Women’s History Month 2021: One Letdown After Another

Hi everyone, I have been feeling the need to vent about gender inequality of late. The pandemic has exposed rampant discrimination towards women and there have been SO many failures especially during Women’s History Month.

One thing I wanted to mention is I changed my site from UCan2 to Third Culture Kid Can in case you got confused. It’s still me!

Note: I am going to share my own personal experiences of discrimination, particularly as an expat.

Content Warning: Gender and racial-based violence.

Harry and Meghan Interview with Oprah:

After living in England for 13 years, I could write an entire post about the Royal Family. I can say where I was when (insert here) happened. Let me give a summary here. The interview confirmed what I already knew about the Royal Family. Combine Wallace Simpson with Princess Diana. Add a dose of racism. Voila! The racism part was only new in the sense that it’s a new tune than it’s been. After all, no person of colour has ever married into the Royal Family before.

In case you missed the interview, here’s a link: http://box720p.com/play.php?movie=tt141172ttttt88

I was able to see what my friends in England were posting on Facebook about the impending nuptials. There were articles that weren’t making it into international news. My friends were commenting on how disgustingly racist and xenophobic those articles were. The bottom line of our views was, “It’s the 21st century! Stop this crap!” I hope someday, racist and xenophobic media lose their credibility. This interview exposed what media sources we shouldn’t trust. Look for the temper tantrums and ignore the source for good!

My American friends know that I am seriously disillusioned with the Royal Family. One of my friends told me, “I watched Harry and Meghan’s wedding.” I said, “Okay.” That was the end of that conversation. I don’t mind hearing about the Royal Family per se. People know that I only talk about them if I want to talk about them. It’s a mixed bag for me. I do keep up with what’s going on in the UK because it is my passport country. On the other hand, you can only hear so much about the Royal Family. Although, these days I feel it’s important to have these conversations, especially after the interview.

Sexual Harassment Statistics in the UK:

UN Women UK released a statistic that 97% of women in the UK have been sexually harassed. I’m one of them and I certainly believe it when they say how rampant it is. Please note, the following is my own personal experience, but I honestly believe I am not the only one who has experienced these types of harassment. I am talking about this because this is NOT okay!

I was a pre-teen when I moved to London. Within my first year, I had to be careful of what I said or did. I could just be minding my own business, and somehow that showed a guy I was into him and he would totally hit on me! This happened so frequently and it confused me terribly. I was going through culture shock at the same time. I found myself wondering, “Is this normal in England? Or is it normal everywhere?” I didn’t tell my parents what was going on because the shame was overwhelming!

Fortunately, my Mum figured out what was going on. One time at school, this boy in my class called me a “Stupid American Bitch”. I didn’t even know what that word meant at the time. My Mum called the school to yell at them and eventually pulled me out! Later on, she noticed guys would make eyes at me and she would give them dirty looks.

I went to a girls’ school for a while because I didn’t want to deal with boys. It wasn’t any better because they were bullies in their own way. Plus, they just accepted sexual harassment from boys and men as normal and I didn’t. I developed the attitude, “I don’t care if this is culturally acceptable! This is not okay!”

It Never Got Better:

As I got older and began to look more like a woman, the harassment came thick and fast. Guys kept making eyes at me or whistling at me whenever I was out. I was walking down my street and I got hit on SIX TIMES by SIX DIFFERENT MEN! I turned around and went home ready to punch any guy that hit on me again!

One time, I was at the pharmacy picking up medicine for my Mum and the guy serving me hit on me! I refused to go to that pharmacy again. Another time, this homeless guy grabbed me after he asked me for money. Fortunately, I broke free and ran away! There were a lot more incidents where that came from.

The only support I could rely on was my Mum. My friends told me I should be flattered that I get hit on so much. I developed my own survival skills. If anyone tried to stop me in the street, I would either outright ignore them, or yell, “NO!” before they had a chance to say anything. I know now that sometimes, it was rude because the person meant no harm. On the other hand, I was traumatized. I developed my “DON’T MESS WITH ME” look and used it all the time when I was out.

Then I Started Working As A Chef:

Sexual harassment got absolutely brutal once I entered the workplace! Plus, being in a kitchen where there are hot and sharp things, you fear for your safety if you speak up. One time, I used physical force on a guy who was sexually harassing me at work, and who got disciplinary action? Me. By now, I was on medication for panic attacks. The trauma from harassment had compounded after several years. I eventually stopped working as a chef because I learned sexual harassment and assault is an occupational hazard for female chefs.

Here’s one of the biggest ironies I learned. The most significant change I had made as a teenager was to dress in bulky clothes and look ugly. Okay, I know now it’s an outdated view that women’s clothes provoke men. I thought the people who were slut-shaming me were right. I’m not saying they were right, but I will say this. Dressing down definitely reduced the number of street harassment incidents I experienced. I was willing to do it as long as it happened less.

Trouble is, I HATE wearing bulky clothes all the time! It makes my body hurt and sometimes, I just wanted to wear a dress or take my sweater off or something. I mean, come on! Just let women wear what they want! Their clothing is NOT their consent! When I moved to California, I started to relax more with my clothing.

After I was sexually harassed at work, I knew the clothes assumption was wrong. I wore chef whites like everyone else and I was still harassed! Now, I just wear what I want. I have my own style and I’m proud of it!

When I Repatriated:

I learned the hard way how American guys were toxic. Culture definitely influences toxic behaviour patterns in people. I was used to how guys were toxic in England. Guys in America seemed to have a more violent side to their toxic behaviour. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that guns are legal in the US.

Additionally, it was surprising to me to learn that women in the US are far more supportive of each other than in the UK. It was hard for me to develop close female friendships in the UK. Plus, I feel women in the US are aware of how toxic men can be, and they know they have to stick up for each other. I was in two abusive relationships after I repatriated. It was out of the frying pan and into the fire for me. Fortunately, I learned to develop close female friendships and that helped me heal. I don’t like Madeline Albright per se, but her quote that I used for my post is so right!

I decided to apply to go to Mills College in Oakland because I needed a safe place to continue healing. It worked! It was the best decision I could have made and it has set me up with a lot of skills for life. That was why I was so upset when my senior year got cut short because of the pandemic. See my previous post, COVID-19: One Year On. What’s My Story?

And Then This Past Week Happened:

Last Tuesday, there the shootings in Atlanta happened where six Asian sex workers were killed. When the domestic terrorist blamed his violent actions on his sex addiction, uh no. Just no! Other people deal with addiction and they aren’t out and about shooting people. Also, yellow fever much? I thought this was about the worst it could get with Women’s History Month. I was wrong.

The next day, I got an announcement that my beloved Alma Mater is going to close. I was inconsolable. I know that universities have been suffering because of the pandemic, but Mills was suffering financially even before the pandemic. The amount of information I have about why Mills is closing is a whole other post. Basically, Mills was in financial trouble a few years ago. Therefore, the vultures descended and finished the school off. I have been getting information the last few days that makes me angry and sad and hurt that the president and Board of Trustees have killed Mills. It’s like in Guardians of the Galaxy when Rocket yells, “You killed Groot!”

I am working to fight against this along with other alums. To me, Mills is forever! Plus, after all the crap that has happened during Women’s History Month, Mills’ work is FAR from done! Mills closing is just another reason why I never want to live in the US again. Someone said to me that it’s super expensive to live in the Bay Area now and he doesn’t see how any school can survive there long-term anymore. I definitely agree. Income inequality is through the roof there and it’s hard to see it getting better any time soon!

Okay, rant over. What are your thoughts on Women’s History Month this year and progress on women’s rights?

Crossing A Border? Here Are Some TCK Pro Tips!

Who has had a supremely pleasant experience crossing a border where the officers are kind, welcoming and let you in with no problems? No? Me neither. Let’s just say, there’s a reason comedians make fun of border patrol and airport security. I included my favourite comedy routines on the subject in this post to help lighten this heavy subject.

I grew up between two of the most hostile countries when it comes to border patrol and security. So, I got really good at dealing with it. My parents said France and Switzerland border patrol care the most about paperwork. As long as you have that in order, they are usually okay with you. That sounds mild compared to my passport countries. Okay, Napoleon, I don’t appreciate the paperwork headache, but as long as I don’t get a hard time at the border, thank you!

Whether you are crossing a border for travel or immigration purposes, it’s helpful to know how to deal with border patrol. I will include tips on dealing with airport security too. Border patrol and airport security is a content warning in its own right. However, I want to mention I will include some examples of stories that people may find disturbing.

Before You Leave:

Do any necessary paperwork. I know that doesn’t sound like fun, but it will save you an enormous headache later. Make sure your passport is still valid too. If it isn’t or if you have less than 6 months on it, renew it! Being born in Switzerland and living in France, it was my birthright to learn how to fill in paperwork properly. It was one of those cultural things my parents made sure to teach me. That served me well when I moved to England and I expect it will serve me well here in Canada too. I remember when I was old enough to do paperwork, and my Mum gave me practice forms to fill in. She made me practise… and practise… and PRACTISE until I was almost tearing my hair out.

My Mum was sympathetic but also strict about the fact that I needed to know this. She told me stories later about how she learned how to deal with paperwork in France/Switzerland. This was before the internet really took off too, so hey, I learned paperwork from a master!

This is why I love Roz’s character from Monsters Inc. Every scene with her makes paperwork and border patrol a little easier to handle.

It really helps to think of border patrol officers like Roz, or even like in Life is Beautiful, Guido and Joshua call the concentration camp guards, “Mean Guys Who Yell.”

One More Thing:

Check the laws, regulations and rights when you cross the border. I’m serious. Anyone can get stopped at the border and you have to be prepared in case it happens. Additionally, if you are arriving in a country that has questionable (or dare I say abusive in some cases) human rights practices, you have to be even more prepared. More on that later.

Check requirements for airport security and customs too. If you’re in doubt about taking something with you, either don’t take it or ask at security or customs if it’s allowed. I heard a story once about this elderly German guy who was flying into the USA. He brought baking soda with him to brush his teeth. He was detained for hours while security tested it. They came back and said, “it’s baking soda.” Um, they could have figured it out by pouring apple cider vinegar on it and creating a mini volcano!

Case in point: what happens when you take fruit across the US/Canada border.

Now that you’re prepared, here’s are my tips when you are going through security or crossing the border.

Golden Rule: Do NOT Use Humour!

Just DON’T! When I was younger, my Mum told me this story to remind me not to use humour. Groucho Marx said that he was a smuggler when he went through the border. They detained him even though they knew who he was. Plus, the previous video with Leland Klassen conveys that message of not using humour too.

One time, my Dad used humour with Border Patrol. We had just got permanent residence in the UK, and my Dad was arriving back in the UK after a trip to the US. He was having his papers checked at Border Patrol and they asked him how he got permanent residence. Side Note: One of our family discussions at the time was about this guy who gave £1,000,000 to the Labour Party to obtain UK citizenship.

Anyway, Border Patrol asked my Dad, “How did you get your permanent residence?”

He joked, “I gave £1,000,000 to the Labour Party!”

The woman questioning him looked blank and said, “Good for you.”

Okay, that worked out in the end. Still, I don’t advocate using humour. Border Patrol has NO sense of humour! They just get on with the job.

Honesty is the Best Policy:

If you are familiar with typical questions you are asked, I suggest you practice your answers if you have ANY uncertainty of what you are going to say! Border Patrol may try to throw you off with an atypical comment or question. It’s normal to freeze when that happens. I don’t have any right answer for when that happens. Just be kind to yourself, especially if you say something that you feel like you shouldn’t have said in retrospect. Frankly, I get panic attacks when that happens. Sometimes, I can come up with a good save in answer to an awkward question, but it takes practice. It didn’t happen overnight for me.

Here’s something people don’t often tell you. Sometimes, you have to tell the border officers which law(s) is/are applicable to your case. Border officers have to keep track of MANY different laws. I had a situation once where I had to tell the border officer the law that applied to me. Sometimes, you wonder if they really don’t know that law, and it’s true that it can be the case. Other times, it can likely be just needing to know all these different laws and it’s hard to recall them at the drop of a hat.

I’m glad Trevor Noah makes the situation lighter in this video.

If You Make A Mistake, Own It:

You might make a mistake in your paperwork or answer a question wrongly. In that case, admit the mistake. Don’t try to flatter the officers, like how Mike Wazowzki tries to flatter Roz. Yes, there will be consequences. I made a mistake once. I thought one regulation applied to me, but it turned out there was a new one. Because I was preparing to move I didn’t check for updates. It takes a while to go through those regulations, and it’s one of those things you only want to do once when you move.

Decide Which Information is Important to Share and Which Isn’t:

To be clear, I’m NOT saying you should hide information! Far from it! What I am saying is you should prioritize what information you should share. When I got dual nationality, I learned that I have to decide on a case by case basis whether I should disclose it. I don’t say I’m a dual citizen if I am entering one of my passport countries. They don’t need to know that. They just need to see my passport. I disclosed my dual nationality to Canadian immigration when I moved. When you look at immigration forms, they ask if you’re a dual citizen. Canada’s the first country I have seen who does this! That makes me very happy that they are recognizing that a lot of people are dual citizens.

When I repatriated to the US, my Dad sat me down and had a serious talk with me about being careful who I tell that I’m a dual citizen when I’m in the US. Basically, if anyone asks me if I’m a US citizen while on US soil, I have to say yes. You’re considered a security risk if you’re a dual citizen in the US. Honestly, I find that completely disgusting and backwards! There are more TCKs in the world than ever before because of globalization and more people are getting dual nationality than before! Frankly, the US and other countries need to catch up!

Know Your Rights:

This is where it can really get ugly. Your rights can still be violated if you’re a citizen of a country that you are entering. My uncle re-entered the US after a trip to a country in South America that the US deemed a security risk. They threatened to do something that would have violated his rights as a US citizen. He said, “I’m a US citizen. You can’t do this to me!” It worked because my uncle knew his rights. If you don’t know your rights, it’s easier for border patrol to exploit you!

Here are two more tips I have. First, check if you can ask to speak to a lawyer at no extra cost to you before you leave. Certain countries are legally required to provide you with a lawyer at no extra cost upon request. Check if that applies to the country you’re entering. I only recently learned about this. I had problems entering Canada. My Dad said, later on, I should have asked to speak to a lawyer. Glad I know that for future reference!

My second tip is to find out their discrimination laws. If you can find a reason why they can’t discriminate against you, use it!

Other Stories:

After 9/11, border patrol and airport security in the US got even scarier. I vowed to myself that I would visit there as little as possible. This wasn’t something that would calm down after a few years either. There were a lot of personal stories going around of US border patrol and airport security being more abusive overall. Things only got slightly better because of people complaining about their experiences.

I have heard of UK citizens being stopped at the border if they are naturalized citizens and questioned about the legitimacy of their citizenship. That’s one reason why I am leery about entering the UK again. Additionally, I have heard stories of Canadians who are Muslim being stopped at the US border because of Trump’s Islamaphobic travel bans!

Take Care of Yourself Afterwards:

I’m serious. In my post, Flying Internationally and Locally During COVID-19, I describe how I was feeling after going through Border Control. My Mum and I had to make our flight to Calgary right after that! Adrenaline was pumping SO hard then! I thought I was either going to throw up or pass out! I had to use the flight to Calgary to recover from that ordeal. The airplane views were beautiful, so I watched out the window.

If I hadn’t had to catch a plane, I would have taken care of myself. First, I would have gone into the bathroom to come down from the massive panic attack I was having. Then, I would have drunk a lot of water and maybe had some food once I felt better.

My point is that your body is going to respond to the stress of going through border patrol. It’s important to do whatever you need to do to manage it.

Laugh About It:

At some point, I can’t take what happens too seriously. I also remember that these border officers are people too and sometimes, you can see their human side. Then, it’s almost comical when something is way too easy. Listen to this last comedy routine to find out why!

What do you think of my tips and stories? Do you agree? Disagree? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments!

Marda Loop Justice Film Festival

In mid-November, I got a library card at the Calgary Public Library! One way I feel like I’m really settling in somewhere is when I’m at the point I can get a library card! Because of COVID, I can’t go to any in-person events they have, or volunteer. However, they do have some online events I can participate in. The first event I participated in was the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival. They showed a movie every day, and at the end of the movie, they interviewed one of the people behind the creation of the movie. Here are the movies they showed for the week, as well as my personal commentary on it.

Warning: Contains spoilers!

Content Warning: War, enslavement, animal harm, rape, displaced people, AIDS.

Safe Haven:

This movie struck a lot of personal chords with me, especially because I’m new to Canada. They interviewed Vietnam and Iraq War veterans who sought refugee status in Canada to escape the draft (for Vietnam) or resist the horrors of war. The Vietnam War veterans had better luck with their refugee status than the Iraq War veterans.

During the Harper Administration, some Iraq War veterans were deported and had to spend months in prison under inhumane conditions. The movie talks honestly about the struggles Iraq War veterans faced with their immigration and the ensuing social activism to protect them. There are some things that I don’t feel I am in a position to comment on at this time.

I want to give a shout-out to the fact that social activists mentioned a lot of these veterans are LGBTQIA+. Additionally, the movie showed what the Vietnam veterans have been doing to contribute to Canadian society. A majority of them ran for office, and one of them is a judge who advocates for Indigenous communities. Of course, one of the veterans couldn’t be interviewed because he had severe PTSD, but you felt sympathetic about it.

The movie ended by saying that tens of thousands of US citizens moved to Canada in 2017 after Trump got elected. I know I moved later, but it still hit me hard that so many US citizens feel the same way I do. I think this movie is honest in talking about the past. Plus, it makes you think about what Canada can do to help US citizens who have recently emigrated and don’t feel they can repatriate.

I think the parts that resonated with me the most were how the veterans talked about adjusting to life in Canada. My own adjustment period has been up and down emotionally, particularly because I’m detoxing from a toxic country. Like those vets, I feel less American as time goes on. It gave me hope though that I will adjust. I’m determined to have a life like those Vietnam vets! I will become a productive citizen and give back to a country that I love that welcomed me when I needed it!

Servitude:

Servitude, or Servidão, is about human trafficking in Brazil. It was a thoughtful and thorough examination of Brazil’s history. Apparently, it was legal to keep those of African descent enslaved in Brazil decades after other countries had made it illegal. After enslaving people became illegal, corporations in Brazil found a way to keep millions of citizens working below poverty wages. Not only does this keep people in poverty, but those people are under orders to do tasks that destroy the rainforest, which creates its own social issues. Human trafficking clearly needs to be part of the discussions on how to stop deforesting the Amazonian rainforest. Now, I realize that stopping deforestation is much easier said than done.

Fortunately, there were organizations that resisted human trafficking and got millions of people out of enslaved labour. Unfortunately, when the far-right government was elected a few years ago, people were being trafficked again.

There was an interview with the director, and they asked him what he thought of the history of enslaved people in the USA compared to Brazil. I think he answered it as best he could, but he definitely got a couple of facts wrong. I also think it was an unfair question because I could tell from his answer that Brazilians know just as much about the US as Americans do about Brazil. I think more than anything, this movie showed the importance of understanding a country’s history before judging them for issues like destroying the rainforest. After all, several wise people have said those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.

Sockeye Salmon, Red Fish:

This movie showed sockeye salmon are being overfished and illegally poached. It explained how large corporations that fish the salmon and poachers affect the ecosystem of the Kamchatka peninsula and the livelihoods of local fishermen. The group that filmed the movie do a lot of education and outreach to the citizens of the Kamchatka peninsula, particularly the children. I wasn’t too familiar with the issue of disrupting salmon migrations and how it affects local ecosystems. The person they interviewed at the end was a biologist in British Columbia who studies the effects of disrupting salmon migrations and climate change. She was brutally honest about the fact that farmed fish is not a good solution to the problem of overfishing and declining salmon populations.

From Durban to Tomorrow:

The International AIDS Conference started in Durban, South Africa in 2000. Mass advocacy for universal access to AIDS treatment started then and continues to this day. The movie interviewed five people who are on the front line of advocating for universal access to healthcare in South Africa, Guinea, Spain, India and Hungary. The activists spoke honestly of the social stigma of AIDS and what social structures are affecting access to healthcare. I felt the saddest thing was in South Africa, women are highly likely to become infected with HIV by the time they are 16 because they are more likely to be raped by that age.

Additionally, US drug companies are withholding their newest treatments and finding ways to defund healthcare systems in other countries. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely surprised by that because I know what is happening with England’s healthcare system. The movie basically sent the message that citizens need to start advocating to keep their country’s healthcare systems providing equal access to quality healthcare.

Alice Street:

This movie was another one that I got a lot of feels about because my university was in Oakland. The movie talks about how the racial and ethnic diversity in Oakland has given the city its unique identity. The community worked with artists who wished to celebrate that identity on a massive mural. After the mural was painted, some Karen decided to protest it by having a temper tantrum at city officials and media. Additionally, gentrification started happening because of tech workers moving into Oakland. The mural was one of the driving forces behind the movement against gentrification.

When I was at university, the activism against gentrification was in full swing. I have seen the mural with my own eyes, and it’s one of those things that I like to stop and admire and consider the messages behind it. I had to leave my campus quite suddenly because my classes went online last March thanks to the pandemic. I do miss Oakland, and I am keeping up to date on what’s going on there with the anti-gentrification movement.

Never Going Back:

Never Going Back or Para No Volver is about this Honduran family with two girls who seek asylum in Mexico. It was an honest portrayal of culture shock and missing your home. I admit though, I had to stop watching it at one point. The family tries to enter the USA and they know they risk being separated. Anyone who has read my past posts knows how I feel about those deplorable Trump Administration policies that separate families, so I won’t repeat it.

Indebted to All Women:

Indebted to All Women or En Deuda con Todas is about the social effects of El Salvador’s laws restricting access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. Many women are interviewed in this movie who have done time for having babies who were stillborn. They were prosecuted for killing their babies when in reality, their bodies were just doing their job. These women almost died themselves giving birth but the law completely ignored that. Additionally, the lack of access to sexual and reproductive healthcare has disproportionately affected low-income girls and women. More girls get pregnant because they were raped and the rate at which they are raped is disgustingly high! This movie is another example of expanding equal access to women’s reproductive healthcare that must include ending rape culture and toxic masculinity. From Durban to Tomorrow had the same theme.

Overall, I think the festival did an excellent job of showing documentaries that covered a range of social issues. These movies made you think about how they were relevant to other countries, not just the ones portrayed. Since these documentaries are portraying stories of human suffering, I think they were tactful and respectful in their interviews, visuals and information. I have seen documentaries and TV shows that weren’t so respectful and I don’t think that’s an effective way to help your audience learn. Disturbing things can turn your audience off and documentaries can walk a fine line with portraying their subjects. I find documentaries that decide what are the points of the movie, portray their points clearly, succinctly and respectfully, and then move onto the next point are more effective in helping me learn about what’s going on. I have seen gory and disrespectful portrayals in documentaries and shows that just keep making the same point over and over. That makes me think, “Was that necessary?” Ultimately, I would find another way to learn about the subject.

Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised that the film festival had a clip of Land Acknowledgment before every movie. I have noticed Land Acknowledgment is more of a thing here in Canada. I didn’t even know what Land Acknowledgment was until 2018 when I transferred to university. My university did Land Acknowledgment during their ceremonies. Apart from that, I never noticed it at all during my time in California. I think the prevalence of Land Acknowledgement in an area or region is a sign of the prominence of social activism. I’m not saying things are perfect, but I am saying there is more of a respect for social activism when you see little things, such as practices like Land Acknowledgment.

Overall, I think the festival had a great selection of movies that covered a wide range of issues. I also noticed this festival is only a few years old. I found movies they have shown in previous years. If I can’t find them online, I will make a point of watching them once I can watch DVDs again.

If you are interested in seeing what movies were shown in the previous years, please click the following links:

MLJFF 2019

MLJFF 2018

MLJFF 2017

What I’m Doing While I Wait to Move

Yes, I have chores to do to prepare to move. However, this time, I have had a lot more free time than I did before. Maybe that’s due to the pandemic, but also I think it’s down to experience. I love that though! That means I get to do more Self Care because this pandemic is mentally draining.

I have been on lockdown for almost SIX months now and I’m reaching the point that I don’t want to have to stay at home so other people can be reckless about their safety. This isn’t just me complaining that life is unfair. This situation really IS unfair because people being reckless means the good ones have to lock down for even longer. I have to remind myself that if I don’t get COVID-19, it will all be worth it. I think my previous post Pain, Fire and Other Moving Upheavals summed it up pretty well. Also, since my last post, it is still smoky from the fires. I’m still safe though, thankfully. I got another couple photos of the sunset from last night, and the smoke still gives it a certain redness.

Another sunset during fire season

Life’s not all bad though. I have found some fun things to do, like games. Cards Against Humanity has been the most cathartic game during the pandemic because sometimes, I have been downright frustrated with the world! I have been playing some other games online, and they are Minesweeper, Mahjong, and Scrabble Go!

I have been on and off with reading right now because my books are packed. However, I will always love the feminist poetry of Lang Leav and Rupi Kaur, and I hope to take their books with me. I love that they write about immigration as part of their poetry. Women are affected by immigration in a different way than men. I will do a post about their work sometime and what it means to me.

I’m continuing to watch movies with French subtitles where possible to brush up on my French as well. I am also learning the differences between French French and Canadian French. Watch this space for a post about French dialects, because it’s not the first time I have had to contend with them! I’ll do another post about English English, American English, and Canadian English sometime soon too.

The best thing of all is I can pursue the things I have wanted to do. I have been wanting to write a book based on my life with immigration and growing up in different cultures. Now, I can start doing that. The pandemic has shown me that I really love writing and I want to pursue it wholeheartedly. I also want to turn my passions into my profession and have the money and freedom to be able to pursue my life goals and deal with any problems that arise. The Dalai Lama once said, “Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” He has many great quotes, but this one resonates the most with me.

Additionally, certain things depress me about the world. For instance, I don’t want to work someplace I have a moral issue with. I have become more of a conscious buyer lately. I love to support businesses that have certain values I believe in. Whether they are green, black-owned, sustainable, feminist, LGBTQIA+, to name but a few, I love knowing that my money is going someplace with shared values. Also, as a woman myself, I am aware of the struggles women face in the workplace, mainly because I have experienced a lot of these myself. The idea of getting a job and facing these issues again feels like a drain of my resources. Don’t get me wrong, I know I will need to get a job at some point until I can finally be my own boss, but I intend to work part-time so I can put the time and effort into my own enterprise. Writing my book is a part of growing my own enterprise. I don’t want to give away too much about the rest of it, but watch this space!

Since I am looking to do my own enterprise someday, I wanted to learn more about leadership, particularly for women. So, while I am waiting to move, I am doing a course called Women’s Leadership: Inspiring Positive Change. It’s very informative and gives me a lot of hope. Women are typically subjected to a lot of double standards in this world, thanks to bias, both conscious and unconscious. This course has shown me there are ways around these double standards, and how you can make things work in your favor. There’s a long way to go to break the glass ceiling, particularly for women of different ethnic and racial groups. To all the women fighting these injustices, particularly those from different backgrounds, keep it up! I believe in all of you! A rising tide floats all boats and someday, I believe women will rule the world!

Just wanted to shout out to all my supporters and followers at this time! You are the people who make me feel like being my own boss someday is not only possible, but it will be worth it! Love you guys and big hugs!

I make a point of finding joy and/or hope in the most random things. Last weekend, I made a lemon chiffon cake with my Mum. I made some raspberry jam to go in the middle. The lemons and raspberries came from my Mum’s garden and they were to die for! My Mum decorated the top with rosemary flowers and our remaining raspberries.

Lemon Chiffon Cake with raspberry jam and Rosemary Flowers

When I look back on this time, I think what I will value most is my burst in curiosity. I have been exploring my TCK identity a lot more with writing for this blog, my column, and starting a book. Curiosity leads to creativity and I’m glad to see where that has taken me. Additionally, I need to be patient for moving because I really can’t wait to leave! I want to stay long enough so I can vote. Hopefully, it will be enough to change who is running the country! 

Let me make it clear though. I don’t believe in Biden or Harris. I think there could have been a better Democratic candidate. It’s hard to believe in the Democrats when they keep running the same old same old middle of the road candidates that kiss up to big businesses and screw the population. Okay, rant over! I just hope that there will be more public pressure to make lasting changes to the US. I especially hope more and more people pay attention to the Black Lives Matter movement!

How has the pandemic changed life for you? Feel free to share in the comments!

Culture Shock/Reverse Culture Shock

Update: I may be moving soon! Haven’t set a definite date just yet, but watch this space! My passport took 4 months total to process, thanks to COVID-19, but it finally happened and now my plans can move along!

Something that has been on my mind while preparing to move is culture shock. The last time I went through culture shock was when I was 10 years old, and before that, I’m not sure what I went through as a little kid was culture shock or reverse culture shock. I was born in one country and ended up in my parents’ country, but my parents were going through reverse culture shock, so why shouldn’t I? On the other hand, French culture had stuck with me. There should be another form of culture shock for kids born in one country and moving to another when they are too young to remember it, but it still affects them. I might call it child culture shock. I definitely went through reverse culture shock when I moved back to the US. 

When I was little, I didn’t understand why I spoke French and no one else did. At my US school, I didn’t know why everyone called me “the French girl”. I loved and hated French throughout my childhood because my parents kept putting me in French classes. On one hand, French classes gave me a sense of belonging somewhere. On the other hand, I hated speaking French at home because no one else did and it was embarrassing if my Mom spoke to me in French in public. I just wanted to fit in. Eventually, I got so rebellious, my mother said if I can learn another language, she would stop making me learn French. Challenge accepted, Mom. I jumped at the opportunity to learn German in secondary school in the UK, much to my Mom’s chagrin. She argued I didn’t have a good reason to learn German, and I had to compromise and take a French class as well. When I finally chose Russian as my language to pursue, my Mom was good to her word and let me give up French. In retrospect, I realize that my reaction to French was going through some kind of culture shock, and dealing with teasing and not knowing what it was or what to do about it. I love French now!

I definitely went through culture shock when I moved to London. When my parents and I were looking for an apartment, the estate agent said to us that if we chose the place we did, we would be living among English people! Well, yeah. Where did she expect us to live? An American community and end up not experiencing anything about England? No thanks. 

When I went to school, I crashed. The English kids would get me to say things only to make fun of my accent, and they would ask me questions and then laugh at my answers. That was worse than being called “the French girl” and being teased for speaking French. Little did I know that this was a normal thing for immigrants to England. I thought a country that had a lot of immigrants would have citizens who knew better than to do things like that, and would teach their kids how to behave properly with immigrants, but I was wrong. I had a friend at my first school who was from South Africa and she had similar struggles. My first school had this contest about who had the coolest accent, and the students voted me as the winner. I didn’t care about that contest and my Mom found out about it through my friend. In retrospect, that contest was a signal to bullies to go for me as a target. It also translated into a lack of success in preparing for my future endeavours. The same kind of bullying happened at my second school and continued even after my experience in school. Fortunately, my Mom figured out what was happening and homeschooled me after that whole experience. After my experience in school, I knew I didn’t want to live in England for the rest of my life. Somehow, I ended up staying in England for over a decade, but I knew in my heart that it wasn’t going to work out for me. Not all was lost though. 

I became involved with the Russian community though because I fell in love with their ballet and started training to be a professional dancer. I didn’t like England, but I didn’t want to go back to the US, so I thought if I became good at ballet, I could go to Russia to dance. That’s how I became proficient in Russian. I didn’t make it in the end, but that’s another story. Also, I would deliberately hang out with other immigrants. I felt more at home with them. The best thing about having friends from other countries was I could find some way to relate to them culturally and we would share stories. For instance, I could relate to people from India on celebrating our independence from England. Immigrants from Caribbean countries and Canada made me feel closer to home. There are many other examples besides that as well, but it would take too long to write.

When I moved back to the US with my parents seven years ago, I naively thought I would not experience reverse culture shock. My Mom warned me that reverse culture shock can be just as bad, or worse than culture shock. She had a hard time of reverse culture shock when we moved from Switzerland and a lot of it had to do with her not wanting to go back to the US. I thought that because I wanted to return to the US and England hadn’t worked out for me, that I wouldn’t have as hard a time adjusting to the US. There were struggles that I didn’t anticipate. I felt embarrassed asking someone to repeat something they said because they were talking too fast. I thought people would appreciate my perspectives on a subject, but that was not always true. If anything, I would be shot down for sharing my points of view. I was told once to “give up the London thing”. How? I lived there for a good portion of my life! I can’t just let it go! I have a big mouth because I’m not afraid to speak out against something that is very wrong and violates human rights. That has got me in trouble way too often since moving back to the US. As I lost my British accent, I lost the one clue that I had that I am multicultural. I look and sound American now and no one can tell that I have lived overseas. I was put in a box and I didn’t fit there. 

When I was living overseas, I saw that the US was becoming increasingly polarized politically. Despite that, I moved back to the US because I did need to go home for a while. The moment when I realized that I wanted to move to Canada was a culmination of hurts I have suffered since moving back here and not being appreciated for what I have to offer. Additionally, I can see the US is falling apart thanks to all these toxic systems that created the country and the pandemic is exposing those toxicities. This is not my country anymore. I can’t put my name to Donald Trump’s actions and atrocities. I see how far-right movements are springing up in many countries and the US is the perfect example of what happens when it gets out of hand. I think because I was away from the US for so long, the polarization hit me the hardest. It was a shock to see how much had changed since I last lived here. I read that a lot of expats move overseas again after they return home, and that doesn’t surprise me. If you see how much has changed in your country, it can be harder to cope with that change and you can feel like you don’t belong anymore.

A wise friend once told me that there comes a time when you’re living in another country where you realize it’s either going to work out for you, or it isn’t. There’s no shame in a country not working out for you. It doesn’t mean you are prejudiced, or there’s anything wrong with you. It’s just a fact that sometimes, things don’t work out. There are a lot of clues that can help you in deciding if a country isn’t going to work out. One thing I see people get wrong is time spent in a country is NOT a determinant in deciding whether a country is going to work out! I lived in the UK for over a decade and got citizenship, but that didn’t make me any less miserable. I lived in the US for half my life and it hasn’t worked out, even though it’s like anyone who knows me would expect it to work out for me. I never thought that moving back home to the US would not work out for me. There was a part of me that desperately wanted to go back. As you can see, a country working out for you or not is a purely subjective thing. No one can decide whether or not a country will work out for you, except you. It puts a lot of strain on families if there are some members who the country is working out for and some who want to go back to their home country. Family problems are often exacerbated by culture shock, and tensions can be on a whole different level. You have feelings you never thought were possible. The best solution I have is to develop close friendships with expats, regardless of whether or not they are from your own country and third culture kids. They are the best friendships you can have.

As I’m preparing to move, I am able to think about my past experiences and how they have prepared me for whatever lies ahead. It’s no less scary to move again, and there is a fear that things might not work out. The best thing is that I feel more prepared for this move than I did for the other ones and in my post Visas, I quoted Winston Churchill. It’s basically a mantra for moving overseas in general, not just for visas and culture shock.