Posted in cross-cultural

5 Lessons I’ve Learned From Connection Groups


A few days ago, I was over at Velvet Ashes, talking about the beauty and blessing of connection, and particularly their Connection Groups.

When I returned to my passport country after 16 years overseas, I knew it probably wouldn’t be plain sailing. I thought I was prepared for that. After all, I’d read books about re-entry, been to seminars – even taught about it and walked through it with other people! I should have been good at this re-entry thing. Well, here I was, four years in, and things weren’t going the way I had expected. True, there was much I loved about my new place and life. Yet thinking about what I’d left behind was still oh-so-painful. It was messy, and I was tired.

Read more here

Posted in cross-cultural, The Grove Velvet Ashes

The Grove: Thank You


As a nation, we are more known for pointing out what is wrong than for expressing gratitude.  Famous quote at the end of an international conference:”You put us Germans in a very uncomfortable position – there was nothing to complain about!” 🙂

So to see the whole country stop just to say thank you and to celebrate is quite something!  Yet it is what happened earlier this month when Germany was marking 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.  There was gratitude, there was joy, there was celebration.

As I was reflecting on the event, it struck me just how important it is even in the midst of challenges to stop and to remember all those reasons we have to be grateful.  There were and there still are a lot of challenges that came out of the events of 9 November 1989, and they do need to be talked about.  But this was not the time for that.  This was the time to remember the miracle and to be thankful.

The question is: will I remember this lesson in everyday life or will the challenges again crowd out the gratitude?

Velvet Ashes: The Grove



Posted in cross-cultural

My Life in a Museum

British teapot and small colander, representing an internationally mobile, single person household (of which there are many) in Berlin/Germany.

Imagine that you have been asked to collect items for a museum exhibition that will take place in the future – 30 to 40 years from now. Look around your home. What grabs your eye? What items have special meaning? We would like you to find two things or objects from your own home that are signficant to you in some way.


This was a recent assignment for online Anthropology course I am currently taking. Intriguing! I pondered for a while, not really sure what to pick. Some things hold deep personal meaning but would not really communicate to others (and we were only allowed 20 words of explanation). I settled on the teapot one morning, after using it. It seemed to me that there definitely needed to be some British influence J Aside from the personal, there are so many international, very mobile people in Berlin, that the object seemed to have wider significance as well.

So that was one item. What else? What would go with it? I have to confess, the first thing that drew me to the colander was the colour. It seemed to go so well with the teapot. Yup, I am quite a visual person. Beyond that, though – how might it be significant? It struck me that many homes would not have a small colander like this one. It is typical of big city living in the 21st century, where there are many single person households.

So there you have it, my life in a museum.

What would you have chosen? What items do you feel are significant, have a story to tell?

Posted in cross-cultural

The Old House

10671272_10152678108336445_5577013423522434995_nShe didn’t think she’d ever be back, ever see the old house again.  But here she was.  She had arrived by plane (how the world had changed!), then taken a taxi.  There was no one who remembered her, no one to stay with, so she had checked into a hotel.

Much of the town she didn’t recognise but the closer she got to the old streets, the more she could trust her instinct.  It was hot and the roads were empty.  Not many tourists verntured up here.  How could a place look so familiar and so alien at the same time?  She didn’t linger, didn’t look around.  She was hoping for a sense of home, but afraid it wouldn’t come.  For now, getting to the old house was all that mattered.

Her steps slowed when she spotted the blue on top of the church. There it was, just around the next corner.

She wasn’t sure what she had expected, but not this.  Not a complete ruin – the roof caved in, the walls crumbled.

Suddenly she saw herself standing there, the day they left. An 8 year old girl, standing guard over a suitcase, waiting for her parents to emerge.  Moving to another country, starting a new life. Those phrases meant nothing to her.  They sounded like an adventure, like fun.  How could she have known how much she was about to lose?  Her home, her friends, her roots.

As she stood again in the same spot, she knew these things were lost forever.  She would return to her new life.  A good life.  She wasn’t unhappy.  “Incomplete” was maybe how she felt.

She would forever treasure her memories of life on the island but just as the old house lay ruined, so did her hopes of reclaiming it.


I came across this derelict house in Vathy on Samos/Greece.  It seemed so evocative and even though I know absolutely nothing of its history, I knew it had a story to tell.  There were many more houses in the little town that looked like the owners had moved away more recently, probably due to the difficult economic situation in recent years.

Posted in cross-cultural

The Power of an Image #4

McDonalds_3012808bRecently, the Russian government closed several branches of McDonald’s in Moscow, allegedly on health grounds.  I’m sure it’s all part of a larger political game. But that’s not the point.

Seeing these pictures reminded me of the spring of 1995.  A bunch of us had just spent 7 months or so in different parts of the former Soviet Union and were gathering in Moscow for a conference.

McDonald’s was the place we all drifted to.  Amazing how a place I don’t even like can feel so much like home!  When for months, nothing feels normal, you lower the bar, I guess.

I distincly remember also going to some pasta restaurant.  None of us cared about the pasta.  In the least.  You see, aside from cabbage (a lot of that!), carrots and apples, we hadn’t seen any fresh vegetables, let alone salad, for many. long. months.

And this place had a salad bar.  A SALAD BAR!  We were like children on Christmas morning!

So, this might be a current news story.  For me, it opens a whole box full of memories!