Recommended reading: August 6th, 2018

My latest collection of recommended posts about expatriate life and Third Culture Kids.

Thoughts on Citizenship from Around the World
Velvet Ashes
Really interesting piece, which collects four vignettes from different women around the world reflecting on their experiences of citizenship – as affected by expatriate living, cross-cultural relationships, and adoption. I particularly like this little thought, which resonates with many conversations I’ve had during interviews:
I was becoming part of the fabric of life here in a way that just sticking to my role would never have achieved. And isn’t that part of being a citizen? Beyond passports and visas, I realized I started to feel like a citizen of this place when I began to be invested beyond my little niche.

The Labeling of Self
TCK Town
This is a fascinating, uncomfortable, important piece of reflection. It largely follows a conversation among a group of expatriates from various countries, as they negotiate ethnic labels and how they do or don’t self-identify, and who they do and don’t include in those identity umbrellas. It makes me stop and think. Something that international life has provoked for me is the way I have included people in umbrellas they don’t identify with, how easily I can make assumptions about others’ experiences. This piece sits in that discomfort, and invites readers to listen, and reflect on their own use of labels.
We all came out of the park with our egos a little bruised and worse for wear. Instead of peeking into our sandwiches, we had spent the hour delving into conceptions and misconceptions of labeling our identities.

Ex expats from NL: Dutch repatriates – how does it feel to be home?
Dutch News
An interesting piece on repatriates to the Netherlands, with quotes from several repats with different stories. They share different difficulties they’ve experienced, that will ring true with many expats/repats.
“People who’ve lived abroad for a long time, she explains, learn to look at the world from a different perspective. ‘You have seen a lot. That uproots you from your own country.’”

Phoenix Rising: Reflection on Expat Resilience and Health Crisis Abroad
I Am A Triangle
An interesting piece reflecting on a patient experiencing a health crisis while abroad. Carolyn uses one person’s experience as a springboard to consider the emotional resilience for expatriates generally. It is a longer piece, with several sections looking at different aspects of the experience of coping with this sort of situation. These include self-care, emotional support, multi-faceted healing, and adaptation.
Normal emotional and stresses that come with illness or injury are compounded by his being so far from loved ones and by his difficulty communicating with healthcare personnel. He misses his three children and the normal routines they share together. Creating a support system doesn’t happen organically for him in this setting. The language barrier prevents the casual rapport-building that would normally take place between strangers brought together by a common denominator. He misses the simplicity of these types of human connections and consciously searches out other English-speakers within the hospital.

Dear Dubai, Can We Please Part as Friends?
And Then We Moved To
Mariam pens a break-up letter to Dubai, her home of the past four years. It is sweet, thoughtful, emotional, and insightful. It starts like this:
Dear Dubai, If you and I were in a relationship on Facebook, I’d choose the relationship status “it’s complicated.” You know it and I know it. We have had a love/hate relationship since day one, and four years later, its still messy to describe my feelings for you or the way I affectionately refer to you…

Tips for Strengthening Families in Transition
Our Goodwin Journey
This post is written by a missionary and so there are a few assumptions from that perspective, but the general content is really helpful for all families experiencing transition. There are practical ideas, covering topics such as being proactive, dealing with emotions, and maintaining relational focus.
“For our family, we all sense the next transition and begin feeling the effects about 2 months prior to the move. We all feel the emotions building. We all experience the mixed mental challenges of being here and being there at the same time. So many decisions, goodbyes, frustrations, to-do lists and challenges come into play each day through a cross cultural move. Stress rises, tensions escalate and tears flow. Random meltdowns for kids and parents alike are normal for families in transition…But what can we all do to help families in transition get through the moving season in healthy, good ways?”

The Expat Blues
The Expat Mummy
One “trailing spouse” wife and mother reflects on the depression and purposelessness that can strike after moving to a(nother) new location. She knows the right things to do, sees the progress on paper, yet struggles with identity. This post doesn’t offer a lot of answers, but offers validation of the struggle. I really appreciate that.
“So why mock that ever so helpful list, after all the tried and tested remedy for loneliness is the same the world over and it’s not wrong. My problem with the list is that we aren’t always looking for advice, sometimes what a trailing spouse needs is recognition.”

Recommended reading: July 30th, 2018

Last week’s recommended reading had a TCK perspective theme – a collection of posts written by TCKs reflecting on their experiences. I’m continuing that theme this week, although this week I’m also including some posts about TCKs, written by those who care about them.

On Welcoming the Third Culture Kid
A Life Overseas
Fabulous post by the always wonderful Marilyn, offering lists of DOs and DON’Ts for how to support Third Culture Kids walking through repatriation. There is so much gold here! For example,
DO: “Let them talk about their past. They have left so much, let them talk about what they have left.”
DON’T: “Put a time limit on their adjustment and their grieving. We are all different. We grow and adjust at different rates. So don’t put time limits on the TCK. Allow them room even as you continue to love and challenge them.”

Third Culture Kid Diaries: Connecting with Locals and Making Friends
Restless Feet Adventures
This is a great post by a Taiwanese TCK sharing four tips for how to build relationships. Her reflections come two years into repatriation, and includes that perennial TCK problem – why is it so much harder to make friends at ‘home’ when I did it just fine elsewhere? Now – back to her four ways to connect with others, anywhere: shared experiences, similar interests, pop culture, and mutual friends.
“I realized I let my focus on the fact that I didn’t grow up in Taiwan overshadow all the other ways I made friends in the past…Sometimes I have to remind myself to go out and socialize with people because I’m so comfortable and enjoy doing things alone. But building and maintaining relationships is important to me so I just have to keep reminding myself to go out and do it!

A high-school reunion, international style
Monday Morning Emails
In this post Terry reflects on the reunion of six high school friends – living in different countries, holding different citizenships – including her son. It’s a great piece! Here’s a taste:
As I listened to a conversation that straddled countries as easily as ‘hopping on that plane’, it confirmed that despite the obvious challenges of a global life, it fosters engaged global citizens. We can be proud of this. As parents we often question this overseas life and the impact that it has on our children.

Finding common ground in Minnesota
TCK Town
One TCK shares about her friendship with another TCK. For me, this piece is about showing grace in the face of racism. By that I don’t mean staying silent – not at all! – but I mean not letting those negative experiences steal the possibility of good experiences. Being the best version of yourself, even when treated unjustly. Taking the first step to build connections with others, even when they wouldn’t do that for you.
“I’m so thankful for this friendship and all it has taught me. Without Samiya I would not know how amazing Somali tea is, I would not know the traditions of Ramadan or that Syria has some of the nicest people you will ever meet. There is joy in loving people who are different than you. If we can learn to love those who are different than us, we could see how rich and flavorful our lives can be.”

Continental Drift
A very sweet poem from an expat mum to her TCK children, as they approach a(nother) international move. It is a beautiful piece, and I’ll share a few lines from it with you here:
You don’t want to change, you don’t want to go,
you want to stay put, I know, my love, I know,
It’s OKAY to feel worried or nervous or fearful,
I feel all those things too and saying goodbye still makes me tearful,
But we have to let go, step into the unknown,
I promise Life will unfold and you’ll never be alone,

It’s that time of the year again… ‘Moving Season’
Little Miss Expat
One TCK interviews a good friend who moved a year ago. Some lovely responses here reflecting on both the positives and negatives of moving to a new international location. What I most appreciate, however, is the way she encourages “stayers” like herself to both recognise the difficult of the leaving season for themselves, but also to aim to support “leavers” well.
“Overall, I think it’s just super important to remember that life is what you make of it, you can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control the way that you deal with it and what you make of the situation. People moving away is one of those situations which is sad, but also exciting as it’s the start of a new adventure for the person moving. And as the friend staying behind, you also have to support your friend with this new chapter in their life. Don’t view moving as something bad, shift your focus, and see it as the start of something exciting and different.”

Itchy feet
Third Culture Queer
I really appreciate this perspective, from a queer TCK who looks at the intersection of those two identities. This short post considers the “ichy feet” syndrome familiar to many internationals, but with the extra layer of difficulty that comes with a queer identity. I especially appreciate the conclusion, which holds truth for us all – both going and staying are choices, and both hold some sort of risk:
Being gay is illegal in many countries, and only a handful of places are vaguely okay on the whole trans and non-binary thing. Do I want to live somewhere I would not be able to be myself, where I would have to hide? . . .Whatever I decide, it is a risk. A risk I will have to censor myself. A risk I stay here stuck in a rut. A risk I don’t take control of my own life. But each risk has its payoffs, and I need to decide which I want to go for.”

Recommended reading: July 23rd, 2018

This week’s recommended reading has a special theme: TCK perspectives. All the posts I’m recommending this week were written by TCKs reflecting on their experiences – as missionary kids, military kids, diplomatic kids, from and in various countries. I haven’t written much by way of  “summaries” of each piece. Instead I strongly recommend you go and read them. Most are short, and the power of first-person narratives is worth the extra clicks – I promise.

Growing Up Behind a Brick Wall
Global Nomads World
Alexa writes about living in a diplomatic compound in Russia. She paints a vivid picture of childhood experiences that draws you into her world there. She concludes by describing the strange experience of returning later:
…the true essence of the place is never-changing. . .And yet not a single thing is the same – except for that essence. No one recognizes you. It’s like coming back home after college but instead of all your family friends saying, “it’s nice to see you!” they say “it’s nice to meet you.”

Little Soldier
TCK Town
In this poignant piece, “Military Brat” Shannon reflects on her understanding of and relationship to her mother’s profession as a soldier. She also says something I’ve heard from lots of different TCKs, not just military kids: “I had to be on my best behavior for my parents’ sake. This kind of responsibility makes every member of the community feel like part of a team.

A Third Culture Kid’s Soul
This is Katha: thoughts of a traveling mind
Katha writes about the tension of wanting to go-explore-encounter, but also to stay and be rooted at home.
“Two souls rage inside of me. Telling me to go. Begging me to return and stay. . .I leave pieces of myself behind whenever I have to say goodbye. And then I travel to find them again.”

Free Verse: human mess
Embassy Kid
This is a lovely short poem about a mix of cultures in a single life and the tension that creates.

What is Going Home?
My Island Journeys
This post starting with a prompt about “going home”. What follows is a lovely set of memories around an IKEA, and learning to hold onto and let go of “home” in different places.
For me, going home was permission. Permission to concretely remember a place, and therefore to concretely admit that I’d left it. Permission to grow up, now that I had clear memories of the place that I’d left in a fog of grown-up-too-soon grief.

Life as a ‘Third Culture Kid’
The Gryphon
This is an older piece, but valuable for including short perspectives from four young women, each with (different) European passports. One of many standout quotes:
I feel obliged to identify as a Belgian, given my nationality. However, having just lived in Belgium for a year and a half, I don’t feel that’s completely accurate.”

A TCK’s Struggle with Depression
TCK Training
Aneurin talks about his struggle with depression, and how this struggle has interacted with his TCK experiences. Of particular note is the way he describes swinging from feeling his TCK experience was all good, to all bad. It’s much harder to exist in the shades of grey between extremes, but such an important skill to learn for long term emotional health.
I now know that mental illnesses are common like a cold. I also know that TCK’s are more prone than monocultural people to suffer from them. These illnesses are often our body’s response to traumatic events. . .I think being a TCK is amazing, but it needs to be done well. There are many challenges that need to be navigated, things like the challenges of transition or unresolved grief. We are a remarkably resilient people group, but we always need to get help from others, particularly when it comes to mental illnesses.

Home and Rootlessness – TCK Art Gallery
Noggy Bloggy
Finally, this post is from Aneurin’s regular blog, and introduces a TCK Art Gallery. The post showcases three pieces picked out by Michele Phoenix as particular favourites of hers. The gallery itself features a wide range of visual art, photography, and also poetry. Lots of beautiful work worthy of time and reflection.