to come.

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When we arrived at the hotel at 3 a.m.,  I couldn’t believe we would stay here.
Everything seemed like a magical wonderland – a beautiful compound with little bungalows and a pool, directly next to the Red Sea.
The first day was weird and I caught myself asking, “is this included in the price?” whenever we were offered large towels, more food or a drink.

It felt like I don’t deserve to be spoiled like that.

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But I do. You do.

We all deserve to treated nicely and be pampered once in a while.
When life keeps us busy and drains all energy from us – we all deserve some space for rest and service and restoration. Even more so, we need the permission to let go and accept the gifts all around us. 
They might be a week in some beautiful place.
They might be a small act of service that someone does for us.
They might be a day off when we allow ourselves to fully rest.
They might be a word of encouragement, a good night’s sleep, a healthy meal with friends.
The One who made us, the One who knows all and sees all,  has offered us life in abundance – and it’s all-inclusive. 

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Full Disclosure: The week was balm to my soul. 
Sleeping without an alarm clock.
Delicious food.
Basking in the sun.
Reading without a time limit.
Overcoming my fear of water (that’s a whole different story to share!).
Spending the day without an agenda.

What was the best vacation you’ve had so far?
What will your next vacation look like? 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Flying Lessons

They say Third Culture Kids fly before they walk.

I wasn’t even two years old and could barely walk when my parents took me on my first flight to Crete. It was the first of many journeys around the globe and the beginning of a lifetime of memories.

A plane ride can change everything. You board the plane in one coutnry and get off in a totally different world. many TCKs would probably agree that this doesn’t come wihtout baggage. Befoer airplanes were invented, people spent weeks and months on ships to get from one place to another, and maybe that was actually a good idea. While you were traveling, your heart and soul had time to catch up with your body. Today we jump between continents and cultures so quickly that we sometimes lose ourselves along the way.

Yet.
I can’t help but travel.

Whenever I’m at the airport – even just to pick someone up – there’s this tingling sensation inside of me, as if a spell begged to fly away.

Flights take me to other countries and open up the world to me.
They’re the first key to unlock someone else’s culture and story.
Flights challenge me to step outside my own bubble and discover that the world is bigger, more diverse and colorful than what I see around me. They call into question what I’ve known about myself and others. They provide vast opportunities to learn and to grow.
Flights connect me to dear friends I had to leave behind, they serve as a conduit to seemingly lost parts of my own self.
Flights might never fully cure my wanderlust, but they give me a glimpse of what could be.

Do you enjoy flying? What have you learned from traveling?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

A Third Culture Kid’s Soul

There are two souls in this TCK heart of mine.

I want to explore this beautiful world, marvel at nature’s wonders, discover all the richness it has to offer.
I want to go further and wider, see and smell and taste things I have not encountered before.
I want to meet people who are different from myself, listen to their stories and learn something new.
I don’t want to go somewhere twice because there is still so much more to explore.

I want to stay in one place and dig into its soil, inspect its little quirks and hidden treasures.
I want to go deeper and longer, see and smell and taste things that are familiar and remind me of home.
I want to build connection with people and see them develop into friendships, I want to experience belonging.
I want to know what it feels like to come home to a place and people and be fully myself. 

Two souls rage inside of me.
Telling me to go.
Begging me to return and stay.

As a TCK, I roam the globe in search of adventure, discovery and wonder.
I get lost in different cultures, smells and friendships.
I leave pieces of myself behind whenever I have to say goodbye.
And then I travel to find them again.

People like us have pieces of ourselves scattered across this globe – and travel gives us access to our complete selves. 

Quote from the excellent keynote presentation by Sean Ghazi at the Families in Global Transition Conference 2018 in The Hague

Any other Third Culture Kids who can relate?
How do you deal with this battle inside of you? 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

 

 

 

 

There Should Be Something

I’m writing this from the Grand Canal in Triest, Italy where I vacation with my family for a week. In typical bella vita fashion, we have spent the last few days with lots of delicious food, more wine and even more gelato while strolling through the streets that are heavily drenched in Austrian, Yugoslavian and Italian history.

Today we climbed the steps to San Silvestro, the oldest church in the city when my sister called me, “Come quick, you need to listen to this!” I could hear the sounds of a piano – distant at first, then louder and louder as I came closer.

I entered the little basilica and there was a young man playing Beethoven.

We could have walked by and just continue with our sightseeing.
We could’ve brushed it off and just carry on with life.
But there was something about this sound that made us pause.

I sat down in one of the rows, closed my eyes and enjoyed this free concert. The deep roar of the bass notes. The thrill of the fast arpeggios. The energy that made the entire room vibrate. What a beautiful gift in the middle of a warm summer day.

I want my life to be like this piano concert.

There shall be something about the things I do that makes people to break in their step and pause.
There shall be something about the words I speak and write that attracts others to come closer and listen in.
There shall be something about my life and my relationships that invites others through the door, allows them to pause and find some rest in the middle of their busy lives.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Let’s keep it simple.

Welcome to the new year everyone! Did you have a good time with family, friends and food? I hope so.

My New Year’s Eve plans were cancelled at the last minute and I had to find an alternative quickly.  Somehow this event comes with so many expectations: the perfect location, the perfect food, the perfect conversations – the last night of the year has to be the best party ever.
The more I thought about it, the more stressed out I felt about it all. Why do we make such a big fuss about things sometimes?
We work and prepare and keep ourselves busy.
We worry what other people will think about our homes, clothes, friendships, life plans and decisions.
We try so hard to follow all the rules to please God and be good Christians. We bury ourselves in arguments and theologies, just so we know it all and deal with it all. 

This Christmas was full of people. A blogger friend from the US and my little brother from South Africa came to visit me and we spent lots of nights talking.
About the joys and pain of life.
About what it means to deconstruct your faith and rediscover old truths.
About the simplicity of it all when we watch out for it.
We laughed and we cried together and I realized: this is what life and faith are about. Relationships. Simple. Complex. Challenging. Beautiful. Life-giving.

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So if I have to say anything about this new year ahead of us: Let’s keep it simple. 
Let’s be okay to not be perfect all the time.
Let’s leave the mess for a while and focus on the people around us instead.
Let’s never grow tired of sharing our time, our hearts, our lives.
Let’s continue to look out for God in the midst of all of this, right here in the mundane.  

I ended up celebrating New Year’s Eve with a family I didn’t know that well yet and their two kids. A very small group of people, Raclette, stories, and watching the fireworks over the city from the balcony.
And it was perfect.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today. One prompt, five minutes to write and an awesome community of writers and cheerleaders. Why don’t you join us this year?

If you’re German-speaking and looking for a way to discover God in your mundane narratives, now might be a good time to start reading my book “Fliege ins Leben, lande bei Gott”. I would love to see you on this journey!

 

The Sound of Silence

What sound does silence make?
When the noise of life suddenly stops?
When busyness comes to a halt?
When the voices of “you have to, you should, why don’t you” die down until they’re nothing more than a faraway echo?
The steady movement of my torso, lifting with the inhale, falling down with the exhale.
The distant sounds of the life surrounding me.
Trains rattling.
Cars stopping and starting.
The melody of nature.
The wind blowing softly.
Leaves falling to the ground.
The inner battle raging inside of me.
Can I really rest now?
What about all that work waiting for me?
The nagging questions, the uncomfortable feeling of waiting.
The loss of comprehension, fading into quiet surrender.
That soft whisper.
Let it wait.
Let it go.
For now, stay right here.

Welcome to the silence. What can you hear?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

A Break in Paradise [Philippines #3]

Episode 3. El Nido.

If you don’t have time to travel by shop from island to island (there are more than 7,000 in case you were wondering), it’s the easiest way to take a plane. So we fly to Puerto Princesa, the capital of the long and slim island Palawan, where we’ll spend the next part of our trip.

Luckily, we catch a bus right away, with AC and comfortable seats. Even the music is different – for a while we get to listen to Filipino hiphop before it goes back to the all-too-familiar soft pop. The guy behind me sings along loudly whenever he knows a song. And he knows a lot. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of a conversation, just break into song. If you don’t hit the tune – no problem, you just have to be loud.

The bus takes the only road available going North, through rice fields, palm trees and banana plantations. Everything is so green and so much more bearable than the noisy, busy city. It’s quite similar to the landscapes we used to roam in Uganda as kids. On and on we go and the longer we drive, the more it feels like a journey into a far away world, deep into the jungle.

Out of a sudden, the skies turn grey, then black and heavy raindrops hit the bus windows. The heavens open up to release a long awaited downpour and engulf everyone and everything outside. On the lonely road we see a group of school children, their uniforms soaking wet, their hair dripping with water. They sit down, two in one seat. They smile at me shyly when they realize that I’m a foreigner. Somewhere, in the middle of nowhere, we drop them off and I wonder how in the world they get to school everyday. It’s a long way and probably expensive to get an education. In fact, many parents choose to not send their kids to school because it’s far more lucrative to let them work on the streets. Whenever a car stops at the traffic lights, you can see them coming up to you, their mouths covered to protect themselves from smog and pollution, their tiny hands holding up bottles of water or snacks. They look at you for a while, their eyes desperate and pleading, but eventually they move on. While my students in Germany are so self-righteous that it makes me sick sometimes, children over here seem to be kept from having a perspective in life at all.

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We get into El Nido at sunset and have to find a hotel. What used to be a small idyllic fishermen’s village a couple of years ago has now exploded into a flourishing tourist attraction. The hotel we find is right at the beach in Hama Street – the place to be where hotel is next to bar next to restaurant next to coffee shop. I’m blown away to see people from all across the globe in this little place.

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This town seems to attract a certain kind of people. If you’re a free spirit, interested in cheap parties, sex and drugs, El Nido is the place for you. The restaurants are full with elderly hippie couples with grey hair and blurred tattoos. In the coffee shops you’ll find the hipsters staring at their phones. In between are families and well-built divers.

The first day is very rainy and we spend it walking from coffee shop to restaurant to bar. It’s actually nice to bury my face in a good book for a change, but I’m also a little worried that the weather will not get better.

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The Art Café – a restaurant/bar/coffee shop run by a Swiss lady with delicious food and a great atmosphere. We spent all our mornings on its beautiful balcony with a gorgeous view of the Bay.

But when we wake up the next morning, I look out the window expectantly and – what a joy – there’s a blue sky, no clouds and the sun is shining brightly. After breakfast we meet our tour guide Lorenzo and he takes us on a tour through the Bacuit Archipelago – a group of islands in the South Chinese Sea.

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As we stretch our legs on the boat, we pass by hidden beaches with little cottages under palm trees.
We marvel at rocks in the water. Over and over again, we have to grin at each other because this can.not.be real.
We go anchor in front of a wall of rocks, take the kayak and discover a secret lagoon through a little rift in the wall. All of a sudden it’s so calm. An oasis of quiet and peace.
We go snorkeling, which is quite something for someone who’s shy of water. The view below the surface is quite different – colorful corals, fish swarms, even turtles. Sometimes it’s worth to look deeper.


We have lunch at Entalula Island, a small beach with crystal clear water. The buffet looks like a feast with grilled fish, vegetables and fresh fruits. Afterwards we lie down on the boat and let the sun kiss our bodies. Yes, life is good.

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We kayak into Cathedral Cove, a large opening in a rock. Inside it’s dark and we can hear bats flying high above us.

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Our last stop on this perfect day is a small beach with palm trees and warm water where we take a few minutes to relax. When we get back to the boat, our friend steps into something. At first, he thinks it was a sharp coral, but by the time we get back to the harbor, his right foot has swollen to double its normal size and he can’t walk more than a few steps. The doctor says it’s nothing serious and that he should ake it slow for a few weeks, but on google we find a few horror stories about starfish and other dangerous creatures of the sea. “That’s some serious shit”, the diving instructor says when we tell him the story.

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This has truly been a once in a lifetime experience.
The next morning we leave El Nido with a swollen foot, but with extremly full and grateful hearts.


This is part 3 of the series. Here or here are more stories!