Alien Citizen: Laughter, Tears and Finding the Right Words

The Families in Global Transition conference held many surprises for me. I was surprised at how kind and generous everyone was. I was also surprised how we all truly connected to each other and how we all wanted to share our stories. As much as I hoped to find that sense of community, family and home, I didn’t expect it to be so present and strong.

What truly caught me off guard, however, was the intensity of my emotions at the conference. And nothing embodied that more clearly than Elizabeth Liang’s show – Alien Citizen, An Earth Odyssey. Her honest performance left us all spellbound from beginning to end. In a way, it was my story, our stories that she was playing up there. We all struggled at times to find the right words; we all felt a connection to people weaving in and out of our lives; we all remember feeling lost, alone and afraid. But we also remember the beautiful moments too – so we laughed with understanding as we recalled our own stories. And we also cried with very deep understanding as we felt those same emotions well up inside of us.

At least I know I did.

And I did not expect that.

I had heard wonderful things about Lisa’s show and I was really looking forward to seeing it, but I didn’t think it would impact me the way it did. I didn’t know it would reach deep into the core of my being and strike such a chord in my heart.

Lisa’s performance hit even closer to home for me because I’ve lived in Central America: I spent three and a half years of my childhood in Mexico. I not only understood the Spanish, but also the cultural aspects…As well as the orange Fanta – although that was my sister’s favorite, not mine. I also understood the Arabic since I’m of Lebanese origin. And I definitely understood Connecticut, because that’s where I’m living now and it’s been a tough adjustment.

I’m sure many others connected with different parts of her stories, recognizing their own experiences in her words. We all know that moving from country to country is not an easy thing to do. Saying goodbye, leaving a home and starting somewhere new is not a fairytale adventure. I didn’t realize just how honest Lisa had made her show – I had expected the laughter, but not the tears. And truth be told, they were as welcome as the laughter. Sometimes we’re so focused on only thinking of the positive that we forget to grieve. But Lisa reminded us that we have to give ourselves permission to feel our pain in order to really see our experiences and appreciate them.

Sometimes it’s hard to find the words to express those feelings. Lisa found solace in acting and I know I found solace in writing. Somehow we found the words, in our own way. Now I just need to find the right words to do justice to her performance.

But maybe our silence and glistening eyes at the end of her show said it all.

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19 thoughts on “Alien Citizen: Laughter, Tears and Finding the Right Words

  1. I find viewing the world around me through the imagined eyes of a visiting alien immensely comforting and helpful. I too am a TCK and, whether because of that or a mood disorder that may be caused by being on the autism spectrum, I’m endlessly perplexed by this species of which I’m a part. How is it possible to be fundamentally the same yet feel so at odds?
    Imagining I’m an alien helps me stay objective about things that might otherwise make me feel lacking somehow.

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    1. I think your comment can apply to many TCKs. Because we feel alien, even in places where we are “supposed” to fit in and feel at home, it is easier to view it through alien eyes. TCKs are such a strange species in many ways, belonging everywhere and nowhere, that we are bound to feel like outsiders. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Aisha – I’ve read your blog posts before and your articles in Global Living Magazine, so it means a lot that you’ve taken the time to comment on my blog.

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    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Diahann, it’s always so great to hear from other TCKs! It was the first time I saw Lisa’s show, but I hope I get to see it again. It was incredible and I also want my TCK husband to see it. It was just so powerful and her performance was amazing. I think all TCKs can see themselves in her story, even if the countries we lived in were completely different. It’s that shared experience that bonds us. So, which 6 countries did you live in (typical TCK question, right?!)? 🙂 Thanks again for your comment!

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      1. Yes, I totally agree. I grew up in Argentina, Pakistan, Argentina, the Philippines, Indonesia, and the US. Lovely to have you chronicle the TCK experience as well. I look forward to your posts.

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  2. Dounia, you have captured the essence of Lisa’s performance perfectly. It is such a brave endeavour to dig so deep within one’s self and then share it with the world as she does so poignantly. Your last line says it all. We had all sat mesmerized and our tears were the tangible proof of appreciation for her powerful message. Well done!

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    1. Thanks so much, Terry Anne! Your comment is so beautifully written and I really appreciate it very much. I agree with you – it takes a lot of courage to share such personal stories and emotions the way Lisa does. I think that’s why her performance reaches out so far; she’s saying many of the things we’re all feeling, and she does it so well.

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  3. Great post Dounia, you hit the target.
    From an alien mom raising two alien TCK kids, I just would like to acknowledge your feelings, laughter and tears. I will encourage also my kids and their fellow TCKs to read your article and to see Lisa performance to appreciate the different way to express all the great stories of an itinerant life.

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    1. Grazie, Cristina 🙂 Your comment means a lot and I hope that your TCKs love their life as much I did. I’ve always said that the good of growing up as a TCK far outweighs the bad. Having others who understand and parents who want to understand makes all the difference 🙂

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  4. Mil gracias to everyone for your support and praise for ALIEN CITIZEN: An Earth Odyssey! It is wonderfully validating to read your comments and I am truly grateful.
    From Panama, where the Fanta tastes like paradise,
    Lisa Liang

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment here too, Lisa! It means so much to me that you appreciated this post.
      I know that everyone was blown away by your performance and we all found something to relate to. I think it struck a chord in all of us – that was already clear right after you performed, and is just continually reaffirmed through everyone’s comments.

      Enjoy your time in Panama (and the Fanta)! 🙂

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  5. Lovely article Dounia – Lisa’s performance was one of the highlights of a wonderful conference. As the parent of two TCKs, it provided me with some profound insights into my children’s experience, as although I was only in my early 20’s when I first moved, it is not really my experience. We are moving to Scotland this summer. It’s my home, but not, as my daughter reminds me, anyone else in my family’s. If Lisa’s show did nothing more than help me to be more empathetic of my children’s experience, I’d be grateful for having seen it, but it was so much more than that. Was there a dry eye at the end? I know mine weren’t 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much, Evelyn! I really appreciate that you took the time to read my post and comment on it. Lisa’s performance really was one of the highlights; it was so special in many ways. What I found amazing with Lisa’s show is that it had a profound impact on the TCKs and the parents of TCKs. The TCKs could relate to all those emotions and struggles, and I believe many of the parents got an insider’s view of those TCK emotions. Something I’ve noticed about us TCKs – we share our stories and the good memories, but we don’t often speak about the harder parts. Lisa had the courage to do that and I think we all needed to hear/see it. I don’t think there was a single dry eye at the end – I know mine weren’t and neither were the eyes of anyone at my table! 🙂

      Thanks again for your comment, and I wish you and your family the best of luck with your move to Scotland this summer!

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