A six word story about ME

[°This is prompt 6 in the #virtualcampfire2021 November writing series hosted by @chameleon_coaching & @southboundstories.

Image created by ME @livingtheamericandreamineurope

“I’m a verbose, life-improvement in process.”

Me

If you have seen my other posts you know by now that I have a lot to say. We all know that it is your choice to read any or all of it if you want.

For those of you that do read it all, I appreciate you deeply.

For those of you who don’t read all the way to the end, I get it. TL;DR! It’s okay.

When I put something out in the world, I attempt to be as honest & respectful as I possibly can be, to myself, to those involved with the content, and to you, my audience. Sometimes I may miss the mark, unintentionally. When I mess up, I will always try to fess up. I am an evolving work in progress, what else can I do?

As I said in prompt 1 “This is me”. You are under no obligation to take it as it is. Know though that I change for me, to hopefully impact the greater good. Not to fit your ideas of what I should be.

Oh, & I am here to support others, especially women but not exclusively, to be the best they can be, whatever that means for them.

What other possible ideas did I have when thinking of ‘My Six-Word Story’?

“One year I said, but then…”

“Woman, man, cat, & a lil’ boy“

“Curious, spirited-woman figuring it out internationally.”

“Creative, curious, interested in culture: Christina”

Which is your favorite? Could you think of a better one for me? What would your 6-word story be? Tell me in the comments.

Lessons learned living outside my home country

This is prompt 7 in the #virtualcampfire2021#november#writing series hosted by @chameleon_coaching & @southboundstories.

Photo by Gelatin on Pexels.com

Traveling has taught me a considerable lot, each time I thought I evolved a bit more. Moving abroad long-term has made a considerable impact though.

I arrived knowing who I was & what I was doing.

Only to have that upended by my inability to speak the language.

Our German resources have expanded & grown over the years. Photo by ME @livingtheamericandreamineurope

Then, I found my footing only to become pregnant & give birth. Where was that old me? Was this takeover of body, of duty & obligation to this new living being all that I am now? What?! How could I simultaneously feel like myself but not?!

These were not only new international roads to navigate. ‘How to live abroad’ became ‘how to raise a child abroad’. Always feeling out of the loop or late to the party.

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

The number of times I heard “it’s not my job to tell you, you should know.” was numbing. “But if I don’t know & you won’t/don’t tell me, then who should?! 👀

Then, I found a community of international women & mothers in a similar boat. This helped me feel much more ‘Alice’, less Mad Hatter.

Enter global pandemic. Once again I felt late to the party & out of the loop, only ever playing catch-up. So, I decided to attempt to control my reaction to the world instead of feeling lost, while still moving forward-ish.

Change is the constant. Growth must be the equal. I may not always be in the calm waters, but I can be my own lighthouse in the storm. It means doing the personal/intercultural work to not get tossed by the waves of change or the constant evolving weather event that is navigating life outside one’s home culture.

This doesn’t mean going it alone, independently. Rather, it means finding those who speak to your heart, if not your vision, who feel like home, who support your progress as much as you support theirs.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

An attempted rounded view of American Thanksgiving

On the fourth Thursday of every year, most Americans have a day (or a half-day) off work to feast with family & friends to show gratitude.

However, I am not only an American expat living abroad so I cannot just share the public-school textbook version of the history of this day in America. I was a student of history before I trained to become a teacher, specifically American history. So, I thought a more rounded view of this national holiday was warranted.

Here we go!

This is similar to Canadian Thanksgiving & German Entdankefest, essentially a harvest festival, the highlight of which is a meal consisting of turkey or Ham & fall vegetables. Charity also plays a part as well, usually giving to those less fortunate leading up to Christmas.

Our mainstream American history books all claim that in 1621 colonists at Plymouth & Wampanoag shared their fall harvests, but there was no stuffed Turkey. Prior to this, colonists had struggled to successfully grow food in their new world. It took cooperation and education on behalf of the Native Americans to help the colonists learn to be successful. In reality, it was only the second colony established at that time. Others had literally failed because the colonists to the new world did not know how to successfully grow their crops in the new soil – if the seeds even made it across the ocean. Native stories proclaim this was not a sharing, but rather a contact made for investigative purposes, like a fact-finding mission, as the colonists were ‘aggressive’ toward the local Native Americans. 

Previous interactions with the Native Americans resulted in waring & death/murder, the Europeans fought for constant additional space while the Native Americans fought to maintain their established lives. In fact, many Native Americans today do not acknowledge this holiday b/c of the historical devastation brought to their people from colonial settlement, European expansion, & Manifest Destiny. There were hundreds if not millions of Native Americans thriving in North America long before there were explorers or settlers, or even before America was ‘discovered.

This colony is important to American history & folklore as it not only establishes American Thanksgiving, it also establishes a puritanical ethic of work & modesty. It also predicates the NE region as ‘authentically American’ in modern American culture, since it was colonized ‘first’. It is also the foundation for ‘a city on a hill’.

Equally important, it is a Day of Mourning for Native people. There were hundreds if not millions of Native Americans thriving in North America long before there were explorers or settlers, or even before America was ‘discovered. Today there are only 6.6 million (2020) native persons in the USA, or 2% of the total population. It is difficult to say how many native people were living in what is now the United States and Canada as these records were not kept, however, there are general records accounting for how many likely died or were murdered, beginning in 1492.

It wasn’t until the Civil War when President Lincoln’s cabinet (in 1863) felt the American nation needed something to unite it. Yet, it wasn’t federally observed until 1870, on the last Thursday in November. It became a federally paid national holiday in 1875. Finally, President Roosevelt (FDR), in 1942, changed the date to the fourth Thursday in November, not a specific date, annually. It is also often a four-day weekend. The Friday following this Thursday is the start of The Christmas shopping season, also known as ‘Black Friday’.

Find Native Americans and indigenous folks to follow & support on social media.

Ask me for book recommendations to learn more about what I talk about in this post. 

(in)Tolerance?

This is prompt 5 in the #virtualcampfire2021 November writing series hosted by @chameleon_coaching & @southboundstories.

Living abroad has shown me how to live within myself more than ever before.

Whatever our education and experience level, we think we understand how the world works, common sense, and how to interact with others. The reality is, though, that generally we only know how to interact with others within our cultural group.

Blessed be those TKCs (Third Culture Kids) who grow up an insider to multiple cultures while also possibly not fully feeling like a part of any. They and a lucky other few have the opportunity to see and learn from multiple#diverse personal and cultural perspectives. Most of us have to learn about this along the way, on top of it in addition to our home, community, & familial culture.

It is true that traveling changes you in initially#invisible ways. We grow from the inside out, because much like the Tardis, we are bigger on the inside.

Like a fish in water who is asked about said water to only reply ”Huh, what is water?!” I could very easily see other cultures, but not necessarily mine.

It has taken stepping away to adequately begin to process where I came from, both in the micro and macro sense.

Once I finally began to explore that, I knew I wanted to go deeper. I wanted to formally train to become an intercultural trainer. For years though, that goal sat on a metaphorical shelf in the back of my mind.

Then, we suffered a global pandemic. I realized after about a year that I didn’t want life to ‘return to normal’, whatever that meant, without having done something personally different finally.

Thankfully, I was in a position to be able to take action.

Six months of intercultural train-the-trainer courses with a ❤️ of reading diverse perspectives (& living abroad) has helped me to become more patient, more reflective, tolerant, & understanding of differing perspectives.

Next, I present a part of my bookshelf books that I love that has taken me to other places without me physically going anywhere.

It is with these books & a few others (especially Trevor Noah’s book, “Born a Crime” & Ibram X. kendi’s “How to be Anti-racist”) where I have become immersed in other worlds, rising with their characters’ victories & falling alongside their pain & tragedy, learning what their life is/was like. Something I would not otherwise inherently know because of my time & place of birth, not to mention who I was birthed to. They’ve given me a deeper understanding of the complexity of human experience. They’ve helped me also learn that multiple perceptions exist. That another’s autonomy may manifest differently than mine, but that does not devalue or differently rate it.

Honestly, if a student asked me to explain the word off the cuff in an English lesson, I would say “to tolerate, put up with, deal with”… similar to the German definition of „Tolerenz“, which another Instagramer explained is not necessarily positive.

That cannot be the goal of human interaction. To grit our teeth and ‘deal with’ people we don’t know or don’t see eye to eye with or shun & demonize because they don’t look, act, or speak like us – until we can return to our own little safe bubbles. Really?!

No. The goal must be greater understanding. If we can understand each other, not just in language, but in internal & external motivation, we may have an easier time meeting in the middle. It doesn’t mean we need to convince each other that ‘my’ way or ‘your’ way is better. Instead, this understanding should help build empathy toward others instead of against the idea we have of them.

It is through these (and other) books that I have learned that my heart can grow bigger, making space not only for people I have met but also for people I have yet to meet, whose stories I have yet to learn.

Food I miss living far from home

This is prompt #4 of the Instagram (@AmidreamEU) writing prompt #virtualcampfire2021, ignited by  Christina Kapaun @southboundstories  and Annyka Overton @chameleoncoaching as a series of writing prompts for ex-pats to share over the course of November.

My mother’s cookies – Photo by ME @livingtheamericandreamineurope

In short, I miss my mother’s cookies (and my mother).

Her cookies are perfection, plain and simple.

These cookies are legendary. Back in the day, she would sell them two for an American dollar to help fund her charity bike rides, and she constantly sold out. People were addicted, they couldn’t get enough.

Her secret? She says she just follows the recipe in the Fanny Farmer Cookbook. (I do too, but mine is never as good as hers.)

The last time I went home I asked her for a ziplock bag full of peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies to take back with me. At first, she refused because they’d turn to crumbs before I would even get on the plane. (If they lasted that long.) I told her I absolutely didn’t care.

So, she filled up a bag for me.
En route my husband tried to eat a few so I put a stop to that real quick!

I ate them all – even all the crumbs!

I could probably go on, but that is the pinnacle.

My favorite photo of my mother (with cookie and coffee [the apple does not fall far from the tree]). Photo by ME @livingtheamericandreamineurope
My mother & me. Photo by ME @livingtheamericandreamineurope


Explanation of the last image: The trip home where my mother probably gave me the bag of cookies-turned-delicious-crumbs. I had made a series of funny, yet horribly unattractive faces – this was the best one of the lot at the time.

Re-Entry and the New Normal

I am currently behind on these prompts mainly because I want to post something honest.

These posts are part of the Instagram (@AmidreamEU) writing prompt #virtualcampfire2021, ignited by  Christina Kapaun @southboundstories  and Annyka Overton @chameleoncoaching as a series of writing prompts for ex-pats to share over the course of November.

What is my new normal?

This is a tricky question.

Photo by ME @livingtheamericandreamineurope

We’ve been living this grand experiment for so many years that what is normal would probably be unthinkable to the old me. I often can’t believe this is the life I get to live and raise my child in. I often feel like pinching myself, like I might finally wake myself up if I do it just hard enough.

But it isn’t a dream.

And this dream isn’t perfect, by any means.

It is still amazing though.

When I was a child being tormented by my older sister. I would dream of living far away from her, in NYC, and being so successful that her bullying was a distant memory of a life before. Fast forward to now, I have lived in NYC, I have lived in London, I have worked all over the world and traveled through a bit of it. I also know now that it takes more than physically leaving to grow beyond the past.

Photo by ME, @livingtheamericandreamineurope

So, here I have settled with my family in this little corner of Germany that is just big enough, but close enough to everything and everywhere else in Europe that is bigger and occasionally more exciting. This place feels safe and comfortable, enough that we give my son a sort of freedom and independence my parents didn’t give me until I was a wee bit older.

I still have yet to master the language to the degree that I would like, but I practice it daily. My dentist and doctor speak to me in German first even though when I communicate in return it is often at a lower level than my elementary-aged child.

I use translation websites daily.

I began my website almost a decade ago in an attempt to figure out what my normal was then and now amidst a global pandemic I am still working it out although I feel I have come a long way in understanding.

First, I focused on just being a good teacher.

Then, it was about being a good English teacher.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Then, my normal was about preparing for motherhood and what that meant living far from our own parents. I am thankful for the friends whom I met around this time who helped me remain grounded through the third trimester, the birth, and postpartum depression (that I really only recognized after the fact).

I felt completely lost because I physically felt like simply a vessel of nutrients for my new baby while my brain felt overloaded. I didn’t feel human, I didn’t feel like a woman. I didn’t feel like me.

I am so thankful that I happened upon a private Facebook group of international ladies shortly after my son was born. These ladies were better than any book, website, or self-help anything that I could have come across to help me feel normal. This community has only grown since then, and the friendships have only become deeper.

Post-birth, I have understood that creating a community of positive, supportive friends and chosen family when our blood family is so far away is worth the effort of cultivation and nurturing. This has only deepened during the pandemic.

Photo by NO NAME on Pexels.com

In late December 2020, I woke up one morning thinking about how we would celebrate New Year’s Eve as a family, how we would reflect on the year before, and how in the world would plan for the year ahead since all the old familiar ways were out the window. At the time, as it is most days, it is important for me to create a happy and positive environment for my child to thrive in – even if I don’t feel like personally thriving or the outside environment is in utter chaos. How else am I going to help teach my child to look for the good, especially if all the external sources (mass media) keep telling us the world is going to hell in a handbasket?!

My sister once commented to me that I was “running away”. “From what?!” Was my response. This was long after I had settled with my husband in our little corner of Germany and child was very well a part of our life here. I didn’t and still don’t feel like I am running from anything, but maybe I wasn’t really running toward much of anything either.

I realized I didn’t want this pandemic to end with the world going back to normal without long-unrealized goals I had within myself remaining dormant. I started yet another blog and Instagram account (which I still have to close) dedicated to health and wellness and signed up for Intercultural communication train-the-trainer training. I was exercising every day either at the gym or at home, whatever the pandemic would allow. I attempt to meditate daily, but don’t beat myself up if I don’t. Finally, I write whenever I can. Some of it I publish to the world, some of it I use simply for self-reflection.

Photo by ME @livingtheamericandreamineurope

I also started another venture with my girlfriend, MC Culture Consult (@MC_Culture_Consult) because I had a feeling she was kinda in the same weird boat as me knowing there was more to all of this life and living abroad than what we had simply been doing. Plus, the two of us get together and talk about everything under the sun and the moon together anyway, so why not record it and put it out there into the world.

But, what if we fail?!

Yeah, sure. I would rather try and fumble, or even try and fail rather than never having tried at all. I would rather be running with all my energy toward something, than not going anywhere at all.

That is my new normal.

Photo by ME, @livingtheamericandreamineurope

The little things

This is prompt 2, from the #virtualcampfire2021 from Instagram (@AmidreamEU), begun by Christina Kapaun @southboundstories  and Annyka Overton @chameleoncoaching as a series of writing prompts for ex-pats to share over the course of November.

🤔I had to sit on this question for a minute as the answer has evolved over time.

👨‍👩‍👧‍👧 In the beginning it *was* food, like my mother’s Chile Rellenos. Then, it was people & activities, like going to the hardware store with my dad, going anywhere to buy anything on a Sunday.

👯‍♀️Now, however, it’s the people. Breakfast with my parents, learning about victories, or overcoming defeats with my college girlfriends. Beers in a beautiful, huge chalice with my besties. Christmas Bingo with my family. Road trip weekends to the Oregon coast.

✈️It’s these long-distance relationships that are tricky. Some are lost over time, some are given their own separate life because of social media interpretations, & then a few are always there like the last chat was simply Tuesday, not 5 months ago.

🏡In the end isn’t it the people who either make or break a place anyway, really…then the food in that place?!

🌊The short answer is friends, family, and the Oregon Coast.

This is me…

Over on Instagram (@AmidreamEU), Christina Kapaun @southboundstories  and Annyka Overton @chameleoncoaching created a series of writing prompts (#virtualcampfire2021) for ex-pats to share over the course of November. I am a bit of a sucker for a community-minded activity and for writing prompts, so I decided to participate.

So, this is me. Hello!

👩🏻 My name is Christina. I am originally from the NW of the USA, Oregon all the way. I am the person behind the @amidreameu Instagram account.

👩🏻‍🏫 I’m an English teacher (EAP, business, & everyday English) and intercultural trainer. I generally like exploring and learning new things from & about people. I tell my students that I learn from them & enjoy it because I genuinely do. I see teaching & training as a collaborative experience.

🗺 Growing up my mother showed me that exploring locally could be a real gem. My first wider-world trip was across the country to NYC, where I clearly left part of my heart. Little did I know then that it would ignite a fire that would fuel me around the world. Since then, I’ve lived & studied in London, worked and traveled around Australia, & worked in South Korea.

🇩🇪 Somehow, I landed in my little cornering Germany, in Rheinland-Pfalz. What was supposed to be a year-long teaching exchange has turned into a years-long experiment that now involves a British-American husband and a TKC.

📚I’ve always been a storyteller, but I’ve not always told great stories. It seems many people want to have the rights to your story, when it’s not theirs to tell, especially when they only know a page or two, or even worse – someone else’s cliff-notes version. So, part of what I’m doing now is figuring out how to tell my story while also helping others to define & tell theirs.

📺 Part of this is through my work as a teacher & intercultural trainer, but also as ½ of @MC_Culture_Consult which is a podcast/YouTube channel, & blogging: www.Livingtheamericandreamineurope.com.

@southboundstories and @chameleoncoaching lit the match to this fire, but I’d also like to thank Allison Iurato @allisoniurato and Vanessa Paisley @paisleycommunication for the inspiration to post.

Celebrating Easter, 2021

An Easter egg tree, which we have seen more often over the years here.

I am not religious, but I married someone who is, having grown up catholic and I now live in a part of Germany that is traditionally very Christian. Most of the public holidays in Germany are based on religious beliefs. Some more than others, depending on the area or state.

Continue reading “Celebrating Easter, 2021”

Using the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity to understand the United States

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

Here I attempt to relate what I have learned about the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity, with each of its stages, to the current political (and social) events in the United States.

What, what, and huh?

Let me explain…

Continue reading “Using the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity to understand the United States”