What is TCK Heritage?

I was interviewed recently by a woman doing research on TCK’s* and cross cultural people. There were two things that came up during the interview that particularly struck me.

She asked me if I considered myself a migrant. I said no. I had never thought of using that word to describe my situation. What is the difference between an expat and a migrant? Good question. According to the Oxford English Dictionary a migrant is:

  1. A person who moves from one place to another in order to find work or better living conditions.

When I hear the word migrant, I think of the migrant worker. Somebody who follows the work by season, working in the fields. Migrants migrate from place to place as the need arises and work becomes available. Technically a migrant can be an expat.  People become expats for many reasons but a lot of them go to one place and then go home, most don’t go from place to place to place. A TCK does not choose where they are going and is not seeking work, they have no choice, so I would probably put them in the expat category but not the migrant one. That was my final answer. Care to discuss it?

The other thing she asked me about was heritage. What is heritage to a TCK? Was it formed by the cultures around me, did I make that part of my heritage, or was is something else? I have thought about this a lot since the interview. I found that I wasn’t sure what it meant. I discovered that there are two kinds of heritage. Tangible and Intangible. Tangible heritage includes architecture, archeology, objects, landscapes. Intangible is a bit more complex. The best definition I could find was a UNESCO site:

“…..intangible cultural heritage does not only represent inherited traditions from the past but also contemporary rural and urban practices in which diverse cultural groups take part;”

I always considered my heritage to be my family history. The fact that my family came from Ireland and Scotland to America in the 1700’s and gradually moved from the East coast to the Midwest where they eventually settled. They were immigrants and migrants. They were looking for work and a better life. They brought with them their particular variety of religion and their cultural traditions but I think much of it was lost in the great melting pot that became the USA. My family celebrates Thanksgiving and Christmas but not much else. My father never celebrated Thanksgiving growing up because it was corn picking season. On my grandparent’s farm there was always work to be done, didn’t matter what day it was.

Christmas in Burma with snow backdrop

Growing up TCK I didn’t have a deep connection with most of my extended family. I would see them once a year, if that, and didn’t have time to learn much. My parents tended to live in the moment so we learned about our current home’s history and traditions, wherever that was.  

When I lived in Mexico I knew a girl who went to the American school and lived in a neighborhood with a lot of other Americans. They had a girl scout group and celebrated all the USA holidays. One year she asked me to go over to her house for Halloween. I had dressed up a few times over the years when we lived in New York but it wasn’t really a part of our tradition. I liked getting the candy but to be honest I didn’t have any desire to repeat the experience. If I really thought about it, my life was way too interesting without having to participate in strange American rituals.

My current Christmas decorations

So, what is my heritage? As an adult I spent a long time doing genealogy research on my family. I thought it was fascinating to delve into my history and learn where I came from and how I got here. I ended up making a connection to their lives and mine because of the travel to parts unknown, etc. Something gave them the strength to do what they did and I felt it must be a part of me as well. So that is part of my heritage. Over the years I have learned about and celebrated many traditions from around the world and I have many objects in my home that have become a part of my heritage. Things my parents collected from Asia and Africa are now prominently displayed in my home and will someday probably be in my child’s home. They all have a story behind them and are an important part of who I am today.

What is my heritage?

It’s complicated….

 

*TCK stands for Third Culture Kid: Somebody who has grown up outside their passport country because of their parents’ work.

Memories and Speeches

Lake Lugano

Lake Lugano

When I was sixteen I went off to boarding school in Switzerland. My parents were living in Nigeria. My roommate traveled from Tanzania. My best friend’s parents were living in Tokyo. Walking down the hall in my dorm there were people from Saudi Arabia, Germany and various US cities. In a couple of weeks I will be going back to stay in the new dorms of my old school for a big reunion. I will see several of my old dorm-mates. We will haunt the old stomping grounds reliving old memories and making new ones.

One of my tasks for this reunion is to write a speech. I am having trouble sitting myself down and focusing on this task. Do I draw on the memories of particular events from those days?

Duomo, Florence

Duomo, Florence

The time Kelly saved my life at the Duomo in Florence. I didn’t know I had vertigo but turns out I did and he took my hand and guided me through it. The trip to Dachau and how quiet everybody was on the bus home. Leaning to drink warm beer at the HofBrauHaus in Munich. The other great thing about Munich was we saw our first McDonald’s in Europe and became “American” for a weekend. In Venice we got around on water buses and discovered a small disco. Plus a pigeon landed on my head in St Mark’s Square. Hiking up the side of a mountain just to lie in the grass and stare at the sky. Instigating “all school skip day” that stuck as a tradition.

Traveling through Greece having to hear about every single ruin by the side of the road and never getting to listen to rock and roll music. Taking a cruise through the Greek Islands and being bombarded by wet toilet paper rockets in the hallway outside the girl’s cabin. Listening to boring lectures about the mosaics of Ravenna and Giotto’s Chapel. Wishing there were horses in the square in Siena.

Palio Di Diena

Palio Di Siena

 

Or do I talk about the overall experience of living with an exceptional group of people, teachers and students alike who influenced the rest of our lives.

We were taught to be independent, curious, adventurous, supportive and respectful. We were only 16 or 17 and we traveled the world on our own without thinking twice about it. We would seek out art and architecture wherever we went. We enjoyed each other’s company, had fun together and sometimes tolerated each other. We became a family.

And now many many years later, we are still family. We have a unifier that brings us all together. That time in Switzerland made us all different. We experienced something together that other people could never understand. It was our unique world and we came out of it as a unit. So when we meet each other now, even if we didn’t know each other then, we immediately have a connection. We have a common ground to work off of. In some cases it was a jumping off point to forge new relationships. Even now the family continues to grow.

Or do I just tell a story and thank everybody for coming. Of course all memories are subject to change and embellishment. I could probably make something up. But I won’t. I will keep it simple and short. Who wants to listen to a speech when you are sitting eating French food on one of the most beautiful lakes in the world?

008-Vista-Albergo-Posta-Morcote Svizzera-Ticino-Lago-Lugano

 

On another note, I am going bi-coastal.  My Baltimore Post Examiner blog, Eclectic Global Nomad has been picked up by the Los Angeles Post Examiner so you can find me in both.

70 years together

img273

I am re-posting this from my other blog – Eclectic Global Nomad.

My parents were married at 2:00 in the afternoon.  My father was on medical leave from the US Navy after having his appendix out.  The year was 1943.

My mother remembers driving with her father to the church. They lived in a small town in Iowa.  As they drove through downtown my mother noticed the bank clock said 1:55.  When she and her new husband drove back the same route to her house for a small reception, she again noticed the clock.  It now said 2:15.  The minister had married them under the wrong name.  Nobody mentioned it.

My father’s father ran the family farm so he had petrol coupons.  He filled the car with gas and gave them coupons so they could go to Kansas City for a two day honeymoon before my father returned to his post at Lakehurst, New Jersey.  He was training to fly blimps.  My mother was teaching school and had to finish out the year before joining him.

They were separated again when my father went to fly blimps off the coast of Brazil searching for German submarines.  He remembers Christmas Day, 1944.  He and his buddies drove through the Brazilian countryside on their way to find a beach to play volleyball.  It was the first time he had ever seen that kind of poverty.  He noticed the crops in the fields and decided that very day he could help people by teaching agriculture.

He had planned to be a vocational agriculture instructor when he returned to civilian life but this gave it a whole new dimension.  He wanted to work overseas.  His mother had always told him he could do what ever he wanted if he set his mind to it.

Continue Reading

 

Food Friday: Lemon Sponge Pudding

FoodLogo

 

 

 

photo-4

 

 

This is is another old family favorite.  It melts in your mouth!

 

Lemon Sponge Pudding

IMG_1306

 

 

 

 

 

Combine:

3/4  cup sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. grated lemon peel

1 1/2 Tbsp. soft butter

3 Tbsp. flour

2 egg yolks, beaten

photo-3

 

 

 

 

 

Add:     1/4 cup lemon juice

1 cup milk

(Mixture may have curdled appearance, but no matter)

photo-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beat:     2 egg whites until stiff and fold into mixture.

 

Pour into buttered 1.5 quart casserole.

photo-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Place in pan of hot water

Bake at 325°F uncovered 40-45 min or until set (1 hr).

photo-5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serve warm or chilled.  I like it warm!

The Family

IMG_0010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flying home from my winter wonderland visit with the family I thought about a conversation my mother had with one of my nieces as they were saying good-bye.

Mother:  We really do have an odd family

Niece:  Should we take offense at that?

Mother:  Well, no, you are all very interesting.

Niece:  Interesting?  Now I know we are being insulted.

Mother:  But interesting is good.  I can’t think of anything worse than a bunch of boring people.

Niece:  Well, we certainly are not boring.

Mother:  No, none of you are boring!

 

It was all in good fun but it made me think of what makes up my non-boring family.  There were sixteen of us.  We are scattered across 5 states.

The patriarch grew up on a farm in Iowa and ended up spending over forty years as an expat.  He  met many Heads of State and he had been to 90 countries by the time he was 90.  The matriarch, kept up with him all the way also starting out in a small town in Iowa.  My brothers and I are third culture kids who grew up all over the world.

I married Nicholas, a Russian American whose parents were refugees after World War II.  Nicholas’ father never learned to speak English so Nicholas was his translator from a young age.  Nicholas used to tell me that coming home from school every day he felt like he was crossing a border into another country.  Most of his family still live in Russia.  Our son spent the first six years of his life in Russia and has traveled to many places around Europe.

My brother moved to Australia after college and met and married a woman from New Zealand.  She also came from a cross cultural family with roots in England and Australia.  Their children carry dual passports – New Zealand and USA.  They visit their relatives half way around the world whenever they can.

My niece married a first generation American with Indian roots.  She is now immersed in the traditions and culture of an extended Indian family.  One tradition included a rice eating ceremony for their baby daughter.  For this ceremony they needed a baby sari.  Not just any sari but a beautiful, fancy sari.  They found it was difficult to find one the USA and so another sister-in-law of mine and my niece are starting a baby sari business.  They have an Indian woman lined up to make the saris and they are working on a website to market their goods.  You will be hearing more about this as things progress.

So we are a cross cultural conglomeration.  And we all get along beautifully.

Cheers!

photo

 

Mothers’ Congress Cook Book 1922

8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I inherited a cookbook from my grandmother.  The cover is gone so I don’t know what it looked like but the date is 1922.   The Preface states:

“Organized into a working body, the Mother’s Congress of Mount Ayr, presents Mothers who are studying and working for the betterment of Child Welfare.

In its interests financially, this little book is published and sent out by them.”

Followed by: 

“We may live without poetry, music and art.

We may live without conscience and live without heart;

We may live without friends, we may live without books;

But civilized man cannot live without cooks.   —-  Merideth.”

It starts out with 12 points on how to set a table.  Numbers 11 and 12:

11.  Place carving set in front of host, or put carving knife and gravy ladle at his right, and fork at his left.

12.  Place coffee cups and coffee pot at right of hostess.

IMG_0807

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The recipes don’t mention oven temperature other than “moderate oven” or “quick oven” and many of them don’t mention how long anything should cook.  Here are a few samples.

Norwegian Stew. – Brown in a large kettle 1 c. lard and butter mixed, 25-cent round steak cut in small pieces, flour thoroughly and stir into the browned lard, continue stirring until meat is brown.  Then add 1 c. flour stirring constantly, set on back of stove and add 2 qts. Boiling water, salt and pepper and let simmer 2 hrs, ½ hr. before serving add enough potatoes of medium size for the meal, stir occasionally as it will stick to kettle.  —  J.A.W.

Molasses Cake.  1 cup molasses, ½ c. sugar, ½ c. butter or lard, ½ tsp each cloves, ginger, cinnamon; 1 tsp. soda in 1 c. boiling water, 2 eggs, well beaten; last, flour to stiffen.  –Mrs. Holman.

And my grandmother’s contribution:

Green Tomato Relish.  – 5 lbs. green tomatoes, 6 large onions, 3 c. brown sugar, 3 c. red peppers, 3 green peppers, 1 tbsp. each of powdered cloves, all spice, celery seed, dry mustard, ½ c. salt, 8 c. vinegar.  Peel and slice tomatoes and onions very thin.  Remove seeds from peppers and chop very fine.  To these add the other ingredients and cook over a moderate fire ½ hr., stirring frequently.  Cover with paraffin. – Mrs. Liggett.

 

Household hints:

Rub the feet every night and morning with bay rum and witch hazel, equal parts, for frost bits.

Turpentine and lard rubbed on throat and chest will often relieve pain from cold.

To carry a mattress without breaking your fingernails (also back) use a broom underneath as a saddle and see how much easier it is.

Use a tbsp. of kerosene to wash windows.  It not only cuts the dirt but is distrastful to flies 

I’m not sure what “distrastful” is.  Maybe a typo.  But you get the idea.

The book ends with a poem.

Receipt for a Happy Day

Take a little dash of cold water,

A little leaven of prayer,

A little bit of sunshine gold,

Dissolved in the morning air.

Add to your meal some merriment,

Add thought for kith and kin,

And the, as a prime ingredient

A plenty of work thrown in.

Flavor it all with essence of love,

And a dash of play.

Let the dear old book and a glance above,

Complete the well spent day.

–Mrs. Smith 

Whatever your recipe is, I hope you have a happy day!! 

 

 

Life Can Change In An Instant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was four years old my family was assigned to a post in Burma. We drove to Iowa to see relatives before embarking on our trip.  Our route was to fly from Omaha, Nebraska to Los Angeles, California, with a stop in Denver, Colorado.  We were going to spend a few days in Los Angeles with relatives and then travel on to Manila and Rangoon.  In the 1960’s, air travel was nothing like it is today.  The planes were relatively small and jet engines were a new development.

We boarded the plane in Omaha for Los Angeles, and as our United Airlines DC-8 approached Denver, the pilot, Captain John Grosso, came over the loud speaker to say we were having some problems and our landing might be a little rough.  I was sitting by the window with my father next to me.  My mother was across the aisle and my brothers, nearby.  My father took out his briefcase from under the seat, removed his glasses and put them in his pocket.  I thought that was a little strange and I wondered what was going on.

It turned out we had lost all of our landing-gear fluid so the plane came down smack! – hard on the tarmac, no bouncing involved.  The pilot immediately lost control of the plane and we skidded into a truck, killing the driver instantly.  We then swerved haphazardly down the runway, finally careening off onto the grass where the engines burst into flames.

There were no overhead compartments, just open shelves.  Hats, bags, and books sailed through the plane crashing down on people and seats.  As soon as the plane stopped, my father scooped me up and headed for the exit. My immediate concern was for my favorite doll abandoned under the seat and being left behind.  My mother was ahead of us and my brothers Tom (13) and Tim (15) were behind us.

We reached the emergency exit and stepped out onto the wing.  My mother jumped to the tarmac below us, breaking her ankle in her high-heeled shoes. We could see her leaning on another passenger and limping away from the plane.  My father and I stood on one side of the wing feeling the intense heat bursting from the engines on the other side. We turned to make sure my brothers were behind us and my father froze; they were not there.  Several other people came out, but we didn’t budge as my father nervously craned his neck searching for Tom and Tim.  Finally, they emerged and we immediately hit the ground and ran to the other side of the runway to join my mother.

My father went into severe shock. He was holding me so tightly that the shock passed to me and I began screaming in terror.  He would not let me go even though my mother pleaded with him to put me down.

I remember looking over towards the buildings and seeing several fire trucks waiting patiently as the plane continued to burn.  There was some construction impasse and the fire trucks could not enter the runway.  Necessary ramps were missing.  After what seemed to be hours, we were herded into a large hanger where we were sorted out.  Each passenger had to tell the airline authorities who they were and what luggage they had. We were then sent off to a hotel in town.  My parents told us that the airline would replace everything that was lost and I had to ask if that included my toothbrush.  I was particularly sad to lose my babydoll, Meredith Ann Diane, because she really could never be replaced which I knew, even at four years old.

Seventeen people died in the crash and many more were severely burned.  My father and brothers had minor burns and my mother had a broken ankle and we were all traumatized.  One of the reasons airlines now have the long safety speech at the beginning of flights is because of that day in Denver in 1961.  The crew was not properly trained and people did not know what to do in case of an emergency. Travel in those days was unpredictable, and could be fatal. In an instant I lost my favorite doll and learned a valuable lesson.  Life could be terrifying but we were lucky people.

Weekly Writing Challenge: In An Instagram

You can read more about my story here:  Expat Alien