Love plus blood equals blove!
We had just moved to Thailand when my oldest daughter, then six years old, coined that word.
“It’s that special thingy shared by people that are related,” she explained.
And so this blog was created out of blove.
As our family is always on the move, having lived in 8 countries and 3 continents so far, we are like a flock of migrating birds.
We are the Blovebirds, a 21st century nomadic family.
Our migration route can be traced back to Nairobi 17 years ago when we first left with a one year old baby girl. We arrived in the US on what was to become our home but that turned into a semi-permanent arrangement when my husband accepted a job offer in mystical Nepal.
When our two-year stint living in Kathmandu came to an end, our emotional departure resembled a Hindu cremation ceremony with lots of intense embraces, lots of crying, lots of colourful garlands draped around our necks and lots of feasting on our last dhaal bhat and roti.
Our next destination was the Philippines where we soon discovered the beauty of island living with their catchy tourist slogan that states, ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’. We fell in love with 100 percent humidity, suffered our first ever typhoon Ondoy and celebrated christmas from September to December during the famed ‘Ber months.
It wasn’t long after we had painted our surburban home in colour-coordinated hues that we had to leave again. In that year of sunny skies and warm nights, we had made beautiful friends and learnt the art of patient tolerance when a Filipino customer service agent tells you, “For a while”, which could be a long while before one clears an electricity bill.
Leaving Manila was hard. We cried and took with us a nanny that we couldn’t detach ourselves from. She had become a part of our family and would embark on several more journeys with us, witnessing the births of many more babies. We also left the Philippines holding onto memorized versions of the delicious but secret chicken adobo recipe that our sweet housekeeper graciously shared with us, a piece of her that will forever remain in our hearts.
With boarding passes for a flight to Addis, Ethiopia, this was the closest we would come to neighbouring my home country, Kenya. It was easy for me to become acclimatized with the East African sunny days and cool nights. Our decision on a rental house rested on a jacaranda tree in full bloom that sparked nostalic memories of September in Nairobi.
Little did I know that I would only witness the purple carpet of jacaranda flowers outside the big backyard once. Ten months later, with a slightly larger belly, we had to leave. I was 36 weeks pregnant and could’ve sworn that the air in Addis was permanently sprayed with the lingering smell of Injeera and tibs, the intoxicatingly delicious local cuisine that we devoured on any given weekend.
We returned to Asia, this time to Thailand- the land of smiles, spices and Pad Kee Mao, better known as “drunkard’s noodles”. Incidentally, our second child was born in Bangkok back when we lived in Nepal. We call him our medical tourist.
A month after our return to Thailand as permanent residents, our third baby was born in the same hospital, in the same birthing room, almost in a bathtub, with the same doctor who gave me one single look and declared, “I knew you’d be back!” I was back again, for the speedy (15 minute) delivery of baby number 4. This time she said, “If you come back again, I’ll be retired!” I have since taken her advice.
We left Thailand aching for a place we had made strong roots filled with spicy chillies, seafood galore and a love for the Thai King’s Anthem. We had made a concious decision to return to Kenya for our children to bottle up as much of their African heritage as time would permit.
Our home in Kenya, on the outskirts of the capital city, overlooked the Nairobi National Park. It was as close as one could possibly get to having an ‘Out of Africa’ experience. The four years that we spent exploring Kenya’s wildest bush with friends and family have shaped and molded who we have now become, as eco-concious, environmentally-aware, global citizens. We left crying, as usual, but we left our hearts in Kenya, where we will return often.
To some, this globe trotting is the picture of a glamorous expat life. But I think of us much in the same way I think of my nomadic Maasai grandfather who never saw the inside of a bus all his life and chose instead to let his feet do the trotting. I should like to imagine that a part of his pastoral nature is ingrained deeply in my DNA although my feet sadly lack that athletic austerity that he carried with him to his grave. Instead, they are often pampered in tight compression socks for those grueling long haul flights.
Our four children are CCKs, which is the fancy acronym for Cross Culture Kids (CCKs). In short, they are citizens of the world living without a permanent home address. We often discuss what it means to have the whole world as their home and teach them to accept their global identity as a strength.
They also have no racial identity, having half Caucasian and half African blood. They are permanently tattooed in labels such as biracial, bilingual, multicultural, and some unpleasant ones like mulato, half-cast, point five and coloureds. We talk about that too and have come to the conclusion that how one chooses to see them is a product of their internalized biases- a problem that is not ours to solve. We too often interrogate our internalized biases and accept our limitations as human beings as we seek to connect better with others.
In Asia, our oldest son was likened to a reincarnating Barack Obama. I took that as a compliment. President Obama had just been inaugurated as the first African American president of the United States. His is as racially close to our sons as genetics can possibly match.
We are world travelers to friends and relatives back home but what we really do is high end camping. We trade the big RV for airplanes packed in excess baggage, navigate through foreign airports and send our children to international schools where children like them abound. We rent homes amongst other expats from other nationalities, and without a majority nationality, our neighbourhood potlucks resemble a mini United Nations Convention. We form astonishingly strong and instant friendships with our fellow multilingual transient neighbours, all with similar stories of life away from home.
Asked where home is, our children will respond in unison, “Where the green couch is!” This is what our oldest son, then a four year old toddler said while standing outside an apartment in Bangkok, waiting to receive the 40 foot container that carried our household goods. We are thankful for that container that sails the seas in dodgy boats, carrying our precious green couch.
At the moment, that green couch sits in our first owned home in Groningen, a little village North of the Netherlands. As we adapt to life in Europe, memories of other homes linger, as does this reminder:
‘Return often to old watering holes, where friends and family await‘- an old African proverb.