A bitter sweet trip to Dublin

I flew to Dublin for the day earlier this week because a very close friend’s dad passed away at the end of last week and I wanted to be there for her for the funeral. I arrived there late on Sunday and the funeral was on Monday morning. The prayers and song choices were beautiful and when my friend got up to speak about her dad, I was reduced to tears.

I haven’t seen her dad in a number of years but my heart broke for my dear friend. While we’re there for each other in our good times, it’s equally important to be there for each other at times like this. She’s often flown in to London for the day and visited us, she flew to India when I got married, stayed with me in Hong Kong and we got to hang out when I visited Sydney back in 2010. We’ve been friends for 17 years and although we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like, we always pick up exactly where we left off.

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After the funeral my bestie J and I headed over to our old school Kings Hospital (which was down the road) to have a look around. As we entered the main reception, nostalgia hit me in the face like an overbearing perfume. It’s been over 13 years since I left high school but it smelt exactly the same! We had the opportunity to walk down the main corridor, peek into our old classrooms, have a long chat with an old teacher and reminisce about our teenage days gone by. We then ended our little trip down memory lane by running down the corridor, definitely something we weren’t allowed to do during our time there.

If you’d told me when I started at the school that J and I would be best friends, I would have fallen over laughing. If you’d told my younger self where I’d be at 31, I wouldn’t have believed you. And yet here I am. Although I wish I’d seen my friends under different circumstances, seeing them was still sweet. At our school’s front reception, people have come in and out through those doors and yet it’s stayed exactly the same…a bit like our friendship.

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Being an expat doesn’t make you a brat

I was browsing the web last night when I came across this article.

http://expatchild.com/expat-brats/

As I went through the list of clues, many of them resonated with me. Especially considering myself a “third culture kid” and not really knowing what to say when I’m asked where I am from. But I definitely don’t think of myself as a brat. While I found the article interesting, I think brat was a wrongly used term.

I was born in Monrovia and lived there for 3.5 years. My family then moved to London. When I was 7, we moved to Nigeria. I went to school there for 4 years and at 11 went to boarding school in India and at 14, switched to boarding school in Dublin. I then ended my education studying for my degree in London. At 21 I lived between 3 different countries, working and volunteering with children and in early 2008 I moved to Hong Kong where I have lived for the last 5.5 years. I’d call myself an expat kid (or child of the world) but not really a brat. I was born in Africa, of Indian descent, with a British passport – confusing or what?!

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But, like with most things, I think the way children perceive things is down to their parents. Growing up, for the most part, we had domestic help, drivers, club memberships and I flew before I could walk. But my parents raised me to say please and thank you, even to people working in our home. Our house help were always treated like a part of our family. And if my brother and I were out of line, we were definitely set straight. We were always told, God gave you two hands, use them.

Ofcourse, saying this, there are things that we took for granted. I remember going to the supermarket with a friend once and I started bagging things as I always did, putting all tins together, all fruit and veg together. He soon showed me the error of my ways. I’d always driven to the supermarket or had the shopping done for me. He pointed out that when you were walking home with your groceries, you had to balance the bags out so there was a mix of heavy and light items in each bag. You learn something new everyday, that lesson has stayed with me since.

In my opinion, her list were more “isms”. I would think of a brat as a child with lack of manners, lack of empathy and snobbishness. I don’t think you have to be an expat kid to be a brat and vice versa.

I personally think if you’re lucky enough to be an expat kid, it is a privilege. I have an accepting nature of all cultures, I love to travel and see new places, meet new people. I have friends in almost every part of the world, I can clean and manage my own home if I need to but also appreciate and value the help if it’s there. Given all that, I’d love to raise my son as an expat kid. He’s been to 10 different cities in 19 months, I guess we’re on our way 😉

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What do you think? Were you an expat kid/third culture kid? Do you think it gives you a broader outlook on life and more accepting of different cultures?