Repatriate With Resolve

FamilyRepatriation. Not a neutral word. It illicits a response. Eyebrows raised in curiosity. Bristled hairs on the back of the neck in panic. Hands over ears in avoidance.

Quotes from expatriates who have been there and done that:
“Coming home was more difficult than going abroad because you expect that you know what it’s like. I felt like an alien in my own country. I had changed. Friends weren’t interested in our experiences. Emotionally I was fragile. I felt like I had Alzheimer’s because I couldn’t remember things. I kept thinking ‘this can’t be me’.” Accompanying spouse from 3 year assignment in Malaysia to USA

“I felt a sense of loss when we returned to the UK. I miss the mixing with different nationalities. I was no longer a part of a small community where everyone looks out for each other. The kids went through a messy time and I wondered if I’d ever get my life back!” Expatriate wife and mom

“I stayed with the same company, but lost benefits. They gave me less responsibility at a lower management level and didn’t recognize or seem to appreciate the tremendous experience I had as a senior manager or the skills and expertise I had gained. I felt demoralized.” Employed partner transferring back to Canada from China

When we returned from Cambodia to Canada, I’d stare blankly at the aisles of choice in the grocery store and go home empty handed and overwhelmed. Decision making was hard. Worry consumed me – Would the kids be safe? Would they do well in school and make friends? Would I find a job? We longed to share our experiences with others, but found within minutes their eyes would glaze over. As a family we called it ‘lizard eyes’ and at the dinner table would ask, ‘how many lizard eye looks did you get today?’! Deeper than that was the tendency to judge, the emotional rollercoaster ride, and the sense of ‘misfit’ that seemed would never end. [Read more…]

Tribute to Mom

With Mother’s Day on the weekend for the majority of countries around the world, I pay tribute to my mother, who modeled for me living resilience with joy as an expat and ministry partner. She passed 7 years ago May 5th. There are times I sense she’ll just show up. Occasionally still, my chest constricts and tears come with her loss, especially when life’s hard. There’s nothing like mom when the going gets tough.

Mom’s Early Years

The 6th of 13 kids, mom was raised in a Mennonite farming family in Saskatchewan, Canada. She really did walk 5 km. to and from school! As a young girl she was feisty. When she started school, she only knew ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in English. She chose ‘no’ to answer all questions and wasn’t at all popular with the teacher. She loved learning and had a mischievous twinkle in her eye that always said she was up to something.

Mom lived as an expat missionary in 3 different countries over a span of more than 20 years. In 1949 she began her expat life in China, after a long boat trip across the Pacific. Not the cruise ships we enjoy today. Fleeing after only 6 months because of the communist insurgence, she moved to Hong Kong, continued with language study and served a city of people living on boats.

As if that wasn’t quite enough change in 5 years, she chose to work for another mission agency, which meant candidate school (so it was called then). There she met my father, an eligible bachelor. Both were assigned to Malaysia. The mission’s policy for outgoing staff was once engaged, wait 2 years for marriage. Determination and commitment followed and they were married in a little village church, far from their family. Four of her five babies were born in Malaysia.

Mom raised us through many relocations and 2 repatriations, between the countries of Malaysia, Hong Kong and Canada.  [Read more…]

Spring Awakening ~ Highlights From the FIGT 2014 Conference

My anticipation grew as the plane took off from Denver, headed to Washington Dulles airport. An early morning flight had brought me from Calgary, one on which I dozed off, trying desperately to keep my head from falling onto the unknown shoulder next to me.

Families in Global Transition Conference 2014 was about to begin. My 5th time attending and 4th time having the honour of presenting – excitement brewed within. Memories of FIGT’s past flashed across the billboard of my mind: unknown feelings at the 1st conference, quickly replaced with a sense of “at home” – an unusual feeling for an ATCK (Adult Third Culture Kid). As a professional, I have gained new learning and tools to add to my tool kit. Networking is always a favourite part of FIGT. Their move from Houston to Washington – an “I-fit-here” sense with each conferences I attended. A place where understanding, respect and open-mindedness were mutually shared through presentations and amongst relationships. A bond created from both the excitement as well as the pain of international living.

What would make FIGT 2014 unique? It didn’t take long to find out. I hadn’t stepped both feet into the lobby, when I heard my name, and there was a friend. Someone I had met at a previous FIGT. Others that were on-line acquaintances. Many this year were new to the FIGT community, which added vibrancy. It felt like a family reunion – the kind where you’re enveloped in hugs, accepted for who you are, and challenged through questions and thought provoking conversations. [Read more…]