Global Nomads and TCKS- 8: Foreign countries are in us

Czeslaw Milosz notes that places now left behind are nevertheless imprinted on a child’s psyche:

 Knowledge does not have to be conscious. It is incredible how much of the aura of a country can penetrate a child.  Stronger than thought is an image—of dry leaves on a path, of twilight, of a heavy sky. In the park, revolutionary patrols whistled back and forth to each other. The Volga was the color of black lead. I carried away forever the impression of concealed terror, of inexpressible dialogues confided in a whisper or a wink of the eye. The mansion waited resignedly for the promised murder of all its inhabitants, a murder that, presumably, would not have spared the fugitives. And among those refugees, who were there by chance, fear was rampant. I also carried away the image of Orthodox church cupolas seen against a bluish-red sky with flocks of circling jackdaws, the paving of Rjev’s streets, on which a passing cart would leave a fine trail of seeds from a torn sack, and the shrieks of fur-capped children as they launched their kites.

 Native Realm

Originally posted Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Global Nomads and TCKS- 7: The love of homes abroad

Here is a passage from my writing guide for global nomads, Of Many Lands: Journal of a Traveling Childhood:

 Holland is for me what childhood should be: freedom, bikes, canals, fields. The brick row house in downtown The Hague where I spent the five middle years of my childhood was the best home I ever had. To think of its big, leaky bedrooms with fireplaces, its ballroom-size bathrooms, its furniture-stuffed attics is to bring me a sensation of sleepy protectedness. A canopy that holds fast even under drumming rain. That home had for me what Patricia Hampl, the memoirist, calls “the radiance of the past,” for it was home the way it is when you are young: the home your parents give you.

Bring to mind the homes of your childhood.  When you think of those houses, which of them glow?  Describe one of them, being sure to incorporate concrete details, and using all your senses.

Originally posted on Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Global Nomads and TCKS- 6: The difficulty of fitting in at new schools

Edward Said on the global nomad’s struggle to fit into a new school:

It was as an American businessman’s son who hadn’t the slightest feeling of being American that I entered the Cairo School for American Children (CSAC) in the fall of 1946, the first day made easier by the fact that the Greek bus driver who picked me up early on a sunny October morning in Zamalek and drove me with a lot of totally unfamiliar, loud, unself-conscious American children in gaily colored shirts, skirts, and shorts was a driver at my Auntie Melia’s college. He recognized me at once and always treated me—as no one did—with deferential, if familiar, courtesy. I had never seen such an assortment, or concentration, of Americans before. Gone were the uniforms and subdued, conspiratorial whispers of the GPS’s English mostly Levantine children; gone too were English names like Dickie, Derek, and Jeremy, as well as Franco-Arab names like Micheline, Nadia, or Vivette. Now there were Marlese, Marlene, Annekje, several Marjies, Nancy, Ernst, Chuck, and lots of Bobs. No one paid any attention to me.

 “Edward Sigheed” did pass muster, and I was soon able in some way to belong, but every morning when I stepped on the bus I felt a seething panic when I saw the colored T-shirts, striped socks, and loafers they all wore, while I was in my primly correct gray shorts, dress white shirt, and conventionally European lace-ups. For the class I’d settle my inner consternation into an efficient, albeit provisional, identity, that of bright, yet often wayward, pupil. Then at lunch, as they unwrapped the same neatly cut white-bread sandwiches of peanut butter and jelly—neither of which I had ever tasted—and I my more interesting cheese and prosciutto in Shami bread, I fell back into doubt and shame that I, an American child, ate a different food, which no one asked to taste, nor asked me to explain.

 Out of Place: A Memoir

Originally posted Wednesday, March 3rd, 2013

Global Nomads and TCKS- 5: Split loyalties

Andre Aciman’s Aunt Flora on the split loyalty of being from two places:

 “Even today, I continue to live my life that way.  I cross the street on the slant, I always sit in the side rows at concert halls, am a citizen of two countries but I live in neither, and I never look people in the eye,” she said, as I, conscious of her effort to do so now, averted my own.  “I’m honest with no one, though I’ve never lied.  I’ve given far less than I’ve taken, though I’m always left with nothing.  I don’t even think I know who I am, I know myself the way I might know my neighbor: from across the street.  When I’m here, I long to be there; when I was there I longed to be here,” she said, referring to her years in Alexandria.

 Out of Egypt: A Memoir

Originally posted Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Global Nomads and TCKS- 4: Multiple experiences and multiple selves

Milosz writes of one of the global nomad’s particular challenges: the problem of integrating multiple sense impressions and selves, and of having no sturdy culture against which to shape oneself:

 My own case is enough to verify how much of an effort it takes to absorb contradictory traditions, norms, and an overabundance of impressions, and to put them into some kind of order.  The things that surround us in childhood need no justification, they are self-evident.  If, however, they whirl about like particles in a kaleidoscope, ceaselessly changing position, it takes no small amount of energy simply to  plant one’s feet on solid ground without falling.

What then is ordinary? Films and books or some other reality entirely? War or peace? The past or the present? An old-time custom or a parade with red banners? This chauvinist point of view or that? Doubtless, in order to construct a form one needs a certain number of widely accepted certainties, some kind of background of conformity to rebel against, which none­theless generates a framework that is stronger than conscious­ness. Where I grew up, there was no uniform gesture, no social code, no clear rules for behavior at table. Practically every person I met was different, not because of his own special self, but as a representative of some group, class, or nation. One lived in the twentieth century, another in the nineteenth, a third in the fourteenth. When I reached adolescence, I car­ried inside me a museum of mobile and grimacing images: blood-smeared Seryozha, a sailor with a dagger, commissars in leather jackets, Lena, a German sergeant directing an orchestra, Lithuanian riflemen from paramilitary units, and these were mingled with a throng of peasants—smugglers and hunters, Mary Pickford, Alaskan fur trappers, and my drawing instructor. Modern civilization, it is said, creates uniform boredom and destroys individuality. If so, then this is one sickness I had been spared.

 Native Realm

Originally posted on Wednesday, February 20th, 2012