Home, in a Nutshell (Part 1)

By Janine Alvarado

I’m currently standing back in the flight attendants’ kitchen area bouncing my baby to sleep while on our trek across the Pacific. It’s been a good and exhausting trip— six plane rides for a total of 30-ish hours crossing the skies, many hugs, way too much food and an ever fluid schedule.

“It’s a new acclimation to the American way of life.”

Everyone asks how our vacation is going. “Vacation” is a debatable choice of words— something which our missions pastor and we laughed about just a couple days ago in his office.

I don’t really know how to describe trips back home now that we have kids. There’s a whole new spectrum both we and our kids go through on these trips.

We are house guests (well cared for, by the way). So we mind our P’s and Q’s and are thankful that our wonderful hosts use ear plugs for our middle of the night rendezvous with our kids.

It’s a new acclimation to the American way of life.  Finishing laundry in two hours is something that will never get old.  I secretly doubt people who tell me they love to line dry their clothes.  Clearly, they’ve never hung wet clothes in the winter and waited days for it to dry.  Besides, drier-dried clothes are so much softer, and my jeans go back to their correct shape.

We’ve been gone for three years now, and while our hosts ask us if there’s anything we’d like from the grocery store, I find myself trying to recall what American grocery stores actually have in them! They’re huge though.  HUGE.

Both of our kids went through bodily changes during their stay. A change of diet, new foods left little tummies unhappy. And— all American formulas are apparently enhanced with iron, which required us to figure out solutions for the after effects.

Pedialyte: life saver for both our kids. I think I will buy it first thing off the plane in the future. Maybe in bulk.

New schedules, new beds.

New people! Many of whom know them, but aren’t known by them.

Reuniting with grandparents and aunts, uncles, cousins. Sometimes facilitating that relationship was hard and painful. Sometimes it was easy. We made quite a scene at the airport when my almost 4 year old clung to grandma, saying she didn’t want to leave, she wanted to stay or go together.  We held up the security line as we sniffled and got our tickets and documents together and tried to do the right thing for everyone involved.

This same four year old every day, sometimes multiple times a day, asked for our schedule. “Where are we going, Mommy?” “Are there friends there?” I think her having a grasp on the schedule for the day was her way of feeling in control of her new environment.

New names. We joke because everyone she referred to as “hey, guys.”

But overall, it was an enjoyable experience. Not without many considerable difficulties— imagine a screaming, sick baby for hours on end on a flight. Or the many hours spent after the kids went to bed preparing diaper bags and activity bags and extra clothes and baby food and formula and carriers and whatever souvenir gifts or paperwork needed for the next day.

Supply lists, choosing when to run errands.

Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

That’s one of those good things (coffee and creamer…. what a dreamy concoction!). We had lots of great fellowship with people, great events, and so much love and support from people. People were so kind and understanding toward our kids. Many times, trusted friends would entertain our kids (when they allowed it) during events or at church missions tables.

And we survived. We learned. We grew through it.

And we thank our home communities for their love and support, to make our “not so vacation“ a very enjoyable trip.


Janine and her husband Vicente’s vision is to see Japan transformed by the gospel and a vibrant, well-equipped community of believers emerge, ready for all God has for them! Their goal is to further the Kingdom of God by all means possible, evangelizing in this unreached country and discipling believers to be disciple makers themselves.

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