Let me set the stage; It seems like yesterday, and somehow 10 years ago at the same time, that my wife and I embarked on a journey of unknowns. In one summer I graduated college, we moved in with family from our comfy flat in Chicago, we lost our first baby to an ectopic pregnancy, and we moved to Mongolia. If you are wondering where that is, so were we.
We arrived in the country with mourning, discomfort, excitement, and trust. We mourned the loss of Jordan, our first addition to our young family unit. We were discomforted by the loss of ease of communication and the loss of proximity to close loving relations. We were excited about building new relationships, connecting with students, and exploring an extravagantly unique new culture. We had a double dose of trust! We had a support team of partners behind us who truly cared, supporting us wholistically from abroad. And we were honored to be joining an organization that had quickly earned our trust through orientations, their home support team, and continued training.
It was all a blur at first; landing in the “Land of the Eternal Blue Sky”, our professional development and orientation, and then finally arriving in our new home city, Darkhan. We had walked in blindly to our new housing. Our office support had set it all up for us. We didn’t expect much, we just had hoped for running water, heating, and hopefully some space with good sunlight for my wife to grow plants. Our apartment turned out to be an upgrade from our housing in Chicago and our expectations were blown away. Little did we know that the plants wouldn’t be the only new life growing in our apartment. A couple of months after arriving, we found out we were pregnant again!
The questions began to flood in; “Are you coming home?”, “Do you think having your baby there is safe?”, “Don’t you think it would be smarter to at least go to Thailand for the pregnancy?” We understood the concern from family and friends, yet we had peace about having our child in Mongolia. And sure, the language barrier and differences in culture would make the process slightly more difficult. Yet we had great insurance through our organization, there was an international grade hospital only 6 hours away by train, and the baby was expected over our summer break from classes. It was a perfect set up! 9 months later we were holding our daughter and taking pictures with our sweet Mongolian doctor.
There have been bumps and bruises, cultural frustrations, and restless nights. There has even been a 12 hour layover after a flight cancelation with our 6 month old daughter. But we have also seen eyes light up when our young girl enters rooms, we have seen the hearts of local mothers burst with joy, and we have experienced that the love of babies crosses all borders.I am learning that family is a word with a broad definition. Many locals who have taken us under their wings have become our family, our team members and supporters are yet another form of family, and our own trio has now worn that title in a whole new way.
Leaving my immediate family in America was heart-wrenching. But I can honestly say, family has never meant more to me than now. The life of an expat family is a miraculous thing, because that family is ever-growing and full of life!