A showcase of FIGT Members' written work, focusing on the issues we study, the best practices we share, and the strategies we provide to support expatriates and cross cultural individuals and their families. Contributions are a privilege for Small Business and Corporate membership levels only and you can submit up to 3 posts per year. Please use our online form below to submit a blog for consideration or contact blogeditor@figt.org.

  • 30 Nov 2014 8:46 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)


    The bright, wonderful, hot burning sun,

    The scent of the suncream we used,

    Mixed with the spices of the ocean

     

    The sound of people, waves

     

    The hot sand, too fierce for my soft little feet,

    A ride on a strong shoulder to the shore, with love,

    To the coolness of the waters

     

    There used to be a school of fish,

    Always there waiting for me

    We played 'Catch' , really, bet you can't believe.

     

    The hotdog stand, I wish it's still there,

    Nothing special in it, but one of a kind.

     

    I was small,

     

    I looked above to see all those tanned women and men in their bikinis and shorts.

    They were different from me, my parents' faces told.

    But somehow they slipped into my 'future to be',

    Now a 'past that never was'.

     

    I thought I was American,

    My heart told me I was native Hawaiian.

     

    Only to be my parents' little girl,

    Pure Asians with their strange English tongue.

     

    A part of me buried,

    For years and years.

     

    No wonder the beat of my heart's so weak,

    I left so much behind.

     

    I dream of a day,

    A day back on the beach,

    To get back, nicely brown with a lei on my neck.

     

    A dream I dare,

    A place I long so dearly for.

     

    I know I can never get back,

    The past should be laid down.

     

    The years are gone,

    And I'm no longer six.

     

    I'm no longer the Hawaiian girl,

    Who danced the Hula with grace.

     

    Home, sweet Waikiki

     

    I call your lovely name.

     

    I know you've changed,

    As I too, have.

     

    But one day, if I get a chance to meet you,

    Can you send me some fish?

    Who knows how to play 'tag you're it'

     

    So maybe I can be six again.

     

    Cerine NJ 21

    Hawaii, Poland and South Korea

    Moithetique - Wagamama - Daydreamer

    This is one in a series of excerpts from the recently published The Worlds Within TCK Anthology, now available for purchase on Amazon.com.  A portion of the book’s profits will be donated to the FIGT David C Pollock Scholarship Fund. 


    Cerine NJ 21

    Hawaii, Poland and South Korea

    Moithetique - Wagamama - Daydreamer

    his is one in a series of excerpts from the soon-to-be published The Worlds Within TCK Anthology.  A portion of the book’s profits will be donated to the FIGT David C Pollock Scholarship Fund.


    Cerine NJ 21

    Hawaii, Poland and South Korea

    Moithetique - Wagamama - Daydreamer

    his is one in a series of excerpts from the soon-to-be published The Worlds Within TCK Anthology.  A portion of the book’s profits will be donated to the FIGT David C Pollock Scholarship Fund.
  • 23 Nov 2014 5:42 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    When working with colleagues, what does an expat need to keep in mind?

    Keith (Singapore)Almost half of the workforce in Singapore is comprised of foreigners and permanent residents.  Local Singaporeans are also a diverse group comprising of Chinese, Malays, Indians and Eurasians.  Because of this, the expat needs to understand the motivation, communication styles, leadership preferences and cultural differences of each group.

    Jeff (Vietnam): In Vietnam, expats need to keep in mind the contradiction between Eastern and Western values and appreciate the deep historical, ancestral, Confucian and Buddhist roots of the Vietnamese –which translates into strong family orientation, strict hierarchies, top-down decision making, respect for authority as well as seniority and age, and the need for balance and harmony.   In business, transactions are usually affected by politics, procedures, infrastructure, and personal relationship.  While Vietnam is a fast-changing country that is learning the ways of international business, modern Vietnamese are often conflicted between family and career, communism and capitalism.  Workers are accustomed to following instructions undefined so if you want feedback, suggestions, self-reliance, collaboration, or innovation, say it, write it and show you mean it.

    Rose (Philippines):   In the Philippines, personal relations are very important. Business is done on the basis of trust and being comfortable with the person they are doing business with.  Although Filipinos speak English and communicating is easy, there are many things communicated through facial expression, tone of voice and behavior.  Politeness is key and colleagues will be turned off by aggressive orders or reactions so be mindful of your voice volume.  When looking for assistance it must be requested and not ordered.  When making requests, keep in mind that a Filipino associate will always be polite and say “yes”; however, many times the answer may really mean “no”.  It’s always a good idea to clarify understanding.

    Let’s discuss daily living.  

    Kristen (Singapore): Over one million expats reside in Singapore. This makes for great living as you will quickly have friends that have come from all over the world. Much like other metropolitan cities, housing is smaller and closer together. There is a fantastic public transport system (called MRT) and since the duty on cars is over 100%, you will make great use of it.  There are great entertainment options year round undefined the Formula 1 night race is a city wide party, many good concerts with head line performers, art and film festivals, excellent museums, and the list of good restaurants keeps growing. While shopping could be considering a national pastime here in Singapore, prices are quite a bit more than those in the US.

    Claudia (Singapore): For Singaporeans and expats alike, living in Singapore is not only clean, safe and organized but also very comfortable and practical. Distances to work are usually no more than one hour by public transport to and from most locations. If necessary, services such as electricians and other contractors are available within a day. However, work life balance is not as good as it is in Europe and the US. Work comes first here and everyone works longer hours, even on holidays.  There is lots of traffic.

    Jeff (Vietnam): Daily living in Vietnam’s major cities (Saigon and Hanoi) can be a challenge undefined dealing with traffic jams, pollution, and property crimes.  But both cities have good options for modern and affordable apartments, comfortable international expat communities, good restaurants and an assortment of sports/entertainment, plus reliable and inexpensive domestic help.  Corporate executives and other expats most likely will want to hire a cook as well as car-and-driver.  Keep in mind that Vietnam is one of the world’s largest two-wheel cultures, so an expat might want to join the masses and have a motorbike if he wants to get around efficiently; if you’re going to ride in a vehicle with four wheels, you’ll want a driver undefined and a lot of patience.

    Rose (Philippines): Manila is the Philippines most modern city and the majority of expats live there. Expect the normal issues that come along with city life – namely, pollution (the air quality may affect those who are sensitive) and traffic (always allot additional travel time).  Most expats will employ a local driver who is familiar with the roads. Keep in mind that Filipino drivers are terrible on the roads; they will tailgate and occupy every space they see. For example, a 3-lane road can easily become 4 or 5 lanes.  Many areas in Manila are very modern with shopping malls, condominiums and subdivisions with secured areas.  Some expats hire household help and you have a choice of live-in or live-out.  This usually depends on how big the house is and whether there are young children.  The shops offer local and imported goods and there is a store similar to COSTCO called Sand R.  We recommend staying away from the wholesale markets as they can be a bit dangerous if you are not vigilant and aware.

    What’s the latest on the housing supply and international schools?

    Kristen (Singapore): Housing, especially apartment living, is plentiful but expensive. Be prepared to move into a smaller home with limited outdoor space. Condo living can be wonderful as you have an instant community and amenities such as pool, BBQ area, and fitness center. There are international schools for just about every curriculum including American, British, Australian, German, Swiss, Japanese, Indian, etc. Several schools have long wait lists. If you are anticipating a move, and hoping to keep your children on an American curriculum, expect a six month wait list.

    Keith (Singapore) In Singapore, various housing options are available from condominiums, landed properties (houses) and public housing (called HDB which stands for Housing Development Board).  If you want to live downtown or close to schools, be prepared to pay more.  If you are keen to embrace the local cultures and want to live like most locals, then you can rent a HDB.  The HDBs are located near MRT stations or public transport and have amenities like food centers, shops, cinemas and libraries close by.  A 3 bedroom 1,200 sq. ft. HDB apartment rents for S$3,000 (US$2,500) monthly and prices can go up to S$30,000 (US$25,000) or more for an 8,000 sq. ft. bungalow.  Note that Singapore is often ranked one of the most expensive cities in the world.  A 400sq ft. 1-bedroom apartment downtown can cost easily S$4,000 (US$3,300) a month, while a 1,200 sq. ft. 2-bedroom apartment downtown can be S$8,000 (US$6,600).

    Jeff (Vietnam): After a decade of modernization and construction of high-end residential properties that ended in 2009, Vietnam today is in the midst of a prolonged real estate slump and is a buyer’s market for apartment rentals.  The inventory of luxury apartments in particular is strong and relatively inexpensive.  There are several very good international schools in the big cities, especially Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), and a school of choice for expats in Hanoi tends to be the school sponsored by the United Nations, it’s one of only two in the world.  In Vietnam’s public school system and at the post-secondary level, the options are limited, although acceptable public schools that emphasize English are available for families seeking a rich cultural experience.

    Rose (Philippines): In the Philippines, the housing supply is abundant especially with new condominiums. Expats also have several international schools to choose from and most are located in the same area.  Examples include the IS (International School) and BSM (British School Manila). However, as soon as you are outside Manila, international school availability becomes scarce. Keep in mind that the system of education in the Philippines is patterned after American Education, so the local private schools are use English as a medium of instruction. The many private Catholic Schools all over the country will accept foreign students and some expats have discovered that this provides an affordable high quality education.

    Are there other things expats need to be aware of such as restrictions, security, culture, currency?

    Kristen (Singapore): Singapore is incredibly safe and a wonderful place to move, especially for young families. Singapore recognizes four main cultures, Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Western cultures and all are celebrated equally. English is the national language with most Singaporeans speaking at least one more language.  We affectionately refer to Singapore as “Asia-lite” and for most Westerners, it is an easy transition to move here. The hardest thing to get used to is the heat and humidity. Thankfully air conditioning is everywhere.

    Jeff (Vietnam): Expats need to be aware that Vietnam is just one generation removed from starvation poverty and hundreds of years of war that ultimately led the country to accept a one-party government that provides political stability and values security more than individual liberty.  For expats, some practical implications they can expect to confront are: cumbersome bureaucracy, excessive regulations/restrictions, and the expectation of under-the-table payment for public services.  On the other hand, as individuals Vietnamese are very pragmatic; so if you want to get something done, deal with the people and trust that they know how to deal with the government.

    Rose (Philippines)Filipinos have a silent/unspoken social system similar to a caste system depending on economic means, educational attainment and upbringing.  Generally, Filipinos are more passive than assertive and have a tendency to be subservient and very shy.  But those who are from higher economic status with high educational attainment will show more assertiveness and confidence in their approach to foreigners.  There are many areas in the city that are generally well secured such as near the financial district.  However, as with any city it pays to be street smart and vigilant.  Consider travelling with locals and, as a general rule, ask about the place prior to going there – especially when going out of the city.  Filipinos are Asians but can be very westernized even if he/she has not lived abroad; the influence of media and education has been very strong. It is very easy to get along with Filipinos because they are adaptable and open to other cultures.

    Contributed by Charisse Kosova, Director, Intercultural Training and Development at IOR Global Services.

  • 09 Nov 2014 8:18 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)


    ‘Where are you from?’ is my least favourite question.

    Most people rattle off their particulars with no specific thought, reciting a common answer to a supposedly common question. But as a third culture child it triggers thoughts of identity, self and lineage. The short answer is simply a synopsis, a vague indication of the normalcy of moving around every three years or so. How does one explain that they are, say, half Canadian, half Dutch, but lived in Russia, Egypt, Indonesia, Singapore and Switzerland without receiving puzzled looks and gaping mouths? Moreover, when asked to explain in more detail I have to elaborate I have never lived in either of my passport countries, or even speak their languages* so can I even rightfully claim their heritage as my own?

    This long answer however, prompts my second least favourite question;

    ‘What was your favourite place to live in?’.

    How can I answer this question when I don’t know myself exactly how the exposure to so many amazingly different cultures, religions, languages and peoples has affected me in my development, in me becoming an individual of this world?

    When repeatedly moving to a new country, city and school is the only life I’ve ever known the question is very much redundant to me, resorting with a forced smile and a polite yet evasive answer.

    The nature of these questions is not malicious, and only a natural progression for non-third culture individuals to ask, but the reason that they aggravate me is because they remind me I have no real home.

    Undeniably, I have a house, in which my family live, and yet it is not my home, merely the building in which I have lived for the most recent three years. A home is somewhat fictional to me, perhaps a bricked cottage built by grandparents before me, or a house in which in which I had lived all my life, friendly with all of the neighbours and local community- a fairytale of sorts. When I left to University this became painfully clear when surrounded by individuals whose move to Edinburgh was their first time living out of their town or city, and again I was exposed to the questioning and the imploring. Each time these questions are said out loud, internally I ask myself the same ones- “where am I truly from?” and “which country can I truly claim a home in?”- and repeatedly I remind myself that I am quite literally a citizen of the world.

    Although I feel I have no real physical home, there is an emotion, a contentedness and sense of relief I relate to as ‘home’. It is the happiness experienced when in the comfort and presence of my family; the playful comments, teasing, jokes and laughter when we are together is a sensation we can create anywhere and everywhere we go. And it is this security and ease that I miss when homesick some 10929 kilometres away from, not a building, but my feeling of ‘home’.

    I know people will continue to ask where I am from, my attempt to answer and its impact on me undoubtedly symbolizes a part of who I am as a person, but I’m not sure people realize what a burdensome question it can be, hopefully that is, until now. 

    *(Quebecois or Dutch)


    Johanna Smit

    20

    Russia, Egypt, Indonesia, Singapore, Switzerland and Scotland

    Unite – Share - Smile


    This is one in a series of excerpts from the soon-to-be published The Worlds Within TCK Anthology. A portion of the book’s profits will be donated to the FIGT David C Pollock Scholarship Fund.  

     

    This is one in a series of excerpts from the soon-to-be published The Worlds Within TCK Anthology.  A portion of the book’s profits will be donated to the FIGT David C Pollock Scholarship Fund. 
    This is one in a series of excerpts from the soon-to-be published The Worlds Within TCK Anthology.  A portion of the book’s profits will be donated to the FIGT David C Pollock Scholarship Fund. 
  • 02 Nov 2014 4:30 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    While many would argue that English is becoming “the” universal business language, we polyglots know that speaking a foreign language is really a secret weapon. Whether working with business associates abroad or taking care of everyday errands while on international assignment, the ability to communicate  is truly an advantage in work and at play.  We asked the IOR team what they thought were the major advantages to knowing another language.  Read on for what we consider to be the Top 10 reasons:







    1.    You become comfortable with the business side of the language – idioms, email writing style and company jargon (Maura, Marketing)

    2.    There is a greater ability to understand and solve workplace problems with different cultures (Mark, Global Talent Management)

    3.    You understand the lyrics to all those foreign songs you’ve been singing in the shower. (Nick, Intern)

    4.    Locals respond to you better/quicker when you try the local language (Suzy, Customer Service)

    5.    You are better able to take care of daily needs like buying food, reading street signs and navigating the city (Maura, Marketing)

    6.    You develop a more influential leadership style through usage of local terms and phrases (Mark, Global Talent Management)

    7.    You get better seats in planes and access to off-menu dishes at restaurants. (Kendra, President)

    8.    You reduce your risk of saying something totally embarrassing by nearly 50%. (Denise, Destination Services)

    9.    You can fund your next plane ticket with the money you save by avoiding clever, “shortcut”-taking taxi drivers (Agata, Language)

    10. You gain advantages in all aspects of your daily life, which makes for a more satisfying and successful assignment. (Rob, CEO)


    What advantages have you enjoyed by knowing another language?


    Contributed by Charisse Kosova, Director, Intercultural Training and Development at IOR Global Services.


  • 26 Oct 2014 8:11 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)


    Maryam Afnan Ahmad interviews Jo Parfitt about this soon-to-be-published work.


    • What are TCKs and why are you so passionate about them?

    JP: TCKs are young people who have spent some or all of their growing up years overseas in a country that is not the passport country of either parent. They live, not in their parents’ culture, nor fully settled into their new location. Instead they live ‘between worlds’ in a third culture. I have lived abroad myself for 27 years, since the day after I got married and we have two TCKs of our own now in their twenties. I care passionately about giving people a voice, a place to express how they feel. I wanted a) to let them know people care about their stories ad b) to inform others about this unique group.

     

    • Why did you choose to compile an anthology of TCK work?

    JP: It was while I was at FIGT2012 and attended a workshop by Beth McBride, our cover artist, and met Cerine NJ, a Pollock Scholar, attending from Korea that the idea came to me. Cerine handed me a booklet of stories she had written and frankly, I was blown away by the meaning in her words. Eva also read the material and felt as I did. Beth and Cerine are both in their 20s, both are TCKs and both have been profoundly changed by their experience. It was then that I realised, as a publisher, I had the power to produce an anthology and was delighted when Eva and Cerine herself agreed to be involved.

     

    • Is The Worlds Within an anthology of interest only for the TCK?

    JP: It will fascinate anyone who has lived abroad, at any age and anyone who has ever or still works with them in any capacity. It will let them see into their world.

     

    • What value do you see The Worlds Within to add to the TCK experience?

    JP: It brings taboo subjects like identity, home, belonging, loss and grief to the surface as well as the immense benefits to be gained from their experiences. It helps TCKS to feel more rooted in their world and not only proud of who they are but brave enough not to keep their truth secret any more.

     

    • How did you both pick the age range for the TCKs who could submit work for the project?

    JP: That was tricky. 27 seems an odd age to cut off entries, but after much discussion we decided it was at this point that young people truly no longer feel like children.

     

    • Any special moments from the process of compiling this book that you would like to share?

    JP: When we read the entries through for the first time with awe and emotion. And then when we read them again. And then when we read them again. Each time it feels like someone is bashing me on the head and saying, “See?”

     

    • Is there anything else that you would like us to know about The Worlds Within?

    JP: This has been a wholly voluntary project. It has been two and a half years in the making and has been very hard work. All those who have been involved have shown amazing passion and commitment to this important project.

     

     

  • 19 Oct 2014 2:57 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    I understand what you feel,

    and as my heart starts

    to stop forever, yours will begin again.

     

    My grief and sorrow override the joy

    that brings me to tears

    each time I hear your name,

    for the darkness is creeping in,

    and the light starts to fade,

    and all I hold onto is you.

     

    Your eyes, your feet, your delicate, fragile fingers.

    Your laugh which now I can only imagine…

    It must sound like tinkling bells, or the song

    of a bird. Your button nose, small and perfect,

    like the rest of you.

     

    Time is running out,

    and the only regret I have is the time I could have had with you.

    And I cringe now when people visit,

    because I am no longer viewed as healthy, sane,

    but as frail and withered, and all I can ask for is

    Time.

     

    Time to talk,

    Time to explain,

    Time to apologize for my wrong doing.

    I need time before my hourglass runs empty,

    before the chance of seeing you blinks out.

    My blood is slowing in the traffic of disease,

    and I just need you.

     

    If only I had been a little wiser,

    more patient,

    I would have stayed with you.

    I would have spent my life and all my

    Time

    by your side.

     

    But now, as the last grains slowly plummet to the bottom,

    I have one piece of advice for you.

    Stop. Wasting. Time.

     

    Anna Busuttil, 13, joke-love-eat


    This is one in a series of excerpts from the soon-to-be published The Worlds Within TCK Anthology.  A portion of the book’s profits will be donated to the FIGT David C Pollock Scholarship Fund. 

    This is one in a series of excerpts from the soon-to-be published The Worlds Within TCK Anthology.  A portion of the book’s profits will be donated to the FIGT David C Pollock Scholarship Fund.
    This is one in a series of excerpts from the soon-to-be published The Worlds Within TCK Anthology.  A portion of the book’s profits will be donated to the FIGT David C Pollock Scholarship Fund.
    This is one in a series of excerpts from the soon-to-be published The Worlds Within TCK Anthology.  A portion of the book’s profits will be donated to the FIGT David C Pollock Scholarship Fund.
  • 12 Oct 2014 5:25 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)


    Chimps have a mental, detailed map of their ‘neck of the woods’. It’s a matter of survival: they have to be able to remember where they found those berries last year and how long it takes to get to safety from any other place.

    Although we no longer need it for our daily survival needs, the human brain is wired to make, and retain, a map of our surroundings. And that is why, when we move to a new place, we don’t feel settled until we have developed that map. An article in the National Geographic of June 2014 states, “Each of us constructs a sort of geographical-highlight map of the places we’ve lived.” (p4)

    A friend of mine came back from Abu Dhabi where she and her family will move to live this summer. When they went house hunting, her husband had his priorities clear. Looking at the map he said,

    ‘Here is the Starbucks. Let’s take a 10-minute walking radius around this point and see if there is anything available we like.’

    She wondered if they shouldn’t look near his work or her work or the school for the kids. ‘We’ll work that out later. As long as we can walk to the Starbucks….’

    Basically, the Starbucks is his safety retreat, his secure nest in the big Ironwood tree in times of stress and danger on the forest canopy floor.

    It’s a smart thing to do when we set out to find a house in a new place – decide what you want to be near and start from there. If you know what you want you can work to making it happen: the quicker your map is designed, the quicker you will feel ‘at home’ in a new place.

    I bet that this desire to feel settled explains why we humans are creatures of habit. There can be 10 grocery stores near us but we often keep going to the first or second one discovered, over and over again, as if the wheels of our chariot dig a path deeper into known territory. You notice this when you move to a new house in the same city. Suddenly you can’t figure out how to get anywhere because your point of departure has changed. And you discover a new restaurant around the corner from the office because you arrive at the front door from a different angle. The restaurant was always there but your chariot’s ruts didn’t make it those extra 50 meters.

    Our first weeks in a new place are busy and emotionally intense, but I think the experience is far more physical than we realise. We are conscious of the mental effort we make as we settle, but at the same time, our bodies are subconsciously doing just as much work, adjusting to differences between here and back there, and noting it all down in what will become our physical mental map of this ‘home’.

    If I see a picture of Hanoi, Vietnam, I’m transported there, not just in a visual memory, but physically, even 14 years after leaving the country. I can hear the whining rumble of thousands of motorcycles on the main road around the corner from my house, smell the fish sauce in the air around lunch time and feel the humid air that makes my t-shirt cling to my skin.

    As we settle our senses make deep subconscious impressions of our environment that stay with us forever. Perhaps this is a survival mechanism we inherited from our ancestral tribes of nomadic apes: we global nomads create a single meta-map of past and present homes. The maps help us learn from similarities and differences, remember our past in a ‘3D’ way and therefore thrive in our international world.

    Contributed by Diane Lemieux, a Canadian/Dutch writer who has lived in 11 countries and speaks 4 languages. Her latest book is The Mobile LIfe: a new approach to moving anywhere. Find her blog at http://diane-lemieux.com/mobilelife/

  • 04 Oct 2014 6:35 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)


    7 weeks and 6 days. That’s all I’ve got until we go “home”.

    Where’s “home”? England.

    Is it Home? No.

    So why does everyone call it that? I haven’t lived there in 5 YEARS! So why do we have “home” assignment and why does everyone talk about how we’re coming home?

    I’m sort of having mixed feelings about all this. Sometimes I’m excited, the idea of a foreign country, a new culture, the chance to start again can be so attractive.

    But Bangladesh is all I’ve ever known! I don’t know how to live in England! It’s not yet 20 degrees and I’m already starting to get chilblains!

    I’ll be leaving behind everything: my whole life; my classmates; my friends; my adopted families.

    I’ll be leaving behind Bubbles and Jen. They’re my best friends. I’ve been best friends with Bubbles since I was 5 years old! We don’t even remember how, where or when we met. It doesn’t really matter. She’s my best friend.

    I’ll be leaving my new friends as well.

    Besides Bubbles and Jen there are another two girls and three boys. I’ve learn’t how to socialize with those guys. How to mix languages and scold the boys for being rude. Throwing bottles at each other’s heads and blaming it on each other, laughing at the boys as they stuff all of the sweets in their mouths when we ask them to hold a bag of them. Ridiculing aunties and Uncles and other kids. We’re pure silliness. But we’re definitely not English.

    I don’t know how to socialize with English people. Here people who hardly know me talk about their feelings easily to me. They say I’m easy to trust and give good advice. But I don’t know how to get English kids to trust me.

    So even though I’m excited about going to England, I will miss Bangladesh.

    I will miss my friends: Adh, Setu, Jen and Bubbles. I will miss all the characters - like You Know Who, one-against-four-girls boy and Bablu.

    This is my Home and although I will manage, someday, to make England my home with a small ‘h’, Bangladesh will always be my Home with a capital ‘H’.

    Amory Powell

    11-13

    England, Bangladesh

    justathirdculturekid.wordpress.com

    Curious - Understanding - Persevering

    This is one in a series of excerpts from the soon-to-be published The Worlds Within TCK Anthology.  A portion of the book’s profits will be donated to the FIGT David C Pollock Scholarship Fund.

  • 28 Sep 2014 8:36 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Being apart often or over long periods of time can challenge the strongest of relationships. Expat counselor Harriet Cannon shares three practical tips to help keep your relationship together when you are apart.

    Care in technology use

    The way most people use technology doesn’t work so smoothly when they are continents and multiple time zones apart. More visuals such as Skype will help but in today’s world of immediacy, the challenge is having patience to wait, and cherish important news with your sweetheart before you put it out to the rest of the world.

    For example, Sue had a two month business trip to Singapore while Juan was home in San Francisco, CA with their baby. Juan put a video of their baby’s first steps on Facebook and YouTube. Sue woke up to congratulations from around world and felt betrayed, not having been first to see the video and share the moment with Juan.

    Think before you post or text. It’s harder to patch hurt feelings long distance.

    Time zone respect

    Relationships can go crosswise with calls or texts to your partner jarring him/her out of a dead sleep to talk about things like tonight’s concert or that co-worker who drives you crazy.

    Make specific time zone conscious appointments with your partner and keep them. It gives you both something to look forward to. Sleep time calls should be left for emergencies.

    Empathy parties

    Sharing in daily life happens organically in a relationship. But when you are apart for weeks or months, the flow gets out of sync. Across the country or world, perhaps a new culture and language for one of you, and double duty with home plus job for the other...

    When what you really want is a long distance hug, the common trap of ‘who’s got the tougher deal going’ can get in the way. It’s important to use emotional intelligence, listen deeply, and mine for events and feelings across the miles.

    Planning times to talk when you have ‘down time’ is essential and empathy parties will keep your relationship humming until you are physically together again.

    Harriet Cannon, LMFT, LMHC is an expat, counselor and coach and co-author of Mixed Blessings: A Guide to Multicultural and Multiethnic Relationships.  She blogs at www.mixed-blessings.com.

  • 21 Sep 2014 1:57 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    As the date arrived, I began to go through major highs and lows. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Even rushes of regret came in like tides, blaming me for the blunder to apply for something I might not be able to handle. Okay, in one sentence; I was so unstable that I felt like applying for the Pollock Scholarship was a mistake. I refused to admit it, but I was truly going though complete madness, yet in the very controlled outside version as always, with others not noticing.

    The main problem was that it all felt so surreal. Even packing was impossible. I have never gone anywhere for the past decade, my life was nailed down into the depth of this red rusty soil, with no option to escape. So, why should it be that I am able to go NOW? The overgrown shadows of my inner voice kept me back flat on the ground. Though my flight ticket proved that the nails were gone, my senses were telling me that it cannot be true.

    “It’s just a piece of paper. It means nothing. Just ignore it. You are not going anywhere. It’s not for you to go. Stay put. Don’t forget… the ‘good days’ had ended and you already got your share of foreign air. So, just close your eyes and wait for the plane, which is already messing up with you to go away. Then you may return to your ordinary life, once the opportunity is tilted off.”

    That was my mother’s voice monstrously distorted in me. Mom was the only stable standard I had all my life, and I was too weak to criticize her. It was her words telling me I have nothing but to be grateful for all the experience that fell on me that were all too great to be enough for the extent of spoilt-ness.

    “You were too lucky to have lived in the best places, you know. The good days are over now, no use of talking about them.”

    “You already did all the travel, how could you dare to ask for more?”

    “Stop clinging on to the past, look what reality looks like.”

    “How dare you complain! … You should have never gone ‘out’.”

    These were mom’s mantras that I would hear every once and a while since we were ‘banished’ back to Korea. The subject of our life out of Korea was never mentioned in our living-room. Only rarely it was hinted as the ‘good old days’.

    It later turned out after my breakthrough to the States that Mom, herself, had been so miserable of our repatriation, sick and tired of Koreans, and was quite unaware of what she was saying or how she was reacting to our past. Her hard words were not for me, but actually for herself, to survive in Korea after we were relocated and dad out of job due to politicking of another group when to company was at risk because the owner was caught doing illegal acts. For twelve years, the only trips available for me were the occasional school field-trips, one day drive to a nearby island once a year, a few sleep-over trips to some parts of the country and a week at Jeju Island. The true meaning of a holiday was even wiped out because dad was abroad, and mom with her own work now, would rather stay at home to collapse on the bed for her given holidays. We even stayed at the same small neighborhood of a bed-town near Seoul. After all those years, I was now finally going out. Back out.

    I found it impossible to begin packing until the evening before my departure. Considering the length of my trip, which would be two weeks, I should have gotten things straightened out by then. Wandering around the house for a toothbrush and other necessary items that I know so well from my childhood, in my head, I was fighting by repeat the situation I was in. I got a scholarship to go to FIGT. I mean, I got this excuse to go out and somehow I got flight tickets, and places for me to stay were arranged. Everything was ready. Yes, everything… but me.

    Again, I lost track of reality. The fact that I was finally going out was so odd that it felt like nothing. As always, tomorrow would be just another dull day in Ilsan, or some underground going to Seoul. Alas, my inner alarm broke that I must do every single thing to kick me, or else the pricey tickets would become rubbish. I arranged alarms with notes of every single step I were to take the next day on my cellphone so that simply following that will take me to the airport. I had to make something to automatically kick me out.

    The next morning, I woke up with this peculiar feeling of soundness. It was as if not a single speck of dust in my room would ever move. My mind absently passed the suitcase. It was the morning of my departure. VERY funny. Everything seemed so settled that I may as if have brunch, read a book and make a cup of coffee for the afternoon. I was completely out of control. It was like floating around in a dream, knowing that it is, just a dream. Then my faithful cellphone gave out a cry. I packed the final set of clothes on the dryer and went out to pick up some booklets I ordered from a copy place. I got on a bus that I was never to ride--the bus that had ‘Incheon International Airport Limousine’ printed in bright red. Looking out, I could feel the only glimpse of reality by the bit of strain in my stomach, telling me that I was nervous.

    Arriving at the airport, I acted like a total idiot, asking around about everything. I finally seated myself in a café, when Mom called. She was suffering from Dad’s messages, who himself, was virtually following my schedule sitting at his office in Nigeria and wanted to know what was happening to me by hours (or even minutes). Dad was sending notes of information that even made mom burst into laughter. Reading the preschool instructions, I too, joked that he still thinks I’m 14, which was the last time he was really living with us. Mom agreed that dad could not get over the fact that I am legally an adult.

    “Yeah, he always hesitates to pour me Makgoli (rice wine) and just says ‘want to try a little sip?’” 

    But he was right. I was not 22, not even 14. I was no more than an eleven-year-old. The little girl locked inside. The girl of eleven woke up to find herself alone at the airport.

    As I was guided through every step by my faithful cellphone, my envelope and mind were totally detached. My body was numb. But I could sense that there was an upcoming explosion. I got off the rumbling air-subway, and took the escalator for my final gate in this world. I arrived at a polished metallic hall of clear windows, and that, was when I faced the breathtaking view.- I saw the grounds. The waiting planes. Blinking of vehicles. Men with big headphones with orange batons in hand. A scene that was concealed so deep inside me…

    I couldn’t help it.

    The picture of the area wavered. I was just facing the exit I dared to dream, but its threshold, I had to hastily run to the bathroom to hide myself behind the closet door.

    As soon as the lock made a click, the tank burst. Water, swollen all the way to the tip of my toes, to the head, began to pour out.

    Twelve years ago, I had wailed out so hard when I was leaving Poland, although I was really a grown up in the covers of a child, knowing what was happening. This time, I was flooding silent tears, as a child in the covers of a grown up. Clueless of what to do.

    My body was shaking as I leaned onto the door locked behind. I saw the vision of this ceiling that was closed above my head for so long. The dark ceiling that was haunting me for ages. The ceiling that would sometimes come so low to squash my lungs out was there as I looked up. And I felt, heard, and saw this beautiful moment of a great crack rushing across the hard surface and finally open to the blue sky. I stared in wonder. The pain was gone as I aggressively bit my jaws in vain to make no sound at this final moment. Tears were tumbling down from long long ago. This time, it was not the tears of fear and uncertainness but, relief. A white airplane flew across the clear sky. I could feel a breeze coming from the crack. And all this was silent.

    It took long time for me to stop.

    And it took me twelve years, to get back out.

    Cerine NJ 21

    Hawaii, Poland and South Korea

    Moithetique - Wagamama - Daydreamer

    This is one in a series of excerpts from the soon-to-be published The Worlds Within TCK Anthology. A portion of the book’s profits will be donated to the FIGT David C Pollock Scholarship Fund.

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