Thursday, March 24, 2011

Families in Global Transition Conference 2011: Reflections on my sessions

(Photograph taken during the panel discussion of the Families in Global Transition Conference)

The Families in Global Transition Conference of 2011 came and went. I wanted to vlog after day two but I was so exhausted that I just crashed. So many new friends, new connections, and seeing old friends, rekindling connections. Its amazing that a conference of Third Culture Kids, Cross Culture Kids, Third Culture Adults, TCK Researchers, Expatriates, Relocation & Transitions experts, Global Coaches, TCK/TCA/CCK/Expat Writers, and of course Artists (there were a handful of us this year!) can connect on so many different levels. Its no wonder that this conference is called "Families".

I presented twice on Friday (day two) of the conference during the "Kitchen Table Conversations" and the "Kitchen Table Conversation alternatives".

I spoke about how to create an active TCK community and used Chameleon as the project example but also spoke about my role as event organizer of the NYC TCK Meetup group. I utilized my alumni network, social media, and research skills to create a healthy TCK network to rekindle friendships and make new friends, who all happen to be TCKs. Stressing that you're there to make connections and friends is important b/c building a trust among friendships is the key to maintaining that connection. As humans we strive for a commonality among us when we strike up a conversation so its important that if we are to gain new friends that are TCKs to find those commonalities. I also showed an edited mash up video of the community based activities we've done with Chameleon so far to create a sense of community and a short clip of our performances in various settings.

During the Kitchen Table Alternatives, I started with a movement improvisation "ice-breaker" using the props that TCK jewelry designer, Natalia Krasnodebska created for Chameleon w/ the group. We moved with the prop singly (w/ our eyes closed so we're not self-conscious) then "connected" with a partner then as a whole group creating a "twister" like effect which made everyone smile. The next activity we did is a free-write for 5 minutes. Everyone chose a piece of colored paper and wrote for 5 minutes. During a free-write, the person writes without censoring themselves and it can be prose, poetry, words, scribbles. After the 5 minutes, I had everyone read out loud to themselves their musings. We circled important words, phrases, sentences and then shared them with partners. I found that the way chose to organize our thoughts on paper, our choice of words/phrases were a reflection of who we are as individuals and how we approach certain topics, situations, problem solve, etc. I thought that was an interesting discovery. The next activity involved drawing "When I think of home, I think of..." & "Home means... to me". I mentioned that the choice of color that each person chose is also a reflection of who you are and that color may evoke a certain happy memory. Colors are strong memory markers that can evoke feelings, memories that may or may not be remembered otherwise. After the drawing exercise, we created movement that was a response to our drawing which can be literal or abstract. I then played the role of choreographer and placed everyone in a formation that was fitting for their movement to reflect the whole group as a whole. I discovered that almost everyone in the room had a flight-y or moving sense to their movement while my dear boyfriend who is a CCK sat down in a meditative pose while everyone swirled around. That was our dance.

This kind of process is also my process for creating movement for Chameleon there's a sense of trust and community when working with my dancers in this way. I also find that these mini-activities can also be used to "un-block" memories and experiences that we've held in our sub-conscious for a while. Tapping into the unconscious latent desires and feelings. The writers in the room were having a mental block in their process of writing their book so I hope that this session helped release or ease that "blockage". I find that quite a number TCKs tend to hold back on a lot of memories/experiences for fear of being misunderstood, ridicule, and use defense mechanisms to "block" these things out for survival. When all of these "blocks" are created over the years and build up, this can actually hinder us from moving forward and overcoming relationship problems, career problems, and even developmental growth.

I am still in the process of breaking down some of these "blocks" that hinder my growth.

(More thoughts to come about the remainder of the conference later..)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Families in Global Transition Conference 2010 notes (highlights) AND upcoming 2011 plans

As some of you know, I attended last year's Families in Global Transitions Conference on a full scholarship and also presented my session "The Expat Experience through the Arts" in which I did a mini-dance workshop for the attendees in my session. I found some of the notes I took during the conference and wanted to share with you some highlights:

From Joyce Bennett's "The Multicultural Self in the Intercultural World" session:

When we adapt…. We adapt a lot. Adapting to all those difference, then you realize one day when you wake up…. Who am I?

Living on the edge of two cultures.

“I will never be a part of these cultures… I will always be on the edge”

Being the dominant culture during the day and then going home to a different culture.

Bringing in your multi-cultural self to the office to gain more productivity

Impact of going overseas and then come back:

- The shocking find some people that hated going abroad and then came back with less cultural sensitivity

- When you go educate the person in that country the result is a lot more positive

- Getting people a safe place gives them more learning in that context – going to their “home” while they are abroad so they can compare notes

From Ruth Van Reken's "Teaching Locally, Thinking Globally: Helping School Educators Understand the Third Culture Kid Experience" session:

Academic learning may suffer if student doesn’t understand expectations of new school

What happens if educators don’t recognize these often hidden cross-cultural experiences among students?

- Social interactions may be misinterpretated

- Students can be shamed in many ways

o Stories may not be trusted

o May be accused of bragging

o Even teacher’s teasing can shame (story of DW)

- The wealth of what they know through life itself is lost to the class

- Child can be placed in wrong grade

- Learning disabilities may be overlooked

What are some obstacles to their awareness?

- Many teachers in local schools have not knowingly lived among different cultural worlds

- If acknowledged, TCKs may be seen as “elite few”

- Often cultural diversity of TCKs is invisible

- Old diversity models not adequate for today’s changing world

Immigrants are also having TCK-like experiences because they juggle between world

Educating teachers – tell the story by listening to the childrens’ story what they had to say and have them discuss amongst themselves so that every one can discuss where their story comes from

Diversity is not simply a difference in the visible layers of culture

How do you transition within your culture?

I'll be presenting again at this year's FIGT conference in Washington DC this week and I'll be taking notes, blogging, tweeting, posting pics, and maybe if I have time some vlogging too.

Here are my session descriptions:

Kitchen Table Conversations 1:

Building a TCK Community Through the Arts
Alaine Handa

I spent the past year developing and showcasing my multi-disciplinary arts project, Chameleon. Every person involved in the project is either a TCK or CCK. The support from the TCK community has been wonderful. In this table conversation, I want to show you short video clips of the responses from our community-based activities. The TCK community can be united outside of the School-Church-University club setting, even with our busy lives.

Kitchen Table Alternatives 2:

Unleashing Your Creative Potential Through the Arts
Alaine Handa

Do you get a “block” trying to write your article/book, choreograph a dance, paint a picture, design an outfit, etc.? In this session, mini-activities using movement, character writing, art therapy, and free-write will be introduced, to help you unlock creative potential that can become material for your work. TCKs are rich with unconscious thoughts that may or may not have been repressed. By unleashing these vulnerable thoughts, we let go of what we have kept “locked” inside and can use it as material to move on with our mobile lives.

I hope you check out Families in Global Transitions Conference and follow my live tweets @ahdancecompany (to follow other folks at the conference who will be live tweeting search for #FIGTConf)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dancing with props: Rehearsal video from Fall 2010

Rehearsal footage from Chameleon, Fall 2010

Dancer in the video: Lara Sofia Romero, Laura Lamp, Heather Wigmore, Sheila Klein, Tsubasa Ogawa

Choreography by Alaine Handa and Dancers

Prop Design by Natalia Krasnodebska (Check out her website!

More video links of dancing with the props:

Emily & Shayna's solo & monologue

Anna & Ivi's solo

Chameleon excerpt from "Converge"