Starbucks Extra Extra Tall Grande vs European Espresso

DSCF0738Another question that my friend Cindy posed on my FB status when I asked for blog ideas was what are the pros and cons of living in Ukraine vs California.

I don’t know where to begin on that question.  Basically California and Ukraine are two diametrically opposite worlds.  Think slavic mentality vs surfer mentality.  Think Starbucks extra extra tall grande cup size vs small, European sized espressos. Just try to order an espresso in Starbucks and see what happens, once a girl argued with me that it wasn’t a real cup of coffee.  She was worried about my choice.  She was serious. I was like, “I’ve gone Euro, deal with it.”  Or this is good….think shut all the windows in the auto bus on a 90F day so you don’t catch your death of a cold vs put the top down on that convertible baby and let’s hit the road……..

I could go on and on…….

Mostly what I tell people is that it is impossible to compare the two countries, the two worlds really, (I’m from California remember? That’s like another culture within the good ole USA, for like, for real) and so I pretty much stopped comparing the two cultures and trying to figure out things a long time ago.  Too much processing leads to cross cultural melt downs…..and yes, I still have those.

But honestly, sometimes I still compare the two cultures; I just can’t help it.  Homesickness has a way of making everything on the other side of the ocean look really good sometimes.  Other times, living in Eastern Europe is….well……New York has nothing on the former Soviet Union.  If you can make it here navigating the world in Russian and Ukrainian languages, you can make it anywhere!  It is empowering!

A few years ago I decided to stop thinking of myself as a this or a that and started to think of myself as just a person who is living internationally.  It just took a lot of the underlying cultural stress that happens when you become immersed in and go back and forth between two different cultures.  Technology is very helpful with this.  I am able to stay in contact with friends from home and with friends who leave Ukraine and even friends who move to different parts of Ukraine.  I am not forced to belong to a group of people who live nearby.  This frees me up from some of the cultural stress of being a square peg in a round hole and I can focus better on what I am here to do.

I’m not living in Ukraine because I like it better than California.  God called me here to minister with and alongside Ukrainians.  He knows the details of the how and why he put that in my heart.  After living here, where winters are sometimes -30C, well, I could probably adapt to living anywhere. The real point of leaving home and ministering in a far off land, is not because it’s easy or hip, it’s because God led me here and he’s teaching me things living in a foreign culture that I’m positive he could not teach me living in my own.  At the same time, that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes really enjoy living here.  Being homesick has taught me to appreciate the things that I do love about Ukraine because if I went back home to live, I am positive that I would be homesick for my life in Ukraine.

I think the bottom line is not about where we live, or where we like to live, but it’s about following God where he leads you to live out your life for him.  There are reasons that some stay home and some go to the ends of the earth.  God mixes his people up so we can learn to trust him more, share our faith with different types of people and learn to lean on him for everything.

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