Thursday, June 25, 2015

You don't know Jack (#7)

Like all toddlers, Jackson provides the occasional nuggets of observation or wisdom or humor. These are generally unprompted, often silly or nonsensical, and usually come out of the blue with no context. Here are some recent ones:

Jackson running down the dock
He's starting to get fast.

•     "Mom, you need to learn not to lock me out of the bathroom when you're in there."

•     Jack:     "Is that what you are drinking?"
      Me:       "Yes."
      Jack:     "Is that beer?"
      Me:       "Yes."
      Jack:     "That's not nice. I can't drink that for two more years."

•     "My elbow is tired. It needs to rest here on the table while I eat."

•     "Dad, stop grumbling and I'll be okay. I know what I'm doing."

•     "If I peed in that hole, there would be a mouse saying, 'Oooh, disgusting! I don't like that. I need to move to a new house.' {Giggles.} Poor little mouse."

Sun's oot, taps aff!

•     Me:      "Do you want some granola for breakfast?"
      Jack:     "No! I don't like raisins anymore."
      Me:      "Oh."
      Jack:     "Raisins are yucky."
      Me:      "Then what would you like for breakfast?"
      Jack:     "Hmmm . . .  I'll have . . . Raisin Bran."

•     "Mom, I've had enough of you."

•     "The lady who did the brushing at my school today said that eating too much sugar can put holes in your teeth. I said to her, 'Not MY teeth.'"

•     Jack:     "Maybe someday I'll be a builder."
      Kate:     "You can be lots of different things."
      Jack:     "I know. Maybe someday I'll be Darth Vader! When I'm 14."

•     "I love you. But more than that, I love my new digger and backhoe."


Monday, June 15, 2015

Monday Exposure: Ha'penny Bridge

Ha'penny Bridge in Dublin, Ireland
The Ha'penny Bridge spans the River Liffey in Dublin, Ireland.
Erected in 1816 after a year's construction, the Ha'penny Bridge is the oldest iron bridge in Ireland and one of the very oldest such bridges in the world. Its graceful elliptical arch shines as one of the symbols of Dublin.

The builder of the bridge, William Walsh, had been given an ultimatum by the city. His seven ferry boats crossing the River Liffey leaked water and portended doom for passengers. Walsh could choose between repairing his decrepit boats, or building a pedestrian bridge across the river.

He chose the latter.

Lamp atop the Ha'penny Bridge
Three delicate arches span the top of the bridge, capped by lantern-like lamps.
To compensate Walsh the city offered him £3,000 for ending his ferry boat business. Even better, they granted him a 100-year lease on the bridge. As the city's only pedestrian crossing, the bridge and its lengthy lease gave Walsh a monopoly on foot traffic across the river.

His ferries had charged half a penny, and Walsh decided to charge the same for crossing his bridge. This was a safe bet. The city had retained a condition, for one year, allowing it to abolish any toll to cross the bridge if the citizenry of Dublin found the toll to be "objectionable." Since he hadn't changed the cost to cross, the citizenry made no objection.

Hence was born the Ha'penny Bridge.

The bridge remained as the sole pedestrian-only crossing of the river for 183 years, until Dublin erected a Millennium Bridge. Over time, the Ha'penny Bridge accumulated advertisements, bad lighting, strange paint, and rust. Finally, in 2001, the city refurbished the bridge. It was restored to its original glory and returned to its original off-white color.

The half-penny toll proved a durable feature. Though it was raised for a while to a Penny Ha'penny, the cost eventually dropped back down to ha'penny. The toll is now long gone, as are the turnstiles.

When it first opened in 1816, roughly 450 people crossed the bridge daily. Nowadays, it's estimated 30,000 cross Dublin's iconic bridge every day.

Peering down the River Liffey from the Ha'penny Bridge
During its refurbishment, more than 85% of its railwork was retained, as well as 98% of the total iron of the bridge.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Half his life abroad: a third culture kid?

Is he a third culture kid yet? He meets the criteria: a significant part of his developing years — actually, half of his lifetime so far — has been spent in a culture different from his parents' culture. That means the culture of his parents (American) and the culture of his new nation (Scotland) are merging together for him into a third culture.

Definitionally, he's a third culture kid.

But I'm not quite so sure.

Jackson turns four today. These past several weeks he has been laser-focused on the idea of being four instead of three, an event so exciting to him it's akin to a teenager finally old enough to drive. Counting down the days. Making doubly, triply, thousandly sure he'll receive presents. And a cake. And balloons. A glorious vision shines in his mind which I'm not sure we can meet, though we're trying.

Meanwhile, his birthday obsession has led me to reflect on his progress in our cross-cultural life. Is Jackson truly cross-cultural? His memories of the United States are vague at best; the States are simply a faraway place where the rest of his family lives. If he knows any culture, it's Scotland's.

But how much culture does a toddler eeek, he's now a "preschooler" — really encounter?

A third culture kid? Kate and Jackson with Scottish flag
Is Jackson really a third culture kid?
As it is, the American and British cultures are pretty darn similar. Scotland is slightly more exotic than England, though our urban life in Glasgow is mostly indistinguishable from urban life in the rest of the U.K. While the cultures differ in some aspects, Americans and Brits share a common language, a long and cherished history, and many values, mores, and customs. Television, film, fashion, music, sports, and numerous other areas of life intersect with ease. For an American, probably only Canada feels more similar.

America and Scotland do have distinct cultures. No argument there. But as a second culture for Jackson to assimilate, Scotland has charming variations rather than glaring contrasts.

More significantly, Jackson spends the overwhelming majority of time with us, his American parents. Although we get out and about nearly every day, travel the country regularly, and embrace opportunities to expose him to all manner of activities, he still encounters almost all life with our guidance and explanations. His view of Scottish culture gets skewed through our American prism and frame of reference.

As he gets older and spends more time away from us — increased time at nursery, then kindergarten and primary school — our influence will recede a bit. He'll have real friends and peer groups. Sports teams. Teachers and coaches. Music lessons. Growing exposure to television. Gradually he'll slip out from our de facto bubble. For now, though, our inevitable filter stifles many of the cultural differences that he may experience later.

Both the mildness of cultural differences, as well as the vast parental influence we wield, give me doubts about how much third culture experience Jackson gets.

The primary reason I doubt his third cultureness, however, comes from how quickly it would disappear if we returned to the United States. He just turned four. How much do you remember from your early life? Perhaps some images, a few short moments. But not much, I'm guessing.

If we immediately repatriated back to the U.S., Jackson likely would remember almost nothing of his Scottish life. By the time he was a few years into primary school, he'd have only fleeting glimpses of his prior life. The older he got, the less he'd retain.

So far, he hasn't truly had a first culture and second culture merge. They have not amalgamated. Scottish culture has flavored and overlain his life, but it has not yet fused with his American roots and influences. He uses some British terminology — he calls a flashlight a torch, for example — but the vocabulary would disappear if he lived in the States.

At this early point of life, his Scottishness is ephemeral.

Nor will another year or two be enough. Until he's had a few years of primary school, he won't be sufficiently immersed into Scottish culture to retain any of the culture if he moved away. Toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarteners, first and second graders — these kids generally have neither the exposure nor the permanent memories to transform their expat experiences into a fused, hybrid culture. Obviously, there's no exact cut-off point for when a third culture life begins or how long it has to last, but the early childhood years don't lend themselves to a true third culture experience.

And so, I take a restrained view of third culture labels. Perhaps I'm too stingy. But while Jackson meets the definition of a third culture kid, I don't think he is one.

Not yet.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Brand new "About" and "Travels" pages added

We're years behind the times here at Coloring Without Borders, but finally have added an "About" page and a "Travels" page.

The styling of the blog will undergo an overhaul in the next few months. Meanwhile, new bits and pieces will pop up from time to time. Several more pages are in the works.

Screenshot of "About" page
A screenshot of the new "About" page.
I'd love some feedback on the new pages. Anything that needs fixing? Improvements? Likes and dislikes? I'm open to making more changes.

Screenshot of "Travels" page
A screenshot of the new "Travels" page.
Any and all suggestions welcome!

As always, thanks for reading.