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.

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