Last week I was away spending some well deserved time alone with Husband, Son and Daughter. After the hectic and emotionally draining summer we’ve had, it was nice to enjoy the sun, surf and sand on Captiva Island in southern Florida.
It was good for us to reconnect as a family, relaxing individually and collectively as one day slipped into the next. We also made sure to store up the sunlight for colder, darker days ahead back home in Nederland, but we needn’t address that at the moment.
One thing I did do while relaxing was to catch up on some expat reading.
I’m approached fairly often by expat and travel authors to read and review their books. I’m truly honored to be asked, and wish I could always say yes without a moment’s hesitation. But it’s gotten to the point where I simply can’t read every offered book that comes my way.
Well, I suppose I could, but then I wouldn’t have much time to do the other things I’d like, such as writing, blogging, staying connected with friends and keeping the family fires stoked.
I’ve had to become more discerning with my time, limiting myself to those books that are less technical and ‘how to’ and more memoir and ‘here’s why’.
Let’s be honest: I want emotion and feelings, words that evoke and share, explain and expand. I’m a sucker for a story that moves me. If it does that, I’m guessing it will move you, too.
Currently I’m reading several such books, all of which fall into the broad genre of expat life stories.
Yet each is distinctly different: one a blueprint of experience for considering a move abroad, another about the journey back from the dark side of depression, still another filled with sweeping stories of an author enthralled with a certain Spanish city.
I’m sharing the fourth with you today, an Adult Third Culture Kid’s saga of multi-generational expatriation.
Expat Alien: My Global Adventure.
Some of you may be familiar with Kathy’s blog of the same name, Expat Alien. Her tagline is ‘Foreign in My Own Country,’ and when you read her book, you’ll begin to understand why.
On the surface, Expat Alien is one woman’s story of growing up in places as exotic and diverse as Burma, Mexico, Nigeria, Colombia and Switzerland. For the little time she spent in her own passport country and the myriad challenges she has faced while acclimating to life there, you could just as well add the United States to the list.
But it’s so much more than that.
Born in Burma in the late 1950s to American parents living in the tropics halfway around the world, Kathy’s story is also the story of her parents’ generation: idealists personally committed to improving the human condition by virtue of her father’s lifelong work in Third World agriculture primarily with the Ford Foundation.
It’s also the story of a young girl growing up globally, moving so often and to such disparate cultures that, despite her family’s closeness, she winds up feeling restless, rootless and different. It’s no surprise that she meets and marries someone born in the US but intrinsically tied to his Russian homeland, a foot in each country.
As she’ll later learn through the teachings of Norma McCaig (founder of Global Nomads International, which eventually morphed into today’s Families in Global Transition) and Ruth Van Reken and the late David C. Pollock (Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds) , Third Culture Kids and ‘crossculturals’ have much in common.
When her husband ends up moving ‘back’ to Russia to further his burgeoning career in journalism, Kathy joins him. Raising their son while forging her own career in a country that seems ‘home’ to her husband yet just another foreign culture to her, she brings her experience and resilience to bear as they carve out a life together in Moscow.
The sinister circumstances under which Kathy’s family is suddenly forced to repatriate to the US further test her abilities to embrace change, adapt and build a new life not only for herself but for her TCK son.
Among the reasons why I enjoyed Expat Alien so much? Here are three:
- The juxtaposition of her parents expatriate experience helping others while generously supported (relatively speaking) by an international organization with that of her own family’s situation of moving abroad for job opportunities that come without any support system.
- The tenacity, bravery, openess and self-reliance of a young girl growing to womanhood in the largest international classroom imaginable: our multiculturally diverse world.
- The reflections as an adult TCK, looking back and making sense in retrospect of bits and pieces of her nomadic life.
See? I didn’t even have to mention the plane crash, earthquakes and military coup she survived.
Expat Alien is available in paperback on Amazon.com and in Kindle format. Why not jump over to Kathy’s blog site and learn more?