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"Ankle Scar"
by Kara Moritz

Half moon on my ankle,
Never fade away.
I have porcelain figures
and Japanese dolls,
And mirrors to chase off evil spirits,
And incense and clay gods.
But parading the corridors,
In sweaters and pumps,
It might as well have been a dream.
Except for you,
hidden under nylon,
A taut white sliver of skin,
That bled long ago in Hong Kong.

—Kara Moritz
US American, 15 years old

"Kara's poem exemplifies the re-entry experience. Returning—or, more accurately for many global nomads who may never actually have lived there before—repatriating to one's passport country is a unique, and uniquely challenging, experience.

The poem begins with a demand: "Half moon on my ankle, never fade away." Despite all of the artifacts she keeps close around her, "porcelain figures and Japanese dolls and mirrors to chase off evil spirits," Kara's international childhood has begun to seem unreal. Settling into life as an American in the United States, "parading the corridors in sweaters and pumps," the reality of the sights and sounds and smells of childhood have begun to fade. After all, for Kara as for other global nomads upon re-entry, there is typically nothing in the new environment that reflects her multicultural self. There is little if any attention by receiving public schools or by passport country peers that validates her history. Not surprisingly, perhaps inevitably, her global nomad experiences "might as well have been a dream." The initial demand begins, in fact, to resonate much like a plea.

People who grown up in one place typically have long-lasting relationships with childhood friends and neighbors, shopkeepers, the family physician. However distant these relationships may become as the individual grows into adulthood, there still exist such members of the childhood reality. It may even be possible to find people who knew people who "remember you when..." This is not true for the global nomad. No one outside of Kara's immediate family will "remember her when..." The "taut white sliver of skin that bled long ago in Hong Kong" becomes her validation: yes, yes her childhood memories are real—here is this tangible, physical, reminder.

Global nomads, as indeed other expatriates, are often cautioned not to speak of their international experiences upon re-entry. They are encouraged to hide themselves "under nylon." In so doing, their fundamental formative experiences may become hidden even to themselves. I would advise something different: rather than not speaking of their international experiences, I would caution global nomads to speak of their international experiences specifically to those who are open and interested. Certainly if nothing else it is a waste of time to speak of them to anyone else. Speak of them global nomads must, asserting the whole of who they are and the whole of what formed them. The mandate for global nomads and their families upon re-entry is to keep looking—look until you find people interested and interesting. They may be other global nomads and expatriates, they may be immigrants or refugees or international students, they may be passport country peers. The point is, they are out there—just keep looking!"

—Barbara Schaetti

We welcome your comments, and we invite you to share your own experiences of international mobility through poetry, stories, or other prose.

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