I've been hanging out a bit with my dear friend Kari. She is a missionary kid whose parents moved here to Chile from the States and Canada 30 years ago to work with the indigenous here. After growing up in Chile, but doing part of high school and all of university in Canada, Kari understands well what it means to be a Third Culture Kid (TCK). A TCK is a kid who has spent a substantial part of their formative years outside of their parent's culture. Many TCKs struggle with not knowing where their home is, not understanding which culture is theirs, and other areas of confusion. Kari studied psychology with the goal of working with TCKs who are transitioning into adulthood and the whole concept of TCK is often a topic of discussion between the two of us.
I have recently been experiencing some cultural discomfort. Nothing too big. And not even really anything I can put my finger on. And maybe discomfort isnt the word to use. Maybe confusion is.
A few months ago I was riding in the car with my pastor, Cristobal, to pick up his kids from school. They go to the missionary kids school here run by American Baptists. One of my austrailian missionary friends sends her kids there too. And often we wave at each other as we pass in our cars. But this one day, my pastor, who is chilean, commented to me that his family and the other missionary family were quite different. There wasn't any judgement in his voice. It really wasn't a matter or good or bad, it was just a cultural difference issue. One family is much more austrailian and the other is much more chilean. I nodded in agreement to my pastors comment and then began to wonder... where do I fit into this? I voiced my question to Cristobal and sincerely wondered what he thought. I spend more time with his family than any other family here. I feel very at home with his family. And yet, I'm not chilena. But I'm more chilena than most gringas. Cristobal agreed.
I'm not normal (no big surprise there!). I'm somewhere between a chilena and a gringa.
That was a few months ago. These days I feel the difference even more than ever. I particularly feel it when I hang out with foreigners. As time passes, I feel less and less "at home" with foreigners. Whether they are from the US, England, or Austrailia, there is this assumption that we will feel comfortable because we come from the same culture. But I don't. In fact, I feel so different than most gringos that I end up feeling fairly UNcomfortable.
So I talked to Kari and we came up with a term for me... TCA (Third Culture Adult). I don't really fit into either culture perfectly and that leads to plenty of confusion and frustration. And I feel that, quite often. No one really seems to understand me. Not even the other foreigners who live here. I prefer spanish over english. But I think adults should be independent if they have the means to be so. I love mexican soap operas just as much as my gringo sitcoms but I get frustrated with the way the news shows here almost never show what's going on in the rest of the world. And even on my worst days here, when the reality of life is so frustrating that I cry, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I love living here. And I can't even really tell you why. It's just home.