Monday, November 28, 2011

Read My Writing: Topical Points of View

One subject, many points of view. I went out to the blogroll and found a plethora of Thanksgiving posts. Many of you have even moved on to Christmas, leaving all things orange and brown in the dust. But we will pause with thanksgiving today and read what you have to say.

I've included two excerpts that I found interesting from a cross-cultural standpoint: one tells of making a traditional Thanksgiving dish in another country, the other tells what it is like being from another country in the midst of an American holiday.

A WOTH Shout-Out to those of you who wrote topically this past week about Thanksgiving:
Happy Thanksgiving! As you wake up this morning, I will be putting the finishing touches on my part of our Thanksgiving feast. We are celebrating in the evening as it is just a normal workday here in Turkana. Here is a small wordy glimpse into how I have to job is to fix the green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, my grandma's apple salad and to bring the cranberry sauce.

...The sweet potato casserole brings its own challenges. We do sometimes find sweet potatoes here in the small shops in Lodwar. I found some yesterday. The thing is, they are white on the inside not orange. One Thanksgiving two of my teammates decided that they wanted orange sweet potatoes so they used food coloring. At one point we had bright pink mashed sweet potatoes and we were all rolling on the floor in stitches! They did eventually get them to be orangish. This year I found a recipe that uses both carrots and sweet potatoes. So, I am hoping the orange carrots will help get the color right. This recipe calls for 1 cup of sour cream. You can't just run out to the store and get sour cream here. So, I use a canned cream and mix it with 2 Tbs of vinegar to make it sour. [for the rest of her yummy menu "Turkana-style," click here.]

Dear Americans,

I have to admit that I feel ambivalent about your Thanksgiving.

Giving thanks is important, I acknowledge that and I practise it every day. And I appreciate that your holiday gives us a 3 1/2 day weekend at CAJ — a welcome break from school and work. But it is your celebration. Not mine. It is full of things that you grew up knowing, food and fellowship that you will always associate with good times.

Where I grew up, this time of year was associated with the increasing heat of the days and nights. With exams, tests and assignment and the imminent end of the school year. With end of year parties. With the anticipation of a long summer break. The cricket season was heating up and the school year winding down.

But never did I associate the end of November with all things orange and brown. Never did I think about turkey or pumpkin pie. Never had I even wondered what holiday Americans celebrated at this time of year, before I came to Japan. We Australians have no equivalent to your Thanksgiving. Our history is very different to yours in so many ways...Your Aussie friend, Wendy. [for the complete post, click here]


Thank you, Lynn and Wendy! Here's what stood out from your posts: the visual of pink potatoes (Lynn) and a point of view I had never considered and the courage to write it (Wendy). To the rest of our writers, here's my prompt for you: Is there something that would take a bit of courage to write about, something that you've been wanting to get off your chest, something that you've been wondering if you are alone in the way you feel? Then I challenge you to "do a Wendy" and write it out...I'll come looking for it this week :).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Read My Writing: Have a Banana

Last week I encouraged the use of dialogue in your blog post. Here are 3 who found the quotation mark key on their computer and put it to use to convey a bit of their musings. For those of you who would like to use dialogue but need a tutorial, these two past posts might be helpful in writing and punctuating dialogue correctly (thanks Robin for asking!).

A “Well-Done!” WOTH shout-out goes to:

The next featured blog post comes from Missy @ Till All Have Heard. She has just returned to Papua New Guinea from home assignment. I’m sure most of you can commiserate with her question: what's for dinner? And those of you who live in remote or underdeveloped regions of the world know the answer is more than just looking in the pantry for a few food items; it is an all-day affair.

Pay attention to how she uses detail to aid in telling her story of preparing meals in another culture: price of items, utensils used, time, distance, food items. It's what adds interest and draws in the reader. She had me at the $15 chicken.

I think this would be a great piece to add to your support newsletter or in a church/agency communication. All can relate because eating is universal; fixing dinner, a necessity.

What’s for Dinner?

By Missy @ Till All Have Heard

There is a bit of heaven here in this mission community—especially the way families eagerly sign up to cover the first three days worth of meals for new arrivals to Ukarumpa. With all the unpacking, settling in and finding your way around the center, it’s very nice not to have to concern yourself with cooking. But when you’ve arrived on a Friday and the store is closed till Monday, and McDonalds is just a mirage from another life, the “meal list” is pure necessity.

But now the honeymoon is over and I’m struggling to make three meals a day for this family. This ought to be old hat by now. I mean, I have lived in PNG for 5 years already. And I really didn’t even take advantage of all the convenient and microwaveable foods available when we were in the States. I guess I just wasn’t prepared for the changes that have taken place in the food department of PNG during the past three years.

Yes, I knew prices were high, but $15 for a chicken! I haven’t even seen the prices for beef yet, because the store hasn’t had any since we arrived. And what do we eat for breakfast when cereal is over $9 a box, eggs are $7/dozen and oatmeal can’t be found? The answer is bananas and toast (if I remembered to make bread the day before.)

My whole day seems consumed by planning and preparing the next meal. Jon tells me to keep it simple. But what does that mean? Carrot sticks aren’t even simple when you have to be at the market between 6:00 and 7:30 AM on Monday, Wednesday or Friday to buy them. Wash them in a water and bleach solution. Pare them without the aid of a decent vegetable peeler, and slice them with the equivalent of a butter knife. (I’m serious…the house we’re living in did not have a single sharp knife—not even a dull, sharp knife. I shudder to think what I’d be doing if I hadn’t brought my own from home!)

I wonder how long the kids will accept my suggestion of “have a banana” for a midday snack?

But I truly do thank God for the market where the local people sell their garden produce three mornings a week. I can find just about any type of vegetable there and many tropical fruits. Prices are pretty good—comparable to your home-town grocery store. So let us eat fresh veggies, and roasted veggies and minestrone soup, beans, and more beans, and for dessert…bananas.

The upside…maybe in three years I’ll be thinner and healthier. Or maybe I’ll just resemble that banana.


Thank you, Missy! How’s your Thanksgiving menu shaping up in Papua New Guinea?

And for the rest of the writers, perhaps writing about the nuances of your cross-cultural Thanksgiving dinner would be fun to blog about too. I’m always intrigued with who can scrounge up a turkey-like meat for the festivities and who brings out their long-concealed can of pumpkin for the pie.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear writers! You are expanding God’s Kingdom and for that, we at Women of the Harvest, are grateful.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Read My Writing: Make Your Writing Interesting with Dialogue

In requesting permission from Sarah @ Whispers on the Journey to publish her post, I told her that I loved the use of one little slice of life story, accompanied with actual dialogue, to capture an aspect of her cross-cultural life. I found it quite interesting. See what you think.

Answering Awkward Questions

by Sarah @ Whispers on the Journey

I answer really awkward questions without blinking.

I didn’t used to. I used to have a filter.

But tonight in my auto ride with a chatty driver – I realized just how far my American-filter for awkwardness has been stretched and disfigured. He was asking me questions about salary figures, marital status, why I chose to wear South Asian clothing, and my opinion on world politics and religion.

And I answered all of them. I chatted freely about my choice of clothes, the nature of man and Christianity. About how I’m not married because I’m “waiting for God’s choice” (this is the best answer that gets my parents off the hook for not currently searching for a husband).

The even weirder thing is – I now ask these questions too. I once struck up a conversation with a random girl in Dominoes pizza. We were both waiting for our take-out order. I plied her with questions. Married? Work? Where? Live with your family? Why not? And they’re ok with that?

She saw nothing wrong with answering all of those questions and more. I saw nothing wrong with asking them of a complete stranger.

There’s only one question I hate getting asked now.

But it’s not the one you might expect.

I hate getting asked how much I paid for something.

Not because I necessarily mind the question or find it impolite. But because if it’s a South Asian friend asking, my answer will inevitably be followed by “tsk tsk” and a lecture on how I could’ve gotten it cheaper somewhere else. (Or, I like to insert here, if I looked more South Asian!)

My neighbor once saw me coming in from the market with a bag of rice. She asked me how much I paid for it.

“26 rupees a kilo,” I replied innocently.

“Aww – you can get it for 23 rupees a kilo around the corner!”

So if it’s about where my money comes from, what I do every day, whether or not I’m married, if I live alone, what I think of corruption in politics and why I chose to wear the clothes I do – please ask!

If it’s about how much I paid for my rice – keep it to yourself!


Thanks, Sarah! Comments, writers? Could you all, in the next week or two, use dialogue to convey an incident between you and a national, and post it on your blog? This is the technique used in fictional pieces: telling the story through dialogue. I think it works great for telling about your cross-cultural lives too. I know you run into all types of interesting characters...why not introduce your readers to them.

And just to give us a peek, what if you posted a brief conversational exchange in the comment section this week...kinda like I said this, then he said that, etc.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Read My Writing: My New Addiction...what???

Read My Writing continues with this post, "My New Addiction," from Robin @ A Common Woman. It proves that a good title will draw you in. Addiction??? Is this a woman of God confessing something that could potentially be scandalous in her line of work, on her blog, for all the world to see? Confession may be good for the soul, but it also makes for good reading. Click goes my computer.

Once I've landed on her blog and read it, I am doubly endeared to her: I love her humor and find that I share her interest in collecting pottery. Robin casts all fear aside in the possibility of her readers judging her "addiction" and reveals not one, not two, but multiple pieces in her collection. In her own funny way she busts the myth of missionary women living lives of extreme deprivation. Women on the field enjoy lovely things and even use their money to buy them.

Can you relate?

No guilt or condemnation here...I'm just breathing a sigh of relief, because you see, "My name is Cindy...and I have an addiction too, I collect Homer McLaughlin pottery."

My New Addiction

Yes, I have addictions. Some are small, and inexpensive. Like Peanut M&Ms. I like to pretend I always have them on hand because Darling Husband loves them, but I do too. I believe Peanut M&Ms are healthier than the plain kind, because there is a peanut in the middle. And nuts are good for you!

My newest addiction revolves around Polish pottery. I love it. I yearn for more pieces to grace my shelves. My husband doesn’t get it.

I’ve discovered a great many ex-pat women living in Europe suffer from the same addiction. There seems to be a secret competition to see who can collect the most Polish pottery. Pottery also signals a woman’s intentions. If a woman says she is returning to the States for a short visit, BUT takes her Polish pottery with her – she's not coming back. Home is not where the heart is, it’s where the Polish pottery is.

Last week, I had the opportunity to go to Boleslawiec, Poland and buy pottery. I may not know how to pronounce Boleslawiec, but I know it is the birthplace of Polish pottery. Imagine, store after store stacked to the rafters with pottery. The Disneyland of pottery – my happiest place on earth.

If you aren’t able to make the trip to Boleslawiec, I’ve heard that T.J. Maxx sometimes has Polish pottery in stock. I’m hoping to check out the rumor the next time I’m in the States.

In the meantime: My name is Robin, and I have an addiction……


Thank you, Robin! Your photos are beautiful and artful. They add to the pleasure of your words. Well, writers, what is your response to this post?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Read My Writing: What For?

We’re beginning a new series, Read My Writing, which will take us through to the end of the year. It will look different each week. By featuring someone's writing from the blogroll weekly, we will discuss and give feedback to an element—topic, style, genre—of her writing. It is my hope that this will begin to feel like a writers group where iron can sharpen iron and friends can encourage one another.

Suzanne is our first featured writer. There's a header on her blog that caught my eye: "What For." With curiosity aroused, I clicked through. Here's what she posted.

What For?

by Suzanne @

I write for the delight it is to put my day into words and photographs. My kids. My husband. My experiences. My thoughts. The things we do. The stuff I cook. Things change for me when they go from swirling around in my over-stimulated multi-tasking head to being typed in black and white 'Georgia' font on my screen. Things become clearer. I get perspective. I see God more. I appreciate more. I see more beauty. I have more joy.

I write for my children. I want my kids to know that caring for them and their father every day is one of the most important, the most rewarding, the most special thing I have ever done. And that their stories, our stories as we build this life together are worth recording, archiving, reading and re-reading. Daily they each hear me say "You are one of the best things that has ever happened to me." I mean it. I mean it with my whole heart and this blog proves it.

I want them to be able to picture their childhoods abroad and at home. I want them to know the adventures they went on. I want them to know that they were a part of something much bigger than themselves. I want them to be able to read my words and feel the joy they have brought to me every step of the journey through those words. I want them to know that their Mama loves them more than life itself and that I take joy in their every accomplishment. But also that I struggle, I share, I laugh, I think, I cry and I write about it all.

I write for my sixty-year-old self. I want to remember all these beautiful moments in our life as a family learning, loving, living together. The good, the bad, the hysterical and the heart-melting moments. I don't want to forget a thing.

I write because my kiddies' grandparents, aunties and uncles are half a world away. We miss them. They miss us. I want my words and photos to bring us a bit closer.

I write for Jesus, that He would be glorified in my life and in my writing.

This blog is just me living life. Walking it out. Cooking stuff. Learning to hear God. Raising my little blessings. Attempting to do the right thing. Making people laugh. Trying to be Holy. It's me creating, processing, thinking. This is my life, my heart, my journey.


Thanks, Suzanne, for letting us see your "What For's." Now, writers, what about the rest of you? Please articulate [in the comment section] a few reasons you write your blog, your journal, your stories. We'd love to read your writing.


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