foreigner

February 11, 2017

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I don’t talk about politics—mainly because I feel ignorant enough to be afraid to speak up. That said, there are a few oftentimes-political topics that I feel strongly about. I didn’t know that I cared so much until I started to weep at any book or film that broached these topics. One example is Amistad. I saw this movie in the theaters when I was in high school, going with a group of my girl friends. I got so overwhelmed during the showing, however, that I ended up putting my head in my lap as I wept uncontrollably. When my friends tried to console me, though, I insisted that I was fine, and I refused to leave the movie. It is one of the movies I now consider an all-time favorite.

The issue of slavery, and mistreatment of people (adults or children) is a major button-pusher for me. As a result, the refugee issue is one that I also care deeply about, though I must admit to not having found (made) the time to research all that goes into the current debates, so I am wary to voice any specific opinion.

The other day, however, I almost paused in mid-swim as I heard a passage from Malachi in my daily audio Bible podcast. I had never before heard a version like this, in which the people are warned about those “who turn away immigrants” (3:5). My interest was peaked and I decided I was done with my ignorance and on a mission to educate myself. So far I have listened to one interview on the topic (thanks to Anita Lustrea) with Dale Hanson Bourke, who wrote a book simply titled Immigration. I also read some of her blog posts and portions of the book.  I really appreciate her focus on educating the public, with the idea that many people are riled up, on both sides of the fence, without having a real knowledge base on the facts (such as the difference between a “refugee,” an “immigrant,” and an “asylum seeker”). Another point of interest for me was her explanation of how difficult the U.S. makes the process of gaining status as any of the above. She explained that if given the choice people often opt for another country (such as Australia) to avoid the amount of time, paperwork, and confusion that the American process includes.

From there I went on to read articles from news sources that have different leanings on the spectrum, via the website AllSides.com, which features “left,” “right,” and “center” viewpoints for current news topics. Frankly, my head is still swimming a bit, and I still feel rather ignorant when it comes down to it (living outside of the U.S. for much of the past 8 years or so probably doesn’t help!).

I do, however, have a sense that there is an underlying issue feeding all the chaos bubbling in this immigration/refugee pot. Or maybe I just have a bunch of questions:

Could it be that the root of the problems the world is facing is a tendency to want to “turn away immigrants”? This is certainly not an American problem, either, lest you think I’m just blaming that country. Everywhere I have lived, there is a word for “foreigner” that is called out to those of us who are, obviously, different from the norm. This generally means white-skinned, in my experience. Here I am pointed at and called “obroni!” In China I was “waiguoren” (or 外国人 if you are like my husband and prefer using the characters). In Afghanistan it was “horaji,” and in Zambia “mzungu.” Though I don’t enjoy these labels, I am also highly aware of my privilege—I know nothing of true discrimination; nor of hardship related to my nationality.

I do, though, know what I have seen, experienced, and observed—a world full of people prone to want to surround themselves with others who think, act and, yes, look like them. It is a part of human nature, I think . . . of our fallen nature. And maybe—just maybe—what the world needs now [is love, sweet love?] . . . ok, seriously: what we need is a hard look at the ways we all [I] “turn away” those in need for the sake of our own ideas of what we [I] need in order to preserve our own comfort and security.

*photo is a flash back from last year’s post, and from the village dance in which I was welcomed in, white skinned, rhythm-impaired, and all

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One of the podcasts I recently discovered is Anne Bogul’s “What should I read next?” It was the inspiration for my last blog, in fact, about being a Writer & Reader who barely writes, and oftentimes only reads vicariously, listening to others talk about the books they love and dreaming of being able to read them—all of them!
But, in those ever-eloquent words spoken by Holmes, “It is what it is.” That said, this same podcast has this week come out with a “What’s saving my life right now?” blog roll. I feel like I have barely been keeping my head above water for the past two weeks. So the idea of making a list of simple, sanity-saving snippets felt rather heavenly. That said, here’s my shortlist [which, who knows, may end up becoming a long-list once I get going with the writing of it :-)]

Teenagers. A house currently full of teenagers from around the world: a couple Koreans, a Chinese, a Ghanaian, a Nigerian, and a Liberian . . . all camped out for Friday night festivities (à la Sherlock). Our role with the dorm kids lightens our normally instruction-oriented classroom teacher mode, and helps us not get quite so stodgy in our “old age” ;-)

*insert 2-day pause here*

2. Fast acting malaria meds. Friday night I was feeling pretty bad (thus the pause) and by Saturday decidedly worse. I began a round of meds Saturday night and by Sunday morning was feeling much better. Have had to take random naps—after leading worship, for instance, I was too tired to socialize and sat in the back of the room and took a nap while others chatted—but am not feeling like the walking dead anymore.

3. Singing. There are times when Praise Team is just another “job.” But there are many more occasions when, arriving on any given morning weary and numb from the week’s work, I find myself dancing and “tamying” (tambourine) with joy in spite of it all.

4. A patient husband. Marriage is hard. God is good. Grace.

5. Podcasts. I’ve been experiencing a love of a community of women in a way I never before knew I was lonely for, thanks to the women I listen to during my runs. Jamie Ivey, Anne Bogul, Christy Nockels, and several others.

6. Reading. Thanks to above-mentioned podcasts, I’ve actually rediscovered my love of reading. With a long way to go yet, so far as real time spent, I am loving the sweet stolen moments with current reads Embracing the body and The highly Intuitive Child, while I anticipate the purchase of other exciting new ones I’ve heard author interviews for (like Bread and Wine).

7. Swimming. I crave the swimming pool like nobody’s business, relishing the respite after teaching, worship leading, or any other extroverted activity. In one of her podcasts, Christy Nockels spoke of how she will literally pull covers over her head after each role in front of people, retreating to a quiet space with God. I feel my equivalent of bed covers is the water in the pool. As my arms pull me through the waters, I will sometimes pray to the rhythm of the strokes, sometimes listen to the Daily Audio Bible, and sometimes just breath out gutteral sighs as I let out the stresses and soak in the soothing waters. Sometimes the crowded waters make the swim rather difficult but oftentimes, when I am extra needy, I find an unexpectedly quiet pool.

8. Neighbors. The other night, I was in the middle of dinner prep when I realized I had forgotten to put two things on the shopping list. I berated myself for my poor planning  and wondered how I was going to do without my daily chocolate mix. A knock on the door brought my generous neighbor’s face to view. She thrust a bag of cocoa and a bag of sugar at me and said she found extra and hoped I could use them. I blustered a bit about how timely it was and then just breathed out a prayer of gratitude for small (but significant) blessings. Another set of coworkers lives on the road between the swimming pool and my house. They don’t seem to mind my weekend pop-ins, knocking on doors on my way home and sitting with them to “work” a bit (i.e. distracting them with chatting while they attempt to do their lesson planning).

9. Work. I spend much of my time bemoaning it, stressing about it, or questioning my capability for this beyond-me role as a classroom teacher. But at the end of the day, I love the students and I love having a role, and a job. So whether or not I am doing it all well enough, or being the best teacher/librarian out there, I’m doing it. And as one coworker said last year, it’s certainly better than if no one was doing it  . . . I think ;-)

10. Family. I do not get to see my own family much at all. But thanks to my role with students, I tend to find excuses to tell stories about them or show off pictures of my nieces and nephews. We may be scattered on 3 different continents, but heart ties are stronger, and tighter, than any length of ocean can sever.