Tag Archives: Nomad

“Shoot ‘Dem Like Birds” – Homophobia in Tropical Paradise

Shoot ‘Dem Like Birds Promo from Traveling Muse on Vimeo.

A fellow culturemutt

Meet Leslie Foster.  He’s a buddy of mine who is not just a fellow globetrotter and culturemutt, we have also lived in the same places – a school campus near Manila in the Philippines, South East England and Hollywood.  Leslie is a fascinating guy.  His dreams dwarf those of mere mortals.  He is the driving force behind one of the coolest ideas I have come across in the last few years…

A remarkable muse

Traveling Muse is Leslie’s baby.  It’s a collective of artists, mostly based in the LA area that, in its own words, is “telling the stories of people whose voices are not heard… exploring social activism, the collisions between art and spirituality, creating art communally, and celebrating our vagabond experience”.  I know several of these artists myself and can vouch for the fact that they practice what they preach.  And that’s where this next part comes in:

A trip to Jamaica… but not what you think…

The project Leslie and his tribe of artists are tackling next is nothing if not ambitious. It’s called “Shoot ‘Dem Like Birds / Stories of courage from Jamaica, one of the most homophobic nations on Earth.” The sad reality is that in addition to pristine white sand beaches and one of the most relaxed, fun loving cultures, Jamaica is home to some of the worst physical violence against gays and lesbians. Leslie and his team are traveling to Jamaica to shoot a film telling the stories of those who are doing their best to fight the violence. This is savvy, global do-gooding at its best. Check out the video and the fundraising page and do your part to wish Leslie good luck!

Bjorn Karlman

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Well-Traveled, Multilingual and Clueless –Third Culture Kids Unpacked

At a wedding near LA with TCK friends I grew up with in the Philippines
At a wedding near LA with TCK friends I grew up with in the Philippines

I can go from zero to awkward, mumbling mess in no time when Western pop culture predating the late 90s is brought up in conversation. I have no clue what to say because a lot of the time, I have never heard of the actor/singer/quirky 80s celebrity of ambiguous sexuality being discussed. It is painful. I sound American. My Northern European genes make me look like I’ve got straight-laced, Mayflower Puritanical blood.  But I grew up next to sugar cane fields and coffee plantations in the Philippines and I have never seen a single episode of Miami Vice.

Luckily I grew up with other expat kids who were just as lost. We were all Third Culture Kids (we’d grown up in a culture different from that of our parents.)  Instead of being perpetually bummed about the fact that we didn’t completely fit into any culture or country, we bonded over our oddball similarities.  The transition to adulthood has changed very little so here’s my list of TCK traits:

1) Most of us speak English better than our mother tongue and are stumped if some zealous patriot asks us to recite the words to our own national anthems.

2) Whether or not we’ve ever stepped foot on American soil, our accents are often, to one degree or another, American.

3) We are flakes when it came to growing roots anywhere.  I’ve kept in touch with a number of my fellow TCKs and a lot of them have kept moving, never staying in the same place for more than a few years.

4) TMI!  We are used to sharing a lot very quickly because growing up we knew that we didn’t have much time to make friends before we had to leave again. But there is a flipside to this. Steph Yiu on denizen-mag.com puts it well:  “once you get to know us, you might find that we keep you at bay. We’re just so used to leaving (or being left by) people who are close to us that sometimes we don’t want to form very deep relationships, for fear of losing them.”

5) We were raised watching cultures clash on a daily basis so we are OK with grey areas.  We don’t expect life to be black and white.

6) We may have been mature teenagers but for some reason, we take our time “growing up” in our 20s.  For more on that, check out this article by Ann Baker Cottrell and Ruth Hill Useem:  http://www.tckworld.com/useem/art3.html

7) We are unlikely to take jobs in government or the corporate world that involve a lot of red tape/bureaucracy.  Neither do we often follow in our parent’s footsteps professionally:  http://www.tckworld.com/useem/art5.html

If you are a TCK or if you know one well and care to add to this list I’d love to hear from you.  Post a comment.  Just don’t ask me about the Jetsons.


Bjorn Karlman