I am Peculiar Here, Might As Well Embrace It

by Anisha Hopkinson on July 15, 2018

This morning I made my children soft boiled eggs and served them in egg cups. Yes, egg cups. Watching my children eat their breakfast out of a somewhat obscure dish in the realm of dishes, it struck me as quite strange. I live in the highlands of Papua in a valley accessible only by air and inhabited by thousands of tribal people, many of whom still live in traditional grass roof, dirt floor wooden huts. At the same moment my children were scooping runny yolks and spreading it on crunchy toast, my neighbors would be enjoying their own breakfasts of rice, or instant noodles, or sweet potatoes roasted in a fire.

Yes. In the world I live in, egg cups are strange. But then again so are forks and knives.

We had invited a local colleague over for dinner and decided we’d treat him to a traditional English dinner of Shepherd’s Pie. Actually, if you’re wondering, I am American. My husband is British, but after living in England and coming up to 16 years of marriage, I rather inevitably learned how to cook British food. I make a decent cup of tea too – the proper way. Anyway, back to the story…

Our colleague sat down at the table with us and hesitated to start eating. “Is it ok? Do you have any questions?” I asked. “Well, this is the first time I’ve used these.” he said pointing to the fork and knife beside his plate. My husband gave a fork-holding, knife-cutting demonstration. “Would you like a spoon?” I asked and quickly got up from the table to fetch one.

Another time the mothers of my son’s friends came by to collect their boys. They had all been playing with cars in the living room of our small apartment, and since usually an older brother came by when it was going-home time, I was delighted to have these two women in my home. We chatted for a bit and I offered to show them pictures of my parents and family. They had never met a westerner before and so were quite curious about us.

I stepped out to the bedroom to collect the photos. and as I walked back into the living area, the ladies had opened my refrigerator and were peering inside. As far as they were concerned only shops had refrigerators. I stopped before they saw me, backed up and cleared my throat to give them a chance to shut the fridge before I walked in. They did, and I stepped in to show photos, pretending nothing unusual had happened.

Egg cups…cutlery…. home refrigeration… let’s add buying in bulk to the list, too. I do a big shop once a month and can read the checkout clerk’s thoughts every time, “Do you have some sort of problem? Why would you possibly need that much toilet paper?”

We are in our fifth year in our highland home. I’d like to think I’ve got the hang of living here, but the reality is I probably truly understand about 20% of the cultural happenings around me. The society here is so complex, and I am so bizarre to them.

Back in language school, I tried really hard to integrate. I wanted acceptance and deep friendships. I wanted to be treated like “one of us” instead of “that westerner.” I thought success was in my grasp as I’d made many friends. Then one day I overheard a friend explaining who I was to someone else. She didn’t know I was there listening and said, “She’s that westerner, I forget her name.” I teasingly called her out and we all had a giggle, but still the disappointment remained – she didn’t even know my name.

Five years later, I’m still mostly “that westerner.” I guess I can take comfort in the fact that at this point a lot more people do know my name, but it still isn’t what primarily defines me. Nowadays I’ve given up the integration dream in favor of peculiarity.

You see, peculiar is something I can do. I can serve dinner with a fork and knife, along with the optional spoon, to a friend who does know my name. I can buy 24 rolls of toilet paper and address the clerk’s inner confusion with a joke about weak western stomachs. I can use and explain egg cups, my daughter’s stroller, duvet covers, eating raw greens (aka salad), our gas stove, and a thousand other peculiar things.

Peculiarity is something I can embrace because it’s what I really am. Of course I am hopeful the longer I live here the more I’ll understand the intricacies of this culture. But why fool myself? Someone will probably always want to sneak a peek in my fridge.


6 Ways to Support a Woman Experiencing Pregnancy Loss

by Editor July 12, 2018

by Nikki Simpson From my personal experience of pregnancy loss, I’ve learned a great deal about how to support women going through a miscarriage or pregnancy loss, both close by and from far away. Here are some ideas:   1. Ask how she is doing today. If you’re around others or it’s not a good […]

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When You Experience Pregnancy Loss and You’re Far From Home

by Editor July 11, 2018

by Nikki Simpson Last year my husband and I went to a local private clinic in our city of Nampula, Mozambique for an ultrasound. We were so excited to be expecting our 3rd child! We needed to check on the baby’s dating, because my 6-week ultrasound showed a beating heart but the baby measured quite […]

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On Welcoming the Third Culture Kid

by Marilyn July 9, 2018

We are in the midst of summer, but I am already hearing and feeling the groans and pangs of how quickly the summer has gone. Summer flies by, especially when you are in transition. Soon college towns will begin to see old students return and many new ones come in. Among those old and new […]

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Ask a Counselor: How do we invite growth as a community around racism?

by Kay Bruner July 5, 2018

Last month, I wrote about the natural process of individual growth. Our individual problems surface over time throughout our lives, and when they surface, it’s not a cause for alarm or self-shaming. When our problems surface, we are simply facing an opportunity for growth. We might even come to be grateful for those chances to […]

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Citizens of Heaven: Third Culture Kids and Kingdom Living

by Editor July 2, 2018

by Tanya Crossman In my previous post, I discussed the importance of citizenship of heaven as biblical theology which brings hope and encouragement to TCKs. The knowledge that their hearts will one day rest in the comfort of a single home brings great peace. There is also great joy in knowing that this single home […]

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Citizens of Heaven: Third Culture Kids and the Longing for Home

by Editor July 2, 2018

by Tanya Crossman When I wrote Misunderstood, there were a lot of smaller topics that came up in interviews which didn’t really fit into the narrative of the book. I was recently able to spend some time on one of these side topics for a research thesis titled: “A place to call home: citizenship in […]

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When We Hurt Those We Love Most

by Abby Alleman June 29, 2018

  I lay prostrate on the hardwood floor of our Budapest flat. I was pounding my fist and screaming unintelligible things as I lost my struggle with hyper-mania (a symptom of bipolar disorder). My children had been taken to a friend’s house. But not before they heard me shouting at their father. My husband found […]

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Eight “Ifs” I Don’t Believe So Much Anymore

by Craig Thompson June 27, 2018

After my mother’s death last year, my sister and I sorted through the items in her house, and I came home with some boxes that Mom had saved for me. Inside were things I didn’t know she’d kept, such as grade-school spelling books, birthday cards, newspaper clippings, and some college acceptance letters. There were posters, […]

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I Am Not A Racist — and other things I wish I knew were true

by Jerry Jones June 22, 2018

This post originally appeared on The Culture Blend.com   “I AM NOT A RACIST!” The Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan Donald Trump Bill Clinton Malcolm X  (and practically everyone who has ever been accused of racism) This post is hard for me. Here’s why.  I’m not that kind of blogger. I’m not an […]

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Embracing Life From the Second Row

by Editor June 20, 2018

by Kris Gnuse I was not just upset;  I was upset with myself for being upset. After years of “maybe someday,” I had finally auditioned for worship choir. Kick your thoughts of robes and high sopranos to the curb. This group was cool. I stepped onto the risers that first Sunday, trembly with nerves. My heart was full […]

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Third Culture Kids, College, and Culture Shock

by Rachel Pieh Jones June 18, 2018

This year two of my three Third Culture Kids are graduating. Last year, we went on college tours in Minnesota and Wisconsin. We observed some, um, interesting cultural things. Our observations were specific to the Midwest and our perspective comes from 16 years in the Horn of Africa. But, they just might help you with […]

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