Home is where the heart is…

9 02 2010

According to Planet of the Slums, by Mike Davis: Urban slum dwellers are currently the fastest growing segment of the global population. This is the statistic which inspired Jonas Bendiksen, Norwegian photojournalist, to travel around the world documenting, interestingly, the inside of slum-dwellers homes. The photo below is one of my personal favourites, with the caption below it taken from the Foreign Policy website.

[In Jakarta’s “kampongs,” the homes were smaller than in other slums Bendiksen visited. One couple, with their three teenage daughters, lives here. There is space to sit upright, but not to stand. Although the room is extraordinarily small, it’s also very tidy. “You see here the same elements as in your own house: framed family pictures, wallpaper improvised,” Bendiksen says. “No matter what economic condition people are living in, not only do we need to create shelter over our head, but to create a home.”]

I have lived in a number of interesting locations around the world – all of them luxurious compared with a single-room shelter where the ceiling is not high enough to stand up. It is certainly a sobering prospect, but it does however, allow me to raise the question which has so-often plagued me on my travels:

Where do you call home?

How does one define home? There are a number of expressions and clichés which have been used to describe this place of seemingly mythical status:

“A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.”

“Home is where you hang your head”

“Home is an invention on which no one has yet improved.”

“Home is the girl’s prison and the woman’s workhouse”

“Home is where the heart is.”

“Home is not where you live but where they understand you.”  ~Christian Morgenstern

“Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.”  ~Charles Dickens

“Where thou art – that – is Home.”  ~Emily Dickinson

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.”
~Robert Frost, The Death of the Hired Man

“Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.”  ~John Ed Pearce

However, whenever I am asked for a specific place that I call “home”, I struggle internally, and generally end up changing my answer several times before eventually settling on something. Recently, while speaking with a friend of mine, Ms. Birgitte Witt,(whose blog can be found here) about her undergraduate thesis, this feeling was clarified for me.

Apparently I am a “third-culture kid“.

A third-culture kid, as defined by the TCKWorld website, is “[…] a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture.”

Ahah! I thought to myself. This explains a lot about why I feel/act/speak the way that I do. Here are some good examples which apply to me (and possibly to you) taken from the “You know you’re a TCK if...” page.

– Your life story uses the phrase “Then we moved to…” three (or four, or five…) times.
– You wince when people mispronounce foreign words.
– You don’t know whether to write the date as day/month/year, month/day/year, or some variation thereof.
– The best word for something is the word you learned first, regardless of the language.
– You think VISA is a document that’s stamped in your passport, not a plastic card you carry in your wallet.
– You own personal appliances with 3 types of plugs, know the difference between 110 and 220 volts, 50 and 60 cycle current, and realize that a trasnsformer isn’t always enough to make your appliances work.
– You fried a number of appliances during the learning process.
– You believe vehemently that football is played with a round, spotted ball.
– You consider a city 500 miles away “very close.”

And the list goes on. (It can be found here.) You too may be a TCK.

It certainly makes me feel as if, although I may not belong anywhere, I certainly belong somewhere. And that I can love all of my identities and “homes” and not be as strange as I once thought…

Post by Sarah Topps

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