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Saturday, September 13, 2003

 
Transnationalism
On Thursday, after my skills meeting, (for the detail-oriented people in my life, that is the meeting for the people teaching levels 1 and 2 Listening/Speaking class, with our supervisor, to talk about problems and trade ideas,) I stayed afterward to talk to my supervisor, Sandy. Sandy is a very neat person. She's new at MSU this year, too, and is in our department to be the main CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) person, or director, or coordinator, or something. Eventually, we started talking about living and working abroad, and how strange it can sometimes seem to come back to the US afterward.

First, she was asking me about living in Japan. She and her husband lived there for a while, two years, I think, teaching English to it sounds like mainly business people. But then she asked me where else I had been, and when I mentioned going to Germany and France just before coming home, she was excited to hear that I had been to Lyon. As it turns out, she also lived in a town in Germany near the Polish border; on the outskirts of Lyon; and either once or a few times in Spain. As she put it, "Our family was always trying to get back to Spain." She encouraged me to go teach in Europe if I ever got the chance.

The whole conversation reminded me of one I had had the week before with my friend Andrew. His father's job with an oil company sent them to live in Singapore for 3 years, and then to Argentina for 4 or 5. I had been talking to him about the feeling of strangeness at being back in the US, and he asked me, "So, do you feel transnational now? You know, like there's no one place you'll ever really be able to live and call home forever." I think that sums it up nicely: transnationalism.

I said earlier that I don't exactly feel very American anymore, but it's not so much that I don't feel American, it's that I feel more than that. I don't want to just live here. I want to go lots of places, live there for a while, see and feel and learn new things, in new places, with other languages and different cultures surrounding me. Oh, sure, I still feel my spirit rising in my chest when I hit the West Virginia Turnpike and find myself surrounded by the Appalachains again, and I will probably always identify myself as being from North Carolina. But such identifications cannot define me, and shall not limit me.

I am a native born North Carolinian, of southern roots and Raleigh-native parents on both sides; who went to Grinnell College in Iowa; who lived in Santiago de Chile and thrilled at seeing Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina and Machu Picchu in Peru as much as at the Appalachains; who taught myself to use chopsticks in a Taiwan hotel room; who saw Mt. Fuji from the window of a shinkansen, unshrouded by clouds, and lived in Sendai, Miyagi-ken, Japan for a year; who wandered the streets of Berlin and Lyon in linguistically-confused joy; who thinks in too many languages to form coherent sentences in any of them sometimes; who studies linguistics and language acquisition at Michigan State, back in the midwest once more; who wants to live so many places and do so many things now that I get confused and multi-faceted visions of all the branches of my possible future.

I am American.

I am transnational.

I am human.

I am.


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