I am a TCK...

The following was my college entrance essay. It's also been "published". As a senior class we published a book of short stories, I keep telling myself I'm going to look for it on Amazon.com but never remember. Anyhoo - from, "Indescribable...A collection of thoughts from the class of 2002 American Community School of Abu Dhabi":

I am a TCK
Jessica Lamb

I am a third-culture kid. Third-culture kids are raised in a culture other than that of their parents and their nationality. Experts describe us as social chameleons. We easily adapt to new surroundings and situations. We make close friends quickly because we understand each other and share common backgrounds.

My parents are both native Mississippians. But I was born in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains on December 14, 1984, in the Landour Community Hospital in Mussoorie, India. I spoke Hindi to my ayah (maid), and ate rice only with my hands. It took me years to get over bobbing my head from side to side, the Indian way of saying yes, no, and maybe. When I visited America for the first time I was a year old. I asked my grandparents for khanah (Hindi for food). Just as they didn't understand me, I didn't understand where my ayah was and why my grandmother did all the house work. "Grandmama, why are you the maid?" But I have come a long way from being a year old. I know how to adapt.

I have lived in four different countries: Kuwait, Pakistan, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates (where I will graduate), and I have visited over 25 others. All my friends are third-culture kids. I have grown up with Indians, Pakistanis, Koreans, Taiwanese, Dutch, Scandinavians, and Latinos, to name a few. Many-a-time my nationality has been the minority in my community. I can tell the friends that I make where I have lived, and they understand. We are comfortable with each other because, one way or another, we have been in each other's shoes. I'm not alone when I say I have been able to walk outside and laugh at monkey swinging mischievously in the trees while I sip my chai (tea) and speak with the dudh walla (milkman). I have been able to step off campus and talk to the local children fishing in the open sewer while I wait for their father to hand me my sate ayam (chicken kebabs) enriched with the smell of peanut sauce from his vending cart. I have been able to take a twenty-minute drive in any direction and suddenly be in the middle of a desert surrounded by an eternity of stars. This is my life, and while these events are exotic to some, they are normal to me and my TCK friends.

When I visit my family in the summer, I don't expect everyone to understand. Not everyone has danced with Balinese dancers, scuba-dived in the Java Sea, ridden a camel in the Arabian Desert, or an elephant in the Malaysian rain forest. Not everyone has climbed the pyramids of Egypt or walked the Great Wall of China. But it is so frustrating when people ask me where I am from. Most of the time I reply, "Oh, just the other side'a Biloxi,"even though I have never been to that Mississippi town.

It will be hard for me when I graduate and have to move to "home." Few share my background. The generalization that the third-world culture consists of famine, disease, pollution, and over-population is frequent with the people I encounter. How will I ever explain that it is so much more? How will I describe relaxing under coconut trees, watching a kaleidoscopic sunset as soft, volcanic-black sand tickles between my toes? How can I describe the sounds of Gamelon music intertwining with peaceful, cool ocean waves lapping just feet in front of me?

But I'm not worried. I'm excited about coming home. I miss my grandparents, I miss Wal-Mart. McDonald's is as exotic to me as manaeesh jibneh (breat filled with salty goat cheese) is to most in America. I am ready to learn about America, a country I know little about. Maybe college will really be the lifetime experience everyone says it is. Maybe who I am will add to someone else's experience. But even now, the feeling of homesickness that will overcome me the first month or so stirs in the pit of my stomach and brings tears to my eyes.

Regardless, I will conquer the standard-shift automobile and earn my driver's licence. I will attend a Homecoming dance.

I'm scared, but I'll be fine. My grandmother assures me that because I'm from Rankin County, I have every right to be a redneck if I so desire. I don't know about that, but I do know that from Mussoorie to Mississippi, I am a third-culture kid, and I will adapt.

It's funny, I read it now and so many memories come back to me. I had NO idea how difficult moving to college would be, my first experience with studying abroad, if you will. Life is crazy.


  1. You write so very eloquently! I look forward to hearing more about your life as a TCK!

    Oh being a redneck from Rankin County. That makes me laugh a bit.

    Yay for blogs!

  2. After "all these years" of being on your American adventure, do you miss the other countries that you've called home?