AN EXPAT CHRISTMAS

Every expat can tell you stories of holidays overseas. I’ve been watching moms across our city search for advent calendars, cream cheese, peppermint sticks… anything to make the holidays feel like “normal” from their lives before. Other times, I think, it’s in a genuine effort to share what a “western” Christmas looks like with their friends and neighbors who haven’t ever experienced it before.

We are learning a new dance between the traditions and family gatherings and abundant holiday lights from our home culture, and the quieter, distant culture here that doesn’t celebrate at all. In a sense, we’re finding a new balance between worlds.

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Collaboration in Counseling

Nick works with a lot of families and couples living all over the world. Here, he gets the privilege of collaborating with a team of therapists to provide better care for entire families.


Here’s a few examples of the types of issues the counselors address:

  • A child with a new mental health diagnosis may lead to our helping the family learn and practice new way of working together both for the well-being of the child and the rest of the family
  • A traumatic event (e.g. a political coup or a scary evacuation) may lead to children and parents learning how to process and make sense of what they’ve experienced
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Counseling TCKs

Where are you from?

We ask this all the time in normal conversations, right? For us, it’s pretty easy to answer. We’re from Indiana, but we live abroad now. In fact, we have roots generations deep in a small community, and most of our family is in a 2 hour radius from that one spot. I don’t think I realized how unique that was until moving abroad. The fact Nick and I were from the same small town and knew each other growing up… most people in our sphere now can hardly imagine that! All that to say, it’s pretty easy for us to say where we’re from. There’s an identity in that shaping us even now as we experience life in a new culture that looks very different from our old one.

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WE DON’T DO THIS ALONE

There are MANY TIMES when we are filled with gratitude at the support we have received in this work. Not only does the financial support to Safe Haven allow us to do this work, but your physical help at times makes things happen that we just couldn’t do on our own! Here’s just one example of why we need a village to do this work here.

PAPERWORK SAGA OVERSEAS

We have been in the process over the last couple of months in doing our annual homestudy update for our adoption. Part of that process included Indiana needing our updated fingerprints. In Indiana (one year ago) we were able to simply go into a local office for quick electronic fingerprints that were soon sent from their office to the police and our homestudy provider. It was a smooth, easy even, and took place during a matter of days.

This year, because we are living abroad and unable to go to that local office, it look a total of 13 extra people / groups, EACH ONE of whom provided a critical piece of the puzzle to make it possible for us to document our fingerprints and provide them for the Indiana State system, a process that took over a two months.

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Preparing for Success

Nick originally wrote this article for our Counseling Center with expats in mind. We hope it can be a great resource for many of you as well!

by Nick, LMHC

Attention is costly

The primary mechanism of our computer’s ability to multitask is something called “context switching.” Essentially, the processing unit saves a task off to memory in a way that it can later retrieve and then shifts over to another task. Each context switch comes with a performance cost though, if only because the act of switching is another action that costs energy.

Just like the computer, shifting our attention, even to something positive, does take a little more energy every time it happens and when it’s happening a lot, we can find ourselves struggling more and more to maintain our attention.

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REFLECTIONS

We’ve been living in a new country for 7 months now! As we consider the life decisions that have landed us on the other side of the world, and how we’re doing amidst them, we’re overwhelmed mostly with gratitude. Our timing was interesting… I mean, nobody planned for us to be moving abroad amidst a pandemic. Or trying to learn a new language with masks and restrictions and lockdowns getting in the way. Or for one of our parents to get diagnosed with cancer. But we have been consistently surprised by blessing along the way and despite the unique challenges of this season, we are on our feet. So here are a few reflections 7 months in:

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What did you say?

That’s probably a constant refrain in our minds these last few weeks. Mid-November, we jumped into a language immersion program, which means we’ve been living with a national family in a small flat in a city 2x the size of NYC. The goal? Get lots of conversations/listening all in our new language (read very, very little English.) Secondary goals were to learn more about daily life here and explore this city (which will be helpful for future travel for work!) And though we’re definitely not catching the entirety of every conversation, we’re listening. We’re slowly learning and trying out new words, sentences, grammar structures.

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