Family in Transit

Family in Transit

A recent post on Instagram had me chuckling and sighing at the same time. Someone had shared about the expatriate experience and said it was a cycle of unpacking, attempting to settle in, and packing up again. Then repeat. This resonated powerfully with me because it hits the bulls-eye when it comes to describing expatriate life accurately.

Once again, I’m at the beginning of this cycle. I’m currently sitting in my new dining room in Brunei, contemplating how we’ve been affected by our latest move from Singapore two months ago. I’m trying to think of some deeper insight to share. But I’m mostly wondering about the location of our container of belongings and crossing my fingers that it has arrived at port after weeks of being held up.

Physical Transitions From the Move


Delays in shipment should come as no surprise to me. After all, this is our third overseas posting in 14 years and our sixth international move. It’s discernible that the difficulty of transitioning increases with each move. It is in some part superficially related to the physical belongings that we have amassed over time, with furniture and keepsakes from different countries.

It is just physically tedious. But it has also gotten more challenging as our family has grown and our daughter has gotten older. (She is currently eight and already behaving like a pre-teen.) And this time around, there are many more added considerations and issues from moving during a pandemic. Besides the actual physical move, the mental and emotional upheaval can take a long time to accept and deal with.

Brunei Restrictions


There are several restrictions to entering Brunei. Firstly, it is currently not open to tourists and visitors, and one can only enter for essential travel. As with many other countries, there is also a quarantine period at a hotel facility along with several PCR tests at different points. Upon arriving in December, we quickly adapted to the local rules and restrictions. The first time we were invited out to dinner, we were excited to make new acquaintances.

I was having a lovely conversation with an Australian lady who had also just arrived, and we were happily exchanging notes when someone suddenly exclaimed, “It’s 9.15 pm!” and a bustle ensued to thank our hosts, make an elegant but hasty exit, and drive home quickly. You see, there was a nightly curfew set between 10 pm and 4 am, and no one in the country is allowed out of their homes during this period. Since then, the curfew has been relaxed to a later time of midnight, but like Cinderella, one has to always watch the clock on evenings out.

Pandemic Life

The author’s daughter on her way to Brunei to begin their
family’s next expat adventure.

While my husband jumped straight into the job after our isolation period was over, my daughter and I have been at home for most of these two months. The junior kids at her school are currently waiting for their vaccinations. Until then, they are required to have online lessons from home. We’re five weeks into home-based learning (more than we had ever done in Singapore!), and we do not know when the supplies will arrive and the kids can get their jabs.

So, we are being patient and will get that done as soon as the vaccination drive begins. In the meantime, she’s getting to know her teacher and classmates over Google Meet. And also attempting to fall in sync with her different subjects and pace of lessons. The reality of this is that it has been tough, particularly in the past week. I sit next to her and try to guide her, and she generally gets on easily.

Emotional Transitions

But there are days when it is all too much; we get on each other’s nerves and we need a time-out from work and each other. While we try to do fun things like play badminton together, the lack of daily interaction with children her own age is hard. There is probably a lot of physical and emotional energy being built up. We are still in the process of finding a balance and coping with being with each other 24/7.

But there are days when it is all too much; we get on each other’s nerves and we need a time-out from work and each other.

I’ll be honest and tell you that I know my patience needs a lot of work. Often, I drive her with the demands of a teacher rather than encourage her as a supportive parent. I need to know when to take a step back and acknowledge how overwhelming it can be for an 8-year-old. I just let her know that it’s alright. With online schooling possibly lasting for another few months, I foresee that there will be some days when I will be telling her teacher that she will not be completing the work. She needs a break for her physical and mental well-being (or for mine!). And we all need to be ok with it.

Transitioning Roles

In these two months, I have realised that I am at an important stage of transitioning in my own roles. Since the pandemic began, I met its challenges by dealing with work and adjusted to a blended mode of teaching my students in school. After years of being a stay-at-home mum, I had gradually re-established my role and identity outside of my family and home. Presently, however, my full-on and most immediate roles have circled back to focusing solely on my daughter and husband. The term trailing spouse is often used in expatriate life, though I prefer seeing myself as the supportive spouse.

Still, there is no denying that my role as a spouse has brought me here right now, and it is where I start again as we rebuild our family life together. As a mother, I am a guide, encouraging cheer-leader, cajoler of spirits, and master-briber. I am one of my daughter’s constants as she finds her way in this place and time with new friends, interests, and future plans.

I don’t see this as losing a part of my identity just because I have to give more of myself right now as a mother or wife. Rather, I want to see this as a pursuit of establishing myself in other meaningful ways and thriving with my many different identities. It will take time and I may struggle with some parts of it, but I’d say I’m always up for a challenge!



This is an original post by World Mom Karen Williams in Brunei.

Karen Williams

Karen is a Singaporean with an 8 year-old daughter who’s a little fire-cracker version of herself. She’s spent the last 15 years in her various roles of supportive trailing spouse, mother, home-maker and educator. Having experienced six international moves alternating between overseas postings and her home country of Singapore, Karen considers herself a lover of diverse foods and culture, and reckons she qualifies as a semi-professional packer. She is deeply interested in intercultural and third-culture issues, and has grown immensely from her interactions with other World Mums. Karen is currently living in Brunei with her family.

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TANZANIA: Eye of the Hurricane

TANZANIA: Eye of the Hurricane

I recently discovered that there are 5 things deemed the most stressful in life. The topic came up in a conversation I was having with a friend and I was shocked to check two boxes out of the five that were listed! Box 2. Getting married, Box 4. Moving.

“How did you get here,” begs the obvious question!

Well, we have been working on our home for a little over a year now. Like many who have done it before, we have had to learn the hard way that construction is no easy feat. Whatever your plan, expect it to take double the time and cost twice as much. Somewhere within that space, my longtime partner proposed to me. So – yes! – we also had a wedding to plan. We had originally planned for a small affair at the beginning of the year, anticipating to move into our new house before July.

As life would have it, owing to work obligations, we had to switch things around. Now we are getting married AND moving into our new home at the same time, mid-year. Through all this, I have felt tested more than ever before. In between wedding planning, my day job, community work, dealing with the construction, and being a mother, it has often left me stretched too thin!

I must say though, I feel this is what we as mothers and women are best at. We handle it, all and all. Week by week I read amazing stories on World Moms Blog about women and mothers the world over that inspire me and sustain me.

Even though, it feels like I am in the eye of the hurricane, my feet are firmly in the ground, my focus is sharper than ever, and I am not wavered in my resolve. How? Well I am a World mom aren’t I?

What challenges have you endured as a woman and a mother? How do you manage it all?

This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Nancy Sumari in Tanzania.

Image credit to the author. 

BRAZIL: On the Move, Part II – should we stay or should we go?

BRAZIL: On the Move, Part II – should we stay or should we go?

DSC02950

This is the Part 2 of a two part post.  The first part is available here

We are thinking about moving.  Yesterday we visited two very nice houses at great prices and relatively close to where we live. I loved the first house in the sense that it has a practical, easy to clean design and would be great for the kids. However, there isn’t a single tree in the property! Also, it is completely exposed to neighbors and people in the street, which is something I do not like at all. The second house has lots of lovely trees, yet had an unpractical format that is not too child friendly. Among other things, it includes a high mezzanine that would be quite hard to keep the kids away from.

Basically, I would like to have the first house in the second house’s lot, which would be by the forest we live next to now!

Nevertheless, even though neither is perfect, either one of them would give us the chance to move and have a more organized, cozier home without undergoing the stress of home improvement projects. Plus, one of the advantages of moving – although it can also be a stress factor – is having a chance of reorganizing all of the stuff one has accumulated along the years and donating a bunch of items that are no longer necessary. Some even say that there are huge psychological benefits, as going through all that accumulated stuff can even stimulate the re-evaluation of an entire life and life style.

I believe the single greatest reason for staying, both for my husband and I, is the forest. I also like to think that living the way we do – with such close contact to the forest and all of its fauna and flora – will give our children a different perspective in life.

In his excellent book, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, Chinese geographer Yi-Fu Tuan discusses how one’s home and its architecture influences the perceptions of and relationship with the environment, comparing the case of China and the USA.

Another thing that bothers me is that the new owners of our house might not “take care” of the forest as we do. Of course we only “look after” a tiny piece of the forest right behind our house, but some of the animals have almost become part of the family. For example, there is a sloth that our daughter has named Melissa…but also the tiny squirrel that makes its chirping sounds early every morning, the tegus that live in a hole in our backyard, plus the humming birds, chameleons, possums, agoutis, and so many others!

The sad truth is that surprisingly, many of our neighbors don’t care much about the forest.  We often ask ourselves why they live here.  They place high walls between the forest and their properties. Sometimes they illegally cut down the closest trees out of fear that they may topple over their houses (even though rarely a professional is summoned to check if there is truth in that fear), or they clear the bushes and smaller trees because they believe it will ward away snakes. More than once we have patiently talked to people about these issues only to be repelled off angrily in a menacing tone.

On the other hand, I also worry about the possibility of an unhealthy attachment to the house itself on my part. I don’t think it is healthy to be overly attached to any object. I recently saw how difficult it was for my mother to move out of her huge and decaying house, even though she was living completely alone, widowed for the second time (and now the difficulty to sell or do something about it). Similarly, my mother-in-law lives alone with her eldest son in an old eight bedroom house which almost everyone in the family is extremely resistant to sell due to their childhood memories and attachments.

Thus the question remains. Should we remodel our house and make the best of it? Should we take the “simple” path and just move?  What have your experiences been with house remodeling and moving? Please share below!

This is part two of an original post to World Moms Blog by Ecoziva in Brazil.

Photo credit to the author.

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog.

Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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BRAZIL: On the Move, Part I — the patchwork house

BRAZIL: On the Move, Part I — the patchwork house

patchwork houseWhen we first married we lived in an apartment in the heart of a big metropolis. It was practical to live near everything we needed and be able to do all of our errands by foot or bus (in fact, we had no car and walked to work). However, we missed having green. We started looking for a house in a nice region on the outskirts of the metropolitan area, near a forest reservation.

When we finally found a place we could afford to rent it wasn’t exactly your typical house. The owner had built two tiny guest houses in the back of a property he had initially planned to build a regular house in the front of later on; but that never happened.

On the upside we were living glued to a fragment of Atlantic rainforest and our son now had a huge garden to play in. On the downside, the house wasn’t exactly practical.

One of the guest houses had two rooms, a kitchen and a terrace. There we installed our son’s room and ours. However, the kitchen was so small it would only fit the fridge OR the stove, so we had to put the fridge in the second guesthouse and crossover all the time, sun or rain.

The second guesthouse, in turn, had a living room/terrace, one room (which became our library/office), the main bathroom and a pantry of sorts (we squeezed in the fridge instead). The roof had no lining, which wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t have constant animal visitors coming in (lots of funny stories about that!).

Later on, when we were able to buy the our place, we decided to apply our limited funds to adapt the two guesthouses. An architect friend did his best to join them together into a single, more conventional house.

Our bedroom was expanded and incorporated the tiny kitchen and part of the terrace. A living room was built to join the two houses, which took the shape of a “J”. The main bathroom and former pantry gave place to the new kitchen. Part of the terrace became the laundry room. We lined the roof, installed mold-proof open wardrobes, and installed a large bathtub where our two other children were later to be born.

Nevertheless, all of this did not happen at one time. As I said, we had limited funds and every time these funds began to wane we had to stop.

At three different and stressful moments a lot of work was done in the house, including once, when during three very challenging months, we had to live at my mother-in-law’s.

Now, years later, we still live in a very unconventional house.

Besides the bedrooms, we never put in windowpanes or doors. The terrace/living room still opens completely into the forest – a curse and a blessing all at once! And even though our financial situation has improved considerably over the past few years, it has been four years since our last attempt at home improvement.

Aside from the occasional efforts to clean/fix the roof from the huge amount of leaves we get, we haven’t done much. Every time we think of all the stress involved we decide to postpone any kind of big project.

Despite everything, I love my house and its garden. I believe things will get better as our children grow older and we have more time and energy for housekeeping and improvement. My husband, on the other hand, thinks there is no way to make this house work and we should just move elsewhere, even though he also loves the closeness to the forest. The truth is he would like to live on a small farm, although I have safety concerns. Thus, every once in a while we go house or farm hunting.

Stay tuned! Part 2 coming soon…

How about you, what are your stories with house remodeling and moving? Please share below?

This is part 1 of a two part, original post to World Moms Blog from our contributor and mom of three in Brazil, Ecoziva.

The image used in this post is attributed to Karen Roe. It carries a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog.

Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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JORDAN: Interview with Jacqueline Jenkins

JORDAN: Interview with Jacqueline Jenkins

jackie headshot jordanWhere in the world do you live? And, are you from there?

Four months ago, we moved to Amman, Jordan.  Originally from Canada, I have been moving around the globe for more than twenty years as my husband works for UNICEF.

What language(s) do you speak?

I speak English and French.  Learning Arabic is a big goal for our time here.

When did you first become a mother?

We were a carefree couple in Uganda, Lesotho, and Bangladesh.  In 2000, while living in Myanmar, Meghan joined our family.  In 2005, while we were posted in India, Charlie arrived.  Since then, we have lived in Mozambique and New York.

Is your work stay-at-home mom, other work at home, or do you work outside the home?

I am an educator and have been incredibly fortunate to have found rewarding jobs in international schools wherever we have been posted.  Most recently, I was the Elementary School Principal at the United Nations International School in Manhattan.

Since arriving in Jordan, I have been a stay-at-home Mum.  I’ve been busy exploring, photographing and learning about the incredible history of the region and the issues facing not only the Jordan population, but the incredible number of Syrian refugees currently residing in the country.

My commitment to raising children who believe in peace and feel responsible for creating a better world is at the core of everything I do.

Why do you blog/write?

I write to record and process this incredible journey we are on as a family.  Time passes so incredibly quickly.  Without recording it, it’s hard to remember the small moments and wonderings from each posting.

How would you say that you are different from other mothers?

Being a mother in this transient lifestyle means being the key cheerleader for our family.  It means setting up and taking down a house with six weeks’ notice.  It means creating close friendships, and then saying goodbye.  All this, while telling myself that giving my children this incredible opportunity makes the goodbyes and new hellos worthwhile.

What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?

Raising a child in this lifestyle has incredible challenges and rewards.  The challenges include culture shock every single time–even when I think the move will be easy.  It means coaching myself, in my dark moments, to be present and supportive to my children.  I remind myself that they have not chosen to move, but are trusting me to show them the meaningfulness of the lifestyle we have committed to as a UNICEF family.

The upsides to this lifestyle are incredible: our children interact and learn about cultures, languages, food, and religions firsthand; they are developing tolerance and empathy through relationships with many types of different people and the travel; and, before age ten, they have seen more of the world than some people manage in a lifetime!

How did you find World Moms Blog? 

I learned about World Moms Blog when I was searching for women leading similar lives, facing similar issues, and who possessed the same strong desire to create a better world for our children and our children’s children.  I feel blessed to be a part of this incredible community.

[Editor’s Note: A warm welcome, Jackie!  We look forward to reading your posts as you settle in to your new role!]

Photo credit: Jacqueline Jenkins

This is an exclusive, World Moms Blog interview with our new writer and mother of two in Jordan, Jacqueline Jenkins. Welcome!

Jacqueline Jenkins (Jordan)

We are a few months into our new 'home of our heart' location in Amman, Jordan. Originally from Canada, I have been moving around the globe for more than twenty years as my husband works for UNICEF. While we were a carefree couple in Uganda, Lesotho and Bangladesh, Meghan joined our family in 2000, while we were living in Myanmar. She was joined in 2005, while we were posted in India by Charlie, her energetic younger brother! Since then we have lived in Mozambique and New York. I am an educator and have been incredibly fortunate to have found rewarding jobs in international schools wherever we have been posted. Most recently I was the Elementary School Principal at the United Nations International School in Manhattan. Since arriving in Jordan, I have been a stay at home Mum, exploring, photographing and learning about the incredible history of the region and the issues facing not only the Jordan population but the incredible number of Syrian refugees currently residing in the country. While I speak English and French, I have not yet started to learn Arabic; a big goal for our time here.

I write to record and process this incredible journey we are on as a family. Time passes so incredibly quickly and without a recording of events, it's hard to remember the small moments and wonderings from each posting. Being a mother in this transient lifestyle means being the key cheerleader for our family, it means setting up and taking down a house with six weeks notice, it means creating close friendships and then saying goodbye. All this, while telling yourself that the opportunities your children have make the goodbyes and new hellos worthwhile. Raising a child in this lifestyle has incredible challenges and rewards. The challenges include culture shock every single time, even when you feel the move will be an easy one. It means coaching yourself, in your dark moments to be present and supportive to your children, who have not chosen to move but are trusting you to show them the world and the meaningfulness of the lifestyle we have committed to as a UNICEF family. The upsides to this lifestyle are incredible; the ability to have our children interact and learn about cultures, languages, food, and religions firsthand, the development of tolerance and empathy through relationships with many types of different people and the travel, they have been to more places before the age of ten than some people do in a lifetime! My commitment to raising children who believe in peace and feel responsible for making a difference in creating a better world is at the core of everything I do.

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