Home. Or not.

The New York Times’ Doreen Carvajal has written a short piece wondering how Third Culture Kids deal with the concept of “home”, given that they seem to have either none or else a multitude of them, depending on how you look at it. Despite being very charming, the text presents nothing really novel, as it emulates the same format as many others: once again, it lists the multitude of contexts one lives with and presents some anecdotes on how we rationalize the many paradoxes of living, both mentally and physically, in simultaneous worlds which, more often than not, do not overlap. What it does not offer, however, is an answer to the question.

Where is “home”, then?

The article kept coming back to me, always with a very slight seasoning of that bitter and nagging feeling, almost imperceptible, that something was wrong. I couldn’t say what it was; after all, I have never been able to answer the question myself and thought I had made peace with trying to, a long time ago. It only took me a few days to realize that I knew the answer all along. What’s more, I had probably known it from the very moment I stopped looking for it (and I have looked for a very long time) or, in a very zen twist of fate, because I had stopped looking for it. There was no single moment of revelation, but rather the sensation of a giant wave slowly washing over me; only when I was wholly engulfed, did I notice its magnitude.

I am not absolutely certain that I qualify as a Third Culture Kid (for one I’m not a kid, and also am at odds with the expression itself), and have no pretension of having had an epiphany that’s hidden from others like me. The question of “home”, however, is one that has claimed too much of my time and has been the cause of too much hesitation, puzzlement and yes, sadness in my life. Unlike others, only seldom did I see the romantic, quirky side of it, and when I did, it was mostly to use it as leverage. I am not the only one: let he who is with Third Culture cast the first stone.

My life is made (so far) of more than 40 addresses, 4 countries, 5 languages, 10 schools and all the other trivia of which those numbers are significant multipliers: I’ve never, ever lived in the same house for more than 5 years (where the average is 3), “the tube”, “subway” and “métro” still sound to me like foreign words describing the U-bahn, in my world there’s a place in Utah where the cowboys speak French (Hoss Cartwright and everyone at the Bonanza ranch), I’ve tried, without any luck, to explain why, in my mind, the angst of the Sezession is almost exactly the same as Fado or the Blues and I had once to spend thirty minutes at a restaurant in Miami trying to convince the Mexican waiter that I was not from Galicia (he was not convinced). There are literally hundreds of examples like this. They may sound funny, endearing or outrageous to you, but to me, they are like a giant hurdle, an announcement of the moment when I have to start explaining the same thing, one more time, over and over again.

One day, I chose to not subject myself to them anymore, by simply perfecting the proven method of discreetly maneuvering the conversation to places where those kinds of questions don’t exist. With time, I’ve become quite good at it.

Now I know that looking for an answer to the question of where “home” is for me, is fundamentally irrelevant. I know exactly where it is: it’s when you find yourself surrounded by people like you, where you can let your guard down and be all the “yous” that you are, at the same time, speaking that mezcla of a language that includes all the languages, where you can start a sentence as a real Viennese, continue it like an Englishman and finish it like a Frenchman. And I don’t mean the words themselves, but rather who you are at that exact, atomic moment. For me, speaking a language was always a consequence of being of that culture, not the cause of it, to the point of never having been able to answer the simple question: “what is your mother-tongue?”  (I still don’t know).

I am of no place and of all the places, I am of those moments when you’re finally like everyone else, despite being uniquely different. That’s where home is, and unlike many, I can carry it around with me.

 

A furious and sustained backlash by a betrayed and angry populace, one unprepared intellectually, emotionally and psychologically for collapse, will sweep aside the Democrats and most of the Republicans and will usher America into a new dark age. It was the economic collapse in Yugoslavia that gave us Slobodan Milosevic. It was the Weimar Republic that vomited up Adolf Hitler. And it was the breakdown in Tsarist Russia that opened the door for Lenin and the Bolsheviks. A cabal of proto-fascist misfits, from Christian demagogues to loudmouth talk show hosts, whom we naïvely dismiss as buffoons, will find a following with promises of revenge and moral renewal.

Chris Hedges — American Psychosis

– The end of the empire –

Good intentions, like mother’s milk, are a perishable commodity. As wealth accumulates, men decay, and sooner or later an aristocracy that once might have aspired to an ideal of wisdom and virtue goes rancid in the sun, becomes an oligarchy distinguished by a character that Aristotle likened to that of “the prosperous fool”—its members so besotted by their faith in money that “they therefore imagine there is nothing that it cannot buy.

Lewis H. Lapham — Feast Of Fools

– How virtue goes rancid in the sun –

When we attempt to understand past events, we implicitly test the hypotheses or rules we use to both interpret and anticipate the world around us. If, in hindsight, we systematically underestimate the surprises which the past held and holds for us, we are subjecting those hypotheses to inordinately weak tests and, presumably, finding little reason to change them. Thus, the very outcome knowledge which gives us the feeling that we understand what the past was all about may prevent us from learning anything from it.

B. Fischhoff — Hindsight ≠ foresight: the effect of outcome knowledge on judgment under uncertainty

– The hindsight bias –

About a translation world where Harry Potter’s arch enemy is “Du-weißt-schon-wer,” Facebook users click “Me gusta”, and the Dude is named “le Duc.”

Antoine Lefeuvre — Translation is UX

– Translation is a design task –

Words I loathe

  • AwesomeObviously
  • Ninja — When used outside of the 忍び context, which is always
  • Guru — When used outside of the guru-shishya context, which is always
  • Badass — A piss poor substitute for ‘awesome’, see above
  • Troublemaker — When used to describe ‘bros’, see below
  • Bro — Not without its merits, as it describes all that’s wrong with the USA in three letters

To be continued.

– The urge to fix everything –
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