This new adventure seems to involve a lot of thinking and discussing about culture.
The Americans I meet here are almost hyper-American…they know where they’re from, constantly talk about how great it is (although they’re not blind to its faults), and how Nigerians are different. Nigerians tell me good or bad things about their people, but they know where they are from and are more or less proud of it.
I have more trouble with the Americans sometimes. The Nigerians just accept that I’m not ‘from’ here. The Americans expect me to be like them, or at least compare Americans to other people on a regular basis. I feel less American here, and I’m not as uncomfortable as some of them are in Nigeria.
Why in the world would I want to travel to new and interesting countries, and sit with other Americans and complain about everyone else? Seems like a poor use of time.
In fact, aside from typical start-up problems in any new project, I’ve felt perfectly at ease here. Even welcome and warm about being here. There is a certain freedom in being foreign—people don’t know what to expect from you, many local rules don’t really apply—and, if you don’t mind being treated like a circus freak (I can barely go for a walk without passersby doing double-takes…the Nigerians for some reason think that white people can’t go from A to B on their own two feet), then you can go be curious and ask questions and do strange things.
For those who don't already know: I grew up in 6 countries, with the longest continuous period being in China. I’ve lived in 9. I speak English and Mandarin. My mother was born and raised in Asia, but is white. My father’s from the States, born and raised, but speaks 5 languages. They live in Asia now.
I spent a few years in the Midwest, discovering America, and mostly discovering that, like most people in the world, you have to take Americans case-by-case.
Despite my passport being from only one country, when I travel, I feel at home. I’m a 2nd generation, 3rd Culture Kid. Only now, when I’m practically 30, have I learned to miss people. And only a very select few. The rest, I care about, but its like time stops in these different places I’ve lived. I can go to one, and then go back to the other, and start again.
I know that’s not the life for everyone, but it is how I was raised, and I am grateful for all the quirky things that have gone into my upbringing. I am grateful to my parents for dragging me around the world, introducing me to all this strangeness, forcing me to become bilingual, independent, footloose.
It has its drawbacks, sure, but so does everything. I still can’t tell you where I’m ‘from’ and the place that is ‘home’ is with my loved ones…or just wherever I happen to be. I’m not saying I’m not American, because I am, but Americans, like everyone else, are case by case.
Thanks for listening,