the EXPAT FILES #3: The Overseas Life: Advantages – and costs for a young boy by Gene Waugh

In the 50’s and 60’s many expat children were sent to boarding schools by the time they reached high school age, as their parents wanted the best education for them.  It was tough for adolescents to be separated from their families for so long and in those days even phone calls could be difficult. They had to be independent at an early age: witness 8th grader Gene flying overseas in prop- planes – no doubt changing planes and managing customs on his own.  Below is Gene’s post:

        Born in 1943, I was named Kenneth after my Dad and Gene after Mother (Imogene).  They wanted to call me “Gene Kenneth Waugh” but that does not roll off the tongue as nicely as does “Kenneth Gene Waugh”.  I think I was a remarkably flexible, moldable child, rolling with the punches without even realizing I was being subjected to anything out of the ordinary.  Such was our first overseas move, to Peru.  Dad was Head of the Animal Husbandry Department at North Carolina State, and he accepted a short (2 – 3 year) leave of absence to work as an Agricultural Advisor at one of Peru’s major Experimental Farms.  Thus the adventure began in 1955! 

Gene Waugh standing in front with his sister, brothers, mother and friends in the flat bed.

Gene Waugh (center, kneeling with his arm around John) with his sister, brothers, mother and friends in the truck bed.

I went from grade school (6th grade) in a small North Carolina town (we lived in the country and had a fairly long bus ride to school) to being home schooled in Peru.  Home schooling was wonderful; we normally finished classes in the morning, so I had all afternoon to play, etc. We lived in “La Selva”, the rainforest’, with about 150 inches of rain per year—the house had not a single glass window!  Window screens and old-fashioned shutters.  Heat and humidity?  Well, we had it, but simply learned to live with it.

RF roatan ps-e0141 rf tree_e 0143

In the spring of 1957 the folks thought that their short-term leave of absence overseas tour was about over, so they sent me up to Indiana to live with my Mother’s folks and finish 8th grade at the local public school, just to see if I was up to speed.  Well, things changed that summer!  Dad liked the overseas work and  accepted a job with the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) that would take us to Colombia.  The folks, sister Lindel & brother John (the youngest) made the move from Peru to Bogota. 

That fall, rather than starting 9th grade in North Carolina, I flew to Bogota.  Those flights were something else – Super G Constellations, giant four-engine prop planes.

800px-Avianca_Constellation_Proctor

Super G Constellation prop-plane

Those of you a few years younger than I missed out on them; once the jets came on the scene, the passenger props disappeared pretty quickly.  Flying time was about twice that of the jets. 

I was enrolled at Colegio Nueva Granada (CNG) and ninth grade was great.  One of my major “life regrets” is that I did not complete my high school at CNG.  They added grades 10-12  just one year too late for me to make a seamless transition.  So, I went to a private military school for my remaining three years of high school.  Looking back, I wish the folks had simply sent me to another school in Bogota for a year to “mark time” and then I could have returned to CNG and completed high school, living at home.  Living at home those formative years is what the overseas life cost me, and I like to think I may have turned out differently had that been the case.  The Military School (Howe Military, Howe, Indiana) was good, it is just that when I did go off to college, I played.  Who knows, I may have done the same had I gone to CNG, too!

I did not really get to know Colombia as well as the rest of my family.  I only lived there full-time for one year, and my annual visits throughout high school.  I would have liked to go to Monserrate, Zipaquera etc.  I do, however, have great memories of Bogota, Cartagena, Santa Maria, Girardot, and  El Chivor emerald mine. 

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5 thoughts on “the EXPAT FILES #3: The Overseas Life: Advantages – and costs for a young boy by Gene Waugh

  1. Sounds like an adventurous life! Especially children who grow up in a different environment than us North Americans. Whenever I visit Canada, usually in the summers, I embrace the fact that I live in a different way, have a different way of life, now because I’ve lived in Spain for the past few years.

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  2. Will, I do not think Gene has seen you comment. He has been busy, but I will remind him to check his messages. Good question! I would like to know his answer. Oh, yes he does live in USA; Illinois. (PS Lindel is Gene’s sister. CCM)

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  3. Great blog post. These are rich memories to have from your childhood. Do you now live in Colombia or in the U.S.? and would you send your children to Peru or Colombia so that they would experience what you did?

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