Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Book review of the book "Expat Alien" by Kathleen Gamble

I am so happy that there are third culture kids out there writing books and telling us their story. Kathy Gamble not only grew up abroad but also followed suit. She married a Russian American, moved to Moscow and raised their son there. As an expat parent she raised their cross-cultural kid in Russia.

I met Kathy online through her blog Expat Alien. She has written her memoir "Expat Alien, My Global Adventures".

Her parents moved to Burma in the 1950's and that's where Kathy was born. Due to her father's job in Third World agriculture with the Ford Foundation the family moved to Mexico, Colombia and then to Nigeria. At thirteen years of age she goes to boarding school in Switzerland. She likes the school better than the one she attended in Texas for a while. In Switzerland "I felt like I could breathe" she writes. Kathy describes life at boarding school. The food was generally bad and you did not get to choose who you lived with.

While she was at boarding school in Europe she travelled the continent from Venice, Florence in Italy to Paris and London. She learned to ski in St Moritz. Actually wherever she was she travelled. "I used to run into people I knew a lot in airports and museums around the world".

The book gives insight into the life of a third culture kid. Kathy survived a plane crash, an earthquake and a military coup but to her her life was normal. It was only when she moved to California to start college that she discovered that the other girls didn't like her stories of her life abroad. They thought she was bragging or lying. Her first year was very difficult, she suffered from a "reverse" culture shock. I can really identify with this part of the book because my experience was very similar to Kathy's. I went to university in the Netherlands but had a similar experience. Kathy starts to wonder whether there is something wrong with her. During the years in America she never got over the feeling that she was different.

While living in Moscow, in her forties she discovers what global nomads are and that they are also called third culture kids. It was her "aha" moment, this was what she had been looking for. She says that she is not from anywhere. She is a third culture kid, from everywhere and nowhere.

The book is a great read for anyone who grew up globally or parents who are raising third culture kids. If you just enjoy travel and adventure stories then I am sure the book will appeal to you too.

Related Posts:
Interview with author Heidi Sand-Hart of "Home Keeps Moving"
Book review of Expat Teens Talk
New mentoring Program for Expat Teens
Book review of the Globalisation of Love by Wendy Williams

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Finding Mercy or Sinterklaas?

Yesterday my brother phoned and asked me to accompany him to the film Finding Mercy at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (Idfa 2012). It's a film made by Robyn Paterson who grew up in Zimbabwe, it must have been about the time I grew up there too. Robyn moved to New Zealand and she starts to wonder what has happened to her friend Mercy. So she goes back to look for her. The history of Zimbabwe unfolds through Paterson's discoveries and encounters, and she is confronted with the decline of her homeland, the country she once loved so much. Robyn says: ""What I really wanted to do with this film was to engage viewers with the reality of what has happened in Zimbabwe. To provide a human face to the situation there."

Wow when my brother told me about the film I really wanted to see it. The only problem was that I had promised to take my daughter to the "intocht van Sinterklaas" (the arrival of Saint Nicolas in our town) today. So I had to choose, sometimes when you have promised a child something as a parent you have to just keep your promise. So in the cold we went to see Sinterklaas. Toady I will have to be satisfied with the trailer of the film Finding Mercy. I will share the trailer with you too.


Sinterklaas arrived by boat and them continued his way by horse and carriage. 

Related Posts:
To or not to do: celebrate Sinterklaas Abroad
Rachel Abroad: The Arrival of Sinterklaas in Utrecht
Cultural Identity Confusion and Third Culture Kids
Marit's tip: The book "Blood Brothers" all about their friendship in Liberia

Thursday, 22 November 2012

"Moving never easy, yet inevitable"

In September I wrote a blog using the "Where I'm from" template. I challenged you to share with us where you are from. So first Lucia Bodeman accepted the challenge, so did my sister and now it's Natasja's turn. Thank you to these brave ladies. If you're interested you can find the template here. So now it's over to Natasja:

Where I'm from

I am from the peaceful green grasslands amongst the hills, from Chappies (bubble gum), home schooling and hutspot*.
I am from a zinc roof house, tall eucalyptus trees and log wood fires to warm the house.
I am from climbing guava trees, purple bougainvillea and the lovely sights of elephants bathing in the Chobe river.
I am from Blue Airmail envelopes that brought family a little closer, red dust roads, from the most beautiful sunsets ever seen.
I am from Sunday school, death celebrations, juju. Burned corn and fufu.
I am from Cameroon, Botswana and The Netherlands. Moving never easy, yet inevitable.
I am from Sinterklaas, hagelslag** and drop***. From tulips, clogs and oliebollen. From seasons never changing, always hot and dry.
I am from Christmas trees made out of pine wood branches and hand made decorations, home made bread and custard for breakfast.
I am from a place I never belonged and one I never fit into.
I am from fragments, neither here nor there.
I am from all the places I left behind.

* hutspot is a typical Dutch dish that is traditionally eaten in the winter. The dish is made out of potatoes, carrots, onions and more
** hagelslag: chocolate sprinklers
*** drop: liquorish

Thank you Natasja. For people (like me) who grew up in different countries or cultures it can be healing to write about it. In writing you can actually join all the fragments and make a whole. Join all the pieces. Bind all the dots and make something beautiful. Have you written about your experiences? If you want to share your story with us you can send me an email.

Related posts
Guavas photo from Morguefile
Third Culture Kid do you dare to be Green?
Guest Third Culture Kid Poem by Marina Sofia "Who am I?"
Cultural Identity Confusion and Third Culture Kids
Third Culture Kid Speaking "I'm Not From Anywhere"

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Food for Thought on Raising Kids Abroad

"I am a TCK, and so no matter where I go, I am always a minority. My culture is not shared by anyone because it was built out of the fragments of so many different pieces of so many different cultural puzzles." 

These words written by James R.Mitchener jumped out of the page at me. He wrote these words on his blog called Third Culture Kid Life. It's true for me too. My culture is not shared by anybody, even my brothers and sister have a different story though we grew up in the same family and partly in the same countries. My culture is built out of fragments of many different cultural puzzles. It was a great puzzle to kind of understand myself and understand my culture. Discovering that I grew up as a third culture kid (TCK) really helped me. The fact that I discovered there was a group of people called third culture kids who had similar experiences, similar strange feelings was one step on the way to coming to terms with my past. As James says other kids who grew up abroad understand me to a certain degree but still each story is unique, different.

Schiphol International Airport in Madurodam by DrieCulturen
Does this mean that I am telling you not to raise your kids abroad? Am I saying that you should not move them from country to country, continent to continent, from one corner of the world to the next? No it's not what I am saying but I do want you to think about what the consequences will be for your children.

  • What challenges will they face? 
  • How can I help my kids while making international moves? 
  • What impact will this lifestyle have on my kids?
  • What's the best age to relocate with kids?
  • What language shall we raise our kids in? Please take time to think about this one because it has so many consequences.

One of the ways of discovering what the consequences might be of raising kids abroad is reading about it. Read books, articles and blogs written by people who have grown up abroad.

Like Clara Wiggins who writes about it in The Story of An Expat Child, Grown up. Here's what she says:
"One of the lasting results of my upbringing has been a wanderlust that has taken me to more corners of the world than I can remember."  

Cecilia Haynes writes about her experiences of growing up abroad in this post An Unsettled but Very Happy Third Culture Kid Part 3."Never think of moving abroad as a deprivation of any sort. It is the greatest gift you can give your child." 

Marina Sofia, an adult third culture kids wrote the poem "Who am I?" "I am all the places in which I’ve left my heart."

I have written about what I think the advantages are and what my 10 disadvantages are of growing up abroad. What do you think? Is raising your child abroad the greatest gift you can give them? Have you considered what the consequences of a global lifestyle will be for your kids?

Related Posts:

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Third Culture Kid: Proud to be Dutch

On Facebook recently a friend of mine, who grew up as a third culture kid too posted this video. She added the text "Proud to be Dutch". I must say I grew up in Africa with the same feeling, I was proud that I came from Holland (or the Netherlands). If you don't know why then you need to see this short film.

Related Posts:
The Top countries to raise kids in 2012
New Mentoring Program for Expat Teens 
Book Review of the Book Expat Teens Talk 
Meet Rebecca an expat raising trilingual kids in the Netherlands

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Guestblog by Marit: Health Issues Growing up Abroad



I met Marit online through our blogs. Marit grew up as a third culture kid, she lived in more continents than I did. We both spent some years in Africa, we nearly went to the same boarding school in Kenya. Marit writes a Dutch blog about her experiences growing up abroad: Opgroeien in het Buitenland. I invited Marit to share her experiences here. Now it's over to her:

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Exciting! A Multicultural Children's Story Competition

As you probably know I just love books. I love reading and writing. I really love children's book too. I enjoy reading children's books with our daughter, it's something we do together every day! Here's an interesting article I just found: 10 Reasons Why you should read to your kids. If you don't read books to your own children please start today. It's so important.

Recently I wrote about the the Dutch Children's Book week (Kinderboekenweek 2012). The theme this year was "Hello World". It was all about travel, exploration, discovery and our multicultural society. It's important that children can identify with the stories they hear or read. In our multicultural society our children need to have multicultural books to read. On the InCultureParent's website there is a nice article: 10 Reasons Parents Should Read Multicultural Books to Kids. Here's a quote from the article:

"Ultimately, books that open up the world are essential for a child’s well-balanced reading diet. When children grow up exposed to diverse cultures, people and places, they become much more open to exploring broader possibilities in careers, relationships and decision-making as parents or leaders.  Without ignorance and prejudices inhibiting them, they can be prepared for wherever life takes them and whatever life brings."

One initiative that is pushing for a wider range of books for our children wherein the multicultural society is present and where gender is presented in a progressive way, is that of Inclusive Works.

Here's the challenge: write a children's story. The subject of the children's story is "New gender roles in the multicultural society". It's a call to be creative and write an "out of the box" children's story. We all know the stereotype stories about the white little boy who becomes a doctor. It's time for new stories. In this global age there are so many possibilities open for our children, let's write new books full of possibilities.

The Prize: One winner will be chosen for each category. Both stories will be published by Clavis Publishers as illustrated children's book in English and in Dutch.

The competition is open to everyone! Anyone who likes to write stories can participate regardless of age, ability, background, education, language, nationality etc. 

There are 2 categories:
  1. A children's story for children ages 1 - 3 years old. Maximum length of the story for children between 1-3 years: 600 words.
  2. A children's story for children ages 4 - 6 years old. Maximum length of the story for children between 4-6 years: 1000 words.
The preferred languages for the manuscript are English and Dutch. The good news is that the story may be written in any language, as long as an English translation of the story is enclosed.

Deadline: submit your stories before the 31st of December 2012 email info@inclusiveworks.eu. For more information click here.

The organisers are Febe Support, Inclusive works and the British Council. Thank you for organizing this competition. I hope you receive many entries. I would say this is a great possibility for third culture kids, expats, immigrants, cross culture kids to write a story. We all have experiences that are out of the ordinary.

Some time ago I read this post The Secrets of Writing a Multicultural Children's Book. It's worth checking out the post. It's an interview with Tessa Strickland, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of one of the leading publishers of multicultural books, Barefoot Books.

Why wait any longer. Let's start writing. Do you have any tips more for me? Any advice? Please share it here. The winners of this competition have been announced on 18th March 2013. Congratulations!

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