Who are you?

“Who are you?”
“What defines you?”
“How does culture shape you?”
“How do you shape culture?”
“How has technology shaped language?”
“When do you become your nationality?”

These are questions I ask my Grade 11 and 12 students. Our course (International Baccalaureate English B) is all about communicating in English, and becoming someone who can engage with massive, important ideas that are hard to wrestle with, especially for TCKs like my students.

I can’t ask these questions of my students without thinking of them for myself. I had long been thinking about my own genealogy– contextual history is my catnip, especially if it can be told in a narrative.

So, who am I?
On both sides of my family, I am Dutch. But what does it mean to be Dutch, but not live in The Netherlands? What does it mean to have part of your identity tied to a place you have never been, a culture you have never experienced, a language you have never spoken?

There seems to be some irony in my living in Indonesia, a country colonized by the Dutch. You would have thought that since I moved away from Michigan, the only state in which anyone in my direct line has ever been born or died in that was outside of the Netherlands, I would have landed in a place that didn’t have such close ties to my… whatever my Dutchness is.

I have written a lot about this experience of genealogical discovery, but not much of it is fit for my blog, partially because it’s so personal and partially because my thoughts are still not tied together well. Maybe they never will be “print ready,” but if they do come together, I will be sure to post.


However, this all allows me to say, “I’m going to the Netherlands for Christmas!” My friend (a Dutch-Indonesian) and I are going to the Netherlands for a few weeks, and I am hoping to visit some of the places I have discovered as points of origin, as well as visit some of the archives where family papers have been stored.

So, here’s to self-discovery and adventure!


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