Mark Twain once said “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” He was trying to tell us that there is more to life than what can be gleaned from the classroom.
Life is about experiences!
I believe that this is just as true today and more so as a military spouse who is getting ready to PCS overseas.
When my spouse was assigned to Korea, the kids and I had to remain stateside. We missed him terribly but anticipated the day we could visit. That moment came in December. We planned a 3-week tour so we could fully experience the culture.
Both children, picky eaters at the time, delighted in finding Burger King in Seoul. We had the tastiest chicken nuggets ever.
After that, the kids were willing to try a traditional restaurant. They loved sitting on the floor! And after trying traditional foods, they wanted more kimchi when it was offered.
My husband wanted to take us to an antique shop out in the country. For the first time in a while, the kids didn’t balk at driving somewhere. When we arrived, we found the proprietor who offered to show us around. This retired history teacher sat at small propane heater and talked to the children while I perused the furniture.
I found a 19th century Tibetan Buddhist altar that I fell in love with. The owner told the story of its provenance to us which made it all the more special.
It has become a multipurpose piece of furniture. I have used it in the bedroom for clothes storage and I’ve used it in the dining room to keep our fine china or as a bar.
Even though we didn’t live in Korea, those 3 weeks gave us a taste of life in a place we may never have seen on our own.
More than 10 years later, we once again had the honor of being assigned overseas. This time we landed on the European continent in Belgium.
My spouse and I hail from New England so I walk fast, I talk fast, and I’m always on full throttle. After my spouse picked us up at the airport, he drove us to the Gran Place in downtown Mons.
Immediately, I had to decelerate my whole being because the only fast lane is on the highway. The waiter came over, took our order and then left us alone. No one pestered us to leave but then again, no one was refilling my water glass either. The message is clear:
“Slow down and take time to smell the roses.”
Eventually my temperament changed and I learned to enjoy the things around me.
We made the decision to not live on base. If we were living in Europe, then we were LIVING in Europe.
We lived in the French speaking part of Belgium where agriculture is the main way of life. I am a city girl and I envisioned myself miserable for our 3 years. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
There were cows in the field behind us, a goat next door and an orchard at the end of the road. All of that just added to the beauty of our location and I came to savor the tranquility.
An egg man came by our house once a week to deliver eggs. If you’ve never tried an unrefrigerated fresh egg, you don’t know what you are missing. The color is amazing and the taste is as equally awesome.
The longer we remained in Europe, the more I collected lessons and learned new things.
I’d always been a history buff but visiting cities around the continent made those book lessons a reality. As you meander through Rome, you can’t help but find history alive at every turn. Reading about peasants worshiping in medieval churches is nothing in comparison to wandering around those same churches. You start to truly understand the mindset of the people from that time.
My daughter and I planned a girls trip to Budapest one weekend. After we settled into the hotel, we were hungry so we asked the concierge where to go. He directed us to a restaurant on the Pest side of the city.
When we arrived, we noticed a plethora of Mercedes and men dressed like secret service or the Mafia. We took a chance and sat down.
My daughter ordered an appetizer, rabbit stew and dessert as well as a few sodas. I also chose an appetizer, had the Hungarian goulash, dessert and a few glasses of wine. Everything was delicious.
When the bill came, the host asked if we’d like it in Euros instead. Of course, that’s the currency we were familiar with. Imagine our surprise when the whole thing came to €20! We had a fabulous meal with entertainment and we experienced a little of life in a former communist country.
All of these examples just go to show you that life is better when you take some chances and step outside your comfort zone.
By embracing your new location and trying new things, you will learn more about yourself as well as your host country. Don’t immediately revert back to your usual. When you don’t, you collect stories and experiences that will enrich your life tenfold.