I am a Californian expat living in Spain, but this is not where my multi-cultural lifestyle began! When I was eight years old, my parents became missionaries and moved with their seven kids to the Philippines. I grew up on the island of Mindanao, speaking the local dialect (Cebuano) fluently, eating dried fish with gusto, and snorkeling several times a week until I went to boarding school in the capital city of Manila. When I graduated from high school, I moved back to my home state for college, but continued to leave the country a couple times a year, both to visit my parents and to discover new places– and to help with humanitarian projects.
While it was nice to blend in amongst other Americans, it took a long time for me to feel somewhat at home in my native country. I had lived such a different life for ten years, I couldn’t forget that the rest of the world was out there, and so different from life in America. It was hard for me to imagine staying there forever.
Until about 10 years ago, all of my travels had been in developing countries: the Philippines, Thailand, India, and Honduras. While I loved these visits, and enjoyed studying the languages and cultures, I started developing a hunger to see Europe— all of those classical and romantic places I kept hearing about– and to learn more about where my own ancestors had come from. Over the years, I had learned to speak Spanish fluently, and my first trip to Europe was a dream I had always had– to visit Spain. My husband and I went there for our honeymoon, and from that point I had it in my mind that I would like to move to Europe.
Since I had married a special education preschool teacher and planned to be a stay-at-home mom, however, I just didn’t know how that might happen. I thought,Maybe when we we’re old and retired, we could go… Maybe we could teach English somewhere over the summer… Maybe… It just didn’t seem all that possible. I definitely wasn’t thinking outside the box yet!
After we had our daughter, we moved to Portland, Oregon, bought a house, and hunkered down trying to live on our one income. The job that my husband had taken there was actually different from being a preschool teacher– he became an autism specialist, working with families on how to help their children with disabilities. He loved his job, and really enjoyed the new focus– working with families, versus directing a classroom. During his second year there, the district endured major funding cuts, and a large number of people in his program were told that they would lose their jobs.
It was time to start looking everywhere, and this is where we had to get creative and think outside the box. In the midst of a scramble for everyone to find new positions, someone mentioned working for the US military. I remember that I was with my daughter (then 2 years old) at the Portland airport for some fun watching airplanes take off, when my husband called me with this idea. I immediately replied, “Let’s go! How soon can we get out of here?!” He started the process of applying for a position that was open in Sicily. While we were working on this option, Jeff got the good news that he would not be losing his job after all. We were extremely relieved, but the seed of possibility had been planted. I kept thinking about what it would mean to be able to raise my daughter in another country, to give her a new perspective on the world, maybe even a second (or third) language.
Jeff kept working at the school district, and he continued the application process. We didn’t get the job in Sicily, but at least we weren’t desperate anymore. We applied for another position, in Naples. He was actually offered that job, but we had just invested a little deeper in our local Portland community, and in our gut this one didn’t feel right. We turned it down. But we kept applying to different positions throughout the year, and he was offered a job doing early intervention (birth to 3 years) on an army base in Bavaria. By this time, I was sure that I wanted a change of scenery, and I was excited to offer my daughter the perspective that I had gained as a “third culture kid.” We accepted!
Thanks for traveling with us!If you would like to read more of our expat story, here are all of those posts so far, in chronological order.
Moving to Germany
Back in the USA
Moving to England
Moving to Spain
And where to next….?