Up until now, this site has focused primarily in getting to your new location with your health, your family and your sanity intact, but has not said much about the return journey. This is a guest post from Ayesha, who currently lives in Nairobi, but who has experienced repatriation and the issues that it raises, which we will be discussing in an ongoing blog series and a section of the Basics and In the Know.
When we moved back home after three years in a foreign land, I was shocked to discover that I felt I didn’t really ‘fit in’. Some of my friends were still there, but when we got together for coffee or dinner, I found I couldn’t join in their discussions. I didn’t know what they were all talking about, what specific events had taken place in my absence, the movies, the books, the culture, the work environment, places to visit, to eat at, all had, of course, been in flux through the years. Some things were the same but many were new. Strangely, this first hit me when I realized I couldn’t share in the conversations revolving around a new TV series (Oh, how this evil machine has taken control of our lives!) I had never been an avid TV watcher, so I was surprised to find this to be my sticking point. I had never really discussed TV shows with my friends before, so why did I feel the need now?
One day, the day comes when you learn that you are going back home – whether it is the end of an assignment or you are being posted back to your country of origin, and it is amazing how many different types of reactions that news elicits. One would think that it would be good news for all. Finally time to go home, to go to the familiar, to spend time with family and friends you have been missing all this time. If this is what you have been waiting for, feel free to stop reading.
Changes have been taking place while you were away. Family and friends may have moved too in your absence, if not from the country, perhaps from the city. New roads would have been built (or broken, in some cases). New buildings may have come up or old ones taken down. Even if there have not been many changes to the landscape, the fact remains that it really isn’t so familiar any more to those who have been living in a different part of the world for a number of years.
As a friend who was moving back to her hometown in Europe once explained that her home had been in Africa for over ten years. Her children had known no other home, no other way of life. They couldn’t even imagine leaving this for anything else. But, in the end, one has to, because your or your partner’s job dictates it.
Truth is that every new place you move to, if you end up living there for a considerable period of time, inevitably shapes itself into your ‘home’. You strive to make it comfortable, you decorate it with the little things you have carried with you from place to place. You make friends, you find activities for your children to take part in, you eventually have a favourite place to shop and a location for your choice cup of coffee. And then you get your marching orders and you have to re-programme yourself that this isn’t really home, it never was, it was just a stop-over. You now have to go ‘home’ and, essentially, start over. And you will. You will find a place to live there (if you don’t already have one). You will once again endeavor to make it special with some old treasures and some new. Perhaps, with photographs of your ‘homes’ and travels around the world, of your friends that still live where you’re moving from and of those that have already moved on to other adventures.
It will take a while but, one day, the new house will become your new home. Like any other place you have moved to, it takes time to adjust and find your own special niche even in your hometown. For me, the simplest solution was to find out the timings for the next episode of that TV series and make a point of sitting down and watching it regularly, until I got a hang of what it was all about; just enough to be able to take part in the next conversation relating to it. It turned out not to be just another show but a radical look at one segment of society, and sparked endless discussions.
(Note to self: next time I move back home, I make sure I know what’s playing on TV before I reach there! It’s easy now, thanks to the World Wide Web.)