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!

An Unexpected Invitation [Philippines #2]

Episode 2. Bohol.

Our ferry leaves at 8:15 a.m. Destination: Tagbilaran on the neighboring island Bohol. There’s not much to do on the boat except watch some pirated Chinese movie (with Chinese subtitles) or sleep, which I desperately need. Jetlag has kept me awake for most of last night.
When we step off the boat two hours later, we’re greeted by a hoard of taxi drivers offering their services: “Where you going? Come with me, I give you best price!” We choose Martin who doesn’t speak much English except “Chocolate Hills” – the famous attraction on this island. Once we hit the road, we communicate with hands and feet that we’d like to make two more stops and miraculously, we end up at the right places.

Our first stop is a national sanctuary for Tarpiers, small primates which look a little like monkeys. We carefully walk through the tropical forest of banana palms to spot the tiny animals. “Do you see any?” – “Yes, look out for their huge eyes.” The bodies are incredibly small in proportion to their eyes. Interesting creatures.

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We get back into the car and shortly after, we stop at what would be a real challenge for me. Across the Luboc River are two bridges made of banana leaves and a little bit of iron reinforcement. The only way across the river is across these bridges.

My knees begin to shake a little and I get nervous.
I’m afraid of heights, especially if there’s only water below me and very shaky ground underneath my feet.
Nevertheless, I step onto the bridge and slowly make it across the river. And I’m glad I did because the view and the sense of accomplishment are worth it.

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For lunch we find a local shop that displays pots filled with meat and cooked vegetables. And rice, there’s always rice. Filipino food mostly consists of meat and isn’t really spicy, but I must admit I really lusted for some fresh vegetables after a while.

When we walk past a stand with baked banana, I just can’t resist. As the soft consistency and sweet taste fill my mouth I am suddenly taken back to long bus rides from Uganda to Tanzania or Rwanda, where we visited friends a long time ago.
Five white people alone somewhere in the jungle.
Dozens of people shouting, “Mzungu, Mzungu (white person)” – oh, sweet sweet memories.

After lunch we walk around the streets and find the public market, a crowded place in the middle of town. Stalls offer everything – from fresh fruits to smelly fish to clothes to toys – and we buy some coconut juice. The lady picks two large nuts and slices the top part off, plucks a straw through the soft skin and hands it to us. Fresh juice, you just can’t get it any better than that.

We walk into one of the side streets and suddenly, the scene changes.
Colorful stalls become damp, dark shops.
Brick market buildings are replaced by rusty, instable shacks.
People sit in front of their tiny houses in dirty, torn clothes, kids are running around, often naked.
Wives cheer for their husbands as they play a board game and their wide-open mouths reveal several missing teeth.

As we walk through this chaos, people look up and stare at us. All of a sudden, I feel very uncomfortable in my own skin. Not because of them – because of me. I feel like I’m intruding into their streets, their lives, their world. My mere outer appearance doesn’t fit and I can do nothing to change that. No matter how hard I try to be different, I’ll never be the same. I don’t belong here and that is a rather strange experience. We turn around and make our way back to the main road.

 

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Tricycles – the cheapest way to get around locally in the Filipino. Definitely a ride to remember!

On we go with our taxis to our final destination, Carmen. The roads are winding up and down the hill, but Martin still takes them at 120km/h. Whenever a tricycle or pedestrian seems to slow him down, he honks and they hurry to get out of his way. This is the Filipino way of driving: drive fast or make way. I’m surprised that I’m not carsick yet, but I find myself reaching for the door handle a few times.

 

When we arrive in Carmen, Martin is surprised to hear that we’re not staying at the pricy hotel direct next to the Chocolate Hills and it takes him a while to find the Bed&Breakfast tucked away in a rubble street. “You must be Katharina”, a woman greets me at the door.

This warm welcome is the beginning of a unique Filipino experience.

For the last four years, Grace has been running the B&B together with her Canadian husband Steve, who had just returned from a work assignment in Saudi-Arabia the night of our arrival. In his honor, the family – who all live on the property – prepare a feast for him and invite us along. Together with an elderly American missionary couple we get to taste Lechon – fire roasted piglet stuffed with vegetables. Interestingly, it is the same piglet we had seen running around early that afternoon…

Sharing a meal with our hosts is very special. We aren’t just guests in their home – we are invited to their table and share a bit of their lives. So we sit together, taste Filipino rum and ask questions about each other’s lives. They tell us how much Filipinos love Karaoke, they sing along whenever they know (or don’t know) a song on the radio. Their favorites are – of course – soft pop ballads.

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The next morning we get up at 5 a.m. and ask a tricycle driver to take us to the Chocolate Hills. Tricycles are another great Filipino invention: buy a motorcycle and attach an iron cabin to it. It’s not really fast, but the easiest and cheapest way to get around locally. With three passengers, the tricycle driver struggles quite a bit to get us all the way up there, but we make it and are rewarded with a spectacular view: more than one hundred hills lie in front of us, their tops still hidden in the fog slowly rising up from the ground. A legend says the hills resemble giant tears shed for a lost love and they received their name from looking chocolate-brown during dry season. There’s no one on the platform except the three of us and we just take in the peaceful atmosphere of the morning. And finally, for once, the temperature is somewhat comfortable.

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After a good breakfast at Grace&Steve’s, we say goodbye and head back to the ferry. In just two days we have seen and learned a lot. The only regret we have is that we couldn’t stay longer to experience more of Filipino hospitality.


This is part 2 of the series. Read more stories here, there or over here.