What is your TCK story?
My story starts in Nigeria, Lagos to be exact. I am the second of four siblings and a Nigerian by fire and force (as my fellow Nigerians love to say). Growing up, my father travelled frequently as he was highly involved in academics and that was one of the stipulations of his occupation. However, I wasn’t expecting my parents to announce to the then seven-year-old me that we would be permanently moving to South Africa, where my father had been stationed for a few months. It’s been thirteen years now, and I am still getting used to the culture and languages here, but with each passing year, it has been slightly better.
What have been some of the benefits/strengths and challenges in your TCK journey that you’d be willing to share?
One huge benefit that stands out for me is that people (for most part) enjoy asking me about my country and my culture. Since South Africa is a ‘rainbow nation’ filled with diverse cultures and languages, I sometimes manage to fit in an ‘exotic/unclassified’ niche. Basically, I would be asked the same questions as a Malay whose family has stayed in SA for the past five succeeding generations, but still looks ‘different’. However, Nigerians do not have a particularly good reputation in SA, and so I do meet people who would rather ‘judge a book by its cover’, and to those people I try to stress through my actions that a nationality is just a place of birth, legal identity and ancestry, and that an individual should be assessed by their own characteristics and not judged by preconceived notion.
As with the challenges, there have been many negative experiences I have faced, specifically as an African TCK who still resides in Africa, albeit on the other side of the continent. It would have been better if I was a TCK in Ghana, for example. Ghana is still a part of West Africa, hence the accent, culture, traditions, food, languages etc are still strikingly similar. This is something often seen in Africa. The countries of Northern Africa are similar in their cultures, traditions and religion; and so it is in the West, East and South. I should think the same rule of thumb will apply to Europe as well. Hence, South Africa is vastly different to any country in West Africa, especially when it comes to culture.
For one, I have been faced with hostility due to the fact that I don’t necessarily speak the local African language(s). People tend to think that this is disrespectful; I am in their land, so I must surely know how to speak their language; this mentality, unfortunately, is usually only applied to African TCKs by South African blacks; it is not something a non-African TCK would frequently complain about.
A second challenge has been the weird accent I have acquired. It is somewhat a sign of my failure at accclimizating, and shows a syncretism of some sort that I have managed to achieve, quite unintentionally, after my stay here. Consequently, I have an accent that is not Nigerian enough to be Nigerian, and not South African enough to be South African. Due to bullying I acquired in my primary school because of the said accent, I often have an habit of fumbling unintentionally over my words when I am in a conversion with a non-black South African (the primary school I had gone to had been attended mostly by whites), and I also have the same tendency to stumble over my words when reading aloud; when I am alone or around people I am comfortable with my calm is quickly restored.
The problem with my accent is merely an outward show of an inward identity crisis. I am now too ‘westernized’ to fit nicely into the Nigerian culture, but I am still too ‘uptight’ to fit into a very westernized South Africa. I have been called out by both a Nigerian and a South African for being disrespectful (in an African sort of way) when it wasn’t my intention to be. In both cases, I was just being ‘me’, you know, the me which tries hard to conform to two vastly different cultures while pleasing both sides at the same time, and in both cases, I had failed … miserably.
What is a food, a smell, a song, etc. that immediately brings you back to a certain point in your life and makes you feel at home?
Jollof rice! I must say, jollof rice reminds me of home and Nigerian restaurants, and also to mention any other food, save for jollof rice, would be almost akin to forsaking my Nigerian identity (and while I am here, I must also mention that Nigerian jollof is better than Ghanian!).
A smell that reminds me of home would probably be the smell of palm oil burning on a stove or any of our traditional soups like ogbono or egusi. Songs … definitely church choruses, especially ones that have the characteristic Nigerian interjections (oo! ee! etc), a splash of pidgin, and aggressive rhythmic clapping (which is probably why people say Nigerians have hard hands, we improvise our drumming in church with our hands!).
How can older ATCKs support/invest in younger TCKs?
Definitely give them space to speak of their troubles, and also provide needful advice. Being a younger TCK, I wish I had someone who had gone through a similar experience with whom I could speak to. I never did find someone like that though, and what I do know now has been through a messy run of ‘trial and error’. In effect, there are many things I could have done differently if I had known better that would have affected me more positively today.
What would you like to say to your younger TCK self? Advice? Bible verses? Truths?
Don’t try to become someone you are not, it only leads to trouble and heartache; if you don’t fit into a group now, wait on it and try again later, forcing the process is a dangerous thing to do. Truly, as a TCK, you will soon find that you can never truly fit in; not in all areas, at least. Oh, you could come close to it, but you’ll never be fully there! Rather take your comfort in the Lord and His Word. Above all, you are a citizen of heaven before you are a citizen of any country. Take joy in the fact that God’s kingdom is made up of diverse people from different tribes, tongues and races, and you are one of them too! It took me a long time, but the friends I have now, and those who have stayed with me, are friends that I acquired through worship and prayer meetings etc. True Christians don’t care what country you are from, you are simply their brother/sister in Christ!
Also, don’t abandon your time with God, men will always fail you in one way or the other, but Christ promises in Matthews 28:20 that He is with you always, even to the end of the world! Always remember to commit your ways to the Lord, He makes your time count. Whether you need a friend, want to play the piano better, want to get a book written, or want to neglect a bad habit, going through it your way will make the passage of time excruciatingly obvious, but when you commit your way to the Lord, He will direct your path and lead you in His timing.
Lastly, keep your minds busy on things that matter! Work, studies, position etc. are all things necessary to put food on the table; but laughter, family, literature, friends, music are what make life colorful and worth living; and neither of those care if you are a TCK or not!
Why have you decided to be a part of the TCKs for Christ team? What do you hope for this platform?
I joined the TCK for Christ team as a staff writer because I thought (and still do!) that the team was doing something that mattered! A lot of TCKs, like me, are suffering from bad memories and emotional trauma that need to be addressed. We had gone through experiences that other TCKs/future TCKs could avoid or better manage if they are given a better approach.
What is a resource or type of care that you would like to see provided for/offered to TCKs in the future?
Definitely more online Christian help groups like TCKs for Christ. Maybe a magazine/journal/podcast specifically targeting Christian TCKs. Anything really that encourages fellowship and oneness across borders!
What is TCKs for Christ?
TCKs for Christ is a website ministry that strives to serve, encourage, and challenge teenage Christian third culture kids and young adult TCKs. These include missionary kids, business kids, cross-cultural kids, mixed-cultural kids, diplomat kids, etc.
The TCK life has its struggles and challenges, and TCKs for Christ desires to encourage a TCK in truth and to tell them that they are not alone and there’s Someone who cares more than they can ever know. The TCKs for Christ team consists of TCKs writing for young TCKs to motivate them to use their gifts for His kingdom and to live victoriously with a firm identity in Jesus Christ.
Who are TCKs?
Third Culture Kids or TCKs are people who have lived in a culture other than their parents’ or their passport/birth country’s culture during their developmental years or years before adulthood.
Does TCKs for Christ have an Email List?
Yes, they do! Upon signing up, you will receive exclusive content of one TCK letter and one newsletter per month in your inbox.
The TCK Letters convey heartfelt experiences through words, in which a few of our writers talk about the struggles and triumphs of their TCK life.
The Monthly Newsletter is a fun, convenient summary of new articles and interviews published on our website for the month.
Interested? Subscribe through their website, TCKsforChrist.com.
Where Could I Connect with Them?
Their social media handle is @TCKsforChrist. Connect with them through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.