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, June 30, 2013

Gràcia a Diós, I’m Home

There is nothing I remember best than the day I arrived to my temporary digs in Barcelona. Upon arriving at the address securing the printed e-mail, holding it like a sacred scripture, I rang the doorbell and waited. My trusty goons (the suitcases) sat on my flanks. Thieves are clever in this town as each of these made for a difficult snatch and run. Seconds turned to minutes and my mind wondered if I had fallen for a scam of sorts.

My Movistar store on Carrer Gran de Gràcia. Notice the Catalan signage

Across the street on Carrer Gran de Gràcia, a Movistar cellphone shop teased me, knowing very well I was in quite a pickle. I picked up old Samsonite and his twin brother, dragging them to the store. I was determined to purchase a prepaid phone to get connected to the grid. Being jetlagged and somewhat underslept – for lack of a better word – my most immediate need was to find a way to communicate with my supposed host in the case my intelligence was erroneous.

Fifty euros or so later, I was in possession of a sleek new cheap phone and was able to dial up the number for the apartment I could easily see from inside the store. I was immediately greeted with a friendly che or two, establishing initial contact. My new flat mate mentioned that he had totally forgotten to tell me the doorbell was out. He said he’d meet me at the door, so once we hung up, I proceeded back to the point I was dropped off. My suitcases were getting much heavier each step I took under the warm, humid, Catalan midday sun.

I noticed the door to the street was now ajar, as my newest friend unlocked it through the flat’s intercom for ease of access. Nice lad. As I nudged the door open further using my patented hip shuffle, I could now see the hallway was dark as night. Well, more or less, under the lens of the unknown and all that baggage that usually follows along. I could only see the shade of a person coming down and eventually he came to the light, welcoming me to Barcelona.

Carrer Gran de Gràcia in the nighttime. Pretty sweet, eh?

From the street, the building itself seemed rather beaten up so I worried if I was moving in to roach city. However, the young Argentinean gentleman had a great sense of pride for his home. The apartment could have been a poster child for an IKEA campaign (this is meant in a good way) or for a magazine on how to maximize space in a small dwelling. Things were off to a good start!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bon día, Barcelona

The natural flow in most of my life adventures generally followed a North-South trend. The furthest I had ever relocated using this well-rehearsed routine was approximately 9000 km (5400 miles). My first major East-West move breaking the trend was from O-town to Barcelona back in 2007. This was fundamentally different as the move was also across several time zones, which I find is much more difficult as the distance grows between your destination and point of departure.

In transatlantic travel, it can be preferable for heavy sleepers to take the overnight flight - if it’s available, of course. Sleeping in a tin can while levitating a good 10,000 m (35,000 feet) above an icy body of water can be easy for some. The occasional shake and bake is just like a sweet caress. Statistics are on your side when riding a passenger jet compared to riding a unicycle around a volcanic crater – never would have guessed - but somehow I am unable to catch some Zs on what some call “the metallic condor”.

From YUL to BCN – trying to sound cool using airport lingo – the flight time is about 8 hours and 30 minutes, depending on prevailing winds, weight of the plane and the size of the pilot’s lunch prior to boarding. Aside from the travel time, there is about a 6-hour actual time difference (GMT -4:00 versus GMT +2:00), which can eventually make you feel like you are living entirely world apart from the one you loved ones stay behind. I does take quite a lot of getting used to.

Travelling for a long-term move is much different to vacationeering – term originates from those vicious beach pirates making their way from one resort to the next, one piña colada at a time. The sense of adventure grows as you bounce around like a monkey with a mad case of indigestion, wondering, “what did I get myself into.” For some, these feelings may be tough to admit, even to the most seasoned nomad. Did I make the right choice in accepting that kind invitation from that guy to stay at his apartment, or is he some Hannibal-the-Cannibal looking to savour some foreign cartilage? Yeah, you know you’ve been there too, tough guy.

After the slowest trip of a lifetime – I did sit in an airplane once with my brother for 13 hours, but we killed time reciting the lines from Top Gun word for word in three different languages – I was in balmy Barcelona. I blended in nicely with the locals carrying two humongous suitcases and my laptop bag strapped to my chest like a suicide nerd bomber. I hired an airport taxi that reminded me of the black and yellows in the Southern Cone where a gipsy driver was taking me to my first Catalan home.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada

I have often associated Canadian summers – like most Canadians – with the perfect time to play soccer. The parks are filled with people enjoying the limited sunshine and fresh air, pretending we are some tropical country. Hey, we deserve it. We are also one of the few countries along with our American cousin down South to have a competitive league over the summer, because... well, you guessed it: our winters.

My last summer before heading to Barcelona was momentous. FIFA organized an under 20 World Cup in my honour – I have a lot of contacts - bringing the best young talent in the world to Canada. This is perhaps football at its best. Generally, these youngsters are looking to play their hearts out on the field, hoping to catch the eye of some European scout to secure a contract. Later on when you watch the Champions League or other international tournaments, you can say, “I remember that guy back when he was a kid!”

Ottawa hosted Group E, which to my delight included Argentina, with the likes of Sergio “El Kun” Agüero who now plays in Manchester City, Sergio Romero, goalkeeper for Sampdoria, Ever Banega, a no-nonsense defensive midfielder currently patrolling midfield in Valencia and Angel Di Maria, an explosive goal scoring winger featured in Real Madrid’s first team. Now, 6 years after this tournament, they are all pretty much international regulars for Argentina.

Most Canadian cities were ill-equipped to handle an event of this magnitude and greatly unexpected the heavy turnouts to each game. I remember going to Lansdowne Park with my buddy Glen to cheer on La Albiceleste, and the residents in the Glebe were frustrated with the crowds. Another interesting fact was the number of Argentines who travelled from Montreal, Toronto and even far West to see the boys win. It almost seemed that Argentina had a strong home field advantage.

The tournament in its final stages was most remembered for some incredible South American dominance with Argentina putting in an elegant display of the futbol lindo to win it all and Chile playing some outstanding ball. The Chileans were soured in an incident where the Toronto Police brutally beat and arrested a number of Chilean players who were trying to make their way to their expat fans to thank them for their support.