I’ve been thinking a lot about TCK’s lately… third culture kids. You may or may not be familiar with that terminology or what in the world it means. Essentially TCK’s are those kids that grow up in a culture other than their parents home culture (or first culture). Therefore they typically don’t truly identify themselves with their parents culture but they don’t truly identify themselves with their host culture (or second culture) in which they spend most of their time. Thus, TCK’s are a group of kids or adults who spent a significant amount of their developmental years moving between these two cultures before they have the opportunity to fully develop their personal and cultural identity thus entering into a third culture that is unique to them. TCK’s often find great commonality in this “third culture” with other TCK’s even if their worlds are thousands of miles apart. I’ve been married to a TCK for 11+ years, I’m raising three TCK’s, and I have lots of TCK friends in my life. I consider this a privilege… they’re pretty rad people. If you don’t have any TCK’s in your life… truly, you’re missing out!
Before we moved our family to Madagascar when our kids were then just 4, 2 and 6 months old– I knew that raising our kids in another culture would be a lifetime gift that we would be giving them. At the same time, I deeply mourned the things that we wouldn’t be giving our kids… AYSO soccer, gymnastic lessons, Sunday school, museums visits, library visits, time with cousins, playdates, trips to the zoo, the aquarium, and on and on. All these great and wonderful learning lessons academically, physically, socially and spiritually. Let me be honest, I still grieve these things at times. However, upon our return to Madagascar this last time, so many things stuck out to me… all these other learning lessons they get to experience because of our geographic location and the culture in which we live here on the red island of Madagascar.
* They’ve learned to shake hands with adults
* They know that leprosy isn’t just a disease in Biblical times but that it’s still very real here in Madagascar in the year 2014 and they know people who have suffered from the debilitating effects of it
* They’ve become skilled at riding double on a bike and 3 or 4 on a motorcycle, as well as being passengers in outrigger canoes, rickshaws and ox carts
* They have a keen awareness that most of the world– especially our world of Madagascar, live in extreme poverty with very little money, very little food, and very little resources
* They’ve experienced the joy of giving to and sharing with others
* They’re used to living with extra critters in the house– millipedes, ants, mosquitos, shrews, cockroaches and the occasional and fortunately infrequent centipede– they don’t think this is weird or gross in the least (even if I do)
* They all know that its all hands on deck when it comes to hunting down a shrew within the house
* They know how to cook rice on a Malagasy fatapera and how to wash clothes by hand
* They’re speaking and understanding three languages– English, Malagasy and French
* They know that things don’t always require a machine to make them– that instead rice is husked by hand, gravel is made by chipping rocks, bricks are made by hand, as are toy boats for play and wooden boats for work
* They’re adventurous eaters– giant fruit-bat, frog legs, escargot, cow brain, sea turtle and chicken intestines to name just a few
* They know how to drink from a freshly opened green coconut
* They’ve grown accustomed to common discomforts of life here– pot-holed filled roads, electricity outages, water outages, stinky outhouses, extreme heat and humidity, heat rash and bug bites
* They get to have a bit of their own farm right in our yard with lemurs, chickens, turkeys, chameleons, frogs, turtles, hedgehog tenrecs, plus the standard cat and dog
* They’re quite free-spirited which we love– however with this means that when we’re in the States they don’t always know or abide by the American P & Q’s that are so culturally important there
* They know how to take care of business by squatting in the forest or over a hole or on the side of the road and they’re not phased by not having toilet paper
* They know how to wash their hands without running water and I’m not talking about using hand sanitizer… though we do use this too
* They’re all skilled tree climbers and adventure seekers
* They love counting the number of rats they can find in the open air market and it quickly becomes a competition of who will see the most and the biggest– it’s one of their favorite pasttimes when doing grocery shopping with me
* They know how to catch chameleons, geckos, frogs, snakes and tenrecs and they’re not afraid to hold massive grubs, snails and other bugs in their hands
* They’ve learned that family doesn’t always need to be blood-related and they know that the next best thing to celebrating birthdays and Christmas with grandma and grandpa in person is to celebrate via Skype
* They’ve experienced African rain on tin roofs and the joy of dancing fully clothed in it
* They’re not afraid to approach and befriend others speaking a different language or from a different culture
* They’ve become quite the troopers at long car trips and airplane rides, at navigating foreign airports while pulling suitcases and pushing luggage carts
* They’ve fallen in love with some of the cultural norms here such as a daily stop at the morning mokary and tea stand
* They’ve learned the importance of a healthy forest and how to plant trees and have fallen in love with caring for God’s creation
* They’ve learned to be patient when wanting something special from America because it often means months of waiting until someone can hand carry it out
* They know that peanut butter comes from peanuts and that pickles come from cucumbers and that pancakes don’t come out of a box and they know how to make all three from scratch
* They receive a pretty awesome biology lesson almost daily because of this unique place and all the endemic plants and animals that are only found here in Madagascar
* They know how to braid hair like their Malagasy friends
* They know how to make toys using the resources around them
* They’re learning that God calls all of us to care for the His children and that He says, ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me’
* They know how to sit through the heat of church even when they wish they were at the pool cooling off…. this of course does not imply that they do so without complaining
* They’ve become quite adept at running on rocks and pebbles barefoot because of the great calluses they’ve built up on the soles of their feet
* They have an understanding of financial poverty that surpasses their young years as most of their friends have only 1-2 sets of clothes, no toys, and live without running water or electricity
* They make no distinction between their many poor friends or their few wealthy friends
* They’ve become quite good at saying good-bye and doing it really well– giving hugs, giving treasures, writing notes to friends, etc
* They’ve seen God do modern-day miracles and have experienced His amazing faithfulness and provision countless times
* They know that the love of Christ is for all– Malagasy and American, rich and poor, uneducated and educated, orphans or those with family
TCK’s– our TCK’s– they’re wonderfully unique, character-filled little folks. Admittedly, their education is a bit unconventional and not real sophisticated in many ways but we’re good with that. And I’m not gonna lie, with the TCK territory comes some unique challenges that we’re totally ill-equipped to handle. However, these three receive an education and experiences that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
I was directed to your website by way of Mission Nannys, I plan on filling out their application tonight. I already have a growing fondness for your family and what you are trying to achieve. One day I too hope to work as a Nurse Practitioner in a developing country. I have taken a step back from nursing school because my family has needed my help for the past 4 – 5 years. I too had some medical challenges along the way. I have some medical background but have provided for myself through caring for other’s children, which I love immensely. Now that things with my family have calmed down I am looking for new opportunities. I will pray for you, your family and Madagascar. Perhaps we will meet through Mission Nannys.
Shared this with some of Isabella’s friends in Sunday School today.
Shared this with some of Isabella’s friends at Sunday School today.
Beautifully written Alissa. Our little family will be heading to Côte d’Ivoire in 2015. Right now we are in France learning french. I appreciate reading what your kids have learned and I look forward to the education our girls will get. You hit a spot in my heart when you said that you miss at times the library runs, museum visits, etc. I mourn that at times. Thank you for reminding me again of what God has in store for my girls. I praise Him that they can learn this way and have a wider understanding of his love for the nations.
Also, i love the pictures you used to describe their experiences. Great photos!
What a joy to experience the in-and-outs of your kids’ lives in Madagascar! Great post. Thanks for sharing!
Alyssa, this brings back so many memories of my childhood in West Africa, especially the pictures of pets. At one time I had 11 dogs, one cat named Beau (whose tufted ears made us think he was at least half wildcat!) two chameleons named Romeo and Juliet (I never did know if they were male or female), two dik-diks named Antony and Cleopatra, and a mean old orange monkey I was watching for a friend. When I went away to boarding school, all but one dog and Beau mysteriously disappeared.
A young man in our church, named Robert, is preparing to go to Madagascar with AIM. My husband and I are mentoring him as he prepares, and I am trying to teach him a little West African French. I plan to show him your blog when he comes over next week for a lesson.
God is good.
Well said Alissa!!!! I burst out laughing at the picture of the shrew hunt! Oh that brings memories!
Really enjoyed this post. Loved the photos. and related to a number of them. I went to RVA with Jamie. He was in my sister’s class. Anyway Just wanted to say I appreciated your sharing.
Absolutely fabulous blog entry Alissa!! Has Jamie read it yet? This is a big encouragement to us as we begin our journey of faith missions. We need to talk soon.
Love you guys,
Brenton, Jen and Samuel