Monday, August 29, 2011

Confessions of a Post-Colonial Ex-Patriate Third-Culture-Kid

Just finished "The Help" - yeah I know it's a chick book, made me think about cooks, maids, and jaga's who worked for my family over the years overseas. I was older when we were in Jakarta [Indonesia], but in Thailand, we had a maid named S--- who was my best friend and basically raised me, wish I could go back and thank her for all she did for me....
One of my high school friends, in a private facebook group, just posted what you're reading above.  We went to school together in one of the nations where our parents worked, a former colony of one of the empires of the West.  Our parents were called Ex-Pats and we, without our own choosing, were Third-Culture-Kids.

When I was back in the USA, preparing to write a dissertation on Aristotle's influence on the West (and consequently on the East as well), then I made similar confessions in an early draft of a preface to my prospectus.  Here's what I wrote, (as) an artifact of histories and historiographies:
My narrative that follows shows how much I owe to several feminist rhetor(ician)s.  (Their insights are just beginning to enrich my understandings in academic dimensions).  Some of my very earliest memories are of Nancy, sharing her African American stories in ebonics with my brothers and me as she cared for us in our home while my parents were away in seminary classes and in church work in Texas just before the Jim Crow laws were overturned and long before “African American” and “ebonics” were labels for people and language.  (From bell hooks now I some understand that Nancy, after her long workdays for my parents, probably told her stories to her own children in her own homeplace, a site of resistance.)  Then, when my parents were in missionary language school in Viet Nam, Chị Năm [Fifth Elder Sister] became our surrogate parent and taught us another mother tongue as she took us with her to the open-air markets and inside the museums, on the playgrounds and through the zoo, all filled with stares and with pinches on our little boy white cheeks and with public questions about our father and the race of our mother, before taking us back “home.”  (Now elsewhere, out of a Rhetoric of Women Writer’s seminar, I really get this explicit insight in English from Trinh T. Minh-ha: 
Every voyage can be said to involve a re-siting of boundaries.  The traveling self is here both the self that moves physically from one place to another, following “public routes and beaten tracks” within a mapped movement, and the self that embarks on an undetermined journeying practice, having constantly to negotiate between home and abroad, native culture and adopted culture, or more creatively speaking, between a here, a there, and an elsewhere. [9])
My biological mother, Margaret, in addition to her own studies, read all kinds of books to us, and taught me to read and to write.  (She had learned cowgirl rhetoric, the kind that Charlotte Hogg and Ron Pitcock theorize, from her biological mother, Gladys, who taught her how to call the cows, of course, and how to fish, to hunt, to quilt, to pick blackberries, to bake a cobbler to go with the elaborate entrees and home grown vegetables and breads she cooked daily for her family and occasionally for special crowds, to play 42, to negotiate necessarily with a strong husband in a world of men, to tell her stories, and to read and to write).  Because I could read and write, I learned to theorize language learning from Ibu [Mother] Noto, who taught me Bahasa Indonesia in high school (birthing in me the desire to study Japanese and Greek, as an undergraduate student; and linguistics, language-learning theory, then literature, composition, and rhetoric, as a graduate student, and to learn / to teach as a friend, a child, a parent, an academic).  “Monstrous,” Nancy Mairs might call this kind of rhetoric (of hers).

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