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Friday, May 9, 2014

Turn Around

Don't forget us! she said as she nodded vigorously, her contagious smile mixed with nostalgia as the thought of a passage in time coming to a close. I returned the sentiment, vowing I would not forget, even as I thought of the class before who had come and gone and wondered about the next one just three months away. I could not forget. I never would.

This is what it means to be a TCK, or third-culture kid. You learn to blend all cultures into one single experience that shifts and alters as the shadows in the late afternoon. In one moment you are Korean, eating kimbap with fried egg at the corner restaurant and wearing a mask over your mouth and nose to shield you from Seoul's pollution. In the next you are Egyptian, hanging on to a single strap in the train as the crush of people tightens and eating foul medammes with thick torn pieces of wholewheat baladi that contain pieces of grit. You blink and you are Dutch, drinking karnemelk with your breakfast of hagelslag on buttered bread and riding a bicycle on carefully marked paths with their own red and green bicycle traffic lights. You turn around and you are African, squealing at night when you unwrap the mosquito net as a fat scaly brown lizard drops onto your bed and eating juicy ripe mangoes and deep pink guavas sweeter than sugar. You look up and you are American, eating an enormous sweet green pickle at the state fair and standing in solemnity as the missing man formation flies overhead at the yearly airshow. You nod and you are Mauritian, having yet another birthday celebration with no fewer than 50 people in one small house and eating bhajia and dholl puri with achar.

Each moment is rich with sensory experience that I absorb to its fullest. Years later, when I try to remember, I must go deep down into my consciousness to bring the memory and its meaning. Yet as soon as I remember, I am there, standing, riding, squealing, laughing, and eating. The memories are as rich as they were in the moment. In the same way, I see each class, each person. I cannot forget, though years pass, for when I pause to remember, the memories will shine as beautiful as in the moment they were created. The experience will always remain because it has shaped a small part of who I am.

So in answer to your question, no. I will never forget.

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