I'm so glad I finally did though, because it helped me see some of the things that are A.) totally unclear about my life to most readers and B.) of interest to alot of you!
I broke up the questions into several categories, and have had a great time thinking through my answers!
Life in the Middle East
Justine asked, "How did you guys discern that God was calling you to move overseas?
You know, God's hand on our lives and His calling for us to move overseas began when we were very young. I was just in middle school and Ian when he was in high school. We had a heart for the nations and we tried to travel and experience the world whenever the opportunity presented itself. Actually, in the very moment Ian asked me out, he reminded me "You know, God is calling me to live overseas, so if this is going anywhere, I would need you to be okay with it." And I was!
What exactly are you guys doing while over there?
Right now, we are studying Arabic. In less than six months (wow!) we will graduate from our 2 year program and move to a bigger city where Ian will be working with a business and leadership consulting firm.
How long will you be there?"
I'm not really sure! We'll at least be here until May of 2013, which was our original 3 year commitment, but we want to be where ever God wants us to be, so that means having an open mind and a willing heart, and NEVER saying that we'll "never live there!" because that would be just where God would lead us to, ha! I can imagine us living here for many more years and I could also imagine us returning to the States, my heart is so torn.
Natalie asked, "I guess I have just always been confused about what you are doing overseas (maybe I missed a post about it somewhere?) I know you are taking classes-what for? Are you working towards a degree? Are you planning to always live there or come back to the states? Are you both students or do you work too? I guess just your life in general haha!"
Natalie, your question made me laugh. So many people have emailed me or left comments asking these same questions. Sometimes I try to be vague, for security reasons, but it ends up confusing people. Some readers from the very beginning knew everything, because I wrote everything, but had to later go back and delete specific things for security purposes.
I hope this helps clears things up. We're here to work in this country and be amung the national people. We're studying Arabic so that we can better communicate with them in their native language. My husband has his master's in International Business and has a job lined up for after language school. Our Arabic classes won't count for any degree, but we will get a certificate of completion that will look great on a resume later on. We are really only doing it to acquire the language.
I'm a stay at home wife and mom, but attend language school for 5 hours a day (does that make me a working mom? part time working mom? I'm not really sure.) But as soon as language school is over, I will be with Grace all of the time!
I hope this helps, and my answer I give most people is this "read between the lines. Go ahead, I give you license to assume a few things about our lives in order to connect some dots."
Emily asked, "How did you feel when you moved away from your family and friends AND how did they handle it?"
Honestly, when we moved away, I was so excited! We had just lived with our parents for 8 straight months and the new found freedom and privacy was wonderful. I've always been an adventurous person and I was ready to face this new adventure head on. We moved from the US to Canada, and from Canada to the Middle East. Just 5 days before moving to the Middle East, we found out we were pregnant, and I think THAT moment is when I really began feeling sadness about not being with my family.
I just could not believe that my baby wouldn't grow up with her grandparents and aunts and uncles doting on her like mine did growing up. I couldn't even imagine what holidays and birthdays would look like, not to mention what normal days would look like.
Our first year overseas was hard, because, like the first year after you have lost a loved one, each new day is the first time you face that day without the ones you love at your side.
And how did our families take it? Ian's parents were always on board, his mom would get sad sometimes, but they fully supported us from the beginning. My parents, always supported us but they wished that they could support us right there in the States, ha! They've accepted it with time and are our biggest supporters and encouragers now.
The rest of our family reacted in different ways. I think my sister and his two brothers reacted similarly, where they tended to pull back and try to disassociate in order to not feel the pain of having your loved one move away.
I had some extended family members who love us and support us, but continually ask when we are coming home, or point out the dangers that they think are prevalent (but really, they aren't, don't believe everything on tv!)
As for my friends, I am constantly shocked at how often and how much I keep up with my friends. I have a group of girls that I grew up with that live close to each other, so I try to talk with one of them a week and get the local news from them, instead of all at once, since their lives tend to overlap. Every once and a while I'll have a 5-6 skype calls on one day and then it will be 3-4 weeks before I hear anything else. I also have another close friend who has done a great job keeping up with us!
Callie asked, "what was the biggest adjustment you had to get used to when you moved over there (aside from being away from family and friends)?"
I think the cultural adjustment of the division of the genders was most difficult to become accustomed to. When I read about this area of the Middle East, I thought I had a good understanding, but when you come out here and see how it works, it's so much more difficult. For the most part men and women aren't together.
Practically speaking, as a woman, it is your job to dress conservatively (high neck, 3/4-long sleeves, shirts that cover your waist, hips, and butt, and pant or skirts that go to the floor and aren't too tight) and there are colors that are supposedly more risque and your hair should really be pulled up in a ponytail or bun.
When out in public, you really shouldn't be making eye contact with strangers of the opposite sex and you very rarely speak to them except for a greeting or a question. Forget about physical contact with the opposite sex- no hand shakes, hand holding, side hugs, full hugs, or smooching!
For the most part your social events are going to be completely segregated. If you go on a visit to a local friend, you would rarely even see a male family member in that part of the house- if you did, they were just passing through and probably won't talk or acknowledge you- not out of unfriendliness, it is just how it is.
I could go on and on about these differences but those are the ones that stand out the most to me.
That was it for the cross cultural questions! Tomorrow will be part two, on family life questions!