sometimes you need ‘home’

The worst question you could ask my (or any) TCKs (Third Culture Kids) is ‘where are you from?’ For Xavier and Anouk, they are from everywhere and their ‘home’ is wherever the four of us are together. During the school year (at the present moment), ‘home’ is Muscat, Oman. For three weeks in the summer, ‘home’ is Geel, Belgium and for another three weeks, it’s Fremont, California. For Rob and I, ‘home’ is reserved for those places we spent our formative years and where our parents still reside. And though we wouldn’t give up our lifestyle for anything (except maybe our dream B&B (read: Bed & Brewery) in some fabulous small town in some distant land), sometimes we are desperate for our connection to ‘home.’

It was on one such day back in late February when Rob and I looked at each other and wondered, “What the hell have we done?” Like any move that has come before, this one has been hard, wonderful, challenging, and joyous all at the same time. Usually the sense of adventure and excitement supersedes any feelings of loss or regret. But first years can be hard. It’s not hard in the where-is-my-next-meal-coming-from hard but challenging in the: making new friends, setting up a new home and new job, cultural differences, and where the hell is the grocery store? hard. I would actually say, first years are exhausting! No, no… they suck!

But in late February, the feeling of fear, apprehension, and WTF have we done? came with a vengeance.

And then… I called my mom.

With a lump in my voice and tears streaming down my face I asked my mom, “Could you or dad please come to Oman?” After a tearfully honest conversation about how hard (yet also how easy) this transition has been, my mom said, “Let me call you back in a few hours.”

And 24-hours later, since my mom and dad couldn’t make the trip at this very moment, their representative was on her way to Oman. After rescheduling appointments and frantically packing her suitcase, our dearest friend and Anouk’s Godmother, Tricia, arrived at our home 8,500 miles away. And in the first moment with her– the deep and all-encompassing hug she gave each one of us made everything right again in the world.

For the short four days she was here we didn’t play tourist at all. She came and left Oman seeing nothing this beautiful country has to offer. But what she left in her wake was far more powerful. She filled our buckets to the rim with the love and joy we needed to get ourselves to the end of year 1. For the days she was here, we were in a loop of: talking, drinking, crying, laughing, hugging, glamorizing, eating, walking on the beach, and playing games. This loop was on repeat up until the very moment we needed to hightail it to the airport.

40 days later, my heart is still full.

I’ll say it again… though we wouldn’t give up this opportunity for the world, sometimes you just really, really, really need ‘home.’ And thank goodness to our army of loved ones–this time, ‘home’ came to us.

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parental pressure

By Xavier
Ugh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My parents are so enraging! All I wanted to do was to have a lazy Sunday before school began again, and now I’m stuck here, sitting down and doing homework! I already did it! I just have to practice! Uggggggghhhhhhhh! I am writing this blog to get all my anger out! Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! UGGHH!!!!!  My friend is gonna come a’ knockin’ and I might not be able to play with him. And hungry shark! He’s gonna be so disappointed. I haven’t had a good Sunday in forever, because I know there’s always school tomorrow. Also, there is Festival Of Races at my school. I stink at running! And I have to run 5k! Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! Everything is enraging when your mad. Except my dog. I could just cuddle with her for a long time, and let all my worries melt away. I based this on my dog. Get a dog. Or adopt one. Dogs. Man’s best friend (coming to stores near you). I think I just made the best advertisement ever!

travelling tales

After 18 months of living in South Africa we hadn’t travelled around much. Though we’ve explored the city’s great restaurants, bars, and shops, we’d never explored the highlights outside of the city–safari, wineries, coastal regions, etc.

So… when Bomma said she was coming to visit us, we decided to get the heck out of town and explore the gorgeous Cape.
As school got out for the holiday, we raced to drop the dog off at the kennel, and zoomed to the airport. Arriving at 5 Camp Street late at night didn’t give us a true picture of all the beauty that lay beyond. In the shadows of Table Mountain, we enjoyed Cape Town, a city quite reminiscent of San Francisco. Small winding streets weave in to one another as we explored the glorious ocean, tourist highlights, delicious restaurants, and amazing wine (my favorite being No. 8). We enjoyed it all! From the penguins at Boulder Beach to the Cape of Good Hope, from the brightly colored houses of the Muslim Quarter to the ocean views at the V&A Waterfront–it was all amazing! We’ve got a list of “must-sees” for next time (to the top of Table Mountain, swimming with sharks, and whale watching).

In December, our dear friends, the Carpenters, came to South Africa to visit us. We had a great time catching up over delicious meals (they live in Moscow and can sometimes struggle to have exciting cuisine) and fabulous wine! The highlight of our time together was our trip to Djuma Private Game Reserve near Kruger National Park. A 6-hour drive from Johannesburg, Djuma is an oasis with its own watering hole. Vastly different than Kenyan safaris, Djuma’s landscape is hot and thick. Spotting wildlife can be tricky, but we didn’t seem to have too many challenges.  We saw 3 of the big 5 in one beautiful photo (elephant, buffalo, and rhino) and came upon a pride of lions at night on our first game drive.

On our first morning game drive, we spent time following a female leopard in hopes that she would lead us to her baby (nobody had yet seen the baby she was pregnant with just weeks before). Though we didn’t meet her baby, we got pretty up close and personal with her (see the video below).

Though the lions, zebra, elephants, and dung beetles were all amazing in their own right, our collective highlight had to be the 100+ vultures eating a dead buffalo. Having never seen the way vultures interact with one another made this experience so truly brilliant. But animals aside, our time celebrating Christmas with the Carpenters made us feel not so alone. It may not have been a “white” Christmas–but it was pretty damn amazing!

my little dog (by Xavier)

by Xavier

My dog is the greatest gift I have ever received.

Here I am, on the couch upstairs, writing this blog with my Samsung slate in my lap, my dog staring up at me and my video games calling my name. My dog has moved up to the couch, laying next to me, staring at the wall. I wonder what she thinks about, day after day, week after week, month after month. She is very lazy.

I wonder what it feels like to be a dog. Is it good, or bad? Sure, she doesn’t have to go to school, and she get’s to slouch around the house. She doesn’t have to hunt for food, she doesn’t have to do chores, and she gets to sleep whenever. Wherever! But, she is skittish. She seems to worry about people coming into the house and this is because she was abused when she was just a pup. We got her when she was just 5 weeks old. So we saved her from a bad life.

Having a dog can be bittersweet.

It was Halloween, 2014. I came home on the school bus. But when I walked into the house, my dog wasn’t there to greet me. I searched the house and garden. I ran outside and even looked around the whole complex, but I couldn’t find her. When I called my parents, I was bursting with tears. Scared out of my mind. Worried for my dog. My parents got home and we started searching in the car. We drove around our housing complex and neighborhood. The next day, a Saturday, we printed out many lost dog signs. We passed them out to the guards, hammered them on to trees, in front of  housing complexes, hospitals, and we also alerted all the pounds.

Everyday, our family felt more hopeless of finding her. Though we secretly hoped she’d be on the couch when we walked in, she never was. We were sad. Lonely. Lost without her. Our family wasn’t whole with her gone.

Four days later, in the middle of class, my dad came in and pulled me out. He said a man selling bananas near a hospital had seen our dog. My mom had rushed there to get her. She called my dad and said she was coming back to school. When she drove up at 11:24 on a school day, we saw our dog, poking her small, little black head out of the car. We all started to cry again. But this time, tears of joy.

Getting her as a puppy was a good gift. Getting her back was the greatest gift!

 

 

Christmas in California

One of the worst things about living half a world away from home– jet lag.  Jet lag is a close second to other worst things… like: missing births, weddings, deaths (and all other familial and friend-centered events); not being present for joys and sorrows that permeate our loved one’s daily lives;  and the ever-important “hug-on-demand” that you can get when you live close to your nearest and dearest. That all said, the positives of our crazy lives still outweigh the negatives and so we continue exploring the world and teaching as we go. But jet lag is a nasty result of such an interesting lifestyle. And this year–jet lag is dreadful. Between the inevitable holiday blues, the 22+ hours of flying, and the 10 hour time change, I’m walking the halls of our summery still house at 1 am in Johannesburg reflecting on our Christmas in California. 

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had some amazing Christmases not in California. But after the trips to Rob’s family in Belgium, Jordan, Lombok, Thailand, and recruiting in Bangkok last Christmas, I was eager to go home. So… after 6 years of Christmas in California absences, I pushed and prodded, whined and weaseled my way into what is now being coined our Costly Christmas in California. But damn, it was worth it! We arrived home restless for cold weather, craving chaotic family events, and a yearning (by me) to relive the Christmas traditions of my youth through my kids’ eyes. And we did just that!

We were most excited about the opportunities to play elves on many occasions. Our first experience started on day 2 of our trip, when my dear friend Tricia came down with stupidity and fell off a young man’s loft bed leaving her and her Spreading Christmas Cheer Project in a lurch! Who would be the delivery elves this year while she was bolted to her couch with a broken wrist, smashed face, and a gloomy disposition? Why? We would. Of course. So after some careful scheduling, loading, and Google mapping, Tricia’s elves loaded vans and cars with over $6,000 of items that two very wonderful (but struggling) families needed and wanted this holiday season.

The second such elf-like experience came just two days after Christmas when Santa’s [belated] helpers organized a living room redecoration to accommodate a new TV and cabinet for the matriarch of our family. Despite the white-lies and lunch cancellations, our Nama was pretty excited about her new entertainment! Now she can watch ‘Judge Judy’ in HD! During this holiday, we enjoyed a girls-only trip to see the Nutcracker, BART-ed to San Francisco to see the Christmas displays in Union Square (though extremely disappointing, dinner at the Ferry Building was quite delightful), attended an adorable American/Russian Christmas program at Katya’s daycare, and made copious amounts of holiday treats with my Nama while listening to my grandfather’s old 45s crackling in the background.

We enjoyed opening gifts on Christmas Eve at Dominic and Anna’s house, making retro Christmas ornaments from Styrofoam balls and sequins, watching my dad finally show off his “frying bacon” routine (what grandparents won’t do for their grandchildren!), thanking him by driving to Half Moon Bay at the start of crab season to score some deliciousness, long and lovely dinners with cousins, as well as seeing to the health and well-being of grandpa’s chickens.

A holiday highlight was enjoying a Christmas with little ones again! It was great to see our niece and nephew mesmerized by the glitz and excitement of Christmas. During a pre-departure sleepover, we even got to take Katya and the kids to one of those outrageously decorated (and synchronized-to-music) houses in the Bay Area. The kids got out and danced on the lawn under the fake snow while my parents and grandmother listened to the music from the comfort (read: warmth) of the car!

After caring for our dear friend, Tricia, Rob and I got to sneak off for a little date and caught The Secret Life of Walter Mitty while enjoying a dinner of popcorn and soda. We even got to enjoy some alone-time with my godfather, Steve though this time it wasn’t over BINGO cards. Rob even organized an afternoon out with a former colleague who is now living in Pakistan! Whoa… reading over this list of events makes me tired all over again!

But… one of the most enjoyable and unexpected events occurred just a few days after Christmas when my mom (in her wonderful Annette way) concocted a plan with an old friend and arranged a post-holiday soiree with some of the former boys of the Golden Gate Boys Choir. Without knowing all the ins and outs of the event, I called upon my Notre Dame girls and included them in the mix–boy they didn’t know what hit them when they descended on our house with 30 people cramped in every corner of my parent’s house devouring amazing Filipino food and catching up on old times. Seeing my friend Dian pregnant made me giddy and meeting the newest addition to Teresa’s family was such a blessing.

But watching my brother sing after such a hiatus had to be one of my personal highlights. Seeing my brother pick up complicated sheet music and sing so beautifully took me back to all those years of carting him to rehearsals, following him on tour around the world, and doing my homework in many a church basement! I was thrilled to see friends I hadn’t seen in years and catch up on the lives of people who were so vastly important in our old lives. I know that my parents enjoyed the night tremendously–they stayed up and gabbed until midnight! My mother, again, pulls off another one of her crazy plans with great success!

Though our jaunt to the states was wonderful, it’s nice to be back “home” in our own beds, with our own things, and our crazy dog in toe. Though we miss everyone desperately and long for the next holiday, it is time to get back to reality in this new year!

Blessings for great adventures and happiness in 2014!

another one bites the dust

da4be-dsc_0252Well loved ones, another summer bites the dust! And what a summer it was. During our adventures, we travelled another 15,800 mi./25,400 km. (with another 5,700 mi./9,200 km. to go), met two new babies, hugged and kissed our loved ones hundreds of times, and laughed, and laughed… and laughed!

Our fun started in California with another whirlwind trip. The time was made spectacular by meeting the newest addition to the Fagundes clan–Roman. He is such a happy (and huge!) baby. Another perk was seeing my grandma, Nama, doing so well and living at home again! The Fagundes household was bursting at the seams with no room left at the inn, but the high volume of guests made for great chats in the garden with loved ones from all over the globe.

Towards the end of our time in the states, we were able to squeeze in an important familial event–Roman’s baptism. The group of honored attendees made the event so intimate and beautiful despite the fact that Roman did not want to be dressed up and the center of attention!

The next stop was Belgium.1c007-image_25

Thanks to my dad and his Delta benefits, the four exhausted Langlands’ slept in Business Elite during most of the JFK-BRU flight (a privilege most 8 and 9 year olds don’t get regularly!) When we arrived in Belgium, we hit the ground running with shopping sprees for clothes, shoes, and beer! After 5 years in Muslim countries, Rob has continued to explore his homeland for the newest and finest beers they have to offer. In just 2 years he has tasted and ranked over 80+ beers. He is eager to have some of our international friends visit in the summer so he has an excuse to try even more beers.

Our wedding anniversary was documented in Belgium this year with a national fete. The country, celebrating its regular independence day, also relished in the crowning of their new king (the former having stepped down to bestow the honor upon one of his sons). Another great event was meeting the newest addition to the Belgian family by hugging “the brut”, Vince.

Of course our summer could not be complete without some sort of hitch in our plans. This years’ chaos led Anouk to the hospital with pneumonia and bronchitis (which she loves saying the Belgian way–bronshit!) After two nights in the hospital (where breakfast and dinner included Nutella sandwiches) Anouk was sent home with a stint so she could return for daily IVs. She is doing well and this experience has left her with a positive hospital experience– thank goodness!

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00cb1-image_13The most important package delivered to the house this summer included our South African visas. Though Rob will be the only one entering the country with a visa, the timing allowed for our shipment to depart Indonesia with our dog, hopefully, following soon.

We depart for Africa 2.0 tomorrow. We have heard that our brand new house is stunning and even has it’s own pool. We are eager to meet our new colleagues, make new friends, and see what life in South Africa has to offer.

Until then, it’s been another great summer… one that we are grateful for!

To see some photos of our great summer, keep scrolling down and check out our Flickr feed.