Today, I reminisced about different experiences of living overseas. But as many of us who have lived this expatriate lifestyle know, some of these experiences are not easy to explain to local friends and acquaintances. Often, telling our strories just causes their eyes to glaze over. What is even more likely is that this line of conversation just does not interest them. It is just not part of their daily existence. When we do find people who are genuinely interested in hearing our story, then we are allowed a few moments of being just who we are -- folks who have had a variety of interesting experiences in different parts of the world.
Affectionately, I thought about living in China and not looking like most of the people I encountered (Pollack & Van Reken Foreigner Box). I recalled being amused, as I watched a little old lady observing my very blonde-haired coworker, as we rode bicycles through the market. This old lady sat down on a curb and laughed uproariously while slapping her thigh at the sheer thought of my friend’s physical appearance. If I could have read her mind, I would bet that her thoughts went something like this: “In all of my life, I never thought that I would see with my own eyes, some one who looks like her!”
My thoughts moved on to my memories of living in a Muslim country and wearing outfits that were conservative, yet did not look like any of the clothing worn by most of the women around me. What’s more memorable was encountering some of these women in the course of doing my job and pleasantly having that “inner knowing” that they were optimistic and encouraged!
My career choices brought me to places on the opposite side of the world and provided me experiences that I could never imagined when I was a child growing up in New Orleans. Although I grew up around a lot of local diversity, my overseas sojourns introduced to new people from very different backgrounds. From them, I learned all kinds of new things. I visited places that most people in the US read about in books, and most important of all, I learned things about myself every step of the way. My TCK children were lucky enough experienced all of these things along with us, but I suspect that imagining these things as children was not quite the same as my childhood imagining, because, after all, they” lived” them as children!
There’s no denying the power of these experience and the impact that these, and many others, have had on my life. My question for my readers: What kind of effects did living an international lifestyle have on you?