Ikaria Day 1



We disembark and immediately see Terry, “pretty much the biggest guy there” (his words) in the small crowd of people waiting. I want to film our entry into the island – the culmination of 18 months of dreaming – but can’t find my phone. Martin is surprised at the breadth and height of the island – he had envisioned hiking across it with our packs when we moved to the other side of the island (I had shot this down as being too strenuous for my imagined holiday, but the idea lingered like a cold and was brought up every time we discussed island hiking.)

Terry is tall of stature and round of girth and he “looks so Greek but sounds so Australian” (as Martin puts it). His car is a small, manual, little beater that he drives with the windows down. He explains customs — no festival if there’s been a death in the village in the past 40 days — and points out old growth forests as we make the short drive to the house he and his brother-in-law had built. He isn’t terribly positive about the part of the island where we will be staying for the bulk of our visit — hard to hike, need a car, “different,” but Martin says he’s heard great things and he begrudgingly agrees that anywhere on Ikaria will be nice.

The house, like much of Ikaria, is on an incline, and it is not so much a house as a compound of suites, created as a rental property. The structure is white with a flat roof and an expansive veranda with a view of the ocean to the left and mountains dotted with small homes to the right.

We unload and he offers to take us to the grocery store, a Carrefour express; simple with a few cash registers — the biggest grocery store on the entire island. Everything else is local and tends to be a bit more expensive. Groceries were generally similar in price to the US; the only eggs left were from local farms and were .40 eu each!  We bought lots of veggies and fruit, local yogurt and honey, one beer, two 3 eu bottles of black (red) wine — Can we take it down to the beach? Oh yeah, no drama, no drama.  His standard response to most questions, including leaving our doors open, renting a car, popping up to his place for a visit. There is no drama on this island.

We’ve Airbnbed a studio, and it’s a spacious room with a mini-fridge, toaster-burner, and a tiny T.V. mounted on the wall, semi-angled towards the bed. Terry tells us they subtitle, so we might catch some English shows later. (We never manage to get it to work, but this is no great loss. The AC – mankinds pinnacle of invention – works, and we are content. )

The Ikarian personal yogurts we bought are, at one euro a pop, pricey little treats, but they are divine. We split one, mixing in some local honey, and the tastes are fresh and light and sweet, and Martin has drizzled in enough honey to negate any of the health benefits of the yogurt.

Everywhere on Ikaria is a view. The ocean and coastline, the ports, the garden restaurants and hills covered in old growth forests. When we eventually get a car (days 2-8), we drive across the island, over peaks and along narrow dirt mountainside roads, and the coastline views from the top are breathtaking. Some of the mountain roads are paved, and on three of these we eventually drove by old roadbuilding equipment…apparently a one-time use type of situation.

We walk through the village and down to the port which has a few restaurants with tables set up along the water. We are clearly foreigners with my Irish skin and our limited Greek (not that we would have gotten away with much – the island has about 8,500 residents at last count). It is approaching dusk when we head back towards our place, which, during summer, means around 9:00. We are starving.



Atlanta is surprising.  It is called “the city in the forest” because it is green; filled with trees and, where I live, parks.  Our neighborhood is lined with trees and dotted with sunken gardens.  I liked being in the center, walking distance from restaurants, museums, the subway, the theatre.

We are leaving.  We are leaving and we don’t know where we’re going and I’ve done this before, the last minute move — We’re going to Dubai! We’re going to New Jersey! We’re going to Oman! We’re going to Romania! No, return the language tapes, we’re skipping Romania!

It is hard to move, but it feels vital, like the rushing of blood through veins, air through lungs.  Movement means life.  It means not growing bored or tired or dull.

Atlanta was new pets and odd friendships and unexpected reunions and endless burgers and frustrating students and coming to grips with marrying an introvert.  (Apparently I “feast on his energy.”)


My husband time travels.  He looks at me, and he tells me that sometimes he pretends that he has traveled forward in time to this moment.  How happy his younger self would be to know he ends up with me.  He absorbs our daily moments. He is better at being present.  My mind is always two skips ahead, thinking of our next meal, our next outing, our next trip.  When I time travel, it is the opposite — I am coming from the future and observing us as we unwittingly cruise through our youth.  We are so young. We are childless.  The lines in our faces are not set.  I am Adele, lamenting my lost youth at the ripe old age of 28.

I am also a robot.  I autotask too much.  I don’t want to do this with my students, and I try to notice the details, to feel the moments.  Three of them are nonverbal.  I am talking the whole lesson, but the auditory language is not understood.  With a baby or toddler with hearing loss, we are trained to talk nonstop, to input language because they don’t absorb incidental language (non direct) like other children.  But with my older students who are nonverbal due to reasons beyond their hearing loss, it’s hard to say if the oral language is helping.

It is taxing, being present, but it is rewarding.


We are going to Europe for two months.  My husband and I.  And we feel extravagant when we tell people, because it can be hard to find time and money to do such a trip.  And I sometimes add that we are young and child/mortgage free so we need to take advantage of the opportunity.

But the reality is that while it is certainly a privilege to have the time and money to do extended traveling, this isn’t my final trip.  I will be traveling even when I do have a mortgage, and I will be strapping my babies to my husband’s back and we will go.  We will cut down on coffees and malls and stick to our dodgy phone plans that make us listen to the radio when we make calls, and we will drink cheap wine, and we will go.





Of nailpolish and weddings and the man I chose


There is a small, uneven sliver of red nail polish on each of my big toes.  It is my wedding nail polish — the unseen painted toes beneath my dress, a secret red rebellion against the yellows and charcoals of our celebration.  In ten days it will be six months since our wedding, in case you were wondering how long toenail polish can last when left unattended, or how slowly toenails grow.  (And yes, I have been showering; it’s strong stuff.) It wasn’t an artistic choice to let the color fade with our memories — I was simply caught up in non nail polish-related life, and then winter kept me in socks and slippers so that I completely forgot until our first days of sandal weather.  Now, of course, it is a sentimental choice…how can I wipe away these last remainders of such a joyous time?


I’m not used to being married.  Friends and strangers ask how married life is, and I don’t always know what to say.  Partly because I am so blissfully happy to choose and be chosen by a person who is so overwhelmingly wonderful — it sounds sappy and braggy and somewhat naive.  But also because part of me hasn’t registered the full impact of what I’ve done; the commitment I’ve made, the family I’ve created and joined, the journey I’ve started. 

Even now, after three years together, I still feel the parts of me that he doesn’t truly understand.  The relationships I’ve had my entire life, the chunk of myself that doesn’t belong in America, the hidden corners of my mind and self that take years to unravel and discover.  We didn’t grow up together, but we will grow old together.  He tells me that he likes the wrinkles under my eyes and looks forward to my changing face.  I tell him he is crazy.  He is an anomaly in America’s youth-obsessed culture.  I think maybe it is because he isn’t afraid of death. 

His old soul is dressed with button downs and blazers even in 80 degrees and he says he is excited to be 30 and that maybe he’s reached the age where his fashion freezes.  I wear sandals and mismatched socks — sometimes together — but I am brushing my hair more now. 


Two nights before the wedding, I twisted my ankle.  The DJ turned on the song I requested, and I ran to the dance floor, forgetting that there was a lip, and my ankle slipped and contorted almost cartoonishly.  It wasn’t an auspicious start to the festivities. My aunt and cousin asked all for all of the symptoms and declared that it was probably broken, as it wasn’t too swollen.  I spent the next day hobbling, and sitting with my ankle up, frustrated as people served me when I wanted to exercise my right to run around like a maniac the day before my wedding.


We thought about eloping.  When we got engaged, we thought about the drama, the stress, the production, and thought that maybe we were elopey-people.  But we also thought that maybe we were ceremony and community and customy people and we liked the idea of publicly sharing our lives, joining our families, creating a covenant.  So we decided 50 people would be a good number.  Six months and 150 invites later, we stood in front of a group of family and friends from around the country and world, and we promised each other the world.  And it’s okay to promise the world to someone who has transformed yours.  So we made promises and stood and smiled and kissed and maybe kissed a little too long and walked down the aisle, hoping that people would remember the love, the beauty, and not the streams of sweat running beneath their dresses, creating darks patterns where they pooled.

There was so much support, so much joy, so much tangible love and presence that we felt.  It turns out we are not elopey people.  Our mothers were right.


The reception is in my husband’s family’s backyard on a bluff overlooking water and the dock his grandfather made.  The weather cools, the tables are lit by candles and wine and conversation. They are filled with our clan, inherited and chosen, and it is sad that we don’t get to see any of them on a regular basis. The lanterns in the trees look like fairy blessings and dreams.  We laugh and drink and dance and my ankle is better, but my heels still come off and the bottom of my dress gets dirty and everyone is beautiful in candlelight and we try to talk to everyone properly but it is hard.  There is a flashdance.  To “It’s Raining Men.”  And it is glorious. 

My husband’s friend has a microphone and he tells everyone that the highlight of marriage might be a Whataburger, and it is so surprisingly eloquent, and my dad tells everyone that he could have sold me for a million dollars worth of camels in Yemen or Oman or Tunisia, I can’t remember, and I wonder why he priced it when they offered the camels.  Why not just say “no” when they suggest a trade?  And then my husband is telling everyone about Kierkegaard’s love story, about how he had broken an engagement to the woman he loved because he wanted to focus on his work and on God and later came to realize that loving her was a path to God.  And I don’t take the microphone because I don’t have words.


Marriage is being tied to a human.  Humans are messy and crazy and weird.  The best thing for our marriage is my terrible memory.  I can’t remember events well enough to hold grudges.  Places and events are always new and exciting because I don’t remember them — I can even rewatch a movie from a few years ago and not remember the spoilers.  It’s an exciting world I live in.  OK, actually there are no grudges to hold because we are only six months in and even when he is tired or angry or hungry, my husband is never intentionally hurtful.  As far as I can remember. 


At the beginning of a relationship, each moment is imprinted.  Even though my memory is terrible, I remember specific comments he made, phrases he used, the surprising ease of our conversations, his goofy anecdotes.  Our first meeting, our first kiss, the first time we held hands, walking in the Seattle sunshine, reciting poems with strangers who told us that we were a picture of love and how it was awkward because we hadn’t used the word yet, but it wasn’t awkward because the Word was there.  We shared our stories and hopes, eager to be known, reinspiring our own selves with our dreams and poetry and artists.

Barring tragedy, we will be spending the majority of the next 50 or so years together.  And each moment will not be imprinted.  They will slide by like someone rushing through a picture powerpoint they think might bore you.  My bad memory will once again prevail and the inside jokes will slip in and out of my grasp.  But instead of individual memories, I will have a cohesive sense of lives joined, a sense of trust in the person I have spent my years with.  The toenail polish from our wedding day will be distant past.  But I will still paint them red because that’s his favorite. 


The Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half-light;

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

  • WB Yeats

The Life Itinerant: Glimpses of my first year as a TOD


“Are they nailed in?” a nine-year-old boy asks my student after she gives a presentation about her cochlear implants.

“What?” She can’t see his lips from across the room and the class is restless.

“Are there nails?”

“No!” She laughs.

“Do you miss being able to hear, or are you used to it?” another student asks.

“I’m pretty used to it.”

This exchange is representative of my year teaching deaf/hard of hearing students — kids can be goofy/bizarre and then surprisingly insightful.


One of my students is a 10 year old with about 10-25 spoken and signed words.  (His hearing loss is not his primary disability.)  He is inconsistent with most of these — when you show him two pictures and ask him to point to the ball, he will sometimes point at the ball, and sometimes at the tiger.  He knows the sign for “ball” and if you say “ball” he will go and get one, but he won’t consistently pick out a picture.  With early language acquisition in hearing impaired children, it’s important to be as literal — or as close to the physical 3D object as possible.  But after that, the learner needs to grow to learn more abstract concepts.  Language itself is abstract: a set of verbal symbols that represent objects and ideas.

I spent my year with this student trying to expand his limited vocabulary and help him communicate with the world around him.  I wanted him to be able to express what he wanted and didn’t want, what he liked and didn’t like.  Sometimes he would point or stare at something and make noises — he wanted to communicate so badly, but didn’t have words or signs.  At the end of the year, he had made improvements in many areas, but he still didn’t have that communication piece that I wanted.

It turns out I am not a miracle worker.  It is disconcerting and upsetting when I think about lower level students like this…when I am not sure that I was of any substantial help after eight months of bi-weekly visits.  I end up telling myself that at the very least he had a steady, encouraging relationship in his life — but the reality is that that’s only part of my job.

There is humor throughout.  During my last month with him, he rubbed my stomach and said “baby.”  He understood the concept of babies being carried within a mother!  And I would never wear that shirt again.


I’ve spoken with burnt out SLPs (Speech Language Pathologists) who are contemplating quitting because they can’t deal with working on the same sounds with the same kid over several years — not out of impatience, but out of a sense that even when the kid can produce the sound in therapy, he/she will never generalize it (have it cross over into spontaneous speech).

Perhaps it is similar to doctors with patients who won’t do rehab exercises or social workers with families who won’t knock habits permanently.  Teaching, especially students with impairments, means taking on responsibility for another’s welfare, even when it is not fully in your control.  (Or, often, theirs.)

I can’t make my students care about school work.  I can’t make my 8th grader talk to his teachers about missing assignments.  All I can do is provide him with tools and examples and deliver my best inspirational monologue a la Robin Williams and hope something gets in.


“An idiom is when we say something that doesn’t mean exactly what we’re saying. It’s not literal.”

“So it’s lies.”


D/HH students often have difficulty with nonliteral language.  Figurative language (idioms, metaphors, similes), sarcasm, irony — these are all typical struggles for a student with hearing loss.  It’s abstract language and because it isn’t used as often in everyday speech, they often aren’t as exposed to it (they miss a lot of incidental language — the language that surrounds us and isn’t spoken directly to us)  and need to be taught directly.

This particular conversation was with an eight year old who was extremely literal, but we did make some headway and he drew some fabulous literal and non-literal definitions of idioms which I will upload soon.


The highs are high, the lows are low, and everything else is a work in progress.  The “a ha” moments sometimes feel few and far between, and are often the result of a lot of time and effort — but they are wonderful when they happen.

I loved my kiddos this year.  I will miss them.

Reflections on my first year as an Itinerant Teacher of the Deaf

There are lots of career paths available to oral/aural TODs (teachers of the deaf) — from early intervention (working with birth to three year olds and their parents) to schools for the deaf to self-contained classrooms and more.

My program at Smith/Clarke was heavily focused on classroom instruction — all except one of our student teaching placements and externships were completed within a classroom setting.  All of the lesson plans I completed, except for speech planning, were for a classroom of students.  Our courses covered all bases from EI (early intervention) to language acquisition and audiology, and everything I learned was applicable to itinerant teaching — but most examples and projects revolved around classroom learning.

After completing the program, I was convinced that I wanted to work in a small classroom at a school for the deaf like the ones I had experienced, studied, and analyzed.  I wanted the sense of belonging to a school community, I wanted a daily relationship and deep understanding of my students, and I wanted a space of my own and a sense of ownership over what my students were learning.  I was convinced that a private, reputable school for the deaf would give me the mentorship and examples of best practice that I needed.

As I hunted for jobs around the country, I discovered that the private schools in locations I was interested in had extremely low turnover because the teachers loved their work.  Also, the private school positions didn’t come up on most search engines, and I had to research locations or look at schools based on professor recommendations.   Finally I found a school that had a great program, supportive staff, and directors who my advisor at Smith knew personally.  Unfortunately, it was in a location I eventually decided I didn’t want to live in.

There are no shortage of jobs in deaf education around the country.  Most of them are itinerant public school positions — jobs that I was wary of, especially as a first year teacher. An itinerant teacher of the deaf is a teacher who has a caseload of students in a district and travels to the different schools as a resource to classroom teachers and a service provider for the student.  Each student has different goals addressing their individual weaknesses, and the itinerant teacher provides instruction and support on these goals — and keeps data showing progress (or lack thereof).

I had been warned by someone that public school itinerant teachers had huge caseloads and stressful lives.  And, as I wrote earlier, I graduated from a program that gave me more experience as a classroom teacher than an itinerant.  But I kept coming across itinerant positions in great locations with seemingly supportive staff and small caseloads.  I took a plunge and decided to sign a year long contract that placed me in a district outside of Atlanta, Georgia.  Here are my thoughts on my itinerant teaching this year:


— The one-on-one relationship with the students.  I loved being able to go in and get to know each student — their strengths, weaknesses, interests, quirks.  I found that I greatly prefer talking with students and not at them.

— The driving.  This often comes up as a con for itinerant teachers who don’t like having to drive long distances between schools.  Most of my schools were within 15 minutes of each other (30 at the most), and I enjoyed the time I got to recharge between students.  I didn’t have to stand on my feet all day teaching class after class.

— The different schools.  (This is both a positive and a difficulty, more on that later.)  I enjoyed getting a feel for the culture of each school.  If one school had difficult teachers or limited work space, I only had to be in it for about 45 minutes at a time.  Not being a part of a teacher community in a school meant that I didn’t have the same support or sense of belonging — but I also probably missed a lot of drama.

— No extra duties.  I didn’t have lunch duties or recess duties or after school coaching, etc.  Of course if I had these I would do them cheerfully — but it was nice being able to focus on my lessons.

— On that note: no tests to create (I did make occasional assessments) or homework to grade.

— Freedom.  Itinerant work means a lot of freedom — freedom to move your schedule around, freedom to create your own lessons and worksheets without worrying about being responsible for your students to pass standardized tests, etc.

— Variety.  During my program, my advisor asked which age group I preferred and I told him that I had enjoyed them all.  (Although upon reflection and further experience, I definitely have some preferences.)  Being an itinerant meant that I could go from working with a nonverbal 10 year old to a highly functioning 8th grader.  I had a deaf-blind three year old and a football loving 12 year old.  With some students I was working on getting them to repeat noise patterns, and with others I worked with them on complicated math and science vocabulary.

— Co-workers and supervisor.  I lucked out with my co-workers and supervisor — they were all supportive, fun, thoughtful, professional, and deeply cared about the impact of their work.  My fellow TODs didn’t groan when I repeated questions or made mistakes or texted them about driving my car into a ditch.  They always offered advice without being condescending, they were gracious and helpful, and constructive.


— I came in without any training of the online IEP and data system that the district used; but I got lucky because they were in the process of starting a new system and I received the training with everyone else.

— Different schools.  Being in and out of schools meant that I wasn’t involved in a school enough to always be in the loop on certain events (field trips, testing, talent shows).  I often found out about these when I went to work with a student and he/she wasn’t there.

— Some of the classroom teachers I worked with were so stressed and busy that they rarely replied to emails.  I often had to ask several times for paperwork I needed from them.  (Most of the teachers were great and extremely supportive.)

— Levels of students.  I worked with preschoolers up to a senior in high school.  While this provided variety (which I loved), it also meant a lot more leg work in customizing lessons.

— My personality.  I am laid back and don’t like to ruffle feathers.  I also tend to listen more than speak when I am in meetings or groups that I don’t know.  I had to learn to be assertive (which often felt pushy) to advocate for my students’ needs.

These lists could go on a lot longer, but they do a pretty good job of giving you an idea of my experience as an itinerant teacher of the deaf this year.  I am excited for what next year will bring.

More than you know


Fall, 2012.

I like daffodils and orchids and sunshine and bubbles and kites and colorful tights and nailpolish and chai tea and small braids and…”  The first paragraph of my online dating profile was a run on sentence list of things I liked.

My friend A, a semi-fearless traveler with a penchant for adventure, was appalled, and declared that it didn’t reflect me at all.  I believe she thought I was portraying myself as a Giggle Giggle Hair Girl to attract men.

I am not a Giggle Giggle Hair Girl.  Not that I have anything against them — when that’s their genuine personality — it’s just not me.  Not that I don’t giggle — I am quick to laugh; one of my favorite games is fake laughing until you real laugh.  But I am not so good with the clothing that fits and matches, let alone outfits with jewelry, scarves, shoes, and hair.  Hair.  I started cutting my own hair when I was college-poor, and I haven’t stopped, even though my method of gathering it into a pony and lopping at it with kitchen scissors is hardly refined.

But I digress.

A thought I was putting on a Giggle Giggle Hair Girl facade, when in reality I was listing out the things that made me excited, many of which admittedly had a whiff of Zoey Deschanel to them.  (Who tends to fit into another trope, but in the pursuit of coining mine, I will omit it here.)  OK, but I don’t want to live in a world where liking bubbles (seriously, go look at one) and kites (so magical) is relegated to the realm of GGHGs.


I have a secret fantasy of going door to door soliciting people to buy copies of “Death of a Salesman.” I can understand your happiness at reading “Death on the Nile” while on the Nile.

This, among other thoughtful, humorous comments, was in his first message to me.   So I naturally friendzoned him, in about as literal a way possible:

I’m glad you contacted me! We’re clearly meant to be friends.

He was too extroverted, I decided.  And I wasn’t crazy about the picture of him posing in front of flowers.

And then…then we skyped.  For five hours.  And everything changed.


I should have known when you didn’t want to be seen reading Calvin and Hobbes on the metro.

As I was coming out of a previous relationship, I joked with people about “I should have knowns.”  I had spent over a year in a relationship, convinced that we would work out in spite of personality, cultural, and value differences.  We would work through sheer determination.  I kept trying to do x, y, z.  And then I was just trying to try.

Relationships are hard.  Marriage is hard.  It’s what everyone is always writing about, talking about, getting counseling for, wringing hands over, ending phrases in prepositions with.

Love is a choice.  It’s an action, a verb.

I still believe all of these things.  But start with a good foundation.


I caught the happy virus last night

When I was out singing beneath the stars.

It is remarkably contagious –

So kiss me.

– Hafiz

We were long distance for over a year.  Upside: it forced us to talk instead of do activities side by side.  Downside: Sharing life over a screen is nothing like sharing life. Upside: We appreciated every moment we had together. Downside: This meant we were obnoxious to hang out with for everyone else.

…and  I remember telling his sister that we were only disgusting because we were long distance.  Not to worry. Things would change.

I know that if we stick this out that one day we will fall out of love and have to remember to fall back in again.  That date nights will have to be scheduled, that we will have to remind ourselves to hold hands.  Maybe we will have children and turn into sleep-deprived passive aggressives.  We might hurt each other and wonder if forgiveness is ever possible.  We might take each other for granted, stop communicating, dig into ruts.  It will be work, it will be effort, it will be choices.

But.  For now we are a shmoopfest.  We are a stereotype.  We look into each other’s eyes and philosophize about what it means to stare into another’s eyes.  (Trust me, you should be glad we found each other because nobody else wants this mess.)  We create lists of countries we will visit and countries we will live in.  We spend hours over a beer at a brewery.  We look at each other’s hands, and cook for each other, and chase each other, and laugh.  We laugh a lot.  We are very seldom hungry.


“I’m running a little late because I’m in a grocery store…I’ll explain later.”

He is buying groceries for a homeless man again.  Why do they always want steak?


I was single for the first 22 years of my life.  And I loved it.  Being single was a wonderful experience for me, and the only reason I would give it up would be to be with someone who makes me better than I can be on my own.  Who wants to join me in exploring the world.  Who wants to live and give and share with others.  Who takes my ideals and runs with them.

Who fits with me on an emotional, spiritual, physical, and intellectual level.


“If you could travel back and live in any time period, what would it be?  What about the early 1900’s?”

“That would be cool, but I don’t think it would be a great time to be a woman.”

He didn’t want a Giggle Giggle Hair Girl.  But he did want her 2nd cousin, the Red Lips 40’s Heels Girl.  I only wear heels at weddings and funerals. I am slightly tilted when I walk. When I apply lipstick, I get a pinkish glow over and under my lips, and bits of red on my teeth.

I didn’t want Creative Dreamer Man.  I wanted Mechanical Engineer C++ Man.  But then, I didn’t know that being with him would be like coming home.

The traveler’s curse


“Don’t ever tell anyone anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”

– Holden Caulfield

My brother says we weren’t so much raised as traveled.  (Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s in his unpublished book.  Sorry, Chris.)  And it’s true: one of my friends’ favorite pastimes is instructing me to give “the list” when someone asks where I’m from.  It’s rather a jerk move because when someone asks them about their day it’s not like I force them to list off their movements of every hour.

Don’t get me wrong — I loved it, the constant unknown, the exploration, the newness, tastes, smells, sounds of a different place.  I loved arriving at a new house, echoey and imposing, with empty rooms waiting to be chosen and filled.  I loved unwrapping our shipments and rediscovering possessions.  And I loved the people.  People from all over the world who became acquaintances, friends, family.

When someone asks about my childhood, about the moving, about the difficulty of packing up and leaving a place, I usually tell them I loved it but that it isn’t for everyone.  I don’t tell them about the indescribable ache when yet another best friend moved to a different continent.  I don’t tell them about my friends who found the moving depressing and semi-traumatic.  And I can’t tell them about what it feels like to have different places make residence in your body like so many unsolicited but vital organs.

Every memory, every move, every culture and friend and experience has infused my life with so much vivid color that I can’t help but write adjective-heavy blog entries extolling the virtues of the nomadic, international childhood.


Though I wouldn’t trade my childhood for the world, there’s still the “otherness” that follows me like a shadow — easy to ignore in the right lighting, but occasionally starkly contrasted against my life.  It is the otherness of feeling that I don’t truly belong anywhere, which is an acceptable feeling during the occasional existential crisis, but not something you want on a regular basis.  I will never be fully American.  Nor can I claim to be Omani or from any combination of the Middle Eastern countries I love.  But the otherness shadow is always there.  It’s there when I bring up the craziness of Egyptian roads and people stare at me. (If you’re from Africa, why are you white?)  It’s there when I smell shisha or hear Arabic or crave Lebanese food.  And it’s also there when I’m in these countries and know that I do not share their heritage, their culture, their language and customs.


Having friends scattered across the world is wonderful, but achey.  The friend who talked to you late in the night about nothing and everything.  The friends who infused your life with brightness when you were wandering alone.  The friend you constantly laughed with because your weird sense of humors hit just right.  The friend who shaped your ideas and challenged your assumptions. The friends you shared life with, eating, joking, failing at exercising, singing, adventuring.  The friend you haven’t seen in 10 years who welcomes you to stay and everything has changed but nothing really has.

These people, who were so essential in illuminating your life during certain years, become distant with distance.  They, who were so colorful, are now fading, preserved in memory, on Facebook, on Skype, but not tangible, daily relationships. But they are part of you, and the more you move, the more of them you meet, the heavier your shadow becomes, filled with not just places but people.  And these people are not content to be a shadow: they are part of you, shaping you more distinctly than a place or a move.  It is something, trying to keep up with all these pieces of yourself, trying to preserve memories, let them go, wade through bouts of nostalgia, and, above all, being thankful for all the love that has been in your life. Past, present, and future.


It’s fine.  It’s growing up.  It’s TCKs…and everyone else.