I’ve shared on here before that our first 2 years on the field were rough, as they typically are for many. So many things to adjust to—new language, new culture, new environment, new food, new smells. I didn’t mind the adventure of learning new surroundings and trying new things, especially in my early 20s. Moving to a new country didn’t sound like that big of a deal. I had been on trips to other countries, so moving to one couldn’t be that hard, right?
Baby in tow, zero language skills, and my extroverted self learned quickly it wasn’t going to be an easy road.
Those 2 years were very isolating. I can’t say I didn’t have friends—I did. I was so grateful to be on a team and we became close. But I wanted so much more. I had expected so much more. Most other teammates were busy with work and the only other mama on the team was busy with more kids. I knew I needed to look beyond my team for friendships, but how? I couldn’t speak the language at all.
By year 3, we knew we needed to study the language if we wanted to dig deeper into our work and relationships with locals. I went kicking and screaming, knowing this was going to be so hard for me, but the Lord pulled me through each class and I slowly gained confidence. My time in language school was a sweet mixture of great friendships with expat classmates as well as budding friendships with my language tutors, with what minimal language I had.
I’ll never forget meeting my new tutor of the month and learning she had a son my oldest son’s age. We immediately hit it off with swapping stories about motherhood and our faith. I was beyond grateful the Lord provided such a sweet mama to show me friendships can be just as authentic with people outside of my culture and language.
Fast forward several years and as my language skills have grown, so has the depth and amount of local friendships. My eyes have been opened again and again to be able to see how God created people so differently, yet we all have a desire to connect and be in community.
I have noticed a trend, though: locals have to be willing to take a risk to let a foreigner into their lives of tight-knit circles. It’s not easy to be friends with us—we’re so weird! However, if both of us are willing to learn about each other’s backgrounds and understand that different isn’t wrong, we quickly move into a solid friendship.
No relationship is easy. Add in a vastly different culture and language, and it quickly becomes complex. Even after 11 years, it’s still so difficult to navigate certain cultural differences and situations. I want to take my friend out to eat, but I know she’ll always be thinking when she can take me out to even the deal. I want to ask the office workers how to get a parking spot in the back lot, but everyone says the only way to do it is with a bribe. I want to send my daughter on playdates with her little local friend, but they constantly take her out to dinner, ice skating, and buy her things. When her friend comes over…I don’t.
Even with working so much closer with many more locals in recent years, I have come to realize I still need close friends from my own culture, and especially friends who get this nomadic, cross-cultural life. Teammates often fill that need, but my precious Velvet Ashes Connection Group (still on-and-off strong 5 years later!) is also a safe place I can dump my frustrations and know I’ll get a sympathetic nod and encouragement.
The balance between seeking local and expat friendships on the field is a tricky one. I think Jesus knew we would need both when He sent the disciples out 2-by-2, but also sent them to live among the locals. There is definite beauty in both types of relationships.
I’ve made hummus so many times, but could never get it as creamy as when I would eat it at the Middle Eastern restaurants. Last year, I finally landed on the secret ingredient! You may be surprised at how simple it is. If you like your hummus super creamy, read below to see how to get it!
Ready in: 30 minutes
Slightly adapted from: Food 52
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, and skins removed*
1 cup tahini**
1-2 Tbsp lemon juice
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 Tbsp cold water
pinch of salt
olive oil and paprika, for serving
Put chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt in a food processor blender. Blend until smooth. Add cold water and blend again, until very smooth. Taste and add more garlic, lemon, or salt if needed.
* Yes, I use canned chickpeas! I know it’s cheating a bit, but to me, the flavor isn’t that different. Plus, canned chickpeas are one of the few shortcuts I can take in my kitchen! If you’d like to use raw chickpeas, click the link above to follow the directions for soaking and cooking them. Also, yes, I do take the extra 15 minutes it takes to remove the skins of the chickpeas–it truly adds to the creaminess!
** I can’t always get tahini, and when I can, it’s very dark. Light tahini is best, but if you can’t find either, you can sub a nut butter, but start with a few tablespoons and add to taste. You can leave it out completely, but if you do, reduce the garlic to one small clove.