In 1975, when I was 6, we moved to Cairo, Egypt. We lived there for 4 years, and I went to Cairo American College, which at the time was a school of almost 1000 students from all walks of life. Being in Egypt from 1st through 4th grade gave me a very different perspective on life than my older brothers. I don't really remember living in America, and to me growing up climbing pyramids and visiting old Pharaoh's tombs was no big deal; I did not realize how lucky I was to have these opportunities! In hindsight, I learned far more than school ever taught me... being one of the minority (English speaking), as well as seeing all walks of life, from those living in mud houses (and happy!) to the very wealthy in their palaces and armies of servants. At the time, this was definitely not a highly civilized place... the food from the market was suspect, so we had to be careful what we ate, and where it was bought from. The local water was worse than one could imagine - there were times when I filled a glass from the sink, and looked carefully, that I could see things moving in there! We were supposed to drink boiled water only... but a 7 year old does not really understand too much about health and diseases; it was closer to grab water from the bathroom! As a child, I was a true to my Norwegian blood: a blue-eyed, blond. Many Egyptians had never seen blond hair, so they were always grabbing my head to see if it was real; it was alien for anybody to have anything except dark hair and dark eyes!
In 1979, our family moved to Stavanger, Norway. To my mother, this was like a dream come true -- she is full Norwegian (though she was born and raised in New York City!). This meant that everywhere I turned, I found somebody who was related to me! Norwegians had a habit of being from large families- both my maternal grandparents were had about 10 siblings! In any event, this was definitely quite a change from Egypt. I went to SAMS, "Stavanger American School", way back when it was split up into 3 different campuses: 1-4, 5&6, 7-12. Compared to Egypt, this was a class-1 clean room! It was incredible to be in civilization, where we could buy food in stores, and take public transportation without worrying about being mauled and/or robbed.
Next Chapter: Glen does America... (hey, I just finished this, lemme get some rest!)
In 1981, my Dad was given the opportunity to move to England... but our family was actually given a choice because there were no American schools where we were going. Still, it was a chance to move to a country where we spoke the same language! We moved that summer. My brother and I went to Norwich School, which was also named "King Edward VI", or King Ed's for short. We were the only two Americans there. The school has roots dating back to the 1100's, when Norwich Cathedral was built. The monks started teaching kids, and it grew from there. In the 1500's, it became an official school - and I swear my Geology teacher was there at that time as well!
The school... it was an all-male school, we had school uniforms (basically a suit), we had classes 6-days per week, and had to call the teachers "Sir" or "Ma'am". This was definitely not an easy thing to get used to! I continuously rebelled, stubbornly trying to maintain my American heritage. My English teacher referred to me as "The American Rebel". As I got older, I started going out more, and my last couple of years there were a blast. At the time, the drinking age was a moving target: if you were with your parents, you could drink non-spirits at 5. Alone, you could drink at 14 with a meal, and 16 otherwise. You were supposed to be 18 for spirits... but the truth was if your voice had broken and you could reach the bar, you generally got your poison!
And let me tell you- British beer is not like the rest! They had some pretty potent concoctions, such as Sbake-Bite, which was half cider and half lager. British cider is not your American Thanksgiving variety... the combined mixture had roughly 10% alcohol! Factor in the standard British 20-ounce pint... and you are quickly learning one of the favorite British past-times, Pub-crawling!
At the time, they said that Norwich (a town of about 300,000) had a different pub for every night of the week and a church for every Sunday! There was definitely a pub everywhere you turned. Our school was situated near the city center. Within 200 yards of the Cathedral's front gates, there were 7 pubs! One of them, Adam & Eve, is the oldest continuously-operating pub in England (the world?), built in 1249.
Since I lived in England from 12-17, my formative years, I unknowingly became English. This was very apparent when I came back to America at 17 to start college... and found I had very little in common with my classmates!