“Please Do Not Touch”

“Thank you.”

These signs could be found all over our hotel rooms, in between moves, when my sister and I were playing a very creative (not to mention expansive) game of barbies. Yes, barbies. In a hotel room. But let me start from the beginning to explain this somewhat odd behavior.

These photos are unfortunately not the actual hotel photos, but they are the contemporary and creative work of my brother, Rawi Fayad. Expect more barbie posts simply to showcase his talent.

My sister and I are 2.5 years apart and we loved barbies. Obviously, as we grew older we played with them less and less, but they were still a measure of childhood comfort when we found ourselves in a new and foreign place. A lot of the moves we did usually required shipping our household items by boat, which meant that we would arrive in the new country before all of our things. This in turn meant that we would be staying in a hotel for a couple of weeks at least or a couple of months at most. We would be in a totally foreign country, starting in a new school, without even the comfort and familiarity of home. So our wonderful parents always tried to ease this difficulty by allowing us to select certain items to send by express freight (along with clothes and other necessary items) so that they would arrive earlier, while we were still at the hotel. The barbies were always part of that express shipment.

As we got older, the barbies became less of a game for us, but more of a symbol of comfort, of home, of having each other as friends during these tough times. We didn’t play with them as much anymore, and yet we still created an extensive and elaborate domain for them in our hotel room. Every available space was used to create bedrooms, living rooms, pool areas…We used hand towels, vases, flowers – everything that could be used to create their spaces was used. Hence the signs. We knew that housekeeping would clean everything up if we didn’t explicitly ask them not to. So we politely asked them not to. Poor housekeeping – we must have made things so complicated for them, even though we truly didn’t realize it at that time. They kindly left our crazy creations where they were, and we appreciated that so much more than words can say.

Yes, our barbies are in varying catastrophic states. They have had limbs broken, heads popping off, they’ve been held together by tape, had their hair cut (this was never a successful endeavor), travelled the world, and made two little girls very happy, time and time again.

The time spent in hotels was often trying because it was either upon arriving somewhere unknown or when leaving a place that was home. Memories stick from certain hotels, and for some reason I have a lot from the hotel we stayed in when we first moved to the Philippines. Those barbie memories are from there, but there are other things that immediately trigger thoughts of that hotel. When we stayed there, the movie of the month on HBO was Maverick with Mel Gibson, which meant they played the movie several times a day. I’ve always loved that movie, and since then, whenever I see it I have a clear picture in my mind of the hotel room. The same goes for The Fugees’ song ‘Killing Me Softly’ – it must have come out around that time so MTV played it over and over… It’s amazing the little things that trigger memories. And it’s astounding how much the little things matter – having something constant on TV was soothing in a way; at least we knew what to expect when everything around us was a whirlwind. And having our barbies with us was a source of comfort in the upheaval.

We had to make the hotel our temporary home and the barbies helped do that, as odd and childish as that may sound. It helped to have those few familiar items around us and to play with them as if we were home. They entertained us, but most importantly, they comforted us.

So, please, do not touch. Thank you.

Despite the obvious wear and tear (and lack of hairdresser appointments), these barbies were loved very, very much. The proof: we still have them.


Writing this blog and sharing my experiences is something I love to do and it’s helped my writing improve and evolve over the past months. I have always loved to write and it is a deeply cherished hope of mine to one day be published – both in freelance writing and eventually maybe even a book. I recently got my first chance at being published, and an article I wrote is included in a truly fantastic magazine. My elation at this opportunity is even greater because Global Living Magazine is dedicated to the lifestyle of global nomads, TCKs, expats and travelers of the world. An even bigger bonus is that the founder and editor-in-chief is all of those things as well; she really knows this life, understands it and embraces it.

Issue 2 has a lot of interesting articles, that touch upon all facets of the global lifestyle. For expats raising TCKs who may be off to university soon, there’s a great article on the transition they may face. For those interested in writing a book about their expat experiences, you’ll find an excellent article with very helpful tips (I particularly enjoyed that article!). For anyone who loves traveling, seeing new places and trying new things, this magazine is for you. This second issue will take you on an Alaskan cruise, to a wine festival in Provence, France (courtesy of yours truly!), show you breathtaking photos and so much more.

Of course I’m excited that my article is included in this issue, but I really appreciate this magazine as a whole. It caters to people who have lived a global lifestyle and that speaks to me so much. Even if you haven’t been an expat or TCK but just love traveling, you’ll find great ideas and articles in Global Living Magazine.

Make sure to visit the webpage and browse through to get a better idea of the magazine. Stop by magcloud to check out a preview of the magazine and order your own copy of Issue 2 or the premier issue; it will be well worth it.

I hope some of you head over to the website and maybe even purchase your own copy of the first issues. If you do, let me know what you think, of both my article and the magazine as a whole!

Thanks, and happy reading!

Sisterhood of the World

A fellow TCK and expat, with a wonderful blog, Expat Alien, has very kindly nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.

The rules are

  • Thank the giver, link to the page, and add the award to your site
  • Tell 7 things about yourself
  • Give the award to 5 bloggers

Thank you, Expat Alien!! Make sure you check out her blog, whether you’re an expat/TCK or not! 🙂

Now onto seven things about myself…

1. I just celebrated my first wedding anniversary a few days ago (it’s been a wonderful year!).

2. I have just had my first ever article (or anything!) published – more to come on that in a separate post.

3. As much as I do like being settled down somewhere, my TCK itchy feet are looking forward to change…whenever and wherever that may be.

4. I love the feeling of excitement of being someplace new, of discovering a different place, even if it’s mingled with a scared feeling of being completely lost.

5. I haven’t really traveled to a new place or gone exploring with my husband in a while, and I think that exacerbates the TCK feeling of needing to change. I’m looking forward to future trips!

6. I just recently started writing a list of things I would like to accomplish or see. I haven’t put a timeline on it yet, so I’m not sure if it’ll be a list of things to do/accomplish throughout my life, or before I’m 30, or while I’m living in the U.S. … I’ll just stick with writing what comes to my mind for now and worry about timelines later!

7. When you’re a TCK, family is more important than ever. They are your support system, your best friends, the only unchanging and unwavering aspect of your life. I’m lucky that I have the best parents, siblings and husband in the world (at least in my opinion!).

The 5 bloggers I would like to pass this award to are:

Cortney at The Adventures of Miss Widget and Her People

Sarah at Stars and Rainbows

–  A Single Letter

Paige at Stories From a Small Village

Global Anni

Make sure to check out their fantastic blogs!


Third culture kids are used to having to adapt to new places, new cultures and new people. We’re used to learning to settle in some place new and how to tackle the challenges associated with that. But ‘used to’ doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy, or something that we always manage to do quickly and with great ease. Some places are easier to adapt to than others, some cultures are more familiar than others, and some people are more welcoming than others. Also, we have good days and bad days, like anyone else. And the truth is, as stoic as we may seem on the outside, the inside is often in turmoil. It could just be my opinion, but I think we internalize a lot of the struggles. I think we do open up more around other TCKs, but even then, I don’t know how much we truly get into the nitty-gritty details about how we feel. We don’t necessarily share the emotions we felt at leaving a place we called home and all the chagrin that caused. We won’t particularly talk about what went through our minds when we arrived some place foreign, feeling completely lost, intimidated and often sad. We put on a brave face and try to pretend we know what we’re doing. We try to hold back any fears and any tears. Bringing them out in the open makes them too real, and often once they’re out, they’re very tough to box back in.

In my family, we were always lucky that our parents talked about the moves with us and we always had several months ‘warning’ before we would actually move. This at least allowed us time to let the news sink in and to let us enjoy the last months there as fully as we could. I also believe that as a third culture kid, you eventually develop a sixth sense that forewarns you that the moment you dread is approaching. The one time that stands out the clearest in my mind is when I found out the news that we would be moving from Sydney to Paris.

It was a sunny day and my last class must have been P.E., because I was in my sports uniform – navy blue shorts and a sunflower yellow polo – sitting in the car with my mom, on the way to the dentist after school. I remember my mom saying she had some bad news to tell me (did she say ‘bad’ or just ‘news’ and my brain registered ‘bad’?), and I just knew. Maybe it was something in her tone, which felt more gentle than usual, maybe it was a sixth sense…Whatever it was, I knew the news was that we were moving again. I didn’t worry that perhaps something had happened to a family member or that someone was sick, because I knew exactly what she was going to tell me. So I turned to her, already feeling the knot in my stomach, the tears in my eyes and hearing the crack in my voice…I must have said something along the lines of “please don’t tell me we’re moving”, but to be honest, I don’t quite remember. I just remember the confirmation and how I felt at that moment. I just asked why and probably pleaded for us to stay, as silent tears rolled down my cheeks. We were in my mom’s little red car, the afternoon sun was peeking through green leaves, and my world had just been turned upside down. All I could do was dry my tears and go see my dentist.

I doubt many people know this story, as it’s not something I’ve often shared. And to be honest, I don’t think I’ve heard many, if any, similar stories, yet I highly doubt that I’m the only TCK to have had moments and feelings like these. But how often do we actually share these stories? How often do any of us truly talk about the emotions we go through during the usual pattern of our TCK life? I happened to touch upon rather sad emotions in this post, but the truth is, I don’t think we talk about the happy moments either, and there are so many of those as well. The life of a third culture kid isn’t easy, and there are a lot of tough moments, but in the end the positive moments and the amazing experiences you gain outweigh the harder times. I know I’ve said that before, but it’s because I believe it so strongly. I also believe that it’s important to share these emotions and these experiences – both the good and the bad (and yes, also the ugly).

So here I am: I’m a third culture kid and I’m sharing my stories.

What’s your story?

Mystery Memories: Part 1

Purple and pink bougainvilleas covering the walls of houses and filling gardens with bursts of color. Oh, how I remember those beautiful flowers so vividly. I remember the delight I felt when I discovered that they bloom in orange and white too. I associate those colors of bougainvillea with the seaside for some reason…

The two majestic volcanoes that keep guard over the city – a weeping warrior and his lost love. I loved the ancient myths we learned while living here, about the founding of this city and about the sun and the moon. The stories are so beautiful and filled with pride and a deep magic. Maybe I’ll share them here someday.

A bright blue house that we often walked past and imagined stories around it – it was a family daydream.

The day of the dead celebrations, where the city erupted in color and festivities. Skulls and skeletons weren’t spooky, but instead were colorful, joyous…and tasty. Sugar skulls were distributed to kids and the bakeries made their famous (and delicious!) ‘Pan de los Muertos’. It was such a surprise the first year, but it’s such a special celebration and what it stands for is truly beautiful.

Sitting atop the pyramid of the sun, 365 steep steps later, exhausted but pleased, surveying the view and the pyramid of the moon across the path. I loved to look at all the little stands selling replicas of the pyramids in different materials and sizes. There were clear glass ones, but a bluish glass that was beautiful and delicate. But my favorite ones were made of obsidian. That stone is common in this country, and it is absolutely stunning, in my opinion. It is such a unique stone: a rich, glittering black, with shimmering undertones of gold.

And the food…the food from this country is known worldwide, but the watered down version eaten elsewhere will never match up to the real thing. The flavors are magnificent. The quesadillas you could buy while strolling down a cobblestone street in a small town – they were delectable. They were made on a hot stone, often by an old lady sitting on the ground, and they were handed to you with the cheese still bubbling. They were just the right amount of crunchy and the cheese was melted just perfectly. I could probably do an entire (and lengthy) post just on the food from this wonderful nation, but for now, I’ll leave you with that little image. Oh, one more thing though on the food before moving on: it was the first place I tasted avocado, and I fell in love with it. They put it on almost everything there. Lucky me.

The people of this country are so warm and welcoming; their culture is endlessly rich and fascinating.

And more than anything, what remains with me from this country are the colors. Bright, warm, and everywhere. Colors more vivid than I could have imagined, from the flowers, to the house, and clothes, rugs…even the stones of the jewelry, with the bright colors of jade and turquoise.

There is so much more that I could say about this country, but these memories are what come to mind now.

Do you know which country it is?

The Other Perspective

Recently having spent a much longer time than usual away from a TCK environment, I’ve realized just how different perspectives can be. When you talk with a fellow third culture kid it’s very normal to talk about the different countries you’ve lived in and your experiences there. It’s an integral part of the conversation because those countries are where you’ve spent your life; they are where you’ve made your memories. Another third culture kid would not judge you for mentioning the places you lived and will even possibly ask you questions about them or mention that they lived there too or somewhere nearby. They are connections that bring us together – even if we didn’t live in any of the same countries, we have still lived the same lifestyle, and that is a much stronger understanding than many people might expect. It’s comforting, comfortable and familiar to be surrounded by third culture kids, even if they’re strangers and you’ve just met. When you suddenly find yourself far away from any TCK community and from any third culture kids, it’s a very different situation and experience. Now you’re the odd one out and people don’t really understand you or the life that you’ve led so far. That’s when the real challenge begins.

Hence the other perspective, that of a first culture kid, who lived pretty much their whole life in the same place and you almost seem like a foreign species to them. You can get different responses – some are amazed by such a lifestyle, others think it sounds awful…But whatever they think, they definitely don’t understand it or how it changes you and shapes you as a person. But perhaps the biggest thing they don’t understand is the way we refer so many moments and memories to the countries we lived in. I’ve realized over many conversation with first culture kids that this mentioning of countries, which is simply normal for us third culture kids, is deeply misunderstood by non-TCKs. They seem to think we talk about the places we lived or what country we were in at a certain date or event because we want to show off. Perhaps they think we are bragging or being condescending, as if we think we are better than them because we’ve lived in different countries. But that’s not at all what we’re doing. We built our memories in those countries, we can’t help that. We connect dates and events back to the country we were in at the time. Someone who’s lived their whole life in the same place just can’t understand that. They lost their first tooth in the same place they met their best friend, went to middle school, saw movies, had their first crush, their first kiss…We did all those things too, just spread over 3, 4, 5 or more countries. So when we have a conversation with a first culture kid and they share a memory, we want to share our similar memory…Yet sometimes when we do, we wonder if we shouldn’t have or if we should have modified what we said to not mention the country, like we’re so used to doing.

Now, I do feel I should mention that not all first culture kids react like that, and first culture kids from certain countries are even more open and receptive. I only wrote about those experiences to mention how differently the same comments and conversations can be perceived depending on the background of the people involved. It’s been interesting to observe and I’ve noticed the change in myself and how I speak with certain people. Sometimes it’s frustrating to feel like I need to modify how I would naturally have a conversation, but I’ve also learned that often it’s just better like that. It’s definitely been a learning curve and one that’s not always easy, but I know I’m not alone in trying to figure it out. I will never stop being grateful that my husband is also a third culture kid, because that makes all the difference. I know that no matter where we are there will always be at least one person who understands me, in every way.

Third culture kid, still learning and still growing, signing off.

The Return of the Third Culture Kid

It’s been a long time since my last post, as things suddenly got pretty busy. I’ve been working on some other projects, but more importantly I was spending time with my family and attending my brother’s high-school graduation.

I’ve also had the chance to do some thinking about my blog, how it’s evolved and what I really want to do with it. I started this blog to write about and share my third culture kid experiences and memories. Over time it evolved to include a lot of nature photography, some poetry and texts about daily observations… I love doing those posts, and I will continue to do some, but I’ve realized that I really want to get back to the initial goal of this blog. I really want to get back to writing about my expat/TCK experiences and I want to share more of my memories.

I know that I recently posted about wanting to write more, and I guess this is just the natural evolution of my thoughts. There have been several things these past weeks that have reminded me of why I started this blog and how much I love being a third culture kid. My brother graduated from the same high-school as me, where teachers and students alike are third culture kids and expats. It’s a place that makes me happy, where I feel like I belong. Being back there, coupled with many conversations I’ve had lately – with my husband, my family and fellow TCKs – brought me back to the original source of this blog and filled me with a renewed vigor to write about my third culture kid life.

I know this post is short, but please consider this as both an apology for my long absence and an introduction for what’s to come. I hope you’ll stay along for the journey!

Third culture kid, back and better than ever, signing off!

The Invisible Line

Every place is foreign, until it becomes home. That home may change every so many years, but the way each place becomes home follows the same pattern. When you first arrive somewhere new, everything is foreign, strange and intimidating. The house has strange sounds you still aren’t used to; the streets look so daunting; a new school seems like a labyrinth. You don’t know how to find you way around the buildings, let alone the neighborhood, and emotions are raw. Every obstacle seems insurmountable and every struggle seems impossible to overcome.

Then, little by little, you start to find your way around. You understand how to find the room you’re looking for in school; you start to recognize the streets; the once strange sounds in the house are now familiar and even comforting. Suddenly, as if by magic, this foreign land became home. You never actually realize when you cross that invisible line, but one day it dawns on you that it’s felt like home for a while. That day when you’re the one helping a new student find their way around. The day when someone asks you for directions and you have no trouble telling them how to get there. The day when someone working at the local coffee shop or ice-cream store recognizes you and remembers you as a regular customer. The day when the local kids all wave to you as they pass by on their bicycles…

It’s when those days come along that you realize how easily and quickly you forget the disorientation of those first weeks. You forget how lost you felt and how foreign everything looked. You forget how scared you were and how you wondered if you would ever be able to adapt or settle in here. You forget until you have to do it all over again. But, as hard as it is every time, you know you’ll make it.

You always have.


A few weeks ago my parents and my brother came to spend a week with us. That was one of the reasons for my lengthy absence from my blog, but that’s not the point of today’s post. What I would like to do today is share thoughts and feelings about my favorite place in airports: the arrival zones. In certain previous posts I’ve mentioned how I love flying, but have come to really dislike a lot of aspects of travelling because of increased security measures and lack of comfort on airplanes. What I didn’t mention, however, was that the one thing that has not changed in the travelling experience is the arrival areas and my love for them.

If I were to go through my experiences at arrivals, I would have to admit that not all of them were happy and easy. When we had just moved and we’re arriving in a totally foreign place, with no-one familiar to greet us and only unknowns on the horizon, it’s a terrifying and sad place to be. But those aren’t the memories that stick and come to mind when I think of the airport arrival zones. The first memories that come to mind are the times we flew to Montreal when we were kids – we never knew exactly who would be meeting us, but we knew we’d be greeted by several familiar and loving faces! Then I had so many memories of picking up loved ones: our cousins who came to visit us no matter where we lived, our grandparents and later my grandma who always came to see us all around the world. Waiting for them outside the arrivals doors was always a moment of joy and excitement. Running up to greet them with hugs and kisses, knowing more great memories will be made in the days to come was wonderful. When we were kids, we loved picking our dad up when he was coming home from business trips – the joy of seeing him walk through those doors after being gone for several days was immense. Once I was older, the arrival zones brought a different joy and a different side of things: they brought me and the man I love together many times through years of long distance. Even more recently, the arrivals area reserved new emotions and experiences – us picking up my family from the airport when they come to visit us. Waiting behind the railing for them and the excitement of seeing them walk out the doors was simply wonderful.

How could the arrivals zone not be a favorite? It’s the first place you get to hug and kiss the people you love after a period of separation.

I love watching people at the arrival zones – families, friends, lovers reunited. It’s a place filled with true, honest love that’s infinitely beautiful to behold. The smiles, the hugs, the kisses, the laughter that fills the air are heart-warming and are some of the loveliest sights I’ve ever seen. For any of you who have seen “Love Actually”, I absolutely adore the scenes at the arrivals zone and I wholeheartedly agree with the line “love actually is all around”.

If you need proof of that, go sit outside the arrivals area.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Global Edition

Travelling has been a constant in my life, from a very, very young age. It’s been the same for my husband as well. Travelling to visit someplace, travelling to move somewhere new; travelling by plane, car, train…You name, we’ve done it. Ok, almost. We never actually travelled by boat. We’ve been on boats, but only to get to small islands or across a bay, or a channel – never to actually ‘move’ somewhere. But you get the idea. Travelling will always be a part of our lives, it’s engraved in our souls, imprinted in our minds. The fact that we have family and friends around the world enhances that. Travel and the reasons for travel haven’t always been easy, but our lives are most definitely richer from these experiences. And on this busy travelling time of Thanksgiving, I thought I would look at some of our wanderings so far.

We mapped out all the airplane trips we’ve ever done (between the two of us) to see how much of the globe we’ve spanned in flight. The map was impressive, and the total miles travelled even more so. We’ve probably covered about 400,000 – 500,000 miles between us both, and at least 250 flights. And that’s only on airplanes. That got me thinking: what about all the non-airplane trips? There have been a lot of those, starting from when I was just a little girl…

The first long trips I can remember were our annual car rides from Wisconsin to Montreal for christmas break. I had flown before those car rides, to get from Cyprus to Wisconsin, but I was so small then that I don’t remember anything. And I know we flew to California to see my cousins, but I don’t recall those flights either. But I remember those road trips. At the time, my brother hadn’t joined us yet, which meant us 2 little girls had the whole backseat to ourselves. Which was a good thing, since the drive was about 16-17 hours long. My sister and I would often fold down the back seats so we could stretch out into the trunk, warm under a soft blanket and falling asleep to the rocking movement of the car. We were always so excited when we reached Toronto, because that meant that Montreal, the loving arms of grandma and grandpa, and a bowl of hot, homemade chicken soup weren’t too far anymore. Those are my first travel memories, and they’re very fond ones. Those trips meant we were going to see people we loved, we were going somewhere familiar and warm.

I can’t recall our trip from Wisconsin to Mexico when we moved there. I remember landing at the airport and how foreign everything was, but I don’t remember the actual flight at all. I don’t even remember the airport or boarding in the States. It’s strange how the trips I remember the most from Mexico are the road trips. I wonder why. I never thought about that until now; I have vivid memories of the many road trips we did in Mexico, but I can’t seem to recall any flights we did from there. Funny how the mind can be so selective in what it retains. I guess the road trips just marked me so much more. There was always so much to see, so many new and amazing sights. How lucky we were to have such experiences and to see such places.

As time went on and we grew, we moved to several other countries, we visited countless others, which meant the trips added up. Mostly airplane trips, as the distances were so great, but there were more car rides, and some boat rides. There were also train rides when we visited Europe. My first train ride. Or at least the first I remember. Easter break 1994. My mom was pregnant with my brother, and we were visiting Europe for the first time as a family. We took an overnight train, and we slept on bunkbeds. I don’t remember much, but I do remember those bunkbeds. Years later, in 2000, we moved to France. Train rides became a regular part of our lives. Not just the suburb trains to get to and from Paris, but also the TGV to get from Paris to the south of France, to Geneva, to London, to Brussels, to Amsterdam… Those trains are a wonder. 10 years in France, countless train rides. I love taking the train. I love looking out the window and seeing the countryside slide by; I love watching the people on the trains. Taking a TGV in France is a special thing. People seem happier when they’re on their TGV. It could be because it means a vacation, or a weekend away. Or maybe because the train ride itself is a moment to relax. Whatever it is, Parisians really seem to enjoy being on a TGV, and I love to observe that.

Being in Europe also meant the return of those much loved road trips. Not everyone enjoys being in the car for extended trips. I love it. I can’t quite explain why, but I’ve always loved them. At first those road trips were only with my family – both within France and to other European countries as well. As I got older, those road trips weren’t only with my family anymore. My husband (boyfriend at the time, of course) and I went on many road trips together. Between France and England; within France; from France or England to Italy…That tradition continues in the States; they may be shorter trips for now, but they’re still special. How I love those car rides. All the time spent talking, laughing, trying to figure out our lives. It seems road trips bring me back many happy memories, from being a little girl to today, being an adult and a married woman. I wonder if perhaps my fondest memories from travels are from all those car trips I’ve done. That’s funny to think, considering how many plane trips I’ve done, and how much I love to fly.

It was probably better to start with experiences like those first road trips, because not all trips we did after those were as easy and welcome. Travelling can bring you to those you love, but it can also take you far away from them. Maybe that’s why all those car rides hold such a tender place in my heart. I knew those trips were taking us to loved ones, to the magical wonder of christmas, and to moments I will hold dear forever.

I could say so much more about travelling, because it was, is and will always be such a fundamental part of my life. Perhaps I’ll write more some other time. For now I’ll leave you with this:

Safe travels to anyone on the roads, in the air, on the rails or on the waves.

Happy holidays and have a wonderful thanksgiving.