The globalization of my family

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I’m back home from a two-day trip to Niagara with the boys. It was wonderful to see my cousins, aunt, uncle, and grandma, but, wow, it’s exhausting being a single mom. (Jason had to work.) I don’t have nearly as much trouble managing both boys when we’re at home because it’s our own (childproof) space, but when visiting someone else, there’s so much to look out for. Within minutes of walking through the door, Baby L. had smashed two homemade Ukrainian Easter eggs, dumping their rotten contents all over the Persian carpet. The boys discovered the water dispenser and opened the tap onto the floor. They enthusiastically dished up giant quantities of food for the farm cats on the back porch, mixing some of it with rainwater and sampling a few pieces. After a disastrous first night, when I tried to sleep with A. and failed to sleep altogether, they got up at 5:30 and never went back. It’s non-stop action and I’m feeling very sleep-deprived.

The reason I went to Niagara was to say goodbye to my cousin Emily, who, with her husband Tyler, is leaving mid-November for a three-year volunteer contract in Laos.  They’ll be working with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), a non-governmental organization, and Emily will be helping to develop a sustainable, local agriculture system while Tyler will assist with the legal side of land ownership, liaising between farmers and government. It sounds like a fascinating assignment and one that will keep them very busy over the next few years, not to mention the challenge of learning to speak Lao, a tonal language (which means it has to be ‘sung’ in order for words to have proper meaning).

I think it’s terribly exciting that they’re off on this adventure. Part of me is also envious. Three-year MCC assignments are a fairly common thing to do within the modern Mennonite community. So many of my friends and family have gone overseas with MCC, from India, Nepal, and the Philippines to Uganda and Kenya, all the way to Greece and Lebanon, Brazil and the Dominican Republic. It’s a way of life, and almost an unofficial expectation that young Mennonite couples will work with MCC at some point. It helps that MCC’s philosophy is completely apolitical and non-evangelical. Uncle Harold, who was born on assignment in Vietnam, told me that MCC was the only NGO allowed to remain in Vietnam for the duration of the war, thanks to its apolitical stance; even the Red Cross got kicked out. MCC has also been in Laos since 1975.

Tyler & Emily on their wedding in 2011
The adventurous couple on their wedding in 2011

I returned home to a phone call from my not-so-little-anymore brother. Graham is 16, in grade eleven, and announced that he’s been accepted for the Rotary student exchange program – the same program I did when I was 16 and went to Sardinia. That means he’ll be away all next year, though he doesn’t know yet where he’ll go.

It’s strange to think of the family spreading out around the globe, and how long it’s going to be before we’re reunited and all sitting around the same table for Christmas dinner once again. And yet it’s also exciting; these are the adventures that make our conversations lively and entertaining, full of wonderful exotic stories and funny linguistic mix-ups. Time moves so quickly, so why not pack it full of as many rich experiences as possible?

These are a couple blogs written by my acquaintances working with MCC right now:
Luke & Leah in Nepal — More dal bhat, please.
Cath & Peter in Ethiopia — Mystery and Wonder: The Journey Revealed.

You might also like:
On Being Mennonite
Lessons from a Sardinian High School
Letters from Emily

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