Thursday, March 29, 2012

Curiosity About ... Home

An international businessman talks about what "home" means.…-home

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Yesterday we went on a 12 mile bike ride.   It was a beautiful Texas spring afternoon, filled with sunshine and wispy clouds.  We passed by fields of blood-red poppies and endless rolling seas of waving bluebonnets.  Growing up I heard my mom, a Texas native, rave about the beautiful bluebonnets, although we were never there when they were growing.  It was just a mental image of something that was important to mom.  I've written about Texas before, but every day that I live here, it grows in familiarity.

In a way I am an adopted child of Texas.  The name Texas is from the Louisiana Caddo Indians' word, "tejas" which means friend or ally.  I was born in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, so I do have a tenuous connection with Texas.  (That's my story and I'm sticking to it!) Mom and Dad used to joke that I was the only one of their children not born there but that they decided to keep me anyway.

I grew up with the flavors of Texas.  Dad regaled us with stories about growing up in the Panhandle (the dust storms, the tumble weed).  When we visited Grandma and Grandpa in Pampa, we used to sleep with the windows open at night.  I could hear the plaintive whine of a far-away train whistle.  Grandma had a garden behind her house, with morning glories and bachelor buttons nodding in the breeze.  Mom and Dad both went to "The University" (there was no other).  We honed our sense of humor with Aggie jokes (why do Aggies have TGIF written on their shoes?  Toes Go In First!)  One vision I have of my mother is in a flannel skirt decorated with a picture of a sleeping Mexican man wearing a sombrero.  The first place we ate when we hit San Antonio was La Fonda del Norte.  Mom tells the story of Mobil Oil knocking on the door of the house where she lived in Sherman, asking permission to drill in the back yard.  They struck oil, and mom remembers the fine mist of black gold raining down from the sky.

Driving through White Deer, we all perked up to catch sight of the statue of a white deer down a side street.  We would stop in Salado to eat at the Stagecoach Inn, where every meal began with a small cup of chicken broth and hush puppies.  Towns like Dalhart, Paris, Turkey and Sherman have meaning to me.  Mom told me recently that when she has trouble sleeping, she goes down the alphabet and names a town in Texas for each letter.  Dallas to me means Granny, Amarillo Grandma, and San Antonio Aunt Sue.  I kind of understand now why mom and dad sent me to Texas for college, although in my narcissistic teenage stage I had fears of being inundated with invitations from elderly relatives (never materialized).

We all learned the songs, the Yellow Rose, The Eyes of Texas, Deep in the Heart, and of course Beautiful Texas, from those long car trips.  On the endless highway, my dad would say, "The sun has ris' and the sun has set, and here we is in Texas yet!"  We knew why Houston was called Houston and Austin was called Austin.

Sometimes Third Culture Kids learn about their parents' culture from tales handed down, but they only experience it second-hand or on short visits.  I find it ironic but fitting that I have landed back here, as a result of the events that have steered my life.  But this time around, I am pausing long enough to really experience the things previously only figments of my imagination.  The smell of a bluebonnet field, the sight of the Lone Star flag whipping in a hot wind, the taste of Mexican food ... it all reminds me that for a rootless Third Culture Kid, I do have some belonging to this place.  And that is comforting.

Neither Here Nor There

When Home is no where. And everywhere. 

"Neither Here Nor There" is a 35 minute documentary that explores cultural identity for people who have grown up in places other than their home culture, known as Third Culture Kids. Through the stories of six subjects, the film investigates the often overlooked effects on adults who had international upbringings, their struggles to fit in and an eternal search to belong. 

The film is also a self-exploratory journey for the filmmaker, a Japanese-British raised bi-culturally and in an international school system, who now lives in New York. In her last year of college, she attempts to figure out what she is in the context of the world.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Filipino Banana Ketchup

The rumors of the demise of my blog have been greatly exaggerated.  For whatever reason I have been suffering from a terminal case of writers' block, although occasionally I have come across articles that make me think "Gee that would be great for the blog."  For whatever reason, I never got around to posting.  Christmas came, with all of its connected busyness.  More importantly, I started a part-time job, which at first was more full-time than part, and I had to learn new skills like how to look cheerful when my feet were about to fall off.  (Yes, it's in retail!)  After the first month or so of griping (to myself) about working in retail again, when I swore on a stack of bibles back in college that I would never do so again (never say never!) I have to admit I have become quite fond of the group of ladies with whom I work, and even more fond of the customers that I meet.  You never know what will happen day to day.  Recently a lady came in who had lost her home in the Labor Day Bastrop fire.  As we started chatting, she told me that her husband had been in the State Department and they had lived all over the world.  Sadly, all of their cherished souvenirs from their various posts had been lost in the fire.  I had a mental picture of all the stuff my mom has in her house, and it made me very sad.  I asked about her children, how they had coped with being Third Culture Kids, and we had a long talk about that.  I really wanted to chat longer but my boss was giving me looks, and I had to move along.  Another lady came in who was obviously French, and I stunned her by speaking to her in her language.  That started another great conversation.  

Not my store, but close.

The after-Christmas slump has resulted in me going back to genuine part-time status, and I'm afraid my paycheck has gone mostly to buying the clothes that they sell.  On the other hand, I have a little pot to buy plane tickets to visit the children.  

Then my mom decided that it was time to sell her house and move to Austin.  We are still in the middle of the real estate roller coaster, looking at some houses here, and putting hers on the market in Baton Rouge.  Right now she has an offer, with two back-up offers, so I think (crossing fingers) that the move is imminent.  That will be an epic adventure, cleaning out her house after 30+ years, so I may be AWOL for a while this spring and summer.

Not my mom's house.

In the meantime ... I have been reading a hilarious series in The Displaced Nation (an expat blog) called "Libby's Life."  It is a (fictional, I think?) account of a British woman who moves to New England with her husband and young son, and all the hilarity that ensues.  I think there are 39 episodes now, but you really must read it from the beginning to appreciate it.  But I warn you, once you get started you will be sucked in!!!  

Also got caught up in the Downton Abbey mania.  I downloaded both seasons from Amazon and watched it all in 2 nights.  It is simply amazing.

My children's father has a new love in his life.  I get all the dish from my youngest, who is the proverbial telegram, telephone, tell-A-Melanie.  I have to admit that I am thrilled.  I know that my leaving was a staggering loss for him, but the fact was, among other things, we were so unequally yoked (in church speak).  I'm not sure this is relevant to a Third Culture Kid blog, but in a way it is.  Having lived immersed in so many cultures, I am almost cripplingly (is that a word?) open minded and cannot with any certainty claim that any one religion is right or wrong.  I feel that we humans are all the same, and perhaps we have the same supreme being, but call Him by different names.  In his church it was "our way or the highway" and I was offended for all the people of different faiths and creeds that I have known in my peripatetic life.  I will always love my ex for the amazing children that we produced (and adopted), and I have long prayed (ironic?) for him to find someone to share his faith and his life and to make him happy again.  I think that person has finally arrived and I am crossing my fingers and toes for them both.  Is that weird?

Good night to all of you Third Culture friends, wherever you are!