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By Hannah

When people ask me what it is like to be a missionary kid, I find it hard to answer – not because I do not know what it is like to be a missionary kid, but because I do not know what it is like not to be one.

My parents are New Zealanders, but I was born in the Philippines, and apart from the occasional furlough, I have lived here my whole life. I grew up speaking both English and Tagalog. As a child, I went to a Filipino school and had Filipino friends. When I saw a foreigner on the street – someone who was not Filipino – I would turn and stare like everyone else.

But I am still not a Filipino. I can pass for one over the phone, but I look like a foreigner, so Filipinos often treat me like one. When our family moved, a lot of people in our new church assumed that my siblings and I knew nothing about getting around in the Philippines. Eventually, they realised we could cross the street without them holding our hands, but the well-intentioned coddling was frustrating while it lasted.

In the Philippines, I look weird but act normal; in New Zealand, I look normal but act weird. In Filipino culture, it is considered polite to act shy, so whenever adults in New Zealand would try to engage me in conversation, I would stare at my feet and give monosyllabic answers. I thought I was being respectful; they thought I was being rude. On a recent furlough, I thought I was blending in, until one day I told my school friends about a bad grade I got on an English assignment. “Don’t worry,” one girl said. “That’s a really good grade for someone who’s ESL!” I was shocked. My friends had never thought I was normal – to them, I was just a foreign exchange student with unusually good English.

Hannah1-132x176Although being a missionary kid has its frustrations, I really love it. I find languages fascinating, and hope to become a translator. Had I grown up in New Zealand, I might have never discovered this interest.

I remember going on a trip with a group of Filipinos to a mission compound. When our group was alone, we would laugh at the funny things the missionaries did. However, when we were around the missionaries, I enjoyed listening to their discussions – whereas my Filipino friends didn’t always catch what was going on. On that trip, I realised how lucky I am. I am one of the very few who belong to both groups.

Tags: Hannah | Philippines

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