GLOBAL MOM a memoir by Melissa Dalton-Bradford

First, our book reviews tend to meet with resounding silence, so I’m posing questions at the beginning for you to think about as you read.

How has living (or visiting) in different places changed your view of the world?

As emissaries of Christ, do we have a responsibility to understand other cultures?

Where would you choose to live– for a few years or forever– if given a chance?

How can those of us who are planted in one city gain a world view?

Also, if you have any questions for Melissa, she’ll be checking the comments.

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This is NOT an unbiased review.

Contributing to Segullah since 2007, Melissa Dalton-Bradford is one of our OWN. In fact the acknowledgments read, “…Segullah aided in the development of my voice and the telling of this story.” If you search her name on our blog or literary site you’ll find her gorgeous poems, essays and musings. And personally, I love and adore Melissa Dalton-Bradford around the globe and back.

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Still, I’m offering no personal prejudice when I say– Melissa can write.

I know a lot of writers. I’m a fair writer myself. But I know only a few who have been touched by the finger of God and gifted with flowing, poetic, gorgeous words. When Melissa sends a text or an email her words sing. You can imagine the beauty of her book.

As the memoir made it’s way around my family, we read passages out loud to each other, discussed aspects of Scandinavian/French/German/Singaporean/Swiss culture, laughed at Melissa’s self deprecating wit, and we cried. Everyone cried. I sat between two of my sons–each with Global Mom in hand– on an airplane this summer and watched as they both wiped their eyes. One morning my youngest son whispered to me, “I think Dad’s reading about Parker.” as my husband sat on the couch surrounded by Kleenexes.

Nothing on the cover or in the marketing, presentiments the death of Melissa’s oldest son Parker two-thirds of the way through the book. But I will. And as a Segullah reader, you likely know something of her story. Far from a deterrent, I believe Melissa’s journey to hell and back, inspires every reader. To bury a child represents every parent’s darkest nightmare– I would much rather learn from Melissa’s hard earned wisdom, than walk that thorny path on my own.

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Melissa speaks beautifully, and profoundly, about keeping our loved ones with us. Remembering birthdays, speaking their name, telling their stories. At the Bradford’s home, every morning and evening prayer mentions each child by name– Parker, Claire (on a mission in Italy), Dalton and Luke– wherever they may be.

On a less profound level of learning from other’s experiences– Global Mom gave me a taste of nomadic life. I’ll admit, I’ve always coveted international moves. Planted in one city my entire life, I longed to travel the world, raise my children in foreign cultures, switch effortlessly from English to French to German. Reading Melissa’s experiences, I discovered the nomadic life contains both more excitement and more hardships than I’d imagined. Ultimately, the book left me still intrigued with global living but grateful for my own, less exciting journey. I can plant fruit trees and enjoy the harvest.

Creating a video preview for Global Mom has been my privilege and  challenge. How to capture a book, an extraordinary woman, eight countries in two minutes? Impossible. But it’s a worthy try and I’m grateful Melissa took a chance on my feeble skills.

GLOBAL MOM a memoir by Melissa Dalton-Bradford from Michelle Lehnardt on Vimeo.

One last thought… the Bradford family motto (translated from my rusty German):

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We build here so firmly.
And yet we are but guests and strangers
And where we should build eternally
We build too little.

About Michelle L.

(Blog Team) never folds laundry and her car is a mess. She runs through the streets of Salt Lake City, UT, takes lots of photos, plays Uno with her five fabulous boys and buys way too many dresses for the little princess. Her husband is the most romantic man in the world because he does all the Costco shopping AND hauls it into the house (sorry to make you jealous girls). She writes at Scenes from the Wild.

40 thoughts on “GLOBAL MOM a memoir by Melissa Dalton-Bradford

  1. I lived a semester abroad in Southern Mexico, served a mission in Brazil and volunteered for a Summer in Mozambique. For fun I’ve traveled to Peru, the Dominican Republic, Canada and Italy. I really treasure all of my international treasure. I feel that by going so young, I gained a perspective and respect for other people and culture that has really helped me throughout my life. It definitely aided me on my mission and currently guides me now. I often wish I could travel more!

    While in Mozambique I truly wanted to stay longer. I wasn’t ready to leave. And last year in Italy I wished we could live there!

    I have been anxiously awaiting this book on my library queue and look forward to reading it!

  2. I want to read this book! Just this morning I was longing for international travel, and quietly lamented that it will likely be years before I get to travel again (due to babies and financial priorities).

    This question intrigued me: “As emissaries of Christ, do we have a responsibility to understand other cultures?” I think we have a responsibility to learn to truly love and serve others. Sometimes cultural barriers and prejudice prevent us from loving others, and learning about other cultures can help break down those barriers. However, I do not think that extensive travel is a requirement to learn to love. I think of certain women I met in Peru who will likely have no opportunity for international travel and had no formal education about international affairs or other cultures, but they certainly knew how to love. As emissaries of Christ, we need to learn to move past artificial barriers to see the hearts of others and love them. Understanding other cultures is one way to help break down barriers, but it is not the only way.

  3. Perhaps it’s us who need to learn from the way other cultures love, especially those without the worldly trappings of our culture than can either create real and perceived barriers or at the very least put unnecessary limitations on our willingness to love.

  4. The hardest thing I ever did was return to my “home culture” brings my children born and raised elsewhere. It was an adjustment I never anticipated, to a very narrow world view and a very limited variety of people. It was more difficult for myself than my children, because they viewed the move as another experience in a new culture and I thought of it as coming home. Home didn’t fit any more.

  5. Thanks for your comments! Robin Marie– your experiences sound fantastic; I’m betting you’ll travel more in your future. Katie and Sharon, your absolutely right. We can learn to love from observing those from other cultures. And Jennifer, I feel for you! I can imagine what that sort of transition would be like.

  6. Michelle, How can I ever thank you enough? This is a tender, loving introduction to my book, and it leave me a little weepy, simply put. Your words (like your photos) put me in the ultimate light. Much love.

    Jennifer, I know, I know. Repatriation is a whole journey worth bracing oneself for. That idea of “home not fitting anymore” has spawned a whole discipline of study among cross-cultural experts. It can be the trickiest and most alienating of moves, odd as that might sound to those who have not experiences it. I address it in my book.

    Sharon: I appreciate your use of “perceived barriers.” Our limited perceptions do fence us in and keep us small. Well put.

    Katie: No, travel (limited or extensive) is not a prerequisite to love. You are so very right! What I understand from Michelle’s question is, what does it take to grow in compassion? Does it take literally stripping ourselves of our familiar shells and donning the most intimate elements of another culture? Does it help our understanding to integrate deeply in another’s world? It sure has helped me. But I’m still learning. . .

    Robin Marie: What things you’ve touched and tasted and seen. What gifts or treasures, as you write. I hope that you’ll find things in my book that resonate. I have a feeling you will! :-)

  7. I’ve loved the look into Melissa’s life through the video trailer and hope to read the book very soon. My question for Melissa may be answered when I read her book, but it is this, “How did you bring stability to your home each and every time you moved? What were the first steps in creating each and every place as your own so that you and, more especially, your children could adjust?”

  8. Teresa: Ah-ha! It is how the book starts: stable = table. We drag a huge old hand made Norwegian table with us every where we move. It’s a symbol of gathering, which means hunkering down to common rituals as a family, bur also drawing people into our home. As paradoxical as it might seem, it’s in that circling and encircling that we find our place. If we were to resist drawing the outer culture into our inner culture, we’d float like a satellite around a planet, and not get pulled into the gravitational center of local culture. Familiar physical surroundings help, and I’ve had to pull in people. You need people, names, a place where you will become “A regular.”

    And with all that I never stop praying.

  9. I just finished this amazing book today–even with five little people underfoot, I devoured it in a day, and I fully intend to go back and reread it again soon. This is a delicious,wonderful book.

    I lived in Mexico with my family for 6 months, but suffered from pregnancy hyperemesis during our stay. Reading this made me regret the mons spent over a toilet when I could have been embracing that amazing opportunity. If we’re ever able to live out if the country again, I’m going to emulate Melissa.

  10. Becca,

    This is such a kind thing to write, that you devoured it and will re-devour it. Kudos to you for surviving a complicated pregnancy, and doing so while in an unfamiliar place. The result of that sick episode – a child! – is, in my opinion, more than worth having not seen more of Mexico that the bottom of a toilet. I hope you’ll have other chances, maybe later in life, to see well above the rim.

  11. Living in three different countries outside of the U.S. in the past eleven years has taught me the following:

    1)The world is wonderful. Exploring cultures and new places is a major rush.
    2) Transitions are hard. Moving is hard. Packing is awful.
    3) Your family becomes your stability instead of place.
    4) I need my ward/branch family much more when in another country.
    5) Learning a new language is not easy, even for children.
    6) You can adapt your life to new cultures. I have tried to take the best parts of the cultures I have lived in and implement them into my own life.
    7) Repatriating to your home country is really challenging.
    8) The amazing things that you see, do, and experience will be balanced with loss.

  12. Lovely review and engaging book trailer. I am mesmerized by Melissa’s writing style. It’s so recursive, poetic and image rich. She’s got such a distinctive voice. I often cry when I read her blog because of the beauty of the prose. And the poignancy of the content. I heard this book was in the works, and I’m very glad to see that it’s finally in print.

  13. The beauty of the video introduction resonates well with the Melissa’s lyrical writing. Well done, both of you.

  14. Melissa, if you’re still checking the comments I have a question for you.

    How on earth do you keep all your different languages straight? I used to speak tolerable French, then learned pretty good Mandarin, and tried to learn Spanish when we moved to Mexico. Things come out of my mouth in the most garbled mix of languages–pronouns are the worst part for me. Sometimes I can’t even tell which word came from which language.

    So how are you able to keep each one in its proper place?

    I was in a cafe in Nice, and called out to the man next to me who dropped his hat, “Monsieur, ni de chapeau!”

    An Indian gentleman next to me laughed and laughed, and told me that he spoke Mandarin and French also.

  15. Tiffany:

    Your list is right on target! Here’s my little addition, which you’ll appreciate:

    1)Exploring new cultures and peoples is deeply humbling.

    2) Transitions are pummeling. Moving is whiplash. Packing is exhausting, but gets a bit easier with experience. And the more you shed, the less there is to haul.

    3) Your family, instead of a place, becomes “home.”

    4) My church family has been central, even crucial, to our success in these many moves.

    5) Learning new languages requires humility, muscular effort, concentration, help, necessity, community and God’s gifts. And it’s harder the older you get.

    6) Your soul can be enlarged by embracing different cultures. This happens best after you’ve been reduced to a pulp. What odes that mean? It means that moving broadly and deeply will often leave you shorn of what you were sure was necessary (like being smart and having control and being respected), and expands you in ways you hadn’t thought possible. Or needed.

    7) Repatriating can be the toughest and most alienating and most pulp-ifying of all moves! :-) Research says it.

    8) The amazing things that you see, do, and experience will be make you weep with gratitude to God for the goodness of mankind and the beauties of this creation.

    Do you agree?
    (And I’m so grateful you follow my blog, Tiffany.)

  16. Karen, Oh, you are too kind. Are you sure you’re writing about me?

    Cheri: Michelle has such great gifts. We all are blessed by what each of us can add to each others’ lives.

    Becca: Yes, still here! Hilarious!! “Xiansheng, dui bu qi, zhe ge sombrero shi le votre, n’est-ce pas?” I know what you’re saying!!

    For me, each language feels like a different pair of shoes, let’s say. (Um.. I LIKE shoes. Almost as much as I like languages.) I pull on one pair and feel I walk differently, stand differently, move differently. English is my Nikes. German, structured knee-high boots. Norwegian, Birkenstocks. French, heels. Emerald green heels. As with language, I don’t put on two pairs of shoes at once.

    Unless . . .I am VERY tired. I might well wear two different shoes: A Birkenstock and an army boot. And that’s when I might speak two different languages in one phrase. Done it.

    Another metaphor: you can play soccer, volleyball, tennis and you can swim. The one sport doesn’t impede or eclipse or mess up the other. You just know, “I’m swimming now,” or “I’m goalie.” It seems to feel like that to me.

    Admittedly, the big challenge comes when you’re out of the “indigenous force field,” as my husband and I call it. Speaking German while standing in Oslo is notably harder for me than when standing in Munich. Or Norwegian while visiting Paris. And speaking Mandarin one month in Geneva feels quite different from speaking it in Beijing the month before. Crazy, yes. But I think the setting plays a significant subliminal role.

    Did I answer your question? And did I write it in one language?. . . :-)

  17. My expat experiences have been a little different from some who’ve posted here. I haven’t had a church family to rely on when we have lived overseas with our children. We also haven’t had much money, so I’ve lived in a house without plumbing in the kitchen, done very little traveling, never had a car, and had to learn how to cook locally with very different ingredients. I also haven’t had an expat community since we weren’t business or government or missionary expats- sometimes there have been no expats around at all.

    I learned that I can do a lot of hard things and have fun in the process. I will never forget the feeling of walking into that kitchen the first time and seeing three tables, a stove, a fridge (so lucky), and a few pots and utensils when I was at least expecting cupboards and a sink. I survived it and have good memories too. I am so grateful I had a chance to experience being that type of expat.

    I learned that situations make a difference in learning languages. When I was in that house with no plumbing, I also was homeschooling because there were no acceptable schools in the town we lived in. Just keeping my family fed and educated took almost all of my energy and left little time for working on Russian and Uzbek. But I had to speak Russian or we wouldn’t have eaten.

    I cannot switch between languages well. I’m learning Spanish now, but Russian consistently comes out, and Arabic did when I was learning Russian. But I do completely agree that the setting matters. Hopefully that helps when we’re in Mexico…

  18. I forgot this was a book review. :)

    I read this a few weeks ago when it came out as an ebook. There were so many times when I related very strongly to what Melissa wrote. I loved when she wrote about expats who dig in deeply and have to take a layer of soil with them from all their past countries. Jerusalem and Kyrgyzstan will always, always be part of me, and a suspect Mexico will too.

    Another expat friend of mine read it also and we had a very interesting discussion about it. It would be fun to have an online discussion about it with other LDS expats.

  19. Amira: yes, these differences in expat experiences are enormous, proof of how words like “expatriate” flatten and eclipse the multitudes of levels of comfort/stress/sacrifice/dislocation/integration/discomfort/anger/cushiness. . .:-)

    What a life you’ve lived. Harrowing and rich in ways I hope you will continue to chronicle in your wonderful blog. (Yes, I follow you.)

    Should I write the obvious here? Your gritty vagabonding is not a Parisian apartment with its plumbing, with its boulangerie on the corner :-) We follow our paths, each of us. Or better, they find us. Or we carve out individualized paths with the clunky bag of talents and opportunities we are given or gather over time.

    Ours are different stories, different demands for wildly different settings and skill sets. There are, as you note, probably small areas of overlap.

    I hope one day you’ll write your book, (now might not be the time). When you do, I will be the FIRST to read it!! Until then, I think we and other LDS expats should have a centralized point of communication/communion.

    Any suggestions? Can we start right here? :-)

    And thanks for spending time to come by and comment, Amira. It has added much value.

  20. I’m also an expat. Can I join the discussion? :)

    I haven’t read Melissa’s book, but I will first chance I get. I do have a question for Melissa, or any other expats who happen to read this. Since your kids pretty much grew up overseas and moving a lot, was it just part of life for them? We have been overseas 2 1/2 years now, and by next summer we need to decide whether to repatriate, stay where we are, or move to another expat experience. Our kids both tell us they want to go “home.” I have loved living in Asia and I would be interested in another opportunity, but I wonder about my children. Did your kids ever ask to go “home?” How did you handle that? Of course I know that you can’t answer the question of what we should do, but I’m curious about your experience.

  21. I’d love to have a place for LDS expats of all types to hang out and support each other. I think it’s especially important if you’re isolated geographically or linguistically from full participation with the church. I do have one online space for that, but it’s only for one type of expat, and even though I am technically that type of expat now, my past experiences make my perspective very different from theirs in many ways.

    Roo, I have one son who wishes he could just live in the US. I think that he would be delighted to open his mission call in a couple of years and be sent to Utah. ;)

  22. Roo and Amira: I’m liking this. :-)

    The following article caught my attention not too long ago. James Toronto writes of LDS expatriates specifically in this BYU Studies article. He describes and expatriate as:

    “…Those who retain citizenship in their home country and normally maintain family, social, financial, and professional ties there. . .”

    I might take issue with some parts of that description, but do find the profiles of “Strangers in a Strange Land” a useful starting point. Link:

    https://byustudies.byu.edu/showtitle.aspx?title=7221

    Roo: Yes, this is all my children know, and so “home” is not the US for them, as much as they love people (and other things) there. Home, instead, is wherever we are as a family. It’s a tough decision you stand in front of! My personal bias is just that, a bias. :-) And of course, our life choices reflect that bias. I know: it’s so personal and requires prolonged weighing, searching and spiritual validation. Our decisions have always been done under the influence of the Spirit. How else to hang on during such an unpredictable ride?

    Amira : I can only begin to envision the isolation you speak of. I admire you from afar for your strong family leadership. The only comparison I can offer comes from watching some expatriates living in Norway, France, Austria, Germany and Switzerland struggle through church meetings where they understand nothing.

    Expatriate (English-speaking) branches solve that kind of isolation, but create another. The division between locals and expats is a delicate topic. I’d appreciate hearing the details of what your church experience are right now.

  23. I haven’t gone to church in our town in Mexico yet, but I do know there isn’t an expat branch/ward where we’ll be living. I believe there are a few expat families in the ward we are in, but there probably aren’t any English-speaking teenagers, except mine when we get there.

    I share your concerns about expat branches, just as I have concerns about language-designated units anywhere. They bring some people together but divide them from others. (My sister-in-law has lived in Singapore for years and it’s been interesting to hear about the expat branches there- you’d know all about that).

    But it’s also so important for all members of the church to hear the gospel in a language they are comfortable with. While it would be great if everyone could learn languages easily, we do isolate people if we don’t accommodate as many languages as possible. I think this can be especially true for women.

    I’m also concerned about my own children. They only get to stay in Mexico for two years and then will move on to another country and another language. Even the best language learners aren’t going to be ready for a seminary lesson or math class in Spanish, for example, in less than a year. There will be some understanding, sure, but not what I’d like my boys to get from seminary or math. So do I try to find an English option for seminary, maybe over Skype like we did in Kyrgyzstan? Or do they struggle through a year of seminary and risk a bad experience simply because of the language? Or do we lobby for an English-speaking seminary teacher to be called just to teach my children?

    There isn’t an obvious answer and I don’t know if there is a right one or if we’ll find it if there is, just like I don’t know if there is a right answer about language-designated units. And figuring all that out is one of the great adventures of making a new place your own.

  24. Amira: We have had the same experience more than once, where there are no teens other than our own in a congregation (we laughed, calling it the Young Man program or the Young Woman program) and also places where there are no youth who speak the same mother tongue are our children. These are serious considerations: What is the objective for church? Language instruction or gospel instruction?

    Someone might suggest that they are the same thing. The process of learning language is in many ways spiritual. And the synergy that must take place between host members and non-local members in order to reach understanding and unity is a spiritual/linguistic thing. I agree, though, it is very difficult. I know this. I have done it over and over again. As you say, not even the best language learners are not going to be ready for seminary or math lessons in less then a year. And those years are VITAL in a youth’s development.

    Here’s what we’ve done along the path: when there have been missionaries in our unit, we’ve enlisted them at first to give “spot translation” in meetings and gatherings. Soon, their translation isn’t needed.

    We’ve lobbied leaders to hold bilingual meetings. This we succeeded in doing in France and in Germany, where those members who could, taught in both languages simultaneously. I’ve been in a ward where every auxiliary was taught in two languages at once. HARD work! But packed with sparkling miracles! I feel the greater goals of unity, service and sacrifice for one another’s limitations were reached. Language is about love, after all.

    If there are other expatriate LDS listening in, :-) it would be helpful to know what’s working in the global church to teach correct doctrine AND to promote inclusion and unity, rather than maintain artificial barriers.

  25. I also like the idea of having meetings in two languages. We did that in Jordan many years ago, although it was hard work to make everything happen in English and Arabic. And that didn’t cover all the languages needed, of course, but it was a good start. It is important to have people worship together as much as possible.

    We’re definitely planning on asking the missionaries to help us. Maybe we could trade tasks- my husband could teach the new member class, for example, while the missionaries teach my older sons (after homechurching for years, my oldest in particular is done with having his parents as church teachers). And I’m hopeful that weekday activities will help all of us get to know people in the ward.

  26. Amira: You’re an expert in this. Jordan sounds a bit like Paris (or other places I’ve visited) where there are a dozen or more mother tongues in one chapel. Does English become the default common tongue, then?

    I hope any other listeners here gain an appreciation for what you (and others like you) are doing to build faith both within your family and in the broader church family. It’s astounding, really, what you’ve done as a mother in such remote and isolated locations. I so honor you for that.

    And I hope that great oldest son of yours lands on a mission where he can feel the support of masses. I wonder: will that be comforting or strange for him, given the upbringing he’s known. . .?

  27. English and Arabic did cover most of the languages needed in Jordan at the time. Everything was in both languages, from the announcements in sacrament meeting to Relief Society. That was over 15 years ago though, and before children, and I haven’t been back since.

    Can I say international life is so different with children? Especially older children? Some things are so much better, but some things seems nearly impossible to deal with. I’m looking forward to my children having the chance to experience a totally different side of expat life in Mexico.

    I’m not at all sure that I’ve been successful with my children as an expat. There have been plenty of rough days, and some of them hate moving more than anything. But as another expat friend taught me, my children’s disapproval and struggles don’t necessarily mean we’ve made the wrong choice.

  28. This posting, the video, and the ensuing comments have been a delightful glimpse into a kind of life I’ve not lived, having been born and raised in one city, and now raising my children in a single city in another state. Yet the beauty of the conversation has enriched me. Perhaps that is because of the beautiful diversity I see in the eyes of us all. I look forward to reading your book, Melissa. Thank you, everyone!

  29. Marcia: Those are kind and uplifting words. Thank you! If you read my book at some point, I’d love to hear your feedback. I’m learning much from points of view that circle the globe, which would include your “single city.” (That, by the way, sounds luxurious to me.)

  30. Melissa, just started reading your book, and had to put it down after just two pages. I can tell I am going to have to read this in dribs and drabs. Your story is my story. I get the table. “This table is my ROOTS, guys! My family and MY TABLE.” And sometimes the only thing within reach is my table. Five children, five countries, fifteen years. I can’t wait to read this…in bits..and then share it with my kids, who grew up in this crazy life.

  31. cellomom5:

    Does your name mean you’re cellist, too? Like me? More overlap? Oh, this is guh-rrreat!

    Yes, the beginnings of the book are dense, that’s true, especially if you are reliving your own whirlingly global journey while reading. You’ll have to strap yourself in.

    Please tell us all: Where are you now? Where have you been? How has where you’ve been shaped you? Your five children? Are you LDS? If not, has there been a stabilizing community along your route? If so, can you describe what that LDS community has been like, and how that has colored your latter-day (global) sainthood?

    We’re waiting.

    :-)

  32. Whoa. Looks like I have to write my own book. We are state-side now and have been for 7 years. Four of the five are married with children; baby is at college. My husband is the bishop of our ward, so, yes, LDS :o)
    Our children don’t have any geographical roots and think they can just live anywhere in the world, so they are spread all over the US, and one is taking his family to the Middle East pretty soon. (What?? You mean you don’t want to settle down here in Virginia with Grandma and Grandpa nearby??)
    I have never come to terms with the ex-pat church experience. When my children were small, they hated church because it was three hours of noise that they didn’t understand. We eventually found ways to teach them in English at church, but that was isolating from the local members. Eventually they learned the language (we only had to learn Spanish), and things got much better, but the first years were a rough go.
    Seriously? You’re a cellist? Are you finding places to play overseas? When my kids were small and I didn’t have the language, poor cellito was neglected. When they were older and in school, I studied my little buns off with a fab teacher in Spain.
    No way to summarize here how it all shaped us. I’m not even sure that I could verbalize it. I know that I’m a completely different person than I was when we started all this. And, I am, as someone told my daughter, “… white on the outside, but brown on the inside.” We are really looking forward to serving a mission when that time comes. Gotta get baby through college first.

  33. Cellomom5: You have a great start for a book right here!

    Your description of children hating church because of the “three hours of noise” is honest and crucial to share and. . .it stings a bit. (In a good way). no kidding: a “rough go.”

    What can wards and branches do to facilitate integration? Perhaps it begins with one-on-one assignments/calling between members. I recall with tenderness the sweet Norwegian sister who, the month we arrived in the dead of winter, showed up at my door with the Primary Songbook, and sat with me for 3 hours under our dim dangling kitchen lightbulb, taking me through every last song. Word for word. Phonetically shepherding me through my new calling. Safe, loving, without pressure, and full of the Spirit.

    And my question was unfair: how can one summarize a lifetime of such living? You’ve done well here!

    P.S. Claiming to still be a cellist would be a lie. I was raised a cellist in a family of serious, classically trained musicians, but haven’t played actively in many years. I sing. Concert mezzo-soprano. More portable.:-)

  34. Well I’ll pipe in. My husband and I (and daughters ages 0-6) are two months into our first expat experience (in Macau, near Hong Kong). I thought the typo “anger” instead of “danger” was also accurate. I’ve never felt so angry so often! I think I’m dealing with loss, like grieving over so many aspects of day to day life that are different now. I’m blown away by how not up to the task I feel, by how surprised I am at what other people think is ok here (like smoking in the room next to me while fixing my leaky bathroom ceiling), by how homesick I am for the American suburbs….I would love links to both your blogs (Melissa and Amira), and if I can figure out how to read an ebook here with little kids running around, I will. I know it would be good for me – I need help!

  35. My previous experiences as a missionary or a traveler are so far nothing compared to moving a home as a parent and trying to get all the practical things done like living arrangements, transportation, schooling, shopping, etc. in a foreign country and in a foreign language. I’m sure it gets so much easier the second time you do it. The first time is really a doozy so far! And of course I’ve already learned SO much, so I can’t say I regret it. One huge thing I’ve gained is empathy for immigrants everywhere!!!

  36. Looks like an interesting book. I have lived in 5 states, 3 European countries. I graduated from the first LDS institute/seminary program in Moscow, Russia. Class of ’94. I have not done this with offspring, but I was a student of languages. I decided I was done when I met a lady who couldn’t speak any language correctly on my mission. She was multi-lingual like me. I would love to live abroad for a 2 year assignment to 1 country for the purpose of my children becoming 100% bilingual, but I often have to be okay with the fact that they have their own path. Also, I want my children to have a geographical home like I did. I was an explorer, but I always had a home. It isn’t easy what the author has done. Coming home the first time was a challenge since I went directly back to junior year of high school, but the world is much smaller than it was in 1991 so you don’t have to be completely cut off from your experience once it is over like then.

  37. Jessica of Macau:

    Hahaha! Maybe my ‘Anger’ *was* an appropriate Freudian slip. And to your point: Anger’s a surface catch-call emotion, I’ve learned, replacing the deeper currents of hurt, helplessness, fear, chaos that often accompany major transitions. And you are absolutely right that there are aspects of grief that typically trail such big moves. In fact, the big names in cross cultural/expatriate lives write and lecture at length about the unresolved griefs that mark global nomadism.

    I’m so sorry it is tough for you right now, and that every day requires a loin-girding (not to mention a gas mask for the smokers in your bathroom.:-) And thank you for noting that previous foreign experiences (like missions or even studying abroad for a few months) are not like long-term foreign residency with a family in tow. One should have no delusions about what they are getting into when they enter this lifestyle. It is NOT tourism! And it is NOT about glamor. And no, it doesn’t necessarily get easier with subsequent moves. Each move demands something different. Some moves, however (if you don’t have to function from day one in a foreign tongue, for instance) are simply less demanding. Some cultures are more demanding, and you simply make do! You are growing in great ways, though, and I hope you will follow Amira at http://amiralace.blogspot.ch/. My blog is Melissa Writes of Passage. You can google a whole stack of posts, for commiseration. My book, though, might be your best friend :-)

  38. Jessica, The Different One:

    Your background is so interesting. First LDS institute in Moscow. A pioneer, then! Thank heavens for you.

    You’re right, too, that the world is much smaller today, even than it was when we launched this life in Hong Kong in the late 80′s. image: that was teh summer of Tiananmen Square. Ancient history for folks today. Back then, I could never have imagined something like this comment thread I’m typing in right now. There was no Skype, Vonage, Internet. No Google translate, cell phones, GPS, laptops, and travel was more expensive. We just forged ahead, and felt much more cut off from our last location than most expatriates would ever have to feel today.

    What might the future hold? What is certain is that there are 220 million + people living in countries another than their “homeland,” and that number is escalating steadily and rapidly.

    Thanks for your comment here!

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