Monday, May 9, 2011

Dislocation recognizes its kin.

I have always quite liked teenagers.  Not in gaggles, mind you: there is nothing more terrifying than 5 or 6 teens (either gender) laughing in a hallway.  One-on-one though, I generally like them.

Perhaps this has to do with adolescence and the sense of outsiderliness most teens seem to experience.

Outsiderliness (as a Canadian of German-Dutch parentage, raised in Calgary, Rhos-on-Sea, Singapore, Rhos again, Shrewsbury, Dallas, Vancouver and Accra and now residing in Baltimore after stints in Kingston, Ontario and Halifax, Nova Scotia) is what I do most in terms of identity.

Thus it makes sense that last night, when a wise American friend commented that each of us has an indestructible core within, I panicked, put my cup in front of my mouth to hide, and felt inside no solid core at all but rather a welter of conflicting affiliations and confusing losses.  Core?  Is that the bit that remembers the meaning of the British slang "doss"or the bit that knows the right way to eat an assam?  Both are irrelevant here in Baltimore, where I have finally learnt that the appropriate response to "how you doing?" is to repeat the question but not answer: "how you doing?"

This morning I visited a highschool ESOL class comprising students from Nepal, Congo, Tanzania, Nigeria, Mexico, the Phillipines and Trinidad.  It was comfortable.  I liked it.  Even the young man with the bling earring and attitude.  In the teens's quick assessment of classroom norms, I recognized their quickly shifting eyes and careful adjustments of posture as adaptive cultural camouflage.  For me, that's a homey feeling.

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