My Expat Story: Kathleen Saville

At Global Living Magazine we want to connect with our readers — know what you’re all about, what you love, where you’ve been and where you’re going. The best way to do this? Hear it straight from YOU!

Kathleen in the Gilf Kebir region of the Western Desert of Egypt on a desert safari in June with friends from the American University in Cairo. [Courtesy of Kathleen Saville]

Kathleen in the Gilf Kebir region of the Western Desert of Egypt on a desert safari in June with friends from the American University in Cairo. [Courtesy of Kathleen Saville]

We received an email from Kathleen Saville, an American expat who has lived in Cairo, Egypt since 1997 and who is a senior instructor in the Department of Rhetoric and Composition at the American University in Cairo.

What’s your favorite part of expatriate life?

I love being a stranger in a foreign country. I live in the Middle East and for years family and friends back in the U.S. have asked if I feel safe here. I’ve always answered yes. Despite the recent difficulties in Egypt post Arab Spring, it remains like no other country I have lived in. I still get a thrill in my gut every time I think about where I am living and working.

What’s been the hardest part?

Lately, it’s been the political uncertainties of everyday life in Egypt even though I live in the wonderful and upscale neighborhood of Zamalek. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve lived here, I’m still a foreigner and maybe someday I’ll just have to leave whether I’m ready or not. I think, ultimately, the hardest part of expat living is always being a foreigner especially when it becomes part of who you are.

As a long term expat, it’s always important to be the one who says goodbye to those leaving the country and not the opposite. In other words, it can be tough saying goodbye when you’re not ready.

Where have you lived around the world? Favorite places?

I’ve been living in Cairo, Egypt since 1997. Before that I lived in Kuwait City, Kuwait, Lahore and Islamabad, Pakistan and onboard an ocean rowboat in the Atlantic Ocean and South Pacific Ocean for a few years. I’d have to say the favorite places have been where I’ve lived on or anchored in the harbors of South Pacific and Atlantic islands. Right now, I live on Gezeira Island in the Nile River. All the islands I’ve lived on and/or anchored at have been especially important in my life.

Where do you want to move to eventually?

I want to move to Southeast Asia for a short stint and of course, I imagine myself returning to the U.S. It always seems though that there is yet another place overseas that I must visit and perhaps live in.

What’s your sense of ‘home’?

This is a great question because it seems to be at the heart of our make up as long-term expats. Home used to be only New England, specially Rhode Island where my parents reside and Vermont where I own a house. But at some point in the past 17 years of living in the Middle East, the concept of ‘home’ became another way of framing my lifestyle. I love coming to Vermont in the summers but I love returning to my life overseas. I think having great friends who are also long-term expats contributes to that sense of homecoming every fall where I return to Cairo and my job. Home, for me, is where I am happiest at the moment. It’s no longer tied to a geographical location where say, my parents live. Perhaps, my sense of long-term wanderlust comes from having grandparents that immigrated from the beautiful islands of the Azores and the British Isles, respectively. Unlike their generation that tended to live on their ‘new islands’ for the rest of their lives, I am someone who can’t have just one home.

Share anything else you’d like us to hear!

Thanks for the chance to talk expat living!

If you’d like to be featured on our “My Expat Story” section, send an email to us at info@globallivingmagazine.com and tell us about your experience as an expatriate and/or global citizen. Don’t forget to include your Twitter handle so we can help you connect with other expats from around the world!

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