Moving around as a diplomatic kid had some challenges, there is a sense of losing ones innocence early on, we were consistently posted to poverty stricken and politically unstable countries, but a gift at seeing life with your eyes wide open. We always had household staff when we were abroad. Sometimes it was bothersome, and other times, it felt like you had more Aunts and Uncles around that you couldn’t get rid of, which was always fun.
I was not a huge Barbie fan, or maybe, I was in some ways, it just started late. Just before my 10th birthday, we moved to the Philippines, it was an incredibly lonely and harsh birthday, mostly because I left all of my friends back in Canada. I received 2 Barbies for my 10th birthday, both beautiful and fun. One was blonde with a shiny mermaid dress, which my parents had given me, the other was a rock star, with neon tights, she was given to me by the staff at the embassy, which actually meant more to me than any other gift. I played with the Barbies for a year, they helped me through the harsh realities of parents who were never home, and culture shock that was relentless. I spent many hours pretending they were my friends back home, playing dress-up, until finally, that culture shock disappeared, and I outgrew those Barbies. They lay in a shoebox carefully wrapped in their perfect garments.
Years later, they ended up with us on posting to Venezuela. The family expanded, yet again, the embassy driver that came to pick my father up everyday, was a lovely man, for the purpose of this story I will just call him J. He was loyal to a country that he had never been to, nor could he ever afford to visit. He never seemed to stop smiling, it was always a gift to see his smiling face in the morning.
Everyday, my Spanish became stronger, the more fluent I became, the more I got to know J. He was a family man, and fiercely proud of his 8-year-old daughter. He wanted to give her everything he possibly could, but couldn’t afford everything she wanted. The one thing, was a Barbie. Since I was older, I hadn’t looked at the prices of toys in Caracas, everything was expensive, I had just never realized that the cost of a Barbie was equivalent to two weeks salary. An embassy job was incredible, but still not the highest paying. I couldn’t believe how much they were in such a poor country, they were 10x more expensive than they were in Canada, and they cost about 50x more than they had in the Philippines.
Since I was leaving for school in Canada, I forgot about the cost of Barbie and occupied myself with school It was at a weird moment in a store before heading back to Venezuela for Christmas, that I walked past a Barbie and thought about buying it and bringing it back, but had no money. I was fretting about it, and agonizing over it. I really wanted to give J a Barbie for his daughter. Then I realized, that there was a shoebox with 2 wrapped Barbies, and a small trunk full of clothing in my closet at home.
I arrived at the International Airport outside of Caracas to a very happy Father, and a driver that smiled sweetly and began to tell me all about his daughter who just turned 9. My Father said in English that he couldn’t believe that the driver was just as excited to see me as he was. I didn’t bother to unpack until I found that shoebox, but the moment I found it, I saw two perfectly wrapped Barbies in mint condition. I wrapped them back up and put a bow around the box, and found all of the extra Barbie clothes I had collected.
The next morning, I heard the gate open, and I ran downstairs with the packages. I presented them to the kind-hearted J and apologized profusely that they were not new. He looked at me in shock, and had tears rolling down his cheeks. He was so happy that he carefully put them in the trunk of the car.
I still picture the beautiful Barbie that was given to me by the staff at the embassy in the Philippines, in the hands of another embassy child around the world. In many ways, the Barbie was more special to give away than giving a new one.
I hope somewhere, that Barbie has another home, or maybe J’s daughter now has a daughter of her own who is playing with it, who knows. I managed to keep in touch for a few years, but lost track after too many moves.
Have a wonderful day,
Travel Lady with Baby