I, Doug Gulleson, am honored and proud to be a Third Culture Kid (TCK). In fact, I am also a MK (Missionary Kid), a sub-set of a TCK kid. I was born in the Southern Baptist Hospital in Kediri, East Java, Indonesia, in 1967.
I was the first of their three boys born and raised in Indonesia. I was home schooled until 4th grade. Then I was blessed to attend the International School in Surabaya which only went up to 8th grade ( www.sisedu.net/home.html). Our family then moved to Jakarta, and we continued our education at the Jakarta International School (www.jisedu.or.id). I graduated in 1986, and then shortly after moved to the United States. I had previously only visited the U.S. for a year every four years while my parents were on furlough.
Here is a neat video about TCKs.
As each year passes, I realize how amazingly blessed I am to have seen the world through many different “sets of eyes.” For the first five years of my life, when we lived in Pamekasan on the mostly Muslim island of Madura, the only “white” or Western people were my family members. There I learned how to fly big kites with my Madurese friends, eat sate (chicken on a stick) from the street vendors, eat the smelly delicious fruit, durian, (that I am longing for right now,) and so many other wonderful things.
Dad and Mom made it a point to take three-week vacations every year, and mostly they were in the coastal town of Kuta on the island of Bali. Counting all the days I have visited Bali (vacation days, my senior high school trip, and my personal scuba-diving trips) I believe it has been over 400 days!
I have met so many people from different races, cultures, and tribes, and they have helped to make me a better person and to realize the United States isn’t the center of the world. I am amazed at how each culture has really wonderful things to enjoy–like different foods, art, folklore, history, customs, etc.
- I saw how they make the Batik material the “old fashion” way. Batik originated in the area of Yogyakarta, Central Java (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batik#Indonesia).
- I learned how to surf in Bali when I was kid.
- I flew kites in the middle of rice paddies. ( NOTE) I also lost a lot of those kites because the Indonesians are mighty warriors when it comes to kite fighting!
- During my senior year at Jakarta International School, I was in the choir called “Joint Sound” (http://www.last.fm/music/Joint+Sound, http://www.casa.org/node/3430 ). Seriously, I don’t know why I was invited in, but I think it was because I had the lowest bass voice in the school. I learned so much during that time with Joint Sound. We sang at various school functions, sang at an oil company outpost, and sang for dignitaries and government officials in Jakarta.
“My life is tethered to a rolling stone
My dreams are anchored in the wind
I come from here I come from there
In truth I come from everywhere
My tongue does not have a mother
My language is an open mind
Before I learned how to walk
I already knew how to fly
Comfort to me is a constant motion
Continent to continent, ocean to ocean”
Mom has shared with me some fun things about my first furlough trip back to the United States when I was five years old. When we were in the Singapore Airport waiting for our flight to the U.S., my three-year-old brother and I would go into the bathroom just to flush all the toilets. That was our exciting entertainment because we had never seen, let along used, flush toilets!!!! Our Indonesian toilets were called the “crouching tiger,” which has big concrete footprints to put your feet as you squat.
Our “shower” was a hand bucket to pour cool water over our body. After lathering up, you threw a few more buckets of cool water over you to rinse off. NOTE: Remember–the Indonesian climate is hot and sticky, so these showers were usually very welcome and cooling!!
We used a kerosene cook stove. And for many years I thought toast was only toasted on one side. I have so many other memories and stories to tell, but that would take me until morning to finish up.
Moving to the United States at age 19 was a very hard culture shock for me. I felt like an immigrant even though I had an American passport and looked like an American raised here. It took me until my early 30s to feel at home in the United States. I am totally proud to be an American. I had the honor of serving in the U.S. Army, and am so thankful for what this country does and stands for. I have decided that Phoenix (East Valley to be exact) is where I want to put down my roots.
Being a Third Culture Kid is still in my blood. I travel each year for a month or so to Indonesia, throughout Southeast Asia, and Australia to scuba dive and to catch up with my friends who are scattered around the world. My mother country is now America, but my second home is on an airplane flying to various countries because traveling is in my blood. I still delight to learn new cultures and meet new people, and I hope I always will.
And yes, I am still a kid at heart!! Who wants to grow up when every day is a new, exciting adventure!
AKA: Doug Gulleson