To All the Teachers of Third Culture Kids

Quick link: Dear Teachers

Today at Brain Child my essay is up about the teachers who have helped my kids in so many different countries, languages, and school systems. We have been so thankful over the years for the people who have invested in our children. It isn’t easy, to take a kid who speaks no French or who is going through major culture shock or grieving various losses, and help them thrive.

Dear Teachers

We are an American family living in Djibouti and my kids attend a French school. Their first days of preschool were the first days they spent entirely and only surrounded by the French language.

I am not a teacher. I think I might explode, or implode, if I were a teacher. I don’t have all the skills I want my kids to inherit, few parents do. That’s why we need teachers and these are just a few of the skills our teachers have given, alongside an academic education:

Preschool: Communication

At my first parent-teacher meeting, the teacher told all the parents that our children had to ask permission, in polite French, before using the toilet. Then she looked at me.

“Except Lucy,” she said. Lucy was allowed to grab herself, bite her lip, and do a little dance. “Until she learns the words.”

I loved the teacher immediately.

Kindergarten: Empathy

I would make a terrible teacher. This is not a humble brag or an exaggeration. Ask my kids. They want help, I try to explain, they get more confused, dad comes home, and voila! They understand. He’s a teacher.

And so I have needed this other people. Here’s a small way of saying ‘thank you, merci, shukran, and waad mahadsantahay.’

Click here to read: Dear Teachers

Romance After Seventeen Years

In college, he threw rocks at my window until I opened it and looked down. Then, with me and dozens of other students watching from their dorm windows, he serenaded me with a song on the harmonica and a poem.

(can you find me and him in this photo?)

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He spent Valentine’s Day delivering small surprise packages throughout the day, leading up to a rose-filled dinner party.

He lost track of time, lost in the bushes behind the engineering building, picking bunches of wild flowers for me.

He ran out of a building after not seeing me for a month, scooped me up, and literally carried me away. Until I got too heavy and then he put me down and we walked. We walked to a wooden bridge he was building and carved our initials.

Cars were made for making out.

He proposed. We got married.

It was very romantic.

Seventeen years later…

Romace after seventeen years

He makes two cups of coffee in the morning. Unless I make them first.

He works really hard and provides for our family.

We know each other really well and know our limits, our talents, our desires. We know that we don’t know each other completely yet, that seventeen more years have still more to teach us.

He says he doesn’t care about my twin-pregnancy stretch marks.

He laughs really hard at Duck Dynasty and still looks at me, expecting me to laugh with him, though he knows full well that I am reading a book and not paying attention. If I laugh at all, it is at him, not the show.

He says the way I look is his definition of a beautiful woman.

We got to bed at different times and he tries to be oh.so.quiet.

Cars are made for safe family transportation to interesting places. Sometimes for making out (which, in a Muslim country, means a little peck inside the car when dropping one of us off at the airport).

He is the best dad ever, flying internationally to go to rugby tournaments, and playing football in piles of mud and showing our kids how to have grand adventures.

He prays for me.

We openly disagree about things and there is no pressure to impress or conform.

It is still very romantic.

Raising Kids in Djibouti

Quick link: What It’s Like to Be An American Mom Raising Kids in Djibouti, Africa

This one is up at Babble.

I almost didn’t share this. I actually didn’t, for about a week. I’m not a fan of certain things in the piece that were edited. But. My name is still on it, I guess it is good to get readers’ eyes on a piece. So, I’ll share it.

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(I can’t be the only writer who feels this way after a piece comes out…any thoughts? Maybe a topic for a future blog post, clearly I need some fresh ideas!)

I have been a parent now for 15 years. But for 13 of those years, I have lived thousands of miles away from my hometown in the American Midwest, in what’s known as the Horn of Africa (Somalia and Djibouti). As a result, most of my actual parenting experiences come from raising kids here in Africa, which has broadened my cultural awareness, to say the least. But I do still have loads of American friends, and go back frequently to visit myself, so it’s safe to say I’m still very much clued in to what U.S. parents are experiencing.

Is parenting the same on both sides of the world? Sure, when it comes to the foundations of love, security, and provision. But as for the day-to-day stuff? Nope.

Here are just a few of the major differences I’ve learned while raising my kids Djibouti…

Click here to read the rest of What It’s Like to Be An American Mom Raising Kids in Djibouti, Africa

About White Savior Barbie

Quick link: White Savior Barbie Nails It

This is up at A Life Overseas, my thoughts about the (hilarious and sad) Barbie Savior Instagram account.

Here’s an excerpt:

Barbie has an Instagram account. In case you’ve missed it, White Savior Barbie goes to Africa where she poses in a variety of absurd scenarios with over-the-top hash tags that perfectly capture the White Savior mentality.

Of course, as this article points out, Savior Barbie is largely preaching to the choir; people who are already savvy and aware and debating the issues. Most people outside the aid and development world or not engaged in the global South probably don’t care and their attitudes won’t be challenged or changed by a parody Instagram account. Fine, point taken.

Also, the photos reek of sarcasm and cynicism and stereotypes. Got it. But…

Click here to read the rest and join the discussion: White Savior Barbie Nails It

Going for a Walk. In Somaliland.

Quick link: Walking in Somaliland

At EthnoTraveler I address, again, the perennial question for expatriates living in the Horn of Africa: Is it safe?

Short answer: What do you mean by safe?

Long answer: Read the essay.

Walking in Somaliland

Here’s an excerpt:

My husband and I went for a walk in Hargeisa, Somaliland. Before we left the house where we were staying with friends, the Somali woman employed there swore Hargeisa was peaceful. “There is no danger?” I asked. “No,” she said. “Only in Hamar.”

Hamar is the Somali word for the southern capital, Mogadishu. There may not have been any overt danger in Somaliland but there were checkpoints every few blocks and more visible weapons than I was used to across the border in Djibouti. I wasn’t supposed to go out walking alone. And after dark, my husband needed to ride in a car the two blocks between where he watched a football match and our guesthouse.

I wore baggy pants and a loose t-shirt covered by a shimmering blue floor-length robe. A tight cream scarf covered my hair and a tablecloth-sized scarf draped over my head, down past my shoulders to my fingertips. This was not a romantic stroll through a quaint foreign village. It was more of a sanity walk. I hadn’t left the walls of the compound in three days and needed to get outside. We didn’t hold hands. I walked nearly a foot behind. We barely spoke…

Click here to read the rest of Walking in Somaliland