Day 2 of the conference I decided on a slower start which unfortunately meant missing out on that day’s Early Bird discussions over breakfast. I arrived just in time to grab a coffee and something to eat during the announcements before heading off to my first session.
As I chose Eva Lazslo-Herbert’s presentation entitled “Living Whilst Surviving.” I wasn’t sure quite what to expect, but I’d heard rave reviews of her keynote speech at the 2012 conference. Born in Transylvania she has lived and worked her way across Europe acquiring languages, in the way most of us gather stamps in our passport. Using her own family history, she spoke to us about their resilience (both emotional and moral) in living through wars, forced relocations and even prison camps. It was very personal and very moving. Just some of her wise words:
- The only thing that defines you, is who you think you are
- Live in the moment
- Don’t forget, but do forgive
- Be independent, think what can *I* do?
- Give back
- Love the child you have, not the child you want
- Stop the glorification of busy
From there I moved on to a very hands-on session with Rachel Yates, entitled “Family Focused Assessment in Relocation Planning.” I’m not a visual or artistic person and was at first a bit skeptical of her approach to needs assessment, using posters, images, glue and scissors. Divided into groups at large round tables, we quickly got over our inhibitions as we imagined ourselves as a family moving to Kenya. As we put together our poster vision of what our lives would be like, we quickly realized we were having meaningful discussions over not just housing (would we live in a glamorous villa or a cramped high rise?) schooling but also what would day-to-day life look like and how much time would we really spend on safaris and lying on tropical beaches? It was a useful and instructive exercise and a great tool for getting the whole family involved.
My last session of the day was with Elizabeth Liang, a TCK actress and actor on the creative process for writing memoirs. She took us through a series of writing exercises, which I know worked for many in the room, but if I finding writing hard here on my own at home, doing it in a room full of strangers is totally impossible. But she did provide is with a detailed hand out and one of these days (yes, really) I will try it all again.
All too soon we reassembled in the main hall for the closing of the Conference. Ruth Van Reken introduced the closing keynote speaker Leila Buck, who was to speak on the topic of goodbyes. She gave us an amazing performance, combining suspense, tragedy and humour, describing her hasty departure from Lebanon in 2006 when fighting broke out with Israel.
Having made my own goodbyes I reluctantly headed by metro to the airport. Unlike many who attend, I don’t make my living working with expat families, but this organization feeds my soul, and I know I will keep returning.