Where I’m From

These poems were written for our 10th grade English class (Ella this year, Matea last). It’s a bit of an odd assignment to ask a class of TCK’s to write a poem about where they’re from, but it was also good, because it asked us to name objects and phrases that shaped us, instead of places. Obviously we couldn’t include every memory, but I hope this gives you a bit of insight into our lives. Enjoy!

Where I’m From

I am from bare feet,
from rolling my toes over the uneven ground, staining them red with mud.
I’m from raindrops, rolling down banana leaves.
We tried to catch them on our tongues,
To get a taste of the dark clouds that threatened our hanging laundry.

I’m from blue sequins,
Glittering on my hat in the summer sun.
From a pair of Keens that were once purple,
Now stained brown and torn beyond repair.
I’m from music flowing out of open windows:
Many voices in one, proclaiming the Lord’s glory.
From my fingers flying over ivory keys,
And the dancing flames of a bonfire.

I’m from Honda XR dirt bikes,
From the smell of gas and the sound of the engine.
I’m from “Mzungu!” and “Yo mama we!”
From bottle caps and Silly Bandz
–“That’s not a fair trade!”
I’m from pizza every Sunday night,
(yes, with pineapple)
After our legendary Ultimate Frisbee games.

I’m from the crack in my ankle as I missed the ball.
From stiff hospital sheets and the rhythmic beeping of monitors,
And the kidney that I lost to cancer.

I’m from yelling “Blitz!” as I slap down my final card,
On the floor of an airport, on the beach, in a treehouse.
From the scream in my throat as I leap from a cliff into sapphire waves.
I’m from “Man overboard!” as I’m shoved off of a lime-green kayak.
And blowing out my candles as we count down to a new year.

As I watch the world shrink beneath me,
Boarding pass in hand,
I’m reminded of the moments that shaped me.
The thousands of goodbyes that have left my lips,
The memories I’m leaving,
And the ones yet to be made.

-Ella Sund-

Where I’m From 

I am from the outdoors, fresh, clean mountain air in my lungs.
From dirt and jiggers,
And always having mud on my face and hands, caked on my feet.
No matter how hard I try, the colour is stained on my soles.

Red, from the African soil. 

I am from building new forts outside every week, creating villages and towns every month.
From playing imaginary games to playing Dutch Blitz non-stop, anywhere, anytime. Playing with imaginary friends, to traveling around the world with my best friend.
From doing absolutely everything together: seeing each other 13 hours a day for years on end, then not being able to see each other for months because of a wretched home-assignment.

I am from not wanting to go inside, prolonging my time outside till the last ray of sun is down, beneath my feet.
My mom calling me in at least 20 times.

I am from jumping straight out of bed by the first ray of light, soaking up every minute of it until dark, day after day.  
From playing up in the trees, singing, swinging from branch to branch,
landing on platforms and swatting as mosquitoes as I go,
to playing down in a ditch, bumping kids on the head yelling “you’re it!”

I am from broken bones, stitches and hospitals,
playing with kids too weak to lift their arm or even open their eyes.

I am from rice and beans and manioc,
longing for some kind of American candy once in a while.

I am from hellos and many, many goodbyes. 

I am from not knowing where I’m from,
feeling any airport is my 3rd home,
the floor somehow welcoming and comforting.  

I am from many hours of facetime,
sometimes not even talking,
just the company of the person comforting.

I am from hiding from war.
From hearing tsk-tsk-tsk-boom of guns and tracer fire.
I am from events I wish more than anything, would never have happened.

I am a nomad, moving from place to place constantly, never being able to completely unpack, and fitting all of my possessions in 2 trunks and a carry-on.
From having more “homes” that I care to count.

My true home lies elsewhere, a place I long to see.

-Matea Watts-

Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.

(this was written by both of us)

Black lives matter. They always have. They always will.

I wish that I could write a poem, something deep and profound that makes people long for change and justice. But as I’m sitting here now, I’m speechless over the brokenness of my country and the pain of my black brothers and sisters that has been going on for far too long. We know that this is a mess, and it is far from enough. But we cannot stay silent.

What did we do to be born with white skin? Nothing, we had no control. George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Amaud Arbery, and so, so many more had no control. Yet their lives were taken for it. They were given injustice while we were given privilege. And even though we did not ask for this privilege, we must use it for change.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

In the community that we were raised in, we were surrounded by Black people. They were our neighbors, our classmates, our friends, our siblings. People we care for, people we love, and people that show the same Jesus-love back to us. It is earth-shattering to me that someone would ever think that they were less than ANYONE else. We are all created in God’s image. Everyone deserves the same respect, the same love, the same grace that we would want shown to us, because that’s what Jesus tells us to do. Jesus never once showed bias. He loved each of His children equally.

Romans 2:11 – For God shows no partiality.

God acted justly, loved mercy, and walked humbly. That is exactly what He calls us to do not just right now, but always.

I’ve felt so helpless these past few weeks. I’m a white, teenage female. What can I do?

I can listen. I can repent. I can educate myself. I can have tough conversations with my family and my friends. I can love. I can humble myself. I can stand firm in the truth. I can work to stand up against racism every day. I am young, but that gives me all the more time to make a difference.

Pray. It is so powerful, more than we know. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Pray for all the people that aren’t being shown love from others on this earth. Pray to be able to show love, and that one day, we would be seen as equal in this land, as we will be before the throne of God.

We will make mistakes. We will never truly understand.

But we stand with you, and we love you.

The Straight Path

It’s really crazy to think that this week would be our mid-term. If life was continuing like normal, we would be at a conference in Spain for our mission agency right now – hanging out on the beach and catching up on a week of schoolwork. Due to COVID-19 though, we are both back in North America and, like many other schools, are doing all schooling remotely. I personally do not like online school. I think that it takes out all of the fun in school. I miss my friends that are thousands of miles and lots of time zones away. I miss my dorm family and the community at RVA. But, there are some perks to online school too; like we get to see our family every day, not just every three months, we get to sleep in and eat good food.

But Recently things in my life have seemed all twisted or foggy. For example, I don’t know whether I will be able to go back to school in a few months, I don’t know where I will be in or living the next few months, I don’t even know where my family will be living in the upcoming months. There are so many unknowns right now, sometimes I wish that I could just see some of the future, know some things, have cont rol of something. Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,  and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” ahhhh straight paths, I wish I could see those, but as the first part says to “trust and not to lean on your own understanding.” dang, that’s hard, but it’s just one of those really hard things that we have to get used to, and to lean on him through the mist of it all. I have to constantly remind myself that God knows the future, my best future, he sees every single day of my future, he sees the straight path, and I won’t ever be able to see. And that even in the hardest times where I can’t see the path,  all I can do is lean on him because he knows what’s best. 


Uncertainty is hard for me. I’m the type of person who likes to know what to expect, and I want to have a plan to stick to. As MKs, that’s a real bummer, because we experience a lot of uncertainty. Throughout our whole lives we deal with spur-of-the-moment goodbyes, sudden moves, and unpredictable violence, sickness, or travel problems that push us off course. Often we are left waiting and praying for some sort of direction when things don’t turn out how we expected them to. More often than not we have no idea where we will be in a year, a couple months, or even a week, and that’s something that we’ve learned to live with.

This time of COVID-19 brings uncertainty to everyone around the world, and we’re not spared from that. Our term at RVA was ended 2 weeks early, so that everyone would be able to get back to their families before airports and borders were closed. Students were told this Wednesday night. We packed up and cleaned our entire dorm, took tests, turned in unfinished projects, made travel plans, took sport team photos, said brief goodbyes, and before we knew what was happening we were on a plane to Burundi Saturday morning. We were recently informed that 3rd term classes will be entirely online. Plans were cancelled. Goodbyes weren’t said. It’s not what we expected it to be and we don’t know exactly how it’s going to work out now.

So far in Burundi there only a few confirmed cases of COVID-19, and schools and markets are continuing as normal. Our hospital has been preparing the best that it can for the arrival of the infection here in Kibuye, although we don’t know exactly what that will look like. We’ve been helping by sewing homemade masks, putting up hand-washing posters, and distancing ourselves from the community. We’re currently living out of suitcases, ready to go back to North America if the U.S. embassy arranges a flight. I find myself texting my friends over and over that I don’t know what’s going to happen or what the plan is, although I wish I did.

But when nothing else in our lives is certain, we can find peace in the fact that we have a God who does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Throughout all of this, He is working. He knows the plan even when we don’t, and he will guide us and protect us no matter what happens. And that’s something we can count on.

family worship – social distancing style
lots of homemade masks
escaping for a hike

It Is Well With My Soul

This old hymn came from a man named Horatio G. Spattord, and he was no stranger to sadness, confusion and endless questions. Horatio had a family, a wife and five children. Unfortunately, in 1871, one of his sons died of pneumonia, and then, later on in that year, he lost a lot of his business in the Chicago fire. Two years later on November 21, 1873, his wife and four daughters set on board a boat going across the Atlantic from the U.S. to Europe. Horatio said that it was necessary for him to stay back for business, but assured his wife that he would catch a boat within the next few days to join them. Around a day after the journey started, the boat that his family was on collided with another bigger boat. His wife brought their children to the deck of the boat and they took a knee and prayed that, if it was God’s will, they would be spared. Unfortunately, all of the children died in the accident. He then quickly took the next ship available to be with his wife in this time of mourning. The captain of the ship even pointed out where the other ship went down and where his kids died. It was said that it was on this journey that he wrote this famous hymn:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say

It is well, it is well, with my soul It is well With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well, it is well, with my soul It is well With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

This song has been on my mind and my heart recently due to many hard things that have happened in my life. For one, my dorm mom had a terrible accident and ended up in the hospital. All the girls in my dorm got called from class for a meeting. There wasn’t much that they knew about what happened. There were many people in the dorm: superintendents, deans, chaplains, counselors. It did not look good, but we really didn’t know anything yet. Then my dorm dad walked up from the hospital to come and see us. The moment that he walked into their living room he looked at us, tears streaming down from his eyes. When he looked at us, all of the girls suddenly realized how terrible this was. He sat down right next to me and then told us what happened. The more he talked, the more we realized that we might never be able to see our beloved dorm mom again. The thought of that made us all weep our eyes out. But as we were all sitting there, crying, Uncle Jeff holding my hand, in a shaky voice and tears coming down his face said that he had a song stuck in his head. “It is well with my soul”. I sat there, amazed that someone whose best friend’s life is threatened could even think about that, but also so proud of him and I felt just a little bit encouraged. He asked us to help him pray for a miracle, hugged all of us, and then left for the hospital. The rest of the day that song and a challenge was on my mind:

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well, it is well, with my soul It is well With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

For reasons that I can’t explain, this gave me such great peace during that time. I would just keep singing that song in my head over and over, and be with the other people in my dorm and pray for a miracle. The best part is that God heard our prayers and healed her! An amazing miracle! The doctors had no idea how she did it, and then later said that they didn’t really have a lot of hope for her to make it through that, but God heard our prayers

There have been many disappointing things recently: school canceling, people leaving, flights canceled, family in danger, airports closed, friends leaving, attacks, but throughout all of the chaos and unknown that is happening right now in my life and in the world, I can gladly say that it is well with my soul.

Vacations, SWATT team style

Our families (Sunds and Watts) go quite often together on “family” vacations. The first vacation that we have been on together (that wasn’t a Serge conference) was a Tanzania vacation. We go many times, we drive to the same place, at a nice beach in the middle of nowhere. It is a gorgeous place where there is a beautiful lake, crystal clear water, no waves. There are cool hikes to go on and awesome cliffs to swim out to and jump off of. And it is really fun to just get away and relax. Since it’s really in the middle of nowhere, you can either camp in some safari tents that they have for you or you can stay in a cabin. Both are awesome because you are so close to the water.

enjoying sunsets at the beach

Another vacation that we have been on was to Cape Town in South Africa. That was AMAZING. I loved it. We stayed for over a week. We did many things and went to many amazing places. We stayed in an amazing Airbnb on the beach, we ate amazing food and had a lot of fun time surfing at the beach and exploring.

SWATT team selfie
lots and lots of body-boding

One of the favorites that we have been on was on the coast of Kenya. We went there right before leaving for school. It was incredibly breathtaking there. Again we were staying at a huge Airbnb on the beach in the middle of nowhere. Again we had amazing food and a lot of fun time spent at the swimming pool in our huge yard (and I mean HUGE).

the beach

So yes we take family vacationing very seriously here.

Where did we come from? Where did we go?

“So, where are you from?”

oh boy.

here we go again.

As a Third Culture Kid, this is one of the worst possible questions to be asked. It makes our stomachs sink as we stand there gaping like a fish, trying to come up with a simple answer. For most people it’s not exactly rocket science, but we know that anything we say will definitely exceed the one-word answer that whoever asked was expecting. So out comes the strangled “I don’t know” that leaves us with very confused and possibly disturbed looks, and us frantically trying to correct ourselves.

So here’s the long version.

I (Matea) was born in Canada in a God-loving, Christian home. When I was around 9 years old, my family moved to France for my dad to do his Ph.D. I went to a public school for a little over four years while we lived there. Around the end of four years, my dad went on a research trip to a country in central Africa called Burundi. I never gave it more thought after he came back. After four years in France, we were supposed to go back to Canada. Then one summer day, our parents read that a university in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, was looking for a teacher of business. That is exactly what my dad just did his PhD in! We looked into it more and then decided that we should move there so that my dad could teach. We went back to Canada to support raise, then we were on a plane for Burundi. We landed in Bujumbura on March 5, 2015. We lived in Bujumbura for around 2 months but then there was some political unrest and we evacuated to Rwanda for 3 months. On September 1st, 2015, it was safe for us to go back. We stayed for a couple of months, but then it was unsafe again so then we had to leave. We went to stay with a team with the same organization as us. Their village, called Kibuye, was up in the hills where it was safer. We stayed there for Christmas. After Christmas, we decided to permanently move to Kibuye. I lived lived in Kibuye for 4 years, then I started at RVA. This is now my second year attending school there.

I (Ella) was born in Seattle, Washington. When I was little we moved around the States a lot for my dad’s work as an anesthesiologist, but finally settled in Bellingham, WA. Or so we thought. My dad had gone on lots of short term mission trips by himself, but when I was 9, my parents decided that the whole family should go to Burundi, East Africa, while my dad had a sabbatical off from work. He had met the team on one of his mission trips to Kenya, where some of the families were working at the time. We thought that we would only stay for 9 months while my dad trained students to work in the hospital. As the year progressed, it became evident that God was calling us to move there long term. So we packed our bags and flew back to America for a year of support raising. After that, we moved to France for a year to learn French. I went to a French middle school while my parents were in language training. Finally, we were able to return to Burundi when I was 12 years old. After two years of living in Kibuye, I started my first year of high school at RVA in September.

We met a couple of days after Matea landed. We were both passing by a friends house in Bujumbura, but we didn’t really have an amazing cosmic connection. The first time we really played together was a couple weeks later at a conference for the organization that we are with. There we hung out a lot, and then when we both went on home assignment we emailed each other quite a bit. Then when we arrived back to Kibuye we really started to hang out more and more, and then we became inseparable. We have now been best friends for 4 years, and many people think that we are are sisters or twins (or in a couple cases the same person), even our parents/brothers confuse us all the time. We are now attending RVA together. We spend all of our vacation time together. Our families (especially our dads) are best friends. we do many “family” trips together. A week ago we went to Tanzania together, and we have also been to South Africa together, and many other amazing places.

So that’s a little bit about us and the crazy life that we live. And that’s just the beginning.

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