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Olympic Torch Run with Julia Simens: Common Expat Mistakes


From the Vault: Building interest in the Olympics

You have got to love International Schools field trips!

You have got to love International Schools field trips! AISL -Nigeria to Greece – so much learned.

The Olympic torch has been lit in southern Greece, kicking off the countdown to Rio 2016. Grant and I were lucky enough to visit the site of Ancient Olympia. The Games were first held there in 776BC and remained there for 12 centuries.

This week, the flaming torch, which has a Twitter account, was handed to its first torchbearer, gold medal-winning Greek gymnast Eleftherios Petrounias, before beginning its six-day relay across the country.

My version of being involved in the Olympic torch relay several years ago is not as glamourous of this event in  Greece was where women in ancient-Greek-style dresses and men in tunics performed the symbolic rituals of cutting the olive branch and releasing a white dove into the blue spring sky, both symbolizing peace.

It all started out as an interesting thing to do. 

Just two American’s going to see the Olympic torch run through the streets of Bangkok.

First, the warning in the local paper…titled-”You’ll be playing with fire”.

Bangkok police stated protesters disrupting the Olympic-torch relay will be arrested immediately and prosecuted for public disturbance. Foreigners will be expelled and banned from returning. Those with residency will have it revoked permanently.

Still Kevin and I wanted to see something we had never seen before.

Flags in Bangkok

Flags in Bangkok

Then, the notice that 2,000 law-enforcement officers will be on duty and that “Bangkok has prepared everything to ensure the smoothness of the ceremony. It even showed two police officers assigned to protect the Olympic torch study a handbook on running.  I didn’t even know there was a “Handbook on running.”  I wondered if I needed a copy but decided we would just be on the sidelines and not running with the torch.

The day arrived, and Kevin and I headed out to the course which had been layout in the Bangkok Post. We decided not to be at the beginning of the race since it was starting at the Chinese Gates and we knew this would be an area hard to get our car in and out.  We opted to stop near the Democracy Monument.  Our Driver, Somchai found a parking spot near a temple.  This was ideal; we could buy cold local beer and even pay the 20 baht fee to get into the temple to use a bathroom if we needed.

Perhaps we should have paid more attention to what we were planning to do, what we were wearing and even perhaps who we should be going with to this event.  I thought nothing of putting on my made in Italy eyeglasses and a green top.  Of course, the matching green Capri pants would allow me some “coolness” as well as the ability to sit on a curb.  Kevin grabbed his new green Roatan shirt with the cute turtle logo and put on his dark shades.  At the last minute, I grabbed a light umbrella to keep the direct heat off of us.

Wearing green on Saturday in Thailand is often seen as unlucky. Why didn’t I remember that?  I was always good at wearing yellow on Mondays.

We scanned the crowded street and found a wide open area where most of the people were already lined up on the shaded side of the race route.  We were well prepared, so we opted for the less crowded sunny side.  As I settled into the curb area, Kevin grabbed two cold “Leo” beers.  A local cheap, almost impossible beer to drink but ideal when the temperature is approximately 100 degrees and the humidity is high. I noticed that we were the only non-Thai or non-Chinese people on the street.

Beer runs -Tropics – Temples – is this a good idea?

The race was slow in starting, so this required another beer run. All in all, that was not a bad idea.  Leaving me on the curb with a small plastic bag full of empty cans might have been just too much.  When Kevin returned, he wondered why this Thai man had decided to take up a spot on my right shoulder when the area around us was still almost empty. I wondered also and drank my beer.

Then, the people across the street started to get excited, one of them had a phone that informed him that the race had begun.  Kevin and I moved to our left about two steps to get a good clear view of the soon to be torch sprinter. The Thai gentleman stepped with us. Strange.  The racer was moving closer, flashing police cars were coming ahead of the parade.  The sponsor’s floats were soon in front of us.  I moved back this time to get a photo of the float. Strange, the man moved back with me two steps.  No matter where I tried to get a clear and clean picture, I had this man’s arm or head in my camera shot.

 

So instead of trying to “Not get him”. I focused my camera more on the view of him, forgetting the floats in front of me.  As I slowly click away on my digital camera, I finally focused on his cell phone and the small red words on it.  I zoomed in and slowly the words came into focus . . . p.o.l.i.c.e.  Yes, finally for the first time in my life (to my knowledge) I was pegged as a “concern”.  I had my own police guard.

My Dancing Partner on the Streets of Bangkok

My Dancing Partner on the Streets of Bangkok

Kevin was still unsure why this man was keen always to be between my camera and the race causing me not to see the race. Kevin was starting to get annoyed.  It must have looked to him like this nice Thai man was almost engaging in a silent dance with me, two step left, one step back, one step left, two steps right.  But it was not the time to ask any questions; the racer was almost directly in front of us.

That's it - my best attempt of being involved in the Olymipc torch run!

That’s it – my best attempt of being involved in the Olympic torch run!

The crowd went wild.  I got my camera up and ready to shoot. But a flag was in the way, a security runner was in the way, the Thai man on the street was in the way.  But I saw the man dressed in white running clothes with the torch.  He was just a few steps away, jogging, I would say not running.  I tried one last time to get a photo to share with you all but once again; I got a nice shot of this Thai gentleman in the crowd. Yes, another photo of my own Undercover Thai Cop.

Highlighting the plight of refugees in 2016 

This year one of the runners will be a Syrian refugee, who will carry the torch through the Eleonas refugee camp in central Athens — part of a conscious effort by the International Olympics Committee to highlight the plight of refugees around the world. For the first time in history, a team of five-12 refugee athletes from multiple countries will be competing in this year’s Games. They will march behind the Olympic flag at the opening ceremony in Rio.

Thai police trained to run

Thai police trained to run with the torch.

To all the Mom’s with Seniors: We have had the best job in the world


Education is one of the most important things that I value in life.  This is why I went to seek out the principal of the school and ran over the highs and lows of my child’s time at his school.  I  called it my exit interview. I felt it is important because as an educator that is not being paid by his school, I could be honest, timely and truthful about my feedback.

 

Children who will be ready to excel in college are the ones that have already failed.

Did they miss an assignment and their parents didn’t ask the teacher to ‘lighten up’ on their child?  Did they oversleep and their parents didn’t call and lie to the school? Did they miss out on an A by .07 and their parents said “Looks like you worked hard and I am sorry that you didn’t get what you wanted” but the parents didn’t comment about the teacher or gloss over the sadness of missing something so close. These parents are the real winners in the world.

Good parents = Good Job = Wonderful Kids

How do you measure success? Please let your children have some stress in their lives so they can grow into the best they can be.

stress diamond
Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child

For parents who have children that have grown up in a different country than their passport country, you might have some ‘interesting’ things to face. Where should your kids go to University? Where should they look for summer jobs? How or where will they get identification besides a passport?These are a few of the things you will have to iron out with your expat child.

Some things that I found out the hard way:

Getting a US driver’s license is hard due to all the rules and requirements. Many of my friends don’t own a car in the USA so their kids can’t take a driving test, you need to show proof of insurance and valid registration and rental cars won’t work.  Nevada has a great law; you have to have insurance in the state of Nevada, but you don’t have to have car insurance to drive the car off the car dealerships lot.  Oh, but yes, you do get a $100 fine if you then try to register the vehicle because you drove it without insurance.

A child might be good at flying all over the world, spend weeks traveling with friends in Europe but can’t get a hotel room traveling in some states in the USA because they are not 21 years old. If they were in the USA military, they could rent at 18 years old.

Using a company mail pouch can cause concerns in several areas. Your child might be labeled as coming from that address, so, therefore, they get pegged as a student from that state when in fact they are international.  Learning to pay bills online is easy but having to understand the US post system can be hard for some children who have always lived overseas.

Laundry can be a challenge for any child so let them do their own before they head off to Univeristy.

Connections to all family members – encourage your college student to reach out and make contact to all siblings, both mom and dad, and grandparents. Often in the past, communication was done in person or initiated by a parent to the grandparent. Make sure your college kid has a way to connect with everyone.

Hug every change you get your child soon will not be walking across your kitchen several times a day and as a parent you will miss that!

Death and Taxes and ?What Else? is Certain in the Expat Life


With USA tax deadline looming, I can only spin it as I know how …the Expat Way!

repairs abroadBenjamin Franklin said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.”  All my expat friends also know that doing repairs abroad is also just as “certain” to be a  challenge.

Taxes Worldwide

I have lived with USA taxes since I started working back in 1972. I was one of the lucky ones to get a summer job working at the local grain elevator. We would weigh the trucks going into the area full of wheat and then weight them after they dumped off the wheat. I got to check for moisture in the wheat which required crawling up into the bed of the truck and taking a random sample of the wheat. I often had wheat in my socks and shoes the rest of the day no matter how hard I tried to clean them off. I honed my skills of math, getting overtime by day three of a week since we worked such long hours and how to mix a little dirt into your food intake without noticing too much. Amazing how much dirt can blow around in a Kansas environment in the summer!

Truck Driving and Directions

In Balikpapan, I was helping with an English class for non-native speakers, and we had five different languages improving their English skills. We were asked, “How many of you have driven a truck?” I was proud to be able to stand up and respond, “I have driven a truck.” This was impressive to many of the ladies in our group. My truck driving experiences are really not that impressive. One experience, I can just remember being yelled at by a local farmer because I grated the gears together on his big old wheat truck.

Another experience, when I went to pick up my dad after his long day of farming, I went to the wrong side of the field. I had to drive the truck clear around the outside of the field to arrive where he wanted to leave the tractor. It was late at night and dark. There were no lights in that part of the field. In fact, there are no nightlights in most of Northwest Kansas. I had to slowly drive the truck to the correct location. My dad was not happy.  He had told me to meet him on the West end of the field and had even told me to turn right at the windmill.  My family knows that now  many years later, I still don’t do left and right very well and never can do the directional thing!  In fact, I loved living on a small island because sooner or later you get to where you need to be because it isn’t that far around the island so a left or a right is not that critical in directions.

Back to the real reason of this story. Taxes.

I paid taxes on every job I have worked and sometimes that is not easy when you are working abroad. The tax systems in each country differ. I have no sympathy for anyone who just has to just pay USA taxes. When you also have to pay Indonesia taxes, or Thailand taxes or Nigerian taxes, you are working on taxes all year long!

Some countries are very official, and you receive the correct paperwork with stated deadlines and all is good. Other countries have the expectation that you must “ask” for the paperwork, apply and pay. Sometimes this happens without a clear understanding that the taxes are going where they should be going. But just like in the USA…You must have faith in the system.

Most expats deal with taxes in a variety of ways. Extensions seem to be common. Equalizations from their main employer are also common. I get lost in the bilateral agreements, foreign source of income, residency status, compliance issues and TIEAs (Taxation Information Exchange Agreements).

“Death and taxes and childbirth. There’s never any convenient time for any of them.” — Margaret Mitchell

I agree with Ms. Mitchell but also think we should add “Expat Home Repairs”. There is never a convenient time for them.

I might get bogged down in the taxes in a foreign country, but I have mastered a few very key things all Expats should remember when they live abroad. First, you must be very comfortable with a whole household of people all looking at the same broken thing and talking in the language you only know four words to communicate with knowing full well that none of your four words will help in this situation.

  1. When the repair guy says the outlet “must go  here” - make sure it is not just because he doesn’t have a long enough extension cord to put it really where you want it.
  2. When the repair guy says he can’t fix it. Make sure to show him your own tools, especially any tall ladders and odds and ends you have in your toolbox. Chances he can fix it if he just has the right tools.
  3. Do not get you engineer spouse involved in any of the repair information,  this will just delay the actual work getting done and a long string of emails about the situation or more and more workers coming to look at the repair needed.
  4. Repair situations might cause you to revert to a language NO one in the room understands but you are hoping if you say it enough ways or in enough languages some way the issue will become clear.
  5. Keep your humor because when you finally go home you will find you have some of the same issues with your own home repairs.

Expat home repairs, death and taxes – three things we all would love to not deal with.

     Benjamin Franklin said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.”


Julia Simens said, “The only things certain in your expat life is home repairs will occur just like death and taxes.”

Notes:

original photo – http://www.flickr.com/photos/numberstumper/389666281/

 

Summer Vacations and Families: What To Do With All That Togetherness


Summer vacations with the family can be the best of times or the worst of times.

Lake Tahoe - Ahhhh... becautiful lake

Travel to places you love!

Interminable plane trips, boring hotel rooms, exhausting hours together in the car, funky cabins on muddy lakes and six straight days of rain — family vacations can be difficult enough for adults, but for children they can be down right awful!

On the other hand, exploring new places together, sharing time and goofing off for days at a stretch, meeting new people or reuniting with loving relatives — family vacations can be the best thing since summer was invented.

 

How to have more of the best of times and less of the worst?


First of all, watch out for high expectations. 

Your own and the kids’. Enjoy the surprise of the vacation as it unfolds. This doesn’t mean don’t make plans. By all means, do make plans. And include everyone in the planning. Maps, brochures, photographs, letters, share them all. Make checklists, too, with responsibilities for everyone. This applies especially to the Expat family. We often build in too many expectations since our time with family or “home” is so short. Often the places we are dragging our kids to is not even a place they connect to as “home” and yet as parents, we keep saying “home.”

 

Allow plenty of time.

Don’t jam-pack days or crowd too much into the trip. If you’re traveling with young children or toddlers, take short jumps instead of long leaps. If you’re driving, often stop, get out and stretch, move around. Consider picnics instead of restaurant meals.

Expats need to allow time to debrief when you move from one family to another. Often going from one grandparent’s expectations or rules to the other side of the family and different rules can be very stressful for the kids. Sometimes parents might also act differently when they are around the various groups in an extended family. Stress levels will be different for the expat parent depending on the location.

 

Keep it simple.

Don’t schedule so many activities that there’s no time for just hanging out. Build in rest-time, too. Tempers have a tendency to flare when everyone’s packed together day and night for extended stretches of time. Create alone time, for you and the children. Everyone needs to recharge. Remember, both boredom and over-stimulation can result in acting out. Strive for balance. Don’t forget parents also have to deal with their boredom.

Be sure and allow a day or two for re-entry before you go back to work and the children return to their summer routine or start of a new school year. Coming home can be as stressful as leaving. Make homecoming part of the vacation, too.

 

Love knows no borders

Great books to take along for the trip!

 Middle School

The Worst Years of My Life, by James Patterson (Little, Brown)

Fifth Grade to Sixth Grade

How to Survive Anything by Rachel Buchholz, illustrated by Chris Philpot (National Geographic)

Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog by Garth Stein (HarperCollins)

Third Grade to Fourth Grade

Sidekicks by Dan Santat (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic)

Squish #1: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Random House)

Kindergarten to Second Grade 

Bailey by Harry Bliss (Scholastic)

Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Scott Campbell (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster)

 

Grade a good book and read

Julia Simens – Author

If you are lucky enough to be traveling with several adults or teen kids, perhaps an excellent read aloud book for everyone to enjoy at the same time will break up some of those long drives.  So have everyone entertain themselves for 30 minutes, then you have 20 minutes of a common story time. Then everyone back to their own thing.  Keep some rotation going with the read aloud book!  It is good for the brain and also an excellent way to kill time.

 

If you have read “Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child, it would be a very good time to start getting some of those oral stories down, so you don’t forget them.  Use the books easy step by step approach on which emotions to target in your stories. Slide in your unique summer trip and you will end up with a special family emotion story that will last forever.  Many parents put these stories out digitally, others in a photo type journal and other let their kids choose what they want to do. It is great to build an oral story first and then try to capture it in some form.

Amazon Review: I grew up as a child who both moved a lot and spent a considerable amount of time in foreign countries due to my father’s work. While I was told that I was lucky, and I believe that I was, I didn’t realize the particular toll that this lifestyle took on me until later in life. Now, as someone who gets to interact with children who are expats, I have found author Julia Simens’ book to incredibly useful on several fronts. First, it has given me a lot of insight into the things that I went through as a child and didn’t know how to express. Secondly, this wonderful book is also helping me to relate so much better to the expat children that I am blessed to be associated with now. What a wonderful read that has so much to offer. Highly recommended.

I’d love to hear one of your stories! Please share them here.

 

 

Expat Easters and the Importance of the Egg!


Easter is an important holiday for our family

When I get ready to make another international move…I try to get all my ducks in a row. I put all my eggs in one basket, so I can carefully get ready for the move. I know many of you will think we should not have all of our eggs in one basket but when you make a commitment to go to a new job, a new location, a new school, and a new culture – you need to be fully committed. You need to have everything set and ready to go! You need to lay carefully out a plan!

 

Getting all your ducks in a row - or all your eggs in a basket!

Getting all your ducks in a row – or all your eggs in a basket!

When many Expats move, they have this vision that they can build up their lives into some nicely layered experience. They blend their home culture into their new culture. Making layer after layer build up into a beautiful, wonderful experience for the whole family. Not only do they want all their eggs in one basket, but they also want to stack their eggs! I am not sure this works very well for many expats.

 

stacking eggs

Amazing Egg Art with the artist standing by it

Reality seldom meets our expectations

As an expat, you can easily get side tracked and forget what is most important in your family. You get worried about your child’s interactions. You worry about the exposure you child has to something different from his or her home environment.

I can easily recall a valid concern I have had in each location we have lived in:

  • Pago – Pago – Will the ship ever arrive with basic supplies? (Laundry soap, tampons, and toothpaste)
  • USA – Houston -Will my boss get arrested for fraud? (The only job I have every quit)
  • Singapore – Will we make it home often enough to stay connected with family?
  • Perth – Will the kids know their grandparents?
  • USA -Danville  Can we pay the bills?
  • Indonesia – Jakarta -The preschool vs. a working Mom saga
  • Indonesia – Duri -Will the limited amount of friends scar my child’s interactions?
  • Nigeria -Will having security guards with automatic guns on the school bus harm my child’s development?
  • Thailand – Will the exposure to the seedy parts of the town harm my children?
  • Indonesia -Balikpapan – Will our kids every come to visit again?
  • Retirement – USA/Honduras -Will I ever have close friends again?
Sometimes we feel like we are in hot water and out of control!

Sometimes we feel like we are in hot water and out of control!

But this is our life and as Expats-

We are known to rise above the heat and make the best of the current situation we are in

Sometimes an international move is not in our family’s best interest. Different decisions have to be made. Often these same decisions are part of a family’s life that are not global nomads. Sometimes a family just runs into a tricky part of their life, and one family member needs a different type of support than what the family current offers.

Family in Crisis

Family in Crisis

Often when a family is in crisis – a family ritual can help the family feel connected and safe.

Family rituals are important

Children tend to love family rituals, even if they don’t admit it. Rituals provide a sense of security and can be soothing. A family ritual is anything your family does together deliberately. The routine of whatever you do is what counts. It can be anything. Just make sure you do it consistently.

Rituals are emotionally enriching. It is never too late to start a ritual. Some children may resist being involved in such rituals. But if rituals are presented in a non-controlling manner and you manage your expectations, all family members will ‘get on board’ much more readily than you thought. I have worked with many families that want to start building closer family time, and sometimes the rituals start with just one person, but if that person feels it is important and keeps trying sooner or later the event can become a ritual.

Sometimes the ritual comes from having another culture in your life

We have always celebrated Christmas over the top! We use beautiful Christmas plates with lovely scenes on them. Some are Santa related, and some have a religious theme. These plates travel around the world with us. We only use them during the Christmas season, but our children were always ‘delighted’ when I would get out the Christmas plates.

One Easter, my mother, was visiting Indonesia

We had a lovely Easter egg hunt in our garden and headed off to church. When we got home, our maid had set the table for our beautiful Easter Feast. She had laid out the Christmas plates. She put the fake Easter grasses around the center of the table and carefully laid our Easter eggs out as decorations. Then she had carefully added the silver tinsel we put on the Christmas tree.

The table was lovely but ‘strange’ for my young children and even more bizarre for my mother from Kansas. She was not used to Christmas plates and tinsel at Easter time. I told our maid the table was lovely.

“Sri, the table is lovely, but we seldom use these plates, except at Christmas,” I stated.

“Isn’t Easter like Christmas?” she asked.

We must have all had blank faces because she then replied, “You know with Jesus and all that Christian stuff?”

Yes, it made sense to our Muslim maid to have plates that celebrate Jesus’s birth also to use those plates to celebrate his death. We had not made the connection and had not used our Christmas plates in that fashion before this unique Easter celebration.

Now it is a family ritual.

I am often not as brave as Sri. When we have other families over for an Easter celebration, you will not see my table fully decorated with Christmas plates and Christmas tinsel.

Easter at jsimens com

But you will find a lovely plate of deviled eggs.  As more and more eggs disappear, you will see that they have been sitting on one of our beautiful Christmas plates. I will need to remember to pack a Christmas plate and leave it in Roatan for when we have Easter in the Caribbean.

We have to make sure one of our unique global situations has now become a family ritual.

Families who move together – grow together.

Stories we need to Tell – FIGT16NL


FIGT16NL – Closing Panel

We all know that storytelling began around the campfires – these stories were used to inform others about life, to educate them and to ignite their imaginations. Throughout the FIGT conference “Moving Across Cultures: Bringing Empathy and Expertise to the Evolving Global Family” we were given a sneak peek into stories others told.

 

Campfires at FIGT

Campfires at FIGT16NL

The campfire was replaced by Twitter and other social media. I was honored to be able to share the stories that our Pollock scholars have to share with us as well as be the closing panel for FIGT16NL. Some of the attendees were emotional drained, and some of them made more contacts than they ever thought possible. Check out @TCKchat and @FIGT16NL to see some of our stories. Due to the logistics of the conference and needing to shave off some of our panel time – I tried to capture the flow of the panel and why I wanted to have the  Pollock Scholar voices  be heard. I hope someone was able to catch their stories because I did not. You can view some of the Pollock information at http://www.figt.org/Pollock_Scholarship_Winners

 

Storytelling is not something we do – storytelling is who we are.

ytelling can start at any age

Storytelling can start at any age

I began my storytelling back in Kansas at the age of eight in 4-H a youth program. 4-H is a global network of youth organizations whose mission is “engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development.

The original pledge was written by Otis E. Hall of Kansas in 1918. The 4-H pledge is: I pledge my head to clearer thinking, My Heart to greater loyalty, My Hands to larger service, and my Health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world. The official 4-H emblem is a green four-leaf clover with a white H on each leaf standing for Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. White and green are the 4-H colors. The white symbolizes purity and the green represents growth.

I got my love for storytelling from my Mom, although she was often silent she was always able to weave a funny story into our extended family gatherings. Like the one Christmas, I returned from university with a potential boyfriend and every gift I had lugged half way around the world somehow became a joke! You remember how it is in college, not even enough money for decent food – Since I choose to leave Kansas and go to university in Hawaii, I always had to add on expensive air tickets if I ever wanted to see my family at holidays. As everyone opened my well thought out gifts bought on a small budget, they all laughed! Some of my gifts were not “laughable gifts” – they were well meaningful gifts. Well, maybe not the Hawaiian shirt I gave to my bull riding – cowboy farming Dad. It wasn’t until later that Christmas afternoon that my potential boyfriend shared the photo my Mom had so carefully added deep into the wrappings of each of my gifts.

Sharing the joys of childhood

Sharing the joys of childhood                       

Each photo had the simple words written on them in my Mom’s handwriting – Julia’s first boyfriend. No wonder they all laughed- they all knew the old lady that lived next door to our house except my current friend, he had no clue about so many of our family inside secrets. Each time the neighbor’s grandson came to visit her – he would end up at our door – asking to see me. He would stand there so politely and ask my Mom or Dad, “Can Julia come out to play or tell stories?” This year I became an adult orphan. I think of all the Adult Orphans around the world and in this room – we are the secret group almost everyone joins. This developmental hurdle is one that no one ever tells us that it will be a very special kind of hard.

I am missing my mom -I missed celebrating her birthday on March 6th, and I will miss stopping by her home after the FIGT conference, and I will miss sitting at her kitchen table.

We saw a photo of Ruth Van Reken’s (Founder FIGT) Kitchen Table and Melissa Dalton-Bradford’s (Global Mom: A Memoir) large dining room table and then you got to see the scholars around Julia Simens’ (Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child) bar tables.

Our FIGT stories began around the kitchen table.  Technology cannot replicate the emotional bond between people – the glue that connects people in a meaningful way is story telling. Our stories move hearts and minds.  What Ruth Van Reken knew years ago has finally been proven by Neuroscience.  Science now can now actually point out the benefits of storytelling – how a person pays attention, how they feel empathy and how they feel good. Storytelling is to inform, entertain and inspire. Christopher O’Shaughnessy started off the FIGT conference with storytelling that got us all laughing.

Pollock Scholars 2016

Pollock Scholars 2016

When we laugh, we change physiologically. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues. People who believe in the benefits of laughter say it can be like a mild workout. One pioneer in laughter research, William Fry, claimed it took ten minutes on a rowing machine for his heart rate to reach the level it would after just one minute of hearty laughter. Christopher gave us a good workout on the first day of FIGT16NL. On the last day of the conference, we got get to hear the Pollock Scholars and their stories.

 

Pollock Scholars

How many of you have listened to a magnificent story? Raise your hand.

How many of you want to hear a superb story? Raise your hand.

How many of you want to be program chair next year? Raise your hand!

 

I was just checking to see if you all were listening to me. 

Slide06

But seriously you guys – there are many benefits of being on the program committee! You get to hear everyone’s stories when they submit their request for proposals – You get to step in when someone cancels – and this is how you get to share a story that you know Jo Parfitt would be proud to hear.  Or one that Jack Scott would admire. Or a similar story that many of you that are sitting in this room would have done or have done when you see a famous person.   I spotted “Jack” across a crowded hotel lobby – threw my large purse at my husband and started a mad dash across a crowded room – only to reverse back up grab my bag from my startled husband, fumble around until I got out my book. Reached even deeper and got my lipstick and smeared some on and–asked “How’s this” as if an engineer ever knows or cares much about the lipstick on his wife…

 

Jack Canfield and Julia

Jack Canfield and Julia Simens

I applied another quick dab and started running again. Out of breath, afraid I had missed my chance, I planted myself directly in front of Jack and said, “Mr. Canfield, You need to read my book.”As we all know as authors, we are to carry our books and show them to anyone that might remotely be interested. Right.

 

Being an author is really about being a sales person. The year I wrote this book I was lucky enough to give my book to one of my all time favorite storytellers and one that has led so many others to become story-tellers. Year after year, I’d buy a new Chicken Soup book to read at night before going to bed. Some of my all time favorites have been:

Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul: Stories to Open the …

Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work: Stories of Courage, …

A Taste of Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul 2

Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating Mothers & Daughters

Chicken Soup for the Soul Cartoons for Teachers

A Taste of Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul

Chicken Soup for the Soul Stories for a Better World

To this day, I don’t even know if Mr. Canfield has read my book, but I have a vision where I see it as a permanent fixture on his nightstand where he returns to it again and again – that’s my story, and I am sticking to it.

Our panel had some fascinating stories – I hope you were able to hear the Pollock scholar’s share their absorbing stories. We started with this question -What story do you tell and retell, again and again about yourself?

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Slide05

What is your personal Mythology – what stories do you tell and re-tell? 

We tell them for a reason; often they hold our deepest beliefs.

Carl Jung (1963) began his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections by writing, “Thus it is that I have now undertaken, in my eighty-third year, to tell my personal myth.” Researcher Dr. Stanley Krippner Ph.D., Personal Mythology, guided readers through the program they developed in workshops taught throughout the world. Krippner describes personal mythology as “… an approach to personal transformation using the development of participants’ personal stories about existential human issues for self-healing and personal growth. There are also cultural, institutional, ethnic, and familial myths which influence our personal myths. We use our stories as personal myths. Often they can be found in our dreams, where we are often informed long before we know intellectually. Four factors influence personal myths: biology, culture, interpersonal experiences, and transpersonal experiences.

Think of grapes that struggle; they make excellent wine – Embrace your history.

struggles make our history interesting

Struggles make our history interesting

 

 

We still hear stories around the water coolers at work.  The Watercooler is always a rehash. Twitter is a campfire for us. We’re telling a story around a campfire, and these people are sitting around the campfire with us. Shonda Rimes said, “There was no such thing as live-tweeting a show before Scandal.” The FIGT16NL conference was a true campfire for us this year.

 

Slide15

 

We live in story like a fish lives in water. We swim through words and images siphoning story through our minds the way a fish siphons water through its gills. We cannot think without language; we cannot process experience without story.

 

Slide16

 

You are your life’s storyteller – craft something beautiful for yourself, weave a tale with fun and surprises, make room for sunsets and miracles and always include pages and pages of love.

 

Slide17

I want to thank each and every one of you in the audience for coming to FIGT this year, I want to thank all the wonderful speakers who shared their wisdom and life stories, And a very special thank you to the Pollock scholars for sharing their stories and knowledge.

 

And I want to thank my first boyfriend who still believes I have stories to tell.

A story can change the world – isn’t it time to share yours?

Slide18 


 

 

 

Kitchen Tables: FIGT16NL vs My Grandma’s Table


What did you learn at your grandma's kitchen table?

What did you learn at your grandma’s kitchen table?

 

What did you learn at your Grandma’s Kitchen Table?  What lessons? What feelings come up when you remember what it was like sitting at your grandma’s kitchen table?

 

 

At my Grandma Wright’s kitchen table outside of Russell Springs, Kansas, I learned about family and love. Grandma spread the love by teaching us all to make pies! It almost seemed like a ritual. Family rituals are to make connections and show love. That is what she did. We’d head out to Grandma’s house, then go pick some fruit or rhubarb out of her garden. Maybe go to the root cellar to get a jar of preserves for the pie. These types of rituals can be very important for all families but vital for global nomads.

I am an expert at making pies, mostly because I made a ton of pies in 4-H when I was young.  I am a firm believer in mastery of something when you are young and you still think it is fun.

In 4-H, I did a lot of different activities. I raised sheep, JC and Casey were my pets until I sold them. This money went towards college and I was only 10 years old when I raised them for almost a year. I did public speaking. I did knitting (I still can’t cast off).  I made clothes, I cooked more food than you can imagine and I even did leather work. Adults in the community spent time teaching us how to do things. We had pride in our finished products. We won ribbons and if our project was good enough we could take it to state and compete with lots of other children.  My exposure to 4-H helped me get one of my scholarships to college.

I was the Betty Crocker award winner, meaning I had to take a written test about cooking and prove that I understood the concepts behind ‘cooking’. When you are trying to put yourself through college, all scholarships are huge and you are so appreciative to get them. I am glad I learned how to cook when I was young, I am glad I was able to apply that knowledge into math, science and other aspects of school. But I am most proud of is being able to teach my own children how to make a pie! It all started around a kitchen table.

FIGT’s Kitchen Table

When FIGT was first starting out they would meet around a kitchen table. Ruth Van Reken shared that when they were planning the third FIGT conference, John Aoun, Betty Mullin and Joyce Blake would come to her home every Monday night to work and plan that conference. They were all volunteers and they found the value of the “kitchen table”.  We are lucky that FIGT kept that concept as it grew.

At  FIGT16NL, you will be able to interact with 12 experts who will share their topics around a kitchen table!  If you join me at FIGT16NL you will be able to hear these wonderful topics.

 

  • Identifying Your Personal Mission while Living Abroad Using Your Nomadic Intelligence by Magdalena Zilveti Chaland and Alix Carnot
  • What Has Gone Right in 11 years of Expatclic: How Intercultural Communication, Empathy and Encouragement can Improve the Global Family Experience by Claudia Landini
  • From Expat Bubble to Integration by Ute Limacher-Riebold
  • The 7 & ½ things to do to Keep an Open Mind and an Open Heart when You Move by Carolina Porto
  • Europe’s Migration Crisis as a Chance to Establish a New Concept of the Evolving Global Family by Claudia Koerbler
  • The Value of How to be Sad by Grace Franklin
  • Memorable Messages with Lasting Impacts: Laying Early Foundations for Long-term Positive Identity by Amy Jung and Ellen Beard
  • Cultural Heritage as a Potential Source of Belonging and Wellbeing for Cross-Cultural Residents by Laia Colomer
  • Living in the Ghetto or True Globalists? by Torben Andersen
  • FIGT Membership Benefits by FIGT Board Members 

 The good news is at FIGT16NL  you can learn and share around the kitchen tables!  Please note, no pie will be served at these kitchen table talks. The FIGT rituals of Kitchen Table discussions are to make connections, grow and show compassion.

So many options - So little time!

So many options – So little time!

 

If you are a fan of rhubarb pie – you might like John’s song!

An Expat’s Job is to Flutter Around: Hectic or Peaceful, That is Up to You


wing-flapping rates - 50 times per second

Wing-flapping rates – 50 times per second

I am sitting on my patio watching the hummingbirds feed. Roatan is the kind of place you can just sit and watch hummingbirds. I wish our kids were with us but one has a new job and one is still in college. We want them to be successful doing what they are doing.

As the Easter holiday season approaches all the Expat’s in the world might be thinking about their family. It is amazing how some people are in a hectic frenzies while others are taking a very peaceful voyage.  I am talking about how we go about getting our offspring all in one location or how we decide on where we will spend the holidays. It is not an easy task.

I find myself caught in a “groundhog” type of day. (This refers to the movie where Bill Murray has to relive February 2 Groundhog Day over and over and over hoping to get the day right) I flip between flight tracker of my son’s travel from Honolulu or my daughter’s trip from Los Angels and a peaceful movie about pollination. Looking at a live flight tracking map of an 16-hour flight is just not that much fun. I find Louie Schwartzberg’s : The hidden beauty of pollination much more exciting.

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Spreading Love Around the World – Expat’s Dream Come True



Valentines day is always a fun event in our home.

We have wonderful food, small special gifts, handmade valentines, desserts to die for and a fair amount of “give and take”  in this celebration.

It is not just mom-sided. My husband always has a gift for me! This year I am hoping to get more grout – or, at least, the work that goes on making your investment a “home”.  Grout is a particularly fluid form of concrete used to fill gaps. So far, I have been the master of adding more to Kevin’s to do list in Roatan.

But – this year something is missing.  At first, I thought it was the hole in my heart where Jackie is missing. Or a hole in my heart where Grant is missing.   I tell you when those kids go off to college, it is a new feeling for many of us.  If you have not yet heard about Tina Quick’s Book “The Global Nomad’s Guide to Univeristy Transition on Amazon, and you are an Expat with a high school student, you should!

Yes, it is true I miss Jackie and Grant, but we are connected by electronic ways so we can support each other and be a part of each other’s life.  It is more than that. It is the fact my Mom is missing and all that she brought into my life. Endless trips to Kansas, Colorado and Oklahoma and her countless trips around the world to visit her grandkids. It is through all these trips that I got closer and closer to my brothers and sisters. I am missing them.

When we lived in Bangkok,  I headed out on my staycation My driver gave me a beautiful potted orchid from his garden. He had gone orchid shopping with my husband over the weekend to help Kevin get me a special valentine day gift. The Driver said, “Happy Valentine’s Day, you never have enough orchids.” That holiday I had two of the most beautiful orchids in Thailand.

*note

Staycation is when an International School Counselor has a vacation, and she elects to stay in the host country to enjoy an “at home” time.

Then it hit me now I need to show Kevin all the places he can buy flowers in Roatan!  We have so many friends to be thankful for and so many people fill our lives with love, but you never have enough flowers in your life.

I feel when you live in places that are remote or without some the finer things in life, you are often more compassionate.  I feel blessed that my kids lived in places they could learn to be kind and compassionate to members in our host country.

 Imagine a chocolate martini “drop and run” event.

Many years ago we lived in Duri, Indonesia and it was hard to get good food, interesting ingredients, and unique things so I made an afternoon run to the homes of my teacher friends. I convinced the maid in each household that I had permission to put two large full martini glasses in the owner’s freezer and that they would understand and “get” them after school. Then I left a nice little valentine day card on their kitchen table and went off in my Kejang to the next friend’s home location.

Make it "clear" and it is lovely!

Make it “clear” and it is lovely!

Things I learned that Valentine’s day.

It is easier to carry all the ingredients in an ice cold jug of chocolate martini‘s, chocolate fudge to rim the glasses, chocolate kisses to drop in the middle the glass and strawberries rimmed in chocolate to garnish the glass.

The first friend’s house I went to was a disaster. I had made their martinis in my home and put their martini glasses on a tray ready to go in the freezer. Yikes, I had forgotten about the Sumatran heat in February!  I had to drink one of the “gifts” because the chocolate rim was dripping in the heat and I was dripping. I made their valentine note contain a cute comment about “love is sharing.” There was no need for them to know that they were missing one gift!

The rest of the homes were more successful because I mixed up the concoctions at their own kitchen table. The maids watched me and just looked, they trusted me.  I had a good feeling about giving something that was impossible to get in the jungles of Sumatra. All of the ingredients had come back with me from an orthodontic trip with the kids to Singapore.  This was when you could actually carry good stuff on the airplanes.

For you see, I am a serial expat.  This is my third time to live in Indonesia. I have lived 1/2 as long in Indonesia as I have in my place that I still call “home.” Nine years in Indonesia and 18 years in Kansas.

Now, I just need to give more thought to my friends here in Roatan to see how I can show them “love or that I care” . . . hum

Showing a little Love on Valentine's Day

Showing a little love on Valentine’s Day

Perhaps when I prefect the heart wine pour, I will scoot around the island and share my talent! Or maybe I should find all the ingredients and share these on the pier.

Ingredients for Chocolate Martinis

  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1 cup clear chocolate vodka
  • 2 cups clear Creme de Cacao
  • 2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • mint sprigs for garnish
Instructions
  1. Directions for Mix:
  2. Measure the vodkas and Creme de Cacao and combine them into a clean glass bottle with a cap. Gently shake to mix and Then place the bottle in the freezer for at least one hour to chill.
  3. Directions for the glasses:
  4. Heat the chocolate in a double boiler until it is melted. Dip the rims of four martini glasses into the chocolate to coat, and then into a bowl of granulated sugar. Place glasses in the freezer to set up the chocolate.
  5. To serve:
  6. Straight from the freezer, pour desired amount of vodka mixture into a martini shaker and shake with ice to mix. Remove glasses from the freezer, pour chilled and shaken martini mix into each glass, garnish with a sprig of mint or a chocolate covered strawberry, and get ready to make a make a toast. Cheers!

Is your sadness a blessing? Mine is!


 

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Sadness can be a  blessing

Being sad washing only two dinner plates- is not sad.

Being sad knowing you won’t send any traditional valentines day cards – is not sad.

Taking your grown child to the airport to leave after any holiday – is always sad.

It. Is. Always. Sad.

Expats are used to transitions. We are pros at saying goodbye. We have had more experience doing this than Carlos Slim Helu has money.  But unlike Mr. Helu, we do not dream of increasing our ‘output’ when it comes to saying these goodbyes.

I am sure all expats can think of highlights of their recent past vacations. You can look at Facebook and see all the amazing tales we all tell.  What we forget to showcase is our close connection time with have had with our adult children.

It is more impressive to show places we have been than to show your laughs at breakfast time.  It is more impressive to display the vacation sites than to show your emotions. It is more important to show the highlights than to show the sadness.

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