The question, “Where Are You From?” is a difficult one for me to answer as someone who lived a third culture childhood. Today I’m trying to give a complete answer.
I was born in a small farming town in Utah, and spent much of my childhood like the photo above. I didn’t go to school, and was basically unschooled before the term existed – although I did practice violin two hours a day. It was a magical early childhood, and memories from that time play a large role in the importance I place on children having free time.
When I was six years old, my dad changed careers, and we lived briefly in Virginia. I went to school for a few weeks there – my only experience going to school in the US (until college). From there we moved to Guatemala City, Guatemala – one of the most beautiful places in the world, which was also, at the time, still dealing with the a long civil war. My experiences living in that environment played a large role in my choice of study when I went to graduate school.
From Guatemala, we moved to France, where I went to a public school that held classes in the chateau above. France has a lot of castles. Going to French public schools made it easy to fully integrate into French culture, and I developed a deep appreciation for the French version of marbles.
My next home was La Paz, Bolivia. Our home was well above the tree line. I missed the trees, but was mesmerized by the sunsets and sunrises, as well as incredible waterfalls and shockingly strong bridges constructed using logs and mud. While in Bolivia, I hiked part of the Inca Trail – an unforgettable experience. I had a lot of free time in Bolivia, and I enjoyed capturing local life in Sculpey clay, practicing piano, and teaching myself how to sew (by destroying yards of material and breaking sewing machine needles). I also learned how to play charango, which helped me teach myself to play guitar later on.
Vienna, Austria was my final childhood home. Old world elegance at its finest. I went to concerts thanks to $2-3 standing room tickets, and fell in love with their Christmas Markets. Vienna’s safe public transportation system gave me a lot of freedom, and I spent much of my free time exploring the city. I was able to take my three oldest children back to Vienna to visit when my parents moved back there (temporarily – they are now in Florida – and they had lived in Nicaragua, Virginia, Ukraine, and Sweden in between).
While in Vienna, I sent a similar photo to the first one from this post – me as a toddler playing in mud – as part of an application to study at Stanford University. I was accepted, with a full-tuition (need-based – I still worked to pay for room and board) scholarship, and met Mike our first day of freshman orientation. Now that we are back in California, our kids are gradually learning about this part of our lives!
Mike spent most of his childhood in California, but after we got married we went to Edinburgh, Scotland, where our daughter Emma was born. Emma also spent a few months living in Cambridge, England:
While in the UK, I spent time doing research in Bosnia and Hercegovina – a beautiful part of the world:
That was working hard (is still working hard) to recover from devastation.
My time in Bosnia and Hercegovina taught me about resilience.
Johnny, Lily, and Anna, were born in Massachusetts, where I fell in love with our rural neighborhood…
…and my beloved Japanese Maple Tree.
We made wonderful friends, who we miss every day. Luckily we are going to see many of them next month – we’re going back to visit!
Now, back in California, the kids and I are learning to love Mike’s childhood home – especially the sunshine.
Where are you from?