Thursday, June 30, 2011

Intersections (Third Culture Kids)

Part 1

During the month I’ve been here in Tucson, I’ve heard a few people talk about the border region as a different country. Culturally it’s neither Mexico nor the United States. Sure, the road signs and official notices are in English, but just about every business has signs in Spanish. Hot dogs aren’t eaten with ketchup or relish, instead they are wrapped in bacon and topped off with beans and guacamole and are called Sonora dogs. Until recently, too, the public school system emphasized Hispanic-American culture in its history classes as part of the region’s cultural heritage (similar to how south eastern states emphasize history about the civil war period). Granted, the border is a political boundary between two nations symbolized by a wall, but in many ways it is also their intersection.

Intersections fascinate me. For one, there is a newness about them that I rarely encounter in my day-to-day life. Intersections shake things up, and call into question established paradigms (Only ketchup on your hot dog? Why not try some bacon, guacamole and beans!) They bring new energy (and perspectives) to old conversations. (How else would California and Arizona have such beautiful architecture?) In a lot of ways, I guess, living at an intersection is like living an experiment where eureka moments happen frequently to those making an effort to understand each other.

Living at an intersection is sometimes uncomfortable, too. It asks its inhabitants to be patient with the frustration of not understanding each other. (It’s no secret that it is less frustrating to speak with words than with charades.) Differing social norms and values challenge each other at intersections as well. But anyone who lives in an intersection is living proof this isn’t an insurmountable challenge.

My bus ride home last night exemplified this intersection perfectly for me. Without giving it much thought, I picked an open seat. Two spots down from me sat a seventy-something Anglo woman who wore an American flag handkerchief to keep her hair in place. She would yell out “Have a great night and God bless you!” to whomever got off the bus. A few minutes into the bus ride an older Hispanic woman got on the bus as well and sat between the older white woman and me. The Anglo woman, being friendly, tried to strike up a conversation in English with the Hispanic woman, who just responded with a nod and a smile because she didn’t speak the language. Unabashed, the Anglo woman pointed at the picture on one of the Hispanic woman’s bags. It was of two lovers and said “I will love you. Always.” The two women smiled at another, the two laughed, and then one pantomimed that she still dances like a young woman with her husband. Both laughed again. Despite being unable to communicate with words, each woman left the bus with a new friend.


Written by Jacob Hanger.

Based on this book:


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