Author Archives: finding foreign

About finding foreign

We are a couple of wanderers that fell in love, got married, and dreamed of one day exploring the world with the children we hoped to have. One decade, two boys, and 4 plane tickets later we landed in the country of Ecuador to start living that dream. Here's the view from where we are, wherever that may be today!

Today

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”
Beryl Markham, West with the Night

Someday I will tell you all about the unbelievable, difficult, ride this little family has been on since we returned from South America.

Maybe.

I have a lot of sorting it out in my own head and heart to do before I could possibly put it in print to share, and it’s not what I’m talking about Today.

Today I am saying goodbye to a place I have lived in and loved and where my yesteryears of babies and mountains and friendships to rival the truest friendships of the best stories of all time are buried deep into the very sinews of my heart.

And I am doing it the fastest way. Yesterday I was hired, tomorrow morning I start, so Today…

Today I leave.

Today I leave knowing, thanks in large part to South America, that no past was ever as perfect as leaving makes it seem and no future is as formidable as uncertainty colors it.

That said, my past here in Crested Butte will always be an imperfect imprint of Pure Beauty that I carry everywhere. A tattoo of ridges and rivers and aspens and snow. An echo of post office greetings and sun-warmed smiles. A peace with Winter I never imagined I’d make and a love of sky that has taken root in the very cells of my skin.

And my future is formidable, but in an exciting, energizing way. I get to teach again, and I get to teach children from families who often don’t speak English first and whose stories contain elements of finding foreign all around them. I get to be the teacher I wanted my boys to have in Ecuador. I get to live another dream.  But all of that is for tomorrow.

Today is driving with Paradise Divide in my rear view mirror and the Denver skyline up ahead. While I’m learning the ropes at my new job Bo and the boys will be packing and finishing up their time in Crested Butte to join me at our next home in a couple weeks. Given how far we’ve traveled from this valley in the past, Denver seems merely down the street. And, essentially, it is. We will see our loved ones here again, and been told they will see us there as well.

This is a good-bye, yes, but only for

Today.


Categories: From Jamie | 15 Comments

2012 in review! (Stay tuned for 2013!)

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 45,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 10 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

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The Gifts of Travel

Thanks again to the Crested Butte News for publishing part 2 of my essay series on our Family Sabbatical! The editor suggested that since this was going in  the Christmas edition I write something about the gifts of travel, so I did.  Although, I doubt these are the gifts you all are thinking of… ;)

This is how “The Gifts of Travel” looked in the paper and below I’ve included the full text:

"Gifts of Travel" in the CB News

“Gifts of Travel” in the CB News

The Gifts of Travel

Everyone knows about the gifts of travel. New sights, new foods, new adventures, time away from your routine and time with the ones you love. Travel widens the lens of our perspective and offers up new angles to approach things from. There is so much to see, and the seeing is often crazy fun. Variety, adventure, relaxation, education, laughter, fun…those are the obvious gifts of travel and in doing extended travel you get them all multiplied by – well by however many days you stay gone. It’s fantastic.

This Christmas season though, as I shop for the perfect match of person and present, it is the non-obvious gifts of travel that my mind wanders back to. I want so badly to hold onto them, these lesser-known gifts. To hold onto them for myself, and to share them with you. And so in the spirit of giving, here are some underrated gifts of our extended travel that I wish for you:

I wish you Boredom. It is not just boring people that get bored. Sometimes it’s really interesting people who happen to be stuck on a bus for 8 to 10 to 15+ hours. Or stuck inside for what feels like forever while the downpours outside rage on and on for weeks. Or played with the same four toys for eight months and became completely sick of them. Boredom turned out to be my favorite surprise gift because it provided the setting and springboard for our imaginations to ignite. Conversations that don’t happen until you’ve had all your normal ones and still want to visit your way through a series of days where nothing is planned. When that happens, you suddenly find yourself in the midst of discourse that is brimming with energy and enthusiasm and creativity of thought. The other side of boring playtimes found our children creating unbelievably unique structures, games, and songs that were specific and brilliant and all their own. A rainy Buenos Aires day yielded an entire train washing station made out of kitchen chairs, bath mats, folded socks, breakfast trays and a coffee press. Boredom rocks.

I wish you Loneliness. Yes. Loneliness. Not far removed from boredom, loneliness emerges in many of the same circumstances when you’re traveling for an extended period of time, but instead of taking you to rocketing creativity, you find yourself immersed in introspection and evaluation. We all want to be good people, but how much time do our normally busy lives allow for the intentional evaluation of who we are, what we believe, and how we want to live? For me, those areas of my life had mostly grown out of reacting to what was happening around me. My loneliest sabbatical times gave me the social distance I needed to really consider, choose, and aim more intentionally toward who I am, what I believe, and how I want to live. It’s not a fool-proof method, I am still amazingly proficient at sticking my foot in my mouth, ending up over-committed, and general bad behavior. But now I have a blueprint to look back on, a map that my times with loneliness made room for me to draw up. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say that Loneliness rocks, but it doesn’t, um, not-rock.

I wish you friendlessness. Spending so much time with one’s nuclear family, getting to know each other more intimately than you could have ever imagined is the most precious of all gifts and hands down the best part of what we did. That said, just because we can now spend all our time together and enjoy it, doesn’t mean we should. As a friend moved away a couple years ago, another friend of mine remarked, “I’m going to miss her. And I’m going to miss what she brings out in each of us.” There are important parts of ourselves that are formed and defined by the broader relationships in our lives. Empathy and compassion are a must within a family, but they are honed in the participation of the world around you, of being engaged in relationships that are born not just out of birth but also out of choice. I didn’t realize the full value of being accountable and known by a larger community, by friends and extended family, until we had this period of time without them. I wish it wasn’t always necessary to live without something in order to appreciate it but, for me at least, that is often the case. Friendlessness gifts profound appreciation for friends.

And finally, I wish you the gift of Embarrassment. I have too long and too often passed up things from a new challenge to a bustling dinner party out of fear of embarrassment. Our extended travel provided so many opportunities to be embarrassed that I soon became at home with it. Granted it’s more fun within the safety net of knowing you’ll not likely see these people again, which is why this gift is the easiest to come by when you are in the world of travel to be sure. In addition to anonymity, travel situations highlight the truth that it is more important to use whatever charade’s movements or broken language tools you have to get from point A to point B, than it is to act like you already know how to get from point A to point B. Embracing embarrassment turned out to be the most freeing of gifts for me. Total abandonment to an activity or project or task at hand created an abundance of blush-worthy moments, but even more laughter and knowledge and peace of mind. Making friends with Embarrassment gifted me the joy in having the freedom to fail. More than that, the freedom to try.

Creativity, Introspection, Profound Appreciation, and the Freedom to Try. These gifts are are easier to spot when traveling, I know, but they are here too. I catch glimpses sometimes. They are here and so worth the seeking.

I wish you all a hearty Merry Christmas and a Boring, Lonely, Friendless, Embarrassing year ahead.

From the bottom of my heart.

Categories: From Jamie | 2 Comments

Radical Family Sabbatical

If you are thinking of taking your own family sabbatical, have questions about how and where and when and all the logistics behind pulling one off, then the Radical Family Sabbatical website is where you need to start. The founders, Matt and Diana Scherr, became friends of ours as we were reaching out for information and help to begin our sabbatical. At each turn they offered up all the assistance, suggestions, introductions, ideas and encouragement we asked for, and so much more that we didn’t even know at the time we needed. They are some of the good guys in our book.

And true to the character I’ve just described, Matt and Diana reached out to me as we were ending our time in Buenos Aires to see if I’d like to write a few articles for them. Here’s my first contribution, titled Finding Familiar Foreign: Coming Home from your Family Sabbatical.

So, I hope you enjoy this latest offering of mine, and then I hope you enjoy exploring all the other tools their website has to offer. Their overall theme is that ANYONE can do a family sabbatical, and I believe they are right! Whatever your concerns or questions are, this is the family travel team to take them to.  Their help really enriched our family sabbatical experience and I hope they can encourage you all as well. :)

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Spreadin’ the News…

It has been nearly 7 weeks at home now and we are certainly getting all the wheels turning again.  For the boys that means school and play dates and reconnecting with friends. For Bo that has meant starting out on his own in work he has wanted to make his career for as long as I’ve known him. He’s working full time as a management consultant and loving it.

And for myself… in trying to figure out what my next progression ought to be, one option in particular got me excited about the idea of heading to work each day.  Thanks to all the encouragement from you readers of this blog, I am exploring the world as a writer.

So far this has entailed writing everything from wine reviews to pages of prose no one will ever see to further summaries of our sabbatical experience for those wanting to hear more. And today, thanks to our wonderful and supportive hometown newspaper, I get to share with all of you findingforeigners my very first ever byline!  Thanks to the Crested Butte News for letting me tell our story in their paper!

Here’s the link, and below is the image of how it appeared in the paper itself:

Believe it or not, I have a couple other pieces being published in the next few weeks and will share those with you when they come out. In the meantime, if there is a topic you want to hear more about or a question you’ve been wanting to ask, or a fantastic and high-paying world-wide major publication that you’d like me to write for…

now would be an awesome time to drop me a line about that.  ;)

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

One Month Ago Today…

…we were here:

 

Which is so hard to believe! I didn’t have the chance to share our Uruguay visit with you before we landed Stateside, so when I realized that that’s where we were on October 4, 2012 – it seemed like a good time to bring those photos out.  :)

Colonia is beautiful. And magic. And if you ever have the chance to go there, do. Its tranquility defies logic, given that we arrived there via ferry from bustling Buenos Aires, a Huge and Packed ferry that does that trip 3 times a day, and yet somehow all those people became no more than mist as we found ourselves walking along utterly quiet tree-lined cobblestone streets with only the birds and a the river’s waves for company. Maybe it was part nostalgia, knowing that our trip was almost over, but I thought a number of times as we explored around that Colonia had a fairy-tale feel to it. We had one of our most care-free, joyful days there and it was a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful end to our sabbatical.

Let me show you:

 

 

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Home Sweet Foreign — wait, what?

We have made it all the way to Crested Butte, CO! And we are, without question, HOME, don’t let the title of this post fool you on that score. Crested Butte is just as beautiful as we remembered, our friends even more precious than before, our senses alive with the sights and smells and sounds (or lack thereof) that yell Home! It’s nice.

That said, while moving first to Ecuador then to four other South American countries and taking on scary Bolivian Immigration all within the framework of one year was/is impressive; I’m almost of the opinion at this point that what we’ve done in the last two weeks may be ever more so. The fact that we can all speak in our native tongue when trying to get stuff done does make things easier and faster, it surprisingly does not make them completely stress or mistake-free. Our day car shopping was the first testament to that, and we’ve had many others since.  We are settling in, mas o menos, yet finding it nearly as foreign to be here, as a new us in our old setting, as it was to be the old us in all those new settings.

It’s a strange sensation to describe, this homecoming of ours. I love knowing the streets and directions and which exact isle at the store has cereal or coffee. We love seeing the familiar faces and hugging all the friends and family that were so so missed.

But it’s also a little jarring sometimes. For me, it feels as if I have a new and attached shape of…something… all around me that is not quite solid, but more substantial than air, and I keep knocking it up against doors and boxes and pedestrians as I walk by. I don’t take up the same shape of space as I used to, but I don’t know what shape I currently claim.

Coming from a South American sabbatical to start your entire career and community life up again, but with a more light-hearted and calm pace than you left with, within the structure of a modern American community template is a mammoth undertaking. Even when that community is as relatively laid back as CB.

It’s like trying to catch a brake-less racing train. Choice one: you can wait until the end of time for it to come to a full stop, allow you on, look around for your new seat and view, then- slowly-chug, chug, chug up to your pre-approved speed. Or, Choice two: You sprint alongside and jump.

South America taught me to look for a Choice 3.

Still looking. ;)

Thankfully, it is off-season here. It is quiet. The colors are gone and the snow not yet arrived and the tawny fields and stark aspen trees lend a peaceful stillness to our spirits that makes this strange reverse culture shock much easier to absorb.

I think we tricked ourselves into thinking that once we got home Everything would be so much easier! We would know exactly what people were saying, could follow conversations with ease and have current season Grey’s Anatomy showings each week.

Ok, that last one is just me.

Not the point.

The point is that our Sabbatical was never meant to provide us with the secret tools to An Easy Life.

It was meant to provide us practice time with some pretty well-known tools for living Life.

And so as we start school and look for work and buy cars, we also take long walks, lots of photos, and do our own full-stops of time with people and places, and each other.

It is good to be home. Amidst all that we are figuring out anew, it is good to be home.

And it is good that home is foreign enough to us that we can’t live it on autopilot.

What a fantastic surprise.

“Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.”
 – Donald Miller

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Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dinner

Made it as far as Mom and Dad’s now and it is, as always, our perfect respite and love-boosting stop. Today though, tops it all.

There was not a week, not a single week, in South America that went by without Vaughn saying, “Remember when Poppie said he’d take me fishing when we get back? That’ll be fun. I’ve never been fishing. Remember when Poppie said he’d take me?”

Guess who just caught dinner. ;)

 

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Smiley Faces, Tow Yards, Short Tuxedos and Phone Cords

We’ve made it back! Raced off the last plane into the cheering arms of our family at DIA and had a wonderfully special homecoming with loved ones. XOXO!

We’ve now been Stateside for a whole 48 hours and adjusting a bit more with each interaction that we have. Having sold or given away nearly all of our worldly possessions before we left, Bo and I let the boys go with mom and dad back to Montrose for some serious Yaya/Poppie play time while we’ve stayed behind to look for cars. More on the personal adjustments and how hard it was to let the boys go later. Those really are important points that I want to write about in-depth, and with a straight face.

Which means not now.

No, this post is about car shopping and I couldn’t write it with a straight face if I tried.

Keeping in mind that for the past 8 months we have not had a house payment, car payment, insurance, cell phones, more than a small bag of clothes, or any other modern attachment, dropping into the metro area used car world right out of the gate like this proved…eventful.

Determined to carry as much of our recent simplicity into this next American chapter as we can, we are looking to buy much less expensive cars than we have previously sought out. So, we spent the evening before checking out used car lots in Denver that had the inventory we were seeking and narrowed it down to a smiley-face dealer for the first choice and another lot with a man who apparently favors short tuxedos and disco music, judging by his website.  Then this morning, leery but hopeful and with the gracious loan of my Aunt Julie’s car, we took off down the road to Colfax to begin the search.

Smiley face dealer got a bad start as we were hit up for “bus” money right as we got out of our car by a passing “bus user”. Then the salesman helping us spoke in such a thick southern drawl that it was honestly hard to understand him from time to time -and we’re pretty used to straining to understand people. Somewhere between “we dawn’t do our caaars rough ’round ‘ere.  Dawn’t raide ‘em hard an’ put ‘em up wet, ya know wha’ I’m sayin?” and “Ahh’m frum Boulder, but spent taime en Luuusiana so com by this accent ‘onest” We decided that Smiley Face was not for us.

Feeling a little off-balance we turned into the next big car lot we saw to look around and catch our breath. Amazingly, we stumbled upon a vehicle we weren’t even looking for but that fit our criteria well and so ended up having a nice new salesman named Juan help us test drive it and scope it out. Juan being new and in training had to ask a couple of questions of his General Manager, a kind elderly man from France or Spain (depending on which story he’s telling you) with a strong South African accent and amazingly white dentures. After getting some info on the car, peppered in between a lot of world travel anecdotes from the GM, we decided that we couldn’t pick the first car we liked–we needed to keep looking.

We needed to visit short-tuxedo-man.

Short-tuxedo-man is on the other end of Denver and has 120 cars on a lot that should fit about 50. Seeing the inventory stacked four-deep as we drove up didn’t exactly boost our confidence, but reminding ourselves that we are intentionally doing things differently, and “maybe there’s a real diamond in the rough hidden in there?”, parked Julie’s car and hopped out.

No such luck on the diamond front, but we did endeavor to test drive a few cubic zirconias that made the long drive to short-tuxedo-man’s lot worth it. Unfortunately, most of the ones we wanted a closer look at were not in the front row, meaning that each time we asked for a test drive the salesman would have to call out his small army of ex-carnival-worker staff to move all the cars in front and around it. Picture those square puzzles where one square is missing and you move all the others trying to make the picture correct , that’s what it resembled. While we did find a hopeful candidate for Bo’s car, this “system” being what it was meant that we were at short-tuxedo-man’s lot for much longer than we meant to be.  So, after many rousing puzzle rounds combined with low blood sugar and sensory overload, we told our salesman we needed to think about it and would be back later. Deep breaths and sure steps led us back to where Julie’s car was, not.

Yes. Yes we did get my Aunt’s car towed today.

Towing situation was shady at best, but also impossible to change so we turned ourselves back around and with my cheeks at full blush, asked if we could take one of the cars we were looking at for an extended test drive to pick up our vehicle that had just been towed. They very graciously obliged.

On the way to the tow yard the car we were nearly ready to buy for Bo suddenly had the check engine light turn on, a rain/gravely sound emit from under the hood, and a strong stench of oil fill the car. So, really, the towing was a blessing in disguise that way.

A brutally negotiated $230 later and disappointed that we have to turn down the car we were about to make an offer on, we dropped the test-driver car back at short-tuxedo-man and decide to try and salvage the day by heading back to the lot that had the vehicle we liked, ready to drive it home as soon as possible.

Juan was out with other customers when we arrived so the friendly GM from this morning helped us get started. And that’s when the day got Really fun. This sweet older gentleman has led a fascinating life that I now know all about. Every question we asked about the car, every attempt to negotiate the price, was responded to with a lengthy tale that was based out of some connection he made between our car talk and his time traveling Spain with his brother when his father died, or his “frugal, not cheap, frugal” Scottish wife, or his two hip replacements, no – 3 hip replacements because one was done wrong and he had one leg shorter than the other, or how different it was working cars during the Carter administration, or how lucky he is that his Scottish bride doesn’t like jewelry so he buys her a rose each anniversary, or the difference between an English pub breakfast and what he ate growing up in South Africa.

?????????

The real kicker being when he was calling a tire company to ask a price for replacement tires on the car we’re looking at, had to put them on hold (by placing the phone on the table, no idea how to use a hold button), then returning and picking up the phone upside down. Cord coming out of the phone by his ear, speaking more and more loudly into the earpiece now at his mouth, explaining that “they don’t make phones as clear as they used to” and “sometimes these folks forget they’re on the phone, maybe they left” and “hello?” “Hello?!”

I made a break for the bathroom before exploding into laughter while Bo, who is more than ready to just get some straight information at this point, held it together and helped the man see he was talking upside down through a series of hand signals and demonstrations.

After all of that we drove home…

in my Aunt Julie’s car. Resting up tonight and preparing to brave the used car world again tomorrow.

When Bo and I turned in for bed tonight he wrapped me up in a hug still chuckling from dinner and said, “This was a really fun day.” I smiled and agreed and knew I had to come write this all down.

Bo and I did have a great, memorable, and fun day today. There is no way today would have looked like that to us before our Sabbatical. Had Pre-South America Jamie written you this post it would have had a much harder, more down-trodden, and I hate to say it, even cynical tone to it. Hopefully that is not in line with what you just read.

We didn’t lose our tempers, we didn’t turn on each other, we held hands and laughed until we cried and worked it out. Just took on the next thing – which is a strategy we had to use in South America early and often. Recounting the tale over dinner with my aunt and uncle and cousins tonight left us all breathless with mirth.

What we’ve just done isn’t for everyone and we would never suggest that it was. But it was so very much for us. And when people ask me if  it was worth it I will smile and say “Yes”, and think back on today as Exhibit A.

I am certain that there are challenges ahead for us that we won’t meet quite so cheerfully. But for tonight, as I wind this down and head to bed my resounding thought is,

it’s working.

Categories: From Jamie | 9 Comments

Day 248

I remember writing our Day 1 Post. I remember the awe and excitement and wonder, and nerves, at all we had just done and all the unknown that was ahead of us to do.  I remember saying that it was great. I remember that it was.

Beginnings get a lot of press. Like the first day of Spring, which we are experiencing in the Southern Hemisphere right now, beginnings are clean and open and green. They smell good. They are unmarred and easily celebrated. As they should be.

Endings though, rarely get the joy of that flip-sided coin. And that is a shame. Endings are beautiful. It is in the beginning that something becomes possible, it is in the ending that something becomes precious.

This was true of leaving Crested Butte last January. I had lunch with friends, took impromptu walks on trails I thought I knew, and initiated longer sidewalk conversations all on a moment’s notice, and devoid of the “busy” excuse I used to wear like a uniform. Anxious to get the time and love in before we left.

This was true of leaving Cotacachi, when suddenly all the oddness and quirks and messes that hours before drove us mad, took a drastic turn towards the endearing.

This was true of leaving Taganga, Buenos Aires, and even our one day in Colonia as well. Each place that we found new and exciting in the beginning really revealing their worth as we prepared our goodbyes.

Of the blogs I’ve read of other families that have done something like this, they unanimously report at the end of it that they wanted more time. It felt too short. They wish it could be longer. They were just getting the hang of things.  All of them say that – whether their stint was 3 months, 6 months, or over a year. Importantly, all of them say that in their last, or next to last, post.  We feel the same way. We want more, now that at the end of things we see without distraction the gift of what we have together.

These are the most fantastic people I hang out with. They are funny and brave. Cute and dashing. Kind and honest. They are my heroes. I knew these things about them before of course, but I know them differently now. I know them in the way I know my own skin or recognize my own voice. And I suspect that while we may feel like we are “just now getting the hang of it”, it would be truer to say that we are just now realizing how much we actually got the hang of  together and are justifiably in awe, with a splash of disbelief.

This has been amazing.

Amazing, Amazing,  Amazing.

Beauty and love and awareness and appreciation don’t always show up at first, but they unfailingly swell at the end. Daring you not to cry at the noticing.

And so through the tears and the reflection I can’t help but grin. I am so happy about this ending. I am so grateful for all the spotlight on the precious. I am so fortunate to have a lifetime experience that is wonderful enough to mourn its passing.

What happens for us after the end? After Day 248?

We wake up tomorrow in Colorado with yet another clean slate and a multitude of spring green options ahead.

We wake up on the next Day 1.  And all the joy and possibility beginnings always have.

So. Grateful.

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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