A Few of My Favorite Things {July 2015}

Hooray for July! The month started with a literal bang as we took Gabriella to her first fireworks show. We sat in a field as brilliant colors lit the sky. She had so much fun it was ridiculous.

I taught her how to "ooooh" and "ahhhh" in all the right places. Then, as nearby kids hollered, I joked to Billy, "or we scream bloody murder." This statement led Gabriella to respond to the fireworks by shouting, "ooooh, ahhhh, BLOODY MURDER!" Classic.

Here are some more of our favorites from July.

Soccer for the win!

Guatemala came to Nashville to play the US Men's Team. That's only about 3.5 hours from us, so we were totally in! And I gotta say: so. much. fun. From the costumes to the boisterous group singing, the only thing missing was spontaneous choreographed dancing. Basically, I'm saying attending a soccer game was akin to living inside a real-life musical.

We dressed in a hybrid of patriotic apparel, feeling loyalty to both countries. And we weren't the only ones! So many Guatemalans wearing blue and white jerseys and waving American flags. We had such a great time, and it was a real treat to be able to see it live (and film a 2015 World Cup Wives video).

Then, we were on to the Women's World Cup Finals. This time on TV, but still. The US Ladies rocked it! July was a good soccer month.

Birthday Boy

Isaac turned two this July. Two! It's shocking in both its "you were just born" and its "you've been here all along, how are you only two?" We celebrated with pizza and cake.

And he got his very first bike, on which he's been slowly gaining confidence. Now, it lives in the living room, and he jumps on first thing in the morning to scoot around in circles.

Books and Tears

This month I started reading chapter books to Gabriella. It's like a life dream come true for me. I couldn't read Llama Llama even one more time. (Oh wait... I have a second kid. Ok.)

But I decided to experiment with Sarah, Plain and Tall. She totally got the concept of the story being continued across several days. And then she said to me, "Mom, this book has no pictures, but I see it in my mind." I nearly cried as we discussed imagination.

As always, I felt a little nervous that her English literacy is outpacing her Spanish. So Billy instructed me to order this book. It arrived this week, and now she has started listening to a chapter book in Spanish, too. She needs a little translation help, but that's ok. We'll take it!

Beach Babies

Last year, we had a crawler and decided not to go to the beach where he would burn his knees and eat more sand than a human really should. So it was fun to go this year and swim, build sandcastles, and eat our weight in snacks.

Gabriella learned to ride waves, and Isaac chased birds along the surf with his truck. I got to read The Book of Unknown Americans. So it's safe to say fun was had by all.

My Favorite Purchase

After years of searching, someone recommended to me a water bottle for kids that doesn't leak. I'm in love. Now, if we can just not lose them...

And I'll throw in a bonus purchase favorite that's not so "mommy." They stopped carrying my go-to eyeliner at the store, so I found it on Amazon.

All the Links

Here's a few favorite links I shared this month:

Last Comic Standing - Ryan Conner - I've watched this more than once, and I'm still laughing. This fella's experiences in a large, multiracial family are relatable and hilarious.

Historian Says Don't 'Sanitize' How Our Government Created Ghettos - Helpful, historical perspective on how neighborhoods in the States were created.

What's the Difference Between Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish? - There's not really a clear cut answer to this question. But I hear it asked a lot, and this video sheds some light.

Could You And Your Partner Pass A U.S. Immigration Marriage Interview? - I remember studying many of these questions before we appeared for our interview.

And here are some posts on A Life with Subtitles that readers enjoyed:

43 Thoughts You Have While Speaking Spanish (As A Second Language) - Don't say embarazada. Don't do it, I tell you.

Why My Views on the Confederate Flag Changed - How I was taught about the Civil War growing up in the South, why it matters, and what has influenced me since grade school.

13 Culture Blogs You Gotta Check Out - Some favorites that you should definitely add to your Feedly or Pocket or whatever you use to read blogs!

Thanks to Leigh Kramer for hosting this link-up. What are you into?


Eat, Love, & Be Vulnerable

I came across a post online entitled What I Learned Living Cross-Culturally as a Christian, and it really resonated with me. That's when I started reading Cindy Brandt and her reflections on faith and culture. I am stoked that she is guest posting today, and I love this story of sharing dinner and sharing life. 

Marrying internationally means that cultural dissonance is a regular part of my life experience. We don’t go very long before either one of us find ourselves in a situation that is counterintuitive to the way we were raised. For example, my husband and I often get questions curious about what kind of food we eat, but in addition to eating different cuisine, we also differ in the way that we eat.

Growing up Chinese, we eat "family style," which means the dishes are set in the center of the table, and we use our chopsticks to directly pick up food from the communal dishes straight into our mouths for consumption.

As of this writing, we are visiting my American in-laws, and following their custom of eating western style, which is when you pass the dishes around, and spoon however much you'd like of each dish onto your dinner plate.

For those of you who grew up eating this way, it’s probably second nature. But for me,  I often cannot gauge how much food to put on my dinner plate around a western table, so that I am always either over-eating, or needing to get seconds, thirds, and fourths.

It's a minor nuisance, but can be quite frustrating to find yourself floundering at such an ordinary event such as dinner time. Those who have experience living cross culturally know it is the little things that add up to an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and loss of power. This is one of many examples of how being in a foreign element places you in a state of vulnerability.

And of course, as we live in Taiwan, my American husband is constantly encountering situations outside of his control. Everyday living brings a layer of apprehension, an uncertainty as to what is culturally appropriate, what words exactly to use, and how to interact with others with efficiency and without dissolving into yet another cultural faux pas.

It’s not easy, this dance of reciprocating vulnerability. At any given time, one of us is feeling outside of our native element. And yet, the vulnerability queen, Brene Brown, says, “we cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known.” There is a precious opportunity for those of us who are cross-culturally married to empathize with the vulnerability of the other, and in so doing, recognize the tremendous courage it takes to show up.

Marriage is already a vulnerable thing. Sharing the most intimate aspects of life together tugs at our pride, requiring us to shed any sort of self-protective mechanism. Add the cross-cultural element to marriage, and we are looking at vulnerability multiplied. But I suppose we can console ourselves in that when we are extra weak, we are extra strong.

The constant reminders of our dependence on the other for cultural guidance is a daily exercise of our trust muscles in our partner. It’s romantic even, those moments when we need to ask our spouse to translate a phrase, to hear the meaning to our own  words roll off their foreign tongue in the beautiful language they effortlessly speak.

Bound to our marriage vows, we are committed to regularly step outside of our comfort zones. Which is okay because there is no adventure in comfort, no growth in status quo. Our inevitable vulnerability training in the anxieties of cross cultural living becomes our best efforts in strengthening our marriage.

So I get seconds, thirds, and fourths, and feel a bit like a dufus at the in-laws dinner table. With each serving, my vulnerability is making way for a stronger love.

Cindy blogs about faith and culture at cindywords.com. She is the author of Outside In: Ten Christian Voices We Can't Ignore, which you can get for FREE by signing up to her monthly newsletter.

How Culture Can Trick Us Into Being Rude

Not too long ago, this Buzzfeed article showed up in my Facebook newsfeed: 14 Reasons Why The Irish Goodbye Is The Best Exit Strategy. Basically, the article was promoting the practice of quietly leaving a party without saying anything to anyone.

I can guarantee you that this 'ghosting' would never be tolerated by my Latino husband. Saying goodbye to everyone is like half the reason we came in the first place.

But this article (and exit strategy) left an impression because of the writer's mention of how this is a polite way to leave. For one, you don't interrupt everyone's conversations to announce your imminent departure. Secondly, you don't trigger a mass exodus and basically end the party. And third, if you're partying too hard, you quietly slip away before any kind of scene gets made.

All of that does sound polite actually.

Except I also see how it could be completely rude.

Context and culture is so important. I would argue that there is no inherently right or wrong way to leave a gathering. Cultural norms are what defines politeness.

And this is where cross-cultural relationships can get tricky. If I think it's polite to leave your house without saying goodbye because you were in another conversation, I could ruffle feathers if you expected me to come and say something anyway.

You might start to think I was rude even though I was trying to be polite.

Surprisingly, it's often these small differences that can wear on friendships. It's valuable to learn what it polite to the other person. For me, that means lots of kissing (but not too much).

It seems cross-cultural friendships require a certain commitment on everyone's behalf to step outside their comfort zone. Perhaps if we all try to do what the other considers polite, we can care for each in new, meaningful ways. Of course, that's easier said than done.

What ways do you notice the same actions being considered both polite and rude from different perspectives?
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