The Leaving Series Part 5: Leaving in a Hurry Doesn’t Mean Grieving in a Hurry

Today’s guest writer comes all the way from DjiboutiMany of you, I’m sure, are familiar with her writing. You may even be familiar with her story, but today she has so graciously opened up and shared even more of that evacuation from Somaliland and what she learned from that traumatic experience. Please welcome, Rachel Pieh Jones.

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In 2003 my family evacuated from Somaliland. I have written about it here (The Big Round Table) and here (Brain Child) but the short story is that we had thirty minutes to pack a small bag and leave and I didn’t go back for over ten years.

We first flew to Ethiopia, where we stayed for three days. Then we flew to Kenya where we stayed for three months. Then we resettled in Djibouti and have now stayed here for eleven years.

In the flurry between that final phone call and when we started the drive to the airport, my husband and I had to close down our house, remember to grab the essentials, keep our toddler twins from becoming frightened, and hold our own broiling emotions and thoughts in check.

There were a few flashes of fear, a few brief tears, even some laughter as I helped the kids wave goodbye to friends they couldn’t see and toys they had left behind. But there was no time to fully feel the impact of what was happening. We had to function, keep moving, don’t think, don’t feel. Just get out.

The emotions struck like an earthquake two days later.

I had to walk away from our family meal at a cafeteria. I climbed rickety stairs in the hotel in Ethiopia, up to our tiny room. I lay down on the bed and cried.

Once the ‘just get out’ had been accomplished and everyone was safe, once we had informed our families and read some newspaper headlines, once we had time to sit down and breathe and no work to rush off to since we were in limbo-land, I started to see flashes of the faces of the people we had left. I started to think about what had happened to cause our flight, the gunshots and dead bodies. The what-ifs.

I kept crying off and on for a few days. When the kids asked about whether or not they would see their friends again, when the kids asked after a book we hadn’t brought along, when my husband asked where we should go and we tried to talk about work prospects.

We flew to Kenya where we received some post-trauma counseling. We made plans to move to Djibouti, on the invitation of a Somali friend who wanted my husband to work with him, teaching. We moved on.

But the aftershocks of grief followed us and occasionally shook the ground, unexpected. I was surprised by this. We hadn’t lived there long, no one I loved had been killed. Just a home, possessions, work, and an idea of what the future would look like. But it was still loss and so I learned to let myself feel it. I was also surprised by the resurgence of it now and again into the following months.

I still thought about people, still wondered what had happened after we left. Who was now taking care of the chickens in our yard? Who would keep the dirt watered so the neighbor’s goats could come and munch weeds? Who would hire our guard so he could continue to provide for his family? And I thought about all that we hadn’t finished – my husband hadn’t finished the semester at the University. What about his students?

Eventually the sadness faded, as we stepped into the new place and new life, and after a long time, as I began to feel at home in Djibouti, I came to think of our village in Somaliland with nostalgia. Sadness had somehow transformed into a tender affection. Gratitude even, for the privilege we had been given of a few short months living there. I don’t think that is what happens with all forms of grief, not even close. This is one of the biggest things I have learned about loss. It comes in all shapes, sizes, and time frames and so does the grief that follows. Leaving in a hurry doesn’t mean grieving in a hurry. And so enters grace. Grace on ourselves and on others to allow each other to uniquely grieve.

Thanks Rachel for sharing with us today. I really appreciate your willingness to share your grief with us. I love your last few sentences, which is why I bolded them. Such wisdom.

If you still would like to share your leaving story with us, you can contact me at mdmaurer135{at}gmail{dot}com. I will be closing the series in a few weeks unless I hear from more writers. I’ve truly enjoyed reading and gleaning insights from you all.

Here are links to the other stories if you didn’t get a chance to read them: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

djiboutijonesRachel Pieh Jones lives in Djibouti with her husband and three children. She has written for the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, FamilyFun, Babble, the Big Roundtable, and Running Times. Visit her at: Djibouti Jones, her Facebook page or on Twitter @rachelpiehjones

The Leaving Series Part 4: Leaving the African “Nest”

bloemkleinprofielToday’s Leaving Story comes from a fellow blogger I started following years ago. I was drawn to Janneke’s blog, DrieCulturen, because I felt a connection with her writing. She was one of the few European writers sharing their TCK stories – it helped me understand my husband a bit more. Today, Janneke’s shares her story along with some insightful tips to help your university-bound TCK. 

May 1989. For most people it was a normal day in mundane life. This was not so for everyone. In the suburbs of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Africa there a 19 year old young girl was frantically trying to fit the last things into her bags. Between the last-minute packing were the last minute goodbyes. Very soon the car was leaving for the airport so there was little time to spare. Her viola would be part of her hand luggage; her tennis racket was strapped with broad tape onto the viola so that it would accompany her, too. Her parents, brothers and sister would all see her off at the airport. Of course there was a last family photo in front of the map of Zimbabwe. This was a historical moment.

Zimbabwe vertrek 1989

The 19 year old was leaving home. She was leaving “the nest”, spreading her wings and flying out into the unknown! She was the firstborn so she was the one to pave the way for her siblings. So with her head up, and gathering all her earthly belongings, she was going to board the aeroplane. Walking on the pavement heading to the plane the strap of her bag broke, obviously her bag was not designed for the amounts of luggage she had piled into it. Was this how the rest of her journey would go? In front of all the farewell sayers she was once again grabbing her belongings together and trying to make it to the plane in time. One last quick wave and she was out of sight. Finding her seat was easy, she was a routine traveller. The engines started, and then it was time for take-off. One last glimpse of the ones she loved, of the country she loved, of everything that was so well known to her. Before she could stop it there were tears streaming over her face. Not just a few tears, it seemed like a dam wall had broken and there were floods of tears. Something like the Victoria waterfalls in the rainy season. The tears were uncontrollable.

The past week had been busy and filled with goodbyes. There had even been a goodbye party, with school friends and friends from the church youth group. They had had a lot of fun, there had been lots of laughter but there had also been the painful goodbyes.

This was the country where her family had lived the past 6 years. Here she had cycled to school daily, she passed her driving test, she had received her first kiss, her first dance, her first date, she had turned eighteen, been a school prefect and she had written her “O” and “A” level GCSE school exams. This was the continent where she was born. Here she had learnt to walk, run, play, and laugh.

 In Africa she knew she wasn’t African and she thought it was because she was Dutch. Now, in Holland she found out that she is not really like the Dutch people either. Where was home? She remembered that her younger sister had asked that questions years ago. Her sister decided that “home” was where her bed was!

Of course I am the person in this story. I am the one that was born abroad. I am the one who was called “the foreigner” at secondary school. I am the one that did not quite fit in. I am the “hidden immigrant”.

Looking so Dutch but not knowing how to weigh the fruit and vegetables in the supermarket. I remember observing the people around me, watching to see how others did it. How do you use the buses and the trains? Were the supermarkets open on public holidays or not? Some times I asked questions, but people would look at me and you could hear them thinking “how can she be so ignorant?” Which brand margarine should I buy? There were just too many choices to make. Even more difficult was: what clothes do you wear and what must you buy? I had been used to wearing school uniforms all my life. As a young child my mother always tailored the dresses, she even did the hairdressing.

Looking back, I think I was not fully prepared for this flight out of the nest. It turned out that I made a crash landing but somehow I survived. I still miss the warmth of the African sun. My heart yearns. My heart longs. I miss the continent of my first kiss.

Tips:

  1. Prepare your kids for their transition to university.
  2. Talk lots about the emotions, expectations and practical things.
  3. Read the book “A Global Nomad’s guide to university transition” by Tina Quick and give your young adult a copy.
  4. If possible transition with your child or make sure there are family and friends near their university, where they can easily visit.
  5. Make sure they have heard the term “third culture kid”, something I did not know.
  6. Choose a college or university that is internationally minded, where there are more TCKs or international students, chances are your TCK will feel more at home in this environment.

Thanks, Janneke for sharing your story with us! If you’d like to read other stories about leaving please click on the links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Remember, if you’d like to share your own story, there is still time to get them in. Click here for details.

eigen foto Janneke Muyselaar-Jellema is an adult third culture kid, M.D., and blogger @DrieCulturen “all about kids growing up in other cultures”. You can also find out more about her story as a guest writer for Rachel Pieh Jones here.

 

 

 

The Leaving Series Part 3: You Can Take it with You

Welcome to Part 3 of The Leaving Series. If you are just reading for the first time, you may want to go back and catch Part 1 and Part 2.

Today’s post if from another friend, who I have had the opportunity to work with on team. Christa, may look short when standing next to her husband, but she is full of life and energy. I think you’ll sense that today as you read what she would have liked to have taken with her when she left…
Valley Of the Giants Western Australia

If you read the title and got upset then give me just one second because I am not talking about passing away, I am talking about moving. Of course it all depends on what the “it” is that you want to take with you. Our family lived in Shenyang, China for 12 years: both of our boys were born there and my husband and I were married there.

Before we left China there was quite a bit of debate about what everyone would be taking with us. When we decided to move, my children wanted to bring their best friends and every toy they had ever owned. My husband wanted to bring every book on the six bookcases in our home. I was much more unreasonable; I wanted to pack the Shenyang Imperial Palace, my best friends, my entire apartment, Starbucks, our school, every book in our home and every toy the boys had ever owned. We could negotiate on some of these items, but I did eventually have to admit that the Imperial Palace wouldn’t fit in my suitcase and I had to accept that skyping friends would be enough.

Our negotiation and moving process took an entire year. I started whittling down items as we used them. As I used items, I thought about whether I would give them to someone, sell them at the garage sale we would host, or pack them to take home. I would also figure out when would be the last time I would use that item then pack it in a box. Yes, in case you are wondering, I am a type A personality. Most stuff got left behind with beloved friends. When I visit now, I get to see my things being used by other people and I have to say it is one of the nicest feelings in the world.

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We worked out that we couldn’t take things with us but we could take experiences with us. We could take parts of the culture and language with us. We also got to take a lot of love and care with us because people did so much for our family to make sure we each knew we were cared for as we said goodbye.

We did quite a few things to make moving easier for the boys. We knew they would miss China, so we made sure to take a long trip around the country to see important places before we left. We talked with the boys and asked them what their favorite places were in Shenyang. We visited those places one last time to say goodbye. We made sure to talk through it with them when we were going to a certain place for the last time. We also made sure to take photos of them in those places. We let them help with packing their own things, so that their things didn’t just disappear one day. We also encouraged them to think through which items they would give to friends and which they could give to children in need. This made leaving things behind more acceptable to them because it was an act of generosity.

We looked to the future in Australia by talking about living close to a part of our family, going to the beach and having a house with a yard. We talked to them about what they were looking forward to and then made sure to mention those positive things with enthusiasm when we could.

The boys wanted a dog in Australia and my husband and I both thought that was reasonable request and something that could help them get through the transition. They looked forward to having Bolt, (our dog), for months and he has helped through emotionally difficult times. He has helped me, too when I think about it.

20.5The experiences, the culture and the language have stayed with us. We have made great Chinese friends here in Australia. I now write for a Chinese magazine here and we speak at a Chinese church in Perth. The boys talk about China often and have kept some of the language as well. The office Darren and I work at is a 5-minute walk from Chinatown in Perth and it is a wonderful way for us to stay connected to a place we all consider home or at least one of our homes. We celebrate the Chinese holidays and enjoy eating Chinese food as often as we can go to a restaurant or cook it. We also keep China in our home by having photos of friends from China, hanging scrolls and keeping things we brought with us from China displayed in the house.

Making sure to keep China a part of our lives, talking about it and participating in Chinese cultural events here in Perth has helped us to feel complete. There is no hole in our heart where China was because it has remained an integral part of what makes up our family. It is our children’s birthplace, and the place where Darren and I were married. Saying goodbye and moving to a new place cannot diminish how important China was and is to us.

Head Shot (1)Christa and her husband lived in China for 12 years. She met her husband, Darren, in China and they married there. Both of their two boys were born in China andlived there until 4 years ago. They moved to Australia, her husband’s home country, in 2010. She has been working with TCKs and other expats since moving to Australia. She is also the China promotions manager for Stacey College and Director of Student Services for Sheridan College. As part of her work she assists students in coming to Australia to study. You can visit her blog at staceycollege.com.

 

Thanks Christa for sharing today! So, readers, what do you want to take with you as you are preparing to leave? For those of you who have transitioned, what are other things that you were surprised about that may have followed you to the next destination? Share in the comments below!

Beach Therapy…for my daughter with special needs

20151003_162231For the past nine years we’ve found ourselves living as educators/cross-cultural workers/Christian workers (we’re still figuring out what to call ourselves) on an island that sits on the brink of the Pacific Coast. I have come to realize that being on the beach with a good book and drink is therapeutic to the mind, body, and soul. There is just something about the whooshing sound of the waves, the warm sun and sight of green mountains, blue sky, and blue/turquoise water that just makes me exhale deeply. Seriously, just writing about it I exhaled…

While I quickly discovered this amazing way to relax – remember I grew up in Midwest, USA – I had NO idea how taking my daughter with special needs would be beneficial to her as well. And to be honest, living overseas makes it difficult sometimes to find therapies for our TCKs with special needs. So, I love it when I can do things that I know are beneficial and inexpensive.

1. Digging in the sand – She uses both fine and gross motor skills as she digs holes and her sandpit is HUGE.
2. Filling buckets – with the sand that she just got from digging holes and also the countless trips back and forth to fill up the buckets with water to pour into the holes.20151003_160440

3. Sand – Just the texture of the sand itself is therapeutic. Many kids don’t like it, so they have to be introduced to it over and over – but others, like my daughter, LOVE it. For us, we had to teach her that it was not okay to put it in her mouth.

4. Running/walking in the sand – If you’ve ever tried running on the beach yourself, you know the workout you can get from it. Enough said.

5. Standing in the waves – This really depends on how strong the waves are. Of course, if they are pretty strong – then do not put your child in the water. But if the waves are mild, then the constant motion is great for balancing. *

6. Jumping the waves – I know our PT has worked with us on getting Jie Jie to jump and this is a fun way to jump over something.

7. Collecting shells – We can work on balance as she 20150919_160228bends over to pick up the shells and walking without dropping the shells out of the bucket.

8. Playing with the hermit crabs -Jie JIe is an animal lover, and last month her younger sister introduced her to hermit crabs. She loves picking them up and letting them scurry across her hand or trying to scare me with them.

9. Boogie boarding – My daughter is not able to do this completely on her own, but she loves to lay on the board and let the waves take her in and out. We also go out with her sometimes and help her catch a wave that is a bit farther out.

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10. Surfing – I’ve not had the opportunity to do this, but from reading about Surfer’s Healing, it is something I’d love for her to experience. Below is a picture of her out in the kayak with her dad – this girl loves the beach.20151003_151111

We’ve just moved to a new city, finally – but transition is rough. I think tomorrow we are in need of some therapy….beach therapy.

* Always be extra careful when taking your child with special needs out into the ocean. We always have Jie Jie wear a life-vest even when the water seems calm.

Your Turn: What are some activities that you have found therapeutic to you and has been good for your children as well? Please share below.

 

Book Review: ARRIVALS, DEPARTURES, AND THE ADVENTURES IN-BETWEEN

ARRIVALS, DEPARTURES, AND THE ADVENTURES IN-BETWEEN

by Christopher O’Shaughnessy

Published by Summertime Publishing, 2014

Here’s a book that is truly one of a kind on the subject matter of third culture kids. As a military kid, Christopher O’Shaughnessy understands living between worlds and cultures, while trying to figure out the identity as a third culture kid. He has a gift to write in a way that words on the page seem to just come to life. His memorable stories are hilarious, and yet at the same time they drive a point that will be remembered well after the book is put down.

To read the rest of this review at CLEW, click here.

If you’d like to read a different review, click here to read the one on Goodreads.

 

The Leaving Series Part 2: Leaving with Traditions

Welcome to Part 2 of the Leaving Series. If you want to read the first story click here. Today’s story comes from Beth Everett. I have not officially met Beth, but we have mutual friends and I’ve gotten to know some of her story through her writing around the web. Today she shares more about the transition that she is currently going through and how she is helping her children in the process.

We are right smack dab in the middle of transition. As I am writing this, the countdown calendar stuck on our bedroom door says we have 10 more weeks before we say goodbye and leave our home in China of almost nine years. 10 weeks! It feels like yesterday when I noted the six-month mark. So many emotions, so many thoughts on my heart waiting to be expressed.

One thought comes to mind now that I’d like to share…

 Leaving with Traditions

 Once we started our family almost eight years ago I had a desire to establish our own unique family traditions; the kind of traditions associated with special holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Over the years these have involved several things including special handmade decorations used every December as we read through the Jesus Storybook Bible; or the resurrection eggs that we hide in our neighborhood garden for the kids to find.

This past Easter I had been so wrapped up in the process of our upcoming move that I almost forgot about the little plastic Easter eggs … but my kids didn’t! They found them in the action packer that is being packed up with all of the other family tradition items. And so we made a plan for our annual Easter Sunday’s afternoon activity in the garden. I’m so glad we did not miss out on this fun opportunity to celebrate both the Resurrection Joy as well as keep some sense of stability with this tradition. Although many of the other details of celebrating Easter will change in our new location, our family-Easter-egg-hunt is now an established tradition that we can do anywhere.

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So we will pack our plastic eggs and look forward to hiding and finding them in a new garden next year.

Also on the list to be packed away for the move are a pretty round floral tablecloth, and several teacups, saucers and dessert plates. This past January, as we approached our six-month mark to departure, I wanted to try to establish a place and time when we purposefully paused in the day to find out how everyone was doing … a “how was your day?” kind of thing. My kids are still little (7yrs and 5yrs) so the conversations are not terribly deep, but a rhythm in our family life is being established. Several times a week, after I pick the kids up from the bus stop we have ‘teatime’. We have done it enough times, with the same tablecloth and accessories, that we can now call it an afternoon tradition. The kids eagerly anticipate it and chatter away about their day at school. During these times we have been able to talk about things they are going to miss, how they are feeling about the move, and also things they are looking forward to. Having this tradition in place seems to be helping with making conversations about leaving more natural in general.

second As a mom, this warms my heart, and I also look forward to pulling out that tablecloth on the other side of this big move, and finding a new yet familiar rhythm for sharing and debriefing in our new place.

But not all traditions involve items that need to be physically packed up for the move. Bedtime routines with the kids are now tradition too … a story, followed by each family member saying something they are thankful for about that day, and prayer time led by daddy. This routine will remain the same wherever we go even if we are stuck in a hotel in transit, or living in a temporary setting until we figure out where our more permanent home will be. I am hoping that even this simple nightly family tradition will provide some level of normalcy in the midst of the upheaval that inevitably comes with transition. And finally, one other tradition that reminds this mom, and hopefully her two little munchkins, that God is in control through every season of life: the tradition our family calls “Looking for God’s Surprises”.

third One bleak, gray, cold winter evening several years ago, I looked out across the city from our tenth floor apartment window and saw the sun determined to say farewell to the day through the haze. With a perfect circular orange glow (unfortunately seen more easily because of the pollution barrier) I felt as if God was whispering to me “I am here even in the midst of dark cold days! Look for me … you’ll always find me.” I called my kids to look out the window to see God’s surprise for us at the close of that day. Since then we have taken time to point out to each other God’s surprises in the sunrises and sunsets (both of which we can view from opposite sides of our apartment!), a rare full rainbow across the city, dainty ice formations in the dead of winter, a perfectly blooming rose along a messy roadside construction site, and many others. Even when traveling, daddy has been known to send us a picture and text message from his point of view of the setting sun before entering the train station, in order to share with us God’s surprise.

The phrase “Come see God’s surprise” has now become a tradition in our family, and one that we can take with us wherever we go, reminding us that no matter what the circumstance are, God’s beauty and presence does not cease to exist and we can find glimpses of it when we open our eyes with expectancy to see what is around us.

With all of the people, places and things we have to leave behind us as we relocate, it is with a deep sense of peace that I know we do take with us both memories and traditions. Cherished memories that can be reflected upon, and family traditions that can be continued.

Traditions provide stability, anticipation, hope and joy when shared together with those we love most … all things I long for, both during the intensity of transition with all of its loss and uncertainty, as well as that time when we finally feel settled again.

Thanks Beth for sharing today! 

BethBeth was born on the island of Barbados, in the West Indies. Her husband was born in America and her two children were both born in China. She likes to refer to her family as the A-B-C family (America-Barbados-China). She has lived almost all of her adult life in cultures and countries other than her original. This summer she will be relocating to Barbados, and learning how to adjust from living in a city of millions to living on a small island with her husband and kids.

 

If you want to share your story with us please email me at mdmaurer135{at}gmail{dot}com your story in a Word doc along with some photos. I’ll be posting one story every Thursday!

 

 

Homes Remembered…the expat life

TCKs struggle with the sense of home. If you raise a TCK or work with them – or really had any conversation with one that is semi-deep – then you already know this. It is not some life-changing news to you. If this is new to you, then I suggest that you read this, this, and this to get started – and then I’d Google it for more information.

Though I’m not a TCK, I feel as if I’ve lived long enough overseas and have moved often enough that I what I used to call “home” doesn’t feel like home anymore. Now, this doesn’t bother me so much as I’m older and mature (most days) and have learned to make “home” in whatever place we are at that moment. If this is something you struggle with I just read this great post from an adult TCK. Click here to read it.

What does bother me is that as I am getting older and we continue to move, that I am starting to remember stores or streets that we shopped at but can’t always remember what city/country it was in. For instance, I was shopping at a Costco here (I know, so spoiled!) and while shivering in the walk-in refrigeration section I was visited by a memory of the past: Ge Ge sitting in a shopping cart in the middle of a huge refrigerator room while I frantically picked over the meat and veges because he had on shorts and a T-shirt and the elderly ladies were starting to scold me for not putting enough clothes on him. I stood, still shivering, in that Costco refrigerator giggling and trying to remember what store and city/country I was in…after coming to my senses and before I turned blue, I grabbed what I needed and zipped out of there. Later, after my brain returned to normal temperature, I remembered where we were at…Metro, Wuhan, China. This is just one of many times where I was trying to remember some street, store, or event from another city/country.

Am I the only one that has moments where memories come to mind from days gone past and can’t remember where it took place? Is this just how it is for expats after years of moving around? The normal everyday places where we once called home become a foggy distant memory that visits us during trips to Costco, a market street, or even in a smile from a stranger at the post office?

Share your stories below in the comments section. I know I’m not the only one.

The Leaving Series: If you’d like to be a guest writer, I’m running a series on leaving. More detail can be found here.

The Leaving Series – Part 1: Taking Time to Process

Today I start off the series with my own leaving story. If you’d like to share your story email me an original story with some pictures at mdmaurer135{at}gmail{dot}com.

Though I have moved quite a bit this one was the hardest for me…

It is said that the process of moving starts six months before you actually take your mountain of luggage to the airport to leave behind family or friends that have become extended family. For me, those six months were full of anticipation, grief, craziness, and mixed with a sprinkling of peace. I’ve been in a place now for a few years where I can share the story without tears.

It was a move that I did NOT want to make.

It was a place with some major history for me  – engagement, marriage, and children.

It was a move of LOST dreams and dear friends that had become family.

It was our move from mainland China to Taiwan*.

In those last six months we got our match for the adoption and a 13-month old beautiful girl joined our family – four months BEFORE we left.20150416_110521

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“I’m a US citizen now!”

During this time of building RAFTs, saying good-byes, and deciding what to ship to Taiwan we took important trips to Guanzhou and Hawaii for Mei Mei’s US citizenship, neither trip restful. It was a crazy roller coaster ride in my life. I was jerked left, then right, and spinning upside down in speeds that I could not control. I wanted it to slow down. I wanted to relish every last minute in the place I had come to love dearly. I needed it to slow down – to process what was going on.

 

 

 

My wise husband planned a time for our family…

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After we said our teary good-byes to two very special ladies we boarded a plane to Hong Kong for a one week vacation on Cheung Chau Island which was exactly what my broken heart needed – a place to slow down and let my heart start to catch up with my mind. No more packing, no more good-byes, just rest.

From there we traveled to Taiwan to drop off some bags and to begin the process of our resident visas, then on to the US to visit family. During our time in the US, we were sent to a pre-field orientation by our new school. I know it sounds ridiculous that we’d been on the field for about ten years and going to a pre-field orientation, but I’m so glad we did. It was another time of processing for me. While my children were being cared for in the children’s program and my husband was attending meetings to help him with work related issues, I attended sessions for the trailing spouse. I cried some ugly tears during those sessions. My heart was allowed time to grieve.

I can’t say that there were no more tears after we arrived and settled in our new home. There were more, but what I can say is that the time we spent away reflecting and grieving were important, nay vital, for me.

If you are in the process of packing to move, can I suggest that after you leave and before you get to the new home that you plan a retreat to reflect on all that you have just gone through. To let your heart catch a breath, to rest, to grieve, to begin to dream of the next place. It’s not just good for you, but would be good for your kids as well.

Take time to say good-bye well.

Take time to remember those you left.

Take time to reflect on those last few whirlwind days.

Take time to grieve – it’s part of the process. Don’t fight it, just go along with it knowing it will get better with time. (I know, so cliche to say, but it’s true!)

And if possible, take time to go away to do the above. It is good for the mind to have a bit of a break BEFORE entering the new.

*Please note, that I’m not saying Taiwan is or is not its own country – that is too political and complicated. What I am saying is that I moved from a place governed by Communism to a place that is not. Also, each place is culturally different due to their history. 

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Arrived in Taiwan with a double stroller – HA!

 

Good-bye book

As parents we want to help our children adjust to changes as best we can. Living the nomadic lifestyle of an expat leads to a childhood where the ebb and flow of transitions becomes a normal feeling for our kids. People come and go in and out of their life just like waves lap with the tides – in and out, in and out.

It is consistent in that it constantly is moving, but just like waves transitions are not always graceful and easy. Sometimes they are stormy and just plain hard.

How can we help our kids through these times, especially if they are really young? Help them build a RAFT. This could look different for you, but for me it was making a Good-bye Book. Basically, I took pictures of people and places that were their favorite and made a book for them. After our move, we’d pull out the books and look at the photos and talk about the places that we left. It was good for all of us.

I’m a writer, so I crafted them after story books themes that I thought might work with each city. The kids were really young, so I used ideas that would appeal to that age, so we could go back and look at them after we moved. Now that the kids are older, I think I’ll still do something like this but use an online photo book to be printed out and get their input as well – cause I’m sure GeGe and Mei Mei will NOT want a toddler type book this time around.

Below are some pictures of different books that I did. They still like to go through and look at the pictures. They don’t remember the places, but it allows us to retell stories from those places to connect them to their own past. It helps them to develop their own story beginning…

Ge Ge was almost two when we left Shenyang, so I used an ABC style for his.

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When we left Wuhan, I made Mei Mei an Acrostic Book to remember her first home with us as a Maurer.
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For Ge Ge’s Wuhan Book, I did a theme on colors instead of the ABC’s. You can see that I did do an ABC book of Wuhan, but it was for Jie Jie.
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And speaking of stories, remember that I am still taking stories for The Leaving Series. There is NO deadline, just email me your story and some pictures if you have any. I will publish one story each Thursday. I’ll start the first of the series this Thursday – so if you don’t want to miss these stories make sure you are subscribed to receive notifications in your inbox. You can also like the Facebook page and get information about other places on the web that reports about raising kids overseas.

Book Review: SAFE PASSAGE by Douglas W. Ota

SAFE PASSAGE LowRES COVER
SAFE PASSAGE
by Douglas W. Ota
Summertime Publishing
Regardless how long someone has been an expat, mobility issues are a major part of their life. Many expats can quickly estimate how many boxes will be needed to pack their belongings. They know the routine of good-byes and hellos. From personal experience, they know the grief that trails after them from place to place.  They recognize this grief in their children, and may long for a ‘quick-fix’ to help them cope with this grief.
A new book by Douglas W Ota, Safe Passages:  How Mobility Affects People and What International Schools Should Do About It, might just be the essential resource needed for expats.
If you’d like to read more about this book, check out my review at ExpatArrivals.