Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Why a Cross-Cultural Childhood Matters

I've been helping out with TCKid.com's book club lately and this is a response review to Chapter 4 of Ruth Van Reken & David C. Pollock's "Third Culture Kids" book that I posted onto the site. Thought I'd share it with you.

Why a Cross-Cultural Childhood Matters
The chapter starts out with the poem "Uniquely Me" by Alex Graham James. I know this poem by heart b/c it is used as the sound track for my solo in "Chameleon, the Experiences of Global Citizens" and really pushes me to think of myself as a "confusion of cultures" that is "Uniquely Me." I am often encountering TCAs and they share similar views however there are fundamental differences because they did not spend their developmental years growing up globally so many still hold very deep roots culturally of their home culture.
They too, have lifelong shifts in their worldview after a major cross-cultural move, but their basic value system, sense of identity, and establishment of core relationships with family and friends have already developed in the home culture. Most often, they clearly see themselves as Koreans, Americans, Australians, Kenyans, or Indonesians who happen to be living in another place or culture. - p. 40

Do we as TCKs sometimes feel like the 'ugly duckling' without a sense of community?
Yes/No. I think the moments I've felt the 'ugly duckling' syndrome is when no one seems to understand me  and feeling conflicted between what is acceptable in one culture is seen as weird/rude/strange in another. I also feel like that when I'm in a room full of people yet do not know anyone. I think that is normal for even non-TCKs. Community is built upon a group of people who know each other and the collective identity. I think as TCKs, we just have to dig a bit deeper to find our niche, our community of friends.

The iceberg illustration on page 42 is a strong visual to showcase how beneath the surface of a person there are the basic beliefs, worldview, and value system. The rest of the world doesn't normally see this underneath the surface layer on a daily basis because its hidden from plain view. It is also the layers that unravels us when we experience life-altering events.
We can make many allowances for differences we recognize, but when our values, beliefs, or worldviews, are at odds with others in ways we haven't stopped to consider and cannot see, our relationships can sink as the Titanic did without our knowing what we hit. - p. 43
As TCKs, we are perceived to behave a certain way due to assumptions made by others on the outwardly level. This is how prejudice, racism, and stereotypes are created. I don't know about you but when an assumption is made about me based on outward appearance, I get very annoyed and sometimes irate or I laugh it off like a maniac.
In a monocultural world, "Patterns of the past were repeated for generations and change came slowly enough to be absorbed without rocking the cultural boat too wildly." - p. 45 With many people in the world living this way, its not a surprise that a lot of TCKs feel alienated and can't "fit in". However, rather than try to "fit in" into a mold that doesn't work. Its re-imagining that mold to make it fit to our lifestyle. Traditions are made so there's no reason why new ones cannot exist. I have a tradition every year to host some sort of straggler's Thanksgiving. There are obviously some years that I couldn't host it due to unforseen circumstances during the crazy holiday season. Since 2005, I've made it a point to create a Thanksgiving potluck feast where everyone brings a little something to the table and share good food, drinks, and conversations. It started because I, like so many TCKs, could not go "home" to my immediate family for the holidays because they live on the other side of the globe. Last year, I moved back to my immediate family's location and I cooked a feast for my family. The funny thing is, we're not American. Yet, it is my favorite holiday of all. I plan to invite some friends over this year for Straggler's Thanksgiving potluck feast.

Did you grow up in a traditional "TCK Lifestyle" ie. International Schools, Expatriate community, etc.?
I sort of did. That 'TCK bubble' we lived in were comprised of people that were literally living in a bubble. Most often than not, the parents were living in a time capsule of the place they called home. Their children attended international schools and related to their peers in the schools. We learnt about other cultures, customs, and beliefs through observing the host cultures and even between our peers. It was through the outsider/insider perspective that we found so normal while living in it. And then the bubble burst when we move out. Not everyone around you has the similar background of growing up in between cultures or of similar social economic standing. And then the judgemental opinions are directed between both sides. Neither here nor there, you are stuck. The whole process of re-learning about how others think, culture, beliefs, and value systems gives you a sense of where they are coming from. Sometimes its easy to quickly pass judgement ourselves on non-TCKs that do not understand where we are coming from and get angry or defensive with them when its within us to see where they are coming from. They have not experienced what we know. I meet all kinds of people and I try to understand how a person came to be based on their backgrounds and life stories. I just think that its human nature to try and do a "us vs. them" mentality which can be very detrimental to the ecosystem of community building that we so desperately need.
And one other slight irony: perhaps in an international school where there is no standard of "look alike," TCKs find that they are mirrors to one another in the deeper places of culture where they reflect back to one another a shared understanding of what it is to grow up globally. - p.56

What type of TCK are you?
Chameleons - those who try to find a "same as" identity
Screamers - those who try to find a "different from" identity
Wallflowers - those who try to find a "nonidentity" identity
- p. 57

I think I float between a Chameleon and a Screamer but mostly a Chameleon because I don't like to draw too much "difference" in myself especially when traveling. However, these days, I find myself a screamer where I don't plan on blending in at all. And sometimes I find myself reacting as a Wallflower, and just observe others for an extended period before deciding what my next plan of action will be. 

"Chameleon, the Experiences of Global Citizens" at Toronto Fringe Excerpts: Solos from Alaine Handa on Vimeo.

No comments:

Post a Comment