Our “Bright White” Biracial Kid

One of my favorite stories from the time Mariah spent in the NICU is about some confusion the nurses had over Mariah’s skin color. When Mariah was born, she was a little purplish-looking. I’ve never birthed a biracial baby before, so I assumed Costa Rican babies came out a little more plum-colored than the average white kid. The not-so-comical part of the story is that Mariah was purple because her blood was septic and her collapsed lung was preventing good oxygen flow to her blood. Sadly, she was purple from bad blood.

Purplish?

Purplish? This is right after she was born and before we knew she was so sick.

At the time, everyone assumed with me that she was just going to be dark like her daddy. Albin’s not super dark; but he’s clearly Latino, and if you leave him in the sun too long (even with SPF 90 sunscreen), he claims that he turns so black that he’s blue (what does that even mean?). Anyway, my point is, she was dark and her hair was dark at first too. After we made it through the part of us almost losing her and then her miraculous recovery, she had to stay in the hospital for a while to finish the strong intravenous antibiotic she was prescribed. She was taken off the respirator and all the other monitors, tubes, and IVs had been discontinued.

As I arrived one morning to start my all-day vigil at her bedside, I noticed that she was hooked up to several monitors again. My heart plummeted and my out-of-control emotions took over and gave me a drippy nose and watery eyes. I shakily went to ask the nurse what had happened to Mariah overnight and here is how our conversation proceeded:

Me: Why is Mariah hooked up to all the monitors again? (Sniffle)

Nurse: Because she got a little white during the night.

Me: White?! Like white skin?

Nurse: Yes, white. Very white skin.

Me: So?

Nurse: Well we thought maybe she was having oxygen problems or blood pressure issues and that’s why she turned white.

Me: Did you find any problems with her oxygen or blood pressure?

Nurse: No. It is so weird. Everything is perfectly fine. She is just so white.

Me (starting to smile): So her blood is getting better and she is turning white?

Nurse: Yes.

Me (cracking up): Have you seen her mother? Real white.

Nurse (starting to laugh): Do you think she’s just white like you? That would explain a lot actually. We don’t see a lot of bright white babies in here so it was a little surprising.

Me (thinking): If you want to see bright white, you should see my booty.

Turns out, my biracial kid is white with light hair. Everyone tells me she looks like a white Albin. I’m just thankful her blood is in good shape. The nurses and I had the rare chance to burst into laughter that day, and it was moments like those that kept me sane. We never would have thought that the healthier Mariah became, the lighter her skin would be. The good news is that she tans well because I can’t imagine the amount of money I would spend on sunscreen in CR if she was still as bright white as my rear.

IMG_2001

Pretty white I suppose… 🙂

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The Gospel, Dumb and Dumber, and Radical Living

“We got no food, no jobs…our pet’s heads are falling off! What the heck are we doing here Harry?”

This ranks up there in my favorite movie quotes, and believe it or not, while Dumb and Dumber wouldn’t win any awards for its profundity (or wholesomeness if we’re being honest), Albin and I have found ourselves asking each other this same question over the last few months. Thankfully, we have food and jobs (well Albin does), and fortunately our pets’ heads aren’t falling off, but as we’ve been confronted by the gospel in the last few months, we’ve looked at each other and said, “What the heck are we doing here?”

Albin and I have been passionate followers of Jesus for a long time. In the past, we’ve served Him in many different ways: overseas missions, ministering, leading bible studies, fostering, etc., but in the craziness of trying to survive our bicultural marriage, we feel like we’ve lost a little focus. What we’ve done in the past doesn’t justify what we’re not doing now. More importantly, living out the gospel is a way of life. Are we walking that out? We might have food and jobs, but there are millions who can’t say the same. Hopefully, no one’s pets’ heads are falling off, but being dead serious, billions of people are dying without Christ and without hope.

What the heck are we doing here Harry?

Recently, God has been wrecking us all over again with the gospel. I wouldn’t say it was a complete overhaul since we’ve known about this for a long time, but definitely a paradigm shift about who Jesus really was, what He really did, and HOW he really lived. His way of life was countercultural, radical, uncomfortable, and completely challenging. Albin and I have begun asking ourselves, “Do we look like Jesus? Are really living the countercultural, radical life that Jesus has called us to? What are we doing here?”

I’ve been reading two books recently that I would totally recommend. The first is Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity by Jen Hatmaker and it has challenged me immensely. Not only is she hilarious and doesn’t always use a filter (kindred spirit), but I love how she, her family, and her church have changed their focus from “blessing blessed people and serving the saved” to living missionally in order to reach the “least of these” in Austin. She challenges Christians to live out their faith according to Isaiah 58 (loose the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free, share your food with the hungry, provide the poor with shelter, clothe the naked, take care of your own) and Matthew 25 (being a faithful servant and stewarding what He has given us, and feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, etc.).

The second book I am reading is called You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, by Francis Chan. Again, he and his wife talk more about changing their perspective from focusing on their marriage to focusing on how they can help each other impact the kingdom for eternity. As a result, they spend way less time worrying about the little annoyances in marriage and spend way more time on loving others and serving Christ…which in turn has blessed their relationship a million times over. Something he said that has stuck with me the most is this:

“Many people will tell you to focus on your marriage, to focus on each other; but we discovered that focusing on God’s mission made our marriage amazing. This caused us to experience Jesus deeply-what could be better? Eternal mindedness keeps us from silly arguments. There’s not time to fight. We have better things to pursue than our interests. Too much is at stake! God created us for a purpose. We can’t afford to waste our lives. We can’t afford to waste our marriage by merely pursuing our own happiness.”

I’ve also been spending a lot of time in Matthew from the Bible and just observing how Jesus handles situations. Wherever He went, the lame could walk, the dead were raised, the sick were healed, the blind saw, and the mute spoke (Matthew 9). In the same passage (vs. 9-12), Jesus is criticized for hanging out with drunks and “sinners” and he tells them to do something that has struck me profoundly:

“Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

What does that mean? To me, that means to stop doing religion and start living as Jesus lived: with mercy. That means to follow the example set in Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

So again, we’ve been asking ourselves, “What the heck are we doing here Harry?” Are we living lives that mirror Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25? I know people shy away from the term “radical” because of its uncomfortable connotation, but seriously, are we living radically? Are we focusing inward to have the perfect marriage or focusing outward to use our imperfect marriage to impact the kingdom? Are we wasting our marriage by merely pursuing our own happiness, rather than being eternally minded?

People want to see the church rise up and look like Jesus, not just hide behind facebook and bash whatever topic is the new political flavor of the month. Jesus called us to live a completely different way of life, not just trying to follow all the rules and look religious, but to:

Act justly (This means taking action for just causes)

Love mercy (Love serving the least and those in need)

Walk Humbly with God (Acknowledge our need for a Savior and walk it out accordingly).

Where does that leave Albin and me? We’re still working it out. We’re not setting out for Aspen like Harry and Lloyd; but we’ve refocused and are trying to walk this out. It’s not always pretty, but we know it is the Holy Spirit in us that is going to teach us. All we know is that we need to do it. Put our faith into action and make it a way of life. Will you join us in this journey? I’m writing about this because I want to be held accountable and I want others to join us in this. I want to see two normal and imperfect people on a journey to countercultural living and using our marriage to impact eternity. I want our kids to grow up expecting our family to feed the poor, clothe the naked, and invite the homeless into our home. We want to leave that legacy and we realize that we can’t just sit around, read about it and talk about it. We need to live in a new way. Jesus said to “Go and learn” what He means when He says that He “desires mercy and not sacrifice.” That’s what we want to do … continually position ourselves in places where we can go and learn how to live out the gospel and look like Jesus.

“We cannot think our way into a new kind of living, we must live our way into a new kind of thinking.”

-Richard Rohr

Photo credit: Everett Collection

Photo credit: Everett Collection

Immigration is Humbling…

My last post about immigration got Albin and I thinking about how humbling the residency process is. Even if you are an upstanding citizen who works, pays taxes, doesn’t do drugs, and follows the directions down to a T in regards to filling out your paperwork, you can still be treated poorly and/or denied access. No matter what, you have to prove that you’re worthy to come into that country, and in our case, it’s not even on our own merit; I’m allowed to live in Costa Rica because I married a Costa Rican and maybe someday Albin will be able to say the same about the U.S.

Here are two humbling situations that have happened to Albin and me in our process to enter the U.S. without being stowaways:

  1.      This one just makes me look ridiculous … pride comes before the fall. Don’t forget this a no-judgement zone. When we first married, we were trying to get Albin a 10 year tourist visa into the U.S. so we could visit my family at any time. He had been rejected before, so I went into this meeting determined because now was in attendance. Albin tried to prepare me for the fact that there would be a long line of Costa Ricans waiting to be interviewed. I brushed him off and told him that I wouldn’t have to wait because I was a U.S. citizen at the U.S. embassy. Being the entitled American that I was, I passed the long line of people sitting in rows and went straight to the doors where citizens could sit inside (with A.C.) and briefly wait to be attended. Albin reluctantly followed me, but I’m sure he was pretending like he didn’t know me. In front of the dozens of people waiting in the line, the guard stopped me and asked why I was there. When I told him that we were there for Albin’s visa appointment, he told me that we needed to wait in the huge line. I told him that he must have misunderstood, I was a U.S. citizen. He asked if Albin was a U.S. citizen. Well, no he wasn’t, but surely there were exceptions for the spouses of citizens. I think the guard almost laughed in my face and I’m positive everyone in line that had witnessed my arrogance were pretty pleased I was swiftly put in my place. I then proceeded to grab Albin and do the walk of shame to the back of the line. Pride is ugly, y’all.
  2.      After we received aforementioned tourist visa, we went back to the U.S. for the first time as a married couple. Since being humbled at the embassy, I was not as pompous as I had been previously. As we filed into the border control line in Atlanta, we were told to stay together since we were married. When we were called to come forward, the official stamping passports wouldn’t allow me to come with Albin despite me saying that we were married. He (very rudely) told me to go to the window across from his. Not wanting to cause a scene, I went to the other window and the immigration official treated me well there. As I was finishing up, I heard the man working with Albin literally barking at him to put his fingers on the scanner to be fingerprinted. Albin was clearly not understanding, not because of his English (which is excellent), but because the lid was down on the scanner and the man didn’t realize it. I went over to help Albin and the man told me to leave. I started to get that protective wild hair and told him that no, I wasn’t going to leave and that I was going to help my husband because clearly they were having some communication issues. He stopped what he was doing and said, “You’re married to him?” in the most degrading voice ever. He knew we were married because I had told him that when he had first separated us. His tone dripped with intentional disapproval. If it hadn’t been a federal offense, I would have jumped over the counter and slapped the guy right there. I was livid. I told the official again that yes, we were married and that he was mistaken and needed to lift the lid on the scanner in order for Albin to be scanned. As the officially reluctantly stamped Albin’s passport and scowled as we walked away, the official that had helped me told me to ignore the other guy. Clearly we weren’t the only ones there aware of the official’s inappropriate behavior if another official felt the need to tell us to ignore him. The problem was that it’s hard to ignore someone when they make derogatory statements about who you are. It wasn’t as much humbling as it was completely humiliating for Albin. He still gets all jittery when we’re about to go through border control, but thankfully we haven’t ever been separated or treated poorly like that again.

Like I said above, it’s a humbling process. In my first example, I just needed to be knocked down a few notches, but in the second situation, we had no control over how we were treated because of Albin’s nationality. He had done nothing wrong and the official had no right to treat Albin in that way. While I would have loved to file a complaint, I was scared. I didn’t want to be marked at the black sheep of immigration since we would be spending a lot of time in customs and border control for the rest of our lives. In a way, both situations were a reality check for me. In the first, I was whacked out of my superiority complex … which was necessary. In the second, this naïve white girl got her first true taste of prejudice, and it opened up my mind to the very real problem that is racism. In a way, both experiences were good for me because both taught me how I don’t want to be perceived when faced with racial differences.

 

Immigration

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that anything that has to do with immigration gets my gag reflex going. For those of you who want to know if we got married in the U.S. or Costa Rica first (because yes, it matters in the process), we married in the U.S. first and then got it certified in CR. We turned in our paperwork almost right after getting back from our wedding, but there were some complications and one of our papers expired before we could get scheduled for a meeting with immigration. Side note: we were paying a lawyer (who was a family friend) good money to take care of these things for us, but we found out too late that she was not doing her job very well.

While reading over our documents one night, it hit me that my tourist visa would be expiring in one week and that due to the meeting complications, I was going to be illegal here. Not to mention that I already had a job … which if you don’t have the correct papers, can lead to a swift deportation. Don’t take this lightly, I’ve seen normal people deported from CR before. I started sweating immediately and we called our lawyer. She casually confirmed my suspicions and said I need to leave the country immediately (this was the moment that the family friendship started to deteriorate).

After a minor breakdown and hours of ranting, we bought bus tickets for several days later and hightailed it out of there. We went to Bocas del Toro, a small chain of Panamanian islands near the southern coast of Costa Rica. Minus the panicking and the exhaustion of several buses and water taxis, the trip turned out to be a blessing. It almost made up for the fact that we didn’t get to go on a honeymoon and it was honestly one of the first times since we had gotten married that we felt relatively normal.

While the trip was a blessing, the residency process was not. We finally were given appointments with immigration and did what we had to do, but no matter how organized I was, something always went wrong. Like “they lost our original marriage certificate” kind of wrong. I mean, I should have never given them the original document, but I was naïve to the ways of the Costa Rican filing system (i.e. possibly nonexistent).

I was also unaware of how difficult it was to get fingerprinted here. At the time, there was only one place in the capital to get fingerprinted for the residency process. The first time I showed up, I was oblivious to the line stretching out the gate and around the block. After waiting far too long, I overheard one of the guards saying something about running out of numbers. Only the first 50 people in line were allowed to be fingerprinted that day and I was not one of those first 50 people. The next time around, I decided I would be there when the doors opened at 7:30 a.m. Unfortunately, I was not the only person to have that thought. In fact, I wasn’t among the first 50 people to have that thought. Fail. I approached the guard and asked what time she thought I should arrive in order to be among the first 50. She thought getting there between 1-2 hours before opening time would suffice. Sooo, basically camp out at the crack of dawn. I’ll admit it; I had to have a crying/cursing Costa Rica session in my car to pull it together. After my pity party, I went back to the guard and asked her if there was any other way. She told me that sometimes they would give out more numbers in the afternoon if there was space. The next week, I rolled up in the afternoon hoping for the best. There were huned’s of people there. I went up to my guard (we were becoming fast friends) and she had sympathy on me. She took me to another line and told me to wait there. Besides getting the stink eye from all those people I had apparently just cut in front of, I was feeling pretty confident.

As I came to the front of the (shorter) line, another guard asked me if I had brought the correct seals. What seals? No one had mentioned seals, the instructions I had been given didn’t say anything about seals, and can I bribe someone to ignore the fact that I didn’t have seals? No. Go look around the block and ask at the banks and law offices, they probably have them. I literally ran around the block looking for the seals and of course, no one had them. Finally, desperate and furious, I stopped at a little soda (which is like a little hole in the wall restaurant), and the cook sold me some seals for 20 cents as she served up some rice and beans to another customer. What the…?

By now, I’m panting and sweating and all my guard friends are cracking up at the poor gringa’s plight. I must have done something right though, because as they laughed, they let me pass everyone in line. Success. Not only did I get fingerprinted that day, but I made friends with some guards who clearly needed some comic relief and found an unlikely love for a greasy cook selling 20 cent stamps and Diet Coke.

And then we waited … a long time. About two years in, we finally called the immigration office regarding my visa and I remember overhearing Albin talking to the lady and getting increasingly frustrated with her (which is unusual because Albin is often much more merciful in situations like these). She refused to help us because she said it was impossible that my residency had taken that long and that residencies are processed within 90 days. Albin assured her that wasn’t the case for us and that we just had a question. Nope, a two year wait was impossible and therefore she could not answer our question. He hung up with a prompt “gracias por nada” (thanks for nothing).

Two and a half years later, I was finally given my temporary residency permit; even though it would expire after one year, there were tears of joy that day. I am currently waiting for my permanent residency permit that I get through having my baby in Costa Rica (anchor child anyone?) and I was told it would only take 90 days to be processed. That’s what I was told in regards to my temporary permit, so I’m not getting my hopes up this time. The 90 day limit is today, so I’ll keep you posted.

Immigration processes and policies are definitely a complicated matter. Albin and I have been praying about and considering moving back to the U.S., but we’re trying to come to terms with the inevitable high cost, long wait, and load of work it will take to make that kind of thing happen. It’s intimidating, overwhelming, and humbling (especially when immigrantion is a hot topic right now and people aren’t careful with their comments). Trying to do things correctly and legally through the immigration system is frustrating enough to make even Donald Trump think twice about his hateful assumptions (fun fact: Did you know Trump is married to an immigrant?).

Moral of the story: residency processes just suck. Accept it and move on. No matter where you’re applying, prepare yourself to receive a different answer from everyone you ask about ANYTHING, to spend a lot of money in filing fees (and seals apparently), and to wait. If you are married to (or are going to marry) someone from another country, you said “I do” to lines in immigration offices. Embrace it.Try to have a good attitude and enjoy the ride. All that hard work means you get to live with your foreign dreamboat, and even Trump can attest to that :).

Sidenote: If you’re not going through immigration processes, try to have some grace with immigrants despite the current attitude of condemnation that is so popular in the U.S. right now.  Not everyone trying to get into the U.S. is a druglord or rapist. As evidenced by the devastating story of the Syrian children who drowned this past week as their family tried to escape the war- you never know what extreme circumstances are bringing someone to take desparate measures. That Syrian father wanted was a better life for his family, can we blame him? That could have been you or me, risking everything to give our family a peaceful future. Don’t be quick to judge, friends, almost all of our families were immigrants at some point. 

Crossing the border into Panama

Crossing the border into Panama

Looking For Some Community?

Despite keeping a blog, I’m not a techie. It took Albin years to convince me to get an iPhone and I still only have a whole four pictures posted to my Instagram account.  Facebook posts and chats and pages and groups  and messages and pokes and game invites kind of stress me out. I take forever to respond to emails and even setting up this blog took me years to do because setting up all the little widgets was torturous for me.

I’ve felt like I needed to broaden my horizons, if you will, in terms of getting this whole bicultural marriage thing going. I told God that I wasn’t interested in marketing my blog and that if He wanted people to read it, He needed to just have them happen upon my blog. I prayed that if He really wanted me to build more of a community, He would send someone that understood marketing. Well, of course the week I prayed that, I also had invited a friend over for dinner. We hadn’t gotten together for while, so I didn’t know that she specializes in marketing. Of course. So here I go, kicking and screaming as I create a FB page and group. I feel awkward for promoting myself, but if it helps bring glory to God and helps save some marriages, then its worth figuring out how to navigate the confusing world of social media.

I have received so many emails and messages from people in bicultural marriages/relationships who are asking for advice and let’s be honest, I definitely don’t have all the answers. In fact, I am the least likely candidate (ask my friends Lynne and Diego about the time I recommended they didn’t pursue their bicultural marriage). ANYWAY, I figure that if we can start up a community of people who support and encourage one another, that is going to make it easier on all of us.

So here’s to figuring out FB pages and groups to get this whole bicultural marriage conversation started. If you’re a woman in a bicultural marriage/engagement or you know someone else who is, please send them to our group or you can like my page off to the side and that will connect you (I think, somehow. I hope). I’m hoping to start up a community for encouragement, support, laughter, and wisdom. Thanks for liking! Cheers!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1608317236079696/

What If I Married the Wrong Person?

What if I marry (or married) the wrong person? Is there one perfect soulmate out there for everyone?

Those questions seems to resurface all the time and I’ve always wondered lost sleep over them. I mean, that is a whole lot of pressure. You have to find that one perfect man out of the 3 billion(ish) on the planet? What if I make a mistake? Does that mess up the whole order of perfect soulmates because I married someone else’s perfect mate and now they’re endlessly wandering the earth trying to find someone that’s already taken? And if I do make a mistake and I don’t believe divorce is an option, am I just stuck with the wrong person till death do us part? Thinking about how I could be miserably mistaken my whole life or about how I could possibly screw up the arranged order of the perfect soulmates of the world is enough to give me an ulcer.

I’m pretty sure I did almost get an ulcer early on in our marriage because there was a small part of me that wondered if Albin was really the one for me. It was terrifying. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know we had a rough start, but apart from all that, I felt like he didn’t even know me. Like didn’t know what really made me tick. I assumed that if we truly were soulmates, he would just “get” me. He would understand what I needed and it wouldn’t require me spelling out everything. He would always make me laugh, he would understand all my vague comments, and anticipate my needs. Basically, he just needed to be a mind-reader because “happy wife, happy life” … right?

Wrong. Painfully wrong.

Not only did I find myself feeling misunderstood and lonely, I found myself with a husband who was frustrated because he couldn’t make me happy. I had no idea what was going through his mind and that frustrated me as well. I had an illusion that we would always be on the same wavelength and when that bubble was burst, I started to question whether we were right for one another. Some of it was selfishness (like the hope that he would anticipate my every need, bahh), some of it was an expectation that we would naturally be interested in the same things (like… where to go out for dinner), and some of it was just our deep-down desire to know and be known. As we’ve worked through these things, we’ve had a big breakthrough: truly becoming “soulmates” takes time, effort and practice.

It’s finally sinking in that we have to work hard to be soulmates. We have to put in some effort to learn what makes our spouse “tick.” We literally have to practice being the right person for our spouse. It’s all about being intentional. I’ll be sincere and admit that being intentional isn’t necessarily my forte. Being intentional requires effort, forethought and selflessness. It requires me putting myself aside and choosing to do something that doesn’t necessarily appeal to me like it does to him. It requires him to ask me if I want to talk about something even if he’s tired and has no desire to open that can of worms. It requires both of us to be interested (or at least try to be) in what gets the other person excited.

The problem is that it’s so much easier to think about how my needs aren’t being met. It’s far simpler to sit and lament our differences than it is to surrender our will and actively pursue a compromise. It is so much easier to sit around and think about what Albin doesn’t do for me or how he doesn’t “get me” than it is to flip it around and think about what I can do for him or how I can engage him more fully so that he feels fully known.

For example, discussing politics doesn’t appeal to me and I usually avoid political conversations at all costs. Albin, however, loves getting into a good political debate. For years, I’ve literally blown him off every time he tried to start a conversation about politics. Basically, it would go like this:

Albin: What is your opinion about [insert current issue]?

Me: I don’t know, maybe [insert quick generic answer].

Albin (silently waiting for me to return the question, which doesn’t come because I’m avoiding the conversation): Well, I’m not sure I agree.

Me: Okay. What do you want for dinner? [End of conversation.]

Rude, I know. I’m a slow learner, but almost four years into this, I’m realizing that Albin gets some sort of intellectual satisfaction from hashing out a political topic. If that’s something that he is interested in, why do I have to be a jerk change the subject? Is it really that hard for me to ask him what his opinion of the topic is and (heaven forbid) actually listen to his rationale? He listens to me spout unimportant crap all day and doesn’t blow me off. So, I’ve tried to be intentional and engage in a conversation that interests him. Maybe a little effort on my part makes him feel like he has a partner that values his opinion and with whom he has an intellectual connection. If that’s the case, me taking five minutes out of my day to debate about the government is worth it. Believe it or not, I actually enjoy these conversations now because he gets me thinking about current events and things in the government that I actually should be pondering.

An example for me would be something that Albin did recently. Playing games is one of my love languages and something that I associated with family. I love to play games, specifically Nerts. Albin will play games, but it’s not something that satisfies some deep inner need of his, and plus I think he hated Nerts for a long time because I may or may not go overboard and get too intense when I play. Anyway, it really bothered me that he never wanted to play games with me. It was like pulling teeth. Like how hard was it to sit down a play a few games of Yahtzee for goodness sake? It’s silly, but I actually wondered why I hadn’t considered this game drama before we had married. Would I have married this guy had I known he wouldn’t always be up for a game of Scrabble? Does he even know me at all?

Finally, several months ago, Albin suggested we started having game nights once a week. He said he wanted to get better at Nerts and he thought it would be something for us to look forward to on Thursday nights. I ripped his clothes off right there. Just kidding, but his offer spoke to me on some deep level. He’s gotten really good at all games since then and now we really do love game night. He was intentional and sought to engage me in something that was important to me and that I associated with the concept of family…which made me feel like we were more of a family in a way. Like maybe we weren’t on two completely different wavelengths after all.

Albin and I definitely are not experts and clearly Albin is the deeper of the two of us (deep theoretical conversations vs. my board game needs), but we’re learning and I like our progress. As we become more intentional, we get along so much better, agree on so much more and feel more fully known. Even silly things like (finally!) agreeing on a restaurant, conversing about legislation and keeping a running Yahtzee tally going forms a connection and creates room for us to become soulmates for one another.

En fin, I’m trying to learn from my own lesson today and think about what other areas I can put myself aside to be intentional with Albin. What ways can you be intentional and engage your spouse today?

“I have found the one whom my soul loves.” Song of Solomon 3:4

                                                                                                                                   

 

Top 10 Hardest Things About Bicultural Marriage

Last week I posted about my top ten favorite things about being in a bicultural marriage. To be fair, here are my top ten least favorite things in no particular order. If you’re considering marriage to a foreigner, I hope this list is helpful!

  1. Vacations will almost always be to see family. Unless you’re loaded and/or unemployed, most of your money and vacation time will be dedicated to seeing family. We usually go home to Ohio about once a year. It can be hard to justify spending money to go see a new place when you haven’t seen your parents and sister for a year. Another thorn is my flesh is that in our case, we have to spend a considerable amount of money to go on vacation to Cincinnati, Ohio. I love to visit my family, but Ohio isn’t exactly an exciting travel destination. If we lived in Ohio and went on vacation to see family in Costa Rica, however, I might be singing a different tune.
  1.  Difficulty with jokes and cultural references. In my honest opinion, my family is pretty witty and we joke around about 75 percent of the time. Albin had a hard time keeping up and inserting his own comments for a long time which made him feel outed. I’ve felt the same way with his friends/family so we’ve spent a lot of time educating one another on the millions of puns, sayings, and jokes that exist in each culture. For example, once my sister used the term “throw you under the bus” with Albin. As we were all laughing about how he had just been thrown under the bus, he was still considering why we were talking about him being run over by a bus.
  1.  Truly expressing yourself. Albin speaks English really well and I like to think that I speak Spanish equally as well; however, sometimes it is hard to truly express yourself and have your spouse understand. Expressing your deepest thoughts usually require you using more extensive vocabulary and that can create some misunderstanding or at least not a complete understanding of what you’re trying to get across.
  1.  Being far away for funerals, sicknesses, holidays, etc. Most likely one spouse will be living far away from their family. That part is hard, but Skype is a huge help (My parents skype me every day to watch my daughter do interesting things like smack her lips or roll over). It is almost unbearable, however, to be so far when there are funerals that you can’t get to, extensive illnesses that you can’t help out with, or holidays that you would otherwise enjoy being with your family for. Thanksgiving is always a killer for me because it’s not a thing in CR and my whole extended family gets on Skype while they stuff deep-fried turkey and pumpkin pie into their mouths. Sure I do a Thanksgiving dinner here, but it’s not exactly the same.
  1.  Missing family in general. This has become increasingly harder since the birth of  our daughter. It hurts my heart a little bit to know that my daughter only gets to see my family in person once or twice a year because I want them to be a big part of her life and they want to be a big part of hers. Knowing that you have to get on a long plane ride if you wanted to see them is a bummer most of the time.
  1.  Cultural norms. This is the everyday stuff that you just don’t agree on because you grew up not knowing there were other options (like whether you should eat big lunches or big dinners). One that has been hard for me is a cuota, which is a fee you pay to go to a party, shower, or even a wedding. Oftentimes you are required to pay this fee on top of buying a gift in order to help the host throw the party or finance the wedding. Not only is it hard for me swallow paying to go to someone else’s party, but it is nearly impossible for me to charge a fee for people to come to my parties. Can’t we just do a potluck? No.
  1.  Feeling lonely if you don’t have a community. This has definitely improved for us, but it can be challenging. It can be extremely lonely to not have any friends doing the bicultural marriage thing. Having community in any stage of life is of utmost importance, but this unique circumstance requires it.
  1.  Residency processes and paperwork. Have I mentioned that I hate it? Residency in any country is usually complicated, expensive, and requires a lot of patience. There is a lot of extra paperwork to fill out for every step you take when you’re married to a foreigner. Almost always, there you are required to pay a fee to file the never ending pile of paperwork. Buying a house, paying taxes, getting immigration visas, obtaining permanent residency, proving our child can receive dual citizenship, and obtaining employment are just a few of the processes that have emptied our bank account of thousands of dollars dedicated solely to filing.
  1.  Not having access to certain things (or they’re really expensive). This one doesn’t necessarily require you to be in a bicultural marriage, because this happens when you live almost anywhere overseas. Most likely, however, you or your spouse will be living in a different culture and will miss things you can’t have (probably more than you ever even wanted them when you were living in your own country). For example, Target. Oh how I miss Target. Another example, cheese is expensive here and I love cheese. When I’m in the U.S., I binge on cheese and when I’m in Costa Rica, I agonize in the dairy aisle about whether I should spend $12 on a small block of cheddar. One more: I absolutely love ice cream and I think I shed of tear of joy when a Dairy Queen opened here last year.
  1.  Negative comments. I previously posted a blog about this. People can be very critical of bicultural marriages and relationships. Whether it’s racism, ignorance, concern for your well-being, or just a case of social ineptness, people can say very hurtful things when you decide to do something out of the ordinary. Once you decide to marry a foreigner, be confident in your decision and don’t let negative comments affect your relationship.

If you’re considering a bicultural marriage and have questions or doubts, please hit me up. I’ll try to be as honest (and encouraging) as I can be!

 

Top 10 Favorite Things About Bicultural Marriage

I receive a lot messages from people in bicultural relationships that are considering marriage. Just as in any marriage, a lot of great things can come out of two people doing life together. In this list, however, I’m trying to focus on things that are mostly unique to those marrying a foreigner. In light of that, here are my top ten favorite things about being in a bicultural marriage.

  1.  Kids are bilingual and have an understanding of the world. I love this. I have enjoyed becoming bilingual and I’m even more excited that our children will speak two languages naturally. This will give them many opportunities and will also make learning a third language (if they so desire) much easier. I also love that they will have a broader view of the world and be more culturally aware.
  1.  It’s an adventure; you try new things, eat new foods, etc. Whether you live in your spouse’s country or not, you’re bound to have an adventure. You’ll be exposed to new ways of thinking and doing things, new foods, new customs, and new traditions. You’ll probably get to know his/her country and have fun exploring together. It can be exciting, crazy, overwhelming, and difficult; it will be a lot of things, but I guarantee  boring will not be one of them.
  1.  Two languages/cultures cover over a multitude of sins. This one might just be in my head, but I feel like Albin and I overlook a lot of harsh comments by attributing them to the language differences. If he says something to me in English that seems harsh, I blame it on the fact that he may not know how to say it any other way. If I have a ridiculous personality quirk, he will tend to think it’s just a cultural issue rather than just me being a weirdo. Score.
  1.  You can choose the best parts from each culture to create your own family’s culture. I love this one, too. We’ve been able to integrate both of our cultures into our family culture and choose what we like best. In my mind, our family is getting the best of both worlds when we do it like this.
  1.  I have become Amazon woman. This one might just be from living in a different country or maybe it’s because I wasn’t exposed to this in the U.S., but I have learned so much. As I made Greek yogurt, a week’s worth of baby food, and soaked beans, lentils, and chickpeas to make dinner from scratch the other day, I realized that marrying Albin has forced me to learn how to do things I may not have ever learned living in Cincinnati.
  1.  Your friend group is diverse and fun. Since we are a bicultural family, we naturally tend to hook up with other multicultural families. This opens your mind to a lot of different ways of doing things and you have a lot of opportunities to grow and learn. You meet so many new and different people and become a different (and better) person as a result.
  1.  There is always an excuse to travel. So maybe you’re just going to see family (again) every time you fly anywhere, but at least you’re breaking up the monotony. While traveling for pleasure might not be in the budget, you can always justify going to see family; therefore, you end up getting a vacation without the guilt.
  1.   The thought that God brought together two continents. I just love the thought that God had to rearrange all of our roads and cross borders to bring us together. It reminds me that He has an amazing purpose for us being together whenever things get tough.
  1.  It’s challenging and humbling, but you grow. I’ve been pretty honest about how bicultural marriage can be a challenge, but I’ve also talked about how beauty comes out of struggle. Facing the odds and working hard to make your marriage work creates a love that is steadfast. We have been stretched and as a result, have become more open-minded, mature (I hope), and strong.
  1.  You have to work hard to get to know one another. With language barriers and different cultural norms, you have to work twice as hard to really know each other and understand the other person. This is a positive for me because I see how our marriage has become very transparent as a result. You have to over-communicate and over-explain everything, and that sets a foundation of honesty and directness from the very start.
  1.   I love when my man speaks to me in Spanish. This is the bonus one. No matter how superficial it sounds, having my man speak to me in his love language gets me all hot and bothered lol. Shakira wasn’t messing around when she said, “Oh baby when you talk like that, you make a woman go mad…”

 

Our Non-Honeymoon (First Year Fails: Part I)

I decided that following my last post about the miscarriage we had after our first month of marriage,  I’m going to post a series of blogs about our first year of marriage. You may think I’m being dramatic when I say that our first year was an epic fail; but in this case, I’m not being dramatic. The only two things that didn’t fail: God (because He doesn’t), and our actual marriage commitment (oh, but it came close). Our honeymoon, my residency, our health, our communication, our living situation, our dogs (at first), our Nissan Sentra, my job– they were all a mess. Some of those circumstances were comical (or at least they are now) and some of them were devastating blows to our marriage. Either way, by the time we got to our first anniversary, we felt like we’d been married for ten years. During that time, people who didn’t know us well would continually give us the provocative eyebrow raise and make references about how we were in the “honeymoon period,” but really had no idea that we were barely surviving that special sexy season. Then they would say, “Just wait until year seven, then it really gets difficult.” I think we died inside just a little bit every time we heard that.

Lest you fret that this series of blogs will be entirely negative, this first entry is pretty light and comical, mostly because it was RIGHT after we got married. I can also say that even though a lot of crappy things happened our first year, we did survive, and we’re stronger for it. We’ve struggled immensely, fought hard, and loved well. We’ve come to know each other in amazing ways and have a profound respect for each other now that we’ve seen how the other responds to difficulty. Most importantly, we’ve learned that Christ is the center of our marriage and have come to understand that He is the only reason any marriage is truly successful. I hope these posts are encouraging to any of you who aren’t living a Facebook photo-worthy marriage or feel like you missed the boat on the good old honeymoon period …

Albin was able to get two weeks off for our wedding. He flew to Cincinnati, we got married six days later, flew back to Costa Rica three days later, bought a bed and settled into our apartment for one night, and then spent the next night at my suegra’s (mother-in-law’s) house for our excursión the next day. Excursión sounds so much more exotic than it really is. Basically, appliances are expensive in Costa Rica since they have an import tax placed on them. To get around the import tax, there is a tax-free zone, called “Golfito,” in the southern part of the country. It’s very common to go to Golfito  through an excursión, which is when a company with a bus takes care of your transportation and lodging for your trip. Each person is allowed to spend $1,000 in Golfito per year, so my suegra and Albin’s abuela (grandma) went with us so we could divide up our money to buy our big appliances (found out later that everyone is allowed to spend $2,000 per year, which means suegra and abuela didn’t need to go after all). Back to the story.

We spent the night at my suegra’s and slept in abuela’s single bed (this was the 5th night of marriage, mind you) the night before our expedition. At 5 a.m. we got to the bus stop and a large and in-charge Tica woman named Doña Adelita welcomed a big group of us. We arrived in Golfito in six hours with no problem. We were greeted by a wall of humid heat the minute we got off the bus. By now you know about my sweating problem, so you can imagine. Doña Adelita got up and gave us the “rules.” That day we had three hours to make all of our purchases. We would leave promptly after three hours and head for the border of Panama, where we would spend the night in their “accommodations” and have a chance to shop at the border crossing (i.e. seediest place in the Western Hemisphere). The following day we would return and have two hours to pick up our purchases and get them ready to be shipped back home (it was a rule).

I don’t know how to even describe how this all went down. If you remember the game show “Supermarket Sweep,” then you’ll have an idea. We literally had to run from place to place, comparing prices, bargaining, and buying in 100 degree heat. It was so stressful. Three hours may seem like a lot until you realize you have to compare, bargain, and buy your washer, dryer, oven, microwave, fridge, pots, pans, toaster, blender, Crockpot, and television–all in different stores. On top of that, add in suegra and abuela giving their opinions and telling us what to do, Albin trying to translate everything since I was lost in life, and the lack of sleep due to just getting married. Just imagine me panting and sweating with a deer-in-headlights look on my face as all that bartering and opinionating is going on in Spanish. In literally no time, Doña Adelita was blowing her foghorn and saying it was time to go. Right now.

We shuffled onto the bus headed for the border. Absolute chaos at the border. We eventually arrived at our accommodations which weren’t anything comparable to a hotel, motel, or Holiday Inn. It was an 8×8’ room and it was ghetto. My suegra and abuela graciously took the bunk beds so we newly-weds could take the double bed (6th night of marriage), locked the door tight, and tried to justify in our heads that all of this was completely normal.

The next morning, Doña Adelita rolled up at 5 a.m. and we went back to the free zone to pick up our items. I swear it was hotter than the day before. We secured all of our items and got all of the receipts in order to go through what is essentially a customs line. As we neared the front of the line, Albin started frantically shuffling through the receipts. He couldn’t find the one from the washer and we wouldn’t be allowed out with our new washer without the receipt. Utter panic ensued. We lost our place in the long line and went running to every store trying to find the receipt. So. Much. Sweat.

As abuela guarded our purchases, we ran around rabidly trying to ignore Doña Adelita’s loudspeaker notifying us that we were about to miss the bus. At the last minute, we found that blessed golden ticket at one of the stores and ran back to the line, begging Doña Adelita not to leave us. She had mercy on us and we were able to get our appliances on the shipping truck.

Back on the bus, I passed out immediately and slept for about two hours. Up until this point, the bus was air-conditioned and was the only respite from the unbearable humidity. Naturally, the air-conditioner was overworked and went out. The windows of the bus were airtight (due to it normally being a bus with AC), so there was no air flow. We started stripping. Then the bus driver had the brilliant idea to turn on a movie to distract us. It was reminiscent of Saw III. Between the gore in the movie, the boiling bus, and the curvy mountain road, someone was bound to get sick. Of course it was the lady next to us. She started throwing up and you can imagine how that went seeing as the windows wouldn’t open. People were moaning the whole way home.

The good news is that we made it home. There was a problem with the shipping truck and we didn’t receive our appliances for four days, which wasn’t a huge problem at first since we slept for two days straight. Things started to become dire when our clothes from the excursion started rotting and smelling up our apartment along with the food that couldn’t be kept cold due to no refrigerator. Oh, and did I mention it was Christmas? We went to Denny’s for Christmas breakfast. Sigh.

Moral of the story: Go on a real honeymoon.  Seriously, I know there was the whole thing about not having enough money, or time off work or needing the appliances, but we TOTALLY regret not having a honeymoon.

 

My Favorite Spanish Mistakes So far…

Everyone loves a good translation mistake, especially if it is embarrassing, inappropriate, etc. Most of these errors are funny because the appropriate word was accidentally substituted with the inappropriate word. All of these examples are errors that I have made or people close to me have made. This is not a time to be offended by curse words. If you know you will be offended, you should just stop reading now.  If you know both languages, this will be funnier, but I tried to provide adequate explanations for those who don’t speak Spanish so they can understand my folly.

  1. Molestar= to bother. During my first few weeks in Costa Rica, as a kindergarten teacher, I had to do a lot of “translating.” My Spanish was awful, but nine of my students spoke only Spanish and nine of my students spoke only English. On a particularly frustrating day when my students would not stop bothering each other, I accidentally yelled, “Stop molesting each other!” Obviously my kids were oblivious, however, the principal and the prospective parents in the hallway were not. Fail.
  2. Luz= Light. Once I saw a huge bug flying around our apartment and I asked Al if he could get the “bug that was on the loose.” He didn’t respond. I repeat, “There is a bug on the loose. Can you get it?” Still no response and I look over at him as he stands there looking at the ceiling light with a dumb look on his face. I start to say it again when he says, “Tricia, I am looking at the luz and there are no bugs on it.” Bahaha
  3. Boots or boobs? Once before we were dating, we were with two of our best friends who were also single at the time. We were hiking a volcano and it was raining, so we were wearing boots. Yoji, our guy friend, meant to tell Kate that he liked her boots, but instead he said, “Kate, I like your boobs.” He keeps walking without acknowledging his mistake, but since I’m immature and can’t let an opportunity like this pass up, I lost it.
  4. Backs and butts are very different. Trasero = butt, espalda = back. One day in the teacher’s lounge I was talking about how sweet my Tica sister was. I was telling everyone about how one night we were at a youth gathering at church and she was helping a friend work through a difficult situation. It was a long church service, my Tica sister sat and rubbed her friend’s back as she cried for three hours. As I was telling my coworkers about this sweet act, I mistakenly said, “My sister is so sweet, she just rubbed that girl’s trasero for three hours.”
  5. Sheet on the bed. Once I arrived at a hostel to find out there was only one sheet on the bed. I get pretty chilly at night, so I went down to the lobby and asked the receptionist (who would only speak in English to me) for another sheet on the bed. His reaction was priceless; he was dumbfounded. He asked, “Is there sheet on the bed?” I answered that, yes, there was a sheet, but I would like another. He repeats, “There is sheet on the bed?” Yes. Clearly he isn’t understanding, so I start speaking caveman because I think he only understands caveman. I say, “Yes. Sheet on bed. I want more sheet on bed.” He stands up, gets angry and says, “Why anyone wants more sheet on bed?” and as I start to say, “Because I get cold…” he proceeds to run out the door. Now I’m dumbfounded. I look at Kate and she shrugs with a bewildered look on her face. The receptionist comes back and yells angrily, “THERE IS NO SHEET ON THE BED!!!” I know this. This is why I came asking in the first place … and then it hits me. He thinks I’m saying there is sh*t on the bed since in Spanish, “i” is pronounced with a long “ee” sound. He literally thinks I’m complaining that there is sh*t on the bed and that I would like more sh*t on the bed. Let’s just say that there might not have been sh*t on my bed that night, but I probably peed my sheets that night as I thought about him running in screaming, “THERE’S NO SHEET ON THE BED!”
  6. Huge racks. I always ask Albin to message me when he gets to work so I know he made it safe. One unfortunate day he accidentally wrote his message in my family’s Whatsapp group and it read, “Sorry I didn’t message you. There was a huge rack on the road so I was late to work.” Of course he meant “huge wreck,” but since my family is about as mature as I am, there were many jokes about “huge racks” stopping traffic that day. I told him the only rack that should be stopping his traffic is mine. lol
  7. Tiene miedo = he has fear (he is afraid). Tiene mierda = he has sh*t. Love this one. I team-taught my first year of kindergarten with a lovely Tica named Victoria. She was wonderful, but many of the little Gringo children were afraid of her because they had no idea what she was saying in Spanish. This was a missionary school, so parents were generally very amicable. One day, a missionary mom came to Victoria to talk to her about how her son was afraid in the class. The well-meaning missionary who was just starting to learn Spanish came to her and rather than saying “Él tiene miedo en tu clase,” instead said, “Él tiene mierda en tu clase” which means “He has sh*t in your class.” Victoria told me that she was speechless. At first, she was confused that a kid pooped himself in class and she didn’t notice, and second, slightly offended that the missionary used such a strong word as “mierda” in conversation. Third, she died inside when she finally realized what the lady actually meant.
  8. Huge Disclaimer: This is the worst. I may have dropped the F-bomb completely on accident. Please read this with grace: Recogerme= pick me up, cogerme= F%$# me. When Albin and I started dating, I was seeing a tutor to help me with my verbs. I was going out of town the next week, so my tutor asked me who was going to pick me up from the airport. I had told her about my budding relationship with Albin, so I wanted to tell her that Albin was going to pick me up (recogerme). Instead, I said, “Albin va a cogerme.” which, based on the translation above, you can figure out that what I said was highly inappropriate for this missionary kindergarten teacher to her tutor. Major fail. My tutor knew what I meant and tried to ignore the mistake with grace but then started turning red from trying to contain her laughter. She almost fell off her chair because she was laughing so hard.

The best part about committing these errors is that the humiliation is burned in your brain and you never make the mistake again…hopefully.  Let’s all be very thankful for that.