Sunday, March 01, 2015

That TCK / Expat / Global Citizen Thing

This video on what it feels like to be a Third Culture Kid resonated with me, even though I technically don't qualify!

I'm actually ready to go home now, but I know that, even though I wasn't a TCK, it's not just that I've grown in particular ways in response to life in the UAE and in Spain, but that the culture I left two decades ago has also continued to evolve. So is it home? I shall have to wait and see! At the same time, I grew up in a northern industrial town with a Scottish father who'd grown up round English army bases and a half-French Londoner who'd been born in the USA - and who taught me to speak her English, not the one I heard around me every day. I went to the Catholic school across town, not the one my neighbours went to. My classmates were English, for the most part, but with Irish, Ukrainian, Italian, Polish and Maltese names and parents. I had no particular sense of belonging, or permanence, but it never bothered me. As an adult, therefore, I can't identify with any particular place, and my friends and family are scattered across the planet. I think my Lebanese/Canadian-grew-up-in-the-UAE friend who posted this, knows exactly what I mean. So do many others who have lived - or continue to live - as expatriates. Recently, I was talking with a Panamanian who is here in Spain visiting our mutual Guatemalan friend (It's ok, there is not going to be a test later.). He was saying how much he loves being in Spain, but Panama is home; and that he could happily live here again - except Panama is... Oh, listen to us global citizens ?!?! - Home is where the heart is, and our hearts are with the people and places we love, so our wanderings enrich us, but our hearts are always divided. I make a garden wherever I am, and sit out under the same sky as friends and family in Britain, the UAE, Canada, South Africa, Australia, France, the US, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Turkey...

My Guatemalan friend (permanently homesick, but she loves her Spanish husband - and Madrid!) posted these two statements, which capture our ambivalence about the lives we have chosen.

I think they just about cover it. I've been thinking about some of the things other people said in answer to the question, 'Where's home for you?' It's about feelings, memories in your head and your senses... home as the place you and your friends and family make together just by being there together... your name on the deeds or theirs, up to a point, it's academic... where you are now, a place where you once lived for years or one you only visit occasionally, where you always belong - places, knowledge and feelings that you carry with you wherever you are. Hell, I've yet to visit my oldest brother in France, but through the wonder of Skype - and because I remember him playing Batman, getting in and out of moderate-to-serious-ly life-threatening scrapes, growing an avocado from a stone and driving like a maniac down the M4 with my second brother standing up to watch the world go by through the sunroof - his kitchen, shed and vegetable garden are also part of my extended home! As I said at the outset, I'm about ready to go home - or go and make a new home in the country where I was born and grew up - but that doesn't mean I regret having been away. It really doesn't. And miss knowing the people I've met here and in the UAE, these last twenty years? No way. They have a place in my heart, as I hope I have one in theirs - where we belong.

Children need unstructured time; they need to be allowed to be bored.

Una amiga publicó este artículo en Facebook. Para mi, hay mucho aquí que tiene sentido común

Lots of unsensational good sense here - in my opinion!
Absolutely bang on. I think the paragraph on the factual knowledge of a ten-year-old is a bit off-track, because ten-year-olds can absorb that amount and variety of information to a degree (not necessarily knowing any background, thinking about it at all or remembering details) just as human beings can travel at higher speeds than was previously thought, without suffering physical damage - and the female of the species can be educated to as high a level as the male without developing psychosis through over-stimulation of her less sturdily evolved mental and emotional system. 

But constant stimulation? No downtime? 

Show me a parent whose personal observations don't match this research to some degree, and who doesn't worry about over-stimulation. Education is - beyond doubt - the key to self-determination and the only basis for stable and healthy society in the long term - locally, nationally and supra-nationally, but how ironic, how destabilising, would it be if the effect of all this input - all the stimulating education and extra-curricular activities - and the ability to process information like no previous generation - is a generation of dysfunctional drones with under-developed emotional and creative cores. 

In practice, to be honest, I don't think it will come to that, because the human race is extraordinarily resilient and our emotional gyroscopes adapt, generation by generation: every generation since Aristotle'sis on record as bemoaning the degradation of society in one way or another, but on we go. 

However, in my personal opinion (and experience!) over-stimulation does indeed create addiction. Previous generations of parents had to deal with the impact of TV, but at least you could switch the TV off, and know that most other parents were inflicting the same deprivation and unspeakable mental cruelty on their own children. Even in households with multiple TV sets, this remained the case. This is the same issue, but at an altogether different level, not least because most of us adults have the same addiction. Walk down a street, or through a park. Sit in a cafe or restaurant. Get up, out of the shower, into your car, on the bus, off the train. What do you do next? I'll bet it involves a handheld screen. Oops. Desconectar translates as unwind; it's a verb to do with getting your head out of work by going for a walk or a bike ride, getting out of the city for a day, meeting friends, going for a drink, playing football or tiddlywinks, reading a book, having a long bath. 

A fantastic yoga teacher turned this on its head for me. She said that what we should use a different verb now: Conectar. We need to get back in touch with the stuff that the combined forces of our jobs and our addiction to our mobiles/smartphones/tablets etc. are cutting us off from. I think she actually meant Nature. But I'd say it's ourselves... and our relationships.