When we moved to Abu Dhabi from Manhattan five years ago, we intended to stay in “the Dhabs” for a year. Our kids had scored the Manhattan Grail: spots in a “gifted and talented” public school, which meant we wouldn’t have to sell everything we owned to pay for private school, and if we stayed away from the city for more than a year, we would lose the seats.
“But you have two spots at the school,” people said to me when I told them we were leaving. To ease their doubts, I kept talking about the benefits of an international education and experiencing different cultures–but to tell the truth, I think I was trying to convince myself. After all, if you’re a student in a Manhattan public school, you’re going to be connect with kids from around the world; it’s unavoidable. Did we really need to move halfway around the world to get a “global experience?” I wondered.
Three-quarters through our first year, we decided to take the leap and sign on for another year (or four) of expat life. A year just didn’t feel like enough time: we would have been packing up to move back just as we were starting to settle in. I felt as if all the energy (and exhaustion and not a few tears) that went into adjusting would have been wasted if we returned to New York after just a year.
The boys are studying Arabic in school, and in our travels through the region, they’ve picked a few phrases here and there — mostly “hello” and “thank you” and “chocolate” — in Sinhalese, Punjabi, Italian, Swahili, Korean. The trips we’ve been able to take from Abu Dhabi would have been impossible from Manhattan, especially on the salaries of two literature professors, and so in that regard, our expat life has delivered the sort of global awareness we were hoping for.
Or at least that’s what I think on my optimistic days. On other days, I wonder: does the simple fact of being able to say “hello” in eight different languages really make you globally aware? I suppose my wavering back and forth is just the expat version of questions most parents ask themselves–“is this school the right school,” “are we doing the best we can for our kids”–and we all have good days and bad days in terms of those answers. How do we raise global citizens? That question, in the light of “Brexit” and the demagoguery of Trump, seems increasingly important, even as the answers get more complicated.
I had to confront those questions just the other day in an emotional conversation with my younger son (now almost twelve). We were sitting on his bed in a hotel room in Bangkok, where we’d come for the Global Round of the World Scholar’s Cup, an academic competition that draws kids from, yes, around the world (but mostly Asia). I’d asked C. if he were nervous about the upcoming three days of competition in writing, debate, and current events quizzing, and his eyes welled up. He admitted that he wanted to do as well as his brother had, two years ago, in the same competition, but also, he said, “I don’t want you to feel like it was a waste for you to bring me here.”
Argh! A blow straight to the heart! How had he gotten the idea that my husband and I would resent the money we spent on airline tickets if he didn’t do well? Suddenly I was the one almost in tears.
I assured him that we didn’t think it was a waste at all and that we were ridiculously proud of him already, just for doing the work to get this far. “Being able to do things like this are why we moved to Abu Dhabi,” I said. “We couldn’t afford flying to Bangkok if we still lived in New York.” My son nodded, vaguely reassured (although still nervous and still in the grips of sibling rivalry).
Truth be told, he probably doesn’t believe me when I say that we’re proud of him already. In the mind of an almost twelve-year old boy, “winning” is pretty much the only thing that matters. Given that there are about 2,000 kids competing in his division, I’d say winning anything is a long shot. (Though if there were a category called “Minecraft knowledge,” he’d probably outscore the entire world.)
What I realized after our conversation, is that yes, this experience is part of why we moved to Abu Dhabi, even though at the time we’d never heard of the World Scholar’s Cup. Even with the international flavor of New York, this sort of intense week-long bonding experience with kids from around the world would not have been possible. This experience, of negotiating differences and finding connections across cultures, will go a long way (I hope) in establishing the foundations of a global citizenry.
C. will remember this week in Bangkok long after he’s forgotten how to say “hello” in Sinhalese. For this week, at least, I’m pretty sure that becoming an expat family was the right thing for us to do.
What about you? How do you raise your global citizens?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Deborah Quinn, Mannahattamamma of the UAE. Photo credit to the author.
As mothers, we hear these questions on a daily basis
Why must I go to sleep when I’m not tired mummy?
Why do I have to go to work while you stay at home?
Why can’t I marry Daddy when I love him as much as you?’
There are days when I get asked innocent questions by my daughter that make me chuckle inside, like why can’t I marry you or Daddy when I love both of you so much? Then there are some days when her questions fumble me especially when it comes to the injustice, pain and suffering that she witnesses in the news and it’s hard for me to try to explain.
I’ve thrown all sorts of responses at her questions. They are sometimes right and sometimes wrong answers. Just for fun, I’ve even given absurd responses while I can still get away with it. She is naive and none the wiser at 6 years old.
While some of her questions call for a logical and scientific reply on how things in the world work, I’ve slowly come to recognize that there are “”why questions that call for a heart response.
Why can’t I sleep in your room anymore?
Why do I get to spend so little time with you during the day?
Why can’t I stay up late to chit chat with you a little more mummy?
While my natural responses is to give answers like
“Because you’re a big girl now”
“Mummy has to work just like you’ve got to study”
“You’ll get tired if you don’t sleep now”
they don’t quite address what her heart is longing for, which is
Affection, attention and love
After all if I were to put myself in her shoes, I’d feel disappointed to only see mummy for a few hours before bedtime. I know I can be the worst person to be around if I’m feeling tired after work. It is then that I shoot her replies like, “Give me 10 minutes”, when I secretly desire to have dinner, shower and run off to sleep. Unfortunately each time I turn down her invitation to play, to hear about her day at school or to see a drawing that she made, I’m sending her a message that she doesn’t matter.
I’m not talking about revolving our lives solely around our little ones to the point that they feel entitled and spoilt; but rather being conscious that our responses frame their identity when we neglect their little hearts.
These days, I’m learning to tune into my daughter’s emotions and be a more spontaneous mum by responding with
When she asks me to take her to the playground after work
When she requests to go out during the school holidays
When she asks to stay up for 5 more minutes just to tell me about her day
When she asks for movie night and we curl up in front of the TV with chips and popcorn.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying let’s throw schedules and routines out of the window and just give in to our kids whims and fancies. Schedules and routines are important to keep a child regulated so they know what’s expected of them.
Instead, when we surprise our kids by saying Why Not when they least expect it, it makes it even more special and memorable. That’s how I intend to keep building my daughter’s memory bank, with lots of spontaneous, crazy fun moments.
This is an original article by Susan Koh for World Mom’s Network
Meet Elisabetta Colabianchi, Founder of Kurandza, a non-profit social enterprise that invests in the future of women in Mozambique. I have featured her work and organization before on my blog and include their products under my Gifts that Give Back Guide. Kurandza uses education, entrepreneurship and sustainable development programs to help create opportunity and change for women and their communities. A devastating two-year drought in Mozambique has caused widespread hunger inspiring Elisabetta to shift gears and focus on hunger relief. Here is her heartwarming story.
Percina and Elisabetta, two wonderful friends who met in a village in Mozambique while Elisabetta was a Peace Corps volunteer. Photo credit: Nicole Anderson of Sorella Muse Photography
“Kurandza: To Love”: Written by Elisabetta Colabianchi, Founder and Designer, Kurandza
I’d known there was a hunger crisis in Mozambique, but what really got to me was hearing that HIV positive mothers were faced with choosing between letting their children starve or nursing their children past the recommended time despite the risk of passing on HIV.
Prior to founding my non-profit organization, Kurandza, which means “to love” in the local Changana language, I lived in Mozambique as a Peace Corps volunteer for three years. While there, I worked at a rural hospital counseling mothers on the prevention of HIV transmission to their babies, and had successfully prevented the transmission to hundreds of children.
At first, I thought that maybe the mothers who continued to nurse despite the risk were doing this because they forgot their training. Or I thought perhaps I hadn’t taught them very well after all.
But when I counseled one of these mothers over the phone last month from my home, now living thousands of miles away in California, I realized she knew exactly what she was doing, and that it hurt her to do so. She knew that by continuing to nurse her child past the recommended time, she was putting her baby at risk to contract HIV. She knew that when a child contracts the HIV virus, it often leads to mortality.
This mother has already successfully raised five HIV-free children because she followed the prevention techniques. But this time is different. This time there isn’t any food for her to feed her child because of the two-year drought. There isn’t any water to grow crops on her farm to produce the food that her child desperately needs to survive. Water is a life source that they are without. Like all the women in her community, she knows that if she stops nursing, her baby will most likely die of malnutrition. So she is making the best choice for her baby by nursing despite the possible outcome.
The women facing this impossible choice is what made me pause and reassess the work I was already doing in Mozambique through Kurandza. Even though we’re in the middle of creating new educational and entrepreneurial programs for the women there, we’re refocusing our energy to something more urgent this month, because I know in my heart that we need to address the hunger crisis now.
Over 25 million people in Mozambique don’t have enough food or water
The drought has caused crops to die and food prices in the nearest stores to increase by over 200%. In a community of high unemployment and dependence on farming their own crops to survive, villagers are unable to purchase food for themselves. Because of the hunger crisis, children are eating one meal a day.
In response to the hunger crisis, Kurandza is raising $250,000 this month to provide immediate food along with long-term water and sustainable agriculture solutions so that the community can continue to farm, growing their own crops if the drought persists. All the food aid will be sourced in the local community to boost local commerce.
It’s important to supplement humanitarian assistance with long-term solutions such as building multi-functional water wells so that the community will be able to continue farming and growing their own crops even if the drought continues.
If you would like to learn more, visit www.kurandza.org.
When my husband and I got married over 16 years ago, we had very little belongings. What little savings we had, we spent on the wedding and on buying paint for our new home.
We had no furniture, not even a bed.
Any help we were offered by friends and family was refused by us. We knew exactly what furniture we wanted and saved every penny to buy furniture piece by piece. We made numerous trips to Ikea just to fantasize about how our house would look like furnished. We went to work and cooked a meal together and ate it while we sat on the kitchen counter or on the floor. Life was uncomplicated in those days. If I had to make a list of my possessions back then, it would have probably fit on one page. And I am not sure if that page would have been full.
With every year that passed my house started filling up with things: furniture, tableware, linen, and baby furniture, toys.
More and more stuff came in through the door: clothes, kitchen supplies, books, videogames.
Suddenly my house was full and my life had become complicated. Some of my days felt like an endless list of chores, schedules, and mostly decluttering. I felt suffocated by the amount of things I owned. I started longing for the simplicity of those first days when my life (and my house) wasn’t filled with so much stuff.
It wouldn’t have been a problem if I hadn’t had such a hard time with throwing things away. Many of the things I owned held memories for me. I can go through my things and tell you a story about every item. About the way I felt when I purchased it, I can tell you who gave it to me or why I desperately wanted to have it. My memory is selective that way. I cannot say exactly in what year I graduated, but ask me about any toy my kids have and I can tell you exactly where or who they got it from.
It was little over a year that I took a good look around and decided I wanted a change. At first I started clearing out and organizing my closets. After a while I started throwing out more and more things. With every closet I cleaned out, with every bag of clutter that left the house, I felt happier and lighter. Since then I have devoted myself to simplifying my life.
On Pinterest, where I spend more time than is probably considered healthy, I discovered that my new found strife for simplicity actually has a name: minimalism. I now know that minimalism is about far more than having less things. Minimalism for me is the art of letting go. Being content with living in the here and now not clinging to the past or hasting your way on to the future. Minimalism is embracing simplicity in its purest form. Pausing, breathing and enjoying the essentials. And surrounding oneself with nothing more than that. After all we should carry our memories with us, there is no use on stacking them ten feet high on shelves in boxes that we never look in. Minimalism is about trust, about not having to be prepared for every little thing, not having to keep everything because you might need that one item one day in the future.
I have been trying to convert myself from a compulsive hoarder to a content minimalist for over a year now. I have a long way and many stacks of clutter to go but I will get there. I even have a name for this journey. I named it: Project Simplify and it is definitely to be continued.
Tell me your thoughts: What is your experience with clutter? Do you have difficulties with throwing things away?
This is an original post for World Mom’s Network by Mirjam from the Netherlands.
A thought-provoking tweet has been making the rounds on social media since the horrific mass shooting in Orlando. The tweet reads, “In retrospect, Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.” How can this be? How can this really be?
But something is happening. Since Orlando, there has been a swell of support for real change in gun control measures in the United States. Senator Chris Murphy held the floor for 15 hours in a filibuster to demand a vote on gun safety laws. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chris Murphy brought two powerful amendments to the floor for a vote: one requiring background checks for all gun sales, and another blocking gun sales to suspects on the terrorist watch list (both, sadly, were voted down).
On Wednesday, Rep. John Lewis lead his colleagues in a sit-in on the House floor to demand a vote on common-sense gun control measures. Those representatives are held their ground for more than 24 hours, and plan to take up where they left off when Congress is back in session. In addition, City Council members in Charlottesville, VA passed a resolution this week asking the state to allow localities to create their own gun control laws. Since the Federal government hasn’t stepped up, the city of Charlottesville wants to take the safety of its citizens into its own hands.
Furthermore, scores of articles have appeared in the media championing everything from repealing the second amendment, to background checks for gun sales, from preventing dangerous people from purchasing guns, to banning assault weapons. And, perhaps most importantly, Americans are contacting their representatives in record numbers, insisting on gun control. Constituents across the United States tweeted, texted, called and wrote to their representatives demanding change.
Personally, I will no longer be a passive bystander. I will no longer do nothing shake my head every time there is a mass shooting, yet does nothing. I will stand up for my right and the rights of all to live a life free from the risk of being killed by a bullet. I will not rest until there is a sea change in the way we approach gun politics.
I stand with my fellow Americans, finally demanding an end to the unacceptable loss of life that has become completely routine in the United States. We will keep writing to our representatives until there is a real change in the way we approach gun control in America. We have lost thousands of innocent lives to gun violence. How many more deaths must we endure before we stand up and DEMAND gun control laws? We will endure no more. Enough is enough. We will NOT let Sandy Hook mark the end of the gun control debate in our country.
#ENOUGH #DisarmHate #NoBillNoBreak
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tara Wambugu.
Image credits: Knotted Gun via Jim, the Photographer / Flickr. Vigil for Orlando shooting via Fibonacci Blue / Flickr. Rally to prevent gun violence via Maryland GovPics / Flickr.