In May, five years will have passed since I moved to New Zealand. A whole half a decade of my life spent in the last bus stop in the world, almost 20,000km from home. It’s a whole lot of time to spend in a place that isn’t your own.
Except, it kind of is my own. I came across this article today, via a friend and fellow expat, that completely translated into words my feelings about living abroad.
It turns out I’m not the only one who’s come to the painful realisation that an expat will never fully feel whole again, no matter what happens. I miss Portugal dearly while I’m in New Zealand and I think fondly of all things Kiwi when I’m back in Portugal. I say “I’m going home” if I’m flying to Lisbon and I tell people in Lisbon about things I have “back home” in New Zealand. “Home” has come to define more than one place. It sounds like – and, for the most part is – a great situation to be in, to have two special places in your heart. But it doesn’t come without a decent amount of heartache.
I’ve grown more than five years in the last five years. Timezone differences mean my mum is asleep when most of my questions arise, when I burn my food, when I’m not sure which clothes I shouldn’t mix up with which in the washing machine, or when I can’t find an important document. If I get good or bad news that I want to share, I usually have to contain my enthusiasm for a few hours (we’re usually about 12 hours apart, depending on daylight savings). For the most part, I think I’ve been doing alright. Every few months, saudade hits harder but I’m fortunate enough to be able to solve that problem with the purchase of a flight home.
Moving this far meant that I had the chance to completely break away but, mostly due to having the most awesome family in the world, I’ve chosen not to.
Today, on my fifth Good Friday at home away from home, I purposefully didn’t eat meat. I have never eaten meat on any of the Good Fridays of my life. I have no real clue as to why, if I’m honest. My mum taught me we don’t eat meat on Good Friday and my grandma taught me the same and I’m pretty sure my great grandmother and great great grandmother didn’t eat meat on Good Friday either. Something something Jesus something, of course. I never really questioned it, especially because there were always plenty of chocolate eggs to make up for not being able to make a ham sandwich for 24 hours.
So if I don’t even really know why we had to do it, why do I choose to keep doing it, right? Well, it might have religious roots but it’s most definitely not a religious thing for me (if there is a God, he/she wouldn’t want to deprive me from steak). It’s a family thing. By continuing a family tradition, even if I’m away from family and surrounded by people who don’t do it, I’m closer to that other home I’m actually away from.
I couldn’t plan my Good Friday as well as I wanted to because the supermarket near home decided to close earlier than expected last night and I couldn’t buy the stuff I had planned for my meatless meals today. This little setback made me realise that, without proper planning, I’d be the world’s worst vegetarian. Aside from a fairly healthy-ish omelette (which did contain enough cheese to feed a small army), my day has been a sugarfest. Hot cross buns, pancakes, breakfast cereal and fruit smoothies.
Days that are heavy with traditions like this one are particularly hard for people who wish they could split into two or who wish science would stop mucking around and hurried up making teleportation a reality. No amount of Creme Eggs (which, thanks to the supermarket closing too early, I also did not have today) can make up for not being able to celebrate Easter back home.
I’ll just celebrate it here at home instead. And as soon as the shops open tomorrow, I’m queueing up for Easter eggs.