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.
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.
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).
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…..