Sooo... of course, instead of working to catch up (now that I'm even further behind on my posts), I had already started on a non-catching-up post and decided to run with it here. Just because, y'know.
After yet another comment from the Pipsqueak about "When I was a baby in China..." I began thinking about the whole "where I'm from" issue again. This is actually a familiar question for me and AJ; as I've mentioned from time to time, we're TCKs (Third Culture Kids), so we have an intimate understanding of having roots in more than one place (or nation, or culture). My late-night musings led me down the path of "where I'm from" and across the border into easier-to-answer "where I've been" territory which led me to resurrect a dormant home decor project.
(Yes, my mind really does work in a way that takes me from "Who Am I" to "I think that would look nice hanging on that wall over there" in just a couple of steps. Doesn't yours?)
The project involved creating a fiber optic map of all the places I've visited. I did an online search and found a couple of companies that produce very attractive framed maps with backlighting that are designed to have plastic pegs pushed through the surface to create bright spots (like the old "Lite Brite" toys) at locations the owner has visited. First problem: the average price is well above $200. Second problem: at the resolution of the maps, the pegs cover ginormous swathes of territory. Third problem: the average price is well above $200. Fourth problem: the largest such maps are smaller than the average wall poster. (And did I mention they cost over $200?)
I eventually came up with a way to create my own much larger wall hanging for a lot less money and had gotten as far as buying a large map (speaking of ginormous, the beast is 48"x77") and ordering a sample pack of different types of optical fiber before my finances got in the way. Since I'd never quite come up with a final answer on how to back the map (the most likely candidate is foam display board) and what kind of framing would hold it all together properly without getting in the way of the light-bearing optical fibers, I decided to experiment with a smaller-scale version... and to save even more, I decided to use old-fashioned map pins and save some cash to use on optical fibers & light emitters later on.
Fast-forward a few weeks (remember, I'm catching up with these posts, so all these deep thoughts and moments of insanity occurred much earlier this year) and I had learned several extremely valuable lessons about the use of spray adhesives, the strength of cork-faced foam board, and just how curly a rolled-up laminated map can be while piecing together a roughly 2/3 scale version of the planned travel map (final size is approx. 32" x 50"). I then spent several nights jabbing map pins into the poor thing, often going back & forth between Google Maps on my laptop and searching out unmarked towns & cities on the map itself with a magnifying glass... but eventually I reached the point where different sites were too close together to add any more pins. (I was also afraid there were some areas where I'd have so many pins that I'd chop a hole into the backing.)
So, without (much) further ado, here's a visual explanation of why my sister and I have an understanding of what it's like to have roots in more than one place. (Many of the pins mark sites we just visited or repeatedly passed through, but quite a few of them mark places we actually lived for a while; the pin colors have no significance, I just pulled them from the box at random.)
|The complete map with pins, wrinkles, et al.|
|I'm happy to say that the Pipsqueak shares all these pins with her mommy & uncle... But|
they mark some of the relatively few pinned sites that her grandparents haven't been to.
|These all predate the Pipsqueak by decades, but are fondly remembered.|
|A sure sign of living somewhere is that you visit a LOT more places than if you're|
just touristing. I could've almost doubled the number of pins with a larger map!
|Last but not least, here's "home" (or at least where our passports are from). Some|
of those pins are "middle of nowhere" guesses, others cover multiple sites.
It's kind of exciting to think about all the first- and close second-hand travel experience my niece already has. She just turned seven in June, and despite all the pins on that map she's already logged half-again the number of air miles I had at her age. (She has officially covered 9,613 miles in the air, plus several thousand in assorted cars, buses, boats and trains.)
Crazy present-day politics aside, I'm really looking forward to introducing my niece to as many of the places represented by those pins as I can. Let the adventuring begin!
 I don't know if I mentioned it before, but I go so far back with Apple computers that I did professional graphics work on a Lisa 2... and this MacBook Pro has been such a PITA that if it had been my first Mac, it would've been my last. I'm not bashing Apple, I just am not pleased with this particular laptop. (AJ has one and it's been totally trouble-free.)
 "Third Culture Kid" is a term coined by Dr. Ruth Hill Useem in her work with Global Nomads. The Wikipedia article isn't in great shape, but you can get more information, resources, etc. at TCK World.