Quote from,

Third Culture Kids- The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds
David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken*

Monday, July 25, 2011


It's amazing how much a simple, material item, can mean so, so much. My parents recently removed a couch from my room that I had always known was only a temporary establishment. But when it actually came to them removing the item I felt another piece of me, somehow taken by that event. I keep thinking, I always knew this would happen, and, we need the money so selling this will profit everyone. But my thoughts keep turning back to the loss.

Loss. Not matter material, like the couch that I just lost, or friendships or the physical aspect of moving from one place to another as so many TCK's experience -hurts. We all grow and handle the situation in our own way but loss, in whatever light you put it in, is loss.

The space in my room is a painful reminder of the ever present space in my heart. I've been so far removed from the place I've grown up calling home, that having this taken away, hurts more than I think it should. The space will take a lot of getting used to, and seeing that space as more than the symbolic representation of the space in my heart... I'm not sure how that's going to work. I saw the couch as more than just physical comfort. It gave my room meaning beyond a place to crash. It provided safety. Safety to sit and read, or laugh with my friends. It had a lot of memories. But I guess that's the lesson -don't hold onto the material. Nothing lasts forever. Take hold of the moment right? I'll have to find something else to fill the gap, both physical and symbolic. Moving on -it's never easy.

I'm not sure which hurts more -seeing something removed from my life, or seeing the space left behind.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Identity through culture.

When we were in Solomon Islands I had friends who, at the time, seemed overly protective of me. To the point when we'd cross a main road, they'd hold my hand, or when we were in a crowd of people, they'd put their hand on my shoulder. On mission trips or retreat my "sisters" would lay their mats down next to mine and we'd all sleep together.

At first I resented the way they treated me. Then I began to understand the culture. Family looks out for each other. Family never gets left behind. They weren't babying me as I had initially thought. They were in fact, treating me just like one of their own. They were accepting me and welcoming me into their family.

I soon adapted to their ways and before long I was treating others the same way. I knew that they were looking after me, that if a drunk man came strolling down the road they'd be there and we as a family would be safe. They began to teach me their ways of cooking, let me in on traditional medicines and would entertain me with their custom stories. They had made me theirs, and so much of my identity rested in who I was in that tribe, the clan, that people/language group.

Then we moved to America. At first I clung very strongly and stubbornly to my identity as a "Solomon Islander". I wore my traditional necklaces and jewelry all the time. I maintained all the cultural values that I had adopted when we were living overseas. I spoke pijin constantly and refused to accept the fact that we were no longer in Solomons.

That brought its own set of problems =applying Solomons customs and values to American culture and traditions, just didn't work. So I attempted a go at a whole new strategy. I attempted to "Americanise" myself. I tore down the walls of cold bitterness that I had against Americans and began to absorb, without thought or censorship -the "American "way".

But in letting go of Solomons, in letting go of my culture and knowledge of the culture -I was also rejecting so much of what made me as a person. An entire aspect of my identity, simply tossed aside.

At the time, I didn't realise it, but I was wandering trying to find my way around -without any of the boundaries or securities that I had known while we were still overseas. When I pushed Solomons customs out the door, I was also, unknowingly, eliminating my sense of respect, giving honour, responsibility etc... From my life. Why? Because the only way I knew how to carry out those values were through the traditions and customs I had learned while being assimilated and assimilating, Solomons culture.

So what became of me then? I blundered through the first few months of being back -making friends, losing friends. Getting lost, getting found. Right when I thought I had figured out how to navigate through conversations and life as an "American" I'd slip up. Whether it was a communicational error, confusion on a topic relating to pop culture or just not knowing something that was "common knowledge"... I just wasn't fitting in. I was constantly confused as to what to do in situations. How do I honour someone, when the only way I know how to show that respect is through the traditions I learned overseas? Well, a lot of times -I just didn't. Why? Because Solomons wasn't my life anymore. But then again -what did I know of American culture?

I kept going down that muddy path, slipping into depression, getting swallowed by confusion and often times anger. Who was I? I was in America, yet I was still very much an islander...

Not that long ago, I received an email from a friend and towards the end of the email it said, "when I first saw you (at MK) I claimed you..." And it was the words, "I claimed you" that really got to me. "Claimed" me? That only happened in Solomons...

Since that email, I've been digging around, looking back and reflecting on the things I've learned/gone through. I realised what had really happened to me. How, in the process of moving to America, I had 'lost' my identity. Granted, our identity should be in Christ and in Him alone.. But sometimes, even the best of us fail and look to other sources for identity and belonging.

So where am I now? Still confused. Still adapting. I'm in the process of figuring out ways that I can apply Solomons culture into American traditions... Mostly because, it's from my culture, that most of my values have been formed and rooted in. I'm learning American values and how I can portray them appropriately. I'm trying to make, what essentially boils down to my TCK/MK culture, fit into my life here in America. Somehow, I'll get them to mesh. I'm taking the best of all three worlds (Solomons Islands, America and the worlds in between those two) and applying it to life today. But at least now, I know that I'm claimed. Even if it's just by one person. In Solomon Islands, I was "claimed" by an entire tribe of people. Here, I'm still finding my people. But if one person can "claim" me.. Maybe other's will too. What's so important about being claimed? It's the sense of belonging. The knowledge that there are others around you to support you, to help you. Just knowing that -they're there.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Scattered snippets, relationships and self.

I think my earliest memories of "the homeland" are when I was five and living in a village called Tawatana, on Makira Province, Solomon Islands. You're wondering, where is that? Well, the country itself is located on the Ring of Fire, South West Pacific and is part of a chain of islands inclusive of Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and New Zealand -best described as, "go to the northern tip of Australia, then go about a thousand miles east and you'll hit the Sols."

Location acquired -that's where I first lived. I can remember following my "aunts" and "uncles", being carried by all my "cousins" and just, being a part of the tribe. I held my first knife and was peeling potatoes with my younger sister in that village. I had my first taste of the mouth-drying skin of the betelnut fruit and ate my first sea-worms there. They were my first family in Solomon Islands. But how do I explain that, the relationships, the growing up with strangers to the point where I call them, and consider them family, more so than I do my own here in America -how do I explain that? Relationships is everything there in islands. Friends aren't just friends -they're family. When I came to America, I struggled to learn the dynamics of friendships here, the culture may be mine by right of citizenship, but it's not what I grew up with. When I came to America, I was expected to call my real aunts and uncle, "aunt" and "uncle" but I found I almost couldn't. Those titles were ones I associated with people I actually knew, not these foreigners.

I've learned to adapt, but I still do struggle. I'm an adult, but my relational skills here, having not grown up here, are comparable to that of a child.

1 Corinthians 13:11-12, "11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

Maybe I am a child in the area of relationships here in America, but as the verse says, "for now we see only a reflection as in a mirror" -I'm completely out of my comfort zone, my natural habitat -who I am here, isn't who I've been for almost every year of my life up until I moved.  I can let you see me, who I am, but I ask for patience.  Patience to let me keep learning.  Patience to help me learn.  It's as if I have to build from the ground up.  Every part of who I am was left behind when I moved here.  I can't fully be myself because the culture here doesn't allow it, so whoever said "America is the land of freedom and liberty" -I think you need to revise that statement, or at least put a footnote along the lines of, "as long as what you're doing falls into acceptability of the Americans standards, expectations, rules etc."

I'm still learning and I have a long way to go.  "Now I know in part, then I shall know fully."  I hope the latter comes quickly...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Where is "start"?

I would paint you pictures with my tools, but sometimes the artwork of one's words are the best tool mankind could possess; so with these words I'll share my islands with you.  I'll tell you about the way Dawn's fingers extend themselves reaching across rivers and mountains, the way she climbs her slow path awakening her children along the way, leaving them drowsy and drowned in her sunlit wake.  I'll tell you about the sea, with his white-capped smile, his treacherous voice.  I'll let you feel the sands between your barefoot toes, I'll let the wind comb your hair wild, reckless.  I'll show you how somethings just can't be tamed and how, sometimes, it's better that way.  I'll draw you into the simple pleasures of my world.  I'll teach you games with five stones or three sticks.  I'll show you the innocence in someone's trashed soup can and the hours of enjoyment it can bring.  I'll teach you the unsung songs, I'll read you the unwritten stories and soon, you too will be writing your own.  Sit down, let me tell you, let me show you -my islands.