Hunting the Hummingbird - by David C Hoffman

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Friday, June 9, 2017

of sandstorms and shwarma...

Our time in Kuwait is over, and my head and my heart are swimming with thoughts about it all.

I'm excited, worried, relieved, unnerved, and calm all at once.

I'm so eager to get back to Portland and see our families and friends. 

I'm concerned about reverse culture shock, and hyper-aware of my Momma Job of keeping a pulse on how my children are handling the transition.

I'm nervous about settling back into day-to-day life in the States.
Will it be easier than our days are here?

Some of both, I suppose.

After 22 months of living in Salmiya, Kuwait, I can safely say I know two things for certain:

1) God is faithful.

2) Never say "never."

Our God has been so faithful to see us through every moment of our time here. Every single one.

And oh, the things I've said I'd never do... 

I've been humbled time and time again as I have to turn-tail on something I said I'd NEVER do. ("I'll NEVER drive in this crazy country!" "We will NEVER purchase a car here!" are just a few of the highlights)

I said I'd NEVER drive a car here in Kuwait. Now I drive everywhere, including up along the curbs like all the other drivers, and I view "one way" signs as merely suggestions, just like everyone else.

The last two years have held my hardest parenting moments to date; from being forced to sit down and hold my daughter's arm so a nurse - whom I had to request to please, please, please wear gloves during this process - could draw an entire vile of blood (for a "blood type sample", which they *should* only need one drop for) because we can't stay in the country we've just relocated across the globe to without this test being done, even though I know this whole process isn't on the up and up... to loading my babies up in a taxi with me where there are zero seat belts while a man who spoke no English drove us around unknown areas.

I'm so glad we made the decision to throw ourselves step out of our comfort zone and do this thing. It's been an experience I would choose again: both the expat life, and this particular journey. 
Even with all its hardships and (very) low points, the last two years have been something I'd do all over again, given the opportunity.
And I'm not trying to be dramatic when choosing the phrasing "very low points." There have been some incredibly dark moments, and seasons. 
Our first Fall here nearly broke me. I felt so unsure of every step - literally and metaphorically - I was taking. 
I felt an immense (self-imposed) pressure to make sure our twin five-year-olds were not only coping well with all the changes, but enjoying their days as well. I felt like my sanity was hanging on by a thread, and if I thought our kids were suffering and we'd made a horrible mistake by dragging them half way across the globe and away from all they'd known, that would have been the tipping point for me.

I had prepared myself for forging new ground as a solo parent during the days, but I had mentally counted on David being able to absorb some of that during the evenings and weekends. So when he fell violently ill, for nearly seven weeks, so early into our journey here, I felt like more was on my shoulders than I could bare, and I felt alone. 

I felt angry that so many people here - in a First World Country - chose to ignore (or somehow hadn't been informed??) of obvious things like seat belt laws, basic germ theory, and not throwing trash out your window.

I felt unable to sleep well or relax in this strange, bare apartment that didn't at all feel like home. 

I was lonely and desperately wanted to meet people, friends...but at the same time so very overwhelmed with every single thing that I couldn't handle the thought of adding the potential awkwardness of getting to know someone new in my life.

It was a very hard season. 

Hard on me. Hard on David. Hard on our marriage. Hard on all of us. 
More than once I really feared we'd made a mistake, and more than once I wondered if the kids and I should maybe head back to the States and wait there while David finished out his contract here.


While it's been far from perfect, and the growing pains have at times asked more of us than we've had to give, I'd like to believe that the majority of it has produced good fruit. Really good fruit.
Our family is stronger, and closer than we were before we came here. I feel like we've instilled in our kids that our home is the four of us, no matter where we are, and that our family has each other's backs, because we are a team.
I have learned so very much about the world and its people. Each member of my family has as well. 
Kuwait is a melting pot of expats from all over, and we've had fascinating, real conversations with people from all over the globe. I've sat down with Syrian refugees and asked them what they think of President Assad and what they feel like the proper steps would be to even begin to forge peace there, and really listened to their insight. 
We've experienced a plethora of different types of foods, and even different ways in which people eat their meals. We've become educated on different parts of the world, from people who actually have lived there. We've had beautiful, enlightening discussions with fabulous people of different faiths, and celebrated all that we share in common. We've observed various and diverse ways of dress. 
We've, I hope, via our sharing on Facebook or this blog, helped dispel even the smallest amount of Islamophobia that is so prevalent currently. 
We've visited countries I'd never even thought of traveling to prior to moving to Kuwait. We've become more well-rounded people, daily reminding ourselves and engraving on our hearts that different doesn't mean wrong. 

We've shown our kids so many things in a short span of time, and I'm proud of the education of the world they've acquired by age seven. 
I love that when it rained awhile back, my son said "Momma, doesn't it smell like Sri Lanka right now?" because he's been to Sri Lanka, and remembers the smell.  I love that when my daughter recalls a particular vacation moment, she's prone to ask "was that in Oman, or Bahrain?" because she remembers visiting both. 
I love that both the kids pronounce their friends Arabic names with perfect inflection.

I'm not naive; I realize Kuwait living is different depending on the color or your skin and the color of your passport, but for our family it's overall been a very positive experience.

One of the best things that has happened for me personally is I've learned to be patient and give myself - and others - more grace as it takes time to acclimate to new surroundings.

I have a different definition of what "home" means to me now.
My slippers are home.
My cozy blanket is home.
Cuddling on a couch watching "Psych" reruns with my husband is home.
Eating dinner around the table - any table, with any dishes - hearing my kids talk about their day is home.
Scented candles are home.
Our son coming to snuggle in our bed at 2:00am is home.
My family is home.

Home is not the four walls I spend my days in. 

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and under-prepared for things like reverse culture, should I be doing more to prep our kids for this transition back to life in America? I don't know (and am open to any advice, Audrey or other previous expat parents out there!) but my gut says I can't really prepare in advance for such a thing. It's kinda like when you're pregnant and everybody tells you to "sleep now! Because you won't be able to soon!!"

Our plan is to just kinda parent by feel

And when I am afraid, I'll do my best to raise my Ebenezer Stone and recall all that God has been faithful to see us through over the last 22 months...

I've broken a bone here and had emergency surgery here.

I've ridden a camel on the beach in Oman.

I've taken rides from strangers.

We've been inside of the tallest building in the entire world. 

My daughter and I have sat atop an elephant as it walked in a river in Sri Lanka. 

I've signed paperwork that is entirely in Arabic that I can not read. 

We learned how to make homemade wine.

I've waded in the Persian Gulf.

I've confronted people so loudly in the mall and then had to go quickly find David and confess "we need to leave NOW, I've just made a scene..."

By the time we arrive back in Portland, I will have added EIGHT new stamps to my passport.

We've toured the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

I've put my children in front of the TV and locked myself in the bathroom to bawl my eyes out because I'm so overwhelmed with all that is different here. 

I've made lifelong, authentic, fascinating friends. 

I've confirmed that without pork products, it's really hard to make a decent breakfast casserole. 

I've learned some Arabic.

We've survived the hottest day ever recorded.

I've swum in the Indian Ocean.

If you have an opportunity to live as an expat, do it. Don't be afraid to pack up yourself and your family and go. Or better yet, be afraid and do it anyways. I highly recommend it. It's been such a beautiful season of growth for us, both as individuals and corporately. For every moment that I've felt uncomfortable and awkward and angry and downright scared, there's been five more where I've felt energized, connected, loved, brave, proud, adventurous, and awed.

Thanks be to God.


  1. I love this and you and Psych reruns and think your kids are really luck to have a mom like you.

    1. I heard that (said in the voice of Bruton Guster). High praise, and sincere thanks to the friend who first introduced this southern Baptist teenager to the idea that just * maybe* Jesus wasn't white. #mind blown 😆