Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Seven Questions...The Diplomat's Wife

I am obsessed with Peru.

My husband lived there for two years serving a church mission and his stories are a combination of disgusting (fried blood sandwich, anyone?) and fascinating (Machu Picchu, speaking Quechua & the Nazca lines). I am dying to visit.

So, imagine my delight when I met Linsey...an American girl living in the heart of Lima!

Linsey and family...minus her new baby
Linsey is raising two little boys overseas and blogs about her everyday adventures set against a South American background. Typical-mom posts about sick kids and pregnancy are punctuated by pictures of ancient ruins and local eccentrics.

She leads a fascinating life and I couldn't wait to ask her all about it!

Here are Linsey's thoughts on life below the equator...

Downtown Lima

#1--Please tell us about your assignment in Peru. How long have you been there? What kind of work is your husband doing there? And what are your living accommodations?
We have been in Peru since September of 2006.

My husband is in the Political Section of the Foreign Service in the Department of Sate. He works in the US Embassy in Lima and his primary function is to act a liaison between our government and the Peruvian government as they try to work together to iron out differences and make mutually beneficial changes in their foreign policies. He loves his work and that is good. We took this job instead of him taking a law firm job and working all the time. Granted, that choice means we forego a fair amount of salary, but Kenny is happy and that is important to our family now and in the future.

We live in a beautiful home paid for with US tax dollars. It is more than spacious and we have enjoyed it immensely. Many of the homes have enormous yards and pools as well, though we do not. We have a full-time live-in maid and a gardener who comes regularly to care for our lawn. This is living!

#2--What are the top five things you miss most about living in the United States?
Number 1 would have to be food. I am a huge foodie and I miss being able to get anything I want whenever I want it. There is delicious food available in Lima, but sometimes I just want some cool whip or bagels or hummus and there isn’t any to be had.

Number 2 is friends and family. It is hard for me to make friends and this lifestyle will require that of me often. And, with my boys getting bigger, I especially miss being even on the same continent as my family – thank goodness for Skype and email and letters.

Number 3 is drivers who follow traffic laws. I used to get so frustrated driving in various parts of the US and now I would kill to live where people drive in between the lines, wait their turn in the turning lane and give pedestrians the right of way.

Number 4 is reasonable gas prices. We pay over $6 a gallon and have since we arrived.

Number 5 is bookstores. There are a few bookstores, but one of my favorite things in the whole world is going to Barnes and Noble and “wasting” an afternoon among the stacks. I miss US/English magazines too.

#3--What are some things that you DON'T miss about American life?
I used to have a VERY full social calendar and as much as I loved my friends and obligations sometimes it was more than I wanted to handle. My life now is a pretty quiet existence. I miss my friends, but I don’t miss feeling harried and overwhelmed by too much to do and too many places to be at once.

We have a lot more buying power in Peru (apart from gas) and that is nice. We have been able to save a lot of money and still pay student debt, take fun vacations and contribute heavily to college funds.

People in Latin America are very kind. They hold doors, give up seats and are patient with even the crankiest of babies. I have learned to despise flying back to the States because it seems we are always seated next to or behind or in front of totally children-intolerant people.

Macchu Picchu

#4--How is your Spanish? How do you communicate with the locals? What are their feelings toward you & your family? Americans in general?
My Spanish is better everyday. I didn’t speak any before we came and have taken lessons for much of our time here. I have not been as dedicated as I could have been so I still struggle with tenses sometimes, but I have an ever-increasing vocabulary and I rarely find that I cannot follow any conversation about any topic.

In the beginning I did a lot of miming and as I’ve learned Spanish, I’ve been gratified to find that the locals are very patient with me and always willing to help me when I stumble finding a word.

For the most part we have been very accepted in Peru, particularly in our church congregation which is local and has services in Spanish. Of course we get stares at our white-blond haired baby, but people are friendly and have made living here pleasant. We will miss Peru.

#5--Have you ever been in any danger? Or caught any strange diseases? What are the biggest risks working for the US gov't overseas?
Peru is a poor country and there is a lot of petty theft, but very little violent crime. We have never been the victims of any crimes, though we know several people who have. The danger here isn’t anymore significant than in the US and I think if people make wise decisions it is easy to avoid being targeted.

There are lots of random diseases to be had in Peru, particularly in the parts of Peru that include the Amazon jungle. But, we have been vaccinated against everything (Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Rabies etc.) and have been fine.

The threats to US citizens working for the government overseas vary. Obviously, the threat of damage to life and limb in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and a few other places is very real. Countries where there is a lot of domestic terrorism and violence, Myanmar, Indonesia, Nigeria are dangerous for locals and foreigners alike. Our next post is Caracas, Venezuela and we are expecting the reception by locals and Venezuelan government officials to be chilly at best. Apart from that though the threats are not significantly different just because we live overseas.

#6--What challenges do you face in raising your children in this unique situation? What are the advantages?
My biggest worry is making sure my children will have every opportunity that their peers in the US do and that when it comes time for them to apply to and enter college they will be sufficiently prepared and competitive. There are safety concerns as well, but I would be concerned about their safety anywhere.

Uros Islands

I think what is most advantageous for our children about this lifestyle is that they will get to experience in a very tangible way the ever-shrinking world. They will learn different languages and eat different foods and grow up befriending people of innumerable creeds and colors. They will be able to have unforgettable experiences visiting some of the most beautiful, historically significant and astonishing places in the world. They will get to live a unique life and it is my hope that we will be able to help them appreciate this from the time they are very young and not take anything for granted.

#7--What have been your five favorite discoveries in this current post?
Most of what I have discovered has less to do with Peru specifically and more to do with life in the Foreign Service.

I have discovered that feeling at home in a new place is a question of actions and effort, not time.
I have discovered that I am as adaptable as I thought, but that I do have a breaking point.

I have discovered that my penchant for spontaneity is going to be put to the test, because this lifestyle requires a lot of planning and logistical expertise.

I have discovered that I am good at being alone but not good at not being able to communicate as I would like to. I have a good friend in Argentina who says when she first moved there she wanted to wear a sign that said, “In English I’m really smart.” I have felt that way so many times.

Linsey & Family @ Chan Chan

I have discovered that Peru is an astonishing country with so many unexpected delights and that, generally speaking, doing things I never thought I would do or that sound boring and hard has made the last 20 months some of the most rewarding of my life.

Muchas Gracias, Linsey!

Head to South America without a passport....

read Linsey's adventures @ Rambles and Ruminations.


Heather said...

Yep, that Linsey's a keeper!

Hollyween said...

She is amazing.
I've often wondered how I'd do out of the country being by myself. NOT WELL, I think!

And that pic of her and her husband with the cute knit caps on is so cute!

Mique (as in M-i-c-k-e-y) said...

My three closest BYU friends live out of the US now- Dubai, China & Costa Rica. They all have done well in their varying circumstances. And all three have major pros and cons of where they live (the ones in China and Costa Rica have full time maids/nannies for pennies).
I am a creature of habit- I think I would deal with such a huge change but there would be MANY breakdowns along the way.
Also- I am like you with your Peruvian obsession except mine was Brazil (because that's where Josh went on his mish). I had the opportunity to go for his favorite family's sealing in Oct. 06 and it exceeded all expectations. I LOVED it. It was amazing being where he was for 2 years, meeting the people that he changed, seeing the sites, taking it all in- without our kids. Someday I'd like to take them. But not anytime soon.
Make it a goal to get down there- you can do it!

Tristan said...

She is amazing! I don't know that I could do it! Cute pictures too!

Annemarie said...

I've been wanting to know more about their "story." She truely is amazing in an amazing circumstance!

TravelinOma said...

Another great interview, Gab! What a brave girl Linsey is. I'm so impressed with people who live "off the grid" and enjoy it!

Lindsey said...

Wow. Honestly, I don't know how these women do it! I just don't. They are amazing! Then there is Celia's cousin living in Kathmandu! WOW!

Jenibelle said...

I don't know if I have that in me. But doesn't motherhood sometimes like you're in a foreign country unable to communicate with the natives?

What a wonderfully exciting fulfilling life! Go Linsey Go!!

Ilene said...

Ah, Linsey... sure living outside the USA is a bit exotic, but it ain't no Boise.

I want the maid. I will move to South America for the maid.

Lauren said...

That was really amazing to read...I liked her quote from her friend that said she wanted to wear a sign that says, "In English I'm really smart". I can't imagine how hard it would be not to be able to communicate fluently with other people in everyday conversation. Linsey is amazing. She is really a great example of supporting her spouse in his desired profession...even if it is challenging and can be lonely.

andrea said...

first off i have to say that i've never really seen an upclose picture of you. you look totally different from what i imagined. you seemed so timid in the one picture i did see, but these pictures make you appear more bold. i like that.

second of all, i am so envious i can hardly stand it. i would miss the social aspect of regular visits with friends and family, but i would absolutely love to live overseas. too bad i married my husband near the end of his miliatry career, huh?

you are excellent.

Heidiram said...

Thanks for the info. I have also been wanting to know the scoop. My husband took the Foreign Service exam several years ago (when he first moved to the States), but he didn't have enough U.S. Culture behind him to understand the cultural nuances in the exam. I wish he would take it again. We would love to travel and live abroad. My hubby worked for the U.S. Embassy before we got married. I remember going to a 4th of July party sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic. I thought it was so cool to be in a foreign country and surrounded by a bunch of U.S. citizens.

And I think I am drawn to Linsey because I am so envious. Since we are in a Spanish speaking branch, two of my closest friends are Peruvian and then some other close friends are Venezuelan. Love, love, love the Peruvian and Venezuelan food. Just wish I could recreate the same dishes in my own kitchen.

cami said...

How cool! I would love to be adventurous enough to pick up my family and live outside the US. I think that's a great way to educate your children and give them a true perspective of our world. Good for you! And good luck in all your travels ahead!

Paige said...

Gab, such a great interview. I know Linsey and never asked her most of those questions, but I'm so glad you did. I like that she misses food more than her family. Now that's my kind of girl.

Paige said...

One question- what is the foreign service tenure? Is it a lifelong thing? What happens when he's done with the foreign service?

Paige said...

And Linsey had a high powered, politically scandalous job. Does she miss all that?

diane said...

This is fascinating! What a good woman.

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