Hunting the Hummingbird - by David C Hoffman

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Why we are here.

Often we're asked why we are here in Kuwait. Why did we make the choice to move here? To leave our life in Portland and move to a foreign country?

Listen, it wasn't an easy choice.

We loved our life in Portland. David loved his job and the college he was teaching at. He loved his students, the classes, his colleagues, and even the campus. I loved my job, working for the best Children's Hospital in Oregon...I worked for pediatricians I admired and deeply respected, and with a care team that made me laugh every day, not to mention a boss who was willing to work around pretty much whatever schedule I needed in order to suit our family best. 
We had fantastic neighbors, including some of our very best friends living literally four doors down from us.
We had a Church family that we loved and that loved us.
We had several family members living in the same city as us, including my amazing sister who adored our kids and often served as a babysitter for our date nights =).
We had all our parents within an hours drive of our home.
The twins had friends everywhere and we had play dates multiple times a week.
In Portland, through my Twin Momma Group, I met some of the very best friends I've ever had. We were always getting together with our kids, or meeting for a Momma's Night Out after we'd tucked our babies in for the night. 
We had a fantastic zoo, a fun children's museum, and countless parks with playgrounds all within a 15 mile drive from our house.

It was no small decision to say good-bye to all these things for two years.


Moving Internationally is something David and I have discussed since he went to get his Masters in ESL. We knew the career doors such a degree would open up, and were both very drawn to them. 

I personally think the World would be a much better place if everyone had experienced what it felt like to be a minority. To be a foreigner. 

So for us, the question wasn't if we'd move abroad, but more of when

We found out I was pregnant with the twins two weeks before David finished Grad School, thus making the decision for us that we'd stay put for a bit =). We bought a house, and began to put real roots down in Portland. 

The next two years are a bit of a blur. Lots of diapers. Lots of nursing. Little sleep. Plenty of crying...sometimes even from the babies. 

The discussion of international travel started up again before the twins turned three. We knew we weren't ready then, but that it was time to start talking about it. 
My rules were that the kids had to be old enough to carry their own backpacks and walk long distances by themselves...(I did not want long days of travel carrying toddlers and their gear!) and I preferred them to be done with naps. 

Last Fall, when A and L were four and a half, we really started getting serious about it. The timing just started to seem ideal to start applying for jobs, and plan to leave in about a years time. The kids were getting older and more independent. We were beginning to feel like we were outgrowing our little 990 sq foot home. And, we were getting itchy feet =). I married a gypsy (David moved 14 times between graduating high school and when we first got married) and after spending a few months traveling around Mexico in our early days together, I was bit by the travel bug as well.

It was important to both of us that we make a huge move like this before our kids had too strong of ties to their life where we were. We didn't want to pull 12 year olds away from their friends, classmates, teams, bands, etc. Five and a half seemed like a great age to do, David started applying to different positions abroad.

I'll be honest, I asked him multiple times if there was a need for English teachers in the Caribbean? Or Fiji maybe? Some place tropical?? 
Turns out there is not.

I began to pull for Dubai =).

Alas, there was not an opportunity for us there at the time. 

David was contacted for an interview for a job here in Kuwait. He was flown to DC, interviewed, and then we waited. He was offered the job, and after praying about it, we jumped at the chance.

The more I read about Kuwait, and the more we talked about it, the more we felt like it could be a good fit for our goals in moving abroad...

1. Cash money, baby.
Lest you think all our reasons for moving here are noble, I'll tell you the main thing that brought us here was the opportunity to make and save a good chunk of money. The college David is working for pays him a good salary, and they pay ALL our living expenses. Rent (in a furnished apartment), utilities, full insurance (medical, dental, and vision) for all four of us, and they will pay for an excellent education at an American school here for the twins (starting next year, in First Grade). The only things we pay for here are food, entertainment, and transportation. Our plan (at this point...) is to not purchase a car while we're here, as taking a cab anywhere within our district only costs us 1KD (approx $3.00), and we are within walking distance of many grocery stores, places to eat, and David's work. 

2. Experience a different culture, for both us and our children.
As I said above, I think it's such a rich experience to immerse yourself in another culture and see how people different from you live. You can be completely unaware of some prejudices you have built in your mind, and living amongst a new people can tear down walls you never even knew existed. I do not want my children to see color when they see a person. I do not want them to judge a person based on how they dress themselves, or how they speak. Of course, this can be accomplished with thoughtful, intentional parenting anywhere, but given the opportunity, what better way then to move them to the opposite side of the World for a few years?

3. Opportunities for more travel.
We are so close to so many amazing travel destinations. While we are here first and foremost to make and save money, we also do not want to miss out on being a short plane ride away from a little vacation in Dubai, or, if I can talk my husband into it...visiting Greece ;).

4. Family bonding.
Few things bond people more than starting over in a completely new place, together. I so want to teach our children that our family is a family no matter where we are, as long as we're together. It's not about our house, or our zip code, or our's about being together. Whenever either of our kids expressed anxiety about moving to Kuwait, we would remind them we had never been here either! This is an adventure for all four of us, and we are blessed to be able to do it as a family. David and I spend a good chunk of the evening "checking in" with each other, and I know more about his days here (and he, mine) than we ever did back home. I'm sure this will naturally fade as our days here become more routine, but it's been good for us to pull together so tightly, as we navigate a new life and corporately keep an eye on the pulse of our children.

So, we sold our house (it was time anyways, as I mentioned we'd begin to outgrow it), we sold our cars, we sold or gave away a lot of our excess stuff (liberating!) and put our furniture, keepsakes, and most our possessions in a storage unit. We packed six suitcases and four carry-ons to come on the plane with us, and six boxes to be shipped over to us here. David signed a two year contract with the college, and we're trying to strike a balance between making this place our home, and recognizing we'll likely only be here 22 months, and already own plenty of things waiting for us in our storage unit back in Portland. 

Are we safe here? Well, as David said, safety is relative. There was a shooting at the McDonalds -in the middle of the afternoon, on a Tuesday- only a few blocks from our house in Portland just a month before we moved.There are no guns here in Kuwait, nor is there ANY alcohol. And, as believers in God, we choose to trust that we are never outside of His reach, and that He has us in the palm of His hand. Yes, we are Christians in a Muslim country, but we have the absolute freedom and right to practice our religion here, we just are not allowed to proselytize here. We haven't yet found a Church, but fully intend to. Our Lebanese neighbors upstairs are Christians, and Rachel is a Christian as well. We've also met a Mormon family since moving here. Not to mention the Muslims we know have been nothing but loving, supportive, and respectful of the difference in our religions. We live in a very safe district, in a safe building with a doorman who lives onsite and locks the entire building up at night. Plus, Kuwait has a high American Military presence, and I've got Military friends (shout out Nicky J! ;) ) who've already told me they are close with people posted near us, should we ever need anything. 

Several people have suggested to us that we'll end up loving it so much here, we'll end up staying longer than our current two year commitment. For us, even though we're just shy of a month in, we don't see that happening. I have no doubt our life here will grow on us, and we will be sad to leave it when the contract is up, but we feel in our hearts that we're Oregonians =). We love green, and we love our families and friends waiting for us. It's a great place to raise our children, and I look forward to buying a home with some land and being able to open the back door and sending the kids out to climb trees and run in the grass =). So although I've learned to never say never, I firmly believe we will be returning home in the summer of 2017.

And that, is the very long version of why we are currently here in Kuwait. 


  1. I love reason all of these posts! What an adventure for your family! My husband and I dream of doing something similar one day!

  2. What a really thought-out and thoughtful plan you guys have mapped out over the years. Here's wishing your two years in Kuwait bring you much happiness, growth, and togetherness -- with just enough homesickness to bring you back to us at the end of that time.

    Love you,
    Aunt Carol

  3. Great post. Well-stated reasons for you decision, which answers the question folks want to know... folks like me! Maybe I'll finally obtain that passport that has been on my To Do Lis. Maybe a mid-east trip is in my future. ;)