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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.