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, April 29, 2012

Graduation: Tomorrow Comes Today

A lot can happen over a period of four years. I am reminded of a timeless classic quote from Matthew Broderick’s cult character, Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it.” During his day cutting school, the spectators observed a ‘young adult’ – I use this term quite liberally in his context - demonstrating the rewards of hanging out with friends by putting scholastic responsibilities aside. In my case, school was a responsibility I looked forward to, as it was a chance to be with my friends, participate in organized sports and continue to discover the world of computer technology. This was long before MacBooks suddenly became ‘cool.’ Cell phones were not only basic but also bulky enough so as not to comfortably store them on your person and the battery would run out before you had a chance to pull it out. Anyway, in four years, I went from wanting to go back to Canada from never wanting to leave my life in Peru.

Good team... not so good shirt

At the culmination of my high school career, I had the outmost respect for my peers. Regardless of grades, class rank, extra curricular activities, clubs, we went through this whole gruelling process together. We went to the same war, fought the same battles.  The differences we once cherished and used to define our early persona, separating one group of students from others, no longer mattered. Our days walking past each other in the hallway, hanging out with our cliques over lunch break or running to sports practice came to an unpredictable end. Well, we all saw it coming but preferred not to pay close attention to the inevitable. Many of us, including myself, started to chat with people we never would have imagined in the past, as in some instances, we did not stop to look around once in a while and we did not want to miss anything. We were aware of this and knew we might never have a chance to get to know people we did not bother to associate with. We ceased to be childish rivals bickering over conflicts long forgotten and conversed like colleagues at the water cooler.

Graduation came, marking the official end of my duties at Roosevelt High School. I was pleasantly surprised between trying on caps and gowns and growing a smart looking goatee when my big brother arrived to join me. He had mentioned over the phone that he would not make it because he was taking summer courses or working back in London. Can’t remember which it was in the end but the fact was that he had planned to come all along. That was a great surprised orchestrated by my three closest allies. For the actual ceremonial march, Alejandro and I paired up once more. This was very fitting as he was in fact my first good friend in the school, so it was nice to count on his support once more. At the last moment, we made a special ode to Napoleon Bonaparte, sticking our hand through the gaps in the fabric of the graduation outfit at the height of the belly and strutted down to the stands. It was a glorious procession indeed with many of my buddies’ parents congratulating us on the walk down.

This special occasion was similar to most important dates in a third culture kid’s life. There was no family – meaning those family members that are blood related – just like at birthdays, first communions, confirmations, etc. This absence, that some would consider crucial on the path to adulthood, never really dampened my mood. I grew up experiencing what was to me a very normal trend. Either way, should they have been guilty of negligence, the same would apply to me, as everything in life is reciprocal. The rest of my friends, who were in a similar boat but perhaps were on their first secondment overseas, may have suffered more. I had my transitory adoptive family, typical to the many postings: my school friends, their parents – which becomes tios and tias (uncles and aunts, a habitual nickname in South American countries for friends’ parents) – the Embassy staff and my favourite parents and brother. These are the people you become greatly attached to when you are away from home as in some ways, they are the ones who can better understand the life style you have lived and the sacrifice you have gone through in what outsiders consider ‘the sweet life of an eternal vacationer.  

Veni, vidi... and somewhat vici

The last months in Lima were slow and uneasy. Not only had I earned my place among my peers, allowing me to call it MY school but also, I had managed to build a life I enjoyed. I was certainly going to miss every little thing. I thoroughly understood my future was away from Peru – and so was the fate of every one of my friends as they embarked on their own journeys – yet it was a tough pill to swallow. The remainder of the summer was great, without classes or studying to worry about. My friends and I decided to enjoy every moment as if it was our last, even as our numbers began to dwindle with everyone having different departure dates. After graduation, suddenly we became aware of class parties thrown at different venues around the city and everyone without exception was invited. No need for an RSVP. The rule was pasar la voz – let everyone know. We were going to have the time of our lives before stepping on that plane which symbolized our own end of days.

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