Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Helicopter Parents

Would you let your 9 year old take the subway alone?  In New York City?  This mom did:  Free Range Kids

I know that there are a lot of bad things out there today.  I know that children are kidnapped, molested, murdered.  Could it be that we hear about these things because they are rare?  We balance the tightrope between being a helicopter parent and teaching our children independence.  We put an imaginary bubble around them when they leave the house, but there is still that nagging fear that doesn’t go away until they are safely back.  I have a superstition: if I imagine all the horrible things that could happen, then they won’t happen.  So let me tell you, I can imagine just about anything.  The other day my youngest daughter went out to ride her bike.  When I went to find her, she was gone.  I looked and looked, asking people if they had seen her.  After 30 minutes, I got that cold, blood draining feeling that something awful had happened.  I was just on the brink of calling the police when we found her bike outside a friend’s house.  It was a toss-up between strangling her and hugging her till her eyes bulged.  We had the “stranger danger” talk and the “let me know where you are at all times” talk. 

I remember riding my bike alone, in Tokyo, when I was seven.  We lived in a suburb called Nishihara-cho (Minato-ku) outside the city proper.  My friend and I would ride all the way to the machi (the commercial part of the town, where the shops were) alone to buy candy and trinkets.  I remember the rail crossing, and waiting for the train to pass.  I would ride all through neighborhoods, passing construction sites and walled compounds.  I once passed a man who I thought was urinating against a wall, but as an adult I realize that he was doing something else.  I used to hang out at the baseball field across the street from our house, and one of the players took me for a ride on his motorcycle. 

In Belgium, my sister had a moped.  I wasn’t old enough, legally, to ride it, but I did.  I used to take off and ride through the back roads of Beersel, to my friend’s house in Rhode St. Genèse.  I rode along isolated trails in the woods.  I rode to the local convenience store to buy candy (and, I’m ashamed to say, shoplift my first pack of cigarettes).  Eleven years old, on a motorized vehicle, alone.  That shocks me today.

When I was sixteen, I was given the great privilege of flying alone from the states, after home leave, to Manila.  I even arranged a stop in Hawaii to visit a friend who had moved there.  A year later I flew alone to Brussels to visit old friends, then to England to meet my mom.  At 18 I flew from Singapore to London alone, getting stranded on the way, in the middle of the night, in Amsterdam.  (That trip involved the Dutch national soccer team, which, if not for the language barrier, I would have gotten to know better!)  I had to find a hotel and transportation to the airport, and was quite proud of myself that I did it all without falling off the earth.  In fact by the time I turned 18 I had circumnavigated the globe twice, and landed along the way in exotic places like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Dubai. 

Is the rest of the world different from the states?  Is there less crime, fewer incidents of kidnapping, less danger?  I know that in some countries children as young as 6 ride public transportation to school.  In this country a family who did that would be reported to the Department of Human Services.  Maybe it’s just a cultural thing, the difference between our “normal” and the “normal” abroad.  Maybe it is a parenting style.  My mom used to “make” us do things on our own: I would be the only kid walking to school in the rain (with galoshes, rain coat and umbrella) while the other kids were being driven.  It was raining so hard once, even the crossing guard wasn’t there!  One time mom “made” me go eat alone in a restaurant (while she shopped in the adjacent mall).  It was terrifying, but I’m proud of myself and thank her for doing it.  When mom was asked to join a school carpool once, she said, “No, indeed, they will be walking!”  The other parents were astonished. 

Growing up as I did taught me an important lesson: worrying about something is usually far worse that the actual thing itself.  I learned that fear is not necessarily a bad thing, but overcoming it is a good thing.  Knowing about danger and how to avoid it is vital.  Learning that you are capable of navigating through bumps in the road is a skill that everyone needs to function in this life.  Those who can’t are crippled and eternally dependent on others.  Is it scary to let your child learn these lessons?  Yes indeed.  But it is even scarier not to.  

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Playful Filipino names are hard to get used to.

Bizarre and often unflattering names are as quintessentially Filipino as the country's Catholic faith, friendly smiles, former US military jeeps known as jeepneys, beautiful beaches and love of karaoke.

Boxer Manny Paquiao with his daughters Queen Elizabeth and Princess


If your house looks like a truck carrying Asian art and figurines crashed into a European flea market, with a few Persian rugs and wooden African heads thrown in for good measure;  if your parents’ décor looks like a traveling exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution mixed with Tokyo’s Oriental Bazaar … well you might just be a Third Culture Kid.

In my mom’s living room, there are two stacked chests from the Philippines with inlaid mother-of-pearl, which have been used as an end table for as long as I remember.  There are shelves along the wall, which overflow with chachki, including a porcelain Chinese fisherman, a statuette of a Prussian soldier, an Indonesian puppet, a Murano glass clown.  Sumatran batik stamps lie on the mantle, underneath framed brass rubbings from Belgium and England.  (I think one of them is from the sarcophagus of Anne Boleyn’s father).  

The walls are adorned with all sorts of Japanese woodblock prints, posters advertising art shows at the Tokyo American Club, and an impressionist oil painting of Hong Kong Harbor.  To pass into the dining room, a visitor passes by two ornate ceramic Vietnamese elephants, and next to the table there is a Korean medicine chest, drawers askew, holding tiny birds collected from around the world.  A pair of kamagong dice (Filipino wood) rests on the top, together with two Santos (wooden figures of saints) and a bronze Buddha hand, thumb and middle finger touching. 

Somehow my father managed to smuggle two Pre-Columbian clay pacha vessels shaped like llamas out of Peru, not knowing that it was illegal (well the jig is up now!)  There is a row of tiny delft Dutch houses above mom’s kitchen sink, with a Kentish oast house thrown in for good measure.  Japanese Imari dishes live in the cabinets, one of which is mom’s favorite coffee cup.  Out on the porch are two giant rattan peacock chairs that used to be in my room in Manila, and an antique ceramic stove that we picked up at the Sunday market in Brussels.  In the corner, from the same market, is a turn of the century dress form (complete with tiny corseted waist) that is used as a display for tiny ceramic pins collected from a lifetime of world travels.  

In mom’s bedroom are two tansu (Japanese chests of drawers).  Among her toy car collection (that she never let the kids play with) are a British Morris Minor, a Jaguar and a small representation of a Filipino jeepney (festive transportation).  Huge rattan baskets are lined up on the floor (didn’t that one come from Baguio?) including one giant one that is made into a lamp.  And what house wouldn’t be complete without capiz placemats and hand-embroidered tablecloths from Tesoro’s department store?  I’m sure that many TCKs reading this are nodding and smiling, knowing that their house is pretty much the same as ours.  (The only thing missing is a giant wooden knife and fork over the sofa and a Baguio Barrel Man!)

My mom’s house is a history of our life, each item with its own history of a trip, an outing, a city, a period in time.  The artifacts in our house are memories on permanent display, a reminder of a life well lived, and well traveled.  

A Great Read

Check out this eBook written by a fellow TCK, a fictionalized account of being a teen in Iran in the late 1970's ... it's available at ...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Meeting Edith Cavell

Edith Cavell was just a blip in history.  Who but the most scholarly of historians has ever heard of her?  She was a hero, a British nurse working in occupied Belgium during World War I.  When the war began, she was offered safe passage back home, but she refused.  She knew that those wounded soldiers, of all nationalities, needed her.  The Germans insisted that when sufficiently recovered, British soldiers were to report to headquarters.  When Edith learned that these men were never heard from again, she arranged for the others to stay in the hospital longer than necessary, or to hide in the attic.  She also sought out connections with the Belgian resistance, who were able to secretly move 200 of these men to safety in the Netherlands.  Edith was arrested by the Germans in August of 1915 and charged with treason for “conducting soldiers to the enemy”.  Despite appeals by the British and American governments, she was executed in October.  Edith Cavell’s story was used as propaganda by the British to illustrate the brutality of the Germans and to encourage enlistment in the Army.

L’Institute Medical de Edith Cavell is a hospital that still stands in Brussels, in the suburb of Uccle.  Most likely I would have never heard of Edith if not for a turn of events when I was in 5th grade.  I was invited by a classmate to her birthday party, and as part of the festivities, we went to a movie, “Around the World in 80 Days.”  Afterwards, we were driven back to the house by the girl’s governess.  There were four of us in the back seat of the Volkswagen Beetle, and two were sharing the front seat.  I remember riding in the car, windows down and wind blowing, laughing and carrying on like little girls do. 

The next moments were a swirl of confusion.  All of a sudden, we were stopped.  I have no memory of the collision itself.  There were glass shards all over me, and the front seat had broken and was lying in my lap.  The governess, who had red hair, was unconscious in the seat.  My glasses were gone, and everything was a blur.  All of us little girls were panicked, crying and scrambling to get out of the car.  We found ourselves on the side of the highway, with red lights flashing and people everywhere, pieces of metal and glass scattered on the pavement.  I remember frantically crying for my mother. 

An older Belgian couple with a gray Mercedes drove us to the hospital.  This seems odd to me now, but, in shock, we did what we were told.  After arriving at the Hopitâl Edith Cavell (as it was known then) I lay on a gurney in a small alcove in the emergency room for hours, tended to by people who didn’t speak English.  I was enormously relieved when my mother showed up.  I can only imagine the other side of that story: my mother getting a phone call in the middle of the night from someone who spoke only French.  She heard the words “hopitâl” and “accident” and knew something was wrong.  She quickly enlisted the aid of a close friend who spoke French, and off they went.  Hours and hours went by as we waited, punctuated by x-rays and examinations.  I was finally moved to a room, and when my mother insisted she was going to stay, she was met with great resistance.  “C’est impossible,” she was told.  Thankfully, she insisted, and spent the night dozing in a chair next to my bed.

The hospital was probably built in the 1920’s.  It was old and creepy, with high ceilings,  cracked plaster and bare concrete floors.  The rooms in the children’s ward had huge windows between them, so the nurses could see from one to the other.  The next morning a very large, stern nurse came in and spoke a few words in French.  I didn’t understand, but she held up a large syringe and I got the message.  I got this shot every day.  She used to give me sponge baths in the bed, while the (not so sick) children in the next room peeked through the window.  You can only imagine how scary it was for me, not understanding what was happening to me from moment to moment.  Everything was communicated in gestures.  I had a concussion, and sported an impressive black eye for several weeks afterward.

When I got home, I stayed in bed for another week, and someone sent me some colored pencils and drawing paper to keep me busy.  I also read the book “Little Lord Fauntleroy” and will always associate that story with my accident. 

And so, Edith Cavell and I were joined by circumstances.  It was only because of what happened that I was driven to learn about her heroism and her selflessness.  Seeing history up close and personal like this made it come alive for me, as I’m sure it does for most TCKs.  Visiting concentration camps in Belgium made World War II come alive for me, as did the military cemetery in Manila.  Reading about these things in a book will never compare to the smells, the sounds and the sights of the real thing.  And a traumatic experience in a foreign hospital introduced me to a brave woman who stood up against the unimaginable horrors of war, and who gave her life so that others might live.

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia

The Girl in the Yearbook

I are published! You've already read my story; but this is a great eMagazine for TCKs like us.

The Girl in the Yearbook

Monday, March 21, 2011

Third Culture Kids

Oh those crazy Japanese.  I love them so much.  I used to delight in grossing out my family by eating dried squid.  Nowadays they serve it in restaurants and call it calamari!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nuclear Boy

A great animated explanation of the Japanese nuclear crisis. A little off-color, but it's something the kids will relate to. I love the Japanese sense of humor, even in light of such a tragedy. If nothing else, this little cartoon puts the little ones' minds at ease.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Forbidden Fruit

When we lived in Brussels, it was typical for my family to have wine with dinner every night.  I remember vintages like St. Emilion and Medoc that we would pick up at the local Delhaize grocery store.  I was only 10 years old, but I was often given a watered-down glass of my own.  Fast forward to Manila, where I acted as bartender at my parents’ parties.  I had my own little linen-covered table in the corner, and I knew the finer points of mixing a gin & tonic, (with a twist), how to pour beer with minimal head, and how to make a very dry martini, with olives and cocktail onions.  I used to fix g & t’s for myself, and that subtle taste of juniper berries with a hint of lime is what takes me back to our house on Cambridge Circle.  It also takes me to LaTosca, the restaurant that my boyfriend’s uncle owned.  (They had really good shepherd’s pie and a Pong table).  It takes me back to the smoky atmosphere of Where Else? the red carpeted disco at the Intercontinental Hotel (“the Intercon”).  When we all went out for dinner at Italian Village (“IV”) we usually had San Miguel beer or wine.  I learned something about tequila in those days: it doesn’t affect you until you try to stand up.  And the sweeter the drink, the worse the hangover.  

It wasn’t illegal.  There wasn’t a drinking age in Manila.  Most European countries at that time didn’t either. If this shocks you, remember that on the other hand, the driving age in most countries was 18.  Teenagers could drink, but they couldn’t drive.  Public transportation was readily accessible.  In Manila, cabs were everywhere, and cheap.  Sure we may have been a “little” tipsy on the way home, but at least we weren’t behind the wheel of a car.  Sure, I remember getting a lecture or two from my mom, usually about being home past my curfew.  But there definitely was a general laissez-faire about drinking when I was at home.

I don’t know if there are any statistics about teenage drinking in other countries.  But I have a theory that if we make alcohol less of a forbidden fruit to teenagers, it will not have the attraction and potential for abuse that it does.  Living in the buckle of the Bible belt as I do, I see first hand this region’s attitudes towards alcohol, for both teenagers and adults.  It is anathema … from the devil himself.  For a long time when I sat in a restaurant drinking a glass of wine, I felt a little paranoid that I would run into someone from our Baptist church (to which I no longer belong, but THAT is a whole nother story).  One of the more extreme examples of this attitude was when a friend of my son’s had a sip of champagne at his sister’s wedding, bragged about it at school, and was suspended for a week.  An even sadder irony is that we can send 18-year-olds off to war, armed with horrific looking weapons, to face death or serious injury, but they are not allowed to legally have a last drink before shipping out.

Now I’m not saying that we should supply our teens with little airplane-sized bottles of vodka in their lunchboxes.  On the contrary I believe that we should teach them to “drink responsibly”.  Isn’t that what all the beer commercials say these days? How exactly are we teaching them to drink responsibly?  We can’t just give lip service to it.  One of my father’s wisest sayings was “Everything in moderation.  Including moderation.” 

Nor can I deny that my experience is just that: my experience.  I don’t know how many of my classmates and fellow TCK’s didn’t fare as well as I did when it came to alcohol.  I can only speak for myself, and I may be dead wrong.  My own father suffered immensely from alcohol abuse; perhaps that was the reason I never went down that path.  Or perhaps it’s because I hate the way I feel with a hangover.  

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Back to Manila

The one bright spot about being in Singapore was that my parents promised me a trip back to Manila for my birthday in May.  I was going to graduate with my class.  I literally counted the days in my journal, and they passed at a snail’s pace.  When I wasn’t in school, I learned how to bake.  A lot.  I made pies and homemade bread. I spent hours by the pool behind our house.  I mourned and stewed in my misery.  One boy at SAS paid a little attention to me; we went out on a few dates and I will always remember him for making my life in Singapore a little happier.
We flew to Manila on my birthday, May 22.  If I could have gotten out of the plane to push it to make it go faster, I would have.  My feet hit Philippine soil, and they were off and running.  We were staying at the Peninsula Hotel this time, and no sooner had we checked into the hotel I was downstairs, hailing a cab.  I pulled up to my old school and ran inside, completely over the moon to be back again.  I spotted my best friend, Leslie, in the hall, and we literally fell over in an ecstatic, screaming hug.  Several of my old friends hailed me in the hall with "Hi LIZ!" and "Look who's back!!"  The prom was the next evening, and Leslie had fixed me up on a blind date, with a guy who had just moved to Manila that past January.  (My smoldering Eurasian ex-crush had already left for the summer -- I didn't see him again until I was in my 20's .. but that's a completely different story!)  My date’s name was David, and he was G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S.  We're talking tall dark and handsome, with curly brown hair, deep set eyes and a killer smile.  Who gave blind dates such a bad name, I ask you?
He picked me up prom night, presenting me with a beautiful pink lei, which he had coordinated with my dress (so THAT'S why he asked me what my dress looked like?)  I can't remember the theme of the dance, just that we danced the night away in a euphoric haze.  When the prom was over, the four of us (Leslie and her date joined us) took a cab downtown to Manila Bay and stood soaking in the night air and watching the lights flickering on the water like undulating jewels.  The wind was warm, and the palm trees whispered in the breeze.  We didn't say much, I just had to stand there and let Manila back under my skin.  I was back home.
After a night of disco hopping, it was sunup before we got back to my hotel.  I had been given a liberal curfew (as in none!) by my parents.  I slept most of the next day, but had to report for graduation rehearsal late in the afternoon.  My friends and I spent the evening together again at Leslie's house and we took in a movie.  I think it was Saturday Night Fever.
The day after that was the actual ceremony ... when I stepped up to the stage to receive my diploma, I knew that the folder was empty; the school had mailed me my diploma back in January.  But that didn't matter.  I was happier at that moment than I think I had ever been, nor have been since. 
After a week, I had to say good-bye to the Philippines.  It was back to Singapore for a little while, but another adventure was just around the bend.  I had been offered a job in London with a British family as nanny for their two children, and was going to take a college class at Richmond College there.  Heady times, indeed.

Leaving Manila

Another old post.

In the fall of my senior year in Manila, Dad announced that ____ Corp. was moving their office to Singapore.  Was it political?  There were stirrings of Marcos' downfall, although he didn't actually "fall" until the 1980's.  Money?  I can't imagine that it was cheaper to live in Singapore; Singapore is a modern, cosmopolitan city/state, unlike Manila, which, as much as I hate to say it, was a little late to arrive into the modern era.  

Part of me was excited to see a new place (as I always felt when it was announced we were moving), but the other, larger part of me was crestfallen at the injustice of it all.  I mean, in the MIDDLE of my SENIOR YEAR??  For crying out loud!  Couldn't we just stay in Manila another four months until graduation?  Maybe there was an underlying mysterious reason that they never told me.  Had my father been named "persona non grata" by the government?  He was really in the CIA, wasn't he?  Not just a humble businessman .. he was really a spy!  (Of course not, that's just my imagination taking flight).

We spent Christmas at the Manila Garden hotel, with a pine cone Christmas tree.  Christmas Eve I said goodbye to my teenage crush-of-the moment, a smoldering Eurasian boy who was half Belgian and half Filipino.  Can you imagine how my little heart fluttered when he spoke French to me?  But I digress. 

We arrived in Singapore, another green, lush paradise, Hot and Humid (capital letters for emphasis - we were now even closer to the equator).  We stayed at the Shangri-La hotel, in the lap of luxury for about a month before our furniture arrived.  There was a 30 day quarantine for the dogs (we had three by that time) so we visited them daily at the very nice kennel at Jurong.  I used to sit out by the pool at the hotel, where a man sold satay (chicken on a stick with peanut sauce) and a tropical drink with fresh pineapple would arrive at the snap of my fingers.

Mom and I explored the city ... Orchard Road shopping; the Raffles Hotel, reminiscent of the British colonial times, Arab Street, where the four cultures of Singapore converged: Chinese, Tamil (Indian), Malay and English.  Shops lined the streets with colorful fabrics and exotic carved wood furniture spilling out onto the sidewalk.  Huge burlap bags filled with spices and beans were for sale.  We visited the food stalls in the median of Bukit Tima Street ... and lived to tell the tale.  I went to Bugis Street with a visiting friend of the family, the famous late-night spot where the transvestites hung out.  That friend was an Ensign in the US Navy, whose ship, the USS Kitty Hawk had made port in Singapore.  One afternoon we took a launch out into the harbor to tour the ship.  As we stood on the runway of the leviathan ship, sailor after sailor would come up to our friend, Frank, salute and ask some lame question.  They had been at sea for 6 months and hadn't seen a woman, much less a blonde one, in a very long time.  I think they were just hankering for an introduction.  I loved it!

What to do with me?  I had already completed my graduation requirements.  I could have sat on a lounge chair for four months working on my tan ... but it was decided by the Powers that Were (mom and dad) that I would go to school!  I was overjoyed by that decision.  I attended Singapore American School with all the enthusiasm of going for a root canal.  I sat through Algebra and Physics classes, staring out the window.  I didn't make many friends.  I was shy and filled with angst.  Why should I?  I was leaving.  Little boys threw peas at me in the cafeteria because I was the "new girl".   One guy even asked me to the prom, saying "No one else I asked would go."  I told him where he could go.

Mom and I did take day trips, one across the strait between Singapore and Malaysia, to tour the Sultan's Palace.  We ate at amazing restaurants.  We went to a classic movie festival at the British Club.  But overall I was miserable.  I missed my friends.  I was promised a trip back to Manila for graduation in May, and I tediously counted off the days.  It stretched forward for an eternity.  I buried myself in music; to this day I when I hear America, I can close my eyes and be in my bathroom, where I listened to the music getting ready for school, showering as quickly as I could because the water tank outside my window was the size of a small ice chest and the hot water only lasted five minutes.

Dad and Liz Share a Laugh

Manila Memories

Here is a reprint of an earlier post from this blog, buried in the archives.  Kinda relevant:

My dad was the director of Sales & Marketing of Southeast Asia for a large chemical company called ______.  Their headquarters were in Baton Rouge, hence my connection to Louisiana.  In 1974 we were transferred to Manila.  I had lived in Japan and Belgium also, so a new move overseas wasn't a big deal.  We had two schnauzers at the time, and they flew in the cargo hold of the Pan Am 747 all the way from New Orleans, to San Francisco (the last time we were able to take them out of their crate) .. to Honolulu, to Guam, and finally to Manila.  When we finally saw them emerge from the baggage hold, they had a look on their faces that said, "WHERE THE $%*& ARE WE??"

Our first "home" was the Intercontinental Hotel in Makati, then the business hub of the city.  My first impression of Manila was that it was hot (of course) and was very green, with palm trees and flowers everywhere.  The food we got in the hotel's Jeepney Coffee Shop was the ultimate in tropical fare: fresh pineapple and mango (which doesn't taste as good anywhere in the world) and fresh calamansi juice (a key lime) that you sweetened with a tiny pitcher of sugar water.  The Miss Universe pageant was being held in Manila that year, and every morning the newspaper slid under our door contained color pictures of all the contestants, and I poured over them for hours.  (Miss Spain won that year).

We moved into our house in North Forbes Park shortly after about a month.  My dad was out of town on business on moving day, and my mom and I, after a hard day unpacking in the heat, treated ourselves to a big milkshake at the hotel.  That night, my mom had a serious attack of pancreatitis, and was rushed to the hospital.  There I was ... alone in a strange country, with no parents, alone in a hotel ... scared out of my mind.  We had been assigned a driver, named "Boy" ... (let's just say the names in the Philippines are quite unusual ... I knew a girl there named Cherry Pie) who drove me back and forth from the hotel to the hospital. 

Our house was a freakin' palace.  We're talking Beverly Hills here, although we weren't by any means rich.  However, things are a little more affordable in the P.I., and we lived like we were rolling in money.  We had two maids: one to cook (Jeannie) and one to wash (Carmen); a driver (the aforementioned "Boy") and a gardener named Ruben.  One wing of the house was the maids' quarters, complete with bath, their own kitchen and separate bedrooms for each.  The garden looked like something out of a magazine, with terraced grass and bougainvillae and all types of exotic plants.  We had a pool in the back yard ... a POOL!  There was huge stone wall around the house, with bits of broken glass embedded in the top, I guess to keep the prowlers out.  Out house backed up to a very busy street, E. de los Santos Avenue (shortened to EDSA) right by a bus stop on said busy street.  People would climb to the top of the bus shelter and peer over our wall into our back yard.  Used to piss off my mom in a big way!

My mom wasn't allowed to hold a job, due to regulations for foreigners, so she passed the time playing bridge or mah jongg (basically Chinese gin rummy!) and having parties.  At the time we were there, the country was under Martial Law, as decreed by President Ferdinand Marcos, which included a 1-4 a.m. curfew.  If my parents' parties accidently went over past 1 a.m., they just kept partying until they could go home at 4.  I used to bar tend at the parties (one for you ... one for me.  The taste of gin & tonic always takes me back.)

I went to school at the International School of Manila.  It was a great school, although we used to joke about the fact that our Filipino English teachers couldn't speak English all that well.  I got a very solid education there, in the IB program.  I took classes like British Literature and Theory of Knowledge.  My friends made up a high school United Nations.  I dated a guy from Israel, whose best friend was Lebanese.  I had friends from Pakistan, India, Scandinavia and Australia.  We were all the same; just kids, only different colors and accents.  We never gave it a second thought.  Of course, my high school years weren't perfect; they were full of the usual angst and hangups, but overall, I wouldn't trade my experience in Manila for anything.

I volunteered at the Manila Symphony as an usherette and was the first "girl" acolyte at our Episcopal church.  We used to go on trips to the outer islands, where a dip in the ocean was like swimming in an aquarium.  Once we took an outrigger canoe (banca) from one island to the other, and almost capsized in bad weather.  One time I got a job in a TV commercial for a brand of Jeep made in the P.I.  We shot the commercial on a beach, but when the Jeeps broke down, we were stranded and had to sleep in a nipa hut overnight.  Believe me, it does get cold at night in the Philippines, especially sleeping on a thatched floor with no blankets.

2008 marked the 30th anniversary of my high school graduation.  I haven't been back to Manila since we left in 1978. I know it won't be the same when and if I do go (even my school is in a different location) but part of me won't be complete until I return; until I once again smell the bougainvilla and taste the mango. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Dad

My dad has been gone for almost three years.  He is missed terribly.  I know we didn’t have the closest relationship, but I admired him and respected him in more ways that I can count.  He was the most common-sense, down-to-earth person that ever lived.  He was never one to judge (except maybe in jest) and did the best he could under impossible circumstances.  He was under enormous pressure from his company to make deals with corrupt governments, which of course was impossible, but he tried his best.  We were moved to foreign countries to be near him, but usually he traveled even more when we were “with” him.  Most of the time he wasn’t even there for the actual move; my mom did a lot on her own (more about her in a later post).  His passport was so full of visas and stamps that he had to have an accordion extension added to it. 

In his later years, I asked him to please, please, write down some of his adventures.  I had big notions about writing a book about him.  I even gave him a Dictaphone when his eyesight started to go.  One Christmas he did write an essay about traveling behind the Iron Curtain in the early 70’s, and gave it to my sister and me, (complete with Soviet guards, missed trains and propeller planes).  We never got any more missives, and he died in August of 2008.  My mom still hasn’t broken up the house, and I’m hoping someday to find a treasure trove of Dictaphone tapes of his stories. 

Dad worked for a large petrochemical company that no longer exists.  At one point in time their business was manufacturing lead additives for gasoline to prevent knocking.  We all know what happened to leaded gasoline, and the company later diversified into other chemical areas.  Flame retardants, plastics, you get the idea.  When I was in college I took a class, “Multinational Corporations” and did a great profile of the company.  One of Daddy’s jobs as a salesman and an engineer was to get permission to build terminals where oil tankers would offload the crude oil.  From there, the crude would be processed through blending units (that he designed) and moved to inland locations by rail.  They also produced industrial chemicals.  One of the most tragic things happened in his career was when workers entered a rail tanker car to clean it after it was offloaded, only to die from inhaling the toxic fumes.  I’m pretty sure Dad was involved in revising all the safety procedures for the company after that incident.  It upset him deeply, and even years later, there was a catch in his throat when he talked about it.

Daddy opened the first Asian office of the company in Tokyo, and later Manila and Singapore.  He was back and forth between Louisiana and Tokyo for about a year before we finally moved there.  I would love to have been a fly on the wall during that year, because I know there was a lot of sake drinking and other manly activities.  I came across a picture one time of him dressed in full Geisha regalia, wig, makeup and all.  I wonder how that party went down?  He also became familiar with many of the flight attendants (stewardesses back then) who flew across the Pacific.  When we made our big trip to Manila on the big Pan Am 747, more than a few eyebrows (especially Mom’s) went up when a very attractive stewardess named Pearl saw him and squealed, “Hey BILL!”  and gave him a big hug.  I think there was another story bandied about that she once sat in his lap at a hotel.  But it was all on the up-and-up, I’m sure.  Daddy wasn’t that kind of guy.

My mom was afraid to fly (but later overcame her fear with valium and scotch) so we often took a ship to or from Japan.  Daddy had been in the Navy at the end of World War II, so he was an ocean kind of guy.  But these ships weren’t the Queen Elizabeth or anything like that; they were freighters.  Our first trip it was us and a missionary family and the crew.  Period.  No video tapes, no TV, no nothing, for EIGHT DAYS.  I learned 1000 ways to play solitaire. The kids would put on plays to entertain the adults (Rumplestiltskin was one that sticks out in my memory).  Daddy relished the trips, sitting on the deck getting sunburned.  It was probably the only eight days in his life when he wasn’t bothered with business issues.  Another time it was just my mom and me on the ship, the older sisters getting to fly to the states alone.  Daddy had taken us to the boat in Yokohama and gotten us settled.  It came time for the “all ashore that’s going ashore” call, and he stood on the pier as we pulled out.  He had mentioned that he was hungry, and I threw him an apple over the railing.  It had to be hundreds of feet, and he caught it neatly.

As most kids do, I had a favorite stuffed animal, a pink dog that I named “Fuzzy”.  That dog was real to me, and I loved him dearly.  As we boarded the ship that time, I realized tearfully that I had left Fuzzy at the house, and I was devastated.  Daddy promised he would bring him to me when he followed us a month later, small consolation.  But true to his word, Daddy met us at his parents’ house in Texas with Fuzzy in his suitcase.  I can only imagine the funny looks he got when the customs officers opened his bag.

He missed a lot of my birthdays.  When we were in New York before going to Japan, he was in Australia for the occasion, and I received a box in the mail from him.  It contained a beautiful stuffed kangaroo.  He usually brought me a doll in national costume from all the countries he visited.  

We used to go skiing in Japan near a city called Nikko, and another place called “KEEP” (which was an acronym for something).  I remember tearing down one hill with Daddy right behind me, only to glance around to see him taking a very big spill.  He ended up with a broken thumb, outdone by his 7-year-old daughter.  Another time we had to leave the country for visa reasons, so we skipped over to Korea.  I remember it being very, very cold, and, sadly, there were many barefoot children standing on the sidewalks selling chewing gum.  We stayed in a hotel that, unfortunately, was frequented by American soldiers and their, um, “escorts”.  One night we were awakened by loud pounding on a door down the hall, and a Korean woman shrieking, “YOU NO PAY ME!  YOU NO PAY ME!”  Yes, being a TCK has its educational moments. 

I wish I could capture all of the moments we had with Daddy over the years.  There were many.  It wasn’t always funny or easy growing up like that, but there were moments of brilliance in our lives.  I try to remember those the most.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's A Small, Small World

In 1964, we moved to New York, in preparation for our even bigger move to Tokyo.  While there, we visited the World’s Fair.  It was here that the ride, “It’s A Small World” that now resides with Disney, made its debut.  I remember being mesmerized by all the singing puppets in their colorful costumes. 

Over the years I have had so many “small world” events that I wonder if that is a perk of being a TCK.  Do non-TCKs have the multitude of “small world” run-ins that we have?  Naturally when families in the TCK world move from place to place, there is bound to be some overlap.  I went to high school in Manila with a boy who had been in my 1st grade class at the American School in Japan.  There were at least two families that we had known in Tokyo that ended up in Brussels.  I ran into a classmate from Manila in college in Texas.  But some of the instances were a little more serendipitous.

In recent years I have become interested in genealogy.  While researching my mother’s family, I came across a book that was written by one of her distant cousins, detailing their heritage several generations in the past.  As I read, I came across a name that sounded vaguely familiar.  I read on, only to find out that he had been a long-time employee of my father’s company.  I called my mom to ask if she recognized the name, and she said, “Of course!  Your dad traveled with him a lot in Europe.”  I said, “Believe it or not, he was your second cousin!” 

As a child, my mom didn’t know her family, especially her father’s relatives.  She believes that her parents may have been divorced or separated at the time of her father’s death, so any links to his family were non-existent or tenuous.  What are the odds that her life would intersect so closely with one of her cousins?  She didn’t seem that impressed; she said she really didn’t like the guy at all.  It frustrated me that she didn’t marvel, as I did, at the coincidence.

When I was a senior in high school, my dad’s company closed its office in Manila and moved it to Singapore.  We had to move.  It was a huge trauma in my life; we had been in Manila for 3-1/2 years, and I had, for the first time, put down some roots.  Having earned enough credits to graduate, I received my diploma before we left.  However, my parents decided that I needed to go to school in Singapore anyway.  So I spent the spring semester attending classes at Singapore American School, with the expected lack of enthusiasm on my part.  Imagine my surprise on my first day of Math when I found that my teacher had been a teacher at the International School of Brussels!  He had been my sister’s high school math teacher, and his wife had taught in the elementary school there.  She wasn’t my actual teacher, but I did go to her class for reading. 

Early in my career as a paralegal, I worked for a large law firm in Baton Rouge.  I can’t remember how I found out, one of my 6th grade “best” friends worked at the day care where one of the attorneys’ children was enrolled. 

More recently I have had Facebook “small world” incidents, where my TCK life intersected with my current life.  One of my first “puppy love” boyfriends in high school (in the Philippines) was a young man from South Carolina.  When I “friended” my former Texas college roommate (who lives in South Carolina) on Facebook, a “mutual friend” popped up who happened to be that boyfriend’s sister.  My second son became a fan of an alternative rock group (whose name I can’t even write because this is a “family friendly” blog) whose lead singer went to college with me, and who dated this same roommate.  A former neighbor of mine in Mississippi was a relative of a staff member of the university here in North Carolina where I worked. 

This doesn’t take into account the many times my father ran into acquaintances in random airports around the world.  I’m sure it happens a lot, but it seems to me that it happens more often to TCK’s.  I’d love to hear about others’ experiences with this.  And I’m sorry if now you have this annoying song stuck in your head for the rest of the day …

It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears
It’s a world of hope and a world of fears.
There’s so much that we share
That it’s time we’re aware
It’s a small world after all …

There is just one moon and one golden sun
And a smile means friendship to everyone
Though the mountains divide
And the oceans are wide
It’s a small world after all … 

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Stuff of Childhood Nightmares

When we first moved to Tokyo in 1965, we stayed for months (it seemed) in the Imperial Hotel.  The hotel was designed and built by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright using revolutionary earthquake-proof methods.  It was built on rollers, in a way, so that during an earthquake it would merely rock back and forth rather than collapse. In fact it survived an 8.3 earthquake in 1923. According to Wikipedia, the hotel had several earthquake-anticipating design features:  

  • The reflecting pool provided a source of water for fire-fighting, saving the building from the post-earthquake firestorm;
  • Cantilevered floors and balconies provided extra support for the floors;
  • A copper roof, which cannot fall on people below the way a tile roof can;
  • Seismic separation joints, located about every 20 m along the building;
  • Tapered walls, thicker on lower floors, increasing their strength;
  • Suspended piping and wiring, instead of being encased in concrete, as well as smooth curves, making them more resistant to fracture."
The hotel was festooned with elements of art-deco, with wrought iron swirls and flowers on the balconies.  For some reason we ate a lot of veal cutlets in the restaurant, using heavy silver flatware.  (What strange details we remember from our childhoods!) There were some pretty racy photos of Japanese pearl divers in the gift shop, bare breasts and all.  Every morning we took a taxi to the Okura Hotel, where the school bus would pick us up for school.  That year I was in kindergarten, and only went three days a week, but I remember those dark, early morning treks to take my sisters to the bus.  (The trek up to the American Club came later, when we moved into an apartment). 

Tragically, the hotel as I knew it is no more.  I don’t know when the old one was torn down, but now it is a nondescript high-rise.  Recently on a trip to Arizona, I visited Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's outpost and architectural school near Scottsdale. It was kind of neat to see pictures of the old hotel and know that I lived there for a time.

As I sit and watch the news from Japan and the horrible earthquake, I am transported back to my early years there.  After what seemed forever in the Imperial Hotel, we moved into an apartment, called Chateau Mita, near the Tokyo Tower.  There was a great playground on the roof and a great Chinese restaurant on the ground floor (Nancy Ma's).  My sisters and I would be playing a board game in the living room when an earthquake would strike.  The pieces on the board would jump and slide, the lampshades would quiver, and the sliding wooden shoji doors would rattle and shake.  For us, it was a fun distraction.  We looked at each other and laughed nervously, acting like it was something fun.  I remember the usual rules: standing underneath the doorjamb or getting under a table.  Sometimes the quakes would be pronounced; other times we would just notice a lampshade vibrating randomly.  My sisters, who enjoyed scaring the bejeebus out of me*, told me stories about giant waves coming.  In the Japanese countryside, on high escarpments near the coast, there were giant brass gongs which were rung, warning the inhabitants to flee.  Whenever I heard a loud gong, I assumed and feared that a tsunami was on its way.  I used to dream of huge waves heading straight for me; the dream would end as it engulfed me, and I would be tossed and turned like a tub toy.  (Maybe this was why I have such a fear of the ocean).  I dreamed of huge cracks opening in the street and swallowing me up. 

My mom had a million issues of National Geographic, which we moved from place to place for years before they were finally tossed.  As a child, I marveled at the pictures of the 1964 Alaskan earthquake.  It was ironic that I had so much fear of earthquakes and tsunamis, but I couldn’t help looking at the pictures and shivering.

My heart goes out to the people in Japan.  How many children had lived with the fears that I had, and have now seen their nightmares come to life?  There are no words.  

*When I was three or four, I would ride my tricycle on our driveway in Shreveport, LA.  One time a thunderstorm was coming, and my sisters called me inside.  They yelled that a tornado was right behind me, hurry! Hurry!  Watch out, it's going to get you!  It's right behind you! 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Important Article

A must read viewpoint.

I admit I am just starting out on this technology thing, and I can't figure out how to neatly post this to my blog.  But please, please read this article.  It is mandatory.  There will be a pop quiz.  And this WILL be on the final.

Religion and Other Stuff

While I’m writing this, I’m listening to the live stream of the King hearings on the “Extent of the Radicalization” Among American Muslims.  I just finished listening to the statement of Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress.  As he spoke about a Muslim-American paramedic who was a 9-11 first responder (who lost his life, and who was accused of being with the terrorists), I almost joined him in his grief.  I cannot believe (well, cynically, yes I can) that our country is once again sliding down this slippery slope.  During World War I, it was us (and our allies) against the Huns.  It was so bad that anyone with a Germanic name was ostracized and persecuted.  (The British royal family even changed their surname from Battenburg to Mountbatten to distance themselves from their German heritage! I wonder how many families in the U.S. followed suit?)  Then it was the Japanese (need I remind everyone of the intern camps into which so many Japanese-Americans were herded at the outset of World War II?)  Then it was the communists.  (How many people were painted “red” in the McCarthy witchhunt hearings?)  Now that the evil Soviet Union is no more, whom are we going to vilify now?  I know!  The Muslims!  We have to have an enemy after all, don’t we?  (Sarcasm intended).

Right after 9-11, there were stories about people attacking and/or killing people who were perceived to be Muslim. (This kind of thing happened also during the hostage crisis in Iran in 1979).  I burned with rage (rage seems tame … what is the next step of rage?) about turban-wearing Sikhs who were attacked by terminally ignorant people who lumped everyone who was “different” into one group. Do you think these idiots would sit still for a minute to be educated about the difference between Sikhs and Muslims?  Probably not. 

Do I deny that some terrorists are Muslims?  No.  But what religion was Timothy McVeigh (who blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City)? How many “Christian” white supremacists plot violence against our government?  Genocide in Rwanda?  Ethnic cleansing in Bosnia?  I could go on, but you get the point.

When my mom first told her family we were moving to Japan in 1965, the reaction was shock.  My mom had been orphaned at an early age and lived with a family whose education had ended in the 8th grade.  They were members of the poor working class in north Texas, until Mobil Oil came and asked if they could drill in their back yard. You guessed it, Mobil struck oil and this family became very very wealthy.  (No, the “Beverly Hillbillies” was not based on their story!)  My mom was never adopted by these folks, so don’t think she ever got a piece of that pie.  But I digress.  When she told Granny and Jamie (what we called them) that we were moving to Japan, Granny said, “Susie, why in the hell would you want to go and live with all them foreigners?”  Mom had left their home after high school to attend college … and their reaction was, “What, high school’s not good enough for you?”  You get the picture. 

My earliest memory of Japan is walking up a very steep hill to the Tokyo American Club, where we caught the school bus, which took us to ASIJ (the American School in Japan).  That street took us by a Shinto temple. As we walked, we would hear the tok-tok-tok of the Shinto priest as he beat out a rhythm on a hollow piece of wood during his prayer ritual.  We visited Shinto shrines, where I observed the faithful, devout followers as they entered.  I stood in awe of the Kamakura Buddha, where a sign reads, “Stranger, whosoever thou art and whatsoever be thy creed, when thou enterest this sanctuary remember thou treadest upon ground hallowed by the worship of ages.  This is the Temple of Bhudda (sic) and the gate of the eternal, and should therefore be entered with reverence.” My parents never inferred that these faiths were wrong, but that they should be respected and appreciated.

I heard a story about my dad late in his life.  He attended a men’s prayer group at his Episcopal church in his last years.  One day the priest who ran the gathering presented this question to the group:  “Why are you a Christian?”  The answers were the usual, “To serve others” and “To follow Jesus Christ.”  My dad answered, to the shock of all, “Accident of birth.”  I love my dad.

My high school in the Philippines was a conglomeration of just about every religion that exists.  My first boyfriend in was an Israeli Jew, and his best friend was an Arab from Lebanon. They teased each other good naturedly (You dumb Jew!  You crazy Arab!) but it was all in fun.  Their friendships were genuine.  One of the dearest friends I had was from Pakistan, and others were from India.  They laughed about how people thought the two were one and the same.  We were a mini United Nations, and we all got along. 

Like many TCK’s, I have lived and breathed and tasted other faiths. I have known people who are equally, if not more devout than any fundamentalist Christian.  I suppose that having had this background I am angered and saddened by this tendency that Americans have to dismiss and vilify anyone who is different.  Whenever I heard “we are a Christian nation” I want to punch somebody. I think that the constitution has a small paragraph in it about religious freedom (doesn’t it?  Correct me if I’m wrong!)  I don’t know how many minds I can change with my little blog, but even a small drop in a large lake makes waves that go a long way.


We moved to Brussels, Belgium when I was 10 years old. I was a happy, friendly little tow-headed girl. My hair was so curly, my sisters called me “fizz-head”, but I didn’t care. My mother braided my hair every morning, and I had a complete wardrobe of ribbons for my hair that matched my clothes. By the time I got home in the afternoon, little tendrils of curls would surround my head like spaghetti. I never met a stranger, I made friends as easily as I breathed. In 5th and 6th grade I had my little coterie of best friends, each one just as “best” as the others. We had sleepovers at each other’s houses. One night I remember walking through a cornfield behind my friend’s house; she lived in Waterloo. Yes, the Waterloo, as in Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington. There was a huge monument to the battle that we used to drive by. By then it was just a residential suburb of Brussels, and I never thought about the significance of the place until I was older.

In school I was an extrovert. In the 6th grade I was selected to be a “prefect.” The school used a conglomeration of American and British traditions, and a prefect in British schools was a student who had good grades and showed leadership qualities. It was an honor to wear the little red pin that said “prefect” in gold letters. We were the safety patrol. We used to stand on the stair landings and tell people not to skip stairs, to stay in line and be quiet. And they listened! In the yearbook that year, a group picture of all of us prefects was on the inside front and back covers.

I never saw this picture until recently. I remember being sick on the last day of school, or the day they distributed the yearbooks. At any rate, I never got my book. We moved back to the states soon afterwards, which is a whole ‘nother story. I did go back to visit Brussels after my junior year in high school, but everyone had changed, especially me. A couple of years ago, through the magic of Facebook, I reconnected with one of my girlfriends from those 6th grade days. She sent me a scan of the yearbook picture of the prefects. It was a shattering emotional experience for me to see it.

In the picture, the other kids were posed, scattered on a jungle gym of sorts. Right in front, standing with feet apart and hands on hips, was me, like a little Mod Squad. I was the leader, unafraid, unashamed, out in front in every way. That was that “me” that I left behind when we left Brussels. Never again was I that self-assured or uninhibited. Five months after we moved back to the states, my sister was killed in a car accident, and my family was never the same. Who is to say that if we had stayed in Belgium I would have continued to be the same outgoing person? Maybe it was the accident and my sisters’ death that caused my personality shift, or the combination of the move, the accident and puberty. Who knows? At any rate, I was never the same. I became painfully shy, depressed and adrift. It was as if that prefect girl had died along with my sister. After that, making friends was painful for me. It was as if I wasn’t willing to take the risk of giving myself to anyone, because they would probably leave, or I would leave them.

One weird thing about being a Third Culture Kid (TCK) is that there are so many manifestations of who you are, that you stop recognizing yourself. With each move you have to recreate yourself, or by the circumstances, you are recreated. I look at pictures of myself at different times and I appear physically different. You adapt to each place like a chameleon, absorbing the colors around you, perhaps so you’ll disappear and you won’t have to exert the supreme effort it takes to start over.

Even as an adult I find it hard to make friends, to feel completely comfortable with anyone. I watch as groups of women drift towards each other and became fast friends. Perhaps I put out vibes that said, “stay away” even though I want so desperately to be friends like that. I don’t know how. On the other hand, I do enjoy my solitude, a skill I probably developed due to lengths of time alone in hotels, airplanes and new houses. Luckily, I have met people who decided they wanted to be friends with me, and I have welcomed their friendship. I mourn for that girl in the yearbook picture. It makes me mad that she wasn’t allowed to continue to blossom. I guess everyone wishes their lives had followed a different track, but even though I do relish many of my experiences living overseas, (more about them later), I grieve for that version of myself that stopped existing in 1972.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Diagram of a Third Culture Kid

Diagram of a Third Culture Kid

March 8th, International Women's Day

Moving the Earth and the Stars

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ... two and a half years later ...

Watching my father die was hard, but strangely liberating. My dad and mom had a rocky marriage. Of course, no one was in that marriage except the two of them, but from my perspective, Daddy was gone a lot (I talked about that some). Mom lived a life of luxury most of the time, with maids and cooks and gardeners (especially the Philippines). After my sister died, my father turned to alcohol to deal with the pressures of his life and his job. As the years went on, my mom was very mean to him. Every word out of her mouth was spoken in anger, in impatience and belittling. She was impatient when he started losing his hearing. He was the type of man who avoided confrontation at all costs, and he would turn the other cheek. After he retired and relapsed into alcoholism, her treatment of him escalated. At one point, my sister and I went to therapy with him, and we begged him to divorce her. He maintained that he had made a vow, and he intended to keep it. He was of that generation that did that. We hated it for him, but only he knew his own heart, and maybe there were moments of tenderness between the two of them that we never saw. As he lay dying in the hospital, my mom was very caring and strong. When he died, my mom appeared brave on the outside, but I think the reality hit her hard. Especially when it came to light that he had left her in severe financial straits. She works at a university as a graduate school advisor, but now she's almost 81. Not sure how much longer she can do this.

All that brings me to my midlife crisis. As I saw my dad die, having vowed to stay in an unhappy marriage because of his beliefs and convictions, it hit me. I was unhappy in my marriage. I won't go into details, because that wouldn't be nice or fair to anyone. Suffice it to say my inner Third Culture Kid clashed with the "me" that I had created for myself. Having been a "global nomad" most of my growing-up years, I longed for stability. I got married, had children. But it wasn't the real me. I felt unsettled, impatient, always looking for the next thing. I felt that my "waters" ran so deep, and no one, including my husband, got that about me. I tried to talk about my experiences, my thoughts and hopes, but I never truly felt that he truly understood who I was and the thoughts I had. I kept looking for things to fill the void in myself. Graduate school. Traveling overseas for small "fixes" for my wanderlust. And that is just a very small part of why I left my marriage, in case anyone thinks I'm that shallow. I tried and tried to fit my round self into a big old square peg, and did the insane thing of doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Maybe leaving the marriage was extreme. Not maybe ... it was extreme. I lost friends. A lot of friends. My children have suffered. They stayed with their dad in their house. He was more financially able to care for them, and staying in their house offered some semblance of security for them. I moved into a tiny little apartment not far from the house. I remember the first night I spent in it, sleeping on an air mattress because I didn't have a bed. I tucked myself in and thought, "Well, here I am. It's going to be a bumpy ride!" But I felt free. Scared to death, but free.

I finished grad school. I received my MLIS in May of 2010. I reunited with the love of my life, my college sweetheart, who has freed and accepted the real me in many ways. We are planning an August wedding (actually an elopement). I will always love and respect my ex-husband ... he is the father of my awesome children, and he was kind to me throughout the divorce. We still laugh at the kids' antics, and are jointly concerned with their welfare. He has a new love in his life, and I rejoice at that. I only want him to be happy and have someone in his life who loves him.

So that is the background for the 180 degree turn that this blog will take. I thought I would write about how being a Third Culture Kid has made me who I am today, the good, bad and ugly. About my huge capacity to tolerate and how it makes me sad for people who didn't grow up like I did. I hope that other TCKs will see things in me that resonate in themselves. Maybe by sharing my experiences, we can understand why we are who we are, and what drives us in our lives.