Thursday, June 21, 2018

TCK Identity: I am a walking exotic complication

The wind makes me feel so free and happy. Helsingborg, Sweden. Oct 2017.

To understand a third culture kid is to dissect a Kue Lapis (thousand layer cake) or a millefeuille. Or if you love wine as much as I do, a heavily textured aged wine. There are so many layers to a person who identifies as having grown up as a TCK. I am no different. But perhaps it does get a bit complicated from the historical point of view.
Some people have told me that I am exotic. What does the word exotic mean?

exotic
adjective
  1. 1. 
    originating in or characteristic of a distant foreign country.

    "exotic birds"

    synonyms:foreignnon-nativetropical

noun
  1. 1. 
    an exotic plant or animal.

    "he planted exotics in the sheltered garden"




In most instances, when someone tells me that I am exotic, I want to punch them in the face because I am not an animal or a person to be stared at like exotic animals in a zoo or fetishised. Lets start with the complications...
My name...
My name gives no indication to my ethnicity, nationality, or birthplace (yes ALL three represent different countries).
My cultural belonging and accent is also associated with a country that is neither of the above because I grew up in International Schools. But also one of my previous homes. I have multiple around the world.
My parents grew up straddling different cultures, countries, racism, and multilingual households. Bless them. Yes, it gets complicated.
My ethnicity or heritage if you were to get into the nuances of history has had tumultuous bouts of racial riots, racism, hierarchy, segregation, ridicule, nomadism, immigration, to put it simply: complication.
The sum of all these parts are just the starting point of how textural and "exotic" complex being that I started with.

But I am not special. At least I do not think I am.

I just have whole load of very different stories that most people who have "sown and grown in one place" (Alex Graham James poem from the TCK "bible" of Third Culture Kids). I am different. And difference in society gets marginalised, bullied, put on a pedestal, exoticsized, fetishised, "model minority", martyr, etc. I am different when I am in places where I look different than most. I am different when I am in places where I look like I should belong. Over the years, I have embraced this difference but most have not.

So no, TCKs shouldn't be placed in the "special" category. We have different stories but we also have similar stories of growing up, coming to terms with dealing with adolescence, growing pains, going to university, living on your own, working, settling into a routine schedule, etc. It doesn't matter where one lives. The point is that we are all human and we are just trying to exist in this world together.





Monday, June 4, 2018

Third Culture Kid Spotlight: Meet Jenny!

This global citizen and adult third culture kid is truly remarkable. Meet Jenny!



What is your name? 
Jenny Vera Sorn Jensen

Where were you born?
Bangkok, Thailand

What is your heritage?
Danish, 
German, 
Thai, 
Chinese, 
and Native American

Where have you lived and how long at each place?
Merrill, Wisconsin 2 years
Mumbai, India 3 years,
Mahe, Seychelles 3 years,
Istanbul, Turkey 2 years,
Bangkok, Thailand 3.5 years,
New Delhi India 3 years,
Green Bay Wisconsin, USA 2.5
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, USA 2.5
Silver Spring, Maryland, Washington, DC, and Burke, Virginia USA 3 years,
Raleigh North Carolina, USA 15 years,
Atlanta, Georgia USA, 1 year

What is your definition of 'home' and how is it different from those around you?
I discovered while I was in college, that home was a very different concept for me versus my peers. This came to light when a good friend of mine was sad and upset that her parents were selling her childhood home.  To her home was that house, she had the same bedroom from birth till she went to college. I could not wrap my head around that concept. To me home was where ever I happen to be, it’s not structure, not really a place even, just where I am.

Where do you consider home and why?
My definition of home has not changed, it is where I happen to be. Even when I visit places I tend to call the hotel room, ‘home,’ and the place where all my things are as home base. Right now home base is Atlanta.
However, when people ask me where I am from, I tend to say Raleigh, North Carolina since I lived there for 15 years. It is much easier to say that then to explain, why I’m from everywhere and nowhere and feel like a citizen of the world. 

Do you have interests in the following: foreign languages, international relations, travelling, international politics, different cultures of the world, etc...  Yes/No If so, do you think your background has helped you develop these interests? 
Yes!! I believe my background helped foster my love and  for travelling, history, foreign languages, international politics and cultures.  I realized once I came to study in my country of passport that I was the odd duck out. Many of my peers never moved from their birth city, let alone lived outside the US.  At an early age TCK’s learn to adapt, explore and adopt languages, customs and weave those into our own fabrics. This makes us unique, since we lived in places that most people only read about, or see in movies. What some consider far flung places we use to call home base, and we saw firsthand how policies and politics play out on the world stage. We were effected. By the age of 10 I have lived through 2 coup attempts in the Seychelles Islands, and while the majority of the world does not follow what goes on in that tiny island nation- I do.  The need to know what is going on in the places I lived in is very strong. My heart has been broken many times over the violence and elections in Istanbul. To know that New Delhi is getting hotter each year due to climate change is hard to observe.  I follow my old home base cities closely, but also follow the rest of the world.

What are your thoughts on globalization? Current political situation? 
The world has gotten smaller and smaller with each passing year. I grew up in a world with no email, and received my first email address when I got to college. Now I can video chat with my cousins in Thailand through a phone. Technology is amazing! The world will continue to get smaller for better or worse, and I try to see the good that comes from that, but I am well aware of the consequences too. Politically, this world is in a mess- not just the USA and the UK,  but the whole world. I view this as the last gasp of the an old ways of thinking, and this will pass.

How are your thoughts on world affairs different from those around you?
I believe I am more interested and in tune with world affairs than most of my peers and colleagues. Most people only care about what is happening in their own surroundings, with not much attention to rest of the world. However, I have found some of my peers are interested in European politics, but that is where that interest ends.  
Do you plan on incorporating a large amount of travel with your career?
Yes yes yes! In fact I travel a lot in my current position, and I believe more travel is on the horizon and I welcome it with open arms!

Connect with Jenny on Facebook and LinkedIn


Thank you Jenny for sharing your story!! If you would like to be featured on this series please drop me an email at ahdancecompany@gmail.com





Friday, April 20, 2018

FIGT conference 2018: Reconnecting and connecting with other ATCKs and Expats


Coming home to my "tribe" of people who just "get it"

In 2009, I wrote to a lady named Tina Quick (Author of The Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition and Survive and Thrive) about being an Adult Third Culture Kid. At the time, I was in the midst of resurrecting some choreography from my senior thesis production of "Third Culture Kids" to create "Chameleon, the experiences of Global Citizens" dance production and the start of this blog. She told me about a conference called Families in Global Transitions that happened annually.

A whole conference with Expat writers, researchers, and TCKs!?!!! Whoa...

Ruth Van Reken who wrote the TCK 'bible' book "Third Culture Kids" with David C. Pollock was one of the pioneers and started this conference 20 years ago.

I sent in my conference proposal to showcase my simple documentary film "I am a TCK" which would later be used as the backdrop and catalyst for the dance production and proposed to perform my short solo as an excerpt and do a little movement improvisation workshop with the large "jewelry" chains that TCK Jewelry designer, Natalia Krasnodebska created specifically for Chameleon based on her own TCK experiences.

Chameleon Project- TCK Arts in the Community from Alaine Handa on Vimeo.


Little did I know that my proposal would get accepted into the conference in 2010! That was such a busy year for Chameleon with the premiere at University Settlement, Capital Fringe Festival, International Childrens' Festival, and multiple excerpts performed in smaller festivals in the NYC Tri-State area. I received my first grant from Singapore International Foundation...the list goes on and then receiving a scholarship for me to attend and present at FIGT 2010 in Houston.

THAT was 8 years ago... life was so different.

The subsequent years of 2011 and 2012 rode on the hurricane of 2010.

Then I moved to the other side of the world halfway through 2012. It was tumultuous and dramatic.

My life changed so dramatically.

Ok, I can do this... I thought. I've lived here before. Why is it so hard? Reverse culture shock hit me hard. I felt really lost. Life events happened that changed the course of my life in a dramatic way and it took me a long time to find my feet again.

A really long time...

6 years later, I found myself at FIGT 2018 conference in The Hague.

I missed "the tribe" and reconnecting with all the faces and friends whom I've stayed in contact with over the years via Facebook and email really left me glassy-eyed. They "get it". Words cannot express what a wonderful group of ATCKs, Expats, writers, researchers, trainers, coaches, educators that comprise the family at FIGT are. The organisation and the conference has grown tremendously and more people are coming in droves.


For a group of Global Citizens its hard to navigate the cultural landscape of the world sometimes. People will judge you and label you a certain way that will often make you feel misunderstood. Returning to FIGT after all those years was refreshing for me and talking to people about their experiences and my experiences was like therapy.


There were some familiar faces and they welcomed me with open arms. The new faces were plenty and inspiring. The sessions I chose were really hard to sit through because they hit so close to my heart. I really needed space to recover.

I caught myself crying in a corner a few times.

Pull it together Alaine....

My co-presentation about telling stories with Olga was very technical and we gave clear examples how one can tell our stories: the good, bad, ugly about growing up as a TCK and living around the world as an expat.

A shout out (and many hugs) to Isabelle Min, Arnie Krogh, Katarina Holm-Didio, Eva Laszlo-Herbert, Amanda Bates, Olga Mecking, Tina Quick, Ruth Van Reken, Judy Rickatson, Kaye Rickatson, Kira Miller, Alice Wu, Kristine Racina, Marilyn Gardner, and so many more... I miss the tribe!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Third Culture Kid Spotlight: Lisa

A fascinating woman who I've come to know through the TCK networks and has lived all over the world. Meet Lisa! 


1. What is your name? 
Risa but I go by Lisa (it does make a difference! Read more about it here: https://melibeeglobal.com/blog/2012/12/cultural-lessons-in-a-name/)

2. Where were you born? 

Tokyo, Japan

3. What is your heritage? 

100% Japanese 






4. Where have you lived and how long at each place?


Tokyo, Japan: 8 months
Sao Paolo, Brazil: 2 years
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 2 years
Seattle, WA, USA: 4 years
Bronx, NY, USA: 3 years
Mexico City, Mexico: 9 years
Pullman, WA, USA: 4 years
Seattle, WA: 6 years
Farmington, NM, USA: almost 3 years

5. What is your definition of "home" and how is it different from those around you? 
My definition of 'home' has changed these last couple of years. It used to be that 'home' is wherever my parents lived. My parents continuously kept the inside of our houses the same wherever we lived, so it never felt different.  Sure, the outside and layout of our houses/apartment were different depending on which country we lived in, but the inside never changed.  After moving out of my parents' house, living on my own, I've slowly shifted the definition of home to where I feel I can make it on my own.  Many TCKs I know can't pinpoint one location as home, and I can agree.  "Home" is not a location, it's more of a state of mind, or feeling.



6. Where do you consider "home" and why? 
Whenever a world event is occurring like the Olympics or World Cup, I always root for Brazil, Japan, and the US.  I suppose that's because I've lived there, and will always be my homes.

7. Do you have interests in the following: foreign languages, international relations, travelling, international politics, different cultures of the world, etc...  Yes/No If so, do you think your background has helped you develop these interests? 
Yes to all.  I think my background as a TCK really developed these interests as it's always been a part of my life and who I am as an individual. 

8. What are your thoughts on globalization? Current political situation? 
I think the term globalization has come and gone throughout the years, but the concept remains.  It's come to a point where it's so fluid within our daily lives, that not many step back to see what's really going on.  Technology at times blends the idea we may be closer to one another than we might think, but, we have a long journey ahead to really see how globalization affects us on a societal level.  We need to be aware and understand what's going on around us, not just internationally but locally--ask questions, and dig deeper to understand others' points of views.



9. How are your thoughts on world affairs different from those around you?  
Some of my thoughts are the same as Americans, and other times, slightly different.  We have all led different paths of life, so there's going to be similarities and differences.  The important part of all of this is to be able to create spaces that allows for a free form of dialogue.  

10. Do you plan on incorporating a large amount of travel with your career?  
I'd love to be in a career that allows me to travel as part of my job, but in the mean time, I will always take time to explore the unknown. 



Thank you Lisa for sharing your story!! If you would like to be featured on this series please drop me an email at ahdancecompany@gmail.com