Re-posting from Eclectic Global Nomad – read about Lisa’s one woman show….
By the time I was 18, I had only lived in the United States for a total of three years. When I started college in California, I experienced severe “reverse” culture shock. At the time I had no way of understanding it or preparing for it. Because I had grown up overseas, I had a completely different experience than American kids my age.
When I arrived for my freshman year in college, I talked about traveling around Europe, hiking up Swiss mountains, and living in Africa. My college peers talked about football games, high school proms and television shows I had never heard of. I could not relate to them at all and they thought I was bragging about all the places I had been. It never occurred to me they would think that; to me my life was ordinary. To them I was like an alien landing in their dorm room and talking about visiting the rings of Saturn.
It wasn’t until I was in my 40’s, married, and living with my son and husband in Moscow, that I discovered a group called Global Nomads. Global Nomads are also called Third Culture Kids (TCK’s). The definition of a TCK is someone who grew up in countries other than their passport-country due to their parents’ jobs. I spent my whole life thinking there was something wrong with me and the founder of the group, Norma McCaig, described me in a detail nobody could have known. McCaig felt everything I felt. She had the same experiences I had. I didn’t think there was another person on earth who understood how I felt. It was truly my “ah ha” moment.
Years later I returned to the US and met Norma McCaig. Through her I learned about an organization that was just getting started called Families in Global Transition (FIGT). This organization, now 15 years old, “promotes the positive value of the international experience, and empowers the family unit and those who serve it before, during and after international transitions. FIGT believes in the capacity of the expatriate and repatriate family to transition successfully, and to leverage the international experience for all of its human and global potential.” (www.figt.org)
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
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
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
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.