The Foreign Service Journal - April 2014 - page 73

APRIL 2014
Susie Martineau, the wife of a Foreign Service consular officer, currently lives inWashington, D.C.
During the past 13 years, the Martineaux and their three children have lived in Guatemala, Israel,
Nigeria and India.
Hi, My Name Is Susie—
and I’m a Global Nomad
or the past 13 years, I have
been a very reluctant Foreign
Service spouse. I have followed
my husband around the world
kicking, screaming, crying and com-
plaining. I have resented my husband,
I have resented the State Department, I
have resented God for “calling” us to this
lifestyle. All of my hopes and dreams for
happiness were fixated on the day we’d
return to America ... home ... the prover-
bial Promised Land.
On June 1, 2012, I finally got my wish.
We arrived back in the States full of hope
and optimism that life in America would
ease all of the pain and disappointment of
the previous 12 years.
I was wrong! We’d often heard from
our friends overseas that the move
“home” is the most difficult move of all.
However, when you are living in impover-
ishedThird World countries, it is impos-
sible to believe that going back to America
could be anything less than fabulous. But
once we returned, reality hit—and hit
We learned very quickly that all the
perks and support offered to us overseas
disappear the minute your feet land on
U.S. soil. The financial ramifications and
complete lack of emotional and logisti-
cal support left us feeling exhausted and
completely alone.
So we struggled to find our way.
Slowly, over several months, our new
life began to take shape. A new house,
new schools, new job, new church, new
friends—piece by piece, it all started to
come together.
Nearly a year later, on May 29, 2013,
a crazy thing happened. I went to the
airport for a flight to Mexico City to join
my husband for a few days while he
was working there. As I worked my way
through check-in and security, I was
struck by the familiarity of it all—the
rhythm of international travel—and how
oddly comforting it was.
Going through passport control and
immigration; getting foreign currency;
finding the safe, prepaid taxi stand—all
these activities were as natural to me
as breathing. Once in the taxi, I was
overwhelmed by the realization that I
felt more “at home” after half an hour
in Mexico City than I had felt after 11
months in the United States. How could
this be?
Day one in Mexico City brought an
additional landslide of emotions. There
was a huge international festival on the
main avenue outside our hotel, with
booths from all over the world selling
clothing, food and souvenirs. As I walked
down the street, it was a stroll down
memory lane.
So many countries that have shaped
the life of our family were represented:
Turkey, Guatemala, Israel, Nigeria,
India, France, the Netherlands, the U.K.,
Thailand, the Czech Republic, Germany.
Each booth unleashed an onslaught of
memories and emotions, and, again, that
unexpected feeling of being “at home.”
That is when it hit me. We are a third-
culture family! Our first allegiance will
always be to the United States, but we
have left pieces of ourselves all over the
world. Each country that we have either
lived in or visited has left its stamp on
our souls; for better or worse, who we are
as individuals and as a family has been
influenced by these foreign nations.
According to Wikipedia, a global
nomad is someone who is living a mobile
and international lifestyle. The pessimist
in me says, “No place is home.” But the
emerging optimist is beginning to say,
“Every place is home!”
Foreign Service families are citizens of
the world, and each of us decides whether
to focus on what this lifestyle has cost us
or the ways in which it has enriched us.
I have focused on the negatives long
enough, and that choice has not served
me well. So now, I am determined to
focus on the positives, and to be thankful
for the lives and experiences we have had
as a third-culture family.
As a result, I can (almost) proudly
proclaim: “My name is Susie ... and I am a
global nomad!”
As I workedmy way through check-in and security,
I was struck by the familiarity of it all—the rhythmof
international travel—and how oddly comforting it was.
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