November 15, 2010
Who knew traveling to Boise Idaho would prompt an existential crisis? I am not writing this to whine, complain or seek sympathy. I am just looking to process… and as a journalist (at heart) this is the easiest way.
I consider myself Euskaldun (Basque). I try to claim this identity as often as I can yet often feel like a fraud when I do. Yet here in Boise at a school earlier I met some kids who knew less Euskara (Basque) than I do and have never set foot in Euskadi but are Basque because of their bloodlines. Hardly seems fair to me. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on who you look at it) I am what is called a third culture kid (TCK) meaning I am from one culture, raised in another, and am neither.
Being a TCK is frustrating and strange. Don’t get me wrong I would not have traded the opportunity to grow up in Spain for anything in the world. I loved it there and miss it. Boise and all its Basque culture is making me horribly homesick. But, my passport is a US passport meaning that, while I am homesick, that is technically not my home. Every time I explain I grew up in Spain and get asked where I was born I cringe. I feel judged that I am American yet claim another identity. I feel that the other person is thinking “oh well that isn’t much because it wasn’t that long of a period of time and it was years ago and she has a US passport.”
Other TCKs are often not much consolation. Did you know that even within TCKs there are hierarchies? If you were born abroad well then that just trumps everyone. I often feel that I “only lived in Spain for 8 years” because compared to other TCKs that isn’t very long. I feel like the light version of a TCK. Yet I hardly consider myself American. If I could claim a culture I would say I am Basque yet because I “only lived in the Basque country for 6 years” that is hardly long enough to consider that is who I am. Or is it? Who judges this?
Often when explaining about living overseas I state that I lived there for 8 years, came stateside for high school, then went abroad for another year to travel and go to school before settling at the U of O for college. I feel like the year abroad makes me seem a better TCK.
We moved to Spain, or better said Euskadi because we all know that is different from the rest of Spain, in time to start first grade. I did fourth grade in the US then did fifth and sixth in Euskadi. Seventh and eight were in Madrid and then high school was in the US. If you have known me for any length of time you have probably heard how hard it was for me to adjust to high school in the US. I wanted nothing more than to be back at home in Spain but was already at what should be my home in the US.
There are parts of me that are decidedly American and other parts of me that are decidedly Basque. The American me is a foodie, who loves expensive things, and lives life at a breakneck speed. I drink too much coffee and love a real breakfast not just a pastry and un café con leche. The Basque side of me is hospitable, loves to feed everyone around me, and cooks really really well. Not to mention I am loud, outgoing, and most of all blunt. The Basque are quite blunt and often are described as harsh or in your face. I challenge you to say that doesn’t describe me.
One issue left to address are my tattoos. Both of my tattoos are Basque. I have a lauburu on my right shoulder and a small map of the baskque country with a heart cut out on the inside of my left ankle. I love them both to pieces and remind me daily of who I am or who it is that I am claim I am or who it is that I want to be. You pick which of those it is. At the end of the day I may or may not be Basque but at least two small parts of my skin are. I guess it my one small way of claiming the identity I want. No one can challenge my tattoos- they are Basque. Hopefully that makes me a little more Basque too.
So where does this leave me? Not sure. At least I have sympathy for anyone who has traveled or lived abroad. You tell me you lived in Rome for a year while your dad worked there and you miss it and want to go back? I get it. Sometimes things just feel right. For you Rome might feel right. For me being Euskaldun feels right.
Ps. Now I just need to learn the language fluently… If you are interested too you can start here http://es.wikibooks.org/wiki/Euskera but you need to speak Spanish first