Reflections of a TCK

Tonight have I thought about going for a walk, cooking, reading Naciones intelectuales (again), drinking beer or watching TV. I opted for cooking (turns out substituting asparagus for nopal cactus works well. nopal cactus for okra – kind of weird), a beer, and blogging.

The acronym TCK means a third culture kid. I am never sure if this label accurately applies to me, since I only spent two years of my childhood in another country, but I know that I have always felt at home meeting new people (just the meeting), traveling and not knowing what’s going on all the time. I have made career choices that explicitly relate to learning about another country and involve trying to fit into a different cultural environment (the academy is different from real life. Spanish language just adds a whole nother layer).

As I was reflecting on my experiences this evening, something surprising came to mind. First, that I had not experienced much culture shock in Mexico, ever, and especially not this visit. I think I was more culture shocked in Chicago’s South Side, frankly. (The story of my accidental on purpose visit there with my brother is the subject of my mother’s anxiety, and, perhaps, another blog post). Second, that I do not want to travel again ever. Third, that I want to go on an epic trip to Nepal, New Zealand and Europe (friends, you know who you are. I will come knocking. Soon.)

I have studied Mexican literature very intensely for about a year and a half now, and Latin American literature and culture that included Mexico since the beginning of high school. Perhaps my reading of Mexican literature, culture, history and politics prepared me for my first visit? Perhaps Mexico City is a mixture of two cities that have greatly impacted my life: Managua and Cairo. Perhaps it was the perpetual allure of starting over, this time, in a bustling city with crazy traffic, crowded metros and imperfect people. (Side benefit: looking how I look. Side annoyance: looking how I look). Perhaps Mexico City is my spiritual home. The latter is unlikely, because I know that the desert is my spiritual home. (I’m looking at you, Purmamarca, Argentina, below, and Barranca del Cobre, Mexico.)


The second thought is of course that I want to never travel again. I like knowing where my grocery store is, where my laundry is, where my produce store is, where the metro is, where the bus is, and how to do bureaucracy. I don’t want to learn these things again. I want to be happy where I am. And be able to stay there.

The third thought, the thought that makes me realize I’m definitely a TCK in spite of my short childhood time abroad, is that I am planning a thesis reward trip for myself. A job would make this trip more financially possible, but I’m sure my parents would also help. To motivate myself to revise my admittedly imperfect thesis chapters, I am planning an epic imaginary trip. If I do even a fraction of it, it will be amazing. Of course, knowing myself, it will involve a lot of coffee drinking, staring at mountains, and eating the national variation of ice cream. But it will be in a new place, and that will be all that matters.


2 responses to “Reflections of a TCK

  1. Technically, the TCK’s are children of diplomats, missionaries, military and international business people. They grow up in a culture that is not the culture of their parents. They encounter that culture at home, but are not immersed in it. But neither do they belong to the culture they grow up in. They are some “third” culture. They tend to be one of two types: either they are happy to take a passport and go anywhere, or else they want to settle down in one place, surrounded by the familiar, and never move again. As you may be aware, Gloria and I had one of each! As for you, split personality disorder?

  2. When I first saw you referring to feeling a bit like a TCK, I was afraid you might attribute it to the particular, or peculiar, family you grew up in. Thanks for giving us a pass. With regard to your dream of going on a big trip when you finish your dissertation, I can only say that while dreams may be wonderful, financial support from your parents may have to await their purchase of that lucky lottery ticket.

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