In Jakarta, Indonesia, there is an obscure-looking bar and art gallery that is quietly inviting. I passed it while on my ojek (Indonesian slang for motorbikes), and after it caught my eye, I turned around and went to check out the place. It’s called the Tree House.
The incident made me realize that my ability to live the life I want is entirely contingent on the whims of the American government. But perversely, this has only intensified my desire to stay in New York.
Hosni Mubarak won with 99% of the vote. In my innocence, I wondered why Egypt’s president was so well liked, compared with the contempt with which we held American politicians.
I was not a popular person at my first Super Bowl party. My boyfriend at the time brought me to his friends’ house over my rather loud objections. He promised I’d enjoy myself, that we’d eat chili and drink beer, and that even if the game was boring, there would be funny commercials. The group split in what I know now is a fairly traditional way – most of the guys in the living room, watching the game, and most of the girls were in the kitchen chatting and eating the snacks they’d prepared. Not knowing what to do, I stayed near my boyfriend. Being a Third Culture Kid, I know it can take years before the rituals and minutiae of social events normalize. Having grown up in Thailand, I remember being mystified the first time Songkran came around just as much as I remember gleefully joining in on the water fight by the time our third year rolled around. Festivals and traditions, like humour, seem to be some of the hardest things to translate. …
I have been wonderfully spoiled by all the places I have lived. There are little facets in each of the different countries that I wholly adore, and I always wonder if I can find a single place in the world that has all of these benefits.
Why did I feel disconnected from the collective American experience? Why wasn’t I forging stronger ties with my American peers? It wasn’t until I watched “Neither Here Nor There” that I was able to make better sense of this strange quarter-life cultural crisis.
In the last two years of teaching, I’ve often found myself wondering what could I possibly offer in the realm of education, to a classroom, to one student. How do I speak to each unique experience when I am only one person living one life?