We are over a year into our second "life overseas" journey. Almost 8 years ago we moved to Eastern DRC. Then we moved to the U.S. after 4 1/2 years in DRC. That lasted 2 years before we looked again to east Africa--the land we missed. Our second big move overseas started a bit over a year ago and brought us to the country of Tanzania. Ironically, we share a similar climate, location (on a lake), and coordinates (almost) to our previous home in DRC. DRC is only one country away. Swahili is still the language spoken. And life has again slowed tremendously for me.
When we moved back to the states 3 years ago, I had such severe reverse culture shock. Some of you who have read this little blog that long might remember I would have panic attacks in the grocery store and often seek out the "international food" aisles and hold cans of Nido to my chest while I deep breathed. You might remember the embarrassing public bathroom trips with my bunch of little ones and the terrors of automatic toilets, of trying to encourage walking on sidewalks and of mailboxes. We were surrounded by open land, there were no more compound walls, barbed wire, and UN vehicles and soliders in our lives. There was rushing clean water and strong electricity and so much food.
There were so many white people--so many white children! So many people speaking English! I felt so overwhelmed and soon work, child care, PhD studies, and life with a family of small children caught up with us and we felt like it was hard to breath. We sought refuge in a small Baptist Church on Sundays with a predominately Black population of church goers and our hearts felt easy again. I remember one Sunday sitting in my pew and tears running down my cheeks during communal prayers--the loneliness and stress had overwhelmed me and in the community of believers of this church and the Spirit of a loving and present God I could weep unabashedly. I remember in that moment feeling the heavy, easy, loving pressure of a hand on my shoulder. Just letting me know--I wasn't alone, we weren't alone.
Perhaps we "escaped" back to East Africa, but we felt that it was the only and right decision for us with our small children and where our hearts rested. The work felt right and resonated with us. We felt like it would be good to give our girls a gift of being so near to their homeland, surrounded by those that looked beautifully just like them and those that spoke the same language that their mama had long ago. Somehow, we knew this would be the right decision for them. And for me--it felt completely right for me as well. A small window of time that I could be with my children again without that same feeling of drowning in stress, trying to fit in, trying to make ends meet, trying to make friends, trying to make it to daycare pick up on time as the light is fading in the winter, trying to find common ground with those that had no idea what to do with previous life changing years in my life, trying to understand the changes in myself and my heart, unexpected struggles with illness, trying to fight consumerism and trying to fight the loss of memory of our lives in DRC.
A gift. A gift to slow down. For however long it lasts.
Lately, I have been thinking about the days here. They are so much slower. We live close to the school the twins attend and to where my husband works. We are homeschooling the older girls. I'm home with them everyday and we just spend time together. It isn't always easy and some days I feel the slowness of the day as a struggle, but most of the time I feel overwhelmingly thankful for these days. I realize they won't always be like this, that with four children at some point my day will be exploding in activity. And there will be gifts in that life as well.
And because our days are slow I notice so much more than I had time to notice before when I was running around never getting anywhere on time. For example, we live in an area of Tanzania known for the variety of birds. What a gift it is to have the time to watch the birds in my yard! I sit humbled day after day and never tire of their colors and activities. My mind is filled with memories of my small Hungarian grandmother and her simple pleasure in feeding the birds in her yard. It is so fun to share this with the children, to be able to say "look at the beautiful world we live in, isn't God an amazing God that He has given us so much beauty to enjoy!"
And sometimes if I am lucky, while I'm sitting on the back porch watching the kids run and play, I can catch the birds with my small camera (that doesn't have a lens to properly photograph birds)--at the right moment, I can catch a bird bathing and dancing in our pool.
Perhaps a birder can help me out here--is this an African Paradise Flycatcher?