Just a few funny daily life pics in Eastern Europe for our 3rd travel interview:
1) What do you think the people thought of y’all recording them? In your homestay, do you think it made them uncomfortable since in your blog you said they don’t have many visitors? This was mostly a topic for Asia, since we haven’t done any recording in Europe, but here goes. We always ask people before recording, which is sorta the understood etiquette everywhere we have been. Most of the time, they are flattered and encourage it. I know some people worry that you are treating them like zoo creatures, and I do think that can be the case sometimes if you’re not careful. But they also understand that you are thrilled to be there with them and you want to learn and you want to share what you learn with those you love back home. They also are often proud of their way of life, their skills, and their traditions. Unfortunately, they often think our culture is hedonistic and entirely too progressive, so not everyone wishes they could visit America. Having an
interpreter with you really helps make sure all this is translated and understood between the both of you; especially when your guide is from the community. The villages are learning that ecotourism and cultural tourism is an avenue often to a better life. It actually goes both ways believe it or not. We have people come up all the time and want to take a picture with us, I guess we look like a strange exotic thing too! It is really weird when it happens, but we have tried to think of it in the same light. They told Walden the other day, he looked like Justin Bieber, lol!
2) How have you handled homeschooling on the trip?
This has been harder than I suspected. Of course, everyone just says, “Don’t worry about it, they’re learning so much from this experience, they will catch up.” But the problem with that is, of course, no one wants to spend their summer doing school; and we promised the kids we would not ask this of them. But, have you ever not done Algebra/Geometry for 5 months and then tried to remember it? Not so easy. Fortunately, this trip has been on the radar for years, so we have always been ahead with school. The kids are strong students, so this has been a good option for them. They completed their accelerated year of Logic and Latin before we left. We planned to use Khan Academy for math, since books were way too heavy. The plan was mostly review since they were ahead, but internet access is so sketchy. And Khan work requires a strong, consistent connection, which is exceptionally hard to come by. So, they have done formal math probably once per week, but real life math here requires constant conversions I tell myself! Still, we will likely do a little this summer, just to freshen up a bit. English has been easy with blog posts. They had finished their yearly grammar portions before we left with an accelerated schedule, and blogs have been great for composition. Although, I had hoped the kids would be eager to do these, yeah… not so much. I am constantly harping on them. But they usually do one per week. They have read a classic about every two weeks, and they are pretty good about this. They only require minimal threatening of their life to get it done. We use a book adventure website online for a quick comprehension test. Sometimes the books initiate good dinner conversation, since the books are often related to the trip. Animal Farm was perfect for this! Zoology has been fun with all our cool animal experiences; and we had completed a lot of preparation for this at home. Languages – let’s just say we have developed an awareness, but laughably no fluency! For Bible, we try to attend worship of some sort in every country, and we have learned tons about other religions. We also try to listen to Andy Stanley podcasts and pray together as a family. As the main teacher, it is in the back of mind a lot I’ll admit. I do fret sometimes about it, but usually it hits on travel days when we are trapped on a train or when we stop for a few rest days. I would like to say the kids are fully self motivated, but have you met teenagers? I am still shooting for that by the time they graduate!
3) Why did y’all not put Israel on your trip?!! (I mean I realize you can’t go to every country but that is definitely one I wouldn’t want to pass up on while over there). Have you been any places or will you be visiting any places that have to do with Bible history? Like mountains Paul or Peter preached on, etc.
The Holy Land, Jerusalem, Petra, Greece, Athens, Egypt – yes, we so wanted to go these places. But, we were trying to keep the extended family and grandparents as calm as possible about the trip; and we were already pushing it, so we decided not to do this to them. The kids too were really nervous about these places, and we wanted to respect their wishes. These places definitely remain on my bucket list and sound like a perfect future trip! I want to find an incredible guide for this, because I can’t imagine the difference it must make to have someone who knows all the ins and outs of the history and geography. I would love to go with a group of believers or especially a Bible class focused on this!
4. What are some of the practical things you wanted your kids to learn on the trip especially?
Most important of all to me was for the kids to rid themselves of as much xenophobia as possible and to feel a camaraderie and compassion for cultures around the world. More practically, I wanted them to be as responsible for themselves as possible. I had a few set backs with this right away. I had planned for everybody to have their own everything – shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush, sunscreen, bug spray, charging wires, etc. I wanted to immediately eliminate the, “Mom, where’s my…” Also, I had decided, that way, if they lost it or didn’t keep up with it, they would be responsible for replacing it with their own money. But a few weeks in, we realized it was just too heavy for everybody to carry their own. Every little thing adds up. We needed to work together to reduce our weight and save our knees and backs. So, I still hear, “Mom!” quite frequently; but we have tried to delegate responsibility for certain things. Another thing, was developing confidence with managing transportation and directions. This has been difficult too, since it is not always cheap to get data for your phone and this is our primary source for this information. Chris has managed this primarily since he always buys data, and the kids are much. more confident getting around international cities. However, if I had it do over, I would bite the bullet and get everyone data and share the details of our transportation itinerary with everyone so we weren’t constantly asking. Everyone has a different level of need for detail, so this can lead to a lot of bickering when we are impatient with each other. One of the best things we have done is to develop a firm budget for food per person; so you can get what you want, but you are responsible if you spend too much on junk and end up hungry later. This was a big problem in New Zealand with the crazy prices, so we developed this plan after. These are the more practical things. I still remember Judy Laulo telling me, “If you can get them to pick up the piece of paper out of the floor that they just walked by and do what needs to be done with it before they graduate, you have been successful.” I love that, and it is so true in many ways. Being responsible for themselves and not having to be asked to help out when situations are stressful and we need to pull together, that makes me smile.
5. I bet you are seeing so many analogies related to your faith on this trip and in that, learning so much. Just watching the video of the marsupials in the pouches reminded me that God designed them that way and it probably reflects how intimate He wants our relationship to be and encouraged me to seek after that more. Seeing the koala made me marvel at the uniqueness and talent of all of God’s creation. Seeing the man make the pottery bowls reminded me of the analogies the Bible makes between us and God and the potter and the clay. I’m sure seeing the process brought new light to that situation, maybe to see how carefully the potter designed his creation, etc. Have you just been flooded with these types of connections with God on your trip?
I love this question, readers please share your own experiences if you will in the comments for this!
God is revealing so many things to me sometimes, it feels overwhelming. In Asia, my biggest concern was the prevalence of Hinduism and Buddhism and its appeal to so many young westerners. Not to mention, the staggering population there and how few know Jesus. I realized, as we walked around there, something that seemed very disturbing. There are a lot of street children, and everything I study teaches you that giving them things is the absolute worse thing for them – encouraging their families to keep them from school, perpetrators to take them as begging slaves, etc. But each time I passed them and smiled and tried to cut up with them a little, when I left I thought I was going to vomit. Their situation ripped my insides out. I can not imagine my children in that situation, not to mention the widows and the physically mangled bodies. But as I was thinking of them, I realized in both prevalent religions there, Hinduism and Buddhism, if you understand karma and reincarnation, they must believe these children and these people deserve their fate due to their prior life. I mean they believe very similar to what the disciples did, when they asked “Who sinned Father, this man or his parents?” in John 9:2. Most everyone thought this way before Jesus came. They believe you reap what you sow. So if your life is bad now, it’s your own fault because of what you did in the life before. Your only reason for helping them would be to increase your own merit in this life in hopes of achieving moksha in the next or at least a better reincarnation. How bad would that feel, to be a little one and think this is your fate and it’s your own fault? For your parents? But I don’t understand how they see it any other way, if what I have learned is true. Now that just stinks, no way, Jesus is a crazy better option than that! Okay, I’ll stop for now.
6. I noticed most people not wearing shoes during visits in developing countries. Do you know if that bothers them? Or maybe that’s not a sad thing at all there. Because I know when I buy TOMS shoes, I like knowing that a pair is going to people who do not have shoes. But I wondered while watching, do some people even want any?
The shoe question was great, I hadn’t even thought to explain. It is impolite to wear shoes in anybody’s house or workplace, indoors anywhere even if that is a dirt floor; but they care for it like we would our floors. Wearing anything but quick slip on shoes for this reason is just really annoying. We have tried to quit wearing hiking shoes, cause it takes forever. Also, when you bathe or do laundry, this involves a bucket of water and getting the entire room’s floor soaked, so shoes are a bad idea. Most people I have talked to say daily needs are usually taken care of for most people, but just day to day. They have food and shelter, but that’s it. Nothing to plan ahead with or make progress toward owning anything, so this makes them less stable and more vulnerable to those who take advantage – the locusts. Please read The Locust Effect!
7. Aren’t y’all like losing lots of weight from hiking so much and not having so much American junk food? Or are y’all at least getting into really good shape?
The weight, lol, unfortunately is not pouring off!!!! At least for Chris and I. Ella and Walden have lost some for sure, unfortunately. We lost 3-4 lbs in Thailand, but then gained it back in New Zealand; because, yes, we ate everything we wanted. I drank at least 3 milkshakes in 2 weeks, and I haven’t had a milkshake at home in who knows when! We are bad about drinking soft drinks, since they cost as much as water: but there are no diet options that don’t cost double, so that might be the issue. We lost quite a bit again with all the food poisoning and Dal baht in Nepal. Walden’s and Ella’s clothes were starting to look noticeably baggy. I actually was a little concerned about them. Ella will never complain, but she will just stop eating if she doesn’t like the options and you can’t feed Walden enough. But now we’re in Europe and, man, things taste great! So I suspect we will return home much like we left! Hoping if Italian and French cuisine finds my waist line, I will recover in South Africa! We do walk constantly though, so exercise is easy! I love not having to plan it into my day, it’s just part of it naturally.
8. How bad is the motorbike wound now and has it healed completely?
Sorry for the pic; but lots of people have asked. So I thought why not, but just the foot! You can’t imagine what it did look like, the body is an amazing thing to heal the way it does. The wound took about 5 weeks to totally close, but I was able to hike after 3 weeks with a good bandage. The skin is still very thin and painful with pressure, but they look mostly like a bad healed burn. My face scar is under my chin, so that was a blessing. My arm is a lot browner and not as noticeable as the knee and foot ones. It was sad and funny in Asia. When you went in peoples’ homes or shops, you always had to take your shoes off; and usually, due to the heat, we didn’t have socks on. I got a lot of fearful looks. I think they may have thought I had leprosy possibly. Eventually though, they would ask what happened; and over time they would say, “Oh, I had bike wreck too.” And they would go on to tell me some awful story in our broken communication, so it was a conversation starter!
9. How have people responded to your taking the time off from work, etc. to travel? And how about taking time off from formal school for the kids?
Chris usually fields the work questions, but the kids and I handle most of the school ones. Europeans are always a little funny when you mention homeschooling. At first they look utterly shocked, like “Do you realize you could be arrested?” And then, I explain. The young ones are totally impressed and intrigued and want to know all about it. So many of them asked had we seen Captain Fantastic (which we still haven’t, but want to). They always tell the kids how lucky they are, and they wish they could have done something similar when they were in school (which always helps a little with any moping 🙂 ). Older Europeans look totally skeptical and can’t seem to understand the whole concept and keeping asking, “So when do you go back to school?” Then they always seem interested in getting the kids perspective on how we’re all getting along. “We have our good days, and bad days.” Indian couples we met were actually planning on it and already in a group to find out more, and we exchanged information for the future. Thailand and Nepal were up for anything really, so they never look surprised. We also met some families in New Zealand that were doing it at the church we visited and were very philosophically supportive. All and all, probably a better reception than you get at home sometimes, just kidding.
10. What do you do to keep from getting burned out on the constant travel?
At least once a month you have to slow down for at least 5 days in a row, ideally, with your own space. I like the concept too of Sabbath travel, where every 7th day you do absolutely nothing travel related; but we couldn’t pull that off. You have to constantly check yourself and your FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). You will come back if it’s awesome, so accept you will not see it all this time. But this keeps happening to you, when you least expect it. Five months sounds like forever, but it’s nothing when you’re trying to see the world. Also, succumbing to a few netflix binges with the kids helps them a lot. Egmond an Zee was a perfect example. We had been traveling in Eastern Europe, traveling every 3rd day about, and we were grumpy and snippy and ready to throw each other out a window. When we arrived in Egmond for 3 nights, we were planning to spend one day biking the tulip fields and another in Amsterdam. When we saw how relaxing the place was, we decided quickly to forget our plans and let each other do whatever they wanted. Chris and I still biked because we wanted to, but the kids crashed and played hacky sack basketball and watched netflix; only venturing out for a quick 10 min ride to some tulips, to see the dunes by the ocean, and to the grocery to help pick out dinner. Chocolate always helps too.