5 Things We Learnt by Experiencing Religion Overseas

Hurry up, mami! We are going to miss the bus! These words are commonly spoken by my husband and children when we travel. They need to remind me of our schedule for the day and the time for the bus, tram, or metro. I get easily distracted by churches, temples, mosques and other religious buildings. 

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Notre Dame Cathedral, Laon-France. Photo credits: Little Nómadas 

We love to use public transportation as a way to better connect with the places we visit. Call us crazy, but we also like to take the bus during rush hour, so we get to see the real life of the commuters, not just a vehicle full of tourists. My children love to hear the different languages that are spoken, sometimes eavesdropping a local talking on the mobile about his day at work. 

But my desire to connect with the locals doesn’t end with the adventure of taking the tram at 4 pm in Istanbul or the subway in New York City on Christmas Eve. No. It extends to the religious sites, from Gothic catholic cathedrals to Byzantine anciente mosques. If you take a look at our itinerary, you will find for sure many temples listed, all of them waiting to be visited by this curious family of five. It would be painful for us to list our favorite churches; we have simply fallen in love with so many architectural masterpieces around the world that it is almost impossible to have predilections. 

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Grundvigs Church, Copenhagen- Denmark. Photo credits: Little Nómadas 

But how these marvelous representations of mankind’s love for their Gods have influenced our view of religion? 

Coming from a country with a very homogeneous religion population, mostly catholic, it was somehow a shock to find out that there weren’t many Catholic Churches in the small town in Texas where I moved to sixteen years ago. It was a nice thing though. I had the chance to visit other temples and meet people of different religious backgrounds that have the same values as me. Also, I came to appreciate more the time spent at church every Sunday after a 45 minute drive to our closest catholic parish. 

Then we had children. My husband and I agreed to raise our children with our same belief system and religion. However, we saw the need to expand their view of religious practices around the world and  we committed ourselves to prepare them for the many different traditions about God that they would encounter in their lifetime. Let’s not forget that moving abroad and traveling include a great deal of exposure to somebody else’s beliefs and values. Let’s remember that many of the problems of history have originated due to religious intolerance. I thought this was enough reason to start promoting religion awareness at home and I think this is also something you should do with your family to develop tolerance to diversity. 

This is what we have learned so far from our expeditions to religious sites and how we apply this knowledge to our daily life:

  1. Many people worldwide believe in a Superior being. Call it God, Jesus, Yahweh, Allah or Brahman, humans tend to look for the answer to the quintessential question “What is the meaning of life?” Our family has discovered through traveling that for many folks trying to find answers to life’s mysteries is the place where the religious impulse begin. It has also given us a better perspective of how and why we want to answer this question for ourselves.  

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    Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi’an – China. Photo credits: Little Nómadas 
  2. Many people worldwide make religion part of their daily routine. Catholics and the Angelus prayer at noon everyday, Islamics and the five-times a day prayer, Hindu and the personal offerings, all these rituals are incorporated by believers in their day to day schedule. Ever since we saw our driver in Bali attaching his personal offering to the dashboard of the taxi he drove us around, our family constantly tries to integrate some special moment of gratefulness to our day. We realized that as believers, folks worldwide create traditions and celebrate festivities revolving around religious practices. 

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    Saraswati Temple, Ubud-Bali (Indonesia) Photo credits: Little Nómadas 
  3. Many people worldwide are fearful of other religions. Humans are usually scared of the unknown. Humans are constantly bombarded with out-of-the-context information about other cultures by the media. But believe me, it is so different from what you experience once you visit a place of contemplation, a religious site, a mosque during prayer time. Prepare yourself with different tools: books, videos, online articles and then try to understand why certain folks behave the way they do. Look at yourself and your own biases. Are your own prejudices holding you back from discovering more about a country and its religion? Our family has learnt to criticize less when referring to the behavior of others. We now understand that their religion influenced the way they communicate and operate in society. 

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    St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. Photo credits: Little Nómadas 
  4. Many people worldwide communicate better due to religion awareness. You don’t need to be Muslim to learn about Islam, you don’t need to convert to Judaism to understand the history of Jews in Poland, you don’t have to be Catholic to marvel at the degree of love showed by pilgrims that visit Saint Peter’s Basilica every Easter. We have met so many people open to learn about others’ traditions and how amazingly they communicate interculturally, that our family has added to our priorities to read about any religion at least three articles a month. Our ability to communicate cross-culturally depends greatly on our level of knowledge of other people’s religious beliefs. 

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    Hagia Sophia, Istanbul-Turkey. Photo credits: Little Nómadas 
  5. Many people worldwide deepen their own beliefs by getting to know other groups’ traditions.  There are many people that think their beliefs would be in danger if they visit a temple or site from other religious denominations. The truth is that we can actually improve our relationship with our own God by experiencing first hand the traditions of other folks. Learning about Yom Kippur with our neighbors, visiting the Blue Mosque during the sunset prayer and washing our bodies with the holy waters of Tirta Empul haven’t made us doubt our Catholicism. To the contrary, our devotion and beliefs have grown deeper, as well as our respect for other people’s traditions and ceremonies. 
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Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik- Iceland. Photo credits: Little Nómadas 

So now I invite you to reflect on your own beliefs, biases, and expectations. This is the time to raise cultural awareness at home, work and school, and religion plays a huge role in many distinct countries in the world.  Don’t forget that humanity’s search for the meaning of life is one of the main reasons that people are drawn to religion, one of the many reason human history has been so enriching and perturbing at the same time. The answers to our questions, althought different from religion to religion, give people’s lives purpose and hope. Learn about it, grow with it. 

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Cologne Cathedral, Cologne- Germany. Photo credits: Little Nómadas 

Kids and the 4 Stages of Transition

Transition is the only constant in life. Ever since we are born we have to deal with changes that somehow shape our personality. Nowadays, moving overseas is commonly found and encouraged by cross-cultural trainers, families and employers. The Global Expatriates Forecast for the Worldwide Market Report stated that there are roughly 58 million expats worldwide and according to an article by Ute Limacher  one expat moves abroad every 44 seconds. Consequently, living cross-culturally is a phenomenon that is continuously establishing new rules for families who need to overcome the challenges of transition to successfully integrate to a new place. 

But how to assist our children during transition when we are also dealing with the obstacles of moving abroad? 

There are many resources that we can consult to find the right answers and I do really encourage you to reach out to people who has gone through the same process to have a better grasp of what happens when the security blanket of our homeland is removed. Keep in mind though, that every person, every family is different and that the way others handle emotions may differ from the way we manage our feelings during transition. 

Personally, every big move has been different for us. We have walked the path of transition and its stages in a very distinct way… I guess age, job conditions, destination country, and language have influenced our positions towards expat life and its challenges. Nonetheless, we have experienced sadness, frustration, euphoria, diversity awareness, and pride. Like a huge wave that comes inadvertently, these emotions came and went, living my kids, my husband and I a little bit shaken but also stronger and happier. 

So to help you better understand transition when moving overseas, I have divided this period of change into four distinct stages as follows: The Honeymoon (usually harmonious), the Critical Fall, the Recovery, and the Adaptation (finding balance and sense of belonging). Be aware, many of us don’t go through all of these phases during a big move; others experience the four stages in a different order, jumping from the honeymoon to the adaptation with no apparent trauma.

Like I said before, every human being is a small universe and two situations are never identical. However, these stages will allow you to develop awareness of the process and its many challenges, and this can be very benefitial for you and your family. 

The Honeymoon Stage

We just arrived and feel so happy about it! Everything is new and exciting. We are in “exploring-mode”, walking down the streets of our new home, breathing the fresh air and tasting new flavors. Oh my! How fun! The place may look like heaven on earth and we are dealing with a rush of joy that makes us see everything perfect… La vie est belle. 

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Excitement is the main ingredient of the Honeymoon stage.

How to connect with our children during this phase?

Start by creating new routines while keeping old ones as well, don’t forget that in the middle of so much change stability is always welcome. If we are able to connect the frugality of the initial excitement with the permanence of a pattern, our children will be able to still enjoy the new place and new traditions when the euphoria of the first days has disappeared. Visiting a new restaurant is always fun, but what about agreeing to eat lunch in this place every Sunday? Your kids will look forward to the recently discovered dining experience and will begin a routine that can be easily associated with the destination country. 

In addition, keep the communication bridges strong. Your children need a safe place where to express their emotions, a safe harbor where to come when sadness pays a visit. These connections should be established before the big move and must be nurtured every stage of the way. 

The Critical Fall Stage 

Many factors impact the way we see our destination country. Usually after the first euphoric times comes the melancholy, the remembrance of the hometown. Those luscious gardens don’t look that beautiful anymore. The old church bell doesn’t sound as inviting as the first weeks… Winter has arrived and made everything gray and somber. We already had the first bad encounters with the local language and we are desperate to master every single aspect of our lives. Parents and children are sad immersed in comparison that brings no good. 

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During the Critical Fall stage, sadness can be overwhelming.

What to do to help our kids overcome this phase? 

Optimistic attitude anyone? It is our responsibility to take care ourselves, to promote our very own positive thinking in order to support our children during the sadness stage. This is the moment to take advantage of those communication bridges built before and talk to your kids about emotions. Try to connect with them through your own feelings… please let them know that it is absolutely normal to feel unhappy and disappointed. 

Remember the new routines established during the first stage? Well, now is the time to visit the already discovered places but with a different lens. Encourage your children to focus on specific aspects of places, traditions and people. Invite them to go beyond the superficial… Use the patterns to create connections with the locals, this will help your family to feel part of the community. It is commonly known that losing the sense of belonging deepens the melancholy when moving overseas. Feeling that we belong can make us feel a lot better about ourselves and the host country. 

The Recovery Stage 

There you are smiling again!!! And there are your children smiling as well. This phase opens a new chapter for the family. We have accepted and embraced the reasons for moving abroad, we have acknowledged the need to integrate to the community, and we have started to create connections with the local life. The sun is shining again and our newly discovered places, aromas and taste are growing roots in our hearts. 

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 Recovery happens when family members stay connected to each other. 

 

How to be our children’s best companions in this phase? 

This is the time to promote diversity awareness, motivate your children to take part in extra curriculum activities and bring new friends home. Encourage your children to write about their experience overseas and send letters or emails to relatives and friends abroad. The important part is to help our kids appreaciate the new traditions while still treasuring our own culture. Please keep in mind that comparing our home country to the host place doesn’t do any good. Instead, allow yourself and your family to fall in love with your new home. Our hearts are big enough to love many lands worldwide. 

This is also the time to re-evaluate strategies: do we need extra tutoring for the target language? Is it possible to work less hours on Fridays so we can have a picnic with the kids in the park? Anything that strengthens our relationship as a family should be taken into consideration. Pay close attention to milestones achieved by this phase. Pay compliments to your spouse and children for their good attitude and bravery. Living abroad isn’t for the faint of heart. 

The Adaptation Stage

David C. Pollock called this phase the Entering Stage. Others refer to it as the “adjustment period”. To me this is the phase of acceptance, we accept the fact that we are where we need to be and that it is the time to become part of the new community. It is also the period of ambivalence. One day we feel like fish in the water and some other day we just blabber the local language without successful communication. 

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Adaptation doesn’t come naturally. We are responsibles for our own well-being. 

How do we support adaptation of our kids as well? 

Having a mentor is always a good idea. We need someone who can show us how to function effectively in this new world. Also, we need to encourage our kiddos to observe people and traditions to learn by watching and doing. If there isn’t a person available to accompany us during this stage, then by all means be your own mentor! Be the mentor of your kids, too! When we moved to Fulda we had a colleague of my husband’s new job who helped us with things such as opening a bank account, electricity and internet contracts, etc. However, we were the ones in charge of making contact with the local people, learning the recycling process (Germans love to recycle) and enrolling in school and tennis lessons. It was daunting but we did it and we felt very proud of it. 

This is the time to review emotions. The transition period is about grief and mourning. Talk with your children about their feelings regarding losses. Help them to identify hidden sadness. It is important to heal emotionally to better adjust to our local community. As parents, we must provide our children with the tools necessary to express their emotions. Visit your local library or contact a cross-cultural specialist for ideas and techniques; the resources are endless. 

In conclusion, remember that each person has a unique way to behave during transition. Your kids are no exception. However, it is possible through these stages to pinpoint specific problems to find the best possible solutions. I invite you to discover your own system for processing emotions so you can better understand what your children are going through. Transitions requieres teamwork. Prepare yourself to work with your best teammates: your kids! 

7 Tips For Monolingual Parents to Raise Bilingual Children

My parents are my backbone. Still are. They’re the only group 

that will support you if you score zero or you score 40. Kobe Bryant 

One of the main challenges of moving to Germany five years ago was to support our children in their language learning journey because we, the parents, didn’t know a single word of the German language. Frustration paid us a visit and despair made me rethink the reasons why we have decided to move abroad so abruptly.

Was it possible for our kids to acquire a language that we didn’t speak at the moment? How could we be their backbone when we felt so inadequate? But I knew it had to work. We just needed guidance, a plan, and tons of willpower. 

Since part of my expat plan A was to ignore the existence of plan B (a.k.a safety net/going back home), I decided to focus on making things work in our new country and I chose to equip myself with the right tools to promote language acquisition at home, even though I was also learning German myself. It was true, I couldn’t help my children as much as I wanted because of lack of knowledge, but I knew I was able to provide emotional and material aid if I had the right attitude and persistence.

Therefore, I began to process this adventure from a different angle; task that wasn’t easy because I have spent several years of my life teaching languages and I was always the one providing input regarding learning a foreign language. I must confess I felt strange and out of place. Definitely, out of my comfort zone. But hey! I didn’t give up and I got terrific results. 

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I have always talked to the kids in Spanish. It is our way to keep the native language strong. Picture taken in Galveston, Texas 

You don’t speak the target language, what to do now? 

First you have to lay the foundation for your children to learn a new language and feel supported by you along the way. Don’t forget that it is important to highlight the reasons behind this decision, ask for their opinion and promote motivation in many different ways. We cannot force our kiddos to acquire another language, so things need to be handled with tons of love, communication and assertive but fun resources. This is what we did to help our children learn German; however, these tips also apply to other languages in and outside the birth country. 

1. Learn the language yourself. Does “teaching by example” ring a bell? Learning the language is a great way to work together with your children and develop stronger communication skills at home. Additionally, it is a fool-proof way to improve your resume, exercise your brain and gain confidence while traveling. It sounds like a win-win situation to me. 

2. Invest time and resources in printed material, videos and music. You don’t need to spend a fortune, check your local library, second hand bookstores, webpages, and Pinterest to look for tools that your children could use at home to work on the communication skills they need to be fluent. Keep in mind that it is necessary to develop four different aspects of communication: oral, listening, writing, and reading. Prepare yourself with the right material. 

3. Contact people that speaks the target language. This is a great way to get your children practice their new skills with native speakers, and it can be done on a regular basis to keep the input of real-like situations going on. At the end, our children are learning the new language to communicate, and it is through speaking that they will achieve higher fluency levels. No idea who to talk to about it? I am pretty sure you have relatives, friends or colleagues that speak the target language and would be glad to help you out! Hiring a tutor is also a great thing to do. Nannies and au pairs are very common in the expat community as well. 

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We promoted language learning by traveling to countries where the target language was spoken. Picture taken in Zurich, Switzerland 

4. Go on, don’t be shy, speak out! Being self aware of our own failures is very common while learning a language. We feel like awkward toddlers baby-talking a language we are far away from mastering. All of this while our children listen to us, carefully, attentive. But they really don’t care. Remember that helping them by reading a text or simply singing a song to them in the target language is good enough. By speaking, we facilitate  the learning process and give emotional aid to our little ones. They will thank you for it in the future. 

5. Be creative. The idea is to provide our children with as much exposure to the language as possible, thing that can be difficult to do when we don’t live in the country where the target language is spoken. However, don’t despair! There are many ways to promote learning of a foreign language. I highly recommend visiting websites from bilingual families and multicultural blogs to get ideas, motivation and support. This is a journey better done with the help of those who already have a little bit more experience than us. I personally like Instagram for quick tips and Pinterest for crafty ideas. Don’t forget YouTube for songs and sing-alongs in the target language. I actually got so many ideas from the web that I even decided to creat Little Nómadas as a way to help parents transit the rewarding journey of raising global minded children. 

6. Put your apron on. One thing I have learnt all these years of teaching Spanish to children and adults is that we need to keep things fun. So what better way to learn vocabulary in the target language than cooking a traditional recipe? Imagine spending time with your children making a delicious dish, learning about the culture and practicing new terminology in a interesting way. You don’t need to know the language for that matter. Simply write down the vocabulary, look for it online so you can listen to the correct pronunciation and voilá!!! You are good to go…. don’t forget to go to the supermarket though, you still need buy the ingredientes. Additionally, you could plan a special family dinner to enjoy the end results of your cooking and learning process and you can invite relatives and friends to show off your new language skills. 

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Learning by playing. Our kids speak German with friends at school, sports, and play dates. Picture taken in Fulda, Germany 

7. Get your kids a pen-pal. Writing and reading are two of the language dexterities that your children will need to develop. Having someone to exchange emails or even snail mail using the target language is a wonderful tool to support the learning journey. Just remember to check well before contacting other people to pen pal. Our children’s safety always comes first. 

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We use the OPOL System. Dad always speaks English with the kiddos. Picture taken in Prague, Czech Republic 

So what are you waiting for?

There are many ways to promote language learning at home, you just have to dare to leave your comfort zone and make the process effective, entertaining, and stress-free. Parents support is the best thing your children could receive from you, I’m pretty sure they won’t be scrutinizing your pronunciation or accent, they will be delighted to have you on board! Just remember this will be one of the greatest investments in the future of their careers and it is totally worth it to try!

Make it fun! 

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Self-Reflections of my Son Eddie about his Life as a Latino TCK

Being a TCK (Third Culture Kid) can be quite the confusing experience, for others and myself. Especially in school, the name Eduardo Alejandro Garcia in Germany stands out amongst a sea of Timsand Florians. Most people immediately assume Im from Spain and I have to clarify that Im actually Venezuelan. Of course I also have to mention I was born in Texas, making me also an American. Ive gotten use to giving people my life story over the past four years and at first I was a little embarrassed by it. Nowadays Im very proud of it. It makes me feel unique and important. I wear it like a badge.

Over the years, Ive discovered the pros and cons of being a TCK. Because of my latino roots and nine years in the U.S.A, I excel in my English and Spanish classes in school, always achieving a one, the best possible grade in Germany (six being the worst and one being the best), while also managing a decent grade of three in my German classes. My family and I often receive praise for our German, which we have slowly mastered over the years. Appearance wise, I also stand out with my latino features and gestures. Knowing German, English and Spanish also makes traveling easier. I can fully communicate with others in Austria, Switzerland, Spain and the majority of South America and since almost everyone in Europe speaks English, I dont have any problems traveling through this beautiful continent.

Ive gotten use to giving people my life story over the past four years and at first I was a little embarrassed by it. Nowadays Im very proud of it. It makes me feel unique and important. I wear it like a badge.

As a TCK, I feel I have also become open-minded when it comes to other races and cultures. When I hear a persons accent when they speak a certain language, I dont laugh and make fun of them. I always feel an amount of respect towards that person, since I know the hardships of learning a foreign language. Im also completely against racism and discrimination. Just because a person has a different color of skin, different facial features or a different culture does not make them less. If more people experience other cultures, racism would be less of a problem.

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This is me in Texas nominated for District Creative Writing 

But how have I experienced other cultures? For me, experiencing other cultures means tasting new, delicious food, meeting friendly people, visiting breathtaking sights and seeing the world from a different perspective. I always enjoy visiting a new country with my family. It really opens your eyes and reminds you: There are 195 countries in the world and each one is different. My culture is just one amongst hundreds!I identify with this quote from Ghandi, the man who helped liberate India from the British: A nations culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.

As I mentioned earlier however, there are also some cons. Sometimes I make grammatical mistakes in German and am laughed at by fellow students. This makes me insecure about my German sometimes, which can also make me nervous when I want to meet someone new or answer questions in class. Thankfully, my friends usually help me instead of ridiculing me.

Moving to Germany also changed my view on the world and governments, since Germans have become more open because of their tragic past and history, which in turn has changed my social life a little bit. Ive lost contact with some of my American friends, except for a few truly special ones that I love staying in touch with through the years. Sadly, most of the people I lost contact with support walls between countries, separating children from their parents and reckless behavior, which I am very against.

In the past, I have actually argued with former classmates on social media about Multicultural topics and issues… They don’t seem to understand my position and ideas.  Maybe it is also partially due to us, my siblings and I, growing up as teens with different cultures, that as a result, has shaped us to be differentsomehow more tolerant to cultural diversity. Gladly, Im still in touch with school friends from Texas who are open-mined and adventurous and I hope to see them soon.

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My siblings and I celebrating 4th of July in our house in Germany 

Another con is that despite having German friends who I see almost everyday and who accept me, I still feel like an outsider sometimes. I feel like Im in a spot the differencegame. None of my friends can truly understand what Ive been through, which can be upsetting. Besides my siblings, I have never met another TCK teen. Its a good thing Im not an only child, or else I wouldnt have anyone to relate to. Being latino also means dealing with racism. Fortunately, Ive never had to deal with any racists but I still find out what people say about my race on the internet and on the news. I will never be able to understand hatred towards people, simply because they have a different culture.

In the past, I have actually argued with former classmates on social media about Multicultural topics and issues… They don’t seem to understand my position and ideas

And of course, there is the feeling of not belonging anywhere. I cant call myself German, American or Venezuelan. I have no true nationality or home county. I guess home will always be the place where my family is. I actually like not belonging anywhere. If anything I find nationalism annoying at a times. Phrases like: America First” “Venezolanos somos los mejoresand Deutschland über allesare stupid and part of the reason racism exists. I am a citizen of the world, not just one country. I am my own person, not some person dedicated to a specific country. I am dedicated to everyone, everything and everywhere.

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As a Latino TCK I get to reunite with my family once a year 

So in conclusion, being a TCK has been a wild, sad and fun adventure and all in all, Im glad I am one. Im glad we moved to Germany and got to see so much of the world. Im glad I have American and German and even Chinese friends! Im glad I have a latino family and Dutch in-laws. I think everyone should enjoy and see the whole world like I have. Let us enjoy what the cultures of the world have to offer.

By Eddie García (one of mamá’s Little Nómadas)

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With my little brother in Venezuela, five years ago. Sadly, I can’t go back to visit because of newly reformed laws by the Venezuelan government 

 

Game Night and Language Learning

A Family That Plays Together Stays Together, says one of those quotes I found on the Web after reading about ways to enhance the parent-children relationship during teenage years. And I think it is true. When you are playing a board game with your family, you are strengthening your relationship, but also as a parent, you are promoting communication and social skills that kids cannot find in today’s screen games. Hence, parents and children get to communicate in an easy going situation.

Same thing applies to language learning.

To learn a language by playing board games is fun, cost and time effective, and hands on. Children feel motivated to win the game and since the pressure of not making mistakes is not there, it gives them the reassurance of speaking the target language more freely with no fear. So next time you ask yourself how to support your child’s language learning process, plan a a family game night!

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Life: helping children develop real coomunicative skills. By Flor García 

But what are the real benefits of playing board games for language learning?

The advantages are many, however I will enumerate the ones that I believe to be more notorious and encouraging. Feel free to make your own list of pros and comment below your ideas.

  • Board games are time effective. The language benefits we obtain for an hour of playing doesn’t compare to what is practiced in a 45 minute-lesson. Yes, in a formal classroom our kiddos learn the grammatical aspects of language learning, but it is by playing and communicating that we will reap the communicative benefits they need to speak the target language.
  • Board games are cost effective. Something many families worry about. For us, a family of five, staying home playing Risk, UNO or Scrabble is a cheap way to entertain our children without breaking the piggy bank. You just need to be creative! Also, if you are a monolingual parent helping your children to be bilingual, game night is a more cost effective way of promoting communication than hiring a native speaker to tutor your child for 30 minutes. No, it won’t substitute the advantages of communicating in a real life situation, but when money is an issue, a board game could be a great solution. Don’t forget to visit your local flea market or second hand store to find good deals.
  • Board games are fun. Do I need to say more? There are so many games to choose from, that even your most picky child will find something of his interest that would motivate him to play. Remember to involve your kiddos in the search for games. Hunting for entertaining games should be a task for the whole family.
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Our favorite way to play Scrabble: mixing three languages! By Flor García
  • Board games develop communication skills by encouraging children to use the target language in a real life easy going situation. When we play together we create a safe atmosphere where our kids feel confident enough to speak without having the duress of trying to be perfect. Children feel more at ease to talk in the target language, they laugh, they make jokes, they have fun.
  • Board games are hands-on. They are real. Nothing more exciting for children of all ages than to have their opponents right there, at home, and try to beat them. It is more fun than playing against an avatar online… we just need to give our sales pitch, take our kids away from the video game console or mobile phone and bring them to the table. I am sure they will be up to the challenge!
  • Board games are a great tool to develop other important skills. While we use board games to learn a language, the benefits of playing a game (besides language acquisition) are countless. Game night is the perfect opportunity to develop fine motor skills. By playing we also encourage our children to reason  and interact with other people, therefore also working on social and reasoning skills.

So, do I need to give you more reasons to take those dusty boxes out of the attic and get a game night planned right away?!! This is your chance to support language learning at home and build or strengthen the communication bridge between you and your children, something so much needed in today’s society. For us, game nights have been an amazing resource for learning vocabulary in German and Spanish, and additionally an exceptional way to connect with our teenage kiddos. Those minutes together mean the world to us. I assure you those minutes will mean the world to you as well.

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Quality time together: priceless! 

Self-Discerning Reflections of a Venezuelan Abroad

I am from Venezuela. 

And I dare to ask myself, but from what Venezuela? Which of the Venezuelan realities am I from? The Venezuela I grew up in, sassy and content, irreverent and easygoing, humane. Or the Venezuela that my parents and siblings live in today, aching, arid, bizarre, and hungry. How do I prevent my Venezuelan roots from drying when the fertilizer of my memories reflect a country that is not longer there? 

Are memories rich enough to nurture the soil of my identity? 

I am an expatriate. 

My definition of home has been modified and adjusted so many times that I feel proud of the end result. Home for me is where my heart finds peace, surrounded by my children’s laughter and chatting, my husband’s deliciously grill meat and the dark brown leather couch that accompanies us since 2006. Home for me is the blue sea, the scorching sun, and white sand. I have learned the power of swimming in mountainous lakes and pretend I’m doing it in the warm waters of the Caribbean… I think the fact of just swimming makes me happy. Home is also warm arepas filled with avocado and chicken, German sausages, and heart-warming macaroni and cheese. As you may see, my concept of “home” is not purely based in a specific territory, but an conglomerate of feelings, places, flavors, and emotions. Each of these tied to a country, to a culture. 

Home is also warm arepas filled with avocado and chicken, German sausages, and heart-warming macaroni and cheese

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The untamed jungle of my birth country symbolically represents our feelings. Picture by Flor García in Tucacas, Venezuela

But what happened when I try to bind my memories of arepas with a Venezuela going through an unimaginable crisis so deep rooted that many have lost hope. They do not eat arepas… they have barely anything to eat. My heart aches and I don’t even live there anymore. Now, I have this dilemma of attaching my feelings from my country’s cuisine to an image of hunger. My fellow Venezuelans are hungry, thirsty, waiting for a future that hasn’t been drawn yet. Now, I restrain myself from joining the idea of the blue sea and the food to a suffering Venezuela, a country I cannot go back to. At least not to live. Now, I carefully eat and swim but I do not dare to go further… it is painful. 

I think this is a pain felt by many Venezuelan expatriates. 

Today, Venezuela is in ruins and almost 2 millions Venezuelans have left the country since the year 2000. Deep political problems, an enormous economic crisis and social devastation drove our families to pack their lives and move to other countries. Today, we have families that are completely clueless about what to do to prepare themselves and their kids for the challenges of moving abroad. We go overseas with a bucket full of roots, traditions, and beliefs that are drying. The water of the Venezuela of the past is not there anymore to nurture them. Ironically, we have the biggest oil reserves in the world but there are no antibiotics, diapers, bandaids or bedsheets in the hospitals. Patients die of hunger and infections. There are no medicines, no doctors either. 

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Headlines overseas are as depressing as the reality of my country. Picture by Flor García

We go overseas with a bucket full of roots, traditions,

and beliefs that are drying.

Accordingly to information published by Revista, Harvard’s Review of Latin America, Venezuela was once considered a miracle country. Until the 1980’s it was one of the four Latin American countries certified by the World Bank as an upper-middle-income economy. Its political landscape was stable, democratic and prosperous; its economy was successful with a high income due to oil production. Socially, we, Venezuelans, were very proud of our heritage and we were able to study in high quality universities around the country and enjoy a middle class lifestyle that made us content and strongly rooted in our traditions and land. 

These facts do not exist anymore. 

Now, we abandon our houses, jobs, families, and friends to adventure in foreign lands, looking for a better future. We are too desperate to apply for an expat assignment; but we are not that poor and in risk to be officially considered refugees. We are a grey zone. Today, we read the newspapers, watch the evening news, search online, and we only find chaos. “The land of the Hunger”, “the Country of Teenage Pregnancy”, “oil producer country in ruins”… depressing headlines. I am pretty sure my fellow Venezuelans abroad think the same. We feel lost sometimes… where are we really from? 

Thankfully, I have connected with many Venezuelans around the world and what I see is encouraging. These are people who reinvent themselves, their careers, their whole lives to adjust to a new system in a foreign land. These are men and women willing to work those extra miles to send money to their relatives in Venezuela. These are the byproduct of a country governed by an illiterate drug cartel. Frequently, I see leaders, entrepreneurs and businessmen; these are the Venezuelans that create change from outside. From abroad. These are the Venezuelans who insist in cooking traditional meals to share with their children and friends overseas; thanks to them my arepas are less sad and more diverse. 

These are people who reinvent themselves, their careers, their whole lives to adjust to a new system in a foreign land

However, the reality isn’t the same for everybody and unfortunately many of my countrymen live in poverty in and out of Venezuela. Families are growing apart and children are spending their young years far away from mom and dad. Parents leave their offsprings with other family members and move away looking for a job to live a decent life. Bittersweet truth of people forced to change, connect, and lead far away from their birth country. 

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A country, its people, its traditions… what about its future? Picture taken by Flor García 

Today, I write about a reality that breaks my heart. Today, I make the choice to show my children the beauty of Venezuela’s landscape, the richness of our culture… the strength of our people. And even though I am saddened by the humanitarian crisis of my birth country, I choose to keep my roots dampened by the elixir of my memories. 

Today, I connect with other global minded people and lead the change my land needs. Today, I change for the better to wholly represent a Venezuela that will reinvent herself and will welcome back many of her sons and daughters. 

I am Venezuelan but also a citizen of the world. 

Yo nací en esta rivera del Arauca vibrador… 

 

Mi hijo habla inglés ¡pero yo no!

Son numerosas los mensajes que recibo de padres preocupados que piensan que no pueden ayudar a sus hijos a ser bilingües porque ellos no lo son. Sin embargo, es una realidad cada día más presente en los hogares de muchísimas familias quienes por motivos laborales, académicos y culturales deciden emprender la aventura de aprender un segundo (y tercer, cuarto y hasta quinto) idioma en casa aun cuando papá y mamá son monolingües.  ¿Pero es esto posible?

La respuesta es Sí.

Criar hijos bilingües es una tarea apasionante y demandante que requiere tiempo, dinero, constancia y mucha imaginación. Aun cuando nosotros no dominemos el idioma que nuestros chicos aprenderán, el apoyo de los padres es invaluable y necesario. Por ende, hablemos el idioma o no, nuestra dedicación marcará la diferencia en la rapidez y eficacia con la cual nuestros hijos adquieren un idioma extranjero.

¿Qué hacer para apoyar a nuestros hijos en esta nueva aventura?

  1. Aprende el idioma tú también. Este puede ser el momento tan esperado para que empieces a trabajar en ese sueño de siempre y aprendas un idioma extranjero que te permita mejorar tus oportunidades laborales, viajar a ese paraíso que tanto anhelas o bien divertirte en casa viendo películas con tus retoños en ese idioma que todos a nivel familiar adquieren.
  2. Invierte en recursos y herramientas de aprendizaje. Recuerda que para aprender una lengua extranjera debemos desarrollar cuatro destrezas de comunicación esenciales: auditiva, oral, escrita, lectora. Por eso es esencial invertir en material audiovisual, música, revistas, libros ilustrados y diccionarios. La biblioteca local y el Internet son nuestros mejores aliados en esta misión.
  3. Contacta personas que hablen el idioma que aprenden los niños. Quizás tu no cuentes con las habilidades lingüística necesarias para entablar conversación con tu hijo en la lengua meta, pero si debe haber algún familiar, tutor, maestro, vecino, amigo o colega que domine dicha lengua y que este dispuestos a compartir con tu niño unos minutos semanales para trabajar en las destrezas comunicativas del idioma. Si el presupuesto lo permite, se podría contratar a una niñera o cuidadora hablante nativa de la lengua meta que le hable a los niños en ese idioma unas cuantas veces al mes.
  4. Deja la vergüenza de lado y habla. Tal vez no hablas perfectamente el idioma y por ello sientes pena de expresarte delante de tus hijos. Sin embargo, debes recordar que esto es una aventura que se asume de forma colectiva, en familia, y como consecuencia debe ser enfocada desde la practica y el entendimiento y no la búsqueda de la perfección. Imagínate el orgullo de tus hijos al verte aprendiendo otro idioma con entusiasmo y disciplina.
  5. Sé creativo. Hay diversas maneras de exponer a nuestros hijos a la lengua meta, lo importante es querer hacerlo y ser constantes en ello.  ¿Qué no se te ocurre nada? Te invito a visitar portales web de familias bilingües y multiculturales, Instagram y Pinterest. Las ideas están allá afuera, solo tienes que buscarlas. Por lo pronto comparto con ustedes mis favoritas: inscribir al niño en un programa de inmersión en el idioma que se desea aprender, llevarlos a campamentos de verano e invierno en un país en donde se hable dicha lengua, contratar un tutor privado para casa, conseguir unas lecciones de idiomas en línea (modalidad online), participar en actividades sabatinas en centro comunitarios y hasta cocinar. Preparar una receta típica del país de la lengua meta es una forma divertida y sabrosa de compartir y aprender no solo del idioma, sino tambien de la cultura. 
  6. Consigue un Pen-Pal. Dependiendo de la edad de tus hijos, tener un compañero de correspondencia es una forma emocionante y efectiva de practicar la escritura y comprensión lectora en la lengua meta. Además, estarás promoviendo el contacto social a través del correo lento o “snail mail” y no solo por medio de las redes sociales.

Ahora bien, estos aspectos se relacionan directamente con el idioma en cuestión. Además, existen puntos que deben ser tomados en cuenta como parte fundamental del aprendizaje de ambas la lengua nativa y la extranjera. Recordemos:

  • Fortalecer la lengua nativa. Se ha comprobado que los niños con alto nivel de conocimiento de su propio lenguaje aprenden de forma más eficiente la segunda lengua. La lectura será tu mejor herramienta y no tienes la excusa de que no sabes leer en otro idioma, pues te recomiendo leerle a tus hijos libros en tu propia lengua.
  • Mantén contacto constante con maestros y tutores. El binomio padres-escuela siempre será la clave para el éxito de tus hijos en cualquier misión educativa que emprendan. Participa en actividades de la escuela, asiste a las reuniones de padres y haz trabajo voluntario. Está presente.
  • Sé disciplinado y constante, establece horarios dedicados al aprendizaje de esa otra lengua y planifica con tiempo actividades que expongan a los chicos a la culturas propia y diferentes.
  • Busca apoyo. Todo se hace mejor trabajando en equipo. Contacta a otros padres que estén en la misma situación que tú, revisa los portales en línea de familias bilingües y revistas multiculturales.
  • Sé claro en expresar los motivos por los cuales tu hijo aprende una segunda lengua. Explícaselo. La motivación es el motor de la adquisición de una lengua extranjera.

¿De pronto te parece que es cuesta arriba? 

Es normal. Pero debemos enfocarnos en hacer de este proceso de aprendizaje algo divertido que fomente lazos familiares y nutra nuestra relación con los chicos. Por supuesto que habrán momento de desesperación y frustración, pero es vital que nos mantengamos firmes y no desistamos. Aprender otro idioma es una inversión en la educación de tus hijos. No un lujo.  Y como estamos hablando de una inversion para la vida de nuestros tesoros más preciados te voy a dar unos últimos consejitos para evitar guerras campales en casa.

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Apoyemos a nuestros hijos en su camino como aprendices (Cadaqués, Spain)

¿Qué no debemos hacer?

Evita amenazar y castigar a los niños por no aprender lo suficiente o por no querer hablar en el idioma meta. La rebeldía de los niños bilingües es un fenómeno comprobado que para nada se resuelve a gritos, exigencias ni regaños. De igual forma te pido que no te rías o burles de los errores cometidos por tus hijos al hablar en el idioma extranjero. Esto tampoco debe ser permitido en tutores, maestros o familiares del niño. Y por último, deja de lado el papel de policía y evita corregir constantemente. Sí, a los aprendientes de un idioma se les deben enseñar la pronunciación y gramática correctas, sin embargo la corrección del error debe ser trabajada de forma natural, poco a poco y siempre y cuando no se atente contra la seguridad y autoestima de los chicos. Como mamá de niños bilingües y educadora siempre busco la forma de corregir que no lesione el orgullo de mis niños, por ejemplo, repito el término o la oración errónea de la forma correcta, de esa manera los niños aprenden por modelo y ejemplo y no por vergüenza. Ideas hay muchas, simplemente toma las riendas del proceso y recuerda que debe ser divertido, eficaz y sobre todo especial para ti y tus hijos.

¡Anímate a aprender otro idioma!

FOCUS: Descubre tu Perfil de Emigrante

¿Te has preguntado alguna vez si posees las característica necesarias para emigrar? ¿Has tomado nota de esas habilidades que te ayudarán a transitar el camino migratorio de forma satisfactoria? ¿Y qué me dices de los aspectos de tu personalidad que quizás entorpezcan el proceso? Te aseguro que te he hecho pensar. Es que en el afán por preparar la partida solemos concentrarnos en los aspectos laboral, vivienda, educacional y legal del proceso migratorio y dejamos de lado esa preparación emocional tan importante para nuestra calidad de vida en el extranjero.

Hace dieciséis años dejé mi país para aventurarme en la dinámica de vida estadounidense y perseguir el sueño americano, y a pesar de que las expectativas fueron las equivocadas y terminé re-inventándome como mujer y profesional, nada me afectó más que la amarga sorpresa de descubrir que lo había dejado todo sin cerrar ciclos, sin mirar hacia adentro y conocerme mejor y sin saber con certeza qué aspectos de mí misma eran beneficiosos para el cambio y cuáles tenían que ser atendidos con detenimiento por constituir un obstáculo en mi vida como emigrante.

Mucho tiempo después un segundo proceso migratorio tocó a mi puerta y esta vez me dispuse a prepararme lo mejor posible. No tenía mucho tiempo, la decision de mudarnos a Europa debía ser tomada en dos semanas y la mudanza comenzaría en un mes, pero esto no me detuvo en mi búsqueda de esos aspectos que como mujer, esposa, madre y profesional me garantizarían una emigración feliz. Supongo que el hecho de dejarlo todo y mudarnos a otro continente representaba un mayor reto porque esta vez no lo hacía sola. Mi esposo e hijos venían conmigo y no podía darme el tupé de sufrir y lamentarme como lo había hecho años atrás.

Nada me afectó más que la amarga sorpresa de descubrir que lo había dejado todo sin cerrar ciclos, sin mirar hacia adentro y conocerme mejor y sin saber con certeza qué aspectos de mí misma eran beneficiosos para el cambio…

Por consiguiente comencé a tomar nota de mis fortalezas, cosa que no fue fácil porque arrastraba conmigo muchos años de lucha continua contra mi baja autoestima, escribía cada detalle de mi personalidad que utilizaba durante la preparación para el viaje y reflexionaba constantemente en esos aspectos que me habían ayudado a superar el reto de la primera emigrada. De igual forma tuve que bajar la cabeza y admitir que existían “detalles” que debían ser reconocidos, “abrazados” (por lo de que no hay emociones malas) y atendidos con cautela y premura. No se imaginan lo lista que me sentía sabiendo que llevaba conmigo las herramientas emocionales necesarias y la personalidad habilidosa para conquistar cualquier dificultad y disfrutar de los logros en otro país.

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Ser flexible para aceptar la aventura como parte de mi nuevo camino

Como consecuencia de este análisis interno y de los muchos libros, talleres y artículos en línea que leí posteriormente, confirmé que existen cualidades innatas de una persona y habilidades adquiridas a lo largo de la vida que nos hacen más propensos a asumir el cambio como una oportunidad de crecimiento y no como una amenaza latente a nuestra seguridad emocional y física. De allí comencé a concentrarme no solo en mis aspectos sino en los de mi marido e hijos y pude como resultado resumir en total cinco atributos que conforman el FOCUS de mi programa de transición emocional del emigrante y expatriado.

Confirmé que existen cualidades innatas de una persona y habilidades adquiridas a lo largo de la vida que nos hacen más propensos a asumir el cambio como una oportunidad de crecimiento

FOCUS encierra cinco componentes de personalidad relevantes:

Flexibilidad: ¿cómo ajusto mis necesidades emocionales a la nueva realidad que vivo? Esta interrogante nos lleva a considerar la forma en la que nos adaptamos a situaciones diversas y en lo cómodos que nos sentimos en momentos de confusión e improvisaciones. Esto es algo fundamental cuando nos mudamos al extranjero porque siempre se presentan situaciones que no estaban planificadas de esa forma o bien, nos toca conocer nuevas tradiciones, un nuevo sistema al cual debemos ajustarnos como individuos y como grupo familiar.
Organización: ¿qué tan estructurado soy con respecto a las rutinas familiares y de trabajo? Ser organizados nos permite desarrollar rutinas y rituales que le dan coherencia y estabilidad a nuestra vida y a la de nuestra familia. Cuando emigramos, es importante conservar la estructura que hemos manejado a los largo de nuestra vida para así incorporar algo de estabilidad y familiaridad a una situación y entornos desconocidos.
Curiosidad: ¿qué tanto disfruto de conocer lugares nuevos? Ser abiertos a situaciones novedosas es clave para la adaptación en el extranjero. Pero no olvidemos que dicha curiosidad debe ir directamente ligada a la capacidad de aprender de lo diverso sin tener una actitud juzgadora, una mente abierta a culturas diferentes y una actitud inclinada a educarse de lo visto en el nuevo entorno.
Undívago: ¿me dejo llevar por la situación y encuentro la forma de ser optimista aun cuando todo parece contracorriente? La respuesta a esta pregunta se basa principalmente en cómo vemos la vida y en particular, los retos. Una personalidad optimista, placentera, amigable y que busca lo bueno en cada oportunidad es altamente recomendada para expatriados y emigrantes. Ser undívagos nos permite construir puentes comunicativos con nuevas amistades, colegas y afines que si bien no comparten en un cien por ciento nuestra cultura, idioma e ideas, nos proporcionan esa red de apoyo que necesitamos al iniciar una vida en el extranjero. Por ende, le vemos el lado positivo a esa amistad que se forma y a las oportunidades brindadas por nuestra nueva comunidad.
Sociables: ¿qué tan abierto soy para acercarme a los demás y entablar una conversación? Una persona sociable por lo general se alimenta emocionalmente de los estímulos externos, por eso disfruta de compartir con amigos, reuniones familiares y la jovialidad de una cena con los colegas. Esa extroversión nos permite hacer amigos más fácil y rápidamente y eso nos ayuda enormemente a sentirnos parte del lugar al que recién nos mudamos. Sin embargo, no se preocupen los introvertidos, pues se ha descubierto que en el caso de las personas más reservadas, estas tardan en entablabar una amistad pero cuando lo hacen, las amistades suelen ser mas profundas y duraderas, algo que también nos hace sentir a gusto en el extranjero.

Una personalidad optimista, placentera, amigable y que busca lo bueno en cada oportunidad es altamente recomendada para expatriados y emigrantes.

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Nuestro perfil de emigrantes nos aliviana la ruta migratoria  

Determinar la presencia o ausencia de estás cualidades nos dará el chance de conocernos un poco más y así determinar nuestro perfil como emigrantes. Si bien cada persona y cada razón para dejar el país de origen es diferente, si bien cada personalidad puede ser exitosa en el extranjero, contar con un perfil favorable nos servirá de apoyo para ajustarnos más rápidamente al nuevo lugar, nos permitirá asumir la diversidad cultural y crecer a través de nuestras experiencias como expatriados.

Ahora bien, no vayamos a entrar en pánico colectivo y a salir aplazando planes o estemos saboteándonos a nosotros mismos si nos damos cuenta de que carecemos de alguno de estos atributos. Como bien expliqué al inicio de este artículo estas características pueden ser desarrolladas y atendidas a lo largo de la vida, incluso antes, durante y después de habernos mudado al extranjero. El único requisito es mirar hacia adentro para saber dónde reforzar conductas y reconocer cuándo debemos desarrollar estrategias que promuevan la flexibilidad, el ser sociables y undívagos, la curiosidad y la organización.

Si aprendemos a conocernos a nosotros mismos y somos asertivos, lograremos cultivar estas habilidades que serán parte de nuestro bolso de herramientas emocionales migratorias. Y es allí donde FOCUS nos brinda los recursos de auto evaluación y reconocimiento personal que tanto necesitamos si nos encontramos transitando el camino de expatriados. Listas y cuestionarios desarrollados con el perfil del emigrante son parte del asesoramiento que los participantes del programa FOCUS reciben como pieza clave de una formación integral y personalizada.

Por lo pronto te daré espacio para analizar los puntos aquí expuestos. Todos estamos llamados a ser exitosos en el extranjero, solo debemos concentrarnos en desarrollar las estrategias necesarias para asumir el cambio como chance de crecimiento personal y laboral, y contrarrestar nuestra predisposición a huirle a lo desconocido por miedo al fracaso y lo foráneo. ¡Atraévete! Mira hacia adentro… ¡Enfócate!

La Mujer Latina en el Extranjero

“Soy una mujer, y yo soy una latina. Esas son las cosas que hacen que mi escritura sea distinta. Esas son las cosas que le dan poder a mis escritos.” Sandra Cisneros 

Y es que en este recorrido que hacemos como viajeras permanentes, el escrito de nuestras vidas es fuerte, decidido y tenaz, como el espíruto latino. Pienso en viajeras continuas porque eso es lo que somos, eso soy yo y esa eres tú. La travesía de la mujer latina que emigra nunca acaba, jamás llega a su fin. Lo mismo ocurre con las que se toman sabáticos o las que recorren el mundo como expatriadas. Todas somos, de una forma u otra, caminantes de oficio. Una vez dejado el terruño original, son muchos los nidos constituidos, los sabores disfrutados y los abrazos repartidos que pasan a crear ese sentido de hogar que trasladamos, con lágrimas y risas, desde nuestra casa de cemento hasta nuestra séptima nube en un país lejano.

¿Pero qué nos distingue de otras mujeres emigrantes? 

La respuesta no se nos presenta fácilmente. Trataré de desglosarla en pedacitos de recuerdos y familismo.

1. Una mujer latina crece teniendo como norte la aceptación familiar y se forma bajo la protección de parientes y amistades cercanas. Nosotras somos por excelencia mujeres de familia, dispuestas a escuchar los consejos de la madrina y seguir las recomendaciones de la abuela. En muchos casos sentimos la necesidad de “hacer caso” y seguimos órdenes de padres y tíos porque respetamos su autoridad y confiamos en que ellos saben qué es lo mejor para nosotras.

Aún recuerdo la emoción tan grande que tenía por casarme en agosto, en una hermosa boda de verano rodeada de flores y el césped verde… cosa que no sucedió porque la bisabuela de mi esposo nos aseguró que era de mala suerte tener el casorio en ese mes… Todos los matrimonios celebrados en agosto que ella conocía  habían terminado en divorcio. Vaya usted a saber si era cierto, pero mi corazón jamás pensó en no hacer caso y al final nos casamos la última semana de septiembre (lo más lejos de agosto posible) en una boda otoñal de tonos rojizos y ocre que jamás olvidaré.

Se han preguntado qué pasa con esa mujer latina cuando emigra. ¿Qué ocurre cuando nos toca crecer lejos de esa fuerza de gravedad llamada padres, tíos, primos, abuelos y amigos que consideramos familiares? Nos vemos fuera de nuestra zona de confort enfrentado el gran reto de tomar decisiones sin voltear a ver si mamá aprueba. Ya la vecina no está para criticar… estamos nosotras solas, en muchos casos acompañadas de nuestros hijos y pareja, abriéndonos camino en una sociedad de cultura muy diversa. Muchas veces traemos el pesado equipaje de la inseguridad y falta de autoestima por habernos criado en la búsqueda perenne de la aprobación de los demás. Con frecuencia dudamos de nuestras capacidades y atributos.

2. Una mujer latina se sacrifica a sí misma por el bienestar familiar. Por supuesto esto es menos demandante cuando contamos con el apoyo moral de la familia extendida y los amigos queridos. En el país de origen siempre contamos con ayuda y en la mayoría de los casos tenemos la posibilidad de tomarnos unos cinco minutos para nosotras mientras la abuela le echa un ojo a los chicos. Cuando vivimos lejos de todos la realidad es muy diferente. Nosotras pasamos a un segundo plano y nuestro núcleo familiar viene primero.

Muchas han sido las tardes en nuestros viajes anuales a Venezuela que hemos dejado a los niñitos con los tíos y corrido a tomarnos un buen batido de papaya en la tranquilidad del silencio de pareja. Ese privilegio no se nos da tan bien en el exterior.  Usualmente la falta de conocidos en quien confiar hace que nuestros primeros tiempos en el país huésped sean un compartir constante con nuestra pareja e hijos, todos juntos para arriba y abajo aprendiendo el nuevo oficio de conseguir tiempo para nosotras mismas en un lugar distinto con una dinámica desconocida. Por supuesto que nuestra entereza y decisión nos permite encontrar la forma de repartir el tiempo entre el hogar, el empleo, negocio y hasta actividades de voluntariado, pero reconozco que no es sencillo, al menos no al principio.

3. Una mujer latina aprecia a sus seres queridos intensamente. Somos así, cariñosas, cálidas y preocupadas por todos y todo. Emigrar o vivir por un tiempo lejos nos aleja de esos afectos que se convierten en vacíos distantes. De pronto no tenemos a nuestro grupo de amigas para consentir y apoyar. Quizás la población local sea un poco más reservada en su modo de entablar una relación de amistad; tal vez nuestro jefe nos demuestra su aprobación con un gesto muy formal que consideramos frío e impersonal. La cierto es que son diferencias que nos afectan profundamente debido a nuestra naturaleza afable y abierta.

Como consecuencia, tenemos el reto de ajustar nuestro proceder a un nuevo entorno y aceptar que detrás de esa actitud distante no se esconde nada personal, sino al contrario, se manifiesta un comportamiento social propio del lugar al que emigramos. Pero nosotras somos persistentes y rendirnos no es una opción. Así que con entusiasmo buscamos la forma de crear un círculo de amistades que nos permiten sentirnos en “casa”. Eso sí, es muy común que la diversidad cultural en lo que se refiere a relaciones interpersonales algunas veces nos parezca rara, incluso negativa, pues no venimos acostumbradas a ciertas prácticas menos estrictas, sobre todo en lo que se refiere a sexualidad y carrera. Ser mujer latina implica en numerosos casos tener una fuerte identidad religiosa y moral que nos es inculcada desde muy niñas.

“Lo que te hace diferente ahora te hará destacar más adelante. Deberías estar orgulloso de ser diferente.” Ellen DeGeneres 

Sin embargo esto no es una declaración de dificultades ni una protesta migratoria. Quiero con estas líneas destacar las razones por las cuales la mujer latina triunfa cuando concilia sus metas y sueños con la integración cultural por parte de su núcleo familiar y de sí misma, el aprendizaje de un idioma y el emprendimiento de su propio negocio en el extranjero. Estoy aquí para resaltar que es por esa necesidad de aceptación familiar, la cual mencioné anteriormente, que aprendemos a lidiar con nuestros propios miedos de la infancia y adolescencia y logramos mantener el contacto significativo con nuestra familia extendida que se ha quedado en el país de origen.

De igual forma, es esa búsqueda de bienestar familiar la que nos permite establecer prioridades claras para mantenernos enfocadas en lo que realmente importa: la unión familiar y el desarrollo emocional y físico de los nuestros. Ese amor incondicional hacia nuestra pareja e hijos nos motiva a enfrentar los retos que surgen antes, durante y después del proceso migratorio, de nuestra aventura de viaje o la expatriación temporal.

Finalmente, la calidez, la pasión, el arraigo y el entusiasmo que caracteriza a la mujer latina son los mejores aliados para destacarnos en cualquier lugar, no importa el idioma ni las costumbres locales. Nosotras conseguimos conquistar los ambientes más diversos y adversos con trabajo constante y una energía que irradiamos aun en los días grises… Es que acaso ¿no se han fijado en el poder que tiene la sonrisa de una latina?

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Reflections of an expat on Global Issues

Due to the latest events presented by the media around the world and the loads of nasty comments on media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram regarding human rights, immigration policies, refugees and globalization, I have felt the strong need to give my opinion and stand up to the intolerance of many. However, I encounter a new challenge every time I say what I believe. First, I have found several people that usually use the arguments “you don’t live here anymore” or “you aren’t a national from this country” to diminish and reject my commments and feelings.

Therefore I ask myself, is it different to express our opinions when we lead a cross-cultural life and don’t reside in the country of origin? Is it harder to share with others our position on political and social situations just because we don’t live in that particular place anymore? How do I disconnect from what is happening in my children’s passport country even though we don’t live there at the moment?

I simply can’t. I refuse to look away and ignore the many inhuman things that are happening. I will always stand up to flawed laws and policies. I am going to criticize every wrong action taken by a corrupt government, no matter where I live and work. This isn’t about a particular administration or culture, this isn’t about the place that has issued my current residence permit. We are talking about the well being of many who are going through unbearable emotional pain due to our inability to accept and embrace diversity. I don’t need to show you my current tax declaration or birth certificate to give my viewpoint regarding your country, my country… our COUNTRY. 

Is it possible that we lose the right to judge intolerance back home when living overseas? It looks like it. Or at least that is what many want us to believe. But we, expatriates, immigrants, citizens of nowhere and everywhere, we can’t accept that. It is not acceptable to keep our mouths shut just because we are not nationals from a specific place, or we don’t live there anymore, or we are afraid of being taken as intolerant.

The issues I see in two of my most beloved nations, such as Venezuela and the United States, the many mistakes made by despicable forces wanting to bring back a rancid nationalism movement, those issues I won’t ignore. So please, don’t let others frighten you just because your lifestyle, better opportunities or love have taken you abroad. Be true to yourself and your beliefs. Remember, if we want to be global citizens we need to care about every single person in this world suffering from hunger, persecution, poverty and sickness. Be the voice of those who have no strength to raise their own voices.

At the end, the problems we see aren’t just small things individually wrapped up for a specific nation. In this every day more globalized world, the issues from one country directly affect the well being of other countries

Oh no, but this doesn’t end here. I have also encountered many fellow humans that feel the urge to remind me the need to be “more tolerant”… don’t I preach daily to be raising citizens of the world? Then why do I take such a radical position against prejudice, stereotypes and cultural ignorance? Why can’t I “respect” the opinions of many who enjoy posting and reposting information that stands for separation and hostility? Well, like Karl Popper once said, a society that is tolerant without limit will see their ability to be tolerant seized or destroyed by the intolerant. Sequentially, in my experience, we have to be intolerant of intolerance to maintain a respectful and more humanitarian society.

Finally, I would like to invite you to talk about your beliefs with no fear. At the end, the problems we see aren’t just small things individually wrapped up for a specific nation. In this every day more globalized world, the issues from one country directly affect the well being of other countries. We would be very naive to ignore what is happening on the other side of the world and stay quiet about injustice. For now, I will continue reminding myself that no matter where I live, I am a woman, a mother, a lawyer and educator, and a citizen of everywhere. So my opinions are valid and important.

How do you manage to express your “radical” positions against racism, prejudice and unfair issues around the world?

 

 

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