I started writing this on the plane home to Houston yesterday but got sidetracked by the hunger pangs that gnawed as drinks were served, without even an offering of pretzels – cost cutting on Continental / United coming into effect.
But what a week I had! I was at the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) in Washington DC meeting old friends and making new ones, in between listening to sessions as varied as The Resilience Doughnut to The Teen Perspective on Transition. FIGT is all about what helps make the transitions easier between countries and cultures for families, which in turn effects the success of the employee’s assignment.
And those of us who live an expatriate life, following our partners to all points east, west, north and south, understand that reconnection is one of the things that sustain us as we relocate around the world.
We have up until last week been known as trailing spouses, to my mind a rather derogatory tag, though slightly better than EFMs (eligible family member) which was coined by the US State Department. Now we, men and women, are to be known as STARS – Spouses Travelling and Relocating Successfully. This was decided by attendees of the conference from across all sectors, military, diplomatic, academic, NGO and corporate, as well as the service providers and those of us who follow.
I met up with old friend and publisher Jo Parfitt, http://www.summertimepublishingcom based in Den Haag. Jo and I have sailed together and survived in far smaller accommodation so I knew we could live together amicably in a hotel room for a week. Laura Stephens, fellow sailor, psychotherapist and friend from the UK, http://www.laurajstephens.wordpress.com and with whom I co-presented Death from a Distance, along with many others shared stories and drinks at the end of each day in the hotel bar.
FIGT is the place where global friends reconnect and introduce each other and make new friends as they listen, learn and share new research and best practice ideas that help the global nomad cross cultures. Carolyn Vines, also from The Netherlands, http://www.blackandabroad.com is a new friend who I know I could sail with. My marker of choice.
I’m home now. Re-energised, revitalised, and totally in-sync with the two new words that erupted from the conference. STARS, and the new F-word – Focus. Both words were used liberally by Jo P as she reinforced in her session, Blogs, Books and By-lines, the importance of focusing on a subject to write about. But the word applies equally as well to all areas of a STARS life.
Focusing on the important issues of relocation and bridging cultural divides while allowing the minutiae to flow by rather than getting caught in the eddy of negative energy, and boxes, is what STARS need to do.
Alan Paul, author of Big in China, http://www.alanpaul.net on the plenary panel, Spouses Travelling and Relocating Successfully ably facilitated by Becky Grappo, said treat each relocation as liberating – a clean slate, an astute observation from a one-time expat.
DC was great and I’m already looking forward to the next Families in Global Transition conference, also in Washington DC in March 2012, but it’s nice to be home in Houston where I can have pretzels with my wine and where I shall focus on the STARS!