Three things TCKs taught me not to take for granted

If you know international students or have friends who are third culture kids (TCKs), you know you can’t take anything for granted—not the terms or phrases you use, not your understanding of geographical knowledge and especially not your time spent together.

Language.

Catchphrases are cultural, so you may have to ask questions about what an offhand comment means. Recently a friend I’ve known for a couple years asked, “Do you want more to eat?” I replied something along the lines of, “It’s okay.” She nodded silently and then asked a moment later, “Does that mean you don’t want more?” Oops! That is what I meant, but I can see how my language could be confusing (a) perhaps in general and (b) especially to someone whose second language is English.

Even after years of knowing someone, language differences can interfere with communication. However, this causes you to engage constantly in order to deepen your relationships. You also grow accustomed to hearing or using terms from different languages, expanding your vocabulary and thus your world.

Geographical knowledge.

Next, your international or TCK friends might not know where Montana is, but that’s only because they grew up overseas and probably know where a lot more countries are than you do! And let’s reverse the scenario for a moment: you probably don’t know the names or locations for the provinces in China, Mexican states or other geographical subdivisions in all your international/TCK friends’ countries! I’ll admit I do not. Living in the United States, I’ve never had to know.

Of course, a few TCKS may know more American geography than born-and-raised Americans because of the educational curriculum they’ve used overseas or the places they’ve visited when they’ve come to the States. It’s excusable for international students and TCKs not to know where the state of Connecticut is since they might not have spent much if any time in the States, but when they do-bravo! I’ve met countless American college students who do not know. (In case you’re one of those people, Connecticut is in New England. It’s east of New York and above Long Island Sound, south of Massachusetts and next to Rhode Island. It’s in the northeast United States.)

Time together.

This overarches the daily interactions and conversations with international students and TCKS. Although they may hate goodbyes, third culture kids are used to having people come in and out of their lives, and they’ve been those transient people for others. They know how to value time with their friends.

As college students we have about four years we can expect to be together. After that, who knows where we’ll move on this small, round planet? Nevertheless, as TCKs and Disney fans know, we live in a small world. With international connections and often a penchant for travel, you never know when you may meet again! Years down the road when you bump into your friends in Colorado or Kenya, treasure those moments—as well as the ones you’re living now. We honestly can’t take time for granted.

 

My international and TCK friends have blessed me in countless ways, not the least of which is vicariously showing me more of God’s world. They’ve opened my eyes to see things from different cultural perspectives and have taught me how to count time as a blessing.

What have your international or TCK friends taught you?

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Josh and I

Platonic Valentines are the best kind

“Are you okay?”

Class has ended for the day, and I’m walking past the library toward my house when I see one of my best friends travelling in the opposite direction. I pause to greet him, white snow shining in the peripheral and wet asphalt beneath my boots.  In an instant he reads my eyes and then asks me this question. Though the event he is attending begins in five minutes, he takes a moment to refer to a previous conversation and ask what’s up, what’s wrong.

Sometimes you need someone to “get” you, to understand you without your having to explain anything. That person abides on the same metaphorical page as you, and that person knows how to read your eyes or your body language. He or she has walked through enough life with you to do that. You can trust that friend with anything, and in times of heartbreak or fatigue, you can choose to speak, cry or simply sit with him or her. You spend hours laughing together as well. Do you have a friend like this?

I have a few of those friends, my core. I couldn’t do life well without them. These friends stick closer than a brother or a sister, and they “get” me in a way that no Prince Charming could at the moment.

God brought us together fairly randomly: I met Samuel through a class, Ili and Layla in the dorm and Josh in the cafeteria. Our social circles overlapped, and enough of our interest aligned so that we grew close and could understand each other at a deep level.

“We do life together.”

We support each other and need each other in order to stay encouraged and motivated.

I’m eternally thankful to God for my core group at Wheaton, my best friends here. From the outside we may look like an unlikely bunch, being from all different races and cultures, but our hearts are united through Christ Jesus and our love for his beautifully diverse kingdom.

We comfort each other in times of pain or sorrow. I rejoice that we can call each other at all hours or crash at one another’s homes without warning. We are honest with each other and do not have to pretend to be perfect or put together. (Though Ili still doesn’t “wanna be like that [insert a face I once made].” 😉 ) We dine on kimchi soup, Thai salad and chocolate peanut butter shakes; we laugh at the ugly faces we make to underline our points in conversation; we discuss everything from relationships to race. We do life together.

Perhaps most importantly, we pray together and encourage each other in God’s Word. My best friends exemplify both the peace and passion of Jesus. Because they are filled with God’s Spirit, they are patient as Jesus is, and they persevere as Jesus does.

“Are you okay?”

Not everybody means this question, but I’m grateful that my best friends do. They take the time to care, and I am honored to do the same for them. We live in a sinful, broken, corrupt world, but we have each other, and we have hope in Christ Jesus.

We are not alone. And with the family bonds we have through Christ, we will be more than okay.

PC: KSB

The Bus Fight

Denver,
Summer 2014.

White man on a bus.
Black youth—my age—as well.

Fight.
Words, words of hate.
“N*****,” they both called each other.

I’d never seen anything like it;
I’d never seen such hate.

The white man wouldn’t listen,
Wouldn’t heed a word.
I wanted to tell the black man that he wouldn’t make any progress,
But I held back
>out of fear of the fight
>and because I didn’t want the man to have to be submitted to a white voice
>again.

Help doesn’t always mean stepping in for others.

They wanted to take it on to the street.
“Colfax and—” what crossroad?
Broadway was my stop.

They wanted to fight out of rage
(the white man had started it over literally nothing),
But they were both scared.
I think one got off a stop before me, one after.

I hurried away for fear that I’d be caught in a brawl.

Denver,
Summer 2014.

I witnessed the results
Of a racist history, alive today.

I hadn’t known the divide was so real, still real,
And while I never saw another bus fight, I saw
>discriminatory housing laws causing segregation
>gentrification of the remaining black neighborhoods
>homelessness in men now out of the (broken) criminal justice system
>fear of poor, minority males
>poverty mere yards from wealth.

White man on a bus.
Black youth—my age—as well.
Hate and fear.