How Do I Pronounce Pieh?

My maiden name is Rachel Pieh.

I write as Rachel Pieh Jones.

Lots of people ask me how to pronounce Pieh.

For math geeks: think 3.14

For bakers: think apple

In other words, pi. Or pie.

Not Pee-eh

Not Peach

Not Pitch

Pi. Pie. Pieh.

Which means…today is my family day!

So nice of the world to celebrate us every year on 3.14, ie March 14, ie, International Pi(eh) Day.

Happy Pi(eh) Day and voila, that’s how to pronounce my name. And here’s my people.

Passages Through Pakistan

Marilyn Gardner, author of Between Worlds, published her second book this week. Passages Through Pakistan: an American Girl’s Journey of Faith is a beautifully rendered story of growing up between worlds.

One scene, among many, that pricked my heart is of Marilyn’s mother attempting to plant a garden in Pakistan. She longs for the vibrant colors of the place she left behind but the earth is unrelenting and nothing will grow. Finally she gives up and plants fake flowers, for the splash of brightness. From a distance, at least, it is beautiful. And then, it is stolen. Marilyn remembers thinking, as a child, “I thought we were loved.” Why would someone steal flowers from someone they loved?

The story captures the hard work, creativity, delight, devastation, and recovery inherent in so many experienced of living abroad.

Marilyn writes about going to boarding school. Oh, the complicated, loaded topic of boarding school. Marilyn handles this with so much vulnerability and grace. She refuses to shy away from the pain or to sink into defending her parents’ choice. She lays it out bare, the sorrow and the joy, hand in hand, that have made her into the incredibly wise, empathetic, and openhearted woman she is today.

This is the woman who oozes out through the words of this book – compassionate toward herself, her parents, toward God, and of course toward Pakistan. I don’t want to write spoilers, but at a moment of horrific tragedy and facing the question, “How can I live with this?” Marilyn remembers her mother saying, “You will live with this because of forgiveness and because of grace.” Again, she captures truth through sharing vulnerable stories.

Passages Through Pakistan is a book for Third Culture Kids and their parents, for churches, for people who live internationally and for the people who send them out, who love them, who pray for them. It isn’t always an easy read because Marilyn doesn’t gloss over the hard parts of her childhood but it is a hopeful read, because she finds joy and God in those hard parts.

When I finished reading, I had one overwhelming urge: to buy this book for my teenagers. This  is the perfect graduation gift for TCKs. Parents out there, with kids at the boarding school my kids attend (I’m talking especially to you guys) – I’m serious.

I’m buying copies for both my kids, even though I received an advance copy for the purpose of reviewing. I want them to have a hard copy to hold between their hands. Even if your kids hate to read, urge them to read the final chapter. Give the gift of wisdom and perspective as they head out into the wide, wild world.

You can read Marilyn’s blog Communicating Across Cultures here and you can buy Between Worlds and of course, Passages Through Pakistan here.

 

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4 Ways to Stay Content as an Expat Mom

I believe contentment has a lot more to do with our responses to circumstances than with those actual circumstances. I have seen families living without electricity or running water who ooze contentment and joy and I’ve seen families living in ostentatious wealth who seem paralyzed by a lack of gratitude and contentment.

And, I’ve seen in my own heart that I could go either way.

For thirteen years now, I’ve been raising my kids in the Horn of Africa. It hasn’t always been easy and there have been many days when all I wanted were five one-way airplane tickets out (and on the worst days? One ticket would have sufficed). But on far more days, I’ve experienced a deep and abiding contentment, a peace with our choice and life here.

4 Ways to Stay Content as an Expat Mom

Here are four things that help me make the choice to be content:

Don’t Focus on the Limitations

There is no English education (except it is coming – check out the International School of Djibouti!) There is no lush, green park. There is no playground (except for a few hours two nights a week). There are no grandparents. There are few extracurricular options. If I let myself sit in these realities, I quickly grow discouraged and feel like I’m failing my children.

But, when I focus on the opportunities, I realize what an incredible childhood they are having. Swimming with whale sharks, hiking inside active volcanoes, floating in the Salt Lake, the lowest point in Africa, speaking several languages. There is a tennis club, no it isn’t fancy, but it exists. There is a soccer team, yes my girls are often the only girls who play and they play on cement, but they are welcomed. No, there aren’t any relatives but there are local people who love my kids.

Don’t Put Fear in Charge

Health care here is pretty atrocious. There are armed guards at school, grocery stores, church, and on random corners throughout the city. There have been robberies, terror attacks, diseases, evacuations, sexual harassment.

Terrible things could happen anywhere, they do happen anywhere. There is also very little petty crime, people who stand up for us, a wonderful amount of freedom and space for kids to play and bike and walk to the corner store. There is diversity and community and exploration and discovery, there is a rich cross-cultural life.

Don’t Forget Their Roots

Living abroad, it could be easy to feel that my kids are disconnected, untethered to their history. But my kids come from somewhere, from someone. They have grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles. Their roots include farmers and medical professionals and business people, people of faith and character. Teaching the kids where they come from, even if they don’t live close to these people currently, gives us all a sense of being connected. And being connected, knowing that you belong somewhere can provide a strong sense of contentment and meaning no matter where you currently reside.

Don’t Refuse to Engage

Some days it is hard to engage with the local community and it can be easier to close the door, to speak English, to not be curious. It is exhausting to always be learning how to live, how to do things that come with instinct in my native Minnesota.

But engaging with the local community is what makes living abroad ultimately worthwhile. Taking the risk to make friends, to become part of that community even as outsiders, and watching my kids develop friendships and the ability to navigate cultures with ease, are some of the highlights of living here.

Contentment comes down to the choices we make, in response to the situations we face. Sometimes it is easier for me to focus on the garbage dump but the far better choice, when I think about raising my kids in the Horn of Africa, is to lift my eyes up the mountains.

How do you hold onto contentment?

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The 12 Days of Djibouti Christmas

My family wrote and performed this song for our relatives in 2013 as part of our Pieh family talent show (and now, exactly 2 years later, this boy in the middle is the tallest in the family. Uh-mazing). To be sung to the tune of “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

12 days of christmas1

On the first day of Christmas, Djibouti gave to me

A pac-man shaped Muslim country.

On the second day of Christmas, Djibouti gave to me

2 baguettes and a pac-man shaped Muslim country.

On the third day of Christmas, Djibouti gave to me

3 heat waves, 2 baguettes and a pac-man shaped Muslim country.

On the fourth day of Christmas, Djibouti gave to me

4 power cuts, 3 heat waves, 2 baguettes and a pac-man shaped Muslim country.

On the fifth day of Christmas, Djibouti gave to me

5 Djibouti Joneses, 4 power cuts, 3 heat waves, 2 baguettes and a pac-man shaped Muslim country.

On the sixth day of Christmas, Djibouti gave to me

6 trees existing, 5 Djibouti Joneses, 4 power cuts, 3 heat waves, 2 baguettes and a pac-man shaped Muslim country.

On the seventh day of Christmas, Djibouti gave to me

7 mosques a-blaring, 6 trees existing, 5 Djibouti Joneses, 4 power cuts, 3 heat waves, 2 baguettes and a pac-man shaped Muslim country.

On the eighth day of Christmas, Djibouti gave to me

8 whale sharks swimming, 7 mosques a-blaring, 6 trees existing, 5 Djibouti Joneses, 4 power cuts, 3 heat waves, 2 baguettes and a pac-man shaped Muslim country.

On the ninth day of Christmas, Djibouti gave to me

9 camels spitting, 8 whale sharks swimming, 7 mosques a-blaring, 6 trees existing, 5 Djibouti Joneses, 4 power cuts, 3 heat waves, 2 baguettes and a pac-man shaped Muslim country.

On the tenth day of Christmas, Djibouti gave to me

10 goats a-munching, 9 camels spitting, 8 whale sharks swimming, 7 mosques a-blaring, 6 trees existing, 5 Djibouti Joneses, 4 power cuts, 3 heat waves, 2 baguettes and a pac-man shaped Muslim country.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, Djibouti gave to me

11 Magnum bars, 10 goats a-munching, 9 camels spitting, 8 whale sharks swimming, 7 mosques a-blaring, 6 trees existing, 5 Djibouti Joneses, 4 power cuts, 3 heat waves, 2 baguettes and a pac-man shaped Muslim country.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Djibouti gave to me

12 stalks of khat, 11 Magnum bars, 10 goats a-munching, 9 camels spitting, 8 whale sharks swimming, 7 mosques a-blaring, 6 trees existing, 5 Djibouti Joneses, 4 power cuts, 3 heat waves, 2 baguettes and a pac-man shaped Muslim country.

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