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.
March 29, 2013 at 10:02 pm
I’m new here. I clicked over from…gosh, I wish I could give a shout-out to whoever it was, but I can’t remember. I have too dang many blog tabs open to really remember. Ooops?
Anyway, this post very much resonates with me. I want to run around pointing to it, “See! This is why you should never ask me ‘Where are you from?’ My eyes will glaze over, I’ll look confused, and you’ll think I’m a weirdo. But really, I’m just not sure where I’m ‘from’, exactly, these days!”.
I’m an expat myself, *also* living 12 hours off from my family (American living in Singapore) – and married to a Singaporean (we met, and lived in, the US for quite a few years before coming ‘back’ to Singapore). Singapore is home. Rochester and Los Angeles are home. My parent’s house is home. I have many homes. But I’ll never be in all of them at once. Usually, this makes me feel lucky. But also a little bit sad. This post reminded me that I’m not the only one who can simultaneously feel both ways!
Also? A bit of unsolicited advice (as a read back on your blog entries). Roll the dang IT band. Most effective treatment I’ve experienced, and seen work for others. I agree with your doc about Physio (and am kinda happy to finally read a medical professional admit it – people yell “strengthen!”, but I’ve seldom seen that work). Rest, and roll. And rest, and roll. Good luck staying sane in the meantime. 🙂
April 2, 2013 at 3:40 pm
Aw thanks Holly! Glad I’m not alone. I do Skype my family on a regular basis (not a day goes by when I don’t speak to my mum, at least!) so it’s doable. Not easy, but doable. 🙂
Thanks for the ITB advice! I did use the foam roller and it must have worked because I’ve now gone for short runs 6 days in a row! Was going a little nutty not being able to run but everyone’s safe now. 😉
March 31, 2013 at 11:48 am
I love when people keep family traditions. We also do the no meat on Fridays during lent, especially Good Friday. I cannot imagine being so far away from “home” though. My mother is 10 blocks away, my granny is two doors down from her. My sister is 2.5 hours away and it kills me not to be able to see her more often.
You are a strong girl, inside and out, and that is so great that you can still be part of your family even though you are so far away!
April 2, 2013 at 3:41 pm
Lucky! 🙂 I speak to my family regularly (Skype mum every single day, sometimes more than once a day!) so it’s doable. 😉
Thank you for the kind words, Jennifer!