Blast from the past: A forum post by Terrie, June 27, 2000

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All of your thoughts and reflections are so rich and valuable! I'm so glad to see that all of this is being documented. Depending upon the state of international relations (w/ respect to the U.S. military presence in Asia and other parts of the world), our legacy, our experiences, and our stories might remain in the shadows. (I'm all for documenting our stories!) A lot (well, not a whole lot) but some research has been done on people like us. Sociologists have referred to folks like ourselves as "overseas brats," "third culture" peoples, and "global nomads." In fact, when I first read the literature on "third culture" people, folks like Tom Doyle, Lisa Matisoo, & the Witthofts came to my mind immediately! (They were the living/breathing case examples of third culture peoples these sociologists wrote about). It blew me away that people actually did research on folks like us (and they coined a name for such folks!)

The third culture concept was first applied to "westerners" raised in non-western societies, who learned behavioral and cultural patterns through intercultural interaction. Hey! What can we say, we were already soooooo 21st century, way back in the 20th century: military dependents growing up, transgressing multiple borders within our families, among our friends, in our schools, across nations, etc. (and of course, w/ all of that comes its joy, rewards, privileges, challenges, marginalization, and difficulties. . . been there and done it all!I think Yo-Hi could (and at times, did) foster a pretty brutal environment, like any other high school w/ its cliques and clubs and groups. . .at times, it just seemed more magnified because our classes were sooooo much smaller, compared to stateside and other schools where graduating classes consisted of 1000 - 2000 students.

There were also other "social issues" (won't mention them here) that were suppressed under the guise of being a military environment. We were all part of this institution, so social differences seemed to be minimized(?) So long as we weren't different or "too different," it didn't violate any social norms. I'm not sure how I feel on this one, quite yet, but, I'm still thinking this one through. . . (out-loud). . . I did feel insecure and inadequate when teachers and other "Americans" would describe the U.S. military environment as not being the "real world." In sports in particular, I recall teachers and coaches saying how the athletes at these U.S. military schools in Japan could never make it in high schools in the states or in college because of size or lack of skill (and most of all, because of the small selection pool of athletes). --By the way, there were and are several great (U.S.) nationally-ranked and even world class athletes who've come out of Yo-Hi! For those of us who have known only the U.S. military environment all or most of our lives, Yokosuka (and Yokota and Yokohama or wherever) was our real world! It was very real. . . and we had to live and breathe in that real world. . . that real world of Yokosuka Naval Base socialized and educated (or miseducated, depending upon one's perspective) many of us. It was very real! We laughed. We cried. We experienced good & bad. We hit puberty. We came of age. We had our first kiss somewhere in the Kinnick hallways or underneath the bleachers at Berkey field or on an away bus trip or at one of the teen club dances. We had our first taste of cigarettes or alcohol. We heard how so-and-so did this-and-that to so-and-so and with so-and-so. We learned how to drive (on the lefthand side of the road at 30 kilometers).

We learned how to navigate our way through various groups and cliques (or DIDN'T learn to, so we found ourselves miserably or happily outcasted during lunch or free period). We made mistakes that kids make --some major, others not. That world was very real-- real to us. . . as one of my fav. sociologists has said, "Whether it's real or not, if we believe it to be real, it is real in its social consequences." (W.I. Thomas). Yo-Hi was very real!I found leaving Japan and leaving the U.S. military environment in Japan quite liberating, even though I do cherish every moment I spent in Green Park, Grant Heights, Tachikawa, Tokyo, Hayama, Yokosuka, and Kurihama. (It's not such an "exotic life," even though people whom I speak to today seem to think it is/was when they learn of where I grew up. . . I'm sure you all get the same thing too. (Yokosuka was far from exotic or glamorous --at least back in the 1970s & 1980s! It was pretty grungy in a not-so cool & hip way! -- At least, the Yokohama-kids got to say they were from an internationally-known port city!) Growing up in Japan as a military dependent was so totally normal (it was so normal that it was actually very "dull") for me, at least. Leaving Japan was really exciting! I finally felt that I would be able to spread my wings and soar. . . I learned that there is a whole civilian world out there I was unaware of! I love being able to move across geographic spaces and cultures with relative ease. . .even though there were certainly down sides to growing up in military environments in Japan, I have found that it has given me a certain kind of "groundedness in continual & continuous transformation."

I know it sounds kind of contradictory to say that I feel grounded in spaces & places that are constantly "in flux," but I don't know how else to describe it. I gravitate toward people who cross boundaries (no matter what kind of social/cultural boundaries they are) and those who defy social rigidity and conformity. Being on the margins is not a bad place to be! It is reflected in my career choices, places I live(d), places to where I travel, people I befriend, the closeness with my family (my parents and my brother), the political causes I support, and my life partnership w/ the man in my life. Now that I'm in my thirties and I can appreciate the choices my folks made to stay in Japan to raise my brother & myself (after my dad retired from the military), my parents have given us a great gift --something that only comes through lived experiences (can't get it in a book). I only wish I "knew" and "felt" that way growing up! (The teens and the early twenties were a tumultuous time for me --but I loved every dynamic moment of it!)

Without being too essentialist, I guess what all of you are saying about how there is something about the overseas military dependent experience that binds folks together might have real social & cultural merit! Thanks for letting me share. This web-site is too great. I can't stop reading all your stuff and responding! (Dangerous!) It's great seeing names I haven't heard in so many years.