Out of Words for Easter

My boarding school kids are home, the Djiboutian national track and field championships are in fully swing and Girls Run 2 is right in the thick of things, there are numerous crisis with local friends. I am infinitely grateful for Easter. But I don’t have fresh words for it this year. Here are Easter re-posts.

The Tender Season In the middle of brokenness, why do I need Easter?

During this tender season when emotions are bubbling over, there is no getting around the feeling of it. Easter is not a familiar, chocolate bunny holiday. It is shocking and scandalous and earth-shattering and I feel my need for Jesus.

How Islam Prepared Me For Lent Ramadan lessons for fasting during Lent

After living among these Islamic traditions, these months of anticipation and spiritual emphasis, communal rituals, and the celebrations that come at the end of a period of trial, when I was invited to an Ash Wednesday service, I was eager to attend.

Never Dead Enough (at SheLoves) when is something too dead even for God?

Come to the God of the living. Come. Bring your dead and dying things. Bring them here, where there is no more sting.

Can you find the hidden Easter eggs around our water tank and drinking jugs and bougainvillea petals?

hidden easter eggs

Care to share your own favorite Easter essays or blog posts over the years? Feel free to share them in the comments so they don’t disappear down the drain of a flooded internet. I’d love to read your words since I’m out of my own.

Brain Child: The Happy Middle

happy middle years1Quick link: The Happy Middle Years

Today I’m writing at Brain Child, not about being the happy middle child (I am considered a middle, I wasn’t always happy) but about the years between baby and teenager. Lucy, age 8, and I, are having a fantastic time in these happy middle years. I know not every kid in this age span is similar, not every parenting experience similar. I’ve had two pass through here before and it wasn’t exactly the same. But for now, parenting is delightful. And that makes it feel dangerous.

For my children, the ages 6-12 have been the ages of ‘no longer’ and ‘not yet.’ No longer in diapers, not yet smoking pot. No longer waking up all night, not yet staying out all night. No longer fed from the breast, not yet developing breasts or obsessed with breasts, depending. No longer sitting backwards in a hard plastic seat beneath layers of car seat buckles, not yet behind the wheel.

Click here to read more about The Happy Middle and how I’m learning to navigate these years, to not let them slip away, to invest.

What I Learned: Friendships with Cambodians Come with Asterisks

*This post is part of a series on learning from diversity called What I Learned. To contribute, contact Rachel.

Today’s What I Learned post comes from Allison Jane Smith, writing about the early struggles and joys in developing cross-cultural relationships with Cambodians.

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I’ve lived in Cambodia for over eight months, in a small city called Battambang. It feels even smaller than it is when you’re limited to interacting with other expats and the Cambodians who speak English.

That’s one of the appealing things about Battambang; its small size makes it easy to get to know everyone else.

Yet that doesn’t mean it’s easy to establish a diverse group of friends that includes Cambodians.

About a month ago I had a housewarming party in my new apartment, which overlooks a soccer pitch. We opened beers, ordered pizza and watched the game.

There were people from around the world: Australia, England, France, New Zealand, Ecuador, America, and yes, Cambodia.

The foreigners came and stayed till eleven, twelve, two. The Cambodians stayed until nine or ten. One had promised his uncle he would be home by nine, another had to get up early for university the next day, and another didn’t want to be locked out of the pagoda where he lives.

They were gone before many of the foreigners, blessed with the carefree schedules that accompany lives free of responsibilities, had even arrived.

It’s hard to even get us at a party together, much less to navigate the language and cultural barriers that exist when we’re in the same room.

Being a single, twenty-something Canadian woman means my life is drastically different from the lives of Cambodians, and these differences get in the way of genuine friendships, the kind that come easily with Australians or Americans.

cambodia

Over time, I’ve learned friendships with Cambodians come with asterisks.

I’ve got friends* where:

*we only interact during the day, usually at their place of work, because they are women. Women my age are usually married and have families, but regardless of marital status are expected to be home by 8pm.

*I don’t feel I can share the problems in my life, as they are dealing with serious issues. A while ago, a friend was considering taking on a second job that pays 75 cents an hour so he could find another $30 to pay a bill; another friend is now responsible for his younger siblings, essentially becoming a father; another cares for her children while her husband is away working for three weeks every month.

*I have to be careful about how friendly I am and what I say, so as not to give men the impression I am interested when I am not. (To be fair to Cambodians, this can be an issue with men regardless of nationality.)

*certain subjects are off-topic because the cultural gap is so wide. We are not necessarily coming from the same perspective on core political concepts, like democracy, nor on social issues like prostitution or gender equality.

*we can only engage on a superficial level because their English isn’t great and neither is my Khmer. However, a Cambodian friend recently commented I know many of the bad words, so I do know how to insult people.

Yet while friendships with Cambodians are different from friendships with other foreigners, and can have limitations, they are still deeply gratifying.

Cambodian friends have taken me to their home villages, where I’ve met their families and high school friends. They’ve explained political and social undercurrents I didn’t understand. When I was in a moto accident last year, Cambodian friends delivered meals and first aid supplies.

Last week, I grabbed a coffee at my regular cafe before leaving Battambang for a week. Some Cambodian friends were there. They complimented my new clothes, asked about my plans for the week, and teased my poor Khmer.

Before I left, a suitcase in one hand and coffee in the other, a friend gave me a hug. Our conversations are inevitably exercises in jumbled miscommunication, but I always enjoy them. “I will miss you,” she said.

“I’ll miss you too,” I said, and it was true.

Though my friendships with Cambodians are accompanied by asterisks, my life would be emptier without them.

Allison Jane Smith is a Canadian writer and communications professional. She is the Editor-in-Chief of whydev.org and a contributor to Beacon. Her work has been published in Killing the Buddha, Matador, and In/Words Magazine & Press. She currently lives in Cambodia, where she drinks a lot of coconut water and even more iced coffee. For more Allison, visit her website and follow her on Twitter.

When Wealth is Dangerous

Quick link: Dangerous Riches

Last month I wrote about the ways in which we talk about poverty, sometimes glibly assigning simplistic emotions to people in situations we barely comprehend. Today I’m writing at A Life Overseas about the ways in which we (I) must address our (my) addiction to wealth and consumerism.

dangerous wealth

I’m proud and I think: look how good I’m doing. I live at a lower standard than so-and-so. Or: compared to many Christians in the US, I look pretty good. As if holiness were based on how other people lived instead of being based on an absolute standard. And in the very next instant I can be self-pitying and think: I better get a good reward for this in heaven. Or: why can’t I just live in America where my standard of living would look poor?

Click here to read Dangerous Riches

*image via Flickr

Babble: American Childbirth and Human Rights Failure

babyQuick link: Childbirth in America, is there a human rights failure?

Today I’m writing at Babble on a heavy topic: childbirth and human rights. I live between worlds and have empathy for pregnant women in both of those worlds. I have, in fact, been a pregnant woman in both of those worlds. I hope the piece reflects this while at the same time issuing a call for people in the United States to think outside their own experiences when laying claim to phrases like ‘human rights failure.’ There is so much at stake in how we use language and how we treat women.

The article American Childbirth: Human Rights Failure? talks about the fear American women face while pregnant. The author said most of the pregnant women she spoke to are, “scared to death” of childbirth. She wrote about the dire state of labor and birth practices in American hospitals. About the real and terrible statistics of birth in the United States compared to other developed nations as cited by the World Health Organization and Amnesty International.

The same day I read this article I heard stories of four women and three babies here in Djibouti who died in childbirth. Each woman was the relative or friend of close friends of mine…

Click here to read: Childbirth in America, is there a human rights failure?

*image via Flickr