Monday, November 23, 2015

friends of many colors

Anthropologists and missiologists sometimes use the term "Third-Culture Kid" (TCK) to describe those growing up in a culture that is not home to either of their parents. As a result they end up feeling like they don't fully belong in either culture, but are comfortable interacting with others from around the globe. I have often wondered if this label applies to my own children.

Though we've been missionaries for 13 years, all but 2-1/2 of these were spent in the U.S. Eliana was a wee thing when we lived and traveled overseas. But she has changed zip codes innumerable times. (Ok, that's an exaggeration, but she is attending her 9th school this year and living at her 10th address!) She's experienced living on the East Coast (South), in the Midwest, and in the Northwest, as well as the Philippines. And even when her feet are firmly planted on American soil, she has a magnetic attraction to other cultures.

How magnetic, you ask? Here's a list of the nationalities of some of her closest friends at each age of her life:

Age 2-3 - British, Filipino, Korean, American
4-5 - African-American
6 - Cuban and Japanese
7 - Indian
8-9 - Ethiopian, American
10 - Indonesian
11 - Filipino, African-American, Guatemalan
12 - Mexican-American, Filipino, Dominican
13 - Korean, American
14 - French, Brazilian

What is responsible for Eliana's multi-culturalism? Why is she more comfortable with nationalities other than her own? Why is her favorite class this year AP Human Geography?

Is it my own fascination with other cultures?
I'll never forget the day in 4th grade when Ana came home and told me she had made a new friend. She was apologetic because her new friend was white (!). That's when I realized that I had probably been too overt about my own quest for cross-cultural relationships.

Is it all the books we've read from around the world?
Many of those books are featured on my 'Best Kids Books' list to the right of this post. It started Eliana on a reading journey that continues today.

Was it living in the Philippines at a formative age?
This might have had the opposite effect. Eliana associated Tagalog with being pinched or otherwise harassed in the market. She refused to speak Tagalog, even when she understood it, and began to hate going shopping with me so I left her at home. On the other hand, "Nanay" was a beloved member of our family while we lived in the Philippines, and Eliana spent many happy hours with her. She also loved attending preschool with friends of many colors.

Or is it part of God's call on Eliana's life? Part of how he's wired her? Time will tell!

For now, I am thoroughly enjoying the journey.

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