I Don’t Know Where Here Is!… Relocating
“ You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never really leave home, so it is all right.”
(Credit for finding this quote should go to Gusty Scattergood, a superb children’s librarian and author. Check out her blog: http://ascattergood.blogspot.com)
In the interim since my last post, in November 2012, we have returned to the Unites States and moved to New York City, although Baltimore, Maryland is still our home base, Vermont our family gathering spot, and I am “from” Birmingham, Alabama. My blog has continued to focus on the Middle East, but in reality we have spent the last year and a half in Beijing and Ulaanbaatar. Finally I am back to writing again. My intention is to write one more blog on our life in the Arabian Gulf, and then focus on the rich, colorful cultures of China and Mongolia, with regular posts again. So here I am in Manhattan, sitting in space #241 at a long table in the immense Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library at Bryant Park. I spend my days strolling down busy sidewalks, dodging pre-schoolers (in helmets) racing by on mini-scooters and dog-walkers managing six dogs on leashes, rather than the intrepid Chinese (without helmets), on their bicycles and motorcycles, touktouks and cars – yes, on the sidewalks! The blog will continue to be called expateyes, for I will view the world through expat eyes for the rest of my life, regardless of where I am residing. To use a phrase from the author Julia Cameron, I am a “tourist on my own terrain.”
A friend asked me recently what my blog is about. Rather than respond with my usual answer- “Oh, it is about travel and other cultures…” (the text), I surprised myself by telling him it is about identity and the notion of “home” (the sub-text). How living abroad has both challenged and comforted me. How it has transformed me.
Of course there have been frustrations, such as coping with feelings of fragmentation and lack of continuity, one foot in the “home country” and the other in the “host country”. There is a time warp, a certain disorientation, and mental adjustments to make. But mostly there has been a remarkable, seamless fluidity. I feel close to the friends we have made from all over the world and the places in each city where we worked, played, and developed routines -the familiar neighborhoods. They are part of who I am now, part of my inner landscape.
I am grateful. I have lived so many lives. And while my family and long-time friends are at the center of my heart, the whole world is home. Maya Angelou captures the irony. We can leave our homes, but our homes never leave us.
Referring to what he calls his “pilgrim’s progress”, Richard Rohr in Falling Upward, expresses this sentiment eloquently:
“I was lucky enough to puddle-jump between countries, cultures, and concepts….yet the solid ground of the perennial tradition never really shifted. It was only the lens, the criteria, the inner space, and the scope to expand. I was always being moved toward greater differentiation and larger viewpoints, and simultaneously toward a greater inclusivity in my ideas, a deeper understanding of people, and a more honest sense of justice. God always became bigger and led me to bigger places.”
(Photo below from an exhibit at the Bastakia Art Fair, Spring 2010, Dubai)
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