J Simens.com

Death and Taxes: But what is just as certain in an Expat’s life?

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

repairs abroad
Repairs Abroad – HELP ME!

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

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.

Recently, I was at 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.


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Connections – My best buddy just left :(

It’s March and my child’s best friend just moved!  

jsimens Friends
What does a good friend mean to your child?

This was the panic call I received yesterday.  It is a very valid concern for many parents, even more so in International Schools where the population is so transit.

As an international counsellor, I have had many of our parents insist that their child be with their best friend in the next school year. Due to the movement in International Schools this means at some point in the near future, this child will seem friendless and so sad when their ‘best friend moves on.

Each and every child needs to feel connected and involved with other children. This is often through a common interest, gymnastics, after school activities, sleep overs and etc. This does not mean that during the school day that they need to be only connected to their best friend.


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How to Survive All Those Activities in 2013

Most parents want their child to have a better life than they have had. Yet, many parents don’t understand which skill is vital to instill in their children.

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Building perseverance in our children is the most important skill we can show them how to master. Parents want their children to play sports, take dance lessons, practice the piano and attend art classes. Many parents sign their children up for religious activities or community services opportunities and academic activities after school.

Children who start an activity and then want to drop it can start a cycle of “quits” that will impact them forever. When a child begins this pattern or has a lot of “similar behaviors” in the long run and this can be a huge problem. It is important that children have a say in their life,but it is also important that parents set the ground rules.

This is key for global nomads since they have so many “stops” and “go” times in their lives due to their parent’s job. You want to give them everything you can to help them be successful.

Whether you are discussing the need to stop a team activity or an individual activity all families need to supply the following tips for future success with their children:

1. Clear Timeline of events that will happen

Example: Volleyball runs for 9 weeks and this also involves 5 weekends when you have games. Children need to know what to expect. This is often best in visual form so they really understand how big their commitment is. Parents should always show their child what it looks like on a calendar. Then the child should stick to what they committed to. Some sports do not have a natural ending point so parents and children should put on the calendar key times when they will sit down and review this decision. Children should not be able to change their mind unless it is at a review time, then they should have full say in what they do. Often children quit because of what a peer said, or how they feel in an isolated situation. They need to preserve for a while to make sure they are quitting for the right reason.

2. Understanding of parental expectation

Children need to know this prior to signing up to do an activity. Parents need to be honest about this and not “be wanting” their child to do something the parent always wanted to do when they were a child.

3. Successfully items of appreciation

Bribes still work well with some children. If you are trying to build a life long love for a sport or activity then it is OK to reward the child after a successful season with a special event. Achievement parties or completion of a successful season, should be planned in advance. Example: When the season is over we will hold a pizza party for the team. Or when the season is over you can choose a teammate and we will spend the weekend at the beach.

4. Parental involvement throughout the season.

Don’t expect your child to remain excited if you are only excited the first day of the season or at the award banquet.

5. Voice the behavior you want not the behavior you want to stop.

“Don’t be a quitter” will create a child that wants to “quit”. If a parent says, “Being committed to the end of the season will support your team mates,” these types of statements will help your child think about “the commitment”. It is true children only hear about half of what parents say so we need to say the positive outcomes we want.

These five tips work well with children of all ages and can make these hard decisions more enjoyable for everyone.

Note _ from book “Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child- Practical tips and storytelling techniques that will strengthen the global family”.

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Bicultural: Comfortable with two worlds

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 The next chapter of my life includes rainforests and orangutans.


Hello Borneo!

I am excited that I will be able to visit the centers that help rehabilitate ex-captive orangutans to free forest life. 

Did you know that some of these orangutans became bicultural, comfortable with both human and orangutan worlds. It turned out that these ex-captives can do a multitude of prodigiously intelligent things. They can take canoes for rides down the river. Orangutans were also taught to made fires, washed laundry, unlocked doors with keys, weeded paths, untied the most complex knots humans could make, hung hammocks up and played in them, cooked pancakes and brushed their teeth. These feats are impressive in and of themselves. I am not saying I agree to making animals learn tricks, I am just saying this is more than some children learn to master in a timely fashion.

Orangutan minds also show qualities not found elsewhere —exceptional reflectiveness, mechanical genius, and unexpected socially astuteness for a species known for solitude. That makes orangutans even more like us than we believed, and even more important to our understanding of human nature.

Captured orangutans have psychological scars that are as serious as physical ones, if often less obvious. Perhaps the worst psychological problems affect the infants. You could see why people wanted them — they are among the most charming creatures imaginable, little balls of cuddly, orange fluff. But the only way to get an orangutan infant is to kill its mother, then take the baby off her dead or dying body. So all captive infants are orphans.


For orangutans, that alone is tragic because like humans, their mother is the center of their world for many years. It is mother that provides protection, nourishment, comfort, play, knowledge, and guidance. Mother cannot be replaced, scars from captivity cannot be erased, and years lost to imprisonment cannot be relived. At best, we can help orangutans compensate for the losses. Even that takes years of intensive support.

Orangutans may be lightning learners compared to other species, but it still takes them years to acquire the expertise to survive in the forest — after their health, emotional, and motivational problems have been solved.

Yesterday as I re-tried my Bahasa Indonesia skills (the official language of Indonesia sort of like Malay) I found I was comfortable in a language where I know about 500 words and I have not been using them in the last ten years.

Slowly my brain started to reconnect some of the sounds to words. I was able to understand the language spoken by my husband’s co-workers.  As an expat, I am not searching for something to compensate me for my losses. I am ready to re-connect with my years lost – being away from Indonesia.  This does not mean I didn’t love my time in Nigeria or Thailand, it just means I am once again back to an area that will seem more comfortable,  allow more play and I have more knowledge of… Moving On!



Trying to find the contact for the original resources on this article, I will post it as soon as I can locate it from our moving boxes.

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Worldwide: Why Expats can make a difference in the world

There are so many expats that travel around the world and they make it a better place because they care about their “new home land”.  Many of these expats we know because of the impact they have had on the world but there are countless other expats we have not heard about.  Please comment on them so we can build a bigger data pool of these wonderful expats.

Here are just two expats that cared for lands, people and animals in a different part of their world.

Dian Fossey – American protecting gorillas in Rwanda

Joan Root – British protecting of african wildlife

Who do you know that have help the world or her people and animals in a big way or in a small way?

This movie is a non-commercial attempt from http://www.sanctuaryasia.com/ to highlight the fact that world leaders, irresponsible corporates and mindless ‘consumers’ are combining to destroy life on earth. It is dedicated to all who died fighting for the planet and those whose lives are on the line today. The cut was put together by Vivek Chauhan, a young film maker, together with naturalists working with the Sanctuary Asia network (http://www.sanctuaryasia.com/).

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SpongeBob, Heart Attacks, and Dogs: Three things I learned about the USA

Are your kids (and you)  having too much TV time this summer?


I am never sure if it is fascination of seeing USA TV for the first time in a long time of if it is the issue of jet lag but when I first hit the USA, I watch too much TV.  I have seen three things this summer that amaze me.

First: Who would have thought SpongeBob might harm  children?

If you’ve been watching the news  you’ve probably seen the popular kids cartoon SpongBob SquarePants is under fire for potentially causing short-term attention problems in young kids. A  study suggests that watching just nine minutes of the program can cause learning and attention problems in children as young as 4 years old. YIKES!

The study took 60 children and randomly assigned them to watch nine minutes of ‘SpongeBob”, a slower paced show called “Caillou”, or simple draw pictures for the allotted time period. Immediately after these nine-minute assignments the kids took mental function tests. The children who were randomly selected to watch SpongeBob did measurably worse than all the other children.

There have previously been research studies that linked TV watching to long-term attention problems in young children, but this new study suggests a more immediate problem occurring after just nine minutes of exposure. You can read more in the article here.  This is not my favorite video about this topic but it does cover the groundwork about attention span and  Spongebob and kids.


Second: Who would know that something we have done for ages now hurts us?

Research study now has  linked calcium supplements to heart attacks. Doctors and health professionals have told women for years that they should supplement their diets with extra calcium to prevent bone loss (osteoporosis) and fractures, and many of us  have taken their advice.

My mother and all of her friends take calcium supplements. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 61 percent of women over age 60 take calcium supplements regularly. Now these same patients have been thrown for a loop by this study.  Their pills cause heart attacks. You can read more in the article here.  Or watch a video here.


Third: Our best friends are more dangerous in summertime?

Dogs are known to be a man’s best friend, however be careful.. Dogs can be very dangerous to children because children have a tendency to hit or roughly pet dogs, not meaning to hurt them. This may upset a dog or set them off which can lead to dog bites or attacks.

A study published  found that young children are more likely to be bitten by a dog in the summer. Why more kids suffer dog bites in the summer is unknown, but possibly it’s because they spend more time outside playing around dogs, researchers suggested, or because dogs are grumpier when it’s hot. You can read more in the article here.  Or watch a video here.

As is all new research be careful of where the results came from and who is funding the research.

Remember research needs to have large enough sample sizes that they count and have enough data to make the real connection. I am always eager to learn more about what they are discovering by research when it comes to family life.

This was a very interesting article on TV and children.  The research, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity on Sunday, found that children who spend more time in front of a screen as preschoolers tend to have larger waistlines and worse muscular fitness as they grow.

I just wish I wasn’t doing all of this at 3 AM.

Notes:  Excerpts from





Large vitamin pills and tablets

Baby & Dog

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Parenting: Never easy – my refrigerator lost it’s usefulness

One thing I love about receiving mail is that sometimes envelopes have real photos in them!

I just received a wonderful card that had recent photos of my sister’s family. There are four kids in the family and they are all so cute (Proud aunt – I hope many of you can relate). I am 100% behind electronic information but nothing screams “family” more than putting photos on the refrigerator.

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A refrigerator tells so much about you …

This brings me to two concerns, why did someone invent stainless steel refrigerators and why are families getting smaller in size?


Amygdala on Over Drive: How a co-worker can have ineffective default behaviors

I had a peer call me to talk over a recent meeting she had attended. She wanted to try and understand how her co-workers thought and reacted. I love skype, it allows us to keep in touch with others in such an easy and fun way. Distance seems smaller with Skype. (not a commercially minded soul but a fan.)

Yikes -he/ she is speaking loudly. He/she is high jacking a meeting.

You know who I am talking about. The person who is becoming more commanding.

He/she is trying to be more controlling. And he/she is  becoming more demanding.

I wish I was brave enough to tell that person that he/she has ‘Ineffective Default Behaviours’  that are getting in the way of being a well-respected member of their committee.


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What is your tap code . . . ?

How do you communicate? What is more important one good friend or someone to share something with?  With many people staying around their homes in Bangkok, they are using communication on line to stay connected.  Twitter at #ThaiFloodEng is very popular.

Social support is key to become resilience.  Everybody needs a way to communicate with others.

My concern is how will we stay connected if things get worse.  What will be our tap code?

Imagine how it would be to be in isolation for almost three years. Would you be able to keep your joys or dreams in your mind?  Would you be resilient?

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Untold Stories – Never Say Should Have

Flooding in Thailand… everyone helping everyone.

Morally this is the right thing to do. Waiting for a crisis or a non event brings out the best in most people. As I watch neighbors help lug items up to higher grounds for the family next door, we have to join in and help them.

Most people will not want to say:

We should have helped those old people . . .

We should have helped that family with just the young kids . . .

We should have helped our neighbors . . .

Thailand is doing all the “shoulds” this Sunday.

It is not in the same magnitude but both stories have the theme of water so there is a connection.

An untold tale of 9/11 Resilience one radio call and 100’s of boats came to help.

My school made CNN news by donations of boats for Thailand.

Even though the characteristics of a hero may be different from one person to another, the underlying theme of heroism is uniform throughout in the sense that they are all admired. Heroes define our aspirations and expand the perceived limitations we have of ourselves. They remind us of who we want to be and how we’re going to get there.

Read more: http://www.jsimens.com/?s=9%2F11#ixzz1au2GNZtP

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