Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Third Culture Kid identity: Struggling with claustrophobia in this global COVID-19 pandemic

Sunbathing and dancing under the sun in Lund

I have a confession to make... I struggle from claustrophobia

As an adult third culture kid, globetrotter, and home body. I struggle with feeling trapped. Trapped inside crowded places is one of my biggest fears but also feeling mentally trapped. With all the border closures and each country taking its own stance on restricting citizens, residents, and non-residents - it feels very claustrophobic for me. Borders and countries with strict visa laws have always been hurdles for me to overcome which at times feel exhausting but not impossible. 

But this COVID-19 pandemic makes me feel like the world is closing into itself. As a third culture kid with family strewn across the world in different places, I've always felt proud to say I'm a global citizen and can visit my family and friends and feel welcomed. But with this pandemic, people become isolated. Social distancing is the norm. No visitors are allowed into homes. No gatherings of friends. A lot of restrictions to where you can and cannot travel to. 

I like staying home actually so social distancing is technically not that challenging but more of a mental game. Not having the option to meet up with a friend for a meal or coffee is tough. Because you don't know if your friend or family member or yourself is a carrier. People have become cautious around each other. I've turned into a bit of a hypochondriac since January when the coronavirus arrived in Singapore just as Lunar New Year celebrations were starting. What was supposed to be a social period became interrupted and meeting friends were lessened and chosen carefully to pick spots that had good ventilation or outdoor seating. I'm not really a fan of sitting in the heat and humidity of Singapore but because it was safe then to meet in places like that. 
A lot has changed since then. I flew to Sweden just before Valentine's day so I could be with my boyfriend and cat. Everything quickly escalated. The number of cases increased in Italy, Spain, German, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and of course Sweden in a few short weeks. I was in Åre for a few days at the beginning of March for a quick ski trip when the cases in Italy were sharply increasing and then people were coming back to Sweden from their ski trips to the alps which in turn spiked the number of Covid19 cases in Sweden. I was practicing social distancing during my trip and was cleaning surfaces at the airport, airplane, and bus before sitting down. Luckily after skiing, I was so tired that my dinners were very quiet and I avoided crowded places. 

I had a conference in Bangkok mid March, a popup event at a organic and natural store in Singapore, a private baking birthday party in Singapore, and another conference in Singapore at the end of March planned. These were all events I had counted on to boost sales and branding of my cookbook "In search of the best Swedish chokladbollar". ALL of these events were cancelled one by one. I canceled all my flights. Calling the airline company was really tough as everyone seemed to be calling to postpone or cancel their flights at the same time.




The news is very anxiety-inducing as more news pour in from the United States, Singapore, Sweden, and global news. We have to remind ourselves to shut off the barrage of information.

Keeping sane by doing small things each day that I enjoy. Here are some of the things I've been doing: Reading a book, cooking, baking, dancing, working on my blog, posting past travel pictures on Instagram, working out, studying Swedish, cuddling my boyfriend and cat, binge watching shows on Netflix and SVT, sleeping in and napping, and most recently been adding biking around the neighborhood since I've purchased a new bike!


Sweden isn't on a lockdown like a lot of countries around the world but people are given recommendations for social distancing, staying at home as much as possible, frequent hand washing, and stay at home if one feels the slightest bit of feeling unwell and groups of 50 or more are banned. I think these are good guidelines to abide by and Singapore was doing this for the longest time before it went on lockdown a few weeks ago. However, there's always a bunch of people who aren't adhering the guidelines set in place. These guidelines are set in place so the spread of the virus is slowed and healthcare facilities are not experiencing a surge like in places like Italy, New York City, Wuhan, and other epicentres. You probably already about this enough... 

The weather is getting nicer by the day and having a bike around or just stepping into the backyard patio feels good. However, there are so many people either panicking or not caring that it makes the whole situation feel uneasy. I'm still feeling claustrophobic mentally because I can't travel anywhere, and events are all canceled. It feels weird and surreal at the same time.  

How is everyone feeling? 


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Third Culture Kid spotlight: Meet Jesse


Sometimes you meet other TCKs online that have an interesting story to tell. Check out Jesse's story...


What is your name?
Jesse 


Where were you born?

Tokyo, Japan


What is your heritage?

Half Japanese, Half Caucasian 


Where have you lived and how long at each place?
Japan 1 year 
13 years in Seattle 
5 years in Japan by 18/19. 
And then College in US. 
In total: 24 years in US, 6 years living in Japan.

What is your definition of "home" and how is it different from those around you?
I'm now 31. If you asked me that when I was 20 I would have answered entirely different as I had a bad case of reverse culture shock. I slept in my car. The only time I felt "at home," was while in movement. As a musician, that meant feeling at peace while touring around the country. The moment I sat still was the moment I wanted to be somewhere else. Now, home is with my family- my wife and daughter. Anywhere we go will be centered around them and we'll call that place home. So, in essence, people.



Where do you consider "home" and why?
Seattle, Washington is my home because I overcame that part of my life that had such an intense grip on me. I talk about it in my book, but it was a very confusing time to come back to the US. Seattle though is where I met my wife, and we have roots here.

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?

I used to have far more of an interest to a point where I couldn't really relate to people my age. Now, I still do in international relations, traveling, international politics, and especially cultures. I feel right in place within an international community.

What are your thoughts on globalization? Current political situation?

The current US political situation? Or my thoughts on globalization in general? I am constantly growing. Ask me 10 years ago, my answer would have been entirely different. Ask me 5, and it would have been different as well. Today, I love that we live in a digital world where everyone can connect. That said, there are obvious cultural differences, boundaries, rules of laws- that enable countries to operate in any way they see fit. I really wrestled with the United States for a while, but I've come out loving the US because of my experiences in various other cultures. The way the government is set up, the freedoms that we have, (and often abuse) are beautiful. 



How are your thoughts on world affairs different from those around you?
I have an actual world view, which often separates entirely from those around me. So when someone calls out a certain hot topic issue, my first question is often, "compared to what?" Our world today has shifted it's focus from ideas to surface level things. We want obvious rather than the philosophies of ideas behind them. It's a strange time to be alive politically, because people have a hard time separating emotions from ideas. It's why I've quit music, (for the most part) and become a writer. Writing has the ability to communicate ideas far greater than what music has become in my opinion. In the arts, for example, I find it fascinating that so many artists think exactly the same way on so many issues. As if creatives couldn't think creatively and have separate opinions. Therefore, when I talk to people I often times just observe what they are saying and ask them questions to get to the root of what they are saying. The difference is world experience, but also, being able to both relate and still come up with a take on life that isn't centered around experiences but of ideas.

Do you plan on incorporating a large amount of travel with your career?
My wife has her Masters in Social Work. Our dream is to do plenty of work all across the globe. Our passion centers around Thailand where we want to start coffee farms. I've been there a couple times and also do business there. Besides that, we'd love to have the opportunity to continue to travel. She's Laotian and has traveled more than I. We have a heart for people in South East Asia, but we want to go to other countries such as Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Short answer, yes. 


Follow Jesse on social media and his blog: 
http://www.jesselmcdaniel.wordpress.com

If you would like to be featured on this series please drop me an email at ahdancecompany@gmail.com

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Third Culture Kid spotlight: Meet Daniel


Its always a pleasure to meet other third culture kids around the world. Daniel is an active member of the TCKid communities on social media and that is how I got to know this globe-trotting TCK (aren't we all global nomads!?) 


What is your name?

Daniel 


Where were you born?


Houston, Texas, USA


What is your heritage?


Both my parents were Vietnamese, and moved to the US essentially as a result of the war, and met there. 



Where have you lived and how long at each place?


Houston, Texas for 3ish years (as a baby though) 
Jakarta, Indonesia for 14 years
Ann Arbor, Michigan for 2 years
Switzerland for about 3.5 years, though alternating between Zürich and Wallis
Fort Lauderdale, Florida for 2 years
Took a few months back in Switzerland, but in Biel. 
Took a little under a year off for backpacking around Asia, of which most of it was spent in Penang, Malaysia. 
Back in Zürich, Switzerland for the past 5 years. 




What is your definition of "home" and how is it different from those around you?


Home for me really depends on the people around me, because places can change. It's not so cut and dry, though. Places are important too, and ultimately home comes from that combination of places that you feel comfortable in, with people you like having around you that help you feel at home. And yes, this can be more than one place. 


Where do you consider "home" and why?


Right now it's Zürich. In contrast to the rest of my adult life, I've lived here consistently for a long time now. It's been long enough to make friends, to become familiar with my surroundings, to acclimatise. It's the kind of consistency I haven't had for a long time, but to be honest it's still tempered by knowing I'm still legally a foreigner here. So while it feels like home, there's a very good chance it can't be home. We'll see. 

I felt more or less at home when I worked in Fort Lauderdale, because of working and the people I had around me. I did realise that as time went on those people largely changed by moving around, and with it the sense of home got lost. In that case, it was very dependent on people. By contrast, Penang felt quite home-like when I was there, though I didn't have many friends there at the time, so it was more tied to the place. 

So basically... it depends. 



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?



Very much to all of these. I grew up interested in history, which became an interest in politics. While my experience wasn't necessary to create these interests, it definitely helped. Growing up in an Indonesia which was under a dictatorship and transitioned to a more-or-less functioning democracy has, honestly, defined my political perspective and interests. Travelling and being able to compare, first hand, didn't places, cultures, and political systems, has given me a perspective that others I meet still can only learn from media. 





What are your thoughts on globalization? Current political situation?

The reason I had the life I did was because my dad worked for an international company. It has, mostly, been the reason we moved around between the US, Indonesia, and Switzerland. So it's safe to say that we have been beneficiaries of globalisation in a much more tangible way than most can claim. It's likely, however, that the expatriate lifestyle, at least through those means, is probably fading. Developing countries can't really justify bringing foreigners over and giving them the expatriate life. 

One of the benefits of being this kind of TCK though, is that you get to see both sides of globalisation. You get to see how it can make developing countries grow, like Indonesia, you get to see how it can make countries rich, like Switzerland, and you get to see the backlash against it, like in the US. It sort of becomes difficult to look at it in the local terms most people do. 



How are your thoughts on world affairs different from those around you?

This has really varied depending on my company. There's a popular perception that Europeans are more globally aware than Americans, and it sort of correlates, but awareness doesn't necessarily equal wisdom. I have met blind idealists, pragmatic cynics, and everything in between. It's pretty good overall, since at least there's awareness and interest. I can't quite say the same in some other places I've lived. But there are different kinds of ignorance you can find just about anywhere, as well as different kinds of awareness. I find that the best approach is just to look at everyone with an open mind and to listen first and form impressions as you accumulate information, not before. 


Do you plan on incorporating a large amount of travel with your career?

I hope to, but it really depends on how my career works out. And where that ends up being. 


Thank you Daniel! Follow his ongoing TCK journey through social media:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dbnguyen85/

If you would like to be featured on this series please drop me an email at ahdancecompany@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Third culture kid identity: Just breathe


Breathing heavy and short. My heart and mind races a mile a minute because I've gotten ahead of myself again. So many tasks...
Friends, family, colleagues around the world will be so disappointed or upset with me. 
Stop. 
Breathe.
Its not the end of the world.

TCKs and non-TCKs feel the pressure as we get more connected online, isolated physically, and disconnected with what is in front of them. 

Zen.

Lagom. 

Its been a whirlwind summer of working really hard on my cookbook that I forget how much it is affecting me and those I hold so dear. I'm sorry... 

Outside/Inside. Looking through that window glass. 

Running. Do you stop to smell the flowers? 

Hold me dear tenderly - for I know not what I'm saying because I'm exhausted. 

Stop. Pause. Breathe. 

One day, we will all laugh how absurd. 

Its not the end of the world. 
This world needs more empathy, tolerance, love, human connection, touch, space, kindness. 


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!