Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Writer's Workshop Wednesday ~ Krisa from Saltwater Sessions

Welcome to Writer's Workshop Wednesday!  This is my way of paying it forward to all the people out there who want to start writing, but don't have their own blogs yet, or who are established writers that are looking to appeal to a different audience.  I have also opened this up to those who would like to post anonymously about topics that are too difficult to write about publicly. Each week, I will host one or two posts by different writers.

I hope that you enjoy this series, I hope you find some new writers to follow, I hope this helps them out and I hope we can all learn something from them!

Up now is Krisa from Saltwater Sessions. She is a ridiculously talented writer with a brand new blog and Facebook page. She and I should run away together and be journalists. For serious. She is one of a handful of people I know who seems to see the world through the same lens I do, she's very analytical and has a gift for persuasive writing. I hope you'll enjoy this piece today, as it provides much perspective into who she is and how she views the rest of humanity.

Enjoy!



Growing up multi-cultural

I grew up in a multi-cultural environment, but not in the traditional definition. I’m a BRAT – an acronym and a “subculture” according to Wikipedia. There are many versions of what the acronym represents – from “British Regiment Attached Transport” to “Born, Raised and Trapped/Transferred.” I have three home towns as I see it, but am like a dandelion – I’ll flourish wherever the wind blows me.

courtesy of You're Probably a Military Brat If...
As a brat, you don’t see races, religions or other differences the way civilians do. We see shades of green (Army), blue (Air Force & Navy) and tan (Marines.) The rivalry amongst brats is a friendly one. I am a zoomie’s brat. (USAF all the way!)

My dad was on his second tour in Southeast Asia when I was born. I didn’t meet him until I was six months old. I’ve lived in seven states and two continents. I attended three different kindergartens.

What I mean by multi-cultural is that friends weren’t Black or White, Asian or Hispanic. My mom affectionately tells me of my best friend in Virginia, who I called my chocolate friend. When I was in elementary school in Utah, I was exposed to meals and traditions with my dad’s students from Israel and Egypt – simultaneously. Because so many families were going from there to bases in Spain, they were teaching us basic Spanish skills and customs in second and third grades. I lived in Utah’s Wasatch Valley at Hill, Air Force Base, for almost five years.

It was in Utah, of all places, that I actually experienced prejudice the first time. It was early in the Reagan years. The economy resembled a lot of what it does now. My mom, a former teacher was trying to get a job off base. Everything hinged on what congregation or church she belonged to. Alas, we weren’t Mormon, and without that connection, it was some pretty tight times. The base was a refuge in and of itself when I was what we’d call a “tween” today. It may sound odd, but that perception of being an outcast resonated with me so much. In fact, so much so that despite how beautiful Utah is, learning to ski at Snowbird, visiting Park City before “Sundance” and the awesomeness that is the Bonneville Salt Flats – that I vowed even in my early adulthood if I had to drive from Colorado to Nevada I’d drive around.

I think that’s where I started to really develop my intolerance for discrimination, and I’m sure that Utah has changed in the past 30 years.

My hometown in Ohio.
From Utah, Dad was sent to Germany. While on the waiting list for base housing – my mom, sister and I lived with my grandparents in our family’s small Ohio river hometown. That too was a culture shock of sorts. There was nobody of color or ethnicity. Everyone there had always gone to the same schools, churches, and social clubs. To me, it was weird with a capital WEIRD. Even though my family had been there four generations, it was almost what I’d associate with a definition of “Stepford” now. Well, an economically-depressed Stepford with no industry or businesses.

First field trip in Germany.
Germany, however, was awesome. I was 10 when I arrived, in the middle of January. Dad picked us up from the airport in a borrowed VW Bus, and drove us the three hours from Frankfurt to the resort,

Stasee, where we stayed until housing was ready. Indoor, heated pool in the middle of winter. What do you mean we have to wear swim caps, and be out by a certain time for “adult” swimming? Yeah, tell that to a ten year old and see how well that flies.

Our school field trips were castles and other countries. I opted out of Paris and Moscow, but went to Berlin in 1987. My first trip in fifth grade was to a 2000 year old Roman city with a palace and garden built by Charlemagne, and an amphitheater where Christians were tossed to lions. We saw battlefields where wars over land, religion, and world dominance were fought. When you go to Anne Frank’s house at 12, right after reading her diary in school, and then follow up shortly after with a concentration camp visit, you very quickly realize how very fragile life can be and how easily people can learn or be taught to hate. During the height of the cold war, we went on a trip to Berlin. Troop train through East Germany with many checkpoints and many guns pointed at us kids. In the dead of winter, we saw the wall, keeping families and friends divided. The burned Reichstag with bullet holes. And through all that, we weren’t black, white, or anything else but American.

When we left Germany five years later, we ended up on Florida’s “Emerald Coast.” You can get to Alabama in three directions with less than a 45 minute drive. In half that distance, you’ll run into some of the scariest racism and prejudices I’ve ever encountered in my life. Closer to the bases, it wasn’t nearly as prevalent. But boy howdy, if you got north of the interstate and such – the divisions were obvious and long standing. College in Alabama wasn’t a whole lot better, even though my college was one of the first to integrate – even as early as pre-WWII.

Even as an adult, with my own life experiences behind me, I think back on how lucky I was to have such a multi-cultural military upbringing. I’m not saying the vagabond life is for everyone. Frankly I think some of the rules & regs I lived by then are why I cannot leave walls white now, or seem to just hold on to everything, or hate moving. (As an example, I repainted my bedroom when my parents bought a home three times in four years. The last time was nearly 20 years ago. My old room at my folks’ place is the only one that’s not in shades of blue or blue gray, and they’ve never changed it. I visit, and I want to.)

I cannot stand racial or religious stereotypes. I advocate vocally for equal rights – not just of women but for LGBT. Bullying doesn’t wash with me. To some of my friends and even extended family, my stance on these issues baffles them. (Though really I wonder how, I’ve always been that way.) Seeing people treated unfairly for reasons beyond their control riles me up faster than anything else. And of the BRATs I know, I’d wager 90-percent or more feel the same.

I live in a racially mixed neighborhood in Orlando, and it’s pretty interesting to say the least. Any given weekend my neighbors will have a hoe-down or a fiesta. And that’s fine by me. Other acquaintances have equated the neighborhood to being a less-affluent, less desirable place to live, because of the ethnic makeup.

But, I don’t think I could stand living in a white-washed homogenous world. There’s too much to miss when you do.

This is the first in a three-part series about growing up in the military and how it’s shaped me. The remaining two parts will be featured on my own blog, Saltwater Sessions, over the next week.

3 comments:

  1. Oh my gawd...I felt I could write this. I swear. Grew up in the AF..hello fellow.brat. Now going to your blog.

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  2. My Dad was stationed at Hill AFB from 72-75. Totally relate to the world view. So much I could write. Heading over to your blog now!

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  3. This was a timely read for me as I weigh a few decisions for the surroundings I want to provide for my own kids. Great perspective and post!

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