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.

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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. 

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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.

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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!

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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.

“Life in Russia” meets “A Place in the World” – Expat File #10

Our guest post today is by Steve Hague, an expat who married a Russian and shares with us his views on life in Russia today. He and his wife live in the large and interesting city of Kazan on the banks of the Volga River.2007-01-02 10.39.50

Pursuing the Purple Magic Liquor

In my last post I finished with “pursuing a dream is very important”. In the States I always felt as if I was in a slumber. Like Rip Van Winkle I pursued the purple magic liquor of success never quite reaching it. Chasing the dream and living the dream are two very different things. Being brought up in America we are taught success is everything, and fail to recognize the important things in life. As if (I’d been) living in a cave, I feel like I’ve emerged into a very real world called “Russia”. I’m not Washington Irving but I’d like to share with you my story. A story about waking up and living my “Life in Russia”.

Life is Hard in Russia

So what is life really like in Russia? I’d like to say it’s like living in a fairytale but everyone would know it isn’t true. The reality is life is hard in Russia. Yet when one looks close………really close something different appears. Repairing shoes isn’t easy, selling a few onions doesn’t feed the family, the lonely elderly gentleman selling a single bunch of flowers doesn’t bring in much. Yet the fisherman can give directions from his smart phone and the open market is full of vegetables. Each of them from the youngest to the oldest found something they could do, no one stops them from being productive. They all know their place in this world and are not ashamed to walk in it.

 The Third Capital of Russia

What can I tell you about Kazan. Well, the Kazan Kremlin, the heart of more than a 1000 year-old city, is a World Heritage Site. We also have the second oldest university in Russia, Kazan Federal University was founded in 1804. In 2009 was officially branded as “the 3rd Capital”and also as the “sport capital” of Russia”. Living here is very much like living in any big city in America. We have our Mega Malls, fast food restaurants, theaters, and the list goes on. One of the major differences are the sidewalks, did I surprise you? Yes we have them but here you have to constantly be paying attention to were you are walking. Otherwise you might find yourself doing a face plant or much worse. Interestingly enough I’ve felt safer here then when I lived in America. When I first came we walked down dark alleys, and places one would never walk in a big city in America. No one has ever bothered us.

Bridging the divide between faiths

Kazan is a very fascinating place, it’s one of the few places were Christianity and Islam live in peace with one another. Tatarstan is an unusual example of a Russian region where the majority of the population is Muslim, but where inter-ethnic and interfaith strife is rare. Back in 2009 Hillary Clinton visited Kazan in an effort to discuss how to bridge the divide between faiths. In my own experiences I been able to gain a greater understanding and respect for those who practice Islam and the Russian Orthodox religions. The top left picture is the Temple of all Religions which really isn’t a temple but a mission, a “temple of culture and truth”.

This is only the Beginning

So to sum up my life here I’d say it’s been quite interesting. I’ve been able to travel to Israel, Cyprus, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladimir, Suzdal, Bolgar and many other places. I’ve meet wonderful people along the way that have enriched my journey and have changed my life. This is only the beginning and hope to spend much more time exploring this incredible country.