Leaving things behind

I am currently reading, Overseas American: Growing Up Gringo in the Tropics by Gene H. Bell-Villada.  It is a very personal account of a difficult childhood.  Throughout the book he quotes from other books about TCK’s and Global Nomads.

“The Absentee American belongs to no culture, or perhaps to all cultures… To the Absentee American, all countries, including the United States, are ‘foreign.’  By the same token any country can be ‘home.’ “– Carolyn D Smith, the Absentee American

“Reentry is a significant event for the Absentee American; the experience may be vividly recollected decades later.  Respondents described reentry as difficult, painful, turbulent, or traumatic… The experience is often referred to as a shock.. . In professional literature on the subject, this transition is generally referred to as euphoria, irritability, hostility, gradual adjustment, and adaptation.”  — Carolyn D Smith, the Absentee American

When I first saw these quotes, I went looking among my books for the Absentee American, Hidden Immigrants, Letters Never Sent, and Strangers at Home.  All books I knew I had read and was sure I had.  Then I remembered.  No I didn’t.

While I was living in Russia, I discovered there was a label for people like me – Third Culture Kid, or Global Nomad – and I wanted to read everything I could get my hands on about it.  I accumulated a small library and I poured over them and re-read them.  It was my great moment of self discovery.

My apartment in Moscow had a long hallway with floor to ceiling bookcases along one side.  They were full of books, music CD’s, videos, and a few knick knacks.  My special TCK books were prominently displays on those bookcases.

After almost nine years living as an expat in Moscow, we unexpectedly had to leave quickly.  My husband, son, and I landed back in the USA with six suit cases.  Everything else, all the things we had accumulated over nine years of life remained in Moscow.  At the time those things were the least of my problems.  I had never grown particularly attached to “things” and didn’t think much of it.  It is only now, ten years later, that I find myself thinking, “what ever happened to…?”  or  ” I sure wish I had….”.  Most everything was replaceable, of course, but some of these books in particular are now out of print, expensive and hard to find.  It would be nice to have them to refer to as I work on my book, but not necessary.

As Linda over at Adventures in Expat Land  says, flexibility is key!


  1. Flexibility, yes – and the belif that everything happens for a reason. Perhaps not having the books you wanted to hand might mean you take a slightly different direction, or mine a seam of personal experience more deeply as a result. Keep going 😉

  2. No doubt you have lived a life of excitement and also of concern. I’m sorry that you lost those books as they were important to you. The good thing is that you know that they are (eventually) replaceable. Thanks for the link and more importantly for getting to know you

  3. We lived overseas for only three years, but reentry was still very difficult for me and my oldest son. It took me longer to readjust to life back in the U.S. than it did for me to adjust to life in Germany when we first lived there! But, I was friends with many expats who moved constantly and talked about the “third culture kid” phenomenon. The discussions, based on some research–and the hope, naturally–was that the movement and adaptation would result in very adaptable, mature, flexible adult personalities.
    But, the leaving was always hard and painful–for those moving on and for those staying.
    Your book sounds very interesting, and I would read it!

  4. It can be difficult to leave things behind but it can also mean a fresh new start. No burden of all the old junk.
    Have you heard of the new book “Writing out of Limbo” published in December 2011? The author you mentioned Gene H. Bell-Villada is one of the editors. It’s on the list of books I want to read. It contains lots of information about international Childhoods (TCKs too).
    By the way it helped me too to discover that there was a word for the “mixture of feelings I felt inside” and that I was not the only one: a TCK. Janneke@DrieCulturen

    1. Yes, on some level it can be very liberating.
      I do know about Writing out of LImbo. I heard it will come out in paperback in October. I will have to wait for that.

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