Luge Lessons

We just got back from a family vacation in Barcelona, and the girls are so happy to be home. After ten days in the glorious sun, with kid-friendly parks and pedestrian-only streets and lovely beaches, our children are thrilled to step off the plane into the smog and drizzle of Addis in the rainy season.

Children love routine, we all know this. They are happy when they get to do the same thing every day (although, I suspect, only if the “same thing” involves lots of creative play, bland food topped with cheese, bubble baths and several stories at bedtime). And for the most part, we do provide a consistent routine for our girls. A friend once remarked to me, “Charley must be so used to travel, since you guys travel so much.” And I had to remind her that we don’t travel much at all, even compared to our friends in the States. We usually travel once a year to see family, but this year we got a bonus trip thanks to my mother-in-law’s generosity. The rest of the time, we don’t even explore the place we live. Weekends, we stay home most of the time, and if we’re feeling adventurous we go out to lunch. Other expats we know have been all over this gorgeous country, but we’re just homebodies I guess.

So when we have to uproot our kids, whether it’s for ten days or a permanent change of station, we tell ourselves that it’s really good for them. They will learn to be flexible, adaptable, like all Third Culture Kids. They will look back on this adventure and be grateful, like I am to my parents for showing me the world.

We thought we were moving next September or even later, but Dan got a great opportunity to go to Rangoon, Burma–and they want us there by the start of 2015. (Yes, I know it’s now “Yangon, Myanmar” but Americans don’t officially call it that… but from now on I will refer to it that way to avoid confusion). Whenever I hear “Rangoon” I think of Dr. Evil’s speech about his childhood (“my childhood was typical: summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we’d make meat helmets”) and I giggle to myself. I always thought that speech was funny, but I didn’t realize just how ludicrous it was until I looked up the weather for Yangon. There are about two months out of the year when the weather sounds bearable. The rest of the year it’s either 40+ degrees (Celsius) or it’s a constant torrential downpour. That might be an exaggeration, but after several years with some of the best weather in the world, I think it’ll be a big adjustment.

That being said, we’re excited about the move. I have already told Flytographer that we’re moving there and they already have a potential client lined up who requested a shoot in Yangon. My consulting contracts won’t be affected since I work from home, and we already hired our household help (you can read about them here–I am so excited to have a cook for the first time!). It’s hard to imagine that we will be in Yangon for the next four and a half years. The only time I’ve lived in one place for such a long stretch was in childhood, in Cairo. This move will have such a huge impact on the girls, but I think it will be a positive experience for them. I have always believed that kids reflect their parents’ anxieties. So whenever I am freaking out about something beyond my control (what if ebola becomes a global pandemic? what if someone forgets to lock the safety gates and Willa tumbles down the stairs? what if one of my freckles is cancer?), which is pretty much all the time, I try not to let it show. So far, our girls seem fearless, which makes me even more anxious, but at least they’re not. They have handled every move, every long-haul flight, with incredible grace. I admire them and am grateful to them for their flexibility. I hope these next few months in Addis will stay in Charley’s mind and that she will have positive memories of our time in Africa.

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