CCK

Reinvent and Survive – What’s next?

My Gypsy Costume, age 4

My Gypsy Costume, age 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I often see articles in magazines and on the web about people who have “reinvented” themselves; or articles about how to reinvent yourself at 40 or 50. I recently came across one titled Reinvent Your Life at 30, 40, 50, 60. I found some of the stories boring. One was about a woman going from fashion designer to designing art and yoga retreats for women. Okay, I’m a little cynical. It just seemed too easy.

The 60 year old was the most interesting. She started raising money by climbing mountains. Good thing she was able to connect with a lot of generous people who sponsored her. She raised $160,000 for multiple sclerosis. Then she lost everything to Bernie Madoff and had to go to work for real. She started a catering business and then went into real estate. A real survivor.

I keep thinking I want to reinvent myself and go off on some new adventure. But when read these types of articles, I realize I have been reinventing myself my whole life. Every move was a new start. Every new school a clean slate. I could be whoever I wanted to be and do whatever I wanted to do.

It carried over into my career as well. I applied for a job in publishing production because I thought it would be cool to work in the glamorous world of magazine publishing. I ended that career as production manager for a small magazine nobody ever heard of. Then I had a brief career in the printing industry. I’m not sure what I was doing there but it wasn’t my calling.

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Washington, DC

After I got married I followed my husband around, first to Florida where I worked for a questionable insurance company doing data entry because I could not find anything else. Next move was Washington DC where I went to work for the Federal Government, doesn’t everybody? In Moscow, I worked for the British Embassy as a secretary where I had to re-learn to spell properly. Then I ran a translation company doing everything from training to payroll.  My last job was printing visas for Russian businesspeople at the US Embassy.

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Moscow

Back in the US I did data entry for General Electric and finally found a job with a social research organization back in Washington DC, in the IT department of all things.

I had to be able to adjust and evolve to fit into my surroundings. To be flexible. To survive.

And I did survive.

When we moved to Bogota, I switched my accent from Mexican to Colombian. No problem. In Nigeria, it took me a while, but eventually I could fake some good Pidgin English and understand what people were saying. No problem. When I went to college in the US and suffered severe reverse culture shock, I figured it out and learned to blend in. No problem. In Moscow, I learned to keep my mouth shut so people wouldn’t know I was foreign. And I learned to read Cyrillic. No problem.

As I get older, I keep thinking there should be a next phase. What will come next? But then I remind myself, I have already started down that path. My blog is almost two years old, I write for an online newspaper, and I have published two books. It is my new direction, and I am loving it!

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Global Nomads

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It’s a rainy day here.  Pouring down.  Humid.  Tropical.  Wet.  Somehow my mind drifted to Norma and this article she wrote and I am re-posting it just because…..

 

GROWING UP WITH A WORLD VIEW

Nomad Children Develop Multicultural Skills

By Norma M. McCaig

(As appeared in Foreign Service Journal, September 1994, pp. 32-41.)

I can still hear the wind from the dust storm that hit Delhi during the waning days of my trip this May. Powerful images of Tamul Nadu, further south, are equally vivid of 70 picnicking street children from the Madurai and Bethabia orphanage striking unsteady dancing positions and then collapsing in delight around me. Memories of this chance two-hour encounter near my childhood school in Kodaikanal five weeks and a world away from my Virginia home are a source of both pain and wonder. Pain at having said yet another goodbye and wonder at the circumstance that brought me to that moment.

I am acutely aware that had I not been given a childhood overseas, this melange of memories from the old and recent past would likely not exist. But they are indelibly part of my heritage as a “global nomad,” someone who has lived abroad as a child because of a parent’s job. These include the children of diplomats; other government workers, including the armed forces; business people and missionaries.

These children often live a privileged lifestyle, with exotic vacations, servants, large homes and private schooling, but the long-term benefits of this upbringing are unique and more far-reaching. In an era when global vision is imperative, where skills in intercultural communication, linguistic ability, mediation, diplomacy, and the ability to manage diversity are critical, global nomads are probably better equipped than others. A tendency to view the United States from the perspective of a foreigner is a trait common to many nomads. A nomad who spent much of his childhood in Africa recently commented, “I feel I am an American, but not to the exclusion of other countries, cultures and peoples.”

Carolyn D. Smith, in her 1991 book, The Absentee American: Repatriates’ Perspectives on America, reports that for many adult nomads, living and working overseas is a lifelong goal. “A study of 150 repatriates enrolled in college who had spent at least one teenage year abroad found that none wished to pursue a career exclusively in the United States,” she wrote in the book. More than 50 percent wanted work exclusively or periodically abroad, 12 percent wanted job-related foreign travel, and 74 percent reported that they feel most comfortable with people who are internationally oriented.

Sociologist David Pollock, director of intercultural programming at Houghton College in New York, has studied the personality and psychological adjustment of what he calls “third-culture kids.” He defines them as “individuals who, having spent a significant part of the developmental years in a culture other than the parents’ culture, develop a sense of relationship to all the cultures while not having a full ownership in any.”

These children become “cultural chameleons” early in life keen observers who modify their behavior so they fit in wherever they are. Many actually appreciate diversity, and seek it out as adults. The ease with which young global nomads roam the world can create for them an enhanced world view, a concept validated by the recent research team including sociologist Ruth Hill Useem, who pioneered research on third-culture kids in the early 1960s. Her study-in-progress documents that “About half (47 percent) of those who report volunteer activities include an international dimension.” Global nomads often serve as cultural liaisons and interpreters between U.S. culture and the rest of the world. They are the “prototype citizens of the 21st century,” according to Ted Ward, author of the 1984 book, Living Overseas.

Brian Lev, a Foreign Service child and now a computer network security analyst at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, spent five years in Chile and three years in Belgium with his parents. Although based in Washington, Lev works in an international community and travels abroad frequently. “I sometimes think everyone around me view the world in a terribly simplistic way,” he said. “Even my best friends often shake their heads and change the subject when I find their viewpoint too ethno-or Ameri-centric.” This sense of having the world as a learning ground is very common. Few global nomads interviewed said that they would opt to have been reared in Hometown, U.S.A.

And yet, anyone who has been either a child or a parent overseas knows that it is not uncommon for a global nomad children to feel rootless and out-of-step or marginalized. They sometimes appear indecisive and noncommittal or have difficulty establishing and maintaining long-term relationships. Occasionally these feelings are played out in the form of alcohol or drug abuse, eating disorders, depression or other dysfunctional behavior. Problems may appear during overseas postings, but are more likely to show up in the years between moving from a life abroad to a life at “home” in the United States. Many parents are surprised at the metamorphosis of their compliant, pleasant teenager into a rebellious, petulant, angry, withdrawn and irresponsible adolescent. Even more astonishing, but not necessarily uncommon, is this delayed adolescence in the twentysomething-year-old who is supposed to be beyond that age.

Usually, the Foreign Service or business career family abroad is better educated than the average U.S. family. Useem’s research findings show that 81 percent of grown global nomads earned, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree (vs. 21 percent of the general U.S. population) with fully half completing master’s and doctorate programs. Today only 40 percent of Foreign Service families consist of a married couple with children. Last year a random sampling of Community Liaison Office (CLO) reports suggested that more than three percent of the Foreign Service are single parents and many more are dual-career couples.

Parents go abroad feeling somewhat prepared for duty in a specific place, but many are less prepared to deal with multiple moves on two or more continents and the birth of one, two or four children, perhaps each in a different corner of the globe. Like many globe-trotting parents, their upbringing was probably geographically stable, a relatively monocultural upbringing. Global parents roam the world rearing children without a road map. Extended families and long-trusted friends are often inaccessible. To complicate things further, the children’s grandparents may actively disapprove of the routine uprooting of their grandchildren, spoiling them with an unrealistically privileged lifestyle, and exposing them to constant danger from microbes and terrorists. Other support systems need to be developed to supplant family and friends, such as the networks and resources from the embassy committee.

A unique characteristic of the global-nomad family is the high degree of interdependence of family members. Because the nuclear family is the only consistent social unit through all moves, family members are psychologically thrown back on one another in a way that is not typical in geographically stable families. Close family bonds are common. Siblings and parents may become each other’s best friends. Patterns formed overseas fly in the face of conventional theory about when children leave home, emotionally and physically. Kay Eakin, education counselor at State’s Family Liaison Office, writes, “Many [expatriate] children have gotten used to an international lifestyle and hate to give that up.” These “boomerang kids” have a need for a strong continuing relationship with parents, the only “home” they know.

The strength of this family bond works to the benefit of children when parent-child communication is good and the overall family dynamic is healthy. It can be devastating when it is not. Compared to the geographically stable child, the global-nomad child is inordinately reliant on the nuclear family for affirmation, behavior-modeling, support and above all, a place of safety. The impact, therefore, of dysfunction in this most basic of units in exacerbated by the mobile lifestyle.

Constant unresolved family tension can become chronically debilitating. Physical, sexual and emotional abuse, sometimes prompted by adult alcohol abuse or depression, may go unnoticed or unacknowledged by others for a variety of reasons, such as misguided notions about “respecting privacy,” or fear of repatriation or family disgrace with colleagues. Finally, parents may be unaware of abuse of a child by a household employee, sometimes prompted by different ideas of discipline and affection than those of the U.S. family. Good communication between parent and children is key.

When parents step on the plane with their children for a life abroad they become a bicultural family, one which may well be on its way to becoming a multicultural family even when each member holds the same national passport. Why? Because the context of the parents’ upbringing and that of their children may vary vastly. A first child may teethe in Uganda, tie a first shoelace in Belgium and come of age in Thailand. In the process, of course, the child is observing human interaction in a variety of cultural contexts, of which the parents’ is only one.

Cultural influences include schools, the caregiver’s culture, host cultures, the parents’ cultures of origin, the expatriate community culture, and the culture of the sponsoring community, in this case the Foreign Service. Considering the variety of cultural influences on a child at just one post and multiplying these by the three-plus posts, indicates how the children’s hearts, souls, minds and identities are shaped by a multitude of factors.

Brian Lev, now in his mid-thirties, recalls home as “made up of those memories and emotions I have collected over time from which I draw comfort and strength as needed. In effect, home is the place where I can go in my mind where culture is a mix from many places and belonging can be taken for granted. … It’s as if we [global nomads] have replaced the physical home of non-nomads … with an internal home we can go to when we need a respite from the world. I think of us as looking out at the world from a place inside that we share with other nomads.”

Schooling demands close attention from parents. Curricula designed to meet the needs of a specific national school system reflect different academic standards, cultural norms, languages, learning styles and patterns of thinking. Thus children who move from one education system to another need time to adjust and may require tutoring and extra classes. But the adventure-child who is innately more flexible may respond well to, and indeed benefit from, experiencing more than one educational system during a childhood abroad.

However, choosing one system and maintaining it from post to post is of particular importance to a child who finds adapting to new situations and contexts difficult. This includes the learning-disabled child for whom resources at many international schools are limited. In this case, a U.S. boarding school with special facilities is an option to be considered.

The degree to which a child is affected by the host culture depends on the length of stay, the degree of contact with the local culture, and most importantly, the parents’ attitude toward host nationals. Perhaps the strongest connection a child can have to a host country is through a caregiver. Often it is this person who shares the culture’s language, behavior, and, to some degree, values. Of greatest influence on the [expatriate] child is the impact of the [expatriate] community itself . . .

In general, parents can adopt a four-tier strategy for coping with the challenges of raising global nomads. Communication: Keeping the lines of communication open is important, not only between parent and child, but also between spouses. Get the issues out there and work them through. Children are like lightning rods for parental discord and family tension. A 1993 study by State’s Office of Medical Services showed that children who allowed to fully express their feelings and concerns make a better adjustment to moves.

Encourage children to talk about their lives, reactions, feelings, and observations. Learn to accept or challenge what they say in the spirit of developing their skills in critical thinking rather than as a means of judging or controlling them. Gently get them accustomed to communicating with you when times are good, so they will do the same during bad times. Keep reminding yourself about the difference between discipline (guidance) and punishment (power) and the effects of each on parent-child communication.

Collaboration: Give your child as many real choices as you can. Many global nomad children, as do some spouses, feel that they have little control over their lives. For example, withholding knowledge of an impending transfer from children until shortly before the packers come does not spare them pain, it magnifies it. There is no time to adjust to the thought of moving; what should be a normal international move feels more like an evacuation.

Transfers can, in fact, make the global nomad child feel like a piece of luggage carried on and off planes at regular intervals. Whatever life has built up, whatever feelings of attachment have been formed, can seem devalued and considered expendable by parents. Eating disorders, particularly anorexia, are for some global nomads a manifestation of the need to control something in their lives when the stress and ambiguities of an international lifestyle are too overwhelming. Unwillingness or inability to commit or set goals in later adolescence and beyond may be related to early feelings of powerlessness. One way to deal with that is to include the child as much as possible and as early as possible in a family decision-making process at an age-appropriate level.

Continuity: Three elements come to mind, in a addition to the family itself, in considering continuity during a life abroad. These include things (furniture, favorite possessions and toys), photographs and family rituals. Hang on to the first as much as possible from post to post, take lots of the second, and create and maintain a good number of the third. Rituals are the visible signs of your family’s heritage, the glue holding the pieces of former lives together with those found in new places. In our family, we could always count on having waffles on Sunday night, wherever we were. Three decades later, each time we use the little syrup pitchers we each had I am taken back to a different home.

Single parents and tandem couples should tenaciously guard their time with their children. Relying too heavily on a nanny can heighten a child’s sense of abandonment. Although a number of social events may seem to be “mandatory,” take a good look at missing some.

Friendships in a highly-mobile lifestyle sometimes seem short-lived, yet many adults report that the renewal of old friendships is a source of unexpected joy and continuity. To reinforce the notion of maintaining friendships over time and space, on birthdays some parents give their children the gift of a free telephone call to a friend anywhere in the world. Such efforts encourage children to view their life using other than conventional constructs: they are not rootless, they are rooted in a different way through people rather than places.

Global nomads recognize each other. Regardless of passport held, countries lived in, sponsoring agency differences or age, nomads have a sudden recognition of kinship, a sense of homecoming that underlines the powerful bond of shared culture. Universities and colleges, such as George Mason University, Duke University, the university of Virginia and at least 10 others in the United States encourage the forming of global nomad clubs on campus to reinforce this community.

Closure: This is a critical part of the journey. With as many uprootings and replantings as internationally mobile families experience, many parents are either unaware of, unwilling or afraid to address the need for closure good goodbyes before moving on. Yet the reality is that many global nomads go through more grief experiences before the age of 18 than others do in a lifetime.

Sometimes parents struggling with their own feelings of grief find it difficult to address similar feelings in children. But when one’s sense of loss is unacknowledged, a natural emotion process is thwarted. Repeated often enough, it can kick back in the form of diffused depression, anger or another dysfunctional expression.

Well before leaving, parents are urged to talk about the new destination to get them used to the idea of leaving. Giving children permission to express their sadness at leaving their caregivers, treasured friends, pets and places is key, as is sharing your own feelings with them.

Small wonder also, then, that the global nomad child often finds transition to the country of passport to be a startling experience at best. It is at this point that differences in cultures and expectations between parent and child become most apparent. Parents returning to their country of origin are coming home; their children are leaving home. No doubt parents are changed by international travel and experience the impact of reentry, but they are usually on more familiar cultural and geographical ground than their offspring. Children step off the plane “riding on their parents’ mythology,” as global nomad Timothy Dean, now a TV-producer, remarked. Noted another mother, the spouse of a World Bank executive: “For my children, home is just another somewhere.”

Children often feel and function like hidden immigrants when they reach home shores. Because they look and talk as if they should belong, their outlook, actions, and lack of knowledge of local cultural trivia are often bewildering to others who either don’t know they have lived abroad or don’t care. The child is left on the outside looking in, skirting the margins of the group along with the druggies and geeks.

In terms of timing, research indicates that transitions during the early adolescent years from age 12 to 14 can be particularly tough for children. Their re-entry can be made easier by parents and extended family who can accept that these children are really of another culture and who are realistic about how long it will take the children to adapt.

The long-term cultural identity of children presents perhaps the greatest challenge and potential conflict between generations. Foreign Service life dictates that U.S. diplomats maintain their “Americanness” for properly representing the United States. On the other hand, their children are absorbing a wider environment, one that emphasizes cultural flexibility and an expanded world view. Other cultures may fit children’s personalities and values more than does the U.S. culture. Children may also continue to identify with the mobile expatriate life and seek that in adulthood or conversely, they may rebel against such rootlessness and seek a stable stateside life.

“Even now I find myself reacting to the world as a nomad,” says Lev. “I have no room in my basement because I can’t make myself throw away all those perfectly good packing boxes. I still get a really bad case of wanderlust every four years or so, and the dirtiest word I know is ‘goodbye.’”

On a cultural continuum with total identification with the United States at one extreme and total identification as a world citizen at the other, each child may choose to alight at a different point. To name a few: a dual-culture marriage with a partner of a different passport, different race or different religion; a different country of residence (children may not be going “native,” they may be going home); staying in the United States but not feeling fully at home.

Parents having chosen their children’s childhood lifestyle, need to provide affirmation and support as they try to make the pieces fit. As one established adult global nomad put it, “I don’t feel different, I am different.” For global nomads, these feelings are not a phase, they represent a state of being. Provided an environment that acknowledges and values their global background, [expatriate] children can and many will make positive changes in the world.

The TCK Patriot

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Fourth of July, Nigeria Style

Growing up as a Third Culture Kid, I never really identified with my home country.  I celebrated the holidays of my host country or my school’s country.  I grew up in Mexico City and went to a British school.  I celebrated the Queen’s Birthday, and Mexico’s Independence day on the 16th of September, and of course the Day of the Dead.  I didn’t feel nationalistic about anyplace but was happy to celebrate with everybody.  I don’t ever remember celebrating the 4th of July although I do remember dressing up on Halloween a few times.  I just didn’t have anything to identify with.  I knew very little of US history and even less of its culture.
When I went to live in the US after high school, I was in for a rude awakening and had severe reverse culture shock.  It wasn’t until my Junior year in college that I started to learn about the USA.  I was living in Boston and a friend took me under wing and taught me about the history of the area and the people who lived there.  For the first time I started to feel something for my home country.

The longer I stayed in my home country the more comfortable I became.  As I moved from state to state I leaned new things about its diversity.  I learned about the holidays and what they stood for.  And I learned to criticize what I didn’t like about it.

I continued to travel outside the country with a slightly new perspective.  I started to compare other countries to my own and see what the differences and similarities were.  I started to appreciate things.  I saw that compared to many countries, women in the US were much better off.  I learned how important freedom of speech really was.  Although this country had a lot of problems and I didn’t always agree with what our government did, I  always had the right to express my dissatisfaction openly.

As I grew older, when living overseas, I could be very critical of the US and their foreign policy and many of their actions.  But when Fourth of July came around, I always cried overcome by emotion when I heard the Star Spangled Banner.

Kind of strange how that all turned out.

 

 

The Question of “Home”

Re-posting this, just because….

The eternal TCK** question –   Where is “home”?

Dictionary.com tells us the following

home [hohm]

noun

1. a house, apartment, or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household.

2. the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered.

3. an institution for the homeless, sick, etc.: a nursing home.

4. the dwelling place or retreat of an animal.

5. the place or region where something is native or most common.

Synonyms

1.  abode, dwelling, habitation; domicile. See house.

2.  hearth, fireside.

3.  asylum.

For Third Culture Kids or Global Nomads, it is an ongoing topic.  The eternal question – where are you from?  Where is your home?  These are not easy questions to answer.  Home is here and everywhere.  I am from here and everywhere.

That very last word is my favorite.  Asylum.  The place where you feel safe.  That is where home is.  That is where home should be.  What makes you feel safe?  People you trust.  People who love you.  Mutual understanding and respect.  Comfort.  Growing up, my home was always where my family was, unless I was with them, and then it was wherever we were.  It didn’t matter if it was a hotel room or a house or an airport.  As long as we were together and had a pack of cards nearby, we were at home.  A good card game could get us through anything.  Some of my fondest memories are of blackouts during torrential rainstorms playing cards by candlelight.

We all continue to search for the elusive “home” but I think we know where to find it when we really need it.

“The strength of this family bond works to the benefit of children when parent-child communication is good and the overall family dynamic is healthy. It can be devastating when it is not. Compared to the geographically stable child, the global-nomad child is inordinately reliant on the nuclear family for affirmation, behavior-modeling, support and above all, a place of safety. The impact, therefore, of dysfunction in this most basic of units in exacerbated by the mobile lifestyle.”

Excerpt from GROWING UP WITH A WORLD VIEW By Norma M. McCaig

**TCK’s are people who lived outside their passport country as a child

African Marriage Proposals

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Ibadan

One summer I was living in Ibadan, Nigeria, working for my father at an agricultural research institute.  Ibadan was the largest village in Africa and sprawled across the countryside without any particular order.  There were a few hotels and “proper” restaurants but not many and we rarely went to them.

My British and American friends, Simon, Ed, David, Francis, and a couple of others decided to have a night on the town. We went to a rooftop Lebanese restaurant for a filling dinner of kabob and hummus and then on to a proper Nigerian nightclub.  It had a fence around it and a large grass roof and a dirt floor but no walls.  There was a very loud band playing at one end of the room and an area to dance.  We took over a table at the other end of the room and ordered beer all around.

Francis was being very protective of me and it kind of made it look like we were “together”.  Francis was married with five children.  A Nigerian came over to our table and asked Francis if he could dance with me.  Francis, quite embarrassed, told him he would have to ask me himself.  Of course he came right over asked me to dance. I had been in Nigeria long enough to know that this could only lead to trouble.  I was getting ready to say no, thank you very much, when Simon started kicking me under the table and making gestures like I should really go have a dance.  Simon, of course, was a trouble maker himself, but I got up and danced with the guy.  Keeping in form with most of my other white American girl/ black African boy experiences, by the end of the dance he had asked me to marry him.

About half way through the evening I really had to go to the toilet.  Everybody said I should just forget about it.  I said, “no really, I gotta go”.  So David escorted me to the ladies’ toilet. We went through a beaded doorway where women were just hanging around and inside there were two stalls with holes in the floor.  There were no doors to the stalls.  I went in and squatted and David stood guard.  It wasn’t that terrible, partly I’m sure because I was a little tipsy by this time, but it was interesting.  The women were obviously just waiting for business.  I didn’t get a chance to look around but I assume there were other rooms in the back for other activities.  David seemed very nervous about the whole thing and said I was not allowed to drink any more beer.  I think David might have been back there before.

Back at the table my dance partner had re-appeared, apparently not finding any other takers for his marriage proposal.  I was the only white girl in the place.  He insisted that he would be a good husband and would have no problem accompanying me back to the United States.  When we got up to go home, he said he could come with us.  He had no plans for the night and was happy to stay with us.  He followed us all the way out to the car and the guys acted like they were going to let him in.  I was totally appalled.  How could they be so mean?  Finally they got tired of him and kicked him out.

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Friendly me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that summer I had a stalker show up at my office.  He knew who I was and all about me and said he worked in the building.  I asked around but nobody seemed to know him.  For a couple of weeks he was standing at my door at the end of the day and wanted to walk me home.  I never led him on or agreed to anything.  He kept asking to take me for a drink or to walk me home.  Finally I said I would have a drink with him.

He said he wanted to marry me and he had it all planned out.  We would be married and he would return to the United States with me and he would go to school with me and we would always be together.  I told him politely all the reasons why it was just not possible, the least of which was that we did not know each other at all and I was leaving the country shortly. And he had a counter proposal for every one of my reasons.  Finally I just became quite rude and told him to leave me alone.

I was sad to see the summer end but I was very happy to leave that situation behind when I returned to college in the fall.  Nigerian women were very blunt and straight forward.  They didn’t care if they hurt men’s feelings, they gave it to them like it was.  I think Western women had difficulty being so cold about it and in turn perhaps were more approachable.  On my next trip to Africa, I was much more Nigerian than Western when dealing with African men.  Its all about adapting to new cultures.

 

My Day at the FIGT Conference

Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland

Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland

 

Yesterday I went to the FIGT (Families in Global Transition) Conference.  I had been looking forward to it for a while.  It is a support group for expat families and third culture kids and they have a conference every year where people come together to share their work and ideas and provide information on resources available.

Anyway, I woke up very early because I had about a 45 minute drive and it started at 8 am.  I felt awful.  I had a scratchy throat, I was achy, I was spaced out.  How could this be?  A cold?  I hadn’t been sick in years.  Great!  Well, that wasn’t going to stop me.  I dragged myself out of bed, dosed myself up with pain killers and hit the road.

The conference was non stop, session to session, from 8 am to 5:30 pm.  By the time I got out of there I was exhausted.  I left right after the last session and while trying to maneuver downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, I must have take a wrong turn or not taken a turn or something because I was totally lost.  I don’t have a GPS in my car but I do have an iPhone.  I pulled over and tried to figure out where I was.  For some reason I couldn’t get it to find my location.  I must have been in a bad area because the maps were loading really slowly and I was not getting results.

So in a panic I called my son.  Help!  Luckily he was home and guided me to a place I recognized and I made it home an hour later.  Needless to say, I went to bed early.

In spike of my set backs and panic attacks, I did have a great day.  I met interesting people, attended sessions where I learned new things, and had that warm fuzzy feeling I always get when I’m around my fellow TCK’s.

Here are a few highlights.

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The first session I attended was called:

Living Whilst Surviving – an Anatomy of Hope and of What Kept Them Going

Presented by Eva Laszlo-Herbert

This was a story of a family who faced great adversity during war in Europe, were separated, deported, jailed, sent to camps, and yet they had great resilience and managed to keep going during all of it, finding small things to make them happy.  “They did not forget, they forgave.  They did not say ‘Why me?’, they said ‘What can I do’?”  They found ways to make things better.

She transitioned this to her current life as an expat in the Netherlands.  The take away I got from this session was about the children.  She commented on the expat children in The Hague.  They are privileged, with nannies, good schools, all kinds of gadgets – iPods, iPhones, they have drivers, and travel the world.  Yet, many of them feel isolated and unhappy.  In some cases their mother is unhappy with her situation, living abroad, feeling isolated.  This transfers to the children.  Often her coping mechanism is to keep the children busy and away from her.

There should be more of a support group for both the wives and the children but nobody wants to talk about it.  They feel guilty because they know they are privileged and don’t really have anything to complain about.

A friend of mine refers to these problems as “first world problems”.  And she is right.

One thing Eva emphasized more than once was how damaging it is to over book a child.  They are constantly busy with dance lessons, soccer practice, piano lessons, French lessons.  They don’t have time to themselves.  Time to think.  Time to dream.  Time to imagine.  Time to just be.

I wanted to tell her about my son.  Many years ago he took a pen that didn’t work and it became his weapon, his gun, his rocket launcher, his airplane, his truck.  And all these years, he has spent hours with that pen.  It is a joke now because if he loses his pen, we all have to panic and look for it.   But it really doesn’t matter, because we can always find another pen that doesn’t work.  He has had several.

Let them just be.

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The second session I went to was:

In Search of Identity: Awakening your Authentic Self

Presented by John Grant Hill

This was about communication and specifically Neuro Linguistic Programming.  Something I had never heard of.  What I got out of it was that most of the things we do, we do out of habit.   But we can choose to do things differently.  So if we look at two different types of people who are trying to communicate with each other, oftentimes there is conflict because they are not communicating on an equal level.

For example, one person is “introverted” and one is “extroverted”.  The introvert takes his cues internally.  He is very sure of himself and knows what he likes and wants and doesn’t need a lot of external input – i.e. advice, terms of endearment, hugs.  While the extrovert takes his cues from the outside and needs a lot of input in order to make a decision or feel good about himself.

If people understand these differences, they can learn to communicate with each other in different ways that reduce conflict.

A very interesting topic but it would take a while to fully understand it (in my opinion).

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The third session was:

Unpacking Our Global Baggage for Creative Expression: Writing your TCK Memoir, Solo Show, or Essay

Presented by Elizabeth Liang

Elizabeth is an actress and writer.  She performed a segment of her one-woman multi-character show about growing up as a dual citizen of mixed heritage in Central America, North Africa, the Middle East, and New England.  If you live in the LA area, I suggest you go see her (see link).  I could identify with most of what she said.

 

So that gives you an idea of my day.

Maybe more will come to me later…..

 

 

 

Food Friday: Women’s Day and Pirozhki

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March 8

Happy International Women’s Day!!

 

In Russia International Women’s Day is a big deal.  Everybody gets the day off!  Women receive flowers and chocolates and have a day of rest.  The day before, co-workers give presents and have parties bringing cakes and snacks to work.  One yummy snack the Russians make is Pirozhki.

These are small pies made with bread dough.  They can be eaten as a snack, a light lunch, or an appetizer.  This is the traditional version, however, my mother in law taught me a shortcut.  Here in the USA, she buys the Pillsbury Grand biscuits in the refrigerated section of the super market.  She splits each biscuit dough section in half, flattens it out, puts filling in it, and folds it over.  I have to admit, it is much easier!  But the real thing always tastes the best.

 

Basic dough

1 package active dry yeast (1 Tbsp.)

1/4 cup warm water

1 cup milk

8 Tbsps. butter, cut into bits

1 tsp. salt

2 tsps. sugar

1 whole egg

2 egg yokes

4 1/2 to 5 cups flour

1 whole egg, beaten

Yield: 4 dozen

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Heat the milk to lukewarm and add the butter to it. Stir the milk and butter mixture into the yeast. Add the salt, sugar, egg and egg yolks, mixing well. Gradually stir in enough flour to make a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead it lightly until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, turning dough to grease the top, and cover with a clean towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and divide it into 48 balls of equal size. On a floured board roll each ball out to a circle 3 1/2 inches in diameter.

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Place a heaping Tbsp. of filling on each circle, then press the edges of the dough together firmly to seal. Gently shape the pies into elongated ovals.

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Place the pies seam side down on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until they are just doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Brush each pie with the beaten egg. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden.

FILLINGS

Beef

2 large onions, minced

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2 Tbsps. butter

1 lb. lean ground beef

2 tsps. salt

pepper to taste

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Sauté the onions in the butter until transparent. Stir in the beef and cook until done. Add the remaining ingredients, mixing well. Cool.

Cabbage

4 Tbsps. butter

2 large onions, minced

1 lb. cabbage, finely shredded

1 tsp. dill

2 tsps. salt

pepper to taste

Sauté the onions in the butter. Add the cabbage and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes more, until the cabbage is tender but not browned. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cool.

Mushrooms

2 Tbsps. butter

2 medium onions, minced

1.5 lbs mushrooms, chopped  (wild or tame)

6 Tbsps. minced fresh parsley

2 tsps. fresh dill

salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onions in the butter until soft but not brown. Stir in the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients, mixing well.

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Cool and Enjoy!

 

 

Anxiety Confessions

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I realized something about myself this past week.  I’m still a TCK.  I spent most of the week going through and sorting my ex-husband’s stuff.  And he had a lot of stuff.  He never threw anything away and he was a shopper.  So he accumulated a lot of stuff.  The whole experience was one huge anxiety attack for me.  How could anybody have so much stuff?  I spend most of my time trying to get rid of stuff.  I weed out my closet on a regular basis.  I don’t want to be tied down to a bunch of “things”.

Granted he did have some kinda cool stuff.

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As my son started going through it, he wanted to keep a lot of things.  That is understandable.  I get that.  I know I get sentimental about things and he should have anything he wants to keep.  However, as his pile grew, so did my anxiety.

“Are you sure you want that?”

“Is that something you really need?”

“I don’t think you need to keep that!”

I had to walk away several times.  I had to force my mouth shut.

During the same week, I decided it was time to get rid of the bed I have had forever.  Well, my mattress and box spring.  I don’t actually have a real bed or a headboard.  I have a metal frame.  I have thought about buying a bed on several occasions.  I think a sleigh bed would be nice.  A beautiful big piece of furniture.  But when it comes down to the wire, I can’t do it.  I think about being tied down to a big piece of heavy furniture.

“What if I want to move?”

“What will I do with that big thing?”

“It doesn’t fit in my backpack.”

“I don’t need more stuff.”

Yes, I know this is totally irrational and crazy but there you have it.

Confessions of a Third Culture Kid.

On another note….  I now have a blog at the Baltimore Post Examiner:

Eclectic Global Nomad

My posts will be featured every Tuesday.  Check it out!

It’s always something

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The first year Saturday Night Live aired on TV in the USA, Gilda Radner was part of the cast. She played several different characters, but my favorite was Rosanne Roseannadanna. This character did a “commentary” on the nightly “news” show. She would go on and on about some stupidity somebody had done and then focus on some very disgusting detail and Jane Curtain would put an end to it all saying it was making her want to throw up. Rosanna would end the skit by saying Well, Jane, it just goes to show you, it’s always something! If it’s not one thing, it’s another!

About 10 years later Gilda was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and died three years later in 1989.

My ex-husband, Nicholas, always had a great sense of humor and loved Saturday Night Live. Rosanna was one of his favorites, too. As well as John Belushi, Samurai Delicatessen.

I met Nicholas when I was living in Minneapolis, MN. He was a left radical who passionately believed in living green before anybody thought about it much. He wanted to be a writer. He grew up speaking Russian at home and had just returned from Nicaragua where he was learning Spanish and following the Sandanistas around taking photos. He was anything but boring. We dated for four years and then married in December of 1988. We went to Cancun for our honeymoon but also visited Chichen Itza, Merida, and Uxmal. About a week after we returned, he left for a month in Russia. His first trip to the motherland. He met most of his relatives for the first time. He always wanted to live and work in Russia and it looked like it might be possible with all the changes coming about.

Nicholas started out his career as a journalist working for the Tampa Tribune and we moved to Clearwater, Florida, in 1989. That only lasted about a year. He was bored to death. He was supposed to be writing about environmental issues but they kept assigning him to local festivals and tourist attractions. Due to a strange set of circumstances we ended up in Washington DC and in 1991 he left for Moscow as a freelance journalist. He witnessed and reported on the coup of August 1991 when the Soviet Union fell. I heard him on NPR the day the tanks rolled into Moscow. He liked to live large, work hard and play hard. He loved to get out there in the thick of it. When Yeltsin was bombing the Parliament House in Moscow in 1993, Nicholas was out there in the crowd spotting snipers and running around the “war zone”.

During the 10 years that Nicholas lived in Moscow, he started an Expat List and and Expat Site. Both were forums and information hubs for expats living in Moscow. It was fun to see it grow over the years and to realize it filled a niche for much needed information. Although it has changed a lot since those days and Nicholas is no longer involved, it does still exist and people continue to use it.

Our son was born during this time and he spent the first six years of his life living in Moscow. After returning to the USA in 2002, Nicholas ran a program for exchange students and professionals from Russia and Ukraine. He enjoyed it but I don’t think he found it especially challenging.

Then somehow it all fell into place and he landed a great job. He developed, coordinated, and edited a news website for a Defense Department contract covering all the news for Central Asia. This website has been instrumental in counter terrorism activities in the area. The website is Central Asia Online.

He and I had our differences but we were married for 16 years and had some very good times traveling around Europe and dealing with the challenges of living in Russia. He tried to be a good father and stayed close to his son.

In April of 2011, Nicholas, had a seizure at work. They found a tumor in his brain and after it was removed they determined it was an aggressive form of brain cancer, stage 4. With the help of chemo he lived a pretty normal life for the next year. He had a very positive outlook throughout his illness and he added the  following signature to his emails:

Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in
a well preserved body, but rather, to skid in
sideways, totally worn out, shouting … “Holy
shit…what a ride!”

Then the chemo stopped working.

He and our son had planned a trip back to Russia for the spring of 2013. In August, 2012, the trip was moved up and they went for a two week visit. They saw relatives, friends, and many of their old stomping grounds. It was a dream come true for both of them.

A few weeks after they returned, Nicholas was in the hospital with rolling seizures. They tried several drugs and he was able to recover to a point. They gave him several different treatments to shrink the tumors but they just kept spreading. In December he was told to seek hospice.

Both Nicholas and Gilda had cancers that are difficult if not impossible to test for or discover early on. Because of Gilda’s high profile, there has been progress in ovarian cancer and a lot of money has poured into research in that area. They are even testing a vaccine that could help stop the recurrence after treatment.

Brain tumors and brain cancer have a long way to go, however. More research is needed.

Please help by donating to the cancer research fund. For more information and to donate click HERE.

It’s always something…..if it’s not one thing it’s another.

Nicholas Pilugin, August 17, 1955 – January 17, 2013