PORTUGAL: What Makes A Home?

PORTUGAL: What Makes A Home?

julieOver the past 7 years I have lived in 10 different homes on 2 different continents. To some this will sound like the ultimate adventure, to others it will seem like a nightmare. Even I can’t decide how I feel about it.

At the moment, having lived in temporary accommodation for over six months with a baby under one, it’s feeling more nightmarish than adventurous. My heart aches for a more permanent home, a place to unpack all our boxes and finally set up a room for my baby boy. I’m sick of sitting on someone else’s couch, using the oddly sized cutlery someone else picked out.

It feels like my life is on hold, that I can’t make any real plans until I’m sitting at my own dining room table.

Another part of me knows this is ridiculous. My happiness does not depend on a piece of furniture from IKEA. My baby makes me acutely aware that time is passing every moment and if I don’t enjoy the here and now I’ll suddenly wake up to an 18 year old son and wonder what happened.

And sometimes I can appreciate the adventurous side of it all. When my husband and I look back over the past few years there are so many stories to tell and so many experiences to remember. “Look at where we were last year and where we are now”, we often say. In retrospect our life seems so full. And that can’t be a bad thing.

I do wonder how our nomadic lifestyle is affecting our baby boy. He has moved house 3 times in his short life and it is clear that this does not go unnoticed. For the first few weeks post move he is clingy, unsure of himself. Who could blame him? Every reference point bar his parents has been changed.

Since I cannot provide him with a constant physical space to call home, I focus on making this family, this life his home. If our little family is together that should be enough. Or rather, my dream house in the perfect location wouldn’t feel like home without my two boys in it.

And then again I feel guilty about getting stressed about something as futile as the lack of shelf space or not liking the colour of the walls. I might feel displaced in our rented house but that is nothing compared to the thousands of migrant and refugee families who literally have nowhere to call a home. I often wonder how they do cope, how hard it must be to create a space that feels even just a little bit like a home in a refugee camp or when you’re being shipped from country to country hoping someone will take you in.

So I take a big breath. Everything is okay. This unsettled period in our life will soon pass and be turned into stories. And my baby is still so small that just being close to his mummy and daddy is home enough for him.

What does home mean to you? If you’re living abroad how do you make your house feel like home?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Julie from Portugal.

juliegd

Julie, her husband and baby boy are currently living in Portugal, having spent the previous three years in the southeast of Brazil. She considers herself a bit of an obsessive reader, and even more so since discovering she was pregnant. All that information has to go somewhere, which is why Julie started her blog, happy mama = happy baby, where she documents all the quirky parenting ideas she has collected so far.

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BRAZIL: Is there any such thing as the perfect place to live?

BRAZIL: Is there any such thing as the perfect place to live?

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With the exception of a six month stay in Canada, our family has lived in the exact same house from the time our eldest son turned one to today, almost ten years later. I often find myself wondering what kind of impact that will have on our children, since when I was a child my family moved from house to house several times, including one big move from the USA to Brazil.

I believe that for children, there are advantages and disadvantages both to moving around a lot and to staying put their entire childhood. Moving around – especially if these moves are to new cities or even countries – gives them new perspectives of the world. Staying put, in turn, gives them a sense of stability and security. (more…)

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog. Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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GUEST POST: SINGAPORE–Our Little Island Charm

GUEST POST: SINGAPORE–Our Little Island Charm

SingaporeCity_jdoquinnTwo months ago, we had our first experience going to a medical clinic in a foreign country.

Come to think of it, we managed nearly four years in Paris without needing to do so. It helped that we lived across the street from a pharmacy (a distinct Parisian ‘landmark’). Those days, we relied heavily on self-medication and the advice of our friendly pharmacist.

This time around, these options couldn’t cut it. Our 22 month-old daughter had already been ill for a week and wasn’t getting any better.

Having only recently arrived in Abu Dhabi, we had no idea about which pediatrician to consult. Armed with a recommendation from a mum’s group, I called up only to find out with some panic that the earliest appointment was in four days’ time. After some frantic telephone conversations with my husband, we made a dash for a walk-in clinic which closed its doors at 1pm.

While this may be common in many countries, it is not something that we would have encountered back home. In Singapore, we could always see our pediatrician at short notice after a quick phone call. This was always reassuring, especially for first-time parents who made a big deal out of every rise in temperature or unusual cough.

Our experience at the clinic made me a little homesick and left me wishing for many things, big and small, that we often take for granted back in Singapore.

This feeling was further intensified a few days later, when news broke that Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, had passed away.

Amid the numerous news reports and posts on social media from friends and folks back home, I felt a keen sadness for the nation’s loss of the man who made Singapore what she is today.

Countless politicians, heads of state, journalists and media outlets inundated us with statements, commentaries and judgements on the life and impact of our “giant of history”. I leave this to them.

What I’ve been mulling over, what preoccupies me as a parent, is what Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy entails; it’s what he has left Singaporeans, our future generations and my daughter.

Every opportunity is available to my daughter:

  • She has access to education from an early age and will never have to struggle for the right to go to school.
  • She can run around freely in our neighbourhood and enjoy her childhood innocence in playgrounds.
  • She can go out with her mother now, or alone in the future, without restriction or the necessity of being accompanied by a male presence.
  • She can travel around our little island on public transport, and see marvellous skyscrapers and iconic buildings, all set amidst verdant flora.
  • Her safety outside our home is not an issue that her father or I have to worry our heads about, neither does she need to be anxious over whether her parents will get home safely at the end of the day.
  • She will have friends from so many different cultures and nationalities, and she can be proud of being able to claim heritage from multiple cultures.

Every opportunity awaits my daughter, for her to make something out of it.

For these and many other reasons, my heart hangs heavy and yet swells with pride for our tiny island and I long for the next time we arrive again at Changi Airport, to see the sign “Welcome Home”. It is a home and country that a visionary built. It may not be a perfect place but my daughter has so many things to be thankful for.

This is an original, first post to World Moms Blog from KC, who is currently stationed with her family in Abu Dhabi but born and bred in Singapore. This is their first international job posting with their daughter, TT, who is now 22 months old. You can read more about Singaporean-expat life through KC’s eyes on her blog, Mummy In Transit, or through her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mummyintransit .

The image used in this post is credited to the author’s friend, Jacob O’Quinn, and is used here with permission.

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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BRAZIL: On the Move, Part II – should we stay or should we go?

BRAZIL: On the Move, Part II – should we stay or should we go?

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This is the Part 2 of a two part post.  The first part is available here

We are thinking about moving.  Yesterday we visited two very nice houses at great prices and relatively close to where we live. I loved the first house in the sense that it has a practical, easy to clean design and would be great for the kids. However, there isn’t a single tree in the property! Also, it is completely exposed to neighbors and people in the street, which is something I do not like at all. The second house has lots of lovely trees, yet had an unpractical format that is not too child friendly. Among other things, it includes a high mezzanine that would be quite hard to keep the kids away from.

Basically, I would like to have the first house in the second house’s lot, which would be by the forest we live next to now!

Nevertheless, even though neither is perfect, either one of them would give us the chance to move and have a more organized, cozier home without undergoing the stress of home improvement projects. Plus, one of the advantages of moving – although it can also be a stress factor – is having a chance of reorganizing all of the stuff one has accumulated along the years and donating a bunch of items that are no longer necessary. Some even say that there are huge psychological benefits, as going through all that accumulated stuff can even stimulate the re-evaluation of an entire life and life style.

I believe the single greatest reason for staying, both for my husband and I, is the forest. I also like to think that living the way we do – with such close contact to the forest and all of its fauna and flora – will give our children a different perspective in life.

In his excellent book, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, Chinese geographer Yi-Fu Tuan discusses how one’s home and its architecture influences the perceptions of and relationship with the environment, comparing the case of China and the USA.

Another thing that bothers me is that the new owners of our house might not “take care” of the forest as we do. Of course we only “look after” a tiny piece of the forest right behind our house, but some of the animals have almost become part of the family. For example, there is a sloth that our daughter has named Melissa…but also the tiny squirrel that makes its chirping sounds early every morning, the tegus that live in a hole in our backyard, plus the humming birds, chameleons, possums, agoutis, and so many others!

The sad truth is that surprisingly, many of our neighbors don’t care much about the forest.  We often ask ourselves why they live here.  They place high walls between the forest and their properties. Sometimes they illegally cut down the closest trees out of fear that they may topple over their houses (even though rarely a professional is summoned to check if there is truth in that fear), or they clear the bushes and smaller trees because they believe it will ward away snakes. More than once we have patiently talked to people about these issues only to be repelled off angrily in a menacing tone.

On the other hand, I also worry about the possibility of an unhealthy attachment to the house itself on my part. I don’t think it is healthy to be overly attached to any object. I recently saw how difficult it was for my mother to move out of her huge and decaying house, even though she was living completely alone, widowed for the second time (and now the difficulty to sell or do something about it). Similarly, my mother-in-law lives alone with her eldest son in an old eight bedroom house which almost everyone in the family is extremely resistant to sell due to their childhood memories and attachments.

Thus the question remains. Should we remodel our house and make the best of it? Should we take the “simple” path and just move?  What have your experiences been with house remodeling and moving? Please share below!

This is part two of an original post to World Moms Blog by Ecoziva in Brazil.

Photo credit to the author.

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog. Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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JAPAN: Daily Duties

JAPAN: Daily Duties

daily dutiesI start my morning here in Japan the same way every day: by cleaning out the drain trap.

Not very pretty, I suppose, but I’ve learned the hard way that it needs to be done frequently and well. The drain traps here in Japan are metal mesh to prevent food from going down the drain. They get gross very quickly.

I’m pretty sure I started out my days when I lived in the US with a cup of coffee, which seems quite glamorous by comparison!

In spite of our gains in education or employment opportunities over the last century, much of our time as women gets taken up by mundane household tasks like this. Women all around the world are doing the same kind of things: laundry, food preparation, cleaning, child care, though in very different ways.

It makes me curious. How much of your time gets spent on “daily chores?” What kinds of things do you need to do every day? Do you do them alone, or do you have help?

Perhaps it is a boring topic, but for comparison I thought I would share a little bit of what housework is like here in Japan.

Laundry gets done daily in most families. We have washing machines, but most people don’t have dryers. In a country with cold winters, humid summers, and a rainy season, keeping up with the laundry feels like a daily battle! When the weather is not cooperative, laundry gets hung from curtain rails or any other overhang that can be found indoors. We have to bob and weave our way around the house. Imagine that Catherine Zeta Jones movie, but with laundry instead of lasers.

I do the shopping most days as well. This is quite common here in the greater Tokyo area, where storage space is limited and many people do not have cars to allow buying in bulk. Milk is sold by the liter; laundry detergent in 500ml bottles. The biggest shopping challenge is buying rice, which comes in 5 or 10kg bags.

I need to dust and vacuum every day. This is much more often than we did in the US growing up. I’m not sure why Japan is so dusty. Could it be the tatami floors? The single pane windows? The small living space? And more important than why, how can I make this dust accumulation stop?

Japanese cuisine seems to be gaining in popularity around the world. Many Japanese people eat a full meal in the morning (though this is slowly changing,) as well as at lunch and dinner. Japanese bento are also getting a lot of attention on the Internet for being nutritious as well as visually appealing. Overwhelmingly, the cooking is done by women. (Personally, since my children’s lunch is provided by the school, most days I cook twice.)

Like most families here, we have a gas stove-top, a rice cooker, and a microwave combined with an electric oven for cooking. My mother-in-law has a separate gas burner that can be placed on the table for doing things like sukiyaki or okonomiyaki, foods that are consumed as soon as they are cooked by the family from the same dish. My children are still a bit too small for me to attempt this at home.

I think many of us around the world are doing these same things, but the nitty-gritty of how we get it done and how often we do it are different. I can’t help but wonder what housework says about the values of the culture.

In the US, for example, many families take pride in a well-decorated home. In Japan that is much less important. (Perhaps because many women are spending all that time dusting and dodging laundry….)

What kinds of things are included in your daily duties? How do you feel about doing them?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in Japan and mother of two, Melanie Oda.

The image used in this post is attributed to the author.

Melanie Oda (Japan)

If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety. She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother. You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.

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MEXICO: Life Lessons About Bugs

MEXICO: Life Lessons About Bugs

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As a wife of one and a mom of four, it seems like I am always learning and discovering! I know I am not alone. Let’s just admit it: The world is a big place, life is a lesson, and children can be the best teachers.  Normally my series, Life Lessons with Mexico Mom,  is hosted on Los Gringos Locos, but today I am posting here on World Moms Blog.

This week’s life lessons are all about bugs. Spiders, cockroaches, bees, and scorpions…oh my! Yikes! Our new home in Uruapan, Michoacan, Mexico was vacant for three years before we moved in last month. The bugs were having a field day, then we arrived. They officially declared our move an invasion and initiated a full scale assault. Our comeback was fumigating with a strong pesticide. Here are my insights and experiences as a Mexico Mom, living with bugs:

Life Lesson 59: I hate Mexican cockroaches just as much as U.S. cockroaches. I don’t know exactly what it is about cockroaches but I hate these creepy, crawly critters. They give me the chills. Maybe it’s because they are associated with rotten food. At least in my mind, I associate them with rotten food. They skittle about and come in all sizes. We have some big ones in Mexico!

Life Lesson 60: Bees go to light just like moths. We have bees on our roof beneath the clay tiles. Someone obviously tried to smoke the hive and get rid of them but it didn’t work. At night the bees go to light. The street light over our balcony, our bedroom light, and our bathroom light. Mr. Curious, aka Tristan, stepped on one and got stung. He is not allergic so no serious damage was done 🙁Black-Widow02

Life Lesson 61: Scorpions are part of the Arachnid class just like spiders. They both have eight appendages. We have seen three scorpions in our house. They were taking a leisurely stroll, till they met the bottom of a shoe. One was smaller then my pinkie nail. We also have our share of spiders. The best one being the giant Black Widow you see in the photos. We watched her die. Her struggle was sad but I can’t imagine what she could have done to one of the kids. I dislike spiders almost as much as cockroaches!

What life lessons did you learn this past week? Please share it with us below. We want to hear your thoughts from around the world!

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tina Marie Ernspiker.  Tina can be found blogging over at Los Gringos Locos.  She is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo credits to the author.

Tina Marie Ernspiker

Tina lives abroad in Mexico with her husband and four children. She is active with homeschool, travel, and her Bible ministry. Tina loves photography and writing thus she blogs. Come join her adventures!

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