9

I’m Here To Stay

Disclaimer: This was written after a tough day. Not every day is tough. But some are.

 

Sometimes I think to myself: I wish I could ask someone how to do this immigrant-thing I’m doing right now. You know, moving to another country and making it your home and all. I wish there was someone who knows how it works. And then I realize: I am that someone. I’m the one who supposedly is an expert in this. I’ve done it twice before, after all. I should know.

But I don’t.

I know how to learn languages, but I don’t know how to learn to say things in the right tone, so that what I mean actually comes across in the right way and people don’t just understand the words I’m saying, but also my heart behind it.

I know how to make friends, but I’m surprisingly insecure when it comes to cross cultural friendships. I second guess every move I and my maybe-future-friend make, because is this a cultural thing or a personal thing and do I come across as too distant or too needy when I do this or that? Do they even WANT a new friend?

I know how to be a host, but I don’t know how to be a host in a new country where I don’t know if any aspect of the social event I planned is appropriate: the time, the reason, the food, the drinks, the music, the other guests. Because being a host means making people feel comfortable and at home, and those things matter. More than you’d think.

Well people, what can I say. It’s a process. A learning curve. A very curvy one, actually. With ups and downs and a few detours and sometimes the road seems blocked. (but it never is)

So here’s a few reminders for myself and for Sweden.

Sweden. Listen up. First of all, I’m not Swedish. So I won’t get all the social do’s and don’t and sometimes I will make you feel awkward and uncomfortable, but also sometimes I will make you laugh (in a good way) and you know what? I also have things to teach you. That’s why different cultures are so awesome. I’m not Swedish. I’m Ruth.

Secondly, what’s up with eating cake with spoons? It is, has been and always will be forks for me. Deal with it.

Then this: if I pass you on the street and I make eye contact, and you look away. WHAT’S UP WITH THAT? So even when you do that, I WILL say hej to you, loud enough so you can’t mistake it for a cough or something. You are here, I’m here, and there’s no good reason to not acknowledge that.

Lastly: it takes time. For all of us.

Sweden, you’re like a family member, like a second cousin. Vaguely familiar, sometimes charming and other times surprisingly confusing and offensive. At times I strongly dislike you, but I mainly love you.

Cause I’m here to stay.

And it will get better.

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3

Careless In The Care Of God

Now that I have received The Magic Number, a.k.a. the number necessary to live a normal life in Sweden, a.k.a. my personnummer, I have had to call several people and organizations to sort out some things. Like my drivers license and a doctor’s appointment.

And I’m serious when I tell you that one could learn Swedish just by listening to those freaking phone-menu-systems they have. You know, where they tell you ‘If you want this and that, press 1. If you want something else, press 2. If the sky is blue, press 3. For Bulgarian, press 4.’ Etcetera.
They love them here. They love them so much that I couldn’t even manage to talk to an actual, real, breathing person when I called Transportstyrelsen with a question that didn’t quite fit the options they gave me.

Although that could have been because I don’t actually completely understand the options. Usually I try to listen for a keyword in the options and then just guess that I should press that number. Most of the times it works.

Talking about numbers – I have learned my numbers up to 20, so I can tell my phone number and personnummer when I need to. But these phone systems, they let you type in your phone number and then repeat it to you like this: ‘We will call you at five to three at number twenty-three seventy-seven …’ etc.
Seriously. I wouldn’t know if I had typed in my number wrong and they are gonna call some random person instead.

And about that call-back system. It’s all great and lovely until you have to see the doctor because of a toe fungus and they call you back right when you are buying tomatoes in a crowded Maxi. Not that that has happened to me. And I will make sure it never will. Cause that would be awkward.

It’s a funny thing, life. Just to be living here you need all these things. I need to call people and then I need to email people to remind them that I have called them and I need to fill out forms and send forms and then send an email to tell them I sent the form.

It’s just so easy to get occupied by these things. And not just the things of the now, also the things of the future.

When Jacob and I talk about the plans we have for the future, we usually come to the realization that it can’t be planned. In the end, we just don’t know. We want things, we plan things, we save up for it, but really, who knows how things will turn out? And I don’t just mean that bad things might happen. It could also be good things.

There might be blessings around the corner that we had no idea about. And when I say we, I mean you and me, and all of us.

There will be blessings coming our way that we didn’t count in in our elaborate savings system.
Blessings that we didn’t make room for in our life plans.
Because we weren’t living with open hearts and open hands.
Instead we were worrying and discussing and calculating, looking down instead of up.

This morning, when I woke up, I remembered to look at the birds.

Why worry about food, clothes, housing, money? Why worry? He provides.

‘Look at the birds, free and unfettered,
not tied down to a job description,
careless in the care of God.

And you count far more to him than birds.’

 

2

Guest Post by Jacob – Is Our Economy More Important Than God?

Hey all! Today we have a guestblogger over here. I think that’s a first.
His name is Jacob, and he has some good stuff to say.

—————————————————————————-

Are you a christian?
Do you take God seriously?

This message is for you.

My question is this: Is our economy more important than God?

In recent years cohabitation has become more and more common in christian circles. Young couples move in together before they are married.

Why?

Because it’s accepted, no one says no and we don’t take our relationship with God seriously enough. The way I see it is this: one couple here and there started several years ago, sneaking a little. Although some people knew. But before anyone had collected the courage to correct them they were already married.

The bar was getting lowered.

The next couple did the same but a little less sneaky. And so on. A few years later it had become almost standard practice unless you were one of those super radical people.

And then we have the money. Renting an apartment these days for a young student or someone who has been working for just a few years is costly. And if you and your partner then have to get two apartments, well that’s just outrageous!

Or is it?

We all know God’s will for us – live like this, live like that, but why is it so hard to follow? Do we really believe that His will for our lives is the best? Do we trust Him with our lives? Judging by our actions I would say no. All these to do’s and don’ts – it’s just too hard.

My message is not so much to point out that cohabitation is wrong. I think most of us at least used to think that. But what I’m trying to say here is this: seek God!

God. First.

You know that passage: But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Then we will get out perspectives right. Love one another the way God intended and start to trust that He actually has the best plan for our lives. Cause He does. He IS loving, He IS caring, and He IS merciful.

And about the money, is your economy really more important than God?

– No it’s not Jacob, but I’m only working 50% right now and it’s a bit tight.

Well, eat out less, move in with some roomie, or buy a tent or something!
But don’t save on your rent if it will damage your relationship with God.

Seriously.

/Jacob

6

My Blog Is My Blog

No, no one has contacted me to claim this blog is actually theirs. Plus, I think the url kinda gives away whose blog this really is. However, I did feel the need to make that statement. Not so much for you, my readers, but for myself. Why?

I very much enjoy reading other people’s blogs. WordPress has this thing called Freshly Pressed, where they pick well written posts on all sorts of topics and showcase them. You don’t wanna know how much crap there is to read in blogland, and I find Freshly Pressed a very good way to just get to the good stuff.

Then there’s a variety blogs I regularly follow. There is Teunie the supermom of 10 kids (who is renamed the Measles Mom in our house) whose blogs about baking bread, making jam, keeping her veggie garden and knitting socks are so old school and inspiring at the same time.

I enjoy the creations of this girl, who became a self taught sewist and is now a self taught pattern designer. What?? Some people are just really talented. I hope to start sewing once I get my sewing machine (and myself) to Sweden and knowing that once upon a time she didn’t know how to sew either gives me hope.

There’s also this recently discovered blog of 2 girls that seem to have a little bit too perfect life, but they are artsy and creative and take beautiful pictures, and all of that is inspiring to me, so I just enjoy it.

Anywho, there is a lot more, but this was not meant to promote other blogs.

The thing is, generally the rule seems to be: if you wanna be a successful blogger, you need to have a thing. A theme. A focus. And then you get tons of followers who are interested in that thing.
You write about food, for example. Or you write about your life. Or about sewing. Or you take great pictures.

I kinda do all of that. Except for the great pictures, that is.

Sometimes I write about what I cooked. But if that would be all that this blog was about, it would be a sad blog full of 2 ingredient smoothies and how to make coffee ice cubes.

Sometimes I write about the craziness of life in Nepal. Fact is, after 3,5 years of living here I have sort of lost the way you look at a new culture. Things are not so strange to me anymore. And if they are, I don’t know if you will find them strange. I have learned a new kind of normal.

Sometimes I write personal things, or about Jacob. But there’s a very fine line between the things of my life I think is ok for the world to read, and what I should keep to myself or share with people I choose to share with. And because I’m not sure where the line is, I try to stay on the safe side.

So, my blog has had a little identity crisis lately.
But we are out of that now.
Because. My blog is my blog. So I write about food, hospitals, God or nothing whenever it pleases me. Because I write just because I love to write. Not to keep a bunch of readers happy, and not to gain more followers.

So…

write

Yeah.

And because this is my blog, I also get to move on to a totally unrelated topic, namely Timothy J. Keller, whose book on marriage I HIGHLY recommend. But you can also download several of his sermons for free. I have listened to just one (Adoration: ‘Hallowed be thy name’) but I liked it very much, and I have started downloading more. Go to http://sermons2.redeemer.com to download them!

0

Grace – A Challenge

Hey, reader. Thanks for coming to my blog. I don’t know who you are and I don’t know about your life, but today I would like you to do something.

Ask God for something he wants you to do in your life. A big thing, a small thing, anything. Keep an open mind. Don’t limit the options to what you think is doable. Anything.

Chances are he’s gonna tell you to do something that sounds crazy and/or unrealistic. It’s ok to protest a little bit.
But then, do it.

I will guarantee you this: you will learn about his grace. You will learn about his faithfulness. And you will learn nothing is about you. It’s all about him.

 

 

In a few weeks, I will have lived in Nepal for 3,5 years. Today I thought about the day I left the Netherlands, January 12th 2010. I was very unaware of the challenges and adventures that were ahead of me. I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew I had to do it.

Right now, I’m at a very similar yet different place. This coming fall I will be moving to a new country once again, and just the thought of this often freaks me out and for several reasons I have been wrestling with it a lot.
But at the same time I am looking back at what has happened since that one radical decision in obedience to God, back in 2009.

I have climbed many, many mountains in these last years. There have been many low points. Many disappointments, frustrations and tears. Many questions. Often I have wondered why it is me who moved here, why it is me doing this job that is so clearly too big and overwhelming.

I experience far, far more often feelings of failure and disappointment than of triumph and victory.

Then why am I still here? Why do I still wake up in the morning, motivated to work? Why am I happy here, why do I still do what I do? Why am I still waiting and believing?

Because of grace.

Grace.

All I know is that it’s not me, it’s Christ in me.

 

Tonight, while having fellowship with some friends, we sang a Will Reagan song. And this is my motto, my prayer, right now.

I lean not on my own understanding
My life is in the hands of the Maker of heaven

I give it all to You God trusting that you’ll make something beautiful out of me

There’s nothing I hold on to
There’s nothing I hold on to
There’s nothing I hold on to
There’s nothing I hold on to

I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open
I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open

1

Off To Dharan

It has been a while since I’ve been on a trip within Nepal that was not to buy groceries, or the tourist bus to Kathmandu. It’s not that I stay home on purpose, but to be honest, it doesn’t really bother me to not go.

I like to see new places, sure. But when seeing those new places means I get to sit on a broken bus seat for many hours, while listening to loud Nepali music and eating greasy noodles for lunch, suddenly my own little town of Pokhara is so appealing to me. Another cappuccino at Lakeside, sure!

But next week there is a staff meeting for everyone working in my group from Nepal, Bhutan and North East India, so only if I had had 3 kids or was violently ill, I would have had reason to stay home.

Instead, I get to get on a bus at 3am (!!) tomorrow morning, and then get off at 4pm, if we’re lucky. That means: if we don’t get a flat tire, come across an accident, get into an accident, or are stopped by a demonstration. So really, yes, 4pm is totally doable.
Then, in Dharan, I will most likely stay in a room with 20 Nepali girls, on a thin mattress on the concrete floor (it gets cold at night!!).
I am not expecting to be lucky enough to be able to take a shower.
We will eat rice and lentils everyday, and probably a hard boiled egg and some beaten rice and spicy chick peas for breakfast. We will listen to sermons every day and talk about our vision and goals.
For most of the people that are attending, it will be like a family reunion since many of them are from the bible belt of Nepal and all their family lines can be traced back to one Grandpa and Grandma that were among the first believers here. Fun, except when you are not from their ethnic group.

But – I am excited. Ok, not about the 13 hour bus trip over Nepali style roads (more hole than road), but about the fun we will have during that time. It actually already feels a bit like a school trip because my good friend and I have promised to sit next to each other.
I’m excited to spend a lot of time with my Nepali friends I usually see only a few times a week; excited to be in a new place; excited to remember I live in Nepal…

Sometimes I get a bit too comfortable in my life with backup battery, electric heater, cappuccinos and spaghetti, and there’s nothing like a trip to Dharan to change that.

1

This Is Why Sometimes Nepal Gives Me A Headache

Een bed, een tafel en stoelen kopen in Nederland:Je rijdt naar de Ikea, je koopt een bed, een tafel en stoelen, stopt de pakketten in je auto, zet hem thuis in elkaar.

Een bed, een tafel en stoelen kopen in Nepal:
Je gaat naar de meubelmaker, maar die is nét even weg op de motor. Je komt 3 uur later weer terug – de winkel is leeg, maar je vindt hem achter, in de werkplaats, terwijl hij toekijkt hoe zijn werknemers hard aan het werk zijn.
Je vertelt hem welke maat bed je wil.
Hij vertelt je dat dat niet kan omdat er geen matrassen in die maat verkrijgbaar zijn. De volgende dag ontdek je dat dat niet waar is.
Hij geeft aan wat de standaard afmetingen zijn, en zegt dat het grotere bed beter is, want daar passen wel 3 mensen in.
Je zegt niks maar knikt begrijpend, omdat je weet dat hij daar niks onbehoorlijks mee bedoelt.

Je vertelt hem wat voor tafel je wil. Je vertelt hem dat je stoelen wil van een eenvoudig design, geen rare krullen en versieringen. Hoe duur wordt dat?
Hij denkt na en vertelt je dat je beter ergens plastic stoelen kan kopen, die zijn goedkoper.
Je zegt dat die niet mooi zijn, dat je simpele houten stoelen wil.
Hij zegt dat je beter een ‘dining set’ kan kopen.
Je zegt dat je dat niet mooi vindt, dat je simpele houten stoelen wil.
Hij zegt dat die 2500 NPR per stuk zijn, maar je kan beter die stoel die daar bovenop die kast staat bestellen, die is 3500 NPR maar wel mooier.
Je zegt dat je simpele houten stoelen wil.

En toch hou ik van Nepal :)

Image

Buying a bed, a table and chairs in the Netherlands: you drive to Ikea, you buy a bed, a table and chairs, you put the boxes in your car, and put the furniture together at home.

Buying a bed, a table and chairs in Nepal:
You go to the furniture shop, but the shopkeeper just left on his motorbike. You return 3 hours later and the shop is deserted, but you find him in the workshop where he is watching how is employees are working hard.
You tell him the size of the bed you want.
He tells you it doesn’t work cause no mattresses in that size are available. The next day you find out he was wrong.
He tells you what the standard sizes are, and tells you the bigger bed is better, because you can fit 3 people in there.
You don’t say anything but just nod understandingly, because you know he doesn’t mean anything inappropriate with this.

You tell him what kind of table you want. You tell him you want a simple design for the chairs, no weird decorations and things. How much will they cost?
He thinks for a while and tells you you should buy plastic chairs somewhere instead, because they are much cheaper.
You tell him those don’t look very nice, and that you want simple wooden chairs.
He tells you you should buy a ‘dining set’.
You tell him you don’t like those, and that you want simple wooden chairs.
He tells you those are 2500 a piece, but you should buy that chair over there, that one will cost you 3500 but it’s a lot nicer.
You tell him you want simple wooden chairs.

And yet, I do love Nepal :)