TCKs as Prototypical Citizens and Culture Shock as Exaggerated Poop: Ted Ward’s Views on Growing Up Abroad
March 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
According to the Taipei Times, the sport of river tracing may have have been birthed in Taiwan in 1982. That year, a Japanese expedition team representing the Osaka Grassshoes Society traced the Nantsi River to the top of Taiwan’s Jade Mountain. (How’s that for an epic-sounding adventure?) Years ago I got to chaperone a group of junior-high-school students in a much less demanding trek, hiking in and up a fast-moving mountain river in northern Taiwan. We had a great time wading, swimming, crawling, and climbing. Not only did we find the spring that was the river’s source, but we also enjoyed—and discovered a lot during—the getting there.
So it is with quotation tracing, finding the origin and context of well-known, though often misquoted and misattributed, quotations. There’s much to be learned from tracking down quotations, and now that I’m older, I find that quotation tracing is more suited to a more sedentary lifestyle, as well.
My target quotation this time is one that we read often in literature about Third Culture Kids. And just like river tracing in Taiwan, it comes from the 80s. It’s Ted Ward’s
TCKs are the prototype citizens of the future.
I used this form of the quotation a few years ago in a blog post that I wrote. Sadly, at the time, I hadn’t checked the source. Had I done so, I would have seen that the original comes from page 57 of “The MK’s Advantage: Three Cultural Contexts,” in Understanding and Nurturing the Missionary Family. The chapter from Ward is an abridged version of a presentation he made in Quito, Ecuador, at the International Conference on Missionary Kids, held in 1987. (David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken, in Third Culture Kids: Growing Up among Worlds, are two who point to this source.) I would have also seen that the quotation has been paraphrased over time.
Speaking about the qualities that define Missionary Kids (MKs) as world Christians, Ward says,
Another characteristic is the loyalty to Christian values, even above the social pragmatics that we deal with in any society. There are characteristics of the internationalizing community of Christ that may very well, in this increasingly shrunken world, become characteristic of the church in general in the twenty-first century. One of my propositions is that the missionary kid of the nineties will be the prototype of the Christian of the twenty-first century [emphasis mine].
Because Missionary Kids are a subset of Third Culture Kids, it’s not a stretch to apply what Ward said to the larger group as a whole, but it’s interesting that his comments in this context refer not to general global citizens but to citizens of the community of Christians. This is understandable, though, as Ward’s audience was missionary families, and if he were talking to expat families in general, I would think it logical that he would apply the same principle to the broader category of all TCKs.
But looking at Ward’s presentation as a whole, I find something even more interesting. It’s his strong pronouncements of how MKs should embrace the advantages of their lives abroad and should not focus on the perceived negatives. “I view the MK growing up experience,” he says, “as very positive and very valuable, in comparison with the experiences available to their cousins who are stuck back home.”
To combat negative stereotypes applied to MKs, Ward uses somewhat blunt language, language that grates against my way of thinking. But one of his goals seems to be to shake up our assumptions, and my discomfort shows that he has been successful in that with me.
At the time that he spoke at the Quito conference, Ward was serving as dean of International Studies, Mission, and Education at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Before that, he spent 30 years at Michigan State University, teaching in the areas of education and curriculum research, and taking a leading role in the field of theological education.
While at Michigan State, Ward was a colleague of Ruth Hill Useem, the sociologist and anthropologist who coined the term Third Culture Kid. Ward describes Hill Useem’s technical usage of TCK as the
cultural variables that are not definable in terms of ours and theirs. She was talking about the dynamic of that which is different because people from outside settings residing in an inside setting do not take their primary identities ultimately from either, but they take it from the commonness that they have with others who are doing the same thing.
Ward believes that the later, popularized usage of TCK is a misuse of the term. According to Ward, Hill Useem applied it to particular new cultures—new communities in a distinct time and place—that expats form inside their host country. This is different from how we currently use TCK (or MK) to describe a broad group of people raised overseas. Instead, Ward says, the term has become “static,” with “standard values” and “generalizations about it which lead us to the wrong questions.”
What are some of the wrong questions? They are nonsense questions. “Is it OK to be an MK?” “What are the problems of being an MK?” They’re dumb questions, but they’re the questions that a static view of culture leads you to.
Then you get preoccupied by rootlessness. Oh, come on. Millions of people in the world are rootless. Don’t get paranoid about thirty thousand kids when ten percent of them are rootless.
It is this kind of negative thinking, especially by parents of MKs, that Ward wants to combat. For instance, in the area of culture shock:
Words like culture shock—good grief! Talk about popularization of some bad research! Culture shock—for the most part largely exaggerated poop! Incompetency, yes, but incompetency comes in all kinds of forms.
And about American expat parents who are concerned about their children’s lack of understanding of US culture, he responds,
I find more MKs understanding the nature of American society than people who are raised wholly within it. Would that we could get that message across to parents. Paranoid parents have got to be helped.
Ward also laments missionary parents’ worries about reverse culture shock. Years ago, it wasn’t so easy for missionaries or their children to return “home,” so they weren’t so apt to influence their children towards the inevitability of going back. One qualification of MKs as prototypical world Christians, says Ward, is their ability to serve God anywhere, without being tied down to a particular country or culture, especially the one from which they came.
Ward believes that the long-term work of missionaries has changed. “A career missionary today does not get buried in China at age forty-seven under great mounds of Chinese soil,” he states. “He gets buried at age forty-seven at a North American mission offie desk under mounds of paper.” Ward doesn’t want this sort of mindset to be passed on to Missionary Kids.
Ward has given me, a former missionary and current parent of several MKs, a lot to think about, and I wonder how I would have responded if I had been in his audience 27 years ago.
While tracing Ward’s quotation to its source, I’ve been challenged, affirmed, and stretched. I’ve learned a few things and I’ve read some things that I’ll be pondering for a while. I’m grateful for the work that Ted Ward has done for and with cross-cultural workers and their families. And while I’m not on board with everything he’s said (for instance, I don’t think that culture shock is “largely exaggerated poop”), I do understand that there’s a tendency toward paranoia and excessive navel gazing.
We need balance. It’s good to look inward, with caution. But it’s also good to look up and out and aim for some mountaintops, to hike some rivers, to look with optimism at the path ahead, and to see the landscape from a different perspective.
(Ian Bartholomew, “Taiwan’s Rivers Offer Vast Potential for Adventure,” Taipei Times, August 19, 2001; Ted Ward, “The MK’s Advantage: Three Cultural Contexts,” Understanding and Nurturing the Missionary Family: Compendium of the International Conference on Missionary Kids, Quito, Ecuador, January 4-8, 1987, Volume I, Pam Echerd and Alice Arathoon, eds., William Carey, 1989.)
[photo: “Consumer Confidence!” by Chris & Karen Highland, used under a Creative Commons license]
February 27, 2015 § 2 Comments
Imagine the busiest, most crowded place you know . . . in the middle of the day . . . but without a single person.
It’s hard to form that mental image, because some places are what they are because of all the people.
While we were living among the 6 million people of Taipei, all we had to do was stand at the corner of a major intersection to get a feel for how dense the city is with people—on foot, in cars, in buses, on bicycles, and on scooters . . . so, so many scooters. That’s what made it so shocking when once a year, a seemingly random (at least to a foreigner) military drill chased everyone off the streets. In fact, during the half-hour Wan-an drill (萬安演習), all vehicles need to pull over, and it’s illegal for pedestrians to be outside, except for the officers stationed at nearly every corner telling everyone to vacate the streets.
In 2004, Hong Kong pop star Jacky Cheung saw this in person when he was in Taipei to film an MTV show. When the streets cleared, Cheung and his record-company crew thought they’d found the perfect backdrop for a photo shoot, so they snapped a photo of Cheung standing out in the street all alone. When the photo hit the Internet, the National Police Agency was not amused, and they promised a fine (though I’m not sure if they followed through).
There’s something about seeing places that are normally teeming with people when they somehow become un-teeming. It’s oddly alluring. Or maybe its just odd. Or eerie. Think ghost town, the Apocalypse, The Day After, or The Day after Tomorrow.
But thanks to some video wizardry, we don’t have to survive Armageddon to see what the world would look like without people. Take, for instance, Ross Ching’s vision of Los Angeles in Running on Empty (Revisited). At Vimeo, he even offers this step-by-step process for how to remove all the cars from the highways of LA:
1. Record for 20-30 mins.
2. Go frame by frame and grab pieces of the road that aren’t obstructed by a car. Eventually, you will have every piece of the road.
3. Put the static image of the road in with the moving background.
The music in these videos takes away some of the eerie feeling that can come with the visuals. That’s not the case with para l l el, a short film from the globetrotting French couple Claire & Max. Their music choice is “Dark Places.”
“What if parallel worlds existed?” they ask at Vimeo. “What if in one of these worlds mankind disappeared? What if the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty had never existed?” (Their vision of London is pretty creepy, too.)
In case Ching’s step-by-step instructions for creating an empty world seem a bit simplistic, Claire & Max provide their own how-to video tutorial. It’s step-by-step-by-step-by step. In their list of needed items, the last one is patience. Indeed.
Or you can pretend that You Are Legend, and you’ll have all the time in the world.
(Jimmy Chuang, “Pop Star’s Photo Op During Air-Raid Drill Could Net Big Fine,” Taipei Times, September 26, 2004)
[photo: “On Your Mark,” by h4rrydog, used under a Creative Commons license]
February 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
According to one of my favorite sources, the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word world comes from the Proto-Germanic wer, meaning “man” (as in werewolf), and ald, meaning “age.” Thus, world can be translated into “The Age of Man.”
And that’s exactly what German cartographers Stephan Hormes and Silke Pest call the world in their “Atlas of True Names.”
By “true names,” the pair are referring to the original, literal meanings of place names in English. The atlas, published by the pair’s company, Kalimedia, consists of five maps—Europe, British Isles, Canada, USA, and the World—and includes such places as Boar’s Head Lake (Lake Huron), Children of the Sun (Spokane), Navel of the Moon (Mexico), and Land of the Strong Ones and Land of the Really Strong Ones (Turkey and Turkmenistan).
Others have written about the maps, and most mention the mapmakers’ reference of Middle Earth in Kalimedia’s description:
Once the names have been taken back to their roots and translated into English, it is immediately apparent that our world has an extraordinary affinity with Middle Earth, the mythical continent where the events of Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ are played out.
Middle Earth’s evocative “Midgewater”, “Dead Marshes” and “Mount Doom” are strikingly similar in nature to Europe’s “Swirlwater”, “Darkford” or “Smoky Bay”, as revealed by the Atlas of True Names.
I don’t think that begins to do justice to the wonderfully foreboding literal names of the British Isles. I can easily imagine a group of Hobbits setting out from their shire near Raven Breach in search of Mount Malicious in the Land of Darkness.
The map’s authors admit that their translations are not definitive, and they often lean toward more interesting or fanciful options. But each map includes a list of all names with their etymology—so argue away.
All of this makes “The Atlas of True Names” a great conversation starter. And that’s why this set is my newest addition to “8 Maps and Globs That Will Change Your Perspective of the World.”
February 21, 2015 § 2 Comments
There’s an interesting discussion going on at Christianity Today’s her·meneutics blog. It begins with a post by Patricia Raybon, co-author of the soon-to-be-released Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace.
In “A Nation of ‘Suspect Thy Neighbor,'” Raybon writes about her husband’s suspicion upon seeing an unfamiliar car parked in front of their house. She writes that following 9/11, “We’ve become not just a nation of strangers, but strangers who suspect each other on principle.” And then she shares another family story.
Ten years ago, Raybon’s daughter, Alana, left the church and became a Muslim. Recently, while mother and daughter were together, a man saw Alana, with her head covered, and yelled to her, “Go home!”
That man wasn’t interested in a conversation, but Raybon is. In the comments following her post, several readers have responded. Some are supportive. Some are not.
Dagney Reardon writes, “I’m sorry—I’ve having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I’m suppose to feel sorry for a Muslim-convert American woman for being subjected to a verbal insult . . .” He compares her situation to that of women in Islamic countries and then refers to the recent beheadings of Coptic Christians by the Islamic State in Lybia. “God has not even begun to give me the wisdom or insight to relate to a person who would deliberately choose to align themselves with a religion that condones such unspeakable horror.”
I don’t usually read comment sections on the internet. There’s just too much vitriol. But Christianity Today‘s policy of allowing only subscribers or registered users ups the level of engagedness and civility. And what I appreciate the most is the willingness of CT authors to answer back. I’m not sure what I would have said in response to the above comment, but Raybon was obviously prepared. “Thank you, Dagney, for your comments,” she writes. “Your argument is interesting. You are right, in fact, about one key thing. No reasonable person would deliberately choose to align with a religion that condones unspeakable horror.” And she ends her response with this:
I’m reaching different conclusions than you. But at least you and I are talking. For such a time as this, talking is a seriously good place to start. Thank you, indeed, for sharing your thoughts. Measured conversations need to happen on these matters. Thank you for taking part in this one. Kind regards, Patricia.
As I’m writing this, Reardon and Raybon have responded again to each other. And to another commenter who disagrees with her, Raybon writes, “Thanks, meantime, for sharing your thoughts. Another view always stretches my thinking.”
I appreciate the “measured conversation” that Raybon has begun. I hope it continues, at her·meneutics and beyond.
(Patricia Raybon, “A Nation of ‘Suspect Thy Neighbor,'” her·meneutics, February 20, 2015)
February 14, 2015 § Leave a comment
If you were to draw a picture of reverse culture shock, what would it look like? What images would you show? What colors would you use?
If you were to make a video, what kind of video would it be?
Photographer and visual artist Jenna Rutanen was born in Finland, attended university in London, and now is continuing her studies and working in the Netherlands. She has turned her experience in crossing cultures into an art installation, consisting of two videos projected on opposite walls of a room. She calls it “Waiting to Belong,” and here’s how she describes what she is representing:
I am experiencing reverse culture shock during each visit to my home country, Finland. In the past, all the winters that I had spent in some sort of hibernation, would now start to suffocate me because of the darkness. As a child, I spent my time playing in the forests, making tree houses and snow castles but now I can hardly venture going into the forest on my own after being away from it for such a long time. It seems as if I have lost the ability to adapt to the surroundings that I used to belong in and as of yet, I haven’t been able to adapt to my current surroundings either, which has kind of left me stuck between two different worlds. All I can do is wait to belong.
Installation art often seems pretentious to me, and this may strike you that way. You may say, “I could have done that.” You may wonder why Rutanen in her “portrait” is so glum. You may wonder what the big deal is.
But watching the two videos of “Waiting to Belong” is very thought provoking to me, and I think it would be even more interesting if I could stand between them, turning from one to the other.
It’s the anticipation—and tedium—for waiting for something to happen, and (spoiler alert, if you haven’t watched the videos yet) nothing does. That’s one of the things that makes reverse culture shock difficult. It’s the nomad gazing at the horizon, waiting for herself to adapt or for her surroundings to become more accommodating, or waiting for both to re-become what they used to be. And it’s the pale landscape waiting itself, staring back at a daughter who has returned a stranger. It seems to say, “I am what I am. It’s up to you.”
These are frustrating feelings to have. And if you become impatient watching the videos, maybe that’s part of the point.
(Jenna Rutanen, “Artist Statement: Waiting to Belong,” jennarutanen.com)
February 7, 2015 § Leave a comment
At the beginning of 2013, Ryan Anderson, power forward for the New Orleans Pelicans, and reality-TV star Gia Allemand were living out the perfect romance. At least that’s the way it looked to those who saw their photos in magazines and on celebrity news sites.
But those who only saw the glamorous images didn’t know the true story. They didn’t know that Allemand struggled with depression. And they were shocked when, in April, she committed suicide.
Though Anderson knew about the ups and downs in Allemand’s life, he, of course was shocked, as well. And he was devastated by grief. What has helped lift him out of his grief are those who are able to offer him silence, who let him share in the silence . . . or fill it up with his own words.
[To see why a blog about cross-cultural issues is interested in the topics of grief and listening, go here.]
In a video by the non-profit To Write Love on Her Arms, Anderson tells how the day Allemand died he turned to his coach, Monty Williams, for help. Williams pulled him away from Allemand’s condo and rode with him in a car:
He didn’t say anything. He just sat there with me. And I . . . there’s nothing more he could have done. . . . He stayed up the entire night. I remember . . . I just leaned down, I leaned on his shoulder and I just cried the whole night, and he just sat there, you know, and he was just there with me.
For Anderson, an important part of the healing process has been therapy, but it took a lot of convincing to get him there. And before he became comfortable with his therapist, he thought the sessions were pointless, because he wasn’t getting “the right advice.” But then he realized that getting advice wasn’t the point of his therapy:
The most important thing is you pouring yourself out to somebody. That’s what it was about for me. It was about talking to this guy and letting everything in . . . that’s going on in my mind and in my heart and everything out.
Looking back, he says about therapy, about talking openly to a good listener, “I can’t describe to you how valuable it was.”
To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), the organization that produced this video of Anderson’s story, makes it their work to connect those who are struggling—with depression, addiction, self-injury, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, and anxiety—with the help they need.
Lauren Gloyne, intern program director and benefit coordinator for TWLOHA, writes her perspective on the group’s work on their Tumblr blog. She quotes lines from the song “Flags,” written by New Zealand singer Brooke Fraser, sharing her thoughts inspired by the words:
Come, tell me your trouble
I’m not your answer
But I’m a listening ear
Maybe it’s not about having all the answers. Maybe it’s about taking someone by the hand and sharing in their honesty. Meeting them in their pain. Lending our ears. Getting in the trenches with them and saying, “I don’t know why this is. But I’m with you. Let’s walk through this uncertainty together.
Reality has left you reeling
All facts and no feeling
No faith and all fear
. . . . . .
You who mourn will be comforted
You who hunger will hunger no more
All the last shall be first, of this I am sure
You who weep now will laugh again
All you lonely, be lonely no more
Yes, the last will be first, of this I am sure
January 25, 2015 § Leave a comment
New York. The City that Never Sleeps. The Big Apple. The Melting Pot. The Capitol of the World. The Center of the Universe.
I’ve never been there, but it’s on my bucket list. I want to see first-hand the diversity, the culture, and the people.
Until then, I’ve got the Internet.
Most of you have heard of Humans of New York, the wildly popular photoblog and book created by Brandon Stanton. It’s a captivating collection of portraits and stories. In the video below, Stanton talks about the appeal of his work:
I think, you know, we walk down the street and we see all these people and we kind of wonder about their stories, the celebrations and the victories, and that’s what people are engaging with.
Humans of New York got me thinking. What other of-New-Yorks are there out there?
Here’s what I came up with:
Voices of New York (CUNY)
“The best journalistic work being produced by scores of community and ethnic publications,” curated by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. It currently is featuring such stories as “Diversity in Korean Language Schools,” “Remembering the Earthquake in Haiti,” and “Guyanese Artist Tells an Immigrant’s Story.”
Voices of New York (NYU)
This site, from New York University, is an archive of findings from the Fall 2001 students of the class The Language of America’s Ethnic Minorities. It’s a look at how distinct language groups in New York are being maintained or being lost. From “The Irish,” here are Nicole Feder and Chiene Joy Jones:
Coming off the train in Woodside, we had all kinds of fixed notions of what a typical Irish person would look like and how they would act. While sitting in the subway car Chiene turned to Nicole and said, “I bet he’s Irish, lets ask him if he is going to Woodside.” We played into those stereotypes of pale skin, reddish hair, light eyes, and drinking all the time. Feeling ridiculous for making such speculations, we decided not to ask and eventually reached our destination. While in Woodside we met several people fitting into various categories of the stereotypes. It wasn’t until we walked into an Indian owned Deli that I realized how easy it would be to categorize people. When we asked the owner why he had so many Irish products in his store, he replied, “You should know better than I, you’re Irish. . . .”
The Many Languages of New York City
In 2012, Arun Venugopal of WNYC reported that only 51% of New Yorkers are English-only speakers at home. A graph in the article shows the languages that are spoken. Another set of graphics, from Andy Keirsz at Business Insider last year, shows a map of the most-spoken languages in New York (“Here’s the Most Commonly Spoken Language in Every New York Neighborhood that Isn’t English or Spanish“).
Endangered Languages of New York
The New York based Endangered Language Alliance is “the only organization in the world focused on the immense linguistic diversity of urban areas,” including the 800 spoken in New York, many of which are at risk of extinction.
Bookstores of New York
Last Year cartoonist Bob Eckstein of The New Yorker shared his drawings of his favorite bookstores in the city, along with anecdotes from store keepers. Of Three Lives & Company he writes, “Any time a book is bought, the entire shelf must be reordered, since no books of the same colored spine may be adjacent, lest they appear erroneously as a set.” And just as New York has its endangered languages, so it has its threatened bookstores. “The Endangered Bookstores of New York,” is the title of Eckstein’s followup collection.
Museums of New York
From ny.com, here’s a long, though probably not exhaustive, list of the city’s museums. But if you want THE Museum of New York, you’ll need to go the Museum of the City of New York, where you can see exhibits such as Péter Forgács’ Letters to Afar, an art installation made from home movies filmed by Jewish immigrants who traveled back to Poland in the years preceding the Holocaust.
Loneliness of New York
In a city of 8,336,615 people, you can be “lonely, but never alone.”
Doors of New York
Graphic designer Allan Markan has collected images of doorways in the city and published them in the book Door Jams: Amazing Doors of New York City. You can see samples of his images at his website. They are pretty amazing.
Windows of New York
Another graphic designer, Jose Guizar, has put together his illustrations of windows in the city that have caught his attention. Colorful and creative.
And last, but not least . . .
Streets of New York
I thought this was just a movie, like Gangs of New York, but it’s a pizza, pasta, and sub restaurant. Mmmmmmm. I can already taste those authentic flavors of NYC, located a convenient 2,400 or so miles from Times Square . . . in Arizona and Nevada. (It took me a while to figure out the location. The fact that they serve “the official pizza of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns” was my first clue.)