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 24, 2013

Religion and Children

Your rights and responsibilities start early on when you are a Christian. Your parents are overjoyed welcoming you, their first-born son or daughter to the world. As an introduction into a society, a few months after your debut, you get gently splashed with water, initiating your contract to follow Jesus Christ every step of the way. Of course, most of us that underwent that major first step remember it like it was yesterday. Those who don’t, shame on you!

Cristo Redentor, one of the most famous Catholic monuments in the New World

When I was growing up, my mother dutifully fulfilled her role as a good Catholic mother. Every Sunday, rain or shine, she would take her two boys along to attend mass ensuring they could eventually make their way up the holy sacraments of first communion and confirmation. These were a must in Latin America where Catholics were a dominant majority over any other religious denomination. Protestant and Orthodox faiths were almost considered as a cult or sect by most. She did quiz us on occasion to find out if we were paying attention as to what we liked best from the day’s service, but my brother and I mostly drew blanks.

As a young lad, I must admit it was tough going to church. Weekends were my time off from school and an ideal time to watch cartoons or strategize with my G.I. Joes. When you are a little squirt, your attention span seems rather limited and it is hard to read between the lines in what is told through readings and sermons. We are told that there is a deeper meaning to the scriptures but I couldn’t seem to get passed how uncomfortable the pews were. As a consequence, Brian and I got in trouble a few times due to skipping out to play soccer with neighbourhood children after communion, as we were not allowed to partake in the body of Christ.

My father hardly ever made it to mass and I wondered why was he allowed to play hooky. I could picture him sitting in a lazy boy chair (which we didn’t have) eating pizza and watching cartoons while the three of us were away getting our praying on. After much due diligence work, I realized that as a member of the United Church of Canada, he did not have a parish he could attend in a Catholic-dominant society. I knew then that I needed to find my own excuse and I was certain my father would back me up. He probably needed me to hang around to watch cartoons with him all morning. After all, who would know more about cartoons than a 7 year-old kid?

Church of Santo Toribio, Las Condes, Chile

Eventually, I concocted a brilliant scheme to reconquer my Sundays. When it was time for our regular outing, my mother and father came to see what was taking me so long to get ready. I proudly rejected the invitation, sharing that I was no longer going to church because I was a Muslim. I was not prepared for the cunning response that ensued with my parents demonstrating a truly united front when they said: “Well, Muslims go to their church too. It’s called a mosque.” I sharply replied, “Not in Chile!” but no dice. To sum it up, I lost another battle and continued attending regular Sunday mass.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

An Essay On Tolerance

Growing up under the Maple Leaf, generations of children are taught the importance of tolerance in our just society. This upbringing shares an interesting parallel with my own in understanding cultural, religious and national differences. As an expatriate, life can be a daily struggle if you fail to adapt and expect others to accommodate to your own way of doing things. Difference, when properly harnessed, greatly enhances our society as a whole.

Canadian urban centres have evolved as a consequence of welcoming new populations and public services in cities like Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver are well equipped to provide support in approximately 150 languages. Just like the US Marines, we don’t leave anyone behind – that’s the theory anyway. Canada is no longer a ‘hidden treasure’ or ‘the best kept secret’ as a place to establish a family and live a life of peace. People are really catching on. We celebrate difference through cultural festivals, social programs, religious freedom and countless other unique factors that are impossible in more homogeneous countries.

Those with roots established over several generations have grown to integrate and|or accept “political correctness” - it is a much more abstract concept to other countries - and define tolerance in their behaviour. These changes don’t often occur overnight. Detractors of the Canadian mosaic philosophy dating back to the Trudeau era – these are the fruits we are currently reaping – do not tend to verbally express any discontent in public fora and internally deal with most of their issues opposing multiculturalism. Hate crimes, racism, anti-semitism and overt disrespect towards other cultures… well that’s just so non-Canadian.

Similarly to many developed nations however, many Canadians do not have the same reservations it comes to Catholics and their faith. Our stock has greatly tumbled down the cliff over the years. As a Catholic, I do agree that there are several issues within the organization such as the structure, lack of evolution in doctrine, controversies and other accusations that are too well publicized over the media. On the other hand, could anyone share their knowledge as to something designed by human beings, which are free of any imperfections? I would really like to know. Not even Steve Jobs could avoid mistakes in his lengthy career.

Once we open up a dialogue embracing so-called “constructive” criticism, religious beliefs seem to be treated much differently. When we extend this topic further, including other religious leaders and faiths aside from Catholicism, the discussion then takes a turn for the worst. Should other religions be criticized, the accuser is often regarded as a racist or an anti-Semite. If we wish to continue to promote a just society, we must extend the same privileges and tolerance to every group, regardless of perceived flaws. Difference in faith makes us stronger.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

And Remember, Respect Is Everything

With Saint Valentine ready to pop out of the woodwork in a matter of days, some people begin to re-evaluate their present relationships or dream harder than ever before about finding Mr. or Ms. Right. John Lennon sang, “All you need is love” but is it really the be all end all of this equation? And if it is so, should we give any credit at all to Axl Rose’s, “Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain”? Perhaps this subject matter is somewhat heavy for a Sunday afternoon.

When I was growing up in Latin America during the 80s and 90s, both in school and at home, my brother and I - like the rest of out schoolyard chums - were always taught that respect is everything. Respecting your elders, respecting women, respecting yourself, etc. Young boys that would get into an altercation during recess with a girl - a big no no - were regularly told: “You do not touch a woman, not even with a rose petal.” (Sounds much more poetic in Spanish, trust me). For some reason, the meaning of this expression was forever branded in my brain.

Due an upbringing I consider exceptional, I find it very easy to relate to people in any situation or circumstance, ready to dish out loads of respect. Interactions just have that natural flow, if you know what I mean. Treat others the way you expect to be treated. I have never been a person who enjoys playing mind games to come out on top at the cost of walking all over someone else or purposefully went out of my way to hurt others, especially those I care about. This is part of my core belief system, which I integrate on a daily basis both in professional and personal spheres. I enjoy people and always find positive things to see in others.

On Valentine’s Day, some couples decide to take the deep plunge and tie down a commitment to be married or start a life together in common law relationship. The euphoria surrounding those initial magical “lovey dovey” moments are so exciting and the sky is the limit. People refuse to look at themselves and the embodiment of their alliance as just another statistic doomed to fail. However, it appears marriages and unions are in a crisis mode these days, in my mind due to the lack of respect that should be innate in all of us - but it isn't.

Valentine’s Day can be more than just a commercial day where chocolates, roses and romantic dinners if we put our minds to it. It can be a time to renew vows and commitments and/or establish new ones detaching egos from the formula. When we are able to respect each other - husband, wife, friends, colleagues, bosses, etc – we are nurturing a plant that can grow into rewarding long-term relationships. Love cannot bare the fruits without respect and respect cannot exist without love.

Happy Valentine's Day to all!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Island of Doctor Coudres

The Charlevoix region has a dramatic landscape containing rolling terrain – with great lookouts into the Saint Lawrence River I may add – fjords, headlands and bays that will captivate even the most seasoned of tourists. Whether you visit national wildlife areas such as Cap Tourmente, important art and cultural centres such as Baie-Saint-Paul or music festivals in Le Domaine Forget, you will quickly fall in love with the region and never want to leave. Just remembering all this makes me want to hop into the car for a long drive.

With my old pal, Jacques

I especially enjoyed Île-aux-Coudres, a small island named by Jacques Cartier during his adventures through the Saint Lawrence River in the 1500s. The name for this off the beaten track destination originates from archaic French meaning hazel tree (coudriers). They must have had some fabulous homemade Nutella back in the day. The only way to tour the island is by hopping aboard the local ferry service. Bring your bike if you are an avid cyclist. The typical ferry route runs from the town of Saint-Bernard-sur-Mer and docks on the shore of Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive.

This once-isolated community survived primarily on fishing porpoise and by building boats. Taming the seas was much more important back then as commercial airliners had really bad service in flight – sorry for the bad joke, I just had to do it. There aren’t too many commuters these days that get to work by boat or Jet Ski. Tourism is now their main bread and butter and like I have shared several times, they really know how to take care of you in Quebec. There are several historic sites to visit such as old mills and farms, pleasant country style hotels to spend a romantic holiday and plenty of local crafts to bring back for your dearest friends and family.

The Ile-aux-Coudres is also well known for its apple products, something I was not aware of at the time. If you are a knowledgeable individual in this department, able to tell the difference between a Fuji and a Gala apple, power to you my friend. For me it’s Granny Smith or bust. The real nectar of the gods in my mind is apple cider. There certainly is nothing like a warm cup of apple cider on a cold winter evening, am I right? Just make sure when you pick it up and take a swing, it’s not actually a 4 liter jug of apple vinegar – been there, done that… and lived to regret it. Read labels people! If you don’t, it’s usually vinegar.

Maman and Dad in front of an old mill

Now, what can I recommend? I suggest you drive around or cycle throughout the island at your leisure and do plenty of window-shopping. You can easily spend a half-day just wandering around even enjoying a good meal while you are there. In regards to the cidreries (cider houses rule, don’t they), I can certainly recommend the Verder Pedneault, located at 3384 Chemin des Coudriers. Two thumbs up, and throw in a toe while you are at it. The sales people were friendly, helpful and willing to share some secrets on recipes and pairings.