Expat Life

Whirlwind

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Life can be a whirlwind. So much can happen in such little time that it can make events feel like months apart yet they were only a week ago. This is my life lately. I can't keep up with what day it is, what time it is, or when things happened (or didn't happen in some cases). Is anyone else startled that it's already March 21st?! That is crazy! My parents always told me when I was younger that when you got older time went by faster--I hate to say it, but they're right. Life definitely feels more precious to me these days. Seeing that almost a quarter of the year has flown by makes me want to live every moment to the fullest. 

My grad program is going well, albeit I have found this module the most difficult of the program. We are finally at the stage of putting our ideas into practice, working to complete our final research project. I'm still doing a project over fatherhood, although I had to niche down to a specific aspect of fatherhood, rather than look at it comprehensively. I'll explain on this more later in another post.

The goal is still to complete a photo book which is very exciting. I'm also hoping to host an exhibition or two, we'll see. There are many milestones ahead of me, so I'm looking forward to seeing how all this pans out. 

I hope you follow along in my journey over this next year! I'm interested to see what happens. :)

-Ashley

Christmas in America

I always find it interesting coming back to America around Christmas time. Living in other places where Christmas isn't as widely celebrated makes this season a joy to come back to (although it's also a surprise in a lot of ways because we're not used to it anymore). I love taking part in traditions and festivities--putting up Christmas trees, making cookies, going to parties, etc. It's one of my favorite times of the year, celebrating the birth of Jesus with family and friends. 

Speaking of traditions, when I married my husband I was introduced to caramel chocolate covered pretzels by Joshua's grandmother. They are delicious (read: addictive!) and she makes them every year for her grandsons.

2017.12.06 - Gram & Ash - for blog 01.jpg
2017.12.06 - Gram & Ash - for blog 02.jpg
Gram's Caramel, Chocolate Covered Pretzels | 2015

Gram's Caramel, Chocolate Covered Pretzels | 2015

We've had some great laughs while making these, so it's always enjoyable doing this with her (and they're fun eating afterwards ;). So far, we've already helped my family and Joshua's grandmother put up Christmas trees in their houses and everything looks so festive. This surprise return back to the States has been fun and we are trying to enjoy it while we're here.

What's your favorite holiday and what are your favorite traditions? Would love to hear how you celebrate!

-Ashley

Back in the Heartland

Two months ago I wouldn't have suspected I'd be in the States right now. I also wouldn't have foreseen our move to the Middle East either. Change can happen so rapidly--it's mind boggling! One minute life is a certain way and within seconds it can be completely opposite. I'm glad that God is in control and I'm not--I'd screw things up, that's for sure!

If you've seen my recent Instagram post, you will also have seen my mind exploding at all the goodies in America. The grocery store really makes my head spin. There are large grocery stores where I have lived the last four years, but for some reason large stores like Wal-Mart, Target, etc. in America really amaze me. I can never get over the variety, quality, and quantity of items you can purchase!

So needless to say, life has been very different the last week and a half. Everyone looks like me, talks like me, and life is familiar. It's a strange feeling (that I like, but it's still strange). I thought coming back this time I knew what to expect. This is our third trip back to America in the last 4.5 years, but I guess I was out long enough this time to forget nuances that make this place special.

For example, the other day after the funeral of Joshua's grandfather, we decided to get out of the house and just drive. As we drove we happened to see a sign about disc golf and decided to stop and see what the course looked like. As we went into the store, we ended up chatting with the owners of the place for a good 30 minutes, grabbed a cup of coffee from their in-house coffee shop, and chatted with the owner's son (who was the barista) for another 30 minutes.

We left filled up (as an extroverts tank is filled by people interaction :) and we were so surprised by the friendliness of these random strangers we had met. How are people so friendly? It was such an enjoyable experience; one that has been rarely experienced the last year and a half.

So we're definitely enjoying our time in the U.S. even though it's been a hard trip back. Besides celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow (yay for turkey) and seeing family/friends, I'm really hoping to connect with photography societies here. It's something I've never done before, so it'll be interesting to see what is going on in the Houston and Dallas areas. 

A lot is happening and I'm sure I'll have more to share soon about my project, life, and our travels! Have a Happy Thanksgiving, my U.S. friends!

-Ashley

New Territory | Personal Post

Living in a new country is always a learning curve--What gestures are appropriate? What do people find interesting to talk about? Where do you buy groceries--and what do you have/lack and what do you have change in your diet to go with what you can find? What do you wear? What's in fashion or what is inappropriate to wear? And so forth! The questions are endless.

Learning a new city is also an interesting experience. Some of our new finds include a local coffee shop that makes excellent coffee. We also found a bubble tea shop--something I haven't had in a long time (that was an exciting discovery)! We also have found that a lot of local places are closed between the hours of 1pm and 4pm. Larger grocery stores and shops are fine, but if you want to go to a market, don't plan to go at that time (we heard about this, but then forgot and learned the hard way--oops). You actually probably wouldn't want to go at that time anyway because it's so hot! Also the work week here is Sunday to Thursday with Friday and Saturday being the weekend. 

So we are in new territory folks--learning a lot and realizing also as we learn how much we don't know about life. It's interesting living in other cultures as it teaches you so much about the creativity of God and how different life can be done. I think every person should live in a different culture than their own for at least some season of their life--it teaches you a kind of respect and perspective that living in your home culture doesn't. Not to say that in some cities you can't get that "international" experience that I'm talking about; I'm fully aware that pockets of many nationalities exist in major cities. But for whatever reason, immersing yourself in a new environment and having to learn how to appreciate differences (because you can't change what's around you or escape from it) is a character building experience. :) 

October 2017 - This new place is starkly different from South Asia. So much space and no people to be seen. It's very different and taking some getting used to.

October 2017 - This new place is starkly different from South Asia. So much space and no people to be seen. It's very different and taking some getting used to.

The other day while looking for homes, we were invited into someone's home and we had the pleasure of experiencing their hospitality. After cardamom-coffee, dates, somosas, fried fish, other-unrecognizable-items, and juice (remember this was a spontaneous house visit--they were prepared!), we left their home grinning ear to ear, very honored, and stomachs full. Our host was very adamant that she show us hospitality and how they do it, relaying to us every detail that goes into serving guests in our new city. They were very proud to be the first locals to invite us into their home and we enjoyed it thoroughly. It was actually recognizable in a lot of ways from our previous place of residence. 

I look forward to more of these experiences as I have much to learn in this new place.! Follow me to hear more about it. :)

-Ashley

Settling In | Personal Post

So with our recent move we've been house hunting and trying to figure out where to live. It's been quite a journey. With viewing 19 houses already I feel like a pro! I definitely have my list of what I do not want and what I do want very defined since we've seen so many places. 

I do have to say I am ready to be settled. After four years and four international moves under my belt, I'm done with packing, selling items, and saying goodbye. I have to say though, even with all of these moves, this last goodbye was the hardest for us. The day we left I held one of my closer friends for 10 minutes while she bawled (and I was too, I must confess!). It was unnerving, especially since I don't know if I will ever see her again. Yes the world is changing and globalization is happening, but she is very poor and I don't think she has ever left the country...or ever plans to. I'm thankful for the time I had with her and I hope and pray the best for her and her family (and everyone else we met).

October 2016 - My friend teaching me how to make Biriyani. 

October 2016 - My friend teaching me how to make Biriyani. 

Sorry for that somber bit! I am excited that we are here and that I will make new friends--just sad about what we left behind. Joshua and I feel that we'll be here likely the next three years, so we feel we can make roots a bit more and actually be a part of our community than previously. There are some photographic societies that I hope to jump into here and who knows where that will take me! I guess time will tell. :)

So how do you handle transition and change? Do you embrace it or run the opposite way screaming? :) I think I can say that I'm embracing it this time and trying to keep up with everything that's happening. There's a lot going on so time will tell to see how we do. :) Pray for us! 

Have an awesome day and be on the lookout for part two for my master's project!

-Ashley

New Aspects of Culture

One fun thing about living in another culture is being able to experience new aspects of that culture which are very foreign to you. Such as this man above, selling powder to make beautiful designs. I had never seen this before! The circular looking items to the right are stencils that help you create the design almost flawlessly. 

I learned that these particular designs are called, "Rangoli", and is used during many festivals here. The powder is made from rice (or other materials, like flour) and you can find many colors--all being very bright! 

I thought they were really beautiful. Many of the shops we passed actually had designs like these on the side of steps in front of their building. I don't understand all the cultural meanings or implications, but it was something very unique for us to discover while we were out shopping the other day!

I sometimes wonder about what I think is normal in the State's that other cultures would consider fascinating. Just like Rangoli designs, this is something they do on a yearly basis--so while it's probably special, it's still common enough to know about and to not think of it's uniqueness. I imagine if I thought hard enough, I would be able to come up with many holidays, customs, and events Americans perform that would be strange or unique to other places.

All this to say, you don't have to live in an "exotic" place to capture interesting photos. I encourage you to go out today and to think critically about your life situation. What is unique? What is special? What do I think is "normal" that other places would see as interesting? Capture those photos and see what comes of it! Send me a link in the comments section if you go out--I'd love to see your work.

-Ashley

6 Weeks Left

With only 6 weeks left in the state's, I've been trying to do things that I can't do overseas. It's the same with food. Let's just face it, there are some foods you just can't get where we live. Like, for example, cheese. I'm not talking paneer--you can get that in plenty and it's quite delicious! I'm talking about good cheddar cheese or feta that has such a unique, yummy taste that makes meals oh so much better. :) Technically you can buy these things, but I'm not willing to spend $15 on a small block. No thanks.

Besides cheese and other foods, we've also been trying to figure out some fun things to do before we leave. I know it sounds silly, but shopping is one of them. There is plenty of shopping where we're going, but it's just not the same. In America, you can browse through a store just to look and never be met by a store clerk--which has some perks and frustrations, however, being followed by an employee like a needy puppy has it's pros and cons as well. Truthfully, it takes some getting used to.

Speaking of puppies...playing with dogs is something Joshua loves to do (as I've expressed before), so I imagine some "play time" is in order in the coming weeks. :)

Canon 5D Mark II; 50mm f/1.4  |  f/2.8, 1/500, ISO-400

Canon 5D Mark II; 50mm f/1.4  |  f/2.8, 1/500, ISO-400

This dog's name is Hank and we hung out with him and his family when we went to our friend's farm. I like how he posed for me in this picture. :) 

Regardless of what happens in the next 6 weeks, it'll be great! Hope you are having a great week!

-Ashley

Rest in your Context

I really love the water, the beach, etc. It's such a wonderful place to sit and be still. I stink at slowing down, but the water actually makes me go slower. The rhythmic movement of the sea as it moves forwards and backwards is like a car's movement to a baby. :) It just brings calmness and peace (and even sleep!). Unfortunately, most of us in the world cannot live at the beach so we really have to learn it elsewhere. Where do you find rest at in your context?

Canon 5D Mark II; 50mm f/1.4  |  f/2.8, 1/640 sec, ISO-400  |  Koh Tao, Thailand

Canon 5D Mark II; 50mm f/1.4  |  f/2.8, 1/640 sec, ISO-400  |  Koh Tao, Thailand

For me it comes from a few places. One is with my guitar. Fortunately, my guitar is easily transportable, so I've been able to have one with me even as we've traveled around Texas! I have one overseas as well. I find if I can just bang on my guitar and sing at the top of my lungs for an hour every once in a while, I feel so much better! 

Another place of rest for me is friends. Being around my friends in the Dallas area has been so amazing. I couldn't emphasize enough how important and restful community is for me. These friends are the kind of friends that you wouldn't see for a couple years and when you meet up again it's like you just left yesterday. I think everyone needs these kinds of people. I'm thankful that we built these friendships before we left, otherwise coming back would be depressing.

ashleytruckey : Disc golf is the best Sabbath activity ever! #discgolf #Sabbath #fun #beactive

ashleytruckey: Disc golf is the best Sabbath activity ever! #discgolf #Sabbath #fun #beactive

The last restful thing for me is doing fun things with my husband. Lately our fun things have been active sport-like activities. If you've seen my instagram photos as of late, there has probably been a lot of disc golf. :) We love disc golf and play it at least once a week, normally on our Sabbath when we try to stop working for one day and just rest. Another active thing we've adopted lately is CrossFit! I imagine at this point after reading that you're either chiming in with me at how amazing CrossFit is or you think I'm pyscho for calling that restful. :) Regardless, it actually has been fun and has created another space for us to get away, work out really hard and to be with people from another context. 

So what is it for you? You have to have something, otherwise you will go crazy and burnout. If you don't know what it is, think about it and start implementing it into your week. I find if I can try to have something restful apart of my week, it really fuels me to push harder in all the things I need to do. 

Hope that you can find that rest in your context, whatever that looks like!

-Ashley