Ebola and Africa, Fear and Risk

Quick link: No, My Family’s Not Leaving Africa Because of Ebola

Ebola is really terrible and Africa is really big and, unfortunately, I need to say this again: Africa is not a country.

Today I’m writing at Babble about Ebola and living with my family on the continent where Ebola is. It is not in our country of residence. Ebola is really serious and I don’t want to skirt around that. There are also huge and horrifying future possibilities if the disease spreads. Many nations, Djibouti included, are likely not prepared for a full-fledged outbreak. Health workers and politicians and average citizens need to take this seriously, to react appropriately, and to make wise decisions.


At the same time, being asked if we are leaving Djibouti because of Ebola (to return to a country with eight confirmed cases total) sort of sits wrong with me. It seems based on the assumption that when/if things were hard, we should leave. But this isn’t a vacation easily abandoned, this is our life. Our real, real life. Plus, we don’t make choices based on fear, or we try not to. We might make them based on a reasonable assessment of risk, but at this point there is no need to do so.

Or when I read a story that in Texas a Nigerian man is denied entrance into a college because he is from Nigeria and they aren’t allowing students from countries with Ebola*…that bothers me. Or some of the incredibly ignorant way people are talking about Africa –  a Fox news reporter talked about how the world needs to worry because Africans go to witch doctors. Laura Ingraham apparently thinks that the reason Obama hasn’t instituted a flight ban (which most professionals think will be ineffective anyway) is because of his familial connections to the continent. One former GOP official suggested we just kill everyone who has Ebola, stop the spread that way. Do I even need to comment on the deeply offensive, ignorant, racist, and just plain stupidity of these types of comments?

On the other end of the spectrum, I recently received a message from a friend in Minnesota, before this essay at Babble even came out, and she demonstrated exactly what I encourage people to do. She had done due diligence and found out how far we live from Ebola-affected countries and acknowledged that we are far away. And then she asked if we were doing okay, if we needed anything, specifically prayer support. Her message was compassionate, sincere, not fear-mongering, and a real encouragement to me.

May God have mercy, may Ebola be stopped in its tracks, and may we all live with wisdom, compassion, courage, and faith when things get hard.

*in the days since I sent this to be published, two countries have been declared Ebola free. Two African countries. Nigeria and Senegal. Maybe the US could learn a thing or two from them.

Click here to read more of my thoughts about Ebola: No, My Family’s Not Leaving Africa Because of Ebola

*image via Flickr

By |October 22nd, 2014|africa|6 Comments|

Let’s Go Flaneuring in New Delhi, India

Today’s Let’s Go Flaneuring post comes from Ren Ward, writing about her neighborhood in New Delhi, India. Ren blogs at Tea, Teach, Travel and happens to have Minnesota connections – hooray! Click here to read more about the series including how you can participate.

“Beep, Beep”, my unrelenting alarm goes off at 5:45am and I slowly move my body off a mattress that is a solid piece of something that is most certainly not good on your back. I walk in to the kitchen, careful to turn on the light and give the bugs inhabiting my kitchen the opportunity to scurry into hiding places so I can avoid seeing them. “Click!” The water tank is switched on to be left on for the next hour; if my roommate and I fail to do this, we can forget having water for the rest of the day! Week day or weekend, the drill is the same; water is special here in New Delhi.

driving in new delhi

The house is cool, it’s early morning and the fans are still on and the AC that kept us cool during the night is now turned off. But the minute you step outside, the fact that it is the beginning of October means nothing. The rains lasted less than a week at the end of August and the city has failed to cool down. It’s in the early 90s by 8am, and only gets warmer throughout the day. The humidity is less, but still there, causing you to drip with sweat all over your body even if you are just standing quietly by the side of the street waiting for an auto or a cycle rickshaw.

They say that Indians aren’t dirty, but India is. There couldn’t be a more true statement. You can clean and clean and it’s still dirty. It can be discouraging and frustrating, but don’t forget that it is completely culturally appropriate to have house help. My heart is so full of thankfulness as Sapna cleans my floors and kitchen, ensuring that our home doesn’t become a dust bowl! And her face when my mum speaks a little bit of Hindi to her as they meet via Skype is priceless.

As I leave the house, I take the garbage bag from the kitchen out with me. But, there isn’t a garbage bin right out the door. The many wild and dirty dogs would be all over that craziness. We walk a block away to a huge garbage skip area and dump our garbage there before walking to our common shopping area near our house. We have a sabziwalla (a vegetable stand man) who wanders around with fresh veg on his cart, but it takes going to several stores and even to several markets to stock up on different things for the house. However, because the electricity is temperamental, it is important to be wise in what and how much you are buying! You don’t want your groceries to go bad. And, this is a day to day culture, so it’s okay to go out shopping every day if you need to, which will happen.

new delhi

Life here in Delhi is like living at full speed with your mind switched on all the time, which can be a lot to handle. Especially as a short, white, red haired woman who gets the stares, the leers, and the comments from the men who apparently have nothing better to do. Delhi is full of autos, cars, rickshaws, motorbikes and people. The other day a young girl with a baby on her hip came to my auto, begging.  We looked and smiled at each other. I said, “When the light changes, I will give you something.”  I talked to the baby, but the baby wouldn’t engage; I could tell by the baby’s eyes and how the girl held it that the baby had been drugged.  The light was just about to change and I handed her two oat biscuits and said, “Yeshu ka nam se” meaning “In the name of Jesus”. She nodded at me, and the auto moved away. She is one of the 23 million people here in Delhi.  Yup. 23 million in ONE city.

There is a language barrier here. Most people speak Hindi, so I can’t communicate in words about my faith in a loving God with the girl on the street or about the reason for the hope I have with my auto driver or the man helping me buy groceries.  But I can look at them and see them, I can pray for them.

But for now, excuse me while I go and murder the cockroach that is daring to walk down the hallway.

Love from India,


ren wardI’m an elementary school teacher with a classroom of 25 4th/5th graders from all over the world.  I am short, red-haired, and talk constantly with my hands.  I have a crazy energy that gets crazier the longer I am around people and I have an intense desire for those around me to meet my best friend, Jesus!  I used to drink my tea with biscuits, before I moved and filled up on pumpkin pies and lattees, but for now I eat curries and drink chai!  My website is www.destinationclassroom.blogspot.com and my FB name is Serenity Mary; I would love to connect with anyone who is interested in finding out more about New Delhi!

Between Worlds Book Review

Between Worlds, essays on culture and belonging

between worldsIn Between Worlds, Marilyn Gardner shares her own stories of growing up in Pakistan, raising children in Egypt, and transitioning to the United States as an Adult Third Culture Kid. Her experiences are specific – the vivid scents and sounds of her childhood – but the essence of her stories ring true for expatriates and TCKs all over the world. In these essays, she gently draws out the hidden pieces of the soul, of history, and names the beauty and pain, the losses and the treasures of living between worlds.

One of my favorite things about this book, and there are many, is that it feels like the beginning of a conversation. Marilyn doesn’t provide prescriptive directions for how to lead a ‘successful’ life as an expatriate or a TCK. Instead, she raises topics that need to be addressed and often aren’t: homecoming, grief, boarding school experiences, culture shock, saying goodbye. And she raises them with open-handed grace which allows readers to transfer the story into our own lives, to start discussions about how to address these topics in our families and situations, and from there, to bring us through places of brokenness to healing and hope.

I am raising three children outside our passport country but am not a Third Culture Kid myself. I devour books and articles and blogs about TCKs, gleaning wisdom and advice from every possible venue. Between Worlds is an excellent resource, opening up a window into the heart of a TCK and into the heart of a parent. Before I finished reading the book, I wanted to sit down with my older two children and ask them about the things they grieve in their TCK lives, the things they adore in their TCK lives, about what they would change or never change. But I couldn’t because my kids were at boarding school when I read the book. And, through tears, I recognized Marilyn’s words as a gift. Here was a woman who understood what my kids feel and who was giving me a glimpse into their world. Here was a book that gave me words and ideas for pressing into meaningful conversations with them when they came home on break.

Between Worlds isn’t a book just for expats and TCKs though, as Cathy Romeo says below, all of us have lived between worlds at some point in our lives and Marilyn provides a lens of faith and hope through which to see and give words to our joys and griefs.

It is a joy to recommend Between Worlds and I do so with the hope that many others will be encouraged and challenged by Marilyn’s story.

Here’s what I said about Between Worlds:

Between Worlds is a kaleidoscope of memory and family, grief and celebration. Marilyn explores the experience of both being and raising Third Culture Kids and raises topics that will serve as valuable conversation starters among expatriate families and organizations. Especially for TCKs, this book will read like a homecoming and offers the gift of multiple me, too, moments. For anyone living ‘between worlds,’ this is a treasure trove of wisdom and perspective from a talented writer.

Here are what others are saying about it:

“To read this remarkable collection of essays is to journey with Marilyn Gardner between the worlds of East and West, home and not-feeling-like-home, touching with her the boundaries of culture, the inspirations of faith, and the comforts of loved ones. Her stories are compelling and unforgettable. And while her essays will instantly resonate with those, like Marilyn, who have lived between worlds, they speak volumes to those like me who have not. Every one of us has been at some point between two worlds, be they faith and loss of faith, joy and sorrow, birth and death. Between Worlds is a luminous guide for connecting – and healing – worlds.~Cathy Romeo, co-author,Ended Beginnings: Healing Childbearing Losses

And still more:

“Drawn from her honest, penetrating blog writings, Marilyn Gardner’s Between Worlds invites us into her memories with loving hospitality, connecting the various and vivid threads of her fascinating life without over-sentimentalization. She is a wise raconteur, knowing that memories are living, formative things. Her richly evocative descriptions of the places that have formed her engage every sense (and will likely leave one a bit thirsty for chai), and the book is delightfully adorned with her daughter’s pen drawings. Throughout her essays, Marilyn presses in on the questions with which every human soul wrestles, particularly our God-given desire to belong, and to live securely and coherently with oneself and others.

In a world that has grown ever more globally connected, her recollections engage us all to think through how “God uses place” — and, at times, acute feelings of displacement — to make us into the people we are. Adult third culture kids will find in Marilyn a compassionate, empathetic friend, and anyone who has lived “between worlds” will appreciate her gentle approach to the more disorienting facets of a globally nomadic lifestyle.” Laura Merzig Fabrycky, The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture

Between Worlds by Marilyn Gardner was published in July, 2014. Marilyn blogs at Communicating Across Boundaries and contributes to A Life Overseas.

Click here to purchase Between Worlds at Amazon.

Parents of Teens Give Advice to the Parents of Teens

Yesterday I published with Brain Child called Teenagers’ Advice to the Parents of Teenagers. Here is an interesting backstory to that essay.

To start off the very informal survey, I posted a message on Facebook asking teenagers what advice they might have for the parents of teenagers about raising teenagers. The responses I got were from parents, almost nothing from actual teens. Later I clarified, I sent out personal messages, and I grabbed the teens in my physical vicinity and hounded them. Of course, most of my Facebook friends aren’t teens, but some are.

I thought the more experienced parents (since I’m just over a year into the teen years, which by the way, I am loving) had pretty sound advice. I even got email responses so that people could respond more thoroughly. I wanted to leave the Brain Child post essentially to the teens but I also wanted to spread the wisdom of these parents far wiser than me, so here are some of the highlights.

parents of teens1

1. Listen. Do whatever it takes to listen. If it means staying up until three in the morning but that is when they are talking, stay up. If it means driving past your final destination in the car but they are talking, drive right on past. If it means biting your tongue because now they are talking and are not asking advice, bite your tongue. Their thoughts and opinions and perspectives are important, valuable, and fascinating but you won’t know them unless you shut up and listen. Listen to what their whole body, not just their voice is saying. Make choices that let you listen at important times. One example was: if your kids go to a camp, offer to carpool and offer to take the drive-home-after trip. That is when they will be gabbing with friends and when they get home they might not be so inclined. Listen.

2. Pray. Pray with them and for them and for yourself as you parent them.

3. Negotiate. Rules don’t have to be hard and fast anymore and they shouldn’t necessarily be the same rules you had when they were younger. Choose your battles carefully and, as one parent put it, practice “creative ignoring” and “don’t shoot a mole with an elephant gun.” Part of negotiating is asking their opinion, for what they think would be a fair solution. I’ve done this with my own kids – “I don’t really know how to respond to this situation in which we find ourselves. What do you think?”

4. Be honest. You aren’t perfect either, confess and ask forgiveness when you mess up. You also weren’t perfect when you were a teenager. I love how one parent put it, “Don’t hide your mistakes, problems, and personal geekiness. Let them see it is okay to be imperfect.”

5. Know their friends. Know their names, invite them to your house. If possible, have your house be the center of social life or at least a safe and fun place for them to hang out. Food helps with this.

6. Be available and present. One parent wrote, “Be prepared to spend more time with them than you did in the early years.” I think that can come as a huge shock or can be something parents simply ignore. They are pretty independent and self-sufficient. But they are also going through huge hormonal and brain developments, facing major life decisions, and learning to navigate new, intensely important, experiences. Be available.

7. Find good role models. Role models that aren’t you. Ask other adults to invest in your teens or encourage the ones that already do.

8. Let them learn. Let them ask questions, push boundaries, take risks. Remember that the journey is not over yet, they haven’t ‘turned out’ yet. Have any of us? Let them process and test, make mistakes, develop their own interpretations or decisions.

9. Fight for them. Be “fiercely ‘pro’ for your kids,” one parent said. Others don’t know them and might judge them. You fight for them. Another used the same word, “love fiercely.”

10. Enjoy them. They are people. People! Enjoy them and enjoy watching them figure things out. Make it clear that you enjoy them. Does your face light up when they walk in the room? Keep a good sense of humor. Never, ever talk negatively about your teen, or younger child, in front of them or in front of your other children.

Hug them, tell them you love them, wrestle with them, play with them, listen to their music, read the books they are reading, do what they love to do, tell them you are proud of them and make it obvious.

I know you’ve got more advice…

And click here to read what our teens what us to know: Teenagers’ Advice to the Parents of Teenagers

What Teens Want Their Parents to Know about Raising Teens

Quick link: Teenagers’ Advice to the Parents of Teenagers

Today I’m sharing an essay I wrote for the Brain Child blog about teenagers. I loved their advice as I conducted my informal survey but even more, I loved engaging with teenagers and listening to them, taking them seriously, waiting as they thought about my question, watching their minds work once they realized I really wanted to hear their opinions. They’ve got a lot to say and I’m glad they said even just these little tidbits to me.


Tomorrow I’ll share more advice, this time from the parents of teenagers to other parents of teenagers. For now, click here to read Teenagers’ Advice to the Parents of Teenagers

*”Teens sharing a song” by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget via Flickr