Belonging: having a rightful place

by mendibpng

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When I typed the word ‘belonging’, I stared at it for a long time, without really knowing where to start. Why, all of a sudden am I back to talking about Third Culture Kid issues? Well, that’s a good question! There are often triggers for me, like when I was asked in two separate conversations where I am from last night. I stumbled in this question, as I usually do, but ended up saying “I grew up overseas, in Indonesia, but Ben is from Wheaton, IL, so that is where our home base is now.” But then there are the next real triggers: Goodbyes and Transition.
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Goodbyes: We just left our village again, this time for six months…life is really hard for my neighbors who don’t have good access to medical care. As I shook hands with the men and hugged the women, I thought, “I don’t know how many of them I will see again.” It is not uncommon for us to come back to our home there, having heard that someone we know and love has died. Then, a few hours after having left the village, I got teary as I waved goodbye to teammates Beth and Missy, who we won’t see for several months. Those two women have been lifelines for Ben and I in more ways that I could write here. And finally, our intern Luke left last week after living with us for 9 months.

And of course, the other big trigger. Transition: Where do we come from? Where are we going? Who are we? All these questions jump around in my head as I process the road ahead for  my family and me. One of the perks of coming back from the village this time of year is that a good number of our friends have arrived back from a year or more furlough. All of us are looking forward to catching up with old friends who we haven’t seen in a long time. But along with the good parts of transition, there is always the ‘anticipatory anxiety’ I wonder, “how are the twins going to do in preschool?” and “what the next few months are going to look like?” After a grueling two years work-wise, I can’t quite picture it. Why? Because we haven’t lived in one place for six months in a long long time. Maybe this is an indication that this is a long time in coming!
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I went here and looked up the word “belonging” and ended up skipping over the definitions and going straight to the synonyms:

fellowship
relationship
association
partnership
loyalty
acceptance
attachment
inclusion
affinity
closeness
rapport
afflilation
kinship

If you scroll down a little, you’ll see “go, fit in: have a rightful place”
(Taken from CollinsDictionary.com)

When I read those words, I think of the people I belong to:

  1. Ben, my husband and best friend
  2. My family as a whole. A close friend who has known us since we came to PNG told me a while back that she thinks my family is MORE cohesive and close since the twins arrived.
  3. The Aitape West Team (our expat and PNG colleagues, the ladies who cook for the translators, the people in my village)
  4. Our Bible study group in Ukarumpa
  5. Friends and acquaintances we live in community with in Ukarumpa
  6. Friends and family back in our home country
  7. Partners back home (churches, individuals and groups) who pray for us

After I wrote this, I asked my twins, “where is ‘home’?” Jacob said “in A-grumpa” (Ukarumpa) Jenny Beth piped up, “and the Billage” (Village)Then  Jacob shouted, “and Wewak!” (that’s where we are right now) Yes. Next year, they will find out what their passport country is like and hopefully they will feel like it has become their ‘home country.’ We brought our twins here to PNG at nine months old, and they will be nearly five years old when we arrive on U.S. soil.  I can’t resist this picture of them, it’s from 2011 we first arrived back to PNG and they were skyping with grandparents:
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And now, I must get them their second breakfast…

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2 Comments to “Belonging: having a rightful place”

  1. Thanks for this, Mandy. When people ask me where I’m from (my accent) I say ‘I lived in the US for almost half my life.’ I don’t suppose I’ll live in the US again, much less the country of my childhood. I have now lived in the same country and the same village for going on 19 years, and in the same house for 16 years of those. I know that’s not your choice or calling. The ‘Where are you from?’ question can still throw me, but usually I’m happy to just think about where I live, and be thankful for the places I used to live.

    • that’s a really good attitude, as you said to be thankful for the places you used to live. Although the moving and transitioning is hard, it’s also a very rich experience to have been a part of different cultures and to experience living in different places. It’s wonderful that you have been able to stay in one place for 19 years…putting down roots, wow, that’s amazing. 🙂 Thank you for your comment!

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