A third-culture kid (TCK / 3CK) or trans-culture kid is "someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more cultures other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture."


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Family Ties – The Cousins

We all have a built in homing device, developed through the sophisticated technology of blood relations, which naturally demands we physically make that pilgrimage to our personal Mecca. For those who have lived abroad or away from their hometown, they can relate. There is no place like home. Most third culture or trans-cultural kids possess, at any point of their lives, a sense of jealousy towards those who have enjoyed a more sedentary life. This is because the latter are truly at an advantage having daily interaction between family members and create a strong bond across several age groups. Those who were brought up as nomads, the famous “citizens of the world”, are clearly at a disadvantage yet still seek that unique refuge where family makes everything better. This craving for unconditional love and understanding resembles that of a child seeking their parents’ approval after a major personal accomplishment. In the shoes of that exciting nomad adventurer, family becomes a metaphor for peace to soothe a war weary mind in the theatre of instability.

My adorable aunt, uncle and cousins

            With the departure of my big brother from the household, I needed to make sense of things, and the implanted homing device was armed and ready but waiting for the rest of my person. In a way, what I witnessed was the upside to being a target for terrorism in Lima. As previously mentioned in my earlier blog entry, traveling meant I had to renounce the privilege to enjoy my friends during my downtime. It was like winning a major local sports championship as part of a neighbourhood team: outside of my city, no one knew the tournament existed so nobody was able to relate. Like winning the NBA Finals with no party for the victors. The first time I noticed a reward in disguise was in fact when we were evacuated from our Andean posting during the longest holidays: January and February, 1998 – remember that these are summer months down South, therefore Canada, my adored homeland, was buried deep down under a thick cover of snow and blanketed by subzero temperatures. Who would consciously break from the gentle embrace of a tropical sun, sandy beaches and outdoor activities to knowing lock up their families indoors to shelter them from an avoidable old man winter? This meant, two months with Mémé, my maternal grandmother and my mother’s family who I had the pleasure of seeing about a week a year previously since I was a little guy.

            At first, Maman was the major beneficiary of this exodus. She was still struggling to part ways with the spectre of cancer looming over her regular routine, so she needed some quality time with her mother. My mother and her family – a rather large family up to par with the size of the cast in My Big Fat GreekWedding – had always been very close. They stuck together through thick and thin through generations, strong enough to outlast world wars, conflicts, forced exile and other difficult developments throughout the years. I believe they could have pioneered the trans-cultural movement, having family hailing from places like Belgium, France and Spain and adapting to new foreign cultures. Should I get into further detail here, I would be obliged to write several years worth of blogs just to give some justice to this story including ties to Maximilian Hapsburg, Austrian monarch and Emperor of Mexico, GeneralBazaine, Marshal of France and President Porfirio Diaz of Mexico. Suffice it to say, Maman had a well-established psychological, emotional and genealogical Holy See and relocating seem to be engrained in her genetic code - along with the necessary tools to set up a base camp relatively anywhere on the map. I was in the process of discovering mine.

            While staying with my grandmother for these months, I really began to be acquainted with my first cousins, Annie, Fernando and Javier. It was somewhat complicated to spend the maximum amount of my allotted time with them, as their own scholastic responsibilities and duties to long-time friendships were primary – similar priorities I would have had staying behind back in Lima. However, they did make an effort to include me in some outings, such as to catch of the latest Hollywood blockbusters or grab a cup of java and a chat. I treasured these moments as I began to know my cousins for who they had become since our old days tearing up my grandmother’s backyard with our shenanigans. We used to get paired off in those days by age groups yet none of these seemed to work out in my favour – I was too old to play with my cousin Javier and too young for Fernando – but these times were now behind us. Now, the discourse had evolved from age differences into a nearly grown up dialogue, exchanging musical recommendations and a genuine interest for each other’s lives. It was difficult to relate in some instances to details but we did our best to understand.

Catching some waves with my favourite grandmother

            Perhaps among the more interesting elements of my dear family was that, although we had grown up worlds apart, we were like brothers and sisters. We were all brought up with similar values and appreciated the special meaning of getting together as a family. My favourite moments were having everyone together around my grandmother’s dining room table to enjoy meals together, hearing everyone laughing and chatting over a wonderful home-cooked family specialty. These experiences truly began to give shape to the definition of extended family – especially as now I was going to have more than just a week a year with them - and I realized how lucky I was to have my Godparents – my Uncle Fernando and my Aunt Annie. They truly made me feel at home – regardless of some to swallow ruses at my expense because of my rocking good looks – and as we left, reassured I would always have a place in their home should the case ever apply. I knew now, I would be looking forward to reallocate my time resources in the future with the five of them and my dear Mémé. Truly a reward in disguise.

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