If you've kept up with my blog, you know by now that I grew up in what some might call: predominantly Islamic countries. Many have always feared for my families safety in these "predominantly Islamic countries". I have never felt safer anywhere else. It should come as no surprise that I am an open individual when it comes to race and religion.

People who don't know me, don't know that about me. So, they don't know that I might not react the same way they do when it comes to certain topics like: global warming, immigration, France, but more importantly for this post: the fear of Islam overtaking the world. To be quite honest, I have many Muslim friends who live their lives just as faithfully if not more faithfully than my "Christian" friends. But, I'm not going to make this an argument about religion, about who is right or wrong, what path you should take - I am not one to force my values or beliefs on anyone and I will not do that here.

I received an email from someone who my office has done business with. I had never personally communicated with the organization until joining our team full time this past January. We set up a week stay for some students from a university in the U.K. to come over and perform Katrina relief work on the Gulf Coast and surrounding areas. Over the course of the exchange I might have sent and received a total of 7 emails regarding our business transaction/schedule...and it was the last email I received, after all was said and done, that bothered me the most.

The subject was "THIS IS WORTH WATCHING!!!!!!!"

The text body said:

Watch this before they take it down...

I've exhausted searches on the internet and found that the info seems to be true, as far as available data is available. Why it isn't the topic of the day is surprising.

Log on and watch this video in privacy as soon as possible, as it will surely be hacked and brought down when it is discovered by extremists as they surely won't want us to know this info. If possible, save to your hard drive so that you may send it yourself in case that happens. I have verified that it is currently virus free, but make sure your virus scanned is on when watching it.

It is VERY disturbing info that all Americans should see - Democrat & Republican. This is a not a slam against our government or our President, it is something we need to understand and rally around ourselves.

[Link deleted]

It is info that you may want to pass on to your Pastor, so that they may pass it on themselves. I understand that some Pastors are playing this in Sunday services across the nation and building a series of Sunday sermons around it. Do with it as you seem fit.

Feel free to reply with whatever feedback with how it makes you feel. Absolutely pass this email on to your list of email addresses.

Thank you for your attention.

Immediately I thought, "I probably shouldn't watch this..." The person who uploaded the video goes by "FriendOfMuslim". I knew it would likely irritate me. So, of course curiosity got the best of me and I clicked on the link.

The video started out with facts (all facts go un-cited, I might add) concerning the reproduction rate of various nations. Several in Europe, the Middle East and then also in Canada and the U.S. Apparently a certain reproduction rate must be reached for a population to sustain its culture. And the frightening point this video attempts to get across is that the Islamic world nations are reproducing twice as fast as the United States. "Our children's world will be unlike anything we experience in our world today".

What's interesting is that suddenly the United States' "culture" includes the Latino population (because they are predominently Catholic) - which I find amusing because the people who made and believe this video likely do NOT consider the Latino population of the U.S. as "their own" [white] culture...well, until the threat of the Islamic world is upon us, as this video portrays.

Is that what some call a double standard? I'm not sure...

From all of the "facts" and quotes in this video, the message I received was: if you are Christian, go out and procreate. We must sustain our population. The Islamic world will take over if we do not continue to reproduce our race/religion.

Now, tell me how that makes sense...? I can't go out and procreate in my current single state - that would be frowned upon, wouldn't it - but if it were in the name of "sustaining our culture"?

What the video fails to address is the question of, "why is Islam the largest growing religion world wide?" Why?

I didn't respond to the email, although I spent a good 30 minutes coming up with various responses, but none of them could explain why this forward was so offensive to me without offending the person who sent it to me. And, my point is not to offend - ANYONE.

Please, remember to think about who you forward things to - especially when you don't know the recipient from Adam...we all know what ass-u-me'ing does to a person. And, if you are going to foward a message, it might be good to check the facts, and ask certain questions...


I am a TCK...

The following was my college entrance essay. It's also been "published". As a senior class we published a book of short stories, I keep telling myself I'm going to look for it on Amazon.com but never remember. Anyhoo - from, "Indescribable...A collection of thoughts from the class of 2002 American Community School of Abu Dhabi":

I am a TCK
Jessica Lamb

I am a third-culture kid. Third-culture kids are raised in a culture other than that of their parents and their nationality. Experts describe us as social chameleons. We easily adapt to new surroundings and situations. We make close friends quickly because we understand each other and share common backgrounds.

My parents are both native Mississippians. But I was born in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains on December 14, 1984, in the Landour Community Hospital in Mussoorie, India. I spoke Hindi to my ayah (maid), and ate rice only with my hands. It took me years to get over bobbing my head from side to side, the Indian way of saying yes, no, and maybe. When I visited America for the first time I was a year old. I asked my grandparents for khanah (Hindi for food). Just as they didn't understand me, I didn't understand where my ayah was and why my grandmother did all the house work. "Grandmama, why are you the maid?" But I have come a long way from being a year old. I know how to adapt.

I have lived in four different countries: Kuwait, Pakistan, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates (where I will graduate), and I have visited over 25 others. All my friends are third-culture kids. I have grown up with Indians, Pakistanis, Koreans, Taiwanese, Dutch, Scandinavians, and Latinos, to name a few. Many-a-time my nationality has been the minority in my community. I can tell the friends that I make where I have lived, and they understand. We are comfortable with each other because, one way or another, we have been in each other's shoes. I'm not alone when I say I have been able to walk outside and laugh at monkey swinging mischievously in the trees while I sip my chai (tea) and speak with the dudh walla (milkman). I have been able to step off campus and talk to the local children fishing in the open sewer while I wait for their father to hand me my sate ayam (chicken kebabs) enriched with the smell of peanut sauce from his vending cart. I have been able to take a twenty-minute drive in any direction and suddenly be in the middle of a desert surrounded by an eternity of stars. This is my life, and while these events are exotic to some, they are normal to me and my TCK friends.

When I visit my family in the summer, I don't expect everyone to understand. Not everyone has danced with Balinese dancers, scuba-dived in the Java Sea, ridden a camel in the Arabian Desert, or an elephant in the Malaysian rain forest. Not everyone has climbed the pyramids of Egypt or walked the Great Wall of China. But it is so frustrating when people ask me where I am from. Most of the time I reply, "Oh, just the other side'a Biloxi,"even though I have never been to that Mississippi town.

It will be hard for me when I graduate and have to move to "home." Few share my background. The generalization that the third-world culture consists of famine, disease, pollution, and over-population is frequent with the people I encounter. How will I ever explain that it is so much more? How will I describe relaxing under coconut trees, watching a kaleidoscopic sunset as soft, volcanic-black sand tickles between my toes? How can I describe the sounds of Gamelon music intertwining with peaceful, cool ocean waves lapping just feet in front of me?

But I'm not worried. I'm excited about coming home. I miss my grandparents, I miss Wal-Mart. McDonald's is as exotic to me as manaeesh jibneh (breat filled with salty goat cheese) is to most in America. I am ready to learn about America, a country I know little about. Maybe college will really be the lifetime experience everyone says it is. Maybe who I am will add to someone else's experience. But even now, the feeling of homesickness that will overcome me the first month or so stirs in the pit of my stomach and brings tears to my eyes.

Regardless, I will conquer the standard-shift automobile and earn my driver's licence. I will attend a Homecoming dance.

I'm scared, but I'll be fine. My grandmother assures me that because I'm from Rankin County, I have every right to be a redneck if I so desire. I don't know about that, but I do know that from Mussoorie to Mississippi, I am a third-culture kid, and I will adapt.

It's funny, I read it now and so many memories come back to me. I had NO idea how difficult moving to college would be, my first experience with studying abroad, if you will. Life is crazy.


I love my job...

In January I was hired as a coordinator for the Office of International Programs at The University of Southern Mississippi.

What does that mean?

Well, if I were to pull from those descriptive words they recommend you use to vamp up a resume, I: coordinate, manage, publicize, market, recruit, promote, facilitate, counsel, advise, aaaaaand that's all I can come up with off the top of my head. I do all of these things, as a coordinator for study abroad.


So, permanently I reside in Hattiesburg, MS. But for a little over four months this year, I will be abroad managing a study abroad program our office coordinates. From 5 July - 5 August, I will reside at King's College in London (England), helping manage our British Studies Program. Started in 1976 the BSP is actually the largest program of its kind operated by a U.S. university. That's awesome.


Then, in the beginning of February I'll head to the heart of the Loire Valley of France, to reside in a 1,000 year old Benedictine Abbey which rests in the small town of Pontlevoy. As a semester program, I will live here, and manage the program, for three months. Not by myself, of course - no, with the program Director, student coordinator and faculty to help - The Abbey Program changes the lives of students who participate. I know this because it changed my life significantly as a student in 2004. I'm sure one day I'll write about that experience.

Wow. I know.

It's just as exciting in Hattiesburg, really. Serving as a resource to students looking for a program to suit their major/year in school/goals is so rewarding. And the very best part, is hearing their voice on the other end of the phone, just calling to share how amazing their adventures have been. Or seeing their faces when they come back to our office for the first time since departure, anxious to share their stories and photos.

Sometimes, when I think about what classmates from middle and high school are doing, I think "boy is my life boring...I'm not amounting to much". BUT THAT'S CRAZY! I have a passion for study abroad, education abroad, and travel in general....and that's what I coordinate FOR A LIVING!

Sure, sometimes I freak out thinking about "the next step" - but I've NEVER known what my next step would be. Doors just open and I step through them, and I'm kind of hoping that will continue to happen. I'm starting Grad School in the fall for Speech Communication - well, if I can get my application packet in, that is. That will keep me here a while. Then, who knows? I think about buying a house every day, hopefully Dad can help with that decision soon (they get home Monday!).

We'll just have to see. But for now, I love my job and where I am in life. It's pretty awesome.


we need to start writing these things down...

You never know what will come your way during a regular day in the world of working in international education...below is a running list of "those moments" that will go down in history:

To the attention of:

(Before we went online with our application and acceptance procedures)

When students receive their acceptance packet for some of our study abroad programs, they are asked to return the important forms enclosed to:

Attention: "The Program you will be attending", 118 College Dr #10047, Hattiesburg MS 39406.

For example, "The British Studies Program", or "Vietnam Studies", etc.

...We received a packet addressed to: "The Program you will be attending"

Please provide copy of passport:

Students are required to provide a copy of their passport for our records. In case their passport is lost/stolen during their time abroad, we have a copy we can then fax them for official record purposes, to assist with the process of acquiring a new one from the embassy in their foreign country of study. ...One year, from one student, we received a complete passport book - blank pages and all - cut to scale, and stapled together. An exact replica of this student's passport!

(FYI, when you are asked for a copy of your passport, it's just the photo-page that is required)


(again, before we went online with our processes)

Applying for one of our programs is really not that difficult. You see, you complete the application found online, and mail it to our office with the required deposit. Once accepted, we mail you an acceptance packet full of program information, financial information, and most importantly: medical and health disclosure forms. There is also an International Student Identity Card application students are required to complete (which awards students various discounts and worst-case-scenario insurance while abroad).

Generally we have to call and remind students when we're missing a few items here and there, whether it's a copy of their passport, their final payment, or a photo for their ISIC card. And generally students are so excited to turn everything in, we rarely have to call about an entire packet of paperwork. Either the student calls to let us know they think it got lost in the mail, or they've already called to say they're cancelling altogether, before we even have a chance to inquire about missing documents.

Well, recently one student - we'll call her "Sassafras" - was not returning our phone calls. So, as you can imagine, we became concerned when it came down to two days before her program departure and has still received nothing from Sassafras. Finally, Sassafras answered the phone (on a Wednesday before a Saturday departure, our office closes at 5 on Friday) and the conversation went a little something like this:

"Yeah, I got the packet...no, I haven't opened it yet...yeah, that's right, I got it a long time ago...no one told me I had to open it...well I have just been really busy lately with school and work, so I don't have time to fool with paperwork...I have to turn it in by Friday or I can't go? Fine..."

In case you're wondering, Sassafras did come in Friday, after 4:30. And she did make it on the plane.

Deciphering needed:

"if u know dr <>'s phone number here can u email it to me please if i do not get in contact with him and my uncle pays 200 i will have a balance owing to me of 200 how do i need to request it allow my uncle to pay the 200 i will try and get my money back from dr <> if not i will request it when i return home"

Is there any specific reason I need this?

After finding an "International Holidays" calendar on their desk, an employee asks, "is there any specific reason I would need this?" It was a condensed list of major holidays for major countries, most of which our international students come from. I don't know, maybe? We are an International Office...

"Are you asking to borrow clothes?"

At an orientation before departing for a weekend trip, all important reminders, information, departure schedule, etc. had been addressed and then opened the floor for questions. A hand shot up,

"My clothes are still in the dryer."


Coordinator: "Okay, um, do you have a question?"

Student stares blankly

Coordinator: "Are these clothes you are hoping to take with you when we depart in the morning?"

Student: "Yeah"

At this point the group was not scheduled to depart for another 7 hours

Coordinator: "Aaaand, are you worried they won't be dry?"

Student: "Yeah"

The student did not give the coordinator anything to work with....just stared questioningly, as did everyone else in the room.

Coordinator: "So you need to figure out what you will do if your clothes aren't dry by the time we leave."

More questioning blank staring from said student

Coordinator: "I'm sorry, are you asking to borrow clothes?"


Coordinator: "Does anyone have anything they can loan ___; in case the dryer doesn't finish her clothes? Other than that, ___; you have to figure this out, I'm sure you will, it will be fine, and we're going to have a great weekend!"

Planning ahead is imperative to your success...

Two days before you embark on an international trip, no matter where you are leaving from/traveling to - do you generally have your itinerary mapped out? At least for the first leg of your trip? At least for the departure??

Thursday night during an Abbey Program Paris week, departure for Bayeux set for Saturday morning, coordinator received a text around 11:30pm: "my flight leaves at 8:30 from beauvais where do i leave from and how to i get there?"

Really? 8:30 in the "am" or "pm"? That will make a difference. And what do you mean, "where do you leave from and how do you get there?" Where are you starting from? What are you asking? Are you asking the coordinator to plan your trip? Did you really not look in to this at all? Do you known that Beauvais airport is a 1.25 hour bus ride from Paris-centre? Do you really want to have this discussion via TEXT MESSAGE??

Please, do not mistake your study abroad coordinator for your personal travel agent.

"Being a sarcastic-bit$h will not make them any smarter, Jessica - WWBD"

Oh how I have learned so much in such a short period of time when it comes to working with people! There are some questions that just unnerve me. Why? I'm not sure, because I'm relatively a very understanding and patient person. But maybe it wouldn't be as bad if people would please, please think about what they are about to ask before they open their mouth?

Don't roll your eyes, I know that I too have asked plenty of absurd and obvious-to-answer questions in my life, I am certainly not claiming innocence here. But sometimes I wonder if people even try asking themselves first. Just try. And then try answering, before you ask. Sometimes it's merely a matter of listening first. When you listen closely, your informational questions are usually answered before the Q&A session opens. If you just try, chances are you can figure it out on your own which, will save you many sarcastic responses and ridicule.

Why do these questions irritate me so? Perhaps because lately there have been so many of them posed within a condensed time frame, and I haven't had enough time to laugh and move on before the next one is asked. So, I turn to sarcasm.

Sweet sarcasm said with a smile is just one of the many services I offer, and I have so many people to thank for helping me work so hard to improve my timing!

  • Example A: during a pre-Paris-week orientation: "are there any questions?"

"Yes, the dryer shrunk my sheets, I can't fit them on the mattress."

Oh there are so many things to say in response! I'm sorry, do you have a question? You mean to tell me that the dryers that have been drying the same sheets for years before your arrival suddenly dried your fitted-sheet? Did you try stretching it? Again, do you have a question?

  • Example B: When to travel with your passport: ALWAYS!

"Do I need to bring my passport with me during the travel break?"

There was no room for sarcasm here. Very important question and point to make: YES YES YES YES YES!

  • Example C: After dropping students off at an airport in the UK...
"Hey, Jessica, we made it to the airport, and when we went to check in they told us our flight isn't until tomorrow...what should we do?"


The above has been a collection of events over the past three years. I hope to produce Part II after a few more. "WWBD" stands for What Would Buddha Do. Sometimes I like to think Buddha (and a few of our other historical spiritual leaders) would have used intense sarcasm in response to the above scenarios...but my dad tells me he would not.

quotes with insight (into my life)...

"The consultant I met with last night was fascinating, and independent, and wonderful. She was positive, thoughtful, insightful, and a pleasure to work with because her perspective was removed, but engaged at the same time, and she was funny and a little bit dry, but very hopeful, without being overly sugary. She was just the right mix of positivity, realism, and wit to be the shoe that fit."
Meredith Lom

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it solely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
Mark Twain

"Imagine we are all the same. Imagine we agree about politics, religion and morality. Imagine we like the same types of music, art, food and coffee. Imagine we all look alike. Sound boring? Differences need not divide us. Embrace diversity. Dignity is everone's human right."
Bill Burmmel, Documentary filmmaker.

"The good life is the middle way
Between ambition and compassion
Between action and reflection
Between company and solitude
Between hedonism and abstinence
Between passion and judgment
Between the cup of coffeeand the glass of wine."
Jay McInerney, Author of Bright Lights,
Big Cityand The Good Life.

"What you do to others you really do to yourself. So when you do good to others, you're doing good to yourself. Alternatively, when you do bad to others, you're doing bad to yourself. So in thinking of others, think of yourself, for to love and do right by others is to love and do right to your own self."
Leela James, Musician

"The human brain is the only object in the known universe that can predict its own future and tell its own fortune. The fact that we can make disastrous decisions even as we foresee their consequences is the great, unsolved mystery of human behavior. When you hold your fate in your hands, why would you ever make a fist?"
Daniel Gilbert, Harvard professor of psychology
and author of Stumbling on Happiness

you know you're a TCK when...

"A third culture kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture."

"Third-culture kids are those who have spent some of their growing up years in a foreign country and experience a sense of not belonging to their passport country when they return to it. In adapting to life in a 'foreign' country they have also missed learning ways of their homeland and feel most at home in the 'third-culture' which they have created. Little understood by American schools, where they are often considered an oddity, what third culture kids want most is to be accepted as the individuals they are."
US Dept. of State

You know you're a TCK when...
  • "Where are you from?" has more than one reasonable answer.
  • You’ve said that you’re from foreign country X, and (if you live in America) your audience has asked you which US state X is in.
  • You flew before you could walk.
  • You speak two languages, but can’t spell in either.
  • You feel odd being in the ethnic majority.
  • You have three passports.
  • You have a passport but no driver’s license.
  • You go into culture shock upon returning to your “home” country.
  • Your life story uses the phrase “Then we moved to…” three (or four, or five…) times.
  • You wince when people mispronounce foreign words.
  • You don’t know whether to write the date as day/month/year, month/day/year, or some variation thereof.
  • The best word for something is the word you learned first, regardless of the language.
  • You get confused because US money isn’t color-coded.
  • You think VISA is a document that’s stamped in your passport, not a plastic card you carry in your wallet.
  • You own personal appliances with 3 types of plugs, know the difference between 110 and 220 volts, 50 and 60 cycle current, and realize that a trasnsformer isn’t always enough to make your appliances work.
  • You fried a number of appliances during the learning process.
  • You think the Pledge of Allegiance might possibly begin with “Four-score and seven years ago….”
  • Half of your phone calls are unintelligible to those around you.
  • You believe vehemently that football is played with a round, spotted ball.
  • You consider a city 500 miles away “very close.”
  • You get homesick reading National Geographic.
  • You cruise the Internet looking for fonts that can support foreign alphabets.
  • You think in the metric system and Celsius.
  • You may have learned to think in feet and miles as well, after a few years of living (and driving) in the US. (But not Fahrenheit. You will *never* learn to think in Fahrenheit).
  • You haggle with the checkout clerk for a lower price.
  • Your minor is a foreign language you already speak.
  • When asked a question in a certain language, you’ve absentmindedly respond in a different one.
  • You miss the subtitles when you see the latest movie.
  • You’ve gotten out of school because of monsoons, bomb threats, and/or popular demonstrations.
  • You speak with authority on the subject of airline travel.
  • You have frequent flyer accounts on multiple airlines and constantly want to use said frequent flyer accounts to travel to new places.
  • You know how to pack.
  • You have the urge to move to a new country every couple of years.
  • The thought of sending your (hypothetical) kids to public school scares you, while the thought of letting them fly alone doesn’t at all.
  • You think that high school reunions are all but impossible.
  • You have friends from 29 different countries and sort these friends by continent.
  • You have a time zone map next to your telephone.
  • You realize what a small world it is, after all.

Those in bold I've most certainly experienced/thought/felt at some point in my life, especially during the first year I lived at "home" full-time.