Saturday, November 3, 2012

10 Questions

Radiology, mammography and ultrasound technician Jeanne Walker on what she has learned during her 14 moves, living through a Bolivian blockade and why she would do it all over again

What do friends and family back home say about your choice of lifestyle?
Some friends are envious of the lifestyle, large houses, maids, parties, great travel opportunities but others ask about the effect on the children and their education.

What is the scariest thing you've experienced at a post?  
While we were in Bolivia there was a lot of political unrest. The local indigenous people wanted to overthrow the president and bring in their own leader. They blocked off all the roads in and out of La Paz, which sits in a bowl and so we were basically cut off from the rest of the world for a week. My husband was away on a trip, so it was just myself and the children and we were confined to our houses. We could hear gunfire and we were told that rioters were coming up our street. We couldn't go out to  shop for food so the few American neighbours we had all pooled their food together and we all ate together. The scary part was that we didn't know how long the blockade would go on for and whether our food and water would last us. In the end it was only a week but it was very scary at the time.

The loveliest?
The loveliest thing was when we were living in Cape Town. It was my birthday and my husband and I had both taken the day off to go golfing. The golf course was in a small town just outside Cape Town and it was right on the edge of the ocean. I was just about to tee off and Jeff shouted, ‘Jeanne, Jeanne, look!’ When I looked up there were two whales breaching out of the water just about a hundred yards away. It was a magical sight and I’ll never forget it.

What is one thing you have learned from each of the different cultures among which you have lived?
I don’t know about from each of the different cultures but I do know that I have learnt that people all over the world, whether they be Christian, Muslim, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, all want the best for their families. They want their children to have better lives, education and jobs than they have and they will work hard to try and make things better for their children no matter where in the world they might be from.

What is some advice you would give to someone just starting out or considering this lifestyle?
For somebody considering the lifestyle I would say that if the trailing spouse has to give up their career they should know how hard that might actually be. I think it is quite difficult for some spouses who have had fulfilling careers to give that up and possibly not be able to continue with their chosen career path in the future.
For somebody starting out I would say that you should consider this lifestyle as one big adventure. You never really know what country you’ll be living in next, what your house will be like, if you’ll be able to find a job, but you do know that there’ll be interesting places to go and people to meet. 

What do you do to get involved when you are at post?
I like to join clubs, International Women’s club, book club, choir. I like to volunteer to help local charities and I get involved with the school that my children attend. I join the PTA, or PTSA as it is here. That way I get to know other parents and to know some of the teachers that will be teaching my children.

What is the one thing you would have taken with you from each of the countries you've lived?
In Morocco our nanny Zaina, in Bolivia the magnificent views and the hiking trails, in Cape Town being close to the ocean, wineries and mountains all at once, in Uzbekistan the fabulous local staff work colleagues.

 What is one thing you miss the most from your home country?
My friends and their British sense of humour.

Would you do it all over again?
I think so…..I guess the grass is always greener….. My friends in England envy us living and travelling all over the world. I envy the fact that they can decorate their house as they wish with their own furniture. They can plan a garden and grow perennials. They meet friends every week that they have known since primary school. They get to visit relatives as often (or as little J) as they wish. They have good jobs and have worked their way to the top of their career fields without having to start at the bottom every 2 or 3 years. But would I choose this all over again, yes I certainly would!

 How many degrees of separation are there between you and the President Obama?
I guess 6 or less, right?

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