One of the great advantages of being a third culture, cross cultural and/or bi-cultural child is that you have friends and family in every corner of the world. But you can go years without seeing them. My fourth A-Z musings is about distance.
You become aware of distance, both geographical and psychological, when you live or travel much abroad. Many third culture children, especially missionary kids like myself, have lived in dorm schools with their parents far away, maybe even several days’ travel. That’s much when you’re a small child. My siblings experienced this their first years at school. I lived in a dorm school in West-Africa when I was a teenager, with my dad living far away, but it wasn’t quite the same. I had already been managing myself for several years, and I was independent in many ways. At least I thought so at that time. Plus, I was used to not have that much contact. For many years my dad lived in Africa and I in Norway. And with him not being any great letter writer, it could go as much as two years without any life sign from him.
I lived in an American dorm. It was an international school, but the dorm parents and half of the dorm children were American. Age 5-17. All missionary kids. We saw our parents every fifth weekend. We became very close, even the short time I lived there, and I still regard a few of them as my “siblings.” Guess this is the case for most dorm kids. The difference was that this was abroad and we were all foreigners. We developed our own social culture and way of speaking. You were never alone. After having been only child at home for many years and even lived by myself for a while, this was a totally different world to me.
I often think of my past as a world before the internet and a world after the internet. When I grew up, letters (or snail mail as we call them today) usually used a month or more on its way from Africa to Norway, and some never made it all the way at all.
When I lived in the dorm and in the following years, long letters and then emails, was the way to stay in touch with the friends I made there. I went to the States to visit my dorm parents and people from the school, and this calmed some of my feeling of being lost in Norway (because these folks were like me, they understood), but it’s not easy to travel long distances often when you’re a poor student. And sadly, some of the people I met, I’ve lost contact with.
The same can be said about my Icelandic part. There is only an ocean between Norway and Iceland, but it seems vast and huge when you’re child, difficult to cross. The distance becomes psychological too. They are so far away that they become almost mystical, foreign. And you are so far away from them, that they forget you. They have close social ties because they see each other every day. This creates a feeling of loss.
Facebook has been excellent. I think being a TCK/CCK today is quite different with internet and easier access to travels. The world is smaller. On Facebook I have managed to track down several of my friends from Africa and places I have lived in Norway. Also I can follow my Icelandic family members’ everyday life. Almost as I’m there. But the distance is still lurking in our minds and we’re in many ways still foreigners. I’ll write about this later.
Thanks for reading my babbling post.