Trilingual Texpatsy Kinda Day

So “Texpats” was taken. I wasn’t about to dish out like $3K to buy it when I was browsing domain names. I don’t have to explain that Texpats comes from Texas + Expats, right? But if I did, it’s totally my bad for not filling you in and now you know. I stuck “Trilingual” in front of our name at the risk of sounding pretentious. But, it simply and plainly is part of who we are–definitely not the pretentious part–rather the trilingual/multicultural part 啦. So here I am, trying to maintain multilingualism with my now expatriate kiddos. Share-blogging the mess of it because it’s never a super easy endeavor when you live in places where your target language(s) is/are the minority language.

Tugó, not to be confused with Tigo, is like the Colombian Ikea with Pier1 flare

So I want to encourage the mamas and the papas who are considering teaching their kids a foreign language. Why not? Give OPOL or ML@H or any other method that can consistently work for your family a try. Perseverance is paramount. Disclaimer: It may be that your takeaways from my rants blog posts would be “what not to do” or “how not to do it”. You have been forewarned.

For the time being…and indefinitely…I cannot afford stuff like au pairs and nannies to help with language support, and I also work part time from home, so my resources and time are limited. Homeschooling was also not a viable option for our family. But I am scrappy and stubborn, so I’m committing to teaching my kids to maintain speaking and reading in Chinese, Spanish, and English. Previously Spanish and Chinese were the minority/target languages while living in Texas. Regardless, all four kids (ages 2 through 8) do currently speak Mandarin, Spanish, and English. The two elementary aged kids can read and write Spanish and English. Here in Colombia we have enrolled our kids in an American International School that will have main subjects taught in English and electives taught in Spanish, so English ✅ and Spanish ✅. JieJie and GeGe will be “full time” and Didi and MeiMei will be “part time”. Time to double down on the Chinese component! 💪🏻 加油 to me! I’ll have to work on boosting my own Chinese reading along with my kids. #learningchinesewithmykids

If you want a quick read of a “what’s the deal with raising multilingual kids anyway” kind of article, here’s one to get you started:

My perdy new dishes from Home Sentry, the Colombian Bed, Bath, & Beyond

After over a week of being here in Colombia, unpacking, cleaning, sorting, finding, buying housewares, washing, driving all over town hunting things down, enrolling the kids in school and activities, etc…today was the first day that exhibited some sort of recognizable structure. I have not had time to set up a lesson schedule; nor do I have a printer yet to print out the Chinese worksheet printables I have found, but I’m just going for it while we are still settling in and before school starts next week. I’m wanting my kids to get in the habit of “learning Chinese is part of what we do”. With JieJie all I have to do is say “and we will earn stickers on a sticker chart by doing so and so” and she’s golden, but with GeGe I needed today to feel out his capacity. Regardless of how “fun” I try to make it, he needs tangible motivation. Mama’s earnest pleas won’t cut it when it comes to something academic. So, don’t judge, but it’s going to be screen time. There I said it out in the o-p-e-n. We try to regulate screen time in our house, so this form of motivation works for now. Stickers for screen time. I’ll let them choose a cartoon or show on Netflix or YouTube IN CHINESE. 😏 Win-win.

We kicked off the morning with extra snuggles while I reminded them that we will be starting some Chinese learning at home. No one grumbled about that at all. ⬅️ Did you actually believe that?! I have young, human children, you know. Then we decorated some yummy pancakes (thank goodness for the Krusteaz pancake mix we bought this weekend at Price Smart, the Colombian Costco!).

JieJie started with the Sagebooks, book 1 from the blue set (Sage 1.1). For starters I had her read through it, trace the characters, and pull out the flash cards from our flashcards kit. That’s just to get the 3rd grader acclimated with the book and to ready the flashcards.

We were short one character, but I’ll just print my own card–as soon as I can procure that printer that’s on sale from Éxito. Once we get our car. Yeah, limited resources for reals.

While GeGe waited for the Sagebook (he will start at the same level, but I’m thinking it will be at a slower pace than his older sister) to become available, he worked on reviewing basic vocabulary. He also led his younger siblings on a color scavenger hunt around the apartment.

She even says “Good Job” with a 👍🏻 at the end. This girl.

DiDi and MeiMei quizzed each other on colors too. 😂😂😂

I had promised to take them swimming, so we took a swimming break, lunch break, nap break (for MeiMei), ballet break (first day of class here for JieJie), and then finally over dinner GeGe and I worked on his reading.

We will press on reading and rereading book 1 and work on flashcards, utilize a Chinese writing practice app, play activities, and do some worksheets. I finally found a study schedule on the Sage blog: I am a Heritage Chinese speaker but I can’t actually read proficiently in Chinese, so I use my iPhone’s highlight and speak function to help me get through pages of Chinese text. If you’re in my similar situation, know that there are also several language reading apps you can find online. You could also simply Google translate the entire page when you use Chrome as your internet browser.

We got the 山 (mountain) character down. Woohoo. It’s going to be a marathon with this endeavor, not a sprint.

Getting you up to speed

Getting you up to speed
From the day we moved out of our house

So quite a while ago, Annuar submitted his resume with the Association of American Schools in South America. We had casually discussed how it would be pretty cool if the kids learned Spanish in an actual Spanish-speaking country. We even looked at a few videos of the impressive international schools in South America. However, he never did actually apply for any positions and we just let that resume float in the sea of thousands of other resumes. Out of the blue, he received an email asking him to apply for a particular school in Colombia. He applied for the high school principal position and after a string of interviews…he got the job! We had prayed a lot. We weren’t praying that He would get the job, but whether this move is a move from the Lord. Where He goes, we follow. There were several interviews and we prayed at each juncture. I was even asked to sit in for a few minutes in one of the interviews, I think it was the third one, and I had to speak English and Spanish! Yes, I was nervous. To say the least. I guess for the most part they probably just wanted to make sure that I was a good fit for their community and that I wouldn’t “bail” on my husband if things got too tough over there. Haha! But, in the days leading up to that particular interview it finally really started settling in that we may actually be moving from the American ‘burbs to a developing country. Why would we make such a move? 1. If we sensed it is the Lord’s leading and blessing 2. To care for His church (praise the Lord for the believers all over the earth!) 3. To share the gospel 4. To enrich our children’s cultural adeptness and to broaden their world view 5. To hone our Spanish language skills 6. If it improves the quality of life for our family 7. To give our children an amazing life experience. And yes, in all these matters we have just felt so blessed and sense the Lord’s covering and peace.

We will miss our park, but new adventure awaits

As I reflect, I honestly felt like it was always in the works. For those who don’t know me well or even friends who met me as a Suburbanite mom (and I even had to remind myself as I often get lost in mom world and forget who I was prior to momhood), I have to say that I guess I was somewhat “prepped” for this outwardly capricious enterprise…in undergrad, I double majored in International Business (Hook ’em!) and Latin American Studies (fancy way of saying I held on to all my credits from the Spanish AP test, took some interesting phonetics and ethnomusicalogy courses, and read Don Quixote. Okay it wasn’t only that–I read Gabriel Garcia Márquez too.) I traveled to either Puerto Rico, Spain, or Mexico every summer or winter between 2000-2005. And, this may sound like an oddball, but hear me out, I traveled rather extensively to China off and on from 2005-2008 for work. And in 2008 Annuar and I had our destination wedding in Mexico. Just wanted to tack that one on for the sake of nostalgia. 😉 The travels to the Spanish-speaking countries provided obvious prep work for the new undertaking in terms of the language and culture. However, China is the most like what people have described to me of the Colombian daily grind. In particular, the “developingness of the country…”, the bureaucracy of a simple bank errand, the rodeo show to obtain a long-term visa, and the dozens of official stamps needed to process anything and everything over there. Not only do I have to bring original paper documents of our marriage license and birth certificates, they need to be newly issued and within 3 months of issuing the visa! Annuar and I are guessing that it’s due to the recent refugee crisis at the Venezuelan border with too many people wanting to escape into Colombia. But. I’m from the USA, I cry. Anyway, it’s fine, I LOVE going to government agencies stateside with four kids in tow anyway. -_- Sufficient to say that I will simply be ready for a different pace of doing things, and I’ll bring a cup of Juan Valdez to enjoy along the way.

Did I mention that I have never been to Colombia, let alone South America? So I guess God checked off an item on my bucket list that I didn’t even realize I had. Going to South America nicely completes the baseline of my personal Spanish language and cultural journey on all the Spanish-speaking continents: Spain–the motherland, Mexico–our Southern neighbor, Puerto Rico—our fun and fast talking neighbor, and having lived in Texas and California gives me that Chicano-Tex-Cal-Mex experience.

With the first haul of our stuff

Annuar already moved over there this week. The rest of us move on July 27. 16 days and counting!

Parting is of such sweet sorrow