I was inspired by the Writing 101 topic for the day — A Character Building Experience and then I read a blog about an expat living in the Philippines it brought me back to the time when I was seeing young couple overseas with their families in tow and building lives away from home, and I ask how are the kids adapting?
Fourteen years since, those little children are adults now leading their own lives — some different from their parents while others followed suit like working in development organizations like them.
There are several families I met in my 6 years in Cambodia where I saw the children very young and grew up until it was time for me to leave. One particular family is an example of how expat kids grow up to be responsible adults. They adapted so well you will think they were never away from home.
Meet the Francisco family. They have 3 kids, the eldest is a boy and the middle and youngest child are girls. They were in elementary when they were uprooted from their urban life in Paranaque to move to Cambodia late 1990’s to be with their mom whose working for a big international organization then. Their dad was also working overseas so it’s convenient for the kids to be with their mom in Cambodia and the dad visit them there. That time in Cambodia life was very basic almost rural and movement was still difficult but they were there growing up like kids back home or even more.
Cambodia is a nice place to raise expat kids then and now — it has international schools, churches, places to visit, hotels with special amenities for expatriates and later on would be malls and franchises of big food chain ;( and let’s not forget medical and dental facilities, back then I commute to Bangkok to have my braces adjusted until late 2004. In NGO speak it’s what we call Family Mission.
When I arrived in 2000, they were settled, already made Cambodia their second home. The kids are going to International School – North Bridge and are very much into all stuff kids love – swimming, biking, skateboard, goofing, go carts and other sports. They were never afraid to try anything and excel — Casey and Jaime were consistently voted as school student representative while the were in school, Jaimee was an adent basketball player, bad knee or not she will get the ball in! They were nice to be around, loved by many because they’re good breeding shows — they know how to act in front of people, very confident and are very courteous. Much like most of the kids I met then.
Being one of the new expat then, I was sucked into Filipino hospitality – expatriation version by their family. Nothing beats the home style entertainment which are mostly mixed from very young to very old people and we enjoy our time around food (you think its obvious?) and music — the better version of karaoke.
The environment and the diversity of people and culture contributed to the development of characters of these children. I can’t help but compare to those I know from home in similar circumstances. Knowing and experiencing living with these children, I made a mental note that these kids will fair out well into the world and I was not mistaken. I don’t know any of my friends children went astray, most of them are achievers if not over achievers.
The Francisco kids are special to me because they exemplify how it is to be an expat kids and still be Filipino at heart, they opted to go to university in the Philippines and though they struggled to speak the language at first when they finally settled back home but they overcame the problem with sheer determination to blend in and in the end get the perfect grades in school — beating all locally bred students (just bragging!). How to be an expat kids without the “snobbish” characteristics some children has because they befriended anybody and eat just about anything and everything — street food included (often the litmus test for newbies), buy non-branded stuff and enjoys roadtrip. How to be an expat kids and have a mind of their own by knowing what they want and excelling in it.
Now all three are kids no more — they are adults now. The brother Casey is now a lawyer while Jaimee is a doctor preparing to take the board exams next year and Trixie a chef, trained in Italy. Soon they will have their own careers and family and I am sure they will not forget the teaching of their parents and the many friends, aunties, uncles, grandparents and maybe even strangers. If I were their mom, I would be in cloud 9 all the time for having such wonderful kids and maybe pat my own back for knowing how to raise good children. Glad to have met their parents – lovely couple!
These kids are very sweet kids. They never look down on anybody, they are so grounded that’s why they are so endearing and they never forget me even though I have not seen them for a while, thanks to social media. I am sure if they become expatriate themselves they will know how to raise their own kids — the way they were raised in Cambodia at the time when life was still simple.