Saturday, April 6, 2013

SE Asia, white noise and toddlers: an experiment in home.

I haven't written here for a few weeks.  My last post was a psalm of lament about my neighbourhood and now I'm so far from there, nestled in SE Asia for two months.  And doesn't a new place always make the old place feel so much more like home, even when that place is hard sometimes and you've only lived there for two years?  I remember an old Sara Groves song about how we're always painting pictures of Egypt; what we know always feels easier than this new thing, than unfamiliar streets and words and faces.

It feels wide open here, even though we are in city.  There's nothing like traveling with my kids on benches in the backs of covered trucks to remind me that life is vulnerable.  We try to be wise, but we aren't in control.  The variables are plenty, the risks are as well.  God called us to come, but He doesn't control drivers, doesn't control our decisions about which hole-in-the-wall cafe we should eat from, or my body as I push one child through traffic with another on my back.  The smells invite and repel as we wander and my children take this sensory overload in stride.  "Tap toon tap" the boys says with his sweet little speech impediment, "thank you very much for the ride."  I traveled so much as a single person, could sleep anywhere and eat anything, browning my skin under so many suns.  Why is it so different with children, so much scarier?  Are toddlers meant to change time zones and diets and germs?  And at the same time it's such a gift, their rapidly growing brains exposed to new sounds and tones and notes and facial structures and colours, daily beauty and kindness in new friends and strangers - it has to be so good for them, I know it will go deep and stay.  Aren't our worldviews shaped by the time we are five?

I've had some really good days in the past two weeks and some hard ones.  Sometimes I leave our white noise on well after everyone is awake, just to dull the noise.  The heat is intense, over 100 degrees daily and humid, we walk around when everyone else is indoors because crazy children cooped up will make you go play soccer when the sun is blazing because the alternative is worse.  The kids don't complain about the heat, that must be grown-up talk.  Baby girl sweats like her mama.  They both are subsisting mostly on pineapple and breast milk it seems, although the boy will surprise you by the way he'll eat rice and spice.  Sometimes.  The girl crinkles up her nose at most things but she's not wasting away.  I've felt quite stretched in my capacity to choose right, to love, to mother these ones here.  I have failed and apologized and received the forgiveness of my little priests who haven't unlearned unconditional love yet. I need to renew my back door theology of the daily grind, the very unexciting washing and drying and scavenging for food in places I don't yet know. 

The boy spent the first few days asking to see his dad (who is working long days here) and asking to go home.  Chris and I call North America 'home', the boy calls 'Australia' home and the girl is young enough to still think I'm her home.  She's rolling in her sleep just next to me, arms looking for my body there.  I told the lady at the cafe today, whose name means 'mountains', that I'm from America, my husband is from Canada but we met and live in Australia, our babies were born there.  Home is complicated when 'leaving and cleaving' required passports and visas and international flights.  Friends asked us, before we left Australia, how we keep our family culture through massive transition.  We have no idea.


On a hard day where we were inside way too long I took a walk with the kids around 4, a long walk where we'd pick up dinner and be back home by 5:30 to hopefully greet their father who would probably be later than that.  There's a Jesuit retreat centre close to us and I've wandered there a few times, amazed at how the bamboo trees cut the traffic noise and you could almost call it quiet, at least if we weren't there it might be.  A nun stopped to talk to the kids and my son asked her what she was doing.  "I'm walking and praying.  God is all around.  God is even in these trees."  He thought that was a funny thing to say.  We saw a white iguana with a blue face scamper up to find him.

My son has stopped asking to go home.  Maybe us sleeping in a row is enough for him, the familiar white noise that lulls us in Australia and when we visited North America over Christmas rumbling here too.  When we close our eyes and share pillows, we could be anywhere.  Even home.


4 comments:

  1. I simply love the voice you are putting to your experiences. For instance: "We try to be wise, but we aren't in control" and "When we close our eyes and share pillows, we could be anywhere. Even home." It's powerful to read about you traveling the world and yet discovering experiences that are universal.

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    1. thanks Kelly! International travel has certainly been different this time around (with children) but rewarding ... hopefully. :) Thanks for reading! All the best with your book writing!

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  2. Becca Ive been thinking a lot about you guys since I discovered you and Hollie (and your families) are in Thailand. Mostly when I think of you both I’m in awe but a lot of the time I’m also wondering ‘could I do it?” I usually conclude NO which is why I think I keep asking myself the question! Your line about having your two children on benches in the back of a truck was the exact picture of the things I think about when I imagine taking Zoe back to Africa. Thinking back on all the adventures from hanging legs out of moving trains in India, the “hotel of horrors” and food poisoning in Indonesia and needle-stick injuries in Uganda – I can honestly say there was no fear (in fact I loved every second) but that all changed the day I got that positive pregnancy test in Lagos. Everything scared me after that –every mosquito represented the threat of malaria, every hand shake with a stranger –thyphoid and every time I was offered food I imagined it was filled with fetus killing listeria. And to my surprise its worse now Zoe is born! (What happened to me?!) Anyway your post blessed me because it reminded me that we still have a lot in common and I hoped that means if you can do it maybe I will eventually too. But in the mean time I’m inspired by you guys and the Simmons too. I love you all and your little babes and pray that God is with you all every moment xo

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    1. Oh Sarah. It would be so amazing to have you here with us!! Yes it feels pretty vulnerable traveling with our babies - and here we have so many more comforts than elsewhere in the world ... Air con in our place, nice beds and yummy food all around. Sometimes I think about taking my kids to more challenging places in terms of landscape and familiarity and its hard to imagine it. People do it though!! I guess it's important to sense where your family is at and then trust for grace for the stretching moments... Or days. :) also I'm guessing taking toddlers is especially hard as they don't understand what's happening but hopefully when our kids are older they can be apart of making decisions about traveling together. I'm learning a lot at them moment. Love you so. Xx

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