I was a missionary kid (MK). I always knew that. Now I also know that I am part of the broader category of Third Culture Kids (TCK).David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken describe TCKs as “children who spend a significant period of their developmental years in a culture outside of their parents’ passport culture…” We struggle to figure out where we fit in.
Third culture kids balk at the question, “Where are you from?” Where, indeed? People usually ask the question to try to place you, to try to understand what makes you who you are. Saying “Ecuador” is a real conversation-stopper. While in Ecuador, I was always aware that I was a guest, a foreigner so I really can’t say that I am from Ecuador. But, then, where am I from?
I feel like I am finally reaching the point of being able to openly talk about growing up in Ecuador. I volunteer in a free clinic where I do much of my work in Spanish. And people often comment on my fluency and my native accent. With recent immigrants from Latin America, my childhood does not seem exotic. It just gives me a connection. When I spoke at my father’s memorial service, I acknowledged the incredible gift my parents gave us children of a childhood in Ecuador. And I am grateful for that gift.
It has taken returning to Ecuador, more than 55 years after leaving, and reconnecting with a childhood friend Mercedes to bring me to the place of putting down in writing memories of my experiences growing up. Mercedes’ brother Enrique asked, “What project brings you here at this time?”
My reply was, “I came looking for that part of me that I left behind when I left this community.”
“And, what have you found?’ he asked. I am still working on that.
I know that each “third culture kid” has his or her unique experience. But we all have struggled to figure out how to integrate what others view as an exotic and unusual childhood with what to us was the only childhood we knew.
This blog will follow my experience returning to my “home” community.