Sunday, April 25, 2010

Third Culture Kids

Had my favourite breakfast of medium portion "kicapless" Wanton Mee with my dad along the street behind Chowrasta Market this morning and for the first time in many, many years I was able to debate with him about Penang politics. Of course since he supports the Opposition just like most Penangites, his view will be centred on being Chinese, Chinese rights and what Federal Government should do. To be honest, I don't know how he and my mum manage to keep their marriage strong all these years as they were totally opposite. Politically, socially and economically .. hahaha.

"Sorry dad. I for once do not share both you and mummy's sentiment when it comes to politics. I am a third culture kid and I believe many of us or our generation one way or another do not share your sentiment." And dad, it's both you and mummy's fault (ooo I would love to say that) ... Who ask them to fall in love and produce this cute and intelligent girl anyway! Hahahahaha

You see, one of the best thing about working in the State is "glocalising" your view. Which literally means willing and able to “think globally and act locally.” In KL, the direction is multilateral and most of the time the best way forward is globalising our mindset. However, after 8 years in KL, my opinion is that KL maybe the best place for those who have lost or confuse about their identity hence the term Third Culture. BTW, I first heard about this term "glocal" when our PM was the Education Minister and he was giving talks to UMS students back in 1998. Love it ... and since it is not "copyrighted" yet ... that will be my NEW Direction for 2010 .... ooopss sidetrack!

However, in the process of "glocalising" my act here in Penang I realised some of the stress, pressure or slow pace of adjustment might also be due to my Third Culture mindset. It also strike me that series of miscommunication between myself and a representative to a production company is also due to her Third Culture mindset ... like she kept on saying "this is the government right". Maybe to her, State Government and Federal Government is Government hahaha (I am trying to rule out ignorance here).

Chan Li-Jin wrote a very nice article on the Third Culture Kids on The Star 18 April 2010 based on her interview with Ruth Van Reken, author of Letters Never Sent and Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among The Worlds. According to her, Third Culture Kids (TCK) refers to the children of people who live and work abroad, away from their passport country (haaa.... Qirzah ... you better get hold of the book if you are thinking of settling in Buenos Aires). According to the article also, research shows that these children who lead highly migratory lives tend to battle issues of rootlessness, restlessness, fractured relationships, cultural imbalance and lack of belongings even though they were also developing a large world view, multi-lingual abilities and friendships with people from different cultural backgrounds.

Following the success of the books and feedbacks from readers, Van Reken and co-author Prof David Pollock realised that TCK covered a much wider scope - children of immigrants, multiracial families and minority groups, which expanded the TCK term to adult third culture kids (ATCK), cross cultural kids (CCK) and even people moving within their own country who feel ostracised by the differing cultures, social practices and unspoken community rules in each different state.

What strike home was when Li-Jin wrote this in the article ...

"As we parted ways, I thought of what Van Reken said about not knowing what to cross under "RACE" in the official forms. My children are of Chinese and Malay parentage, and I often wonder what they should fill in this section. Then again, I thought about us Chinese "bananas", second or third generation Chinese Malaysians. Most of us cannot read or speak Chinese anymore; we attend Malay national schools, yet think, read and write in English."

I always have that dilemma ... luckily after Chinese, Malay and Indian there is always column for "Others" without having to state what race in our official forms, which solve the problems. In Sabah, they acknowledge the SINO-NATIVE group so while I was there I wrote down under RACE "SINO-NATIVE". However in Sarawak, we must choose either one. Hopefully, CM Sarawak terbuka mata sikit to look into the matter as his children also do not qualify for status BUMIPUTERA. So are many other Sarawakian leaders.

Another line that strike home ...

"Then they are people from Terengganu, Kelantan or Sabah who have settled in Kuala Lumpur or other parts of the country. Their children will very likely never speak the dialect distinct only to their state, and many will never know the culture and lifestyle of their parents and ancestors."

You see my dad was in the army so we tend to mix around with army children from the Peninsular Malaysia in the quarters plus I went to school where army children went in Kuching. Naturally, I will speak like "orang Malaya" complete with the "ye ke", "ek", "ler" and sometimes "saya" became "saye" or "I" and "awak" became "ko" or "you". Hahaha.

And because in Bidayuh language we don't have a specific word refering to older siblings unlike Indian and Chinese, the Malay terms like Abang and Kakak are adopted easily into our conversation just like Auntie, Uncle, Mummy and Daddy. So when I went to Kolej DPAH Abdillah (Sarawak's equivalence to TKC, STAR and MCKK) and start mixing around with schoolmates from other parts of Sarawak, they made a joke of my "Bahasa Malaya".

6 years in KDPAHA, I have mastered the "urban" and original Bahasa Melayu Sarawak, 80% of Bahasa Iban, 10% of Lun Bawang, 3 other Bidayuh dialects.

5 years in Sabah, kalau aku cakap Sabah ... ndak ada orang percaya aku ini orang Sarawak bah kan Yop. Cakap saja style mana ko mau ... "Pinampang", Tawau, Menggatal ... Inanam. Or mau slang Pilak atau Dasar Pandang Ke Timor Leste ... hahahaha

Unfortunately, 8 years in KL, still cannot master the Cantonese language. Aiya! But Mr Lai was so nice to talk to me in Hokkien everytime we meet so that I can understand the language better. Having said that, I still have to answer back in mix of Malay, English and Mandarin. This part of me need a lot of sorting out and working out to do. Sigh! Reminded me of the time when I accidently mispronounce "girlfriend" as "cow friend" (nu peng you) to my Chinese friend hehehe


norzah said...

Hi, J, am just back from the village to do the weeding and compound-cleaning job. Wow, you're suddenly so
prolific and profound (about the TCK). Nothing's more interesting than a TCK analyzing her own self.

To a certain extent everyone in our modern society is a marginal person, if not a TCK. To be uprooted from the village, transplanted into the city, severed from old village friends and community, and to live in a superficial community of "strangers", one cannot help but become a polyglot. You must Also be a deviationist to cope with the changes and adjustments that you must make. Sociology is full of these new terms bit I love the marginal person concept.

Don't blame your mom or dad if their values and mindset remain closer to the stalk-pattern. Only after a process of acculturation, which you have gone through, will our norms and values change.

Hey enough of that. I like your food- and adventure- searching experience in Penang. Keep the new entries coming. Nothing's more interesting than meeting with surprises.

rambomadonna said...

No wonder you were silent these 2 days. Mesti best balik kampung right. At least can flex the muscle and perspire a bit.

I was looking forward to your comment for this entry. I guess its one of my most intellectual entry after 1Malaysia. Now that I don't have astro, I read a lot to pass time. Too much TV can be bad influence hehehe

I guess most of us are TCKs one way or another. However if you read the whole article, I can be categorize as TCK in any way - cross cultural families, military families, a swkian studying in sabah, then working in KL and now Penang. Its a wonder I do not develop any emotional problem ... except for the blog rambling hahaha

No, never blame my parent ... the line where I was deem to be blaming my parent was meant to be humorous.

rambomadonna said...

Opssss Norzah ... forgot to thank you. Hidung kembang susah nak kuncup skg nie.

norzah said...

Almost 1am but still surfing. 2 hari tak surf kerana both celcom and digi broadband refused to work. No astro so more reading. Huhuhu what a confession. We all know that the stupid box takes too much of our time, yet one day w/o tv is worse than 2 days w/o internet, hehehe. The thing about your writiing is, walaupun serious and intellectuil your can still slip in lines that can make one smile or laugh. Itulah yang mahal. Me happy kalau hidung you kembang, lebih banyak oxigen masuk, lebih cepat otak berjalan, lebih
aktif dan..entah..lebih apa lagi?

rambomadonna said...

Aduhhhh ... makin kembang hidung. Abis lah oksigen kat penang nie. Dah lah green lung dah sikit hehehe.

Lepas berkali-kali diuji "mercilessly" I pun make an effort beli Evening Primrose and Fish Oil untuk mengurangkan "tekanan emosi". Nampaknya berkesan. 2 malam nie tido nyenyak smpi nyamuk gigit pun tak perasan.

Normally in KL, balik office lepas mandi dan dinner Monday I suka tgk 8TV, AXN and Starworld. This channel ni ada citer2 kesukaan I like CSI, NCIS, Desperate housewife, Criminal Minds, Ghost Whisperer ...tu yang takde masa nak baca paper atau magazine. Huhuhu

norzah said...

Rumah sekarang tk pasang Astro ke? Would be interesting to know about life without Astro and much TV. Apa lagi jika tinggal seorang, hehehe.

Abet said...

KDPH is equal to STAR? huhu.. i don't think so.. it's a boys school lah zen... i study there lah remember? hehehe.. if you could master Mandarin, i bet everyone will look up on you more!!! including me lah :P
Send regerds to unlce!!

rambomadonna said...

Norzah: Rumah skg nie rumah "charity" peninggalan grandma and grandpa and turut didiami oleh the Golden Girls. I ada 3 unmarried aunties and 1 widow (huhuhu). Pasang astro pun depa dok tgk Taiwanese Ah Cheng jer kat TV2.

Pastu rumah tumpangan sementara kat Jalan Burma nie belongs to my dad's late boss who act as caretaker sehingga new owner masuk. My parents takde beli rumah kat Penang as initially they thought of settling in Kuching. Maybe depa pun tak sangka me and my siblings akan duduk jauh2 and merantau huhuhu.

Bagus jugak takde astro. Like I "confess" the other day. More time for reading.

rambomadonna said...

Kazen: My reference to those school bukan dari segi whether it's a boys school or girls school. Macam kat semenanjung kan, sebut jak STAR and TKC semua orang tau what kind of school. Cuma di kuching kita liberal a bit so the residential schools bercampur. My dad di Baling and I have the whole house to myself ... bolehlah jadi "nudist" hari tok hahahahaha

norzah said...

J, can you read this?


Just checking because of what your "kazen " said. First line is a name spelt out in Chinese characters. 2nd is a sentence. I learn it from internet, hehehe.

norzah said...

Don't want u to waste time on the challenge to read my Chinese script which could be wrong anyway. First line is supposed to be mu -ha-ma -nu -re (mohdnor).
Second line "I also know some Chinese language". Gee, can learn a lot from internet, hehehe.

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