It’s Winter…in my heart…

4 months living in Australia…and it’s Winter…colder, wet, but still light enough compared to the UK in the Winter, sunny and crispy on many days, temperatures at around 12 degrees and much cooler at night…Ironically, we had a snow fight celebrating Quebec Day on the 23rd/24th June…

It’s Winter, but mainly in my heart.

It became inevitable, it had to lead me to write about this on here, a blog about global migration…I never thought it would affect me so much…A Brexit ‘Leave’ vote…In the last few days, I have felt so sad. I was not entitled to vote because I am not residing in the UK at present, but did until very recently for 18 years. After the vote, I tried to reach out, listen to the news, read articles, keep in touch with many, tried to understand and initiate thinking with others from the Leave and Remain camps about the future of the country. I felt some resistance and I was also very upset. I then thought to myself: ‘Why am I so sad?’, ‘maybe I am not well’, ‘maybe Winter is getting to me’, ‘I was fairly happy a few days ago, what happened?’ I then started thinking, ‘no, I am deeply affected, but why?’: ‘I am not even British’, ‘I don’t even live there at the moment’, ‘I should take it lightly’. I then realised it is profound, much more profound than I thought. Then it made me think that perhaps people do not necessarily understand why I feel so sad, perhaps I need to take the opportunity to write about it, it may help me, it may help others.

For the last few months, I have been writing this blog on global migration, talking about opportunities and challenges as global citizens. For me, it consisted of a particularly brave and innovative way to talk about our adventures in more formal way, support other families who may experience similar experiences. Brave, because I need to consistently work hard to perfect my writing. Innovative, because I had never done something like this before. I am not considering myself as necessarily talented in information and technology design. I had never used writing as a form of expression, I am much better verbally, but I am far away now, I cannot use this mode of communication.

I never anticipated I would use a written form to express some deep feelings, the ones I am feeling at the moment. There is a sense in me where I feel I need to explain why I feel so sad and it is important to do so…for the future.

Why am I so sad?

A Land of Hope, Dreams and Opportunities

I arrived in the UK in 1998 with a packsack, on my own, with a visa allowing me to work for 4 months initially and 2 years overall. Having chosen Scotland as an interesting place to discover, I settled there for a short-term employment opportunity. I was meant to stay for the Summer but life happened. I met my future husband and gained a post as a French teacher in a special needs school, an opportunity I always dreamt of. Scotland/UK became for me a land of hope, discovery, permanent employment, security, a place where I was able to expand my skills, my career, improve my oral and written language skills, a place where I felt accepted, appreciated for who I was. We spent 5 years in Scotland, life took us in a different direction, to the South of England. Opportunities continued to grow and develop. Children grew up in a society where I continued to pass on my cultural heritage as well as ensuring a full integration in the community we lived in, with our diversity and our thirst to continue to learn about new cultures. A country who welcomed me and believed in me…

Significant opportunities across the Channel

Yes Britain offered many opportunities but did not fully fulfilled the desire to live and learn different languages. We found ways to expose the children to new adventures. We found a French school funded by the French Government in Britain and the children attended this school every Saturday mornings. Their skills improved dramatically and their ability to communicate with their family in Quebec increased.

We also travelled all over Europe, camping and for other trips. It was so easy, pack the car full of camping gear, drive to the Channel crossing, wait half an hour, and drive to our destinations across the Channel. We met a number of people from many countries in campsites as well as friends from the UK we arranged to meet on our travels. Children were amazed at having to use a Deutsh/English phrasebook to communicate with campers. They were able to meet many children with their French language skills and their openness to other cultures. We felt the opportunity of free movement for cultural exchanges, opportunities to discover and explore, expand one’s horizons were absolutely amazing and enriching. A unique continent where one can embrace all this diversity on one territory…

Being an Immigrant

Britain is a land who accepted me as a young adult. Initially I did not speak very well in English. People supported me, encouraged me, insisted I wrote ‘Bonne Fête’ in birthday cards. Over the years, I built my own identity through the opportunities and challenges I faced. My identity was always going to be different as I arrived with an already lived journey, but Britain gave so much in return and I gave so much in return too, leading to tertiary qualifications and a career helping others. This land who ‘adopted’ me, gave me great opportunities. My identity developed to the point that I now feel there is much more to my identity than ‘just being a girl from Quebec’…perhaps Britain shaped my experiences more than I thought, perhaps I belong in Britain more than I thought.

It has not always been easy. There were a number of moments where I felt I needed to make significant effort to integrate the communities I lived in. I felt that I had to explain my story, talk about differences and similarities. I made the effort to develop a sense of belonging, integrate and perhaps ‘assimilate’ to a certain extent, perhaps more for my survival more than anything else.

People may think ‘Pascale, you are not an immigrant’…but fundamentally I am…different culture, different language, a newcomer to the country, the country ‘adopted’ me. An adoptive country who took me under its wings, built and developed a relationship with me over time, hard times and happy times…a country where I felt nurtured, as a parent who adopts a child. Yes I felt Britain did this over time.  However, in recent years, it started to become more difficult to accept comments from specific party members talking about the migration discourses, including hate discourses directed at immigrants. Although I blended in the community, there was a national front against immigration.

The thing is that I always worked, had a strong work ethics, working with commitment and passion. I have always been employed due to my experience and qualifications. I gave back to communities I lived in much more than I claimed back in terms of benefits. I never claimed benefits. I claimed job-seeker allowance twice and had three maternity leaves, ‘benefits’ I was entitled to as I had paid National Insurance contributions for a significant amount of time. I paid for my studies both at masters and doctoral levels.

Many migrants are in the same situation as me, contributing to the society in a positive and meaningful way. I have never stolen a job from anybody. I always gained employment on merit because I could give back.

Now, I have to go through the same process in Australia. It’s not easy having qualifications recognised and finding people who will offer opportunities. We do not have the same rights as citizens, such as being to claim for benefits, rebates and tax credits. Migrants work hard and have a huge desire to be accepted for what they can offer, what they are worth, migrants are determined, resilient and have positive outlook on life…to a certain extent…it’s survival!

Values and discourses

Despite me believing in my adopted land and working hard at making it work, I feel a sense that living in an accepting, respectful, inclusive, united country may become harder and harder. Someone may say, but ‘you are not British, why do you worry about this?’ I worry for my children, my husband, my family. This land who adopted me and nurtured me seems to be changing. I try to promote positive values of inclusion, acceptance, unity and togetherness in my work, with my children, in my relationships but these seem to be more and more different to what I once knew. I also feel it is important for the children to grow up hearing messages of openness, inclusion, resilience, communication. To me, being in Europe represents a sense of being opened to other cultures and discourses, being able to communicate in many languages, feeling a sense of diversity. It also represents a sense of resilience, working hard in trying to understand others’ points of views. It also represents a sense of unity and togetherness, despite differences and cultural diversity.

I have felt completely overwhelmed with emotions, sadness, anger when Jo Cox was violently murdered, because she tried to promote democratic values and convey messages of compassion, respect for one and another, and many others. Watching the news from a distant land, this message of anger was reinforced, for me, not only by a violent murder, but also by some aggressive behaviours from supporters at the Euro football games. I am not comparing both incidents here at all, but feeling sadness and frustrations, complete despair, at those trying to convey a message without respect, listening skills, communication and mediation. I felt the same last Summer when some actions were taken to send dogs, more military support and erection of fences during the immigration crisis, without engaging in some mediation, compassion, communication. There may be global fears about terrorism which impact on people’s perceptions of immigrants. How can the immigration debate be improved? How can we engage in healthy debates about controlling immigration without being rejectionist? How can we ensure that immigrants feel safe and secure wherever they live?

I fear that Britain may become even more isolated in its relationship with Europe and the world. There was already a sense of hardship and difficulties. For example, in all the semi-rural areas I lived, children in schools often felt there was no need to learn another language, or lacked awareness about other countries and cultures. I also fear division, division between those experiencing cultural diversity or not, division between different parts of the country. How do we teach openness to other cultures? How do we increase mutual respect for other cultures? How will children learn the need to appropriately communicate with someone from another culture? How do we teach the importance of multiculturalism and inclusion? How do we ensure that migrants are fully included, communicate, have a sense of belonging to their adoptive country? How can people live united and happily?

There is a view that migration will stop, if not in the EU. The thing is that migration from EU countries is minimal compared to the migration from other countries. Opting out of the EU is one way to prevent migration numbers. The other thing is that as soon as immigration is mentioned, many start inflating it to rejection, sending people back, not protecting the most vulnerable, not welcoming asylum seekers. The other problem is that immigration policies have to take into account historical relationships, not only an EU, but also Commonwealth populations and political refugees. Could there a point system like Canada and Australia? It would have to be contextualised to a UK context. There are a number of visas and ways that immigrants can move globally and in and out of the UK, not just on visas based on a point system. Yes it is a small territory for a dense population, but it is also a country who has always wanted to be economically strong and a leader of the world. These aspirations cannot be achieved alone, Britain has always had many partners. At the same time, Britain has always been very strong in wanting to maintain its traditions. Can both be maintained equally?

Leaders’ discourses regarding a diverse society has always referred to the importance of promoting ‘tolerance’. I always found the term ‘tolerance’ as an interesting choice. Yes tolerance may represent the ability to tolerate others’ opinions, but it also represents a form of negative connotation that refers to enduring adverse circumstances and reactions. ‘Tolerate’ refers to ‘putting up with’; ‘enduring’, refers to a situation being ‘hard’, ‘difficult’, ‘having problems’, ‘fighting against’. This discourse does not necessarily refer to ‘embracing others’ opinions’, ‘listening’, ‘respecting’, ‘communicating’. Although I have lived in Australia for only a few months, and still lots to learn about culture and politics, I have enjoyed hearing politicians talk about the need to promote ‘mutual respect’ as a discourse reinforcing the importance of a diverse society.

What do I say to my children?

Initially, I was like ‘why should I be so sad, I am not even British’. I never applied for the citizenship. I always felt that travelling on my Canadian passport was absolutely fine. I had permanent residency which allowed me to work and vote. One of the major factor which may have made me apply for a British passport would have been to be able to have opportunities in Europe, perhaps live and work in France or Belgium. With a Canadian passport, although there are some partnerships, these are not as strong as the ones the EU provided, it is not easy to move from one country to another without a free movement policy. It is a gift of life to be able to give children cultural and global opportunities, just as it was an amazing gift to be able to experience free movements between European countries. By leaving the EU, will these opportunities be the same? What will our children say in 20 years time when they say I would have liked to go to Paris to study, or would have liked to travel around Europe but becomes more complicated and costly?

During our travels, the children loved meeting new people, loved seeing new cities, exploring new cultures, routines, rituals. We visited many sites. Inspired by some sites and cities, our oldest expressed that he wanted to go to University in Copenhagen. University fees are likely to be at an international student rate, very very high. Fees in the UK are already very high. How can we ensure that our children continue to be able to experience diverse experiences? How can we protect our children’s future and opportunities?

We have a number of friends from different countries, European friends living in the UK. We embrace, as a family, different cultures. How can these cultural exchanges be welcomed in the future? To what extent will the UK embrace diversity? How can we ensure that our children feel their own diversity is understood and respected?

UK achieving independence, wanting to take control?

UK was always independent. It is a country in its own right. Did people vote to express years of dissatisfaction with austerity? People have recognised a need for change, have they opted for the immigration and EU as ways to initiate this change? Yes there is probably a need to restructure politics to ensure that politicians really represent their constituents’ views, but are immigration and EU the real issues?

The other major point to bear in mind is that European elections and decisions about MEP representatives have always been totally and utterly unnoticeable in the UK, except for immigration issues which have been talked about more predominantly by one party, a party who had a number of MEPs in Brussels. Interestingly, Australia has a system where voting is compulsory. What was the quality of representation at the EU Parliament, a representation able to fully embrace all issues, able to engage in healthy debates, there and back in the UK?

There seems to be a surge of involvement in politics since the debate. Why were people so disaffected in recent years, but are engaged now? My husband stood up as a local councillor. He lost the last election to an extreme right party candidate who never attended a meeting and then resigned based on saying he did not feel he had the power to change the system. Why parties found it difficult to recruit new councillors, new candidates for elections? How can the public engage in debates close to them on a regular basis, all the time? How can they be engaged in meaningful political debates, debates that are healthy and respectful? How can we teach respectful debating in schools and political involvement and engagement as essentials to being a responsible citizen?

It’s a Democracy

Democracy comes from Greek, demo (people) and cracy (power, rule) and refers to a system of government in which all people of a state are involved in making decisions by voting, generally for electing representatives. Democracy also refers to the active participation of the people as opposed to aristocracy which refers to the rule of elite. One main characteristic refers to the majority rule with the importance of having protection for minority groups to ensure their views are represented through different processes such as petitions and other processes (Definition based on basic Google searches).

My questions here would be: Who led the referendum debates? Elite or the people? Were the people able to fully understand points made by the leaders of the debates? Many have now explained how they regret their vote.

Living in a democracy also refers to listening and protecting minority views. European citizens residing (for many years) in the UK were not allowed to vote. Isn’t democracy to be part of a debate, listen to others, present respectful and healthy debates on both sides and give the right to vote to all involved.

I have spoken to people in Australia and have been in touch with friends from Canada who were not aware of this debate. Did the debates involve international partners who may be affected by a decision to leave? Britain with its history has a huge impact at an international level, issues were also related to global matters. Were these fully debated and discussed with all involved?

So what’s next, what about the future?

‘Get over it and move on’

I find that particularly difficult to accept. By engaging in a debate and voting, people also accepted to continue the debate, continue to discuss ways to shape and plan for the future. A vote Leave now brings division as both Northern Ireland and Scotland voted decisively to remain in the EU, where does that leave them?

People say they are fed up with political posts, news, etc. Uncertainty and difficult times need communication and togetherness despite adversity, not a withdrawal from the discussions and debates.

In the meantime, I will have to tell my children that opportunities for them within an EU system are slightly slim; University in Copenhagen is a distant dream; A society, with a very small majority, has decided that cultural experiences and future opportunities may be more difficult and costly; They may grow up as British citizens, but their diversity may not be fully understood and accepted; They may have to fight to regain some privileges they enjoyed. Will Europe ever be a future opportunity, is Australia the right choice at present and for the future?

Am I being pessimistic? No. I am trying to identify future steps, where work needs to be done to rally people in debates of the society, think about the future, think about where we go from here, where changes need to take place, ensure people understand the difficult times ahead and the need to engage in debates, ensure that we are involved all together in healthy discussions, but with direction encompassing future solutions. I am trying to explain how I feel so people understand my devastation and are then able to be empathic in initiating debates and are aware of these deep rooted feelings that may explain behaviours. We live in a democracy so this is where people can define positive discourses and show that debates and discussions can take place with sensitivity, mutual respect and a sense of future. Not all may have the words, the courage or even the reflective insight into fully exposing their feelings, articulating some arguments and ideas for the future.

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A Toolkit to Opportunities and Challenges as Global citizens

Resilience, positivity, talents and dreams

Different stories on topics relevant to global migration, checklists, top tips, reflections…it may support families moving abroad and practitioners supporting them…

Source: A Toolkit to Opportunities and Challenges as Global citizens

Children’s views as global citizens!

For a presentation about being global citizens to colleagues last Summer, I asked my children what they thought about living with dual nationalities and experiencing travelling around the world. I always find it fascinating to hear children’s views and perceptions of their experiences. I thought I would share these as these give an interesting sense of what children think about their story, cultural heritage, identity and view of the world. I have also asked the children to talk about their recent experience of being in Australia.

‘Papa grew up in Yorkshire, his family is Scottish, Maman is from Canada, but more Quebec, no one speaks English in Quebec…I was born in Scotland, I speak French and English, I wear the kilt at special events, I lived 10 years Essex, I now live in Australia…’

‘Don’t like the fact that so many migrants are getting blocked off. They should be able to travel where they want…it is not right, it’s their own human rights…to go where you want to…’(L., 12 yrs)

‘Having different friends from different countries…it is enjoyable, it gives other aspects of countries you have visited, different views of a country’ (L., 12 yrs)

‘You get to meet some new people, new additions, new baby, adding people in the world, meeting them, babysit them, look after them, being friendly, gentle, not boisterous, not violent, always forgiving when you have an argument.’ (E., 9 yrs)

‘The kilt can be embarrassing, it is a tradition not to wear pants underneath.’ (lots of laughs) (L., 12 yrs)

‘Living in different cultures, it is joyful, enjoyable, puzzling, because of everything going on, sometimes you don’t know what to do.’ (E., 9 yrs)

‘It’s sometimes upsetting, we have to leave a country…’ (E., 9 yrs)

It’s upsetting the wars, bombs, people dying, people invading our space.’ (E., 9 yrs)

‘Everything is around me, I know where everything is, if I need to go to Canada/Scotland, I know where it is…many places as well…you get to share what you have done somewhere else, catch up with people when you visit, stay there, come back, you have not caught up enough with them, you need to keep up with them.’ (E., 9yrs)

‘To live with two languages is brilliant, some people only live with one, I am lucky I have two different languages. I am allowed to be English, Canadian and Scottish as well (E. imitates a Scottish accent). Whitby is on the outskirt of Scotland…different languages, it is great, enjoyable.’ (E., 9 yrs)

‘UK is very small… so you can spread love much more, if you have Canada and Scotland as well, you can spread lots more love around. It’s fun. ’ (E., 9 yrs)

‘All three countries I have lived in have very different climates. I am very grateful to be living in a hotter country now. The wildlife is different too. I am enjoying getting to know different animals and birds. I am enjoying seeing my little brother growing up with his reactions to the new wildlife. I have seen a lot more different things such as trees, unique sceneries, greener, much more woodlands. The land feels a lot more vast, it feels it takes longer to walk to places than it would in the UK’. (L., 13)

‘All three countries are unique in their own special ways. I enjoy all three countries, but Australia ‘wowed me’ with all of its forest, woods, houses, schools, wildlife, outdoors. I can climb trees in my garden. The garden is the biggest garden I have ever had and I like the space we have. I like all the different lifestyles. UK is quite small. I miss my friends a lot and I have made new friends in Australia. I am playing lots of different activities and have different experiences. Food is quite different here. I need to learn about new food in Australia. We can find lots of Japanese food everywhere such as sushi which I love’. (E., 10)

‘like the sand, the beach…give food to the kangaroos, I see his big neck…I have teddies (Scooby Doo), need to get more teddies…like picnic in the woods, see some animals…take photos with Maman.’ (E., 3)

Expat, Migrant, Third Culture Kid, who am I?

I was reading some blogs and resources related to global migration. I was surprised to find so many different terms associated with being a ‘person living outside one’s home country’. It made me think about which term I would use to explain my/our migration. Here are some definitions:

  • Migrant: a person who moves from one place to another in order to find work or better living conditions. (https://www.google.com.au/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=migrant+definition&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&gfe_rd=cr&ei=XmsxV_npIKLM8geq2plI)
  • Expat: a person who is voluntarily absent from their home or country (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/expat)
  • Third Culture Kid (TCK): ‘…a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture, building relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any’. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background (Pollock & Van Reken, 2001)
  • Cross Culture Kid (CCK): ‘is a person who is living or has lived in, or meaningfully interacted with, two or more cultural environments for a significant period of time during childhood (up to the age of 18)’. (Pollock & Van Reken, 2001)

Am I a migrant? Not necessarily, although, initially, when I left Quebec/Canada, I felt there were more employment opportunities in the UK. I certainly did not migrate for better living conditions. Surprisingly, Scotland was ‘very’ cold, dark and windy in the Winter, and humid, cloudy and light at night in the Summer. I wore shorts once in 5 years of living there. Tesco ran out of BBQ at the first ray of sunshine! Definitely not a migrant!

In regards to TCK and CCK, I grew up in a very rural area of Quebec, all my childhood, definitely not a child who has lived in different cultures…I would perhaps consider my children as CCK, but certainly not me.

I never really considered myself as an expat. Yes, I voluntarily left my home or country for a trip abroad, but I never intended to ‘leave’ my country as such. Life just happened. I have always had a very strong sense of identity and respect for my home culture with the desire to pass it on as much as I can, with its challenges. I try to go back for holidays as much as possible to catch up with family and friends, soak up all my culture again and ensure that my children experience that culture too. I have established a number of rituals and traditions in our family that are from my home culture. My oldest has become a real connaisseur of ‘poutines’ and keeps talking about how he could invent new recipes!

I married someone from a different cultural heritage and have embraced some of that culture too. My culture alone is no longer part of my existence, there is a lot more to it and many layers to it… Many traditions, rituals, routines we have adopted as a family have reasons to exist in our family and have been carefully chosen or thought of.

We now live in a different country to which neither of us come from. I lived 18 years in the UK, does that make me an UK expat, a culture which was not my own to begin with anyway?

The word expat has an interesting connotation to it…it sounds like as in ‘patriotic’…It is also often referred to as ‘a group of people from one culture living close by’. I have always felt uncomfortable with that word for many reasons:

  • I have never met a person from Quebec in my travels and experiences. Never been able to share being an expat with people from my own culture. In fact, I know a handful a people from Quebec who live or have lived abroad.
  • I am able to evaluate customs, traditions and attitudes that I like about my home country, but I am also able to contrast with other cultures some specific aspect of my own culture that I don’t necessarily embrace. Although I am particularly fond of my home culture and my origins, I am not patriotic at all costs.
  • I also don’t like the ‘ex’ in expat as if I am an ‘ex’ to that culture. The ‘ex’ part makes an assumption that it is over, finished. I personally don’t feel like an ‘ex’ at all. I still live and embrace that culture every day, in my own way, yes perhaps not on that specific piece of territory/land, but I am still sharing and living it, it’s part of me.

Where does that leave me? Who am I?

In all the forms I have to complete, I am a ‘white other’. Does that describe me well? Not sure it is particularly helpful. I have always found the word ‘other’ as not particularly respectful of one’s culture…’just that other one’, ‘feeling left out on the side’, and not well identified. For the school Census in England, every year I had to complete forms for the children’s schools. Every year, I added ‘French’, next to the ‘English’ ‘language spoken at home box’. Every year, it came back with ‘English’ as the only language spoken at home. Our identity at home was somewhat not fully respected there either.

Your passport, your identity?

On my passport, it says that I am Canadian, which brings some other implications with my identity. When I arrived in the UK, for the first time, the immigration officer was very puzzled as to the reasons why I was not able to understand him at all. I had to explain that I spoke French and not English. Many would assume that travelling with a Canadian passport means that you speak English. This immigration officer was shocked!

I am entitled to a British passport. Yes, I understand that culture, I lived there, I have many friends and family there. Although I lived there for 18 years, I don’t feel necessarily British as I speak in a second language to the primary language of that country and grew up with different rituals and culture and still embrace these.

Identity through Language?

Many people will hear you speak, say ‘Hello’, look again, look again, and you can see people thinking…’she is not from here’. And then you carry on, do what you have to do, and there seems to be this silence, this puzzling face, ‘where is she from?’ Sometimes people ask, sometimes people carry on, on many occasions people question further which then leads to THE conversation…’Where are you from?’ Over time, I started to say, ‘have a think, what do you think, have a guess!’ Nobody ever ever guessed…’French? (the name gives it away a bit)’, Irish?, the main one has been ‘Scandinavian?’, perhaps more for appearance than anything else, or perhaps because our accent becomes similar, northern countries, somehow, not sure…After a long time being in one place, where people tune in to your accent, become accustomed and know you well, in Australia, people have turned heads again, and then I just say ‘I have just moved from the UK’…’ahh ya I can hear it’ and then I say ‘I am Canadian, French speaking’…more puzzled, they then ask: ‘Can you spell your name for me?’

Can language identify your nationality? Well, I am writing a blog, in my second language, with many oddities I am sure! Yes I chose to write in English for many reasons. It is very far from my home culture, in fact, many people from my home culture may judge me for it…I go back to my home country and it takes me a couple of days to tune in to my home language, without looking for a translation for the odd words or sentence. I speak in French, people from my home country think I have an English accent, I speak English, I have an accent as I am not native and speak and write with some grammatical oddities (only a few!) that only the native will learn.

My children, who I try hard to pass on my language and cultural heritage to, speak with a British accent when they speak French. Does that make them less Canadian or Québécois? No, they are Canadian citizens in their own rights!

Who do I feel I am?

Interestingly, no form, no Census, will ask me that, rarely anybody has asked me that question. There was a recent video posted on a social media site ‘Don’t ask me where I am from, ask me if I’m local’ from Taiye Selasi, a very inspiring and powerful message. I related to this post and thought to myself: ‘I have been local there, there, and there…I can name these towns, give an address, talk about people I met there, the great local markets and shops, the charity organisations and schools, the landscape sceneries, to name a few…and so what, who do I feel I am? If I say, I am local, will people ask me about my journey, do locals ask people about their (international) stories? Will I then be expected to be similar to the locals?…Talking about my journey, is that important? Why should it be important? It describes who I am today, battles, languages, journeys, knowledge about specific areas, connections and relationships with people, trips, dreams, talents, ideas, I lived and come across…and what if I wanted to tell my story…not the one the form or the Census prescribes, not the one prescribed by a country, a history, a geography, and local map boundaries.

I ask…what about we asked each other, as narrative therapists would say (White & Epston, 1990), ‘what is your story?’

If I had to really choose a term, being global citizens seem to gel more easily with me. I embrace different cultures in my daily life. I share and talk about different cultures with my children and my husband. We are able to contrast and compare experiences lived in Canada, England, Scotland, and now Australia, as well as in Europe as we travelled there too. My husband also comes back with stories from his travels abroad from lots of different countries. In our travels and experiences, we have met people from all over the world. We share and discuss rituals and cultures with them too.

The term, global citizen, implies a notion of positivity, a sense of responsibilities, duties, and that you live in a world that refers to a globe, embraces a certain unity, aims to seek unity, a world of togetherness. It certainly has some interesting and deep meanings, perhaps much closer to how I feel we live our cross-cultural experiences, our daily experiences.

Pollock, D.C. & Van Reken, R. E. (2001): Third Culture Kids. Nicholas Brealey Publishing: London.

Taiye Selasi

White, M. & Epston, D. (1990). Narrative means to therapeutic ends. New York: WW Norton. ISBN 978-0393700985

A Jungle full of adventures: The King of the Swingers or the Jungle VIP?

I recently went to see the Jungle Book movie, a story particularly close to my heart because of my scouting and personal experiences. I was a Bagheera as a Cub Assistant Leader a few moons ago (something like 20 years ago!), became an Akela recently, but did not have the time to settle into that role as we moved abroad. My father-in-law was a Baloo, and a great Baloo too!  My children have been in Scouts and know all about the story. My youngest loves animals and calls the woods here, the jungle. For his first experience at the cinema, we were in for a treat!

The movie made me think of different parallels associated to moving to a new country. First, the jungle of the Jungle Book reflects in many aspects what it feels like to experience all the adventures of a new country, some happy, exciting and some more difficult and challenging. Second, many themes related to global migration are presented in this story:

  • leaving home
  • leaving loved ones behind
  • feeling different in a dominant culture
  • being ‘adopted’ in a different culture
  • using different skills and strategies to survive and live
  • meeting a number of different people on route
  • meeting people who become special friends
  • needing to judge people who are friends from the ones who can hurt you
  • needing to fight for oneself and protect others
  • respecting culture and values in a fight
  • being part of a team

Third, each character also has a different way to approach adventures and jungle. These different ways of being in the jungle also have great resonance in how one may approach adventures in a new country and this is what grabbed my attention…I make some analogies here, there may be a number of others…

Mowgli is a keen adventurer. Initially naive about the dangers of the jungle, he encounters a number of hurdles that could have cost him his life, but he perseveres, carries on, finds his way. He uses skills, strategies, speed, finesse to deal with these adventures. He succeeds in putting his ideas across to build more advanced methods of food hunting. He is reliable and loyal to his friends and those protecting him. He develops close friendships and uses teamwork to fight against violence.

Bagheera, a great protector and a coach. Firm, he accompanies others closely, warns of dangers, allows reflections of one’s skills as well as strategies as to how to approach adventures. Although, he gives specific advice, he gives space to others to develop one’s own experiences. He is there in the distance and always comes back to protect. He is observant and strategic when dealing with tricky situations. After observing one’s skills, effort and hard work, he respects it. He allows one to fight with his own strengths. He is loyal and respectful of others as well as appreciative of one’s presence and skills. Although, he appears more a solitary character initially, he builds confidence in others’ skills and works as a team.

An easy going character, living life to the full, Baloo delegates chores he feels he cannot do/does not want to do, the bare necessity, a minimum effort as we say in our house! His humour and easy way of life helps in finding a happy and secure environment in the jungle. Spending time, sharing and building strategies with others aiming to meet primary needs are his main activities in the jungle. Life seems simple and happy around Baloo. He finds great companionship.  His determination to overcome his own difficulties allows him to defend a friend. Although, he is seen to ask everyone favours initially, he works as a team to fight.

Akela is the leader, the head of the pack, protector, fights for the pack which costs him his life. Although, surrounded by a team (the council), there is a sense that he must remain strong and take the ultimate decisions alone. He insists that one should fight with the skills Akela taught.

Shere Khan has ultimately developed some maladaptive behaviour to deal with an earlier experience. He is relentlessly trying to deal with what he believes is an earlier mistake, but many will fight against. He is disruptive, frustrated, aggressive, difficult and manipulative. His ultimate goal is to destroy.

Kaa appears amicable at first, but manipulates others with her charming powers. She takes a long and enlacing approach to talking to someone, being convincing that one must be on her team and respect her, but ultimately perceives one has a prey.

Raksha, a mother figure, protective of her ‘children’, loving and attentive, she lets one go  for safety, adventures and self-discovery. Although devastated, she understands that it is now the time and that she has given her ‘child’ all a ‘child’ needs to explore the jungle and survive. She recognises skills and strengths in others and believes in one’s skills and strengths. Although worried, she appears to have a positive sense of future…’everything will be alright’.

King Louie is a firm, powerful character. He has built a huge empire where many people live around him and defend him. He hides in a huge castle/kingdom. When he decides to be part of the battle, he destroys all his kingdom and everything else in his passage.

So, when going in the jungle of adventures such as moving abroad, which character are you? What skills do you need for moving abroad? What approach works best?

Well, my husband is definitely a Mowgli! I was surprised at Bagheera’s role in accompanying Mowgli and particularly connected again with this character. The movie reminded of a Raksha I volunteered with, who played a great mother role in the pack. I particularly related to this role, now being a mother of three. I suppose skills, strengths and attitudes evolve over time…there may be a need to be more than one characters along the way! As per skills and the best approach, I will let you reflect on this!

Some fascinating analogies, no wonder Baden-Powell asked Kipling to use his story for the Cub Scouts…a great story for all sort of global migration adventures!

Interview At Planète F

I participated in an interview on global migration and citizenship. Please find the link below. A very interesting article in French (and an interview in English) which relate well opportunities and challenges for global families. I summarise here themes discussed by the different families in the article, very similar themes to the ones I have talked about here so far:

  • living in a different language, needing to learn a new language to communicate in an adoptive country and being accepted with a different accent
  • understanding your own culture versus new ones
  • knowing your cultural heritage and origins
  • similarities and differences between political and economic migration
  • needing to come ‘home’ regularly, leaving some deep roots behind
  • saying painful and emotional goodbyes
  • needing to reflect about opportunities outweighing roots and relationships
  • difficult adaptation and integration
  • technology helping communication with relatives and friends

http://www.planetef.com/dossier/familles-post-nucleaires/familles-migrantes-monde/