Nomad Together

Ever wonder “why” we travel full time?

Listen in to this interview with¬†NomadTogether¬†and hear our very candid story. We share the in’s and out’s of community life, music, and marriage/family on the road.

*Topic for this podcast interview: Swimming Upstream-Redefining Your Reality 

We live in a culture that is individualistic and prides its self on being independent and self-sustainable. Comfort, independence and, security are at the top of the list for most people. But, what if these norms that our culture values are masking our longing for a deeper sense of community and adventure?

What we have learned thus far…

To clarify, when we talk about swimming upstream we are talking about swimming in the same waters as everyone else, just moving in a different direction. We are not talking about jumping out of the river into a whole other body of water and creating our own stream (flow). That would be too easy. We are not of this world but we are surely in it. And, because we are in it, we seek to understand the flow, the systems in place and the direction whatever society we are in is going.

One of the keys to swimming upstream culturally is to begin to ask questions. especially “why” questions.We asked questions like, Why do we care so much about status and wealth? What role should education, healthcare, and the pursuit of happiness have in our lives? What is freedom? What is interdependence and why is so vital to our existence? Who are we and what are do we do best as a team?¬†

That doesn‚Äôt mean that we have it all figured out, but to ask questions in and of itself is the beginning stroke of swimming upstream. Not in any sort of snarky or “we‚Äôre better than you sort of way,” but why as a curiosity, as a way of engaging the culture around us, challenging and probing into the possibilities or ways of defining the reality.

Also, to swim upstream requires an exceptional amount of patience both for ourselves and those around us. It requires that we have compassion for those going the other direction, going with the flow. It means offering a humble example of flowing another way but understanding that not everyone is keen and rejection is inevitable. It means that when we think we have it all figured out that we’ve probably jumped into a pond and are no longer swimming upstream but rather, we have isolated ourselves with only those who are like minded.

Our hope is that those we meet along the way would be encouraged to start asking questions for themselves. Not for the purpose of getting them to a place where they clone our nomadic lifestyle. Rather, to inspire them to start dreaming and move into the mystery of what swimming upstream might look like for them in their context, with their gift set. 

We unpack all of these things in the Podcast Nomad Together. Have a listen.

Advertisements

What is Your Name

While in Myanmar, I have been trying to pick up little bits and pieces of the language. I have learned how to say “Mingalaba,” which is Hello and ‚ÄúChei-zu tin-bar-te” which is Thank you. Most folks smile when I say these simple words, maybe because of my accent or maybe because they are not expecting it. Either way, I get such a delight out of the interactions.

Yesterday, while riding in a taxi, our taxi driver made a comment in English. He spoke well enough for us to have a lovely conversation about music. Then I shared that I was trying to learn his language and wondered how to say ‚Äúwhat is your name?‚ÄĚ

He responded ‚ÄúSim ma mah.‚ÄĚ

I repeated, ‚Äúsim ma ma.‚ÄĚ

He said, ‚ÄúNo, Sim, ma mah.‚ÄĚ

I tried again but he was not satisfied and spoke slower, really emphasizing each sound. I listened intently and repeated exactly how I had heard. This time he was pleased, smiled and said: “yes, that is correct.”

I sat back in my seat for a few moments and then leaned forward, tapping his shoulder and said with confidence, ‚ÄúSim ma mah?‚ÄĚ

He paused, glanced back at me and in a quandary said, ‚ÄúYes, that is my name.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúAh!” I exclaimed, “I asked you how do you say, ‘what is your name?’ And, you actually told me your name.‚ÄĚ

Everyone in the car burst out laughing as we all realized the misunderstanding. He then proceeded to tell me how to say ‚Äúwhat is your name?‚ÄĚ but for the life of me, I can not remember how to say it. I‚Äôll never forget how to say his name though.

Culture Shock; The Art of Realigning Orientation

Thinking of embracing the nomadic lifestyle? Or how about just taking the family on a holiday? Here are a few ideas and practical ways to work through culture shock, from our family to yours.

First it’s important to¬†understand that each society has its own beliefs, attitudes, customs, behaviors, and social habits. These give people a sense of who they are, how they should ¬†behave, and what they should or should not do. These ‚Äėrules‚Äô reflect the ‚Äėculture‚Äô of a country. People become conscious of such rules when they meet people from different cultures. And so, culture shock is the interesting phenomena of realizing you don’t know those rules.

Culture shock has been defined as the feeling of disorientation, loneliness, insecurity or confusion that can occur when one is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

Culture shock may come with any of the following symptoms:

  • Homesickness
  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Need for more sleep than normal
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Compulsive eating or loss of appetite
  • Stereotyping of and hostility towards host nationals
  • Lack of energy

As nomads, we’ve found that the more we thrust ourselves into new and unfamiliar surroundings or sit at the table with folks who think differently than us, the more barriers are broken down. And so, it is important, as we travel, to honestly accept that culture shock is a natural part of the experience, yet we have learned ways to quickly¬†realign our orientation so that we can really engage, understand and enjoy the world around us.

One of the ways we do that is to embrace¬†the physical symptoms and if possible we allow our bodies to get more sleep. We also pay attention to our food intake, making sure to get enough energy rich nutrients and plenty of h20. When possible, we cook for our hosts as this allows for us to eat foods that are familiar. It’s all common sense, basic stuff, but the key is to pay attention and embrace our bodies needs, whether for food, liquids or sleep.

Emotionally, we combat potential depression by talking about how we are feeling, specially if we’ve been in a situation where the world around us is dark and destructive. We talk about the feelings that are evoked when we see things that make us angry or uncomfortable and we allow each other to have those¬†feelings as we process them out. That’s actually one of the greatest gifts of traveling as a family, having someone to talk¬†to about things we are feeling. For instance, when we went to the Killing Fields in Cambodia, we all had a mutual experience that was quite traumatic, so to be able to sit and process with each other as well as with our hosts was a real gift in helping us move into the reality of where we were in the world. By engaging those emotions, it allowed us to develop a real sense of empathy for our Cambodian neighbors.

Mural in Bondi Beach, NSW Australia
Mural in Bondi Beach, NSW Australia

One of the greatest killers of compassion is when we stereotype, picking out all of the obvious differences and developing short-sighted opinions towards our host nationals. It’s a common way of responding to culture shock and easy to slip into that sort of thinking. However, we try to catch it as quickly as we can and instead we try to find similarities. It is when we look past the obvious differences and seek the similarities that our minds eye begins to adjust, telling our brain that what we are experiencing is familiar or at least familiar enough to begin to unpack our defences and open our hearts to learn from our hosts.¬†We try to avoid quick judgements; seeking to understand by asking questions and looking at things from our hosts point of view. One of the most critical things that we consistently have to shelf is the belief that our cultural habits are ‚Äėright’ and others are ‚Äėwrong.‚Äô Sometimes¬†our hosts actually ask us to compare and contrast our culture to theirs but usually we answer that we haven’t developed enough of an understanding about their land to compare and contrast but if they have questions, we’d be happy to tell them things about our homeland or upbringing so that they can better understand us.

For us, the most difficult symptom of culture shock to overcome would be a feeling of homesickness, which is quite funny because we haven’t had a “home” in five years. Even so, the further we go in our travels, the farther away we feel from those who we hold dear in our hearts and the feeling of homesickness usually hits when some sort of world travesty happens. And yet, everywhere we go, we find a sense of home with those saints we meet along the way and so, our faith is what helps to keep this one in perspective. We are a part of a bigger family picture and staying open to this nomadic lifestyle allows us to connect with our extended “family” in ways that we never knew possible.

 

 

Thy Kingdom Come

One beautifully sunny morning in Vietnam.

We were just leaving the beach when a woman, an old woman, carrying big baskets of fruit approached us in hopes of selling her goods but we had just finished lunch, so we smiled, shook our heads no thanks and kept walking.

However, our daughter and son were further behind us and we didn’t see her approach them. So when we turned too look back we were shocked to see our daughter wearing the old woman’s baskets and hat posing as Banjo took her photo. We rush over a little disappointed in our children. To our eyes, it looked as if our kids were exploiting the woman for photo op.

Later however, we found out that the woman actually initiated the process. Apparently, she came up to our kids, took her baskets off her shoulders and thrust it onto Graciana, simultaneously taking her hat off and putting it on Graciana’s head. She snatched Graciana’s camera out of her hand, fumbled around with it for a bit and then handed it to him demanding him to take a photo. This all happened in a matter of seconds and then we turned around.

imageWe obviously didn’t know the backstory so we rushed over thinking surely we should offer her money for this unique photo op. We thanked her and handed her 10,000 dong. Which is about $.50 USD. She took her hat and baskets off of Graciana and we thought the situation was dealt with, but then she began to demand we buy a coconut from her. She took out her machete to cut the coconut and then badgered us to take the coconut. We asked her how much and she mumbled a number we thought was 50,000. Which is above the usual asking price but we thought OK, well just take it and leave. So we handed her the 50,000, she took it but began to shake her head (and her machete) violently. She wrote in the sand 500,000, which is about $22 USD!

Thankfully, by that point, a guard, some of the staff, and our host, saw what was happening and came over to help us deal with the lady. She was angry that they came to our side and waved her machete at them, clenching her fists around the money we had already given her. We all just stood awe as our host dealt with her. She let the woman know that her manipulation was unacceptable and that we weren’t going to pay her. I think we were able to get the 10,000 back but she kept the 50,000. Which was fine, we kept the coconut. She made a sour face and played victim as we all walked away. We left totally bewildered but we weren’t bitter. Honestly the interaction was so swift that we really didn’t have much time to process what was even going on until we walked away.

There was a sadness that came over us for her. What drives an old woman to become a thief? That’s really what laid heavy on our hearts. She was just a sweet little old lady, in the twilight of her life, meant to be enjoying the fruit of her children and grandchildren but here she was stuck in what was probably a long standing cycle of twisted thinking, desperate and demanding. She was roaming this life like a thief in the dark.

It reminded me of another thief, my grandfather. Who was shot (bullet lodging an eighth of an inch from his heart) trying to rob a club in Indianapolis, IN. My father and his twin brother were only 30 days old. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time my paw paw participated in what he would call a “lead pipe synch.” It was just the first time he was caught. It was during is his capture and imprisonment however that his spirit was awakened and he made a decision to change the course of his life. He made a decision to no longer live for himself but for the one who created him. This decision drastically changed the course of my family, this decision and the follow through after gave my family life.

All I could think of after we left this lady was how her con, although sly was so desperate. How I wished I would have had time to catch myself during the interaction to speak truth in love, to let her know that she was wrong for preying on us, but that the deceitfulness in her heart was a burden she didn’t need to carry. I don’t know why or how it all works, this idea of awakening but I do know that I long to see thy kingdom come… And it is during these moments that my heart aches for it most.

The Highlands of Vietnam

Di Linh (Vietnamese: Di Linh; French: Djiring) is a district (huyŠĽán) of L√Ęm ńźŠĽďng Province in the Central Highlands region of Vietnam.

As of 2003 the district had a population of 154,472.The district covers an area of 1,628 km². The district capital lies at Di Linh.

And, that is about all Wikipedia has to say about the place. But, we would add so much more!

IMG_7729First off, going¬†from sea level in Phan Theit,¬†rolling through hills up to about 4000 feet into the highlands was spectacular! And the stops on the way up offered a taste of some of the best coffee in the world. And, for those who don’t know, coffee is one of Mr. Hollands love languages.

The coffee city that gets the most attention in the region is Da Lat and I’m sure it’s a wonderful place for tourists. For us, however, connecting with locals and learning about life through their eyes is more important. So, we were pleased when our friend Joe invited us to come with him up to visit Di Linh, to share a meal, story and sacred space with his kinfolk, who all happen to be coffee farmers.

IMG_1214The community treated us to a traditional meal, coffee of course, and we sang together. We were honored to find out we were there first international guests! We shared our story and they shared theirs and what we learned is that they have the same struggles many of us have around the world with desires for a good, healthy, long life and dealing with the many obsticals that can get in the way.

IMG_1230We met Than, a generational coffee farmer. Thans ancestors had farmed over a hundred hectares but after the war, his families land was seized and he now farms about two hectares. From that 2 hectares he produces 10 tonnes of bean; Arabica, robusta and a third coffee which is a blend. Most is sold to dealers to be exported.

He taught us about the growing process stating that the trees last for about 50 years, and produce bigger yields each year. Harvest time is in December and he hires on about 6 extra migrant workers to help with the harvest. A tarp is set on the ground that catches the beans as the workers pull them off the branches. Then the beans are then set out in the front yard to dry for 10 days before being packaged. Than also grows red flamingo flowers in green houses through out the year and sells them to stores all over Vietnam.

Honestly, Di Linh could have been any little rural town in the US where folks are hard working, value the land they live on and care about their families and their faith. It’s off the beaten path but for us Di Linh and the people we met there will always hold a special place in our hearts. And the coffee, that was just the warm up to the truest love language there is, connection.

 

 

Red Apple School

Many people have asked how do connect with so many host around the world? Well it sometimes goes like this, we met a fello Muso at a folk music conference in Austin, TX named Emily Clepper. Over the next five months we became friends with Emily. When we were getting ready to leave Austin and looking at our east coast routing, we mentioned our desire to head up into Canada and hoped to roll through her hometown of Quebec city. She referred us to her friends, Vann and Chantel, who lived just south of the city. We introduced ourselves to them via good old Facebook and they invited us to come. We spent a lovely week with them, sharing meals, story and song. During our conversations, we shared our desire to explore south east Asia. Vanns interest perked and he told us about his friend, Tinh Mahoney, in Vietnam. Vann and Tinh met when they were young teenagers and had kept in touch over the years. Vann told us that Tinh was a musician and film maker and had a wonderful story that included building eight school in Vietnam. One particular school had a unique story as it involved a group of unlikely contributors. The story goes that Tinh was in the United States performing his music and was invited to a prison in Oregon. While there he shared his dream to build a school. The prisoners were touched by his story and collectively decided to donate one year of their wages towards the building of the school. We were inspired by the story and Vann introduce us via Facebook to Tinh. We begin conversation via email and Skype, dialoguing about a potential visit. We looked on the map to see where Tinh lived and began to course our routing his direction.
And that is how it works. And this is the story of our time with Tinh in His hometown, Phan Thiet, Vietnam.
We arrived late afternoon by bus and took a short taxi ride to the Red Apple English school where Tinh works and lives. We were welcomed by his team, Tam and her sister Nguyen. That evening we “sat in” as English speaking guests. Each of us sat at different tables and the students made the rounds visiting each table and practicing conversation with each of us. They asked all sorts of great questions and after the class we all jumped on mopeds and went for dinner. Tinh treated all of us to Pho’ and later we enjoyed a local dessert soup called Che.

The next morning we rose at 4:30 to catch a sunrise at the local beach. It was dark when we left the house and when we arrived, the beach was packed with all sorts of folks. They were exercising, swimming, running the beach, and burying themselves in the sand; as apparently that has medicinal value.

After the beach, we went back home and enjoyed a light breakfast called Xoi (pronounced soy), which consisted of rice black beans coconut crushed peanuts sugar and salt. It was served alongside a big bowl of exotic fruits. My favorite being Dragon eyes. We we napped during the heat of the day, had a light supper and worked with more students in the evening.

IMG_7636We caught another sunrise the next morning. Two sunrises in a row, that’s a big deal for us night owls, but it was worth it. This time we all rode mopeds to a fishing village and watched the fisherman bring in their catch. There were many women on the beach as well, carrying water and making street food to sell. We were absolutely amazed by their strength. And they were absolutely amazed by Craig’s mustache. ūüôā

After, we stopped to see the famous red Sand dunes. Rolled up and down the hills. And enjoyed the soft silky red sand.

Then we went to a resort to visit some of the students we had met the night prior. They invited us to come and enjoy breakfast and when we arrived we could hear a beautiful guitar playing. We later found out that it was Tinh’s CD. The food was delicious, the resort was beautiful and the staff very friendly. We were very impressed that one of Tinh’s students named Nhi, could not only speak her Vietnamese and English but she could also speak fluent Russian! We discovered that many of the tourists come to this area are from Russia.

That evening while our hosts taught school I made a simple dinner of Fish, mango salsa, rice and vegetables. We slept hard that night and the next day Craig helped Tinh build the stage and get the side yard ready for that evening’s concert. We took afternoon naps and then begin to prepare a meal to serve all the guests that would come. About 75 guests came, students, parents and a few foreign guests we had met at the resort. The evening was filled with music, laughter and joy. Many of the students performed and even one of the guests who was visiting from Slovenia shared a song. Our set was jolly and we were able to teach many of the students our lyrics so they could sing along, we especially loved hearing them sing “Old Man’s Town.”

The only thing that could have topped our time with Tinh and the Red Apple School would have been to have Vann and his family there to share in the memory. Thankful for those who send us on as connectors and thankful for those who receive us on the other end!

Mosaic

I felt a sense of panic as we were trying to park our big bus at a campground in Michigan. We‚Äôre big, and we sort of stick out like a sore thumb, so¬†when we are in campground, I always get a little self-conscense. We were finding that the sites that we hoped for were not available and our day was getting away from us. It was hot and we were warn from¬†a weekend of intense community. In my panic, I went a bit faster in my¬†vehicle, trying to get between our site and our bus, which was parked in a lane way. I wasn’t really paying attention to the impact I might have on those around us. I had tunnel vision, so to speak. A man began to chase after my van, yelling for me to stop. I could hear him¬†vaguely but kept going, time moved¬†slowly and I felt like I was floating. However, as soon as I stopped my van and jumped out, the man was there in my face, screaming that I needed to slow down, insisting that I was breaking the rules and demanding I listen to him. Time raced, my heart raced, I lost my cool and fought back, giving him an excuse as to why I should be able to break the rules, but they fell flat. I finally slowed down¬†enough to step back into reality and told him he was right and I was sorry. As he huffed away¬†I glanced around at everyone, including my family, watching the train wreck. Then, as I slid back into my van,¬†I nearly had a break down emotionally, I was¬†embarrassed and felt totally out of control.

IMG_5209We finally settled into our site, but the lingering feelings of disconnect consumed me. I began to mentally give myself lashings, how stupid and selfish I had been, totally hypocritical. And, as I continued the internal discord,  a spirit of condemnation began to seep in. It was low-lying and thin, so I could barely tell it was there, yet my moodiness displayed its blatant presence and it was starting to affect my family. Which lead to more internal dialog about how lame I was. The next day, I ran errands, picking up groceries for the week and getting gas. Switching to logistics was a nice distraction and masked some of my discomfort. Later, we all enjoyed dinner and watched a sunset, which was refreshing but as soon as my head hit the pillow, the cloud reappeared and I was soaked in reproof.

Day three was OK, I was over the¬†embarrassment and had moved on to how¬†ridiculous it was that I lost my cool over something so silly. The inner dialog turned from¬†‚Äėyou are stupid‚Äô to¬†‚Äúwhy did I panic over something so stupid?‚ÄĚ I began keeping an eye out for the campground guy in hopes of offering a sincere apology. ¬†So, it seemed a bit healthier and yet that spirit of condemnation lingered, with it‚Äôs sly smile and edgy tone. With no tasks at hand, I tried to consume my mind¬†with relaxing, trying to find a moment to sit on the beach and read my book. I caught little glimpses, but felt unsettled. Then I turned my attention to trying to find WIFI because of a missed e-mail that was¬†‚Äúurgent” to get out. That seemed to do the trick, although I really am not a fan of urgency, it‚Äôs a little to close to panic. Anyway, after about three hours, I finally got the work taken care of that I needed to, and was going back to my bus to make a beverage. I felt I¬†deserved¬†it, I was¬†exhausted mentally, spiritually and physically, specially after the last few days of internal battle. It was dinner time but I had no gumption to make dinner, all I could think about was trying to catch a break, a moment of refreshment, so I made my drink and was out the door.

As I made my way down to the beach, I heard the faint voice of my daughters saying my name. I turned and she was coming towards me, yelling from down the road. “Mom, mom, someone stole my bike!‚ÄĚ With no capacity left in me, I exhaled a long breath, suggested she go report it to the office, told Craig and kept on my way. I sat down on that beach, sipping my drink, trying to escape, trying to find peace. I sat there for about five minutes and then distinctly heard in my spirit, “Get Up! Stop wallowing, get up and go back and engage.” I felt the sacred conviction and immediately snapped up, briskly walking back to the camp. My family was all out¬†searching, so I decided the best way I could help was to start dinner. I put my drink away, took a deep breath, and clearly saw that spirit of condemnation standing there in¬†front of me, laughing. I sunk low, but then remembered who I was. I was a daughter of the God of all gods and that because of that I was not longer under the law of condemnation but rather, affirmation (Grace). I¬†immediately spoke that¬†identity out loud, demanding the spirit leave. Instantly I felt the¬†presence leave,¬†with tail between legs. I¬†began to sing my heart out offering adoration and thanksgiving to my creator. ¬†Soon any lingering effects had worn off and I was back to thinking straight, and dinner was underway.

Everyone returned with an update on the stolen bike. Seems, Graciana had been up at the campground lodge checking her Instagram and an older woman had come up to here asking to use her phone. She responded that it was an iPod. The woman walked around the corner, got on Graciana’s bike and rode away. It was later reported that she rode the bike back to her campsite and hid it in the woods behind her tent. The staff in the main office were alerted and called the sheriff to come and help them remove the bike from the campsite. Sure enough the bike was still there, in the woods behind the ladies tent. When confronted by the authorities about the bike, she said she didn’t know where it came from. So, the sheriff and the camp staff came back to us and asked if what our hope was, did we just want the bike back or did we want to take it further and press charges. We declined pressing charges and were happy to have the bike back but still aware of the uncomfortable disconnect as fellow human beings.

I wanted to wallow in my victim stance for a minute. I had every right considering the circumstances. However, I was humbled knowing the internal struggle I had just trudged through and I was reminded of God’s amazing grace and wondered how that plays out in our everyday interactions. I know one of my deepest longings is for others to show me mercy and grace.

So, thinking about this lady and how somehow in her head, that bike was hers to be used and when it was no longer needed, she disowned it. I wondered what her internal struggle must be, trying to put myself in her shoes. I though about the camp staff who I yelled at a few days prior and how he must have a certain opinion of me, who by the way, I was never able to find again to properly apologize, thus leaving our connection in a state of disarray. I though about my husband and how he handled the situation with honor and humility, wanting to protect his family, to see justice served but also understanding the brokenness of humanity. I though about the sheriff and what it must have been like for him to deal with this awkward interaction. I though about my children and how one of them wanted retribution, while the other was almost carefree about it, stating that if the lady needed the bike, she could just have it.

All this to say, we‚Äôve been thinking about the idea of the heart of God towards Justice and how it¬†correlates¬†with worship. We‚Äôve been thinking about this specifically because it is the subject matter¬†at a conference that we‚Äôll be sharing at in Cambodia in December. It‚Äôs a big idea and to really think about it sort of makes my brain hurt. And yet, these past few days have been just the catalyst for observational and experiential process. ¬†I know God is just, He says he‚Äôs just. But what does that mean. I know He has a heart for justice, but what does that mean? I also know we are created to worship, yet how this all correlates is a mystery.¬†And, scripture says we are to “live justly,” but how does it play out in the context of relationship where one betrays another?

mosaic-td_600Most days, I see life, ideas, and concepts in tapestry or mosaic form and so to look at just one fragment of the picture or one line of thread doesn’t come naturally. I see a God who is the creator of the universe, who is all-knowing, the beginning and the end, who is faithful and just, who is love and truth all wrapped up in one. I see a God who is deeply relational to the core and because of that, he pursues every avenue for connectivity. Likewise, I see that we are created in this God’s image. We have the capacity for deep relationship. We are made for it, and there is an intense link between this connectivity and worship, that maybe worship is participating in that connectivity with God. But how does this play out in the nitty-gritty of everyday life.

I’m not really sure the answers to all of these questions but I have a feeling love and mercy have something to do with justice and I will continue to seek them out as I move in relationship with God and others.