Check out Somewhere Between, and bring it to your town with @TuggInc!
I really, really, really want to see this movie, and furthermore would love to see it with my daughters. They are also Third Culture Kids, in a way.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
How do you talk about a book that is overflowing with "aha" moments? I read this book twice; once just to absorb it, and the second time armed with a pink highlighter. Sara Taber's life could have been my life. In places, it was. She is able to put into words so many of the confusing, restless feelings that make up my psyche. I could pick apart the entire book and point out the myriad parts of her life that paralleled mine, but there aren't enough megabytes on Blogger to include them all.
Sara grew up as a Third Culture Kid, the daughter of a CIA covert operative who worked in the guise of an embassy employee during the era of Red China and the Communist Horde. Sara was born in Japan, but her earliest memories are of Taiwan. After a brief stay in the U.S., the family moved to Holland. In high school Sara attended boarding school in Japan while her parents were stationed in Borneo. She spent her senior year at the American School in Japan.
Sara describes an incident in Borneo when she and her father trekked three hours into the jungle with a Catholic missionary priest. They "slathered their legs with insect spray" and trod through the muck, listening to the drone of insects and watching gibbons hanging from a vine. You can almost feel the oppressive. moist heat, as the jungle became "close and claustrophobic." I will let her continue the story:
"Finally at the end of three hours, we saw a bright opening in the forest. All around us was scrub, interspersed with fruit and rubber trees, and vegetable and pepper trees ... Walking ahead we found on the green a tiny hamlet of bamboo huts on stilts, surrounded by palm trees...
"On our approach, we passed a line of six or eight upright stones, animist figures like ancient beings, being licked by some scruffy goats. I stopped a minute to circle the stones. The figures seemed open-faced and friendly...
"Up a rude ladder, in one of the houses, a woman in a faded sarong served us tea. She smiled at me and listened intently to the priest. A boy led us to the hut on stilts where we'd spend the night.
"My father, [my brother] and I sat with our backs against the bamboo walls while Father Downey read for an hour from the Bible. As he read on with the drone of an insect, I thought of the collection of small stone figures outside on the pasture. It seemed so violently wrong to me. I thought about imposition -- about the priest's imposition of his beliefs on people with their own perfectly serviceable religion. I thought about missionaries ... how [they] imposed their ways on others with a sense of righteousness. To a fault, I'd be wary of imposition always -- that of others and my own."
Although I never went into the hinterlands of deepest darkest Borneo, like Sara, I did taste, see, hear and feel other religions. Before entering a Shinto temple, I poured water from the temizu basin with a bamboo ladle over my hands. I walked up a hill to catch my school bus, alongside a Buddhist temple, listening to the ting of a small bell, signifying wisdom. I walked, shoeless and quiet into a Muslim mosque. I never questioned the validity of their religious fervor, never judged them. If anything, I felt awed by their quiet devotion and understood that there was a place on this earth for us all. I like to believe that we are all children of the same God, but we call Him (or Her?) by different names and worship Him according to our cultural and historical geographical differences.
I can't recommend Sara Taber's book enthusiastically enough. I have described just one small part of her story, but the book is brimming with many, many others. I challenge any Third Culture Kid to read "Born Under an Assumed Name" and not find pieces of themselves scattered through the pages.
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
I have a confession to make. It’s something I have kept secret for years, although some of my nearest and dearest may know the truth. I have fought to keep it private, but sometimes the elements around me scream for me to confess, to come out, to make amends in public. So here and now, I will make it known to the world: I have curly hair.
My earliest toddler memories are of my sisters calling me “Fizz Head”. Photos of me show a meringue confection of tow headed curliness swirling around my face. Waves and ringlets dance chaotic around me, every day looking like I have just rolled out of bed. When it got long enough, my mom braided it every day; over time I left the house in progressively longer braids, so tight that I felt like my eyes were stretched into slits. Towards the end of the day, wild tendrils would pop out of the braids, and the ends would swirl into perfect soft-serve Shirley Temple coils. I had an enormous wardrobe of matching ribbons, grosgrain, satin, yarn, you name it, one for practically each outfit. On special occasions, would put my braids into loops, and I looked like a hybrid of Heidi and Pippi Longstocking.
|Mommy, Mommy, my braids are too tight!|
|Argh, where's my flatiron? Oh wait, it hasn't been invented yet!|
The fear of curly hair was my nemesis. At the International School Manila, sitting in the Student Lounge during recess would strike fear in my heart. It was an outdoor pavilion, and if I was out there for half a minute, it was frizzy mayhem. I think I volunteered to stay in class to help clean erasers most of the time. I once had a semester of P.E. first period of the day, and we had swimming! I think the bandanna became my best friend. There was that awful day in Singapore (even closer to the equator!) when my mom made me walk to school. Horrors!
I missed out on so much. There were trips to the beach and pool parties with
classmates that I skipped. All
because of the damn hair. It was a
curse. I don’t know if it was
because of the taunting and the teasing when I was young (“Fizz Head!”) or my
devotion and worship of my sister Lisa.
When she died, perhaps I was continuing her legacy of elegance and
straightness. In a way I was
trying to keep her alive in my mind.
Not so much trying to be LIKE her, but to BE her. She had been ultra-popular in high
school, cheerleader and singer. She
used to ride her moped to school in Belgium, her long straightened hair
billowing from underneath her helmet.
Crowds of teenagers with guitars used to crowd into our house,
motorcycles parked willy-nilly in the driveway. My dad would tape their jam sessions on his reel-to-reel
Aiwa recorder. My mom would sit
amidst them, one of the gang. I
would peep in from behind the door, loving the sounds of the twelve string, and
admiring the girls with their long, straight hair. I wanted to be one of them, but I was relegated to admiring
from afar. I probably got into
Lisa’s makeup, again trying to transform myself into what she was. She was the epitome of cool, and I always fell short of reaching her status.
|11th grade, Manila.|
I was always on the fringes (no pun intended). My psychotic relationship with my hair kept me always on the outside, like the 12 year old me watching the jam sessions behind the dining room door. Why couldn’t I just embrace the curls? I had friends with beautiful curls. I loved how it looked on them. I envied their nonchalance.
|Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!|
I think I have finally made peace with my hair, although I recoil at humidity. I still straighten my hair, despising the process all the while, but hating the alternative more. Recently I went to bed with wet hair, too exhausted to do anything about it. When I woke up, I looked like Cosmo Kramer. Literally. I am able to laugh at myself now, but I still won’t come out of the curly shell. I have fantasies about cutting my hair completely short, traveling to the jungles of deepest Borneo and not having to worry about a thing.