Thursday, January 6, 2011

Chloe of My Heart

For almost a year now I have wanted to introduce you to Chloe, my brother Edwin's daughter.

Ed is the son of Jacob and Meera Chelli, and his family and mine pretty much grew up together. We were in and out of each other's houses all through our vacations. We went on long bicycle rides together, went swimming and camping. We ate at each others' homes and played endless games from dawn to dusk.

Often Ed would call me Karyn Akka (big sister).

So one of the absolute highlights of my trip to India this past March with Dad was meeting Ed's girls - his lovely wife, Sarah, and their daughters Chloe, Leah and Julia.

For some reason Chloe and I connected almost immediately. Maybe it's because we're both eldest daughters. Maybe it was that we both are interested in cooking and hospitality. Maybe it was that we recognized in each other both the privilege and the deprivation of being a Third Culture Kid (TCK), someone who is born in one country but has roots in another country, or someone whose citizenship is from one country but who has spent a substantial amount of her life in another country.

The privileges of being a TCK are many: you get to travel to places and countries most kids dream of going to when they are in their late teens and twenties. Your world view is far broader and hopefully more informed and balanced than your contemporaries who have lived in just one country. You often receive a very good education. You are probably mature for your age and can avail yourself of more privileges and opportunities than you would if you just lived back 'home'. Some things can be much more affordable - music lessons, sports, clubs, travel, cultural events.

And the deprivation can be summed up in one question: Where exactly is home? TCKs are never sure. I've talked with a number of them, and I've had a few work with me at the TH, and the following thoughts reflect some of their experience as well as my own:  

Your passport says one thing, but you are more familiar with the land in which your parents work. However, you don't really blend in with your local contemporaries - you feel like this is your home, but you look different; you are labelled 'foreigner' and as such are occasionally conscious of an almost imperceptible divide from your friends. You spend a lot of time with visiting adults because that is how you can support your parents' work and be a help to them.

Coming back to the country which should be 'home' because that's what your passport says creates its own set of problems: your accent and turn of phrase might be different and you are slightly anxious that you might use a word that is inappropriate with the current speech and language patterns, or whether your clothes are in sync with the style of the moment.

You want to be a good testimony because, apart from the fact that you simply want to be a good testimony, so much of your parents' support and the perceived effectiveness of their ministry can potentially be riding on how people who support them and their work perceive you.

You may look like everyone else but you know at your core that you don't really fit in because most of the kids you are around don't have a clue as to how you live 'over there'. Because you've spent so much time interacting politely with adults you might be precocious and because you're more comfortable with adults you feel safer hanging out with them. The kids your age treat you like an exotic curiosity at first, and then they go on with their lives knowing that you'll be gone again soon anyway.

It can be hard to make and sustain deep friendships too when you go from pillar to post. Social media certainly helps a lot in this respect these days; but it's no substitute for being able to go to a friend's house and watch a show together or do homework together or talk about the cute boy in class (Chloe! You're not doing that yet, I hope!).

You always feel a little apart, a little out of the circle despite the moments when you find yourself in the spotlight. You sometimes feel like you are watching your own life like it's a play, and you're hoping desperately that you get the next line right.

One of the hardest things is that you might have to be separated from your parents for big chunks of time. You try to develop a wall around your heart; but even later on in your life you might find you suffer from separation anxiety.

On the other hand, maybe none of this is why Chloe and I 'clicked'. Chloe's situation is somewhat different to what mine was because Ed is from India and Sarah is from America, and she goes back to America each year. What I do know is that the day I spent with her and Leah was one of the most fun of this trip. We went on a little shopping and eating adventure. Here are some of the pictures:

In the rickshaw at the start of
Chloe, Leah and Karyn's excellent shopping adventure

First stop - the bangle shop!

Outside Banday Brothers -
one of Mum's favourite shops

The brothers remembered Mum
with great fondness

The other Brother

Sam and Shalu's lamp in
the bay window of the TH

It was particularly poignant for me to go to Banday Brothers - we had shopped here so often with Mum. They said they had not heard the news of her death and we spent a few moments reminiscing about her. "She was a very laughing lady - always happy," one of them remembered. I wanted to purchase a lamp - Sam and Salome Cherian had given me money to get one so that I would remember them when I was in the TH. The Brothers sent a lackey to who knows where to find one. And, sure enough, he came back with the perfect brass lamp, tinted as if they had known what the TH looked like! Without my even asking they dropped the price considerably, "for your honoured mother," they said.

After hitting a few other stores we were starving. The girls wanted to take me to their favourite restaurant, a Chinese one in Noble House, not too far from where we were.

Two pretty hungry girls ...

An amazing array of food was
placed in front of us ...
leftovers for the girls at home!

The owner said goodbye to us like 
it was his own family leaving!

I got to spend a few more moments with Chloe, making a chocolate pie and discussing other recipes. And since I have returned to Canada we have corresponded by email.

The last note she wrote me included the following:

My Dearest Aunty Karyn,

Hi, I just thought i would send you an email since I haven't done it in quite some time. Here's a sweet chorus we learned in church:

Lord, I offer my life to you
everything I've been through,
use it for Your glory.
Lord I offer my days to you,
lifting my praise to you,
as a pleasing sacrifice.
Lord I offer you my life.
Things in the past,
Things yet unseen,
Wishes and dreams that are yet to come true,
all of my hopes
All of my plans,
My heart and my hands are lifted to you.
Lord I offer my life to you
Everything I've been through
Use it for Your glory
Lord I offer my days to you
Lifting my praise to you
As a pleasing sacrifice
Lord I offer you my life.

This song means a lot to me. It shows me that once I offer my life to God everything's in His hand so it'll be alright. Really the hard part is the offering our lives as a sacrifice. For me that's a continuous process. But I'm really glad to do it for the one who made the biggest sacrifice: GOD. I mean it must have been so hard to offer up His only Child. Abraham was going to, but he didn't have too. It's the same thing with Jesus. For His Father He sacrificed His life. It makes you think about how much we really owe all of our lives to God. These are my thoughts about this song, and I hope you also become blessed through it.

When I read that I knew that my Chloe will be able to find her feet, no matter which soil they land on, because she has a sure foundation.

The last day I was there we took this picture - all three girls, Sarah and I wearing bangles I had purchased on that memorable shopping day for us to remember each other, for us to remember we have a tie that is stronger than distance or time.

My little Chloe - one day I'll get you to the TH, which is an intersection for me of all the cultures I hold dear: India, the British influence, America, South Africa, Canada; it's a venue for hospitality, a classroom for training and sharing knowledge, and a place for reflection. It's a solace and a sanctuary.

But before that day comes, I'm looking forward to seeing you again this March!


  1. It's a lovely song, Chloe. Who's it by?

  2. I'm not sure. Our song leader just taught it to us in Sunday School.


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