How is Being Married Like Being an Expatriate?

Quick link: How Marriage is Like Living Abroad

Today I’m writing at A Life Overseas about the various stages of being an expat and the various stages of building a marriage.

Compatibility is an achievement of love. It shouldn’t be its precondition.

Alain de Botton

The same could be said for living abroad. I hear many people say they ‘fell in love with Africa’ as soon as their feet touched the ground off the plane. I’m not sure how Kenyan or Nigerian or Burundian tarmac has developed this incredible ability to inspire love for an entire continent, while American tarmac is just tarmac. But. I think the above quote by de Botton applies to living abroad as much as it does to love. We achieve compatibility with the new places we live in as foreigners, we don’t arrive perfectly adjusted. We need to know this and we need to know this is okay.

Here’s how living abroad can be like building a marriage (aka: achieving compatibility in love):

Week One

Everything in this country is awesome and fascinating and I just want to know, like intimately, know it. I want to be one with it. I think that is totally possible. I want people to see that I belong here because I’m so good at communicating, I can even do it just with my hands. Who needs words when I’m such a good fit? I fit in so naturally; wearing all the beautiful clothes and eating all the fascinating food. I adapt so easily to all the things that are done differently here. This country is the best country I could have chosen, it will make me better, smarter, funnier, more attractive. People will think I’m amazing, just because I live here. I’ll probably never leave. This country can do no wrong…

What, oh what, do the next years have for our marriages and our expat life?

Click here to read the rest of How Marriage is Like Living Abroad



How Do I Pronounce Pieh?

My maiden name is Rachel Pieh.

I write as Rachel Pieh Jones.

Lots of people ask me how to pronounce Pieh.

For math geeks: think 3.14

For bakers: think apple

In other words, pi. Or pie.

Not Pee-eh

Not Peach

Not Pitch

Pi. Pie. Pieh.

Which means…today is my family day!

So nice of the world to celebrate us every year on 3.14, ie March 14, ie, International Pi(eh) Day.

Happy Pi(eh) Day and voila, that’s how to pronounce my name. And here’s my people.

TomTom Spark Cardio Watch

I got the most awesomest Christmas present ever this past Christmas. I know Christmas a while ago but I love this more every time I use it.

TomTom Spark Cardio + Music, GPS Fitness Watch + Heart Rate Monitor + 3GB Music Storage (Large, Black)

Mine is purple, not black.

I ruined my last phone by running with it. I know this sounds crazy but Djibouti is so hot and I sweat so much that even though it was just on my upper arm and inside a supposedly sweat and water protected case, the buttons and slots – like for earbuds and for charging – were destroyed. An Apple IT guy asked if I dropped it in water. Nope. I just am water for six months of the year here.

For a while I ran with an old iPod. It held a charge for two hours and then reset itself so almost weekly I had to completely reset and reload the iPod.

I’m a data geek. Slow, but I care about my numbers. I wanted a GPS watch, that was why I had run with my phone. And, I love to listen to podcasts while I run. But, I didn’t want to ruin an expensive phone again.

I wanted a watch with GPS and the ability to play music and I wanted a single device.

This was hard to find.

I started googling and researching and eventually found the TomTom Spark Cardio


Well, it isn’t perfect, but my complaints are minimal. Really, this was the watch I wanted.

And I got it!

My husband and my parents love me. Not the cheapest watch in the world, which is why it required the love of both my husband and my parents. But still. I see it as protection for my, more expensive, phone.

The watch can hold up to 3 GB of music (or, in my case, podcasts), loaded by syncing to a computer with iTunes.

It requires bluetooth earbuds. Which are also awesome. The only pain is that they have to be charged, of course. But bluetooth means there isn’t a long wire attaching my ears to my wrist. Nothing flapping around, nothing for my exhausted fingers to get tangled in. And the ones I got, Soundpeats, come with an extra piece that also loops into the ear so there is absolutely no slipping, no falling out, no need for pushing them back in or readjusting. I love these earphones. Oh, also? Great sound.

SoundPEATS Wireless Bluetooth Headphones In Ear Sport Earbuds for Gym/Workout (Bluetooth 4.1, CVC 6.0 Noise Cancelling, 6 Hours Talk time, Stereo, Secure Ear Hooks Design) – Black&Purple

The watch itself counts steps, calories, heart rate, distance, pace, and more. It has settings for running, biking, treadmills, gym workouts, even swimming. It can be set for distance, racing, pace, intervals, goals, and laps. And all the data can be uploaded online.

So, for example, this morning I wanted to run 12 x 2:00 with 2:00 rest intervals, a 1 mile warm-up and a 1 mile cool-down. I also wanted to listen to a podcast.

I hit play (they seem to play on random so I usually just take whatever happens to come up in the moment). Today it was On Being, with Krista Tippett. Not the best conversation for speed work, but I went with it. (bonus suggestion: if you haven’t read Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett, read it. One of my favorite recent books.)

I set the running setting to Intervals. Then I set the intervals to reflect my specific goals. Then I started running. At 1 mile, the watch vibrated, telling me to hit it for interval #1. I didn’t need to ever look down at my wrist (super important when running in Djibouti, even on roads. There are just too many obstacles: goats, garbage, dead cats, cars, holes. I trip and make myself bleed approximately once a year). For each interval and rest period, the watch vibrated. When I finished, it calculated my heart rate and my recovery rate. I plugged it into my computer to check the stats – my heart rate during the intervals, the distance covered each interval, the pace, etc.

(this is a pre-TomTom run and not the best form, but. Ah well.)

Then, with the watch set on the gym setting, I did some stretches, some hip exercises for my tight hip flexors, a couple pull-ups, and some foam rolling.

If I were really, really trying to track absolutely everything, I would have then set the watch to bike mode for my 1-mile ride to work at the International School of Djibouti. But I didn’t, I left it on the clock.

My two complaints are that I can’t fast forward the podcasts. I either have to listen all the way to the end and all the way through the commercials or I end up listening to one again, or have to remember where it cut off so I can start it up at that point on my phone later, while making lunch probably.

The other is that I can’t change the settings in the middle of a run without completely starting the run mode over. Sometimes I like to finish a medium length tempo run with a tabata workout. 10 x 20 seconds all out sprint with a 10 second walking rest. (If it sounds easy, you’ve never done it. Do it. Super hard. Super fun.) But I can’t change the watch from the tempo run as I’ve plugged it in to a tabata run setting without totally stopping the run, which sets the distance and time back to zero and means I’ve stopped running while I rearrange the numbers. Ultimately, not the end of the world. Either I do that, and then add the two runs together when I upload the data, or I do the tabata run by my old fashioned method of actually looking at the watch face. It is really easy to see, big and clear numbers, so I usually do that.

There have already been several extensive reviews written about all this watch can do, and how to make it do it, so I won’t bore you with all those details. Check out the reviews at Wareable, Expert Reviews, a YouTube review, and on the TomTom website.

Anyone else wear a TomTom? Do you have another running watch you love?

*post contains affiliate links




Lost Something? Why Teens Need Moms

Quick link: Mom, Where Is the…? Moms Help Teens Find Everything

I’m excited to share this piece, my first with Grown and Flown. It is about how teenagers can’t find anything but also, it is about how I expect (hope) that someday, eventually, they will come looking for me, too.

Here’s an excerpt:

I potty trained my kids and taught them how to eat with utensils. I helped them learn to speak and walk and have decent conversations. So by the time they became teenagers, I expected they would be half-independent. Turns out they are. Sometimes. As in, the times when they want to be. But the other times? Our conversations go a bit like this:

Mom, where is my homework?
In your backpack.
Where is my backpack?
On the hook where backpacks go.
Where is that hook?
By the front door.
Where is the front door?

Mom, where are my shoes?
In the shoe basket.
Where is the shoe basket?
By the front door.
Where is the front door?

Click here to read the rest of Mom, Where Is the…? Moms Help Teens Find Everything

Passages Through Pakistan

Marilyn Gardner, author of Between Worlds, published her second book this week. Passages Through Pakistan: an American Girl’s Journey of Faith is a beautifully rendered story of growing up between worlds.

One scene, among many, that pricked my heart is of Marilyn’s mother attempting to plan t a garden in Pakistan. She longs for the vibrant colors of the place she left behind but the earth is unrelenting and nothing will grow. Finally she gives up and plants fake flowers, for the splash of brightness. From a distance, at least, it is beautiful. And then, it is stolen. Marilyn remembers thinking, as a child, “I thought we were loved.” Why would someone steal flowers from someone they loved?

The story captures the hard work, creativity, delight, devastation, and recovery inherent in so many experienced of living abroad.

Marilyn writes about going to boarding school. Oh, the complicated, loaded topic of boarding school. Marilyn handles this with so much vulnerability and grace. She refuses to shy away from the pain or to sink into defending her parents’ choice. She lays it out bare, the sorrow and the joy, hand in hand, that have made her into the incredibly wise, empathetic, and openhearted woman she is today.

This is the woman who oozes out through the words of this book – compassionate toward herself, her parents, toward God, and of course toward Pakistan. I don’t want to write spoilers, but at a moment of horrific tragedy and facing the question, “How can I live with this?” Marilyn remembers her mother saying, “You will live with this because of forgiveness and because of grace.” Again, she captures truth through sharing vulnerable stories.

Passages Through Pakistan is a book for Third Culture Kids and their parents, for churches, for people who live internationally and for the people who send them out, who love them, who pray for them. It isn’t always an easy read because Marilyn doesn’t gloss over the hard parts of her childhood but it is a hopeful read, because she finds joy and God in those hard parts.

When I finished reading, I had one overwhelming urge: to buy this book for my teenagers. This  is the perfect graduation gift for TCKs. Parents out there, with kids at the boarding school my kids attend (I’m talking especially to you guys) – I’m serious.

I’m buying copies for both my kids, even though I received an advance copy for the purpose of reviewing. I want them to have a hard copy to hold between their hands. Even if your kids hate to read, urge them to read the final chapter. Give the gift of wisdom and perspective as they head out into the wide, wild world.

You can read Marilyn’s blog Communicating Across Cultures here and you can buy Between Worlds and of course, Passages Through Pakistan here.