I am going to quote this morning from an email that I wrote about a year ago. A new couple was preparing to move into our area (although not with our organization) and they were emailing with questions about what to pack. Of course those specifics vary so much from one situation to another, so I will not include the whole email!  But here are the last few paragraphs . . .

"One more thing I will add, totally unrelated to packing. This is something that I wish someone had told me before we came . . .

EXPECT THAT THE ADJUSTMENT WILL BE REALLY HARD!  Maybe it will not be as hard as you expect, and that will be a pleasant surprise. :-) But I was expecting life overseas to be one big, fun, exciting adventure. My short-term trips as a young person were certainly fun and exciting. And those I knew who were living overseas told me how wonderful ----  is, how they love their life here, how much fun the markets are, how nice the people are (and it's all true) so I guess I expected to just love everything as soon as I got here!

But seriously, even moving from one place to another within the U.S. is hard - getting used to a new house, new neighbors, new stores, missing your family and friends. So obviously moving across the world into a totally foreign culture is ten times harder!! I'm not saying this so that you will dread it, or to scare you. You will get used to life here and I have no doubt that you will learn to love it. But I'm just saying that you should give yourself time. Don't feel like a failure if you don't feel immediate love for the people, or if you don't like some of the foods, or if you cry at the thought of going to market by yourself . . . it's TOTALLY normal!

I wish someone had told me that, because I spent my first year here feeling like an absolute failure because I was struggling. No one else told me (at the time) that it was hard for them too. I thought I was the only one. Now I realize that actually it was completely normal and basically ALL expats struggle to adjust! Give yourself grace - it might not be hard right away, it might not hit after you've been here several months. It might be hard in different ways than you expect. The things you think will be a challenge might turn out to be a non-issue, and other things may take you by surprise instead. Just don't have too many expectations, and don't feel alone if you're struggling - because you're NOT ALONE!"

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So that's my two-cents. What about you? What do you wish you could go back and tell yourself before you moved overseas? What would you tell a friend who is moving overseas for the first time? Or maybe you're right in the throes of the adjustment yourself, and you need a place to "dump" - or ask a question. This is your chance!

Malaria, cholera, typhoid, dengue fever . . . the list of potentially-deadly diseases that we face overseas is long and frightening. We do what we can to avoid them - taking prophylaxis, using bug spray, drinking only purified water - yet we still face the possibility of contracting on of these sicknesses.

I am no medical professional - I have had basically no training, and my husband has had just a little. Yet in our three years in West Africa, we were forced to study and learn to diagnose many common illnesses as we raised our children without good access to medical care. {Let me put a plug in here for Missionary Medical Intensive. We highly recommend their training if you are living in a location with poor medical care. We also highly recommend learning to use their "Village Medical Manual" even if you can't take the course - we use the manual in America too, not just in Africa!} One thing that I was surprised to learn was the true "killer" of most children in third-world countries. It's not malaria or cholera, although these may be the root cause - the actual cause of death in many, many cases is dehydration. And it can happen just as easily with a case of the stomach flu in America as it can with malaria or typhoid overseas!

Please realize I am NOT minimizing the dangers of these tropical diseases. However, I do want to HIGHLIGHT the danger of dehydration! Recognizing and treating dehydration quickly can mean the difference between life and death. The younger the child, the more serious the threat of dehydration. So what are the warning signs of this dangerous condition? And what can you do to treat it?

Any of these signs indicate that your child is dehydrated or is becoming dehydrated:

  • More than six hours without urinating
  • Dark yellow, strong-smelling urine
  • Lethargy
  • A dry, parched mouth and lips
  • No tears while crying
  • Sunken fontanelle (soft spot on baby's head)

These signs indicate that your child may be seriously dehydrated:

  • Less elasticity in the skin (doesn't "bounce back" when pinched into a fold)
  • Sunken eyes
  • Hands and feet that feel cold and look splotchy
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or delirium
  • Excessive sleepiness or fussiness

 Obviously, prevention is the best cure. If your child is running a fever, he needs more liquids than normal and will probably not feel like eating or drinking. You will need to work and make sure he is staying hydrated. Don't wait until your child is showing signs of dehydration before you start giving him extra liquids. Any vomiting or diarrhea can cause dehydration very quickly, especially in a younger child or infant. If you need to, use a teaspoon or medicine dropper to give your child a small amount of liquid every few minutes. Seriously, set a timer if you need to and make sure your little one is getting a sip LITERALLY every 5 minutes. This could save you a trip to the hospital, depending on the cause of vomiting or diarrhea.

If your child is showing signs of mild dehydration, you can still get on top of things. Use Pedialyte or an ORS powder if available, or make your own rehydration fluid (ORS recipe below). Get your child to drink as much and as frequently as possible. (With vomiting, frequent tiny amounts are essential, do not let your child gulp large amounts or it will probably come right back up!) If your baby is breast-feeding, let them nurse as often and as much as they are willing. Fluid replacement can take more than 24 hours, so keep pushing the liquids even if your child begins to feel better.

For severe dehydration, your child may need IV fluids in the hospital. If you feel that your child is not improving or is getting worse, or if you are not able to keep any fluids down at all, see a doctor right away.

Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) Recipe:

Combine 2 Tbsp (6 tsp) granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 liter water. Be accurate in your measurements! Mix well until salt and sugar are dissolved. This will keep in the refrigerator for several days, or at room temperature for 24 hours.

 Do you have any tips or wisdom to add? Any stories to share about a time that your child was sick and in danger of becoming dehydrated?

Good morning, ladies! After a long silence from my corner (something about family vacations without internet and then moving a week later makes it really hard to keep up with a blog!) I want to start us back up with a wonderful recipe today! This recipe was sent in by a reader who says - "I have LOVED making this bread simply because it's so easy and yet always comes out so great! It takes 4 ingredients, no kneading, and super adaptable as far as adding whatever ingredients you can imagine to change it up."

Crusty Bread

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon Instant or Rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 cups water

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast.  Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12-18 hours.  Overnight works great.  Heat oven to 450 degrees.  When the oven has reached 450 degrees place a cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball.  Cover with plastic wrap  and let set while the pot is heating.  Remove hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough.  Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool. 


How easy is that? I can't wait to try this! Check out this website for more details, pictures, and suggested adaptations... http://www.simplysogood.com/2010/03/crusty-bread.html

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Do you have a favorite recipe that works well overseas, that we can feature on TCKmom? Send me an email!

LAUNDRY . . . that never-ending chore. Some of us have trouble keeping up with it in the States, in spite of our convenient washing machines, dryers, and excellent stain-removers. Move overseas, where you may not have machines or a handy "stain stick" to help with the process, and it can be a huge chore!

I've assembled a few of my own tips for doing laundry, both with a washing machine and without. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but maybe it can be a discussion-starter!

General Tips:

**If you're having trouble with rashes or odors, soak bras & underwear overnight in a disinfectant solution before washing. Be sure to rinse well.

**Use vinegar in your rinse to keep towels smelling fresh, and as a natural fabric softener.

**Soak baby messes and vomit & diarrhea messes in a disinfectant solution immediately, for at least a couple hours up to a whole day. Then rub soap directly into the stain before washing.

**Whenever possible, treat & soak stains while they're fresh, then wash within 24 hours. Stains allowed to dry and set for several days will be much harder to remove. When I have a bad stain, I wet the garment, rub soap into the stain, and then put it into a bucket of water to soak until I can wash it. Just be sure to wash within 24 hours or your water (and garment!) will start getting smelly.

**Ask around and find out what is used locally for bad stains or for whitening clothes. You probably won't have access to the brands that you are used to, and the soaps that are available will probably be simple bar soaps. However, it is amazing how well some of them work!

 Handwashing:

**With unreliable power and no laundromats when traveling, you will probably have to wash some clothes by hand at some point, even if you have a washing maching at home. I highly reccomend hiring a local woman to do your laundry if you have to wash by hand on a regular basis. If you do this, be sure to find out cultural norms for washing undergarments, as in some places it is very offensive to let another person wash your underwear.

**For normal, lightly soiled clothes, have two tubs - wash and rinse. For dirty clothes, do a pre-wash, then wash and rinse. For baby clothes, cloth diapers, or sensitive skin, you will probably need to do a second rinse. I've had as many as four tubs of water set up while I'm doing laundry!! But if you only have ONE tub or bucket, you can still just do one "cycle" at a time, piling your clothes on a clean surface and dumping the water in your bucket in between washes/rinses.

**To remove dirt and grime from jeans, jackets, or other extra-dirty (but also sturdy) clothes, wet the clothing and then use a scrub brush to scrub in the soap and scrub out the dirt.

**Soak extra-dirty clothes overnight to soften the grime before washing.

**When possible, get someone to help you wring out jeans, towels, and sheets - the better they are wrung out, the faster they will dry. Jeans take long enough to dry in a humid climate as it is!

Drying:

**This is kind of a no-brainer, but try to get your laundry done as early in the day as possible to allow maximum time for drying.

**In very humid climates, hang clothes so that they are not touching eachother and are spread out on the line as much as possible. The more airflow around them, the faster they will dry.

**Have a clothesline set up inside if possible, to bring clothes in when it starts raining, or to hang clothes up overnight. Ideally, have a stand fan that you can set up to blow on the clothes in an emergency.

**Some regions have insects that lay their eggs in drying clothes, and when you're wearing the clothes, the eggs hatch and the worms burrow into your skin. YUCK!! If these nasty creatures live in your area, hanging your clothes in the sun and not leaving them on the line overnight will prevent this problem.

Now it's your turn. What laundry tips can you share with us? Any tricks for stain removal, or for washing by hand?