Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Reconnecting with British Culture.

It has been interesting, endearing & quite amusing seeing how our children react to things they are not used to & seeing the things they don't know about.

As I said, they are thrilled with the house which they don't remember at all. It is interesting the things they love about it. Our daughter spends every waking moment playing on the banisters as if it were a jungle gym. She just loves having stairs. She thinks they are really cool! They both love the fact that you go out of the kitchen straight into the garden & can come in & out at will, unlike in our Tiranan 2nd floor flat.

They also love the fact that we have a land-line & a postman. Every time the phone rings or the door is knocked, they race to get there 1st to answer it. It is evidently such a novelty to have a front door accessible to the outside world & to have a phone line into the house, which we haven't had for the last 5 1/2 yrs. They can't get enough of it. Suits me they can deal with the cold callers....

I am slightly less enamoured as I had forgotten how many door to door salesman you get, cold callers & people selling things, or trying to con you on the phone. And then there is the long ensuing discussion when the children want to know who they were & what 'That Person' wanted. When we set up the landline, we joined the telephone preference service & asked to be ex directory. Good old BT somehow managed to overlook this, so within 24 hours of getting the line, (before we had given the number to ANYONE), both Mr NGO & I had calls telling us there was a problem with our computer & trying to get us to buy something etc. BT told us it would take THREE weeks for us to become ex directory & on the telephone preference list. And meanwhile our number is 'out there.' Grrrrr.

Despite all their travelling, living in 2 different cultures abroad & in many ways seeming very mature & worldy-wise, there are some things (normal to us in the UK), which they haven't really experienced. After his grandparents phoned the other day our 11 y-o said,

"It is amazing what you can do these days; I was talking to granny & grandad at the same time! They were on 2 different phones"
In Albania in June, on a short trip where we had 2 hotel rooms, the kids kept calling each other on the internal phones & collapsing in giggles at this technology they had never used (in THEIR living memories) Hearing their sibling on the other end was just too much evidently. I don't know why it should seem so different to mobiles or skype, but they had never used a normal landline ... It was like using those tin cans on a string & marvelling that it actually worked.

On one occasion we were talking about things we were looking forward to about living in the UK, & I said I was really looking forward to having central heating in the winter. Our son immediately pipes up with,
"What's central heating?"
And why indeed should he know? But what a treat he's in for!

A friend of his was telling him about a gig he was going to for 'youth' on the holiday camp they were on & asked whether our 11 y-o wanted to go too. Our son said "I don't know, I don't know what a gig is."

Perhaps it's just as well they're on a "Rekonnect" holiday camp this week for third culture kids returning to live in their home country. I guess it's time to learn some jargon, gain some street cred & acculturise to the good ol' British culture, (though events this week hardly endear us to the culture we have returned to.) Their innocence & refreshing delight in everything is hard to let go of. It's a bit like when your toddler says words wrongly & you know they need to learn & say it properly, but it's hard to correct them when you just love their little malapropisms.

My daughter came up with a good one actually on the way to this holiday camp. (not a cultural issue, just a vocab one!) It got corrected in the nick of time. She was asking me about the holiday & said,

"Will there be lots of girls in the lavatory with me?"

"Well, yes you'll probably share one, but not all at the same time of course."

"So I'll be in there on my own?"

"Of course, they won't expect you to share."

"But I thought you said there would be lots of other girls in the lavatory with me?"

"Well it depends if they want to go at the same time, but you'll just have to queue."

"Why would I queue?"

"Because there may only be one lavatory & obviously you will need to wait your turn."

7 y-o seriously confused now.

"Why do I need to queue up to go to sleep?"

11 y-o starts laughing & says,

"You mean dormitory, not lavatory."

Seems obvious now, but driving a noisy little Fiesta up the M1, whilst keeping an eye on 3 bikes strapped to the back & watching my speedometer so as not to go over 70 because of said bikes, I obviously wasn't concentrating very hard.

Well by this time on Friday perhaps I will have returned to me, 2 newly cool, culturally adapted, street savvy TCKs (Third Culture Kids) But actually I just hope they had a great time connecting with other TCKs, sharing their rich life experiences & having lots of "You too?" moments, & celebrating their lives abroad, rather than feeling odd, different or 'out of it' . And realising that what they have to offer is unique, valuable & amazing.

Hello England

Well, we've been back 6 weeks, our shipment's arrived, our house vacated by our tenants & we have moved back in. The children are very excited to be in a house, not a flat, to have a garden, and grass, stairs AND bannisters (to swing on, slide down etc) & a bedroom, each.

We have cleared out of it innumerable sets of bedlinen, 7 pyrex dishes, 6 duvets, 5 very wobbly & chipped Ikea bookshelves, 5 woks, 3 sandwich toasters, 2 kettles, 2 slow cookers, 2 spare beds, 3 complete sets of cutlery, a wool rug, 2 bike helmets, 2 coats, & a sports bag full of XL football kit.

I think we must have had a 'better class of tenant' or, to be more exact, better off. Often tenants nick your stuff; these left stuff they no longer wanted. So we had a major task on our hands before 100 boxes arrived a week later. I started off with good intentions, wanting to recycle, give to charity shops, good causes & not dump in landfill. However, my motivation wore a bit thin, when Homeless charities tell you, you need to wait a month before they can collect, others say they don't take furniture, some say it's not good enough quality; & then there's things like 3 manky sandwich toasters you have to spend hours cleaning before they're good enough to give to a charity shop. I ended up, I'm afraid, going to the tip more than I would have liked. Duvets are particularly difficult to get rid of. Can't put in textile banks, charity shops don't want them. Well, here's a top tip. Animal sanctuaries will take them - for cosy bedding for their cats & dogs. So, there, you can feel doubly smug, you've recycled AND kept a dog warm this Christmas.

Since being back the question I'm most asked is "What will you do? Will you get a job?"
I think people are surprised when I say no, not for at least a year. But then of course I will be settling two children in schools, painting & decorating our house, training a puppy, putting a house on the market, selling a house, buying a house. And then painting & decorating again. I think I'll have plenty to do.....

No one asks about Albania, but then I expected that. It's more a case of; "Well you're back now, business as usual."

The books tell you not to expect to slot straight back in to your old life/friends etc. We actually have, by & large, which feels weird. Don't get me wrong; I am very grateful for the welcome, love & support we've had from friends, it's been lovely. Several local friends have said, "It's just like you haven't been away."

Not for us.

We feel very different.

But it is all very familiar; same house, same friends, same social circle, same routines & so it has the effect of compressing the last 6 years. But I don't want them to be wiped out. They have changed us, we're not the same people. They are a vital part of our history. That's one of many reasons why we would like to move & start afresh somewhere else, though still in this town.

And the children? How have they fared? Well, that's a subject for my next post. You see I'm not ready to give up blogging quite yet. I think I'll still have a lot to write about over the next few months...