The Blove Birds

Blood plus love equals blove!

That’s what my oldest daughter, then six years old, informed me when she coined the word.

“It’s that special thingy shared by people that are related by blood,” she explained.

And so this blog is bourne out of “blove”.

As our family is always on the move, having lived in six different countries so far, we are like a family of migrating birds.

Blove Birds.

We fly where my husband’s job takes us.

It all begun in Nairobi ten years ago when we left with our then one year old first child. So far we have hauled luggage countless times into the US and out, sometimes for visits and other times those visits turned into semi-permanent arrangements. We then had a two year stint in mystical Nepal where our departure was something that resembled a Hindu cremation ceremony. Lots of intense embraces, lots of crying, lots of colourful garlands draped around our necks. Lots of feasting on dhaal bhat and roti.

We were headed to the Philippines where we discovered the beauty of island living. “It’s more fun in the Philippines” is their catchy tourist slogan. We fell in love with 100 percent humidity, suffered our first ever typhoon Ondoy and celebrated christmas from September to December during the famed ‘Ber months. But no sooner had we settled into an easy-going life in a beautiful home in the surburbs, made beautiful friends and learnt the art of patient tolerance when a Filipino customer service agent tells you, “For a while”, than it was time to leave. At this point we were basket cases with two children in tow, a nanny that we couldn’t detach ourselves from, holding onto memorized versions of the delicious but secret chicken adobo recipe that our sweet housekeeper/cook graciously shared with us.

Our next destination was Ethiopia, where we ended up reacclimatizing ourselves with the East African sunny days and cool nights. Our decision on a rental house rested on a jacaranda tree in full bloom in the big backyard. But a short ten months later and an eight month pregnant belly, we had to leave. I could’ve sworn the air in Addis was permanently sprayed with the lingering smell of Injeera and tibs, the intoxicatingly delicious local cuisine that we devoured on any given weekend. We returned to Asia, Thailand, the land of smiles, spices and Pad Kee Mao, better known as “drunkard’s noodles”. Incidentally, our second child was born in Bangkok back when we lived in Nepal. We call him our medical tourist. A month after our return to Thailand as permanent residents, baby number three was born in the same hospital, in the same birthing room, almost in a bathtub, with the same doctor who gave me one single look and declared, “I knew you’d be back!” I was back again, for the third time, for the speedy (15 minute) delivery of baby number 4. This time, she said, “If you come back, I’ll be retired!” I have since taken her advice. I am content with my four babies.

To some, this globe trotting is the epitome of a glamorous expat life. But I think of us much in the same way I think of my nomadic Maasai grandfather who never saw the inside of a bus all his life, and chose instead to let his feet do the trotting. I should like to imagine that a part of his pastoral nature is ingrained deeply in my DNA although my feet sadly lack that athletic austerity that he carried with him to his grave. Instead, they are often pampered in tight compression socks for those grueling long haul flights.

Our four children are TCKs, which is the fancy acronym for Third Culture Kids. In short, they are the citizens of the world. The ones without a permanent home. The ones who embrace a global culture and see the world as one big, happy home.

They also have no racial identity, having half Caucasian and half African blood. They are permanently tattooed in labels such as biracial, bilingual, multicultural, and some unpleasant ones like mulato, half-cast, point five and coloureds.

In Asia, my son was likened to a reincarnating Barack Obama. I took that as a compliment.

I suspect that our giving them Jewish names that incidentally match their Jewish surname may aid in further confusion of their identity. None of us are Jewish. All his life, my husband assumed himself to have full German roots, until ancestry.com revealed his George Washington connections. Turns out he might be fully English! But really he is that blue-eyed golden boy from America’s midwest with an odd accent that he has developed from all over the world, since the day he arrived in Zimbabwe aged 13 with a backpack. I am African from the Kikuyu tribe from the highlands of Mt. Kenya region, with a hint of Maasai blood. Those might be the details that could validate our children’s passport requirements for global citizenship status.

We are world travelers to friends and relatives back home but what we really do is high end camping. We trade the big RV for airplanes packed in excess baggage, navigate through foreign airports and send our children to international schools where children like them abound. We rent homes amongst other expats from other nationalities, and without a majority nationality our neighbourhood potlucks resemble a mini United Nations Convention. We form astonishingly strong and instant friendships with our fellow multilingual transient neighbours, all with similar stories of life away from home.

We like to think of ourselves as global citizens. It sounds very New Age and we like that. However, it is a little prudish, so we tone it down to this: Our home is where our feet meet the soil. Six months ago, it was S.E Asia. We have now set camp back in Kenya, where it all begun, ten years ago.

A family favourite quote:
“A little girl, when asked where home was replied, where mother is”.

In the case of my oldest son at aged four, upon moving  to Thailand, when  I asked him where home was he said, “Where the green couch is”.

We thank the heavens for that 40 foot container that sails the seas in dodgy boats, carrying our precious green couch.

Oddly, we may not have a permanent home, but that container is a welcome and familiar sight at every move, for it contains all of our family treasures (except for the wedding album that always travels in flight in our carry-on baggage).

Welcome to our home. The 40 foot container. Where the green couch is.

The Blove Birds

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