Wednesday, October 1, 2008

ThiNkiNg: life after Africa



...out into the great global unknown.

Lots of friends have written to ask what's next on my horizon. Many have assumed I'll be headed back to the US. No, that's actually not the current plan.

As long as the boys are young (my youngest is 4) our decision on where to live will be shaped primarily by the desire to maintain my childrens' relationship with their dad. He and I have lived separately for many years now. We currently live in separate countries, but have managed to keep up a frequency of contact that keeps him as a very strong presence in the kids' lives. He's a really good dad, so I feel it as a responsibility to the kids to take his location and travel connections into account. He's Dutch, not American.

He and I share an interest in possibly living in Asia someday, and the kids are onboard for that as well. Two months ago, I had thought I might try making something work in Thailand (where I spent 6 weeks earlier this year) as a next place to live for a while. While the boys dad would be agreeable to finding a way to make that work for a few years (he even flew there for a short vacation to check the place out), I worry recently that the Thai political climate is becoming rather unstable. What's more, the organization I'd hoped to attach myself to is very involved in the ongoing political protests. Without abandoning the idea of returning to Thailand for a longer period some day (I would really love to go back there), it just doesn't feel like right away is the best moment to make Thailand our new home.

On to plan B.

After his current post in Ethiopia finishes next year, the kids' dad has a professional obligation as EU diplomatic staff to return to Brussels for 2 years before he can get posted abroad again. So the kids and I are now thinking we might head back to Europe to cool our heels for a while in the Western world, and plan for a move to Asia (or somewhere equally "exotic sounding" to the boys) after 2-3 years when their dad has more options available.

That gives us a where, leaving what shall I do with myself still up in the air.

Since I was young I've imagined that I would probably get a PhD when I was in my forties. Here I am at that stage of life with a blank page to write, and - right on on cue - there's a quiet place within me after 20+ years of international living that thinks further study is definitely a good idea. Maybe I'll cook up a way to build some field study in Asia into PhD work in Europe... I don't have all the answers yet, and I am surprisingly ok with that.

In fact, I think I am rather enjoying the opportunity to reinvent myself, knowing that my professional future is still likely to be longer than my professional past. It occurs to me some might call this a mid-life crisis, but I don't feel like I am in crisis. I do feel that I am changing, and I'm excited for that change... aware and appreciative of the process, and grateful for this moment in time.

Plans continue to evolve.

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