Guest Post: “Longing for the Other Place”

Today’s post came by way of a comment on the post Saudade. It resonated deeply with me and I asked permission to share as a blog post. It is written by Anne Alexander, a fellow TCK. You can take a look at the end for a short bio.

I hope you enjoy this post and may your Sunday be a welcome rest from the chaos and busyness of life. 

Yesterday I went to a funeral for a dear friend. It was a true celebration (the most joyful, Christ-honoring I’ve ever attended), but that couldn’t stop the tears, even in worship.

As funerals and farewells often do, this one brought up the pain of losing my brothers in childhood, and all the related pain of leaving relatives and friends on both sides of the ocean time after time after time. It brought up the longing for the ‘other place’, whichever one I wasn’t in, and the people I love around the world.

TCK lives are filled and colored with losses of all kinds.

Some of us stuff feelings really well for a long time (for me, until middle age), but some of us are blessed, unable to do so.

In the long run, the ‘expressers’ are less likely to develop physical or mental aberrations because ‘the truth must out’, and our pain is truth to us.

The angst the world feels because of the God-shaped, Heaven-shaped longings implanted when we were created for Him hums in their experience like an irritatingly loud refrigerator– sometimes softer, sometimes louder, but ultimately ignorable until the margins of our lives are used up.

As TCKs we live with less margin most of our lives, continually pushed into areas of growth, change and challenge. We may disguise the irritation and angst of being  between homes and Home, but we can’t hide it any more than a person with 3 arms can hide it under a 2-armed shirt.

Growing up, we’ve sampled more fulfillment and full-use of our potential, more of and varied pleasures and experiences, more pain and loss, than many of our passport-country friends do in an entire lifetime.

We are accustomed to adrenaline in traffic and true life-threatening experiences, to fox-hole friendships with those we work and worship with, to ‘relatives’ closer in spirit, purpose and faith than any blood relatives we could find in our passport country.

We have lived life without the bubble wrap, warfare without boxing gloves, and the exhilaration of seeing God come through when it really matters.  And we know it’s more than just making the next traffic light green so we can get to work on time.

Is it any wonder that we grieve the distancing from LIFE that sometimes seems to accompany return to our passport country? Is it any wonder that we long for friends and ‘relatives’ like those with whom we grew up, or worked with in our country of adoption?

Thank God for a word like ‘saudade’ that helps us express the inexpressible longing for that remembered world of discovery, friendship, growth and possibilities. We are not alone. And there will at last be a place where all potentials will be realized as they were meant to be.

But until then, my heart will go on singing (even if sometimes the minor key spirituals of hope);
But until then, with joy I’ll carry on (knowing that even if no one else understands, my Creator, Companion and Burden-bearer does)–
Until the day my eyes behold the city,
Until the day God calls me Home. (Until Then chorus by Ray Price)

And in the meantime, that third arm comes in handy for all kinds of tasks, like wiping the tears I sometimes can’t hide, or helping a friend in need.

Kindergarten in Mandarin was TCK Anne Alexander’s introduction to Taiwan, and for 44 years she has called Taiwan home. At present she’s teaching and researching Bible storytelling in Mandarin for a doctorate from Biola’s Cook School of Intercultural Studies. 

12 thoughts on “Guest Post: “Longing for the Other Place”

  1. Although I’m not a true TCK, I’ve had a whiff of your experience. My mother is from pre-war Berlin’s German-Jewish aristocracy, and my father is from the poorest of the poor of western Kentucky. They brought us up in a New England college town. Life included visits to my grandmother in Cambridge, hearing her speak German with her friends and with my mother, and a week each summer with my Kentucky grandparents and my fourteen aunts and uncles and twenty-five cousins. I have never felt rooted in the suburban culture. Traveling, and the eighteen months we lived in The Netherlands are the times I’ve felt most alive. Although I have had relatively short tastes of the LIFE Anne speaks of, I know that longing to be elsewhere. As she says, “Is it any wonder that we grieve the distancing from LIFE that sometimes seems to accompany return to our passport country?”

    Thank you for putting words to the very real longing to be elsewhere.

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  2. Thanks, Marilyn, for passing this on. My wife remembers Anne from Taiwan. And now that I’ve gone back and reread your post on saudade, I appreciate it even more.

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    1. Haha!! No – not stupid at all – you are a brilliant woman as your writing attests! It’s a Third Culture Kid – The formal definition is this: A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background. So sorry for not clarifying this earlier! It makes me appreciate all the more that you come by and read and comment and understand!

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  3. This resonates with me, even 55 years after leaving Africa! I find that I have built up walls to keep away the pain of separation, of leaving family three times a year to go away to school, of leaving Africa for a strange (to me) country where I knew no one and was barely acquainted with a few.

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    1. Joyce – your comment resonates with me. Isn’t it amazing that years after we still remember those wall, the pain, the difficulty? Grateful that you shared.

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  4. Anne, I echo your experience even though America is my home away from Home. America is the foreign country we are residing in since many years. Loved your insight, Petra

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    1. I loved the insight as well Petra – I think any of us who have lived between worlds, yet know spiritually that there’s even a greater reality beyond all we see can appreciate this post.

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  5. That was great, I’m going to reblog it on monkeysinmybag.wordpress.com on Wednesday, if you don’t mind. It seems to be the theme I’m on lately too, homesickness and longing for the Other Place. Thank you!

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