"good ideas, good people, good food and beautiful things don't just come from one place. They come from all over the place."
Beginning this month, CultureBaby will profile mothers from around the world who are living the CultureBaby lifestyle. Whether they are living abroad, traveling with their kids, working professionally or at home to raise a globally conscious world citizen, we'll take a moment to highlight their often overlooked efforts.
We begin in Seoul with mother of two Kelly Race Garcia.
Where are you living now and with who?
I'm living in Seoul, South Korea with my husband, my 4 year old son, 2 year old daughter and my mother-in-law. I've basically bounced around the world my whole life. My father was in the Air Force and we lived in England and Germany. As a student I lived in Spain and as an ESL a teacher I've lived in Venezuela and Mongolia. Following my husband's job, I've lived in Japan and now Korea.
How have you exposed your children to the culture of the country you are living in?
In Japan, my son attended our neighborhood school a few times a week, which was so great. He was too young to learn to speak Japanese, but he did learn a proper Japanese bow. Here in Seoul, there's a long wait list for the Korean preschools, so my son goes to an American preschool and my daughter stays at home with me. But, we make an effort to be out and about as much as we can, trying local foods, using the language when possible (my Korean is atrocious, but we try!). We push ourselves to go to new places even though it can be so hard with the little ones…usually it will turn out to be a memorable experience.
How have you adapted your personal and professional life to living overseas/to moving frequently?
My background as an English as a Second Language teacher lends itself to a nomadic lifestyle. But right now I'm managing a website that helps military families navigate life here in Korea called Koreaye.com. During my time abroad I've also worked as a picture framer, wrote a children's book and been a stay-at-home mom. If I concerned myself with trying to climb the career ladder, I think I might get frustrated, because it's difficult (but not impossible) to have the kind of job that allows for it while moving frequently. But I keep myself open to the opportunities available in each place, even if they don't appear to fit into my background and training. That's worked out for me and I feel very happy and satisfied with where I am.
Tell us about your work as a children's book author?
While in Japan, I decided to write a children's book for my son to try to capture in pictures and writing how special his birthplace was. It was set in our little neighborhood of Namihira, in Yomitan. I wrote the story, another American did the layout and design, and another the fantastic illustrations. She even included many real buildings, plants and scenes from the neighborhood. I felt a little nervous as an outsider writing about an Okinawan village, but it was exciting to see how much it resonated with people. Folks really love Okinawa! You can find the book on Amazon or order it direct from Shisastory.com.
How do you encourage global citizenship with your kids and how do you think this will help them later in life?
I think our challenge as parents is keeping the kids' love for their family and native country alive in their hearts, while at the same time embracing all the wonderful experiences and people we encounter in overseas. When we are living back in the US, we make an effort to spend as much time as we can with our family. While overseas, we have adventures, make friends and take advantage of the amazing opportunity we have to see the world.
We don't dwell on what we are missing at home. When I was growing up as a military "brat", I NEVER heard my parents complain about where we lived or what they missed back home, so I try very hard to keep those kinds of thoughts to myself. When I hear parents complain about where they live, it almost always seems that their kids hate it too.
My hope is that by exposing the kids to different cultures while they are young, they will grow up knowing that good ideas, good people, good food and beautiful things don't just come from one place. They come from all over the place. And by seeing lots of them while they are young, they can draw from their diverse experiences to build an informed and thoughtful view of how the world works.