Expat Alien: My Global Adventures: Chapter 6

By the time Kathleen was 18 she had lived on five continents. When she starts college in California, she experiences severe “reverse” culture shock. She talks about traveling around Europe, seeing the sites from London to Athens, hiking up Swiss mountains, and living in Africa. She survived a plane crash, a coup d’etat in Burma, earthquakes in Mexico, driving through the Andes in Columbia and army ants in Nigeria. Her college peers talk about football games, high school proms and television shows she never heard of. She can’t relate to them at all and they think she is bragging about all the places she has been. It is like an alien landed in their dorm room talking about visiting the rings of Saturn. Follow Kathleen on her journey through the ups and downs of being a Third Culture Kid.  Read the previous chapters here.

expatFor the next few weeks we will publish a few chapters of her book. We encourage you to purchase the entire book. You can get the paperback or digital format for Kindle, or  the Nook from Amazon. and Barnes and Noble.

  • Paperback edition sells for $15.95
  • Kindle/Nook editions sell for $9.95

Rye, New York

When we arrived back on the American continent, I was almost six and I didn’t get on to another airplane until I was twelve.  I never really understood why we had to take so many interminable car trips that were boring, hot and uncomfortable.  It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I found out why:  me!  Every time they tried to get me onto a plane I would scream and scream.  While my family assures me this is true, I only remember the scary Burmese fire drill and the endless hours on the back seat of the car.  My fear of flying was deeply buried in my psyche.

We lived in Rye for one year and I went to first grade.   I had been in a small international school in Rangoon where everybody knew me and my family.  In Rye I was to go to a large public school.  My parents took me with them to meet the Principal and I was introduced to my teacher before I started school.  After I had gone for a few days, I refused to go back.   I would not go.  Nobody in my family could make me go.

My mother called the Principal to tell him I refused to go to school.  His response was – “You have to send her to school, it is the law!”  My mother tried to explain to him that they were trying to get me to go but couldn’t.  Eventually they got it out of me.  Even though I had met the Principal, he had not said anything to me when he passed me in the hallway.  Plus when I went to my classroom, my teacher did not know my name!  It was not acceptable to me.

My mother managed to get another meeting with the Principal and took me in to see him.  He apologized to me for not speaking to me in the hallway and my teacher took me aside and explained that she had a lot of students and it took time to learn everybody’s name.   She knew my name after that, so there were no more problems.

I had one very traumatic experience at that school.  Everyday I would take some pennies to buy milk to go with my lunch that I brought.  One day I turned in my pennies and I was told that I had a Canadian penny mixed in with the rest and they would not accept it.  I could not have any milk.  I didn’t understand how that could happen.  It seemed very harsh to me.

I remember I had four or five close friends in Rye who I had to say goodbye to but otherwise leaving was not so bad.  Most of our things were packed up to be shipped to Mexico.  There would be no airplanes involved.  We were taking the train.