A Third Culture Kid’s Experience: Sensing Your Belonging8 December 2020
The girl I love thinks belonging looks like blank walls re-envisioned. Bedrooms of low-sheen warm white have become her cross-cultural companion, a familiar stalker and a friendly face, the constant same hue amongst the apartments in her growing inventory. Several taped photographs offer small windows to past lives of different values: friendships with those she hasn’t seen in two years, a family portrait from graduation, and a Caravaggio reprint of Bacchus—these images are staples on her plain canvas, family and art, the enduring forces in her resettling. Though the act of taping photographs speaks to the momentary ownership of a space, a personalisation of the generic in temporary life, she doesn’t mind. These white walls speak of the possibility for new photographs, waiting to be taken beyond the door’s threshold.
The girl I love thinks belonging tastes like homemade fusion cooking. She gorges on store-bought ravioli that doubles as pasta or substitutes dumplings in noodle soup. She delights on mushrooms fried in kicap manis, on feta drizzled in sesame oil, and miso butter mixed into scrambled eggs. It’s sacrilege—she knows it. Perhaps it testifies to a deeper part of her dual-ethnicity that desires a blend of all the countries she’s lived in, a fusion much like herself. But her cooking in truth attempts to mimic the illustrious dishes from a decadent chef: her father, a master of multiple cuisines, allowed home to be a place to be satisfied to the full. Though her skills leave much to be desired, they soothe a longing to be wrapped in familial comfort.
The girl I love thinks belonging smells like reminiscence. Those inexplicable scents she can’t quite name, but catapult her to the moments she first passed them. There is a plethora: upturned dark soil that alludes to the air after a Bangkok monsoon shower; the sharp and sour bite of dung beetles making their home on her balcony in Bali; pungent odours drifting through the smoke of long-tail boats blazing down the Chao Phraya. Then there are the sweet, salty, non-perfumed scents of loved ones—these she can never describe. Human scents are not like smoke that have cause for their potency. They just are, existing as lingering pieces of her heart she wished she could bottle and keep forever.
The girl I love thinks belonging feels like acts of kindness. Memories of her father bringing her tea every hour she studied, of her mother coming to watch her high school plays despite her busyness, the friends who would hand-write her letters saturated in secret jokes. Moving to Melbourne meant separation from this enduring Love, forcing her loneliness to manifest: downing gin in the slow hours of the afternoon, staring at the taped photographs, or finding solace in the corners of the internet that promised the false comfort of a nicer apartment, and a better degree. She, at first, did not belong in Melbourne where she could not find this Love. But as she found favourite coffee shops, the best parks to read books in, the loneliness turned to familiarity. She realised she would not belong anywhere if she did not give kindness to herself in this time.
The girl I love thinks belonging sounds like the synthesised beat of a cityscape. The huff of air as the train leaves the station, peppered with the canned voice announcements of where her obligations and desires are taking her. It’s the wind tunnels that wrap around tight corners of side alleys, before lifting up to the sky speckled with falling rain. Remaining silent amongst surrounding conversations, quiet in the consuming noise. Trills of metropolitan energy remain the same no matter the blueprint, speaking to a part of her that enjoys anonymity no matter the city she moves to. But when she’s finished her walk and the wind quietens and the people thin out, when the trains stop for the evening and she sits alone on the pier overlooking the inky rivers, she knows she is home.