J Simens.com

How Aware Are You, Socially?

I spend an enormous amount of my time trying to help children see how they fit in with their peers and how to understand what social clues are out there to know what behavior is acceptable. It is a fun but challenging job.


Some kids are quick to see the benefits of being socially aware others could care less. Children who come into my office are there to get help and support. It is not the branch of the school that deals with punishment. So often, kids think my office is fun, and we celebrate their strengths. I reflect on my work as a ‘party’ most days. In a  recent conference in Washington DC, I told them I had the best job in the world.

Where ever you are, celebrate with friends and family.  Join the crowd and use #WorldPartyDay to share on social media.

Since 1996, April 3 has been declared World Party Day.  Did you celebrate? One year, I did not, I was involved in two of my least favorite things in the world…travel in economy class and a phone notification that my mother was in the emergency room.  Yikes, not a celebration of any sort.

This year, I am in Roatan with my best friends, Pauline and Carol. We will be going to El Paso for the super baleadas to start our celebration. We are hoping to listen to Mickey Charteris talk about Caribbean Reef Life this evening.

Why #WorldPartyDay

“The idea of a worldwide party appeared as a work of fiction in Flight, A Quantum Fiction Novel, by American writer Vanna Bonta. The trilogy’s first book, published in 1995, ended with a countdown that was to take place on April 3, 2000, postulating that on that day the entire world would celebrate synchronously in elevated social awareness.”

Do you know this TCK?

In her early life, Bonta’s cultural experiences branched worldwide from her American-Italian-Dutch ancestry. Her father, a military officer, was raised in a small town in the American south. Her mother, a fine art painter, was born and raised in Florence, Italy. Bonta traveled the world with her family, living in Thailand as a young girl for six years when her father was stationed there as a diplomat.

Vanna attended an international school with children of many nationalities who practiced different religions. The experience fostered an understanding and interest in universal humanity, as well as an environment for learning four languages.

I love this massive worldwide phenomenon now in progress involves millions of individuals, organizations, and corporations around the world who are realizing a responsibility and ability to contribute positively to the collective future of Humanity and Earth.

Throughout April, I will be continuing the World Party Day theme!

I will be celebrating when we (a child and me) look into their social situation and can see what he/she can relate to and what they can do next. I look at social awareness as knowing ourselves in society and knowing what is going on in society. It is a two-prong situation.

So why do we need to be aware, because information about the society and its issues make us more responsible for the community? If kids are taught about social issues and problems, they will make an effort to do something about it, therefore improving society as a whole.

social awareness
social awareness

Do emotions help us make more ethical decisions?

Many of you know I work with kids and their feelings – big time. This is key to so many things in their life.  Do emotions help us make better ethical decisions? I believe they do. If the child cannot understand their own emotions or tune into the emotions of others in their family or with peers, this is a huge risk. If the child is unable to make ethical decisions, they are a risk to themselves and a risk to society.

There are a lot of social problems around the world. It is essential that more and more people be made aware of these issues so that we can fight them as a united world. Social awareness also makes the individual more mature and thoughtful when it comes to making important decisions for themselves or society.
Here are some of the more creative campaigns from around the world on social awareness.


Don’t miss the debut album from World Party Karl Wallinger’s insightful songs deal primarily with the responsibility of the individual to recognize and cope with the problems of the world. The song, World Party, is well worth a listen. Wallinger is a multi-instrumentalist, enabling him to demo and record the bulk of World Party material as a one-man band.

World Party Day or (P-Day) was celebrated in  United States, France, England, Africa, Italy, China, Korea, Vietnam, India, and Thailand. There is a simultaneous celebration of World Party Day that occurs in every continent of the world. The celebration has no religious or political connections. The theme of World Party Day celebrations is a “universal human right to fun, peace, and life.”

Global podcasts featured a variety of music and radio stations reading from the novel Flight.

The Quadrille Dance Parade is a fun event – check it out!

Kansas Day Jan. 29 – Do you celebrate your roots?

Kansas Day commemorates the admission of the state as the 34th in the Union ( USA) on January 29, 1861. Schools have been marking the anniversary since 1877 by learning more about their state’s history.

The Simens family of four have been celebrating Kansas Day for many years – Why?  I spent the first 18 years of my life in northwest Kansas.  It is part of me.  I wanted to keep this part of my history in my life.  I have held Kansas day parties in American Samoa, Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Thailand, Honduras, as well as in California, Hawaii, and Texas. BUT, I have never held a Kansas Day party in Kansas.

Words of Wisdom

Global families often wonder what holidays to celebrate. They wonder what should be important for their children to memories of or events around. Selecting holidays is never an easy decision especially in our cross-cultural families or our families that have lived in a variety of locations.  Whatever you choose to celebrate – make it a ritual.   Celebrate that holiday every year no matter where you are or who you are with at that time.

This year – we will be doing a take on the pioneers who lived in Kansas. Several of our friends in Roatan will be meeting us on the pier for “Pie” and “Beers.”  Thanks to Heather a friend from college, who told about this type of celebration and it seemed perfect for my annual Kansas Day party on Roatan.

Here is one of my favorite stories about Kansas, God, and a pet. (Sounds like a great country western song.)

God was missing for six days. Eventually, Michael, the archangel found him, resting on the seventh day.

He inquired, “Where have you been?”

God smiled deeply and proudly pointed downwards through the clouds, “Look, Michael. Look what I’ve made.”

Archangel Michael looked puzzled, and said, “What is it?”

“It’s a planet,” replied God, and I’ve put life on it. I’m going to call it Earth, and it’s going to be a place to test Balance.”

“Balance?” inquired Michael, “I’m still confused.”

God explained, pointing to different parts of Earth. “For example, part of Europe will be a place of great opportunity and wealth, while another part of Europe is going to be poor. Over here I’ve placed a continent of white people, and over there is a continent of darker people. Balance in all things.”

God continued pointing to different countries. “This one will be scorching hot, while this one will be cold and covered in ice.”

The Archangel, impressed by God’s work, then pointed to a land area and said, “What’s that one?”

“That’s Kansas, the most glorious place on earth. There are beautiful rolling hills and prairies, rivers and streams, lakes, forests, hills, and the plains.” Then God Said, “This is Kansas, the center of America.

The people of Kansas are going to be handsome, modest, intelligent, and humorous, and they are going to travel the world. They will be extremely sociable, hardworking, high achieving, carriers of peace, and producers of good things. They will care about animals and have pets.”

Michael gasped in wonder and admiration, but then asked, “But what about balance, God? You said there would be a balance.”

God smiled, “I did have to put a few idiots in other parts of the world.”

Global Identity

I always wonder how strong my own child’s sense of identity or “where they are from” will be since they have spent all of their lives in chunks of four or five years on different continents.  As my one child said, ” I am 4% Australian since I was born there and lived there for awhile.  I am 25 % African since I have lived there a long time.  I am 25% American since I spend most of my summer holidays there. I am 45% Indonesian since I lived there so long. Of course, I am 1 % Thai since this is my home now.” He had decided to map his timeline by months so it would reflect the summer months he spent in the USA.

On another note, I wonder how he will introduce himself to peers in college? Or more importantly, will he be able to find that small of group friends that have grown up like him, a citizen of the world.



But seriously, You have got to love most titles of Country Western Songs!  Here are a few of my favorite:

Julia’s top 20 hits for any Kansas Day Party anywhere!

Please note these are not in any specific order, I just hit random and let the party begin!

1. Get Off the Table, Mabel (the $2 is for the Beer)

2. I Don’t Care if it Rains or Freezes, As Long as I Have My Plastic Jesus

3. I Just Can’t Get Over How You’ve Gotten Over Me

4. I Went Back to My Fourth Wife for the Third Time and Gave Her a Second Chance to Make a First Class Fool Out of Me

5. I’ve Got Tears in my Ears from Lyin’ on my Back in my Bed While I Cry Over You

6. She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy

7. You Don’t Have to Call Me Darlin’, Darlin’ – You Never Even Called Me By My Name

8. At the Gas Station of Love, I Got the Self-Service Pump

9. Get Your Tongue Outta My Mouth ‘Cause I’m Kissing You Goodbye

10. It’s Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night that Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long

11. Billy Broke My Heart at Walgreens, and I Cried All the Way to Sears

12. I Was Looking Back to See If You Were Looking Back to See If I Was Looking Back to See if You Were Looking Back at Me

13. Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well

14. Your Negligee Has Turned To a Flannel Nightgown

15. The Last Word In Lonesome Is “Me”

16. Walk Out Backwards Slowly, So I’ll Think You’re Walking In

17. And There was Grandma, Swingin’ on the Outhouse Door, Without a Shirt On

18. How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?

19. She Got The Ring, And I Got The Finger

20. They May Put Me In Prison, But They Can’t Stop My Face From Breaking Out

15,242,400: Wow, that’s a lot of moments so dear!

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose”, wise words from Fred Savage. He played Kevin Arnold in The Wonder Years. Memories are what bind families together around the world. Memories shared are quality time spent with family. Memories are often all we have of past times.

Resilience – one of the most common thread is the quality of time spent with family

Simens Wedding
Simens Wedding

Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear

How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights – in sunsets – In midnights – in cups of coffee – In inches – in miles – In laughter

How do you measure a year in the life?

How about love? – Measure in love – Seasons of love


I am usually not one to talk much about my personal romances. Some things are private even if you blog about “home life” and “parenting“.

My first kiss was…

My first love was …

At times, it is hard to remember since Kevin has been the love of my life for 29 years!

At one time I did have a boyfriend younger than I was…

At one time I did date a basketball player …

I remember my first kiss with Kevin…

And I remember the last one…

You will see the reasons for my questions if you watch this film. I love the rainbow in the short movie.  Briand’s Apricot evokes forgotten memories. This film is a film for the Dreamers, a film for the romantics and a film for film lovers.



Today we are celebrating our 29th Wedding Anniversary. We had spent 15,242,400 minutes in love (not counting the three months we were engaged and the few shorts weeks before that when we met) There are so many things I remember about the last 29 years.

A visible record will provide some perspective

I could say our marriage has been a little rocky (that’s not the right word).

It has been a little stoney (still not correct).

OK, it has been a gem!

A few things stand out –

When we first decided we would start a ‘global life,’ Kevin wanted to give me a gift to symbolize our move from the USA to Singapore.  Of course, he bought me a lovely gem!  Little did he know that this simple tradition would slowly grow into a beautiful collection with so many International moves under our belts.  I am a firm believer that family traditions are a must for all families but vital for mobile households!  These types of rituals don’t have to be big or expensive – it is the simple traditions that keep a family strong.

When we made our first move from the USA overseas. We jointly made the long inventory list. We packed up multiple suitcases. We stuffed the air shipment full. We moved. We unpacked together and went shopping for our new home together. The last international move, I  updated the inventory. I left and went to the USA for the summer holiday.  Later that year, we packed up our home in Bangkok and got it ready to head to Balikpapan.

That last international move from Bangkok to Balikpapan – Kevin sent the air shipment off to our son’s college. Kevin unpacked our home in Balikpapan. Kevin then meet me in the USA where I was still on vacation.

It is important that global families are flexible with what works best for them at that moment in time.

When we retired we packed up our expat life together and headed to the USA. We would not be returning to work. We are starting a new life of not “working”. I was excited.

When we first moved overseas, we went as a family of two. We had long walks together, fun dinners with lively conversations and many talks about the upcoming trips we would be doing.  Two children later and 18 years with kids in elementary and high school, we are once again alone. When we left Borneo, we were a family of two.

Today we are enjoying long walks together, fun dinners and many talks about planning family vacations. This afternoon we will jump on a paddle wheeler and cruise around Emerald Bay. We will cruise around Fannette Island, the only island in Lake Tahoe. We will look at Vikingsholm, an excellent example of Scandinavian architecture which is a 38-room mansion.

It is important that the adults in the family remain close, so the children benefit from the quality of time spent with family.

It had been a great 29 years!



For those family members that flew to the San Francisco Bay area for our wedding, it was on May 2nd.  We are lucky enough to spend our 25th with about 25 of our best friends in Bangkok.  The only thing missing was our family!

Last year I was home alone in Balikpapan with Kevin on his way “home” to see me after a company golf tournament. We celebrated our anniversary one day late in Balikpapan but just in time for the USA. This year we had the champagne chilled, headed out to Lake Tahoe and took tons of photos to lock in this memory and share it with our family.

Notes: Movie – APRICOT -A Short Film by Ben Briand
by Moonwalk Films
Winner: Community Choice Award
Voted Best Narrative on Vimeo by its users

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What does tears, alcohol,and mama have in common?

My cowboy wears a Tom Nicks hat.

My cowboy wears a Tom Nicks hat.

These are the most used words in a USA “country” song. Did you know in the USA, Country music is the most advanced? It is if you are looking at reading levels.

The odds a Top 100 country song will refer to tears or crying are 1 in 3.23 The reference to alcohol is 1 in 5. The odds one of these songs will contain a reference to “Mama” are 1 in 7.14. The odds one will include a reference to the word “train” are 1 in 11.11, and the odds one will contain a reference to the word “prison” are 1 in 33.33.

I recently found another study that looked at songs that spent, at least, three weeks on the Billboard singles chart. The research used conventional measurements including the Flesh-Kincaid readability test, which considers the sentence, and word length as key factors. They looked at lyrics from 225 songs that topped the USA charts.

The sad news is the study found the average reading level was third grade – roughly eight years old in our educational system. They also discovered that the reading level has gone down in the last decade.

My music peeps might want to know how things ranked! Country music was the most advanced, with an average of 3.3, Hip-hop was last at 2.6 reading levels.

Maybe, way too many “yeah” and “oh” in quick succession in hip-hop.

Speaking of Alcohol

Why don’t you get a nice glass of beer and compare some of the highest songs to the lowest songs – and then tell me which one you’d rather have your child listen to or repeat the lyrics? The song that scored the highest, with a reading level of 5.8 was Country singer Blake Shelton’s “All about tonight”.

Shelton’s ode to hard partying, feel–good pills and red Gatorade might not be what I’d want my child to experience. I am not sure if “rocking all kinds of concoctions in our hands” is a phrase that I would have wanted my third grader to think about.

The second highest song was from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Dani California.” Chaos in California is never fun to think about when you have a daughter living there.

Songs near the bottom were, Maroon 5”s “Moves like Jagger” and Ozzy Osbourne’s “Let Me Hear You Scream.” If you are looking for a song that scored below a first grader’s reading level, you will need to listen to Three Days Grace “The Good Life”. I liked the chorus of this song: “All I want is a little of the good life. All I need is to have a good time. The good life.

Other bits of random information from the study:

  • Katy Perry had songs on both extremes – from the simple “Wide Awake” to the most complex “E.T.”
  • Smartest lyrics among pop artists – Mariah Carey
  • Smartest lyrics on hip-hop – Eminem

Changing my Music Standards

Will this study make me change my music habits? No. Will it make me wonder why songwriters have decided that they should be writing at an 8-year-old level? Yes. Does it worry me that our youth might get stuck in this level of reading achievement, as things around them remain so low. Yes. Am I super interested in seeing if other countries/languages have this same reading level in their music. Yes.


Notes: One study was done for SeatSmart – Andrew Powell-Morse. Methodology: made on findings based on reading complexity, not on metaphors, insightful observations or emotions expressed in the songs.

You can find more at: http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2009/11/1-in-5-country-music-songs-refers-to-alcohol/



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The Zen in the Expat Thanksgiving

Family and Food - Two of my favorite things!

Family and Food – Two of my favorite things!

Being an American who has lived in many different countries, I have always tried to explain the USA holiday of Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorite holidays because it incorporates two things I hold very dear to my heart – Family and Food.

I like that it is not a gift giving holiday.

I like that it is not a religious holiday, people of all faiths can join in the celebration.

To me, it is a celebration of gratitude.

[Tweet “Gratitude in the best attitude. – Author Unknown...”]

I like the family traditions we have at Thanksgiving. I like that some things always stay the same. We always have turkey even if we have to pay too much for it.  My brother, Jeff who lives in Missouri is always amazed at how much you have to pay for a turkey in places like Indonesia, Nigeria, or American Samoa. Turkey’s are just not grown in many places in the world and when you have to throw in freezing containers floating around the world or air shipments – the costs are just sky high. I have been known to put a whole frozen turkey in a suitcase just to get one in the country we are currently living in at that time! Not much room in the suitcase for other items but well worth it for the family tradition.

I’ve made pumpkin pies from scratch in places where you can’t get our favorite Libby’s pumpkin puree. It is a several day process for me when you have to start with a whole garden pumpkin. I love the convenience, consistent flavor and texture of canned pumpkin even if it is mostly “squash’!

Some canned “pumpkin” puree is actually made from one or more types of winter squash, like butternut, Hubbard, Boston Marrow, and Golden Delicious. These squash varieties can be less stringy and richer in sweetness and color than pumpkin. The USDA is actually pretty lenient with its distinction between pumpkin and squash.

Sometimes hard to find in July!Often in the summer on my annual home leave, I’d buy the Libby’s brand of canned pumpkin and throw it into our suitcase so I’d have my Thanksgiving pie!  Libby’s use a strain of Dickinson Pumpkins, with especially creamy flesh, that the company developed themselves. This variety of pumpkin resembles a butternut-squash, not the orange pumpkin we have for Halloween jack-o-lanterns.

Sometimes it is impossible to get Crisco in the countries we have lived in.  I like the crust of my pumpkin pie to be flaky.  I watched my Grandma Wright use Crisco (vegetable shortening), Flour, Salt, Water, Vinegar, and Egg to make perfect pies. This is the only way I know how to make a good pie. Ree, The Pioneer Woman uses a similar recipe. So believe it or not, Crisco has also found it’s way into my luggage.  So far I have only had to try and explain why I am bringing these items into a country one time.  By the time I got to pie crust . . . the customs official was waving me through the line. I am not sure what I would have said or done if they had taken my Thanksgiving stash.

My favorite Zen Holiday Story about giving thanks

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food.

The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation. The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough
to give him security for a lifetime.

But a few days later he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said, “I know how valuable the stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone.”

Giving thanks far away from family

Then: Bundle up it was always cold and drive across Logan County  to Grandma’s house. Over the river and through the woods and all that sort of stuff.

Now: Glad our child in is Hawaii enjoying a wonderful feast with a local family.  Glad the other child will be celebrating with friends  and family in Colorado. Glad you and Kevin have made the perfect Thanksgiving Feast.

At one Thanksgiving, it would have been our child’s first ever USA Thanksgiving. While living in college and not near family, I searched and searched for a restaurant that would deliver a feast to her college apartment. Most nice places have a buffet for important events like Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years.  After hearing my ‘sad story’ about it being her first and only USA Thanksgiving in the USA and being alone my wish was honored.  The Briarwood Inn supplied a feast for my child. It is hard to know how much a person might eat at a buffet and there was no way to really determine that. My child reported that not only was it a feast there were tons of leftovers and that is what makes Thanksgiving special for a college kid.  Or all of us. Right.

Thanksgiving past and present 

I am grateful for all the Thanksgiving feasts I have had.  Starting with the ones at Grandma Wright’s Kansas farmhouse to this one in Incline Village, NV.  At first all my memories of Thanksgiving were only about family members. Often we had a whole room full of tables and family sharing the feast. Then it moved to Thanksgiving with college friends and on to Thanksgiving with international teachers. A few years of Kevin and I sharing the dinner with friends. Finally, my own family and an ongoing list of expats sharing the feast.

I wish I had taken pictures of the faces of people who shared my table at each and every Thanksgiving to have as a slideshow. Besides a whole host of wonderful people and their smiling faces, it would show some interesting things. It would show the massive tuna that the young teachers put on the BBQ in Samoa to go with the roast turkey.

It would show my Mom cooking gravy in a “fry baby” in Hawaii since my college apartment didn’t have a lot of kitchen items. All of our guests had to bring their own plates and silverware since we only had a set of three odds and ends. Our family will be missing our mother this year at the holidays but remember fondly how she so effortlessly made a huge meal year after year for all of us and any friends we wanted to bring along.

It would show the wonderful name tags my kids made one year. It would show the straw turkey Jackie painted with her Grandma Simens. It would show friends from around the world. It would show my family. It would show my quasi-families!

[Tweet “Expats create quasi-family for Thanksgiving”]

Enjoy your time with friends –  If you are an expat create a quasi-family and enjoy the holiday.


Zesho Susan O’Connell speaks about Thanksgiving and she does it well.

“The greatest gift is to give. We can give gratitude, we can give sustenance to body and mind, we can give fearlessness. The wheel of giving and receiving keeps our hearts open and warm. And a warm and open heart is the source of courage – the courage to sit still in the midst of our constantly changing, challenging lives. Wisdom emerges from this stillness — and informs the style and content of our giving. Give with no expectation of return. Give wholeheartedly, and if you realize you are holding back, give yourself kindness and understanding. Give each out-breath to the benefit of the world.

Oh Cr*p – will my global finds make my home look like a museum or Pier 1 Imports?

Indigenous Australian art or Australian Aboriginal art

Indigenous Australian art or Australian Aboriginal art

Let the fun begin!  We are finally going to have all our world treasures in one location.  My heart loves this, but my head keeps asking if my home will look like a museum or like the showroom at Pier 1 Imports?

I do know I need to make a gallery wall because I have a huge wall that is empty! Yeah. Kevin reminds me to do it well and do it ‘once’ so it is not something he continually has to fix or change. I’ve asked Houzz to help me so I am eager to see what options we might come up with.

I also know many of you guys have already combined your homes with lovely art so if you have any ideas, please let me know. Here are some of the wall things I will be playing with.


Picture Main colors matt Frame Size in INCHES
Ethnic Theme Height x width
Indonesian Dancer Gold/Red/ YellowOil Painting from Indonesia Tan Gold 48 x 39
Mother - Vietnamese lacquerware Red/GoldVietnamese lacquerware black Black and gold 20 x 16
Plants - Vietnamese lacquerware Red/Gold Plants




black Black and gold 24 x 18
selempang (Indonesian sash) in shadow box Antique

picture – selempang (Indonesian sash) in shadow box

black black 38 x 10
Antique world map White/tanOld world MapFrom Bangkok Tan wooden 27 x 23

Antique Kansas Map

Antique Kansas Map

Antique Kansas Map green wood 16 x 18

Spicy it up naturally


White/ red/greenArtist drawing of Indonesian Cooking plants/spices tan black 28 x 26

Singapore Palette

Singapore Palette

White/ red/greenDrawing from Singapore about famous Chop Houses tan black 20 x 31
 Africa -Animals By Jackie Purple/ Red Child’s artwork from Nigeria purple black 24 x 18

Indigenous Australian art or Australian Aboriginal art

Indigenous Australian art or Australian Aboriginal art

Orange/brownAboriginal Art from Western Australia none none 29.5 X 39.5 can go either way

Aboriginal Girl

Aboriginal Girl

Orange/brown Cross stitch of Australian Art none wood 18.5 x 17

Aboriginal Art

Aboriginal Art

Green/brownAustralian Aboriginal Art none none 18 x 24

Golden antique  door Africa

Golden antique door Africa

Gold – Antique Door knocker from Africa clear Gold 12 x 10

Two Men at the Lagos Market

Two Men at the Lagos Market

Black/ white/ red    Water color of two Men in the Lagos Market – African Art black wood 36 x 36

Ghana necklace Silver

Ghana necklace Silver

Black/ silverAntique Necklace Ghana, African art black tan 23 x 18

Ladies with Purses

Ladies with Purses

White – pen drawingLadies with Purses black wood 18.5 x 25.5

Thailand Wooden Carved Mirror

Thailand Wooden Carved Mirror

Wooden carved Mirror from Thailand mirror wood 35.5 x 32
 Looks a lot like the mirror above Carved Wood small mirror from Thailand mirror wood 18 x 14

Metal and pottery in shadow box (Africa)

Metal and pottery in shadow box (Africa)

Green/ silver pottery from Nigeria clear Green/ silver 25.5 x 12

Metal and pottery in shadow box (Africa)

MAN – Metal and pottery in shadow box (Africa)

Green/ silver Metal Man from Nigeria clear Green/ silver 14 x 12

Metal and pottery in shadow box (Africa)

Metal and pottery in shadow box (Africa)

Green/ silver Metal and pottery from Benin – Africa clear Green/ silver 15 x 14.5

We will talk about the Indonesian fishing baskets, the Nigerian baskets, the Ghana gourds and more in the next blog post.  AND don’t get me started on what the kids have kept as their world keepsakes!

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TCK’s doing good around the world: Volunteering Give and Get

Volunteer Story – Grant Simens   (published in Argentina)

March 12, 2015 by

 Written By – Grant Simens

                 There’s a gap between people. It shows  itself in a number of ways. From the problems being faced halfway across the world, to the private issues in the house next door; the gap between humans can separate you from taking on the challenges and problems of others. This trip, I found that was no longer the case for me.

                I spent the last six weeks in Cordoba, Argentina working at the Human Rights Office. New to volunteering, in general, let alone human rights, I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew is that two things are true.

  1. I love meeting new people and cultures
  2.  I wanted to have a positive impact in a community.

I would soon come to realize, my experience would not only do that, but far exceed my expectations in how much I’ve seem to grow as a person since I arrived.

Working in an office may have been the headquarters of our operations, but I soon found the real growth came from the work we brought with us when we left to go to our different placements around the city. My work entailed a variety of tasks. As a human rights group, it was our duty to acquire and follow-up on human rights cases to help in the best way we can legally. This meant for me, helping out at the Legal Clinic at Blas Pascal, and interviewing and interacting with the homeless people at Plaza San Martin. Cases were probably my favorite thing about the work. Being able to find and interact with people who need our help, and follow-up with them throughout the process of their case, really allowed me to care and try to help the specific people I’ve been tasked with helping. It allowed me to take on their problems as well and put a face to the paperwork we did behind doors. One often hear statistics about the poor and homeless, but for many people those problems feel far from home. So as a volunteer, starting out with a name on a sheet of paper, then moving on to face-to-face contact, and seeing progress being made, really helped that gap close for me. It let me be a part of the solution – a friendly face in an organization standing up for each person in need to help give them a voice. I will miss my cases, and the people I’ve become acquainted with, but I know I will be leaving them in good hands.

Other parts of my work here included helping initiate the ID program. In order to take care of government benefits in Argentina, you need a DNI (identification). For many people however, they cannot benefit from these programs as they do not have one. Either they were never registered, or they lost theirs (a common circumstance when living on the street). My task was figuring out and conducting a plan to get every client without an ID, a new one. Drawing up a plan, we dove into figuring out who we could help get a new ID, including getting a poverty certificate and taking their information to run through the process. Overall, I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken and glad to be leaving behind a plan to follow.


One other project I was proud to be a part of was sitting in as a representative of Projects Abroad at the Tumbando Rejas magazine meetings. This year, they are doing a larger issue including all the other NGO’s in Cordoba. I was tasked with attending meetings at Freire to help with ideas and relay information back to the office. It was great to meet so many outgoing people working together on a project across multiple groups.

Overall, I’d say I was thrown in the deep-end, when it cames to learning how to communicate in Spanish. I remember being tasked with talking to clients on the phone to tell them about their appointment. For the first one I created a script to read because I was so nervous. But for some reason, for the second one I had a burst of confidence, and decided to wing it, and was so proud of myself being able to come up with the words I needed to say. At first speaking in Spanish to clients seemed intimidating, but the human rights group gave plenty of practice in tough situations that eventually I found myself speaking with clients back and forth very easily after a couple weeks, which was a really rewarding experience.

I recommend future volunteers to get started right away and jump right into their work. It is definitely true that you get back as much as you put in. Also, to really invest in your placements, and try to get out of the office for personal work as much as you can, as it was very rewarding working with the people you are here to help.

As I said, there’s a gap that exists between the lives of others. If I were to be thankful for one thing out of this whole experience, working with human rights in Argentina, it would be for allowing me to close the gap between my world and the people I’ve come to help. I was brought closer to issues far removed from me, and yet, as I leave, I feel that they were my own. If only the whole world could experience something similar, perhaps we wouldn’t feel so far away from each other. Tonight I’ll be travelling thousands of miles away, but the people of Argentina will still be with me.


FIGT Board of Directors 2014-2015


Our friends flew in from around the world for the  Families in Global Transition board meeting. The  American Foreign Service Association  generously  provided our meeting space. Our day was full of  information and growth.  I am really excited about the  FIGT Board of Directors.







If you have not met the FIGT board of directors – here are their snapshots.

Each person on the board dedicates their time and effort to bring together people around the world to share in the joy of ‘global nomads’. The Board of Directors provides the leadership for FIGT. These individuals are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of internationally relocating families. Directors are elected at annual meetings for a term of two years.

Our mission statement:

Families in Global Transition is a welcoming forum for globally mobile individuals, families, and those working with them. We promote cross-sector connections for sharing research and developing best practices that support the growth, success and well-being of people crossing cultures around the world.


David C. Pollock Scholarship

The David C. Pollock Scholarship Fund pays tribute to international educator, sociologist and co-author of Third Culture Kids, David C. Pollock. His tireless support, vision and dedication to families in global transition impacted countless people in every corner of the globe. Building on Pollock’s legacy, FIGT aims to attract, involve and educate emerging, global-minded, intercultural leaders.

The David C. Pollock Scholarship provides highly motivated individuals working or studying in the intercultural field the opportunity to attend the FIGT conference. The ideal Scholarship applicant will demonstrate how attending the FIGT conference will help jumpstart a project, profession and/or entrepreneurial endeavor that contributes to others in global transition. Each Scholarship recipient will have the opportunity to establish life-long professional connections and contribute his or her unique gifts to FIGT during and beyond the conference.


The FIGT Conference, often referred to as the grassroots “think tank” for families relocating globally, offers leading edge methods, research and cross-sector collaboration. It is the only conference in the world where representatives of the corporate, diplomatic, academic, military, mission, arts and entrepreneurial sectors gather to share their knowledge and skills. In an open and inquisitive environment, FIGT specifically addresses the developmental impact of international relocation on families and children, and the conference offers a fertile exchange of strategies toward realizing successful global transitions.

Put March 6-8th on your calendar!  See you in Tysons Corner Marriott!


Note: The Pollock Scholarship Application is coming soon for the 2015 FIGT Annual Conference.




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Global Family: Each child has a unique Identity

Balikpapan ExpatsWe are putting on a free webinar this week which would be perfect for anyone relocating anytime. The title is “New Country, New School.” sign up here.  Thursday, 21st at  10 AM BalikpapanTime.


What a wonderful introduction. 


We are very excited to have such a renowned author and specialist, Ms Julia Simens presenting a workshop for our AIS parents and friends, based on the title “Needs of Cross Cultural Kids”. (Being an educator, speaker, author and consultant, this has provided Julia the opportunity to work with over 8,000 families on five continents.  We are very fortunate in having Julia here in Balikpapan and we are thrilled she can share her expertise with us. It should be a very informative presentation. Please check out the link: http://indonesiaexpat.biz/meet-the-expats/meet-julia-simens/

So many of the families I work with want to know a few key things at every presentation that I give. They want to know the correct terms to use to describe their family and children. They want to know what and why transitions are the way they are and how to prepare for them. Then, they want to know how to relate it directly to their own issues.

I am excited to give this presentation to the Australian School located in Balikpapan. You can advance through the presentation below by clicking on the forward button. If you do not want the music, be sure to click the volume button on the lower left side of the presentation.  Videos that are imbedded will not play automatically so you will need to click on they to get them to start.


Activites to do:  Identity and Time Line

To understand why “knowing your child’s identity from his or her view point is important”, please do this activity.

List everything that makes up your child’s identity. Such as:

  • Gender – male or female
  • Cultural Grouping
  • National Identity
  • Religious Identity
  • Passport Country
  • Mom’s heritage
  • Dad’s heritage
  • Identify Identification

Here is an example of a student I used to work with:

He was a six year old male. He lived in a household that was English and Indonesia. His main cultural grouping was Indonesia. He was being raised a Christian. He passport was from the USA.  Mom was American, Dad was Indonesia. He identified with being a basketball player and really good at making jokes.

Then we did his actual time line:

He was six years old so we needed to account for his time and where he lived. When you are dealing with a young child try to keep track of moves by 1 or 6 month changes. Some global families go ‘home’ for 2 months over the summer and that should show up at 10 months in host country and 2 months in ‘home’ location.

Did his parents realize how much "Thai" influences were in their child?

Did his parents realize how much “Thai” influences were in their child?

Born in the USA , spent six months there. Moved to Indonesia and sent 1 year there, family moved to Thailand where they spent most of each year. They did try to spend a month in Indonesia and one month is the USA each year if possible. If you account for each month of this child’s life, his life chart looked liked this. 15% USA, 23% Indonesian and 62% Thai.


Some people quest why this type of break down is important or why they should even think about it in regards to their global family.  Here are the top five reasons why we need to know and understand our child’s own timeline.

  1. Parents might see their child’s cultural identity differently than their child does.
  2. Parents may impose an identity on their child, which many not be the way the child sees him or her self.
  3. Parents must not rely on a school to know the issues their child is having with cultural adjustments, unless they share them with the school.
  4. Many children moving to their passport country are not ‘moving back or moving home.’ Home is actually their parent’s home.
  5. Kids love to be unique so knowing how ‘special’ their own life or timeline is can be a very positive  understanding of  ‘self’  they can be proud of.
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Favorite Food: Indomei (still)

My own child is still less from the USA passport belonging – then where he lived abroad. His time in the USA was limited by a short stay when he was one year old and then summer holidays. He has never lived there for any length of time. This might have brought up the issue of where to go to college or university.  Some global souls do not pick their passport country to go to university. This can be hard to explain to grandparents and extended family.

Global Families should also be aware of this concern. 

(From – Erin Sinogba/Brice Royer/TCKID/ Expatica) Many CCKs also face challenges that unfortunately manifest themselves professionally. Many CCKs are schooled in educational systems that do not translate in their passport countries. A Korean student, who received her education in English while living in Malawi and Kenya, may not perform well at a university in Korea, where she needs to write papers and give oral presentations in Korean.

As a result, her professional opportunities in Korea will not be as wide as those for another Korean student who had been raised in the Korean educational system. This challenge is especially pronounced for CCKs who wish to pursue skilled professions such as medicine and law in their passport countries. Because of their highly specialized terminology, education and proficiency in the language of the passport country is essential for success. Unless CCKs receive supplemental education in these languages, they may miss out on opportunities in these areas.

jackie's time lineAs globalization becomes more and more a fact of life, CCKs are a model for tomorrow’s professionals. It has taken 23 years for our daughter’s time line to show that she is now more USA than any other culture she has lived in. As she heads off into the workforce, she will be equipped with wonderful things this global live has given her. She will continue to hold a special and unique worldview, where she can  self-identify with more than one cultural background.


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Aging Parent: Torn Between Two Worlds

Expat's World Full of Heart

Expat’s World Full of Heart


Having an aging parent is hard enough but with more and more families becoming global nomads and living abroad when an aging parent needs help the issue is compounded. As the month of July is over half over, I am painfully aware that I will not be seeing my Mom again this summer.



When to get your aging parent help

Look for the small things that give you a clue on how her daily life is going. We knew Mom needed more help when we went home for a summer holiday and her coffee pot was a real mess.  Mom was the type of person who drank hot coffee for breakfast, had a coffee at mid-morning,  coffee with lunch and coffee in the afternoon.  It had to be hot and it had to be black. Her coffee pot was dirty and the coffee grinds were on the burner, the side of the pot and inside her coffee cups.  Mom’s eyesight had gotten worse and no one had noticed.

Getting someone in to help clean was not news that Mom wanted to hear at first. We were lucky. We had to set up housecleaning and manage it from 8,000 miles away. The caretaker was used to working with the older population so she easily billed us for her services once a month as we were able to pay her directly from our overseas account so Mom was not involved in the money transactions.  The biggest benefit was this lady was an honest and caring individual so Mom actually got way more support than we paid for.  A blessing for so many people who find themselves living far away from an ageing parent.

As the author of “Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child” I am well aware of the issues young families have had living apart from their extended families and grandparents but now as many of this same group of people are having aging parents, I am finding that it is all too common to have to seek additional support for their own parents since they live so far away.

When the unexpected happens

Illness never happen when you are around for the holidays. They strike unexpectedly. I am amazed how many of my friends spent wonderful holidays with family, then traveled around to world to get to their home. Only to get back on a plane and head back to their parent’s house for an emergency visit. I wonder if a broken heart factors into these illnesses and deaths.

My mother has recently had to move to a full time nursing facility because she broke her back. I was recently back home to visit mom and wrote a blog about her community exercise that we got to watch. (DÉJÀ VU: DODGE BALL MAKES ME QUIVER)

After several times of a ball to human interaction, my Mom was not so lucky. The recreational director even called out her name before she threw the beach ball but wham, the ball hit my Mom directly on the face. With her glasses askew, the ball bounced off her face, hit her chest, then rolled down to the floor.  With one gallant last try my Mom flung out her foot and made contact with the big beach ball. The ball sailed across the community center out of the circle of chairs and wheelchairs. Mom would not be doing these exercises if she was still living in her own home.

Enjoy and share the positive things

Is it mentally harder to go from the bad to the good? Do you always ask your aging parent, “How are you feeling?”.  Why not start with a positive! “Mom, your eyes are really looking great today.”  Most people do not convert from one frame of mind to another very well.

Last night I went to a local talk called “Getting Stuck in the Negatives (and How to Get Unstuck)” by Dr. Alison Ledgerwood from UC Davis. She joined the Department of Psychology at UC Davis in 2008 after completing her PhD in social psychology at New York University. She is interested in understanding how people think, and how they can think better. Her research, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, investigates how certain ways of thinking about an issue tend to stick in people’s heads.

Why do bad things seem to stick in our minds so much longer than the good things? Is there anything we can do about it? Dr. Ledgerwood’s behavioral science research suggests that negative thoughts are cognitively “stickier” than positive ones— but with some effort, it seems we can retrain our brains to focus on the upsides.

Once we think about something as a “loss”, it seems to stick with us longer. I will continue to send my mother cards and notes sharing the positives in her life. If I can’t physically be there, I can be there with positive words of gratitude.

Expats are experts at this

How do we reach beyond our current experience? One of the most basic challenges that people face in everyday life is how to cross gaps—gaps that separate self from other, now from future, here from there, and us from them. Even the simplest activities, like having a conversation or planning what to do next week, would be impossible if it were not for the human capacity to get unstuck from current experience and relate to other people, future time points, and distant contexts. (according to Dr. Ledgerwood)

I agree. Expats face challenges every day on how to cross gaps in their lives. Communication is always an easy one to see and the possibility to negotiate this is easy for some. Hard for others. I am the mono-cultural one tounge type person. My TCK has the ability to pick up the local street slang in a new country the first week we are there. He then blossoms into an almost fully understandable speaker within a few months. He even has the ability to sometimes pick up other words in other languages because his friends come from a variety of places around the world.

Dr. Ledgerwood’s research centers around the social psychological tools that humans have developed to help them reach across these distances. 




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