Mid-Life Re-Connections: Expat File 24

Meet Kathleen Gamble a serial-expat who lived in 22 cities on 5 continents and travelled to over 40 countries. (That sounds like a record!)

Burmese dancing

I was born in Rangoon, Burma where my father was working in agriculture for the Ford Foundation. I made my first round-the-world trip when I was seven months old. At five years old my family and I survived a commercial airplane crash in Denver, Colorado.

~

Kathy ready for her British School, Mexico City

When I was six we moved to Mexico City where I attended a British school with children from over 30 different nationalities. From there we moved to Bogota, Colombia at 8,600 ft. up in the Andes Mountains where I met all kinds of interesting people.  When I was 16, we moved to Lagos, Nigeria. Some of my best times were spent in Africa wandering around the countryside. We didn’t always have electricity and the phones rarely worked, TV was non-existent, and every Sunday I religiously took my malaria pills. We read every book in sight and when all else failed, we played a good game of cards.

I spent my last two years of high school at boarding school traveling around Europe visiting art museums, famous landmarks, eating gelato and pizza in Italy, and drinking beer in Germany. I saw ruin after ruin in Greece and the silence of Dachau. 

That is how I grew up.

When I was 18, I went off to college in California totally unprepared for life in the USA.  I knew very little of the culture, history, or pop culture of the time. I was an American citizen. I looked like an American. I talked like an American. But I was very different. It was a difficult adjustment. 

~

The Kremlin along Volga River, Moscow

Fast forward twenty years, I was an expat sitting in a dark, drab apartment in Moscow, Russia, cruising the Internet. My one year old son was in the next room sleeping.  My husband was out. I came across an article titled “Global Nomads” by Norma McCaig. As I read it, I realized she had written an article about me.  I couldn’t believe it. She was describing me perfectly. She had the same experiences and feelings I did. I discovered I had a label. I belonged to a tribe! Wow!  Third Culture Kids, TCK. Hey, that’s me!

… TCKs take years to readjust to their passport countries… they suffer reverse culture shock… face an identity crisis…don’t know where they are from…have trouble settling down…prefer to socialize with other TCKs… develop chameleon like ability to become part of other cultures…” Norma McCaig

Yup, it was all there. 

I have been back living in my passport country for almost 20 years now and I function pretty normally. But the reality is I am different and there is always the question of ‘home’ and where I am ‘from’. And I still move a lot.

Just before the pandemic I moved for the 31st time.

~

View from my High School

A few years ago I went back to Europe for a high school reunion and it felt like going “home” because I re-connected with so many wonderful old friends.

I have been re-reading “Hidden Immigrants’ by Linda Bell. In this book she interviews people like me who grew up overseas, constantly moving. In one section she explores roots – Here Are My Roots. Most of us don’t identify with “place.” Our roots are in our friends and family.

“What ties do they (TCK’s) feel are important as they enter mid-life?….The answer is people – friends, and often old friends….For it is those old friendships that validate their childhood, reaffirm those places for them and tell them something about who they were at that time. People are real –better than pictures, better than memories. Even if they only connect with these people once a year, or see them very occasionally at school reunions, or write or call them infrequently, these connection are the bedrock of their past.”—Linda Bell

Mid-life crisis averted!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Third Culture Kid (TCK) Kathleen Gamble has a degree in Spanish and currently lives in St Paul, Minnesota.  In her free time she creates original needlepoint and other artwork.  You can follow her blog at PostcardBuzz.com or read her book Expat Alien available on Amazon. We will enjoy your comments and I’m sure Kathy is happy to answer any questions you may have.

Wildflowers in the Gold Country

Recently my husband and I visited the South fork of the Yuba River, just northwest of Grass Valley, California. It is only 500’ elevation, but features a whole different assemblage of flowers from where we live at ~ 300’ above sea level. I’d been waiting for the weather to warm up and it did – overnight – it was sunny and a bit hot.

Yuba River

`

There is a wonderful flower trail that follows the river. These white globe lilies or fairy lanterns were everywhere: Calochortus albus (click above to view more).

`

I don’t see this one often: Elegant Clarkia, C. unguiculata (which is hard to tell from C. rhomboidea, but I think I have id-ed correctly)

Elegant clarkia

.

Another prolific flower in the area was this spider lupin, so named for the leggy form of the leaves. Lupinus benthamii occurs between the  Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada foothills , and is not seen in the lower elevations. 

Spider lupin

.

Surprisingly ubiquitous was the endemic snakelily, also called twinning brodiaea (Dichelostemma volubile.) Note how the stems intertwine, almost like a vine.

Twinning Brodiaea

.

The aptly named Pretty Face or Golden brodiaea (Triteleia ixioides) is not uncommon in these foothills of the Gold Country. I find the dark brown marks on the buds appealing.

Pretty Face

~~~

The next day we ventured farther south down a dirt road to the north fork American River.  We discovered the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic but not to pedestrians.

N. fork American River

Pacific Asters – Symphyotrichum chilense – even though they are not found in Chile. A favorite of butterflies.

The temperature was at least 10 degree warmer here. Walking down to the river to dip our toes in the cold water, we came upon a lone prospector. Yes, they still pan for gold, mostly unsuccessfully, but this man was digging the coarse sand of the riverbank.  He had lugged down various tools and claimed he’d had modest success over a 30 yr. period.

These are one of my favorites, maybe because they are not found in profusion. Silene californica or Indian pink.

Indian Pink

.

The yellow mariposa lily, Calochortus luteus, is another species endemic to California. Like many Mariposa Lilies it has “hairy” petals and grows from a bulb. Actual size of the flowers is less than 1-inch across

Milkweeds get their name from the sticky white sap that oozes from the leaves when they are damaged. Never judge a plant by its name: this North American wildflower isn’t really a weed at all and isn’t the color glorious? It is the main host plant for the struggling monarch butterfly. I encourage you to plant this easy care native if you live in Monarch country (realize they are winter dormant however).  Asclepias cordifolia . Notice the wild garden in the background in the first photo below – very often, when a couple of wildflowers catch your eye, there are different species to see when you get closer.

.

Enjoy the spring weather and flowers!

Flowers and Fires

Finally it is spring again.  Last year we were ordered to stay close to home and parks were closed because of Covid, so I missed out on all my California wildflower outings.  I’m making up for it this year!

First hike: on the King Mountain trail just north of San Francisco April 1. All of the photos show indigenous species.

The views were nice too. Below is the northern part of San Francisco Bay.  In the distance is Mt. Diablo – a landmark for miles around. 

Below the bird, the peninsula jutting out next to the bridge is San Quentin Prison; at least they have fresh air and the sound of the birds – a few miles away is the prison of Birdman of Alcatraz fame.

Collinisia heterophylla, Chinese Houses – the petals ring the stem in bands evenly spaced around the stem, forming a “pagoda” – hence the common name.
Chinese Houses en masse at another nearby location.

A week later we drove north to Lake Berryessa where one of the huge fires burned last year. A silver lining can be seen in the hills and meadows: wildflowers and other natives can really make a come-back when European weeds are killed off and they don’t have to compete for sun, water and food. Fires also helps eradicate plant diseases and possibly serious insect infestations.


Golden poppies, Eschscholzia californica, taking over a burnt hill. This is not an uncommon sight.They provide vegetative cover that helps to reduce erosion on steep slopes after the protective plant cover has been burned off.  

  

Another survivor. How did this species survive a mega fire? These large Gopher Snakes (this one was almost 5-ft. long) mimic rattlesnakes, but are not poisonous.

Clematis ligusticifolia virgin bower. This is the native clematis vine.

Welcome sweet springtime – clad in Mother Nature’s jewelry!

A Memoir of Life in the US Foreign Service : Expat File #23

My guest today is Judith Crockett Faerron who was born and raised in Latin America. She and her sister honored their father recently by editing and publishing his memoir, which I can highly recommend.  I met the family when I lived in Costa Rica, but reading the book gave me a fascinating insight into their lives and allowed me to reminisce about my own diplomat father and our lives in an overlapping time period.

The children of US expats, my siblings and I grew up primarily in Mexico and Central America.

Cayuco ride to Barra Ahumado, Guatemala 1958

Foreign Service officers are typically transferred every two to four years. Our parents—Mary and Kennedy Crockett—always presented the prospect of moving on as an exciting adventure, and for the most part we bought into that notion. In retrospect, their itinerant lifestyle interfered with our education, shattered friendships, and deprived us of relationships with grandparents and extended family.

The Crockett family station wagon and luggage trailer on a railroad flatcar in Mexico, bound for a new assignment in Guatemala,1958.

And yet, we wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world.            

The benefits were immense. We grew up bilingual and bicultural. Because our parents were avid outdoors-people, we got to explore and enjoy a beautiful part of the world while it was still pristine. As my dad’s career advanced from shipping clerk to US ambassador, we got to meet and interact with people from all walks of life—humble country folk to powerful heads of state. And each of us was imbued with a passion for travel, adventure and Latin American culture.

Favorite camping spot on Playa Pochomil, Nicaragua

I ended up living in Costa Rica for 17 years, where I married, raised two kids, and worked for an English-language newspaper. My brother lived and worked in Central America for many years. Two of my sisters stayed on in Nicaragua after our dad retired and became a cattle rancher near the southern border—until the Sandinista revolution forced them all to flee the country.

Our dad realized early in his career that he wanted to write about the experiences he was determined to have living abroad as a US diplomat. He kept detailed journals, copies of letters, official reports, and hundreds of photos. Wading through it all after his retirement, he produced a 170,000-word manuscript that I eventually edited into a 327-page book—The Diplomat: A Memoir of Life in the US Foreign Service (1943-1970).

The new US ambassador presents credentials to Nicaraguan president, Anastasio Somoza, 1967.

As often as possible, Dad liked to keep his stories short and amusing—often self-deprecating. He wrote about the business end of a foreign service officer’s duties—from interviewing a wide range of visa applicants and assisting US expats in trouble, to identifying an interim leader for a Caribbean nation in crisis and brokering an informal peace agreement between a Central American dictator and his political nemesis. He also wrote about his personal interests: camping, hunting, fishing, exploring jungles and beaches, and fitting in as many adventures as he possibly could.

Dad ended his narrative with his retirement at age 50, but when I finally tackled the manuscript 30 years later, I couldn’t resist adding an afterword about his subsequent ranching venture and final years back in the USA. My sister, Terry Esquivel, wrapped it up with an epilogue about her 2002 trip to revisit Nicaragua and the various places the family called home.

Dad takes a break with Pancho the parrot. Nicaragua 1969

While our goal was to honor dad’s wish to publish his memoir, it’s rewarding to hear from readers who have enjoyed his story and to know his legacy will endure.  Judith Crockett Faerron

Judith would be glad to read your comments and to answer any questions you may have.





Here’s to 2021

Sometimes a year has been so disastrous and bad that January 1 inevitably means entering a Wonderful New Year! I don’t usually stay up until midnight to see the New Year in, but I may stay up to make sure the old year leaves!

By Greg Evans

………..

I hope you had a quiet holiday and helped stop the viral spread… so we can celebrate the new without fear or dread.


………..

Here’s a toast to the future and to my friends, far and near.

Cheers to new beginnings! The USA not only welcomes a New Year, but a fresh start and hope for a better future domestically and globally.

For last year’s words belong to last year…..And next year’s words await another voice.” —T.S. Eliot

”Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.-Oprah Winfrey

Here’s to a bright New Year. 2021… the world welcomes you.

A Tale of Two Turkeys

The first time I saw a turkey in our neighborhood was over 10 years ago – on Thanksgiving day! I thought maybe he had escaped the ax. Since then turkeys have expanded and taken up residence. We often have wild turkeys on the slope in front of our house – more over the years. Once we had a whole flock sitting on the porch when we woke up in the morning, peering in the window to see what we were up to.

PEEPING TOMS

The other day we went outside and there were eight or ten of them pecking at the slope. Usually they just slowly wander off when they see us, but one of them was closer and she panicked. I heard a bang and knew she had flown into the pergola.  The poor thing was flopping on the porch with one wing out and couldn’t seem to stand so that she was scrabbling her way off the two porch steps with her claws. Almost immediately a huge turkey flew so close over our heads we ducked. Turkeys don’t fly when they can walk, so this was unusual, but this one was on his way to protect his mate.

A Handsome Tom

The other turkeys had mostly disappeared, but a few were peeking out behind bushes at the top of the slope. Soon all of them were craning their necks to watch their friend below walk-drag herself across the bricks while her companion stood guard next to her. His tail feathers were on display, perhaps to make himself look larger to predators, as she made her way to the relative safety of a shrub by the fence. There they rested, but we didn’t have much hope for her and thought we would have to call animal control to come put her away… or pick up a dead bird.

None of the pictures are from this drama, as the turkeys were stressed enough without us.  (Most of the photos above are from previous shots of their visits in the last year or two.) We were inside where we could watch from the window without alarming them. Amazingly the pair made it up to the road over the next 15 min. where they were well hidden in some bushes. When I walked up the drive to get the mail a couple of hours later they were gone. I took this to be good news – that they may have made it “home.” We wish them well!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

Notes: Wild turkeys are not native to California: they were introduced in second half of the last century as a hunting bird.  People have mixed feelings about them as they migrate into residential areas – they are attractive and amusing, but leave their droppings on patios, decks and cars and can damage gardens. Turkeys change the color of the skin on their heads from red to blue to white, depending on whether they are calm or excited. During the breeding season, turkeys can become aggressive occasionally even charging people, but mostly they “attack” the tires of cars going down the hills of this semi- rural area. Everyone seems to slow down for them and I’ve never seen a dead one on the road despite their foolish bravado.

A Hidden Immigrant – Expat file #22

 

This post is from a fellow EXPAT who blogs under the handle: “fine roadkillspatula.wordpress.com” 😉

I learned an insightful new term the other day on a site that focuses on life overseas. The author refers to a “hidden immigrant” as “One who speaks the language – looks the part – but is missing social cues and cultural meanings.”

When I started college in 1977, I had lived a total of 3 years of my life in the US. The other 15 years had been spent in several parts of Colombia.

In Colombia I was clearly an outsider. I spoke fluent Spanish, but I was a foot taller than most people and had blond hair and blue eyes. Little kids used to run after me shouting, “¡Gringo! ¡Gurbai! ¡Guachirnei! ¡Sábana biche!”* I had very good Colombian friends but was usually on the edge of what was happening socially. (Introversion is not a desirable trait in Latin America.) My closest friends were other missionary kids from the US and Canada.

So when I got to college, I looked like one more gringo in a university full of gringos, speaking good English, knowing the basics of survival. But there was a lot I didn’t know, and plenty that I learned but didn’t care for. 

I coped by finding niches: InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (I could relate to evangelicals, especially intellectual ones); majors in Latin American Studies and Spanish (familiar language and material, people interested in Latin America); international student friends (people from home or places like it). I also traveled home as often as I could, and to Dallas where many of my high school classmates settled. I wrote letters constantly to friends and family.

In relating to Americans, though, it felt like I was setting aside 15 years of my life and operating on a couple of years of out-of-date experience. As the years went by, I got better and better at it, and felt more comfortable. By the time I reached grad school, I felt like an 8-cylinder engine hitting on six, comfortable and competent but not fully confident.

I noticed that my mind made a big switch when I traveled to and from Colombia. When I flew into Medellín, everything looked crowded and small and messy. By the time we drove across the city and started up the mountain to our house, my perspective was restored and everything looked just right. When I flew back into the Miami airport, everything was huge and clean and people were big and fat. It usually took a couple of days for it to quit being strange. One time I was clear back in Lawrence, KS, and had to run an errand downtown. I saw someone across the street and wondered, “Who’s that gringo?

This mental switch fascinated me. I chose to study intercultural communication for my Master’s, thinking I could work with people who planned to go overseas and prepare them for cultural adaptation. 

Once my classes were done, I spent a year in Honduras working with refugees. It was a wonderful environment; the agency had recruited missionary kids from Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, fresh out of college, because we knew Spanish and were comfortable living in primitive circumstances. It felt great to get back to Latin America and make use of those years that had been set aside.

Since then, nearly all my jobs have been multicultural and multilingual (I’ve deleted a few that weren’t relevant):

Refugee logistics worker (Mocoron, Honduras) – 1984-1985.
Purchasing agent (self-employed, Miami; clients agencies in Latin America) – 1985-1986.
Administrative assistant (charitable agency in Miami serving the Hispanic community) – 1985-1987.
Community researcher (mission agency in Miami) – 1985-1987.
Admissions clerk (missionary linguistics school, Dallas) – 1988.
Training/teaching assistant (missionary linguistics school, Dallas) – 1988-1990
Adjunct professor of linguistics (missionary linguistics school and University of Texas at Arlington) – 1990-1991.
Linguistics professor (several Bible schools and missionary training centers, Costa Rica) – 1991-1995.
Teaching assistant, linguistics (missionary linguistics school, Dallas) – 1996-1997.
Professor of English as a Second Language (two language schools, a community college) – 1997-1998.
Translator (two agencies in Dallas) – 1998-2000.
High school Spanish teacher (Mansfield, TX) – 1999-2000.
Translator (another agency in Dallas and now Tampa) – 2000-present.

At this stage of my life, I’m a voluntary outsider to American culture. Alicia and I talk Spanish to each other. We eat a Colombian diet and hang out with Alicia’s sister and brother-in-law and sing Spanish songs. We travel to Colombia every six months. I like living in the US, but am grateful for the multicultural nature of my employment and my marriage and for the Latin grocery store nearby. I feel more fully integrated as a person than at any time in my past. 

*Three of those four expressions are attempts at English. If you read them phonetically you can figure them out.

 

 

Enter Imogen (Scene One) .. from One Third Culture Kid

My name is Imogen Lee, and I can recite all of Macbeth by heart. See, this is because my grandmother, who raised me, is always saying bits of it, and when I got old enough to read she made me read the whole thing and then we performed it together, just the two of us. It is just the two of us. After I get home from school Grandma and I are together. She doesn’t work, But don’t worry: my dad let us plenty of money when he died. I was four. Mom died when I was zero, I suppose. It was when she was having me.

Oh, but I have to tell you my story! It all started a month ago when my teacher made a special announcement.

“Class before you go, I have a special announcement. Burgundy Elementary is going to be holding a Talent Chow! In honor of our student Beth, who won ‘America’s Got Talent’ last year, we will hold our show in the same way. Four judges. One winner.

“Anyone who wishes to compete should submit their name to me by the end of the week.”

Well, nobody could talk about anything else after that announcement. We were all so excited. We were all sure we were going to win………… to be continued  Enter Imogen (Scene One)

Patriotism and Democracy

July 4th is Independence Day for the USA. Patriotism isn’t just waving the flag, it is about supporting democracy. It may not be a perfect system, but it is the best foundation we have for peace, harmonious societies, and stable markets.

Illustration by Christoph Niemann; Animation by Olivia Blanc

In this time of hyper-partisanship, this is a nonpartisan call for a concerted effort to invest in all of the institutions of a transparent democratic society:

  1. Recognition of the worth and dignity of every person;
  2. Faith in majority rule and
  3. Minority rights (equal rights and opportunities)
  4. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press
  5. Respect for the balance of powers – executive, judicial and legislative.

It seems that last one: respect for a balance of powers – executive, judicial and legislative – holds up all the rest of them. When one branch seizes power from the rest, it threatens all of our rights and freedoms.

 

from: International Idea

 This is not just an American institution; activists and leaders around the world are fighting for basic freedoms every day.  If the standard falls we must rally to pick it up. As the U.S. flag waves this week, I leave you with the words of Walt Whitman expressing the ideals on which democracy is built.

Did you, too, O friend, suppose democracy was only for elections, for politics, and for a party name? I say democracy is only of use there that it may pass on and come to its flower and fruit in manners, in the highest forms of interaction between people, and their beliefs – in religion, literature, colleges and schools- democracy in all public and private life.

Walt Whitman