Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Happy St. Patricks Day!

I know the holiday is over, but perhaps even so this can bring you some cheer!

Monday, March 17, 2014

What's it Like to Be a TCK?

It is difficult to understand exactly what it's like to be an TCK, a Third Culture Kid, or someone who has had more than one cultural identity. One of the problems in understanding a TCK is a lot of people don't try to understand them because they assume that they're not really that different from anyone else. I can assure you, they are a lot more different than you would guess by just looking at them!
I'm a TCK myself; I spent all of high school in different countries than where I was born. I can speak two languages; I often prefer wearing the shalwar kamis of India to jeans and shirts, and I would much rather eat dahl and rice than a hamburger and fries. Yet I'd also rather speak English than Hindi and I'd rather be in a forest than in a desert. I am a mixed bag of cultures.

So why aren't TCKs understood?

1. Many people don't know exactly what a TCK is. Even many TCKs don't know what a TCK is, and even more TCKs have no idea that they are one. We're familiar with the terms MK (missionary kid), and MB (military brat), but we forget about kids who were born with parents of two different ethnic backgrounds, refugee kids, kids who moved from one country to another in their early age, and kids who have a different home culture than the culture of their surroundings. All of these are TCKs. In essence a TCK is a kid who has at least two predominant ethnic cultural influences in their life. 

2. There are many different kinds of TCKs that are very different from each other. No two TCKs are alike. Consider three of my closest friends, Daniel, Beth, Caleb, and myself. We were all TCKs in India at one point, but we are very different from one another.

Beth spent eight years in Africa, eight years in India, and is now in England. She is influenced by all of those cultures. She also lived in an area of India where most people spoke English and were comparatively upper-class. She has spent nearly no time in the country her parents are from. She was home schooled, so in the TCK community that usually means that she spent a predominant amount of time with Indians or Africans, but she still got an American education and probably views the world through an American perspective as much as she views it from an Indian or African one.

My friend Caleb spent time in Indonesia and India and was affected by both of these cultures. He also went to an international school, so he was predominantly affected by other TCKs like himself from all over the world. This will affect how he views his country.

My friend Daniel is a TCK from two different places. as well, but while he spent nearly all of his life in one country he has spent only a few years in India. He is also home schooled but he interacts with many other TCKs who influence the way he views the world.

I lived most of my life in America. When I did leave overseas, I went from country to country very rapidly and did not have much time to develop a connection with a specific country. I lived in India for only a year, and the year I was there I worked among a predominantly poor community. I was online schooled and my social interactions were with other TCKs. this affected my worldview.

 3. There aren't very many of us. Although we are indeed a subculture, we are a very small subculture that is not easily recognizable or identified and with characteristics very diverse from each other.

I want to make it a little easier to understand what exactly a TCK is.

A TCK is unique. Other than their immediate family, no one in the world has shared the exact same experiences that they have experienced. This can make them feel alone and misunderstood, and they often feel like their experiences aren't appreciated by other people even though they know they have a lot to offer if anyone listened. This uniqueness can make a TCK feel insecure, lonely, or proud. It also can be something to enjoy and appreciate, and they can use their unique experience to influence others with less experience to see the world in a broader way.

A TCK chooses where they are from--and that's okay! When you have an affiliation to two countries or more, you can say which one you're from or can simply say it's complicated. If you feel you are from a country that people think you're not from, you have the right to claim it and you can stick to your guns. A friend of mine is Japanese, even though she is Caucasian and has American citizenship. She has the right to claim she is Japanese, because to a TCK where you're from doesn't have to deal with what the color or your skin is or where your passport comes from. It has to do with what culture has influenced you the most and what culture you identify yourself with. She thinks like a Japanese person, acts like a Japanese person, and dresses like a Japanese person--and she's allowed to do that! In my case, I refrain from telling people where I'm from because I am from many places, and I feel like it is a betrayal to the countries I come from to claim one above the other. Each TCK has the right to sort through this complicated subject the way they see fit, and this right should be respected.

A TCK can have a broader worldview. Having lived in a culture who has a potentially completely different outlook on life than their parents, TCKs can pick and choose which systems of thought work and which do not. Monocultural kids only get to deal with ideas and philosophies that spring up from their own culture or see other culture's perspectives through the lens of their own. A TCK is often exposed to more ideas than a monocultural kid from a very young age. This can cause them to understand the world at large a little better and think more critically on ideas they come across. It also can cause a sense of misplaced pride as they see the flaws in the ideas of people with less international experience.

TCKs have missed out. Let's be honest, living in two countries your entire life may only give you half the picture of both countries. I knew a woman whose parents had immigrated from Mexico to America when she was young; as a result she knew neither English nor Spanish fluently. This caused in her a deep sense of cultural confusion and frustration she would not have experienced if she had not moved. A TCK may grow bitter about moving from the country they care about or about not experiencing the life a monocultural person does. Other TCKs have not had the opportunity to build deep relationships with people around them because of how much they have moved. Some TCKs are bitter towards the loss that they have experienced in their lives. Although there are many benefits to being a TCK, I do not want to diminish the fact that many TCKs are hurting people like everyone else.

TCKs appreciate culture. Many TCKs are mini-cultural anthropologists and notice aspects of ethnic cultures and reasons behind them in ways that Monocultural kids do not. They have the ability to appreciate differences easier, understand the cause of differences, and cross cultural or social barriers with ease. They often like not only the cultures they lived in but the cultures their other TCK friends are from. They may choose to follow a random cultural fad from a culture they've never been to because they love it when they find a culture that does something the right way. TCKs in general feel comfortable around other TCKs; at the same time, however, they can become judgmental and easily annoyed with people who have had less experience worldwide.

TCKs are often missing someplace. We miss things about America when we're overseas. We miss things about overseas when we're in America. When we're in college or in boarding school we don't get to see our family more than once or twice a year. Many of us are used to letting go of things and starting over. Some TCKs have become extremely adaptable to wherever they find themselves because they've learned to blend in so often. Some TCKs can never go back to where they grew up, like refugees or families who have been kicked out of countries. Some kids have moved so often that they miss the feeling of having a home.

Hopefully this will help you gain a better appreciation of TCKs in general. Please feel free to leave comments about your own experiences or any questions you might have!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Philippe's house

One of the coolest friends I've made since being at school is a guy named Philippe. He grew up in West Africa, which is cool enough, and in many ways he is till more African than he is American. What makes him so cool, you may ask? The only way I can describe it is through telling you about the other night when my friend Kyle and I went over to his house.

We took a cut through the woods and reached his house at around ten o'clock. Daniel, Philippe's older brother, sat on the porch with a book before him and an oil lamp burning brightly on a small table. Daniel looks so much like John Lenin that if he actually dressed in sixties clothes I'm sure he'd turn some heads. He has large round glasses, a thin pointed face and hay-colored hair that reaches down to his shoulders. Always he wears a rested and relaxed expression.

"Hello," he said. "I was just about to start up the hooka. Come sit down."

Philippe popped his head through the mobile home door and smiled. He stepped onto the porch and, with the added weight, the entire wooden structure moves precariously until we manage to sit on the rail seat. He's like his brother in many ways, but with shorter hair that curls all around his head; he is thinner, and has intense blue eyes, and he does not appear to be as relaxed as Daniel; he seems ready to spring into motion at any time.

Amanda, Daniel's wife, brings out the hooka and sets it on the table. She returns quickly inside to start making shahi and Daniel begins to read to us from All Creatures Great and Small, the book barely visible in the oil lamp. Kyle and I said no to the hooka for the sake of school rules, but Philippe sat cross-legged next to his brother, wreathed in the smoke, occasionally breaking the sound of Daniel's voice with the bubbling of the hooka as he pulls in another breath. It smells sweet, like honey.

Amanda comes out with the shahi tea. It's strong, with enough caffeine in it to compete with four cups of coffee, but it is bitter and very sweet. We pulled more blankets from inside the house and rested quietly in the deep night.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Magic Everywhere.

It has taken me a while to get around to this hasn't it? Well, the days turn into weeks, which turn into months, which turn into almost a year since I wrote here last. I suppose I suspected by now no one is reading this. I was surprised to find that many of you still regularly check my blog, so I will oblige you with a bit of my thoughts.

College has been a wonderful experience so far. Last night a few of my friends and I camped out in the woods together, built a bit of a campfire and read books like Lord of the Rings and Robin Hood. For the first time in months it seemed warm enough to enjoy a decent night in the open. What a mistake! If it hadn't been for the fire I wouldn't have gotten a wink of sleep all night; we took turns watching it and feeding it with branches and the like we found from the forest. I had an odd feeling as I lay there in my blankets, staring up at the dozens of bright white stars and the moon shining through the darkness of the sky. The fire warmed my face and one of my best friends, Peter Scott, read to me about Meriadoc and his love for King Theodin. It was a weird feeling. I couldn't describe it as happiness; it isn't as if I wasn't happy, but happiness was too strong of a word. I didn't feel like laughing or singing or making any noise at all, and I definitely didn't feel like talking.

I felt content.

I felt thankful.

I was reminded that there was indeed so much in the world to be content and thankful for. There always is, whether I'm under the open side in a beautiful glade or curled up in the dorms back at home.

One of the biggest discoveries I've made since being at college is that magic does exist.

I'm not talking about dragons and fairies and elves and the like (though they may exist, who's to say?). Part of what makes these things magical is that they are wonderful creatures that do not truly exist. If they did exist in our world, they would not be considered magic.

There are things in our world that are just as wonderful as these but that we take for granted because they are real, and common, and something we see every day. If fairies were real we would take them for granted in much the same way as we take a butterfly for granted.

Take the firefly. Okay, think about it: there's this bug that goes around shining like a star in the middle of summer. THAT'S magic. that's beautiful. that's amazing, uncommon, wonderful. Birds are miraculous (can you fly?). Deer are much like elves in many ways; graceful, silent, and shy from us. These things are in many ways just as cool as the stories  we tell our children, but we don't call them magic because they exist. We take them for granted instead of recognizing their beauty and mystery for what they are.

I'm not taking them for granted.

Last night I felt magic everywhere. It's magic that the fire is licking up the fagots and crackling and whistling through the night. It's magic that the moon makes its way around the world every day. We live in a magical, wonderful world; everything is a miracle, and even if there is reason as to how they happen that does not mean that they are not miraculous. God made the world a wonderful, magical place, full of odd unnecessary beauties.

Take it in.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


            I am not a coward. I may not be the bravest man in this world, but I am not a coward. Like any other natural man I preserve myself when the need arises and defend myself when that need arises too. I'm sure that I'm not the only man who has run away from a battle. No matter. I have put that behind me. Today I have proved myself above equal to the occasion of war.
            Let the lieutenant scoff at me to the captain and to whomever he pleases simply because I am his lesser in rank and title! What made him a judge over me? I am his better in zeal. Ask any man today, “who was the best fighter in the battle?” and their long bloody fingers would snap around at William and I. But the lieutenant thought we were cowards, eh? So be it!
            The flag boy was shot down and without hesitation I dashed forward to keep the collars from falling. Who’s a coward now, Mr. Lieutenant? I made myself a target for my bravery, risking my life and limb for the honor of my country. But the lieutenant? “William and David fought like savages.” As if any man in battle, any man who is not ashamed to look at himself in a mirror, did not fight like a savage! For when we are pitted against each other for life, or for death, must we not kill and be killed like savages? Is there any shame in this? Only a man like the lieutenant who sits at the rear of battle and risks the lives of a hundred men does not fight like a savage; he forces other men to fight like savages, and this is both a great shame and the epitome of hypocrisy. I had nothing to be ashamed of today, because I put every ounce of myself into victory.
            Our lieutenant thinks it shameful that we fight so powerfully. Clearly our lieutenant does not understand that purpose of war, though I would not claim that I understand it completely myself. All I know is that today, with a gun in my hand and the enemy swarming by the hundreds before me, nothing could keep me from shooting them out one by one as fast as possible. Let the lieutenant sit back and grumble at us, while we actually fight for his victories. William and I both grinned with satisfaction at our captain’s remark, that if he had a hundred men like us he could finish the war off in a month. It’s the older ones, those who have been at it for years and years and the daily shooting, the daily pain, the daily death of comrades and the daily fear of death for oneself, that has washed out their use in this war.
            William and I aren’t washed out. We will help in this war. Whatever it takes to stay alive and to make it home, we will do.
            We are not cowards.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

American Rights

Kelsey has made a good point: I really need to write more often. I'm just enjoying America so much I have nothing to say. I haven't been  thinking clearly enough to write, and I'm also suffering the unfightable writer's block where I'm unsatisfied with everything I put on paper. But I have been noticing some of the rights America's given me that I didn't know were rights before I left.

Youtube: One of the best American rights. I forgot how much junk I was missing out on when it was illegal.

Walking in Public: When I'm not on youtube, walking is very comforting. There aren't tons of people to watch how I walk and stare at my white face.

Shorts: It is SOO nice to be all tangled up in a head-covering all the time, and to dress like it actually is 80 degrees

AC: I have the right not to sweat all the time. Best right of all

Monday, June 24, 2013

Writer's Block

This is for all writers everywhere of all kinds who have suffered writer's block. Yes, I've had ideas like these.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Castle of Ice

I got this from Psalm at Journey's End, a fascinating book about the musicians on the Titanic. Well, this particular story has nothing to do with that but I like it anyways.
The book is fiction but this story really happened.

It is possible to possess people, Gavrik. And it is possible for people to let themselves be possessed. I am now thinking primarily about the serfdom which is a tradition in our country (Russia).
I am thinking of serfdom of the will.
It is said of the Czarina Anna Ivonovna that in the winter of 1739 she had an ice palace built on the frozen Neva. She built it for her own amusement, for the previous year had been hard, the beginnings of disburbances and riots resulting in executions and the razing of whole villages.
The winter of that year was the hardest in the memory of man. The rivers of Europe were frozen for months--the Seine, the Rhine, the Danube, and the Thames. It was said to be so cold in Versailles that bottles of spirits exploded, wine froze in glasses at mealtimes, and in Ukraine birds fell dead from the sky as they tried to fly south.
Czarina Anna Ivanovna was a woman with a distinctive sense of humor. She liked to be entertained by dwarfs, cripples, and imbeciles. Four of her court jesters were members of old noble families with whom she amused herself by humiliating them. One of those jesters, Count Mikhail Golitsyn, became a convert to the Catholic Church, which disturbed the absolute ruler, and as a punishment she made him sit on a basket of eggs in front of everyone and cackle until the chickens hatched.
That iron winter, the Czarina had an ice palace erected on the frozen river--and it was an ice palace such as has never been seen before or since, constructed by the great architect Eropkin, who was condemned to death for treason in 1740. Blocks of ice were cut out of the clearest parts that could be found on the Neva and then welded together with water, which in that sever cold bound the elements together more strongly than any mortar could. The palace rose somewhere between the Admiralty and the Winter Palace. It had balustrades, statuettes, pillars, and furniture all made of ice. It was built by the best artists and craftsmen in the realm, surrounded by nine ice trees with ice birds perched in the ice trees, both trees and birds painted in natural colors. The palace itself was left transparent, apart from the pillars, doors, and window frames, which were painted green to make them look like marble. The windowpanes were made of paper-thin ice. The master craftsmen and their journeymen, the sculptors and building workers all surpassed themselves out on the frozen river, slaving away from the morning to night to satisfy the whims of the Czarina.
Two fabulous beasts and two cannons made of ice flanked the entrance to this magnificent palace, and a full-size ice elephant served as a fountain--water spouting out of its trunk--and the ice cannons were frozen so iron-hard that they could actually fire cannonballs.
The only construction not of frozen water was a wooden fence erected around the palace area to keep the populace at a distance.
The people were delighted with Anna Ivanovna's notion. Crowds also made their way out to the palace at night, when it was illuminated from the inside--it must have been a thrilling, unreal sight, with great octagonal paper lanterns with obscene motifs mounted on two spires at the ends of balustrade, slowly rotating so that all the crowd could enjoy all the pictures.
It was a palace after Anna Ivonovna's own heart, and to complete her notion, she had a bridal couple spend their wedding night inside it.
Who else but Count Mikhail Golitsyn (the one hatching the eggs) was made to marry? The Czarina teasingly ordered him to marry a Kalmuck woman of singular ugliness, one of her lowliest servants. She gave the bride the name of Busyenina, because the Kalmuck woman reminded her of that dish--spiced pork in onion sauce.
The nobleman and Busyenina were duly married, to the resounding hilarity of the Czarina. Then they were clad in furs, took their places in an iron cage on the back of an elephant, and set off at the head of the wedding procession, which otherwise consisted of more married couples--fetched from Anna Ivanovna's realm of subjects, Lapps, Finns, Kirghizes, Bashkirs, and so on, all of them in national costume and swaying on horseback and camels, or in sleighs drawn by reindeer or wolves and boars.
The procession arrived at the ice palace to the great jubilation of thousands of spectators.
In the bedroom was a magnificent four-poster bed--made of ice. The mattress was of ice, the bedclothes of ice, the two pillows of ice, and on each pillow was a nightcap, exquisitely carved of ice.
On the table were the most superb dishes, naturally painted and made of ice. Bottles, forks, plates, mirrors, powder bowls--wherever the couple turned, everything was of ice, even the stove and the firewood inside it.
The newlyweds undressed and went to bed; guards were posted to ensure that everything went as it should. The couple survived, and over the years, Busyenina bore the count two sons.
I think this story provides a beautiful picture of how far one can go if one possesses other people. The story is true, and I have never forgotten it.
But what about those who allow themselves to be possessed?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Best Moments in Life

Things in life that make living worth while:

1. Seeing a middle-aged man smile sentimentally while watching Up. I saw this in the airport a few weeks ago and it made me smile myself. I hope I'll never grow too old to appreciate kid's movies.

2. Watching my 94-year old Great-grandmother steal chocolate and, later on, watch her lick it off her fingers. I hope her spirit is hereditary!

3. Watching a bird sing in the rain. In my own life, I hope I have the courage to do the same.

4. Seeing things grow. We came back to America for the first time in three years, and everyone has changed just a little. Not in bad ways, but they have become more grown up, more complete--they have become better, as I hope I myself have become.

5. Hearing a kid say something you said when you were their age. This has happened to me several times this week, and it makes me smile. What makes me smile even more is having to say back to them a piece of advice some older person gave you when you were little--it makes you feel like you are apart of a cycle of maturity.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Graduation pictures

Finally finished with high school. My parents took me to an amazing vacation up to Virginia where I was able to see some old friends and make some new ones--not to mention meet a bunch of people I knew well but had never seen! The joys of online school...

One of my absolutely favorite people. So lucky to call her my friend; I don't think you can meet a cooler person :-)
These are some of my fellow graduates and our friend Enoch at the dance. We weren't doing much dancing, can't you tell?

Our attempts at dancing. The dance called for four people; we tried to pull it off with five, then with four with one of us in the middle. It didn't work, so we just stood around watching everyone else dance.

This is the church I graduated at. St. Thomas--ironic, since St. Thomas supposedly went to South Asia :-)


My wonderful parents. Can't say they brought me into the world, but they sure made my world livable.

I know they're not all looking at the camera. Try getting thirty people to look at a hundred cameras at the same time. This wasn't all of my graduating class, either; some of them didn't get to come and do this, but I know they deserved it.

No comment.

At the dinner. The picture doesn't capture how much fun we were having.

Two very cool people. One's a violinist, one's a potter/author.


One more :-)

Thomas's idea.

A walk through Lancaster; beautiful town.

This picture's so ridiculous I can't say anything.

we've graduated! took us long enough. I think we all kind of look annoyed in this picture...annoyed of High school, probably.