We just want to start by saying thank you to our friends and family in the US, Botswana, the UK and elsewhere for your support in various ways as we transitioned from Botswana to the US. We miss our amazing friends and family in Botswana and remain excited to be closer to other amazing friends and family in the US. We love you all so much and feel so loved by you. It has been a blessing to reconnect with many of you in Maryland and get to know others during our frequent trips into town. His People Gabs, THANK YOU for graciously and generously releasing and sending us out. Monument Church, THANK YOU for welcoming us with so much love and enthusiasm.
Increasing Dependence on God
We left Botswana over 8 months ago. Our intention was to stay with Laura’s parents in Lititz, PA area for a few weeks (up to a couple of months) while getting jobs sorted out, and then move to Gaithersburg, MD. For a lot of reasons, this seemed like a plan that would work. However, despite our efforts, that door has not opened, at least not yet. We trust that God’s plan for us has included this season of patience and persevering in faith (with lots of stumbles and lessons along the way). Our planning decreases daily while our dependency on our Father increases. His hand of direction becomes evident when He closes some doors and open some. He makes is easier to TRUST AND FOLLOW HIM when it might not all be making sense.
Act 16: 6-10: The call to Macedonia?
With the help of Laura’s parents, God has provided a home for us in Akron, PA, just outside of the city of Lancaster. The way it happened has been providential and we believe it is the Lord’s doing. It appears that, at least for the time being, He is redirecting us. We are scheduled to close and move into our new house in April. We are so grateful! Lancaster has an amazing legacy of faithful believers and we have enjoyed our visits to several local churches here. We look forward to fully engaging in one of them.
The house we are under contract for!
As for work, Laura is a StoryBrand Certified Guide, marketing consultant, and website designer. If you’re curious about what that means, you can take a look at her website: www.pulamarketing.com. She has customers locally and internationally whom she loves working with. Now that we plan to stay in Lancaster, she is continuing to grow her business while also being open to full-time jobs that would allow her to continue this line of work as part of a team. KG is continuing to provide regulatory support to some pharmaceutical companies with products in Botswana while studying hard for his pharmacy board exams in both the USA and Canada. We really appreciate prayer for us work-wise.
Children are a blessing
The girls are having a lot of fun through all this! They love and enjoy their grandparents. They think ‘Pops is tops’ and ‘Mumzy is the true Fancy Nancy’!
Our girls with their grandparents and cousins.
|Family photo, May 2019
It has been so long since I have blogged. Since I last wrote, I have lived in Botswana for five more years (almost 6 total), had three little girls, and experienced a life very different from the one I had before. I have learned what it is like to not have the expectations and benefits we first-world people rarely even realize, deeper than “first world problems.” I’ve lived abroad before, but never married to a local, living on a local salary, figuring out how to provide for a family.
And I only know what that’s like when your husband is a highly educated professional who also happens to be an extremely hard worker, and especially gifted in business. I’m still white, and often treated with a special level of respect because of that (a topic for another time). I still have a family who would have helped us if we ever couldn’t have figured things out on our own. I still have a US passport and credit card. And we live in one of the most stable countries in Africa, and most peaceful in the world.
It’s different than I imagined. I was pretty naive to many of the struggles people from other places face. I was pretty naive about many luxuries I take for granted. In some ways, I have come to treasure, and in other ways despise, the first-world assumptions I grew up with.
A moment that stands out most to me was when we had been here for about six months. KG was still doing his pharmacy internship and was working at the main government hospital as a pharmacist. He had a terrible, debilitating toothache, and decided to see one of the hospital dentists.
The dentist explained that all of the dental imaging equipment had been sent away for maintenance, and they didn’t expect it back for months. ALL of the equipment. At one time. Based on the pain of his tooth, she decided she should remove it, and he agreed. He would do anything to get rid of that pain.
He was not given pain killers and they pulled that tooth out of his head. He says it was excruciating. When the tooth finally was out, she looked at it and said, “Oh, that’s a shame, this tooth is healthy. It probably just had a minor cavity.”
Guys, when he got home and told me that story, I seriously wept. I know it’s just a tooth, but it was the principle of the matter. This would never, ever happen in my world. If it did, heads would roll. But it wouldn’t happen. It was over five years ago, and it still bothers me.
KG, on the other hand, was never very bothered about it. He could not understand the grief it inspired in me. His expectations are just different.
Living abroad is such a rich experience, but it can also be disorienting and confusing. I’ve experienced so much change these last five years it’s sometimes hard to know where to start. In some ways, I am really different. In others, I am very much the same. Similarly, when I look at the States, I see lots of differences and similarities from the country I grew up in.
And all of this feels really important, because we are moving to the States in less than a month. I’m now a wife of an immigrant and mother to three Batswana-American children. I am learning a whole new role in life, and I’m aware of how much I don’t even know I don’t know.
I hope there is some of the “me” that I left behind still there, and that I can rediscover parts of myself. I hope that I will be quicker at understanding jokes and have to think a little less about day-to-day interactions — I’ll be back with people who grew up like I did. I hope I will feel more free to step out on a limb, inspire change, and lead, than I have here.
I hope I’ll also be more mature, that the lessons I have learned in the nine years since I was primarily living in the States will have given me wisdom and grace. I hope I’ll be humble, and remember that the experiences I have had are not shared with most of my peers. They have answers and experiences I don’t have, and I hope I can reenter my culture as a learner.
Even with all of these hopes it is probably obvious that I am scared. I realized a few weeks ago that I feel a little like someone who wakes up from a coma, only to realize that it has been ten years since they interacted with society. Now, suddenly, there are self-driving cars, different political and social perspectives, new products and new norms that may have been heard about through the fog of the coma, but not with much actual understanding.
At the same time, I’ve had a very full, busy, different, interesting life during these nine years. Now I’m mommy. Now I’m a website designer and marketing professional. Now I’m a permanent resident of Botswana, with a whole family who I love very much here. The transition feels big.
Today has been very busy, and very good. This is my first moment which hasn’t been very relational and/or active since waking this morning. It’s 10pm and I’m tired but happy and thankful for good food, great friends, and a good-crazy kind of day.
This morning Kagi and I woke up, had our breakfast, and prepared for a day in the city. We walked the 2.5 miles to the Discovery Centre (where Global Cafe is headquartered and Kagi used to live) through freezing wind and stinging snowfall. There, I helped Kagi with his weekly cleaning job. Because both of us were working quickly, we finished in about an hour and booked it down to the City Centre.
In the heart of Bradford, we met with our friend Ben who has been a very good friend to me since I first came here. He was even there the day Kagi and I met. Now Ben lives in Finland, and I am so glad we took the rare opportunity to hang out during his visit to Bradford this week. It was especially fun to hear how God has been answering prayers that we have been praying since meeting almost three years ago, and to share stories with someone whose journey of faith makes Kagi and my last few years look relatively simple. We are so encouraged by Ben and I am reminded what a blessing he has been to me. Although we have never seen him all that often it does seem that Bradford is missing something without him here.
After that meeting, we went back to the Discovery Centre for an amazing Spanish lunch prepared by our friend Juanma’s parents. It was so fun to meet his family and to spend time with international students and other team members. In our multi/inter-cultural lives, Global Cafe provides a community which feels more like home to both of us… sometimes even more than we feel at home in our countries of origin. For me, it is a reminder of my beloved International Friendship Club in Maryland.
Following lunch, Shell, the leader of Global Cafe, took me with her on her trip to Costco! I blogged about strangely missing Costco way back in this post. Finding out there is one near Bradford was very exciting news for me, and I was not disappointed on my trip there today. It was really nice to hang out with Shell, first of all. She shares my love for Jesus and for cultures, and is someone I have really enjoyed getting to know over the past few years. Today I found out that her husband who is also from Southern Africa is a “meatetarian,” like mine. She has offered to help me find ways to feed Kagi without going broke, which (especially after recently instituting a new budget) I am very excited about!
Costco was also much more similar to the Costco in the States than I was expecting. They have most of the same items and kept the prices about the same as they would be in USD but just made them in GBP, which makes everything about 1.6 times more expensive. Compared to importing these items myself or paying the supermarket price for these American staples which are considered luxury items here, the prices were great. I bought things like Kirkland almonds, a big tub of crunchy peanut butter, a big tub of salsa, and Costco bagels. They also have the big bags of Crasins and affordable vanilla which was a thrilling discovery even though I decided to hold off until I have a little more in the budget another time. It was laid-out and looked just like it does in the States.
As we were leaving the store at about 4, I glanced at my iPhone to see a message my dad sent me about the staff meeting I was prepared to join at 5pm via Skype. I had told Shell about it and planned to be home in plenty of time for it. However, while reading my dad’s email I realized that I forgot that the daylight savings time changes earlier in the States than in England. We are only 7 hours ahead instead of the usual 8. While kicking myself for being late, I realized that, not only had I not realized the time change, I also had mis-calculated. 8am is 8 hours before 4pm, not 5pm. I was both sorry and embarrassed about this clumsy mistake. I sent an email as we headed home.
To keep this story from going on forever, I’ll just say that Kagi and I ultimately got home at about 5:30 after traffic and a few other delays. We unexpectedly had a few of the guys from church come home with us, which was a lovely surprise. I figured out that I had totally missed my call and set to hanging out with them, preparing dinner, and having some great conversations.
There is more, but I guess for today I’ll leave it at that!
I’m not sure if the Starbucks Tax Scandal
has made the news in the States, but it is a big deal here in the UK. It won’t surprise many of you that Starbucks comes up in my conversations fairly frequently (since I love coffee and like Starbucks a lot). So, for the last six months, every time it comes up I have heard a little more about the scandal. I actually don’t know tons about it, but apparently Starbucks took advantage of a tax loophole and has not been paying income tax in the UK. There have been protests and boycotts. It’s big news.
|What my siblings and I call the “Green Circle of Pleasure,” just the sight of which gets the serotonin flowing!
My immediate question the first time I heard this was, “So wait, did they do something illegal?” to which the answer was, “No.”
Americans think very differently about taxes than Brits do.
This difference is something I am convinced is deeply true, and this is just one small example. American companies’ first obligation is to their stakeholders, particularly their customers, employees, and shareholders. They are, obviously, bound to obey the law, but I don’t think many Americans would consider it immoral to not pay taxes which are not required by law.
In England, though, this is a very different thing. In the UK, taxes are used for things which people highly value, like the National Health Service (NHS) and benefits meant to create equal opportunities. There is an expectation that the State can and should care for its citizens and a high value for government programs.
We (typically) feel so differently about this in the States. I realize that I come from a conservative background in America, and I also realize that I live in a particularly liberal part of the UK. But even with this acknowledgement, I think that there are longstanding cultural value differences stemming back to the founding of our various nations.
In a monarchy, there is an expectation for the king or queen to take care of his/her people. My theory is that this translates much more easily into a state with large and strong social services, because whether or not it works perfectly the people have a value system which allows for this. And because the system is relatively consistent with the values of the population people feel comfortable making it work. Paying taxes is a huge part of making the system work. Starbucks, therefore, seems to have committed a moral wrong in the perspective of the British value system.
However, we Americans have a very high value for individual achievement and we tend to distrust large structures, especially the government or those mandated by the government. I think this goes back to the American Revolution, the outcry against “taxation without representation,” and the entire political system that developed out of that. We tend to think more about keeping it in check than in making sure it gets its dues. If there is a tax loophole, we all want to know about it so we all can take advantage of it. I think this is why tax accounting is such a huge business. We figure that it is the government’s responsibility to close up the loopholes (we probably would consider if immoral if they don’t). I have every expectation that the companies I invest in are not paying taxes that they don’t need to. I would be very unhappy if they were.
I find it interesting that a company like Starbucks, which has a reputation of taking the high moral ground on issues like health insurance for part-time employees and etc, has ended up in this scandal. I think that it is a very interesting matter of cultural value mis-match. I am guessing that they never saw the public outcry coming.
For me personally, it is another reminder of the difficulties of cross-cultural living. There are phenomenal opportunities to have our values and expectations challenged. Maybe what I’ve always thought isn’t actually right after all. Or maybe what I thought was an absolute is actually more a matter of opinion. Or maybe my culture is right on this thing or that, and I need to remain committed to it even when it’s not popular in another context.
It’s kind of nice to know that massive companies commit cross-cultural faux pas too. Somehow, it makes mine feel a little more understandable.
Sunday was my dad’s birthday. It was very fun to celebrate with him, and especially because I got to take him on a hike. Actually, he took me, but it was my idea:-).
Here are some pictures of the beautiful afternoon:
|I thought this mossy tree was really cool.
|When we reached the high ground there were many signs of deer and elk having been there. We started looking for “sheds,” meaning antlers shed by deer after the winter. The whole time I was looking I just kept remembering how bad I always was at “Where’s Waldo” and “I Spy” books. Definitely not my gifting… and antlers are designed to blend in with sticks! Turns out, though, that they are probably still on the deer’s heads. We’ll have to check again in the next few months.
|Happy Birthday to the best dad a girl could wish for! I love you!
|Look at that view!
|On the way back down the mountain my sister called to wish Pops a happy birthday as well. Interesting how much more snow there is on the shady side of the mountain, isn’t it?!
Yesterday when my dad got home from his run he told me he wanted to show me something. So we jumped in the truck and drove to a nearby street. Thankfully, the bald eagle he had come upon while running was still there. It was beautiful and so much fun to watch it and take some pictures. They aren’t very good, but I thought I’d share anyway!
And here is the video which shows it beautifully and gracefully flying away!
Thanks to my amazing father who knew I really wanted to see a bald eagle and took me to see it. Seriously, it was really cool and a fun outing together.