So, I started chronicling my adventures at the recent Families in Global Transition conference here. Today, I find myself driven to my bed by a throat infection and aching joints… and in a reflective mood. So here is the next installment!
After taking part in the Early Bird Research Forum, and all revved up by the exciting amount of expat and Third Culture Kid research going on out there, we joined the rest of the delegates for our first keynote presenter, Christopher O’Shaughnessy. Chris is a fantastic storyteller… and had us laughing very quickly as he related stories from his childhood growing up cross-culturally as a TCK. And then, he had us weeping, as he shared a particularly powerful story about a classmate on the edge… who very nearly didn’t make it to adulthood because of the harder side of frequent mobility, and all the opportunities for rejection that this presents. He appealed to the expatriate community to invest in empathy… reminding us that we all arrive in a new place, ‘culturally naked’. And that this shared experience of vulnerability can be a great source of connectedness to the Others around us.
In the afternoon, I joined a session by Ellen Mahoney and Amada Bate, called ‘TCKs who Tweet’. This was an interesting introduction to the ways in which TCKs form community over Twitter, and is the main reason I recently joined myself! Find me @XploreLifeStory 🙂 They host #TCKchat, a monthly discussion based around a series of questions on a TCK theme… hoping to get involved myself soon!
Another mention for the day should go to the Panel Discussion on Insiders and Outsiders, asking is belonging overrated? A group of expat and expat experts shared their own experiences of cultural outsider-ship and the challenges felt when parts of yourself feel constricted or their expression is limited by a change in culture. Language and gender plays a part in this, of course. I didn’t feel we came very close to answering the question though, or determining if belonging was overrated 🙂 Turns out it’s a complex issue!
I would have liked some more discussion however, on instances when changes in culture bring about fuller expression of self, as well as covering the instances where it is constrained. For example, in the culture I grew up in West Africa, my status was always going to be less-than, because of my gender. On the other hand, I was freed from the constrains of Western expectations that I should be slim. In West Africa, having a little more ‘meat’ was something to be prized an encouraged, and did more for my sense of self worth than my passport culture that expected a regime of constant dieting!
The afternoon brought Kitchen Table conversations, and I was privileged to hear two discussions. The first was facilitated by the lovely Grace Franklin, who used the film Inside Out to explore ‘The Value of How to be Sad’. This was an interesting discussion on the role of sadness in our lives, the rituals we can use to honour it, and how to keep from trying to ‘fix’ it.
The second talk was facilitated by Laia Colomer, who had some fascinating ideas about Third Culture Kids and cultural heritage. Namely, that transport, the means of movement (airports, highways, etc.) become the locus for our cultural heritage as a global community. Looking forward to reading that paper!
More to come on the Families in Global Transition conference… Look out for post #3!