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.

Old Doors – photo “challenge”

Every week Norm Frampton’s blog has a photo “challenge” to share your favorite door photos from around the world. As it happens I have a collection of photos of doors, gathering dust – so to speak – in my computer.  So here are a couple from Europe.

This first one is an ancient wooden door from an old Norman tower in the Alsace region of France.  It is within 100 ft of a small river and you can see some apparent flood damage on the bottom of the wood (there may also have been a moat). I’m amazed and rejoice that it has survived through the centuries.

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Door at the base of a Norman tower. CCM


The door below is from the last century (Art Deco maybe?).  I found it on a shopping street in Budapest.

Elegant shop in Budapest. (photo by CCM)

Elegant shop in Budapest. (photo by CCM)

Thanks Norm for the forum!

If you would like to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing it : https://miscellaneousmusingsofamiddleagedmind.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/thursday-doors-june-2-2016/


Two Weeks between PARIS and LA MANCHE (the English Channel)

France is on my mind after the events of last week. I flew home from Paris only three weeks ago. After a peaceful trip with some lovely people, it’s hard to imagine the horrors of the terrorist attack last week. I’ll focus on the former in honor of the world’s most beloved culture and le joie de la vie française.   WP_20150929_21_02_02_Pro

My friend Sue asked me to share an apartment with her for a week in Paris.  Not wanting to fly all the way to Europe for only a week, I looked for something else a single traveler could do. I hit upon a four night cruise down the Seine and back with a French cruise line which was reasonably priced and had a very low single supplement fare.

We started in Paris in the evening, which is where all my pictures from this previous post came from: https://cindamackinnon.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/paris-at-night-city-lights-photos/

hotel de ville i thnk_41_06 psThe 95% of the cruisers were French and the rest were Europeans and Canadians, while only three were Americans. This gave me an excellent chance to practice my French, although twice I got lost in one on one conversations that went on for another ten or more minutes. I had a vague idea of the topic, (at that time the main topic of conversation was the refugees), but I was too embarrassed to tell the man at that stage that I had no idea what point he was trying to make!

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The itinerary stated we would “pass through the town of Vernon…. arriving in Les Andelys.” Now wouldn’t you think that would mean that we could get off in Les Andelys? No, not allowed! Only those who were going on the rather expensive excursion by bus could get off, but they didn’t get to walk around the charming town of Les Andelys either. I had not signed up for the excursion because I didn’t want to spend 6-7 hours on a bus (especially since I had jet lag).

Les Andelys

Les Andelys

The bus folks met us that night in Rouen, the former capital of Normandy and home of Joan of Arc.

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Rouen Cathedral – difficult to photograph as other buildings prevent you from stepping back to get the whole edifice in your view finder.

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A close up of the intricate details and in slightly different lighting.









William the Conqueror was present for the original consecration of Rouen Cathedral in 1063.  It later destroyed but rebuilt over the centuries in the Gothic style so admired by Claude Monet who created some 30 paintings of the facade in a variety of lighting.

Next time: Honfleur, Giverny and Rouen. …and there will be a quiz 😉


The view of Budapest as we approached the city along the Danube one evening was jaw-dropping. As far as architecture this is my favorite city in Central Europe – perhaps all of Europe.

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Hungarian Parliament on the left.


It began as two cities Buda and Obuda (Pest) but was unified into a single city in 1873. The West side is Buda with Castle Hill and Fisherman’s Bastion; we stayed on the Pest (Parliament side).

It deserves one more picture - a close up.

It deserves one more picture – a close up.

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Strolling around Pest we came upon some street dancers. They would perform and then anyone could join in.



Any evening you can come across these strange, pedal-powered vehicles carrying noisy young people guzzling beer and listening to loud music. Foreigners can buy tickets too, tour the city  while partying at the same time.

Beer pedalers… (not peddlers)


Also on the Pest side is the Synagogue.  It is hard to get a great shot from the street but this gives you a glimpse I hope is worthwhile.















Budapest  was the second capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire ( the first being Vienna). Hence the Baroque Opera House was modeled on the magnificent Viennese Opera House.  All the marble you see is faux i.e. painted – they did a fabulous job!

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Entrance to the Opera

Entrance to the Opera

Central stairway

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Opera boxes

Opera boxes



The Chain Bridge was built between 1839 and 1849. (Like many other Danube bridges, the Chain Bridge did not survive the ravages of the World War II; it was rebuilt in 1949.)


Chain Bridge

We found it fairly easy to get around on the Pest side (it is flatter and more modern, but still plenty of wonderful old sites to see), both by tram and bus. Other places to go are the thermal Baths and Hero’s Square – there are museums, more architecture, statues, a lake and pretty grounds.

I will save the Buda side of Budapest with Castle Hill for next time. If anything it is even more fabulous! And I have a video – of a large fountain with music and a light show – I need to figure out how to post. Hope to see you then.

Please leave any “travel comments” for the next guy – or me! Has anyone gone to the baths? We missed the soak – would love to hear about it.

REGENSBURG and PASSAU: our trip continues along the Danube River

Even before medieval times Bavaria, Germany’s largest state, had an interesting history. In the last post I mentioned the numerous Paleolithic discoveries; the next known inhabitants were the Celts whom the Romans subdued. The Roman centre of administration for this area was Castra Regina: modern-day Regensburg – one of the best preserved old cities and the oldest on the Danube. The following picture is the remains of the Roman gates built in 179 AD. In use into the 1700’s they were then plastered and built over until they were rediscovered in 1885.

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The only remaining Roman gate in Europe. The steps still lead into town.


A history professor we met on this trip told us that it is speculated the name Bavaria comes from the Romans calling the Teutonic tribes on the “other (northern) side” of the Danube “Barbarians” and this later became Bavarians. (The Latin is Latin Baiovarii)

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Oskar Schindler saved over 1200 Jews from certain death during the Nazi terror. He lived here in 1945-1950. (The apartment itself is hardly photo-worthy – thus I contented myself with the plaque.)

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The maze of alleys are fun to wander – this one is near Schindler’s apartment.











Regensburg is still a residential town.

This 500 year old kitchen, located right on the river bank of the Danube, has stood through centuries of wars and floods.  We didn’t get to try any of the famous sausages however, as when we came back hungry a couple of hours later, the rest of the world had the same idea.This 500 yr old wurst kuche is said to be the oldest restaurant in Germany.

This 500 yr. old wurst küche is said to be the oldest restaurant in Germany.

The Alte Rathaus – built in the middle ages was used until baroque times as the seat of the Reichstag government –  almost 150 yrs.

Regensburg Rathaus.     You can see the pulpit in the centre where the mayor or the bishop used to address the towns people.

Regensburg Rathaus. You can see the pulpit in the centre where the mayor or the bishop used to address the towns people.



Passau lies at the confluence f the Inn, Ilz and the mighty Danube Rivers near the Czech and Austrian borders with Germany.

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Passau surrounded by the Danube (foreground) and the Inn Rivers (in back).

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(note: the map orientation is opposite of the photo above)




Passau waterfront

Passau waterfront


It is pleasant to stroll the narrow streets – with little traffic.

Alleyway leading to the cathedral

Talented singers in the square.

Talented singers in the square.

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Hallway of the Bishops’s Palace

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Entrance to the palace.











Passau’s history also encompasses the Roman and medieval periods,but its architecture is decidedly Baroque.












We listened to (a surprisingly – and somewhat disappointingly –modern) organ concert in the over-the-top baroque of St Stephens Cathedral. I think I was expecting Bach!

Europe’s largest church organ.

Europe’s largest church organ.

Passau has a large museum devoted to glass made from 1600- 1950’s. I was taken with these painted stemwares.

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This tower looks like a relic of the middle ages – you almost feel you are walking back in time. Note watermark from the floods of 2013.

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The Danube River reached its highest level in 500 years and people had to be rescued from their homes. Amazing that structures like this tower and the old sausage kitchen (above) have survived for centuries on its banks!

Passau flooded 2013 (thetimes.co.uk)

Passau flooded 2013 (thetimes.co.uk)

Have you been to either of these towns? What do you think of the Baroque style? How would you like live in charming Passau – surrounded by rivers that could flood with rainstorms upstream?



An Experience in ALSACE

We stayed at the small Hotel Le Moulin on a little river.  Having visited many of the big cities in Europe we decided to spend our first days in the Alsace country-side.  We went to sleep listening to the river and woke to bird song and recouped quickly from jet-lag.  Our days were spent exploring the history of a picturesque town nestled between forests and vineyards next to the Vosges Mts.

Hotel Le Moulin

Hotel Le Moulin


Just down the road and downstream from  our inn was this Tower built in 1420.



Tom, my geologist husband, not only admires the architecture of old buildings, but also examines rocks used in construction.

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These sandstone blocks are continental in origin (as opposed to marine) and aeolian (ancient sand dunes).


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Picturesque little house on the canal










Le Patisserie window






Canal through downtown Wissembourg.  A town far enough off the beaten track that not even the woman at the Tourist Information kiosk spoke English – to my delight! (I used to be able to practice my language skills in Europe, but nowadays it is harder to find someone who doesn’t speak English well!) I was surprised a TI even existed in this town – but there were some German tourists interested in the history and charm.


Canal through town


The photo below shows an old Custom house (on left) used before the European Union, at a small town French-German border.  The little blue sign reads Bundes-Republik Deutschland.

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Nowadays one just drives across.  What a difference it was 25 yrs. ago when a German guard held us for almost an hour since he couldn’t understand my German (understandably), claiming he spoke no English or French (less understandable…what is the likelihood of someone who lives on the border not to speak French?)

I was dying to pee when he finally let us go and as soon as we came to a quiet spot with some trees, I ran into the bushes. I noticed a straight trench that was grown over and partially filled in; with a jolt I recognized it as a World War I trench. On this spot, and in the whole area, so many young men died on both sides.  I will never forget that eerie sensation – more disconcerting than any other gravesite – it was hallowed ground.  It began to thunder and I could almost imagine the fear of hearing the shells overhead.  My great uncle died in WWI – age 18. I looked around and none of the trees were more than 60 years old (I was there in the late 80’s) when the vegetation was annihilated by the war.

Hiking around the other day we found evidence of other WWI trenches.  Nothing worth a picture unfortunately. I wish I had a picture of that trench I discovered on my first trip to the French-German border I remember it as near Strasbourg, but my husband thinks we crossed farther north, near Bitche.  Here is photo from the internet of Canadian soldiers fighting in a trench during WWI.




Traveling often yields unexpected experiences: educational,  mind-blowing, humorous or yielding a new understanding and appreciation.  Do you have one to share?