The Bookshelf: Djibouti Jones Contributors

This week the Bookshelf features writers who have written for Djibouti Jones. I’m really excited to share their extended works.


by Daniel D. Maurer. Daniel wrote On Writing: 7 Easy Tips to Find Your Niche and quite possibly the only fiction piece on Djibouti Jones. We met at The Loft writing center in Minneapolis a few years ago and Dan has since gone on to publish two excellent, powerful, and unique books. A graphic novel about recovery and a co-authored memoir about teenage male sex trafficking.

by Marilyn Gardner. Marilyn wrote Red Hot Rage, A Third Culture Kids Talks about Raising Third Culture Kids, and Let’s Talk about Hijab: Rethinking the Veil. She is the author of the book Between Worlds, a beautiful series of essays about growing up in Pakistan.

by Heather Caliri. Heather wrote Living With the Empty Spaces and The Hospitality of Greetings. She is the author of Unquiet Time: A Devotional for the Rest of Us and The Word Made Art: 52 projects for a spiritual encounter. The Word Made Art is available via her blog.


by Ruth Van Reken. Ruth wrote the opening essay in the series on Third Culture Kids, Who Are Third Culture Kids? She is the c0-author of the seminal book Third Culture Kids and Letters Never Sent, a moving memoir of her boarding school kid experiences.

by Rhett Burns. Rhett wrote Time is Relational in Turkey and is the author of a book with the fantastic subtitle: how American football explains Turkey.

D.L. Mayfield has a book in the works as do a number of other contributors. I’m sure I have missed some of you. If so, please leave a comment and I’ll add your books to the list or do another post in the future to promote them.

What I’m reading this week

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin
by Erik Larson. Yup, still reading this. Love it. Need to finish so I can move on to his new one and to Thunderstruck, which I haven’t read yet. Larson was the guest on the Longform podcast this week too so if you are a longform fan or an Erik Larson fan or if you’d like to become one, I highly recommend the podcast. It is what motivates me to get u pat 5:30 a.m. and pound out 13 miles in dusty, muggy Djibouti. I think that about says it all.



Faraway: A Suburban Boy’s Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking
by Daniel D. Maurer and R.K. Kline. Yup, this is the one I mentioned above. Dan is a Djibouti Jones contributor. You can read my review on Amazon. I read this in two quick night-time reading bursts and the second night should have gotten to bed earlier because I had that darn 5:30 a.m. wake up call but couldn’t sleep until I finished it.




The Tiger’s Wife: A Novel
by Tea Obrecht. I know. I mentioned this one before and my slow progress has little to do with the quality of the book. Its a great book and I wish I loved fiction more. I think reading more fiction would help my mind think more creatively. But…I struggle to get into fiction. Convince me otherwise! Recommend some great fiction.




What are you reading this week? What fiction do I need to read? Which Djibouti Jones contributors have I missed?

 *this post includes amazon affiliate links

What I Learned: The Hospitality of Greetings

This post is part of a series on learning from diversity called What I Learned. To contribute, contact Rachel.

Today’s What I Learned post comes from Heather Caliri, writing about greetings and the uncomfortable risk we take in simply saying ‘hello.’


The instructions for passing the peace are pretty clear—and even written in the bulletin: un saludo cordial, mirando a los ojos. Which means, “a cordial greeting, looking into each others eyes.”

My first time at the Spanish-language service at my church, I thought I understood those instructions. I stood up and shook hands with the people seated around me. Each person murmured la paz del Cristo–The peace of Christ–as they shook hands with me.

Easy enough. I smiled cordially, looked them in the eyes, and repeated the phrase back to them. After two or three people, I sat down again. My shy self was a little relieved that the face-to-face time was over.

My duty done, I lifted up the bulletin, wondering what came next. Then I stopped.

Something weird was happening.

No one else was sitting down. No—everyone was wandering around the room like bees dancing in a hive, zooming from one person to another. People shook hands, they kissed cheeks, they hugged. Several people from across the room came over to me and passed me the peace, even though I had closed up shop.

For several minutes, I did a little jumping-jack dance where I started standing, then sat down again, feeling silly. Surely the greeting would end soon. Surely if I stood up now, I would be the last woman standing. Or maybe I seemed standoffish, sitting down? I half sat, half stood and wished I could hide someplace until the greeting dance ended.

It takes a while for even a small congregation to greet everyone in the room. I watched everyone swirl around me, wishing I had approached the peace of Christ differently. I realized that there are greetings, and there are greetings, and I had wandered into the second kind.



I’ve spent years of my life in Latin American cultures; greetings stuck out even in my first weeks of immersion. In one of my letters soon after I arrived in Argentina fifteen years ago, I wrote this: “I’m entranced with the Argentine people, who are warm to the extreme. The proper greeting is a kiss on the cheek, regardless of sex. After getting used to not sticking out my hand, I started loving that I got such a friendly welcome.”

That hive-dance I saw at church shouldn’t have surprised me; living in Argentina, the same sort of thing happened all the time. Arrive at a large birthday dinner? Everyone stands, forms an impromptu receiving line, and kisses you on the cheek. Coming in late to a gathering at a restaurant? Expect to go down the line of chairs saying hello to each person in turn. The more people arrive at once, the more comical the greetings seemed—a factory line of quick pecks and “holas”—twenty at a time—until my lips were worn out with air-kisses.

But if you don’t bother with greetings, people notice. If you don’t bother to say goodbye or goodnight, people notice. My Argentine friend Cami told me that when people don’t say hello to her, she wonders whether she offended them somehow.

So I’m surprised I was surprised by the greetings at church. And the more I see greetings as central to the congregation’s culture, the more I’ve seen them pop up everywhere, woven into the very fabric of worship.

After the opening prayer, new and returning visitors stand and introduce themselves by name, and the person leading the service greets welcomes them—calling out people that were too shy to stand up.

Minutes later, the children gather at the front of the room and say their names into the mike one by one. After each one, everyone answers back, “Hola, Henry,” or “Hola, Eileen.”

And informal welcome is constant: someone grabbing me a Bible in English when the leader begins to read from the Word. The pastor, rushing on his way to start the service, stops and gives me a hug, saying, “I am so glad you’re here.” An older man finds me a song sheet. And if someone comes to the service that doesn’t speak Spanish, a bilingual member sits next to them and translates.

Coming as a stranger for the first time to these services, being welcomed—formally and informally—deeply affects my heart.

And in a country where immigrants are often demonized and made to feel unwelcome, being given a warm welcome by immigrants is tremendously humbling.

I think about that before I started going to the Hispanic service at my church—which shares facilities and some activities with the Anglo population—when I’d see various members at the coffee cart, or in the English service. Can I be honest? I didn’t make an effort to look them in the eyes and give them a cordial greeting. I told myself they might not be interested in meeting me (despite my fluent Spanish and the fact that we’re brothers and sisters in Christ). I felt awkward and shy. I felt weird about the divisions between Latinos and Anglos at our church and in San Diego.

So I didn’t bother.

I’m not sure: is it culture that kept my eyes downcast? Is it culture that prevented me from walking over and giving the Latino members of my church a cordial greeting?

I look back and feel ashamed. I knew better, and I didn’t do better.

Being welcomed over and over into the Spanish-language church is changing my approach to hospitality. It’s not a nice thing for people who are good at it. It’s an imperative that acknowledges the humanity and value of every person. It’s the first step to confronting barriers like ethnicity, skin color, or language. It’s a petite cross that we should not neglect to shoulder.

I stay after the Hispanic service sometimes, and I watch as people leave. The parents kneel down by their children, and tell them to say goodbye to this person or that. Their children wiggle, ready to play or run or move on to the next thing, and their parents gently, kindly, insist.

*image via Flickr

heather caliriTwo years ago, I started saying little yeses to faith, art, and life. The result? Transformation. Get my free e-book, “Dancing Back to Jesus: Post-perfectionist Faith in Five Easy Verbs”, on my blog, A Little Yes. Follow on Twitter.

Painting Pictures: Living With The Empty Spaces


*lots of goodies today: go read this post by Marilyn Gardner at Communicating Across Boundaries: Thoughts on Reentry from a Third Culture Kid. Good stuff. You’ll probably need to bookmark it. It is long but worth storing up for later.

*especially relevant to readers and writers of this series: check out The Worlds Within site and read their guidelines for submissions by ATCKs and TCKs for an upcoming anthology. Looks like an amazing opportunity! Deadline for submissions is March 2014.

Today’s Painting Pictures post is by Heather Caliri, another SheLoves writing friend who encourages me to say ‘yes,’ to take risks, to expose my soul on the page. I can testify that the warmth, insight, and courage in these words are a true reflection of the creative and talented woman I am coming to know. As a long-term expatriate reading the words of a 6-month perspective, I appreciate the way she is able to humbly illuminate many of my own struggles and processes.

 Living with the Empty Spaces

Before we left for a six-month sabbatical in Buenos Aires, everyone agreed on one thing.

“Kids are resilient,” everyone said. “Throw them with Argentine kids for five minutes and they’ll playing together. Your kids will be fine.”

And my kids were fine, and they are resilient. But did my kids dive into a new culture without any hesitation, just because they are kids?

Um, not so much.

Our apartment in Buenos Aires was a few blocks from two great parks, each complete with swing sets, sand to dig in, and kids of all sizes.

“No,” they’d say.

I’d bribe them with promises of riding the carousel.

But once we were there, one or the other would stare, angrily, at kids who tried to speak to them.

Sometimes one would stomp over to me. “Mama, that girl tried to speak to me in Spanish.”

I’d sigh.

They would perk up immediately if they heard anyone speaking in English, going over and chatting, making friends. And then go back to silence if the other expats left.

And after six months abroad, our grand experiment in growing semi-third-culture kids was not the success I’d hoped for.

They’d gotten used to staying up until ten, drinking sweetened yerba mate, and scrambling aboard fast-moving buses. But they learned approximately four Spanish words, and have no desire to learn more.

I wanted immersion, and instead we’d dipped in our toes.

bs as playground

Looking back on the experience, I think all my sunny overconfidence came down to this: I forgot that deeply entering into another culture requires facing a loss of the same magnitude. You must strip away old cultural assumptions. You must experience alienation from friends and family back home. You must live for a while with the empty space that’s left.

And you must wait, aching, for that emptiness to be filled with new things.

I lived in Buenos Aires for a year in college, and in that short time, I felt loss and experienced filling. I know, at least a little, what a blessing it is.

And how extraordinarily hard it is before you start getting filled.

I am not sorry to have gone through the grief, alienation, and pain that brought me to a place of connection and love.

But I found it hard to ask my children to do the same.

I homeschooled them instead of enrolling them in local schools. I didn’t force them to go to the park when they didn’t want to. I found them friends that understood some English. I found English-language TV for their downtime. I created a little haven of the US in our apartment. I did all this even knowing the prize that waited on the other end. I hesitated to require them to experience the loss.

I still wonder if I did the right thing.

We chose to go for a short period of time; I wasn’t sure if we’d reach the richness in only six months, no matter how deeply we immersed ourselves. And coming to a new country embedded in your family means you’re shielded more from grief and sadness, isolation and frustration. Perhaps no matter what I required of my kids, six months wouldn’t have left them anywhere closer to immersion.

And yet–

I returned home with a sense of loss myself. Because honestly, our family may not attempt to live abroad together again. And I wish, very much, that my kids could have experienced the loss and the gain, all mixed up together.

I’m realizing that as hard as it is experience pain myself, it is harder to watch someone else go through it. It is hard to allow the grieving and bewilderment that comes when bedrocks of your kids’ identity—culture, language, place—are shaken.

It required a resolve and strength of character that I wasn’t prepared for.

Knowing that, and being surrounded by my home culture again, I am trying to cultivate that resolve on a smaller scale. I’m trying to look into any of the doors to other cultures open to us here, and continue trying to usher my kids through them, even if it’s not always comfortable.

To have friends that don’t share our faith, so that phrases like, “The one true God,” have to be taken out and examined.

To attend events not in our native tongue, so that we know what it is to sing a song where the very cadence of syllables feels exhilarating and strange.

To model creating relationships across cultures, even if my kids complain that they feel left out when I speak Spanish.

I’m seeing that encountering other cultures as a family still requires us all to be shaken, resolute, and awake, in the way of any spiritual practice. It requires awareness. It takes time. And no matter how rewarding and right it is, it doesn’t come naturally.

h bio picHeather Caliri is a writer and mom from San Diego. Two years ago, she started saying little yeses to faith, art and life. The results were life-changing. Get her free e-book, Dancing Back to Jesus: Post-pefectionist Faith in Five Easy Verbs ( on her blog, A Little Yes (

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