I just need to get this done. I have spent this week on a fairly extended road trip which provided me with endless hours of time to search for and listen to some new podcasts. Wow… it might not have been the best idea. My head is so full of possibilities for what I can passionately share and engage with the big world out there. I feel I have to get going now, because if I don’t who knows what might happen. I feel an urgency that I cannot explain, but in a good way. I can’t help thinking if I can get this build up out there, then it will produce more and more possibilities. I am not even going to wait until I gather all the right gear. In fact the progression into a better quality audio production could be a point of interest for the listeners in and of itself.
Just time to get going…
Yes it has been a while since I have posted here, but it is about to be a far more regular thing for me. Mainly because it will be tied to the learning, and development of, a series of of Podcasts that I am in the throws of producing. I say series because there are in fact a number of topics that I am passionate about and would like to create great valuable content around. They will become evident as I begin to roll them out. First things first of course. Gathering the equipment is of course a must, as well as the general application of how to get the episodes out to my audience. For this I have discovered a goldmine of information, as well as a great avenue to learn. Cliff Ravenscraft of is fast becoming my “Swami”. In addition to the nuts and bolts I am looking for, he provides great inspiration and delivers his message with the a passion I can identify with. You will hear me refer to him a lot in the future I am sure.
It’s always great to watch my home town put on a show. I am very proud of being able to claim this beautiful city as my birthplace. I love it’s life and it’s people.
As I gradually rose from my state of slumber this morning, I became immediately aware of the tantalizing aromas emanating from our kitchen. That unmistakable scent of home cooking.
I think that everyone will agree, there is nothing quite like it. My own mother back in Australia is a wonderful cook, and has honed that craft from years of experimentation and adaptation, the result of which is always something that I sadly have probably not taken enough time to appreciate. This realization now has me stop when I can as a meal is laid in front of me to take in the sights and smells of the plate. Try it sometime. Those extra seconds of anticipation really heighten the enjoyment, and the space is often made a little more special if you can have someone fill it with a short message of thankfulness.
This morning’s tickling of the old olfactory nerves was courtesy of Pani Maria (or Babcia to our three year old) She is my Polish mother-in-law, who is now visiting for the holidays. It is fair to say, from a combination of tradition and opportunity of exposure to a wider food culture, that her menu offerings may be rather narrow. No shortage of meat and potatoes here. However, in this simplicity, we may find a deeper knowledge and understanding of the merry dance that we as humans perform in honor of our food, but there is probably a whole other blog that can be written about that.
For now though, it is safe to say that It took me a while to swing my legs out to the cold floor. I found myself swimming in the smells, trying to pick up on ingredients and game myself a little on what was being prepared. I could even envision Maria moving about the kitchen, a space somewhat uncomfortable for her in unfamiliarity, but as is the skill of the Polish in general, constantly adapting and slowly making it work. For keep in mind that even the use of the gas stove is something new to her. She has spent her whole life cooking on a wood fire stove, in a kitchen that was adapted from the chicken coop that was once attached to their two room house. Over the years, upgrades have been made of course, including the installation of an actual floor instead of the original linoleum covered bare ground. It is in this heritage that the true message lies, for in such a kitchen, the very food she prepares for us today has been produced with love and care for her family. Through the hottest of summers, to the depths of the cruelest of cold winters. And through all this, this wonderful woman has left her house every morning to walk to her church and give thanks for all the blessings she has.
Introducing Emily Grace. My second born. Just turned three. Strong and determined, spirited and joyful. Already an accomplished goal setter, and the physical and emotional image of her beautiful Mama.
From the moment we found out Emily was coming along, I have been determined that she will always know her heritage (all be they multiple). On the Polish side, this comes with the inevitable rite of passage of involvement in some form of traditional dancing group.
Just a quick aside here to describe the group itself. A long existing “club” I guess you might say. It has had pass through it a multitude of Chicago children born to parents with mostly recent Polish ancestry, if not born there themselves. It is governed by an iron handed “den mother”, that possesses a complete lack of awareness that these parents may have anything at all to do outside of offering their beloved spawn up for sacrifice to the alter of her world. She controls it all. And must be obeyed. It is here I struggle to do what I advise in my cultural work, that is to suspend my expectations of how I would like to see things run. This past weeks photo session is a classic example of this. We summarily decked our little mites out in the traditional costumes, complete with full facial makeup… lippy and the whole nine yards. Ever tried that on a three year old? The Polish have a wonderful ability to operate in a setting of complete chaos, with no respect for time frames, including punctuality. Just when you think the everyone is on the same page, it just as quickly falls apart.
You can see some of this taking root in our little Emily’s urgency in having her skirt tied. There just can not be a delay, until you’re all ready of course! Happliy though, I must report a great swell of pride in seeing our beautiful little girl come to life in her dancing. Being a full year younger than most others in her class has forced her to “grow up” quick. The coordination required of this precious little brain to process dance moves along with singing in Polish is a source of amazement to me. Oh yes, and also have time for more than a little mischief!
Fun times ahead.
I don’t know about anyone else, but if I have spent any time at all in a place while I am travelling, I get this strange, almost whimsical feeling just before I am about to leave. I find myself in a quiet mood and think about what I have just experienced and what if any effect it has had on me. Have I learned anything, what do I particularly want to remember, what do I want to repeat, or for that matter not repeat if I get to return? What if I never get to return?What then. Have I done enough to be content with the experience?
I guess as an expatriate, there was also the day I left Australia to live overseas. I certainly remember thinking of it then as just as an extended holiday. Would I have felt differently if I had known that 12 years later that I would still be “away”.
There is in every leaving some degree of something left behind, and for some I can see how that something, however intangible, can be hard to let go of. If it is your home you are leaving, then it may also be the longing to have it stay the same, so that when you return, it will be like a warm blanket of security you can always rely on. Rarely, however, is this the case. The knowledge of this fact may also produce anxiety.
So there then becomes a struggle between the feeling of leaving, and the anticipation of “arriving” at your new destination. I would argue that one side is not exclusive of the other. They both come with positive and negative emotions.
Of course, meeting and marrying a native of Poland was always going to bring me to this country. From my very first trip there it has captivated me through it’s architecture, culture, traditions and (at times troubled) history. From my Australian orientated lens, it has at times been mind boggling to wrap my brain around the long timeline of events that have shaped this land and its people. Early on I committed myself to learning to speak the language (OK even if my first motivations were to impress a girl!) I searched and found books on the country. From coffee table picture books through to novels such as “Poland” by James A. Michener. I sat inquisitively in the presence of my wife’s family and friends, eager to learn how they thought and acted in their daily lives. This was no more valuable when it was with her parents. Both old enough to remember the very darkest of days, when much of their time was devoted with simply trying to stay alive. But they always expressed joy and thankfulness for what they had.Many observe the people of Poland from the outside and consider them a little cold and unfriendly. In the world of cross cultural training, this is analogous to the coconut. The somewhat hard exterior, once cracked, exposes a warmth and generosity that is genuine and heartfelt.
So there will be more on this subject in the future, but for now, I can only say that you should if you are fortunate enough to travel, take time to at least add a short visit to some part of Poland and just see what I mean. I can recommend many places, some on the usual tourist trek, others not so mainstream, that will leave you with a lasting impression of this beautiful country.
A few weeks ago, a fellow Australian contacted me with a question; he’s thinking about retiring and fancies moving a bit closer to the rest of the world. How should he choose where to live?
I pondered. Budapest, Paris and Istanbul are the only places I really chose, without any particular push from study, work or life. And those were relatively spontaneous decisions. But sifting through what I’ve learnt from moving around so much, I realised I do have some general thoughts
There are a couple of things I won’t get into. The first is cost of living, it’s important, but it’s also utterly dependent on your fabulous wealth or lack thereof. If you want a comparison, just visit one of the many sites – I like Expatistan – and research the city of your dreams. And I won’t discuss hot vs. cold, ocean vs. mountains and other personal preferences. Pour over…
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I reckon this is a great example of how you can engage in a cpouple of different passions. Travel, volunteering, international study and indeed serving those in need. What’s your thoughts?
I’ve always been told that when I give back, I have three resources I can share: time, talents, and treasure. While it’s great to support organizations and ministries through donations, there is nothing more influential than actually digging in with your own two hands and helping a worthy cause. If you search blogs, you’ll find a number of people who have given up time from work to serve in a community at home or abroad. Some of my favorites include:
- Partners for Peace – a husband and wife duo serving with the Peace Corps in Ecuador
- Soulshine Traveler – a woman who left her job to volunteer in Latin America and Russia for the past year
- Clearing Customs – a recently returned missionary figuring out the transition back into American life
Unlike these great bloggers, unfortunately I am not in a place in life where I can go abroad for…
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There are many things I could make this blog about, and so I will. Got myself a head full of ideas, all born out of various experiences over my lifetime. However, I am not so naive to think that these experiences give me any licence to pass out advice. In fact, the idea is that I will only deepen my knowledge in my area of interests from what I know will be thoughtful and well informed feedback from anyone who wants to join the conversation. So….. here is my short list of topics to go on with:
- Australia – My home country. Yep, born and bred in the suburbs of Sydney town. Passionate about my homeland and so very proud of its place in the world. Ask me anything, I can find the answer even if I don’t know it.
- USA – My country of residence, and recently, citizenship (I do get to keep my Aussie passport too, more about that in the future.) Specifically Chicago area that I now call home. Love the different opportunities my life here has brought. Certainly the country has its challenges, but there is no denying you can make a go of anything here if you’re willing to put the hard yards in.
- Poland – Birthplace of my wonderful wife. I have grown to know and love the history and traditions that surround this country. I love its people and though I have traveled there many times, there is still so much to learn.
- Kids – I have a couple of my own. My first daughter Samantha, now a beautiful and woman in her own right. A devoted wife and proud mother of two small girls of her own. Her little sister Emily, now three going on thirty three. Possessed frequent flyer status before she was 1 year old, speaks two languages and devotes each day to the task of capturing my heart. I simply love and adore both my girls.
- Marriage – I am basically married to the most wonderful woman in the world, so really what do I say. If I do start, I may not stop.
- Kakadu Traders Australia – If we must work, why not do it with something you love. We will learn more about this great family company in the future. I get to work alongside the US crew as purveyors of some of the finest apparel you can buy.
- Cultural Competence – What? you might ask. Well, there is every chance this could engage a pretty wide audience. Over the past 6 years, I have been involved in supporting programs as a country specialist in preparing individuals and families for expat assignments in Australia. In this I have found a passion for the field. I am now more more directly involved and have become certified to deliver more general programs for a wider array of expat destinations. So cultural competence, perhaps also cross-culture training basically means having the tools to navigate the challenges that come from doing business and engaging socially in a foreign culture.
I be thinking that this is enough to get the juices flowing. If you’re reading this, then you’re one of the first. Don’t be shy, I would love to hear what comes to your mind on any or all of the above topics of conversation. Feel free to share with your friends, let’s see where this goes. Think of it as much as your blog as mine, I certainly don’t want to be the only one writing. I am needing content for my soon to be podcast series, and the feedback and comments I get here will form the basis of conversations there as well.
Looking forward the journey!