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Painting Pictures: Passport to the World

painting pictures1Today’s Painting Pictures post comes to you from Bonnie Rose, a woman of incredible and beautiful talent. Photographer, hair stylist, beauty therapist, and world traveler as a TCK and now as an adult expat. I am excited to share her words with you today about the third culture kid experience as a military child. Her fabulous graphic says it all. Be sure to visit her blog to see and read more from Bonnie.




 Passport to the World

tckdiagram_thecompassrose (2)Third Culture Kid.  Just three words that are so easy to understand on their own. String them together and things get a bit complicated.  I can explain it in a couple of minutes or in greater detail but that does not mean the person listening will fully understand.  Which is often the case when you have not walked in someone else’s shoes.  I became a third culture kid because I was a military child who was born overseas and grew up hopping around military bases in Europe until I was seventeen. I have tried explaining my military upbringing and the culture of military families to my in-laws during a conversation about our differences.  It was met with a response similar to ‘I know a military family and they are not like that’.  When trying to connect with people who have not ‘walked in your shoes’ it is like hitting a brick wall.  Growing up as a third culture kid, living a nomadic life, I have learned that life is not simply black and white. People dress differently, eat differently, parent differently, and basically live differently.  Just because something is different, does not make it wrong.

Bonnie Rose Photography © 2012 All Rights Reserved

I bring up TCKs frequently when it comes to conflicts where my life or choices are judged negatively.  It boils down to the lack of understanding and seeing the world only from a small perspective.  I do not claim to understand the the full spectrum of every culture in the world but I do accept the fact that we are all different. Different can be scary but different is also beautiful.  There is no cookie cutter mold for how life should be lived and I have seen the negative outcomes when one forces a mold onto a different culture then it was intended for.  As a TCK I can not fit in any one mold as I claim ownership over every country I have lived in and in every culture where I have spent a significant amount of time.  I never know what the future will bring but I get excited by the possibilities, the lands I have yet to explore, and the people I have yet to know.  All the while I cling to my past.  For Third Culture Kids our past does not hold us back.  It defines our character and who we are in life.  

One of the biggest misconceptions about third culture kids revolves around our unintentional name dropping.  I commented to someone about their trip to Italy with how I had lived in Italy twice and went on to recommend a great place for pizza.  A third party chimed in with ‘no one cares where you have been’.  Which was easy for me to dismiss as I know they are not a TCK and therefore do not understand what places mean to us. There is no home I can go back to, no house to return to for the holidays, and no one street that will contain years of memories and stories.  My lifetime of memories is scattered across the globe and are as changing as we are as third culture kids. It has even molded the way I travel.  I cannot go to a new country and not experience it organically as someone who grew up in that location.  I do not want to stick out as a tourist in another land. As a TCK we mention places, not because we had the opportunity to be there, but because we left a part of our heart and our soul in the footsteps we left behind. 

These past two years I have lived in England, my world as a Third Culture Kid has been met with a sense of normalcy.  Something I had not experienced in the last ten years living in the USA.  In my parent’s home country I was constantly a hidden immigrant. I looked and sounded American but was always an outsider.  Here in England I am constantly running into other expats and other brits who have lived abroad. Even those people who have never lived outside of England have vacationed throughout mainland Europe. As a TCK I carry that nomadic free spirit and will always have an intangible sense of ‘home’.  It will make my bonds with other like minded individuals attract more quickly as we share the same passport to the world.

aboutbroseBio: Bonnie Rose is the author behind the blog A Compass Rose.  She writes about her childhood as a military brat, her life as a Third Culture Kid (TCK), her travels around the world and the expat life her family now lives in Europe. She currently lives in Bath, England with her husband and are raising two sons who are also TCKs.  She works as a Photographer and Hair & Make up Artist.  As of this post she has yet to ever live in one place for longer than three years at at time.

Connect with Bonnie Rose

A Compass Rose blog:
Twitter: @the_bonnierose

The Well House, Guest Post

I enjoyed this essay, sent to me in an email by Sean T. Malis. I’ve never been here but these are the kinds of things about Djibouti that fascinate me. With his permission, I’ve reposted it here and hope you enjoy another perspective of this country.


Today my journey as a “Joint Civil Affairs Team Leader” leads me and my team of Soldiers, Airmen and a Marine to an old dilapidated town in Djibouti, reportedly the nation’s oldest town, the town of Das’asbiyo. Residing in the bottom of a dry river bed lay an old fortified well house built by the French during colonial times.  Inside is a large open well and about 20 feet down there is a black murky soup of water, trash and unknown dead things illuminated only by a single streak of light shining through what to me looked like rifle firing ports.  The smell was not very pleasant as the well house had become a public latrine of sorts.

Inside there was evidence of some footings and mountings for some long ago pilfered machinery.  At some point in the ancient past an engine driven pump belched forth black smoke as the soot was still thick and black on the ceiling on the well house.  Water from this old well was pumped to the town and filled three equally ancient rock built cisterns that the locals could fill their buckets and jugs from for their homes.

Water no longer flows to the town from this well.  The town once had electricity as evidenced by broken, shattered and leaning power poles that litter the town with wires hanging and dangling disconnected and broken along the poles and on the ground.  Rusted and empty street lights now only serve as perches for pigeons, doves and other various birds, reminiscent of their prior illumination of the town’s homes, train station and streets.  One can almost imagine the train pulling into the town with smoke billowing from the engine on a hot summer evening lit up by these electric lights, but the train no longer runs through Das‘asbiyo or anywhere else in Djibouti.

The rough hand hewn rock exterior of the well house and austere desert landscape in background provoke thoughts of the old French Colonial era movie “Beau Geste.”  I don’t think even Gary Cooper himself could rescue Das‘asbiyo today.


The well house has fallen on hard times; unused, abandoned and only thought of as place fit for one to defecate by the residents it once served.  The plight of the well house is symbolic in many ways of Das‘asbiyo and most of Djibouti.  Everywhere one sees the rusting and crumbling remains of public works engineered, maintained and managed by the French.  Das‘asbiyo has been forgotten by its former colonial masters in Paris and by the new nation it created and that last month celebrated its 35th anniversary.

Djibouti was known as Obock and French Somaliland (Côte française des Somalis) in the 19th century and then in 1967 the name changed to the French Territory of Afars and Issas.  Now the French managers, administrators and engineers are gone.  The independent Djiboutian Republic has no system to manage the nation’s former French infrastructure.  They’ve lost interest or they never wanted to inherit the old French institutions and colonial responsibilities or demand that anyone else do so.  It’s singularly centralized government, run by one man; President Ismail Omar Guelleh is the supreme law, judge and businessman of the land.  Guelleh doles out the nation’s largess to his friends and supporters, but the basic necessities of the country side and small towns have been forgotten, frozen in time like the 1939 movie of Beau Geste.

The Well House now stands as a lone sentinel in a dry river bed of what was once Das‘asbiyo. The towns golden era of modernity has faded.  No more water, no more electricity, the antique train and rickety cars last rumbled through town ten years ago.  A causality of the end of the French empire.  Time has forgotten Das‘asbiyo just as its residents have forgotten their old well house that once served them their most valuable resource; water.


If you live in Djibouti or have lived in Djibouti, and are interested in providing a guest post story or a photo to Djibouti Jones, I would love to hear from you. Post a comment or send an email and let’s talk.

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