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Gifts for Third Culture Kids, 2018

This site has hilarious gifts for TCKs. T-shirts that say, “Where am I from again?” or “Invisible Immigrant” or “Yes, I speak African. If by ‘African’ you mean one of the 1,500-2,000 languages spoken on the African continent.”

Uncommon Goods has beautiful, fun things, especially search ‘travel’. (I make no commission, just love the site!) I especially love these coloring coffee mugs.

Color Map Mugs

This sticker, from Etsy. “Where am I from? It’s complicated.” Only $3.00

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A world map and push pins. The push pins are for them to mark places they’ve traveled or where people they love live. Or, this map has a scratch off-able cover, so they can scratch off the places they’ve been.

10 Days in Africa game. My kids love this game and of course we made our own pieces to include the countries (ahem, Djibouti) that aren’t included. It has helped our relatives, in particular, to learn geography and gives the kids a chance to talk about the places they’ve been.

Another game, geography of Africa and the Middle East.

Ticket to Ride has an Africa map version but the cover is deeply problematic. Check out these other games instead.

Magnetic poetry, this links to a French version. This is a great way for kids to engage with their new language or to remember and use their old one, if they are no longer in their host country (ala university students)

Food. Always, food. Passport country food, host country food, food you make for them, food you ask them to make in order to celebrate and honor their upbringing…food.

Books

Finding Home, by yours truly.

Between Worlds, by Marilyn Gardner

The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition, by Tina Quick

Misunderstood, by Tanya Crossman

Home, James by Emily Steele

 

*contains affiliate links

*For more ideas, check out the list from 2017

The Expat at Rest

I recently started seeing a counselor.

Not for anything specific, really. But for fifteen years in the Horn of Africa. For gritting my teeth and bearing it all these years. For current challenges, for good/hard things, for traumatic events, for heaps upon heaps of sorrow over all the ways the world and her people are broken.

I came in rather skeptical. Not about the particular person I am seeing, and I told her this before we even started, but about the process.

I had all kinds of excuses for why it wouldn’t be helpful.

I waited too long. The years have been too many.

I don’t really need to process any of this, I’ve been fine, I am fine, I’ll be fine. Mostly. Except when I’m not.

No one in the US will understand.

I don’t have the energy to dig around deep.

The specific method won’t be useful for me.

Mostly, I live a beautiful life and I’m thankful for 15 years in the Horn.

I remain skeptical, I think its partly my nature. However. One shining moment (among others) encourages me to press forward.

She gave me a coupon.

Not really, not a paper coupon, but with her words (I think I remember accurately) she even said, COUPON.

It was for rest.

It felt really silly, cliché, gimmicky.

She told me to stop feeling guilty for needing to rest. Of course I need to do work, I still have responsibilities and job requirements to fulfill, but I can easily take an 8-hour work day (on things for the International School of Djibouti, for example, or transcribing and editing an essay) and keep on going into the night. She lightly suggested that the world would not fall apart if I took a nap on a Saturday afternoon.

***

And so, I found myself at a park on a Saturday afternoon.

I had dropped off my son at university that morning and had a few open hours. I sat down at a picnic table with my laptop. I have several rough drafts of projects that needed editing, activity flyers to design, school documents to create.

I was so tired.

I had dropped off my daughter at university only a few days earlier. My husband and other daughter are back in Africa, while I stay in the US as the twins transition to this foreign country of the US. In many ways, life has turned upside down.

I was so tired.

My computer was warm on my lap and ready for work.

But I was at a park. In Minnesota. In late August.

Behind me, a father and daughter hit softballs and the sharp twang of her bat against the ball spoke everything that is summer. Ants crawled over my sandals. The sun filtered through leaves and danced on the grass like drops of gold.

I was so tired.

All I wanted to do was curl up in the grass and fall asleep.

Just for a little while.

Can people do that here?

Would I be safe?

Would someone approach me? Touch me? Stare at me? Steal from me? Harass me? Kick me out?

I closed my computer and sat down in that green, green grass.

I laid back with the sun now dancing on my cheeks and my backpack a computer-shaped pillow behind my head.

I fell asleep.

Did you feel the world stop? Did anyone notice?

Not a thing.

Not even the father and daughter playing softball noticed.

I dozed for maybe twenty minutes.

And then I woke up.

And the world kept right on spinning. You kept right on living. My work was still there and I had plenty of time to get it done.

So, if you need it, super dorky cheesey and cliché as it is, here’s your coupon. No, I take that back. I know you need it. So when, not if, here’s your coupon.

Print it out. Stick it to the fridge. And when you need to sleep in the grass, or sit at a café and just stare at your lovely cappuccino foam, pull it down and go do it.

I’ll still be here when you get back. The sun will still be shining. Your work will still be waiting.

And you’ll have energy to approach it, a fresh spirit to engage with it, new joy to experience it.

Go and rest.

By |September 24th, 2018|Categories: Expat Thoughts|Tags: , , |1 Comment

Acclimating to Africa, a Book Review

Debbi DiGennaro sent me her book Acclimated to Africa last week (full disclosure, she sent it for a review).

Have you read African Friends and Money Matters? I found that book helpful, while simplistic and limited in scope. This book reads in much the same style, as Debbi unpacks some significant cultural differences between African and Western cultures.

To be honest, my only real criticism of the book is this set up: African/Western. Debbi directly addresses this and her explanation makes good sense. It is true that narrowing down the focus would make for an entirely different book, so I’m glad she discussed her choice. Still, I found it grating to read over and over about Africans and African culture. We’re talking about fifty-four countries, hundreds of people groups, hundreds of languages. My co-worker from Zimbabwe had a very different response to African Friends and Money Matters than my co-worker from Kenya did and both said the book had a highly West African bent to most of the issues.

That said, many of the topics Debbi raises are major issues in cross-cultural adaptation, no matter what the specific cultural traditions are – gift giving, value of relationships, managing money, perspectives on time, birth, death, spirituality, and so much more. From deep cultural differences to things that on the surface appear minor, Debbi unpacks much of what a Westerner can expect to encounter in daily life on the continent.

Adaptation and cultural competence requires patience, self-forgiveness, curiosity, and a willingness to be changed. Too many expatriates assume that if they eat local food, wear local clothes, and use a few local words, they have adapted.

Wrong.

Cross cultural adaptation is so much deeper than these things, it is almost laughable, if our failure to adapt weren’t so sad and inter-personally damaging. It is pretty easy to eat ugali with my fingers. It is far harder to change the way I see time or possessions or faith or grief.

With humor, clarity, and relying on local perspective, Debbi pokes holes in this theory of easy cross-cultural adaptation. The major takeaway for me from her book is how challenging and rewarding that adaptation is. The only way to do it well is through ever-deepening relationships, with persistent humility, and a good sense of humor.

I would recommend Acclimated to Africa as a resource for opening up conversations on teams, among coworkers, between neighbors and friends. Know that it is only a guide, though, and be sure to ask your own host community how their perspective differs or is similar. As has become so common now to restate, thanks to the wonderful Chimamanda Adiche, author of Americanah, there is no single story.

Use this as a guide to your international growth, let yourself be challenged, and learn to see the world from another perspective.

You will never regret that.

You can find Acclimated to Africa here and read more about Debbi at her website here.

 

Finding Home Book BOGO Pre-Order Bonus

Finding Home: Third Culture Kids in the World is coming out on May 22, 2018!

Read on to find out how to get a FREE COPY!

You can order the book now. Like right now. Today. Pre-order, that is.

Why would you want to do that?

Because if you do, you’ll get the pre-order bonus of Buy One, Get One. BOGO!

Yup. If you buy the book, I will gift another copy of it to the person of your choice. So really, its you gifting them the book.

Pre order the book, email me (rachelpiehjones(@)gmail(dot)com) and let me know you’ve ordered (include a copy of the receipt) and let me know who you would like to send the free book to. Also include their email address (I won’t add it to my lists or do anything weird with it, I promise to only use it to send them their book). I’ll include a message explaining who is sending them the book as well as any other note you might like me to include.

Who would you want to gift it to?

Third Culture Kids in your life

A graduating senior

Parents who are thinking of making the move abroad

Grandparents of TCKs

Educators

People in your company/sending organization/NGO leadership

Friends

Anyone you would like to engage in conversation about TCK topics

Anyone at all

Know someone who loves or is and engages with a Third Culture Kid but who might not find this book, or might not buy it, or might not pay for it?

Gift it to them.

Pre-order here.

Tell me you did it, send me the info, and the day the book is released, they will get a special surprise in their inbox.

Finding Home, Third Culture Kids in the World. E-book Announcement!

Back in 2012-13 I hosted a guest post series on Djibouti Jones called Painting Pictures, about raising, being, and loving Third Culture Kids.

Now, six years later, it is time to revisit the essays, the authors, and the ideas. I compiled the posts, combined them with interviews and updates from the authors, and included a few suggestions for how to take the essays and make them personal for your own family and experience.

The final product is a book called Finding Home: Third Culture Kids in the World and it will be available on May 22!

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Here’s a preview. Special thanks to Cecily Paterson, for creating the lovely cover. And special thanks to all the essay contributors! You’ll hear more about them in the coming weeks.