reunion

Going “Home”

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I just returned from a school reunion in Lugano, Switzerland. I went to boarding school there many years ago and this year about 65 of us gathered to retrace our steps and relive old times. Some people  brought their spouses, some were from different classes so we didn’t know everybody going in but we made new friends and our family expanded.

We ate risotto, cannelloni, pizza, spaghetti, and ended the trip with a six course meal. We drank Prosseco and lots of good wine. The first night we were entertained by a local group of Italian men making traditional music. One of our friends put together a slide show of photos of all of us when we were in high school.

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We spent a day in the Versazca river valley. Our buses had trouble making some of the hairpin curves up and down the mountain. We stopped in a small village and hiked to the river and some went to the falls. Our second stop was at the famous Roman bridge that everybody jumps off of. It was a tradition at school every year and we would cheer people on as they jumped. This time it was even more impressive to see the over 50 crowd jump into the icy cold water.

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We took the funicular up Monte Bre and enjoyed the spectacular view. A group of us walked back down the mountain and were sore for days but they had a great story to take home with them.

On our last day we took a boat cruise to the nearby town of Marcote for dinner. It was raining on the boat but we had a live band and dancing and it was still beautiful.

That last night we gathered in our common room and I was sitting next to an old friend of mine. She said, “I hate good byes. We never put down any roots.” I knew exactly what she meant. I looked around the room at people I had known most of my life. I said, “ This is our home. These people are our home. We are a family”. And I started to cry. It was so hard to have to say good bye to the people who understood what it was to be a third culture kid, where no explanations were needed, where we could be ourselves with no compromise or pretending. Some people call us chameleons because we adapt and adjust to our surroundings but we are never truly comfortable and never feel completely relaxed except when we are together.

It was hard to leave Lugano, one of the most beautiful places on earth but the hardest part was saying good bye to each other.

 

 

 

Memories and Speeches

Lake Lugano

Lake Lugano

When I was sixteen I went off to boarding school in Switzerland. My parents were living in Nigeria. My roommate traveled from Tanzania. My best friend’s parents were living in Tokyo. Walking down the hall in my dorm there were people from Saudi Arabia, Germany and various US cities. In a couple of weeks I will be going back to stay in the new dorms of my old school for a big reunion. I will see several of my old dorm-mates. We will haunt the old stomping grounds reliving old memories and making new ones.

One of my tasks for this reunion is to write a speech. I am having trouble sitting myself down and focusing on this task. Do I draw on the memories of particular events from those days?

Duomo, Florence

Duomo, Florence

The time Kelly saved my life at the Duomo in Florence. I didn’t know I had vertigo but turns out I did and he took my hand and guided me through it. The trip to Dachau and how quiet everybody was on the bus home. Leaning to drink warm beer at the HofBrauHaus in Munich. The other great thing about Munich was we saw our first McDonald’s in Europe and became “American” for a weekend. In Venice we got around on water buses and discovered a small disco. Plus a pigeon landed on my head in St Mark’s Square. Hiking up the side of a mountain just to lie in the grass and stare at the sky. Instigating “all school skip day” that stuck as a tradition.

Traveling through Greece having to hear about every single ruin by the side of the road and never getting to listen to rock and roll music. Taking a cruise through the Greek Islands and being bombarded by wet toilet paper rockets in the hallway outside the girl’s cabin. Listening to boring lectures about the mosaics of Ravenna and Giotto’s Chapel. Wishing there were horses in the square in Siena.

Palio Di Diena

Palio Di Siena

 

Or do I talk about the overall experience of living with an exceptional group of people, teachers and students alike who influenced the rest of our lives.

We were taught to be independent, curious, adventurous, supportive and respectful. We were only 16 or 17 and we traveled the world on our own without thinking twice about it. We would seek out art and architecture wherever we went. We enjoyed each other’s company, had fun together and sometimes tolerated each other. We became a family.

And now many many years later, we are still family. We have a unifier that brings us all together. That time in Switzerland made us all different. We experienced something together that other people could never understand. It was our unique world and we came out of it as a unit. So when we meet each other now, even if we didn’t know each other then, we immediately have a connection. We have a common ground to work off of. In some cases it was a jumping off point to forge new relationships. Even now the family continues to grow.

Or do I just tell a story and thank everybody for coming. Of course all memories are subject to change and embellishment. I could probably make something up. But I won’t. I will keep it simple and short. Who wants to listen to a speech when you are sitting eating French food on one of the most beautiful lakes in the world?

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On another note, I am going bi-coastal.  My Baltimore Post Examiner blog, Eclectic Global Nomad has been picked up by the Los Angeles Post Examiner so you can find me in both.

Facebook and the TCK

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My schoolmates

I know several people who say they just don’t get Facebook and what a waste of time it is. I agree it is a pretty strange concept but for TCK’s (Third Culture Kids) is it an amazing thing. I went to a small boarding school in the Swiss Alps when I was a teenager. I bonded with my schoolmates and my teachers. We all knew each other, we had good times and bad, we helped each other with school and with life, we traveled together, we ate together, we hiked together, and we cried when we said good-bye.

Years past and we lost touch. I would run into people from time to time but they would come and go. We all moved around too much. Many of us did not grow up in one place or even in the US but most of us came here for college. It was too difficult to keep track of people.

Around 2007 I asked the school for an email list. It was pretty sketchy but it was a start. I started an email list and invited people to join. I built the list of names up and organized a reunion. For those who went it was like coming home. We picked up where we left off like we had never been apart. The connection was still there.

With Facebook we were able to find more and more people. We had a couple more reunions and now we are old friends again. We are connected. Facebook is virtual and kind of annoying sometimes but it gave us the venue to come back together and reunite with old dear friends. For a TCK, that is pretty special.

Now we see each other more often as well. We still have reunions but we also have lots of mini-reunions and get-togethers.  We are still splattered all over the world but we all travel and it is nice to know who we can call when we land in Sydney or London.

There are several “groups” on Facebook for my school and I saw this post recently:

“It’s moments like these that make me understand what TASIS was really about! We were just kids, we lived together, we laughed together, we had arguments together and we graduated together! Then, for many years we lost contact but when we found each other again on FB it seemed that not even a day had passed and …we lived together, we laughed together and we had arguments together! We exchanged pictures, ideas, memories and thoughts and were just happy to have found each other again. We are blessed to have lived this experience because it’s definitely not normal!”

No, it isn’t normal, but we aren’t exactly normal people. So for those of you who hate Facebook, I understand. But for some of us, it has made a difference.

 

(photo courtesy of Kent Oztekin)

 

Four Days in Miami

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I went to Miami for a high school reunion of sorts.  A bunch of us went to boarding school together and we still like each other so we gather every few years for a weekend of fun.  We don’t all know each other but we are all from the same era so we can relate to each other.  Plus we have the common bond of having been to boarding school in a foreign country and many of us are third culture kids.  We click right away whether we met before or not.

Day One – Arrival

Dined at Doraku Sushi.  Japanese Restaurant.  Crowded and loud.  Arrived 9 pm, had to wait for a table.  Good food, good music, good vibe.

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Walked down Lincoln Road.  Lots of shops, restaurants, people.

Cool window display.

Drove alone Ocean Drive.  Hotel after hotel after hotel.  Bar blasting music filled with people after bar blasting music filled with people.  Dancing girls with go go boots and little else on.  Just starting to hop at midnight.

Day Two

Breakfast at The Front Porch right on Ocean Drive.  Packed, had to wait in line.  Nice hearty breakfast.  Apparently “the thing to do” in South Beach.

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Walked along the beach.  Cloudy and windy.  No swimming or sunning.

Sat around the hotel and greeted old friends as they arrived.

Cocktail reception followed by a two hour ride around Miami on a bus with no windows and music blaring.

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Day Three

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Piled onto a bus at 10 am and headed for the water.  Boarded a catamaran for a two and a half hour ride off Miami.

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Had fresh orange juice delivered by jet ski.

Saw how the other half live….

Where they filmed Serpico

 

Where they filmed Serpico 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Al Capone's lookout tower

Al Capone’s lookout tower

Don Johnson's Miami Vice house

Don Johnson’s Miami Vice house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give me a break… I was in a moving boat….

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Five million dollar landscape job…

Afternoon nap.

Barcelona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner at Barcelonaeta Restaurant

One of our friends has a daughter who owns this restaurant so it was special for all of us.  We would have enjoyed it no matter what it was like but take my word for it, it was good!!  We had a wide variety of tapas that just kept coming and the wine was flowing.  Some of the dishes I remember – fried potatoes, seared calamari so it had a crusty outside – delicious, salmon carpaccio, sweetbreads, sliced tomato with onion, eggplant and tomato, chorizo on a pizza like bread, escargot with pastry puff.  Plus the ones I can’t remember.  If you ever get to Miami, check it out!

Day Four

Departure.  Miami airport was crowded with long lines.  The only other time I had ever been to Miami, I was just at the airport for a connecting flight to Bogota.  I almost missed the flight because since I was in transit I thought I would get my boarding pass at the gate.  They called my plane, I went to the gate, and they told me I had to go back to the main terminal to get my boarding pass.  Luckily the airport wasn’t as big as it is now, but it was big enough.  I ran all the way there and back and barely made it!  I was 14 years old.

No traumatic experiences this time.

I had a wonderful time with old friends and new friends.