Longing (reprint)

This poem was published in the December 2015 issue of Among Worlds (first published on my blog in 2014).

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I long for something,

Without knowing what.

I long for somewhere,

without knowing where.

 

I long for change,

For that next adventure…

I’m restless and bored,

Ready to start somewhere new.

 

And yet I long to settle,

To put down roots.

To call some place home

And know it’s my own.

 

But where is that illusive home?

That place where I belong,

Where I am neither other

Nor outsider?

 

I am homesick,

But I don’t know for where…

For which country, which place,

Which home?

 

My heart aches,

Without knowing for what.

It longs for something

That I cannot define.

 

Such is the path

Of my third culture kid journey:

Sometimes confusing, often contradictory…

And forever longing.

301

Interview with Ruth Van Reken

A few weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2016 Families in Global Transition Conference in Amsterdam. It’s the third time I attend this conference and every time I find myself re-energized and grateful for this international community. It’s a space where I don’t have to explain myself or my background; I feel welcomed, understood and heard.

This year we had three spectacular keynote speakers, including the founder of FIGT and Third Culture Kid/Cross-Cultural Kid advocate, Ruth Van Reken. Ruth is so much more than that, however, so in her honor I would like to share my interview with her from 2014. That was the first year I attended FIGT and the first time I met Ruth – her warmth, humor and genuine interest in everyone she meets made a lasting impression. It was a privilege to interview her in 2014 and to hear her speak this year.

This interview was first published in Insights and Interviews from the 2014 Families in Global Transition Conference: The Global Family Redefined

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Certain names immediately come to mind when thinking about Third Culture Kid (TCK) research: Norma McCaig, Ruth Hill Useem, David Pollock and of course, Ruth Van Reken.

It is difficult to find just one word that defines Ruth, who is a missionary kid, an Adult Third Culture Kid, author, teacher, public speaker, and advocate of TCKs, among many other things. She was born in Kano, Nigeria to an American mom born and raised in Chicago, and an American ATCK dad born in Resht, Iran. She spent much of her childhood in Africa, returning to the US. for high school. As an adult, Ruth went to college, became a nurse, and then met and married her husband, David. Also a missionary kid and TCK in his own right, having lived two years in China as a child, David is also a doctor and as he wanted to work overseas, Ruth continued her expat life with her husband, raising three global nomads of her own in Liberia and the US.

As an Adult TCK, daughter, mother and grandmother of TCKs, Ruth knows the impact of this lifestyle and the importance of understanding it. She is dedicated to helping others understand their journey and to spreading the word about this global community. Without Ruth there would be no TCK ‘bible’ (Third Culture Kids: Growing up Among Worlds) and no Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conferences.

Finding Words for Her Story

The two publications Ruth is most known for, Letters Never Sent and Growing up Among Worlds, were written under very different circumstances, but they both helped Ruth (and others) understand their own TCK background.

Letters Never Sent

Although she had led a happy life, as an adult Ruth found herself battling depression various times. It was triggered again when her oldest daughter left for the first time to return to the US for school, and Ruth realized it might be linked to her own childhood. A year later, in 1986, the whole family moved back to the US, settling in Indianapolis, which was a new adjustment for them all. It was during these periods that Ruth started keeping a journal, which would later be published as Letters Never Sent.

Finally writing about her experiences, at 39 years old, helped her process the emotions she had felt growing up as a TCK, especially about leaving home and going to boarding school. Expressing those emotions allowed her to finally address them and cope with them.

“This was not a book about a topic but simply a process of self-discovery,” she explained.

Her story resonated with many readers, and it continues to do so today, having sold over 32,000 copies. But when Ruth first wrote Letters, she had a hard time getting it printed because publishers didn’t believe there would be enough interest in her story.

“They said […] that not enough people would care about it as not that many had lived it,” she recalled. “Finally a friend who was a printer said he would print it for me for free and I could repay him if I sold it.”

From there Ruth did the selling herself until her collaboration with author and publisher Jo Parfitt, which allowed her book to receive the exposure it deserved. Jo revamped Letters by adding photos, an epilogue by Ruth, and making it available in print and kindle ensuring Ruth no longer had to sell it herself.

The book initially shunned by publishers would go on to impact people all over the world, who realized they weren’t alone in how they felt. By sharing her experiences and emotions, Ruth has helped others to learn from her lessons and ultimately live better in their understanding.

Letters showed me there was a well of grief that I had not been able to own or express,” she said. “And when we are protecting against the pain, we also cannot dare to live in the fullness of the joy.”

Growing Up Among Worlds

It was while working on Letters that Ruth and David Pollock first connected. He was preparing a conference on TCKs and she sent him a letter asking if he was doing anything to help adults struggling with their TCK experiences. That one letter led to a great friendship and collaboration.

Working on Growing up Among Worlds was a very different process to writing her journal. David had done much of the research but someone needed to put it in writing and make it available to others. In addition to writing it, there was also a need to clarify the whys of such a lifestyle, which were the challenges Ruth took on. Trying to explain the impact of growing up as a TCK also helped her understand herself better.

“As I tried to sort out the why do these characteristics emerge, I began to get new insights into my own story,” she recalled. “I could then use my story and hopefully expand to help others have a language for their story too.”

The Creation of Families in Global Transition

FIGT had very humble beginnings in the Midwest USA. While trying to adjust to life in suburban Indiana after living overseas, Ruth realized that not enough help was being given to relocated families. Although relocation packages included nice benefits and practical information, they lacked support in other areas.

“Topics such as transition, TCKs or spousal matters were not covered,” she said. “There seemed little awareness or appreciation for the enormity of the emotional/ psychological/ social issues that they or their children faced.”

In the meantime, Norma McCaig had started Global Nomads and David Pollock was talking about TCKs to international schools and organizations. Ruth’s memoir, Letters Never Sent had been published and people had begun writing to her, sharing their own similar experiences.

“It was apparent that issues related to global family living were real out in the world but they seemed invisible where I was living in Indianapolis,” she recalled. Then one day while sitting at her kitchen table with three friends, discussing the book she was writing with David Pollock, they realized it would be great to spread this information to a wider audience.

And so began the preparation for the first FIGT conference.

They found a venue, set a date (May 16th 1998) and created a logo, which is still used today. They even found a star speaker: David Pollock. At the time he was Executive Director of Interaction International (formerly Manhattan Youth Services), which he had co-founded in the 1960s. Few locals attended the conference, but many people traveled into town to hear David speak and ‘the magic of FIGT began’.

Although that first conference only had two sessions, it was so successful a second one was planned the following year and by 2001 FIGT had become an official organization. The conference was eventually moved from Indianapolis to Houston where there was a larger international community due to the oil industry, before moving to its current home in Washington, DC.

“Throughout the process, incredibly dedicated and capable board members […] have continued to lead the way to making FIGT what it is now,” she said.

Although David Pollock is gone, his legacy continues, not only through the knowledge he has left behind, but also through his son Michael, who led a Concurrent session with Ruth at the 2014 FIGT conference.

The FIGT Bookstore

Another evolving aspect of FIGT is the bookstore. At the first conference there was no bookstore – there wasn’t even a book table. Ruth’s husband sold them straight from the boxes in the lobby towards the end of the conference.

“No one believed there was enough interest in such a topic to generate many sales,” Ruth recalled.

The main books available at the time were Letters Never Sent by Ruth and Strangers at Home by Carolyn Smith, a US diplomat’s daughter. The following years there were more, including Growing up Among Worlds as well as publications from Jo Parfitt and Robin Pascoe. But unfortunately the choices remained quite limited.

Today there is an online bookstore and a physical bookstore at the FIGT conferences filled with a myriad of expat and TCK-related books.

Future Research and Passing the Torch

Ruth is currently working on new research regarding Cross-Cultural Kids (CCK). She wants to see how certain lessons can apply to all children who have experienced a globalized upbringing or some form of displacement from their parents’ home/culture.

“The details of the stories for a refugee child and an ambassador’s daughter are world’s apart,” she noted. “But both have lost the stability and connection to one world around them where they would have traditionally grown and had their identity mirrored back to them.”

Her hope is that by understanding the TCK experience it is also possible to help children from other cross-cultural backgrounds. She hopes to expand our views of who constitutes a global nomad and to use our past lessons to benefit them.

“If we have identified the gifts TCKs often receive from their cross-cultural childhood […] then is it possible those with other types of cross-cultural backgrounds […] have the same kinds of giftings?” she questioned.

She is also hopeful that future generations of TCKs/CCKs will continue to carry the torch for the global community. “Now we are in TCK Phase Two, watching your generation move into its place in the history of the world and build on the past so lessons learned can be applied to the present and prepare others to live well in a future where I believe CCKs of all backgrounds will be the norm and not the exception,” she said.

Although she speaks of passing the torch to the next generation, Ruth is far from done with her work. She continues to travel to conferences and schools speaking about TCKs and how to help them understand and make the most of their experiences.

Meeting Ruth was a highlight of the conference for me – I was immediately won over by her kindness, humor and warmth. She seems to have time for everyone, despite being in constant demand. She is modest and humble, almost to a fault, which only makes her more charming. She has done so much for this community and yet always downplays her contributions, preferring to give the credit to others. Thankfully those around her are willing to sing her praises and give her the recognition she deserves.

Ruth had endless wisdom to share, both when we spoke at FIGT and when I interviewed her after. She knows that growing up as a TCK/CCK is not simply good or bad. There are challenges and sorrow, but there are also amazing opportunities and happiness. Sometimes we forget that the ups and downs are both necessary parts of life.

“The joy doesn’t negate the pain of the loss and the pain of chronic cycles of separation and loss also doesn’t negate the joy,” she said. “Never ever forget you only grieve for losing something you loved.”

After these many words of wisdom, she shared one final piece of advice, which she has carried around her whole life.

Her ATCK father told her: “Ruth, no matter where you go in life, always unpack your bags and plant your trees […] Maybe you won’t be there to eat the fruit from those trees, but someone else will.”

In an increasingly mobile world, perhaps that is the greatest piece of wisdom.

 

 

#TCKchat: The Struggling TCK

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This article first appeared in the December issue of Among Worlds.

These articles are not written exclusively for TCKchat participants. I write about the topics we discuss through my personal experiences, which I hope others (TCK or not) can relate to in their own way. As always, I would love to hear/read your thoughts and stories, so please feel free to share!

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Growing up as a Third Culture Kid (TCK) is an incredible experience, but it comes with many challenges. It’s not all about traveling to exotic locations and glamorous jet-setting across the world.

People often forget, or don’t realize, how difficult the TCK life can be. It’s easy to overlook or dismiss the complexities of growing up between worlds, between continents, between homes. We didn’t just travel to different countries, we moved there. There was no going back, no returning to the comfort of home and familiarity once we were done visiting and exploring. Each move meant more goodbyes, loss and grief. It meant being the new kid and having to start from scratch all over again. Growing up as TCKs gave us so much and made our lives richer, but it is also a life filled with transition, adapting and perpetual loss.

False Assumptions

Being misunderstood and fighting off false assumptions can be one of the biggest challenges for TCKs. Non-TCKs often make the mistake of assuming that since we’ve moved before, we should have no problem doing it again. TCKs can generally adapt well and know how to handle transition, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy for us.

Even in adulthood, these misconceptions persist. A question that often comes up is: if we grew up moving often, shouldn’t we be comfortable and happy moving as adults? It’s difficult to explain: just because we lived that life, doesn’t mean we don’t struggle with it.

We may have grown up with a unique lifestyle, but we are just like any other person – we need time to adapt, to transition and to grieve. Too often we are not given that chance, since it’s assumed we’re ‘used to it’ and we’re ‘supposed’ to adjust quickly. It can be difficult to change someone’s mind and to clear it of pre-conceived false notions. Sometimes it’s simply easier to stay silent, which is unfortunately a common way for TCKs to process their emotions.

Silent Struggles

The negative and difficult aspects of a TCK’s life are not often mentioned, even among TCKs. But just because they’re not as visible or openly discussed does not mean they do not exist.

There are many reasons why we choose not to talk about the negative side. Often when we mention the challenges to non-TCKs, we are dismissed and labeled as spoiled, dramatic and ungrateful. Sometimes it can be easier to cope if we don’t acknowledge the grief and the struggles we face. Other times we may feel we don’t have the right to complain or express any negative thoughts because we know how lucky and privileged we are.

By admitting the tough moments, it can feel like we are discarding all the benefits and opportunities we gained. It can be difficult to accept that joy and sorrow are two sides of the same coin.

When I interviewed Ruth Van Reken, co-author of Third Culture Kids: Growing up Among Worlds, she expressed this notion with great eloquence:

“The joy doesn’t negate the pain of the loss and the pain of chronic cycles of separation and loss also doesn’t negate the joy. Never ever forget you only grieve for losing something you loved. So if you feel grief for a particular time in your life that is no more, oddly you are affirming the good as well. So in those moments of sorrow, recognize you are also acknowledging the richness of your life.”

The Voices of #TCKchat

At #TCKchat we decided to talk about the tough parts. We know that staying silent doesn’t mean it goes away and that sharing is part of the journey to feeling understood and comforted. So we decided to discuss the complexities of the TCK experience. We chatted about what is/isn’t discussed, people’s false assumptions, which challenges are unique to TCKs, and how to provide greater support for TCKs (pre- and post-adolescence).

What issues were clearly not discussed or avoided in your expat community/ household?

@Astricella There was never any discussion around us children being able to adapt. It was always assumed that this was a non issue. #TCKchat

@baydiangirl How to handle the change as a teen. I felt limited because of the culture shock and fear of not really knowing my surroundings. #TCKchat

@RafalJacyna Inside me a crater was growing between my Polish household and my daily external unPolish life that my parents knew nothing of. #TCKchat

@tck_meglet People also liked to avoid issues around racism and sexism as ‘stuff that just happens’. #TCKchat

@erinsinogba Real life racism, classism, culture shock and transitions; the concept of being a TCK. #TCKchat

@unsettledtck Drug issues or addictions were never discussed or brought up. Even when parents would do drugs with their kids. #TCKchat

@bateconsult Domestic violence. #TCKchat

@erinsinogba Another big one was how living overseas affected family relationships. Quite a bit of family dysfunction, separation, divorce. #TCKchat

What is the biggest misconception or assumption about TCKs when it comes to transitions and adjustments?

@tck_meglet That we’re looking for a home or we’re just ‘confused’, or that we’ve been waiting to put down roots in a specific place. #TCKchat

@bateconsult Big assumption: that all TCKs are worldly/ global in perspective as a result of their experiences. #TCKchat

@grappleshark That we didn’t need to say our goodbyes. And that we wouldn’t miss our friends, because there’s more to explore. We miss them. #TCKchat

@DouniaB_TCK Just because we’re used to leaving and saying goodbye, doesn’t mean it’s easy. We need time to grieve and transition like everyone. #TCKchat

@verilymary Since TCKs are natural adapters, there is this assumption that we need zero support (SO not true). #TCKchat

What challenges are unique to the TCK experience (childhood and adolescence)?

@marilyngard How to turn our multicultural past into a meaningful vocation. #TCKchat

@tck_meglet Long-distance relationships of so many different varieties. All the coping strategies you pick up to deal with goodbyes. #TCKchat

@DouniaB_TCK Connecting events, music, movies, etc back to the countries we lived in at the time. Creating our timelines through those countries. #TCKchat

@Sekhmet_12th Relationships, social interaction and understanding cultural differences while respecting them and having yours respected. #TCKchat

@wce917 Challenging the expat bubble. Convincing others outside that bubble you do want to make friends and get out of the ‘walls’. #TCKchat

@verilymary Belonging to multiple places at once or none of them at all. TCKs are all or nothing kind of people. #TCKchat

What are challenges for adult TCKs (ages 19 and beyond)?

@mosso_ikan Should I stay or should I go? #TCKchat

@TCKPonders Navigating relationships with non-TCKs, to be honest. #TCKchat

@bateconsult Choosing to be ‘stable’ in a community that sometimes feels stagnant to you because of your experiences. #TCKchat

@MikeOghia Romantic relationships with non-travelers/ TCKs, imposed identity, and a lack of sense of permanence and belonging. #TCKchat

@erinsinogba Many of us have to deal with a change in our status of privilege. Lots of us aren’t equipped for that. #TCKchat

@unsettledtck Realizing you can never go back to the places you grew up in. You have no ownership there and they changed without you. #TCKchat

@verilymary The good old ‘who am I’ questions, the concept of settling down, and commitment are huge issues for young adult TCKs. #TCKchat

@Astricella Wondering constantly if there is a place in the world where you’d settle and what ‘settling’ actually looks like. #TCKchat

@RafalJacyna Alienation – you may understand a culture, but you are painfully aware that it is not yours and so you stand alone. #TCKchat

@mariacelina Memories and reality can differ. Some TCKs return to places they loved, re-experience it differently, and become disillusioned. #TCKchat

What aspect of the TCK life doesn’t get enough attention?

@danautanu Sex-education about consent. Sexual abuse, harassment and assault. It happens to TCKs too. Our protective bubble is not real. #TCKchat

@verilymary Issues of suicide, depression (which is high among TCKs), and mental health. #TCKchat

@TCKPonders The confusion over how and where to build a life. #TCKchat

@grappleshark What is the long-term plan for a TCK child? Some parents overlook this entirely. There is no plan. #TCKchat

@unsettledtck Mental health and drug issues. Eating disorders and depression. All of these can fall through the TCK cracks. #TCKchat

How can we create a more supportive environment for a struggling TCK (adolescence)?

@livingquestions Bloomability by Sharon Creech and the new Inside Out movie would probably also be useful for struggling TCKs. #TCKchat

@RafalJacyna Somehow link with and mentor younger ones who experience what we once experienced. TCK networking? #TCKchat

@evnicolas Schools can create TCK friendly curriculum. Also invite mentors for workshops. #TCKchat

@mosso_ikan Social networking has definitely helped a lot! Also I guess more communication in the family and school environment? #TCKchat

@MikeOghia International school teachers are really a great gateway to the TCK framework. Increasing their access to TCK resources. #TCKchat

@erinsinogba Family must educate themselves and show empathy and care for TCK struggles. Schools can provide resources, such as books, programs. #TCKchat

@tckwsucoug Open means of sharing personal stories. I think it’s important to be able to freely disclose our stories. #TCKchat

How do we provide support for TCKs post-adolescence?

@unsettledtck Develop more organizations to support TCKs who take gap years before university or who go straight into the workplace. #TCKchat

@livingquestions By helping adult TCKs recognize and connect the dots between their TCK experiences and what they may be struggling with. #TCKchat

@verilymary Finding other TCKs/ CCKs and being able to find myself around them was vital at this point. Mind you, I didn’t know I was a TCK. #TCKchat

@mariacelina TCKchat! In this information age where resources can be made and placed online, we must capitalize on digital means. #TCKchat

@erinsinogba Offline outreach for older ATCKs is also super important. Gotta do it the time-tested, grassroots way! #TCKchat

@grappleshark Connect with them. We are tribal creatures, looking for those who have shared experiences. TCK is a tribe. Get chatting. #TCKchat

#TCKchat General Information

#TCKchat is held on the first and third Wednesday/ Thursday of each month with 2 sessions: 1st session at GMT 15:00 and 2nd session at GMT +1 3:00. To figure out when #TCKchat happens in your time zone, visit www.TimeandDate.com

On the website you will find upcoming chat dates and topics, highlights from past topics, a video showing you how to get involved/ participate in #TCKchat and information on all of the co-hosts.

Website: www.bateconsult.com/category/tck-chat/

Co-hosts First Session:

  • Amanda Bate @bateconsult
  • Dounia Bertuccelli @DouniaB_TCK
  • Michael Oghia @MikeOghia
  • Stephanie Taderera @TCKponders
  • Meghali Pandey @TCKmeglet 

Co-hosts Second Session:

  • Ellen Mahoney @seachangementor
  • Danau Tanu @DanauTanu
  • Cecilia Haynes @unsettledTCK
  • Mary Bassey @verilymary
  • Lisa Zenno @tckwsucoug

Here’s to a New Year

In many ways 2015 was a good year, but it was also a hard year. A year filled with challenges, both professional and personal.

It was also a year of introspection, where I learned a lot about myself, found some answers, but also realized there were more questions than I had expected. Questions about identity, home, putting down roots (and where) or continuing the transient, nomadic life…

These are not unique to me – I know many TCKs (and non-TCKs) struggle with these questions. I just didn’t expect them to hit me so hard and to find myself searching for clarity in my own contradictory thoughts and feelings.

When I was finally able to define those questions, however, it was such a comfort. I had felt their shadows lingering in the back of my mind for a while, but had been unable to understand what weighed on my heart. I may not have the answers yet, but at least I now know what I’m searching for – and that makes all the difference.

These realizations, along with other challenges sorted by year’s end, allowed me to close off 2015 at peace and more than ready for 2016. I am excited for this new year and all the new adventures it will undoubtedly hold.

As for my blog: I unfortunately and unintentionally moved away from writing in 2015. I had much to say, but couldn’t find the words to express it. I am very grateful for all of you who still stuck around and took the time to read and comment when I did write. Your presence and comments are always a source of joy, motivation and comfort.

One of my hopes and resolutions for 2016 is to do more of what I love – and writing is very high on that list. Hopefully this is just the first of many more posts to come this year. So, here’s to more writing, more laughing, more loving, more travel and great adventures in 2016.

On that note, I wish you all a very happy new year and I hope 2016 is an amazing year!

#TCKchat: Third Culture Kids and Languages

pic162-detailThis article first appeared in the June 2015 issue of Among Worlds.


In March and April, #TCKchat, the bimonthly Twitter conversations for Third Culture Kids (TCKs), covered a variety of topics, ranging from lighthearted, amusing chats about food and language to more serious conversations about race and post-university/ young adulthood years.

We learned which languages are more commonly spoken in our #TCKchat community and which ones people wish to learn. Talking about local cuisine prompted participants to share photos and recipes of favorite foods. Race proved to be such an important topic for many of our participants that it has been divided into three sessions in order to thoroughly discuss its many facets. The chat on post-university/ young adulthood allowed the older TCKs to provide guidance and encouragement to the younger TCKs as they navigate this complex transition.

All of the chats were interesting and enlightening, but for this issue I’ve chosen to focus on languages.

Languages and Identity

Juggling multiple languages has been a part of my life since birth. We spoke three languages at home, and I learned a fourth when I was still a young child and a fifth as an adult. Today I speak them in varying degrees of fluency, but each one is a different part of my identity and tells different parts of my story. I can express certain emotions better in one language, or write faster in others; some I speak comfortably without questioning myself and in others I am more hesitant. But each one holds its own special place in my heart and I can find myself longing for certain languages when I don’t speak them for a lengthy period.

We’ve always spoken French, English and Arabic in my family, but it wasn’t until adulthood that I realized my attachment to French and Arabic. My siblings and I went to school in English all over the world, but my parents made sure to keep up the French and Arabic at home. As children we weren’t always thrilled about that, but as adults we are extremely grateful that our parents pushed us to use different languages.

Recently I had my parents visiting from France and my aunt/ uncle joined us from Montreal for a few days. It had been quite a while since we had all been together, so the days were inevitably filled with much chatter and laughter. I got to hear and speak much more French and Arabic than I usually do since living in the U.S. Listening to them, I realized how much I missed hearing and speaking those languages regularly. They speak to my heart and represent my culture, my heritage and my family.

Secondary Languages and Changing Accents

Thankfully my parents also encouraged us to learn new languages, especially of our host countries, which allowed us to become fluent in Spanish while living in Mexico. Later, as an adult, I learned Italian by immersion, listening to the conversations of my husband’s family. Little by little I picked up Italian and it quickly became a language I love. Luckily, my husband and I are fluent in nearly all the same languages, which allows us to practice them at home, even when we don’t get much chance to use them elsewhere. Growing up as TCKs and attending international schools, we were used to speaking and hearing multiple languages on a daily basis.

My TCK background becomes most evident when my accents unintentionally change depending where I am and with whom I’m speaking. When we lived in Australia and I attended a local school, I started speaking English with an Australian accent. We only spent two years there, but that was more than enough time for my American accent to morph into an Australian one. My French accent is also malleable and changing, depending on whether I’m speaking with my family or with native French speakers from France, Canada, Lebanon or elsewhere.

But we pick up more than accents; we also pick up unique expressions and intonations a language may have in different locations. Learning in a classroom is not the same as learning by immersion – you only truly capture the nuances of a language when you delve deeper into the cultural aspects of it. Language is not just about words, it’s also about culture and heritage.


What Others Had to Say

What is/ are your dominant language(s)? Is it a language from your passport country?

  • @poetic_stranger Dutch and English – my mother tongue is Dutch, but learned English when we moved to Budapest, and my English is actually better! #TCKchat
  • @TweetingAuthor I have one dominant language, it is my passport language, but I occasionally dream in French, which creeps me out. #TCKchat
  • @amunati English and I wish it was Arabic cause not being super fluent keeps me an outsider with my culture…super hard on a TCK.#TCKchat
  • @RhoKers English as well! Even though it’s not my mother tongue. It happens to a lot of TCKs I know! #TCKchat
  • @Astricella French and English. Some would say mostly English now, even though I started with French for the first half of my life. #TCKchat
  • @TCKmeghali English and Hindi. Both from my passport countr(ies)! Except that I use more American English than I do British English… #TCKchat
  • @SarahZYaseen English is my first language but Arabic is my mother tongue. But I have an American passport and my parents are Arab. #TCKchat
  • @EleonoraByron My first passport is Russian but my predominant language became French, and is now English. A bit of a mess. #TCKchat
  • @juanjohn Spoke Spanish first (cuz we lived in Guatemala and Costa Rica) then switched to English when we moved to the US. #TCKchat
  • @jessirue American passport, English is dominant but Russian is a close second! I’ve studied a few others but don’t speak them well. #TCKchat
  • @brettparry English of course from my native Australia. Now speak mainly Polish at home with my wife and daughter. #TCKchat
  • @tckwsucoug Passport country is Japan. Japanese is 3rd on my list. English is the dominant. Then Spanish, then Japanese #TCKchat
  • @verilymary English is my dominant language. Efik is spoken in my home and though I know it, I always respond in English. #TCKchat

Did you learn the language of all the places you lived in as a TCK? How did you learn them?

  • @loniklara If you know a kid, talking to them is the best way to learn. I learned both Finnish and Swedish that way!#TCKchat
  • @TCKmeghali Spoke fluent Arabic with the local kids when I was living in Oman! #TCKchat
  • @jessirue I’m one of those weird TCKs that only lived in one place overseas. Spoke Russian at school and English at home. #TCKchat
  • @wearehyphenated In Hong Kong we spoke English at home, I learnt Mandarin at school as it was a compulsory subject & my mum INSISTED! #TCKchat
  • @DouniaB_TCK Not all, if English was dominant language. But others, yes. Learned at school, practiced with parents & immersed in life there. #TCKchat
  • @juanjohn Spanish from living in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama; English from USA and French/Arabic from Morocco & Egypt. #TCKchat
  • @unsettledtck I learned from just going around with friends and with housekeepers. Sometimes with local teachers. #TCKchat
  • @tckwsucoug Portuguese, Japanese/English, then Spanish. School, but Japanese – I learned at home + supplemental workbooks and comic books and Japanese dramas. #TCKchat
  • @kolbegray Yes, born with American English, Irish English, Indonesian learned through osmosis #TCKchat
  • @RowenaMonde I had no choice but to learn Scottish English. 🙂 I learned fairly quickly as I was a child then. #TCKchat
  • @GaylynnGabbie I was so fluent in Japanese when I lived there that my thoughts and my dreams were in Japanese. Sad I lost much of that.

Benefits of Speaking the Local Language

  • @LuceroViktoria Traveling in China! Such a different experience once I learned some Mandarin and was able to chat with the locals. #TCKchat.
  • @jessirue Translating for visiting friends/family was always fun. Once was asked where I learned English. Made my whole year. #TCKchat
  • @kolbegray In Bali I get this a lot “OH! We had no idea you spoke Indonesian. Sure you can have the local price” *price gets cut in half*. #TCKchat
  • @unsettledtck Whenever I meet people from one of the places I know phrases from, it is a great ice breaker! #TCKchat

Upcoming Dates and Topics

#TCKchat General Information

#TCKchat is held on the first and third Wednesday/Thursday of each month with 2 sessions: 1st session at GMT 15:00 and 2nd session at GMT +1 3:00. To figure out when #TCKchat happens in your time zone, visit www.TimeandDate.com

On the website you will find upcoming chat dates and topics, highlights from past topics, a video showing you how to get involved/participate in #TCKchat and information on all of the co-hosts.

Website: www.bateconsult.com/category/tck-chat/

Co-hosts:

First Session

Second Session

Six Letters of Identity

I never would have thought that six letters could be the cause of such confusion and complications.

Six letters.

D-O-U-N-I-A

Six letters that make no sense in most of the world and whose pronunciation apparently has endless possibilities. Six letters that formed my identity in more ways than one since my parents bestowed them upon me.


Growing up as a Third Culture Kid (TCK), identity becomes a complex issue. It’s tough to define your identity when you’ve grown up in different countries and have assimilated many cultures. I usually present myself as Lebanese-American, but that statement is only partly true. I am 100% Lebanese by blood and heritage (but have never lived there), American by passport and I grew up all over the world, in six countries spread over four continents.

The only constants in my life and identity were my family and my name. A name that I loved but at times grew weary of, having to spell it and explain it all the time. Enduring mispronunciations, mockery and confusion, no matter where we were in the world. Sometimes I longed for a simpler, more common name, ruing my parents for giving me such a difficult name. I resented it even more because my older sister had a far easier name to spell and pronounce.

Although we generally attended international schools, it was still a name that stood out and that most people had never heard before. Even within the more tolerant and worldly community at those schools I heard jokes about my name, my background and certain physical traits from my cultural heritage. Interestingly enough, it was when attending a non-international school that I started to develop a stronger sense of self and didn’t feel the need to shy away from my background. I had always loved my name and where I was from, but I began to accept my name and my identity with a newfound confidence.

As I grew older, the way I viewed my name changed. I would still get frustrated at having to teach people how to pronounce it and it was never fun being the new kid with such a unique name… But the older I got, the more I embraced my name. I was always the only Dounia. People might have had trouble saying it or spelling it, but they usually remembered my name and me. My name, like my heritage, became a source of pride as I became old enough to piece together the different parts of my identity.

I’ve heard my name pronounced so many different ways and I’ve heard it with the lilt of many accents. I’ve been given countless nicknames – some that I love and others not so much. But my name is mine and I love it.


29 years later and I would never change those six letters. I am grateful that my parents gave me a name that stands out and that is part of my cultural heritage. And unknowingly, they also prepared me well for my TCK identity: in Arabic, Dounia means world. My name, my heritage, my background, my TCK experience, all wrapped up in six little letters.

D-O-U-N-I-A

Six letters that say it all.


DSC_1912

Who I Am

I am a third culture kid.

Of that I will never be rid.

 

I’ve grown up among worlds,

Like many other boys and girls.

 

I am made up of one travelling heart,

Which is often spread worlds apart.

 

I am internationally grown,

But I have a hard time defining home.

 

I am made up of many places,

Like a dice of six faces.

 

The places I’ve lived and loved,

And those that run through my blood;

 

Each of them is a part of me,

Part of my story and my journey.

 

Much of it is yet to be told,

But to one thing I will always hold:

 

I’m an adult third culture kid,

Of that I never wish to be rid.

The Hidden Story

I started this blog to share my experiences growing up as a third culture kid and trying to navigate life as an adult third culture kid. Lately I had started wondering if I was still doing that or if my blog had moved away from its initial purpose and goal. I thought about all that and more for quite some time, not sure where to go from there…

My blog does have a whole mix of things: posts specifically on being a TCK/ATCK, photography, poetry, posts of simple observations and memories… It does not follow a simple straight line – it twists and turns, sometimes ending up in an unexpected place. Growing up as a TCK, I quickly learned that life does not follow an easy linear path. There will always be unexpected curves and surprises. I am learning that life as an adult third culture kid has just as many (if not more) challenges and hidden turns. That is what this blog has always been about, even when I didn’t fully realize it.

The blog posts that are not specifically about growing up as a TCK or adapting as an ATCK may seem out of place, but actually they are a very important part of my journey. They are how I see my current world and how I feel about this particular home. I realized that the posts I initially thought were deviations from my original purpose were, in fact, simply part of the story. They were just telling a different side of it.

The Search

Sometimes I think I would love to live on a farm or a ranch, surrounded by nature and fulfilled by a day of satisfying physical labor. Enjoying the wide open spaces, breathing in fresh air, riding horses through the beautiful land, working the soil, getting my hands dirty and my mind free. But then I wonder: would I truly be happy with a life like that? The answer I find is a little more complex than a simple yes or no.

I believe that part of me would be happy and at peace with such a life. The part of me that loves nature and wildlife, and craves a much closer connection to them. The part of me that loves physical activities and being outdoors – working in the garden, helping to build things; real, sweaty physical labor. The part of me that longs for wide open spaces, rolling hills and serenely beautiful landscapes for as far as the eye can see. The part of me that loves peace and quiet, hearing only nature’s sounds and being in awe of its endless beauty. I think it’s the gratifying and seemingly peaceful qualities of such a life that call to me.

But then there’s the other part of me…

The part of me that would probably feel lonely and isolated with such a life. The part of me that might eventually tire of the same landscapes. The part of me that knows I would never truly feel at home or as if I belong in such a place. Most people would have lived there all their lives, or grown up there or come from not too far… I wouldn’t be any of those. I would forever be an outsider and I would feel that. That’s the TCK part of me. The part that craves interaction with similar souls, with those who understand the life that has shaped me. The part of me that sometimes wonders if it will ever be possible to truly and fully fit in somewhere.

Growing up as a TCK has positive and negative attributes. In my opinion, the good far outweighs the bad, but as an adult TCK I have found myself often wondering how and where I would truly fit in. I have already found part of the answer – I know it’s much more about communities and the people who surround me, rather than specific cities or countries. I also know that certain countries have a much higher chance of making me feel at home, whereas others truly make me feel like a fish out of water. But I still wonder if I will ever feel as if I fully, truly belong somewhere.

None of these thoughts or questions mean that I am unhappy or can’t adapt to different places, they just mean that my soul is still searching for THE place. The place you know is right, where everything just fits. Maybe I haven’t found it yet, maybe it’s not yet the right time for me to find it, but I’ll keep looking.

One of these days, I’ll find it.

There’s No Place Like Home

About a week ago we marked the end of our first year in Connecticut, entering our second year here, and I’m excited about that! This past year was about settling in, figuring out all sorts of logistics, slowly furnishing the apartment, back and forth trips to France too, and planning the wedding overseas. I’m looking forward to this year because all of that is done. It was fun and tedious, easy and complicated, good and bad, all at the same time! I’ve had a lot of good moments this past year, but I’m definitely ready for year two. We’re now happily settled in (and married!), and instead of focusing on the basics for the apartment, I can enjoy looking for those little extras to really make it home. We know the area, where things are, how to get around, but we still have lots to explore. I’ve found somewhat of a routine and I’ve made some nice acquaintances. Oh, and I drive. I’ll make sure to write more in length on that some other time.

On a more “near-term” outlook, I’m excited about my second fall here! I know I’ve already mentioned how much I love autumn, but I can’t help saying it again. The trees have started changing color, and although the weather is still too warm and muggy for my taste (I’m ready for the fall weather too, not just the colors!), it’s starting out beautifully. I’m really looking forward to being able to see autumn in all its glory this year, from the first flickering flames until the last burning cinders before the fire dies out for the winter. Last year I had to travel back to France in October, and although I was only gone 2 weeks, that was enough to miss quite a spectacular show. I’m happy I get to really enjoy that this year. I’m just looking forward to really having a year at home.

I know that my last entry was perhaps more serious than a lot of my other entries, and as much as those thoughts do go through my mind once in a while, I do know how important it is to enjoy where you are in the present. As my mom so beautifully and truthfully told me, “home is where love lies”; she couldn’t be more spot on, as always. That’s how we were always brought up, and that’s what kept us close in such a whirlwind life. That’s probably something most TCK’s feel, or at least should feel. Being a TCK means growing up with change, in a perpetual cycle of adapting to, learning from and accepting those changes. The one constant in all that is family. I was lucky to have a family who made all those changes easier and who reminded me that home is where the heart is, and to embrace every experience, even if some where embraced more in hindsight. I have parents who understand what being a TCK means, even if they weren’t actual TCKs, in the conventional sense. My older sister was, and continues to be, my best friend; even in the worst of our teenage arguments, the comfort of her presence through every move cannot be put in words. As for my younger brother, although there were 9.5 years of my life when he wasn’t around, I can’t remember a time without him and it seems strange to imagine he wasn’t always around too. He brought joy and comfort when everything around was unfamiliar and daunting.

My husband does all of that and so much more. He understands the complexities of my TCK mind, and all the challenges that come with adapting to a new place. He is always there, unwavering in his love and strength, no matter the time or distance. He’s my biggest fan; it’s his love and encouragement that gave me the final push I needed to start this blog. It’s his constant motivation and belief in me that keeps me writing, that keeps me striving to be better at everything I do. He’s my rock to lean on, my source of laughter and comfort as we settle into our new home. He makes this home, just like my family always made each place home.

Home Sweet Home

However you want to look at it, whether it’s Pumba’s dignified “home is where the rump rests”, the more classic “home is where the heart is”, or my mom’s “home is where love lies”, it’s the people you love who make a place home. Home isn’t a building, or a city, or any fixed location; home is the place where you feel loved and safe. That’s how I grew up, that’s why every place we lived in was home, and every home became a part of me. That’s how I’ll continue to live, and how I’ll raise my children, because it’s truly a beautiful way to grow. It made me the person I am today and for that I’ll always be grateful – for the amazing experiences I had, for how I was brought up to embrace them to their fullest, for the true love I found along the way, and for my parents, for everything they’ve ever given me.

How could I ever regret any of that?

Third culture kid, lucky, grateful and happily enjoying home, signing off.