Win Free Coaching: Summer Quiz Pt 1

I want to do something fun and different the next four Fridays to shake things up. Let’s face it, in August none of us wants to do much work, including reading blog posts. So, for the next four weeks, I’m going to ask readers to post answers to 5 new questions each week in the comments section. (It will only take a few minutes.) The first 3 readers who respond in any of the four weeks will get a free 50 minute coaching session. 

Here it goes:

  1. What is your favorite thing about summer?
  2. Are you a lake person, an ocean person, or both, and why?
  3. If you had to choose: do you like pie, ice cream or cake, and which kind?
  4. What is your big goal for summer?
  5. What is something you’ve done this summer that you enjoyed?

I’ll give you my answers and then I want to hear yours:

  1. I like the slower pace and the sunshine!
  2. I like both but I’m more of a lake girl.
  3. I would say for summertime that I’m a pie person: rhubarb or peach crumb pie
  4. My big goal for summer is to clean out our closets and get 10K steps in every day.
  5. I most enjoyed our family trip to Portugal and Spain in July.  It wasn’t always easy and there were bumps along the way, like our car breaking down on the freeway, but we bonded as a family and our kids and we got to see more of the world.

Now it’s your turn.  Take 3 min to post your answers in the comment sections.  The first 3 people (who are not current clients) who post get a free 50 min coaching session! (Check out my website at http://www.worldstagecoaching.com for more information.)

These are pictures of Sintra, Portugal below.  This was my favorite part of Portugal!

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Bring the World to You

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been surrounded by foreign visitors in my house.  My mom, having lived and traveled in parts of Europe and Africa, felt that it was important for our home to be filled with people and artifacts from all over the world.  We had African masks and drums in the house, and greeted our first Foreign Stay Student from Taiwan when I was six.  The idea was that we were to house a graduate student who would be attending Stanford University from a different country and help acclimate them for a few weeks before school started.  Eve wrote to us ahead of time to let us know that she was “very fat.”  We didn’t know what to expect but were surprised when she showed up to find that she wasn’t fat at all, but quite tall for an Asian woman.  (She confused the world fat with tall.) We had arranged for her to sleep in my bed in my room and I slept in my sister’s room.  But she told us shyly that she preferred to sleep on the floor.  We had a Nigerian couple, which was special for my mom since she had lived in Nigeria, but they didn’t bathe much and wore very strong perfume, so the house had an interesting smell. They also fought a lot because Victor felt that he should be in charge, but Ronke, his wife, was of a higher status since she was the daughter of a Chief, so she felt free to boss him around.  I know they loved listening to me sing show tunes, which they had never heard before.

During one of California’s droughts, we had Masahiro from Japan, who insisted on bathing multiple times per day, even though we tried to explain why there was a bucket in the shower to collect water for the plants.  He just needed to stay very clean, but he was quite polite and came with lots of gifts.  There was David from the Cameroon, who became very close with my dad and planned to name his 7th child, the one his wife was expecting, “Stanford” if it was a boy and “Melinda” if it was a girl.  They ended up having a girl and there is a Melinda Nti in the Cameroon somewhere.  There were others, like Yulia from Russia and Ali from Iran, and not only did they stay for three weeks before their term began, they showed up at many Easter and Thanksgivings. Whenever I came home from college or flew out to visit as an adult, I never knew which “strays” (as my parents called them with a smile) would show up.  I have fond memories of playing Pictionary with foreigners from several different countries.  And, the highlight was getting to be in Eve’s wedding when I was 10.  I still remember the long white dress with the green sash and the red roses down the front that I wore that evening.  I felt like a princess.

Now that I have my own family, my husband and I have tried to expose our children a lot  to different cultures through our own international friends and through travel.  But until this last week, we had never been able to replicate my experience of being surrounded by foreign students.  Since my daughter is part of a French exchange this year at her school, the British International School, we have been hosting a French student from Arles for the past week.  Eva is a spirited and lovely teen who speaks some English but not enough to not have to use a lot of our French.  I found myself jumping in and speaking my very rusty French which is becoming better by the day out of necessity.  Eva gets so excited by things we take for granted, since they are new to her, like pancakes (they only have thin crepes), and large hot breakfasts with bacon and eggs (they have light breakfasts with bread and jam) and Reeses Pieces and barbecue chips (they don’t have as much junk food) and watching Dance Moms (she likes the dance and the moms shouting at each other).  The first time she ate guacamole was like watching my kids discover their first bite of cake. She loves Mexican food and pop tarts and TJ Maxx and all discount shopping and grilled cheese sandwiches and making sundaes with candy on top.  She loves how big the grounds are at my daughter’s school, since she goes to school in a small church that is centuries old.  She loves American pop and knows a lot of the words.  She uses way too much perfume and hair spray and spends a lot of time on her hair.  She is very stylish, in a French teenage kind of way.

There is something about travel that takes us out of our own little world into something new and exciting.  But there is also something about having a foreign exchange student in your home that opens your world even more.  Unlike visiting a country and planning your trip and itinerary, teenagers are unpredictable and mysterious, particularly in a different language.  Last night I found Eva in her room dancing to pop music and watching a video, too excited by the Science Museum and seeing Harvard, to sleep.  This morning, it was all I could do to drag her to school, since she wanted to sleep.  But she got up, took a very long shower, used a ton of hairspray and an hour later was as good as new. I am so grateful to have this fascinating person in our home, and feel hopeful about the world, because foreigners are really just strangers we haven’t met yet.

To find your world stage, consider the idea of bringing the world to you and invite an exchange student to stay.  You won’t regret it.

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Arles, France

All the Same

In a world that is so filled with violence and despair, it gives me hope to coach people from all over the world.  I love knowing that clients in Australia struggle with the same thing as those in France or the UK or Germany or the States.  We all want meaningful work and we want relationships that bring us joy.  We all have challenges with bosses and family members and we all struggle at some point in our lives with feeling stuck or afraid or alone.  It’s easy to forget that, however, if you haven’t traveled, or you don’t have the privilege of getting to know people from all over the world.  When I think about Europeans and how freely and frequently they travel, because of proximity, it makes me sad that Americans choose to be so isolated.  Yes, we are mostly surrounded by water, other than bordering Mexico and Canada, but we are also figuratively isolated.

According to the most recent statistics from the State Department, most Americans do not have passports.  Only 46% do, but it varies tremendously from state to state.  New Jersey has the highest at 62%, followed by New York (59%), Massachusetts (58%), and Alaska, Connecticut and Delaware (all were at 55%).  Mississippi has the lowest, with just 17%, followed by West Virginia (19%), Alabama (22%), Arkansas (22%) and Kentucky (23%). (The Expeditioner.com, Dec 11, 2016.) Most of the red states that voted for Trump are states with fewer passport holders, which makes sense, given the fear of a global economy and foreigners.  And the fact is that international travel is much more expensive than travel by car, something even middle or working class Europeans can easily do.

Travel for me has been such a gift, from the first time I went to Europe as a 12 year-old with a few French phrases memorized, and flirted with a cute boy at the top of the Eiffel Tower.  Or the time I backpacked through Europe solo and got lost so easily (pre iPhone and GPS), that I had a number of concerned citizens walking with me to make sure I got where I needed to go.  I am grateful for the Swiss family who didn’t speak a word of English and tolerated my very basic and slow French, while feeding me the most incredible cheese and chocolate and doing my laundry.  I remember my husband’s Irish great aunt, not a day younger than 70, squealing in delight when she met us, having prepared a huge feast even though we arrived mid-day for a quick stop.  I remember the first time in Japan in my late twenties, when I forgot to take off my shoes or tried to shake hands instead of bowing, and for being grateful to get to experience such a different culture and language.

The greatest gift of traveling and living abroad, as well as coaching people from other countries, is that I remember that there is no right way to be, to live, to work, to raise children, to find love.  All of us want similar things, but each of us seeks it in a unique way, partly based on our geography, values, upbringing and culture.  It is dangerous when we start to believe that our country is the best and the only place to live, that our way of doing things is right and everyone else is wrong.  I used a stroller to transport my kids, but many Africans carry their babies on their backs.  We take off our shoes inside our house like the Japanese, but most people don’t.  I chose my husband based on love, but many couples from other cultures swear by arranged marriages.

To find your world stage, remember that we are more the same than we are different.  We are humans who want to love and be loved, to work in a meaningful way, and to make a difference in our families, our communities, our country and our world.  In the end, no matter our country or politics or religion or race, we are all the same.

 

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My son in Japan in 2014.

 

 

Be Inconvenienced

As much as I love to travel in order to see the world and be adventurous, it’s frankly not fun being inconvenienced, whether it’s a delayed flight, a hard hotel bed (very common in Asia) or a lousy meal.  On good days, it’s worth it.  On bad days, you start to question your sanity, asking things like, “I traveled half way around the world to live in a city that has no trash cans anywhere in the city?” I understand the concept of “carry in and carry out” when you’re camping, but when you’re walking the streets of Tokyo carrying your trash around, you begin to feel like a bit of a sherpa.

And yet one of the reasons we travel internationally as much as we can with our kids is that not only do we want them to learn to be global citizens, but we also want them to learn to live with inconvenience, since so much of their American life is set up to avoid it.  A few years ago, when we bought a new car, the windows in the back row came tinted.  When I was growing up, only limousines and hearses had tinted windows. Now, most cars have that feature.  When I asked the car dealer why they had tinted windows, he looked at me like I was very slow and said carefully, “Because you don’t want your children to get sun in their eyes.”  I responded passionately, “Are you kidding me?  I spent my whole childhood with sun in my eyes, when I wasn’t fighting over the cooler in the back seat of the car with my sister!”

Today, you don’t even have to get up and change the channel or adjust the bunny ears, which we did constantly in the 1970’s in order to kind of see Hogan’s Heroes on Channel 2.  I’m not even sure what that show was really supposed to look like, given that we never saw it clearly.  Today we have 200 plus channels in high definition and a remote that is so complicated that my eleven year-old has to remind me how to work it.  Today you don’t have to run to the phone to answer it because you’re wearing your phone.  You don’t have to experience being hot inside and relying on dusty fans that don’t work because you have A/C.  And many Americans have homes that are large enough that people can retreat to their own rooms and even sections of the house. (It’s odd to me that as family size decreases, home sizes have increased, but it’s true.)

So what happens when a family of four who is used to living in a 2500 square foot newly renovated house with a modern kitchen moves to Tokyo for a month and stays in a small 2 bedroom for two weeks which is a third the size of our house?  And then because that apartment wasn’t available the whole time, that same family moves into an apartment that is half that size, only 350 square feet and consists of one room?  With 1 bathroom, 2 adults, 1 teen, 1 preteen and way too many suitcases (we forgot to pack light), let’s just say it’s a lesson in inconvenience.  Oh, and did I mention that there is ongoing construction around the apartment? And that many of the Japanese snacks contain dried fish with little eye balls, which my kids (and I) find kind of gross?  This might make really good reality tv for sure.  But mainly it strengthens our resilience, makes us more tolerant and flexible, and definitely makes us more grateful for what we have back home.

Often the path to finding your world stage and deciding how you want to contribute to the world involves learning to live with inconvenience, since it’s only when you allow yourself to feel uncomfortable that you discover what you’re made of.  You may find yourself frustrated at times by your adventure.  But you also may find that you’re stronger than you think.

 

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When In Japan

The phrase “when in Rome” dates back to St. Ambrose back in 387 A.D. He was advising St. Augustine how to behave in Milan, which unlike Rome, did not believe in fasting on Saturdays. At the time, the phrase applied to church customs.  Today, it just means that you should do what is appropriate for the location and occasion:  you don’t wear tennis shoes to a wedding or a ball gown to a ball game.

But what if the phrase could mean permanently adapting some part of another culture that works better?  My family is currently living in Tokyo for a month while my husband does academic research, and being here got me thinking about the idea of “when in Japan.”  Having lived here a few times before, I’ve come to realize that I’m a different person in Japan because of my surroundings.  But unlike the idea of adopting something new temporarily in a new place, I thought it might be worthwhile to claim some of that when I’m back in the States.

In Japan, I’m more free, since I feel untroubled by the American rat race, the parenting as a competitive sport that I feel so strongly in the States.  It helps that I’m on vacation currently, so I’m naturally more relaxed, but it goes beyond that.  As my friends who live here tell me, you just don’t feel the American competition so acutely here in a large international city that is outside your own country.

When I’m here I also notice things more, whether it’s the fishermen squatting by the side of the pond, or the Japanese children with bowl haircuts waddling down the street in their large backpacks, or the odd assortment of housing, from modern buildings to old wooden shops waiting to be torn down, to brightly colored walls, to temples or shrines shoved in between. When I’m here, I look up more and say good morning to everyone from police men to old ladies, maybe to practice one of the few phrases I know in Japanese (Ohayo gozaimasu!).  Yesterday, I waved goodbye to some Japanese toddlers who had befriended me in the grocery store, showing me the twigs they had collected from the park.  I waved and said, “Mata ne!” and then they shouted it back to me again and again, giggling.

It took me a while to love Japan, a place my husband calls home, having gone to high school here.  At first, all I could see was the indecipherable signs and the crowded trains with old ladies pushing and weird, sticky food like mochi.  But slowly I came around.  Where else is an entire nation so polite and conscientious?  Where else is service such an art form that the average person is treated like royalty? The last time we left Tokyo for the States, we took the airport limousine from a hotel.  As we were leaving, at least ten hotel staff came outside to say goodbye to our bus, all bowing in a deep bow of respect.  I had tears in my eyes because I had never experienced anything like this in the States.

To find your world stage, make sure you travel and learn from other countries and cultures.  It might just change how you are back home.

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