Wherever I Lay My Hat

 

"Where are you from?"

Cue the hesitation.

Even after 28 years, I still don’t know how to answer that question!

Do you mean 'where was I born?' What is my nationality? Where do my parents come from? Where does my family live? Or even 'where am I living now?'

“Where do you think I’m from?” I try in reply.

The assessment begins.

“India.” No.

“Afghanistan.” No.

“Brazil?” Nope.

“Colombia.” No.

“Are you Maori?”

Do I need to go into a brief history of my life? Does this person really want to listen to the full spiel? I wonder if I will come across as pretentious or arrogant? 

What makes the question a little more complex is that I’m also bi-racial. My mother is Indonesian and my father is Australian, but I don’t aesthetically fit what people consider to be typically Indonesian or Australian. Throw that in the mix with having lived in Indonesia, Pakistan, Dubai and Australia and I can’t get away with “wherever I lay my hat” (oh I’ve tried).

To be honest though, Paul Young’s line “wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home” holds some truth to it. Each of these places has been my ‘home’ at some point and foreign at the same time too. This includes my parents birth countries. As my dad was a foreigner in Indonesia, we lived what was considered the expatriate lifestyle. Although I was born in Jakarta, I went to an international school and mingled with kids who had moved over from other counties. And by the time I went to boarding school in Australia, I was considered a foreigner myself, as I had lived in various places and my parents were still overseas.

If it’s not appearance that gets that question asking, then it’s the accent. My accent has changed from British with an American twang to American with a British twang to Australian with a twang of British and American depending on the words I’m pronouncing. God help the people who meet my brother and I at the same time – we have different accents due to the varying amount of time spent in each country and predominant 'school' accent spoken by our classmates throughout our younger years too. My chosen vocabulary is another thing that also gives me away – yes, I get it now, it’s “pashing” in Australia, not “snogging”!

What I love about being a TCK is being able to take from each place what feels right to me. This amalgamation of experiences, culture and way of life is who I am today: it’s how I work, it’s how I’ve been pieced together, it’s where I’m from and is oh so unique and normal at the same time.

And just like my moment of hesitation, the person asking takes a moment to process.

“So which place is home?”

Cue the hesitation.

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