When we moved to Arequipa in 2008, we found an apartment that was “almost ready.” “Almost ready” turned into six weeks. If you know Greg at all, it won’t surprise you at all that he had to have… a coffee maker. We lived in that room with our 17-month-old, nine suitcases, her pack-n-play, and a coffee pot for those six weeks.
I couldn’t resist taking a picture today after we cleared out the rest of the furniture. First of all, a pic of Manuela with JUST the furniture she is taking home with her. Her house will be transformed with a “McKinzie touch” I do believe. It makes us happy when the things that made our home here end up in homes of those we love so dearly. Here is Manuela and her new boatload of furniture…
Here is what we have left to sustain us through tomorrow (teammates feeding us tonight will obviously help in the eating category). Coffee, water, and internet: what more do we need? Aside from not having a 17-month-old with us, full circle! 😉
The other fun “full circle” story is our office for CUDA (the non-profit we started in the first year that we lived here). We lived one block from the Plaza in Yanahuara and our office was located in Alto Selva Alegre, one block from Holy Spirit Park. Now… we live in Alto Selva Alegre (about 3-4 blocks from Holy Spirit Park) and our office is in Yanahuara about 3 blocks from the Plaza. How crazy fun is that?!
Full circle, people. But we got crazy and flipped the office and house locations. Full Circle.
Every tear I have cried in our final days represents a hundred smiles over the past six years.
And those are the memories I want to keep close to my heart in this final week that approaches. It is fitting that a new year has begun. It is natural to reflect on the past when a new year begins. The first phase of our transition has passed, moving the kids to the states. They have been happily playing with their cousins on the farm the past few days. My heart ached so much to see them say goodbye to our Peruvian family here. But my heart is comforted in knowing that they are with blood family that they love in the states right now.
Greg and I are finishing up the final details of moving out of our home. We have a few big pieces of furniture left to sell, a lot of people that need to come pay and pick up the furniture they reserved, and getting rid of all that little stuff that accumulates (food, pens, toys, etc). We are having our final garage sale on Monday. And one week from Monday, we will be reunited with our kids at the farm. I can’t wait. I miss them so much.
Our December Team Arequipa newsletter went out to subscribers a couple of days ago. I wrote my last team article. I wanted to share it here on the blog:
The time has come. This is my last Team Arequipa newsletter article. I was listening to “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” the other day while washing dishes. The weirdest feeling came over me. I remember bawling through that song our first Christmas here, because I missed my home and family so much. I know that many of my new teammates will be experiencing this same emotion this Christmas. But this seventh Christmas in Perú, the sentiment is different. Arequipa has become our home, and we are about to say goodbye to all things familiar to us here. The song causes me to bawl my eyes out but not in the same way.
We have scheduled final dinners and meetings with our loved ones. We have sold furniture and kitchen items that have been part of our hospitality ministry for so long. Our children have cried over seeing many of their toys and puzzles being sold one-by-one with the move approaching. We have made lists for eating our favorite foods and seeing our favorite places “one last time.” Greg is finishing up his theology classes with CUDA. I finished my final year in the library program. Ana will be an angel in her final school performance. We will attend Maggie’s Kindergarten graduation program. Cohen completed his first entire year of preschool all in Spanish. Lots of things are coming to an end.
Little things make me cry. I wrote out the final food menu for my kids’ time here (my parents will be flying them back to the states on December 28). Their favorite Peruvian dish is Ají de Gallina. I started bawling when I wrote those words for the last time on my kitchen menu board. Manuela has started bawling when we talk about the kids leaving. It is so hard to be so close to the move and see the effect it has on those around us.
The first two years we lived in Arequipa, I felt an incredible sense of loneliness. I struggled with the language. I missed friendships from home. I remember Greg telling me that he would pray for me to find a kindred spirit in a Peruvian. That seemed impossible at the time. Last week, I got back from a four day trip with one of my dearest Peruvian friends, Arelí. We traveled through parts of Perú that I had never seen. We laughed. We cried. We shared life. I can’t help but smile about that trip. God’s faithfulness is so evident to me. There are so many in the church here that have become the aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers to our children during our time here. That is God’s faithfulness to a girl that worried so much about raising her children on the foreign mission field.
My dad and I were walking from the city center back to our home, and he asked me, “Are you apprehensive about moving home?” I didn’t have to blink before I answered. Yes, I am apprehensive, because I don’t have a place at home. I don’t have a routine. I don’t have a job. My kids are unfamiliar with everything that is about to happen in their new schools. We have just sold everything that created what became our physical Peruvian home, and I am so sad. I feel like I am in a dream. Everything seems so surreal. But if God has taught anything to this Tennessee girl that struggled so much with learning a new language and doubted how in the world she could make a difference in another country, he taught me that he is faithful. Because even though I am not making it through many days without crying, every single teardrop is representative of hundreds of smiles that come from my memories here. This journey was so hard at times, but here at the end it has been so completely rewarding.
Greg and I see next year as the beginning of a new chapter. It can be scary to travel into the unknown. But we are confident that God is faithful. He is constantly preparing and molding us for things that he can do that are more than we ask or imagine. And he promised to bring to completion the good work he started in us. We have seen his faithfulness in Arequipa. We are so excited to continue to see the story of his faithfulness in Arequipa through our Peruvian brothers and sisters and in our new team members. Please pray for our family and the Smith family as we have some major transitions ahead. But take time to praise God for his faithfulness, and the incredible testimony of living for his name’s sake wherever we find ourselves in his story. Thank you all for encouraging us along the way. Thank you for your words, your gifts, and your generosity. Greg, the kids, and I are all very excited to see many of our stateside friends and family in less than a month. We look forward to seeing how God makes our new home among you.
One thing that experts say is good for expats to do before leaving one of their “homes” is to make a list of their favorite places and plan a “last” visit in order to say goodbye. My kids will return to the states with their Pop and Gram on December 28. We have 29 days left to say some goodbyes. It is a good thing that some of them overlap.
Maggie Kate, you were our first AQP-born TCK. You were a full head of hair with two giant blue eyes…
and we are leaving Perú with you looking like this…
You are in Kindergarten with your big promoción (Kinder graduation) coming up at the end of the month. You are so excited to get to wear a “princess dress” like your sister did for her graduation (we will rent the dress). Your class picked the color “lila” which is the same color as Sophia the First. 😉 We are excited for you, and what makes your graduation extra special is that Pop and Gram will get to be here for it!
You told me in the taxi this morning that Daddy told you (while I was gone somewhere) that it’s okay to be sad this coming month. You know we are moving back to the states, but you are at such a great age to make the transition. I am so delighted that you completed all three years of preschool in Spanish. Now, you are most excited to get to live near your cousin Ruby and to start in a new school.
It was a little bit harder to get your “lasts” recorded, but we will try our best to make your last memories here some of your best! We love our Maggicita!!!
Places to visit:
the zoo (your school just had a field trip there this past Friday)
Shaye and Cora’s house
Foods to eat:
Manuela´s Ají de Gallina (surprise, surprise. It is on the menu for every other week until you leave!)
Etelvina´s Papa a la Huancaína (We are making a date to eat this with her while Pop and Gram are here.)
King Burger (I had to write it out just as you said it. It’s Burger King, and it tickles us that you have nooooooo idea what a good hamburger should taste like. Living on an angus beef farm for 6 months should cure that.)
Chili’s cheese dip (you would request this at almost every restaurant birthday meal)
What is one of your favorite memories of living in Arequipa?
going to Shaye and Cora’s house and play with each other
What is your favorite Arequipa dish?
Ají de Gallina and Papa a la Huancaína
What will you miss the most about living here?
Miss Yomara (your teacher that you have had for all three years of preschool)
What are you most excited about moving to the states?
We will see Ruby and Sam… and Judah, and that I am going to start a new school.
I am going to miss my best friend from my school, Ana Paula.
Home is where the heart is, right? Or is home where you feel the most comfortable, where you were born, where you actually live out life?
One of my dearest friends attended a missionary re-entry class at the Global Missions Conference last month. She was trying her best to learn some things to help us with our upcoming transition. One of the little nuggets of wisdom that she shared with me is to never tell returning expats, “Welcome Home.” Instead, one should use a simple, “Welcome back.”
This is a wise thing to do. I certainly won’t hold it against anyone who tells me “welcome home” in January, but for our children, it isn’t home. We moved to Arequipa when Ana still had a paci and was just barely starting to speak English. We enrolled her in a Spanish-speaking preschool while we attended language classes, and she became fluent in Spanish along with English. Her memories of her “home” country are only traced through pictures that we took of her.
Just the other day, I was teaching her the pledge of allegiance and our national anthem so she would have a clue. The girl can recite every verse of the Peruvian national anthem (and there are a lot of them I assure you) by heart. Where do you think she calls home?
While Ana only has a US passport, her younger two siblings are actually Peruvian. Both Maggie and Cohen were born right here in Arequipa. I honestly don’t think Cohen had any real idea of the states until our last visit, because of his age. They are both speaking Spanish, and when they speak English, they mix up the sentence structure because they literally translate the Spanish to English in their head.
The only place they have ever referred to as “going home” is our house in Arequipa.
They know their grandparents and uncles and aunts, but they have more collective memories with their Peruvian abuelos and tios and tias at this point in their lives.
They are our three little Peruanos, and for them, Arequipa is home.
So don’t welcome them “home” when you see them in January. Maybe it will become home in the future to them, but their home is where the llamas live, where big red and white flags flap in the breeze, where a huge volcano towers off in the distance from the city, where Manuela cooks delicious Aji de Gallina for them and Etelvina offers to make Papa a la Huancaina. Arequipa is home, because Arequipa is where their hearts are. And a big chunk of their Daddy and Momma’s hearts are in Arequipa also.
I am confident that our hearts will rest in new places that we will call our new home. But for now, two months from today to be exact, a “welcome back” will do.
Greg to Ana before leaving, “Ana, what are you most excited to do in the United States?” Ana responds, “I really can’t wait to see whether or not Aunt Kristin says I do.” Greg, “What is the second thing?” Ana, “Well, I can’t wait to go to church. I just love going to Bible class.” 🙂 Such a missionary kid answer from a kid that does Bible class with kids all younger than her.
Ana referring to the restaurant we pulled into, “Oh man. I LOVE Chicken-Fillet.”
Cohen being scared of the automatic toilet in the airport.
My mom purchased several different dresses for Ana to try on for the wedding. Ana to me, “Momma, did she buy this or rent it?” (Peru is a rental culture)
waiting for Pop as he looked through cows. We kept getting whiffs of farmland (aka manure) Maggie to me, “Momma, why does it smell like Peruvian cheese right here?” Ha!
This week has certainly been a whirlwind. Last Saturday, we hosted the last team meeting to be held in our home. Last Sunday we hosted one of our last house church meetings to be at our home. Jeremy and Katie Daggett arrived on Wednesday morning (YAY!!!), and they are our last house guests before my parents arrive for the final move. Saturday evening, I hosted the last women’s meeting to be held in my home. Do you hear that word? Last, last, last.
First of all, we are thrilled that Team Arequipa 2.0 is almost all here (the last family is flying to Peru AS I TYPE THIS). This is something we have been waiting for a long time to see, and it is so surreal to finally be happening. We were absolutely stoked to host the Daggetts when they came in this past week. They are supported by the same sending church as our team which makes the connection pretty special.
Yesterday, Sunday afternoon, I went to town on packing. You see, we are about to take our last “trip” to the states. My little brother gets married on Saturday, and we are blessed to be able to go back and take part in the celebration. But the return flight to Peru will be the last for a long while. Each family member gets to take 2 suitcases on this trip so I have gone to town on trying to get our family’s cherished belongings packed up. This trip will be no exception. We will go to the states with 10 full cases, and we will return to Peru with just about nothing in them (except for maybe some Thanksgiving ingredients). 😉
I know I am not alone in this, but a house doesn’t feel like a home until the pictures are put on the walls. Well, since yesterday, I took some major steps to making this house feel less homey.
But I have also come to learn, that “homey” for me is associated with memories. And boy have we made some memories in this place. I love this decoration that we made at a celebration Sunday a couple of years ago. Those little hands have grown since then.
And even though the walls make our home seem so strange because they are now bare, the kitchen is still the heart of our home. I haven’t cleaned out in there, and it is where hospitality happens. Many meals have been prepared for friends and strangers in that kitchen over the years. It will be a weird feeling when I have to pack the kitchen up.
I feel like we are definitely heading into a new chapter. I can remember taking pictures of our family of three to be framed for our new Peruvian home when we moved here six years ago. Now they are stacked in a pile, and I am waiting to see if there is room to pack all of them to return to our next home in the US.
The bags are almost all packed. Greg has separated all of his library into 50 pound groupings. It is hard to believe that we will be traveling over a continent with our life in suitcases. But the memories have certainly been made, and time keeps ticking. I will be a big ole bag of emotions when we come back as I deal with the final leg of our lives here, but I am so very thankful to have had this chapter in Peru as part of our journey. We are overwhelmingly blessed.
This is the first Christmas present that our sweet teammates gave us in our time here in AQP. It is a sillar (volcanic rock) clock. It still hangs on the wall, but it will be making that final trip with us when we leave in January. I don’t know where we will be living this time next year, but I am certain that this clock will be hanging on the wall, and time will keep ticking…
the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.
I have been thinking about culture shock a lot recently. As missionaries moving to a foreign culture, it is something that you count on experiencing. The scary thing about it is that you don’t know how it will play out in your particular circumstances and for how long. Culture shock makes you grumpy and sometimes causes you to act in a way that you wouldn’t normally act–like reacting strongly to little things that don’t really matter. Culture shock can slowly build over time and cause you to reach an explosion point. Attitudes stink, emotions are heightened, ugly words are spoken, feelings are hurt… culture shock is not fun.
I have been thinking a lot about it lately because of our new teammates’ arrivals. I think back to how everything was so new and exciting when we arrived but how slowly culture shock crept in among us. It is interesting to sit back and observe my new teammates as they arrive with the same excitement, but how many of them are experiencing the frustrations of not fully understanding the culture here. Culture learning is a significant part of adjustment to a new home in a foreign country. Our team is doing a 3 month long intensive culture study of various elements in the culture. Sometimes understanding where people are coming from helps to give more patience in those times of “I hate it here, because I just don’t get it!”
Just today, I walked into the city center to locate two items: bubble wrap and cardboard tubes (for storing some of our posters and paintings for travel). I asked FIVE different Peruvians where I could locate these items, and they all sent me to the wrong area to buy them. Sixth one was the charm for me today. I have been here six years, and I still experience major frustrations with things like this. I remember Bill Richardson, our team mentor, telling us to prioritize a list of things that need to get done in the day. He told us that if we accomplished one of those things, it was a good day. Sometimes it takes a significant part of the morning to locate bubble wrap and tubes. 🙂
On the flip side, I am thinking a lot about reentry to our host culture. Though many things drive me crazy here, many things in this foreign culture have become our norm for living. In just a few months, we will again experience what they call “reverse culture shock.” I am curious and scared how that will play out in our lives. But I know that I will have to be just as aware of it as when we made our move to Peru.
If you are a Christian and you read this, please pray for our new teammates as they go through culture shock. Pray for patience toward each other and those that they live near. Pray for them to learn to understand more fully the worldview of Peruvians.
Also, I ask for your prayers on our behalf. It will be a huge adjustment to go back to things in our home culture. For our children, Peru is their norm. Living in the U.S. will be very different in what they are used to here. Punctuality is different, school routines are different, social cues can be different. Sometimes, when you constantly feel the differences, it makes you super cranky. I expect those days to come, and I can only depend on the Spirit to help me change my attitude when it happens.