The Tales of a Third Culture Kid:
A Modern-Day Nomad

In Belonging, Season 3 by Marie-Claire Kapesa

I remember that day so clearly. My mother was sitting on her bedroom floor with her suitcases open and her belongings sprawled across the floor. As I got closer to her, I sensed so much stress from her that I, too, began to feel dreadful. I was worried about what was happening, and my intuition was correct, as the next night, my parents sat all of us down and told us that we would be moving to Ghana.

“Dad has found a great opportunity for work,” my mother said. “We are moving to Ghana,” she continued. My heart dropped. I didn’t understand what it all meant. All I knew was that I was to leave my entire world in a few days, entering a foreign, unknown world. Suddenly, I was on a journey and that was the beginning of it. 

I lamented the life that I would be leaving behind. Congo, the country where the first seeds of my identity were planted, was my childhood home. When I think of Africa, I think of my home country. The walks to school, the sound of the crickets at night, and most importantly, the hustle and bustle of my home, as well as the visits from our kin, no matter how distant the relations may be. How summers were spent at friends’ houses, playing hopscotch and pebble, and the delicious pain au pistolé that Maman Carine sold right opposite my gate were memorable too. Those memories will be filled with my youthful ignorance. And for that, I am so grateful. 

I looked forward to my new life with fear and uncertainty. “What is that place like?” “Will I ever see my friends again?” “Will I make new friends?” “Will I belong there?” I asked myself these questions and many more on the way there.  Little did I know that Ghana would hold the dearest place in my heart. Looking back, it was such a blessing to experience the rich cultures of the land—the dazzling gold jewelry, the vibrant kente, and the music that spoke to my soul.

 It was in Ghana that I understood the importance of African history. I learned to respect and revere revolutionaries, who were a symbol of black power and resilience. I learned about Yaa Asantewa, the vivacious woman who dared to challenge the British when the men were reluctant to act. I can never forget Toussaint L’Ouverture, the force of nature who led Haiti to independence and delivered his people to freedom. The achievements of these leaders will be forever etched in my memory as a living testament to Africa’s history, one that did not begin during colonization. With that knowledge, I became more connected to my heritage. I understood the power that I had as an African woman, and I finally began to feel a sense of belonging. I saw the beauty in my natural hair—those kinks and coils, oiled to perfection—as a testament to God’s love for us.

In retrospect, I felt more at home in Ghana towards the end of my stay there. The seed that was planted in Congo was able to sprout in a foreign land 1,775 miles away. Just as I was beginning to build a sense of community, I was once again forced to leave the world that I had made for myself. This time, it hurt less, as I had crossed the Indian Ocean to the Red Island, the land of the lemurs, the island of Madagascar.

 It was so far from where I planted my roots, and the culture was so different from the ones I had been accustomed to. After moving for the third time, it became clear to me that my home was with the people that I love. Home wasn’t necessarily a tangible object or a place, but a feeling of connection with people you held dear. Understanding that, I tackled moving to Canada with the utmost confidence. I was secure in the community that I had built and grown over the past 19 years. I didn’t question if I would belong in Canada because I understood that I would find my community wherever I went, and the beauty lies in how each experience would be different.

I have lived only one life, yet it feels like I’ve lived four. Like a nomad, I’ve traveled around the world, making new lives in different countries. I’ve learned that my home is not only tied to a physical location but is also a product of the people around me. Like a nomad, my home is with those that I love, the family that I was born into, and the family that I chose. It is with those loved ones that I feel a sense of belonging.