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!

Orphan Fear

finding foreign:

Just read this post from a beautiful friend and spectacular spirit. Shook my to my core and expresses too much grace not to share.

Originally posted on From Mollie and Family:

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This week I’m trying something new. I’m in peace negotiations with Fear. I even gave it a proper name.  Meet Esmeralda.

For most of my adult life, Esmeralda has been exiled, banished, not allowed a place at my table.  When ignored, she has wreaked havoc; she has banged inside my chest with her dirty little fists, she has been screetchy and snarl toothed and has never once taken a bath.  I have disliked her immensely. She knows this.

She’s the one that insisted I not hang by my knees from the monkey bars when I was eight; she hated sleds that sped too fast down steep hills. She wouldn’t let go of the fact that it makes no sense that tin cans with wings should suspend over buildings, or that horses should so easily let you ride on their backs.

She draws pictures of aftermath… unhappy stick figures amidst the…

View original 344 more words

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Light

I’ve thought about reviving this blog about a thousand times these past few years,(what could be more foreign than the landscape I now find myself in?!), but there is SO MUCH to say that I’ve never known how to begin or where to start. It finally occurred to me today that the best place to start in situations like this, is at the end.

 

We scattered my husband’s ashes today.

 

It’s Father’s Day in the U.S. you see, and his wishes where to be cremated and scattered somewhere in the mountains of Colorado. It took awhile for those mountains to melt out this year, and with Father’s Day landing on June 21… it seemed the right time.

The right place was, no surprise, Crested Butte, CO. The boys and I drove in today around lunch, had a picnic at their favorite park and then hiked up a trail that I’ve always found total privacy on, gives beautiful views of the town, the valley, the mountains, and where I knew that the lupine flowers would be at full splendor.  We weren’t disappointed, it was the right place indeed.

Bo died by suicide last October, and the labyrinth our lives became entangled in both before and after that event has been a dimly lit navigational nightmare. I get lost in it sometimes. Retracing each word to its original thought and corresponding action; looking in vain for the crossroads I didn’t realize we’d forked at that led me to be a blindsided stranger in my own life.

It is not to be found. After 2 years of searching, I feel I can say that with some certainty. It can’t be found because it isn’t singular. There wasn’t one fork in the road- there were hundreds of them. Thousands. Same number each of you reading this has by the way. All the micro-moments we walk through every day choosing light over dark –or visa versa. They culminate. We become what we practice, we become what we choose. Everyday. Every time. We become more of one or the other. Some days, more of both.

And in this season of my life, it is days like today, holidays – Father’s Day, when the labyrinthine overlap of “good” and “bad” and Life can be the most disorienting for me.  Suddenly my own micro-choice is present and, for today, I choose to honor the light in my life. Easier to do when this is the picture that greeted me first thing this morning on my timehop app:

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This is definitely a day in the light. I love his smile, how he’s holding both boys up, all three basking in the sun, in costume of course. :)  He seems strong. He seems healthy.  He seems delighted with this moment in time.

Today, those boys took their dad in their arms and held him up to the sun instead. And while that sounds morose and depressing, it was actually wonderful. There were smiles and shouts of love and goodbye into the sky above us. There was a contentment and even joy with acknowledging that his body at least would be part of this staggering landscape from now on.

The trauma and horror in the labyrinth may or may not come out in future posts. Sometimes I think it would be helpful to myself and others in similar positions, sometimes not.

But today my sons scattered their dad’s ashes. For Father’s Day. And amazingly this too was a day completely in the light. And here we are at an ending to one section of our lives that is full of more grace and beauty than the circumstances themselves could ever have predicted. Such surprising goodness is always worth writing about…

Love, Jamie

(Following are images from our afternoon scattering Bo’s ashes. It was a beautiful experience for us, but I understand such pictures may be upsetting to others. Viewer discretion advised.)

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Categories: From Jamie | 13 Comments

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 | 16 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

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