Excerpts from expat life in Sudan
Today, we welcome Nigel Winnard in Khartoum, Sudan to our ‘expat coffee morning’.
Where do you currently live and how did you come to be there?
I live in Khartoum, Sudan with my wife Natasha and 9-year old son George. I moved here back in 2005 as founding head of a new international school. Natasha and George joined me here in early 2006. Before coming to Sudan we lived in Brazil and before that the Philippines.
What does ‘home’ mean to you?
Home is bit of an evolving concept! We are originally from the UK and have a house there, so I guess we will always be British and see the UK as our home. That said, having lived in Sudan for a little over a decade we see it very much as home as well. We don’t see it as an either/or situation: home can be more than one place.
What is really interesting is to look at the concept of home through the eyes of my 9 year old son. For him, Sudan has been the place he has known the most all his life. It is where his friends are and where the majority of his childhood milestones have happened. Yet we have worked hard – well, my wife Natasha has if I’m honest – to build memories and a sense of home in the UK as well. Where once we travelled widely during summer vacations, now we spend time in the UK. We both feel it is important for our son to connect and identify with his history and heritage as well as grow and feel confident as a global citizen living overseas.
Do you have a few words of advice on coping with the first six months of a move?
Pay attention to basic needs before anything else: home, health, safety and security.Although it is quite some time since we last moved, I see and experience the move a great many times each year through the parents with whom I work and the teachers who work for me. Without a doubt the best advice is to pay attention to basic needs before anything else: home, health, safety and security.
If you don’t feel comfortable in your new home then no amount of professional fulfilment will make up for it when the doubts creep in – and they will creep in, believe me. Have we made the right move? Is the school ok for my kids? Do I trust the doctors here? Is the food clean?
Reach out. Put ego to one side and connect with your child’s school.The other piece of advice I have is more specifically for families: reach out. Put ego to one side and connect with your child’s school, its parents association and the opportunity that the school offers to build a network. A good international school will recognise its responsibility to support families in transition and can do so much to support you as you get to grips with life in your new posting.
Is there something that you wish you’d known before moving?
When I first went overseas – and I’ve been an expat for going on for 20 years now – the internet was in its infancy. Today’s social networking technologies (Facebook, Twitter, What’s App etc) offer incredible opportunities to build connections with your new location before you even step on the plane. This wasn’t possible when I first went overseas in the early 1990s. If you aren’t an avid user I would strongly advise you to learn. You’ll be glad you did as you connect with a whole world of people like you who have ‘been there’.
Your best moment to date?
So many moments to choose from! One that pops into my head was on holiday on the Kenyan island of Lamu a few years ago. We kind of ‘lost’ our young son (I know, bad parents…) one Friday morning. We scoured the sandy lanes in the village to no avail. Then we heard voices and, on rounding a corner, I saw my son through an open window. He had made friends with some local boys and was happily in the Madrasa (Koran school) with them as they were having their lesson! A little Caucasian Christian boy laughing and joking with his new Kenyan Muslim friends. Just imagine if the rest of the world was as comfortable with difference?
Nigel Winnard is a 20 year veteran of international schools around the world. For the last decade, he served as a founding head of the Khartoum International Community School, the only IB World School in Sudan.
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