This is the final part of my three-part series on my multicultural family. In the first part, we discussed my mother’s journey. The second part we discussed my father’s. In this article, we will dive into Brendon Powley’s (my brother) life as a Third Culture Kid (TCK) and his perspective of my parents raising him.
Brendon was born outside of his mother’s native country/culture. He also spent a significant amount of time outside of his father’s native culture in his developmental years.
Brendon Early Years
December of 1995, Brendon Powley is brought into the world. His mother’s family from Japan is there, as well as his father’s family from Wyoming. Brendon immediately begins his cross-cultural life by obtaining an English first and last name, and two Japanese middle names (Kenta and Mori). And everyday from then on (although he would not be able to understand until much later) both sides of the family spoke to him in their native language.
At the age of 1, Brendon begins traveling to Japan with his parents. As he grows older, he makes friends in Japan on his yearly summer visits. But he also makes close friendships with his peers in the U.S. during the school year. Brendon says “I always thought it was normal for people to have ‘two lives.’ Where you live in one place but also have a life somewhere else. It wasn’t until I was in maybe fourth grade that I realized my U.S. friends don’t live like this. Actually, I now know that many of my peers haven’t even been outside of America. Some haven’t even left Colorado.”
Brendon Traveling to Japan
At the age of 13, Brendon began traveling to Japan without his parents. But he was now in charge of looking after his younger sister (who was 10 years old) alone as they made their journey. Surprisingly the two young children felt no anxiety about making the trip alone.
Brendon says “The way our parents raised us, we were often left alone together at our home. We travel to Japan as a family all the time as well. So when we had to go, just the two of us, it was almost routine by then. The only thing that was kind of annoying was the my younger sister didn’t know any Japanese. For some reason, my parents have always spoke it to me, but almost never to her. She knows the language. She can tell what people are saying most of the time. But she doesn’t know how to speak back. So most of the time I do all of the talking when it is just me and her.”
As Brendon grows into adulthood, he begins to notice how his TCK identity sets him apart from his peers. His college roommates start to point out the weird things he brings to college, such as a rice cooker and Japanese medication. He is also the only one in his friend group taking Japanese language and culture classes, which he passes with ease. As his younger sister enters the same university as him (Colorado State University) he also begins to see differences between their upbringing.
Brendon’s father, Bruce, says “When Brendon was born, we had a lot of Japanese relatives staying with us. They speak Japanese to him all the time. He’s encouraged to speak it back to them. But when his sister was born, we didn’t have those relatives staying with us. We don’t speak it to her as much as we speak it around her. She did take Japanese when she got to college as well, but she struggled heavily. I felt awful for expecting her to learn it as fast as he did.”
Brendon replies to his father’s statement by saying “Yeah, even though we were raised together, those early developmental years made a big difference. I remember I got mad at [her] when we were in Japan alone together once. She hadn’t even taken a Japanese language class and I was getting mad at her for not being able to read the street signs. Sometimes I still get frustrated when she can’t speak to our grandparents. Because of this, I have to step back. I have to remind myself that we have differences.”
Brendon is now graduated from university. He lives in Denver, Colo., U.S.A., and works for a computer security company. He still goes to Japan frequently, but has also expanded his travels to Australia and Africa, and his next plan is to go to Peru. Brendon says “If I hadn’t traveled when I was younger, I wonder if I’d be as adventurous as I am today.”
Learning about my family’s multicultural journey has given me a ton of insight. Because of these interviews, I have a better understanding of the struggles they have had to overcome. I also have gotten to see the differences between all of us.