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, March 24, 2013

Let The Holy Week Begin!

New York City may have picked up the nickname, the city that never sleeps, Rio de Janeiro is known for its Carnaval and Kentucky for its fried chicken, but Seville is definitely in a league of its own when it comes to Holy Week. Sure, some people may be thinking that religion is not “groovy” anymore, but many of our traditions find their roots in our spiritual heritage, such as the Semana Santa de Sevilla, one of Spain’s most amazing celebrations.

Holy Week kicks off on Palm Sunday (today) and ends on Easter Domingo. Seville definitely gives this week a truly unique and special spin unlike any other town. During this week-long celebration, visitors and residents in the city have the privilege of observing a unique tradition that can be traced back hundreds of years. The procession of pasos, massive floats with sculptures detailing events of the Passion and other interesting religious characters we have grown to respect throughout our upbringing come out of the woodwork to delight us all.

The processions are organized by hermandades (religious brotherhoods). As these groups march through the tiny streets of the city centre, members precede the pasos dressed in penitential robes and in some cases, their attire includes curious hoods. For those of us growing up with Hollywood blasting out of our living room television set, we find a similarity to those infamous Klu Klux Klan ruffians, aside from the different colour of the wardrobe. These processions can have a neighbourhood brass band trailing alongside them and locals throw flower petals at the passers-by. Spaniards are truly musical and festive people.

The route that these processions follow move along a designated path, starting from their home churches and chapels, all the way to the Cathedral in the casco antiguo. The Cathedral of Seville is one of the largest in Europe, if not the biggest of them all. Even the neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the city actually make the trip, hauling their heavy floats and return them to their home parish. Their run can last up to 14 hours so I am sure those men must be in fantastic shape as they pay their yearly homage to Christianity and tradition.

The processions conclude early Easter Sunday morning. I suppose there aren’t any bunnies leaving chocolate shaped droppings for little Spanish kids to enjoy. The most important night is Thursday, when the most popular processions arrive at the Cathedral to tip off Good Friday under faint dawn sunlight. If you have the time, do arrive early, pick a spot and camp out to enjoy this amazing way of celebrating Semana Santa. ¡Olé!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Valencia, The Orange Blossom Coast

During my Spain trip in 2007, I visited Valencia in the company of my good friend Alejandro. He was kind enough to take some leave from work during my vacation and his uncle was generous enough to open the door of his home to us. All I knew before heading over was that it was Spain’s third largest city, it sports a great football club and that their oranges are delicious – although most Valencia oranges I have ever had were from Florida.

Little did I know that we were actually arriving in time for the Falles (pronounced Fah-yahs), a wonderful traditional celebration involving every single barrio of the city. Every city intersection seemed to be involved in the event. The people honour Saint Joseph building magnificent monuments out of a papier maché material that can be as tall as a five storey building. A number of towns in the Comunitat hold similar celebrations, but the capital of the region inspired the original tradition.

The neighbourhoods have divided themselves into groups over generation, holding fundraising activities often featuring Spain’s most famous dish, the paella. The principal simple ingredient is rice bathed in water with a tinge of saffron and can have a mix of various delightful additions: chicken, artichoke, chorizo, seafood… the sky is the limit. During the festival, you can find scattered throughout the downtown core of the city numerous tables to enjoy Valencia’s finest cooking. ¡Moltes gràcies!

The Valencianos are fond of this tradition and it is observed almost as a national holiday lasting about a week. If you arrive here during this time, you may mistake the city’s ambient sounds for those of a civil war or shoot out, as you will hear firecrackers and fireworks blowing off at all hours of the day. This is not a time for a meditative trance and you are guaranteed to lose quite a bit of sleep. The purpose is to be out and visit these magnificent effigies.

The closing ceremonies include people dancing in traditional outfits and people climbing on top of each other, forming a human pyramid, decorating a three-storey wreath with colourful flowers. After this is completed, the statues are burnt while everyone cheers. I was explained that the statues represent what the Valencianos dislike about society and burning them releases the troubles of the past. I suggest large quantities of Red Bull to get the most out of the trip! ¡Amunt Valencia!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cordoba, Where Is My Sultan?

Prior to my first visit to Andalusia, I must admit that I had no expectations on what I would find in this part of the world. When I first visited Alejandro in Sevilla back in 2004, I noticed that there is a quite distinct national identity. When I returned in 2007, I wanted to take in more of Andalusia’s rich history by visiting as much as I could in two weeks. Once you get there, you will realize this is easier said than done.

Cordoba was among the first cities in my “to do” list. Honestly, I knew nothing of its history before arriving, which in many ways adds to the surprise or disappointment in other cases. Say for example, not preparing to visit inner cities in Detroit can be an adventure, but you may not survive to tell the story. Cordoba is a name that is ever-present in Latin America with streets and cities named after this settlement. In Argentina, Cordoba is the second largest city after Buenos Aires.

When driving into town on the A-4 highway, you feel as if you took a wrong turn on the road and ended up somewhere in the Middle East or Northern Africa. The countryside definitely contributes to this sense of having a broken compass. The city seems to struggle with an identity crisis much like a third culture kid, having gone from being part of the Roman Empire, succumbing to the Moorish invasion becoming the Caliphate of Cordoba and eventually falling under new administration when the Spanish reconquered the Iberian Peninsula.

The predominant building in the skyline is the gargantuan cathedral of Cordoba, which has preserved its Moorish / Arabic architecture. It is truly stunning. The King of Spain was in awe of the perfectionism demonstrated by its previous tenants in erecting and decorating the building. He then decreed that the Catholic Church and the Spanish occupants leave everything exactly as it was when they found it – a little too late as there had already been figurines and portraits of Saints plastered on the wall. The gardens and fountains really make your thoughts travel to distant times.

This city provides even to a novice visitor and history enthusiast, a chance to discover three worlds. Italic ruins and bridges stand as proof that the Romans once settled the foundation of this town. Old constructions, building layouts and arches remind us of the glory of the Moorish empire and their advances in architecture. The Spanish have preserved much of the architecture, adding special touches of their own including a floating statue on the Guadalquivir, adding significant confusion when trying to crunch Spain into a national stereotype. Enjoy the visit!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Carleton University, A Capital Education

When I first attended Carleton University in 2001, I decided to dip my feet in the academic waters as a part-time student. This felt ideal to get a proper feel of the institution’s ambience and the quality of education. Post-secondary education can be an expensive venture, but it is an investment potentially yielding a great payoff. Similar to any investment, proper “due diligence” is a rule of thumb. You don’t want to commit the next three to four years of your life to a toxic relationship.

To be honest, it was time to prioritize my intellectual needs and preferred to remain in the National Capital Region. Prior to my first classroom experience in Carleton, many people residing in Ottawa and Canadians overseas regularly advised to avoid that school entirely. Some of the more frequent suggestions ranged from a school for Ottawa U rejects, the student crime rates were high and the quality of education was inferior to the national average. In other words, it is a safer investment to flush your cash down the toilet than owe tuition to Carleton.

Canadians are people that like to bet on the little guy. We are accustomed to being the underdog in global affairs due to our geographic location and proximity to the United States. It is reason enough not to be taken seriously. Perhaps this mental conditioning drove me to the school that not even the devil himself would attend but I was open to giving it my best shot. I enrolled into one history class and a language class to find out if I was willing signing my soul away. Immediately, I was impressed with the diversity of the student population – including different age groups – and the accessibility of the professors.

I followed my political science dream – dreaming is pointless if you do not chase after it – the following year and I was pleased with the quality, professionalism and knowledge of my professors. I had a Political Theory professor that was a carbon copy of the KFC general but he really knew his stuff – and I don’t mean fried chicken. The variety of subjects available in my field of choice actually encouraged a strong desire to learn. I honed my writing, presentation and statistical analysis skills that serve as a sound foundation for my current career. I never feel like the guy bringing a knife to a gunfight and I am always confident when treading new waters.

I realized that all the rumours about Carleton had no foundation. Sometimes, standing shoulder to shoulder with the little guy leads you to the realization that you are next to a benevolent giant. I celebrated cultural diversity playing an active role in the Latin American Student Organization where I made good friends helping Hispanics to adapt to life in Canada. They say that some of your best memories are from university and I strongly agree. I am an ambassador promoting Carleton since I before even graduation in 2005 and I am thankful for the education I received. Thanks for the good times!