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Recently several documentaries have discussed the possible factors that led certain wolves to follow humans rather than remain with the pack.  I personally believe it was those wolves who had the ‘manipulation gene.’  That innate ability that all dogs have to wrap human beings around their little paws.

What ME a bully?

Let’s face it.    Jewish mothers could take lessons from dogs in how to inspire guilt.  Defense attorneys should weep at a dog’s ability to be convincing about their innocence or at least sincere remorse.  What manager wouldn’t love to get people to do what they want while they think they’re the ones in control.

You want me to get off the couch?

Take my dogs.   They allow me to believe that I have the upper hand.  But who are they kidding.  In return for sitting, walking calmly and refraining from doing bodily functions in the home (which is probably what they would prefer anyway), they get food, protection,  a warm place to sleep and endless affection on demand.   And should their behavior elicit anger or outrage on my part, the consequences are quick to pass and generally followed by even more affection and attention.  That’s one sweet deal.

Position is everything in life.

I bet early man thought he was the one with the upper hand.   But it’s amazing how quickly and thoroughly dogs (and their more independent co-conspirators, cats) became essential to early man and in the process earned a permanent meal ticket.  And thus they started leading a ‘dog’s life.’

Please Vote

I find it ironic that we bully, cajole and even invade other countries to promote democracy, yet almost half of those eligible in the U.S. don’t bother to participate in our own democracy.  We extol our democratic system and institutions to others, but them at home.

Last year I went with the Jimmy Carter Center to Southern Sudan as an international observer for the vote on Southern Sudan independence.  Southern Sudanese had every reason to distrust this vote.   All previous elections had been deemed frought with corruption and fraud.  And even if the vote itself was deemed ‘valid’ would it even matter?War with Northern Sudan had been waged for the past 50 or so years.  What were the chances a simple vote would accomplish what all those years of fighting had failed to do?

But Southern Sudanese voted.  They walked miles over dusty paths and roads to vote.  They came in trucks, motorbikes, overloaded cars and vans.    Women came with children in tow.   Young men came and proudly displayed their inked finger (a proof of having voted) as they left the polls.  Old men came in with tearful excitement that they were living to see the day.  In some areas, some feared retaliation from going to the polls.    In all areas, they had to trust the system would truly be ‘secret’.   But the Southern Sudanese took the leap of faithe and voted.  Almost 99% voted.

Did the Southern Sudanese vote make a difference?  It didn’t create a fully functional, economically stable country.  It didn’t preclude outbreaks of ethnic violence and inter-communal fighting.  It probably hasn’t signficantly raised the standard of living.  And there is still fighting on the border with Sudan.  But it made a difference.   For all it didn’t do, it laid the foundation of a new country.  It gave people a voice who had never believed they could have a voice.  And it offered hope and a vision of an alternative way of being governed.

I bring this up because I find that we Americans often see things as ‘success or failure’.  We are cynical about politics, politicians, government because they fail to be 100% what we expect them to be.  But if we don’t vote, then we can’t expect politicians to listen.   Polls are useful, but let’s face it, what we say to a pollster often depends on our mood or the most recent pundit statement on TV.  Voting hopefully requires actually committing to a particular policy course or political vision.  Voting is scarier.  It requires more information.  But it is the only way to actually affect government.  So, no matter who you want in government or what you want from government, go out there and vote.  It may not make the difference you hope for, but not voting is almost guaranteed to mean your voice won’t be heard.   And the Southern Sudanese will tell you, having no voice at all definitely sucks.

“You sound like such a snob when you say you were born in Brazil.”  I wanted to just crawl into a hole and hide.  At best, I found college mixers an exercise in humiliation, but this was too much.  I was probably responding to,  “So, where are you from?”   Such a tricky question, for me at least.  My parents were 100% American.  But I was born in Brazil and grew up in four different countries.  I wasn’t  ‘from’ anywhere.   ‘Home’ was wherever I currently lived.

A third culture kid has been defined as “ a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. ”  TCKs have more in common with each other than with anyone in either their ‘passport’ country or any country they currently live in.  I know because most of my friends are TCKs.  Some, like me, had parents who moved around.  Others are children of immigrants, but who maintain close ties with their ‘native’ countries.  Gail grew up of mixed parents in England and Egypt.  She married a Frenchman and spent most of her adult years in Africa.  She worked for the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa (in former Zaire).  We were very comfortable together, because while we could share the fact that we had no shared experiences.  Mary is married and living an idyllic suburban life in Connecticut, but she still revels in reliving her Brazilian years and talking about her life in Belgium with those of us who ‘understand’.

There were songs I loved as a teenager that I never realized were not originally French or Portuguese.   Movies stars I mooned over that my American friends never even knew existed.  If I had really been ‘foreign’, these lapses might have been exotic or charming.  But I was American, my lack of American-ness at best made me eccentric, at worst weird or even a bit threatening.  After all, things that I took for granted in my life — sights I had seen, people I had met, things I had done — sometimes made my American friends feel provincial.

And this is the TCK experience.  My Japanese TCK friend laughed as she told me how she would be accosted in the train stations in Tokyo and reprimanded for standing “inappropriately”.  A Colombian woman confided that much as she loved visiting friends and family back home, it was always awkward because her life was so different.   We all understood that if we talked about our lives, people’s eyes would ‘glaze over’.  We quickly learned that we were safest saving our ‘life’ stories for other TCKs.  And when we get together, man, do we love it.

Hello world!

Hi, I’m Susan Brandt and welcome to my new blog site.  The title pretty much says it all.  I am eclectic in my thinking, have lived an eclectic life and pretty much am interested in almost everything.

In future blogs, I will explore cross-cultural communications, travel adventures, growing up as a third culture kid, international politics and policies and a slew of other serious and not so serious issues, ideas or events that spark my interest.

Who Am I?

I was born in Brazil of U.S. parents.  My father was a businessman and we ended up moving around a lot.   As a child and teen I spent time in Brazil, Guatemala, Cuba, the U.S. and one most unhappy year at a boarding school in Switzerland.  After studying Russian and World History at Wellesley, I learned to be a secretary, ended up moving to New York and working briefly at the UN then for the U.S. Mission before surrendering to my destiny which was to join the U.S. Foreign Service. 

As an adult I have lived in Washington, D.C., Kinshasa (Zaire aka Republic of the Congo), Capetown (South Africa), Kaohsiung (Taiwan), Nairobi (Kenya) and Montreal (Quebec, Canada). 

And What About My Life Now?

I  retired blessedly early and settled in Miami, which feels like I’ve gone back home.   I continue to travel and stay involved as much as I can in international affairs.  I also volunteer as a Guardian ad Litem (court appointed advocate) for children in the foster care system.   And I indulge my inner techie geek messing around with my computer and my maternal side doting on my two (rescue) dogs.